Building Toys for Language and Creativity Development (article at Tweetspeak)

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Playing with blocks—plain wooden manipulatives—improves vocabulary. But how can a toy that has no words or letters increase a child’s use of words? The conclusion may seem counterintuitive. Or maybe it makes sense, for four reasons (and probably more).

In my latest Tweetspeak article, I draw from the research of Dr. Dimitri Christakis and others. Please read the article and join the conversation in the comment box.

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Photo via Tweetspeak Poetry (see bottom of this post for photo credit).

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Choosing the Best Books for Our Children

I’m a home educator. Every July I buy the books and supplies we need for the school year. In case you, too, are deciding what books to get for your child, I am posting a 2008 article I wrote for parents of young children. (This article is also a downloadable PDF file. The full contents of the PDF follow.)

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Choosing the Best Books for Our Children

Monica Sharman

Summer 2008

Introduction

[T]o give the children of the world the words they need is, in a real sense, to give them life and growth and refreshment.

– Katherine Paterson, Gates of Excellence, (New York: E.P. Dutton, 1981), page 6.

A child without words starves. But what are the words they need? What will we give our children for their nourishment? How can we tell which books will give them life and growth and refreshment? We have limited opportunity to place good books in their hands—books they will open, words that will come before their eyes and into their hearts. How can we choose wisely?

In evaluating children’s literature, I’m afraid there can be no checklist. Books and people interact with each other in a way that goes beyond a clinical evaluation. A book that deeply moves one individual may bore or repel another individual. Your “Top Ten” book list will not be identical to your mother’s, your best friend’s, your pastor’s, your spouse’s, the Newbery Award list, the Caldecott Award list. Whether you seek to know if a book is a good book, or whether you want to know what makes a good book good, the first and best thing to do is … read. Keep reading. Be a good reader. And as you read, ask yourself, what do I consider valuable and worthwhile in children’s literature? It is your own task and cannot be done for you. The path before you requires time, effort, energy, sacrifice, but it is a path of reward, enrichment, learning, and fun! Read, read again, and read some more!

Is this a “good book”?

Think of your favorite book. What do you love about it? Why did you read it over and over? What makes it attractive and precious to you? This is just one of the ways I would answer.

An Internal Connection

Language helps shape our thoughts and emotions. Lack of words causes tension. Because the complexities of spirit and soul develop well before language, children often experience life with feelings they are yet unable to express. Then, in a good book, they recognize themselves or their experiences (internal or external), and breathe a sigh of relief and gratitude. A good book releases the inner tension and frustration in a child who lacks the words to communicate, even to himself, his own life.

I didn’t read Bevery Cleary’s Ramona books until I was in my thirties. While reading Ramona the Brave, I wept. All those books are the work of a genius. I think those are good books, and, like Katherine Paterson, I tried to figure out why.

Is it because she is easy to read? She is, but so is “Run, Spot, Run.” Is it because her settings are contemporary and her characters familiar? They are, but there are thousands of books fitting both descriptions that never capture a fraction of Cleary’s devoted readership …

Cleary has the rare gift of being able to reveal us to ourselves while still keeping an arm around our shoulder. We laugh (ha ha) to recognize that funny, peculiar little self we were and are and then laugh (ahhh) with relief that we’ve been understood at last.

– Paterson, pages 41–42.

So Katherine Paterson explains. A good book helps a child articulate thoughts and feelings he cannot put into words himself. It makes an internal connection with and for the child. A good book becomes a kind of companion which assures the reader that he is not alone.

Character Growth

A problem or conflict appears in every novel. How did the main character move through the story? By the end of the book, is he a different person than he was on page one? Character growth is in every good book.

Wonder

Does the book feed and renew my sense of wonder? Does it invoke in me amazement and awe at everyday things? In Katherine Paterson’s Invisible Child, in the chapter, “In Search of Wonder,” she lists three aspects of wonder in a story:

  • Wonder of nature and human nature (setting, characters)
  • Wonder in the telling (language, style)
  • Wonder behind and beyond the story (the story’s shape, flow, theme)

I also recommend Katherine Paterson’s Gates of Excellence: On Reading and Writing Books for Children, and The Spying Heart: More Thoughts on Reading and Writing Books for Children, for insightful and profound thoughts on children’s literature.

