The Joy List; Invitation

A “prosperity-theology” take on what I’l like to blog about this Summer might be to “manifest prosperity.” But that would be selfish and shallow. Another, maybe not churchy angle might be using the law of attraction to bring about happiness and contentment. But for me, that still seems kind of self-centered or immature.

I’d like to look at something anchored in love and that will build relationships and community, not just “actualize” personal peace. What I want to think about and maybe even begin a discussion about will involve wrestling and reflection and maybe even doubt and struggle and emotional and intellectual work- but I don’t want it to devolve into just a self-help practice for self improvement in a secular/philosophical sense or a new kind of piety and purity practice or “works-righteousness” in a theological/religious sense.

I want to keep it real, genuine, authentic, honest, and basically “raw.”

I want to talk to seekers and thinkers, people open to conversation and exploration of philosophy and “spirituality” and basically being human. But I don’t want to hide or water-down my background and faith tradition to do that. But I also don’t want to be judgy or preachy or bossy.

Meanwhile, I also really want to talk to my “fellow believers” in order to encourage them to reflect and reconsider and allow themselves to be vulnerable to conversation without being on the defensive, or rushing to correct every ambiguity or subjectivity.

Mahatma Gandhi lawyer, human rights activist and political founding father or modern India read from the Jesus’ ‘Sermon on the Mount’ (Matthew 5-7) nearly every morning and evening for over forty years. “Christ’s Sermon on the Mount fills me with bliss even today,” he said “Its sweet verses have even today the power to quench my agony of soul.”

Humorist and science fiction author Kurt Vonnegut, famously questioned why, if Americans so often talk about this being a “Christian nation,” so many courthouses and government buildings have monuments to the ten commandments (Exodus 20) and not the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:1-12), after all, these are the very words of Jesus Christ, whereas the commandments come from the Mosaic books of the Jewish Bible.

We live in hard times. Inflation, high gas prices, political polarization, media saturation, school shootings, wars, international tension, the recent global pandemic, a resurgence of racism and antisemitism, stress, anxiety, depression, anger, drug abuse and suicide. Wouldn’t it be nice to find some bliss instead of so much angst?

To be honest, I don’t know whether the Sermon on the Mount is gonna be some kind of panacea. I’m cynical enough to bite my tongue when well meaning but perhaps inexperienced or just empathy-challenged Christians talk about how believing in Jesus made everything better.

Now, I’m also skeptical when non-Christians talk about the power of positive thinking or visualizing their goals or just making up their minds that they deserve better and that’s when things change.

But I also know that just “doom-scrolling” social media or channel surfing cable news (in or out of an echo chamber) certainly isn’t helping me cope or doing my mental health any good.

So, if you want to find out with me what this poor Palestinian preacher was telling people on a hillside why or how they can be blessed (religious jargon for happiness, health, joy, and/or good fortune), join me this Summer on a journey to (hopefully) bliss or beatification (or both?).

Talk to you soon.

I will try to post at least once a week, but I can get both impatient and busy (or lazy) so please be patient with me. Subscribe to this blog on WordPress if you want to be sure to be notified about updates. I hope you will participate in conversation in the comments, but please keep it civil, I reserve the right to delete, block or report trolls.


7 Dirtiest Words

UNPOPULAR OPINIONS? Call me hypersensitive or prude or soft or a “libtard” or any name you want.

I saw a stranger with an “F Your Feelings” sweatshirt in a convenience store today- actually it was kind of cleaned up because instead of the 4-letter interjection, it featured a stick figure thrusting it’s pelvis against the letter Y in the word “your.” You get the idea. I’m sorry, but this is why we’re so screwed as a society right now (pun totally intended).

Left or right, religious or secular- we’re selfish & insensitive. We don’t give an f-bomb about anyone but ourselves and our team/tribe anymore. I guess I’m an outlier because I believe in transformation rather than transaction. People over possessions, process over product and especially the power of love over a love of power. If this makes me radical or sinister, I guess I’ll have to live with that. 

5 Things that are Essential for Learning

All these & reading. I like to tell kids that there are two kinds of people in the world; those who THINK they know it all, and those that know better. You can always learn at every age, from everyone you meet- but only if you’re willing.

