he is of age: part three in a shelter-in-place series

They brought to the Pharisees the man who had been blind. Now the day on which Jesus had made the mud and opened the man’s eyes was a Sabbath. Therefore the Pharisees also asked him how he had received his sight. “He put mud on my eyes,” the man replied, “and I washed, and now I see.”

Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath.”

But others asked, “How can a sinner perform such signs?” So they were divided.

Then they turned again to the blind man, “What have you to say about him? It was your eyes he opened.”

The man replied, “He is a prophet.”

They still did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight until they sent for the man’s parents. “Is this your son?” they asked. “Is this the one you say was born blind? How is it that now he can see?”

“We know he is our son,” the parents answered, “and we know he was born blind. But how he can see now, or who opened his eyes, we don’t know. Ask him. He is of age; he will speak for himself.” His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jewish leaders, who already had decided that anyone who acknowledged that Jesus was the Messiah would be put out of the synagogue. That was why his parents said, “He is of age; ask him.”


In part one of this series, I shared a picture of the above tree folded into a pond covered with snow. Documenting how winter operates in Michigan, this photo affirmed how snow in mid-April has come to be expected.  In the face of such an expectation, I needed to be filled with courage to persevere and keep faith that Spring was coming.  

Looking at this week’s section of John 9, I notice the blind man courageously reporting with an incomplete understanding (“He is a prophet”) in the face of a formal inquiry by the Pharisees.  I also observe how his parents show some courage while also giving in to fear.  They answer the Pharisees’ first question documenting his lineage and his disability.  Yet they also recognized the power of the Pharisees to throw them out of the synagogue (and effectively out of the community), and they punted on their second answer and hung their son out to dry.  

During this season of shelter-in-place, there are days when I find myself filled with courage as I embrace the uncertainty of shepherding my family as well as leading a school.  Yet there are other days when I fail and simply want to tap out in the face of my fears. Recently, my internal margin, diminished by close quarter conflicts and unrealistic expectations for myself and others, left me irritable and short-tempered with my family, especially my teenagers during our distance learning work. Reluctantly drawing on my wife’s wise counsel, I have stepped back from guiding my teenagers’ school efforts (and she has stepped in) because I was losing it daily.  

My self-assurance as an educator was taken down a notch or two, I’m chastened and left with a choice.  Do I pout or do I step back in to continue guiding my two ten-year-olds in their learning as well as father my family?  Courage, for me, is stepping back in after failure.  Courage, for me, is tentatively writing out loud with each of you about this shelter-in-place season. Brene Brown suggests the courage to not know might be a key in this season.  Learning to be filled with courage is a value and a practice for me in this season; and being courage-filled is a value for Journey Academy and the heroes with whom we have the honor of walking.


In our Journey Academy community, we have a number of health care workers who care for and facilitate the healing of their patients.  Likewise in the face of economic disruption, I have witnessed our numerous parent-entrepreneurs trying to wisely navigate the businesses they’ve started through this pandemic. And I’m inspired by the courage-filled Journey community that has gathered around discerning a calling and changing the world.  .

During his last quest, Holden stepped into a question that had personal relevance.  “What do you need to know about dyslexia?”  His research and exhibition blended the stories of others, of researchers and of his own journey to adapt to dyslexia.  As he shared his final product, the responses of both parents and heroes reflected on the powerful demonstration of his courage.  

Reports from across the country document the impact of uncertainty on educators in this new season.  Like other courageous colleagues, the Journey guides have stepped in and stepped up.  Our own Miss Sarah has made the most of guiding in this uncertainty  She developed a virtual writing workshop with adapted structures.  She has mastered Zoom meetings, one on one conferences and on-line PE classes.  And she is still puzzling over how to increase student engagement over the distance for certain students.  She faces this on-going challenge with courage and a drive to understand more about this new way of doing school.   


The other part of this spiritual practice of courage involves the practice of reconciliation and restoration.  Certainly in this moment, the need to engage respectfully and honor each other in the midst of disagreement is critical.  As the pandemic exacerbates divisions, seeing clearly and hopefully while leaning in relationally will be the foundation for the Kingdom’s advance.  

Looking back to our John 9 foundation, the one faction of Pharisees prioritizes God resting on the seventh day.   John Mark Comer exhorts us to make it the best day of the week.  My friends Scott and Aubree use markers like special Sabbath treats. It has become a life-giving pause for our sometimes relentless weeks. At the same time, the pragmatic approach of the Pharisees on the other side of the aisle is compelling as they say in a manner of speaking, “the proof is in the pudding.” ‘No one who is far from God would be able to do things like God’ does has a ring of truth.  

