Saturday, December 20, 2008

Dream Job

I have found my dream job.

My latest job (the total is now up to six) entails sitting in a classroom with students who are absolutely quiet and always on task. Occasionally, I give them directions which they all follow to the letter. No one jumps out of a seat, refuses to do work, or argues about a classmate. At the end of the day they hand in their work and look at me with relief and gratitude. I, in turn, hand in their work, without having to grade anything, and get paid.

Yep, I am supervising high school students while they take one of those well-known college entrance tests.

The fine man who hired me to do this is a bit surprised that I am willing to do the work. I don’t think he understands what I have been working with over the last 26 years of teaching. His wife, a teacher of middle school age students, fully understands I am sure.

I was watching a show on PBS last night called “Status Anxiety.” It expounded an interesting theory about how we cause ourselves immense stress and grief, both as individuals and as a society, when we agonize over status. Am I respected? Am I in the ‘in’ group? Do I live on easy street? Am I doing something important? Am I getting the recognition I deserve? Do I have hope to change my situation or to live the life I dream of?

The commentator traveled far and wide interviewing people about poverty and status. His point was that we are driven, from infancy, to get attention, and this rules our lives. While we certainly see evidence of this in the media I was intrigued by his interviews with a preacher of “prosperity gospel.” The man interviewed left the impression that he believed that your wealth and status was proof that God loved you. I found this even more despicable than the politically ultra-conservative lobbyist for the NRA who insisted that poor people deserved to be poor because they choose to be poor.

C.S. Lewis wrote that the root of all sin is pride. C.S. Lewis was a wise man.

Years ago I read a book that talked about the Amish people. I do not remember the premise of the book but I do remember the description of the Amish lifestyle and especially how much there was a lack of status regarding work to be done. There was no preference for the kind of work, just gratitude that there was work and the ability to do it. I was reminded of this at my retail job last night. I was working the cash register, which during snowy weather also includes a mop to keep the floor by the door dry. I was mopping away and wondering if my mopping was really doing any good or if it was creating a more dangerous surface, when a customer looked at me with such sadness and pity. “Have a good Christmas,” she said, shaking her head and walking sadly away. If I had had a glass on the counter, I think I would have gotten a nice tip.

I find this kind of pity rather strange. My manager for my retail position has apologized to me before because she worries she is taking away from the “important” work I am doing at phd school. I shake my head and reassure her that not only do I need the money but I enjoy this job that gets me out of my office and pulls my head out of a book to talk to real people for a while. The truth is, my work at phd school is a lot about keeping the professors happy and while I find my studies interesting and fulfilling, I doubt they are important in the whole scheme of things.

I have a cartoon pinned to my bulletin board that reads “I guess you don’t need a Ph.D to change the world.”

Abraham Lincoln changed our country and he didn’t even have a college education. For Martin Luther and his namesake, Martin Luther King Jr. a doctorate was just a part of the process. They each changed the world through the hard work of every day jobs and through the guidance of God. Ask any early childhood teacher and he or she will tell you that there is no glamour in mopping up vomit, finding dry pants, or scraping a puddle of glue out of the back of a desk. However, these acts of ministry are vital for the well being of the children in your care. Yes, you literally, share God’s love while mopping.

God is helping me to understand that whatever I am doing at any moment of the day, whether it is mopping floors or grading papers, is the most important thing for me to do at that time. I don’t need to be changing the whole world; I just need to change my little part of it. If it is God’s will, it’s all good.

So that brings me to my prayer for this week; God, let me be doing Your will, and let me be doing it with gratitude and praise.

In Him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in Him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by His Spirit. Ephesians 2: 21-22

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Faith Irony

I wrote a paper for phd school this week. The assignment was to read a book assigned by the prof, pick and audience that might benefit from reading that book, and write a review of the book to encourage them to read it. I found it to be an interesting assignment, especially because I am somewhat obsessed with writing.

