How Far Away is Catastrophe? 2018-10-08 13.00.14


“Climate change is the canvas on which the history of the 21st century will be painted.”

 Mark Lynas, writing in “Six Degrees: Our Future on a Hotter Planet.”

I’ve read stories about the most recent findings regarding climate change in many venues today.  (I am linking here to the BBC story because I found it contained a lot of good information, but it would be very easy to check multiple sites for the information.)  Scientists and researchers who study climate are warning of a climate catastrophe if nothing is done. There are those who still deny all of the scientific evidence. Our government has recently rolled back protections on our environment.  Many have denied scientific findings in the past and been proven wrong. Galileo was excommunicated from the church for his scientific findings, but he was found to be correct.  Me?  I believe the science.

Warnings of catastrophic consequences due to global warming and environmental changes are not new, but the date they have given for a dire impact is. And it hit me hard. 2030.   How old will your, your children, and your grandchildren be that year? I did the math for my family…

In 2030:
I will be 77
Dani will be 61
Laura will be 53
Travis will be 49
Ashley will be 44
Brittni will be 42
Chelsea will be 40
Kate will be 31
Megan will be 28
Chapin will be 27
Lydan will be 25
Samantha will be 25
Alyanna will be 23
Caydence will be 21
Lily will be 19
Cassidy will be 15

Who knows, I may not see it. But my loved ones will. I pray that we take this seriously and live up to our responsibility to do something so that they can all live long, healthy lives. Doing something now says that we believe these young people are worth caring about and saving. If the climate change science is right, we can save lives. If it is wrong, we will have a cleaner environment and we will not have harmed the future by doing better for our planet. Are you willing to risk your children’s lives?



1 SHORT STORY FROM RAY BRADBURY – “All Summer in a Day” – A story that had an impact on me years ago that I first read in a literature anthology when I began teaching.


10ish BOOKS ABOUT CLIMATE SCIENCE including one novel that illustrates the impact. 

  • Chesapeake Requiem:  A Year with the Watermen of Vanishing Tangier Island by Earl Swift
  • Six Degrees by Mark Lynas
  • This Changes Everything:  Capitalism vs The Climate by Naomi Klien
  • Hot, Flat, and Crowded by Thomas L. Friedman
  • Flight a novel by Barbara Kingsolver
  • The Age of Sustainable Development by Jeffrey D. Sachs
  • Comfortably Unaware by Richard Oppenlander
  • The Sixth Extinction  and  Field Notes from a Catastrophe by Elizabeth Kolbert
  • Rising:  Dispatches from the New American Shore by Elizabeth Rush
  • Climate Justice by Mary Robinson

