Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Little things

Maybe it was all coincidence. Maybe it was just a series of random events. But this weekend God used a series of coincidences and random events to capture my attention.

Let me back up a bit. Growing up in a pretty conservative church, "Keeping the Sabbath" meant taking a nap and having no fun. And so I chose to put that particular command in the "Old Testament Law" category that I didn't have to obey. Once I joined the force of working moms, it became not just a law I didn't have to obey, but a law I couldn't possibly obey. I mean there is no way humanly possible to teach and take care of a family and still take a day off.

My friend Kathy reminded me frequently -- probably every Friday afternoon -- to "take a day off this weekend. Enjoy the Sabbath." At first, I told her it was impossible. Then I decided to do housework on Saturday and schoolwork on Sunday . . . This way at least I "sort of" took a day off."

Last summer, however, I read this verse: Ezekiel 20:18 "Keep my Sabbaths as holy rest days, signposts between me and you, signaling that I am God, your God." It struck me that God gave the law about the Sabbath, not JUST to give the people a much needed day of rest, but also to signal that HE is God and WE are not. Taking a day of rest is a way to say, OK God, I trust you to help me complete all of my work in 6 days. When I don't take a day of rest, I am doubting God's ability to work in me. So while I still believed there was no way "humanly" possible to get all my work done in 6 days, I decided to trust God to see what he would do.

When school started in September, I made it my goal to not touch school work on Sundays. In fact, I worked towards making it my goal to finish my lesson plans for the next week before I leave each Friday and to only bring "grading" home with me. Fridays and Saturdays have been busy, but Sundays have been glorious! No school work, no housework (OK, not much housework), a day to rest, reflect, read (and occasionally shop!). I really feel like this little change in my habits has made Sunday morning worship service much more meaningful. It's been good.

Now we come back to the series of coincidences and random events: Last week was insanely busy at school. I collected essays from 35 students and book reports from 60 students; I gave tests to those same 60 students; I had to plan several new units to begin teaching in the next week, AND I had parent teacher conferences and technology training. I worked non-stop every day and every evening and was still not finished. On Friday afternoon, in the five minutes that would occasionaly free up between conferences, I sketched out lesson plans for next week. But by 4:30, I was no where near being finished, so reluctantly, I saved my work and for the first time in 8 weeks, I took my plans home with me.

Saturday, I spent most of the day grading papers and taking care of my family, with the plan that I would have to give in and finish my plans on Sunday. Just once. God would forgive me. Besides, it wasn't about legalism. It was a necessity. . . . . Saturday night, I worked another hour or two on my plans. About the time I was ready to call it quits, I noticed that I did NOT have any of the plans I had worked on in school on Friday. Instead of saving them to my laptop, I saved them to the Network at school. That meant I couldn't access the work from home. Because I was doing so many things on Friday, I had no idea just what I had finished or what was ready for Monday. My stress level about went through the ceiling, but since there was nothing I could do about it, I went to bed.

Sunday morning before church , I read a chapter about the sin of unthankfulness in Jerry Bridges book Respectable Sins. I was reminded God calls us to be thankful in everything -- even difficult circumstances. My perspective shifted, and I thanked God for holding me to my promise not to work on Sunday, and I thanked him for giving me the opportunity to trust him. And then I went about my usual Sabbath -- a glorious day of rest.

I made arrangements so I could go in to work extra early on Monday to make sure I at least had plans for one day. I got in, retrieved my plans from the Network & saved them to my laptop, and sent the papers for my morning classes to the copier, and made it in time for faculty devotions.
During my planning period later that morning as I went to finish my plans, I discovered that somehow I had actually finished my plans for the whole week. All that was left to work on was a powerpoint for Friday. I don't know HOW I finished it all without knowing I finished it. But it was done. I breathed a huge prayer of thanks!

