Monday, April 28, 2008

Substitute Teaching: End of P.S. Update

Congratulations to the VanDyk's, whose baby girl was born today! And this means that I will be substitute teaching Jr. High math and science until the end of the school year at Heritage Christian Academy—with no more public school substituting this school year, so far as I can tell.

This means the following totals, through 4/28/08, are likely complete:

  • Mattawan (27; 14 in HS, 12 in MS, 1 in Elem.)
  • Decatur (6; 1 in HS, 3 in MS, 2 in Elem.)
  • Paw Paw (5; 4 in HS, 1 in Elem.)
  • Gobles (5; 4 in HS, 1 in MS)
  • Lawrence (5; 3 in HS, 1 in MS, 1 in Elem.)
  • Bloomingdale (3; 2 in HS, 1 in Elem.)
  • Lawton (3; 1 in Alternative Ed., 1in HS, 1 in MS)
  • Howardsville Christian (2, HS)
And of course, 1 day at far.

I still have so many interesting stories to tell....

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Hymn of the Week: How Sweet and Awesome Is This Place

This Isaac Watts hymn [also titled: How Sweet and Awful Is This Place] has been around for about 300 years, but I just heard it for the first time last week. Another friend of mine, Roger (see blog here), also had heard it for the first time just a few days before I did at the T4G conference he attended.

I think the idea to contemplate here is this: We were invited to be part of the "bride of Christ" through salvation, and we get to participate in the "wedding supper" with Him....and yet we are not the least bit worthy—and many others who are invited refuse the invitation!

It is sad that although "God is not willing that any should perish" and therefore "invites all men everywhere to repent," there will be some who spurn His precious gift of salvation. But it is also unbelievably comforting that those of us who have accepted His gift will get to sit at that wedding supper and enjoy God's presence forever in heaven!

Isaac Watts wrote roughly 700 hymn lyrics.

Here are the words to this great hymn:

How sweet and awesome is this place
[originally How sweet and aweful is the place]
With Christ within the doors,
While everlasting love displays
The choicest of her stores!

Here every bowel of our God
With soft compassion rolls;
Here peace and pardon bought with blood
Is food for dying souls.

While all our hearts and all our songs
Join to admire the feast,
Each of us cry, with thankful tongues,
“Lord, why was I a guest?

“Why was I made to hear Thy voice,
And enter while there’s room,
When thousands make a wretched choice,
And rather starve than come?”

’Twas the same love that spread the feast
That sweetly drew us in;
Else we had still refused to taste,
And perished in our sin.

Pity the nations, O our God!
Constrain the earth to come;
Send Thy victorious Word abroad,
And bring the strangers home.

We long to see Thy churches full,
That all the chosen race
May with one voice, and heart and soul,
Sing Thy redeeming grace.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Thoughts on the NFL Draft

At times today, I caught brief glimpses of the NFL Draft. I know my team picked two players, of whom I know relatively little at this time.

What amazes me is the passionate, almost psychotic fascination that some people have with analyzing the NFL draft. Should the team with the 17th pick trade up to get the 14th? What should they trade? Good move? Dumb move? Should they choose a linebacker? A quarterback? A kicker? And then, of course, the "instant analysis" once a team picks someone: "He's an impact player! They'll use him in special teams and certain 3rd down situations! [Various other comments regarding his speed, size, athleticism, etc. will be given, also]"

I like football. I love my Steelers. I enjoy the game immensely. But I just can't get this psyched up over the draft. As long as my team doesn't pick losers who will be a negative impact on the team, I just can't get that passionately fascinated.

And it's probably just as well that I don't. After all, that would make my focus on football stronger than my focus on spiritual things...and I don't want that.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

When Public Education Cannot Succeed

I had another sub assignment today in a local public high school. And I observed a lesson seen before, but brought clearly before my eyes again.

A lesson which, for the record, applies to all of education: Public, Christian, Sunday school, or otherwise.

