VOICE

GenXer tells her story of faith and life.

…I know the thoughts that I think toward you…

I am so tired that my eyes are still burning from the past two weeks at work. Summer school starts tomorrow and I have come to realize that Tennessee charter schools truly expect teachers to work 12+ hour days for at least six days per week.

In the past week, things have run the gamut from a mini-mutiny amongst the team to “happy hour” with the team after work watching the Mississippi rolling by.  We have also shared actual tears as each of us revealed our life maps detailing how we came to this revolutionary point in education.

I am so excited that the students will arrive tomorrow but I honestly do not know what this year will look like. My work-life boundaries seem futile and I am wondering how I will have a semblance of family life in the four hours available outside of work and sleep. (My husband is working for the same company at a different location.) I hope that I am able to continue writing these reflections. It has helped me process and keep focused on the bigger picture.

So I will have to let go and know that even though there will be times that I can not see it- there is a plan in this. Just like Hadassah was in the “kingdom for a time such as this” (Esther 4:14) perhaps we planted in this place at this time to be a part of something truly awesome.

 

Passage to Ponder

Jeremiah29:11

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.

Blessings

14/52

 Mississippi River

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He had rested from all his works…

I began a new teaching position two Thursdays ago. I am excited about the school’s mission and can not wait for the students to come. There is a positive, revolutionary energy in my new school.

Nearly twenty years ago, I taught my first class in an excellent school system. Our work day was from 7:15 to 2:45. However, I frequently worked much longer than eight hours per day and it was common for me to work in my classroom during the weekend. Those extra hours were time that I chose to add creativity and to personalize activities.

Times have changed. Now it is typical to have student contact for ten hours per day and then have expectations made for your time outside of those hours. School emails after seven in the evening and at weird wee hours hours on the weekend are common.

As much as I look forward to working to provide awesome opportunities for students from under-served communities, I also look forward to and relish time to rest. From Friday at sundown through Saturday at sundown, my family presses pause. (I am usually “sawing logs” shortly after sundown on Friday.

Over the last eleven years, my body has come to anticipate the time to stop doing. The lesson planning, paper grading, and household managing are all halted. My body has come to anticipate the time to start being. Sleeping, reading, and gathering for church are cherished and renewing delights for the sabbath. Having this predictable time is an awesome blessing.

Some people question the relevance of remembering the sabbath. (Jesus speaks of it being sacred, Matthew 24:15-20 and it is a identified as a sign, Ezekiel 20;19-20.)

I do not see how I would thrive without it.

Let your light so shine…

Last week I watched a documentary about a man who started his career at age twelve, won an Olympic medal by age eighteen, refused to participate in a war that went against his principles, spoke his truths, and modeled a comportment that inspires others to refrain from vulgar word choices in front of women and children. I also learned that his IQ assessment yielded a score that fell in the 70’s. (This was most likely not an accurate assessment of his ability.)

Two things strike me about the life of Muhammad Ali: survival and consistency.

He was very vocal during a time of overt intolerance. Yet, he unabashedly expressed his opinions. Medgar Edgers, John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Malcolm X were not so fortunate. They were publicly assassinated because their voices were revolutionary. Interestingly, Mr. Ali’s experience could be viewed as an attempted character assassination because he thought “too highly” of himself.

I do not claim to know all things Muhammad Ali but from the footage that I saw, he was very consistent in his views. You knew exactly what he thought and he did not waver in his assessment whether he was conferring with a president, religious leader, or an opponent in the ring. While growing up I paid little attention to him because of his use of a foul word that is too common today. Now I know that you can and should learn from others regardless of differences.

As I was watching the documentary, I was thinking about how visible our lives are even when not connected to technology. We may not have huge circles of influence like well-known people but our light shines nonetheless for good or bad. Neighbors and strangers pick up on how we treat people by our word choices and by the things that we choose to do. With a bit of observation, they can often suss out what our brains most regularly ingest. Frankly, we are almost always visible to some degree and in those times when we think we are unseen, our character is often revealed.

Moses had to wear a vail because of his experiences with the Word. People feared him because of how brightly his light shined. It is an interesting point to ponder: does my light consistently represent my faith and principles?

Passage to Ponder:

Matthew 5:16

Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.

Blessings,

12/52

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jugde not…

Recently, I learned a secret about a neighbor who I have known for six months. Actually, it is not really a secret because the whole neighborhood knows. However, if I could erase this tidbit  from my mind that would suit me just fine.

I noticed from the start a lostness: rarely seen without a can of beer and with the full time occupation of holding down the front porch. Honestly, I feel weirded out knowing but I also feel very sad.

This morning the Scarlet Letter came to mind. (My tween niece informed me on Tuesday that she selected it as her next read.) But this morning I was thinking what it would be like if we each had to wear a scarlet “A”. “I”, or “C” for all to see. Would wearing a scarlet “J” cause one to repent (sorry+stop)?

Now I know that God can use all sorts of people to change the world: those who repent (Moses, Paul, the woman at the well) and those who seem to have chosen not to repent (Achan, Judas Iscariot, and Annias and Sapphira). I do not know my neighbor’s heart. I just do not want judgmental thoughts to get me cut off or for me to miss an opportunity to do my part positively. (Perhaps, this unwanted knowledge is meant to change me.)

Frankly, I am at a loss. I have grown past throwing stones. I understand that the only judgement that matters will occur on the last day. Now I am just trying to learn not to gather the stones in the first place. As with all things that are too heavy, this is one for the prayer box.

