Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Sacred Days

Wednesday mornings are sacred to me. That’s the day some of my youngest friends come to visit—moms and babies—from 9:30-11. The young mothers and I eat, laugh, talk, pray, and study the Bible. The toddlers play in the playroom under the volunteer supervision of my friend Fay. I’ve missed various events because I do not cancel this get-together unless the weather keeps them from coming or I’m out of town.

But this week we are double-booked. Steve is hosting his MasterMind group (all speakers) from 8:30-11:30. This is the group for which I usually serve a sumptuous breakfast and light lunch.

So we’re squeezing it in. When the day of the week registered with me, I was not gracious about it. “But you know the girls come on Wednesday mornings!” I said, though I probably should use the word wailed.

“There was no other day this month that we were all available,” he explained. I waited for an apology, but that seems to have been it.

The disgusting thing about Steve’s being so understanding when I do dumb things (burn the soup when we’re only having soup, forget to give him a message, total two cars in two years) is that then I feel compelled to do the same for him! I wanted to rant and rave, but I remembered all the times he showed compassion when I’d messed up. I couldn’t do it. All I could do was help figure out where to put each group so they would least disturb the other. Talk about frustrating! Living with a compassionate person can really limit my opportunities to explode.

So the additional day that is sacred to me—Tuesday, my writing day—is now complicated with preparations for the MasterMind group tomorrow. Steve’s getting the groceries, which helps tremendously, but there is still much preparation involved. How can I offer ordinary food to John, who is recently divorced and living on fast food? How can I offer mundane food to Joan, a terrific gourmet cook herself? So I’m preparing stuffed French toast tonight and fresh basil/mushroom frittata tomorrow morning, hoping they turn out well. But I also know that if they don’t, everyone involved will be gracious and forgiving.

That’s one of the many great things about having friends who are trying to live for and like Jesus. They just keep forgiving and loving—prompting me to do the same.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

A Short Rant About Emails

So I just have to complain about the tacky way people write emails! Perhaps texting has something to do with it, but that’s no excuse. Here is one I received yesterday from someone I only met once. I sent him some additional information about one of the people killed in Tucson. He wrote:

thanks for the infor
I heard on the new as well the he was a member vs. minister
but what a hero he was in saving the life of his wife as her shield
God bless all the families invovled

Now sometimes I get a short, uncapitalized, unpunctuated email from someone who is giving a quick answer to a question. I can handle that. I can even accept no spacing between paragraphs—or no paragraphing at all. One long paragraph does not offend me. But how much trouble is it to hold down the Shift key? Or to touch the period key?

When I was a child, my maternal grandmother wrote each of her children every week—at least the 7 or 8 (out of 9) who were away from home. I still can picture her handwriting sprawled across the lined paper. She only had a fourth-grade education, but her letters were easy to read because she used capitalization and punctuation. Her spelling left a bit to be desired, but sounding out her words made them perfectly understandable. I wish I had some of those precious letters to keep.

Meanwhile, I am trying to be more careful about my own emails—at least reading them over before I hit Send. I don’t want to be guilty of removing the speck from my friend’s eye while I have a plank in my own!

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Temptation and God

Today our Sunday school class topic was Job, the first two chapters. The whole scenario of Satan's taunting God and God's response has always been a puzzle to me. It says way more about heavenly and hellish beings than I'll ever understand.

And then the teacher connected the story to I Corinthians 10:13, where Paul says "God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it." He made the point that that scripture has been misinterpreted, such as using it to comfort a parent at the death of a child. He waxed quite eloquently on all the situations where it had been misinterpreted.

So, though I was a visitor and knew no one in the class except Steve, of course I had to speak up. It seems to me that such tragic circumstances are the times we are most likely to, as Job's wife prompted him, "curse God and die." These are the times we cannot pray; we cannot hold up under the weight of our grief, and who is there to blame but God? That is the temptation we need help to resist. I've noticed that Job did not curse God, but neither did he take his problems without protest. He complained and bitterly so! He questioned why God would do this to him, a righteous man.

And so can we. It's not as though God doesn't know we feel that way. He just wants us to talk to him about it. He yearns for us to confide in him, to talk to him until our trust in him is restored. As Mother Teresa said, "I know God won't give me anything I can't bear; I just wish he didn't trust me so much."