The teacher whose geometry classroom I inhabited today left a bit too little for the students to do—I could see that right away. So I planned to spend the first 10-15 minutes review what [to me, especially] were familiar topics, in order to help them succeed on their worksheets. This went fine; but then several students absolutely refused to do the assigned work, preferring instead to talk, goof around, sleep, or generally distract all their neighbors. And then they complained that they didn't know how to do the geometry!

There are several problems here. But the fact which was made frightfully obvious today was this:

Learning cannot take place when the student is in rebellion to the teacher.

Public education is inherently handicapped in various ways, including its inability to effectively discipline and the general lack of support our society gives in holding up authority. The fact that students refuse to obey their teachers is the fruit reaped from seeds earlier sown.

These children did not appear to be stupid, unintellectual, or whatever politically correct (or incorrect) term you care to use. The reason they had not been learning was because they did not want to submit themselves to the authority and teaching of the teacher.

And is this not also true spiritually? Can we learn the lessons of God when we put ourselves outside His authority—when we are, quite bluntly, in rebellion against His leadership in our lives? Will we not then become "fools" (to invoke the Proverbs term) also??

Monday, April 21, 2008

Hymn of the Week: The Sweetest Name

This past Sunday I heard a hymn I was quite unfamiliar with. It's not a new one; it has been around for about 150 years. The words, like all good hymns, point toward God; the music is likewise appropriate. Meditate on what this George W. Bethune hymn says:

The Sweetest Name

There is no name so sweet on earth,
No name so sweet in heaven,
The name, before His wondrous birth,
To Christ the Saviour given.

We love to sing of Christ our King,
And hail Him blessed Jesus!
For there's no word ear ever heard
So dear, so sweet, as "Jesus!"

And when He hung upon the tree,
They wrote this name above Him;
That all might see the reason we
For evermore must love Him.

So now, upon His Father's throne,
Almighty to release us
From sin and pain, He gladly reigns,
The Prince and Saviour, Jesus.

O Jesus! by that matchless name
Thy grace shall fail us never;
Today as yesterday the same,
Thou art the same forever.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Polygamists, Child Custody, and You

Much has been made in the media about the dozens of kids taken from the polygamists' compound in Texas the other day. And now, much is being made about the subsequent custody battle. Should their mothers be entrusted with the kids, or should the kids be placed in foster homes?

In recent years, the trend in custody-related cases has been to put kids with their own biological parents as much as possible, on the belief that this was best for the kids. Of course, in many cases, it wasn't; so there were some decisions that, in retrospect, would be changed.

The main issue regarding the children from the Texas compound was not that there was "physical abuse" by the mothers, but that the children were pressured to marry at illegally young ages. I can certainly see where the state legal system would not want to put the children back with the men, but I do not see why the mothers, in general, could not retain the children if they did not return to the compound.

The "other" issue is this: IF the mothers are eventually denied custody of their children for the primary reason that polygamy and young marriage is promoted among them, then is it not logical that in the near future, Christians could be denied custody of their children because "politically incorrect" ideas are promoted? Could we see our children taken away because we believe that homosexuality is evil, wives should obey their husbands, or corporal punishment (properly applied) is appropriate?

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Today's Free Advice:

After 3½ months of a desk job, going straight to roofing work is hard on the back...and various other muscles and body parts. Something to remember....

Tax season is over for me. Spring Arbor evening course concluded today. Substitute teaching begins anew next week. Let the fun continue.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Highlights from Tax Season, Part 2

Here are some more interesting observations from the year in taxes:

