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Archive for October, 2014

“Unless you people see signs and wonders,” Jesus told him, “you will never believe.”
John 4:48
Just as the windy, rainy, stormy night was coming to an end, the sun rose in awesome splendorIMG_1433.JPG. The heavy, pelting monsoons had diminished to a morning sun shower. As I saw the bright light of the sun, and imagined it being refracted in the drops of rain, I anticipated a most perfect scenario for a rainbow.

With that anticipation, came hope …

What is it about rainbows? How is it that such a natural, frequent phenomenon can make a person, who holds tightly to logic, hop on the superstition band wagon?

I expect we can look to the Bible, and the story of Noah, for where our human, hopeful hold first began.

In the story of Noah, in Genesis (5-10), the Earth is filled with evil people. God has Noah built an enormous ark, fill it with animals, then board it, along with all of his family. The family are tossed around on the waves, while the Earth is erased of the rest of it’s inhabitants, for well over forty days and nights. When dry ground is located, and the ark has come to a stop, Noah and his family disembark onto terra firma, to start over.

Not only do they get to start fresh, but God makes a big promise to them … that he will never again flood the Earth, killing all living things in it’s wake. And, as a symbol to remind all of this promise, a rainbow will appear after the rains fall (Genesis 9:12-16).

When I see a rainbow, I am reminded of that promise, and I am filled with hope that it’s appearance in my day is a reminder that everything will be alright, that the days will be better and brighter (both figuratively and literally), that better days are ahead than those behind.

I wonder what Noah thought, what his family thought.

A rainbow … a symbol of a promise … a promise of life … a hope-filled promise.

… and they all lived happily ever after …

NOT!

Only about three hundred years after the flood, we have the story of the people, full of greed, full of sin, full of … themselves building a tower (known as the Tower of Babel) to reach the heavens.

And, only days after seeing a rainbow we get that undesired report from the doctor, our workplace is downsizing (and we get the pink slip), our spouse is no longer in love with us, we discover that our child is struggling with a drug addiction …

Where is the promise? Where is the life? Where is the hope?

The promise has not changed … nor has humanity.

Just like the man who asked Jesus to heal his son, in John 4, we too are looking for divine intervention … for signs and wonders.

But, it is Romans 8:24 that reminds us that hope does not have to be something we see, like a rainbow …

“For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all.”

There is no magic in a rainbow, that is simply the visual reminder that the unseen God is where our hope should rest.

 

 

 

 

 

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A colleague came into the staff room, barely containing laughter, bursting from within, along with the the story she was eager to share.

Just moments before she had walked into a classroom, where three high school-aged students (all of whom have diagnosis which included struggles affecting social skills) were giggling hysterically. In between their joyful giggles, they were telling each other knock-knock jokes.

As the story was relayed to myself, and my colleagues, I found myself reflecting on what a beautiful scene that must have been. I also found myself pondering how beautiful it was to have heard of what these students can do, when left to their own natural devices.

So often, we in school think that we are the only instruments that can be used to teach social skills. We also often seem to forget that our definition of social skills might not be appropriate for our students to learn to understand.

How many times have I asked a student to “say the who thing” in response to a question? Yet, if someone were to ask me “what is your name?” I would not respond with “my name is Carole” but, simply, “Carole.”

Although, I do believe that social skills often do need to be taught, the best practice of them is done, not in the classroom, but in real life … out in the community, over lunch with friends (just friends, no educational sidekicks), doing social activities like swimming, shopping, playing games, having a drink at the local coffee shop … you know, the stuff that is social for the rest of us.

The nature of most (if not all) humans is to desire human connectedness. We do not all desire it in the same ways, nor in the same frequency (some need very little, many need much), but we do desire to connect with other humans. Within us all, that innate desire can push us to achieve what we want so greatly. Even for those who have a diagnosis that includes struggles with social skills.

What a delight to be reminded that my job is more to encourage real situations, where the real practice of social skills can be exercised, and less to teach a lesson plan about it.

These teens want human connectedness, and, as with any other teen, they are determined to achieve it.

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IMG_1400.JPGYou entered the world, and immediately turned mine up-side-down.

That day, you were handed to my open arms, and you were mine.

Now, at twenty-two, and a Psychology major, hearing that you were born into a possessive relationship might make you want to enter into therapy … as a patient.

I can assure you that our relationship got even more possessive, in the years to come. And now, somehow we have reached the point where you like to refer to me as not having time for you … maybe the possessive qualities of our relationship have altered direction (that ought to give both of us reason for therapy!).

According to our friends at Wikipedia, “Possession is nine-tenths of the law is an expression meaning that ownership is easier to maintain if one has possession of something, or difficult to enforce if one does not.”

And, as a newborn baby, you were possessed by myself, and your dad.