However, just going through the motions doesn’t won’t teach you anything. Copying, cheating or finding shortcuts only teach you how to get away with not having to learn. I can’t tell you how many kids would just watch TV on their phones all day if we let them.

It’s fine to “normalize” going to trade school or getting a job or joining the military after high school rather than going to a 4-year college so long as we also normalize loving learning, making an effort in K-12 school and reading. Too many kids don’t take school seriously and feel like it’s not important to even try in school. How can we as communities & parents work to change this?

I can tell you most teachers bend over backwards to help their students, but part of their burnout is caring more than the people they’re trying to help.

Art is for EVERYONE

User-uploaded Content
The four ‘aesthetic viewpoints,’
or reasons we make art.

Teaching the Whole Artist

There are many reasons to make art. Four of the most obvious are to show things, to arrange and design things, to share feelings or experiences and as a tool to communicate. 

I hope that by helping students see that there are qualities in any artwork that don’t just represent images, but also structural/design qualities, expressive qualities, and technical qualities, they can see that Art isn’t only for those who already have expert drawing skills.

I also hope that they can see that there are skills and concepts to be learned from visual art that are useful in every other class and every vocational field. Art teaches kids to observe, plan, organize, reflect, contemplate, think, scrutinize and make decisions. Learning about Art helps you learn about anything and Art lessons make for better business people, engineers, health care professionals, scientists, mechanics, farmers, entrepreneurs, writers and thinkers.

The 4 DBAE Art Disciplines

Visual Literacy

Learning to Look
& Learning to See

The learning cycle I tend to follow in most of my classes reflects what the J.Paul Getty Institute in Los Angeles used to promote as “Discipline Based Art Education (DBAE).” 

We follow the four basic “Art Diciplines” in order to learn through Art History & Appreciation,  the study of Aesthetics (Design),  Art Making, and Art Criticism. Students are introduced to important artists, artworks, and styles or movements throught history and how culture effects art and how art effects society. We learn about the Elements and Principles of Design and the “Design Process” of problem solving. These aren’t just things that artists use, but are applicable in all kinds of areas of school, life, and work.

Of course we apply what we learn to making art ourselves. I try my best to model this for students by creating with them, not just especting them to make artworks themselves. In Middle School “Exploratory” classes we survey a variety of media; drawing, painting, collage and computers. High School courses tend to be more focused on specific media; Drawing, Painting, Ceramics, Photography, Commercial Art, and Yearbook.

NAEA’s 4 Anchor Standards

Higher Standards

Process vs. Product; National Standards,
but Individual Attention

One of the benefits of teaching at a small community school is the lower student-to-teacher ratios we have. As a membber of the National Art Education Association (NAEA), I have access to current research and important trends in Art and Art Education. I try to integrate their recommended benchmarks on Creating Art, Presenting Art, Responding to Art and Connecting Through Art into my curriculum as much as I can but without losing sight of the learning needs and styles of our local community, each class and particular students.

I think that may be why I try to have the more holistic, and nurturing approach that I do, rather than a more aggressively competitive one. It all goes back to something one of my Art professors at Concordia University, NE once told me. Nebraska artist, Reinhold Marxhausen had been on ‘Late Night’ with David Letterman several times for his amazing sound sculptures, including the popular “stardust” metal stones that made ethereal sound like futuristic music. He taught us that Art isn’t just for famous painters, photographers or celebrity inventors (like himself). “Art is for everybody,” he said. From the farm kid in small town Minnesota like him, to Preschoolers, to adults in office cubicles, to the elderly in nursing homes.

That”s what I try to remember and that’s what I try to remind my students. Drawing isn’t just for photo-realists, it’s a thinking tool. Painting isn’t just for impressionists, it’s for anyone looking to relax or work through their personal issues. And especially these days, photography and graphic design aren’t just for professionals, they’re for anyone trying to communicate, plan, market or promomte something for themselves or their communities.

Art is for Everyone

We all need Art and ANYONE can “Art.” Why not make Art a verb instead of just a noun? It’s not for the privileged few. It’s for all of us. It’s not something to collect or own, it’s something to do and a way to be. Each student is, after all, a work of art.

