Wednesday, May 30, 2012
I’m feeling hemmed in—
Well, not really. When I truly feel hemmed in is when I’ve just finished grading research paper #37 of 90.
But, it is a strange feeling being in a house with all the windows plastic covered and sealed. The prepping is nearly done, and Jay’s nearly done in. In some ways it seems like not much has changed since we last painted the house 20 years ago—except that the painters are 20 years older, and today they fortunately have the help of the painter’s son who was then a toddler and is now recently a college graduate. The pictures I took this afternoon look eerily similar to the ones taken 20 years ago with the house all sealed tight and breathless.
Twenty years—a lot of living happens in 20 years. Houses have changed owners and colors, but not this one—although much has changed.
Late this afternoon, the painter’s wife picked him up from his day job and dropped him off. As he struck out to help Jay and his son, Jane and I chatted for a while. Twenty years ago we used to work together, and our daughter would babysit their children. Now, we rarely see them. It was worth getting the house painted just to catch up.
As they were driving over, Jane had asked her husband why he was so quiet. “Jane, I’m trying to psych myself up,” he’d stated. “I’m hoping to catch my third wind.”
Sometimes, feeling hemmed in, we want to give up—but we can’t. Sometimes, giving up is simply the wrong thing to do. We've made commitments and people are depending on us. So, we press forward, waiting for that second wind that eventually comes.
But, I guess, at this point in life, we’re all hoping for a third wind—the one that will push us on through to the Golden Gates.
Ahh, I hear some laughter out there. Sounds like the wind has arrived…and some caffeinated Cokes.
Tuesday, May 29, 2012
The last two summers we’ve planned exotic vacations, welcoming the birth of new babies and exploring places we never thought we would see.
But, not this summer.
Now is the time to look inward and assess the conditions of who we are and where we live.
This morning I took on the task of cleaning the chest freezer in the garage. One of the things I know about cleaning the freezer is that it’s better if I defrost it every year. I have waited years and years—and just like relationships—a neglected freezer can be a messy business.
Sometimes life can get so frenetic and complicated, it’s easy to live side by side instead of together as we vowed in the white dress.
Cleaning the freezer is kind of hard for me. After I place the food in coolers and wait for the frost to drop to the bottom, it’s hard to stretch into the far reaches and wipe out all the corners.
But, it has to be done—and sometimes the hardest thing about cleaning a mess is recognizing and admitting it has to be done—
Seeing there in plain sight that I’d filled the cherry boxes too full, causing them to overflow and spill over the sides and onto the bottom of the freezer as they froze last summer. What a mess.
Make a note: don’t do that again—
It can be amazing how in relationships—even the very ones most important to our own welfare—we can make the same mistake over and over again and again.
Oh, God, we are so weak. Can we ever learn without Your strength alone? Help me to ask for it. Help me to want it.I never look forward to cleaning the freezer, but—I promise you—when you do, you’ll find stuff you need to set out in the trash; you’ll find things you’d forgotten all about.
And whether it’s a freezer, a marriage, or a soul—you’ll feel good knowing where your sustenance is.
Saturday, May 26, 2012
Each year at our graduation ceremony each student's favorite memory or verse is read as they walk across the stage. As I was told at an afternoon party, this was the intent of T—‘s memory. "T—'s favorite memory was everything in AP English except the timed writings." The following is what was read: "T—'s favorite memory was everything except the timed writings in AP English." Either way, it gives a pretty accurate picture of their sentiment on days they walked into class when I held an essay prompt in my hand.
I laughed with the audience at graduation and I laughed again at the party because I know something that they cannot know until they take that exam: The near weekly timed essay is the most important thing we do all year in AP—more than any work we study, more than any literary device they memorize.
It’s in the constant and continued writing that they ever so slowly practice and begin to put what they’ve learned and what they think into a logical and stylistic presentation. And, the timed factor just adds more pressure that develops more focus.
Like writing, many things in life must be practiced over and over—often unwillingly, often through trials and tribulations—until we emerge perfected before the face of Jesus in Heaven.
So, as I make them write, write, write and they grumble, grumble, grumble—I just laugh because I know in the end they’ll write something like this: “T—‘s favorite memory was everything, except timed writings, in AP English.”
Friday, May 25, 2012
Paul assured the Corinthians: “He [Christ] will continue to deliver us as you help us by your prayers.”
We pray when we need help. We pray when we want things to go the way we hope. We pray because we know we should. But, for myself, I think this has often been an exercise of habit—maybe because I don’t truly understand prayer. Simply, it is talking to God, but I believe prayer is so much more—more than those of us who live comfortably can understand.
