January 5th-ish

Today is the day!  In less than two hours I will clock in at my new job!  I am excited, and nervous!  I’ve probably felt this way every time I have started a new job — and I’ve had plenty of them!  I’ve worked everywhere from a dress shop to McDonald’s to summer camp to pubic schools to day care centers to residential facilities.  I like to work. I also like change.  So, why am I nervous?  I have been thinking it’s because I don’t know how my body will handle the demands of consistent work after eight months or so of concentrating on improving my health.  But I got up this morning, had the parade of beverages, read my devotion and realized that this is an opportunity I haven’t had in a while. Now I’m a little more nervous than I was before!

Since 2005 I have been working at a Christian high school.  Almost all of my colleagues were Christian, and the majority of our students were, too!  In fact, daily prayer with our students was encouraged, each day started with a devotion read over the public address system, every day included twenty minutes for a chapel service or devotion, and issues of faith were freely discussed in our classrooms.  Our Christian beliefs were on display at every turn.

What a blessing, right?  Right!  It was an incredible privilege to work in an environment that was supportive of my faith and in which I could freely share my faith with my students.  However, it was also a bit of a safety zone.  My students and I, I believe, took this for granted.  It was a given.  We started most conversations on an even and familiar playing field. We knew, to some degree at least, where the other was coming from.  Conflicts were in the minutiae, not in the big ticket items.  Parents counted on that; so did we.

Here in Ann Arbor, which is, as a whole, a very diverse environment, we sit on a small Christian college campus that is very similar to the high school environment where I taught.  The majority of employees/faculty/staff are Christian and I would say that more than half of the students are, too.  So, again, we are operating in a somewhat predictable environment.

My tutoring experiences have allowed me to interact with students from a variety of backgrounds for one hour at a time. In the one hour that we are bent over my students’ school work or writing we spend very little time on personal matters–we joke a little, talk about sports, or share our plans for the weekend.  We don’t often have time for deeper conversations.  But today —  today I enter an unknown environment.

I have been in the office once.  Situated on the second floor of an office building on the south side of Ann Arbor, the learning center is very professional.  All employees are in business attire (khakis are only allowed if they ‘appear to be professionally laundered’), students and parents buzz to get in and are greeted at the door by an employee.  The waiting room is clean and orderly.  The rooms within the office suite are tastefully furnished and impeccably kept.

The employees I interacted with during my two-hour interview were very professional.  They taught us a strategy and then practiced it with us, coaching us in the ways that they would coach students.  I have no idea how many employees there are.  I have no idea what backgrounds they come from.  I don’t know what students and parents I will be working with.

I just know who I am.

This morning’s devotion said that when Peter referred to believers in his letter I Peter, he used the word lithos, which is the same word that was used for the stone that was rolled away from the tomb. Beth Moore, in this study, said, “Wouldn’t it be something if our lives became living stones exposing the empty tomb…what if people were convinced we worship a living Savior simply by watching the effervescent life of the Spirit within us?”

What if in this new environment, where we don’t start with morning devotions over the public address, where I don’t attend chapel with my students, where I don’t start every session with prayer, my students and their parents and my coworkers can still see evidence that I “worship a living Savior”.  What does that look like?

I don’t know.

So that is my prayer today.  My prayer is that I will not be focused on how my physical body is feeling but that I will face each student in front of me as a gift, that I will recognize the awesome opportunity I have been given, and that I will see God working in all of it.  Stay tuned.

2 Corinthians 2:14

But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of Him everywhere.

Continue reading “January 5th-ish”

Dayenu, re-visit

I first wrote this piece in April 2015 after attending a Seder meal. Tonight, my husband and I are hosting one. As I mark my blessings in April 2019, I remember that any one of them would have been enough.

On Maundy Thursday, we attended a Messianic Seder. We have, in the past, been privileged to attended an authentic Jewish Seder in the home of  friends. During the Seder, the story of the Passover is retold around a table where participants taste foods that signify the journey of the Israelites out of Egypt. The matzah reminds us that the Israelites had to flee so quickly that they didn’t even have time to add yeast and allow their bread to rise. The bitter herbs remind us of their suffering. The salty water reminds us of their tears. The lamb shank reminds us that the blood of the lamb was placed over their doorposts so that the angel of death would ‘pass over’ and not kill their firstborn sons.

Traditional Seder

I grew up listening to the story — as though it were mythical, as though it didn’t really happen. As though it didn’t have anything to do with me. As though I hadn’t been rescued, too. But I have been rescued from my own personal Egypt. I’ve been to real-life Israel. I recognize that the story is no myth, rather, it has a transcendent power that resonates with me.

