Sunday, November 23, 2014

Will and Lizzie

At the end of the day the rain gauge was almost full.  Putting it near the downspout was one reason, but it had obviously rained a good bit.  Will was no meteorologist but he guessed it had rained an inch or more in the past few hours.

The hurricane was getting close.  It was currently spinning about 200 miles off the coast of Daytona Beach and heading right for Savannah, a city which had already been under a hurricane warning for two days.  Warnings mean landfall or hurricane conditions are expected in the next 48 hours.  It had been 48 and the Hurricane, aka Lizzie, was still a long way away.  After posting the warnings for beaches from Titusville to Cape Hatteras, while Lizzie was raking the DR with 130mph winds and 12 foot storm surge, the meteorologists were now puzzled as to why Lizzie seemed to have stalled.

Will wasn't too concerned.  He had seen a bad hurricane forecast more than a few times in his life.  He could vaguely remember the time if felt like the whole east coast of GA and FL had decided to come camp out in his Walmart parking lot in Thomasville.  He clearly remembered the missions coordinator for his church going berserk when a hurricane hit the coast of Mexico while they were in Monterrey - nearly 200 miles and a mountain range inland.  It was comical that the missions team was stranded in their hotel during a moderate rain shower, while the ones who were supposed to be receiving the ministry of their church were bringing meals to the hotel!

Hurricanes were notorious for changing direction, or in this case for deciding not to move in any direction.  And that was OK with Will.  Lizzie was a nice distraction and the longer she wanted to sit and spin the better.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Out of the Darkness

He walked out of the woods through the small opening between the skinny pines and thorny underbrush.  The opening was the entry to the cross country trail running behind the school.  From just a hundred yards away the opening was hidden so that when he appeared it was as if by magic. 

His name was Rudyard and he called himself a storyteller.  I asked him to tell us a story.  The guys on the team all looked at me like I was bit crazy.  They looked at this man who called himself Rudyard like he was a lot crazy! I smiled at the boys.  Rudyard smiled at me.  I knew something magical was happening.  I had no fear, no sense of gloom about this stranger suddenly appearing.

"How about if I tell you as we walk along the trail, boys?" he said as he turned to go back in the direction from which he came.

Hurry Up And Wait

We're in the hotel lobby, me, my mom, Louisa and Gracie.  The hotel lobby, aka the waiting room, also has a nice breakfast area adjoining it and i'm already on my third cup of coffee.  shouldn't have any trouble staying awake on the drive.

we're waiting for aunt emma and uncle willie to come pick us up for the drive to the mountains.  we're meeting uncle bob and aunt Sabrina in black mountain.  it's a mini family reunion in the beautiful fall backdrop of the north Carolina mountains. 

The Gay Question

Today I asked my senior Government class the Gay Question: Should gay marriage be legal or illegal? I told them I wanted them to start thinking about it.  Maybe we'll have a classroom debate in the near future.  I ask them because I think it's a great question for today; especially in a Christian school setting.  Scripturally we are on a firm foundation when it comes to the question.  But legally?  I'm not so sure.  How do we defend a ban on gay marriage without pulling Scripture into the debate?  Is it legal to use Scripture to defend a legal ban on gay marriage? Does using Scripture violate another person's freedom of religion?  I don't know the answer.  That's the other reason I ask the question.  Maybe one of these knuckleheads will have an insight I haven't had yet.  There are some bright minds in this class and I keep hoping someone somewhere will show me a satisfactory answer to this question. 

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Real Life

I love being a teacher.  I've had lots of different jobs in my life, most of them not the kind that I woke up in the morning wanting to get out of bed for.  This one is different.  I like almost everything about it.  I like the actual teaching part - love it.  I love talking and I love to hear myself talk and, to my shame, I love that other people have to sit there and listen to me talk!  It's true - terrible, but true.  It is God's goodness to me that I am not blind to it.

     One of my favorite things about teaching is making connections between what we're studying and real life.  I say real life like there's something else, but maybe an example will help you see what I mean.  I teach social studies - Civics and US History - which means I teach just about everything.  Right now in US1 we are studying the Road to the Revolution.  Today we talked about John Hancock, and this is what I really love; we talked about John Hancock in a way I bet most of them had never thought about Hancock before.  In all our studies about Hancock as kids he's the larger than life revolutionary famous for what? Yes, for his super sized signing of the Declaration of Independence.  And maybe a few of us remember that he presided over the Continental Congress.  But how many of us knew that he was a wealthy man? OK, maybe you say that's not all that important, whether he was rich or not.  OK, but did you know he made his fortune by breaking the law? Yes, John Hancock got rich through smuggling illegal goods past the British in the years leading up to the Revolutionary War.  He made money by bribing British customs officials to turn their heads and look the other way.  Does that change how you view Hancock? It sure made a difference in the way I saw him the first time I read that.

