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Posts Tagged ‘High School’

One of the joys of being a father is the utter delight of embarrassing your children – intentionally. Most parents, particularly of teenagers, are already aware that their mere existence is a complete humiliation to their pre-adult progeny.  So, I figure, since I am already on the top of the list of “The Most Uncool People in the World,” why not go the distance with it and have some fun?

This, of course, does not ingratiate me to my children. It may contribute to the cost of their therapy after they leave home.  But I figure they will be on their own insurance by then anyway so, since it will not cost me anything by way of insurance co-pays, why not have fun at their expense?  (Albeit sometime in the future.)  If anything, it will lend to me in my old age a few moments in which I will be able to sit in a lounge chair, recall a favorite memory of such times, and chuckle to myself, “Heh, heh, heh.”

On one particular occasion, I was with a couple of my children in a local K-Mart store shopping for the regular household items that requires one to make a special shopping trip to such a store. As we were wondering around looking for whatever particular item we needed, a wonderful opportunity presented itself for me to have fun with my kids.   Not one to miss an opportunity for a family bonding moment, I pounced upon the fatherly inspired idea.

We had just passed, for the second time, the sporting goods section of the store. Thrown together in a caged basket was an assortment of men’s and boy’s sports-cup protectors.  They were being offered at a great discount price.  More importantly, they were loose and unpackaged.

Now, there are two types of people in this world. One type would look at the disorganized assortment of sports gear for male genitalia and think, “What a mess?  How disorganized and unsanitary!  Who in their right mind would put these out there like that and expect them to sell?”  On the other hand, they may sniff at such an unprofessional display of merchandise and yet see a bargain and pick up one or two.  After all, you never know when a child, sibling, or male friend may need one.

Then there are the other types of individuals: These types of people pass such a display and snicker.  They immediately see the mischief one could have with such loose and easily available items like these – especially like these.  These are probably the same individuals who in high school, and perhaps even college, arrived early to biology class so as to give the classroom’s skeleton model an interesting pose for fellow students and teacher as they arrived to class.  This type of humor is highly developed and approaches a level not reached by the aforementioned types of people.

I am not sure which camp I fall into – probably somewhere in-between. I will freely admit to the fact that having pre-teens and teenagers in my house now for a number of years has definitely figured into my evolution as a human being.  My children would argue that I have devolved; well, and perhaps my wife too.  I like to think of it as a higher level of unconsciousness; a near numbing psychological nirvana.

Burnt Cathedral, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, June 2008

Burnt Cathedral, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, June 2008 ©Weatherstone/Ron Almberg, Jr. (2010)

My muscles of self-restraint are not what they once were in my more conservative younger days. When we passed the sports aisle for the second or third time, I succumbed to my whimsical idea of humoring my children midway through a boring journey of looking for an average, unmemorable household item.  I grabbed one of those sports-cup protectors and placed it over my nose and mouth.  Then, doing my best James Earl Jones impression, aka “Darth Vader,” I turned to them and declared, “(Wehhhhh…Whoooooo….) Kids, I am your father!

The look from my children was a mixed reaction. One thought it was hilarious; one thought it was ridiculous; and one was frightened.  The frightened one looked as if she wanted to pinch herself and cry out, “No!!!  Wake up!  Wake up!”  As if she was in some type of nightmare and bad dream.  Clearly not all my children get their full compliment of genetic material from my side of the family.  It was a good thing their mother was not there.

Recalling this event time and again for my children continues to bring me joy. I am convinced that it is a formative moment in their upbringing.  Even now, they cannot remember what the household item we were shopping for that day was; but they all can vividly remember that event.  Never underestimate the power of an embarrassing moment.

While they may not appreciate it now, I just know that someday, when they have pre-teens or teenagers for themselves, they are really going to appreciate this very important life lesson. One day, they too could be walking down a sports aisle, see a loose, unpackaged sports-cup protector and ask their kids, “Hey!  You want to see something your grandfather taught me?

©Weatherstone/Ron Almberg, Jr. (2010)

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One of the tragedies of being young or going to school for too long is that one knows all the answers.  It seems that when I was in high school and college that I had an answer or solution for everything.  Now that I have teenagers and children college age, I have that they are the ones with all the answers.