Does it have value?

If we say with the psalmist, “I will not set before my eyes anything that is worthless,” (Psalm 101:3) the task before us is to ask ourselves, Is this book worthless? Or, better yet, Does this book have value? Use this verse as your standard, pray for God’s guidance, and read!

Questions

Besides being a good reader yourself, ask yourself questions.

What kinds of characters do you want your children to read about? Role models? Characters they care about and identify with (though the characters would be terrible role models)?

What is the book’s tone? Is it didactic, trying to teach the reader a moral lesson? Is it believable, genuine to its setting and characters?

What do people I respect consider good books? It’s always a good idea to get recommendations from people whose literary opinions you respect.

Have fun!

You are in a good place, having to determine your child’s reading list. Enjoy!

The Practice of Pondering (by Jean Fleming)

The following full-length article first appeared in Discipleship Journal (a discontinued publication of NavPress). You’ll find a condensed version of this article (with Ann Voskamp’s excellent photography) at Ann’s place today. Don’t miss it!

Giuseppe Momos' double helix spiral staircase in the Vatican
by Jean Fleming

Have you ever sunballousa-ed? If not, you should try it. Our Lord’s mother, Mary, did. It characterized her life.

The word sunballousa is Greek for “placing together for comparison.” In Lk. 2:19, the word is translated “pondered.” The Amplified Bible translates Lk. 2:19 this way: “But Mary was keeping within herself all these things (sayings), weighing and pondering them in her heart.” Later in that chapter, Luke says that Mary “treasured all these things in her heart” (v. 51, emphasis mine).

What things? The words of the angel Gabriel. The words of her cousin Elizabeth. The words of the shepherds. The words of the Old Testament about the coming of the Messiah. Every developing event, every new word, might yield more light to this astonishing unfolding. So she kept adding to her treasure store. She held all that was happening in a precious bundle. Over and over again, she unpacked it and spread it out on the table of her heart. Each time she would arrange the pieces anew, placing the various elements in fresh configurations. Continue reading

7 Days of Soul Care, by Dolly Lee

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Good news for Dolly Lee’s readers: 7 Days of Soul Care is now available. Let me introduce you to Dolly.

About Dolly Lee

dollyheadshotDolly Lee believes in the power of God’s love to transform a person from the inside-out. She’s grateful for how God’s grace allows second acts and second chances.

Dolly has lived and wrestled with the soul care practices and questions she writes about in 7 Days of Soul Care: A Guide to Letting God Do the Extraordinary with Your Ordinary. In 1999, she asked God to show her how he created and designed her. She wearied of trying to fit her circle in the square expectation of certain key people. God led her on a surprising journey of self-discovery and a deeper experience of his love through some valley lows, mountain highs, and the mundane daily. In short, God led her into darkness, shadow, rays of light, and eventually to greater light. Because of her experiences, she believes in the power of God’s love and presence to transform and redeem brokenness into unexpected beauty.

Since late December 2010, she has blogged at Soulstops.com where she invites readers to stop and connect with God. She has also written for online venues, such as Tweetspeak Poetry, Deeper Waters Ministry, The Mudroom, the Jumping Tandem Retreat blog, and had her poem, “Laundry,” published on The Curator. Since fall 2015, she has attended Fuller Seminary. She has also participated in Peninsula Bible Church’s two-year intern program and the St. Ignatian Spiritual Exercises through the Contemplative Center of Silicon Valley.

She has been married for twenty-five years to her best friend/husband. They have one daughter (a grace gift), who keeps them on their toes with her questions, and one demanding but lovable dog. A lifelong Californian, she enjoys hiking, reading, and sharing meals with family and friends.

Her goal is to collect enough in royalties from the sale of her book, 7 Days of Soul Care, to donate $500 to the work of International Justice Mission.

Q&A with Dolly Lee

Get to know Dolly a little more with a few Q&A’s:

What is your book’s big idea?
Dolly Lee:
We let God do the extraordinary with our ordinary when we connect with God in our everyday moments—whether marvelous or mundane. And our connection with God grows when we can trust and believe God’s unconditional love for us. And our belief in God’s love allows us to be exceptional (which I define as connecting with God to be our best as God created).

