Swiftwater Journey

faith, culture, and growing up in a rapidly changing world

Teachers: Tend Your Heart This Summer June 4, 2014

Filed under: education,Spiritual Transformation,Time — billmacphee @ 10:44 am
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VCS Concentration Deans

VCS Concentration Deans

After an exciting, yet energy-sapping school year, take time to invest in your own health. May your summer be filled with life-giving joy, adventure and spiritual depth, all for the glory of the author of life, Jesus Christ!

 

Keeper of Spring[1]

There was a town in the Alps, straddling the banks of a beautiful stream, fed by springs high above. The stream was crystal clear, providing sanctuary for birds, children, rainbow trout, and picnics. It was a thriving town. High in the hills, far beyond anyone’s sight, lived an old man, known as the “keeper of the spring.” He carefully cleared the spring of anything that might choke the stream. Hired long ago, few remembered why he was there.

 

One day, the town Council looked at their expenses and decided they needed the old man’s paycheck for other priorities, so they fired him. The springs went untended; the stream clogged. For a time, no one noticed, but soon the water began to change, becoming toxic. The birds flew away, the fish died, the children weren’t allowed to play—some in the town even grew ill.

 

The life of the village depended on the stream, and the life of the stream depended on the keeper of the spring.

The spring is your heart. You are its keeper.

 

In Proverbs 4:23 Solomon offers advice from father to son.

“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” NIV
The original language actually says “from your heart flow the springs of life.”

 

Your “heart” is the part of you that connects on the deepest level with who you are and your reason for being on this planet [and serving students at school] … it is your life and you are its keeper. Lose your heart and you lose your life. It is difficult to over-describe the worth of your heart. After a long year, some might have lost touch with their heart’s value. Let’s be honest, our world gives small priority to the condition of your heart, and life can shrivel it like a raisin. So I say to you, guard your heart!

 

A thriving heart, according to author Simon Sinek, starts by asking Why, before asking What.[2] This summer is a great time to re-clarify your Why. What questions focus on task; Why questions get you to mission. After a long year, you may have boiled life down to asking What questions: what is on my to-do list for today? What is my curriculum? What is urgent? What keeps me out of trouble?

 

The Why question comes from deeper in our hearts. It asks, Why am I living this story in the first place?[3] Tend your heart by learning to ask Why before you ask What.

Why-questions push the boundaries.
Why-questions embody a dream.
Why-questions inspire.
Why-questions change the world.

 

Health breeds health. Healthy adults = healthy students. As the leaders go, so goes a school. Healthy leaders guard their heart, and align life with their Why. But how?

 

5 positive heart-rejuvenating practices for your summer:[4]

 

  1. The Discipline of Rest
    • Retreat from the surge. Work hard, then rest.
    • Genesis 2:1-2 – God rested from all his work; Exodus 31:12 “observe my Sabbaths … so you may know that I am the Lord.”
    • Shut down for a third of the daily cycle. “Off-switch” given by God.
    • Unplug, be quiet.[5]
    • The difference between ‘doing’ and ‘being.’ Doing comes out of being.
    • Make deliberate choices toward restoration.
    • How will you truly rest this summer?

 

  1. The Discipline of Reflection
    • Not just reacting like a boxer to the volume of stuff – overloaded lives.
    • Build in margin in order to have time for rest and reflection.[6]
    • Mark 1:35 – after a busy night, Jesus was by himself to pray. Luke 5:16 “Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” Jesus’ Why came from alone time.
    • Bible reading and prayer in morning can be helpful, including journaling.
    • Take time to process, intentionally reflecting on what is happening, what does this mean, where is God in this?
    • In what part of your day will you invest in reflecting?

 

  1. The Discipline of Reading
    • We are what we read.
    • Reading is a form of rest and reflection.
    • We don’t do a lot of long form reading on the Internet – Twitter 140 characters.[7]
    • Tackle a book or extensive essay; it will focus your mind, and stimulate the brain.
    • Reader’s lead, and leaders read.
    • 2 Timothy 4:13 “When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, and my scrolls, especially the parchments.”
    • What are you reading this summer?

