Saturday, October 29, 2011

Week Two

Everyone knows the opening line... "It was the best of times; it was the worst of times." Maybe the reason it sticks in our memories is that it happens oh so often - the highest of highs placed cheek and jowl next to the worst. "Flying high in April, and shot down in May" opines one famous song after beginning with "That's life. That's what people say."

Well this guy can bring some fresh evidence to those thoughts.

Just finished my second week of full time teaching a combined class of 3rd and 4th graders and Charles Dickens has got nothing on me. There were times these past two weeks that it seemed as if we were going to race to the top together. And there were other times I wondered how it was going to work. As a teacher, I have to remind myself that these are kids who are wholly and dearly loved by God and made in His image. When I relate to them, I am in a sense that "pencil in the hand of God" that Mother Teresa so famously wrote about and emulated with her life. What I do matters. It matters more than a grade on a paper or an inscription in that infamous "permanent record." So whether the child is "full of grace" or "full of woe", they deserve everything I have to give.

The week began with a teacher workday and a holiday for the kids. That coupled with a half-day workshop I had to attend on Tuesday morning did not help us launch well. Tuesday afternoon was then turned into a review, and we didn't really get moving until Wednesday. But by Friday, we were right where we should have been, and I think they left excited about what next week would be bringing. We started a class-wide project on the earliest Floridians that had them racing to research. :) Awesome to see. I set up a special search page for them to use and they found so much information they wanted to print out and read later I realized I needed two printers to keep up. Here's the link for the page:

I'm hoping to gradually increase their use of technology for learning gains, and this is only the beginning. Each child will produce an "e-book" using Power Point as their work product. Hopefully they will be content and image rich and really help them learn about part of Florida's History that at least in my research is incredibly interesting.

My mentor teacher Mrs. Hudson and our principal Dr Combs both gave me the gift of their time this week as they worked to help me become the teacher I want to be. The cohort of teachers at Eglin is so supportive of each other that I truly feel blessed to be placed here. I'm learning every single day.

I want these kids to look back and say "Mr. Wilson believed in me." But more than that, I want them to believe in themselves.

So goodbye week two. Let's roll.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Sunday Morning - Touched By Love

Touched By Love

After the blur of my first week as a full-time teacher, I enjoyed Saturday immensely. Who knew that sleeping until seven was plenty of rest? When you get up at 5:30 every week day, 7 seems like eating ice cream for breakfast - a real treat. We had a good day yesterday on our own terms. Picked up some items we received through Freecycle - I got a TUB of crayons, some construction paper, colored pencils - all for school - and a pressure washer I think just needs a little work. Then I cleaned up some in the garage, checked the car's fluids, and really just enjoyed letting the day come to me without a schedule.

Now it's Sunday morning.

And for me, the excitement is building.

There won't be a laser light show this morning, or headline entertainers. No fried gator on a stick or funnel cakes. There won't be a crowd of people either. New Hope's size right now is more like an extended family, and our gathering reflects that. But for me, there's something very special about being there - together with God. I prayed last night through the mental list of people who make up the New Hope family, asking God to bless them and to draw them into the fellowship this morning as we worship. I truly believe worship - community - the fellowship of the saints - matters - and the act of choosing to come works as a spiritual discipline done in obedience to God. It's not about numbers, it's about hearts and what God will do as we live in obedience to Him.

So when Sunday comes, I get excited to see what God will do among us that will translate later into what He does THROUGH us as we live our lives among the people He wants us to love, care for, and introduce to Jesus.

Today the message explores what happens when someone with the most disgusting condition is touched by Jesus. I cannot get the old Southern Gospel song "He Touched Me" out of my head. To know that Jesus will let no condition - no sin - keep His love from finding us - yeah, that makes me want to hurry to church so I can tell everyone what Jesus has done, and will do.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

THEY are the 1%

Tuesday evening, I spent a couple hours of my life meeting and greeting with some of the forgotten 1% of America. It was open house at Eglin Elementary. They came in smiling, couple after young couple with their children around them. They represented all kinds of ethnic backgrounds, all sorts of levels of education, and all ranks.

They are the 1%.

They are America's military families.