     Now, as I was careful to say to my impressionable tenth graders this morning, being a rich man shouldn't cause us to necessarily have a higher or lower view of Hancock as a freedom fighter.  And I was even more careful to point out to the class that although Hancock made his fortune by breaking the law, it was not quite so cut and dried.  We must also remember that the men who gathered to represent the Continental Congress were almost all reputable men, men of character who most definitely would not have elected as their presiding officer a man with questionable character himself.  The issue, as so many we study in history, is not black and white.

     Back to reality, to real life.  How does the story of John Hancock, an all too real story that we have no way of understanding completely, so in that sense it is not real to us; how does this story help us as students today? It's easy really. We just learned something about Hancock we didn't know; what we learned changes the way we think about him.  We all have presuppositions, basic assumptions about people and arguments that we bring to the table before the argument even begins. When we learn facts contrary to these assumptions our worlds tend to become less real before they again shift into focus.  This can be difficult - I think much more so the older you get - unless you learn early on, say tenth grade for example, that your presuppositions, while innocently inherited, can be and often are wrong.

   And that's what I love about teaching, watching kids change the way they think about a person or event as they learn more about it.  It's a great job; sometimes kids can find it unsettling to have their assumptions challenged (certainly their parents don't like it at times either!); but that's the great thing about school and about being a teacher - this is a safe place to have your presuppositions challenged.  If I'm careful not to ignore my own blind spots, I can help them on the way.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

My Lord and My God

Now Thomas, one of the Twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.”
Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!”
John 20:24-28

Nowadays, people tend to roll their eyes at "doubting" Thomas.  I mean, come on, Thomas, you were with Jesus all along and saw some pretty unbelievable things.  Were you really one to need all the evidence right in front of you to believe?  Was he?  After a closer look and an interesting lecture from my doctrine professor, I'm not so sure.
After all, Thomas had been with Jesus for quite some time.  In John 11, when Jesus wanted to go to Bethany after the death of Lazarus and the other disciples were hesitant about the trek, Thomas was all in!  He would go, they would all go, even if they could die in the process.  Thomas had invested much, emotionally and spiritually, in Jesus as Messiah. When Jesus called Lazarus out of the tomb, Thomas was there. He saw Jesus raise Lazarus from the dead. There's no way he doubted the ability of Jesus when it came to resurrection.
Thomas's problem lay in who he believed the Messiah was.  In John 14, Jesus was telling the disciples they would be with him in his father's house. He said they knew the way to where he was going, but Thomas piped up to inform Jesus that in fact they did not know the way or what Jesus was talking about.  Thomas's expectations of the Messiah were crumbling.  He didn't expect the Messiah to be God; he thought Jesus was a warrior to save them all from the clutches of the Roman Empire.
Thomas had followed Jesus wholeheartedly up until the cross.  But everything he thought about Jesus as the war hero was wrong.  The Messiah was supposed to save them all, but the Messiah was dead.  He was taken aback, shocked, angry, tired, confused, emotionally drained.  And then the other disciples said he was back? Thomas wasn't one who would only believe based on physical evidence. He wasn't merely "doubting Thomas." He was a wounded lover. How could he believe again? He could't possibly go through it all again. 
But then.
Jesus came to Thomas.  And this time Thomas saw Jesus as the Messiah.  He saw Jesus, raised from the dead.  He didn't leave you, Thomas!  Up until this point, Jesus had not been referred to as God.  But Thomas then recognized Jesus for who he really is:  part of the divine entity, the triune God.  Doubting Thomas was the first to call Jesus, "My Lord and my God!"

