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What happened to the best?

My daughter recently recounted an article she had read about a college professor who wanted to demonstrate the principles of socialism in his classroom. Although his students did not totally embrace this philosophy, they thought treating the rich and poor alike sounded good to them. He challenged their thinking and perhaps it will challenge yours.

College-Student2The professor announced his plan to treat everyone the same and outlined his expectations. “All of the students would come to class, listen to the lectures, do the assignments and take the tests.  That’s fair, isn’t it? Then everyone should get the same grade.”

They all agreed and nodded assent. The daily routine resembled the normal classroom experience until the professor announced the results of the first test. “Everyone received a B.”

The student responses, however, were mixed. Those who normally applied themselves, studied hard and did their best in the exam, felt they had done well. They were disappointed and claimed they should have gotten an “A.” Those who crammed the night before were satisfied with the “B,” but those who didn’t even crack a book were ecstatic. A “B” to them was wonderful. They liked the professor’s socialistic plan.

The professor announced the next test but this time the students approached the event differently. Those who previously had studied hard figured if they would get a “B” anyway, why exert so much effort? This thought process trickled down to the crammers as well, and it provided a wonderful excuse for the partiers to continue their tradition. This time the professor announced the class results. Expecting another “B,” the class was slightly disappointed to learn their score this time had dropped to a “C.”

When it came time for the next test, the diligent students were disgusted with the partiers and figured why should they study? They could go with what they had absorbed from class. The crammers also felt less inclined to cram and hit the sack at 10:00 PM instead of burning the midnight oil. The partiers maintained their course of action, and the professor announced that this time the class had earned a “D” and a low one at that.

Finally the last test of the course was at hand, however, something else had transpired. Some of the students were not only failing to turn in assignments, but now they did not always bother to attend class. When the professor announced the results of the test, everyone received an “F.” No one was pleased, but they were all treated the same.

The professor explained the same thing happens in a nation. People lose their desire to work hard if they are going to get the same as their coworker who sleeps on the job. Soon everyone becomes lazy and nothing improves and things begin to deteriorate. Soon the people don’t know anything at all and cannot think for themselves. This is when the government steps in to take over and the people become pawns in society and lives at a poverty level.

I’m not sure if the professor’s students got the picture, but I thought it was an interesting experiment.

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Spring’s Redemption

Spring has sprung. The grass has riz. I wonder where the birdie is. 

cardinal-snow-snowstorm-red-bird-Favim.com-474579My son told me yesterday that he received 12” of new snow, and it was still coming down. He was expecting 6 to 10 inches more today. Not what I would have scheduled for the first day of spring. When I think of spring, I’m looking for warm sunshine, green grass, balmy days, new life poking through the ground, warm temperatures, and longer days. Did I mention warm weather?

Spring does draw my heart to consider these things, spring-flowers1 yet I think its true meaning is hope! With spring comes a full assurance I will see an end to winter with its cold and yes, snow. The daylight hours will increase and warmer temperatures will begin to lure me outdoors to enjoy the fresh air and sunshine. Yet here’s the looming question. If the daylight hours are increasing, will it impact the way I use my time?

No doubt spring weather also brings additional tasks to clean up from winter’s winds and wild weather. The flower beds will require planning and planting, and the lawn will need attention. Yet all of the indoor responsibilities still require time as well. Somehow it all gets done. The work level increases and yet the number of hours in the day remain static. I tend to think the difference is more of those hours contain daylight, and I can accomplish more outdoors for a longer period. Yet more likely the change comes from my perspective and the way I align my priorities. Instead of being enticed to sit by the fire and watch TV or surf the web, I need to begin now to redeem the time. If I can do it while it is still getting dark early (though daylight savings has already started), just think how much more useful I can be when the reality of spring and summer come to fruition?

Here’s what I’m learning that may also help you. When you redeem the time, it can be done in increments, and it actually works better this way because two benefits appear. First you tend to sustain your efforts because you’re not making huge adjustments, just small ones. You’re increasing a little more each day. Second, you compound your efforts, much like interest on your savings account and increase them consistently. In so doing, one day you wake up and look over your shoulder with amazement to see where you were and where you are now. The key is consistency.

I love spring and all that it entails. (My apologies to those who suffer from spring allergies. I no longer do but more on that on another post.) Today I choose to use it as my springboard to a better and more productive me. I will do better than yesterday and move forward step by step. I can’t wait to see what happens between now and the beginning of summer. Feel free to hold me accountable.

What can a shirt do?

You may have never thought much about the shirts hanging in your closet or those neatly folded in your dresser drawers. Likely you knew that shirts have personalities and can influence your behavior through their style and color, yet were you aware how controlling some of them are?

spaghetti_babySome shirts like to eat … a lot. Have you ever noticed how neatly you can consume most foods, but when you have a plate of spaghetti, some of it always ends up on the shirt? That’s because shirts, especially white ones, love, love, love pasta covered in tomato sauce. It’s their favorite meal, and they can’t seem to get enough. And you thought you were just messy.

