On the importance of social & emotional learning

Not as often as I would like, I write posts (with the help of friends) at a blog called Teaching Redemptively. Our desire is to explore the space we like to call “teaching redemptively” or “grace-based education.”

I just wrote a post over there about a recent research study that suggests emotional & social skills are actually vital to classroom success.  (Duh.) I think it’s all related to the reality of our humanity which underlies any educational endeavor…..but more on that at the TR blog…..

Social & Emotional Learning



On Gatsby – so brilliant. ;)

pretty sure this is brilliant

“Through its use of characters, garbage falling from the sky all the time, and black people constantly playing the trumpet on a fire escape, The Great Gatsby is truly a book by F. Scott Fitzgerald about how you shouldn’t just buy a castle near your ex-girlfriend in the 1920s and then wait for her to fall back in love with you, because eventually you might get murdered by a poor person.”

 A Great Gatsby Book Report By A Kid Who Only Saw The Movie

Urgent need – help if you can

I just heard about an amazing effort to prevent infanticide among Amazonian tribes in Brazil, and an immediate opportunity to help them out by donating clothes, diapers, and other supplies THIS WEEK to a mission team traveling from Erskine College. I told the team leader I’d try to get the word out in the Upstate to those who might be inclined to help.

Who I’m talking about

The Brazilian government until recently turned a blind eye to the continuing practice of some remote tribes to kill newly-born babies with apparent birth defects or multiple births. These children would be buried alive in order to “remove the curse” from the family & the village.

A missionary couple who had been on the field for over 20 years and already working in the area stepped into the gap recently to provide a home for these children. Over the past couple years they’ve raised the funds to buy a house and staff it with caring personnel to take in the many children who need to be rescued. As you can imagine, it’s a huge task.

Ministry:  Father’s Heart, run by Barry & Vanita Hall, in association with Global Outreach Mission.

Ministry Facebook page 

Ministry brochure (PDF) 

How I heard about this

David Earle, one of my awesome co-workers at Erskine College
David Earle, one of my awesome co-workers at Erskine College

I work with David Earle, Vice President for Advancement at Erskine College. David has a deep heart for missions and organized a mission trip for Erskine students this summer to the Amazon basin. Their primary task is to provide support for a medical missions group traveling the Amazon by boat.

But when David came across the Father’s Heart ministry in April and described their incredible ministry to his team, the students immediately asked to give up their sight-seeing days in order to spend time with the Halls and the children they’ve rescued.

What I’m asking for

David’s team can all travel with an extra suitcase packed full of supplies for the Halls’ ministry.   They would like to bring a variety of items for children of all ages, including cloth diapers, clothing (for all sizes & ages), personal care supplies, sanitizer, school supplies…..

Suggested donations (PDF) -click to view/download/print

If you want to check out the team’s fundraising page (though the goal data hasn’t been updated), go here

Deadline for sending items with the team:

The team leaves on Friday, May 24th.  

How to help

  • If you want to bring items listed on the PDF to my house in Anderson for the team to take to Brazil next week, I’ll deliver them to David & the team on your behalf.
    I’ll take my last load to Erskine on Thursday morning, May 23.

  • If you want to speak with David Earle in person to get more information or organize a separate donation, you can reach him via phone at Erskine College or email.

Again, the team leaves on Friday … I’m just here to rally folks to help them pack their suitcases full of great materials to support this amazing children’s ministry.

Every little bit can help.


Thanks for listening. Feel free to share this message to any who would want to help.


Unexpected Blessings

How did she know I love stars? 🙂

God is good. All the time.

In the past 24 hours….

Someone walked up and paid for our entire Anniversary dinner at Outback Steakhouse — above & beyond what we would have spent on it, really, so that even let us splurge a bit. 🙂

Then, last night, some sweet folks lent us the use of their wonderful house while they’re out of town for a couple nights. We’ve got a glorious view of the countryside, a wonderful open space to enjoy, and no one except a very friendly cat to accompany us for the next 24 hours.

Things are moving forward in our lives, and that’s a good feeling.

Grace = In it for the long haul

Yeah, I’m using all this “long haul” language lately to imply a connection.