Now, if possession didn’t confirm ownership, appearance would cover the other one tenth. You were a visual reflection of your parents. To some a mirror image of myself, to others that of your father. I would say you are an image of the two of us.

There was nothing better, when you were first born, than to look at you. The very sight of you struck awe and wonder in my heart.

That first Sunday at church, when you were surrounded by eager arms, I wanted to hold you close and turn my back on those who would force me to share my possession …

but, I shared.

That first date out, after your birth, which your dad had arranged a dear friend to care for you, I just wanted to say no, and keep your snuggles and baby smell all to myself …

but, I shared.

That first time we didn’t know where you were, in a crowded shopping mall, because one of the girls of youth group passed you to another, I wanted to lock you and I up in our house, and never have to face that fear again …

but, I shared.

The day I took you to preschool, because you begged to go to ‘cool’, I really wanted to stay with you, but your teacher walked me to the door, and said the other children were excited to get to know you …

so, I shared.

And the sharing continued, and continues still.

Now, twenty-two years later, I realize so clearly that I really have never possessed you. From before you took your first breath, before even your heart made it’s first thump-thump, you were a child of the breath-giver.

As I look back at your first twenty-two years, as I look forward, at the appointed ones to come, I am reminded that my main job is not to possess you … but to hand you back into the loving care of the One who teaches us to share.

“I will be a father to you,
and you will be my sons and daughters,
says the Lord Almighty.”

2 Corinthians 6:8

 

 

 

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IMG_1392-0.JPGMusic can alter, or enhance, a particular mood or set of emotions that we might be feeling at a time.

For some, it is the music genre of preference that helps to change or enhance their moods.

For me, different music appeals at different times.

Dance music can sometimes draw me out of a negative mood, sometimes right up on my feet. It can amaze me how a faster, jovial beat can change the beat of my heart, creating a new adrenaline rush of hope and energy.

Praise music is what I turn to when I have spent too long naval gazing, pondering over the stuff of my life. When I sing the music of Crowder, Casting Crowns, Mandisa, Toby Mac, and Mercy Me my focus goes back to where it should be, my Life Giver.

Classic, instrumental, music is where I go when I just need to be still, when I need to calm my anxious heart, when I do not need words.

One such classic piece of music is Cello Suite No. 1. With the Prelude lasting barely over two minutes, Bach’s masterpiece can speak to my heart and soul like few human words ever could. There is a sense of peace that can rest in my soul from the first wordless sound to the final silence resonating in my heart. It is as though that piece of music can erase the noise of the train of life that we are all riding each day.

 

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I wanted to make a cake, a birthday cake. One of the students I work with was turning eighteen, and I wanted him to have the experience of a crowd of people, of friends, crowded around singing the most radical, off key rendition of Happy Birthday to You, with a candle burning on the top of a chocolate cake. All to him.

So, at about 8pm, the night before, I began the hauling of ingredients from my cupboards. All was going well, and I was envisioning his big smile, with every ingredients I added.

The cake came out of the oven looking amazing, and smelling divine.

As it cooled, in the glass dish, I started to make the icing … more chocolatey goodness! Except that, as I added the icing sugar to the bowel, I somehow dropped a significant amount onto the top of my cake. Not wanting the powdery white to destroy my chocolate work of art, I tipped it towards the icing bowl …

Now, to segue … if anyone out there ever has a problem with their cakes sticking to the pans, I have a no-stick spray for you!

… Yup! Half the cake slid ever so quickly and easily from its glass dish, and onto my dog hair covered floor!

I shrieked an inhuman sound, then calmly formed, Plan B.

This plan consisted of simply taking half the cake … half was probably more than enough. So, I continued with the icing, only to realize that I was making too little, even for half a cake! I roughly added about fifty percent more ingredients, then iced the half cake. As I was finishing I could wait no longer, and just had to have a taste of the tempting sugary icing. The taste was so … disappointing. Not creamy, not buttery, not even sickeningly sweet, but … heavy.

It wasn’t until I was putting the ingredients away that I discovered the reason … you see the container where I keep my icing sugar looks exactly like the one I keep the flour in!

At this point, I went to bed. Surely morning would dawn with new opportunities …

I awoke at 5:30am, determined to make things right. I hauled the ingredients from their homes … again.

By 6:45am I was making icing. Once this was done, I just needed to shower and dress for work.

Sadly my brain cells were not fully alert, and when I went to push the lock on my mixing bowl, I instead increased the speed …

My corner of the kitchen (and I) looked like the cocoa apocalypse had happened.

I did make it to work, even on time!

First thing in the morning I saw the birthday boy, and you’ll never guess
what he brought and was ever so excited to share?

Yup! A chocolate cake.

There was no way I would indicate that I had also brought a cake, for his offering had the ingredients of giving, of sharing in his special day.

Though it was his birthday, he was the giver, and a selfless one as well.

