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.