2018 100 Book Challenge Update

Where are you in your 2018 Book Challenge? Join me on GoodReads to track your progress.

To support Henderson Memorial Public Library, I signed up this year for the ICON 100 Book Challenge. Yikes! Posting reviews on YouTube Live kept getting shut down midstream, so GoodReads is the place to follow along.

While nearing the halfway mark, and want to highlight some of my favorites so far (in no particular order):

Thrawn & Thrawn: Alliances by Timothy Zahn

If you’ve memorized the original Star Wars movie trilogy, Timothy Zahn’s work is extremely satisfying. He is adept at maintaining a wide range of delightful characters’ voices, while keeping a fast-paced plot moving and tightly focused. Just like with Darth Vader, Thrawn is written as the villain you love to hate: terrifyingly skilled, yet somehow still has a human (Chiss?) heart underneath it all, buried very deep. The juxtaposition of Thrawn with other beloved Star Wars characters such as Padme Amidala and Grand Moff Tarkin is brilliantly written.

I think in some ways, Thrawn is an autobiographical portrait of the author in terms of his ability to outthink everyone around them in ways that are awe-inspiring, instead of condescending. These newest additions to the bookshelves will have even more Star Wars geeks screaming to see Thrawn on the screen.

At one point, a stormtrooper reflects on Grand Admiral Thrawn’s leadership style: “If he lasted long enough, maybe those lessons would someday become the military standard. If that happened, he suspected, the Empire would stand forever.”

The Star Wars Empire, anyway.

Child in the Church, edited by E.M. Standing

This collection of essays documents the early experiments in applying Montessori’s educational methods to catechesis (religious education). The ideas are practical, refreshing, and inspiring. If you’ve participated in formation for Catechesis of the Good Shepherd and want to go deeper, I highly recommend this book.

The Story of Job, retold by Regina Doman, illustrated by Ben Hatke

The best commentary on Job & the problem of evil I’ve ever encountered, in a format understandable even by elementary-age children. Read it.

Blink: the Power of Thinking Without Thinking by Malcolm Gladwell

Part storytelling, part sociological analysis, Malcolm Gladwell’s arguments are worth reading all the way to the end, even if you come to differing conclusions. If I were forced to recommend just one chapter, I would make “Seven Seconds in the Bronx” required reading. This is one of those books that might actually save lives.

Children Who Are Not Yet Peaceful by Donna Bryant Goertz

Montessori children come with the same personalities, challenges, delays, and absurdities as other humans. This book confirms it.

Whether you’re in a Montessori environment or not, this book contains a series of valuable vignettes about developing an inclusive community among children. I have to warn potential readers, though, that the book turns into an argument for Montessori method first and only. If you can tolerate the constant digs against non-Montessori educators, the beautiful descriptions and creative solutions are well worth the read.

Next Week in Cleveland: XPRIZE & CLE-BEE

Adult literacy providers and supporters in the Cleveland area have two exciting opportunities next week to network and learn:

$1 Million Adult Literacy XPRIZE Communities Competition Info Session

Want to revolutionze adult literacy by testing out the newest, research-based adult literacy mobile apps? Willing to compete for a chance at $1 million by motivating the most adult learners to utilize mobile learning? Register for free lunch and more information at 1pm on September 12th at Cleveland Public Library, Main Branch.

XPRIZE representative Haneen Khalef will also be hosting information sessions in Columbus on September 10th and in Akron on September 14th.

Not in Ohio? Find out more about the Communities Competition here.

One Night Only: 3rd Annual CLE-BEE

Many years ago, Christine Lee trained me as a volunteer adult literacy tutor, opening my eyes to the depth of the issue and inspiring my future career path.

More recently, Christine continues to inspire awareness and involvement with the crazy, fun idea to host a corporate spelling bee fundraiser to benefit adult literacy.

The whole team at The Literacy Cooperative of Greater Cleveland has worked to make this fun idea a reality. On September 13th, CLE-BEE will celebrate its 3rd year with high energy, local celebrities… and of course some good food and drink.

Individual tickets are $30.

Hope to see you there!

