Saturday, December 31, 2011

Long Time Ago

Cousins Embrace
March 2011

Proverbs 27:17
"As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another."

"For the Sake of Old Times."

These first words (loosely translated) are from the famous poem, "Auld Lang Syne," written by Robert Burns, set to the poignant melody of a Scottish folk song, and used as an indelible anthem in many English-speaking countries to usher in a new year.

It's natural at the end of the year to take stock and reflect upon its triumphs and failures. Thoughts of loved ones also drift into my mind.

"Auld Lang Syne" starts with a rhetorical question: Should old friends be forgotten and never thought about again?

Those  words immediately focus my thoughts on those who have impacted me. People who influenced me, and now through either time, distance, or death, have faded away.

The poem contains an image of friend linking hand with friend as they "take a cup of kindness yet for auld lang syne". 

I would love to link hands with my old friends. To have another minute with them for the sake of "old time" is a strong desire.

However, I must wait until another day for that treat. When my days on Earth are over, I have faith I will see these loved ones once more.

For now, Faith, Family, Friendship--these are the three items I need most for the new year. 

This evening, for the sake of all my days which have gone before, I bow my head and give grateful thanks for my life and all the days yet to come. 

Happy New Year!
Lord, thank you for your grace, which has given me new life in you.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Light Without Pain

God's Light Shines through the Dark Woods
May 2011

2 Corinthians 4:6 NIV
For God, who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.

After three years of postponing the inevitable, I visited the eye doctor today.  Although my eyes had not changed much, my lenses are so scratched I am hard pressed to see straight.  Reading has become a chore, and as I have a fresh semester of sophomore papers facing me, I figured now was the right time for new glasses.

In the course of her examination, the doctor dilated my pupils.  I dislike this part of the visit as my eyes take so long to recover.  Even covering my eyes with sunglasses doesn't help much when my eyes are fully dilated. 

Daylight is so brilliant I have difficulty focusing on the world around me. Instead, images distort as light attacks my vulnerability. The world is so illuminated I am pained by all I see. I shaded my eyes with one hand in order to drive.

When I arrived home, I collasped in my recliner, closed my tired eyes, sunglasses still on, and napped.

As I rested, I thought about the intensity of ordinary sunlight when my pupils are enlarged.  Then I wondered what it would be like to see my Maker in Heaven. 

God is Light and Love. However, I suspect His light will be the kind that radiates without burning.  I believe it will illuminate but not overpower.

For several hours today I was unable to complete simple tasks because of my light sensitivity.  However, I feel certain God's Light, although much brighter and stronger than the sun, will bring peace, not pain.
Thank you, Lord, for your Light and Love.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Promise of the Bulb

My tree may look dead, but it is overflowing with hope and promise.
December 25, 2011

Romans 15:13 NIV
"May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit."

Last week I glanced at my Bradford pear tree as I walked past it to the mail box. Most of the branches are barren, yet a good number of stubborn leaves are holding on in spite of the lateness of the season.

I noticed several dead leaves littering the ground. However, as my gaze rose, I was surprised to see the branches weren't barren after all.  Sturdy bulbs dotted the limbs where leaves had flown away. The promise of new life hung on every branch.

Then I remembered a hymn I love.

"In the Bulb there is a Flower" proclaims the hope and promise of  life in apparent death. Where I see emptiness or inactivity, life takes place. When I feel lost or abandoned, newness awaits me.  God alone sees the potential and the beauty of my life yet to unfold.

Allison told me tonight she has a feeling 2012 is going to be a great year. Like her, I am hopeful the new year will be better than the last. 

However, whatever may befall, I trust God will see the beauty in both my triumphs and disasters and lead me through all life's seasons.
Dear Lord, Thank you for the promise of life after death.
             "In the Bulb there is a Flower"

In the bulb there is a flower; in the seed, an apple tree;
In cocoons, a hidden promise: butterflies will soon be free!
In the cold and snow of winter there’s a spring that waits to be,
Unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see.

There’s a song in every silence, seeking word and melody;
There’s a dawn in every darkness, bringing hope to you and me.
From the past will come the future; what it holds, a mystery,
Unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see.

In our end is our beginning; in our time, infinity;
In our doubt there is believing; in our life, eternity,
In our death, a resurrection; at the last, a victory,
Unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Is it Cold Enough Yet?

At Times I Feel as Hot as the Sun

Isaiah 46:4 NIV
"Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you."

John sighs from his reclined position on the couch and asks, "Lori, do we really need the air conditioner on?"

"Uh, no!" I lie as I jump up to turn off the air before he can see how low I have set it. After all, it is in the 50s outside. We probably don't need the air set at 68.

The thing is, this past year, John and I've reached a parting of the ways.  I'm hot ALL the time. He's cold-natured. This can't be good for the next decade of our marriage.

My students complain all day about my cold room. A male colleague next door to me shivers whenever he steps in to talk to me.

However, I'm comfortable. I wear summer shirts and still sweat. If I weren't at work, I'd probably be in shorts and sandals as well. I can't strip naked in my classroom, but I can turn the temperature down as much as possible when there aren't any students in there. (The Energy Czar at school prevents us from lowering the temperature past 70! Of course, the Czar is male!)

John and I play cat and mouse with the thermostat.  When he isn't looking, I lower the temperature a couple degrees. When he finally notices how cold he is, he turns on the heat.

I'd always heard older friends complain about how tough the change of life was on them; however, the only problem I have is I'm on fire all the time.

I'm thinking about looking for people with palm fronds to follow me around and fan me around the clock. There's a shortage of jobs in America; I wonder how much it would cost to pay someone to keep me cool?

I keep praying for a cold winter freeze, but I don't tell my family. John couldn't take a cold winter.

It's been about 22 years since South Georgia saw snow. If I get my prayers answered, I'll be making snow angels all day long this Christmas.
Dear Lord, I don't mean to sound too desperate, but PLEASE let us have a white and cold Christmas this year.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Assisting the Weak

God's Strength Revealed in Nature

Philippians 4:13
"I can do all things through him who strengthens me."

Yesterday, the 16-year old bent over his desk and drew random markings on it.  He paused, reread his test prompt for the final exam essay and then flipped his pencil absentmindedly through his fingers.

The clock ticked. I watched and waited.

He scribbled a mind map and wrote a few thoughts. Then, tired, he propped up his left arm, leaned his head in his hand, and continued to trace a pattern on his desk.

The clock ticked. I watched and waited.

