Posts Tagged ‘faith’

Why I love third graders

I recently informed my new third grade Bible class students that I have taught the third grade at our church since Swimmer Girl was their age. Which means this is my tenth year teaching third grade. Which also means I was teaching this class since before these students were born.  Whoa.

I’d like to think that fact impressed them, but I suspect some of them were doing some sketchy mental math and concluding that means I’m REALLY old.

My age aside, I am firmly convinced that third grade is really and truly great.

Third grade is the Best. Grade. Ever.

Not convinced? Consider these criteria:

  • They are old enough to grasp some fairly complex ideas and facts and young enough to have fun doing it.
  • They are mature enough to get through class without a bathroom break.  If they do need a break, they can go unaccompanied. ( That is HUGE for a teacher – can I get an Amen?)
  • They are big enough to play challenging games, but they are still shorter than me.
  • They are willing learners, and when all else fails, they can be bribed with Jolly Ranchers and Oriental Trading trinkets.
  • They bring their teacher sweet gifts at Christmas-time. They ooh and ahh when I give them their own Christmas mug with homemade marshmallows.  We all believe in Santa and we all pray for snow and snow days.

We are like peas and carrots, my third graders and I.

During our time together, they let me into their world by telling me about their sports or academic accomplishments.  I tell them about my dog and my family. We talk smack about our favorite college and pro teams. (Football is a fabulous time of year.)  Each class writes a story on my heart that remains long after they move on. Best of all, “my”girls greet me with hugs for years after they are in my class.  The boys grin and wave “hey” when we cross paths, even when they enter middle and high school. My ego would like to think  it’s because I’m an awesome teacher, but I know it’s because they are awesome kids.

Even though third grade was arguably a challenging year for me growing up, it’s the age I seem to be at ease with now. (Which could be the Santa factor…)  But whatever it is, I adore watching them begin that awkward transition between young child and tweener – they are my pride and joy, and every year I say I’ve got the best class ever, because they are.

Of course, this is Week 3 of the fall quarter.  By spring, I might be marking off  the days until promotion Sunday rolls around.


Here’s hoping that for every class, there is a teacher who thinks their students are the bees’ knees and and that he or she has the absolute best grade ever.

Happy teaching,

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An appeal to reason

“Come let us reason together,” says God through his prophet Isaiah. In all matters of faith and conviction, God’s word is the ultimate judge and arbiter of what is right and what is evil. Those who follow His teachings should be able to have thoughtful, loving, reasonable discussions with others, even when we disagree.  After all, it is not our opinions that matter; it’s what God says that counts.  If we can agree on that, then we can reason together.

But we live in a society that has lost sight of the One who created us, and it has caused us to lose our way – we no longer have moral absolutes to guide our path.  Everything – even truth – is relative.  Everything is permissible, and no one is to be judged for their choices.  Even those who believe in God and follow Christ are reluctant to stand on their convictions for fear of having Matthew 7:1 thrown in their face.

If anyone dares to try to invoke legal or religious objections to certain “hot button” issues, there’s little chance of turning to God’s word as the final word on the matter.  Instead, we have virtual or real shouting matches, trying our best to browbeat the other side with our views, or at least win by TKO, delivering the most stinging zingers, and trying to inflict the maximum amount of pain on one another until we finally break away and retreat to our corners, bloodied, bruised, with enmity in our hearts.

Solomon gave us ample warnings of the futility in trying to reason with unreasonable people. As he begins the book of Proverbs, he admonishes us “the fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline.”

And just a few chapters later, he puts it like this, “Do not rebuke a mocker or he will hate you; rebuke a wise man and he will love you.”

In modern times, we’ve summed up the concept with a of dash humor:

And so for many of us who would like to share our faith with others in this sin-sick world, we hesitate to start the conversation or point out a friend’s transgressions, in part because we’ve seen what can happen and how quickly a relationship can be lost over opinions on faith, or someone’s rejection of it  – whether in total, or just the parts they don’t like.  We often sit on our hands or bite our tongues on certain topics, lest we be branded bigots and haters.  It seems the world has forgotten that you have to love someone in order to care about their welfare, whether physical, emotional or spiritual.  And in fairness to those who prickle up, sometimes Christians have forgotten that love for God and our neighbors should be the only motivator and guide for our speaking up.