How I Celebrate St Patrick’s Day

St Patrick came to know God during his years as a shepherd on the Irish hills, later to return and forgive those who enslaved him. Patrick wrote many letters denouncing slavery, and promoting peace among warring clans.

Today, the Anglican Archbishop of Armagh is called the Primate of All Ireland (cool, no?). The cathedral in Armagh is built on the stones of a church laid in 445 by St Patrick himself. Rev Dr Robin Eames held the seat in St Patrick’s Cathedral

during The Troubles in the 80s & 90s when every priest on either side of the border and conflict was burying innocent people, along with some not-so-innocents.

One day, Eames encountered a house fire surrounded by an angry mob with a Roman Catholic girl trapped. Due to his position, he was able to carry her through the loyalist crowd to safety. Many years later, he was hospitalized. One of the nurses said, “Do you remember me? You saved my life. Thank you.” Due to her position, she was able to carry him back to health.

Eames’ tenure saw a great deal of controversy, but he was adamant about one thing: no victory flags.

Parades, protests, and rallies only sow further division. As recently as 2006, when 3 boys were burned in their beds, he responded: “In the name of God, please leave the hill at Drumcree. You’ve made your points.”

Studying that period, particularly areas where true social change was achieved in a period of unrest, I have taken this to heart:

the way to peacefully resolve conflict is through prayer, relationship, and diligent research. Heated dialogue, years of study, sure. But be aggressive about uncovering Truth, not defeating people.

This is how we pass along the torch of our noble Irish and Christian heritage: by celebrating those who uphold the dignity of the human person, and strive for integrity in the life of faith.

Teaching 3.0: Technology in the Adult Education Classroom

New tech tools are released every day to enhance education. What are some best practices and easiest-to-use applications?

Are you in the Greater Cleveland area? Bring Your Own Device to join me on Friday, February 16th for a FREE workshop hosted by The Literacy Cooperative. Register ASAP to attend (limit 30 participants). Bring your own device to this workshop and add some new solutions to your toolbelt.

Not in the Greater Cleveland area? Sign up for the online version of the workshop and follow along LIVE from home or work, anywhere with an internet connection.

Both in person and online, our focus will be on interactive technology: tools that can improve communication and build relationships. In particular, we will play with creating online courses, polls, short instructional videos, and live quizzes. Meanwhile, we will learn about transactional distance, formative assessment, zone of proximal development, and blended learning… in a fun environment of exploration.

Register for the pre-sale NOW for 50% off. This sale only lasts until the workshop starts at 9:00am EST on Friday, February 16th.

2018 Book Challenge #2: The Inevitable by Kevin Kelly

New book review available! I’ve enjoyed KK.com for a while, and finally finished this longer work on the verbs that HUMANS will be doing in our new digital age. I’m having a little trouble with YouTube Live, so there’s a delay in posting, but I have a third book review video hopefully processing now on Little Book of Conflict Transformation by John Paul Lederach. I’m also in the process of reading Blink by Malcolm Gladwell, and Laudato Si by Pope Francis.

Please support this read-a-thon by subscribing to the YouTube playlist and sending a donation to Henderson Library Association, 54 E Jefferson St, Jefferson, OH 44047.

2018 100 Book Challenge: Video Reviews!

As you know, I love books, and I love serving my community, which leads to a natural love of my local public library. So this year, I’ll be joining Henderson Memorial Public Library’s 100 Book Challenge…with a twist.

I’m going to vlog my book reviews on YouTube live, at the pace of 2 books per week. This read-a-thon is also to raise funds for Henderson Memorial Public Library Association: a small town library with a big furnace problem.

Check out my first edition, and subscribe to see them all:

Let me know: What are your quick reading suggestions for 2018?

Cyber Monday Deal: 40% off Keys to the 3 HSE Tests

Are in Ohio or another state moving to three High School Equivalency tests? Get a jump on the new content with this exclusive one-day offer:

40% off the online course “3 Keys to the HSE Tests.”

Use the coupon code: CYBER.

Learn about key differences between the tests, consider how they will impact your adult education classroom, and ask your questions or comment to share with other online participants.

