Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. (John 15:13)

On Tuesday, the Elementary Studio celebrated Emmry and Sloane for mastering the content necessary to earn their badges and move up to the next level. Rather than time spent in seats as the guide for learners advancing, when heroes at Journey are ready, they take the step to the next level.  And we love to party when they do.

To mark their demonstrations of mastery, Miss Cheryl convened an honor circle for both heroes.  We see Jesus prioritizing “honoring one another” and we practice honor throughout the year.  At Journey, honor includes recognizing the things we are thankful for in the hero, gifts we see in the hero and what we like about the hero. On this day, the heroes gave thanks for Emmry’s gifts and grace in the studio.  They recognized her hard work and her ability to be comfortable as a leader not only in the studio but in the school.  Personally, I find myself relying on Emmry for her insights, young wisdom and great memory for the values of our school.

As the conversation turned to Sloane, heroes valued her ability to focus, her quiet and quirky sense of humor,  her passion for reading and her humble care and listening to others came out during the time of honor.  Toward the end of our time of focusing on Sloane, in the way only a sister could know, Clara spoke up. “Sloane. I think of that Bible verse we learned earlier in the year.  ‘Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.’ That’s you Sloane.”

The Bible describes this as a prophetic word.  Clara was strengthening and encouraging Sloane.  She applied a Kingdom practice, unprompted, to build up her sister.  Through meditating on Scripture, she was able to bring the Scripture into the exact moment it was called for.

May we all speak words to strengthen, comfort and encourage like Clara.

//Dr. T//

p.s. As heroes are practicing prayer in the Restorative Room, we have set up a prayer email address.  If you have prayer requests that you would like to submit, write to I will edit for length, content and readability while the heroes will intercede on your behalf for your requests.


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one in heart and mind (Acts 4:32)

After talking with the heroes about our Scripture this week, I tried to draw out more of my understanding of the Scripture from the week. 

Our conversation helped my understanding and my hasty sketch reflects an understanding that Jesus can help bridge our different hearts and minds.  Compared to bumper stickers like “Think Good Thoughts,” this sketch suggests to me some persevering and deep ways that we can start to bring people together.  

We’ve been learning throughout our quest about tribe building.  One of the marks of the early Church that encountered Jesus is that they were “one in heart and mind.”  It goes on to say in Acts that they sold their goods and no one had need.  We started to build some common language in our school that can help us maintain our connection.  At the exhibition, Miss Cheryl talked about the ways that she saw heroes laying down their lives and their preferences; she testified about heroes that got low (in a foot washing way); and she described their one-ness as they overcame challenges throughout the three week Quest.  

And we are regularly adding to our one-ness as we welcome new heroes to Journey Academy.  On Thursday, Craig, Lauren and Asa joined our merry band. Asa jumped in right away to our Maker Play work.  Craig is returning to his old stomping grounds from Chicago for a next stage of his journey.  Lauren is starting her hero’s journey in a new city.  We welcome them and are excited to start on the journey with them.  

This word “one” brings me back to a particular moment in my history.  The year was 1997 and we were living in Brooklyn and U2 was going to be playing a concert fundraiser on Randall’s Island.  Despite the overcast day, it was a concert moment to remember. The song was One and I’m still hearing Bono singing “We get to carry each other, carry each other.” And I think initially that sounds taxing, frustrating and annoying.  But as I listen again, I realize what an honor it is.  What an honor it is to carry each other in this Journey Academy community.  What an honor it is to witness heroes carrying each other in these trying times.  What an honor it is to see parents sacrificially carrying their heroes as well as other heroes and their families.  And I think this is the possibility inherent in the word, one.  May we all be one in heart and mind.  

//Dr. T//


Wash one another’s feet. (John 13:14)

The Gospel of John focused more than half of its attention on the last week of Jesus, paying particular attention to His last words.  Departure as well as passing away often brings forth important lessons meant to be imparted.  This week, we wrote and drew in our Hero’s Notebooks about verse fourteen from the thirteenth chapter of John.