  • Don't get divorced. But if you do, please state in your divorce decree not only who gets custody of the child(ren), but who gets to claim them as dependents each year. And then abide by the decree, and don't try to pull one over on your ex. Leave a copy of the divorce decree with your tax preparer.
  • Yesterday I prepared tax returns for a single woman who has owed the state of Michigan $2, $1, and $4 over the last three years.
  • Last week I had a man who had won big on slots three times, or three different days, in the same week—total winnings were just over $16,000. I think he likes that casino. Yes, that is taxable income.
  • Don't take money out of your 401(k)—before age 60—unless someone's life or liberty hangs in the balance of that decision. I know it's tempting. So are lots of other things you aren't supposed to do.
  • Did 2007 and 2006 tax returns just this week—for a part-time pastor and his wife. Apparently they need to take another look at Matt. 22:17-21, Mark 12:14-17, and Luke 20:22-25. (To their credit, they brought along their giving statements to their church—they had half the commandment correct.)
  • Number of clients who had to report back to law enforcement before the day was out: 2
  • Number of H&R Block polo shirts I now own: 2

Hymn of the Week: Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah

As one seeks the Lord's will in his life, it is best to be guided by the Omniscient.

Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah

Guide me, O Thou great Jehovah,
Pilgrim through this barren land.
I am weak, but Thou art mighty;
Hold me with Thy powerful hand.
Bread of Heaven, Bread of Heaven,
Feed me till I want no more;
Feed me till I want no more.

Open now the crystal fountain,
Whence the healing stream doth flow;
Let the fire and cloudy pillar
Lead me all my journey through.
Strong Deliverer, strong Deliverer,
Be Thou still my Strength and Shield;
Be Thou still my Strength and Shield.

Lord, I trust Thy mighty power,
Wondrous are Thy works of old;
Thou deliver’st Thine from thralldom,
Who for naught themselves had sold:
Thou didst conquer, Thou didst conquer,
Sin, and Satan and the grave,
Sin, and Satan and the grave.

When I tread the verge of Jordan,
Bid my anxious fears subside;
Death of deaths, and hell’s destruction,
Land me safe on Canaan’s side.
Songs of praises, songs of praises,
I will ever give to Thee;
I will ever give to Thee.

Musing on my habitation,
Musing on my heav’nly home,
Fills my soul with holy longings:
Come, my Jesus, quickly come;
Vanity is all I see;
Lord, I long to be with Thee!
Lord, I long to be with Thee!

Friday, April 11, 2008

Hillary Clinton was in Bosnia, you know....

Much has been made of Hillary Clinton's fabrication of being exposed to mortar fire on a 1990's visit to Bosnia (totally untrue, as the platoon of media at the event recorded). But this blog post somewhere in cyberspace was sent my way:

“Actually Mrs. Clinton was too modest. I was there and saw it all. When Mrs. Clinton got off the plane the tarmac came under mortar and machine gun fire. I was blown off my tank and exposed to enemy fire. Mrs. Clinton without regard to her own safety dragged me to safety, jumped on the tank and opened fire, killing 50 of the enemy.

Soon a suicide bomber appeared, but Mrs. Clinton stopped the guards from opening fire. She talked to the man in his own language and got him [to] surrender. She found that he had suffered terribly as a result of policies of George Bush. She defused the bomb vest herself‚ Then she turned to his wounds. She stopped my bleeding and saved my life. Chelsea donated the blood."

Highlights from Tax Season, Part 1

In just four days, your IRS tax return is due....and my season at H&R Block comes to an abrupt end. Here are some highlights (and lowlights) of the 350+ tax returns I have prepared this year:

  • Oldest Client: 97 years of age. Spry, too.
  • Youngest Client: 14
  • Biggest refund I filed for a client: $10,700
  • Number of refunds I filed over $8000 (including the one above): 4
  • Biggest debt owed the IRS on a return I prepared: About $2400
  • Number of women who told me they planned to use their tax refund (or their half of it) to pay for their divorce: 2
  • Largest withdrawal from a retirement plan, without having any federal taxes withheld: Over $26,000. (Note: Don't ever do this.) Thankfully, the client was old enough not to have to pay the early withdrawal penalty. Same client couple had over $4,000 in gambling winnings. Hmmm.....
  • Largest refund filed in the office this year, to my knowledge: $24,000
  • Largest debt owed to the IRS on paperwork I witnessed: $8800
  • All clients on the same day: One couple had a baby die several days after its birth (in 2007); a woman came in to file a tax return for her mother who died last month; a client came in whose father and brother died last year in a house fire. Another client had lost a son to a car accident several years before. And another client came in to finish and sign her paperwork, started a few days earlier, whose husband (a police officer) committed suicide in 2005.
  • Most children claimed as dependents on a return: 6