The current kerfuffle over Chick-Fil-A is a case study of the depths to which we’ve sunk as a society.  Chick-Fil-A is a company I’ve long admired, in large part for their willingness to close their doors every Sunday and give their employees a day to spend with family.  Those in favor of homosexual marriage are incensed and outraged that a business owner (whose Christian beliefs are well-documented) would dare say that he supports traditional marriage.  To which I would point out two things worth considering:

1. Mr. Cathy never said anything about gays, gay marriage or gay rights in the now-infamous interview. When a Baptist publication asked him for his opinion, he said he was in favor of traditional marriage.  Shocking? Hardly.  Controversial? Only if you were looking for a bone to pick.
2.  Many businesses (Amazon and Target, to name two) are openly in favor of gay marriage and spend some of their corporate earnings to fund gay rights.  Where is the hue and cry over them voicing their personal opinion in the public or using company funds to support either side of this debate?  It’s a decidedly double standard by which we measure ourselves.

Irony of ironies, the group that has pleaded for tolerance for the past several decades has shown anything but when they meet with any level of resistance, even the most loving pleadings for a rational discussion.  Mr. Cathy is apparently not entitled to his opinion on this matter, and neither are the rest of us, unless we are willing to lay aside our religious convictions and view this as a human rights issue on par with racial and gender equality.  And for many Christians, we cannot in good conscience do that.

I hope and pray at some point, we can return to a place where those who hold opposing opinions can reason together, or at least not feel the need to fight to the death over issues that are – for some of us – not open for debate but were settled by a higher authority thousands of years ago.  It is a hallmark of maturity when we can accept that no matter how badly we want something, and no matter how qualified we might think we are, we simply cannot have it.  God’s ways are not our ways, and man’s laws often limit and restrict our abilities to attain happiness, too.  If we can’t debate and discuss matters calmly and rationally, then let’s all just agree to stop before we stoop to name calling and ad hominem attacks.  When we resort to those, we’ve lost the argument. And we’ve lost any chance of persuading anyone to our view.

As for me, I just strive to live peaceably with all, at least to the extent it depends on me, while also trying to live my life according to God’s principles and rules.  I’ll do my best to show love to everyone (even if it means disagreeing – hopefully in a loving and humble way); tend my home and garden…and yes, I will eat some chikin every now and again.

Happy reasoning,

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I majored in accounting and finance in college.  Similar fields, although disdainful of one another.  Both disciplines drilled into me some basic principles in viewing life through financial and economic terms.  One of the most enduring lessons I learned was the “time value of money.”  At its most basic, it’s why loans have interest applied to them.  Time has value, and that value can be measured in money.

Have you ever considered how we refer to both time and money? We talk about them in similar terms – almost interchangeably.

We spend both, we waste both.  We borrow and lend both, we give and take them.  We make both time and money (so we say), and of course, we always wish we had more of both.  Both are valuable–even precious.  Both are finite (unless you are truly into making money, as in printing your own.)

But the similarities stop when we get to the idea of saving up for the future.  We can save up money.  Not so for time.  So how we spend the time we are given is arguably more important than how we spend our money.  We can make more money – as long as we have more time.  But the inverse is not true – more money won’t buy us more time.

And yet, how much time do we spend worrying about money in some form or fashion?  Taking good care of our personal or business finances is important, but time spent worrying about the future is time we will never get back.

I’ve always loved the sixth chapter of Matthew…maybe because Jesus’ admonitions  are so practical and similar to what his brother James offers us later on (another favorite read of mine.) His remarks about worrying about the future always hit home with me.  I like to think of myself as a planner.  But truth be told, sometimes my forward-looking thoughts are those of a worrier.

“Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? (or a cubit to your height?)  …Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself…Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

Happy Monday,

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And here we are, 90 days into 2012. Are you still hanging tight with your resolutions or are you struggling to recall what they were?  (We’ve all experienced that before.)  This year, I’m sticking to my guns better than most years, but as you’ll see there have been some bumps along the way this month.