He had told me earlier this year things were tough at home. On this, our first day back from Thanksgiving Break, I wondered what he had endured during those long days at home.

He sighed. He lay his pencil on his desk, rested his head in both hands, and doubled over from the weight of a personal grief.

I waited until I knew he couldn't finish the task he faced, and I wrote him a note: "What is going on with you today? Do you need to take this test another day?"

He read the note. Picked up his pencil to explain, "Crazy things happened at home last week. I'm distracted today.  I can't think of anything else but that."

As soon as I read the reply, I removed his immediate burden.

I can't help his home situation, but I can help him at school while he is under my care.  I picked up his test and will give it to him on a better day. 

Today, I discovered the rest of his story.  His grief is real and his burdens are great. He has the responsibilities of a person twice or three times his age. 

I will watch and I will wait, and when I can help him again, I will.
Lord, bless these children who must become old before their time. Let me always be watchful to know when I can assist them.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Thirty Pieces of Paper

An Evening Star Shines Above Charleston, S.C.
November 2011

Matthew 6:8 NIV
"Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him."

John called to me from the guest room where we have our computer and printer set up. "Lori, do we have any more computer paper? Mama needs to print out her ticket." 

His mom will leave for St. Louis in a week and wanted to get her papers in order.  It was 7:00, and we had settled in around the television for the evening.  I didn't know if we had paper or not, but I knew where our hiding places were.  We keep paper on a little stand beside the computer. Sometimes left over paper is placed on top of the stand.

I flipped through photo paper looking for a scrap or two of computer paper. Thankfully his mom only needed a couple pieces.  I looked all around for several minutes.  Finally, as I gave up, my eyes landed on a nearly empty pack of computer paper that had almost slipped behind the desk.

What a relief! John printed the ticket information, and we went back to our routine.

An hour later, we heard Allison calling, "Daddy, do we have any computer paper?"  She was trying to print a school project for a friend who didn't have a printer. It's due tomorrow.

John and I looked at each other and groaned as he got up to see what she needed.  Thirty pages!  I shook my head in disbelief as I listened to them talk in the other room.  John and I had just searched everywhere in there. How could he find thirty spare pieces of paper?  We barely had two for his mother.

After a few minutes I heard John laugh and come back into the living room.  He had found a stack of computer paper on top of the PC.  We hadn't seen it an hour ago and have no idea where it came from.

It was just enough to print thirty pages for my daughter's friend.
Thank you Lord for providing for our needs, no matter how great or small.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

OOPS! There She Falls

John and Allie Pause Before Placing Ornaments on the Tree
November 2011

Matthew 19:19 NIV
"Honor your father and mother, and love your neighbor as yourself."

John and Allison are putting the finishing touches on our Christmas tree.  Watching them work together reminds me of my childhood and helping my dad put up the tree.

Mom and Dad were good sports about the holidays and always managed to get the house decorated.  We kids would go with dad to a local tree lot to select a live tree.

I can remember being bundled up in my winter coat, snowflakes flying in the breeze, following dad through row after row of trees hunting for the perfect one.  Once we found one, the workers tied it to the top of the car, and homeward we would drive.

One year, when I was about ten years old, dad selected a pine tree. Gorgeous tree.  We decorated it with lights, ornaments, silver tinsel, and maybe even popcorn strands because sometimes we strung popcorn and hung it on the tree.

I was mesmerized by that beautiful tree once it was lit up. I stared at it for several minutes until I noticed an object on the tree I had overlooked.  A pine cone! A small pine cone was nestled on a branch deep inside the tree. 

For a kid from Ohio, the pine cone seemed exotic. Maybe I had seen one before, but I don't think I had ever noticed one on a tree before.  Curiosity overtook the common sense of youth, and I reached for the pine cone.  I tugged on it; it didn't budge.

I pulled a little harder, but still it held on tightly to the branch.  Undaunted, I gave it a tug for all I was worth.  Right then, I remembered I was tugging on a newly decorated Christmas tree precariously balanced in a small tree stand filled with water.

Before I knew what happened, the tree tipped over in my direction. My hand still on the pine cone, I was powerless to stop gravity from operating.  The tree hit the floor with a thud just as dad turned a corner to come into the room.

I had no idea dad could move that fast, nor me for that matter.  As he hollered, "Lori, what have you done?!" I tore through the living room headed for the safety of my bedroom.  He bent over, tore off his slipper and flung it out of frustration in my direction.  I ducked. It hit the clock on the wall, knocked it off, and it never kept proper time again, as I recall.

Dad finally calmed down, and I never tried to take a pine cone off a Christmas tree again.  Needless to say, the pine cone never came off that tree.  I think it must have been bolted on there!

Christmas memories like this make the holidays easier for me when I miss my dad.  I can laugh now about that moment, but at the time, it was quite traumatic. However, my dad eventually forgave me. 

I watch Allie and John tonight as they arrange the lights and ornaments on the tree. I pray for a lifetime of good memories for her as she remembers helping her dad.
Thank you, Lord, for memories of those we love.

                                                     Dad, Teri and Me 1963
           Dad and Me 1960

Friday, November 25, 2011

Love in a Box

John, Allison and Teona Put up the Tree
December 2010

Luke 2:10 KJV
"And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people."

Russell climbed up the ladder leading to the attic hunting for boxes. THE BOXES. The ones we pack with love and care each January as we put up Christmas decorations for another year.

"Careful, Russell--I think that's the box with the glass ornaments," I advise as I hand a box to Allison in our fireman's bucket brigade of passing boxes to each other and placing them in the house.

"Lights!" he cautions as he hands me a bag.

"Inside or outside?" I ask as if I am an expert on lights.

"I don't know," he explains, "We'll have to test them all anyway."

Okay. Shows what a novice I am at this. He's been testing lights for probably twenty years as he helped John each Christmas.  My job has always been to stay out of the way and not step on the strands of lights as they are spread throughout the house from our electrical sockets.

He finally reached the large box we'd been looking for. The Christmas Tree.  Allison has impatiently waited for this moment.  She's already turned on Christmas music and is ready to put the tree together.  Some years we get a real tree, but this year we're using the one we have.

Once the tree is up, shaped and has fallen out a bit, John's mom and Allison will start hanging lights and the ornaments. Most of our ornaments have a story behind them, including a red glass bulb with "Merry Christmas" written on it from the 1950s. 

It was John's favorite childhood ornament, and he insisted on hanging it every year on the tree.  Several years ago, we had a live tree that shifted in its stand, which caused it to lean and crash.  Glass ornaments shattered, including John's childhood favorite.

He has a sentimental heart, and it was emotional to see the old ornament shattered.  I felt terrible for him, so I hatched a plan.  I searched for six months online until I found the same ornament for sale with the original set it had belonged to.  I bought it for him in July that year and kept it a secret until Christmas. He was amazed I had gone to that kind of trouble for him. Each year now we hang the replacement ornament on the tree and put the shattered fragment of the original on the fireplace mantle.

This is Christmas for me. The shared family experiences. The love.  The homemade ornaments from school that have held together for two decades or more.

Our boxes stored in the attic each  year are overflowing with memories of love.

This Christmas we may not have as many presents under the tree, but we'll have an abundance of love in our home.
Thank you, Lord, for this time of year when we celebrate the birth of your son.

Peace, Love and a Merry Christmas

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

All Good Gifts Come From Above

God's Strength Will Sustain Us

Philippians 4:6-7
"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. What a wonderful concept in our modern age: Set aside one day of work to formally give thanks to the Lord for the blessings of our lives!

Today I have checked FaceBook statuses to see my friends traveling to various locations around the country to be with their family.  We'll travel to John's mother's house tomorrow, where we'll share thanks for our blessings with his family as we sit around a table overflowing with a feast prepared with love.

This past year with furlough days, budget cuts, and a salary freeze, we have had stressful moments in our family budget.  Many nights have found me lost in prayer for the ability to afford eye glasses, haircuts, and a refrigerator to replace our old one. 

I remember about the lilies of the field and how they toiled not, but sometimes it's tough to imagine myself as a lily. I know He is aware of every bird that falls to Earth, yet I have a difficult time personalizing this to my situation.

I worry too much.  I try not to show it, but at times I am paralyzed with worry. 

In this time of thanksgiving, I need to refocus my fears onto my blessings.  I need to count them "one by one" as the old gospel song admonishes.

Faith, Hope, and Love.  I still possess these three.

However, we have cut back on our spending. Luxury items are discussed and weighed against greater needs in the household.  We have included Allison in our budget discussions, and she has started clipping coupons to help us out.  She feels empowered as she helps us save money.

Ultimately, God is indeed blessing our lives, and we don't need many material items when we have the love of God flowing through our family. 

I'm thankful every day for God's blessings, but I'm glad tomorrow is set aside to formally thank Him and to acknowledge all He is doing for us. 

I need the reminder that even if I don't feel like a lily, or fly like a bird, God is watching over me carefully and providing for my needs.
Thank you, Lord, for the reminder that all good gifts come from above.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

He Understands Me

God's Love is Displayed in Many Ways

1 John 4:8 NIV
"Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love."

My seniors were mezmerized as they watched Mary Shelley's dark tale, Frankenstein, unfold. Victor Frankenstein had stiched together limbs from different corpses to shape his creature, who upon wakening, merely wanted to be loved. Instead, he was met with immediate rejection by his creator and the world upon which he entered.

My students felt empathy for the creature, who was alienated from society and reviled. It's hard to remember my teenage years, but I know the thought, "They don't understand me!" filtered through my head numerous times.

As I heard characters in the story admonish Victor that "only God can create life!" I thought about how blessed I am to have a Creator who embraces me and loves me. He comforts me in my weakest hours.

A loving God created me. And if I feel alienated and unloved in my life, it's an indicator that I have strayed from my Father.

Frankenstein's creature never had a chance to sustain the goodness that he inherently possessed. No one showed him love, the basic element we all need to survive. 
Lord, I'm thankful for the love you shower upon me everyday of my life.

Monday, November 7, 2011

No Shortcuts Allowed

There are No Shortcuts for Learning How to Play the Piano
Me at the Piano 2009

Psalm 81:12 NIV
"So I gave them over to their stubborn hearts to follow their own devices."

"We don't have to do all the steps, do we?" demanded my sophomore.  I looked at her in disbelief from my spot in front of the room.  My jaw hit the floor with a thud.

The writing test assessment is tomorrow. I have spent the better part of a month practicing the steps for effective writing with these weak writers. Thesis, Brainstorm, Rough Draft, Final Copy--of course they need to "do" the steps.  Otherwise, why have we written three essays in the last two weeks and practiced the steps each time? 

The girl glared at me as I stammered an answer.

"Well, of course you need to do the steps, but I can't make you follow them. I'm not going to hit you or anything if you don't do what I've taught you.  But if you choose not to follow the steps, then good luck on your essay."

Shortcuts. The girl wants a shortcut to quality work. All the students in the class want my tacit approval to take the shortcut, but I refused to back down.

Unfortunately, she won't be the only one to try to pass by doing the least amount of work. Others will try to accomplish this assessment without the prep work as well. They aren't capable of squeezing out a passing grade. The weaker students need the steps.

"Well, I'm not going to do the steps!" the defiant girl concluded.  I can only imagine the negative impact she had on others in the room who will now also consider taking the shortcut.

I wonder how many times in a day negative people interfere with my ability to produce my best work?  How many times has negativity shot down my enthusiasm or squelched an idea?  Has my own desire to take shortcuts in life impacted others?  Have I ever been my defiant student?

God knows better than I about barriers to success that we put in front of ourselves. I know this girl is a talented enough writer to probably pass the test, but how many others will follow her lead and fail because they didn't want to take the time to do the work correctly?

Quality work demands quality time. There are no shortcuts to obtaining a desired goal.
Lord,  I pray that I will never be like my defiant student, one who would lead others to failure.

Monday, October 31, 2011

The Reluctant Adult

Fall Colors

Matthew 19:14 NIV
Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these."

The fall leaves had changed color. No longer vibrant shades of red, yellow, gold and orange, they began to look brown, tired, dying as they leaned from the tree limb eyeing the ground. Piles of wet leaves had blown into gutters on the narrow streets of the hilly subdivision. This was the time of year when the palette of colors fused into one wet, brown mess.

I followed behind my friend as we walked through the leaf-littered lawns of her neighborhood to knock on strangers' doors. I carried a pillow case and looked like a hobo. It was an easy costume to piece together that Halloween afternoon.

At age 14, I was on the cusp of being too old to demand candy from strangers. I avoided stares as adults tried to guess how old I was. I teetered between the world of child and grownup.

Soon I would enter adult responsibilities of handing out the candy. But today, this day, I wanted to be a child one day longer.

Tonight Allison and her friend, Wendy, are gathering candy from our neighbors. They are 14 years old, and like I once was, they are on the cusp of adulthood.  I smiled and teased them. Told them they are too old to go trick or treating. Both protested loudly.

The truth is, I'm glad to see them gathering candy. I'm not ready to have either one of them turn into adults. So today, this day, they can still be my little girls.
Lord, thank you for rites of passage that define our ages. Let the child in all of us enjoy the life you have given us.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Chocolate Days

A Chocolate Day Shared with Friends


Proverbs 27:9 NIV
"Perfume and incense bring joy to the heart, and the pleasantness of one's friend springs from his earnest counsel."

A thought occurred to me a couple weeks ago as I was immersed in a quest for chocolate late one night. As I peered on every shelf of the pantry, moving John's potato chips out of the way, I shuddered to think that once upon a time, ordinary women did not have access to chocolate.

I finally found a forgotten chocolate snack cake deep in a corner of the shelf and relaxed as I ate it. The chocolate sent off joyous synapses of pleasure throughout my brain. How terrible to think for centuries women were denied this delicious, decadent pleasure.

I mentioned my observation to a substitute teacher at school the other day as we worked together to dislodge a stuck pack of peanut M & M's from the vending machine.  We rocked the machine (I know.... it's dangerous!) backwards. We rocked it forwards. We pounded on the front window nearly breaking it.  However, it was lodged firmly in the bowels of the machine, and we couldn't get it out.

The substitute listened as I made my observation about legions of women who had gone to the grave without chocolate, and she had the same sad look on her face as I had when I first considered it. She told me, "You know, chocolate is the only thing that helps me when I am PMS-ing. I don't think men will ever enjoy chocolate as much as I do."

Having never been a man, I can't speak for them, but I know when I am down and out, there is nothing like  the sweet taste of chocolate to lighten the load.

I was thinking this past Sunday at church I get the same pleasure listening to our choir, hearing a touching prayer, or absorbing a moving sermon or testimony, that I get from chocolate. When I close my eyes and let the music and the words sink in my soul,  I feel the synapses of my brain firing in joy.

Sundays are chocolate days for me. Joyful, spiritual, sweet and satisfying. Furthermore, like chocolate, Sunday is best when shared with friends.
Lord, thank you for chocolate days that increase in sweetness when shared with those we love.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Gladly Would I Teach

Children in Turkmenistan Learn a Native American Dance
July 4 2009
Ashgabat, Turkmenistan

Job 36:22 NIV
"God is exalted in his power. Who is a teacher like him?"

We killed Caesar today.

Once more, the bloody overthrow of a dictator was acted out before the wide eyes of my students. I haven't directly tied current events into the drama yet, but we have also been watching the news as events in Libya unfold. Tomorrow we will spend time discussing Libya and the civil strife taking place there in comparison to the events of Shakespeare's Julius Caesar.

To watch a revolution on a movie screen is not the same as living in the midst of one. My students sit complacently in their seats and ask, "How come no one tried to stop them from killing Caesar?"  Or "Why did he ignore all those warnings about the Ides of March?" If they were actively experiencing civil strife, they would better understand the answers to these questions. If they lived under a dictator, they would better understand the overconfidence and sense of infallibility a tyrant possesses.

My students are literal thinkers. There are only two sides to an issue for most of them.

One told me today he couldn't believe I was a teacher while possessing a masters degree in English. "You could make so much more money elsewhere, Mrs. Durham, than in teaching!"  He was astounded to consider I might not want to do anything other than teach. I tried to explain to him my love for it, but he didn't listen. He couldn't get past the money.  Finally I said, "Well, it's complicated."

I suppose I could have aspired to a career that would have garnered more respect than the one I have.  I could have rid the world of tyrants and dictators and led an exciting and daring life.

However, I enjoy teaching. On a good day, when the light bulbs come on in the eyes of my students, then I am excited. I love to see people learn a new concept.

Truth be known, Caesar didn't (and Qaddafi will never) understand the wealth and power that comes from educating and leading the young on their life's journeys.
Lord, bless all the teachers and help them keep the needs of their students foremost in their hearts and minds.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Morning Star

Dolphins Awake to Morning Opportunities
Off the Coast of Jekyll Island, Georgia

Mark 14:37 NIV
"Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. "Simon," he said to Peter, "are you asleep? Could you not keep watch for one hour?"

My students leaned over the top of their desks, heads buried in their arms, and settled into what they hoped would be nap time. Unfortunately, we don't get naps in high school.  I spent the better part of my day tapping tired teenagers on the shoulder and pleading with them to stay focused on the lesson.

Granted, Shakespeare is not easy to face after a four-day holiday, but face him they must.

The seniors read Macbeth's complaint to his wife that he had "murdered sleep," while the sophomores learned Brutus had trouble sleeping in Act I due to thoughts of Caesar's assassination marching through his brain.

Lack of sleep was a constant theme in all my classes today.

My teenagers don't realize how much they sell themselves short by not applying themselves in class no matter how tired they are.

Henry David Thoreau explained in Walden: "However mean (difficult) your life is, meet it and live it; do not shun it and call it hard names. It is not so bad as you are. It looks poorest when you are richest. The fault-finder will find faults even in paradise. Love your life, poor as it is." 

He continues, "The light which puts out our eyes is darkness to us. Only that day dawns to which we are awake. There is more day to dawn. The sun is but a morning star."

Too many of my students are caught up in the difficult moments of their lives and have closed their eyes to life's opportunities. They don't see the brightness around them, but rather, many of them linger in the shadows and dark corners waiting for life to stop for them and bestow upon them the riches they believe they so greatly deserve.

In contrast, Thoreau urges people to take advatage of every opportunity around us. However, we can only claim those that we see in the light of common day.

I want to live like that. In the sunshine. Looking for opportunities to do God's work.  I have spent too much of my life in darkness. I want to immerse myself in the light.
Lord, help me to stay alert for opportunities that you present to me each day.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The Dashboard Warning

Dark Clouds Warn of an Approaching Storm
St. Simons Island, Georgia
June 2010

Daniel 4:3 NIV
"How great are his signs, how mighty his wonders! His kingdom is an eternal kingdom; his dominion endures from generation to generation."

The little red warning light on my car's dashboard has been coming on intermittently for several months. It looks like a miniature person belted in his seat with the air bag inflated in his lap.  Two months ago when I got my oil changed at the dealership, I asked about him. "Ignore him, and he will go away," I was told.

Well, he didn't disappear. In fact, he stayed on more often. I disregarded him, however, since the service manager wasn't concerned about him. 

My husband, John, took the car in for an oil change today and mentioned the warning light again.  This time, one of the servicemen took a look at it and decided one of our front seat belts wasn't working properly.

I guess the little guy was doing his job all along, but no one took him seriously.

Reminds me of Casssandra of Greek mythology fame.  She had accurate knowledge of the future, yet no one believed her predictions.

There are plenty of times in life I have missed warning signs.  I've made many mistakes because I missed obvious signs.  My seniors and I are talking about signs in Shakespeare's, Macbeth. Last week I asked them if people seek out evil, or does evil seek out people?

I had a variety of responses to the question, but one astute student pointed out in his response that people can also choose to seek out good.

I guess it's a matter of what signs a person chooses to follow.

Warning signs are all around me. I pray for guidance, so I don't miss one again.
Lord, thank you for signs you send to keep me on the path you want me to follow.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Praying for More Sand

Segulls and Sand
Jekyll Island, Georgia 

1 Kings 4:29 NIV
"God gave Solomon wisdom and very great insight, and a breadth of understanding as measureless as the sand on the seashore."

The girl sat beside my desk and told me about her aunt, the drunk, with whom she shares the house. Her aunt has been in and out of jail. Life at home seems better when her aunt is locked up.

The boy sat beside my desk and talked about how he lost his right arm from the elbow down in an accident with a wood chipper. Thankfully, as his arm was caught, the chipper shut off and he wasn't pulled into it.

My colleague sat beside me and discussed her desire to leave teaching and find a field where she was better appreciated.

My boss sat beside me and told me how hard it has been for her daughters to accept the recent death of their grandmother.

In my 24-year career as an educator, I have learned I need to have wisdom, not just for my subject matter, but for life issues as well. God has placed me in a position where others open up to me. 

I need wisdom to assess when my students are being neglected or harmed in their home environments. I need wisdom to know what to say to inspire the hurting or lost.

I have prayed throughout my life for wisdom.  It is an indispensible gift in the education field.

It would be wonderful if I could have as much wisdom as Solomon. Thankfully, I know other wise people, and I go to them when my wisdom runs out. 

Then I sit beside them and share my story.
Lord, let me be wise enough to seek out the wise when I am faced with problems I can not resolve.

Sunday, October 9, 2011


Enjoying the Day. Swimming with Sting Rays at the Aquarium.
July 2011
 Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

Ecclesiastes 3:12 NIV
"I know that there is nothing better for men than to be happy and do good while they live."

As I drove home from church today, I mechanically followed my husband John's 17-year old truck in front of me. "Let him decide how to get us home," I told myself, "I'm too tired to think."

Gray clouds and a light drizzle surrounded us causing my arthritic joints to ache. "I'll get home, eat some lunch, and then take a nap with Jade," I thought. Sleeping with the cat on a rainy, fall day sounded like a good plan to me on this lazy Sunday.

I glanced to my left as a car sped past me. Since childhood I have enjoyed reading license plates, and this car's plate caught my eye.  "NJOY 2DY" it proudly proclaimed as the driver roared past us.

I deciphered the message and smiled. What a nice thought to send others. I looked at the gray wetness around me as we leisurely made our way home, and I sat up a little higher in my seat. It would be so easy to let this day get away from me if I'm not careful.

Yes--I think I will accept the invitation I was given today at church to visit friends while John works on their computer. I can think of a million excuses why it would be easier to cuddle with the cat in a warm bed, but I think the opportunity to enjoy my day with friends would better suit me.
Lord, thank you for the reminder that days are meant to be enjoyed.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Aurora Borealis of Life

God's Brush Strokes Across the Morning Sky

Psalm 148:3 NIV
"Praise him, sun and moon, praise him, all you shining stars."

As a grad student at Eastern Kentucky University, I used to walk for hours at night with a dear friend. We circled Richmond and made our way from campus up to Shoney's restaurant on the by-pass, where we often pooled our money and shared a hot chocolate fudge cake smothered in vanilla ice cream.

As we strolled in the cool, clear nights, we discussed issues near to our hearts. I had a troubled marriage and was already in a separation period. She had a master's thesis she was piecing together.  We bounced ideas off one another as we maneuvered through the empty streets.

As much as we talked, we also walked in silence as we absorbed the vista of the heavens above us.

Our problems seemed insignificant compared to the night sky.  We particularly were drawn to Orion, the Hunter. Maybe it was the period of life we were both in, but it comforted us to see our protector above our heads.  I still look for him today and fondly remember my friend, who has now drifted out of my life.

I know it wasn't Orion who protected us on those walks; however, he is a beautiful representation of the One who did.

God set the stars in motion and also caused my life's orbit to intersect with many individuals. Some left a bright trail behind them, like a blazing meteor in August. Others dimmed and faded, leaving only a brief impression on me.

God has brought light to my life, and the night sky reflects that beauty for me. When I see the stars, I think of those who have inspired me as well as those who have left me. 

I look for the old, familiar constellations, and in their light, I see the old familiar faces of those whom I have loved throughout life.
Lord, thank you for the sun, the stars, the moon, and the planets which illuminate our lives.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

A Blessed Student

Even Baby Giraffes Need Good Parents
Animal Kingdom Lodge
Orlando, Florida

Colossians 3:20 NIV
"Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord."

Rarely do I anticipate parent meetings, but this week I am actually looking forward to meeting one of my sophomore's mother.  For the last several weeks, I have informed her about her son's progress in class through email.  She is smart, funny, and truly cares about her son. She wants to help him succeed, yet she won't enable him. She holds him accountable for his work.

Good parents are like diamond mines. They are precious and rare. Often we teachers have negative encounters with parents who are quick to make excuses for their child's behavior.  When a student is disrespectful to me, I usually suspect he or she acts the same way at home. When I see the child and parents interact, I can immediately tell why I have the problems I have with the student in the classroom.

The old saying about the acorn not falling far from the tree is true. Parents in skimpy clothes have come to school to bring appropriate clothes to their child who was sent to the office for inappropriate attire. Kids who have drug and alcohol problems often come from homes where attitudes are lax on these issues.

I know from experience that not every child reflects the lessons taught at home, and I have seen my fair share of good parents with lousy kids.  I never know what to tell the parents in that situation. I can't exactly suggest prayer, as I am supposed to keep silent on that point, but if I were able to speak my mind, I sure would recommend the parents pray without ceasing for their child.

God's light shines through this mother I am about to meet.  Her emails radiate with joy and love for her son and her role as a parent.  Meetings such as this one make me happy because I know my student is loved and cared for at home. What a blessing for him and his family.
Lord, thank you for parents like the one I will meet in person this week.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

September 12, 2001

"Tis the star-spangled banner: O, long may it wave
                         O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!"

Colossians 3:12 NIV
"Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience."

Allison was four years old September 11, 2001. She came home from preschool to tell us about "bad men who hit a building with a plane."  Now, at age fourteen, her personal memories of that day are non-existent. She asked us this weekend about our memories of that horrible day.

I was teaching a class of juniors at the time.  I had to interpret the images and news for them because many of them did not follow current events.  They didn't have a context by which to understand the impact of the news reports and the attack on our nation.

After class, I sat on a chair in a corner of my room in stunned disbelief as I tried to absorb the messages from the news reports.  I happened to look out my classroom window and saw a colleague on her cell phone pacing on the sidewalk outside my room.  I remembered she had family in New York City and quickly surmised what was going on. I ran outside to reach her. She told me in quick bursts of speech that her niece and nephew were in the daycare at the base of the Trade Center. She had called her brother to find out about them, but she couldn't get through to him on the phone.  I escorted her to the principal's office to find a place to sit.

Eventually, she received word the children were safe.

As September 12 dawned, it became apparent that even hundreds of miles away from New York City and Washington D.C., our small community had close ties to the attacks from the day before.

What message would I want Allison to remember about those days?  I would want her to know how our nation came together as one after the attacks. Congress persons from both political parties stood in a united front on the Capitol steps.

People from around the nation helped in the rescue and recovery efforts at Ground Zero. Others stood in line to donate blood for victims. Hundreds of school children across the nation wrote condolence messages to the fire houses that lost men in the rescue efforts.

God's presence was seen in the countless miracles and kindnesses total strangers exhibited to each other as they tried to escape the chaos that unfolded on September 11.

The terror and horror of the day can never be forgotten, yet we should continue to embrace the love and unity that followed shortly afterwards.
Lord, as I recall September 11, 2001, let me also recall that September 12 brought unity and love among my countrymen and women.

Monday, September 5, 2011

The X-Rays

God Keeps His Promises
Rainbow in June
Orlando, FL

John 14:1 NIV
 "Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me."

"Place your foot on this mark on the floor and bend your right knee a little," instructed the x-ray tech. "Good. Now don't move."

As soon as she told me not to move, I felt wobbly and ready to plunge forward onto the floor. Why is it my body wants to do exactly what it is told NOT to do?

"Okay. Good. Now face forward and place your knee on this screen. Hold it."

After the x-rays, I hobbled back to the examining room to await the verdict. After ignoring the pain in my right knee for months, I finally saw the doctor. Fourteen years ago he had warned me the osteoarthritis in my knee would catch up with me. He told me a knee replacement was in my future.

I felt certain I would not like the results of the x-rays.

"You have 1/4 millimeter of cartilage in your joint left, Mrs. Durham. It won't be long before you are walking bone-on-bone," explained the doctor. "We can give you a shot of cortisone today to ease your pain, and then next week, we'll give you an injection of orthovisc once a week for four weeks. That should give you six to nine months before you need a knee replacement."

Lord, give me strength! I thought.

This week will be the second injection of orthovisc. I am adjusting to the pain in my knee and trying to keep a positive attitude toward the next six to nine months. My 2012 summer vacation plans have now changed due to the impending surgery and recovery, but at least I have an excuse to write. 

God hasn't often slowed me down in life, so I suppose He has His reasons for this. I wonder what opportunity He will present to me while I am at home next summer?

Whatever the future holds, I am ready for it. I know God is with me, and He has given me a good doctor to help me. I welcome the day when I am not hobbling around in pain.
Lord, be with me as I prepare for surgery next year.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011


Morning Light
May 2011

2 Corinthians 4:6 NIV
For God, who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.

My friends called me "Torch" in high school chemistry class. Not because I was brilliant in the subject, but because I could never figure out how to light a Bunsen burner without throwing the flame to the ceiling. As soon as I turned on the spigot to release gas into the burner's line while I held my flint lighter snapping beside it, twenty teenagers would scramble away from their lab tables toward far corners of the room shouting, "It's Torch!  Get the fire extinguisher ready!"

I cringed in embarrassment, sparked the gas flowing out of the line with the lighter, and then SWOOSH!!!!! quicker than I could blink, flames shot to the ceiling.

Time after time.

No matter how often my beleaguered teacher taught me proper etiquette for lighting a burner, I still managed to make a torching flame of  rainbow-fire colors fly heavenward.

One song my husband, John's, three- and four-year old class at church sings is "This Little Light of Mine."  He gives the kids cheap flashlights to use as they sing. The kids delight in playing with the flashlight in a darkened room as they belt out the tune in their loudest little-kid voices. They shine their lights on each other, on John, and at the ceiling.

One of the verses of the song admonishes the singers not to hide their light under a bushel.  These kids have too much fun lighting their world to even consider hiding it from anyone. As they wave the flashlights, their eyes animate, their faces shine, not so much from the flashlights, but from an inner light inside them. They radiate. God's light shines through them clearly and they brighten the dark room.

I'm not sure I radiated as much as I blushed in high school when I let my light "shine" in the classroom. However,  I hope the light and fire of God's spirit radiates from within me just as it does in John's children.

People need to see I am "on fire" for my Lord.

Call me Torch if you want.
Dear Lord, let your light shine in me always. May your torch guide my path.

Monday, August 29, 2011

God's Grace in Unpredictable Times

A Mighty Fortress is Our Lord
Mt. Hood, Oregon
June 2011

John 1:16 NIV
"From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another."

What an astounding month August has been for me. I have decided that with each sad message I have received throughout its endless and sweltering days,  I have one more opportunity to let God's grace shine through my life.

In the midst of the start of school, which always knocks the wind out of me, in the past week alone, three close friends have suffered personal losses. Furthermore, my nephew's brother-in-law and his wife lost their twin newborn sons shortly after birth due to a congenital condition.

My familiy and I heard about the "East Coast" earthquake, which shook Savannah, 60 miles to the north of us, and watched Hurricane Irene pass by on her way to destruction north of us.

Wow. I have to stop and breathe right now and soak in all this news. If life could be neatly catalogued, I suppose it would be filed under "U" for "Unpredictable".

However, as unpredictable as the present and immediate future may be around me, I feel as certain about my ultimate fate as the old gospel hymn, "I Know Whom I Have Believed" proclaims:

"But I know whom I have believed,
and am persuaded that he is able
to keep that which I've committed
unto him against that day."

I remember God's grace in the midst of life's unpredictable times. Let me never forget what He has given to me. Let me help others as I can.
Lord, I pray for those who are hurt and need you now more than ever. Let them see your grace in their lives.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Annotating My Life

A Red Letter Day in June
Sprague River, Oregon

Matthew 5:16 NIV
"In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven."

Annotating textbooks is impossible in schools that are budget-strapped and can't afford to buy new books. In the age of Kindles and Nooks, marking a book you own is becoming a disappearing art.

I've spent the first two weeks of school helping my English students get past the fear of annotating text material.  Since we can't write in the books, we have been using "sticky notes".  I give the students questions to answer as they read, and they answer those questions throughout the piece. For example, they write down and define words they don't know, mark main ideas, and ask at least three questions and make three comments they have about the piece. I also provide them copies of stories they can mark all over.

During our reading time, I have been annotating "Spoon River Anthology" by Edgar Lee Masters. I showed the kids how I  mark the book and write in the margins about key ideas I have encountered. I thought I would bore them with this discussion, but they paid attention and asked about the type of comments I made. 

I explained if they were to pick up my book and look at the annotations, they could discover information about me. They could find out what I was interested in and my thoughts about the poems in the book.  The annontated book has become a reflection of my life.

I thought this week about how God has annotated my life. His touch has helped define me and enrich my experiences. Through difficult passages, He spent much time writing encouraging words to me. He underlined the good moments in my life and helped me recognize their importance.

After His markings on my life, anyone who meets me should immediately recognize I belong to God.
Thank you, Lord, for claiming me as your own.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Whose Eyes Do You Look Through?

I Can't See Well Through These Eyes

Romans 15:5 NIV
"May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus."

I teach ordinary kids. People might label them "average".  These students range in abilities. Some complete an assignment of writing a draft of a five-paragraph essay in the span of thirty minutes. Others in the same room might need two days to flesh out the writing.

I have never aspired to teach the super-smart, Yale-bound student. Occassionally, I have encountered a student like that in my career, but for the most part, I am content to help ordinary kids learn how to be extraordinary communicators.

However, no matter how much potential I see in them, many kids hold on to a phrase and won't let go of it. What's that phrase? "I'm not smart enough (or good enough) to complete this task."

I have to encourage a child to believe in his or her instincts.  Someone has planted the negative message in their minds before I met them. Now I have to undo the damage. I see the potential in them that they can't see. If only they could see themselves from my eyes.

Case in point:  Yesterday I explained my expectations that the students would write 10-12 words on a line as they wrote.  One girl protested, "Ten words on a line? I'm not an advanced student! I can't do that."

I calmly replied, "You are 15 years old, and I know you can count to ten. It isn't a matter of you "can't" do it, but more a matter of you "won't" do it.

"Can't" and "won't" are two different concepts. One implies ability and the other implies a behavior.

When I talk to others about the calls I have heard from God and how I have tried to follow his voice, I have friends who freely tell me they "could never" or "would never" do such a thing. Even though I try to explain that I "can't" ignore God's call in my life, they still put roadblocks up for me rather than support me.

I wonder what it is about human nature that causes us to tear others down who are trying to do the right thing?  If my students had been encouraged as youngsters, they'd already know what they are capable of and realize ten words on a line is nothing. 

There are times I hear God's voice, and like Jonah, I am afraid of the implications, but I am committed to giving the Lord my best effort. After all, if He thinks I can do it, then who am I to tell Him I "can't".
Lord, Help me always to TRY to follow your call. Your faith in me overwhelms me.  I would love to be able to see me through your eyes.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

To Social Network or Not to Social Network? That's the Question.

Social Networking on a Cattle Ranch: Follow the Leader
Sprague River, Oregon
June 2011
2 Chronicles 1:10 NIV
"Give me wisdom and knowledge, that I may lead this people, for who is able to govern this great people of yours?"

The administrator tapped on the microphone to get our attention as we finished breakfast Friday morning.

"Hello. Hello! I need you to quiet down so we can start our meeting."

The gathering of staff and faculty members whispered final hushed sentences to each other, finished their conversations, and settled in to listen to an hour's worth of school policy issues from the faculty handbook.  Most issues were unchanged, but this year we had a new topic arise: Social networking.

Educators in Missouri are currently trying to interpret a new law passed in the state designed to regulate social networking among teachers and students.  The law in Missouri is a result of some teachers across the country who have abused social networks and have committed criminal acts in the process.

Other teachers, who follow exemplary moral codes of conduct, have used sites like Facebook to communicate with their students outside the classroom.

As a personal policy, I don't "Friend" current students and tell those who ask me to be their "Friend" that I will be happy to have them look me up when they graduate. Otherwise, I use Facebook as a means to keep up with former students.

Social networks and blogs have grown in popularity in the classroom the past few years as a tool educators have used to connect to our tech-savvy students. However, the adults in the room need to make sure they don't misuse these tools. Unfortunately, there are evil people who would pervert any approach to helping others learn.

I have mixed feelings about this issue. I have seen social network sites work well for my colleagues, yet I also have heard horror stories about teachers who were run out of a school due to student-teacher discussions taken out of context by students and parents who had an ax to grind with the teacher.

Technology is here to stay. There is no way to put the lid back on this Pandora's box. How school systems address the issue of social networking will vary around the nation for now, but I expect one day there will be a set of norms established for all us educators.

In the meantime, as with any other technological tool, teachers should employ extreme caution in their dealings with students.

This world gets more complex every year. I pray for God's guidance as other educators and I begin working with our students this year.
Lord, protect teachers and students from those who would misuse communication tools.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Morning at the Car Dealership

A Refreshing Scene
Sprague River, Oregon
June 2011

Proverbs 11:25 NIV
"A generous man will prosper; he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed."

I looked up from my seat to see the elderly gentleman as he carefully stepped, stiff-legged, in his new blue jeans that were a size too large. He cradled a cup of coffee in a styrofoam cup in his right hand, covering it with his left. He paused at the door where I hid and spoke.

"Good Morning! How are you today, young lady?" 

It was a pleasant enough greeting, but I am not a morning person. Inwardly, I groaned at the thought of having to listen to the man ramble on like he had just done with the dealership's service manager.

"Have you ever been to Amish Country?" he quizzed the younger man, who was recording the details of the older man's service needs onto the computer. 

"Yes. I'm from Indiana," replied the manager. "There are Amish there."

"Well, we traveled through Ohio and into Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. There's a restaurant there, buffet style. Has the best food you'll ever eat. Run by Amish. And they know how to cook! It was so good, we ate there three times in one week."

The manager continued the polite conversation, but I had heard enough. I could tell this guy was a talker, and at 7:30 in the morning, I only wanted a soft chair in a quiet corner so I could sleep away my boredom while my car was being serviced.  I found my chair, the only adult-sized one, in the children's room. I was certain I was safe.

When I heard the man's shoes shuffle on the floor, and his baggy jeans hitting his legs, I knew he'd spotted me.

I mustered my best morning smile and responded to his greeting. "I'm fine, thank you." Actually, I thought, I want to close my eyes and sleep for two more hours. 

He continued, "Do you know the first thing I do in the morning?" I pled ignorance, fearing he was about to tell me an old, tired joke. He did. "I look out the window at the grass. If I see the roots, then I know I'm dead. If not, I get up."  I managed to chuckle with him, and then, for lack of more conversation from me, he moved on to the next person in the room.

I couldn't help but overhear them as they talked, and then I felt guilty for not giving him more of my attention. He spoke about his former military days and how he had left there for the post office until his retirement twenty years ago.

Geesh, Lori, I chastised myself. You could have given more of yourself to this man. You could have worked harder at communicating with a lonely old guy at the car dealer for a few minutes out of your day.

Being open to people and willing to let them into my life isn't always easy for me, especially when I'm still not fully awake. However, I can't help but feel I lost an opportunity today, no matter how small, to brighten someone else's life.  I could have feigned more interest in his stories, and eventually, I may have even gotten to know him as a person and not as a stereotype.

And, in the process, my tiredness could have been refreshed through giving of myself to another.

I lost this chance, but next one, Lord, I'll be ready. 
Lord, help me to give unconditionally to others.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Everyone, even the Sweet and Salty

Flags from around the World

John 3:16 NIV
"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life."

The summer I turned twenty, I traveled and studied abroad. After six weeks of classwork in Bregenz, Austria, my friends, Carmen and Donnie, and I traipsed around Europe on Eurorail passes. We became expert at stretching our money until the very end of our trip; however, we were all down to our last coins on the final days we were to head back home.

We were traveling through France to England via the hovercraft boat. Our last evening in France, we walked upon a town fair. Small rides for children were set up, and families mingled with each other. As we walked past the fair, the unmistakable aroma of hot pop corn grabbed our imaginations, and all we could think about was that pop corn. We followed our noses to a small booth. My mouth watered. My stomach growled. After a day of very little food, I anticipated the salty crunch of the pop corn.

I lay down my last francs and bought a small bag. I cradled it in my hands, reached into the bag, took a large handful, and stuffed my mouth. Whereupon I swiftly looked for a place to spit it out. To my surprise, the popcorn was not salty, but rather it had been coated with sugar.

My taste buds short-circuited due to the conflicting messages my brain sent. Yes, it wanted pop corn, but no, not sugared corn. Salty corn.

I wanted to cry. I had spent my last coins on a dish my American sensibilities would not allow me to eat.  My disappointment followed me as I continued my path to the hovercraft.

How many times in life has something looked familiar to me and then, close up, I realized I didn't know it at all.  People are like this. Some are exactly how I thought they would be, and others are nothing like I imagined, and I can't get away from them fast enough.

Although there are times I have trouble with the variety of personalities I encounter during the day, God has His arms outstretched to all of us. He loves all of the folks around me and desires a relationship with them. 

Sometimes it's hard for me to remember this truth as I look at people and decide whom I will become friends with. All I can do is pray for others. Even if their personality is too sweet or salty to my tastes, they are a child of God. 

People come in all flavors in life, and they are all desirable to the Lord.
Lord, thank you for loving us all.

Friday, July 29, 2011

The Boneyard

Oregon Hillside where the Bones were Located

The Bleached Ribcage of a Cow

Luke 6:31 NIV
"Do to others as you would have them do to you."

On a hillside beside a rutted path cattle follow to water, nestled among sage brush and shrouded in the shade of Juniper trees, lay a rib cage. The bleached bones were highlighted by sunlight streaming through the trees. The serenity of the moment belied the tragedy which had befallen the cow. The scene was uniquely suggestive of the wild west.  It was June, and I was in cattle country.

Not every cow survives, I reminded myself as I studied the remains.

Predators and harsh weather can destroy the most determined spirit. No matter how many times the cow had struggled to its feet to continue its path, it met with disappointment until it could rise no longer.

How does it feel to give up?

I'm a fighter. With God's grace, I have battled some tight spots in my life.  I haven't given up, but I have seen others struggle to go forward on their own. 

I see people who lead lives Henry David Thoreau described as "quiet desperation."  If I don't reach out to others, and lend them a hand when I see their need, then what am I doing here?

What is my life worth?

Jesus commanded,  "Do to others as you would have them do to you."  As far as I'm concerned, I need to encourage others to keep walking on the path, to get up when they fall down, and show them where they can safely rest.  

I don't like to think about people who face troubles on their own. Their lives usually look as sad as the scene I passed one June afternoon.
Lord, let me reach out to those in need.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Take My Blanket

God's Promise of Hope through the Magnolias

Proverbs 3:5 KJV
"Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.

"You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face." --Eleanor Roosevelt

At times, fear paralyzes my ability to write. I stare at the blank page before me and wonder what will come out of my life that will touch others. What would God have me share today?  Nerves wash over me, and I walk away from the page.

My classroom students have the same fears of the blank page. Rather than just writing, hoping that ideas will shape and form around their words, my students freeze and resist my entreaties to "just write what comes into your mind".  The same fears of being misunderstood or judged on the merit of what they write prevent them from working around the mental block.

God knows the unwritten future, like a blank page, looms before me. What I do today impacts tomorrow. Decisions I make can carry lifetime consequences. What if I make the wrong choice? What if I don't get "it" right? 

Fear is one force I face that causes a wall between God and me.  I must let go the worries. I have got to lean on Him through my writing and the uncertain times we live in. Yet like a child clutching her worn blanket, I am loathe to let go my fears and would rather wrap myself up inside them.

Like a shadowy figure lurking in the dark recesses of my soul, fear's only purpose is to keep me from the light of God. When the dark veil of fear is removed from my life, when I am able to face straight on those things I have feared, I discover they were nothing but fantasies of my mind. Inventions of my insecurities.

What precious time was lost in worry.
Lord, help me lean on you!