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Friday, 24 April 2015

New word and New concept: Coopertition

   We are all familiar with the idea of competition.  Any race, sports match or tournament gains the excitement and intensity from the fact that one player or team is trying to surpass the achievements of others.  Participants and spectators alike enjoy seeing all the hard work of training put to the test in a public forum.
   Cooperation is something entirely different.  Here people are helping one another achieve a greater goal.  Cooperation naturally happens in families, among the members of  a  sports team, in workplaces where projects require the input and expertise of various employees to be successful.
   How could these two ideas ever fit together?  Although the spelling is different, the idea of "coopetition" has been shared in the last century to apply to the business world.  Two companies might produce some of the same types of products, but they might decide to become partners in certain ways to increase their collective success.  In 2000, the American organization FIRST Robotics built on this concept and made the word into one of its trademarks, literally.  Along with "gracious professionalism", coopertition™ is one of the defining qualities of a world-wide enterprise aimed at recognizing science and technology among youth.  Here is the way FIRST Robotics defines the term:

Coopertition produces innovation. At FIRST, Coopertition is displaying unqualified kindness and respect in the face of fierce competition. Coopertition is founded on the concept and a philosophy that teams can and should help and cooperate with each other even as they compete.
Icon from FIRST Robotics

Coopertition involves learning from teammates. It is teaching teammates. It is learning from Mentors. And it is managing and being managed. Coopertition means competing always, but assisting and enabling others when you can.

   At the time I am writing this post, 607 robotics teams from around the world have gathered in St. Louis, Missouri for the world championships of their 2015 robot-game, Recycle Rush.  The teams that built each robot are encouraged to work together as they compete by having three robots on each side of the field to score points (by stacking plastic totes and then placing these stacks on scoring platforms) to build up a score for which they will all receive equal credit.  But coopertition takes on a new level in this game when each side brings one to three special yellow totes to the centre of the field to make a total of four totes.  When this happens, both alliances receive forty bonus points, as the icon above illustrates.
   I do not consider myself a very technologically skilled person, but through the participation of my husband and son in a FIRST robotics team over the past three years, I have appreciated that it is not just about being able to program a computer or about getting wealthy corporate sponsors to help pay for the materials involved in the build-process.  The merging of competition and cooperation will have the most lasting benefit for any student or adult mentor that becomes involved.  It can even inspire the spectators, like me.

Leave a comment if you've observed coopertition at work anywhere else.

Friday, 17 April 2015

Luc was Born Today

During the month of April the picture to the left is appearing on bus shelters in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.  A full colour page is also being distributed to homes nearby the shelters.  The story I submitted for the back was selected.  Here it is:

Luc is very much a typical baby and yet like all babies he’s also extraordinary.  He has ten tiny fingers and ten tiny toes.  His face instinctively turns towards his mother at feeding time.   Even before his umbilical cord was cut, Luc used his breathing reflex; he is able to sneeze, cough, hiccough and thrash to keep that airway open.
   Today is Luc’s birthday, but his mother had been feeling his lively kicks grow stronger over the past four months.  The ultrasound images showed him developing steadily in her uterus.  The doctor confirmed a heartbeat at ten weeks gestation but told Luc’s mother that it had been beating imperceptibly for seven weeks already.
   Luc is in a very safe place now--at the hospital, in the arms of a doctor, nurse, his mother or his father.  But he has come from an unsafe place, legally speaking.  You see, up until the moment of his birth, Luc was not considered to be a person under Canadian law and thus had no legal protection if he was unwanted.
   Harming Luc is unthinkable.  He is vulnerable and beautiful at the same time.  He is dependent on those around him for everything he needs.  Because we can see him we know the type of care he needs, the same care each member of the human race requires as a newborn.
   Yet when we could not see Luc, except through fuzzy black and white figures from an ultrasound, Luc’s life was in jeopardy.  Every year in Canada about 85,000 pregnancies are terminated (approximately 950,000 in the past 10 reported years).  This figure exceeds Canada’s leading cause of death--cancer (2011 Statistics Canada)
   Isn’t it about time that our laws kept up with our knowledge of fetal development?  Only the Christian Heritage Party is committed to protecting the lives of even the youngest Canadians as well as the lives of the oldest and most disabled Canadians.
CHP Canada
‘Bringing Respect for Life and Justice
To Canadian Politics’

Christian Heritage Party of Canada

Little Providences

   Over the past few months I have been tracking different incidents where God showed Himself providentially at work.  Some of these events left me with some type of gift, but during others I became part of a gift to someone else.