 

  1. The Discipline of Recreation
    • Re-Creation.
    • Recreation includes play, having fun, working out, eating right, paint, guitar, fish, even golf.
    • There is a difference between amusement and recreation … a unique kind of ‘tired.’
    • Ephesians 2:10 you are “created to create.”
    • We are not just a consumer, but also a creator.
    • What kind of life-giving recreation will you enjoy this summer?

 

  1. The Discipline of Relationships
    • Maybe the most important practice. Genesis 2:18 “It is not good for the man to be alone.”
    • The Trinity is in relationship.
    • Online Facebook relationships don’t cut it. We sometimes get our identity from Facebook/social media.
    • Who are the 4 or 5 in-depth relationships that are restorative? Seek these people out and put them on your calendar.
    • They are a guardrail to going off the deep end, and provide protection from a loss of perspective.
    • With whom will you find life through investing in healthy relationships this summer?

 

But in case you leave this school year in a place of deep discouragement, or even a sense of failure, I am reminded of a story …

 

The Crooked Kiss[8]

Dr. Richard Selzer performed a difficult surgery on a young woman’s face, accidentally cutting a nerve causing her mouth to droop. In the recovery room she asked, “Will my mouth always be like this?” “Yes,” he said, “it will be. It is because the nerve was cut.” She nodded and was silent. But her young husband smiled. “I like it,” he said. “It is kind of cute.” Then he bent to kiss her crooked mouth, and the Dr. was so close he saw how her husband twisted his own lips to accommodate her, to show her that their kiss still worked.”

Living from your heart is not easy. Your journey to Why will be filled with trouble, even pain. I remind you of the beauty of your heart, and of the gospel. Jesus twists his own lips to accommodate yours, to show you that your kiss still works. You are a valuable part of God’s plan for the students in your world.

 

Guard your heart, discover your Why, change the world.

 

 

[1] Thanks to Chuck Swindoll, Improving Your Serve, and John Ortberg, Soul-Keeping.

[2] Simon Sinek, Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action. Thanks to Kimberly Inskeep, President and Chief Culture Officer at Carol Anderson by Invitation (CAbi) who introduced me to Sinek and asking why before what.

[3] May I suggest Donald Miller, Storyline: Finding Your Subplot in God’s Story, for your reading?

[4] Thanks to Michael Hyatt. http://michaelhyatt.com/the-four-disciplines-of-the-heart.html.

[5] See Martha Beck, The Joy Diet, chapter one, “Nothing.”

[6]Richard Swenson, Margin: Restoring Emotional, Physical, Financial, and Time Reserves to Overloaded Lives.

[7] Nicholas Carr, The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to our Brains.

[8] Thanks to Mike Yaconelli, from whom I first heard this story. Richard Selzer, Mortal Lessons: Notes on the Art of Surgery.

 

Jesus walked on my campus November 26, 2011

I fell off a 70 foot cliff while serving as a volunteer in a mountaineering class at San Carlos High School. I’ve decided to celebrate the friends who saved my life by writing some posts about the experience. I do not pass a single day without reflecting on November 16, 1981 and the courage it took for my friends to make decisions and take action that spared my life.

You can read part one here: the best job I could imagine – November 16, 1981. You can read all posts related to my mountaineering accident by searching the Categories for Accident.

 

Part Two: Jesus Walked on My Campus … and his name was John.

In addition to teaching outdoor skills to students, John Woodhall served as the head football coach at the San Carlos High School. John is by nature a gentle man, but demonstrated his capacity for strong leadership at practice and on the sidelines. Though he rarely raised his voice, he could get a linebacker’s attention when needed. John was strong, focused, disciplined, and deeply loved his students. His strength and care emerged out of a heart deeply transformed by the grace and compassion of Jesus Christ. I am not exaggerating when I say that John seemed to me to be the embodiment of Jesus walking about his campus. Kids loved and flocked to him. Students wanted to be near him and touch him. John made himself freely accessible to kids–all kind of kids. This is what set John Woodhall apart. He loved and cared for all kinds of students. Not just the strong athletes, or the Christian kids who mirrored his spiritual values. Every person found it possible to easily slide into his span of gentle care. This was especially true of the kids who desperately needed a mountaineering class to keep them engaged in the relentless and unforgiving grind of public high school.