The possibility of division is ever-present.  Over the past eight weeks, the stakes have been astronomically raised.  Life and Death.  Commerce and Unemployment.  Blame and Rebuttal.  It takes courage to take part in any uncomfortable conversation.  It takes courage to admit not knowing.  It takes courage to admit that fear is causing one to overreact.  This essential practice is made for this moment.

I was privileged to hear Miss Cheryl testify about how her heroes navigated an extended online conflict.  Cheryl asked questions and listened, modeling for the heroes how they could listen.  She waded into the awkward and the uncomfortable and in the end watched them reach a solution for them to put into practice for the remainder of the year.  In the best of discipling, she modeled for the heroes ways that they too could walk in her courageous footsteps.  

For us at Journey, being filled with courage shows itself in our critical conversations about recess conflicts or studio interruptions; in our trying hard things and sometimes failing at hard things; in our setting of goals and being held accountable by each other. And our hope is to gather around this value as many parents, heroes, guides, volunteers and partners as we can.  

The antidote to fear is not courage.  Courage is acting when one is scared.  The antidote to fear is faith.  The source for acting when one is scared is faith.  The blind man describes the source of his faith. 

“He put mud on my eyes,” the man replied, “and I washed, and now I see.”

He was one way before Jesus.  He was another way after Jesus.  This is the foundation of his faith.  This is how he was able to act, even if he didn’t totally understand what had happened.  

I want to finally acknowledge that simply hearing example after example of courageous people can be crushing rather than encouraging.  The change happens when you realize that someone lost sight of His loving Father for you; when you meditate that He was left in the darkness for you.  When you see that, is when courage begins. Merry saw Eowyn’s courage in Return of the King and he was filled with courage to strike at the Witch King. I see that courage in the guides, the heroes and the parents at Journey Academy.  And I believe their courage comes from seeing Him.  May we all turn our eyes upon Him.  .  

::Dr. T::

sent: part two of a shelter-in-place series

After saying this, he spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes. “Go,” he told him, “wash in the Pool of Siloam” (this word means “Sent”). So the man went and washed, and came home seeing.

His neighbors and those who had formerly seen him begging asked, “Isn’t this the same man who used to sit and beg?” Some claimed that he was.

Others said, “No, he only looks like him.”

But he himself insisted, “I am the man.”

“How then were your eyes opened?” they asked.

He replied, “The man they call Jesus made some mud and put it on my eyes. He told me to go to Siloam and wash. So I went and washed, and then I could see.”

“Where is this man?” they asked him.

“I don’t know,” he said. (John 9)

In this season of shelter-in-place, isolation can point with it’s bony finger, What can you do in the face of this!?  At times it feels like “the rough beast . . slouch[ing] toward Bethlehem” described by William Butler Yeats is coming for us.  And some of the worst days have a relentless quality.  In response, last week I reflected on how curiosity was a practice for making sense of what is going on and responding to this slouching moment.  

This week, I want to consider how discerning and following a calling can be another way to respond to this cultural moment.  As we see above in the story from the Gospel of John, the formerly blind man is called and sent to Siloam.  He answers that call, courageously with incomplete information.  He discovers a new identity. He “owns” this identity saying ‘I am the man.’  And he steps into a journey where he doesn’t know all the answers.   

Rick Warren calls this process part of a “purpose-driven life.” Gandalf reminds me, “…that Gollum still has some part to play, for good or for evil.”  The comedian Michael Jr. exhorts us to “know our why.” Discovering our part to play in the story is vital in a time like this.  

As I was praying trying to manage some of my anxious and overwhelmed emotions, I received a distinct impression that I could do some thinking out loud and that it could be of use to others in this moment.  At Journey Academy, we call this the beginning of the hero’s journey; the finding of a call.  

Using words, telling stories and making sense of life brings me a sense of usefulness and joy.  And each of us has a gift for this particular time.  This practice of knowing one of our purposes; one of the parts that we might play, one of our ‘why’s’ is what I’ve also been seeing in the heroes at Journey Academy   

A phrase that we use to describe this is learner-driven.   The word education in Latin is educare. One of the root meanings of educare is to draw out. At Journey, we want to draw out the gifts and passions that heroes know they have as well as ones that they do not yet realize.  Our studios create the space to discover and then resource these drives of learners.  

The past two weeks, Jaina has been driven by a gift she has for leading workouts.  By the second week of shelter-in-place, she saw the need and the opportunity to organize workouts with the heroes.  She proposed this to Miss Sarah and collaboratively planned out a P.E. session on a Google Doc.  Her leadership and love of health drove her to develop this and share it with her classmates.  Friday P.E. has now become the Jaina Workout.  