Eglin Elementary sits on the largest Air Force base in the United States. Most of the children that come there are dependents of military families. Due to Eglin's multi-service nature, we see children whose parents serve in every branch of service. Monday night, I met two families who serve in the 7th Special Forces group. They had just moved down from Ft Bragg NC recently. They were a bit concerned about whether their children would catch up, since we start school much earlier here. One of the things most of America forgets about when they think about the military - if they think about them at all - is the effects on the families the last ten years of war and the deployments have had on the children. Simple things like whether a child is going to be okay in school don't need to be a worry for someone who is putting his/her life on the line. But it can be.

I met a young Marine family in which the dad was working hard to finish Explosive Ordinance School. Surrounded by four children and his wife, he was saying how happy his kids were at school. All the while I was thinking how proud I was to serve as their teacher. Then I met a Navy Chief who was also part of the EOD community. She was a very articulate Mom who stressed that she wanted to see her child succeed. "Just let me know if there's anyway I can help." I couldn't help but think that many of the people in the room had done more than I would ever know to help me already.

In encounter after encounter, I met people who were proud parents wanting the best for their children and eager and willing to assist me in every way they could.

In this tumultuous time, where pundits and politics are cutting America up into percentages, I want to add this. Less than 1% of Americans are serving in the military today.

And we, the 99% have no idea what that 1% gives up to do so.

I was blessed to see those parents Tuesday night. But all America is blessed by them and their compatriots.

THEY are the 1%.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

First Day Herding Cats

Well, it's been a long day and I'm about to head to bed, but I wanted to journal some of what I experienced today.
- Never underestimate the power of chaos. I had 8 third graders and when we got to math, they were in three different chapters. Oh and the new student wasn't in any.
- You really do have to tell them not to do pretty much anything. Had a child toss a pencil to another and it hot the target on the bridge of the nose. Thankfully it hit flat. But the children got to see Mr. Wilson in lockdown mode. Scared me. No harm done but one little boy won't ever throw anything again.
- Kids will cheat for candy reward. Big time. I usually put something up to challenge them at the beginning of the week. Today it was to tell me what a group of crows is called. Odd word. They are called a "murder" of crows. They were stumped. Went to recess and came back with a revelation. Guess a crow must have told them OR they asked another teacher. Hmm.... I will stump them tomorrow. :)

It was a long day but it was okay for the first day with a group of students pulled from every class. They were generally well behaved and worked pretty well together. The flow between working with one class or the other was actually better than I thought it would be.

Mr. Wilson will be more ready tomorrow than he was today. And he'll do the same Wed. And the next day.

Blessings to you - David

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Herding Cats Times 2

It was the first day of the week and the start of the next to last week I would have a teaching job.

It was Monday. 

Beginning with a walk around Valparaiso's Bayous, I was moving along pretty fast, maybe subconsciously trying to stay ahead of the calendar. Talking with district personnel wasn't getting me anywhere. Tweaking my resume wasn't getting anywhere.

Thinking about it wasn't getting me anywhere.

So as I walked, I prayed that God would provide - and I was thinking as soon as possible would be nice.

That afternoon, I got an email offering me an interview at Eglin Elementary.

Tuesday I interviewed.

Wednesday I got hired and started my new job as an elementary school teacher.

So now I am a full time pastor - no change in that except the location I work in. I'll still be serving God through New Hope but I'll also be a missionary they support on the mission field as a full time school teacher. And the salary I earn doing that will help New Hope turn more resources to other mission work here in Valparaiso and around the world. Win. Win.

Today, I have the honor of teaching Middle Schoolers in Sunday School, then sharing with the congregation. Tomorrow I will have the honor of being God's instrument to care for 19 Third and Fourth graders. I believe that His hand will be upon me and His Spirit will enable me in both roles. He has placed me where He wants me, and my job is to serve Him there. Doubly blessed, I'll probably be doubly worn out at the end of the week. But in both jobs I know I can call on Him. But I'm also calling on you.

Your prayers would mean a lot to me.

Sunday is here and Monday's coming.

Please pray.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Handle with care

It was a "sixth sense" moment. 

We were working through some tougher work yesterday. Math isn't easy for some of the kids, but as a former math-o-phobic person myself, I do everything I can to keep the fear away. Passing out the previous days work, which I had graded, I was working the problems on the board and trying to reinforce what they had learned and correct what they didn't get. I try to keep a connection with them while I do that, calling them into solving the problem with me.

