Monday, October 25, 2010

Could you keep it down a little?

Nothing deeply profound to talk about today....just a bit of a written rant.  Is it just me, or are young people today louder than they used to be?  There is also a feeling of entitlement and arrogance that I have noticed growing "louder" over the last few years.  I have been teaching for almost 20 years.  I can remember a time when it was understood that when one enters a building--a place of business, worship, or school--he/she enters and speaks at a normal, quiet level, so as not to disturb things that might be in progress.  I know that children learn the difference between "inside voices" and "outside voices".  When did it become acceptable to yell/scream/holler inside a building?  To top it all off, when it is brought to their attention, they simply ignore the request to lower their volume and continue on at the same level.  They don't even realize they are speaking so is their normal way of acting on a daily basis.  The volume is bad enough, but the disrespect upon being asked to lower the volume by continuing to "own their territory" by their volume and behavior is what is disturbing.

I believe the noise is a symptom of a much deeper problem.  When I enter a building, I tend to enter quietly.  I don't know exactly what is going on inside the establishment and I was taught that one should always use their "inside voice".  I hate going to stores, restaurants, and other places where people are carrying on at such a volume that I cannot even talk to the person I am with, much less enjoy time by myself.  Cell phone usage is out of control in public establishments....and people on the phones are talking much louder than they would to someone sitting next to them.   The thing that I just can't get over is the noise level inside.  The students who have lockers in my building are very loud.  You can hear them coming down the sidewalk....and understand what they are saying....while they are still outside.  They then proceed to BUST in the door and continue their conversations and a decibel level that is just not acceptable.  In order to get their attention, one literally has to yell over them in order to be heard.  It isn't just my building, it's everywhere.  It isn't just school, it's everywhere!  What is going on?  Are kids losing their hearing?  Are they so out of control that they do not have enough manners to speak quietly and in a normal tone of voice.  There are NO normal conversations happening.  They are all very loud and very bold. 

I'm weary.  I feel like they look at me as if I'm always getting on to them for being loud.  I purposely avoid areas and places that I find it so out of control.  I feel as if I am the only one who ever comments on their least that is the reaction I receive from the noisy bunch.  So why are they so bold?  There is no consideration for others.  None.  The fact that people are working or a class is going on does not enter their mind.  I think our society has become so self centered that we hardly ever consider others before ourselves.

I really don't know where to begin to solve this issue.  For the time being I guess I will be the "mean lady" who always tells them to "lower their voices"....and keep a bottle of Advil handy.


Wednesday, October 20, 2010

I've got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart!

"Abram has learned to laugh! He has found some JOY!"  These were the words written in an email today from a teacher at our school who has just adopted a little boy from the Congo.  This little boy is old enough to have learned to walk, but is just now learning to crawl.....just now gaining some weight......and having his needs met by his new mother and father in only just the past couple of days.  Both parents are now in the Congo and one will be headed home to care for their other two children while the other stays to wrap up the last bit of paperwork needed before returning to the states. 

I was thinking about the statement she wrote at the very end of her latest email update.  This little boy has "learned to laugh".  That statement took my breath away.  There is not a day that doesn't go by that my children aren't laughing and giggling so much that I have to sometimes put a stop to it.  In the light of her words.....I think I will think a little harder before I stop them next time.  My children are bursting with joy...daily.  I thank Jesus for this.  He is the only source of that joy.  We are not capable of understanding true joy apart from Christ.  Sure...people have moments of happiness and laughter....but to experience true joy....that can only come from Jesus.  This little boy, Abram is experiencing joy for probably the first time in his life and it is truly because of the love of Jesus in his new mother and father.  They love each other with love that comes from Christ.  They loved this baby oceans away with a love that only Christ could have placed within them.  And now they have loved Abram and been caring and meeting his desperate needs for only a few short days and hours....and he has "learned to laugh..he has found some JOY!" 