This training is also available as a facilitated webinar, but space is limited. Contact Meagen at 216.973.4977 or learn@mustseed.org to reserve your spot for 2018.

Is Hallowe’en a Christian Holiday?

Short answer: It can be.

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The word “Hallowe’en” comes from “All Hallows Eve.”

Hallowed means holy, as in “hallowed be thy name.”
Thus “All Hallows” is another way to say “All the Holies” aka “All Saints Day” which is celebrated on November 1st.
 
Since we can’t possibly know all of the people who are in heaven, we lump them all together into All Saints Day.
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But why All Hallows’ EVE?

Just like Star Wars and Apple fans like to line up on the night before the actual release date, Catholics just can’t wait for the actual day of something. We have all these “Vigil” days where we celebrate the evening before, often with crazy outfits and candles and sometimes even prayers, hence “All Hallows’ Eve.”
 
But we don’t just remember all the holy people!
There’s evil in the world, too.
Just turn on the news and it’s in your face.
On the Eve of All Hallows, we remember that everyone–saint or otherwise–has a choice between good and evil.

And obviously, the best way to purge your evil desires is to dress like a demon and scare people, right?

(Side note: there’s a psychological and sociological benefit to “purging” rituals where you create a safe space to vent your undesired urgings. Another great Christian example of this purging is “Carnival” or “Fat Tuesday” where you party before Ash Wednesday and Lent.)
Thus beyond the superficial “trick or treat” of Halloween is the potential for a real spiritual message.
Each of us has a very real choice of being “tricked” into hatred, vice and death or choosing to “treat” one another as loving neighbors.
Some folks claim Hallowe’en is not a Christian holiday because it was intentionally celebrated at the same time as the pagan fall harvest festivals.
There is truth to that claim.
But if you can’t celebrate Hallowe’en, then you need to remember that every single Christian holiday has the same problem.
  • Easter was originally during the Jewish liberation feast of Passover. As Christianity spread it co-opted the eggs and rabbits from the Babylonian goddess of the Sun, Ishtar, among other traditions.
  • Christmas was celebrated during the Roman feast of Saturnalia. As Christianity spread, it co-opted various winter solstice traditions from around the Northern hemisphere.

You see, Christianity is in many ways the least original religion of all time. It comes in to new spaces, and says, “Oh hey, tell me more about that. That’s pretty cool. Here’s how I would do that in light of my relationship with Jesus…”

Christianity tends to be counter-cultural…

…but that doesn’t mean culture-destroying.

Not all Christians have been gentle, but I would argue that Christianity has largely spread as an organic force, just as Jesus described: a seed that grows, a yeast that rises within. Organic cultural contact is an irrevocable element of being human, and an inevitable part of being religious.

Still, there are limits when “organic” turns to “toxic.” Christianity can only grow as long as it values and redeems the lives and symbols and societies it touches.

Following Jesus does change everything!

But that change comes by transforming our lives with a deeper sense of meaning and purpose, not merely by external traditions (or their rejection).

I get this idea from the way Jesus described the Kingdom of Heaven as:

  • yeast in the dough
  • salt (a preservative)
  • a seed that grows hidden in the earth
  • a treasure hidden in a field
In light of this “hidden treasure,” how would Jesus view Halloween as it is practiced today?
I imagine He would chide some of its excesses (I mean, do we really need to make every female costume “sexy”?).
But would He declare every last decoration and celebration as inherently evil? I don’t think so. He might even turn some apple juice into hard cider.
Jesus could have created armies from his followers, but He did not choose to dominate and conquer Herod or Pilate or Caesar. Instead He asks us to repent of our own free will. He asks us to choose to return to the path of forgiveness and mercy.
Sometimes the people in authority listen, sometimes not, and all the time imperfectly. That’s why He reminds us not just to follow outer laws, but to reform our inner law and motivations:

Love God with all your mind, heart and strength.

Love your neighbor as yourself.

But we struggle to live that out in our every day choices.
Which explains why All Souls’ Day (or Dia de los Muertos) follows All Saints Day and All Hallows’ Eve (aka Hallowe’en).