I met John through the Student Ministries family at Peninsula Covenant Church in Redwood City, CA. The church has a long legacy of quality leaders in ministry to adolescents, including not only professional staff, but maybe more importantly, gifted and called volunteers. I tried to be sensitive to John’s schedule–as a teacher/coach his life was full. Add his deep commitment to his family and it continued to amaze me that he made himself available as a trustworthy volunteer youthworker at PCC. Through John’s faithfulness in ministry to students both at church and school, I came to be his friend and co-worker. In some ways, we had a reciprocal friendship–he served as a volunteer in the ministry I supervised, and I served as a volunteer in the classes he supervised. John’s involvement with students through church became a natural extension of his growing relationships with teenager’s all over our community. John would often invite students at school to join him at our weekly high school gathering. My involvement with John and outdoor mountaineering trips was a natural extension of the ministry I was carving out through the church. Our joint ministry was externally and outreach oriented–we kept the trajectory of our main weekly gathering on the widest range of students, especially those not likely to come inside a church building. In retrospect, the students enrolled in the San Carlos High School Mountaineering Courses were blessed and fortunate. They gained intimate access to a grace-filled teacher in John, and by extension, received the mentoring of caring adults whom John invited to help lead the “Field Study Projects.” As I reflect on my experience, I could not have been happier. I had boundless energy, considered it my calling to be with adults and students in ministry, and was invited to make my second office the mountains of California.

More to come …

 

The best job I could imagine – November 16, 1981 November 16, 2011

Today marks the 30th anniversary since I was rescued in the Ventana Wilderness area, some thirty miles south of Big Sur, California.

I fell off a 70 foot cliff while serving as a volunteer in a mountaineering class at San Carlos High School.

I’ve decided to celebrate the friends who saved my life by writing some posts about the experience. I do not pass a single day without reflecting on November 16, 1981 and the courage it took for my friends to make decisions and take action that spared my life. I also freely admit that human effort and courage can not fully explain my survival from the fall and the 18 hour ordeal till I was plucked out by helicopter and transported to the nearest hospital. I am alive, I believe, by the grace and choosing of God. Every day and every step is a gift not taken for granted.

I intend to write briefly about the experience and the lessons learned. I won’t take too much time refining my words, so apologies in advance for poor sentence structure, or disjointed paragraphs. I’m just going to get the stuff that I have spent years talking with others about into written form. I’m writing mostly for me, but I know some of these posts will strike a chord for someone else and prove helpful.

In 1980, I graduated from Fuller Theological Seminary and began as an energetic youth pastor at Peninsula Covenant Church in Redwood City, CA. One of the best parts of the ministry I was privileged to engage was to help out my friend, John Woodhall, as he taught several Mountaineering courses at San Carlos High School. Students learned basic mountaineering skills in the class room and then took their Mid term and Final exams, affectionately called “Field Study Projects,” in the wild. I participated in many projects and thoroughly enjoyed the treat of hanging with kids in the beautiful outdoors. I loved camping, backpacking, rock climbing, and sleeping under the stars. I couldn’t imagine a better job–getting paid to explore the woods with high energy, risk-taking, adventurous kids, and my good buddy John.

The only challenge of this particular weekend mid term was the torrential down pour of rain. I love to sleep outside, but I hate to sleep in the rain. Especially when the students were responsible for our rain shelters.

More to come …

You can read all posts related to my mountaineering accident by searching the Categories for Accident.

 

VCS Mexicali Team Emergency Plan 2011 March 2, 2011

Filed under: education,Missions,Parenting,Youth Ministry — billmacphee @ 12:52 pm

Momentum is building as we anticipate our service in Mexicali over Easter Break. Attached you will find our emergency communication plan. Let me know if you have questions or comments.

vcs mexicali emergency plan 2011

 

College Finals and a Puppy Party December 13, 2010

Filed under: Adolescence,education,emerging adults,Technology — billmacphee @ 9:48 pm
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The bad economy and a scary job market add to already stressed out college students. Silly, fun, and hilarious extra-curricular events plus greater attention to the mental health of emerging adults is the antidote and preventative medicine that colleges across the country employ to take a bit of the pressure off. One positive alternative to more alcohol and drugs to relieve stress …

On a lawn at the Claremont campus, two fenced pens were set up, one with six bunnies and the other with 10 puppies. Over two hours, about 300 students took turns climbing inside and playing with the animals at the student-organized event.

