Wednesday, October 29, 2014

'Worst in the nation?' Project looks at issues in Chicago schools (Chicago Sun-Times)



As filmmakers Greg Jacobs and Rachel Pikelny of Siskel/Jacobs Productions set out to make a documentary about issues facing public education in the Chicago, one phrase kept coming up.

“The worst in the nation.”

That description of Chicago Public Schools is attributed to U.S. Secretary of Education William Bennett following a 1987 visit to Chicago.

Bennett probably never said it, and it probably never was true, but the phrase stuck, according to the filmmakers. They wondered why that was, and what it would take to overcome that label.

Those were the questions at the heart of an event Tuesday night at the Chicago History Museum that included a lively and wide-ranging panel discussion and the premiere of “Chicago Schools: The Worst in the Nation?”

“I don't think Chicago schools are as bad as people think they are – but I don't think they're as good as a lot of people would like to say they are," said panelist William A. Sampson, a professor of public policy at DePaul University.

The 10-minute documentary and event, “Chicago School Reform: Then and Now,” are part of The School Project, a six-part documentary Web series created by a collaboration of Chicago filmmakers and live events running through April 2015. All are designed to promote community engagement around education policy.



Photo credit: The School Project.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Gentleness for the Rest of Us: Careful what you wish for...




This post is part of my "31 Days of Gentleness for the Rest of Us" series.

"When a gentle south wind began to blow, they saw their opportunity; so they weighed anchor and sailed along the shore of Crete." – Acts 27:13

Be careful what you wish for.

My Bible, an older version of the NIV, translates "they saw their opportunity" in this passage as "they thought they had obtained what they wanted."

In this case "they" are the crew of a ship bound for Italy. And what they wanted was a gentle wind to sail from Crete to Rome.

Paul had been arrested while visiting Jerusalem, and, as a Roman citizen, he had appealed to Caesar. So a centurion had taken Paul and several other prisoners and put them a ship headed for Rome. Paul warned them the trip would be "disastrous," but when a south wind began to blow, they thought they'd gotten exactly what they wanted.

So they set sail.

Only what they wanted didn't look like what they had envisioned: That "gentle" wind turned into a nor'easter, and the ship was tossed, out of control, for several weeks. The men threw the ship's cargo overboard. They threw the ship's tackle overboard. They put down the lifeboats and planned to kill the prisoners. They "gave up all hope of being saved."

All except for Paul.

Paul exhorted them, "Keep up your courage," and told them to eat something; they were getting a little crazy. His reaction in a stressful situation was kind. It was self-controlled. It was – dare I say? – gentle. (He only said "told you so" once.)

The difference-maker for Paul was his certainty in the One he called "the God to whom I belong and whom I serve."

"I have faith in God," he said.

We, too, can choose to react with gentleness when things spiral out of control, or when what we wanted doesn't look anything like what we had envisioned. We can choose hope. We can choose faith. We can remind ourselves we belong to God and serve Him, and we can trust Him to save us.

And we can maybe eat something; we get a little crazy when we don't.


Have you ever gotten what you wanted, only to have it not look like what you had envisioned?


Linking up with The Nester's 31 Days... writing challenge.

Read all posts in my "31 Days of Gentleness for the Rest of Us" series here. Sign up to get every update in your inbox or favorite reader here, and find even more inspiration on my "gentleness" Pinterest board.

You also may be interested in my blogger-friend Jenn's series writing through her one word for the year, "31 Days of Living Boldly," at A Simple Haven.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Gentleness for the Rest of Us: Eight-pound, six-ounce newborn infant Jesus



This post is part of my "31 Days of Gentleness for the Rest of Us" series.

“Say to Daughter Zion,
‘See, your king comes to you,
gentle and riding on a donkey,
and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’ ” – Matthew 21:5

There's a scene in the deeply spiritual film "Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby" in which race car driver Ricky Bobby, played by Will Ferrell, says grace over a "bountiful harvest of Domino’s, KFC and the always delicious Taco Bell." Throughout the prayer, he addresses God as "Dear Lord Baby Jesus" and "Tiny Infant Jesus" and "eight-pound, six-ounce newborn infant Jesus, don’t even know a word yet, just a little infant and so cuddly, but still omnipotent."