I believe “each person’s best has a distinct and unique worth” in God’s eyes. Being your best, as I define it, is not about comparison and competition.

For example, I greatly admire and respect Ann Voskamp and I saw 700+ people signed up to launch her latest book, The Broken Way. I prayed for many to read her book because I believe in its message. I’ve lived it, and I’ve been privileged to know people who live it and continue to do so.

God asks me to be faithful with my best and so I am and I don’t let competition or comparison derail me. Though I admit, the enemy of my soul did tempt me to give up. But God’s love and grace (and friends) picked me up and told me to keep walking—one step at a time.

What are three reasons someone should buy your book?
Dolly Lee:

  1. They help IJM rescue more victims of human trafficking because my goal is to raise $500 for IJM via royalties.
  2. A reader can get some of the benefits of what I learned: a) from counseling (without paying for it), b) from God as I wrestled in prayer over deep heart issues, and c) from wiser spiritual leaders.
  3. If the book’s message resonates with them: connecting with our extraordinary God transforms us so we can be exceptional in our ordinary life.

Why did you decide to raise $500 for International Justice Mission with royalties from your book?
Dolly Lee:
Two reasons.

  1. I can’t grow a beard. Last year, IJM’s newsletter shared how a guy shaved half of his beard to raise money and awareness of IJM’s human trafficking rescue and restoration work. I prayed: “What can I do to help besides donating money (which we do)”? I don’t have a beard or any hair I want to cut in a dramatic way.
  2. Our church had an IJM Freedom Sunday when I was finishing my book and the thought came: why don’t you donate royalties? $500 is a God-sized goal for a small blogger like me. God can do more if he chooses, but for me, this is another big step of faith beyond publishing and writing this book. God keeps reminding me: my role is to trust and obey and not to worry about results. I keep asking God for the grace to trust and to keep moving forward.

Find out more about 7 Days of Soul Care!

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Do It Again, Lord! (Guest Post by Cynthia Hyle Bezek)

I am delighted to host Cynthia Hyle Bezek as today’s guest writer! Cynthia’s greatest passion and privilege is to help ordinary men and women connect with an extraordinary God through prayer. Leading people into satisfying, two-way, relational, personal conversation with God is the aim of whatever she does, whether as an author, editor, prayer leader, speaker, teacher, mentor, or prayer retreat leader. The following is reprinted with permission from Let’s Talk: Deepening Your Relationship with God Through Prayer.

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Do It Again, Lord!

by Cynthia Hyle Bezek

Sometimes I get annoyed with Bible people. Like this morning. I was reading in Exodus and getting really excited about God. He parted the Red Sea for the Israelites—incredible to imagine! And then when the Egyptian army tried to follow, the waters crashed down on them and they all were destroyed. What an amazing rescue!

Is it any wonder the people rejoiced and worshiped? Moses led them in a song of praise to the Lord. And then his sister, Miriam, led all the women in a joyful dance before the Lord. As I read, the people’s joy nearly vibrated off the pages.

“I will sing to the Lord. He has won a glorious victory!”

“The Lord is my strength and my song. He is my Savior. This is my God, and I will praise him, I will honor him!”

“O Lord, who is like you? You are glorious because of your holiness and awe-inspiring because of your splendor. You perform miracles!”

“Lovingly, you will lead the people you have saved. Powerfully, you will guide them to your holy dwelling. The Lord will rule as king forever and ever!”

(excerpted from Exodus 15, God’s Word translation)

But a mere two verses later, I got pretty upset with the whole lot of them. For Pete’s sake, they act as if God had died! True, they’d traveled for three days in the desert without water. That’s a problem. But instead of asking God for help, they griped about Moses. Instead of trusting God to provide for them as He had done not even 72 hours earlier, they whined: “What are we supposed to drink?” (verse 24).

I paused from my Bible reading. “I cannot believe these people!” I said out loud.

Really? a Still Small Voice asked in reply.

I realized I’d been busted. The Holy Spirit was gently pointing out how much I have in common with the Israelites. Immediately I thought about a situation that I’m struggling with. It’s a genuine problem, no less real than the Israelite’s need for water. And I am utterly incapable of solving this problem. If I think about it very long—like more than about three seconds—I am very likely to gripe and whine, just like the Israelites did.

