Thursday, August 23, 2012

It's A New School Year At It's Like Herding Cats

Tomorrow will mark the end of the first week of the 2012-2013 school year, and I am really enjoying the class. Last year I began the year at Mary Esther as a long term substitute for a teacher out on maternity leave.After the first nine weeks I was hired for a "split" class at Eglin of 3rd AND 4th graders. It was really tough at first and never easy. But I gave the kids everything I could, and I'll remember them forever.

This year I am just teaching third grade. I'm thrilled to have sixteen students that I get to see learn and grow.

You come into the classroom every morning and look at their chairs, knowing that they'll be there in an hour or so expecting you to lead them to learn, encouraging them to push past where they are and move forward - always forward.

This week has been a lot of introducing procedures, explaining how we do things, and rehearsing skills we will use all year. The last two days I have introduced some work designed to assess where the students are now, so I can work to put together plans that will meet each of their needs. We've done some work in Science, Math, Reading, and Writing. As a result I am beginning to have an idea of who might need some help catching up as we launch next week. We'll get them all where they need to be by the end of the year.

Yesterday Bunny and I got the news that the grandchild our son and daughter-in-love are expecting a BOY! It was right before the bell rang to start school and I saw it pop up on the phone "It's a Boy!" and I blurted it out. Then I had to explain what it was about. All the kids just grinned.

We'll have more of those moments this year where our family lives spill over into our school family. Kids bring it all to school with them. Most of them are military dependents and have parents who either have been deployed or will be. They've all lived at other locations. They've all had to leave friends behind. They'll tell me about new puppies, rabbits and fish. I'll hear about movies and video games. By the end of the year we'll know a lot about each other.

 I look out at them and want them to have the best year ever. I can see my own sons when they were in third grade and now look forward to my grandson heading to third grade someday. I want him to have a teacher that will do whatever it takes to make sure their students succeed. Someone like me.

So the year begins with a smile and a prayer that God will give me everything I need to make this the best third grade class in the history of Eglin Elementary.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Nobodies To Somebodies

We're in week 8 of "The Story" - a 31 week walk through the Bible, and this week finds us in the time of the Judges. There's lots of rich insight available in this part of the Scriptures. In preparation to preach it, I focused on Gideon. Personally, the story spoke to me about how God chooses the least qualified so that no one can confuse Who should get the credit when the victory is won.

Unfortunately, I didn't feel like the sermon ever got off the ground. It just didn't seem like it was connecting with the congregation. I'll have to do a better job of prayer and preparation this week and ask God to redeem my efforts today. This is where being bivocational is tough. You really have to manage not just your time, but your energy and passion.

Then too, it may be that what I thought were impactful points from the text did not hit the heart of the congregation today. So much of what we do as preachers is just trying to be faithful to the text and to the Spirit. I think I did that, so I guess I should stop whining and trust God. :)

Music - We have been enjoying a return to hymns at New Hope and have really done a good job bringing them to the congregation with our awesome praise band. But "On Jordan's Stormy Banks" never really came together because our timing was all over the board.

The rest of the music - How Can I Keep From Singing, O Praise Him, He's Got the Whole World In His Hands, and Amazing Grace really went well.

In closing, consider this - if God can use cowards, murderers, prostitutes, drunkards, and the like to do great things, why should He use us?

If we are available that is.

Pray for me as I go back to school tomorrow and seek to be God's instrument of grace to the kids. I'm excited to be teaching third grade and am ready to see them achieve everything they possibly can.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Trembling Steps In Faith

We're into week 7 of The Story at New Hope, and this week we learn or really relearn about Joshua and the Israelites as they enter the "Promised Land." So much had happened in their past that it must have been hard to just focus on the future, but somehow they did. And in Joshua Chapter 3 their first steps of obedience were met with a miracle from God.

13 And j when the soles of the feet of the priests bearing the ark of the Lord, f the Lord of all the earth, shall rest in the waters of the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan shall be cut off from flowing, and the waters coming down from above shall k stand in one heap"

They continued to take those steps all the way to Jericho, where God asked them to do the incredible to achieve the impossible. They were to walk around the walled city for 7 days and on the seventh God would give them the city. I can't go forward without pointing out that Jericho is one of the cities most investigated by archaeologists and that the battle we are reading about is supported by what they found.

The task God set before them was impossible. A walled city filled with fighting men that had a years' worth of harvest just brought in, and a perpetual spring supplying all the water the people would need for up to a year's siege. They would be overcome by walking, shouting, and the blowing of horns.

It was one of those times when you have to decide whether to follow God no matter what or not. Looking over their shoulder, we can see they have had lots of examples of God doing the impossible for them. But in this case, the key to the impossible requires their doing the ridiculous. And they did it. In faith.

Obedience unlocks the deeper blessings of God.

That's still true today.

A baby can change everything

We just finished a great week here with our oldest son Adam and his wife Shonda. I really hated to see them leave. Over the years Bunny and I have become more aware than ever of just what family means and how precious these times when we get together truly are. I miss them already, but I'm glad they got back to Georgia safe and sound.

Yesterday was Adam's birthday anniversary. His birthday happened on August 11th, 1978 in Macon, Georgia.

Adam changed everything.

Sure I had thought about being a father - had always thought I'd be one - but on that day when Bunny and Adam rolled out of the delivery room - I was his Daddy.

I didn't feel up to it at first. I mean that yes it had happened, but I had to grow into the job.

I went back to my job and it wasn't good enough - now that I had a family to care for. That began my real effort to progress in my job. It caused both Bunny and me to look at our priorities and decide that we were going to give Adam (and later Sean) everything we could give them to help them have every chance to succeed as they grew up.

Decisions began coming at us that would have never happened before. Adam was being cared for by a private day care person. One day early in he had a scratch on him that we didn't get a good explanation for. We decided to take the ridiculous step of having Bunny quit work and stay home - which she did until both boys were well on their way in school. With the boys grandparents we placed both boys in private school to give them that head start. I returned to college to get the degree that I should have had before Adam was born.

Time and time again we prayed for wisdom and acted on what we believed God would have us do.

I looked at Adam yesterday and saw a great husband, a good man who tries to do the right thing in every situation. Around the first of the year we believe he'll get the same shock I got when he holds his son or daughter in his arms. The difference is that he's been through fires I never had to go through, survived them, and he's taking the right steps way before I did. He's returning to college this fall to get a degree that will mean a lot to his family going forward.

I could not be more proud of him.  I have been so blessed with an awesome wife and two great sons.

But today I'm remembering the baby that changed everything.