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Archive for March 11th, 2012

What makes you angry?


The Gospel reading in church today was the one about Jesus at the temple getting angry at the moneychangers. So the priest asked us all, “What makes you angry?” Luckily in the bulletin, the secretary had left an empty page for “Sermon Notes,” so I started scribbling…
Pet peeves: people who interrupt, grammatical errors such as alot as one word or confusing there, their, and they’re.

In Jesus’ day, he got angry at the Pharisees, the moneychangers, and even Peter. (“Get behind me, Satan.”) Should this be a comfort to us? That even Jesus got angry. What would Jesus say to all the politicians today spouting off about this or that in His name?

I try not to listen or read things that will make me angry, but today I made the mistake of reading a letter to the editor in our local paper. This letter was written by a man about women’s health issues. He said that contraception and pregnancy are not health issues. I don’t get it. If they are not health issues, then why does a woman go to a doctor when she is pregnant? Why does she go to a hospital to have the child? And why does anyone think that he should be given the right to make any decision for a woman about her health and well being. And we call this religious freedom?

In my eyes, freedom is when you are given choices to make. In the beginning, God granted us this freedom. He never said, “You can choose, but you must choose what I say you must choose.” My favorite bishop, Bishop Henton often quoted St. Augustine, “Love God, and do as you please.” So why do we follow the commandments? Because we want to. Because it is our choice. Not because we should, or have to. But just because.

What makes you angry? What can you do to make a difference?

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I spent the day at the State Museum in Baton Rouge judging the Letters about Literature contest. A dozen teachers gathered around a conference room table to talk about writing and to read student entries. This is always a treat. Students from various corners of our state wrote letters to their favorite authors. These letters should not be like a book report. The author, of course, knows what the book is about. What the LAL contest is about is synthesizing, not summarizing.

We set the criteria by looking at the Library of Congress rubric, our own LA Writes Voices, and reading again last year’s winning letters. Tough judging. But as I started reading, in my mind I was looking for the connection, the lasting impression of a reader understanding a writer. Inevitably, the letters that rise to the top make a very personal connection and express that connection in a unique voice. This is a difficult skill to teach. All we can do as teachers is model, model, model, and open the door.

Our top choice for the high school level wrote to Jane Austen. This writer even wrote like Jane Austen. She devoured her books after she first read Pride and Prejudice. But the thing that stood out was the opening line, “Jane Austen, I have a dangerous confession to make. I never liked to read until…”

Again and again, the letters confess something similar. The student learned to love reading by reading this author’s book. The top winner in the middle school level wrote about how she read prize winning books and made the A on all her book reports, but never became a part of a book until she read The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle. In her own unique way, she gradually expressed her connection to the character.

We were all drawn to the 4th grader who read Old Yeller, and related about losing her friends when she moved after Hurricane Katrina. She wrote, “Most books take you to a new place, but your book brought me home.”

We all have books that draw us in, speak to us, and become a part of our lives. What is that book for you? Have you written to the author?

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