A gentle reminder ...

The goal of this blog initially was for Mr. Mc to show his students and friends what he doing while in Pennsylvania and DC in 2011. Now it's being used as a place for him, travelling colleagues and former students to discuss edumacation and history related "stuff" as well as ... well, anything which pops into his head. Mr. Mc would never knowingly embarrass either the school he loves or the family he is devoted to. By joining in the discussion, he expects the same of you.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Lunch With Luetze

Its lunchtime at the Met conference and I grabbed a hotdog and ste it on the Met steps. Quintessential New York moment.
I have wandered back into the American Wing. One of the paintings I've always wanted to see in person was Emmanuel Luetze's Washingtin Crossing the Delaware. We just spent two hours with it and a dozen or so paintings. I came back in my own. 
Good lunch.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Searching for 'Searching For Bobby Fisher' locales

This façade sits right in front of the entrance to the dorms. I'm not sure what it is but I will find out.
So, I made it to New York this afternoon and just walked back from the a dinner with all the participants. Its kinda weird to meet for the first time, but by the end of dinner, the teacher chat is in full swing. I ate dinner with a teacher from Chicago and Dallas. The two professors were at my table as well so there was adult supervision. We ate at Trece. Wow. Order the fish tacos! The orange colored dipping sauce is really hot, but really good. Like 'looking for other stuff to dip it in' good.I even ate guacamole- and I liked it.

The building behind this façade is where I am living for the next week.
This afternoon, I wandered over to Washington Square Park. It is one of the places I wanted to see in the city. It has a history that is fascinating. You can read that here. One of the reasons I wanted to see the park is because of a movie. Searching for Bobby Fisher. It is one of my favorite movies. Period. Washington Park is an important part of the story. Here is the trailer for the movie.
I stood there and watched folks in the park. Hundreds of people. Playing chess. Playing in the fountain. Enjoying music and chalk art.

I didn't take any pictures of chess players because, unless you push in, all you see are blobs of people around a table. These folks looked serious so I chickened out.

I also wandered into Strand Books just up the street. 18 miles of books. Six separate sections on history. We'll need to revisit that little jewel. Its less than two blocks from the dorms.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Thoughts after Atlanta...trafficking, hunger and being 'bottom stuck'

These past few days back from mission trip has gotten me thinking, and that is always dangerous.

As I think back on Atlanta, I keep going back to experiences I've had in and out of the classroom the last few years. Atlanta connected several things that I had kinda kept separate.

The first was human trafficking. We gave out sandwiches on the block with the highest ratio of human trafficking in the southeast. At Lincoln's Cottage, they had a exhibit on human trafficking. The video in the exhibit featured a young lady from Wichita. An organization named Slavery Footprint helps shine a light on the how what we consume is connected to trafficking.

I wrote about it in a post a couple years ago. Wrote about it here, too.

Another was hunger. The sandwich, fruit, chips, cookie and drink we offered were the only meal many of those people in Atlanta would have that day. What floored me was most of them wanted to talk with us and pray with us more than the food. That is a community hungry for compassion and connection. That made me think about something we did in 7th grade World History a couple years ago. We did a hunger banquet and watched a movie about food waste called Dive!

I wrote a post about it here.

What is interesting is that this year, the seventh grade team is hoping to initiate a food waste program with the students this coming school year. We are using the movie as a jumping off point. Atlanta made food waste real for me in a way it hadn't. US grocers throw away almost half of their fresh produce and meat every day. It isn't rotten, just past the 'shelf life.' That food could be used in a better manner. I met people last week who could use that food.

The last idea it has been connecting me to is this idea of poverty and being 'bottom stuck'. This idea comes from a documentary, Traces of the Trade, about the Northern profits from the slave trade and reparations. An economist talks about the bottom stuck as those who will never benefit in the same way from the advances other African Americans have been able to make.  They are in a cycle of poverty that started with slavery, continued under Jim Crow and continues today. The thing about pulling yourself up by your boots straps--its requires you to have boots in the first place. We can rant about a welfare state, and I'm still Madisonian in my love of limited government, but there are people who need our help. I met some of them last week. They became real to me. How becomes the real question.