Of course, six years of college, two Bachelor degrees, three years of graduate school, and a master’s degree only compounds the problem.  In my related fields of study – theology, biblical studies, philosophy, pastoral ministry – I have a lot of answers for a lot of things.  My library of over 3,000 volumes helps me find one, along with the internet now, if I am unsure or need to shore up my thinking.

Alas, all of this has done me little good.  I have discovered as I have aged in years and grown somewhat wiser (using that term frugally) that having the answers and knowing the solutions are not the same as solving the problem(s).  This is true for my own life as well as those that I have counseled and coached over the years.  I can stare at the obvious answer in front of me.  I can clearly point out the solution to the person(s) needing an answer in times of trouble.  This, however, rarely, in my case or theirs, solves the problem.

What is the problem with the problem? Well, it is not enough to know answers or solutions.  You have to work the problem to get to the answer.  One must prove the solution to be true by working out the problem.  This is somewhat of a applying a scientific approach to problem solving.  The answer or solution is only the hypothesis.  The working out of the problem in reality either proves or disproves hypothesis.

Granted, this pragmatic approach to life does not always work.  Some answers or solutions are true whether they work out for us or not.  Their failure in our case may only reveal a defect in our method, approach or application and not in the answer or solution itself.  Thus, pragmatism is a poor philosophy to live life by.

Wind Turbines, Wallula Washington, Spring 2010

Wind Turbines, Wallula Washington, Spring 2010 ©Weatherstone/Ron Almberg, Jr. (2010)

I wish that I had learned this lesson earlier on.  It would have made me less arrogant and cock-sure in my younger years.  Perhaps patience with myself and for others would have had a more fruitful result in my life.  In any case, it turns out that my math teacher in my Junior High and High School years was on to something.  Her name was Mrs. Durkin.  She was a stickler for working the problems and showing your work.  She taught in Curlew, Washington.

I spent some of my most important formative years growing up in Curlew, Washington.  It is located in Northeastern Washington State near the Canadian border, right across from Grand Forks, British Columbia.  I have so many fond memories of that place and the people there.  I have revisited it a few times over the years, but it’s been a long while since I have had a chance to return there.

The school was a two story brick school that housed all the grades.  A number of years ago they built a new building.  The old brick building was recently destroyed in a fire.  Mrs. Durkin’s room was at the top of the stairs, left down the hall (not a long distance) and the last classroom on the right.  The office was next door at the head of the hall.

When you stepped into Mrs. Durkin’s room, there was no question as to who was in charge.  There was also no question that she loved math and loved teaching.  But she was impervious to the pleas of students, like myself, who had the right answers on their papers but had not shown their work or whose math work was wrong even if the solution was right.  In either case, it was marked wrong!  How unfair.

How like life.  Life is a rugged classroom to learn in.  Wisdom is a ruthless teacher.  Wisdom does not care if you know the answers or have the solution.  It mocks your arrogance to just fill in the answer and think you can get by with that approach.  Wisdom will demand that you work the problem of life to “show your work” or prove your answer.

The demands of life and learning wisdom have turned out to be a lot tougher than Mrs. Durkin’s algebra classes.  She would often challenge us, “Students, you must show your work!”  She would remind us, “Unless you can show your work, you have not shown me that you really know how to arrive at the answer!”  This probably explains why she always assigned the even-numbered problems in the book when the odd-numbered ones had the answers in the back!

Even if she did on a rare occasion assign one or several odd-numbered problems, the only point was so that you could show or prove to her that you could come up with the same answer.  (Very tricky, Mrs. Durkin.  Very tricky!)  And it better be the right way to arrive at the answer or it was still wrong!  Creativity may count in art class but not in Mrs. Durkin’s math classes!  (You were so mean, Mrs. Durkin.  So mean.)  Yet, life can be like this – “assigning” to us problems we know the answers to but requiring us to work out the problem to get to the same solution.

It turns out that life’s classroom has been a lot more relentless than Mrs. Durkin ever was in her’s.  It turns out that Wisdom has been a much harsher teacher than her also.  Someone repeated the much worn contemporary mantra of American evangelicalism the other day that say, “God won’t give you anything you can’t handle.”  Baloney.

