Saturday, August 16, 2014

"The greatest adventure is what lies ahead..."



            I’m beginning a new adventure. 

            I should know better, having been warned decades ago by Bilbo Baggins that adventures are “nasty disturbing uncomfortable things” that “make you late for dinner.” Still, I find God’s call even more compelling than Gandalf’s, which Bilbo couldn’t ignore.

            So I will pack up all my teaching tricks (after I figure which boxes I packed them in less than a month ago and unpack them) and take them and me to Sunbury Christian Academy, where I will be a smaller fish in a bigger pond. 

            I’m pleased to announce I can now find SCA on Route 11, although I’m not confident I can locate my classroom after entering the building. Hopefully one of the kind bigger fishes will point a fin in the right direction. 

            What will the first day of school be like? I suspect it may be like the first chapel of my fifth year of school at WCA, in August 2003.

            My first ever homeroom, my kids from freshmen through senior year, had graduated in May. I had a new homeroom to get to know. I thought I was okay with that until we had our first high school chapel. 

            The music started, and as I stood up to sing, I looked at the worship team, and it was all wrong. D.J. wasn’t playing piano. Cammie and Sherrill weren’t singing together at a microphone. Other musicians from the Class of ’03 were conspicuously absent. 

            I couldn’t sing. I bawled.

            So it’s entirely possible that I may tear up when I survey my new class of juniors and the Maccabees (my WCA homeroom boys) are missing. I may sniffle when the seniors come in lacking the familiar faces and voices of McKayla, Tessa, Caitlyn, and Tyler.

            But I know I’ll be okay:  In 2003 I learned my love could expand to include new students while praying for the older ones embarking on their next adventures.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Another Mountain for Moses



               Speak to the rock.


            In the thirty-ninth year of my two-week journey from Sinai to Canaan, I was beyond calm speaking. I wanted to strike something or someone…better the rock than one of God’s complaining chosen.

            Water exploded from the rock, God honoring his promise. God had always called me his friend, but now I had dishonored him and there was a price to pay: The covenant he had sworn to Abraham God now snatched from my hands. I would never homestead in Canaan. Though I had successfully pleaded for other offenders, the Holy One would not consider my case.

            So he stood with me on Mount Nebo, two old friends who had traveled countless dusty miles together, and we looked toward the horizon:  fields green with new barley, olive groves and vineyards, hills and valleys—a breathtaking panorama, a fertile land that would soon be a home for my people. God dried my bittersweet tears, and I slept with my fathers.

            But I’m awake now—though I can’t understand how or why—standing again on a mountain. No longer distant, the green fields and lush groves seem close enough to touch, a promise returned to my trembling hands.

            I turn and shade my eyes from the white-hot brilliance of the man before me, but he grasps my shoulders and pulls me close. Gazing into his eyes, I recognize the holy fire I had first glimpsed in a burning desert bush.

            Welcome home, Old Friend.


           (I wrote this several years ago and just rediscovered it in my files. It is based on events in Numbers 20 and Mark 9.)


Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Magnetic Vocabulary



            My classroom desk is a melting pot of magnetic words. 

            Fueled by my love of all things Star Trek, I bought a set of space words years ago. It contains astronaut, asteroid, accelerate, and android, plus dozens more.

            Fed by my love of all things Jewish, I sprung for the Yiddish words some time later. Klezmer, klug, klutz, and kvell join a multitude of vaguely familiar words.

            I don’t know where the other three sets came from. The pet words showed up like a stray cat. There’s a set of school words, including homework. And a set of generic English words. And some more English words that seem to be geared toward emotional health. Gutt, I could use some.

            And they’re all mixed together on the front of my metal desk because bored madelas and pishers like to create silly sentences combining words from multiple sets. Problem is, the school has closed, not just for summer but forever, so I must pry my words off my desk and take them home, along with everything else that’s been mysteriously multiplying in my classroom for the last fifteen years. Feh!

            But I must sort them into the correct packages first. The space words blessedly are white print on black background, immediately distinguishing them from the other sets. I don’t have to read them, but I end up reading some anyway. Cargo bay. Planet. Meteor. I noticed yesterday that several smaller words have lodged themselves into the seam of the desk. I will have to bring tweezers since I can’t transport them out, and I don’t want them to be Lost in Space.