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Free Throw Shooting: Local Boy Wins Contest

Today's local paper says that a local 9-year-old boy won a state title in the 2008 Knights of Columbus free throw shooting contest. By making 24 of 25 free throws as the final shooter in the final round (he missed #6), he forced a shoot-off in which he sunk 4 of 5 to take the victory. This all came after winning three other contests to advance to the state final.

Rumor has it that Memphis is already scouting him.

One More NCAA Tournament Thought....

Does anyone know when Billy Packer is going to retire? Soon? Please?

Practicing the Basics

Kansas defeated Memphis last night for the NCAA National Championship in men's basketball. It was a most entertaining game.

And the overwhelmingly obvious fact is this: Memphis choked at the free-throw line in the waning moments of the second half. Everyone will likely remember the clutch 3-point shot made with 2.1 seconds to go, forcing overtime; but will they remember that Memphis missed four of the last five free throws in the last 90 seconds of regulation? Will they remember that Memphis ranked 339th out of 341 Division I teams in free-throw percentage on the season, at a mere 59%? (I honestly believe that with a couple hours practice, I could make more than 59%.) On the game, Memphis made 12 of 19; Kansas made a fantastic 14 of 15.

I suppose it is possible that Memphis, flush with talent and full of momentum entering the game, downplayed the significance of practicing that most basic (and generally certain) of basketball skills: The fifteen-foot charity stripe shot. There is no excuse for a team of scholarship athletes not to be able to top 60% for the entire season in free-throw shooting. And I really suspect that when the game was on the line, able to be put away in the final seconds, that those players knew deep in the back of their minds that they weren't ready.

On the upside, basketball coaches everywhere have an example to point to when players gripe about "why do I have to practice free throws...again?"

Monday, April 7, 2008

The Offertory

Have you ever wondered why people talk/chat/etc. during the offertory at church?

My wife and I would argue that such behavior is disrespectful both to God and to the musician. Odd though it may seem to some, giving is part of worship. We would all do well to teach others this, yes; but we would do even better to act like it is a time of worship. We should use the time of the offering to meditate on the fact that God has given to us and that we are to give back to Him, not only because it is commanded, but because we love Him and joyfully want to give to Him.

On top of this, the musician with the responsibility of playing an offertory has probably spent some time practicing the music. Hopefully this person wants to lend to the atmosphere of worship (as opposed to mere entertainment), and a quiet reflection upon the music is far more appropriate than distracting conversation.

So when the offertory begins at your church, I would recommend quiet meditation and reflection on what God has done for you, what you should do for God, and perhaps a thought or two about the worshipful music being played. Don't distract others during this important time.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Hymn of the Week: Take the Name of Jesus With You (Precious Name)

9 Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name:
10 That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth;
11 And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:9-11)
It is interesting and edifying to observe what the Bible says about the name of Jesus. Focusing on the fact that it should not be taken in vain, or blasphemed, is easy to do. It is also good to note that the name of Jesus will one day be exalted above every other name, as the verses above remind us.

But it is also a blessing to know that Jesus' name is the precious and sweet "hope of earth and joy of heaven." It does comfort us, wherever we go, to know that He is with us. It does remind us in times of temptation that we can rely on Him. It does thrill our soul and give us reason to sing. And, yes, we will bow at His feet when we hear His name.

This hymn's words were written by Lydia O. Baxter in 1870, and regardless of whether you know the title as "Take the Name of Jesus With You" or "Precious Name," I hope it comforts and encourages you to read these words again.

Take the Name of Jesus With You (Precious Name)

Take the Name of Jesus with you,
Child of sorrow and of woe,
It will joy and comfort give you;
Take it then, where’er you go.