The Emperor Has No Clothes

I am a Christian.  I say that unapologetically yet knowing that there are people who will make assumptions about me that may or may not be true.  I watch the things that some who call themselves Christians do in the name of Jesus, and I cringe.   A “church” shows up to protest at the funerals of soldiers.  “People of God” practice and espouse white supremacist values and violence against those of other races.  I witness the lack of caring and the degradation of our fellow human beings because they aren’t from the same social class, because of the way they dress or their tattoos, because the are gay or transgender, because they abuse drugs or alcohol, because their skin color is different, Screenshot 2018-09-16 15.58.17.pngbecause they are from another country and speak a different language, or because they practice a different religion.  These are decidedly not scriptural attitudes or behaviors.  I am often horrified and want to distance myself from the name of the church embarrassed by what these people do and the reputation they have given Christ.  To many people who are not involved in the church, these are the characteristics of all Christians because it is what they see in public venues and in the media – including from programming that presents itself as speaking for Christ. (Example, an evangelist on television stating that the events of 9/11/2001 happened as punishment from God for our acceptance of gays.)  These actions of hate are driving the public opinion against Christians.
I do many things wrong.  But I sincerely pray that I don’t do things that embarrass the Lord.  I hope that I don’t practice “situational Christianity” as some people do “situational ethics,” but I’m sure that there have been times when I have done so.  I have overlooked a situation or a person’s statement that challenges everything I believe for the sake of keeping the peace with friends, family, and co-workers.  I fall short – usually on the side of what I don’t do – because of a lack of courage.  But I know that I don’t condemn, look down on, hate, degrade, or do things to harm those who are different than me.  I have things that I don’t understand in the way others choose to live their lives and things that I fully disagree with, but I try to acknowledge that the person is still a child of God who is as fully lovable as any other child of God.  I try hard to speak in terms of actions or ideas in my dissent…but I know that I often fall short, very short, especially in my comments about one person.
Our leaders are no different than the rest of us. Our parents, teachers, pastors, stars, and leaders are human.  We’d like them to be perfect, or at least better than average, but they are mere humans.  Some seem too good to be true, and the public promptly sets out to bring them down a peg.  We can still look to leaders and mentors as examples without their being perfect.  The disciples, the apostle Paul, and other heroes of history were not perfect, but we still look to their example as they were trying to do their best and were people of character.
We don’t have to agree with our leaders on every issue.  If I held out for that as the measure of a teacher, a pastor, or a candidate, well, I would learn nothing, attend no church, and never vote.  However, I must agree on most of the things a leader espouses in order to follow and listen.  In the case of a political leader, I cannot support someone on one issue alone.  I certainly could vote for dog catcher based on a candidate’s stance on animal cruelty alone.  But there are very few positions that only have influence in only one area.  A candidate who has ideas I can support on just education, just taxes, just human rights, just immigration, just the abortion issue, or just…whatever one hot button issue there is would not be a candidate I could vote for.  Similar stances on issues are not enough either.  No matter where they stand on the issues, we should to be able to see character, honesty, and a true concern for others in our leaders.  We should know that what they say today will be the same as what they say tomorrow.  Obviously politicians are known for promising lots of things that they never accomplish.  We should, at least, have the comfort of knowing that they honestly would like to accomplish those things and that their promises are not based on convenient lies meant to gain our votes and nothing more.  We should know what their core values are not only through their words but through their actions both on and off camera, both in and out of the arena.
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This is why many people have a great deal of difficulty understanding how Christians and their leadership can back certain candidates or leaders.  The argument that most give of “well look at the other candidate” – whoever he or she might be – rings hollow.  We should never have to make a choice between two lousy choices.  We should be involved early enough that it doesn’t come down to that.  We can also jump ship on both political parties and vote for a different candidate or write in candidates.
In this blog I usually stick to my own thoughts and my words (albeit with lots of quotes).  I don’t often share articles here, but I am doing it for the second post in a row.  The article I am sharing presents some ideas and questions I have been very challenged to understand.
More often than not my blog shares my love of books by recommending titles.  I told someone this week that my next post would recommend books and so it does.   Here are some books (both for children and adults) on character and leadership and people who demonstrated it:
  • Believe It  by Nick Foles
  • Character Counts by Os Guinness
  • The Emperor’s New Clothes by Hans Christian Andersen
  • The Generosity Factor by Ken Blanchard and S. Truett Cathy
  • I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai
  • I Will Not Fear:  My Story of a Lifetime of Building Faith Under Fire by Melba Beals
  • The Magnolia Story by Chip and Joanna Gaines
  • Principle-Centered Leadership, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, and First Things First by Stephen Covey
  • Profiles in Courage by John Fitzgerald Kennedy
  • Profiles in Courage for Our Time by Caroline Kennedy
  • Seeds of Change: Planting a Path to Peace by Jen Cullerton Johnson (picture book)
  • She Persisted: 13 American Women Who Changed the World and She Persisted Around the World by Chelsea Clinton (children’s book)
  • This is Our Time:  Everyday Myths in Light of the Gospel by Trevin Wax
  • Uncommon Life by Tony Dungy
  • Unified:  How Our Unlikely Friendship Gives Us Hope for a Divided Country by Tim Scott and Trey Gowdy
BACKGROUND ON SHARED ARTICLE:  The article I am sharing is written by Dr. Benjamin L. Corey who “is a public theologian and cultural anthropologist who is a two-time graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and who received his doctorate in Intercultural Studies from Fuller Theological Seminary. He is also the author of the new book, Unafraid: Moving Beyond Fear-Based Faith, which is available wherever good books are sold.”  It appeared on the website which says of itself: is the premier online destination to engage in the global dialogue about religion and spirituality, and to explore and experience the world’s beliefs. Patheos is the website of choice for the millions of people looking for credible and balanced information about religion. Patheos brings together faith communities, academics, and the broader public into a single environment, and is the place where many people turn on a regular basis for insight, inspiration, and stimulating discussion.
I do not know enough about the website to comment on the site overall.  I do know that, while there are some elements here I would debate with the author, I found the article very thought provoking and illustrative of a dilemma I have in understanding things today.