I decided to write the review for DCEs working with young adults. I began the review by talking about how researchers can sometimes overgeneralize their findings because they do not spend time in the field observing and working long term with the young adults about which they theorize. I explained how that creates a gap between theory and practice. I knew my intended audience would understand that those in academia often just don’t “get it” when it comes to what teachers and youth workers deal with on a daily basis. I wanted to point out how and why this particular book was different.

My professor sent my paper back with a comment saying he didn’t understand the point of my introduction.

Let’s chalk it up to my first experience with academic irony.

Okay, I will go back and rework the paper. I am grateful that my prof gives this option. I will do what I should have done in the first place, and write the paper with the prof as the intended audience. Besides, for me to clearly explain my introduction would take a good 5000 words and neither he, nor I, have time for that.

I am reminded about a characteristic of 5-6-7 year old children that I always found rather endearing. They were like little police officers, lawyers and judges; they knew all the rules and how to apply them to every one but themselves. If I was talking to the class about a particular behavior I could invariably predict the response. (It is easy to know what young children are thinking because they have the habit of thinking out loud.) They were each sure I didn’t mean them. They would usually even glare at the person they were sure I did intend to talk to. This of course created a situation of students all looking at each other. Covert finger-pointing was usually involved.

I guess they didn’t get the point, either.

So, what is God trying to explain to me? Am I the rare, but, beloved child who knows the rules and actually follows them; or am I the one casting the undeserved glare at someone else? Do I “get it”?

The earth dries up and withers, the world languishes and withers,

the exalted of the earth languish. The earth is defiled by its people;

they have disobeyed the laws, violated the statutes and broken the everlasting covenant.

Isaiah 24:4-5

Hmmmm, I wonder if He means me? I wonder if I am a little rankled by my professor’s assertion that “religions think they have invented morality”? Perhaps that is what is behind my obscure introduction. Maybe I wanted to make him squirm a bit. It’s probably a good thing my writing was not very clear. Yeah, I better go back and rewrite.

Each morning before I read my Bible, my prayer is the following verse:

Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.

See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.

Psalm 139:23-24

From scripture to God’s ears to my heart; let it be so.

He is good. His love endures forever. II Chron. 7:3

Friday, November 7, 2008


Two members of our family are battling MRSA infections. MRSA stands for Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus. It's a strain of staph that's resistant to the broad-spectrum antibiotics commonly used to treat it. It can be a serious, even fatal, condition for those with compromised immune systems. In our family it is simply a nuisance that means doctor appointments, sulfa drugs and lots and lots of hand washing.

It occurs to me that in our faith life we often suffer from a different kind of MRSA; perhaps a Multiple Resistant Sin Annoyance. We have those sins such as pride, lack of trust, need for control, that we know we shouldn’t indulge in but yet we are at a loss on how to stop. Each of us has sins that resist our efforts to overcome. They are a nuisance for us and annoyance for our family and friends but if they compromise our faith systems, they can be fatal. No amount of hand washing will prevent the spread of this kind of sin infection.

Conquering a faith MRSA requires a specific regimen:

We must be vigilant in keeping our immune system strong. Instead of exercise, flu shots, and vitamins we need a balanced diet of scripture. We must read and study His word daily.

There are no sulfa drugs to battle this type of infection but we have something stronger. We have confession and absolution that exposes this sin infection to the light of God’s word. Through the forgiveness offered by our Savior and the process of sanctification found in the Spirit we can clean that infection and be rid of it.

Hand washing is highly effective in preventing the spread of bacteria and viruses. The more we wash the better. The same is true of attending worship. Not only do we hear God’s word and receive forgiveness of sins, but we also experience the support of fellowship. We cannot quarantine ourselves during a faith MRSA. We must not keep it hidden; instead we bring our sin out in the open and let God heal it. If we hide it away and refuse to acknowledge and treat our faith MRSA we will find ourselves covered in the faith equivalent of leprosy.

So now, wash your hands and stay safe from a skin infection, but, wash your heart to stay safe from a sin infection. God is your healer.

Though your sins are like scarlet,

they shall be as white as snow.