Precious Name, O how sweet!
Hope of earth and joy of Heav’n.
Precious Name, O how sweet!
Hope of earth and joy of Heav’n.

Take the Name of Jesus ever,
As a shield from every snare;
If temptations round you gather,
Breathe that holy Name in prayer.


O the precious Name of Jesus!
How it thrills our souls with joy,
When His loving arms receive us,
And His songs our tongues employ!


At the Name of Jesus bowing,
Falling prostrate at His feet,
King of kings in Heav’n we’ll crown Him,
When our journey is complete.


Friday, April 4, 2008

Furthermore, the Emperor Has No Clothes...

A local fifth-grade student made headlines this week by correctly identifying a technical error in the Smithsonian's Tower of Time exhibit at the National Museum of Natural History. Apparently, he was alert to the fact that "Precambrian" is not technically classified as an era. While no visitors to the museum had commented on this since it was erected in 1981, some of the paleobiologists on the staff had already noticed it.

Young Kenton certainly deserves credit for being observant and noticing something that was incorrect in the scheme of evolutionary thought.

But the greater error is so much more obvious: There was no evolution! The Smithsonian, like most of the American scientific establishment, unabashedly assumes that all we see came to pass as a result of billions of years of gradual change; and furthermore scorns the idea of an omnipotent Creator who made it all. The Tower of Time is a piece of the propaganda machine used to add credit to the unproven, unprovable, and untenable hypothesis of evolution.

Kenton pointed out that the emperor has a little tiny mole. I'd like to point out that the emperor has no clothes.

Substitute Teaching: Spring Break Update

Now that we have reached spring break in this part of the world, it is time for me to update my substitute teaching totals.

So through 4/4/08, here is where I have been so far:

  • Mattawan (26; 13 in HS, 12 in MS, 1 in Elem.)
  • Decatur (6; 1 in HS, 3 in MS, 2 in Elem.)
  • Paw Paw (5; 4 in HS, 1 in Elem.)
  • Gobles (5; 4 in HS, 1 in MS)
  • Lawrence (4; 2 in HS, 1 in MS, 1 in Elem.)
  • Bloomingdale (3; 2 in HS, 1 in Elem.)
  • Lawton (3; 1 in Alternative Ed., 1in HS, 1 in MS)
  • Howardsville Christian (2, HS)
I still have so many interesting stories to tell....

Beginning in late-April, I will be "subbing full-time" at Heritage Christian through the end of the school year, which will end the need to keep track of the public school totals. H&R Block season ends abruptly on April 15.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

April Fools! (Democrat-style)

According to this story, Hillary Clinton offered the following proposal to break the deadlock currently being endured in the Democratic primaries:

PHILADELPHIA — Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton walked somberly into a press conference Tuesday and stood before microphones. Reporters tensed, sensing something big might be afoot.

“This has been a very hard fought race,” she said. “We clearly need to do something so that our party and our people can make the right decision. So, I have a proposal.”

The tension grew. Reporters shifted in their seats. Was she dropping out of the race? Offering to join rival Barack Obama as his running mate?

April Fools!

“Today, I am challenging Senator Obama to a bowl-off,” Clinton said, provoking relieved laughs from the assembled scribes.

Clinton carried on, making reference to Obama’s disastrous outing at a Pennsylvania bowling alley Saturday.

“A bowling night. Right here in Pennsylvania. The winner take all,” she went on. “I’ll even spot him two frames.”

“It is time for his campaign to get out of the gutter and allow all the pins to be counted. I’m prepared to play this game all the way to the tenth frame. When this game is over, the American people will know that when that phone rings at 3 a.m., they’ll have a president ready to bowl on day one.”

“Let’s strike a deal and go bowling for delegates. We don’t have a moment to spare, because it’s already April Fool’s Day. Happy April Fool’s Day.”

I'll give her credit for this—it is the most amusing (and least dangerous) idea she has offered in weeks!