  • One morning I was rushing around at home in order to get to work on time.  It was the Thursday before Easter, and I needed to begin teaching at 11:45 am.  I did not have much time to spare; I allow about ten minutes to walk to work plus some margin to get set up in the classroom I will be using.  There are two different paths I usually take to arrive at work.  This particular morning, I briefly hesitated when the path split between two possibilities.  I carried on in a certain direction.  A few minutes later, I encountered a woman I knew who was delivering flower arrangements for Easter.  She asked me if I was going to the school that her grandchildren attended.  I replied, "Yes."  Then she asked if I could please give them each a bus ticket that she held out to me.  They would know what it meant, she added.  I agreed and carried on with my walk to work.  When the students had a break for lunch, I was able to deliver the tickets I had been asked to do.  If I had left my house sooner, would I have met this lady?  If I had taken a different path to school, would I have been able to help out in this way?
  • Our 18 year old minivan had been leaking some fluid onto our driveway, so we called the garage to check it out for us.  The appointment was in a couple of days, so we kept driving the vehicle.  On my way home from a prison Bible study, I parked the van outside the garage and walked the rest of the way home.  The next morning the garage called asking, "How did you drive this minivan here?  The power steering pump is completely broken.  Because of the interconnection with the hydraulic system, the brakes should have been affected as well." Apparently, the mechanic had extreme difficulty cranking the steering wheel in order to advance the vehicle into the service bay.  When the van was repaired, the mechanic kept shaking his head at how a part so damaged could have had no effect while we were driving it. True, it is possible that it was holding together right until the moment it was parked and that it broke overnight.  Very mysterious.  Very blessed!
  • I try my best to purchase my groceries all at once on a particular day of the week.  I know that this is the way to spend less than spontaneous trips over several days when you "need" something.  One afternoon I truly did need four items to carry me over to my next big shopping day, including a dozen eggs.  As I stood in the express check-out line, a woman I had never met before came up to me and said, "Thank you."  When I gave her a puzzled glance, she said that she would have forgotten to buy eggs if she had not seen my package on the belt.  Off she rushed to add this item to her basket.  I was just paying for my purchase when she came back with all she now needed.  Again, she thanked me.  Sometimes we can beat ourselves up about not living up to our own standards.  Maybe there's a reason we need to be in a particular place at a particular time that has nothing to do with us.  If my absent-mindedness ends up helping someone else in the end, then I need to just smile and be grateful.
  • In addition to my part-time teaching role, I also provide editing for a few theology students and engineers for whom English is not their first language.  It is the nature of this type of work that requests to look over a document come right before the person's due date; thus, I need to help them urgently.  This week I received a similar request, but the assignment was actually already past due.  I had about 90 minutes before I had to leave for work as I downloaded the paper. I was dismayed that it was 15 pages double-spaced. On a good day, I am able to edit 7-8 pages per hour, depending on the writer's skill with English grammar and expressions.  I replied to him that I would get started, but that I probably would not be able to complete it in the time I had. As I made corrections and suggestions, I continued to progress.  When I arrived at the end of page 15, only one hour had elapsed.  I know I was given special grace to finish the work on time because I have never been able to be that time-efficient.  Soli deo gloria.