The irony is, like the Israelites, I have also experienced God’s deliverance in desperate situations. I can name at least three examples of God’s loving intervention, working things out in ways I never would have imagined, and never could have orchestrated on my own.

Still, I forget. The new crisis looms in front of me, and I forget the victory song I’d sung just a few days earlier. Or I doubt. Sure, God delivered me before, but who says He’ll do it again this time?

Either way, my responses are not pretty.

God, I don’t want to be like the Israelites, I told Him this morning. You have delivered me wonderfully before. You have walked through fires and floods with me on other occasions. You have never abandoned me. You have never failed me. I am sorry I forget. I am sorry I doubt. Please help me to remember Your deliverance. And please deliver me again.

It’s a full 15 hours later, and God has not answered my prayer yet. He has not led me to water as quickly as He did the Israelites in Exodus 15. I’m still waiting for His deliverance. But however long I have to wait, I want to do it with faith, not doubt. I want to hope in the Lord. I want to trust that He will help me—as He promises always to do when I call on Him. So that has been my prayer throughout today, and probably will be for days to come: Help me to remember, Lord—and please, please do it again!

Looking back

Photo credit (bottom photo): Susanne Nilsson via Flickr Creative Commons

Photo credit (top photo): TLV and more via Flickr Creative Commons

Rethinking the Building Block (Caltech Alumni article)

Caltech alumni Charles Sharman (and in some photos, with his wife, Monica, and son, Byron) display the building toys that he and Monica create at  their company, Crossbeams.   (Photo by Glenn Asakawa)

Toy companies Roominate and Crossbeams, both founded by Caltech alumni, challenge traditional ideas of what a toy is, whom it’s made for, and how it can inspire.

Read the full article on Bettina Chen and Charles Sharman at Caltech Alumni news:
Rethinking the Building Block

On Holiday Traditions (Guest Post for Deidra Riggs)

Have you ever seen a gingerbread Leaning Tower of Pisa?

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When Deidra Riggs invited me to share about holiday traditions, I decided to expand on the gingerbread creations I mentioned briefly in Behold the Beauty chapter 16, “A List of Personal and Family Rituals.”

Would you like a lighthearted read this Thanksgiving week? I invite you to click through to join me here: The Gift of Engineering for the Holidays (with thanks to Deidra)!

Holiday-Traditions

Bible Out Loud

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Ever since our firstborn’s first day home from the hospital, we’ve been reading out loud to our sons every night. The book we chose to inaugurate this ritual? Ivanhoe, by Sir Walter Scott.

Not your typical bedtime read-aloud book, but for a one-day-old, we figured it was okay. Our main goal was to establish the daily routine early.

Besides, we ourselves wanted to read Ivanhoe. Also, the newborn began to learn and recognize the sound of his parents telling him a story.

After Ivanhoe, we switched to board books and picture books—Margaret Wise Brown’s Goodnight Moon, Eric Carle’s The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Sandra Boynton’s Moo, Baa, La La La!

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We read them slowly, savoring the words and illustrations. We read them so many times that, even now, I can recite them by memory and tell you when to turn the page: “In the great green room / There was a telephone / And a red balloon / And a picture of— [turn page] the cow jumping over the moon.”

Before my second son started walking, he used to crawl to me, dragging a book in one hand. I remember sitting on the floor (as I often do) with my back against the bookshelves, watching him bring me another Sandra Boynton. Here he comes.

As he crawled into my cross-legged lap, I resolved to stay put and read the book to him no matter how many times he asked.

So when I turned the last page and he said, “Again?” I read it again.

And again.

Through every iteration, I made sure to still read it slowly and enjoy the story. No rushing.

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We read that book seven times in a row before he crawled out of my lap. I stayed, waiting to see if he would ask for the eighth.

Of course, we adjusted as our sons grew older. Five or ten minutes of bedtime reading turned into half an hour or more. On weekly library trips, we took home Frog and Toad (Arnold Lobel), Poppleton (Cynthia Rylant), and colorful, well-mannered dinosaurs (Jane Yolen).