In this video clip, you’ll notice a number of subtle and sophisticated moves employed by Jaina.  At first, it seems like she’s simply doing a workout for the camera.  But as the camera slowly pans back, you realize she’s leading a Zoom P.E. class.  She opens with a demonstration and then adds an optional challenge to differentiate the workout.  She practices empathy as well as encouragement.  She finally demonstrates accountability by pointing out that Miss Sarah was not doing anymore pushups (later Miss Sarah clarified that she had already finished). 

To be clear, we don’t have a P.E. teacher preparation course at Journey Academy.  But what we do have is an ability to listen to heroes like Jaina, an ability to adapt and structure learning opportunities driven by their interests and gifts as well as an ability to connect these moments to larger arcs of learning organized throughout our day.  

In this moment, the anxiety of our cultural moment drops away as I watch Jaina, driven by her learning and as we join with her. I begin to imagine if each of us brings our best selves, if each of us follows one of our calls, if each of us knows one of our parts, if each of us knows one of our ‘whys’; there is hope.

To be sure, a hero-led P.E. class isn’t going to paper-over the grief, dislocation and cultural wrestling match over intricate and entwined policy choices in this pandemic moment.  But I am willing to push my chips onto emerging heroes like Jaina as a solid response to future moments that are sure to come.  

In the previous part of John, chapter 9, Jesus picked at a common misunderstanding.  When bad stuff happens to you, it’s your fault.  What His teaching and the formerly blind man show me is that the actual big idea is God uses moments like these to display his glory through people.  When we find one of our calls and let it drive us in this pandemic moment, God can display his glory. We simply need to accept His invitation and say, I am the man.  I am the woman. I am the hero. I am the P.E. teacher.  

May we all find our call for this moment.  

::Dr. T::  


display: part one of a shelter-in-place series


As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”

“Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him. As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” (John 9: 1-4)


These first weeks of shelter-in-place have been punctuated with quiet upheaval, pressing uncertainty and expanded anxiety for many of us.  Items have shifted in flight and now seems like a wise time to try and make some sense of what’s happened as well as what is ahead for us.  I can’t claim a special insight into a global landscape. But I can offer what I’m learning as I look around my particular locale as well as my school in Ada, Michigan called Journey Academy.    Hoping to be of use, I share this with my Journey Academy Family as well as others intersecting with us on their own journeys.  I sense this is an opportunity where we might become better connected as we tell our stories to each other. As William Stafford exhorted us in his poetry, we need these stories to make it home.   

For this season, I’m imagining stories housed on the Journey Academy blog.  If some of these spur sense-making for you, I want to invite you to reflect in the comments as well. And if some of these jottings lead you to consider joining the Journey story with us as intercessors, partners, volunteers or families, may we all find ways to “do the works of Him who sent [us].”   


This week after Spring Break, we invited heroes (a.k.a. students) to begin to pay attention to their surroundings.  We want them to see, to observe and to look at creation around them.  I often return to the ninth chapter of the gospel of John when I consider the act of seeing.  Ruth Haley Barton helpfully makes this comment about John’s narrative.  

The bulk of this lengthy chapter is about all the characters in the story who witness the healing but fail to recognize the work of God in their midst. For all sorts of reasons, they all have trouble discerning what is really going on. This is often our struggle as well.  (Ruth Haley Barton)

So many of us are needing this gift of discernment in a season of pandemic.  For myself, I need to discern responses to questions like 

  • What is wise?  
  • How should we practice caution?   
  • What is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy? 
  • What is chaff? 

In their current quest, the heroes at Journey are attempting to discern their surroundings. They are identifying their own questions. I want to invite you to consider this same practice of discernment. 


One of the distinctives of Journey Academy is a foundational practice of curiosity. It is a timely disposition for this moment.  At Journey, we are looking courageously for powerful questions to guide our quests. We are entrepreneurs looking to innovate and respond to challenges. We are discerning our callings as we look to change the world.  In a world animated by a culture of distraction and fear, we want to notice and be present with wonder. 

I try to practice curiosity as I look around my house, I ask the question, ‘what is happening here?’  I notice the tension of navigating the work of leading the Journey Academy as well as the work of directing my children’s own learning at home. As a younger man, I might have sought to reach some sort of Atticus Finch level of multi-task and burly achievement.  At the age of fifty-three, I now try to look with grace at what I can do in an altered learning landscape with two surly teenagers disinclined to social distancing and remote learning.  In this time of restriction and boundary, I’m finally calibrating my expectations more accurately in what can be done and when can it be done.  I am learning to be a little more gentle on myself; and all it took was a pandemic.  