Let’s try this

What if instead of assuming that the fruit St.Paul talks about in Galatians 5 (esp. verses 22-23) weren’t just “proof” of having the Holy Spirit, but values, virtues, & principles that we actively work toward living our lives by? Hear me out. This isn’t “works righteousness.” Paul never says that you must have these to get into Heaven. But again & again throughout the Gospels Jesus COMMANDS us to love. Love the Lord & love your neighbor. Even love your enemies.

It seems to me that if we practiced these “fruit.” If we try seeing them as means rather than ends. If we deliberately make it a point to share them with others, whether they deserve it or not or offer them to us or not- life would be better. Work, family, our lives, our communities, hell, it it could change the world. God knows it would change the church.

I know so, SO many people who avoid, resent, even distain church. I don’t think it’s just because it’s boring or foreign to them. I know damn well it’s in part because the see it (us) as unaccepting and judgmental. But not just that, they don’t just see us as controlling with all kinds of rules & restrictions. It’s because the see us as huge hypocrites.

By no means so I mean to “water-down” God’s word or gloss over sin. What is sin? Mere disobedience? No it’s selfishness.

American Christians (yeah white, conservative evangelical Christians) are fixated on sin being sexual immorality, impurity & debauchery (Galatians 5:19), but isn’t it ALSO hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions
(Galatians 5:20)? Damn right it is.

No I didn’t forget the witchcraft & idolatry. The thing is we excuse ourselves from those by assuming they’re about satanism or other religions. Witchcraft really comes down to controlling ourselves what we ought to trust to God. And idolatry is making anyone or anything a priority over God. So- ourselves, our tribe, our team, our race, our party, our nation, our ideology, out candidate, our opinions, our precious way of life, our privilege & comfort zone? All of this can be worshiping false gods.

Oh, but what if, just what if- instead of seeing human tradition, dominant culture, long held convention, and rigid institutions… what if nonbelievers, “nones,” millennials and gen-Z-ers saw love? Saw patience.? What if they saw kindness?

What if instead of suspicion, they saw joy? What if instead of defensiveness, they saw self control? What if instead of seeing blind support for corruption, greed, materialism, consumerism & defense of anger, rage and prejudice, what if they saw goodness.

What if instead of seeing Christianity, Christian nationalism, Christian identity or Christian-ism, what if for once, we got out of the way and showed them Jesus.

So often we’re so incensed by the possibility of people seeing Jesus as “just” a teacher, prophet, philosopher or agent of social change but not their “lord and savior,” that we don’t allow Him to also be this things. Would that be so bad?


Please don’t exe-communicate me for denying His divinity. I DO believe that Jesus is THE only begotten son of the living God. But how can we possibly believe that if we don’t follow the teachings of this humble, non-violent, Middle Eastern first century, homeless Jew?

Wouldn’t I be life changing, society changing, civilization renewing, & world restoring if more & more people sought to live by these fruit of the spirit? Even if they all though or believed different things about who first taught them?

Who knows, maybe their hears would be softened enough that the Spirit would seep in and change their minds about Him.

Fruit has seeds. The seed is the word (Luke 8:11). Stop hoarding Jesus.

He may have died for you alone if you had been the only one, but you weren’t & he didn’t. Jesus loves EVERYONE, even if they don’t look, think, or vote like you.

Ode to Art Education

ODE; A kind of poem devoted to the praise of a person, animal, or thing. 

O.D.E.S.; A way to reflect on and gauge your growth and improvement as an artist.

For any given sketchbook entry,
you may focus on any one,
a combination or all four areas.

FDR & Norman Rockwell’s Four Freedoms

In the famous conclusion of his January 1941 speech, FDR named four “essential human freedoms”—freedom of speech and expression, freedom to worship as one chooses, freedom from fear (of armed aggression, for example), and freedom from want (for destabilizing “social and economic problems,” he pointed out, had birthed the appalling political movements that now threatened American security). In each case the president pointedly added that these freedoms must prevail everywhere in the world.

Each year before Thanksgiving, I have students listen to a portion of FDR’s Speech.