Ten Little Monkeys Jumping on the…

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I first heard of the idea of “Monkey Mind” through a book that was recommended to me by a counselor.  I had never heard a more accurate description of what so often goes on in my mind!  My thoughts not only jump around like monkeys in the trees, they keep returning to the same branch over and over.  It is a combination of not being able to calm the mind, jumping from thought to thought, and dwelling on all of the hurts, injustices, mistakes, angers, and slights that ever happened on what another book called “the playback loop from hell.”

This article is a short but good one on the subject.

Yeah So, Anyway…

Have you ever read anything and thought, “Yeah, that’s true”?  Have you ever read something and thought, “Yeah, that’s true, but…”?  I just had that experience reading a little book called Anyway: The Paradoxical Commandments – Finding Personal Meaning in a Crazy World by Kent M. Keith.  I read the book at the recommendation of a friend who was reading it at the recommendation of someone in her church.

Keith starts off talking about how he wrote the commandments and how they grew in popularity over the years being passed around the internet.  Sometimes they were attributed to that very prolific author “Anonymous.”  Sometimes others were given credit – even Mother Teresa!  I had seen them several times, thought they were kind of cool, and moved on.  Reading this book in which the author gives some examples and reasoning, made me stop to contemplate each one. 

I have to say that, because of my nature, I already do some of them.  They are commandments that would make for a better world if more people followed them all.  However, I have one problem following in them in my life.  I have trouble ignoring the downsides often.  It doesn’t mean that I don’t try to do things the way he describes.  It means that, when I follow his to “do it anyway” and get kicked in the teeth, I am naive or stupid enough to be bit surprised and really disappointed.  I wish I could have really contemplated these ideas a few years ago.  I wish I could have adopted the attitude of doing it anyway regardless of the warnings he gives being true.  I wish I could have accepted the truth of the negatives.  It might have made my last few years more peaceful.

I came to the end of a career where I thought I had made friends, did good things, worked on big ideas, built something, and did my best to help people.  But Kent Keith is right.  What I discovered were “positional” and some false friends, the good things I had worked on with my colleagues being thrown to the side, the big ideas were crushed for the convenient, and the very people I tried to help turning their backs on me.  I felt like my entire professional life had come to nothing.  I don’t think that is true.  I have had people tell me otherwise.  I am not sorry that I tried to do good things, help people, improve education, and help people.  I am sorry that I wasn’t able to detach from other people’s reactions and feel good, feel pride at what I did accomplish.

Late in the book Kent Keith says,

“If you try to do what is right and good and true, and feel that you have failed, you may be tempted to shift to the cynical option of exploiting others or the indifferent option of doing nothing.  But there is no justification for falling into the two immoral options just because things are not going the way you had hoped or because people don’t appreciate what you have done….

“The issue of appreciation is a big one.  Many of us feel that we are being taken for granted.  The people we serve (or work with – additional words from me) don’t appreciate us, so why should we give them our best?  The answer is that we have our own integrity and standards, and we derive meaning and satisfaction from doing a great job.  It doesn’t matter whether or not anybody knows or appreciates what we do – we still have to do what’s right.  We still have to be the best we can be.  This is about us, not them.  This is about how much we care, not about how much they care.”

I know in my mind that he is right.  I know in the core of my being that doing what is right and good and true is what I want to do. The part I can’t master is the letting go of my expectations.  I hit the “why did I bother” drum over and over in my mind.  I don’t know that I crave appreciation.  It is nice to have someone notice what you did, but I don’t do things looking for a reward or a quid pro quo.  What gets to me is when you go out of your way to help only to get thrown under the bus. I get beaten down and defeated by rejection and by false friends.  When you stand up for your ideals, the work you and your team took on, the programs you built together, and in support of others – well, you just kind of hope that someone will still be standing with you in the end and that some of the good will go on.

I keep working on not caring at all what others think or at least caring a lot less.  So far, it doesn’t work.  I was brought up to care too much about what others think.  I need to take the advice a friend keeps reminding me about.  “You wouldn’t care so much about what others think if you realized how seldom they do.”  It’s a work in progress.  And I have some books to reread and to suggest to you too worry too much about what others think.