Deep and thoughtful discussions became part of bedtime reading as we read Uncle Tom’s Cabin, To Kill a Mockingbird, and The Count of Monte Cristo (all unabridged). Currently, my husband is reading Mark Twain’s The Prince and the Pauper to our nine-year-old, and I’m reading Shelby Foote’s The Civil War (Volume I) to the older two boys.

The initial intent stuck: we established a habit of reading every night, fifteen years and counting. The fun ritual that started with a one-day-old who slept through most of Ivanhoe has become part of our routine, part of our relationship.

Hear the Bible Out Loud

When was the last time someone read aloud to you? When did you recently sit down for nothing but the joy of hearing good words artfully woven together?

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How to Listen to Bible Gateway’s Audio Bibles

1. Go to BibleGateway.com, hover over the “Bible” tab in the upper left, and click on “Audio Bibles.”

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2. Choose your preferred audio version. (For a special treat, try one of the versions “by Dramatized”!)

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3. Choose the book of the Bible . . .

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4. . . . and the chapter.

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5. Press play, and hear the story!

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Consider it a treat. Someone is reading aloud to you. Like the child who asked for the same book seven times in a row, savor the story and hear it as many times as you want by pressing “play” again and again.

Related:

Did you know about International Day of the Bible on November 23, 2015? Check it out.

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A portion of the above is excerpted from Behold the Beauty: An Invitation to Bible Reading. For more details, including quotes and the book trailer, visit the book’s web page.

A portion of the above first appeared in one of my articles for Charity Singleton Craig’s How to Bring Words to Life Column, 5 Reasons to Go to Storytime (even if you don’t have children).

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Photo credits:

Elliot Margolies, via Flickr Creative Commons

Alexander N, via Flickr Creative Commons

For quote image: denise carrasco, via Flickr Creative Commons

Silver, Gold, and . . . Paper (Guest Post for Dena Dyer)

Do me a favour Project 365(2) Day 269

You know the 25th anniversary is Silver and the 50th is Gold. Do you know what anniversary is Paper (my favorite)? Did you know the 21st is Brass?

I’m delighted and honored to be a guest writer for Dena Dyer. Click over to read my piece on wedding anniversaries.

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Photo credit: Keith Williamson, via Flickr Creative Commons

What If (Guest Post by Jill Case Brown)

You’ve read about my friend Jill Case Brown before, when I posted a review of her YA novel Safe. Now I’m delighted and honored to host Jill for a guest post. Funny and witty, humble and wise, Jill is also an excellent writer. I’m glad my readers can get to know her a little.

From the “About” page on Jill’s blog:

The big picture: living vibrantly when part of life is hard. This blog will mostly be about how life changed for both of us when my husband, David, broke his neck in a 2009 bicycle accident. Spinal cord injury, or SCI, makes things harder—but it doesn’t have to make them worse. It can even make some things better.

I also invite you to check out her Facebook page: Jill Case Brown Author

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by Jill Case Brown

Our refrigerator was to blame. It really was. Sometimes I stand in front of it and say, “You know, I could hate you.”

But I don’t. It’s a good refrigerator, and I like it. We’re not getting rid of it.

David and I bought this old house when the previous owner gave up her plan of opening it as a bed & breakfast. She’d already done the big work, like electricity, plumbing, heat and air conditioning, remodeled bathrooms and kitchen.

I especially love our kitchen. It glows with morning sun and is beautifully designed, the most workable kitchen I’ve ever had. But the only space for a refrigerator snugs up against a cabinet, and the one that came with the house was an enormous side-by-side. Instead of opening all the way, the freezer door thunked to a stop at a ninety-degree angle.

After a couple of months, I was fed up with blindly slithering my arm into the freezer and coming out with surprises. I’m not a great cook anyway, and this didn’t help.

“I give up,” I told David, waving a package of frozen peas that was supposed to be a chicken. “Let’s replace this monster.”

So we did. We chose a smaller one, with doors that open away from the cabinet and can swing wide.

The new refrigerator was to arrive early Tuesday morning. David and I planned to get it settled in, then drive to work together for a meeting. But—surprise, surprise—time for us to leave, and still no delivery guys. At the last minute, David took off on his bicycle. He’d wanted the car, since he also had a lunch appointment that would require travel, but I still hoped to make it to our meeting if the guys brought the refrigerator in time. (They didn’t.)