I wonder about the stress level the puppies endured …

The American College Health Association estimates 40 percent of male students and half of female students report feeling so depressed that, at least once in the past year, it interfered with their day-to-day functioning.

Is it possible that helicopter parents rob their midadolescents of the opportunities to develop important life skills that include managing time, stress, and relationships? High School life at its best includes supportive parents who are present yet allow their children to face and navigate the inevitable pressures of deciding how to prioritize and eliminate the unimportant from the necessary.

Some scholars note that social media, including Facebook and Twitter, create their own frustrating and numbing sense of anxiety. One professor invites his students to abstain from all social media during the duration of his semester course, journaling their experience. There is good advice and tips for reducing social media stress from mashable.com.

We are all better off if, during this Christmas season, we slow down, disconnect appropriately, and focus on what matters most.

 

Getting More Kids Riding to School July 3, 2010

Filed under: education,Parenting,Sports,Time — billmacphee @ 7:11 pm
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How did you get to school as a kid? I remember both walking and riding my bike, but also weathered a short season on the bus. The Department of Transportation reports that in 1969 about 50% of children rode or walked to school, while today barely 13% do. Parents’ fear, bike-unfriendly streets, and distance are reasons given for the decline. Drive, walk, or ride past schools as they start today, but be careful, because their driveways [originally designed for a handful of cars] are packed with impatient and speedy parents dropping their kids off. Riding and walking are healthy alternatives to the crush of cars, helping kids not only slow down but get in shape.

Michelle Hamilton, in the recent issue of Bicycling Magazine, writes that it is possible to get more kids out of cars and riding more between home and school. Here are a couple examples Hamilton highlights:

  • Alpine Elementary School in Alpine, Utah received a $12,000 grant from Safe Routes to School to partner with their city, adding “crosswalks, school-zone signs and bike racks, and organized parent-led biking and walking groups – key components in easing parents’ fears.” The number of kids getting out of cars and onto bikes or their own two feet increased from 32 to 50 percent.
  • Starkville, Mississippi is stripping bike lanes from all its sub-divisions to city schools.
  • Taylor, Texas is in the process of completing a network of trails connecting city institutions for ease of riding and walking.
  • The League of American Bicyclist’s (LAB) Bicycle Friendly Community program increased their program from 48 to 140 cities in the last five years.
  • Michelle Obama is encouraging more kids to walk and ride to school through her Let’s Move initiative.
  • Ray LaHood, U.S. secretary of transportation, is determined to integrate the needs of bicyclists into all federally funded road projects.

Here are six ways Hamilton suggests cities and individuals can get more kids riding to school:

  1. Make it a group effort – with city government, parents’ groups, neighborhood coalitions, and bike clubs working together.
  2. Champion the cause – it takes an individual to step up in any city and make it happen.
  3. Get help – explore available grants listed at SRTS’s guide [saferoutesinfo.org/guide/steps/index.cfm].
  4. Use incentive programs – gifts made available by schools for miles ridden or walked, potentially combining incentives with support of worthy causes.
  5. Involve kids – using students as safety officers, with parental or school supervision.
  6. Educate – by holding education classes for kids and parents. One school launched a “drive-safely” campaign and lowered the percentage of parents exceeding the 25-mph speed limit from 59 to 21 percent.

Changing mindsets and lifestyles takes lots of time, but cities across the country are discovering the joy of using their own power to get to and from school. Get out and ride, and take your kids along!

 

Low-quality child care can have lasting impact May 14, 2010

Filed under: Adolescence,education,Parenting — billmacphee @ 5:30 pm
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Low Quality Child Care Hurts

Using day-care seems inevitable and and mandatory for many. This research indicates that quality matters, but maybe more important is the duration of care outside the home and the intimacy of family relationships when the child returns to parent’s care.

“Researchers had speculated that the negative effects of lower-quality care would disappear as the influence of other factors, such as peers, teachers and maturation, overcame the early childhood experience. But in the latest analysis of the data, they discovered that teenagers who had received higher-quality child care were less likely to report engaging in problem behaviors such as arguing, being mean to others and getting into fights. Those who spent more hours in child care of any kind were more likely to engage in impulsive and risky behaviors.”