In Jesus’ day, fashion boots and Pharrell Trainers were not the rule.  Sandals and dusty roads led to less than savory lower extremities; and washing them was the image that Jesus wanted to imprint on his disciple heroes. Serving, getting low and meeting a felt need were all part of our rabbi’s exhortation.    

Washing feet might not be the same felt need in our historical moment. I washed Will’s and Holden’s foot just to demonstrate for the heroes.  But as we practice the way of Jesus, we’re called to find felt needs all around us.  Taking the least desirable job during a studio cleanup could be the felt need.  Listening to someone who is lonely and hurting could be the felt need.  Choosing to be kind rather than be right could be meeting the felt need.  We learned this week about humbling ourselves and serving.  We’re in the second full week of Tribe Building at Journey Academy.  It’s taken a lot of communication, empathy, problem solving and humble service to grow as a tribe.  

After two weeks of wrangling, the EL Studio signed and celebrated their studio contract. This contract, a covenant of sorts, is an understood promise of how the ELS wants to learn together.  Often times, it will involve reflection, repentance and reconciliation as heroes forget their promises to each other and to Ms. Sarah.  This type of “getting low” service to each other is what is going to build this tribe strong.  We’ll unveil contracts next week. But today we are celebrating yet another way that we can serve each other as we seek to find His calling and change the world at Journey Academy.  

One way that I’m trying to serve is to spend some of my time hand writing letters of encouragement, gratitude and connection to heroes, parents and friends.  I was inspired by Andy Smarick’s essay in Commentary.  His project is to hand write a letter each day for the next year.   It has been a lovely discipline for me in August.  I invite you to consider joining me in writing letters.  

Whatever your way to serve, please know that your washing will bring Jesus much glory and in the process (at least in mine), you may find your heart surprisingly refreshed. May we all know and celebrate this washing.  

//Dr. T//

we had hoped: part two in a series on the road ahead

“About Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place. In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning but didn’t find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but they did not see Jesus.”

He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.

During my walks, I’ve begun to notice birds; the woodpecker hammering a dead tree (instead of my house); the goldfinch fluttering about the wild raspberry bush; the blue jay swooping onto the steady oak branch; the robin pecking for worms in the spongy moss.  And I am realizing that they are returning after a long winter. Each year they do return, bringing signs of the impending change.

In this series, we’ve been considering Belgian theologian Edward Schillebeeckx’s claim that the Emmaus Road narrative in Luke 24 is the essential Scripture for our current cultural moment. As I lead the Journey Academy community and consider what might be wise for the road ahead, I am finding myself agreeing more and more with Schillebeecx.     

The disciples notice signs around them: a powerful prophet speaking and doing, a hasty middle-of-the-night arraignment and rapid execution, the confusion of a vacant  tomb, an encounter with angelic beings and a staggering report of a living Jesus. Nate Silver writes, “The signal is the truth. The noise is what distracts us from the truth.” The disciples are trying to sort through possible noise to find the truth.  In our post-truth moment of so many competing stories, it is hard for me, like these disciples, to discern in who and what to place my hope.

John Piper describes biblical hope as, “a confident expectation and desire for something good in the future.” He distinguishes biblical hope from a more common Webster’s sense of an uncertain wish.  Hope is grounded in faith.  Piper attempts to distinguish his definition with “confident expectation.” This understanding of hope relates to the Journey community’s value of courage. Confident expectation is complemented by a courage that acts upon and with this expectation in the midst of not knowing fully.

Adding to Piper’s efforts with reasoned exposition, Emily Dickinson suggests a more intuitive picture of hope in her poem “Hope” is the thing with feathers. Dickinson portrays how hope perches, keeping us warm even in the chillest lands. LIke the thing with feathers, it comes alongside of us in our storms.  With this perching, there are times when we can’t even hope.  I still remember in our dear family friend’s difficult season how my wife Jenn memorably declared “we are going to hold hope in your place, when it seems impossible to hope.” 