He relished in the candles being lit, the crowd of witnesses singing wishes of a happy birthday, and then his personal delivery of each slice to his friends. His gift was perfectly selfless.

Christmas is coming. The season when we celebrate the birth of Jesus. He came into this world receiving gifts of gold, frankincense and myhrr, but his ultimate arrival was to give, selflessly, to those who he served.

May we all live to give, and to serve.

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IMG_1371.JPGWe had a chat the other day, you and I.

A chat about your name … one of your names.

Jonathan …

If I were completely honest, I would say that if you had been born at this, more vocal stage in my life, your first name would have been Jonathan (though I do so love singing “Bennie and the Jets” to you … high pitched, and my singing (in)ability means I hit every note, whether I should or not). Jonathan was, and is, the name that ‘feels’ like the one you were born to wear.

Jonathan, a gift from God.

You were, you are a gift from God to me. You were a oft prayed for, hard fought for, child of mine.

Though Shakespeare would have us believe that a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, do we become what we are named, or are we named what we are to become? Is our name a self-fulfilling prophesy?

The other day, as you poured out your heart full of concerns for a friend, I smiled. I was not smiling because I was insensitive about the concern you had for your friend. I smiled because your concern was the proof that you are growing into your name.

Jonathan, son of King Saul, best friend, and brother-in-law of David … David the greatest enemy of his father.

The words of 1 Samuel 1:18, echoed in my heart, “the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul.” Knit together, like the passage from the Psalms, “knit together in my mother’s womb” (139:13). Knit, by the only one with needles so perfectly purposeful. Knit together to be one entity.

As my smile grew bigger, from my insides out, I looked at you and said “I was right to name you Jonathan.” And the question mark formed in your eyes, and the Bible story, the history story was shared.

Jonathan, the prince of Israel, the heir apparent to follow his royal father, Saul.

Jonathan had a friend, a best friend, a bosom buddy, a “friend who sticks closer than a brother” (Psalm 18:24). His friend was no blue blood, he was a simple shepherd. A simple shepherd that was a “man after Gods own heart” (1 Samuel 13:14).

Remember this son, God chooses leaders based on the condition of their hearts, not their abilities, not their credentials!

You know the story of these two. You know of the the deep love, followed by the insane, jealousy-inspired hatred King Saul had for David. You know of Saul’s plots to kill that shepherd boy. But do you remember what Jonathan did? Jonathan begged his flesh and blood father to be fair, to show mercy. Jonathan protected David from his father. Jonathan protected David, and through his protection he eventually lost his rightful place and position as King of Israel.

My son, my last born, remember when you were young, and too busy playing with trains to hug your mom? Remember what I would say?

“If you won’t hug me, I’ll have to have another baby, and then you’ll lose your place in the family as my baby.”

And you would drop everything, and wrap your arms around my neck hard … because you liked, because you wanted your rightful place.

Jonathan didn’t lose his rightful place, my sweet son, he gave it away, wrapped with a bow and a kiss of friendship, and hand delivered to the one who, he knew, God appointed in his place.

And that is who you are named after … a man who was also God’s gift. And through his selfless gift, the ultimate gift of redemption, through the bloodline of David to the blood shed of the Messiah. This Jonathan was no push over, he was aware that God’s purposes were greater, even if he might never come to understand the grand plan of the Creator.

And so, my son …

  • know that you are a gift from God
  • know that you have a purpose
  • love your friends
  • in everything, keep your heart pure … it is that which God can use
  • know that you are a gift from God

Happy Birthday, to my Jonathan.

 

 

 

 

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If you have ever needed to wear corrective lenses, you know what temporary blindness is like. Peering across the bedroom, in the dark of the night, with eyes squinting, trying to figure out if the clock reads 2:50am or 5:50am. Walking down the street to see a figure ahead waving all friendly at you, as you mentally kick yourself for leaving the house without your specs. Sitting down in church (or the movie theater, or the business meeting) to discover that the day the worship team decides to introduce a new song is the same one you forgot to put your contacts in.

For those who have need of corrective lenses, you will know what it is like to put them on and find that you do not have to extend your reach to read the newspaper, and that the trees are not just a mass of color, but individual leaves.

Our vision can be corrected and our view can be cleared to see the obvious to any person around us, with good sight.

The same can be said for reading the Bible. If we read without our corrective lenses, or through the power of the Holy Spirit, things can seem rather … unclear, distorted and even outright wrong.

When we can clearly see the messages left for us, it is like discovering an unread email message or an old love letter.

“This is love: not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the payment for our sins.”
1 John 4:10

“For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.”
John 3:16

“Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.”
Ephesians 3:17-19

“The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning.”
Lamentations 3:22-23

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”
Jeremiah 29:11

… you’ve got mail!

 

 

 

 

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