So trust is a mutual arrangement between God and man. That's where our closeness to God grows and develops so that we can withstand the storms that come our way. It's OK to complain, to doubt. Just don't give in to doubt. As the father said to Jesus when he wanted his son healed, "I do believe! Help me overcome my unbelief!"

When tough times come, God will help us to overcome our unbelief. That's my opinion of the meaning of I Corinthians 10:13.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Needing a Mediator

This morning in Job 9, I read “If only there were someone to mediate between us, someone to bring us together,” and I was reminded of a difficult situation when I was teaching fifth grade.

I was excited to move from third to fifth since I felt I got along better with older students. And I did. Even students (such as my daughter’s closest friend) who didn’t like me much in third grade enjoyed my fifth grade class.

I looked forward to teaching with the other fifth grade teacher, having heard so much about what a fantastic teacher she was. I couldn't wait to collaborate with her. We were about the same age and each of us had a son, a daughter, and a loving husband. I thought we'd really hit it off.

My relationship dream was quickly shattered because she soon made it clear she did not intend to share anything with me—ideas, equipment, space—nothing. We had to share students because the students changed classrooms for math, science, and social studies. I even tried to share what I'd read or done, hoping that if I shared ideas so would she.

I noticed that she did not come to the teachers' dining room but stayed in the lounge at lunchtime. To give us some time together, I started bringing my lunch and joining her two days a week. Soon she started staying in her classroom for the duration of every lunch period.

The more I got to know her, the more astonished I was at the high regard in which students and parents held her. In fact, her comments and questions in faculty meetings often brought sidelong glances and even snickers from the other teachers. Unfortunately, I, too, was guilty of being amused by her responses.

"I need to talk to you in the teacher's lounge," she said one afternoon, tightly.
Meekly, I followed. Closing the door, she turned to me, eyes blazing. "I cannot believe the way you treated me in the faculty meeting yesterday!" she began. "When I asked about the transparencies with that machine, you looked around and rolled your eyes! That was so hateful!

"I just can't take it anymore! You thrust yourself into this grade against my wishes and then are so pushy and arrogant about all your ideas. Always telling me something you've read or something you're doing—and wanting to copy my ideas as well. And you're always yelling at me!

"I can tell you I've had it! You constantly humiliate me in front of the students. Even when we weren't teaching the same grade, you would rarely speak to me in the hall. I'd be leading a class down the hall and we'd meet you and I'd say, 'Hello, Mrs. Boyd!' and you'd just give that little tight-lipped smirk and go on. One day a child even asked, 'Why didn't Mrs. Boyd speak to you?' and I didn't know what to say!"

At this point, I started to say that I usually speak to people the first time I see them for the day and after that just smile as we meet--that it seemed artificial to me to speak jovially at every hall encounter, as she did. I didn't know what she meant by "tight-lipped smirk," but decided I'd better use a mirror to analyze my smile. Fortunately, I sensed that it was not the time for rebuttal. I stood there in silence, trying to look humble and contrite.

Finally, I simply apologized. I explained that I bore her no ill will—had, in fact, looked forward to teaching with her. Trying to word it differently each time, I apologized again and again—for intruding, for being unfriendly, for being overbearing, for existing.

I prayed about the situation. My family was aware of it; friends outside of school were aware of it. I hesitated to mention it at school because I didn’t want to be guilty of gossiping or complaining. I tried being kind and interested—“heaping burning coals,” as Solomon (Proverbs 25:20-21) and then Paul (Romans 12:20) advised, but to no avail.

I didn’t know what to pray. That she would move to another grade? That she would change? That I could figure out how to placate her? That she’d fall down the three flights of stairs to our rooms? Surely not.

Instead, I simply prayed for God’s help, and he soon sent it in the form of a beautiful young woman as our co-worker and unofficial mediator. Cathy’s gracious and loving nature toward each of us bridged the gap and we actually, over the years, became friends. We were never close enough to joke about the earlier years, but we were close enough that when I left she wept and said how much she would miss me. Amazingly, I realized that I would miss her, too.

So when I read today that Job was wishing for a mediator, I immediately thought of sweet Cathy and what a blessing she had been to us. And Job’s words were prophetic, for today we all have the greatest mediator of all—Jesus Christ, mediating for us with God. I couldn’t help but wonder if there is a situation where God might expect me, too, to be a mediator. And then I remembered a time he did put me in that role. I’ll write about that another time.