Isaiah 1: 18

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

I will fear no evil

In this world you will have trouble.

But take heart!

I have overcome the world.

John 16:33

Oh, how I wish this verse read differently:

In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I will overcome the trouble and take it from you.


In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! It will someday all make sense.

Instead, Jesus encouragement to those who are suffering is that He overcame the world.

How is this comfort to my good friend who has filled her house with family and friends helping her to provide round-the-clock care for her dying husband? How is this encouragement for her husband who has lived helplessly enduring the punishment his own body inflicts on his health and well-being? Yes, Jesus overcame the world, but, what about the here and now? What about the dwindling financial resources, the MS, the infections, fevers and seizures? What about today’s pain and agony?

Some suffering is mild. It is the everyday suffering of an unhappy, unfulfilled life. It is a suffering that lulls us into a false sense of control. “This is just my lot; I will endure.” This is a suffering that goes on needlessly because it does not realize that Jesus has overcome the world.

Some suffering is purposeful. It may be a strong suffering but the reasons for it are clear. It is a suffering that has a purpose and results in a reward. The pain of child-birth comes to mind. But, also, many of our day to day griefs result in a blessing that helps us understand the purpose of the grief.

But, some suffering is strong, and enduring and purposeless. What good comes of children losing their father or of future grandchildren never meeting a grandparent? What good comes of several lives being swallowed up in the deteriorating illness of a family member? One hopes the suffering brings the family closer but that is not always the case. Sometimes the suffering forces loved ones apart.

We want our lives to be carefully planned like the lesson plan of a teacher. We want a time for everything and everything in its proper place. We want to see progress in our life and faith like a grade recorded on a report card. We want to be prepared for every contingency. But grief and pain and suffering and sorrow rear their ugly heads and run roughshod over those plans.

Yet, it remains true: Jesus has overcome the world. The battles we fight, however real, are already won for us. The end result has been determined; it is the here and now that remains to be lived. We must take our Savior’s hand and look to the victory won for us.

I have so little that I can give that will ease the pain and suffering of my dear friends. I offer my prayers at many intervals during my day. God frequently brings them to my mind and to my heart.

Come quickly, Lord, Your good and faithful servant waits. He is ready to come home to You. We live in the gracious knowledge that through all the suffering we experience or witness, You have overcome this pain. We have senseless suffering but we do not fear evil; You have overcome this world and the new world waits.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,

I will fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.

Psalm 23: 4

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Runnin' with the big dogs

I just finished my second test in phd school. I didn’t think I was worried about it but I found I was unable to eat supper before I left. I suspect my stomach betrayed me. I have trouble getting past the idea that I have to do really well on these tests. I don’t mean staying-in-the-program well; I mean impress-other-people-with-my-brilliance well. I want to prove to myself that I am good enough to run with the big dogs. (Especially because all of those big dogs are so much younger and faster than me.) Somehow I doubt that my “brilliance” is the reason why God put me here. I mean, if I haven’t been especially brilliant up to this point I doubt He would suddenly grant me 40 more IQ points. I think I better learn to settle with runnin’ behind the big dogs. As long as I don’t lose sight of them, I should be okay.

As I left Teacher Hall and walked across campus to my car, I was overcome by a feeling of contentment. This was not a feeling related to my performance on the test. I changed my answers on that baby more times than a politician between town hall sessions. I found concentrating particularly challenging because the class next door was laughing at a movie that involved loud screaming. What kind of class is that? It certainly isn’t a stats class, but, whatever it is I am signing up for it for next semester. I bet it is abnormal psychology.

The feeling of contentment was directly related to my conviction that I am where I am supposed to be. As implausible as a nearly 50 year old woman embarking on a long degree program that is unlikely to result in a career is, I am content to be here.

It is not a contentment born of the feeling that everything is going my way. That is a flimsy contentment that is destined to fade into grief and stress. This contentment is more solid than that. God has His plan and He guides me down this interesting and challenging path. This kind of contentment is a blessing. It’s a trust thing that assures me troubles will be survived, and plans will unfold, regardless of my own incapability.