I am ashamed of the days I do not walk in the joy of the Lord.  It is because of my own selfishness that I waste those minutes and hours wallowing in my own misery.  Even on my WORST days I should be walking in joy.  I talk about singing with joy in my class quite a bit.  We laugh quite a bit.  We rehearse hard and continually remind ourselves that we are learning to sing "skillfully and shout with joy!" (Psalm 33:3)  In learning our music skillfully we are doing our very best as an offering to our Lord.  I tell the kids that the joy from their heart should be unmistakably on their faces!  But that's just it.  I know that they are young.  Some are Christians....and probably there are some that aren't.  You can't fake true joy.   When you have that joy in your heart others WILL see it.  I hope that as these teenagers grow in their faith and in their ability to confidently express themselves through music and performance that they will be able to show this joy more and more through their singing.  It is such a precious sight.  I see it when I look in their faces in class.  I see it when the music is "just right" and "clicks".  I see glimpses in the faces of those who are quiet and withdrawn.....or "too cool" to show any emotion at all.  Oh, Lord, that You would live in them so fully and deeply that they can't help but show it.  Barriers of insecurity and fear would melt away and become nonexistent.  The eyes that cut from side to side----looking for the approval of the "keeper of the coolness" would look only at Jesus with confidence.....and their hearts would "Sing to the Lord a new song, for He has done marvelous things!" (Psalm 98:1)

"Abram has learned to laugh!  He has found some JOY!" 

“Purify me from my sins, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. Oh, give me back my joy again; you have broken me—now let me rejoice. Don’t keep looking at my sins. Remove the stain of my guilt.  Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a loyal spirit within me. Do not banish me from your presence, and don’t take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and make me willing to obey you.” Psalm 51:7-12

Thursday, October 14, 2010


I have recently heard comments like these:

"My child is so bored at school.  The teachers don't make class interesting or engaging."

"I don't enjoy church.  It's not fun.  It's just boring."

"My child doesn't like school.  They don't like listening to a boring lecture."

"We need to teach our teachers to be more engaging."

This disturbs me on so many levels.  I'll try and keep it to one perspective this go 'round...and that is from the perspective of a teacher.

By whose standard are we measuring the characteristic of "engaging"?  The definition of the adjective engaging is..."winning; attractive; pleasing".  Now I will be the first to agree that a good teacher can hold the attention of their class.  A good teacher is interesting, wise, encouraging, and hopefully inspiring.  This is getting more and more difficult in our society due to the fact that a vast majority of our students are so "plugged in" to other things that frankly are (to them) much more "attractive, pleasing, and winning".  Video games, electronics, movies, and other media are so technologically advanced that humans really have a hard time competing when the stimuli people are used to is so glamorous and high-tech.  To the average teenager, seeing a Hollywood blockbuster version of a classic novel will "win" out almost every time.  You can finish it in under two hours, the visuals are stunning, there are sound effects that you would never conjure up in your own head, you can instantly download the soundtrack to your ipod, phone or computer, and the characters are all created for you....accent, looks, wardrobe, and attitude.  Not many students (though there are some thankfully) would choose to read night after night when given the opportunity to just "see it" and have it spoon-fed to them.  Sadly, the Hollywood version isn't the author's is an interpretation meant to sell millions of dollars worth of tickets.  Who cares if they throw in a little extra "va-va-va-voom" here and there to "attract and please" the audience.  

If you really want to get picky, I would ask parents today, "Is your child engaging (verb)  in school?"  Do they purposefully engage themselves in the great conversation that their teachers are prompting them to have?  Are they reading their assignments?  Are they preparing for the conversation to be had in class the next day so they can be part of the discussion?  Probably not.  Most want to be given what is necessary to pass the test and "move on".  Who cares if they learn anything?  It's sad.  Now, there are some students who really get it and buy into the idea that they are part of the equation.  You get out of things what you put into them.  Where I get weary is in the realization that many parents (not all) want the teachers to do whatever it takes to engage their child, motivate them to learn, get them excited about the material.......and this at times can be summed up by saying "entertain them".  I love teaching.  I love motivating and inspiring students.  But to be quite is very hard to compete with what the parents are buying and providing for their kids, or allowing their kids to purchase for themselves.  Television alone is bad enough.