Sheltering-in-place is swimming in familiar waters for an introvert like me.  Yet at the same time, it has heightened my desire for connection. Out for a walk, I allow myself to be drawn into six-foot conversations with random passers-by.  As the heroes engage in their Ecology quest, we are witnessing their desire for connection on platforms like Google Hangout and See-Saw as they share their questions and discoveries.  My own Zoom calls and hangouts have an intentionality to them driven by my curiosity to find out “what is this season of change like for you?” And as we process our practices like prayer walks or playing Euchre after dinner, this curiosity informs my own way of navigating this season. In recent months, auto-pilot seemed to guide my days. Now, I find myself aware and reflective in new dimensions with curiosity keeping me buoyant amidst the waves.       


For the heroes and guides at Journey, they report busyness, to be sure.  Yet at the same time, there is room for discovery. Days do seem crowded in my house as well.  My nine-year-old whose internal clock, set before we adopted him, has him up consistently at 5:30a, regularly pushes my mornings into start mode well before the coffee kicks in. After making breakfast, mornings are filled with weekly goal-setting and check-ins with my children, asking questions about what they’re reading, monitoring their progress on various learning platforms, teaching them spiritual practices like breath prayers, as well as reflecting on what they’re creating in maker space time, while afternoons move from Zoom call to Google Meet with various email epistles in-between.    

With the seeming on-slaught, there seems to be a new space as things are reconfigured in my schedule.  I find thirty minutes in the morning for walking instead of commuting. And in the evening instead of rushing to the next choir concert or hustling to get youngers to bed so they can wake up on time, I often discover an additional thirty minutes to walk.  An Achilles injury over Christmas slowed my usual runs to walks. Now I can’t imagine doing without this daily walking rhythm.  

In the expanse of these walks, my friend Aubree even told me that the motion of my arms during walking helps my brain process all of this uncertain season.  I find that the Holy Spirit can help me work through the knot of emotions from recent conflicts. I find that Luke 24 and the road to Emmaus can work it’s way into my heart and mind.  I find that I have room to imagine how the day is going to go with home learning as well as how the meeting with my Journey guides is going to go in the afternoon.  Kosuke Koyama, the Japanese theologian writes in Three Mile an Hour God 

Love has its speed. It is a spiritual speed. It is a different kind of speed from the technological speed to which we are accustomed. It goes on in the depth of our life, whether we notice or not, at three miles an hour.

Three miles an hour, by the way, is the speed of walking. In the spaces that I discover in this season, it seems as if the suggested pace is three miles an hour.   


As I look, as I am curious and as I discover, I am recognizing one more practice for this season.  The heroes share this same practice as they recognize what is important in their surroundings. As I listen to the global and national statistics of fatalities and as I reckon with my respiratory history and immunocompromised state, I pause and consider priorities.  

I’ll admit that fear does fill me as I think about grocery items that I’ve forgotten on this last run to Aldi.  I never remember everything. But now I wonder will my mortal Lotto ball pop up with this return for Kombucha? Most times though, I find this awareness of mortality tethering my connection to this present moment.  The way Jenn’s hand fills mine. The belly laughter that fills Ezra. The way that Viv curls up on my lap in the morning with sleepy eyes and a warm nightie. The gleam that victoriously shines from John as he lays down his last Uno card.  The country song that pours forth from Bea as she makes brownies. I hold these moments, recognizing the gifts; open handedly. And as I name these treasures, I know they are flowers eventually fading. I hold lightly, recognizing a freedom in knowing these treasures while acknowledging this pandemic or some future one may be my call homeward.  Still. I have her hand. Now. And I thank Him.       


Returning to the heroes’ call to discern, I recall we are learning at Journey that seeing is the act of first glance, observing is noting characteristics and detail and looking is connecting experience and noting patterns.  The heroes have just learned this from my dear friend Eun Sub Cho, director of the Wonder Academy at The Potter’s House.  He gave a talk to the heroes via video.  You can access that here. With his passion for ecology as well as teaching, he taught them how to pay attention to their surroundings. Here’s the hard copy of his talk as well.

I want to invite you to join the heroes in seeing, observing and looking in this season of upheaval and anxiety.  Be curious, discover and prioritize. And when you look, I pray that you see the Light of the World. He’s there; those countless Euchre hands of connection point to Him; that snow and evening light covering the fallen tree fallen in the pond reveals Him;  our three mile an hour journeys lead to Him. Fear not. Look.  

::Dr. T::