The Jewish celebration of Passover, written in the Haggadah, includes a section titled ‘dayenu’ which literally means, “it would have been enough.” The leader of the family says, “If He had brought us out of Egypt,” and the family responds, “dayenu.” It would have been enough.

He says, “If He had executed justice against the Egyptians,”

“Dayenu.”.

“If He had split the sea for us,”

“Dayenu.”

“If He had fed us manna,”

“Dayenu.”

The sentiment, of course, is that God did so much more. He did bring the Israelites out of Egypt after hundreds of years of slavery. He did execute justice against the Egyptians — killing many with the rushing waters of the Red Sea as they pursued the Israelites who had made it safely to dry ground on the other side. He had provided manna so they never went without food. He rescued them. He provided for them. He made their descendants many. He took them to a land flowing with milk and honey. Any one of those actions would have been enough to elicit the thanks of the Israelites, but God did so much more.

Our Passover Seder on Thursday was different than the Jewish Passover we attended years ago, but very familiar. We shared the matzah. We ate the bitter herbs. We enjoyed the charoset — a sweet mixture of nuts, apples, honey, wine, and cinnamon. Those parts were just like I remembered. The difference was that our pastor highlighted all the areas of the Passover that pointed to the Messiah. Just as the matzah is broken and hidden away to be brought out later, the body of Jesus was broken for us, hidden for three days, and brought back. Just as Moses led the Israelites out of slavery to exacting task masters, Jesus has offered us freedom from slavery to sin and the need to earn God’s favor. Just as the blood of the lamb protected the Israelites from the angel of death, the blood of the Lamb covers our imperfections and protects us from our punishment — our death.

When we got to the ‘dayenu’ portion of our Seder on Thursday, I read along with the others from the Haggadah, but in my mind, I was thinking,

“If you had just rescued me from my own intentions,”

“Dayenu.”

“If you had just provided for my physical needs,”

“Dayenu.”

“If you had just given me a husband who is a partner,”

“Dayenu.”

“If you had just provided me with children,”

“Dayenu.”

My sentiment, of course, is that God has done so much more for me. He has saved me, and that would have been enough. But He also has blessed me beyond what I could have ever asked or imagined with family, friends, community, meaningful work, and so much more.

Blessed are You, O Lord our God, King of the Universe.

The Israelites, the Jewish people, demonstrate intentionality in marking their thankfulness for their rescue. They remember where they once were, and they have chosen never to forget who rescued them and by what means.

Having seen, we can go and do likewise.

Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church, and in Christ Jesus, throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen

Ephesians 3:20

Spring Thaw

It happened — Michigan thawed!

Today I went outside and looked at the flower bed where I had planted bulbs last fall and — bam! — the beginnings of daffodils and tulips were breaking the surface!  I went for a walk with my dog with nothing more than a light jacket on — no hat, no gloves, no parka! I came home and opened the windows in my kitchen and my bedroom.  Now, as I type I can hear the sounds of students chatting as they walk past, I can feel a cool breeze on my bare arms, I can smell Spring.

Yippee!!

Now granted, if I still lived in St. Louis, I would have been writing this over a month ago, but, hey, a girl has to celebrate when she can! I will still be celebrating in July when it is merely 80 degrees here instead of the 90-100 degrees that I would have been experiencing in St. Louis.  Yes, it was a bleak and frigid winter, but we made it through!

I can’t help but think, as I observe the object lesson that is my life, that this Spring thaw is a reminder that, like the bleak and frigid winter, the other dismal seasons of life are temporary.  You know, the season you had that broken leg, or the season when you were in high school, or the season when you had three children under the age of five, or the season when you couldn’t find a job?  These seasons, like the long cold winters of Michigan, come and they go.

But we don’t always believe that.  There was a day in the middle of January when we had so much snow that even the University of Michigan cancelled classes.  It was impossible to get out of our parking lot, let alone onto the streets.  As I peered out my window at the plows desperately trying to clear paths, I couldn’t imagine a day like today when all the snow would be gone and Chester and I would be walking happily side by side.  Last year as I lay in bed, exhausted after a long day at work, I couldn’t imagine a time when I would work on a project all morning, go to lunch with a friend, take a walk with my dog, and then come home to plan a lesson for a student I would see later in the afternoon.  But that is what happened today.   Years ago as I worked through recovery from an eating disorder I couldn’t imagine being in a healthy and satisfying marriage, parenting four children, earning a Master’s degree, holding a teaching position, or becoming a grandmother. But, guys, all those things have happened.

So today, I drink in the sunshine and smell the freshness in the breeze.  I remember that Winter will come again, but it won’t last forever.  It will be followed by Spring.  Sorrow may last for a night, but joy comes in the morning.

Song of Songs 2:11

See the winter is past, the rains are over and gone;

Flowers appear on the earth, the season of singing has come.