There is something otherworldly about prayer—something mystical that we can participate in without fully “getting” it.
Prayer changes things and people. Prayer prompts movement in a world unseen and more powerful than our craziest dreams. Prayer connects us to the world of which we really belong.
It’s so easy to forget—to forget when many—like the apostle of old—are depending on it. There is no greater strength we wield—not money, not knowledge, not time.
As Paul continues: “Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many.”
Who would be one of many?
Who would be one of many?
(biblical passages: 2 Corinthians 1:10b-11)
Monday, May 21, 2012
Sometimes the most important character is a minor one. One of my favorite characters in Lord of the Rings is Éowyn. Éowyn had lived so long without hope that when she sees the strong arms of Aragorn, she immediately falls in love with him. However, this was not the hope he brought for her, and perhaps it wasn’t even the hope she sought, but she’d lived in that dark fortress for so long.
Although Éowyn’s passion was dashed as quickly and as unexpectedly as it’d come, she did have one thing—maybe the very thing that draws me to her. Éowyn didn’t see that she had anything of worthiness. A warrior locked in a woman’s body, skills unused, love unrequited.
All those years as her brother and cousin defended the borders, she bore up—resisting an evil that unknowingly made her strong. And in her strength grew a hardness and determination. If she should parish, then parish she would. But she would not give in to darkness.
So as a noble woman of Rohan in the face of certain defeat, she armed herself and rode off with warriors, pulling up Merry behind her because she alone understood his heart.
And when her moment of fate came, she faced it with courage only a woman’s love for her uncle/king could muster. She revealed her weakness, womanhood and all— tearing off her helmet, luscious locks falling from her shoulders—and declared to the dark demon, “I am no man!”
Then, unbeknown to humanity, to wizards, wraiths, and all—she fulfilled a destiny cloaked in a misleading prophecy, and destroyed an instrument of evil that turned the Dark Lord’s eye beyond his borders.
Be encouraged, my sister, it may your prayer alone this day to shatter the demon’s chain. Stand firm, be of great courage, for the love of God—your Father and King.
“Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be men (women) of courage; be strong. Do everything in love.” 1 Cor. 16:13
Thursday, May 10, 2012
My students took the AP English exam today. And today—as every year around this time, I wonder—are they prepared? —not just to take a test that in the grand scheme of life is rather insignificant—but are they ready for what’s out there?
I’ve taught enough years to see what a burden life can become. And this year, I think more than any other, I see down the common road of man and the suffering that can be neither anticipated nor avoided. Such is the fractured world in which we live.
I would wish them perpetual joy,
but that would make them ungrateful.
I would wish them ease and riches,
but that would make them weak.
I would wish they’d always sense the hand of God,
but then—they’d never search for Him.
I feel compelled to remind them of Rachel’s words in The Poisonwood Bible stating, “Any man who’d leave his wife to marry his mistress is not worth it.” Or Kurtz’ realization in discovering his own heart of darkness—of Donne’s “no man is an island” and his emphatic “Death, Thou shalt die!”
But tomorrow they have planned a party—a picnic of sorts. A final exam next week and their last essay—a defense of Christianity, using their secular novels as support—then like the baby spiders in Charlotte’s Web, they’ll float away. I hope they’ve wrapped those webs securely around Jesus and enough of the Word to hold them through the winds of storm.
Saturday, May 5, 2012
Shannon’s brother has done some research in quantum physics. Now, neither Shannon nor I are science types, but he was telling her about—remember that this was probably “dumbed down” some (or a lot) terminology-wise—how that all things are made up of tiny particles that are in constant motion. And even though we can’t hear it, that movement produces a humming sound.
I could have been cloistered in my room grading the last of this year’s essays; but instead, I was leaning wide-eyed over the library counter as we thought of the verses in the Bible that we’d previously only taken metaphorically—like the mountains and the hills singing and the rocks crying out.
I’ve given a lot of contemplation to nature this spring—maybe because it’s been such a strikingly gorgeous one or possibly because it’s such a prominent motif in The Poisonwood Bible that we’ve read in AP the past few weeks. But, for whatever reason—I’ve wondered if all creation would fly apart if the power of God didn’t hold it all together. No wonder the Bible tells of nature proclaiming the glory of God.
During Lent this year Melody said to me: “We have access to the same power that raised Jesus from the dead.” Now, that’s a thought to let our minds flow into and drift far and deep. No wonder the apostle Paul said to approach God’s throne with confidence. Every morning that we see the sun rise and every evening we hear the crickets call, they should beckon us to our knees to worship the Creator, in thanksgiving—in hope—in peace.
Look into the heavens or under the microscope and be amazed.
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” (Phil. 4:6)