What Do Norman Rockwell’s Four Freedoms Mean to You? Consider Norman Rockwell’s iconic Four Freedoms paintings, then interpret each of FDR’s 4 freedoms for yourself, your own way.

Choose just one, or all four. Use large paper (12×16). I permit students to choose whether or not they want to use paint, colored pencil, or marker to color their posters once they’ve drawn them, depending on the age level, teachers can customize this to be full-blown paintings, collages, digital collages, or just sketchbook or art journal prompts.

At one time, I taught both 8th Grade Civics and 8th Grade Art- obviously this is a great way to integrate disciplines or develop cross-curricular projects. History/Social Studies students (including HS, not just MS) could analyze the text of the speech before creating an artwork. When I taught Civics, I liked to have students scan Eleanor Roosevelt’s preamble to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) for influence of or allusion to her late husband’s speech.

Excerpt from President Roosevelt’s 1941 Annual Message to Congress

September 2018 | CBS SUNDAY MORNING–Norman Rockwell’s The Four Freedoms Today

Grading Rubric

Objective/CriteriaGrading Scale
Subject & Elements of Design
(Careful Observation & Accurate Depiction of source materials)
3 Good
2 Satisfactory
1 Needs Improvement
Formal Principles of Design
(Arrangement of elements effectively capture, maintain and direct attention of viewers)
3 Good
2 Satisfactory
1 Needs Improvement
Content, Meaning & Impact Invoke Mood, Feeling Evoke Memories, Associations Provoke Reactions, Thought, Discussion, Action
3 Good
2 Satisfactory
1 Needs Improvement
Improving with or adapting to materials used.
3 Good
2 Satisfactory
1Needs Improvement
Engaging, Persisting, Planning, EXPRESSION, Observing, Reflection, & Pushing yourself
3 Good
2 Satisfactory
1 Needs Improvement


  • VA:Cr1.2.8a – Collaboratively shape an artistic investigation of an aspect of present-day life using a contemporary practice of art and design.
  • VA:Cr2.1.8a – Demonstrate willingness to experiment, innovate, and take risks to pursue ideas, forms, and meanings that emerge in the process of art-making or designing.
  • VA:Cr2.3.8a – Select, organize, and design images and words to make visually clear and compelling presentations.
  • VA:Cr3.1.8a – Apply relevant criteria to examine, reflect on, and plan revisions for a work of art or design in progress.
  • VA:Re7.1.8a – Explain how a person’s aesthetic choices are influenced by culture and environment and impact the visual image that one conveys to others.
  • VA:Re7.2.8a – Compare and contrast contexts and media in which viewers encounter images that influence ideas, emotions, and actions.
  • VA:Re8.1.8a – Interpret art by analyzing how the interaction of subject matter, characteristics of form and structure, use of media, art-making approaches, and relevant contextual information contributes to understanding messages or ideas and mood conveyed.
  • VA:Cr2.3.IIa – Redesign an object, system, place, or design in response to contemporary issues.

The marriage between religious fundamentalists and political right; due for a divorce

“It would disturb me if there was a wedding between the religious fundamentalists and the political right. The hard right has no interest in religion except to manipulate it.”-Rev. Billy Graham

Funny how “Mr. Conservative” Sen. Barry Goldwater felt the same way.

Alas, first Democrats lost the South when they supported civil rights & integration, Nixon & Reagan both went with a “Southern Strategy,” then, around 1983 or so white Southern evangelicals realized they could use abortion as a wedge issue, even though many religious groups had actually supported the Roe decision.

I am by no stretch of the imagination “pro-abortion,” but I for one am tired of that issue being used as a cover for racism, injustice, inequality and most recently authoritarianism, conspiracies, lies and insurrection. I don’t want to make an idol out of the Democratic party, but I sure am praying that God will wipe the scales from the eyes of our fellow believers on the political right.

Dream Prayer

I DARE you to pray this today-


Now is the time to make real the promise of democracy.

Now it the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of
segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice.

Now it the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial
injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood.

Now is the time to make justice a reality to all of God’s
Dear Lord, let the dream of little children one day living in
a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin
but by their character come true.
Lord Jesus, let freedom ring, let it ring from every
tenement and every hamlet, from every state and every city, help us to speed up that day when all of Your children,
black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and
Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of
the old spiritual, “Free at last, free at last. Thank God
Almighty, we are free at last.”