His wife interrupts, "You know, sweetie, Jesus did grow up. You don’t always have to call him 'baby.' It’s a bit odd and off-putting to pray to a baby."

This is the Jesus we think of when we think of Jesus as "gentle" – the Christmas Jesus, the one described in Charles Wesley's hymn, "Gentle Jesus, Meek and Mild."

But Grownup, Bearded Jesus also describes Himself as gentle.

This isn't a quality reserved for a newborn infant. It isn't a quality reserved for women, the implication it feels like it has taken on in modern church parlance. This is a quality embodied by Jesus, who was more fully human than any man or woman.

So what does the gentleness of Jesus look like?




Jesus restrained His power.

Matthew quotes Zechariah 9:9 in this passage, which comes as Jesus enters Jerusalem for the last time before His death. He sent His disciples ahead of Him to find a donkey and its colt, untie them and bring them to Him. He then rode them into Jerusalem, fulfilling Zechariah's prophecy.

Contrast this image of a gentle king riding on a donkey and its colt with the image of Jesus riding a white horse, coming "conquering and to conquer" in Revelation – a favorite of the "muscular" or hyper-masculine church movement. That's the way we picture a powerful king; certainly, it's the way the disciples and the people shouting, "Hosanna," and waving palm branches at Jesus' triumphal entry had pictured the coming Messiah.

That's why they were so profoundly shaken when Jesus restrained that power.

"Gentleness is power under perfect control," Stanley Horton said.

Jesus restrained His power when He was arrested. He restrained His power when asked to answer charges of blasphemy before the Sanhedrin. He restrained His power when beaten and mocked by Roman soldiers. He restrained His power, even to death on the cross.

He restrained His power when He said, "Do you think that I cannot call on my Father and He will at once put at My disposal more than 12 legions of angels? But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must be fulfilled in this way?"


Jesus was compassionate.

Also, contrast this scene of Jesus riding into Jerusalem on a donkey and its colt with the next one we see in the Gospel of Matthew: Jesus turning over tables in the temple. How is this possibly gentle?

In her book "Courageous Gentleness," Mary Ann Froehlich pointed out Jesus' anger was righteous, and it was the exception not the rule. It was reserved for Satan and for people like the money changers in the temple – people who claimed to follow God but were hypocrites, Froehlich said.

"Jesus was never angry or harsh with lost, broken people," she said said.

In fact, Jesus said, He came not to "call the righteous but sinners to repentance." He didn't do this by shouting or arguing with them. He had dinner with them.

And this wasn't Jesus "coming down to their level," according to Froehlich. This wasn't Him simply tolerating or ministering to them. Jesus never acted arrogant or superior. He simply loved them – "and they felt it," she said.


Jesus drew people to Himself.

Last week, I shared some of my favorite quotes about gentleness; in particular, this one from Garrison Keillor: "Even in a time of elephantine vanity and greed, one never has to look far to see the campfires of gentle people."

Here's how one commenter interpreted that quote:

"The luminosity of the gentle – they draw attention without demanding it. I love that."

Likewise, Jesus drew attention to Himself without demanding it. He wasn't terribly flashy: He entered the world as Tiny Infant Jesus in a manger worshipped by lowly shepherds, not in a palace flanked by noblemen. He entered into Jerusalem on a donkey and its colt, not on the white horse of Revelation.

But still He was easy to see. He drew people to Himself while He walked here on Earth. And He still draws people to Himself, a light shining bright in the darkness.


What are some other ways Jesus exhibited gentleness?


Linking up with The Nester's 31 Days... writing challenge.

Read all posts in my "31 Days of Gentleness for the Rest of Us" series here. Sign up to get every update in your inbox or favorite reader here, and find even more inspiration on my "gentleness" Pinterest board.

You also may be interested in my blogger-friend Jenn's series writing through her one word for the year, "31 Days of Living Boldly," at A Simple Haven.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Gentleness for the Rest of Us: Rest for your souls



This post is Day 23 of my "31 Days of Gentleness for the Rest of Us" series.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” – Matthew 11:28-30

There was a moment, halfway into our European vacation.

