Sunday, August 28, 2011

Hurricane Irene

There shall be a tabernacle
providing shade from the heat in the daytime
and a place of refuge and shelter from storm and rain.
(2 Nephi 14:6)

I'm praying for those in the path of Irene, especially in North Carolina.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

New school year

I teach my first classes of Fall 2011 tomorrow. It's been a crazy few days, finishing up syllabi. With the last-minute dissertation defense and the out-of-state move, I haven't had as much time as I normally do to put my classes together, so it's been an unusually hectic process this time around. I still have to finish getting the online components of the course in place.

It's very late, and I need to get some sleep. But I want to do a virtual version of my old custom of dedicating my classrooms. I used to do this back when I taught at the University of Utah: I would go into each of my classrooms a couple days before the beginning of the semester, while there was no one around, and pray. Then the custodians tightened up security and started locking the classrooms, so I couldn't do it anymore, at least not as physically present.

So here's a "distance" version. If we can have distance learning, why not a distant classroom dedication?

God of Light, Master Teacher, Spirit of Truth—

You have taught your children to seek learning by study.
You have urged us to seek words of wisdom from the best books.
You have urged us to gain a knowledge of history and of countries; things which have been and are; things at home and abroad; the conflicts and perplexities of the nations.
You have taught us to magnify our talents and to use our gifts in the service of our fellow beings.

I pray for the students I will serve this semester as their teacher.
I pray that I can inspire them with enthusiasm for the subjects we study; that I will be guided to discern clearly the connections that will make this material relevant and useful for them.
I pray that I can help them develop their intellectual gifts, their critical acumen. I pray that I can help them pursue their interests in ways that they find fruitful.
I pray that I will be inspired to provide them with effective feedback.
I pray that I will be led to be appropriately demanding and supportive.
I pray for the gifts of effective communication and discerning judgment.

I dedicate the classrooms in which I will teach this semester to be temples of the Spirit of knowledge.
I pray these rooms be filled with the Light that illuminates the mind and enlarges the understanding.
I pray these rooms be dwelling places of the Spirit that reasons and edifies.
I pray that here there be no influence maintained except by persuasion, long-suffering, gentleness, meekness, kindness, and love unfeigned, without hypocrisy.

May my performance this semester be consecrated for the welfare of my students.
May their performance this semester make some lasting difference in the magnifying of their talents and in their ongoing progress into their full potential.

In Christ's name, amen.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Catching up

The past couple of weeks have been crazy—we just moved out of North Carolina to Ohio, where I'll be teaching for the next year. I haven't been online in several days as a result, so let me do some catching up.

First, gratitude for a safely completed move: "Eternity was our covering, and our rock, and our salvation, as we journeyed" (Abr. 2:16).

On our last night in North Carolina, I fed the cats for the last time, then stood there in the dark and prayed for them in the most powerful way I know, making the signs of the holy priesthood, as in a temple prayer circle. I named the cats individually, I thanked God that my friend Jill put me in touch with the organization that's going to take over feeding them . . . and then I really didn't know what to say beyond that except to commend the cats into God's hands. But that's already where they are, so that prayer makes no practical difference in their lives. The prayer left me feeling powerless: this was the most potent kind of prayer in my tradition's repertoire, and it still doesn't change anything. I do it because I can no longer do anything else for these animals. And then I sat on my steps and blubbered for a little while as one of the cats, Huga, stood a couple feet away, staring at me with those enormous yellow eyes of hers, mewing plaintively and waiting for me to do for her whatever it is she's always hoping I'll do.

And speaking of grief and loss, I read this morning that Marion D. Hanks and Chieko Okazaki have both died. Why is it the liberals die young while decrepit conservative patriarchs just go on and on? Bargains with the devil, I assume.

I once had the opportunity to have dinner with Chieko, at the home of a friend who had served his mission in Japan under the leadership of Chieko and her husband. I couldn't figure out if she was savvily resisting the church's dominant conservative ethos, or if she was naively doing her thing without recognizing that people in high places would find it problematic. It's hard to imagine that she could advance as high as she did in church leadership if she were simply naive rather than savvy—but then again, maybe a liberal needs to be naive to function in the system. I really don't know. Of course, she wasn't all that liberal—neither was Marion Hanks—but she was about as liberal as you can probably be in the LDS Church without having your faithfulness become suspect. I hope there are great things for both these individuals to do beyond the veil.