It is even better than the contentment that comes from walking out of the student union with a dark chocolate snickers bar clutched in your pocketed hand. Hard work needs its reward; if not in a good grade than in calories. Hey, dark chocolate is practically a cure for cancer and a guarantee of world peace. At least that is what the current research says and I intend to accept, practice and cite that research until my journey on this planet is done.

Then I realized that it is good and proper for a man to eat and drink, and to find satisfaction in his toilsome labor under the sun during the few days of life God has given him - for this is his lot. Moreover, when God gives any man wealth and possessions, and enables him to enjoy them, to accept his lot and be happy in his work - this is a gift of God. He seldom reflects on the days of his life, because God keeps him occupied with gladness of heart.

Ecclesiastes 5:1

Monday, October 20, 2008

Tricky Ethics

Well, that was interesting.

I attended an ethics workshop to try to get certified to do research. I sat between two professors who complained that they had been “tricked” into coming and two research students from the neuro-psych department who talked about a subject that had undergone a “procedure” but might not have survived.

I was quite relieved to find out the subject was a lab rat.

The one professor rolled her eyes and announced that she had been given the assignment to teach a course on ethics for her department. The research students primarily saw ethics as having to do with animal research or how ethically they were being treated by their advisors. The professors felt put out because the onus for teaching ethics fell on their shoulders and they were already busy. The students felt it was the professors’ job to teach them what to do and straighten them out if they were going astray, ethics-wise.

So here I am a student in a class that is learning about the stages of moral development and I am sitting at a table with four highly educated, presumably highly developed people who are working from the viewpoint of: 1. ethics isn’t my job and 2. it’s not wrong unless I get caught.

Not exactly high stages of moral development; in fact the same stages could be used to describe kindergarten restroom behaviors. (See the previous two posts)

We spent the day talking about how universities ought to teach ethics, in the unspoken context of moral relativism. The room was full of a large group of people who admit they are forced to teach when what they really want to do is research. They know little about effective teaching but feel that teaching is a lower level skill. However, they wonder why their efforts to teach ethics are failing. I was frequently encouraged to speak up because my opinion as a graduate student was valued, but frankly, I didn’t know where to begin. To me this was just wrong on so many levels.

I got a migraine and left early.

One thing, that was said, keeps running circles in my head. One of the workshop leaders made the point that it is easy for scientists to step over the line ethically because they believe they are purists when it comes to the scientific method. They believe that somehow makes them immune to unethical behavior like falsifying data or taking credit for a colleague’s work. This belief lets down their guard and allows them to sort of slip slowly into unethical territory with justifications such as “I know what the ‘right’ answer is anyway” or “I am under so much pressure to publish.”

Oooh, that stings. Here I am feeling all snotty because as a church worker of 25+ years my world has been all about ethics and morals and such. I have had the blessing to have been given a faith that is based on an absolute truth. I obviously have an advantage over these poor secular, relativistic clueless scientists. Hmmm. Who is working from the lowest stage of moral development, now? Who is being judgmental in spite of her faith? Who is slipping into unethical territory because she feels SHE is immune? My last blood test showed I am immune to measles but I am not immune to sin, and I am most definitely not immune to pride.

How often does this happen in church work? How often does a pastor let his moral guard down when it comes to sexual attraction? How often does a principal or a teacher, or a DCE let his/her moral guard down when it comes to justifying a new set of rules, an all-law-and-no-grace classroom management technique or the treatment of a child? I know I have asked several times, how could a pastor or a principal or a teacher let that happen? I know I have asked myself that about my own behavior. You would think we would know better.

We do know better; we just don’t do better.

If you seek answers to life’s persistent questions: read your Bible. My daily Bible reading for the same day of the workshop, had I managed to get up early enough to read it before I left, held the answer:

Who can say, “I have kept my heart pure; I am clean and without sin”?

Differing weighs and differing measures – the LORD detests them both.

Even a child is known by his actions, by whether his conduct is pure and right.