In Jesus name,

Who was MLK?

Rev. Michael King Sr. grew up a poor, Black sharecropper in Georgia at the turn of the last century. As a young man he moved to Atlanta, fell in love with a Baptist preacher’s daughter and eventually followed in his father-in-law’s footsteps and studied to become a minister.

In 1934, Rev. Michael King, Sr., attended the World Baptist Alliance in Berlin. He was so moved by the teachings and sacrifice of sixteenth-century German church reformer Martin Luther, that he changed his name from Michael King to Michael Luther King and finally Martin Luther King. His teen aged son chose to change his name to Martin Luther King Jr, after his father.

MLK Grew up in segregated Georgia during the Great Depression, but went on to become one of the greatest leaders of the civil rights movement. Now, on the third Monday in January, Americans observe the legacy of his contributions with a national holiday.

King Jr. studied sociology in college and then went to seminary to become a pastor like his father and grandfather. While serving in Alabama, Pastor King became involved with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, a group of mostly Black pastors committed to achieving racial equality through non-violence.

Many people either think of Martin Luther King Jr. as just a Black hero, with nothing to offer to the rest of us. Others take him for granted as just another pop-cultural icon along with JFK, Marilyn Monroe and Elvis. For me, he is a hero of the faith. A courageous Christian leader like Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German pastor who stood up to Adolf Hitler and the NAZIs.

One of my favorite books that I wish everyone on Earth would read is Dr. King’s “Strength to Love,” (1963) in which he explores the parable of the good Samaritan and what it means to love your neighbor and love your enemies, as Jesus taught. In it, he also wrote about the parables of the friend who knocked on his neighbor’s door at midnight and the rich fool who hoarded his wealth in his barns, only to have his soul required of him that night. King addresses fear and speculated on what sort of epistle the Apostle Paul might have written to America.

I think that even in mostly white, rural Iowa, it would be good to consider some of the lessons of Dr. King today in 2008. We forget that he was a Baptist minister like Mike Huckabee and a PhD who could analyze domestic and foreign and military policies just like like a Barack Obama or a Bill Clinton. We forget that King was a Nobel Peace Prize winner like Al Gore.

I recently found a speech that he made about Vietnam back in 1967 on April 4, 1967 at a meeting at Riverside Church in New York City. He was assassinated a year later on April 4, 1968 trying to help striking garbagemen in Memphis, Tennessee.

People wondered why a civil rights leader was suddenly turning into a war protester.

“I cannot forget that the Nobel Prize for Peace was also a commission — a commission to work harder than I had ever worked before for ‘the brotherhood of man.’…but even if it were not present I would yet have to live with the meaning of my commitment to the ministry of Jesus Christ. To me the relationship of this ministry to the making of peace is so obvious that I sometimes marvel at those who ask me why I’m speaking against the war. Could it be that they do not know that the good news was meant for all men — for Communist and capitalist, for their children and ours, for black and for white, for revolutionary and conservative? Have they forgotten that my ministry is in obedience to the One who loved his enemies so fully that he died for them?”

After three decades of supply-side economics, Americans have seen the high-tech bubble burst, and the real estate bubble burst, the stock market repeatedly crash and rebound, more millionaires than ever before yet a disappearing middle class, disappearing manufacturing jobs, jobs shipped over seas, high gas prices yet record profits for oil companies and a widening gap between the super rich and the working poor. No wonder so many voters in Iowa responded to the messages of John Edwards as he railed on big corporations and unfeeling insurance companies.
King talked about our problem with consumerism in his 1967 speech too.

“…We as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin…we must rapidly begin the shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights, are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.

When I speak of love I am not speaking of some sentimental and weak response. I am not speaking of that force which is just emotional bosh. I am speaking of that force which all of the great religions have seen as the supreme unifying principle of life. Love is somehow the key that unlocks the door which leads to ultimate reality.”

Black , White, Red, Yellow, or Brown, Dr. King’s teaching may have as much to say to us today, as it did forty years ago.