Some shirts will take you places you don’t want to go. I recall the days when schools had detailed dress codes and they were explicitly enforced. For example, if you wore a T-shirt deemed inappropriate, that shirt took you on a trip to the principal’s office, just for a little chat – guess he didn’t have Facebook or Twitter. Sometimes you even got to spend some extended quality time with another teacher after school – all because of a shirt.

But who knew a shirt could lead you out of your comfort zone, around the learning curve to mastery of something new? Sounds like a good thing, right? Actually in the long run it is, but that short run is a killer.

I have a beautiful embroidery machine, a Brother Quattro 6000, but have been so busy with other projects, family events and life in general that I have not had the time to learn what commands would make it perform its magic. Once you master the commands and know which button does what, it’s all good, but until you get there, it can be intimidating.

Recently I was tasked with embroidering the name of a certain organization on 17 shirts. Of course the shirts were not of the inexpensive variety, so you couldn’t make a mistake – or if you did, you had to know how to fix it. After stewing about it for quite a while, the deadline for delivery loomed so close I could feel its hot breath down the back of my neck. I had to do it. Those shirts were causing sleepless nights and butterflies in my stomach. Would I ever survive? I prayed about it a lot, visited the store where I purchased the machine for moral support and further instructions, and then prayed again. (The shirts didn’t know that God cares and can sew.) One by one, I measured, marked and machine stitched each shirt until finally they were finished. Hooray!

Those shirts thought they were going to get the best of me, but instead they helped me to master the machine. Now I can’t wait to start another project.

February’s Facination with Phil

Groundhog Day 2013It’s really quite clever when you stop to think about it – taking an otherwise common nuisance and transforming him into a local hero with a win-win message. Not only does he promote goodwill but he also brings people to a place where without him, they would never go! I’m talking about Punxsutawney Phil, the hero of Groundhog Day.

Each February 2, folks come from all over to see the Punxsutawney, PA dignitaries don their top hats and with ceremonious accord, drag this otherwise vile creature from his winter’s nap in the old oak on Gobblers Knob. If he sees his shadow, six more weeks of winter will remain, but if not, spring will follow right around the corner. Either way, you can’t lose as the time frame between the two is negligible. (Actually, Phil’s prognostications have only been correct 39% of the time.)

To view the 2013 event, click here. Caution: You’ll have to bear with a TV ad for just a few seconds prior to watching Phil make his debut.)

Whoever thought about capitalizing on this local tradition put a rural Pennsylvania town on the map. Yet, when you think about it, isn’t that what God does to us? We’re just like this ignoble woodchuck. When left to his own resources, his deeds are far from wholesome as he forages a destructive path through farmers’ fields and wreaks havoc in homeowners’ gardens. We are all sinners, both by birth and by choice. Though the level of damage each of us makes will vary, we cannot escape this fact that makes it impossible for us to enter heaven.

Punxsutawney Phil’s transformation from an ugly despised creature to the town hero results from a strong hope for resurrection from the desolation of winter. We also, when we take God’s message of redemption that Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection come as payment for our sin, are saved, and in accepting this truth for ourselves, we are permitted to enter His glorious Heaven. We become new creatures in Christ and a harbinger of the true Gospel message that does not change from year to year but remains unchanging for eternity.

I wonder if whoever came up with Groundhog Day knew he had copied God’s plan and message.

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures. I Corinthians 15:3 – 4

Do you hear what I hear?

Do you hear what I hear 5451378Some songs resonate with us because their lyrics touch a chord in our hearts. Others impact our souls with their melodies. On rare occasions, a song will do both, and that impact often masks the writers’ original inspiration. Such is the case with the Christmas song, Do You Hear What I Hear?

Who’d have thought the Cuban Missile Crisis in October 1962, would have inspired such a piece? During that period, Cuban Dictator, Fidel Castro feared the US would attempt to invade his small country and partnered with Nikita Khrushchev allowing the Russians to set up nuclear missiles – aimed at the US – on his shores. Although the negotiations eventually averted what historians term the closest the world ever came to nuclear war, tensions were extremely high –  not only here in the US but also around the world. The political situation prompted the husband-wife team of Noel Regney and Gloria Shayne to combine their talents to write a song expressing both their deepest desires and hope for peace.

Interestingly Noel, who usually wrote the musical score while Gloria wrote the lyrics, reversed their roles. Stirred by mothers pushing their babies in strollers along the sidewalks of New York City, he penned the words describing how the Night Wind brought the message of the baby Jesus’ birth and how it spread to the small lamb, the shepherds and eventually to the king. It went to people everywhere, and here he added his own plea – “Listen … Pray for peace, people everywhere.” Now a traditional favorite, Do You Hear What I Hear reminds us that true peace – goodness and light – only comes from that special Child, sleeping in the night.