Blessings.

 

11/52

Passage to Ponder:

Matthew 7:1-2

Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgement ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.

For he shall give his angels charge over thee…

Racing down I-24 at least sixty miles per hour, floating past semis and little old ladies-there was not a clue of the possible disaster. Rushing to get to the airport, yet enjoying the wind in my hair and the sun on my face, I cruised in our 1970’s tank of a car. As I pulled into a parking space at the airport-arrivals lane, the steering column immediately gave way and I had no control of the car’s direction. I had just barreled down the interstate for more than nine miles with a loosened bolt! (The vehicle had been released from the auto mechanic the day before and the bolt was not tightened properly or was faulty.)

If this had occurred five minutes earlier when I was obliviously reliving my safe excursion on the Autobahn, it could have been an ugly scene. When the AAA wrecker technician and my husband investigated under the hood, this terrifying realization hit home. Praise God, no one was hurt!

For some reason, the recollection of this two-year old experience hijacked me last week while traveling on the highway. Now I know that some people speak of happily seeing angels. (However the accounts that I have read in the Bible reference a fear-inspiring being that when seen caused people to fall on their faces.I can not imagine what I would do if I saw something with four faces and four wings.) I also know that some people believe in luck or coincidence. Yet, I believe that this was an instance of divine protection. There is just no reason that the bolt did not snap while I was twisting and turning on the interstate.

It is worth remembering that even when we feel that we have no control, there is One that is omnipotent and omniscient. This is true, even when things are not as dire as a potential bowling ball of a car hurtling down the lane. There are times when people say or do the right thing at just the right time. There are times when an unexpected mercy comes out of no where just in the nick of time. There are times when we see someone rising above a situation that leads us to persevere. And there are times when truly yucky things could happen but they do not; whether we know about it after the fact (like Balaam and the angel of death) or if we never know that we were saved from unknown disaster.

BLESSINGS

 

Pentecost blessings,

 

Passage to Ponder:

For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways.

 

10/52

 

 

 

 

 

Behold the beauty of the Lord

 

I have never seen the sun stand still at the “command” of a man.

I have never seen a donkey talk in an effort to protect a man from the angel of death.

I have never heard the commanding voice of covenant issuing from a fiery bush.

 

However,

 

I have experienced the indescribable beauty of a “lost” loved one’s face after months of dwelling on the streets.

I have experienced on-time deliverance for my family amidst rushing waters that threatened to consume.

I have climbed arduous mountains, both literal and figurative, to behold the beauty of creation.

 

As I reflect on Biblical accounts of those who were willing to suspend disbelief, fear, and pride and miracle-filled experience that I witness daily, I am in awe of His power to transform, encourage, and inspire.

The other day I was reading a girly-story about six friends who become like family. A couple of the characters repeatedly professed their lack of belief in God. Honestly, I do not understand how one can look at beauty and deny God’s existence.

(Intricate beauty of amplified mustard seed and growing mustard plant in Jerusalem)

It amazes me that from a miniscule mustard seed a hardy plant with so many purposes thrives because He made it so.

It amazes me to look out from my city window at people who look like ants from my vantage point: walking/rolling, breathing, talking, thinking, being because He made it so with replicated precision.

It amazes me to recall the collective emotional experience as the Chilean miners were unearthed after 69 days. That was God’s handiwork, for sure.

Daily, I am on the look out for tiny and ginormous opportunities to experience the beauty that God has created in nature, among people, and in being. Staying attuned to the miraculous beauty of the everyday helps me to keep climbing the mountains but it also primes my heart for the immeasurable beauty that is to come.

Blessings

 

Passage to Ponder:

Psalm 27:4

One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after, that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to enquire in his temple.

9/52

The voice of rejoicing and salvation…

I LOVE going to the library on a Sunday morning to grab an unexpected book, something to take my knowledge of the world off on a tangent. This morning I was thinking about one such find, Musicophilia by Oliver Sacks. After reading this book a few years ago, I was relieved to learn that I do not suffer from musicogenic epilepsy: seizures brought on my music. Oh, the horror!

For nearly twenty years, I had a preoccupation with all-things Prince: purple, concerts, and sightings. Now if I hear a few beginning bars of his music, I can recall the nuances of the pitch and recall a time when I poorly warbled a given song. Actually, that remembrance is true of any music that I listened to in that repetitive adolescent way.

Yet, the most important reason that I am glad that I do not suffer from musicogenic epilepsy is because my life is what I imagine the musical portions of Glee must be like. Though I have never seen the show, I can imagine the characters bursting into a happy or haunting song to fit the mood of the scene. 

Maybe it is weird to have your own mental play-list of songs to soothe the soul. When I was having “hard-times” last fall, I would walk up the stairs singing Fred Hammond’s Blessed. (Once I passed a music-loving teacher on the stairwell and unfortunately for him he heard my untrained rendition of the song of the day.) I Can Only Imagine (Mercy Me), Joann Rosario’s More, More, More, and He Wants It All (Forever Jones) are regularly pulled off my soul-soothing shelf. When I can find a verse that fits one of my songs, the “mental singing” becomes like a prayer. Weird or not, it works for me.

 

                                                               

 

Now if you see me walking downtown, in full-on-Glee mode singing songs from the Sound of Music on a regular basis, ask me if I am all right. Otherwise, I am good.

 

Passage to Ponder:

Psalm 118:15

The voice of rejoicing and salvation is in the tabernacles of the righteous: the right hand of the Lord doeth valiantly.