A common experience. Who hasn’t had one like it?

This time, though, the consequences went deep. On his way home from work that afternoon, David skidded on gravel and launched off his bicycle, onto a rock and into his new life as a quadriplegic.

As you can imagine, that leaves me with a whole list of what-ifs. They start broad and fairly painless: What if we hadn’t moved here? What if we’d bought a different house? What if the previous owner had left a more appropriate refrigerator? What if the delivery guys had been on schedule? What if David hadn’t wanted to save money by downsizing to just one car?

Then the items get sharper: What if I hadn’t fussed about the old refrigerator? What if I hadn’t pushed to buy a new one? What if I’d told David to take the car that day instead of keeping it for myself?

That last one really pierces. After cycling to and from his lunch appointment, he was probably tired and less able to avoid the accident. If he’d had the car . . . if I hadn’t been so selfish . . .

I’m aware that what-ifs serve no purpose except to scourge the soul. I’ve been that route before, and it never takes you where you need to go. So the third time I caught myself standing in front of the refrigerator, running the list through my mind, I said aloud, “Can’t go there.”

Hard things happen. That’s just life. And whenever the urge to what-if comes up for this particular hard thing, I know exactly what to do with it.

Blame the refrigerator. It doesn’t mind.

***

Photo credit: Kevin Marsh via Flickr Creative Commons

5 Steps to Make a Sentence Curve (or Vary Your Sentence Length)

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Do a quick internet search and you’ll find several articles advising you to vary sentence length in your writing. I’m simply offering a visual tool to help writers implement that advice.

Read my article, 5 Steps to Make a Sentence Curve, at Charity Singleton Craig’s column How to Bring Words to Life.

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Photo credit: see bottom of the article at How to Bring Words to Life

How Crossbeams Values Every Person

Crossbeams Building Toy

In real-world engineering, there is no MVP. A team isn’t a true team if one “best” worker shoulders 80 percent of the load, leaving others’ work optional, insignificant, or less influential.

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Teamwork means no one is the star player (“It’s all hanging on me”) whose sole performance makes or breaks a project. Real teamwork means the project depends on every team member. Similarly, real teamwork means no one can claim to be irrelevant—no excuses for flaking out or disengaging (“I don’t need to do much. I’m not needed here anyway.”).

True teamwork means every member’s contribution is not only helpful but necessary. The game hangs on everyone’s play.

Two misconceptions about teamwork and community:

Falsehood #1: “I’m more important than the others. We can do without them.”

. . . and the flipside:

Falsehood #2: “I’m less important than the others. They can do without me.”

In Christian community, too, there is no MVP.

It’s easy to see how putting others down can damage a team. But putting yourself down is just as damaging. In fact, the Bible addresses that issue first.

Antidote for Falsehood #2:

The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ. . . . Yes, the body has many different parts, not just one part. If the foot says, “I am not a part of the body because I am not a hand,” that does not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear says, “I am not part of the body because I am not an eye,” would that make it any less a part of the body?

– 1 Corinthians 12:12-16, NLT (emphasis added)

Antidote for Falsehood #1:

If the whole body were an eye, how would you hear? Or if your whole body were an ear, how would you smell anything?

But our bodies have many parts, and God has put each part just where he wants it. How strange a body would be if it had only one part! Yes, there are many parts, but only one body. The eye can never say to the hand, “I don’t need you.” The head can’t say to the feet, “I don’t need you.”

In fact, some parts of the body that seem weakest and least important are actually the most necessary.

– 1 Corinthians 12:12-21, NLT (emphasis added)

You are needed. You . . . and you . . . and you . . . are needed.

Crossbeams teaches this.

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Charles Sharman, Crossbeams inventor, created a Team Build concept for several large designs.

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Last week, members of the local library’s MiniMasterminds STEM club accomplished the Crossbeams Team Build for the Saturn V (pronounced “Saturn Five”), the rocket that took us to the moon.

Each child built one of twelve modules.

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We collected the completed rocket sections . . .

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. . . and connected all twelve modules. Once the builders (and the adults who accompanied them!) realized how big the finished rocket would be, you could hear the room stirring in increasing excitement.

“Wow, do you realize how huge this thing is going to be?!”