Proverbs 20:9-10

When I try to justify my actions with shifty reasons such as assuming that I am beyond reproach or that the child needs to learn this lesson regardless of my method of teaching it, I am using differing weights and differing measures to try to make it all come out right in the end. That is detestable. It may be hidden from me but it is not hidden from God.

The lamp of the LORD searches the spirit of man;

it searches out his inmost being.

Proverbs 20: 27

Thankfully, for me, and for my migraine, I have a loving and forgiving God. I think I have found the direction for my prayers for this week.

I still need ethics training, though.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Confirmation bias

Thelma the gerbil was found dead in her cage. We buried her in the backyard. She rests next to Louise who is next to Fred who is next to Jeff, in a nice circle around a tree that seems to be doing quite well. It is the Marxhausen family version of the “circle of life.” I do feel kind of bad that Arthur the giant African millipede and the fire belly toad whose name escapes me, were unceremoniously thrown into the trash. I suppose my kindergarten pets have to be mammals to warrant proper burial.

Thelma represents the last vestige of my kindergarten teaching experience. With Thelma gone, now all of my supplies, books, and memories are neatly packed away, given away or sold. I can quietly close the door on that part of my life and ministry. I love teaching and I loved spending my day with young children, but, I can honestly say that I don’t miss it. God has spared me that emotion. He has filled my day and my heart with new work and wonders.

I have been thinking about confirmation bias, lately. I am a big proponent of this shady practice. I spend my days looking for evidence that confirms what I already suspect. Of course, when I taught kindergarten, what I suspected was happening in the boy’s room, was usually correct. There is just no mistaking the sound of a five year old boy’s shoes as they hit the ground from jumping off the toilet. You do not need empirical evidence to show that boys that age consider the restroom to be an extension to the playground. It is a theory that will stand the test of time.

Confirmation bias has crept into my Monday night class. My professor likes to lecture and once he starts there is little that will stop him. Not even the look of panic on the faces of his students as we try to keep up with our note taking. Every once in a while he will throw out a controversial example of some theory and will hope that a discussion will ensue. It doesn’t. First of all, we are all brain-stunned and cannot switch from listening and writing to thinking and discussing quite that fast.

Secondly, he does not inspire a heated discussion because by the time he has presented the argument he has answered any possible contradictions making it clear to us that the issue should be seen his way. He is a philosopher and a student of logic who has an interesting habit of manipulating his definitions to suit his argument; a fascinating form of confirmation bias.

Of course I always figure out a brilliant way around his arguments – two days later when my brain finally catches up with him. In class all I can think of is “oh yeah, says who?” So far I have refrained from participating in the discussions. I seem to have honed my debating skills on the playground.

At night I lay awake and think about how this brilliant man has managed to develop this technique that sabotages what he is trying to teach us. He wants us to learn that adolescents develop when they are allowed to consider different options and reason as to what should be included in their sense of morality and their sense of identity. Yet, he has managed to keep himself safe from that happening in his classroom of adults.

When I think of him I am reminded of how every time I read about the children of Israel wandering in the desert I can’t believe that they had trouble believing in a God who spoke to them through a prophet. They had manna, and columns of fire and smoke, and two large tablets with writing carved into them and still they wondered if they shouldn’t turn around and go back to Egypt and her gods. They had a serious confirmation bias problem. They were looking at verifiable evidence of an all loving and all powerful God, but yet that golden calf looked so good, especially when Aaron gave it a spit shine.

But, then, whenever I start harping on the Israelites, who, by the way, had a pretty tough life living in tents and eating the same thing everyday, God turns my finger of accusation away from the twelve tribes and right back to me. My confirmation bias is worry. When I worry I tend to look for evidence that my worry is justified and I am usually successful in finding it. I have awesome powers of observation that allow me to look right past the real evidence of God’s love and care for me and on to reasons why I need to feel stressed. My own sinful heart has turned me away from the truth. I am my own saboteur. I am my own worst enemy.

