All posts filed under: Blog

Photo by Tyler Delgado on Unsplash

A Strange Season: It is time to start thinking about the holidays, 2020 edition.

Rain danced on the window and opaque clouds turned the world vivid grey while we enjoyed our warm, dry, and glowing home. My son was quietly focused on his building blocks and the baby played at my feet while I cleaned up breakfast. I called to Arlo in the other room, “Would you like some music?” “Yeah,” he replied. “Charlie Brown Christmas!” It is the middle of August, but it seemed like a welcome change from the rotation of Raffi and the Laurie Berkner Band. I threw on the record and we settled into the peace that comes with the nostalgic offering of the Vince Guaraldi Trio. It brought to mind, again, something that I’ve been thinking about a lot lately: what are we to do about the 2020 holidays? It is entirely too early to begin making plans for the fall and winter celebrations, but this is an exceptional year. Why is this on my mind? It is more than a distraction from the strangeness that permeates social and political life. I find myself …

The Case for Spiritual Anarchism

This is going to seem radical. (It should.) We are now standing at a door of opportunity: it is time for us to unlearn everything the church taught us.  “Church” – the Sunday morning service, the weekly Bible study, the choir or worship band, the traditions and expectations – is a crutch and sorry replacement for spirit living. The church, as an institution of leadership, has usurped the freedom that was and is promised to each one of us. The church, as a multitude, put into place a system that supported and encouraged blind acceptance, heavy burdens, patriarchy, racism, violence, ignorance, shame, and disconnection. It is time to let all of that go.  WHY? Typically, we form our identity by compiling a series of labels for ourselves: woman, man, black, white, straight, gay, not religious, evangelical, catholic, lutheran, baptist, democrat, republican, apolitical, American, etc. The designation, “Christian,” signifies numerous behaviors and ideologies that align with political and social talking points that have nothing to do with original intent. As such, the term and the institution …

Photo by Ian Chen on Unsplash

Finding God in a Season of Struggle

What we are experiencing is, for many of us, a once-in-a-lifetime defining season of change. A health pandemic reached the doorstep of the United States and barged right in. We Americans are used to watching scares such as this play out in other countries, while we apathetically take it in through the twenty-four hour news cycle. Protests and riots over police brutality are happening across the nation. Law enforcement is responding with, at times, respect and, all too often, with brutal force. We have a president failing to unite us, preferring harsh rhetoric and resorting to typical pomposity. Let’s not forget the underlying hum of joblessness, a crashing economy, and climate change anxiety. Many of us wake in the mornings after a restless night wondering where the heck is God in all of this? Even the staunchest believer or church goer is disturbed by the uncertainty.  I am not an ordained minister. I am not trained at a theological seminary. I am not a guru with an army of followers. I am, however, a person …

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Best Practices for Teaching Online Coursework: 15 Suggestions, or What to Do When You Suddenly Find Yourself Teaching Online

An extended family member, who is also in academe, brought it to my attention that many in our field are thinking of the future state of the college classroom. It was only a matter of time before those of us who work in higher education would need to consider alternative methods of teaching. Measures to halt the spread of COVID-19 may begin to impact our learning communities, requiring more virtual classrooms to “pop” up. Just today, both Princeton and Columbia announced intentions to cancel in-person classes while we pass through the storm. Unfortunately, many very good, knowledgeable instructors have little, if any, experience teaching online. My intention with this post is to share a list of best practices that I adhere to while teaching online courses. These are my standards, and though they overlap with those prescribed by my institution, this list should not be considered as their official stance. I hold a Ph.D. in American studies and a good portion of my dissertation focuses on the ways digital culture is a harbinger for broader …

Photo by Logan Lambert on Unsplash; Person standing on car looking up at the night sky

Looking Up as a Radical Act of Belief

If a person is lucky, she receives a gift that is not only creative and thoughtful, but is life-altering. You know the kind I mean: the book that stops you in your tracks and changes your worldview, the pair of socks that causes you to rethink your relationship to footwear, the mug that brings a smile to your face every morning. Even the simplest of presents can make big adjustments to the way we live our lives. Those are the best kind of offerings.  This year, my dear husband gave me a telescope. I wanted one since I was a child, but had no plans to purchase anytime soon. I was so moved by his gesture of love, because it was based on an understanding of who I am and some of my deepest desires.  I want to see the celestial bodies. (I named my daughter Luna, for goodness sake!)  As soon as it started to sink in that this beautiful (Celestron!) telescope was really mine, I realized that this was a life-changing gift. Not …