Now is when the coincidence comes in: Turns out the schools network had been acting up all weekend. Somehow, it was up and working on Monday morning for only a very short time slot -- the exact time I happened to get to school to retrieve my plans from the Network. By the time faculty devotions started, the system crashed and the network was inaccessible for the entire day. But somehow, I managed to get on in the few minutes it was up, copy my work to my laptop, and get off. A coincidence? Maybe. But I choose to see God's hand in every coincidence!

By Monday evening, when I sat down to look at the events of the few days, I was overwhelmed -- this time in amazement. God put in my heart to trust him in the little things; God worked out details so I HAD to trust him; and when I trusted him, God blessed my work. I actually had a GOOD Monday --- even though I went in without any idea of what I would be doing. THAT is God, not me.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Seeking Truth

As a part of a school project I am working on, I have been digging into the "Web 2.0" technologiesand researching teaching methods and philosophies this week. As I've done this, the worldview that pervades education & society right now strikes me. I’ve been reading about “constructivism” and “meta-cognitive” theories, and about the necessity of teaching kids 21st century skills which focus more on collaboration and inquiry than on facts. These beliefs jump out at me:

  • Truth is changeable and “experiential.” The only truth that matters is that which affects me personally. My truth may be different from your truth.
  • Authority figures are irrelevant. Because truth can change from person to person, I don’t need any authority figures to explain truth to me – I have to find my own truth.
  • The result or the product is less important than the process by which we get somewhere. Structure doesn’t matter as long as I’m “thinking” and searching for truth. It used to be “the ends justify the means,” (which was also not Biblical.) Now, the end doesn’t even matter. So any “means” is OK – as long as it works for me.

The worldview around me runs contrary to Biblical truth.

  • Truth is found in the person of Jesus Christ and his Word. God is the author of all truth – anything that man discovers comes from God. Just as I cannot change the “fact” that 2+2 = 4, I cannot change the facts about God, man, sin, humanity, hell, etc. I cannot choose to believe only the truth that I like and throw away the rest.
  • God created human relationships with an in-born NEED for authority. God placed Adam as the “leader” in the Garden and Eve was the support. In marriage, Man is the “head” and woman is the support. In the church as a whole, Christ is the “head” and we, the church, support his work. In individual churches – pastors / teachers lead the church. I can find example after example from Scripture that show me that God put someone in authority to teach, to govern, to lead those following. (Think Moses, Samuel, David, the Judges, etc). In the New Testament, specific commands are given that those who are older and more mature should teach the younger.
  • Both the process and the end result do matter. In the old testament, God gave explicit instructions on how to build the ark, the tabernacle and the temple. He did not leave it up to the builders to decide how to go about their business. And the final products were works of excellence in form and aesthetic beauty. God DOES care about the end product. The Bible itself is beautifully written – it was written WELL. The content is amazing and the structure (in it’s original form) was excellent. Both content and structure are important.

I recognize the flaws in the thinking of the world around me. I can see that the world I am working in, EVEN in the Christian school, is flooded with thinking and acting that runs contrary to God’s world. So what do I do? Do I run away from it all, take my kids and isolate them from the world? All of the “Web 2.0” and “School 2.0” practices and theories seem to scream the post-modern worldview. And I would love to run away from it all.

But Jesus didn’t run away; Paul didn’t run away. They lived, moved and interacted within the worldview that pervaded their times, but as Paul says: ". . . .I didn’t take on their way of life. I kept my bearings in Christ—but I entered their world and tried to experience things from their point of view. . I've become just about every sort of servant there is in my attempts to lead those I meet into a God-saved life. I did all this because of the Message. I didn't just want to talk about it; I wanted to be in on it!” (I Cor 9:19 – 23, The Message)

My job then, as a Mom, as a teacher, and a minister in God’s Kingdom, is to “keep my bearings” on what I believe, and enter their world. I do need to become more and more familiar with technology; I need to be aware of current methods of teaching and thinking so that I can interact with those around me. But I need to keep my bearings and share TRUTH with those around me. . . from the teachers I work with (Christian and unbelievers) to my students, to my own children.