Saturday, 11 April 2015

Vitamin Presentation (B-12)

In my Grade 5/6 science class, students are preparing to give presentations about a different vitamin or mineral to the rest of the class.  One of my staff colleagues gives a sample presentation whenever he assigns something new and less familiar to the student.  I decided to do the same.  The students are free to use a variety of formats to present their information, but I chose to do a short story with a dialogue to teach about Vitamin B-12

Let me tell you a story about Vitamin B-12 and a school girl named Laura Carrot.  Laura has been a vegetarian for two years.  She does not eat any kind of meat—no pork, no beef, no chicken, no duck, no lamb, no venison, no sausage, no bacon, no fish, no salmon, no shrimp—nothing that was once part of an animal.  But Laura Carrot has recently decided to go one step further.  She is going to become a vegan.  A vegan also does not eat any product that came from an animal.  No eggs, no milk and no dairy products whatsoever, including cheese, yogurt or pudding.
                Laura Carrot is missing two important food groups in her diet-meat and dairy-and that will have an impact on her health.  She will miss out on protein, which helps your cells be built up and repaired.  But, if Laura is careful, she can get pretty much all the protein she needs from beans, like kidney beans and chick peas as well as tofu, a soybean product.
                Here comes the bigger problem.  Vitamin B-12 is found ONLY in animal products.  Laura Carrot will be missing out on this product.  She’ll be OK for about one year because a person’s liver stores up about 12-month supply of Vitamin B-12, but eventually she will have what’s called a “deficiency”—her body will not have enough.  What does Vitamin B-12 do?  It works with the mineral Iron to help produce healthy blood cells.  It is also important for the nervous system, so some people who do not have enough of this vitamin report unexpected tingling in their arms and legs because the nerves are not working properly.  When your body does not have enough Vitamin B-12, you can get anemia, which makes you feel weak, lethargic and lacking in energy.  Your body has to take in Vitamin B-12 regularly to keep in good health.  Since your nerves and blood go everywhere in your body, everything is affected.
                Laura Carrot has gone to see her doctor to find out how she can stay healthy as a vegan.  Here is their conversation:
  • Doctor:  Hi Laura, I understand you’re planning to change your diet from vegetarian to vegan, and you’ve come for some advice.
  • Laura: That’s right, doctor.
  • Doctor: Laura, I have to say I’m quite concerned about your decision.  What is the reason you want to cut eggs and dairy products from your diet?
  • Laura: It just seems really mean how we take eggs and milk from animals.  The chickens should be allowed to hatch their own eggs, and the cows should give the milk to their own babies. It’s like stealing!
  • Doctor: Do you like the taste of eggs and milk products?  Do you have any reactions to them?
  • Laura: No, I like the taste and I don’t have any reactions or allergies to them.
  • Doctor:  As a Christian, I know that God gave us the animals for food.  If it bothers you to eat meat, that is one thing.  But eggs and milk have been eaten for good health since we’ve had records of human civilization.  It is not the same as stealing.  If all the eggs that chickens laid were allowed to hatch, we’d be overrun with chickens.  Even if the cow’s milk was given to the calves, there would always be some left over.  God designed things so that if we use them properly we will not run short.
  • Laura:  Is there something else you’re not telling me?
  • Doctor:  Laura, since you are just 12 years old, your body is still growing.  The vitamins found in meat, eggs and dairy are hard to get anywhere else, especially Vitamin B-12.  Since it is so important for the production of blood cells and a healthy brain and nerves, it is not optional.  You would have to take a daily Vitamin supplement if you decided firmly to become a Vegan.  These pills are not for swallowing, but you dissolve them on or under your tongue, just one per day.
  • Laura: Thank you for explaining this to me.  I never really understood the importance of animal products in our diet.  Now that you gave a Christian point of view about using animal products, I see that my idea about stealing from animals was kind of silly.  Being a vegan is a trendy thing on my soccer team, but I need to tell the girls on my team that it can really affect their bodies.  I will talk it over with my parents too.  You know, I think I might even try eating meat once in a while, but never shrimp!

