How Do I Fight?

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I believe there are two worlds.  The natural one and the supernatural one. The natural one is what I see with my eyes and experience with my senses.  I live here, in this place where I interact with others and the natural environment.  Day to day decisions, my thought patterns, and my feelings, all make up the natural world in which I live.  My soul either thrives here or shrivels up depending upon the things that happen to me.  I am comfortable with this world because it is familiar to me.  It is not always consistent, but it is predictably unpredictable which makes change the norm.  I live here and have spent my life walking through this world and trying my best to manage things so that I have the best outcome possible for myself and my family.  It is what I do. There are differences of opinion on what that looks like for each person which cause division among us.  What I believe is best for me, may not be what you believe is best for you. The discord that results shows up in our political system which is known for its constant struggle.  I participate in it because I want control of my surroundings.

There are many people who don’t believe in the supernatural world, but I am not one of them.  I have seen and felt too many unexplainable things in my lifetime to say the physical world is all we have.  The supernatural is unexplained by scientific understanding and operates beyond natural laws. It is the spiritual realm.  It is where my spirit interacts with God.  It is not something I can touch or feel, but it is more who I am.  It seems mystical to some, yet I sometimes feel it is more real than reality.  An unseen God.  A Spirit who leads.  A Son who lived in both worlds to show us it can be done.  All of that seems quite unbelievable, and yet I believe it. Different people have their own versions of this supernatural world and the differences of opinion cause great strife. Men have set up religious systems to try to explain this spiritual place, and the passionate arguments between them have led to unending conflicts about what peace looks like and who God is. Once again, controlling my life is the goal, and I reach for any system that will allow me the illusion that I can alter things which happen along the way.

If life has taught me nothing else it is that control is unattainable, and therefore should not be the goal…in either world.  Instead of control, love is the objective. Not seeking it for myself, but giving it away.  This requires some countercultural thinking.  In the natural world, I am fighting politically for what I deem to be the truth.  Ultimately, I believe that my way is the best way for everyone. When put like that, it becomes a bit clearer the arrogance of my position. Pride is a supernatural foe which operates in the natural world.  Its goal is to keep me fighting you. To do so, it makes me think it is imperative that you take the same position as me.  No matter what, I will not lay down what I believe as a matter of principle. I stand on my truth and dig my heals in. I am ready for a big battle.

humility.jpg But what if I am using the wrong weapon?  What if, instead of using my pride I choose humility? What if I take a modest or low view of my own importance?  In this day and time, I do not hear many speeches on meekness.  I hear a lot about boldness, about taking things, about charging into battle.  Humility is the opposite.  In the supernatural world I believe in, the way up is down.  I look to the example of Jesus who bridged the worlds.  Servanthood was his mantra.  Laying down his life for his enemies, was his way.  He was meek, and in his meekness lay his strength.  He endured injury with patience and did not speak a word on his own behalf.  He did not harbor resentment against those opposed to him. He submitted himself to the will of his father, but also to the will of men. He allowed them to take him, when he could have taken control at any time.  Why would he do such a thing?  He knew that love would win. He knew that the supernatural weapon of humility would be the most powerful force with which to obtain his objective, which was not control but love.  Pride is a supernatural force which takes up residence in my heart.  It is an enemy of my soul in the natural world, but it also quenches my spirit.  It prevents my spirit from communion with God’s spirit in the intimate way he desires.  Humility is the way to vanquish pride.  Once it is put to death, my thoughts and ideas become of little importance to me. All that matters is expressing supernatural love.