You too can listen with greater understanding as you review the words below and hear Mannheim Steamroller’s version of this carol.

Said the night wind to the little lamb
Do you see what I see
Way up in the sky little lamb
Do you see what I see
A star, a star
Dancing in the night
With a tail as big as a kite
With a tail as big as a kite

Said the little lamb to the shepherd boy
Do you hear what I hear
Ringing through the sky shepherd boy
Do you hear what I hear
A song, a song
High above the tree
With a voice as big as the sea
With a voice as big as the sea

Said the shepherd boy to the mighty king
Do you know what I know
In your palace wall mighty king
Do you know what I know
A child, a child
Shivers in the cold
Let us bring him silver and gold
Let us bring him silver and gold

Said the king to the people everywhere
Listen to what I say
Pray for peace people everywhere
Listen to what I say
The child, the child
Sleeping in the night
He will bring us goodness and light
He will bring us goodness and light

The child, the child
Sleeping in the night
He will bring us goodness and light

Jingle all the way

Bells have long been used to herald news of significance – signaling warnings, proclaiming glad tidings and calling people to gather for worship services or public meetings. Tracing their use back to earlier times, pagan cultures often used them as part of their celebrations to ward off evil spirits. As time passed, bells have found their way into celebrations for Christmas and songs of the season.

One traditional favorite is Jingle Bells, written by Lord Pierpont in 1850, copyrighted in 1857. Though originally inspired by the Salem sleigh races,* Pierpont later introduced it as a Thanksgiving song to a Georgia congregation where he served as organist. The bright melody and cheerful lyrics brought immediate popularity, and it carried over and became a standard Christmas tune.

As a quick aside, if you ever wondered what “bells on bobtail ring” were all about, they are referencing the sleigh bells that adorned the one horse whose tail had been “bobbed” or shortened to avoid becoming tangled in the reigns. People traveling on foot would not hear a sleigh traveling across the snow, especially at night, and the bells would announce the sleigh’s approach.

Although Christmas is traditionally connected with winter – in our northern climates that equates to snow – and also a heightened sense of fun and laughing, you don’t see much else in Jingle Bells that brings real Christmas meaning to the song. You could think of it as just entertaining, and that is ok. But in another sense, it offers a metaphor of hope, and perhaps that’s why it has gained seasonal popularity.

Most people enjoy watching the snow fall and relish the pristine beauty that covers the mundane and drab winter countryside. Though today thoughts move more to the interruption of life and the work involved to eradicate it. The open sleigh in our song offers an opportunity to travel across its surface and enjoy, rather than curse, the gift.  Perhaps it is good to be reminded that the snow covers even the ugliest of surfaces and transforms them into things of beauty, and isn’t that why Jesus came at Christmas?

*Check out the full lyrics using the link and you’ll understand the connection to sleigh races.

A babe speaks out about the Presidential election

Babe? No, I’m not talking about a hot looking woman; rather, I am referring to those who are considered too immature to count or have an opinion that matters. Yet this 13-year old young lady demonstrates that there is hope for the future. In fulfillment of a class project, Jenny makes a great case by looking at the track records of presidential hopefuls Barack Obama and Mitt Romney and gives each of them a grade based on their performance – novel concept. Looks to me like she’s already moved beyond the elementary teachings as she ably researched and organized her information to deliver it in a comprehensive and easy-to-understand format.  As a former teacher, I’d give her an A.

You may have seen this youtube video in other blogs, but I think it bears repeating for several reasons:

  • Jenny did an excellent job. We need to recognize and affirm our young people for excellent performance so that they will continue to move forward. It does not help anyone, especially the children, when you keep passing them on so that they won’t feel sad or unworthy. Instead commend them when they do well so they’ll learn to accept responsibility to do better or continue on their forward trek.
  • Jenny was more professional in her presentation than many adults in business today. Not only was she neat in her appearance, but she smiled and presented her information in a clear and concise manner. Obviously the debates were not her model.
  • Jenny was articulate in her speech – unless I missed it, there were no “Yo’s or dudes” in the entire presentation. She prepared her material, primarily factual, in an interesting, relatable manner. Everyone could “get it.”
  • Jenny had excellent mentors. Sounds like Mrs. Jackson and her father have accepted their responsibility and opportunity to teach her well including the newest technology.
  • Jenny made some outstanding points.

I’ve seen some comments related to this video stating that a 13 year old was incapable of producing a video of this quality. Maybe the commenter’s kids went to inferior schools. I have 3 grandchildren who could produce an equally professional video, but then they have parents who encourage them to do their best.

Want to watch it again? Click here:  http://youtu.be/prmGb1o3dcQ

Kudos to Yasniger for sharing this information.