As I said, these are things I'm thinking on...still trying to figure out next steps.

Will keep you posted. dm

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Finding God at mach speed and with The King of Rock and Roll

The breakfast and cleaning is done and now we are loading up before worship here in Little Rock. (Clearly, other people are working much harder than me. I should do something about that.) 
As promised, photos from Six Flags Over Atlanta. I've thrown in our stop to the Elvis Presley Birthplace Site and Museum as well. I think you'll be able to tell one from the other. Hint: there isn't an outhouse ride at Six Flags.

Finding God in a Dreaming Icon

We are cleaning up in preparation for worship at Second Prebyterian, Little Rock. I thought it appropriate in the home town of the Little Rock Nine to post photos of the trip to the MLK Historic Site. It was a place where my person of faith and person of history converged.

Finding God with wet feet

Well, it's midnight again. I'm on lights out patrol. A days drive from home. I haven't posted in a couple days. We've been busy. Thursday was a normal day until early afternoon. A raft of God moments, but I'm gonna let those marinate for a bit. The afternoon was a trip to the Martin Luther King, Jr. historic Site. It was something I was probably more excited for that the kids. They graciously indulged. It didn't disappoint. I'll post pictures in a separate post.
Friday was a free day and we spent it at Six Flags. Three wooden rollercoasters, twice on Goliath and a few more smaller ones reminded me that it's not 1979 anymore. It's not even 1989 anymore. Again I'll post pictures later. 
Friday evening is Senior Night. It was a high point for me. Grant and Bryson are phenomenal young men. I was honored to have them lead us in worship. As I prayed that evening I started composing. It is how my brain and spirit process. Again, raw form. But raw isn't a bad thing.

The circle

I'm sitting in a circle.
A circle of little puddles and awkward silences.
A tradition older than most of its adherents.
Amy Grant and Green Day serenade the circle and I wait.

I wait and I pray. 
I wait and think on the past week.
A week of moments.
Miles and hours from home in an alien place.

Alien and exactly home.
Home has been a wrestling point;
between God and his Jacob.
We know how this ends, don't we?

The idea has been so clear for so long.
And now it isn't.
Tina and Anderson have shattered it.
The original idea seems so little; so human.

Gods loves this little cat and mouse-

...But it's my turn.
The ancient rituals played out;
This time on this place's red hills.

No girding of loins.
But everything else exactly as it has been.
Basin and towel. 
The upper room replaced by halogens and this makeshift circle.

The act is secondary to the voices.
Voices for whom this act is profound-central to their week.
Voices who make my soul gasp.
Gasp in awe and pride.

Tears are acceptable, but I don't want them to come.
I want to soak these seconds in without blubbing.
I am surprised by what I hear.
Humbled. Inspired. Honored.

-My time is done and I've survived unwept.
Their voices dim as the exhortations pass;
from one chair to the next as the fragrance travels with them.

My thoughts move back to home
But a hearth is replaced by an overpass.
And a Rose of Sharon replaces
the burnt out shell of a house on the wrong side of the tracks and of hope.

The flower, though, reminds of a truth as old as the ritual.
Both Hope and it's Namesake,
they're very much on the wrong side.
They never left; you just have to be patient, wait, look and listen.

They never left the circle.
The circle isn't about burnt out timbers or "lunches and Jesus!"
It is, but there's more to it than that.

The circle is about submission.
Home is about a safe place.
Or is it the other way around?
Either way, I suppose.

The circle has become home.
A holy sense of humor continues its little scavenger hunt.
A hunt for truth from Truth.
Truth, Hope and it's Namesake revel in the destruction of silly notions.

The circle isn't done.
The ritual is its closing act tonight, 
but it's as much a ritual of beginnings as ends.
Circles don't end, do they?

We'll leave the circle and take these moment home soon.
To beds uninflated, but lives just as tenuous.
There, but for the grace of God, the adage goes.
The adage is Truth.