But my God continues to love me, forgive me, and hold me in His arms. And when it is time for me to be buried beneath a tree in some cemetery, I will become a part of His beautiful circle of everlasting life. I don’t need to confirm that bias with evidence. I have the faith that God gave me.

For the waywardness of the simple will kill them,

and the complacency of fools will destroy them;

but whoever listens to Me will live in safety and be at ease,

without fear of harm.

Proverbs 1: 32-33

Friday, October 3, 2008

Multi-tasking with a single brain

I had one eye and one ear open this morning in time to hear an NPR Morning Edition story on multi-tasking. It was quite a relief to hear that scientists have determined that it is not possible for our brains to do two things at once.

I thought it was just me. I am so glad I am not alone.

Apparently, MRIs show our brains can very quickly slip back and forth between several things but we cannot actually do two at once. I think this is most commonly demonstrated with the picture of the “vase/two people looking at each other” illustration. One can either see a vase or the two people but never both at once.

Thank goodness the burden to learn to text while I drive has been lifted from my shoulders.

I always felt that this distinct inability to spread my focus among several simultaneous things was my weakest link in early childhood teaching. I just can’t do the trick where you keep 6 plates spinning on top of poles. I was fine when it was story time and we were all sitting quietly on the rug contemplating the latest Kevin Henkes book. But, I was woefully inadequate when the situation called for me to work with a few students, keep the rest gainfully employed, keep an ear out for all call messages, greet the visiting family at the door, think about what was coming up next on the schedule, remember where I set my lesson plan book, settle a dispute between friends and prevent a fight between enemies all while using my TPESP (teacher powers of extra sensory perception) to monitor what was really happening in the boys room. I just couldn’t do it. And furthermore, trying to do it simply wore me out.

Dear reader, if you know an early childhood teacher: find that person and give him/her a hug. If you are an early childhood teacher. . . well, I will pray for you and God bless!

The urge to multi-task is not limited to our wonderful early childhood teachers. It is prevalent everywhere in our society. We eat while we drive, shop while talking on the phone, discipline our children while fixing supper, listen to our mp3 players while riding our bikes and dine with our families while watching TV. Good grief, we even read while sitting on the toilet. Why do we do this to ourselves? Why do we try to do so much? Why is it better to do many things fairly well than to do one thing with all our minds? Why do we keep trying to do something, which is rarely, if ever, successful when we admit it makes us miserable?

It sounds like insanity, yet, somehow the answer has to be “sin.”

C.S. Lewis noted that the root of all sin is pride. The root of pride is our pitiful attempt to make ourselves god. Now, I don’t really mean to imply that reading in the bathroom is a prideful act. I really don’t want to discuss private bathroom affairs at all, thank you. Lately, God has been reminding me that He did not create me to do many things at once. He created me to do one thing; to serve Him. When I was learning to be an interpreter for the Deaf I remember being warned that when I was talking with a mixed group (hearing and Deaf) I should not try to talk and sign at the same time. In fact, the Deaf refer to this as “macho signing.” Deaf people had evidence that you could not speak in two languages at once and they knew that their language would get the short end of the brain. I am coming to the realization that I cannot serve God and do ten other things at the same time. If I try, everything I do will suffer.

Yet, how do we reconcile this with the busyness of our lives and the work we need to do? We can’t completely clear our schedules (after all, at least our kids need to eat) and sit patiently in a chair with our Bible. The cloistered life of a monastery works for some but not for all. We have driving, listening, talking, cooking, cleaning, reading, paying, exercising, planning, sleeping, playing to do and a limited amount of time in which to do it. How do we stop ourselves from multi-tasking?

It sounds like an impossibility, yet, somehow the answer has to be “integrate the faith.”

When Jesus lived on earth He accomplished our salvation and He did it all without a palm pilot or a cell phone. He did it by living a life that integrated the faith into everything He did. He did it by serving our Heavenly Father and by doing the work that was set out before Him. And He did it with prayer.