“I told you this was going to be really cool!”

“This is gonna be taller than I am!”

“Taller than the tallest person here!”

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The end result was seven and a half feet tall.

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It takes the fastest Crossbeams builder about two and a half hours to build the Saturn V by himself. But in this Team Build, twelve beginners who had never seen Crossbeams before finished it in 75 minutes.

Discussion questions concluded the event. Some were:

Q: How can beginners beat the fastest Crossbeams builder?

“We all did it together!”

Q: How did your own part look compared the completed rocket?

“Mine was pretty big, and looked pretty cool, but it was way cooler to see the full rocket at the end.”

Q: How important was your part in building the rocket?

“Very important. . . . The rocket wouldn’t have worked without every part.”

Team Builds by Crossbeams, made by a company named after the Golden Rule, emphasize teamwork, the importance of everyone, and a well-engineered end-product everyone can be proud of.

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For further reading:

The Crossbeams Team Build Concept (includes Team Builds Instructor’s Guide)

Seven:Twelve Engineering, the company behind Crossbeams

A summary of a previous Team Build event: Eiffel Tower (includes video)

The Story Behind Crossbeams

What sets Crossbeams apart?

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Photo credits for the Saturn V Team Build event: Pikes Peak Library District, Rockrimmon Branch

Book Review (sort of): Wild in the Hollow, by Amber C. Haines

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I don’t know if it’s because Amber C. Haines is a poet, or because reading this book is a little like breaking open a pomegranate and exposing ripe seeds clustered in their hollows, the red of their juices lingering as stains on your fingers after you bring out the fruit—but this memoir, Wild in the Hollow, calls for something other than the typical way I do a book review. Instead, I’m sharing twelve found poems taken from Amber’s words (including page references to the book).

What is a found poem? The Academy of American Poets defines it:

Found poems take existing texts and refashion them, reorder them, and present them as poems. The literary equivalent of a collage, found poetry is often made from newspaper articles, street signs, graffiti, speeches, letters, or even other poems.

A pure found poem consists exclusively of outside texts: the words of the poem remain as they were found, with few additions or omissions. Decisions of form, such as where to break a line, are left to the poet.

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1. From pages 49-51:
It didn’t take me long to see how different I was in the church

So tidy and clean
the church so aware of how it looked.

No one talked about brokenness. I did my best
to look good enough for the keeping, but—

How broken I was. How I didn’t fit. It seemed the rest
of the church had healed up good. Either that

or no one knew how to grieve
the stories, the rumbles of despair. Most days I thought

I would drown. Fresh in the memory of wild back roads
I walked in and asked, “Will you love me now?”

—–

2. From page 54:
My mamaw

She rocked in her chair.
She told me secrets. We became
so close in our brokenness, spoke
in secret language before she slipped away
into her real life. Her confessions
unified us, her perfect love for me
cast out fear.

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3. From page 54:
So much hammered doctrine

was an effort to control,
to harness the Holy Spirit so we could feel
better about ourselves—
a measuring stick superimposed into
the very hand of God.

—–

4. From page 56:
What is Scripture?

What is Scripture if
it doesn’t pour in,
transform,
and then
flow out from the depths,
especially
as love?

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5. From page 57:
I wish I had known

The depravity of man is only
the realization of the hollow,
the need. Depravity
should only imply that we
can be filled
with God.

—–

6. From page 58:
Mercy

Isn’t it sometimes
God’s mercy
that we crash?

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7. From page 111:
Friendship Beginning

a long, silent pause
like an orchestra
before the music begins

like a cellist holding position
with the bow hovering
just above the strings

—–

8. From page 141:
A Word of Truth

Do not forget
that the Spirit of God
indwells you.

And just like that,
the ash blew over, and I began
to burn.

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9. From page 173:
Repentance

a sorrow
a recognized need
a change of mind, the turning point
a place of release
a place to go

—–

10. From page 173:
After Repentance

obedience
moving forward
into righteousness, peace, joy
propelling the kingdom of God

—–

11. From page 186:
Good News

Isn’t brokenness
the fertile ground for the seed
of hope? We are weak ones, but
this is not bad news.

—–

12. From page 197:
In this one moment

I have seen my children
run naked and wild. I have seen them
without a drop of shame.