Maybe I am unique in this, I do not think so, but God has frequently given me things way too big for me to handle.  It is not enough for me to point to an answer in the Bible and claim some truth or promise.  Neither does it work to simply spout some theological dogma I have been taught about life and its trials.  I find I am no better off by finding where to find the answers in the “back of the book;” even though I do appreciate a good concordance.  The little “Our Daily Bread” Scripture promise box on the table or a quote from the most recent pop-Christian author falls empty into the dirt of my work-a-day life.

Perhaps I hear the voice of the Lord in Mrs. Durkin’s classroom demands.  “Son, you must show your work.  ‘Study to show yourself… a worker…correctly handling truth‘ ” (2 Tim. 2:15).  “Son, unless you can show your work, you have not shown me that you really know how to arrive at the answer.  ‘Apply your heart to understanding…then you will understand…every good answer‘ ” (Proverbs 2:2, 9).  Turns out that math class taught me more than math.  I was a stinker of a student in Mrs. Durkin’s class.  Here’s hoping I will become a better student at solving problems in the future.

©Weatherstone/Ron Almberg, Jr. (2010)

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I have three brothers.  Even though I am the oldest, I am not the largest of the Almberg boys. My brother, Bruce, who passed away January 15th, was a couple of inches taller and almost 100 lbs heavier.  My brother Rick is just as large.  These guys aren’t my “little” brothers any more.  They are just younger.  My brother, Vincent, is the closest to me in height and weight.  None of us could be described as tiny.  All of us know how to eat.

We all grew up with hardy, healthy appetites.  When we were in Junior High and High school, my parent’s grocery bill was astronomical.  It wasn’t unusual to see my mom spend $400 at the grocery store – and that was 20 years ago! We rarely had a problem cleaning our plates- and it wasn’t to make way for dessert either; we wanted seconds…and thirds!

I will never forget a specific time at the family farm in South Dakota.  People back there know how to eat!  It is part of homemaker pride to make lots of good food and to keep it comin’ – even after you are full.  On this particular occasion, I was past full, but my two bigger brothers were still going at it.  I will never forget the look on my brother Bruce’s face as he smiled up from his plate with a fourth helping.  And I will never forget the look on faces of my grandmother and her sister as one of them exclaimed, “I sure like to see a man eat!” (This could probably explain the size of their men.)

It does not matter to family back home what time of day or night a person might drop by.  On goes the coffee and out of some magical place comes a plate of goodies (cookies, donuts, pastries, sandwiches vegetables, platters of meat, etc.)  I saw this happen many times when my family, traveling from Washington State, would arrive in Vermillion, South Dakota, to what seemed like a Royal Fork Buffet.

Pink and White Rose, Bush House Gardens, Salem, Oregon, 2009

Pink and White Rose, Bush House Gardens, Salem, Oregon, 2009 ©Weatherstone/Ron Almberg, Jr. (2010)

For a child of God, the heavenly Father’s house is just like that picture.  There is always a standing invitation and the table is always prepared with a grand feast.  All we have to do is accept His invitation – one that is echoed over and over again in the Bible.  Isaiah 55 is one example, “Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy, and eat!  Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost…eat what is good and your soul will delight in the richest of fare…Seek the Lord while he may by found; call on him while he is near.”  The apostle John witnessed a feast in the Revelation at the supper held in honor of the Lamb of God.  Everyone is invited.

The question may be one of appetite.  It was almost an insult to refuse food offered in the wee hours of the morning at the farm house in South Dakota.  You had better come with an appetite!  Too many of Christ’s followers come to the Lord’s Table already full of the world’s food.  We have no more room for the spiritual food he offers.  There is no appetite for the feast or fellowship.

If you or I want to become a person with a large spiritual stature, we would do well to create a spiritual appetite that desires the good things of God.  This means coming to the fellowship table hungry and ready to eat.  It means intentionally spending time at his table in fellowship with him.  It means not filling ourselves up with other things on our way to his house for the fellowship meal.  At the Father’s house, the table is always set, the food always ready, and the service offered with a smile.  Are you hungry?

©Weatherstone/Ron Almberg, Jr. (2010)

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