In looking at the road ahead, one of our vital practices is reflecting on where we’ve traveled as individuals and as a school community.  At Journey, we have learned a great deal over this initial season of distance learning.  We have learned the value of common technology and communication platforms as well as schedules to minimize confusion for parents at home.  To this end, Ms. Sarah and Miss Cheryl will be aligning what they are doing across studios.  We’ve also learned the value of clear and focused check-ins with guides and will be laying out our schedules to insure these will happen as well as allow for additional check-ins to support heroes.  We have learned there is a need for more manipulatives and concrete Montessori activities to support our younger learners.  Ms. Sarah and Ms. Denice are developing a materials library that we would like to pilot for this next quest. We are learning how to improve our efforts with our youngest heroes through the sharing of best practices in the Acton Network as well as the larger early-learning Montessori conversation. We have learned more about making engaging quests with opportunities to do hands-on and out of the house activities.  And perhaps most importantly, we have learned about the value of creating spaces and times for connection with other heroes in structured yet playful ways like Virtual PE and prayer.   

In this section of the Emmaus story, there is what John Mark Comer calls the sharpest rebuke of Jesus.  As the disciples are trying to process the immensity of their moment, Jesus says,  “How foolish you are.  How slow to believe.” They weren’t remembering the whole story.  I imagine him reminding them of the stories; stories like Shadrach, Meshech and Abnego showing  what Nebuchadnezzar called “a son of the gods” (i.e. whom scholars call the pre-incarnate Jesus) walking with others in the midst of the fiery furnace; stories like the man of sorrow well acquainted with grief bringing redemption through suffering. Awash in perspectives and opinions, Jesus came to them with the larger and more compelling story that points to His long-foretold mission to rescue the world.  This is the source of Piper’s confident expectation.  

At Journey Academy, we have hope. We are remembering what He has done and what we confidently expect that He will do.  And there are signs in the midst of this moment; playful, joyful signs that fill us with courage that God is doing something in our midst and that He will continue to do something this fall.  

On Friday, we had a drive-by exhibition in our parking lot where heroes got to “show what they know” about the moon.  Presented by Galerie de Journee, the exhibition was titled “Over the Moon: an installation of science, writing and art.” The gallery curator, Monsieur Antoine, 

welcomed families in their cars explaining to them how they could experience the exhibition in a socially distant way as they viewed art from the safety of their cars and scanned QR codes to listen to the astronomer/artists read their writing and reflection about the moon.  

Jacob, one of our youngest heroes who joined us in February, composed a playful spoken word piece reflecting on the moon and in the process giving me hope to continue in this calling of Journey Academy’s attempt to change the world.  Watching families circle the parking lot, I saw them put their cars into park, engage with the visual art and scan the QR code. Each time, they reached Jacob’s installation, they were surprised by the bass line paired with his vibrant lunar declarations. “The moon is so pretty!”  As heads started to bob along with the beat, we saw heroes on a journey learning, creating and reminding us to hope. 

Hope comes in the midst of repurposing and discovering.  I thought cross-stitch was relegated to inspirational phrasing framed on my grandmother’s kitchen wall. But Sloane’s art about the moon reclaims and represents some of her learning in an unexpected revelation of heroes on a journey, learning, creating and reminding us to hope.   

Charlie’s fresh work with paper mache created a distinctive, personified and friendly moon that had many exhibition goers pausing.  Like Eun Sub Cho taught the heroes in the ecology quest, we were looking, then observing, then seeing.  Charlie’s art helped us to pay attention and we noticed a hero on a journey, learning, creating and reminding us to hope.    

And so we move into our early summer break before the final quest of the school year.  We are already looking to fall. This will be our on-going task at Journey for the next couple months.  But we will remember this Friday May 22, 2020 at 3:00p. There are signs to which we will pay attention. The light reflects off our moment suggesting a source of illumination and warmth, like some full moon hanging over the trees.  We will remember. 