My schedule is no less busy than it was at this time last year; although, I am eternally grateful that I no longer have to monitor the boy’s room. My life is no less stressful than it was at this time last year; but I feel less stress. The difference is that God is bringing me around to realize that I can do only one thing at a time and that is to serve Him. He sets out my schedule for me like a parent setting out school clothes on the bed in the morning. Then He helps me to do what is asked and to do it with a servant’s heart. He is changing me little by little. I don’t have to do everything at once. I don’t have to do everything. I just need to follow Him.

This will be a big change. This will be a change orchestrated only by God. I have a long way to go and a lifetime of watching God work.


You have searched me and You know me.

You know when I sit and when I rise;

You perceive my thought from afar.

You discern my going out and my lying down;

You are familiar with all my ways.

Before a word is on my tongue You know it completely,

O LORD.You hem me in-behind and before;

You have laid Your hand upon me,

Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.

Psalm 139:1-6

Friday, September 26, 2008

Cognating about cognition

I just finished a small blizzard with snickers. I have developed, over a lifetime, a rather nasty habit of rewarding, consoling, and comforting myself with sweets. I just took my first test in PhD school and it left me with a headache that only Dairy Queen can cure.

The test was 61 multiple choice questions wherein my professor was attempting to assess complex achievement via interpretive exercises. I only know this because it comes from chapter 9 in the textbook for the class on assessment that I am teaching. Unfortunately, this fact was not included on the test I took.

The professor says he is not trying to trick us, yet somehow we feel tricked when it is all said and done. As students, who possess hopefully at least half of his intelligence, we are pretty much working on a different level. What is merely an interesting puzzle for him is an insurmountable challenge for us. If this is what it feels like to be an emergent psychology student, I wonder if I will ever be fluent.

Even though it may not be apparent in my test grade, I am learning in this class. Not only do I have a whole set of new vocabulary terms (that I need to remind myself are useful only to people studying this topic, so probably I should not try to remember them by slipping them into casual conversation, although this would be an excellent example of metacognition.) but I seem to see examples of what he teaches in every corner of my day.

In other words this prof, has begun to change my way of thinking and changed my way of viewing the world just by torturing me with a test. (Umm, I mean, by giving me this wonderful opportunity to show him what I have learned.) I now see the world through the eyes of theories, schemas and paradigms. I am not sure, yet, if this is helpful, but there it is none-the-less.

God changes us, when we aren’t watching. When we think we are doing our best to survive He comes in and changes our way of looking at the world. When we want to veer off onto our own path, when we want to pull out our own map and make a new plan for how to get to our destination, God plants a detour. We think we are going out of our way and He knows we are headed right where we should be going. As much as I like to plan out every detail, I think I am glad that I cannot see the entire itinerary.

With God’s help I will just trust and drive through this journey. However, I will stop at any Dairy Queens along the way. Old habits are hard to break.

He turned the desert into pools of water and the parched ground into flowing springs;

there He brought the hungry to live and they founded a city where they could settle.

They sowed fields and planted vineyards that yielded a fruitful harvest;

He blessed them and their numbers greatly increased,

and He did not let their herds diminish.

Psalm 107:35-38

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Catching a glimpse of heaven

My niece is expecting a baby. I am very excited to be a grand-auntie. She and her husband have a sealed envelope on their refrigerator that indicates the gender of the baby; they do not want to know before the birthday. However, all of the aunties and the soon to be grandma, want to know. We figure it would make gift buying so much easier. I want to try to convince her to mail me the envelope so I can have a glimpse of its contents. I promise not to tell her, but I will share the news with my sister and all the other aunties.

I have a test coming up on Monday. (stop here and say a short fervent prayer) ( thank you) I am up to my neck in “isms” such as nativism, empiricism, interactionism, constructivism, and even rationalist constructivism. Ism havingism troubleism thinkingism ofism anythingism elseism.

I am not actually worried about the test. Hmm, is that a rationalization-ism? Okay, I am a bit worried. I wish I could get just a glimpse of the test. Not to cheat, mind you; after all, we are studying moral development. No, I would use my glimpse just to make sure that I am studying the right isms.