See, a wise woman once told me “Grace always costs the giver.

You can’t actually love someone and not invest something of yourself that you’ll never get back. That’s going to affect your time, your attention, your wallet.

Because Love believes/hopes/endures all things, it’s going to be taken advantage of. You’re going to be out there someday, pouring yourself into some human being, and suddenly realize you’re getting screwed. Totally screwed. And your reaction – at that moment – will show you whether you truly understand that love will always cost something to give.

In fact, I think the way we handle God’s love toward us is Exhibit A for “love is willing to be made a fool of for the sake of the one being loved.”  We don’t have a Savior who gets partway into the mess and then backs out because “this is too much.”  Jesus loved us before we loved Him. He went to the Cross when we were still filthy.

Even now, I’m an unappreciative saved-sinner.  I take God for granted all the time. I forget His good deeds in past days. I doubt His word. I accuse Him of being unfair, not listening, uncaring, uninvolved.  Basically, I gobble up the love of God because I know He’s not going to stop giving it…. so I gorge on His Grace. It’s pretty ugly.

What makes us think our human efforts to live the Gospel with our hands and feet will be any less….frustrating?

At the end of the day, you’re asked to love God as hard as you can all the time with everything you’ve got, and love your neighbor as you love yourself. That’s it. *coughs* impossible *coughs*

Please love God with your time. It takes a lot of time to bring a kid who’s education is deficient up to par, and you probably have enough education in your back pocket to make a difference if you’d spend a little time reading or tutoring or working algebra problems or in a classroom as a helper. Or go volunteer at hospice. Or a shelter. Or change the oil in a single mom’s car.

With your money. Like, skip the Starbucks and donate it to someone who actually needs $4 because otherwise they won’t have lunch today. (Preaching to myself on this one – I waste money on unnecessary coffee.)

And if you’re one of the blessed ones who can afford your mortgage payment and your cars and health insurance and money for your kids to play 3 sports…. I’ve got some people in mind that you could help get into a house or get a car or find an apartment. 🙂

With your attention — because there are so many people around you who, right now, need some attention from you — a kind word, an invitation for their kid to come play with yours so a single parent gets a break, an encouragement to someone who’s trudging. Kids especially benefit so much from having adult mentors. But don’t forget that the entire structure of the Church is supposed to be organized by mentoring relationships (see Titus 2).

With open-hearted, un-judgmental love. The Holy Spirit can take care of His job all by Himself. I’ve rarely ever run into someone doing “something wrong” (genuinely, biblically wrong – not just breaking cultural taboos) who didn’t already realize they were sinning. People don’t need you to tell them they’re wrong. They need you to offer a hand up so they can get stable enough that change even seems possible.

Listen 10x more than you speak. Grace works through acts of quiet service, through the gift of just the right thing at just the right moment (after all, “grace” just means “gift”).

Love people when you’re too frustrated to want to do it any more, when you have to grit your teeth and keep going.

Love people when it’s hella inconvenient. Because if it’s not inconveniencing you somehow, you’re probably doing it wrong.

Love people when they break your stuff or use up your resources or keep calling when you’re tired of hearing from them already.

Love people even when you figure this is going to be a bad idea because you’re going to “lose” in the end or get taken advantage of or even swindled.

Love people when they walk away from you — you don’t have to “clutch” people. Let the  Spirit do His work. People know real love when they see it, and they’ll be back….eventually.

Love the person in front of you. It’s not like you got to go to some foreign land to get the job done.

I don’t know how to revel in the Grace that costs me something to give. Maybe that’s what I’m supposed to be learning….

Quotable: A Taxonomy of Doubt

This is an incredible post about the relationship of doubt and faith.  Loved every word of it.

A Very Brief Taxonomy of Doubt, by Zach Terrell

My favorite bit:

Cynicism expresses itself as wisdom, a better-than, a way above the unholy canards of certitude, but it is an epistemic and experiential straightjacket. It’s built like doubt, but tangled in itself, and refuses any forward motion. It’s sexier than radical certainty but no less myopic.

In fact, the Long Haul is going to cost us something

Guess I’m on a roll.