I recently heard a talk radio broadcast about the television programs that are geared toward teens.  Many are rated "PG13" or "TV14" and kids watch them because the rating says it's okay.  Ha!  Who decided that the ratings were the expert in what is "okay" for your child?  Most parents don't even know what their kids are watching.....or even worse, are watching with them.  Do a little research on the shows out there today and also take time to listen (or read Facebook posts) about who is watching what and you would be shocked at what they are tuning into each week.  The subject matter is appalling and way beyond what any teenager should be exposed to.  The talk show host was complaining about the offerings but ended up saying, "But what are you going to do when that is all that's on for them to watch?"  Really?  Do they need a neon sign saying, "Turn it off.  Go get a book.  Have a conversation.  Unplug."?  I am amazed that it would never occur to a parent to say "no".  If your only options are raw chicken or spoiled milk maybe skipping that meal would be the better option.

Yes.  Teachers should be engaging.  I'm all for making sure that we have the right teachers in place that inspire our children.  But against whose standards?  Hollywood's?  I don't think so.  (anyway...they don't pay teachers what they pay actors.)  Unplug your kids.  It might surprise you how creative, imaginative, and yes.....talkative they might become if they didn't have so much other stimuli getting in the way of relationships.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Tears on my pillowcase and carrots in my stew

I was folding laundry tonight and I had a few odd pieces that had been washed in a load from Saturday left to fold.  A lone sock here, a washcloth there, a dishtowel....and a pillowcase.  It is a white one with little pale pink flowers on it.  As I folded the pillowcase I started to cry.  It's such a random thing.  As I was folding the pillowcase a flood of memories came rushing through my mind and heart.  It reminded me of my grandmother ("Nana")  for some reason.  My brother and I would stay with my Nana and Papa in the summer for a couple of weeks every year.  I have a lot of specific memories about their house.  One of them was the sheets.  They were always soft.  I always slept in the "white" bedroom.  We referred to it as the "white" bedroom because it had a white-washed bedroom suit and the other bedroom where my brother slept had a black dresser.  The "white room" was kind of fancy in my mind, and the sheets had little pink flowers on them.  She also had a closet full of high-heeled shoes with extremely pointy heels and pointy toes.  I loved trying on those shoes.  She also had drawer full of jewelry that I would sift through for hours.  Their house also had floor vents for the air and heat.  I used to love when the air would come on at night and they would quietly rattle.  It soothed me to sleep....that and the fan my brother insisted upon having in his room that blew directly on his face. 

A few days ago I was in the kitchen preparing supper.  I had started some stew meat in the crockpot earlier in the day and around noon I put a few potatoes in and went to get out the bag of carrots to cut up and add to make a stew.  As I was cutting the carrots, I had a flash back of my maternal grandmother, "BB".  I can't remember how old I was, but I know I was very, very young because she died while I was a little girl.  We were visiting "BB" and "Pop".  My "BB" had just cleaned her kitchen and it smelled of clean Ivory soap (the bar kind).  She always had Ivory soap in the house.  I remember wanting to "cook".  I wasn't old enough and she wasn't making anything at the time.  She let me stand on a chair in her clean kitchen and cut up carrots with a dull knife and put them in a pot of cold water and pretend to cook by adding salt and pepper.  I also remember being in her kitchen and eating frozen strawberries that came in little cartons like the small school lunch  milk cartons.  She always had them in the freezer because she made homemade strawberry cakes.  My daughter is turning 11 this week and has asked me to make her a strawberry cake.  I also remember that "BB" always had real Coca Cola in the bottles for us drink.  It was so much fun flipping off the bottle caps. 