Thursday, 9 April 2015

Last Words

   The last words in a book or film are often typed in capital letters: “THE END.”  The viewer does not expect any more action; the reader closes the book and does not anticipate hearing any more about these characters, unless a sequel exists or is hinted at.  For now, they have come to their final words.
   In different contexts “THE END” is spelled out differently.  Every prayer seems unfinished without its “Amen.”  A parting between friends or family invokes the words “Good-bye” or “Bye” for short.  We employ this metaphor when a loved one passes away—a funeral allows us to say our “Good-byes.”
   Some people put great stock in the last words spoken by famous people.  And Jesus’ final words (7 statements in all) are often a focus for sermons during the season of Lent, as occurred in my local church.  When my pastor reflected on the very last word from the cross, he pointed out that this sentence of submission: “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit” is taken from Psalm 31:5.  In that original context, the psalm writer was not at all hinting at death or “the end.”  Rather he was committing himself to God by continuing to live in Him.  When Jesus speaks these words in Luke 23:46, he does so not in a resigned whisper but a loud declaration!  There is more to come.  Life will be returned to the Lord and Giver of life.
   Because Jesus’ death was part of a greater plan that involved resurrection on the third day, the other endings in our life are not final either.  When we speak a prayer to the Father, our “Amen” does not mean “that’s all done and over with.”  It is a triumphant “so be it,” an invitation for God to carry our requests forward according to his perfect timing.  When we say “Good-bye” we keep in mind the original phrase it has been shortened from: “God be with ye.”  We expect that our relationship will carry on even if distances may separate us for a time.  Even our so-called final good-byes are not final at all for those who embrace the resurrection life of the Son of God.  They are a temporary “see you later” until that time when all things are made new.

   That knowledge is reflected in the practice of remembering not the birthdays of saints and martyrs, but the day of their death.  It was actually a new beginning...

Saturday, 4 April 2015

Guest Post by JungSeong: Great Love

Charcoal briquettes
This Easter reflection will be preached on Easter morning in Michigan by a young man born in South Korea.  He gave me kind permission to share it here.  I really enjoyed his image of the charcoal briquette applied to the life of Christ. 

Ephesians 2:4

I want to introduce one item, which is a charcoal briquette.  Nowadays, few people use this item. However, 20 years ago, many Koreans considered it indispensable for their families during winter season. This is because it was able to make the room warm and therefore keep the body warm. But today we might think that a black, dirty, and ugly briquette is worthless.
However, the briquette has another meaning.

When the briquette catches on fire, it sacrifices itself so that the ice-cold room becomes a warm room.  A chilled body becomes a warm body. Also after the charcoal briquette is used up, the ashes can be spread on an icy road or path to make them less slippery. In this way the charcoal briquette completes its mission.  

Now, in our Bible reading, Paul described how God showed His great love for us through giving His only son Jesus Christ. In fact, Jesus took on flesh like us sinners, was born in a manger and lived as the son of a carpenter.
We find that Jesus knew his mission on earth, and he did it.
This mission required Jesus has to sacrifice Himself on the cross, to die and rise up again!
His suffering on the cross shows us sinners His great love.

In Ephesians 2:4, it says, “But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions – it is by grace you have been saved.”

What does the cross show us?  We surely know "it is that through Christ’s death on the cross, our old nature is crucified, put to death, and buried with him so that the evil desires of the flesh may no longer reign in us, but that we may offer ourselves to him as a sacrifice of thankfulness" (Heidelberg Catechism Answer 43).

What does the cross show us?
In our greatest sorrow and temptation we may be assured and comforted that Jesus Christ, by His unspeakable anguish, pain, terror, and agony, which Jesus endured throughout all His sufferings but especially on the cross He has delivered us from the anguish and torment of hell (Heidelberg Catechism Answer 44).
We see that Jesus cleaned up our all sins, our all shame, our hurt and whatever pains we have. 
Then Jesus accomplished His mission, died and came to life after 3 days!
Jesus Christ shows us through his resurrection life that he has overcome death, so that he could make us share in the righteousness which he obtained for us by his death.
By his power we too are raised up to a new life.
Christ’s resurrection 
is to us a sure pledge 
of our glorious resurrection. (Heidelberg Catechism Answer 45)
Just as Jesus shows us His great love with warmth like a charcoal fire!
His sacrifice for us like the briquette sacrifice to warm our bodies.
And Jesus Christ made a way in the world through the resurrection just as the briquette’s ash can assist people to walk safely on an icy road.
Brothers and sisters in Christ,
Through His resurrection, God raised us with Christ and seated us with Christ in the heavens: it is past, present, future, and forever.
Let us pray.

Thank you for your message. Your great love brings us from anguish and torments of life. And your resurrection changes us into your people. It’s all by your grace. Thank you for your great love. In the name of Jesus Christ. Amen