  • Anyway: The Paradoxical Commandments – Finding Personal Meaning in a Crazy World by Kent M. Keith
  • Braving the Wilderness:  The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone by Brené Brown
  • The Generosity Factor by Kenneth H. Blanchard
  • The Gifts of Imperfection:  Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are by Brené Brown
  • The Ragamuffin Gospel:  Good News for the Bedraggled, Beat-Up, and Burnt Out by Brennan Manning
  • A Short Guide to a Happy Life by Anna Quindlen
  • Traveling Light: Releasing the Burdens You Were Never Intended to Bear by Max Lucado
  • Tuesdays With Morrie by Mitch Albom

Words Aptly Spoken

A Word Aptly SScreenshot 2018-09-04 22.02.50poken.  It’s the title of my blog.  It has been brought to mind quite a number of times in the last week as I listened to many give words aptly spoken.  I only wish that their words could have the impact our country needs.  I’m not going to write a long post today.  I am merely going to encourage you to go and listen to or read the words that were spoken by the people who eulogized Senator John McCain.  Leaders of our country from both parties came together to agree that here was a man who had courage, grit, determination, and character. They honored him as a man with a vision for America that was a result of his character and values rather than being in lock-step with party, fads, or public opinion. 

What you will find nestled in the words spoken to honor him are the characteristics that we would like to see in all of our leaders. 

  • A willingness to work with everyone regardless of political party. 
  • A commitment to ideals, values, and morals. 
  • The backbone to stand up for a belief in the face of arguments from your friends as well as from your foes. 
  • The ability to see the value in every human being whether you agree with them or not. 
  • The decency to give respect to an opponent by squelching rumors and slurs that are not true. 
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If you know me, you know quoting Hemingway is not something I usually do, but this one – from John McCain’s favorite book – is appropriate.

Take the time to look up the words spoken by Joe Lieberman (I, Connecticut), George W. Bush (R, Texas), Barack Obama (D, Illinois), Joe Biden (D, Delaware), Mike Pence (R, Indiana).  It will be time spent well especially if the words can initiate a change in the discourse of our country.

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New Hope for a New School Year

Back to school time has always been exhilarating to me.  It brings the anticipation of change and renewal coming.  Others may make resolutions and plans on January 1, but this girl always felt like the year begins with September stretching out in front of me.  The cooler air and crisp nights that are right around the corner are energizing to me.  And those schools opening their doors bring a possibility of learning, new adventures, and excitement.  

As a child, I loved the new school supplies and the back-to-school, fall outfit that I wore the first day even if it was too hot for it.  I approached each new year with new teachers and new classmates with eagerness and drive.  This was the year I would do it all right.

I cherished this time of year so much that it became a permanent fixture in my adult life as a teacher.  Each year as I anticipated my new students I had the same excitement that I felt as a child.  I still bought those new school supplies.  But they were a little different.  Instead of purchasing the fun notebooks and fine pens that I loved, I purchased supplies in bulk – notebooks, pens, paper, an abundant supply of Halls cough drops, and tissues – that my students might not be able to get.  I cleaned out my home book shelves of all the books I had read and loaded up my school shelves with books I thought my students would like.  I stalked the Staples’ back-to-school ads awaiting their special sale on spiral notebooks.  When that week came, my friend Mary Sue and I did our best to secure every spiral notebook that we could for a nickel or dime (They allowed teachers 30 each, but you can make multiple trips when you have over 100 students!)  My own back to school supplies included a few green pens and lots of Advil for me as well as an ample stock of wine.

I retired from teaching a few years ago.  I miss the anticipation of the new school year.  I miss the possibilities and the potential each year held.  Mostly I miss the kids and sharing ideas and books with them.


Today I had a great time living that excitement and anticipation with a bunch of students I won’t accompany into the year or meet as they come home each evening.  New Hope Ministries held their annual “Back to School Daze Craze” today with a carnival atmosphere.  The children from kindergarteners starting out on this adventure up through seniors entering their final year were supplied with a new backpack filled with paper, notebooks, three-ring binders, pens, pencils, crayons, glue, and other things that they would need for the start of school.  Kids were given an extra treat that they picked, a scientific calculator if they needed one, a book of their choice, and a “first aid kid for the soul” (kits that had a Bible, notepad, and pen).  There were Disney princesses and Alice from Wonderland fame walking around and taking pictures with the kids.  They got things from other organizations in town from school supplies to mini-footballs, frisbees, and toothbrushes.  There were hot dogs, chips, and drinks.  They had haircuts, eye exams, and bike repairs.  There were face painters, fire trucks, popcorn, and cotton candy.  New Hope made this day a real CELEBRATION OF GOING BACK TO SCHOOL!!!

