Not Quite Molting

Grading Midterms is a mixed bag. I look forward to them in most classes and always have one or two pleasant surprizes. But always, every semester, there are at least a few students who ‘strain out gnats and swallow camels’. Each time such evidence presents itself I fret wondering what more I could have done eventually reminding myself, or being reminded by the designated colleague, that I can’t care more about ‘their’ education than they do. Yet, caring more, impossibly, immeasurably more is in fact my job or mission – or at least that is how it has habitually felt all these years. Now however it’s as if a new paradigm is emerging and unseating the other. Something is coming untethered. Something else is emerging in its place. There will be consequences.

T-Mobile System Error?

A prefatory note for context’s sake:

A few months back I terminated my out of contract post-paid T-Mobile service because my bill changed every month despite the fact that my phone usage did not. Why, after all, would one want to pay upwards of $200 for two lines on an unlimited family plan when $110 for two unlimited everything plus international talk and text (though not to the darker skinned nations – Japan yes, Jamaica no) is included on one line.

So I go to pay my prepaid bill in a T-Mobile store this weekend and am told to check back later as the system is down. I go to another location later in the day and succeed because a representative enters the information manually. Payment confirmed, I leave with a sense of mission accomplished. I get a text message confirming the account status and go happily about my business until this morning. I attempt to call my husband’s doctor and receive an automated message saying that this type of call is not permitted. Three reps and 35 minutes later I am told that my account was suspended because I was charged for an international photo text sometime between when the account status was updated and the bill was paid. Who knew State College Pennsylvania was a foreign country! I bring that detail to the attention of Rep #2 along with a reminder that I have an unlimited talk, text, data and international plan and am assured all has been restored – including the 25 cent fee for the incorrectly labeled international text that started the mayhem. I proceed with my workout at the gym. Timing is everything.

Leaving the gym I check my phone to find the following two texts from T-Mobile. The first arrived at 8:24 a.m., the second at 9:37 a.m.

Free T-Mobile Msg: Great news, your Monthly Plan has been paid & renewed for another 30 days effective 10/18/2011. Plan good through 11/17/2011.

Free T-Mobile Msg: Due to insufficient balance, your plan is inactive. Apply a refill to renew your Monthly Plan. Visit http://My.T-Mobile.com for plan details.

What do you make of it? I invite anyone else caught in the confusion of Sunday’s system error to comment.

Experiencing God

It is an awesome thing to have an encounter with God. Foundations shake. Emotional and psychological furniture is permanently rearranged and we are forever changed. The G.L.O.W. conference this weekend focused on experiencing the faith, hope, love, joy and peace of God. It’s aftermath rocked my world and the blessings are pouring forth faster than I can record them. Everything seems so much clearer, simpler and elemental now. I was sorely tried and purified by The Refiner’s fire. I am a living witness of what Oswald Chambers writes in today’s devotional:

Obey God in the thing He shows you, and instantly the next thing is opened up. One reads tomes on the work of the Holy Spirit, when one five minutes of drastic obedience would make things as clear as a sunbeam. “I suppose I shall understand these things some day!” You can understand them now. It is not study that does it, but obedience.

I pray that I can remain mindful of this lesson and pause, wait on God, to make every little and big decision for the rest of my life. The resulting clarity spilled over into my home life and college classroom. Today’s discussant invited us to select one of Stephen Covey’s Seven Habits and write about its influence on our lives. Highlights from what students said are recorded below.

Habit three: Put 1st things 1st I get distracted.
It’s my best and worst one.
I have to leave my house to get work done.
Fifth Habit: Seek to Understand, then 2B Understood It’s the one I’m good at except when I’m at home. They [my kids] have to understand me first.
Habit 3 I wait to the last minute to do things like my homework.
Habit 6: Synergize The whole is greater than the sum of its parts. I like that quote. I put that on my FB.
Habit 3 Once I do it, I’m in the zone until I take a break or get distracted again.
Getting started and staying focused is most of our challenge.
Motivation is needed. We don’t always see how things are going to come together the way we hope.
I’m going to let my friend(s) know that my schoolwork comes first before anything.