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

On Finding God Outside of the Church This Holiday Season

In America, a common quip around the holidays is, “Jesus is the reason for the season.” The assumption is that the primary focus of the [Christian] holiday should be belief, not consumerism. Though a bright one-liner, like other Chrisitan-isms, it falls flat and without meaning to most ears. It actually contains a lot of meaning, but none of the intended. Something about it does not sit right with me. It seethes with judgement, not love. It covers the sense of pride that some Christians carry with them – the holier than thou pride that is ancient as story itself. Jesus is, of course, the narrative at the core of Christmas celebration, but people created alternative figures to bear the message of love: Santa Claus, Ebenezer Scrooge, The Grinch, and Frosty the Snowman, to name only a few. Jesus is absolutely central to Christmas, but the church’s inability to fully bear the message of hope and love is rooted in human pride. It is an unsuccessful attempt at fooling the masses into believing that truth is …

Photo by Ryoji Iwata on Unsplash

God and The Perfectionists

We are a perfectionist generation. Just glance at any social media site and you will find instructions on how to attain perfection (physical, intellectual, professional, social, cultural) and quick criticism of those who fail at perfection (celebrities, politicians, business people, and average Janes/Joes.) You will also find swarms of people pushing back on this attempt at perfection, claiming to be anti-perfectionists – though it is still the idea of “perfection” that inspires the response. The Internet allows us to seek out concepts that support perfection in many forms, whether real or fake, and this information seeps into our psyche to lay a foundation for a definition of “perfect.” Again, even for the sake of avoiding it. No one is free from this bombardment. It just is. Awareness of this fact is imperative because perfection begins to define aspects of humanity that might seem impenetrable; for example: God. We, a perfectionist generation, have placed “God” in the perfectionist’s box, thus changing who God is, completely.  As a result, we barely know him.  One of the countless …

Photo by Karim MANJRA on Unsplash

The Beacon: Thoughts on Loss and Love

I miss my mother so much lately. The world seems altered since she died seven months ago. Each relationship has a different color. Every street in our town is changed. Places once visited are built with memories I cannot shake (do not want to shake.) I feel the impressions of her body holding mine as I rock my infant daughter. I can embrace my mother in my mind’s eye and perceive the shape of her shoulders, the texture of her hair, and the softness of her skin. At times I even smell my mother in rooms, random and diverse.  It is only recently that I allowed myself to glance at her face in photographs again. Her shining smile caused too much anguish. Now, I sit at my desk with two small images close by: the first, her high school senior photograph and, the second, of my mother standing among sunflowers. The reminders are multilayered. Not only do I need to remember that she is not here (I often forget), I remember her capacity to love. …

Baby with storybook

The Ugly Duckling: Becoming Who We Are Meant to Be (a short entry)

The Ugly Duckling is not about beauty. It is not about overcoming the “awkward stage.” It is not about emerging as a physically attractive being after years of torment. It is about discovering one’s identity in a world that asks for conformity. In the story, the baby swan is not readily accepted by the community he is born into because they do not recognize him. The way he looks, how he finds his voice, or the way he moves makes them very confused. The swan seems incapable of adding value to the established system, but this is not without first trying to find a place in it – both the swan and the other animals attempt to “locate” him in the community. It took moving through seasons and watching the other animals find their roles for the swan to stumble upon his place. Other swans saw in him what he did not see and they opened the door for him to see his true self. What is implied, though, is that these swans still live …

Hand reaching out in the darkness, Photo by Cherry Laithang on Unsplash

The Action of Belief, The Rejection of Fear

“Do not be afraid any longer, only believe.” Mark 5:36 This is the line Jesus gives the synagogue official Jairus to tell him to relax in the midst of horrific tragedy – the serious illness of the man’s young daughter. At the opening of the story, Jarius comes to Jesus during a large gathering by the seashore to compel him to come to see the girl. You can almost sense the anxiety and commotion around the official’s arrival. Jesus stands at the seashore with the water lapping behind him, the sun brightly shining and reflecting off of the water. Even in the heat of the day, people continue to gather and increase the size of the crowd – some standing, some sitting – all silent, trying to hear the voice of the Teacher. A man comes running and begins to press through the people, stepping over children, pushing passed men and women; his eyes fixed on the man at the shore. “Teacher! Teacher!” he cries and breathless, falls at Jesus’s feet, arms stretched along the …