Archive for December, 2005

Teachers don’t get paid enough

December 19, 2005

I have six students in my first period Literature class– or at least I did up until a week ago. Last week I had six students and tomorrow I will have only one. And this is final exam week. I have three students currently on suspension (each for different reasons) and two students were expelled this morning for bringing a gun to school.

They brought a gun to my classroom.

Fortunately, I know that it wasn’t meant for me. But I guess that’s not the point. A kid who’s been picked on one too many times decided it’d be cool to pack heat this morning (it’s always the quiet ones you gotta watch). There are no metal detectors at my school, and anyway I teach in a trailer that’s next to the parking lot. A little unnerving, I suppose. But in all honesty, I’m pretty sure his intentions were just to look tough in front of his peers.

The funny thing is that this kid (whom I have for half of the school day) realized somebody snitched on him, so he handed it off to the student next to him (Let’s call him “Mark”). Mark asked for a restroom pass so that he could ditch the evidence; Only 7-8 minutes later he had still not found a trash can to his liking, so he was still walking around the main school building with it under his shirt! Mark ain’t the sharpest tool in the shed. Dumb as a rock, in fact. This morning I had to help him find our country on a world map (He’s 16, by the way).

Needless to say, once an administrator tracked him down he was busted, and now both kids are out of school for good. Apparently there IS something you can do to get expelled. I was beginning to wonder.

They just don’t pay teachers enough, ya know it?

Learning to Love Seasons

December 14, 2005

I grew up in Mississippi, a place that has no clear seasons. Sure, sometimes it’s hot and wet or it’s cold and wet (though seldom in between). But often it’s both in the same day. When I had a paper route as a teenager, I’d have to bundle up for a 30 degree morning even as late as May, knowing that by Noon I’d be wearing short sleeves in order to welcome the 80 degree weather that came later. A typical December day is just as likely to be hot as it is likely to be cold. It’s difficult to say what’s “seasonable” in Mississippi. Granted, a summer day is mostly hot and a winter day is mostly cold, but seasons just run together in a blur, like God ran his finger across the calendar, smudging the months together. Which I guess is why I never grew up appreciating seasons.

Now I live in North Georgia. Here we have winter separate from autumn, and spring separate from summer. I love it. The leaves actually turn into all their beautiful colors as October rolls along (In MS it’s mostly pine trees, which don’t turn with the months). Cold days come when they’re supposed to. Hot days (mostly) come when they’re supposed to. I’m learning to love seasons. There’s something so beautiful about change at the appropriate time. Change, yes, but familiar change. Change that’s happened before, and will happen again every year about this time, and in much the same way. There’s something so comforting about that.

It’s the same way with a person’s spiritual life. We’re supposed to enjoy seasons. All living things go through cycles of up and down, cold and hot, wet and dry. Our spirits are no different. Life in the Church is no different. Of course, we live in a world that fails to grasp the beauty of seasons. We invented things like “climate control” to eliminate seasons where we live and work. We invented light bulbs to eliminate the difference between night and day. It’s no wonder we lose sight of the “rhythms of life” as they are called. We think in straight lines while Life moves in cycles. We would do well to stop and learn to appreciate seasons.

Take a church, for instance. There’s nothing more natural than a group of people taking a break from their usual routine of meetings to do something else. But even now as you read this something in the back of your mind starts to scream “NO! Don’t do it! Everything will be lost! You can never recover from something like that!” Why are we so afraid to embrace seasons? Sometimes the sap in the trees runs upward and outward, producing leaves and fruit and extending the branches. But then the sap reverses direction and goes inward and downward, to quietly build on the root system underneath the ground, where no one can see the difference. But without that time, the tree would never be able to grow beyond its current span. Both seasons are necessary. A person blinded by modernity will fail to grasp this, but it’s a natural part of life.

Variety is the spice of life, they say, and life in the Lord is no different. He works in seasons. Right now, in our church, we are enjoying just being together for the holidays. We’ll get together and sing some Christmas songs this weekend. Then we’ll break from meeting for a couple of weeks while several of us head to other states to visit familiy members. In fact, the last few weeks have been a kind of “slowing down” of activity in the church here. We won’t be having any special morning meetings or times together “with the Lord” (as if we could ever NOT be). But that’s not a problem. Relax and enjoy the variety. After two or three more weeks, we’ll be coming together again and refocusing our hearts and minds on the reason we exist in the first place (to know Him and love Him).