What I wrote about the 3rd Habit: Put First Things First will no doubt form the foundation of the teaching philosophy I was asked to summarize by a publisher’s representative last week. Below is an excerpt of the day’s freewriting.

In my classes, I try to embody the priorities that I think most effective so each class we begin with the individual (freewriting allows us to connect with ourselves and, if the topic lends itself, to the subject and class experience we endeavor to share). Then we move to community – and have a group discussion led by a peer. It’s not led the instructor because it’s OUR class and I am the guide unleashing initiative and imagination so others make take increasing charge of their thoughts and lives and succeed here and in whatever situation life presents. As  guide, I am charged with thinking about the whole until each member of the class can take turns thinking effectively about the whole. Then we move to action. This is where we measure how successful we have been in our attempts to apply the content of our lessons in homework, assignments and in class exercises. Having invited ourselves to enter the moment authentically through freewriting, and used the thinking of others to polish our own during class discussion, we enter the realm of application and move from theory to practice. On a good day this is what happens. Today was a good day.

If I Don’t Praise Him…

The rocks will cry out. Though it seems inevitable that I will forget, today I have proof enough that God is on my side! So very many little things happened around the big victories that it can only be His favor on my life. Evidence of protection, purpose, provision and more than I could think, ask or imagine were revealed to me. Can’t share the details yet so I’m leaving this place marker. Suffice it to say: Let God Arise!

Built To Outlast The Drama

Pastor House brought a word from Psalms 34:18-19 and Acts 17:6 this morning after Senior Eagles ministered in psalm and dance. He mentioned Paul Tillich‘s writings on the necessary balance between courage and fear. Courage, Pastor said, is after all the readiness to take on the challenge our fear has identified. 
He then offered the following talents possessed by all great leaders.

  • forward thinking
  • self-motivation
  • creativity

The Adult Sunday School lesson was also on God’s Call to New Levels of Leadership. In it we were reminded that “we bear the responsibility to discover and fulfill God’s purpose in our lives” through listening that comes only through intimate relationship with Jesus.

Faithfulness is another essential quality of a good leader. In which area of your life are you going to be more faithful this week?

After exaltation on the mountaintop comes the valley of humiliation, writes Oswald Chambers, it is there, in the valley, “where our faithfulness is revealed.

To Conquer Spiritual Selfishness

Abandon that craving for mountaintop experiences. Oswald Chambers’ devotional for today reminds us we were built for the valley.

We are built for the valley, for the ordinary stuff we are in, and that is where we have to prove our mettle. Spiritual selfishness always wants repeated moments on the mount.

Once we reconcile ourselves to the reality that we are called to witness and to live in the valley as living epistles, all becomes clear: Each life circumstance is designed to make, not teach, us something essential – how to be the embodiment of the Christ we say we love.

A Desperate Hope

It’s been a long, hard stretch. I guess it’s not a stretch if it isn’t hard. It’s been different in kind and duration from previous seasons in my life. Tearful at work and at home, God is polishing and preparing me for His life in me to move to the next level. I can hear the shackles falling off even now, for she whom the Lord sets free is free indeed.

Regarding Hosea 6 Matthew Henry reminds us, “The returns of the favor of God are secured to us as firmly as the return of the morning after a dark night.” Later on in the same commentary he also acknowledges that, “the word of God will be death either of the sin or of the sinner.” I take comfort in both and ask You, Lord, to set up Your kingdom in me, for I know that even wild oats sown must come to harvest and that now, it’s harvest time (MSG).

Oswald Chambers’ devotional today brings further comfort:

The words of the Lord hurt and offend until there is nothing left to be hurt or offended.

Blindsided in Church

With all God has poured into me in the spiritual and natural realms I remained speechless and dumbfounded. The elder had shown nothing but concern for me in our previous conversations. Yes, I had thought it a bit odd that she brought me pantyhose and kept volunteering to exchange them for the correct size when she didn’t see me sporting them after a couple weeks. But I just laid that to the charge of generational differences. We live, after all, in a dessert and I rarely wear skirts above my knees so I don’t see the point of wearing stockings even if they’d give my uneven skin a bit more polish. The same can be said for make-up and you’d be hard-pressed to remember a time when I was found sporting anything beyond lipstick and that rarely.