Because not all the dead are holy.

On Oct 31st we remember evil,

on Nov 1st we revere holiness,

and on Nov 2nd we remember all our beloved dead.

We remember the Most of Humanity who left this world somewhere in between, those who made good and bad choices in this life.
These three holidays challenge us to remember and pray for All Souls, known and unknown.

So is Hallowe’en a Christian holiday? It can be.

Like any day of the year, it can be thoroughly secular: lived only for the material goods of costumes and candy and decorations.
But if you want to celebrate All Hallows’ Eve as a Christian holiday, then I say “Trick or Treat,” friends.
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Avoid the tricks of evil, and treat each other well.

Christians have many hundreds of years of Hallowe’en traditions to draw from, so enjoy wearing costumes, purging inner demons, and sharing the sweetness of neighborly hospitality.
As you enjoy, I also invite you to join me in the challenge of remembering the central Christian message of this day, and passing it on to our children:

YOU have the choice between good or evil, between love or hatred of neighbor, between worship or mockery of God.

When we remember the dead, holy or not, we remember our own mortality, that we have one brief and beautiful life in which to choose our path.
 
May you have a Blessed All Hallows’ Eve. And may all your days be blessed.

How to Find What is True on Facebook

I haven’t been posting much about the racism, violence, and controversy that have enveloped our nation. I have become convinced this is an historic time, and that we are seeing what the US was like in the 1960s all over again.

But as a white person growing up in a white community surrounded by structural racism, I know my knee jerk reactions tend to be ill-informed, even if they are well intentioned. And quite frankly, who needs to hear from one more “born again” white anti-racist about how holy I am now?

The ugly truth is that I have to constantly question my sub-conscious responses built as a child.

Like any other type of recovery, I do anti-racism work one day at a time. Most days I will have internal voices, and often external voices, flooding me with images and words and feelings that I know are damaging. My job is to identify what is untrue and hurtful and say no… over and over again.

But I have hope for myself, and want to share my process with you.

To rewrite my internal script, and resist the racist vortex I live in, I try to take the advice of this week’s Sunday reading:

“whatever is true, whatever is honorable,
whatever is just, whatever is pure,
whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious,
if there is any excellence
and if there is anything worthy of praise,
think about these things.” –Philippians 4:8

It is so hard to find reliable sources that are gracious and just. Lately it seems you can’t get a following if you’re not rude and crass. I try to follow and support and understand black-led efforts for justice and peace, particularly ones I learned about while I was living in the Hough neighborhood for 8 years.

Here are a few sources of information I follow on Facebook (and before that, in real life) that help me focus on what is true, honorable, just, and excellent:

Because of Them We Can

Equal parts history, news, and inspiration, this page is full of heart-warming content

Black on Black Crime Inc

“Why don’t black people talk about black on black crime?” Oh wait. They do. All the time. It’s just most white people don’t listen until it’s about them.

This Cleveland-based organization is one of many similar ones in the country trying to use arts, public forums, outreach, political action, and dialogue to address the underlying issues causing high crime rates in our city/cities. If you’re not in Cleveland, find and support an org like this near you.

National Black Catholic Congress

I’m Catholic, and was a member of an amazing Afro-centric parish. Our quiet Mass was 90 minutes of spirituals, and the big service was 2 hours with full Gospel choir, African drums, praise dancers… Talk about lovely and praiseworthy!

“I give you praise / I give you praise…” Oh, sorry, did I wander off into worship again? Just thinking about it and I am transported.

The US Black Catholic Conference is a wonderful place to learn about Black Catholic history, news, and how to support justice efforts aligned with Catholic social teaching.

Freshwater Cleveland

Though this isn’t solely about Hough, I find it to be the most positive and realistic source of news on the neighborhood. Neighborhood Voices used to be my favorite, but it looks like it went under. Sad.

If you want to hear about what’s honorable and excellent in Cleveland, check it out. Support local media that shares positive and honest information about people of color.

Otherwise all you will see is memes and mug shots.

What are your favorite sources for just and true media? Comment with links!

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