I don't know exactly why I have had these memories flood my mind this past week.  I guess it is because my girls have been talking about my parents a lot for the past couple of weeks and how much they miss them.  I think I am lonesome for home.  I am also sad because none of my grandparents lived to see my girls. I am am the youngest and only grandchild that did not already have children when they died.  My father's parents were both at my wedding.  I am very thankful for that.  Both my mother's parents died when I was very young.  I don't know why the emptiness grips me so strongly right now.   I think it's because it's fall.  Fall is one of my favorite times of the year, but it makes me homesick.  I really can't put my finger on why because I grew up in Florida and we didn't have fall!!!  No leaves changed and it was just plain hot at football games and trick-or-treating.  I know there must be some literary or deep meaning behind why I love autumn so much but at the same time it makes me sad.  Frankly, I don't have enough energy or strength in my heart to sort that would just make me cry more. 

So come, autumn, come!  But please blow away the melancholy in my heart.   

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Internal or external

I read this morning about Noah.  I was trying to imagine the world being so evil and corrupt that there was no good inside anyone at all.  In Genesis 6:5 it says, 

"The LORD saw how great man's wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time."

I know I am sinful, but thank the Lord that I am saved and forgiven and have Christ living in me.  At least some of the time my thoughts aren't evil.  Everyone struggles with both internal and external sin.  I think that if we spent more time on our thought life, our external sins would be less.  I also read that we should live daily to have a "mind held captive to Christ."  That sure would solve everything....or at least begin to make a dent in our fallen souls.  I am so thankful that Christ died for me and took all my nastiness on Himself in order to allow me the privilege of having this relationship with Him.  Yes, at times it is a struggle.  At times it is really tough.  But look at the alternative-----"every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time."   

I let my evil nature spill out anger on to my daughter yesterday.  Even though she was forgetful.....I had no cause.......and really NO REASON OR EXCUSE to spill my own frustrations out on her.  If only I could show a spec of the patience (makrothumia--Greek word....look it up. Very interesting) that God shows me minute by minute of every day.   Thankfully my precious daughter forgave me.  
I love her.  I really really love her.  I thank God for showing me how much of a fool I am at times.

I am very thankful for God's grace yesterday, today, and I know.......tomorrow.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Maker or Keeper?

Maker or keeper. There is a difference.....a big one. I have been studying the fruit of the Spirit. One of the nine characteristics is peace. I heard a quote once that went something like this: "Peace isn't the absence of conflict; rather it is the presence of Christ." He is our peace.

Peacekeepers are people who don't want to rock the boat. They are the ones who see the tower of blocks and don't want anyone to add or take away a block because the entire tower will come tumbling down! So they run around "keeping the peace" at all costs. They don't say anything. They don't confront anything. They don't reach out for fear of rejection. As long as things remain just like they are everything will be "okay". Really? Not so. People are often afraid of speaking up or confronting a situation because they might be rejected or hated. They could possibly lose friends. Peacekeepers are keeping a false peace. Things under the surface are coming to a slow boil and if the burner is turned up even one notch...............whoops! False peace. Who needs it? This "lie" is unhealthy and causes more stress and turmoil than any shred of peace. It is an exhausting practice.

Peacemakers are people who enter in and make a difference. They aren't hot-headed or arrogant. They aren't pushy. They don't run around trying to continue the lie. Jesus was a peacemaker. He came into the world to make a difference. He confronted people when they were doing wrong. He entered into situations where people needed help. He offended people---not in a negative way, but by simply telling the Truth. He made people mad. He was rejected. At time people mocked Him, and others followed Him and were fascinated by Him.  It was usually one way or another--they either accepted His Truth or rejected it.  The water didn't remain was quite rough.  But in the midst of the upheaval around Him he brought peace by His words, presence and Truth.  He wasn't concerned with his own life, but with what His Father in Heaven had sent him to do. We are so concerned with how things will affect our universe....our little world....the one that revolves around "me". How will I be treated if I confront this situation? Will they hate me? Will they still want to be my friend? If your friend is caught in a sin trap and won't get help, you need to step in and help by confronting them and encouraging them to stop or get help. If they don't then you should take it one step further and go to someone who can help them. Yes, if you step in you will "rock the boat"...."upset the apple cart"......."pop the balloon"......and possibly be hated. Maybe, maybe not. But in the end, it might save a life. It might cause someone to turn to Christ. It is what Jesus did.