Maybe I better take another glimpse of my notes, instead.

God has been blessing me this week with something much more important than any ism thought up by any earthly philosopher. He has been blessing me with small sweet glimpses of heaven.

My first glimpse came in the form of notes in the mail from good friends. These notes remind me that I am surrounded by love and prayers. These friends have pointed me to the truth that God’s plan is bigger than what I can imagine and that His attention is on every detail. If you are a person who sends notes, gives hugs, or otherwise checks on people, please know that you should never underestimate the value of what God has called you to do. The children of God are blessed by your encouragement.

My second glimpse was in seeing networks of people pulling together to help two families I love and pray for. This is God’s work. The praying and the doing, the planning and the caring, the laughing and the loving; friends gathered together to stand by a fellow brother or sister in a time of crisis. In heaven we will not need fundraisers or meals brought to our house. In heaven we will stand with the people who stood with us on earth and look into the face of God with joy. I know that the church puts more emphasis on, and gives more honor to, things that have numbers. Counting members, dollars, programs, new churches, missionaries, etc. is all very important to the work of God. But, bringing a meal, providing a shoulder to cry on, lending a hand or a listening ear; these are the small sweet glimpses of heaven.

As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you.

Isaiah 66:13

Friday, September 12, 2008

Today I want to quit

Today, I want to quit.

This is what comes from waking up in the morning and before I even open my eyes I can see the all too familiar shiny coiled snake in my field of vision that indicates a migraine. I managed to escape the headache but spent the day feeling I was wearing a physical and mental Pillsbury dough boy suit that ground the pace of the day to a halt.

It didn’t make things any better to receive a letter in the mail saying a hold was going to be put on my registration because I did not get a measles and mumps vaccination. I called the number on the bottom of the page and the fine young lady I spoke with didn’t seem to know what to do with someone old enough to predate MMR vaccinations. She stuttered when I told her I had measles when I was five and mumps when I was eight and I was vaccinated, just in case, when I was an undergrad almost 30 years ago. Apparently, I still need to be vaccinated because all of this happened too long ago. How ironic that I will most likely be getting that childhood vaccination at the same appointment where my health care provider and I will be discussing the results of my bone density test.

Later in the day I had an email conversation with a friend that confirmed my suspicions about an institution of higher education that is near and dear to my heart. The devil is at work and he is greatly interfering with the good that institution could be accomplishing. I am frustrated with my connection to that institution and I am ready to quit.

This feeling of wanting to quit has always been a strange one. I don’t really want to quit. Or at least I never have. I am just tired of rediscovering the truth that I am a sinner living in a sinful world so there is always something looming on the horizon that I don’t want to face. Deep down I know that quitting won’t fix this. We all have things in life that we want to quit and most of us can’t.

If you are the parent, spouse, or the victim of a chronic illness, you can’t quit. If you live in a violence filled part of the world, including many areas of our own country, you can’t quit. If you are being wrongfully persecuted you can’t quit. And quitting is certainly not a reasonable option if you are a Christian, regardless of your life circumstances.

No, I don’t really want to quit; I just want everything to be easy. I don’t want to face my sin. I want to quit before real repentance happens. It is not so much that I want to quit as it is a realization that I don’t want to have to change. The key to what is wrong with the phrase “I want to quit” is not the last word but the first two words: “I want.” These words put my faith in me, not in God. These words put my focus on me and not on His ministry. These words are my sin and my weakness.

I was young and now I am old;

yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken

or their children begging bread.

Psalm 37: 25

For most of his young adult life, King David had a life he probably wanted to quit. He faced real danger and real persecution and knew he did not have the option of quitting. He did not aspire to be King; he had been anointed by God. No matter his life circumstances he had to continue on the road set out before him. His words are a good reminder to me that God knows what He is doing. He knows better than I. He does not abandon His children.

Earlier words in the same psalm show me my need for change. I do not need to “quit” what I am doing; I need to ask God to change my priorities:

Delight yourself in the LORD

and He will give you the desires of your heart.

Psalm 37:4