Hail, the Conquering Hero!

Boris2I am thankful for Joe Boris, a history/sociology teacher at State College Area High School. He is retiring this year, after 40 years at State High. The number of students he’s touched is in the tens of thousands and there isn’t one who knows Joe at all that doesn’t love him. Or at least will admit to it.

He was one of the most popular teachers back in my day (I graduated in ’80) and his reputation with students and colleagues alike has only grown stronger over the years. He has always put the students first…OK, maybe second after his wife.

His “trick” for connecting, motivating, challenging, and changing students’ lives? Trust. You knew you could talk to  him about anything and he’d listen. He’d give you wisdom if you wanted it…or  needed it. He’d help plan out a prank; he’d figuratively hold your hand if you pushed the envelope too far and needed to face the music.

He is a man of faith. Faith in God. Faith in his colleagues. Faith in himself. Faith in his students–and be sure to know that if you went to State High, you were his student, whether or not you actually took any of his classes.

I can easily say that my life is richer for having known him.

We’ll miss ya, Joe! Enjoy the garden!

Musical Monday: Memorial Day 2013 Freedom isn’t free









Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.                                                                                                                                        John 15:13 ESV

Armed Forces Day, 2013

Armed Forces DayI am thankful for our  Armed Forces, the men and women who swore an oath to defend the Constitution from all enemies, foreign and domestic. Who put themselves in harm’s way to protect our rights.

President Harry S Truman led the effort to establish this holiday for citizens to come together and thank military members for their patriotic service in support of our country.

A bit of nit picking on my part:

Armed Forces Day ( May 18) is to honor those currently serving. Veteran’s Day (Nov 11) is for honoring those who have servedMemorial Day honors those who made the ultimate sacrifice.

while I am truly grateful for those who acknowledge my service whenever they thank me, I have to admit a bit of…annoyance? that the purpose of these various holidays seems to be getting all mixed up.

This point is this: thank them while you have the chance:

The Active Duty folks you see in the airport today might be coming home in a flag draped coffin. Sad, but all too true. We don’t know.

The Veteran you see, perhaps hobbling through Wal-Mart, might not wake up tomorrow morning–WWII and Korea (for example) were a long time ago.

On Memorial Day, it’s too late to thank the service member for their service. So be sure to look for their survivors: family, friends, comrades in arms–and thank them for their sacrifice.

Ceramics drink containers

I am thankful for ceramics, mugs or cups in particular, for coffee and tea. I find that both metal and plastics lend a faint, but noticeable taste to the drink. Maybe it’s simply from where my lips touch. Maybe not. It makes a difference to me. And since I enjoy these heavenly gifts, I like to take some baby steps toward full blown snobbery. But since full blown snobbery is still a bit more expensive, both financially and temporally, than what I am will to sacrifice for at this juncture, baby steps is just fine.

The one pictured is my go-to for now. At home, I usually forgo the lid. There are ceramic mugs that are double walled, for better insulation; haven’t tried any of those. Used to have a beautiful Japanese tea set…can’t recall what happened to it. A blue tinted gray with black bamboo leaf motif. Not that I used it much. I’ve learned that some things do much better with continuous use rather than being “eyes only.” My cast iron set is like that…but that’s for another post.


Sunday’s Spiritual Spin: Klatuu, Barada, Necktie…

sunday’s Spiritual Spin

I am thankful for the Trinity Knot. Looks like this and I think it’s pretty cool:

Of course, there is the obvious connection here, on a Sunday, for me, a Chaplain.

For those not of an orthodox Christian persuasion, the Trinity is a doctrine (teaching) about God and Who He is, based on the Scripture. The shortest explanation is: One God, Three Persons. Saint Patrick used the seamrag (Shamrock) as a picture. In the Bible, Jesus refers to Himself as The Son (of Man, usually) and always refers to God as His Father (one exception: on the cross, He says “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” but I digress). Both are described in term of divinity. There are also passages that refer to The Holy Spirit, also in terms of divinity. It’s called a mystery, because mere mortal minds cannot adequately describe God. But we do what we can.

It helps me to think of such doctrines/teachings like scientific theories. Doctrine:theology::theory:science–that is to say, doctrine is to theology what theory is to science–our best guess at accurately describing reality with the evidence we have available. Not always gonna work out, but hey, we keep at it.

Obviously, as a theologian (yes, I am a member of TA–Theologian’s Anonymous) this knot has a lot of meaning for me. And since it is a particularly unusual knot in a tie, I often get comments about it, which gives me all kinds of segues into topics I really like talking about: namely, God.



You can tie it such that, with a striped tie, or one with a stripe/pattern in it (like the one shown), you get three “rays” or “spokes” from the center point. That would look kind of like this.





Or you can tie it so that you get a triangle, kind of like this.

But as you might see, it really depends on exactly how carefully the knot is tied and the exact  pattern for the stripe.



OK, now that you’re interested, here’s a video/link to show you how it’s done.



I an thankful for THON–aka Penn State Dance Marathon, a philanthropic phenomenon that raises funds to fight pediatric cancer care of The Four Diamonds Fund.

Forget about the so-called scandal of last year. This is what Penn State is about. I  am thankful for a community that cares about children and is motivated to do something–40 years of community service. From 38 students dancing 30 hours and raising $2000 to last year’s 708 dancers pulling a solid 46 hours and $10,686,924.83 raised For The Kids. To date, THON has raised over $88 million.

I encourage you to dig into the phenomenon that is THON on their website: http://webcast.thon.psu.edu/

From the thon.org website:

“THON was first organized in 1973 by a group of students looking to add excitement to a dreary February in central Pennsylvania, and for a way to give back to the community. Today, Penn State’s THON continues to be the longest dance marathon in the country lasting 46 hours. THON has grown to engage more than 15,000 students each year and has inspired other university, high school, middle school, and elementary school students across the nation to start dance marathons of their own all in the hopes of conquering pediatric cancer!”

Then watch this video (make time–it’s nearly an hour) to learn…


It’s A Small World…

I am thankful that my job has me in contact with numerous college student that I have come to know and appreciate. Because our contact is generally only seconds long (I’m at a cash register in a convenience store in one of the local university’s commons buildings), getting to know them is…time consuming. And given that there are 500 or so routinely though every day, there are plenty of folks I still don’t even recognize, let alone have a name matched to face yet.

But, added another name to face yesterday. I was teasing a student about good things to eat, like chocolate covered bacon and mentioned a local restaurant that serves it. To make a long story short, turns out this student is from Linz, Austria. So we had a wonderful, albeit lopsided conversation in German. Hadn’t spoken that much German since I left Bavaria in 1987. What a treat–for both of us! He was really excited to be able to speak a bit of his mother tongue as well. AND I found out that he had been Stateside for two years in high school–right here in town, graduating from my high school alma mater!  He graduated a year early, so he’s a 17 y/o college freshman–who is also taking 400 level German classes. He was teaching a 200 level course for graduate students last semester, but decided to pursue a couple of courses for himself so that he can get a German minor. I also learned that he wants to take Chinese last year–found  out after he asked me what  other languages I spoke: Chinese being one of them. I have dreams of mastering American in another decade or three, I can generally carry on conversations in German, but my Chinese (and Spanish) are fairly basic. I have some technical proficiency in New Testament Greek (aka Koine) and a smattering of Hebrew picked up in seminary. I’ve also gleaned a few words of Korean, Arabic, & Russian–some before talking with the international students I have seen daily, some afterwards.

All in all, it was a very enjoyable day.

I’m thankful I have a new “friend” to look forward to seeing everyday.