My husband and I were winding through the narrow roads of Tuscany in a tiny stick-shift, a dizzying swirl of silvery green olive and tall, evergreen Cypress trees in the valley far below us. We had nothing we had to do, just pillowy gnocchi to eat and deep, earthy wines to drink and each other's company to enjoy.

And I realized, despite the terrifying drive, I was relaxed.

"Is this how everybody else feels all of the time?" I asked.

My husband, who always at least seems relaxed no matter what is going on around him, answered, "It's pretty great, isn't it?"

I had been scandalized by the idea of a two-week vacation leading up to the trip. Outside of our week-long honeymoon and some three-day weekends mostly at my family's cabin in the Northwoods of Wisconsin in the summertime, the only vacations I've taken in my adult life have been to visit family, to attend weddings or to work with Hope for the First Nations on the White Earth Reservation in Minnesota.

It seemed so selfish. It seemed so unproductive.

It seems like maybe that isn't the worst thing in the world sometimes. 

---

I've always prided myself on being productive, on being a good steward of my time – "There are 24 usable hours in every day," remember? – which sounds really great and churchy, biblical even.

Except for the part where Jesus never mentions it.

Instead, He says, "My yoke is easy and my burden is light."

We're the ones who make the name of Christ so heavy to carry, adding rules we never were asked to follow, adding politics and personalities, adding echoes and memories and associations. We are always striving where Jesus offers us rest.

All Jesus asks of us is to come to Him.

It doesn't surprise Him or disappoint Him when we physically need to rest either. He doesn't view it as "wasted time." In fact, He freely offers it to us.

It's how God designed us: Creator gave us to picture of resting on the seventh day and commanded us to take a Sabbath, too. Jesus often withdrew by Himself to rest and pray. He invites us to learn from Him, and He promises to give us rest for our souls.

I've always prided myself on being a good steward of my time. What I'm learning is that means I need to make time to rest, too. What I'm learning is I don't have to constantly strive to earn Jesus' approval; He offers rest for my soul instead. What's important to Him is that I come to Him, that I learn from The One who describes Himself as "gentle."

So come with me, and let's rest.


How are you resting this weekend?


Linking up with The Nester's 31 Days... writing challenge.

Read all posts in my "31 Days of Gentleness for the Rest of Us" series here. Sign up to get every update in your inbox or favorite reader here, and find even more inspiration on my "gentleness" Pinterest board.

You also may be interested in my blogger-friend Jenn's series writing through her one word for the year, "31 Days of Living Boldly," at A Simple Haven.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Gentleness for the Rest of Us: 10 Quotes about Gentleness



This post is Day 22 of my "31 Days of Gentleness for the Rest of Us" series.


"Gentleness is a conscious decision to temper one's knowledge, skills, authority or power with kindness and compassion. Gentleness does not refer to what we do but how we do it. Gentleness does not refer to what we know but how we share that knowledge." – Mary Ann Froehlich

"Gentle Christians are known for who they represent, instead of what they stand against." – Mary Ann Froehlich

"Gentleness is never a cowardly retreat from reality." – Stanley Horton




“Oh! that gentleness! how far more potent is it than force!” – Charlotte Brontë

"Be gentle to all and stern with yourself." – St. Teresa of Avila

“It is wonderful how attractive a gentle, pleasant manner is, and how much it wins hearts.” – St. Francis de Sales

"Nothing is so strong as gentleness; nothing so gentle as real strength." – St. Francis de Sales




“I learned that it is the weak who are cruel, and that gentleness is to be expected only from the strong.” – Leo Rosten

“Gentleness is strength under control. It is the ability to stay calm, no matter what happens.” – Elizabeth George

"Even in a time of elephantine vanity and greed, one never has to look far to see the campfires of gentle people." – Garrison Keillor




Which of these quotes most resonates with you?


Linking up with The Nester's 31 Days... writing challenge.

Read all posts in my "31 Days of Gentleness for the Rest of Us" series here. Sign up to get every update in your inbox or favorite reader here, and find even more inspiration on my "gentleness" Pinterest board.

You also may be interested in my blogger-friend Jenn's series writing through her one word for the year, "31 Days of Living Boldly," at A Simple Haven.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons, edited with Rhonna Design.
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