            The pet words are larger and orange. The set includes a picture of a dog and a cat and a fish skeleton. I suppose the stray cat ate the fish. I think I will send them to a friend, so she and her newly adopted kitten can bond while they play with them on the refrigerator.

            This sorting would have been a good activity for my young fraynds during final exams week; we could have kibitzed while they purged my desk. But I didn’t know the first week of June would be my last final exams week at WCA. Oy vey!

            I’m fairly certain I will not find all the words that settled into the crevices and crannies of the classroom. Even the industrial vacuum cleaner will likely not locate them all. That’s okay. I gladly (and sadly) leave little pieces of myself behind to bless the space that has so blessed me..

Friday, July 4, 2014

A Tale of Two Employees



            Being a procrastinator with no Independence Day plans, I went to my local grocery this morning to hunt hamburger and bun bargains. I found both. I also found two employees, strangers to me, who unwittingly taught me a lesson.

            The first was a young man, maybe high school age. 

            As I navigated my cart towards produce, an upbeat song started to play on the store’s sound system. I felt the rhythm. I wanted to dance, but I usually save spontaneous public dancing for Jamaica. The young employee also felt the beat and had no geographical inhibitions. He danced. Even when he saw me watching him and grinning, he danced. He continued to dance as I followed him down the aisle.

            The second teacher was an older woman, maybe my age, maybe a bit younger.

            I chose her checkout lane…and wished I hadn’t. She didn’t want to work this holiday and she made sure I (and everyone in earshot) heard her. She kvetched* about her wages and the company which pays them. She whined about not having time to prepare a dish for the picnic she would go to when she finally got off work. (I assured her the hosts would be happy to have her anyway.)

            After I escaped her tirade, I asked, “God, what are you teaching me?” I encountered two employees experiencing the same circumstance:  working on a holiday. One chose to boogie, while the other chose to bellyache. Their choices were likely unconscious, but were still choices.

            Those of you who know me in real life (as opposed to online) know I act more like the grumbling woman than the grooving young man. God and I are working on that.

* kvetch  (kvɛtʃ)
vb


slang chiefly  ( US ) ( intr ) to complain or grumble, esp incessantly
[C20: from Yiddish kvetshn,  literally: to squeeze, press]

kvetch. Dictionary.com. Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition. HarperCollins Publishers. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/kvetch (accessed: July 04, 2014).

Thursday, June 26, 2014

God is the template



            Comforting, encouraging words and phrases surrounded and permeated me as I looked up Bible verses about God’s goodness and how he expresses it and how we experience it.
mercy, compassion, refuge, unfailing love
upright, forgiving, caring, providing
teacher, guide

            Good has become a weak word in English vocabulary, almost as scrawny as nice or fine. How’s your hamburger? Good…but I wish it were a T-bone steak. How are you feeling? Good…except for my intermittently throbbing ankle. How was the writers’ conference? Good…but I didn’t connect with a publisher who wants to give me a $100,000 advance.

            The way I hear good being used, it generally means not horrible.

            When the biblical authors wrote about God using good and goodness, they meant, “God loves you so overwhelmingly much that he wants to provide everything you need and tenderly care for you forever.”

            If there had been punctuation in biblical times, they would have added a kazillion exclamation points.

            God told Moses, “I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the LORD [YHWH], in your presence.” (Exodus 33:19, NIV) Then when God caused his goodness to pass in front of Moses, God spoke these words, “The Lord, the Lord [YHWH, YHWH], the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin.” (Exodus 34:6 – 7, NIV)

            This is one of many places where God says, “This is what my goodness is all about.”

            So I’m reading along, basking in the goodness, when I run smack into Mark 10:18, with Jesus responding to someone who respectfully called him good. “Why do you call me good?…No one is good—except God alone.”

            Here’s what hit me alongside the head this morning:

            God is the template for goodness. If I want to be good—and I do, and scripture commands it—God’s character and behavior created the model. I (and I suspect many other Christians) tend to define goodness in terms of keeping the rules, not sinning any of the big ones. But God expands the definition of goodness, and his word catalogs its features in hundreds of passages.

Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children. Ephesians 5:1, NIV