A tract of land cannot be farmed year after year, over and over again with no rest. Once in a while land must lie fallow. Soil needs time to regain its richness, its nutrients. Israel even had a law about taking a break from working the same field year after year. Land needs time to replenish itself. We are no different. So as a wise old man said one time:

Relax and enjoy it.

[P.S. Just a few days after this entry I read this entry written by a dear sister in Arlington TX who is showing us how the Lord carries his children through Winter. All I can say is I thank God for his tangible love through our brothers and sisters.]

Two Trees in the Garden

December 5, 2005

I bought a book one time just because I was so captured by the title. It was titled There Were Two Trees in the Garden, and it was by Rick Joyner. It sits on my bookshelf still and I’m sorry to say I still haven’t read it after several years of owning it. Maybe I’ll get to it someday. But I love the title anyway.

One day recently I was teaching World Literature to a small class of reprobates when I noticed in our Literature book an allusion to the Garden of Eden. The textbook explains that “Adam and Eve [were] forbidden by God to eat the fruit of the Tree of Life in the center of the garden.” It goes on to say that they in fact did eat the fruit and were therefore banished from the garden forever. My wife, who grew up faithfully attending a “Bible-believing church” and is herself a minister’s daughter, commented that she probably wouldn’t have caught the error when she was in high school since so little attention was given to the fact that there were, indeed, two trees in the garden.

But the one with Life in it was the one from which God wanted them to eat. It was that other tree that God warned them not to eat–said it wouldn’t be good for them. Folks miss that little detail and consequently miss one of the most important stories of our revealed faith. God had a Life that He wanted to put inside of us, but we were (and are) lured away by something else that appears to offer something very good: The knowledge of good and evil. Whatever that is, of this I’m sure: It sounds really good. Like something you need. But in the end it will only bring death.

Where I live now, there is much talk about those two trees, and about what that forbidden tree was offering. And I’ve noticed something: We often make much of the fact that the word “knowledge” is in there. I’ve even heard it called “the tree of knowledge.” The implication there is that knowledge is itself somehow a distracting thing. And the truth is, it can be. But I’ve had just enough Hebrew to know that when the Old Testament says “knowledge,” it’s practically synonymous with “experience.” Adam knew his wife. And Man was invited to know good and evil. I don’t think this tree was so much about learning things or becoming too cerebral. It was about pursuing perfection in order to make ourselves right. It was about “doing it right.”

This is the basis of all religions, isn’t it? Doing it right. All religions (including the Christian religion) share this endeavor: To get it right. Do it right. Say it right. Pray it correctly. Think correctly. Feel correctly. This was what was offered to Mankind in the garden, and only this was strong enough in its appeal to lure them away from the greatest gift ever offered: The Life of God with Us. Well, it remains for us still today to partake of that Life of God with Us. Daily we stand beneath that tree somehow, and daily something inside of you craves that life that comes from the Vine, and daily you can partake. But there will always be this other preoccupation that you will have to deny…this obsession with doing it right.

Should I say that? Should I go there? Should I feel that way? Is it right for me to desire that? Did our meeting go as it should have? Are we doing it right? How are we supposed to… You get my drift. Those that had confrontations with Jesus were always amazed at His disregard for what He was “supposed to do” at so many moments. He just didn’t seem to do things the way He was supposed to. Drove those religious men crazy. He even drove the unreligious fishermen crazy with His choices. But what they didn’t get was that He was living by another Life. The Life of God with Us. He wasn’t chasing the chimera of “doing it right.” He was listening to a voice. He was following a Shepherd. He had very little control over what each moment would present for Him to endure, but He trusted that His Father would not lead Him astray. It wasn’t about getting it right. It was about following the sound of those footsteps that Man was meant to encounter in the cool of the day. That’s what it’s still about today.

How does church life work? What should we be doing? We want to get it right, don’t we? No, let’s not make that our goal. Let’s make it our goal to find Him wherever He is, and live there. And whenever He moves, let’s get up and go wherever He’s going. Let’s never get too comfortable in one place, because like Rich Mullins used to say, we’re following a homeless man. He rarely stays a long time in one spot. And let’s not fret too much about if we’re following Him right. As long as we are following Him, it is right.