Saturday, August 22, 2009

Standing on the edge and looking down

I have a bad case of HDBS (High Diving Board Syndrome). I remember the symptoms from my former kindergartners. They wanted, very much, to go to kindergarten. They shopped with their mothers for school supplies, bravely endured booster shots and were excited to see me at home visit time. But, when they showed up at the kindergarten door, they just couldn't make themselves dive in.

I am prepared and ready for the semester to start. I am looking forward to my classes and getting ready to teach 80 students. I know it will be a good semester, in that, it will be interesting and challenging. I assume I will learn many things, both from my teachers, as well as my students.

But, the tightness in my stomach says I am looking off the edge of the diving board and I don't want to dive in.

The "what ifs" are lurking near, too. What if I can't keep up with my homework load? What if my students don't like me? What if I forget where I am and put one of them in the "calming down chair?" What if I can't . . .what if this doesn't. . . .what if, what if, what if? I can only handle so much uncertainty.

Hope is not an "if." Hope is an assurance. I can jump off of this diving board and know that I will hit the water. Maybe I will glide in smoothly and come up for air, exhilarated by the dive. Or, maybe I will belly flop. I don't know what will happen between the board and the water but I know God is encouraging me. I know God will catch me. No matter what happens, God will bring good out of the events of the semester.

Confidence is a tricky thing; too much and you do not adequately prepare; too little and you run from the challenge or handicap your own efforts. My faith teaches me to have no confidence and to have every confidence. I know that the old Adam in me will mess this up. I will forget details, say something I shouldn't, teach something wrong. I have confidence that I do NOT have the abilities to pull this off on my own. The new creature in me knows that with God, everything is possible; everything is good.

With hope and faith, the water doesn't look so far away from the edge of the diving board.

But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers loved by the Lord, because from the beginning God chose you to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth. He called you to this through our gospel, that you might share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. So then, brothers stand firm and hold to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter.

May our Lord Jesus Christ Himself and God our Father, Who loved us and by His grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word. II Thessalonians 2: 13-17

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Sandwich, please

I am a card-carrying member of the sandwich generation. I slid in on the tail end of the baby boomers; way ahead of any of the younger, hipper, technologically savvy generations. I am sandwiched in between elderly parents and children not quite on their own. My life is layered with responsibilities, promises to keep, tasks to attend to, and no place to turn for solace. Lathered over the top of that sandwich is a nice dollop of guilt that slides down my finger threatening to leave a stain on my lap.

Hold on . . .I think I have a piece of lettuce in my hair.

Some days I literally don't know if I am coming or going. Am I moving gracefully into the next stage of my life? If I am, I seem to be dragging the last stage along with me. Am I leaving behind the previous stage? Only if I am done raising my own parents, who seem to need me now, more than ever.

I am starting to feel the bread closing in on me. Can I be a salad, instead?

Somewhere in between the parents and the children, under the cheese but on top of the sliced turkey, is me. I am there, trying to keep the tomato from sliding out, while desperately trying to hold on to the bacon. I am there, wondering what I am supposed to do next; wondering who I am; wondering why I am here.

I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. John 10:10

Jesus didn't come so I could be a sandwich. He didn't come so I could feel pulled in too many directions. He didn't come so I could be content with wrapping myself in my life and responsibilities only to ignore the world full of ministry outside of my little life.

He came that I may have life and have it to the full.

Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him. Fear the LORD, you his saints, for those who fear Him lack nothing. The lions may grow weak and hungry, but those who seek the LORD lack no good thing. Come, my children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the LORD. Psalm 34:8-11

I am going to wash that lettuce right out of my hair. I am going to grab those pieces of bread and be a sandwich to the best of the abilities God has given me. Whatever I am doing; it's all good. It's all God; and God is good.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Creative Confusion

It was my turn to lead discussion for class on Tuesday. The topic assigned to me was "creativity" and we had just finished reading several research papers on creativity and motivation. In earlier discussion of the research I had expressed my dismay at what was deemed creative behavior. The action of creativity had been divided up into small parts and students were assumed to be creative if they could write several different titles for stories. Their creativity was simply the generation of ideas. My interpretation: the students were simply taught an interesting game.

I began my discussion by talking about the action of riding a bike. In riding a bike the whole is more than the sum of the parts. If you teach a child to ride a bike by having him practice on a bike that is propped up on its kickstand, that child will not be learning what is necessary to actually ride. You have to learn to ride a bike by actually riding it. I believe the same is true of creativity. If you want to understand that amazing process, you have to watch it while it is happening. You cannot recreate it in a lab, and test it a small piece at a time. You will be looking at the parts, but not understanding the whole.

Apparently, many educational psychologists disagree with me. Oh, well.

This weekend a group of atheists and agnostics are having a conference on UNL's city campus. UNL has made it clear it is not sponsoring the group. A representative for Campus Crusade for Christ has announced they have no intention, or reason, to protest, and would hope this group would not protest their future gathering. Have you ever thought about what you would say to a group of non-believers? I am intrigued by how they like to divide faith in God, into teeny tiny parts that then can be discredited. This somehow brings them comfort, or perhaps a sense of control. In one sense they are correct; if you divide faith into small parts it is ridiculous and incredulous.

The problem is, this analysis does not bring understanding; it only creates confusion. God cannot be reduced to thought molecules that can be examined under an electron microscope. He is God. He is not parts; He is Alpha and Omega. Likewise, faith cannot be divided up and scrutinized, either. Faith comes from God. It is whole. It is living. It is efficacious. It is our personal part of God's love. It is beyond analysis.

Just as researchers are not learning about creativity by putting the behavior of "brainstorming" under the microscope, atheists are not learning about what faith really is by making lists of why it cannot be true. You must see faith in action, you must experience faith, you must be blessed by faith, and even then you do not understand it. But, in that action you become a precious child of God and that is enough.

God is not a God of confusion but of peace. I Corinthians 14:33

If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. James 1:5

And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Ephesians 3: 17-19