1. Cultivate a daily prayer life.
My goal last month was to make prayer and Bible reading a priority first thing in the morning.  I’m 1 for 2:  prayer yes, Bible reading, no.

2. Read the Bible through in 2012.
There’s no way to gloss over the fact I’ve completely fallen behind on this.  Truth be told, I haven’t read ANYTHING in the last month – no magazines, no books, no nothing, except online stuff that is directly related to work and blogging.  And every day I fall further behind, I cringe because it means I’m two readings behind.  So instead of trying some marathon make-up reading, I’m dropping back to one reading  a day, and trying Seinfeld’s “don’t-break-the-chain” starting today.  Here’s hoping it works. Stay tuned, update in 30 days.

3. Exercise at least 4 days a week and drop the last 15 pounds I want to lose.
A success!

  • Week one, I managed yoga, pilates and two hours of weights;
  • Week two consisted of a 3-mile run, yoga, pilates and an hour of weights;
  • Week three two four-mile runs and yoga and pilates;
  • This week, three days of running (12 miles total), plus yoga and pilates.

My goal weight is 110. I’m back to 121, which doesn’t sound like much of a stride, until I explain my weight bounced up to 125 early this month, a delayed reaction to last month’s overindulgence in sweets; it prompted an introspective look into my psyche a few days ago.  The running helps; I just need to figure out how to still squeeze in an hour or two of weights a week while maintaining the early morning runs.

4. Get my desk organized and keep it that way.
A qualified success.  I’m still wrestling with the way I deal with incoming mail, but I have a basket to hold it now until I cull out the bills and toss the junk, pretty much once every week to ten days.  My blotter has stayed visible all month.  Woot!

5. Cultivate the fruit of the spirit in my life.
This remains the hardest goal to measure progress against, but I find myself dwelling more on my daily walk with God and looking for ways to encourage others.  I’m thinking that counts as progress. 🙂

So how are your resolutions doing? I came across this photo not too long ago, and it rang true: stop giving up

If you need to start over in April, that’s okay – just commit to making it the last time to start over.

Happy resolving,

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A force to be reckoned with

Like a lot of you, I have started dabbling in Pinterest.   I have solemnly promised myself it will remain merely dabbling; I am a dilettante, after all.   And I can see where it could become an obsession, so I try to limit myself to a few minutes of exposure a day, and I only pin or re-pin things I actually LOVE or really plan to try (and so far, I’ve test-driven three recipes I pinned; others are on deck and warming up.)

Anyway.  The other day I was nosing around a quote someone had pinned and clicked through to the underlying website, which led me to this quote.  (Well, the first one  I found was stated a little more…ummmm….”baldly,” so then I hunted around for a tamer version, until I found this one):

I mentioned it in passing to swimmer girl.  Actually we were passing time waiting to drop her off at school. (Sidebar: yes, the search for a new-to-me SUV is still underway.  I think we’re getting closer to commitment.  Until then, I get to enjoy a few minutes of her time before and after school.)

We tossed around a few ideas on exactly what the quote meant.  Is it a compliment?  Or a criticism?  Or both?  I prefer to think it describes women whose faith and works are completely antithetical to Satan’s.   I hope my days are spent looking for and championing the good in people, and sharing my faith, to the point that the evil one is worn slam out at the end of every day.

I told swimmer girl I thought she was already a force to be reckoned with, even at her young age.  She smiled and said I thought I was, too.

Are you, too?  I hope so! 

If you’re in my neck of the woods, look for me in Bell Buckle this morning.  It’s the 35th annual Webb School arts and crafts fair.  I’m hoping Derek and the boys do better without me in Knoxville than they did last week with me in the crowd.  Go Vols!!!!

Happy Saturday,

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A thought for all the super-busy superwomen and supermen out there.  The adage, “if you want something done, give it to the busiest person you know” is true…those of us who manage to juggle a lot of things can usually manage to juggle a few more when we are asked to, or feel we need to.

But the truth is, our days are finite and they can only be filled to capacity – the laws of time and space dictate how much we can do in a given day.  And at some point, saying yes to one more thing – no matter how worthy the cause or how potentially wonderful the outcome – we are saying no to something (or someone) else.