I'm sitting in a circle.
My thoughts are here;
but so is the Namesake, Hope, Truth and Grace.
They'll travel with me,

They'll travel with me,
to a home rethought and back under holy reconstruction.
Cat and mouse reconstruction may take awhile.
But Patience joins the builders.

It's a fan of circles, too.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Finding God in things miraculous and mundane

It's Wednesday and mission trip is in full swing. We have served both of the locations we go to. The Bridges has the corner with the highest concentration of human trafficking in the Southeast. The Bluff has the corner with highest percentage of prostitution in ATL. These locations are also home to thousands of people and hundreds of families. Two communities in a city of millions.

That is what I'm coming to think of as sleeping bags under bridges, burnt out squatters houses and apartments that cost their inhabitants every penny they earn to hold onto. It is both tragic and inspiring at the same time.
Tragic in that none should have to live like this. We can talk politics and theology all we want, but no one deserves to live like this.
The inspiring part is two fold. The first are the people we have met this week. Out of this mess they have created community. They are known by and know each other. Their world looks so different, but they are, in so many ways, us. Flawed children of God doing our best each day to live a life worth living.

The Bluffs looks similar to the neighborhood I grew up in. It's hard too see, but if you look past the boarded up façade and look at the architecture, the churches and the street names, you can see I t. Yesterday, in the Bluffs, something unexpected happened to me. The ritual is to bring "sandwiches and Jesus" to the neighborhoods. The residents come to us and we talk with them and pray with them. We play with the kids and sings sing, load up and go to the next community. James must not have gotten the memo.

James was an older man who graciously accepted the meal, but responded to my question about prayer request with the request to pray for the group of us standing near him. Of course! His prayer was simply Psalm 27...its below, at the bottom of the post. Read it with the voice of a man on the edge of losing everything. I dare you. Once you've stopped sobbing, come back. We'll wait...

...how'd you do?

The other inspiration this week is how our youth have responded. This is challenging work. This is awkward work. You aren't sure what to say or do. It is overwhelming, to say the least. They have blessed in ways large and small. To watch them play with kids and pray with adults and do the work involved with joy and peace. I am in love with these young women and men. I've always kept an arm length away from them. They are my sons peers. I'm no longer in the ministry business. I didn't really know most of them when we left. I do know and love them. In case I haven't made it clear, I love them!

As for the mundane. It is sometimes difficult to see God in the talkativeness of seven young men when all I want to do is sleep. Or in a sunburned head and sore feet. Or the air mattress that has been my home for the past few days. But he is there if I'm willing to humbly look for him.

Psalm 27 New English Translation (NET Bible)

Psalm 27

The Lord delivers and vindicates me!
I fear no one!
The Lord protects my life!
I am afraid of no one!
When evil men attack me
to devour my flesh,
when my adversaries and enemies attack me,
they stumble and fall.
Even when an army is deployed against me,
I do not fear.
Even when war is imminent,
I remain confident.
I have asked the Lord for one thing—
this is what I desire!
I want to live in the Lord’s house all the days of my life,
so I can gaze at the splendor of the Lord
and contemplate in his temple.
He will surely give me shelter in the day of danger;
he will hide me in his home;
he will place me on an inaccessible rocky summit.
Now I will triumph
over my enemies who surround me!
I will offer sacrifices in his dwelling place and shout for joy!
I will sing praises to the Lord!
Hear me, O Lord, when I cry out!
Have mercy on me and answer me!
My heart tells me to pray to you,
and I do pray to you, O Lord.
Do not reject me!
Do not push your servant away in anger!
You are my deliverer!
Do not forsake or abandon me,
O God who vindicates me!
10 Even if my father and mother abandoned me,
the Lord would take me in.
11 Teach me how you want me to live;
lead me along a level path because of those who wait to ambush me!
12 Do not turn me over to my enemies,
for false witnesses who want to destroy me testify against me.
13 Where would I be if I did not believe I would experience
the Lord’s favor in the land of the living?
14 Rely on the Lord!
Be strong and confident!
Rely on the Lord!