Thursday, September 18, 2014


          In chorale the other day, my instructor gave us a rather different sort of closing speech than he would normally have given.  I suppose I should just speak for myself when I say we were all shocked and a little shaken, but I believe we all were.
          At first I was embarrassed.  He explained how he felt as though he was pouring everything he had into working with us and we were not holding up our side of the deal. We were seemingly unprepared and uninterested.  As he scanned the room, I felt as though he were speaking directly to me.  I was one of the unprepared after all, without the certain piece of music for the second day in a row.  When you miss a day of chorale, you ask what you missed, just as you would any other class.  My face was hot, probably red, and my hands were shaky.  Of course, we all have our bad days, but when your attitude is "I don't care," that is a sin. Indifference is a sin!  My italics indicate the point at which he was led by emotion, where he no longer resembled the humorous and wacky, yet cool and collected music instructor we see every day.  Just for that moment, we saw the raw, hidden side of our emotional music instructor.
          Then I was shocked.  I was frozen in my seat with my arms crossed and my teeth clenched, both actions with a desire to keep my hands from shaking or my eyes from tearing up.  This speech, or rather lecture, was completely unexpected.
          Then I was angry.  I had not missed any classes, yet I was missing music.  The previous class, we started a piece I didn't have, so I raised my hand, and he passed it out again.  This class, we started the second piece I didn't have, so I raised my hand, along with many others, and he told us, with a hint of frustration in his voice, that the music was in his office and that he'd already passed it out three times (which he had not, minor confusion there).  I was at a loss for how I could have missed the music.  I was angry that he was directly correlating indifference as a sin with us not having our music, or so I perceived.  I love chorale.  I love the instructor.  I bring all I've got to chorale and try my best in every song, every day.  I couldn't believe he would just lump us all into one disgraceful lot.
          This scene wouldn't leave my head the whole day.  It was like an awkward conversation in that you later rack your brain for ways you could have handled it better.  I kept trying to think of loopholes, something I missed that would make it less appalling.  And then I did (with help from an apologetically clarifying email* from my music instructor, in response to my apologetically clarifying email to him).
         It was a teachable moment.  We go through life just trying to check things off our list. Get in, get what you need, get out.  Put in your headphones and turn up the volume.  Memorize the steps needed and nothing more.  God forbid you run into someone or something that changes that schedule. God forbid we feel uncomfortable.  The thing is, we were not created to be lonely beings, to be selfish and live our lives only for our own comfort.  We were not created to not care.  Our God is a jealous God.  And that doesn't mean he's insecure.  It means he is passionately pursuing us.  When he sees us straying from his path, he is not just going to stand by and let us go.  He is not indifferent.  Isn't that so much better than worshiping someone who doesn't care?           We needed a wake up call.  While this may have been more specifically about being unprepared for class, my music instructor's strong comments at the end of class were what we needed to hear, in regard to our whole lives, and not just in the chorale room.  I don't know if my classmates feel the same way, if they are bitter towards our instructor for his sudden outburst, or if they are simply indifferent despite his urgency.  But I hope we can learn from this teachable moment.
          *"My hope is that each of you know my deep love for you as students, for the chorale art, and for our work together as God’s children.  If I did not communicate this clearly I would need your forgiveness. I want so much for us to “be awake, attentive, and alert” to what God is willing to do in our midst as we walk by faith rather than by feelings." 
         Be loving, be frustrated, be kind, be angry, be thrilled, be bitter. But whatever you do, do not be indifferent.

David and Goliath and Derek Webb

 So this morning I heard someone talking about Derek Webb and his divorce.  I thought he must have been talking about a wife before Sandra McCracken.  But when I looked it up this morning there it was, sure enough, he and Sandra are getting a divorce.  I write like I know them, like I have invested something in their lives, like I raised my hand when the preacher asked me to validate their marriage, their membership in the church.  But I don't know them; obviously if I didn't even know their marriage was in trouble.  Truth is there are people in my own church that I've raised my hand for, that I've taken vows to help them as they study the purity and peace of the church, that I've found out AFTER the fact that their marriage was in trouble. 

But that doesn't really bother me.  I doubt it bothers you very much.  OK, it bothers me a little - but only because there are people like the guy this morning who was telling me about Derek Webb.  I don't remember why it even came up but his comment was derogatory. He was saying something about the divorce and his opinion of Derek was now negative somehow because of that.  So why does that bother me?  Maybe you can see it a little in my response to his comment.  I just said, simply, that perhaps he, Derek, was also a man after God's own heart.  Our preacher has been preaching on David for the better part of a year now.  The first part of the series was awesome - David was awesome.  What an incredible guy, what amazing character, what love for the Father! Our preacher recently started preaching on his affair, his murder, his conspiracy. 

So here's my question: Is David really a great guy? an example to follow? a man after God's own heart? If you're a Bible thumper you have to say yes.  And once you say he was, you have to say he was even though he fell like a rock. Because David didn't become a sinner once he killed Uriah, or even when he slept with Bathsheba.  He didn't become a sinner the night he watched her from his roof.  He was born a sinner, born into iniquity as he himself wrote about.  No one can hide from that, not you, not me, not David.  So why don't we stop pretending and let the gospel be as big as it really is.   

Nov 23
It rains outside and it sounds strange.  Strange for rain to sound strange.  I must have heard it a thousand times, maybe ten thousand.  Yet when it started up just now it sent a bit of a chill through me.  Something out there is powerful and I am powerless.  Maybe that's what's happening inside me subconsciously.  Maybe i'm just aware of God on a level I'm not aware of the awareness.

It rained really hard this morning while we were having SUnday school in the gym.