  • We are saying “no” to a few precious minutes with one of our children, our spouse or to family time.  
  • We are saying “no” to some alone time, to meditate, pray, or study as most of us say we want to.  
  • We are saying “no” to our health and missing sleep or exercise time.
  • We are saying “no” to some uninterrupted quiet time to be contemplative and give our minds time to rest.

If we want to our children to have high self-esteem, we must esteem them enough to give them regular doses of our undivided time and attention.   (If we don’t make time for them when they are young, they won’t make time for us when they are older.)  If we want to cultivate a deeper relationship with our spouse, it will consume time and energy – no amount of candy or flowers or gifts can substitute for it.  If we want to be more spiritual and draw closer to God, He demands (and is worthy of) of our time and attention. If we want to be physically and emotionally stronger, we must set aside time to build a strong body and healthy perspective on life.

So every time you tell yourself that you can’t say “no” to requests for your help, remember when you say yes, you ARE saying no to something or someone else.  Knowing that can make it a lot easier to learn to say “no” to that next project or task that we really DON’T have time for.

Happy prioritizing,

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Happy birthday to my boy

Dear Son,

In 1988, you made your grand entrance into this world.  Even before you were born, you were determined to do things on your own timetable.  You were intractable and impossibly late – a defining characteristic we share.  One of many, I think.  At two weeks past your due date, you gave no signs that you planned to arrive anytime soon, so I begged the doctor to give you your own birthday, instead of risking that you would show up on your older brother’s birthday, which is four days past your own.  I am convinced you stood on your hands, scrunched up your chubby face and stubbornly refused to leave the cramped quarters you occupied until there was no other choice.

You were our second baby and second boy, but you were and are uniquely you.  I refused an epidural and you topped the scales at 9 pounds 2 ounces – nearly as big as your brother was and two pounds bigger than your sister who came along later.  When you were born, you were blue and still, and we were paralyzed with fear.  Those first few moments of silence in the delivery room, waiting for you to take a breath, you had the undivided attention of us all.  I’ve never heard a more wonderful sound than when you finally let loose with a healthy squall.

We have no pictures of your arrival, but it was not second-child-syndrome at work.  In the pre-digital era of the late 80s, we didn’t realize the 35 mm camera had no film.  When he discovered what he had done, your daddy tearfully offered to take us all back to the hospital and re-enact your arrival and homecoming.  It would have been like reality TV before there was such a thing.

You were my sleeper.  Once we settled into a routine, you’d nearly always snooze until a civilized hour of the morning, and after your brother’s early-morning antics, I was happy for your laid-back approach to mornings.  From the beginning, you and your brother had a push-me-pull-you relationship.  Best friends one minute, all-out guerrilla-style assault warfare the next.  You insisted on rooming together and jumbling up your Lego blocks to create a nighttime obstacle course to your bunk beds.  He outgrew them, you continued to love them, asking for more elaborate sets each birthday and Christmas.

As you sailed through your boyhood, you did everything “big brother” did, but you took things more seriously.  Soccer, skateboarding, snow skiing, you name it.  If he could do it, you could too – only better, longer, faster, harder and more competitively.

For seven years, you enjoyed “baby-of-the-family” status.  You then became possibly the world’s most reluctant middle child, a title we still tease you with fifteen years later.  Push-me-pull-you defined your relationship with your baby sister, too.  But I have watched you with her in unguarded moments, and I’ve seen the gentleness and protectiveness that you tried to hide between a gruff countenance, especially during your teenage years. You are a loyal and protective sibling to your brother and sister, even as you look for ways to needle them.

I love you fiercely, more fiercely than any argument we had from time to time as you grew from boy to man-child.  You are my mirror, you know.  I look at you and I see the parts of me that dared my family to love me as I grew from child to adult, too.   And now you are a grown man.  People will continue to comment on how much you look like your Uncle Nate and your Papaw, but you are–without a doubt–your own man.

And as you stand firmly on the shores of adulthood, your life’s path lies ahead of you – you’re almost through with college, and I  know God has great things in store for you.  I pray as you move forward, you will listen for His voice and seek His will, and become the faith-filled man He and I see in you.   I wish you many happy returns of this day.

Your mama

P.S. Stay out of the Turtle Cake until after dinner.

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