So when she made that remark about all those Hispanics lined up for immunizations at some grocery store or other and that she was now debating about paying her taxes as a result, I was caught off guard. The only thing that came to mind after sharing Christ Jesus’ command that we love one another was the great festival my husband and I had seen on a recent furniture-hunting expedition to the East Side. It had been similarly wall to wall Latinos enjoying the games and getting their kids’ shots. She said she’d only been joking and turned away.

What I might have said was, yes, isn’t it wonderful what great care Latinos take of their children! Or, after more than a decade of being a practitioner of the NCBI model, I could have pulled a Columbo and asked her what exactly she was getting at, the better to hear her into action. I might even have invited her to tea so I could have the chance to dust off more than 14 years of my Re-evaluation Counseling Art of Listening skills. But no, I became a smiling deer in the headlights, and stood there, blinking.

I wonder this morning at her motivation. Was she inspired to make the comment because she saw me sitting with my husband and thought perhaps he was only a love interest and therefore she had time to stop the presses, derail the union? Or, was this part of Jesus’ plan to answer the tearful prayer offered up on the way home after church while listening to the gift He’s given Whitney Houston, that I more effectively give to others what He’s given to me?

Or, is it His way of allowing me to understand better and to live what Oswald Chambers discusses about reconciliation in today’s devotional?

“First be reconciled to thy brother . . .” Our Lord’s direction is simple, “first be reconciled.” Go back the way you came, go the way indicated to you by the conviction given at the altar; have an attitude of mind and a temper of soul to the one who has something against you that makes reconciliation as natural as breathing.

Whatever the reason, I accept this challenge as a call to go up higher in my daily walk and talk as an ambassador for Christ.

A Word Released

When God directs, a word released will hit its target. This was part of Pastor’s Heart of a Champion message at today’s 10:45 a.m. service. And, as target, I am living proof. God’s word hit its mark. I get to remember that when the lock’s on the inside, it’s up to me when I walk out of whatever prison I find myself in.

I’ve been thinking a lot about being vs doing lately and Pastor reminded us that the battle is the Lord’s. While waiting on the Lord to make His move we need simply:

  • Show up and believe in God.
  • Hold on to our faith.
  • Refuse to operate out of fear.
  • Go deeper in conviction and confidence and…
  • Listen to God’s directions.

Like Benaiah, the man Yahweh built, we too were made for precisely this moment. Our DNA is that of Jesus – the Champion.

“Sometimes, you’ve gotta faith your way out”.   ~ Clinton House, Sr.

And, as Oswald Chambers reminds us, “God does not ask us to do things that are naturally easy for us – He only asks us to do the things that we are perfectly fit to do through His grace, and that is where the cross we must bear will always come.”

Choices, Choices

A plausible answer to the question, Do we have free will or destiny?, was given in a movie I saw this evening, The Answer Man. Jeff Daniels played the misanthropic auteur who gave the sage response: “Free will moving us toward or away from purpose.” Is that what I come up against more than half the time I sit down to blog? Free will? What if it’s moving me both toward and away from purpose at all times?

What if I was supposed to fight to keep my puppy? Or to get him back once the couple who says they are going to adopt him do? If the purpose is to glorify God, does it matter what the actual outcome is as long as He gets the glory? It’s not always crystal clear what that might look like in any given situation, after all.

It was a refreshing perspective to consider though, when Daniels’ character, sweet-talking a woman who, together with her son, were the answer to every one of his questions said:

God can’t wait to fall in love with the world all over again each day through your eyes.

Imagine. If I really believed that, how would I live? Maybe I’ll sit in silence next  year instead of daily blogging. Maybe I’ll write that book this NaNoWriMo. Maybe I’ll invite the 098 sections to take up the NaNoWriMo challenge to complete our collaborative textbook chapters…