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I loved the excitement of all the staff and volunteers and how they spoke to the kids with the enthusiasm I always felt about this time of year.  Today I was working with the senior high students who came for supplies.  Even those who tried to be cool had that sense of ennui taken away when you looked at the twinkle in their eyes.  They studied the choices to get just the right backpack.  So many of them got really excited about picking out books!  I found my tribe there in the young book lovers.  The boy who devours science fiction, the girl who found the John Green book to complete her collection, the ones who picked up titles to show me their favorites already read.  Each came to those shelves eager for a new find. 

We often hear people say that when they give of their time and talents to help someone else, they are blessed far more than the recipients.  Today I was given a lovely gift along with all those kids.  I got to share my love of education and reading with some really great kids who truly appreciated what they received.  I got to share the day with others devoted to giving and sharing with these families.  What a joy it was.  Thank you New Hope Ministries for the blessing you are to the community and to me.


Old Enough to Read Fairy Tales Again

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Have you seen the Great American Read program that PBS is doing?  After conducting a poll in which people were asked to name their favorite novel, PBS came up with Americans’ 100 most popular books.  They limited the selections to only one novel by any given author and counted a series as one book.  After all they couldn’t have the whole list taken up by J. K. Rowling, James Patterson, Suzanne Collins, George R. R. Martin, and J. R. R. Tolkien.  Finally they launched the program with a televised special, open the voting, and will air several more programs in the fall culminating with the choice of America’s most popular book.  (There will be a link to the program and the voting at the end of this post.)

I was struck as I looked at the list by how many books written for children and teens (or at least predominantly read by them) are on the list.  One quarter of the books listed fall into these categories.  Since the people polled were asked to name their favorite novels, none of the picture books that people hold dear are on the list as they wouldn’t have qualified as novels.  Also not included would be any nonfiction so no Anne Frank.   Also, by limiting the list to only one book by any given author, there are titles that are surprisingly not on the list like The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn which I imagine wasn’t on the list because Tom got more votes than Huck.

In addition to the children’s and YA titles listed below, there are some titles that are often read by young people including And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie, Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift, Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, and Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen.  There are also titles on the list that are “supposed” to be read by teenagers because English teachers assign them, but that is fodder for another post. 

C. S. Lewis once said, “A children’s story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children’s story in the slightest.”  He also said that “No book is really worth reading at the age of ten which is not equally – and often far more – worth reading at the age of fifty and beyond.” These thoughts are profoundly true.  I have found great joy in recent years reading books for children from picture books through intermediate books and into the young adult titles.  The writing in these books is phenomenal.  The characters and stories are engaging and not simplistic.  In addition to the tried-and-true titles, the books that have been published in the last few years offer a diversity, complexity, and creativity that will surprise many of you who haven’t dipped your toe into kiddie lit for a long time.  A great summer read should have the characteristics mentioned above and be just plain enjoyable, and this list fills all of these criteria. 

Screenshot 2018-07-01 20.02.30Check out the list of books below that include only the young people’s titles from the list of 100.  How many of them have you read?  If there are titles on there that you haven’t had the pleasure of experiencing, this might be a great start for you.


If so, take a look at the full list of 100 titles on the website, but remember that these are the favorite novels not necessarily the critically acclaimed works of fine literature (How else can you imagine Their Eyes Were Watching God on the same list as Fifty Shades of Grey?)  I’m sure that each of us could add a title or two.  Where is Fahrenheit 451 or my beloved Pat Conroy? And I know that there are some I wouldn’t have put on there…I mean, really, Moby Dick?  However, after looking over the list there are bound to be many of your favorites included.   There are also likely to be titles that are new to you.  If so, watch the special and find some new books to add to your TBR pile.

From the Great American Read:        (T) indicates a young adult title

  1. (T)  A Separate Peace by John Knowles
  2. Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
  3. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
  4. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
  5. Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery
  6. (T)  Bless Me, Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya
  7. (T)  The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
  8. Call of the Wild by Jack London
  9. (T) Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger
  10. Charlotte’s Web by E. B. White
  11. The Chronicles of Narnia series by C. S. Lewis   Screenshot 2018-07-01 19.39.33
  12. Ghost by Jason Reynolds
  13. The Giver by Lois Lowry
  14. Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling
  15. Hatchet series by Gary Paulsen
  16. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
  17. (T) Looking for Alaska by John Green
  18. The Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins
  19. The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
  20. Lord of the Rings series by J. R. R. Tolkien
  21. (T) The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton
  22. (T) To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  23. (T) Twilight series by Stephanie Meyer
  24. Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls


To watch the PBS special, view the full list, find out about upcoming specials, and to vote for your favorite(s), go to: