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.