//Dr. T//

what things? part one in a series on the road ahead

Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; but they were kept from recognizing him.

He asked them, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?”

They stood still, their faces downcast. One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, “Are you the only one visiting Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?”

“What things?” he asked. (Luke 24: 13-19)

When Belgian theologian Edward Schillebeeckx was asked if there was one text from the Bible that would name and speak to our cultural moment, his reply was the twenty fourth chapter from the Gospel of Luke 24. This chapter tells the story of disciples processing the crucifixion of Jesus as well as the rumors that He is alive. One of the subtitles in the chapter is “On the road to Emmaus” and this chunk of Scripture seems particularly appropriate as we travel in this season of starting to imagine what’s next.   We are on the road; to something not clear. On this road, a depression seems to surface; not ever present but somewhat consistent, emerging like a beach ball pushed underwater.  On this road, there seems to be an aimlessness.  A lot of what we thought we could trust in, certain rhythms, expectations and even goals are tenuous at best.  And in a hopeful turn on the Emmaus Road and in our cultural moment of road, there seems to be a bit of discovery as well as generative questions emerging as we look at and encounter the familiar in new ways.  

I am on the road (literally the trail) quite a bit these days. Walking has become one of my primary spiritual disciplines where I am quiet before God, as well as where my physical motion is a part of the Spirit’s guiding, strengthening, encouraging and challenging. After a day of guiding my children in learning and zooming with others, I find that a walk with my earbuds and a phone call is a great way to be present with others. I am reminded of an accidental practice of discipleship at the Stockbridge Boiler Room where I co-led a prayer and discipleship community. My weekly meetings with our interns involved walking through the West Side neighborhood we were serving, praying and processing as we set foundation for our way forward as a non-profit and a ministry.  

Something significant has happened in the past three months.  Uncertainty is thick in the air. Like the two disciples on the road in Luke, likely a married couple, many are downcast. I see it poignantly as my son John realizes that he can’t celebrate his birthday with his class at school. I see it as another son Ezra hears of sports seasons canceled.  I hear it when my daughter Bea shares about a school administrator succumbing to complications of COVID-19 and cancer.  Unsurprisingly, a recent poll finds half of Americans saying that the pandemic is harming their mental health.

The disciple couple on the road is processing their downcast moment.  Myself, I find an almost research-like interest in every call that I make to hear how others are doing in this moment of downcast.   Recently, this blog has become one way of inviting others to process.  Looking forward, all roads will lead through and reckon with downcast. At Journey Academy, I see our guides integrating this into their practice of regular video-conferencing.  “There are times,” Ms. Sarah says, “that I need to turn from assessing the hero’s progress on a quest and talk about sewing projects; and talk about that the rest of our time. Or other times when I need to help heroes come up with strategies to deal with their stress.” Going forward on our road, these aspects of social-emotional learning and the ability to self-regulate in the face of adverse experiences will be of utmost importance.   


The other connection to our moment provided by the couple is the direction of their walk on the road.  They are walking away from Jerusalem, the center of Jewish life with the Temple, where God is encountered and regular pilgrimages are made.  Even more interesting, they are walking toward Emmaus, which was the center for nothing. This seemingly aimless travel away from a meaningful place resonates with the hours of aimless screen time that many have experienced these past two months. I’ve never been drawn to puzzles before, but now I am looking for something else to occupy me. My daughter Bea says, “You’ve moved into the serious puzzle level now.”  

serious puzzle level

It is this aimlessness that a thousand pieces of oddly shaped cardboard on my table is trying to address. 

At Journey Academy, I see methods for responding to aimlessness. Many in our community live out our value of being Learner-Driven. Owning our walk down the road as well as identifying our purposes and path of implementation; this intentionality and sense of direction is what we all need as we go forward in this next season. I see parents guiding their heroes and recognizing the power of owning learning. In our current quest focused on the moon, heroes like Ethan and Elias are going above and beyond, researching and bringing facts from their individual inquiries about the moon to the Socratic Discussion.

As we walk toward the fall, I am dreaming about ways that we can deepen our Learner-Driven practices.   Currently, I am dreaming and praying about four ways and we will explore this deepening over the summer.  Helping heroes set goals and assess progress is one of the keys to operationalizing our value of being learner driven.  We are fortunate to have Christi Gilbert as a parent in our Journey Academy community.  Christi is an Early Literacy Coach and English Learner Specialist with Kent Intermediate School District.  Her experiences with  Cognitive Coaching  will direct how our guides can coach the heroes.  This summer conversation will be foundational for building our capacity to help heroes learn about their ways of learning.

Another way for deepening our learner-driven value is through informing how our heroes engage in their spiritual journeys.  This February, co-founder Dana Roefer, shared with heroes her practice of journaling and how the Holy Spirit helps her document the significant moments, make sense of what was happening and find guidance for responding and moving forward. Driven by the desire to learn more about her own hero’s journey, Dana made space for silence and solitude in her life, and God gave her insight for her next steps.  Likewise within the Acton Academies network, we see this same kind of quiet contemplation at Sanctuary Academy in Chicago. There, they create a Catholic expression of a space within their school that respects the dignity of the hero’s spiritual quest. Next year, we are dreaming about such contemplative journaling practice focused on Scripture. We believe this will offer heroes a way to listen through Scripture and discern their next steps.  To help us, we will be talking with Ada author and prayer minister, Kathleen Trock-Molhoek, founder of Pebbles and Stones to think through the practice of journaling next year.  

Another step forward on the road involves our work with quests.  Our quests are a primary way that we live out our value of being curiosity-based.  At the same time, they can be leveraged to help us strengthen our value of being learner-driven.  One way to do this is the consideration of Design Thinking.  As heroes practice empathy, brainstorm, construct solutions, solicit feedback, revise and make their work public, the learner driven aspects of certain quests can be deepened.  A third summer conversation will involve middle school teacher and classroom design thinking consultant Ian Grell to help our team start to imagine how to weave design thinking principles into our quest development.  

Looping back to the Emmaus Road story, we find our fourth way forward as Jesus joins the couple and initiates some discovery with a couple of playful questions.  Like Detective Columbo (or like a good writing teacher), He asks,  What are you discussing together as you walk along? This invitation to summarize and remember comes as He claims unawareness of the biggest news story that Jerusalem has experienced in a long time.  He continues the cluelessness with a query of What things? In the midst of play, He guides them to unpack the details.  Discovery is often found as we look at the details.  

Walking forward in our historic moment, embracing playful discovery will be essential.  The looking for each of us as well as for Journey Academy that we talked about with Eun Sub Cho, director of the Wonder Academy is a part of this discovery.  However, Jesus adds a vital complement with His sense of play. In such a challenging moment as ours, play not only keeps one buoyant, it also brings an opportunity to see things anew. Clearly we are not facing a concentration camp in our moment, yet Guido in Life is Beautiful does offer us a way to respond through play.  This play doesn’t simply wish things away, but rather helps imagine things differently and provide a way forward. Even now, we are trying to integrate play as we study heroes in our last quest of this year. The playful Dr. Tyrannical (who bears a striking resemblance to a certain Journey Academy Director) will be posing challenges for the emerging heroes, evading detection and eventually getting his comeuppance in the end.  

As we look at the road ahead, our final way of proceeding is going to be exploring a way to integrate this kind of playful discovery into our time. At the Acton Academies Gathering in Austin this year, we heard an exciting presentation on play-based learning that we would like to imagine here.  This posting from Acton Academy Lake Charles suggests a way forward for implementation. We are already thinking about how to provide materials (like the culvert pictured at top) for heroes to employ in creative play and then leveraging their play as an opportunity to reflect and learn together.  We want to embrace the question, how are we going to be playful?  In a Kingdom sense, I might even suggest we need to let Jesus mess with us (in a playful way).  

To be clear, my intent is not to minimize the sorrow, disruption and anxiety that we have and are experiencing by suggesting we move on.  I simply want to say this; the road is ahead of us.  We need to move forward.  We need to take steps.  The poet Anthony Machado writes, “the road is made by walking.” These things, these are the things we need to be thinking and talking about with each other. We pray that you join us on the journey.

::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:: 

ELS Studio week of March 9

Sorry the blog is a little late this week.

This week the heroes continued to work on the play and their groups.

Monday the heroes went to the Forest Hill Arts Center.  That was a wonderful adventure.  They toured the stage, behind the stage, where actors got ready for the play, where the costumes were kept, and even some trap doors and hidden doors.  The heroes were able to change lights and the stage and talk into the microphone.

                The heroes practiced projecting their voices.

gymnastics fun     

The heroes also practiced acting and worked on props for the play. Sorry but there was difficulties downloading pictures again.  I’ll try again later this week.

Right now we are hoping to still put on the plays after we return.  What it will look like we are not sure.  Heroes can practice their lines at home. They should have a script they brought home. If not please let us know and we can email one or one can get picked up from the academy.

More information will be coming about activities and core skills ideas soon during this time away.

Be healthy and safe during this break.  We continue to pray for our school, city, state, and country.






ELS studio Week of March 2nd

The heroes are continuing their experiences with acting out feelings, creating stories, acting out animals, portraying actions and meeting with their groups.

   Guess the animal

Guess the emotion

  Gymnastic fun

Story creation from three nouns

   Guess the action

There are definitely thespians in the studio.  It is so much fun to watch.



 . . . let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works . . . (Hebrews 10:24)


I had the privilege to listen in to Miss Cheryl facilitate her academic check-ins.  In one simple response, she modeled a way to give feedback and call a hero to growth.  As they looked at the data from the past session, she invited the hero to set a goal for how many skill lists to complete during the six week quest.  After the hero proffered a proposal, she responded with this question, “ I notice that you are giving yourself six weeks to finish one list, is there any way that you could challenge yourself with lists completed?”

This wondering kind of feedback made sense for the hero as the quest began.  Other feedback happens in writing workshop as Miss Denise points Will to the mentor text that they had been studying on the wall.  “How does your writing compare to the one that we all wrote together?”

Other times feedback emerges from an invitation.  Miss Sarah asked the heroes to reflect before they started their Socratic Discussion. “What rule of engagement can we work on in this next discussion?”  As the heroes reflected, they identified “listening to each other” as their priority.

There are times that I cringe as I wait for feedback.  One of the things I’m learning about at Journey is that feedback is vital for heroes on a journey.

There’s an anecdote told about the Miami Heat after they won their first N.B.A. title in 2012.  They had superstars like LeBron James and Dwayne Wade.  They were talented and experienced.  They looked poised for continuing success.  But on the night of their championship, their coach Pat Riley came into the locker room with an announcement.  “You’re good,” he declared with substantial pause. “But you can get better.”  And they took in his feedback.  And they recaptured the title in 2013.

Feedback is crucial for our heroes and we aim to provide it.  Feedback is crucial for Journey Academy to get better.  We are jump-starting and reinstating a core practice for the Acton Academy network.  We are resuming our weekly request for feedback in the form of a very short survey for parents.  We are asking heroes for feedback in a similar survey.  We are asking the guides for feedback in a survey as well.  Each Friday.  Parents can expect an afternoon email with the link to the survey.  Our team expects to reflect on this data as we gather together.

We look to keep getting better at Journey Academy.  We look for this feedback to stir us to love and good works. And we pray that this may be so, for all of us on our journeys.

::Dr. T::