dinner partyThere is another powerful weapon which is often overlooked in the battle between the natural and supernatural worlds.  It is hospitality.  The friendly generous reception and entertainment of guests, visitors, or strangers, may seem an odd weapon of choice when trying to battle pride.  Yet, I believe it is effective because it is in the natural world but has a supernatural result.  To me, having a party seems an odd way to fight.  Inviting in strangers and even enemies, seems the opposite of what I think.  In the natural world, there would be no reason to talk to those who want nothing but to control or harm me.  However, in the upside-down spiritual kingdom, being hospitable is one of the most powerful weapons used.  I believe it is because when I share a meal with someone they become human to me.  My eyes are opened to see them as a person with needs, just like mine.  When I share space with them I open my heart a bit and that drives the nails into my pride.  I listen and laugh and share and reason with them.  I pour into their spirit and they pour into mine.  We become like one another and from there the differences between us diminish.  The care for one another increases.  Compassion is born.  The love shown impacts not only this world, but also the spirit world because our spirits are lifted up.  Do not underestimate the power of kindness.  Do not dismiss the influence of inviting someone into your life.  A simple meal can change viewpoints, and open eyes.  It can save lives.  Jesus ate with sinners, not so he could preach to them or somehow make them his project.  He did it because he loved them.  He wanted to manifest God’s heart.  It was a natural way to communicate a supernatural love.  Over a meal, at a party, while at a wedding, in an upper room, around a table…hospitality expressed. Love personified.

The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have supernatural power to demolish strongholds. 2 Cor.10:4

I don’t know about you, but pride is a stronghold in my life I would like to see demolished.  I would rather BE in the spiritual world, than DO in the natural one.  I would rather relinquish my attempts to control, and pick up the contentment of the Lord no matter the circumstances. My desire is to follow his example, yet I have been battling using pride as a weapon.  How crazy is that?  I choose to lay down pride and pick up two weapons that are far more powerful.  It may be counterintuitive, but the best way to deal with politics and religion is to change objectives.   For the objective of sharing love, humility and hospitality are my weapons of choice.

Wedding Preparations

michelle-in-front-of-yonahI am at wedding central. My lovely niece Sarah marries the love of her life on Saturday, so the army of helping hands has been called in.  I arrive at the house to buckets of flowers and the smell of a florist shop. There are Rubbermaid tubs stacked all around, with labels like “cake table,” “bride’s room”, and “reception” on them.  The counter is covered with a maze of Post-it-note lists. In moments, we have created a cookie-bag-stuffing assembly line, and in short order conversation fills the air of hope and the future.  There is just something uplifting about the new beginnings that weddings bring. Checking things off each different list continues. Table layouts are next up with each one discussed and packed, in even more labeled boxes.

The main event of this day begins slowly at first, but with the arrival of the grandmas, grandpas, and aunt, floral arrangements begin to multiply like rabbits.  Starting as buckets full of flowers, each stem is carefully chosen, cut, and placed with loving care into an arrangement.  Three generations of family are humming around like bees in a hive.  As we work, three generations of wedding stories are told.

The bride, who is wise beyond her years, states, “I think I will appreciate and enjoy these flowers more since I helped make them.  Otherwise, I wouldn’t care as much because someone else would have just brought them in and set them up.”

A discussion follows of how weddings used to be events which involved family and friends all coming together to help the couple get a good start. There is much laughter and picture taking as the table fills up with each new floral creation. An atmosphere of love and warmth, permeates the room.  Everyone has a job and in no time, all of them are complete. Boxes are loaded into a plethora of cars going to a plethora of places, and whisked away to await the big day.  I am taken by the ease with which it all comes together.  The old proverb that ‘many hands make light work’ is proven true on this day, but it should also say many hands make ‘fun’ work, as well.

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Preparation for a wedding has gone to a whole new level since my day.  It has become a billion-dollar industry that leaves pockets empty as it promises a fairy tale ending.  The wedding itself is seen as the goal, without much thought to the marriage.  It is refreshing to see my niece and her fiancé have not taken the bait of “the bigger the better,” but have opted for simple elegance.  So many of these events are over the top, which leaves couples in debt and wondering what to do once the wedding is over.  It starts things off in an unhealthy way from the beginning, because the focus is in the wrong place.  The alternative is to cohabitate rather than to marry.  It is cheaper and more practical, and not nearly as permanent.  I totally understand why many couples are choosing that route, because after all, ‘it is just a piece of paper.’ Weddings are not thought of as sacred much these days. They are more of a cultural tradition, or a requirement to get a legal status.

Call me old fashioned, but there is something about a wedding that is more than just a ceremony. It is the joining of hearts with love and commitment; taking vows before friends, family, and God.  It is a sacred act, and the foundation of relationship.  It is a joyful occasion worth celebrating.  The birth of hope, which then grows into trust, which results in being fully known just as you are.  You can’t get that with just a piece of paper, or with a venue full of flowers.  It requires a supernatural intervention that comes when invited, and stays long after the I-dos are said. The wedding is the beginning of an adventure, not the end.

sarahs flowersI don’t think it is trivial that the gospel is compared to a wedding.  The bride of Christ is pursued, chosen, and invited into the mystery of supernatural love. She is adored by her groom.  She does not need the perfect venue or flowers. She doesn’t need a cathedral.  She rests in the simplicity of his love for her.  She gazes into his eyes and she has no doubt that she will be loved forever.  He assures her of that by his sacrifice.  He is unwavering.  He is steadfast.  All that is required is the union.  The scared vows.  The commitment to trust. The love to be received.  There is a wedding feast scheduled.  It is the beginning of a great adventure.  It is the fullness of joy.

Our weddings are but mirrors of the spiritual truth.  It is why we come together as family to create floral arrangements.  It is why we fly across the country to attend weddings in the first place.  We make the trip to bear witness to the union. To see hope born.  We are drawn to it, because we long for it. This joining of souls is a sacred act of love on which relationship and belonging are built.  The preparations are meaningful and fun, because they set the stage for deep love to be on display.  The intertwining of two lives becoming one can only be accomplished with supernatural joining the two strand cord and making it three.  The preparation is complete.  The waiting time is here.  Tomorrow is the day for love to be made known.

Happy Wedding Day Sarah and Ryan!

Close Your Door and Teach

old desk.jpgTidbits for Teachers are regular SHORT inspirations to bring hope and encouragement to teachers in all settings.  I hope to give you a shot in the arm and remind you why you chose this career in the first place.

Teachers have many jobs beyond teaching, and supposedly those other jobs help you become a better educator.  Data collection has its place, but I am not sure I agree it makes my lessons better.  Mandates from the government are important to follow, because they help you keep your job, but they don’t help you help Johnny learn to read.  Testing is a thing, but it shouldn’t be the only thing.  Committees, grade levels, professional learning, staff development are all required, but none of them can replace having a hunch that a student is acting out because they would rather be the trouble maker than the kid who doesn’t know how to read. Ultimately, your intuition is your most important feature.  It cannot be taught or forced or bullied or measured out of you.  You get it from experience.  It is that simple.  All of these other “jobs” take away the time it takes to gain the experience you need.

So how are teachers to improve their practice? Close your door and teach.  I am not saying don’t do the things required of you. You will lose your job if you don’t show up for all the meetings.  I am saying put less importance on anything that is not actual teaching. Close your door and teach.  Do what you know to do.  Collaborate with your students. They are the ones who matter.  Plan with them what they want to do to learn the material.  Close your door and teach.  Avoid teacher drama.  Close your door and teach.  Walk away from administrative bullying.  Close your door and teach.  Adjust to the latest in a long line of standard changes.  Close your door and teach.  Rid yourself of anxiety and angst about possible changes politically. Close your door and teach.  It takes discipline to walk away from pressure packed meetings that tell you how to do your job, which is contrary to what you know.  It requires laser focus to put ‘things that are not helpful’ into the correct perspective and recognize how much they take you away from actual teaching. Close your door and teach.  It takes guts to teach your students developmentally appropriate lessons. Close your door and teach. You know what works.  You know what doesn’t.  You know who to go to when you need help.  Close your door and teach.

True North

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A star peers through my window as I drive.  It is luminous, and for the past few nights it has been capturing my notice…almost calling me to pay attention.  Whispering a message through its repeated appearances throughout the countryside, I pull over to listen. I gaze at the seemingly stationary star, and as I do, I think about the old world ships which navigated uncharted oceans by starlight.  While there were no maps for the sea, the sky was charted in great detail.  With the North Star as a guide to true north, all the other directions were easily discernable.  Find Polaris, and you could find your way.  When the captains needed direction, they looked up.

Sitting under the tutelage of my star instructor, I get the message as clearly as the night sky. When my world is off balance or when things are unclear, I need to find my true north.  If I fix my eyes on the stresses and uncertainties of my life, I will get lost in the darkness.  There is a vast sea all around me that is not marked and the only way to navigate it is to look up, and keep my eyes on the one who knows me better than I know myself…the one who created the star he uses to instruct.  Suddenly, I find courage that hadn’t been there moments before.  It rises up, like the heavenly hosts above me as I gaze into the night sky.  I realize I cannot lose my way when I depend on him and therefore, I commit to fix my eyes on the Lord, who is my true north.

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It occurs to me then that I am not the only one who needs this reminder.  Our world is divided.  Our friends and families are tearing one another apart.  There is chaos. Negativity oozes off of screens and into the streets. Disrespect has a stronghold.  It seems a storm is brewing and the future is uncertain.  The swells are growing bigger on the ocean and we have lost our way.  We have forgotten that the sea is uncharted, but the map we need has been provided. We have only to look up to the heavens to find our bearings and remember where we are. One star of hope directs us. He is the unchanging one…the one who is the same yesterday, today, and forever.  As long as we can see him, the waves can churn and crash all around us, but we will not lose our way.  We can fix our eyes on him and find the courage we need to get us through the storms and darkness. The Ancient of Days is not movable by the whims of men.  The rest of creation revolves around his stability and faithfulness.  Sometimes the winds blow hard, and other times the sea is like glass.  He is not surprised by either, nor is he moved from his throne in the heavens. He has not forgotten or abandoned us.  We need only look up at our star instructor to remember how to find our true north.  From there, courage leads us home.

Teaching Respect

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Pointers for Parents are regular SHORT inspirations to bring hope and encouragement to parents. I hope to build a bridge between parents and teachers as it pertains to the education of children and how we can work together for the betterment of our kids.

Respect seems to have gone the way of the dinosaur in recent years. In all areas of our society, there is less and less of it as people clamor to have their own voices heard. These voices are getting louder and louder at the expense of common courtesy. Ears seem to be stopped up and consideration for what others think and feel is at an all-time low. This concerns me as both a parent and a teacher because our children are watching.  My question is what are they learning?

The word respect is defined in this way: courteous or considerate treatment of others due to personal worth.  If you break the word down into its parts, the re- means to do again, and –spect means to look at.  In Latin, it means to look at again. In regards to other people, it means to contemplate, or consider other views in a way that is courteous and considerate. It is not what we are witnessing at this time in history.

So how can parents teach their children to be respectful in a day when it is not the “in” thing to do? Here are a few ideas.

  • Show respect. This may seem pretty basic, but children learn by watching you.  Of all the people in their lives YOU as the parent have the most influence on their behavior.  If you are respectful, they will be too.
  • Do not yell at the TV. I know, I know…this may seem like an impossible thing, but you can do it.  Really you can.  Instead of venting your frustrations loudly, try having a conversation with your child that is respectful of those you oppose.
  • Have discussions. It is hard to be respectful if you have no idea what the word means.  So have discussions and talk about respect, what it is, and what it is not.  Do not depend on other people in your child’s life to teach them this important life skill. Show them how to identify it.  Show them how to practice it.
  • Ask questions. Each day, check in with your child.  How were you respectful today?  Did you witness or participate in any disrespectful behavior?  How could you have done it differently to still express yourself but in a way that does not put down others who are different than you? What do you do when you see disrespect at school or in the community?  How can you turn things around?
  • Pay attention.  When you are on the phone, pay attention to the conversation your children are hearing.  They are always listening.  This does not mean you have to pretend to agree with everything all the time, but it does mean you need to demonstrate what healthy debate and disagreement looks like. Your interactions with the people throughout your day are their examples.  Your talk around the dinner table sets the standard.  You are their role model, make yourself a good one. Otherwise, they will find one you may not like.

Respect should not be a difficult subject to teach our children, yet it seems to be in short supply. We need to be intentional in our efforts.  It does not start at the White House, or at school, or on the television.  It starts at home.  It is time to look again… at respect.

An Interlude

IMG_3519.jpgFrom my first footfall, the tension I had been carrying in my shoulders started to evaporate.  As my steps continued across the bridge, the water rushing underneath transported my cares away from me like white water over the rocks.  I paused to breathe it in.  Fresh air caressed my lungs, and the slight breeze tousled my hair as if to welcome me home.  The sun shone down, filtered through the bare branches of winter trees, who seemed a bit confused by this 70 degree February weather. A few buds were evident on otherwise stark skeletons.

Muscle memory took my legs over rocks and roots, and once it kicked in, my mind began to clear of the incessant worry that has taken up residence in the past month.  The crows overhead laughed together as my countenance began to change.  It was as if they could read my mind and were overjoyed to see the smile appear at the corners of my mouth.  A red cardinal crossed the path in front of me in pursuit of his wife.  She stayed just enough ahead of him to keep him interested, and the two chattered like an old married couple might do. On the lake there were diamonds flung across the surface, dazzling in the late afternoon sun, and a family of mallards was calmly making their way across the water.  The v rippling behind them cut through the glassy shimmer, giving away that their legs under the surface were working furiously, even as they appeared to glide smoothly on the top.

Soon I was in my usual rhythm making note of all the changes since last I walked the lake.  Like a reunion with a dear friend whom I haven’t seen in a while, I noticed newly downed trees, fresh gravel, and underbrush that has been cut back over the winter.  I thought, “Wow.  You look different! How long has it been since we have seen one another?”  In response the wind whispered, “Too long.”  And the wind was right.  It has probably been months since I last had a good trip around the lake, and it shows in the load I have been carrying, but with each step it got lighter. Half way around and I was practically skipping.  My heartrate increased with the exertion.  My heart was applauding and thanking me for this long overdue interlude from daily stresses. It continued its ovation until I stopped at the end, for a rest on a picnic table.

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By the time I made it there, my body was weary but stress free, my mind was empty of the “what ifs” that plague it in hard times, and I was at peace.  This allowed me to lie back and listen to the forest like hearing a great song on the radio or a classical symphony…only better.  The concrete table was cool on my overheated back.  The pine trees above me looked like pinwheels with branches that stuck out in a circular pattern. The sun was starting its descent which made the breeze a bit chilly, and that made my cool down go quickly. If I had started earlier in the day this would have been a nap, instead I soaked in the beauty until I got too chilled to stay any longer.

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Why is it that when things get difficult the first thing I cut out of my life is the thing that helps me most?  I will never understand how rapidly I forget the benefits of hiking when I am stressed.  I know that time is the real reason.  In seasons of stress, the urgent takes precedence and there is nothing that can change that really. You do what you have to do. However, now that things are a small bit settled, there is nothing stopping me.  Closing my eyes, I could hear the babbling brook calling me to come and stick my feet in, before my departure back to real life.  “It’s February.  When will you ever get to creek-walk in February?” it called.  I smiled and said, “Another time. Maybe, when I come back… tomorrow.”

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True Love

love.jpgLove does not always look like roses, chocolates, and candlelight.  It is deeper than that.  In fact, until the storms of life come along, I would say that love isn’t tested.  New love is more infatuation than sacrifice.  Do not get me wrong, there is a glorious awakening of the heart when new love blooms.  It is why we celebrate Valentine’s Day, why we write songs, poems, and stories about it. It is the feeling which movies portray as “the real thing.” All of us who are romantics, rush to watch lighthearted love play out on the screen. We go to weddings and smile as big as the groom does when the bride walks down the aisle.  We see young lovers who glow while gazing into one another’s eyes, and we remember our own whirlwinds of the heart. It warms and fills us with good feelings.  Yet, this type of affection is a beginning…a glorious one…a fun one…but still only a beginning.

Anyone who has been married for any length of time can tell you that the romance fades if you don’t stoke the fire.  Even with intentional effort it is sometimes difficult, simply because life gets busy. Careers, kids, and all kinds of activities fill up the spaces that used to be reserved for only the two of you.  Still, love grows.  The pace slows down, but the roots begin to spread out and encompass more ground.  This expansion enlarges the heart.  If caution is observed not to spread too thin, the busy seasons create a love that appreciates the little things.  Things like quiet.  And sleep.  And Saturday morning pancakes.

Then hardships come along.  If love is to survive, the roots have to go deep. This is where you learn that true love = sacrifice.  Hardship in a marriage is the crucible of fire that burns away the dross and purifies the love.  It is not easy, nor is it pretty.  It doesn’t usually come with warm fuzzy feelings, but it is real just the same.  Not every love survives the fire, because it takes two people willing to surrender.   It is beyond personalities and common interests.  It is spirit to spirit contact where hanging on to one another is the only way to make it through.  This results in a bond that is too deep for words to explain.  This kind of love hurts.  It is an ongoing choice, which is worth all the effort and heartache.  It may not sound too desirable, and you won’t find to many people lining up to be included in the hardship line, but the result is a love story of epic proportions…the kind of love that endures. It is not blown around by the winds.  It does not crumble with changes.  It is steadfast.  It is true.  It is more romantic than a card or a fancy dinner.  It is a deep love, with roots that hold it steady in the storms.  It is a gift, for which I am grateful every day.

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Don’t Forget Who You Are

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Tidbits for Teachers are regular SHORT inspirations to bring hope and encouragement to teachers in all settings.  I hope to give you a shot in the arm and remind you why you chose this career in the first place.

Are you bogged down yet?  Are the looming test scores causing you to lose sleep?  I thought so.  As teachers, it is difficult not to allow those scores to haunt you in the back of your mind. Even when you are unaware of it, they are in the shadows of the corners.  This is because you are conscientious. You have the desire for every one of your students to succeed, not just on a test, but in life.  It also doesn’t help much that your job depends on their scores, and that their scores depend on so much more than just what you teach during the school day.  But rather than focus on all the pressure of upcoming testing, and all that you have yet to teach, I want to focus on what is true about most teachers I know.

  • You are both passionate and compassionate.
  • You work extremely hard.
  • You love teaching.
  • You are good at what you do.
  • You teach and reteach not because you have to, but because your students succeed when you do.
  • You truly want them to get it.
  • You know more about your subject area than most people.
  • You know that content is only a small part of educating children.
  • You recognize that teaching life skills, and social skills will take them further than content ever will.
  • You find a way to love even the difficult-to-love students.
  • You spend more of your own money on your classroom than you should.
  • You endure the difficult parts of your job for the privilege of working with kids.
  • You sit through meetings that question your worth, and you take it all personally.
  • You get up and try to jump through whatever the new hoop is, in order to keep doing what you love.
  • You tune out all the voices everywhere that point fingers at you as the problem with education.
  • You rise every morning before the sun to prove that you are NOT the problem.
  • You pray for someone somewhere to listen to you.
  • You keep going even when they don’t.
  • You are resilient.
  • You are tough.
  • You are strong.
  • You are the most determined group of people on the planet.
  • You are amazing.

You are a teacher.  It is who you are to the core. Go and teach your heart out, and know that you have given it your all.  Hold your head high.  Stand firm in your knowledge that you are doing all that you can.  Rest in the fact that there is nothing more you could give.  You have left every ounce of effort on the battle field. On testing days be confident of that.  Then pray that your students will also give every ounce of their own effort.  In the weeks between now and testing, pray that your example of giving it all would inspire them to do the same. Be assured that confidence is caught more than it is taught.  Know that you are good enough, and they will know it too.

What I Know

michelle-in-front-of-yonahI sit here, not knowing what to write.  My newsfeeds are full of political statements.  My friends are on both sides of the aisle.  Many are yelling at one another and I am taken by the polar opposite opinions, each saying the exact same thing about the opposing side.  The names I hear, are liar, bigot, hater, idiot…and some not as nice as those.  Each is convinced that the names they are using are correct, that they are the ones who see things clearly, and that the fog of deception is resting over the eyes of those simple minded fools on the other side.

The thing is, I don’t feel that anyone is simple minded, on either side.  I think every person has valid reasons for their opinions. The miles and miles they have walked in their own shoes have colored their world a certain way. They have not walked in the shoes of another, so they cannot possibly understand things from a different viewpoint.  Disrespecting others viewpoints is not very becoming.  I also do not believe that solving our country’s problems is a simple matter, otherwise they would have been solved by now. It is not as simple as voting in one party or another.  It is not as simple as slashing laws, banning things, or creating new policies.  Both sides have tried this technique, and neither has succeeded in unifying our severely divided country.  We are more polarized than ever, and most folks I know on both sides are deeply concerned about that fact.  Yet, most of us are also passionate about our varying positions, and refuse to consider another point of view other than our own.  It is a conundrum.

I am afraid of where all this self-righteousness will lead us. Our righteousness is as filthy rags…so the Bible says.  Superiority is never a flattering character trait.  In my experience, it requires a bringing low…a humbling.  Humiliation is never fun, in my own life, God has found it necessary at times to show me that his ways are not my ways. Usually, this requires circumstances beyond my control, which bring me to a place of desperate prayer on my knees.  Shocker of shockers, he doesn’t actually need me or my opinions to run the universe!  Nor does he need the United States of America to fulfill his purposes on the Earth. I know that statement is heresy to many, but it is the truth.  We are tiny dots on a small planet hanging in space, and our ideas which say we are more important than that are incorrect. We just need to settle down and think on that for a minute.  Deep breaths. Our lifetimes are but a second…a mist that is gone before the blink of the eye of eternity.  Governments rise and fall…only love lasts beyond human structures…because it is NOT human. It is beyond our capacity to stop it.  Thank God for that!

You may have noticed I do usually not do political statements, or blogs.  There is a reason for that.  I know the passion with which beliefs are held. I respect that passion because it shows care.  If you are a passionate person you are a caring person and you feel your convictions deeply. I am aware that I cannot change a person’s mind on any issue. I do not find the need to vent my own opinions to the world and receive hate mail in return.  I do however, feel pretty passionately on certain issues myself.  In my own household, we run from one extreme to the other. We have to set a limit on how much political talk can happen at family gatherings.  We are all learning to hold our tongues to some degree, but also how to listen to one another.  We have not yet mastered the art of listening with an open heart, to actually consider where we might be mistaken in our own views. We are working on that and will be, as far as I can tell, well into the future.

Education has always been one of my passions and therefore, I cannot always keep silent.  I am trying to wrap my head around the appointment of Betsy Devos.  I cannot understand how this will be a good thing, and I feel pretty strongly about this for a number of reasons, which I will not elaborate on here. Instead, I will try to think positive, and hope that such a huge change might be the impetus to bring the changes our schools so desperately need. Yet, even in typing those words I feel a knot in my gut that says otherwise. Time will tell. However, rather than argue and rant and rave over an issue I cannot change, I want to emphasize what I know.

I know that:

  • Teachers love their students.
  • Teachers will always teach, no matter who is in charge or what is changed.
  • Teachers are passionate people, who use their passion as fuel to do the best job they can.
  • Teachers care for ALL students, and that will be true no matter what happens.
  • Teachers desire the best for schools.
  • Teachers have strong opinions about what that looks like, and will vote accordingly.
  • Teachers are bold.
  • Teachers are some of the hardest working people you will meet.
  • Teachers feel called to their profession.
  • Public schools reach every child, because in the U.S. we believe education is vital to alleviating poverty and creating caring citizens.
  • Public schools bring hope to those children who don’t have much hope at home.
  • Public schools help families to help their children.
  • Public schools are compassionate places.
  • Public schools bring learning to life.
  • Public schools are inclusive.
  • Public schools teach life skills.
  • Students in poverty need public schools and caring teachers.
  • Students mature and grow in classrooms.
  • Students learn how to be a part of a community in school.
  • Students master content.
  • Students make friendships and learn to relate to others.
  • Students see what compassion looks like.
  • Students grasp hard concepts.
  • Students believe in themselves, when they accomplish learning.

Are our schools perfect?  Absolutely not.  Any teacher, parent, or student can tell you that. However, learning takes place in classrooms and it always will.  So while things in Washington change and the wind blows in new directions, know that teachers will not stop teaching.  Schools will go on, and students will continue to learn. No matter what happens.

Heart Friends

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Sometimes you just need time with your heart friends.  I have been blessed beyond measure in the heart friend department.  Every season of my life has its own set of people who live in my soul.  They know me.  They get me. I have found that when things seem upside down in life, heart friends can set things right again.  Yesterday, we had a 2-hour-lunch-turned-6-hour-visit with some of our tribe from college.  There was laughter.  There were stories.  Memories were in abundance.  Updates were shared all around.  It was like a shot in the arm.  It boosted our spirits, and bolstered our courage.  It reminded us all of who we are, and where we came from.

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These are the kind of relationships that pick up as if no time has passed, though to see us, you can definitely tell that it has.  Our hair has grayed, or disappeared altogether.  We’ve added wrinkles and pounds, but the spark that bonded us all those years ago still resides within our eyes and smiles when we are together.  The joy of sitting and spending time together is nourishment for our spirits.  Berry College has always been its own little world; we even call it the Berry Bubble.  But its uniqueness wasn’t just the beautiful campus, it was the people who shaped our lives while we were there, from professors, to work supervisors, to the other students all around us.  It was a formative time in our lives filled with the adventure of spreading our wings for the first time.

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Now, we exchange aging parent stories, plan the upcoming weddings of our children, and discuss possible career changes in our 50’s.  We go back to our core beliefs and question what following God looks like at this stage of life, and in this cultural climate so different from the years that have passed.  We laugh at not understanding Netflix or participating in social media, because we realize we sound like our own parents.  We find that we care less about so much of what we thought was important back then. We swap life changing moments, be they health related or otherwise, that have allowed us eyes to see in new ways.  A theme arises that freedom comes when you learn to let things go.  We are wiser now, but still in need of people in our lives who remember us from the beginning, before careers, before children, before marriage even.  Back to when we were hashing out our belief systems, discovering our values, and pursuing education in our prospective fields of study. Back to days of ultimate Frisbee, air bands, saunas, antique grandfather clocks, catacombs, broken jaws, kidnappings, and reflection pools.  Back to when we prayed together, studied the Bible, and worshiped fully, under the arch, until the presence of God was so strong it was tangible in our midst. Full hearts. Even now, when the time comes to say goodbye and return to our lives, we linger for hours, desiring to bask in the acceptance and soak in the heart connection that comes from souls knitted together by shared experience. When we do finally break the spell, we leave with smiles and a lighter step because we have been with those we love.  Bonds like these cannot be broken.  They stand the test of time… just like heart friends.