Some students relish this, and some try to hide.

I had turned back to the board but all of a sudden it felt like something was wrong.

In the corner, our newest student, was crying. Huge tears rolled down his face. I didn't know it at the time, but he had not done well on the homework. And without a word, he was suffering. There are kids who don't try and cry at the consequences. This wasn't that. This was failure.

It was PE time, and the class got up to head out. I stopped him before he got out the door and we talked about it. He told me he just couldn't get it. I told him that I believed he could and we'd get it together. We took a minute and looked at one problem together with me showing him how. Slowly the light bulb came on as did his smile. I told him we'd keep after it and I'd check in with him every morning before we started to go over the homework just to make sure he was on track.

I sent him out to PE and half way down the ramp he turned around and said "Thanks Mr Wilson!" And he and his smile joined his friends on the playground.

You know, it's not just kids that are fragile.

Everybody hurts. 

We're put here to help each other along the way.

19 We, though, are going to love—love and be loved. First we were loved, now we love. He loved us first.  1 John 4:19 (MSG)
The next time you get that "sixth sense" about someone - turn around and look to see if God isn't wanting to use you to help Him care for someone else.

Sunday, October 02, 2011

It's Jesus, always Jesus

It was never about the church for me.

In fact, there was a lot about the church that served to push me away.

When my Mother took me and my brother to church as a child, I was at church, but the flannel-graphs didn't hold my attention. And compared to roaming the woods near our trailer home - please.

True, when I came to church to play basketball and met Bunny, I joined Bethesda Baptist Church and was baptized a believer in Jesus Christ. I've been a member of a local church ever since. Had some great times seeing God at work, and met some unforgettable people.

After all these years of working in the church, I still look back and know that for me...

It was Jesus.

Do I love the church I serve? Ask anyone who knows me or New Hope - even my (our) enemies.

I've given 12 years, forsaking all others, in good times and bad. I love her. Desperately.

But it's because of Jesus.

It's His story that drew me.

It's His love that provides the reason, the purpose and the power for me to go on.

Some people immerse themselves in prophecy. Others can't get enough of the Law.

For me, it's the gospels. Always the gospels.

I keep reading and rereading in amazement and wonder as Jesus rewrote what it means to live.

If I can just be a fraction of what He was...

I'll die satisfied.

Today I opened the Gospel of Mark to the folks at New Hope. I presented it as the gospel of second chances. Lord knows I've been blessed with a few.

I can't wait for next week. Can't get enough of Jesus.

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Upon Further Review

The weeks have flown by at Mary Esther Elementary.

I've learned an awful lot about teaching that textbooks will never deliver. Constant improvement is my goal. I have training across multiple disciplines and communication is something I've used daily for years. As a first year teacher, I need to use whatever I can. One of the skills I've transferred from my primary vocation is reflection. As a pastor, you are constantly delivering and evaluating, delivering and evaluating. And you pray, oh how you pray, that God would take your efforts and make them more than you ever could.

Funny thing.

I've been doing that every morning at Mary Esther Elementary.

As a pastor, I've always prayed for people in my congregation individually. The regular practice of intercessory prayer helps me remember to work out of God's love. As a teacher, I want to do the same. So as part of the preparation to teach - along with lesson plans, text and practice books, assessment plans, technology and hands on work - I pray.

There's no way I can share everything I have heard from those little voices during the last few weeks. But I will tell you that they reflect every hurt their families suffer, every lack they feel. Children don't have filters. They may cheat on a test but then turn around and be brutally honest about how it felt when the chaplain came to the door and told Mom daddy had been shot in the shoulder. Or how it feels that daddy is in jail. Or that life with a step-dad is better because daddy drinks and hides his beer under the bed. I can look at their clothes and see the needs, or notice that one who brings his books in a Food World bag instead of a backpack and took three weeks to get some of the school supplies he needed.

They will send you to heights of joy and break your heart. Kids do that. These kids do that.

So I go in every morning wearing a badge that identifies me as a certified substitute teacher who's going to give them every chance to succeed. And I leave every day drained of everything save my faith that God will take whatever I did that day and help the kids I've grown to love.

No collar. No suit. No Bible. Mr.Wilson is all the title I need.

Just Jesus' love identifies me.

Looking back over the last 6 weeks, that'll do.