Couple days ago, an article sparked me to write about the gaping hole in the pro-life movement. If you’re going to declare yourself an advocate for LIFE, then you’d better be prepared for what that’s going to cost you.

It’s not fashionable in America right now to speak of inconvenient truths.

Like the way the Gospel calls us to care for widows and orphans, and to take up for the oppressed, the immigrant, the poor, even the person who has no voice or advocate.

Instead, it’s cool to be all Tea Party and “responsible” and strip people of benefits just when they most need them. Welfare spending is at an all-time low, despite the Great Recession grinding family income down to barely livable levels. Bonus points if you’re attacking poor women on welfare, because those ladies exist to do nothing but birth babies and laugh in the face of taxpayers. (Please tell me you caught the sarcastic edge there.) (Actual demographics for TANF [formerly “welfare”] recipients these days.)

I’m getting distracted.

It’s really expensive to be poor.

1. I know a single mom who is stuck between having no money and losing what little financial assistance she can get if she’s lucky enough to find a job (which isn’t going to happen in this economy if all you have is a high school diploma). When a single parent goes to work, she receives fewer benefits – what little is available to families from the social welfare system. So if a full-time worker at a minimum-wage job (5 days a week, 52 weeks a year) earns barely $19,000 – how is a family supposed to make it out of poverty? How is mom supposed to juggle full-time work and a lack of child care?

2. We know some people who don’t have a car or any way to get one.  Remember that point about how expensive it is to be poor? (Did you read the article? At least go skim the first page…..I’ll wait)  If you don’t have money to afford to save money, and if you live here in Anderson where public transportation is a joke, how do you get around without a car?

3. I know a young lady who’s probably going to be homeless in a few weeks, barring some awesome miracles. She has no car, so she needs to live within a mile or so of where she works. It’s a minimum wage job and she’s not working a lot of hours, so there’s absolutely no money for rent. Got a suggestion for her?

4. Food stamps don’t provide enough food for a family. If you’re not giving food regularly to families you know who are in a tough financial position, they’re probably dealing with hunger or food insecurity (not knowing whether you’ll have enough food for the day/week/month).  I urge you to donate regularly to shelters, food pantries, and other food ministries like Anderson Interfaith Ministries.  And please don’t assume that it’s easy for people in need to get to a food pantry when it’s open. Or that families with food allergies can actually use the food available there, because often it’s boxed or canned and full of allergins.

4b. Better yet, plant a garden in your backyard and donate half of it to people who need it.  I’ll happily give you my address – we know folks who love fresh vegetables but struggle to afford them.  The Generous Garden Project offers tips & resources.

What’s missing in all of these stories?  Social capital. Resources. The network of people who help you make it when times get tough.

For the past year, my husband and I have had no choice but to rely on God’s good grace expressed through the love and wallets of His people to pay our bills each month while he’s been unemployed and in grad school. (The unemployment has lasted a lot longer than we’d expected / hoped.)

It’s not to diminish God’s provision at all to note that we usually get help from people who already know us, or by means of our education and professional experience (which led to first my job, now my husband’s, plus multiple freelancing opportunities throughout the past year).

The “system” has nothing to offer the person who’s cut off from a community who cares, who lacks the social network of aid.

The Chalmers Center, connected to Covenant College, does a lot of work with economic development and poverty both in the US and abroad. I heard one of their staff members speak last fall, Andy Jones. He defined poverty basically as being stripped of any meaningful relationships.

Put simply, when you’re poor, it’s not so much that you lack money. It’s that no one gives a damn. 

The Gospel calls us to change that, and it’s going to take much, much more than money. Giving money is easy. Coming alongside someone in the midst of their mess — thats going to really cost you something.

All of the situations listed above are real.  If you have a working, reliable car to donate, money for the family who needs a house and the money to afford living in it, a lead for an apartment on Clemson Blvd, or other resources for the people I’ve mentioned, leave a comment on this post or message me on Facebook.

If you want to give financial support to a ministry in our county that does incredible work for people in need, I recommend AIM, Safe Harbor, Under His Wings/Haven of Rest, and Calvary Home for Children.  They’re worth their weight in gold….more importantly, they really do need “gold” to get their work done.