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.