Wednesday, April 29, 2015

There are no ordinary people.

But I put my trust in your mercy; my heart is joyful because of your saving help. I will sing to the LORD, for he has dealt with me richly; I will praise the Name of the Lord Most High. Psalm 13:5-6

So last night I kept falling off of my veritable propping-up throne of pillows, so I didn’t sleep so well. This little busted rib thing just isn’t going away. So I read from a couple of my favorite perspective guys, C. S. Lewis and Brother Lawrence.

From his deathbed he wrote: GOD knows best what is needful for us, and all that He does is for our good. If we knew how much He loves us, we should be always ready to receive equally and with indifference from His hand the sweet and the bitter; all would please that came from Him. The sorest afflictions never appear intolerable, but when we see them in the wrong light. When we see them in the hand of GOD, who dispenses them: when we know that it is our loving FATHER, our sufferings will lose their bitterness, and become even matter of consolation.

Let all our employment be to know GOD: the more one knows Him, the more one desires to know Him. And as knowledge is commonly the measure of love, the deeper and more extensive our knowledge shall be, the greater will be our love: and if our love of GOD were great we should love Him equally in pains and pleasures.

And perspective is a mighty thing.

Birthdays are all about perspective, today, so many years ago, I walked into the San José de Ocoa Sanatorium a very bewildered but oddly enough not terrified but very about-to-have-a-baby-girl. I was in a muddled fog of people-do-this-all-the-time-so-I-can-too and the peace of God’s kind mercy.

And the memories abound. The nurse snatching the only fan off of the hospital director’s desk to give it to me, the visitor from America. The hours stretching into more hours in the stained wall room with my momma and Alan as we tried to explain to the equally bewildered nursing aides that they weren’t doing things correctly according to the book that we kept showing them, even though they were all fascinated by the pictures. And the final flurry of confused excitement as they wheeled me into the delivery room with an IV and three doctors and a bunch of nurses and the final burst open door of everyone in the hospital and the cat and maybe a chicken or two who wanted to join in the fun of welcoming Little Nicole into the world.

And she was La Princesa and everywhere I went, crowds pressed in closely behind, in this little mountain village. And we were accepted because she was beloved but who would have ever guessed where that bro ken asphalt road would have led?

And certainly we never could have imagined the up and down path as she flies through life on a bicycle that that is traced on her Facebook page nor the dozens and probably even hundreds of birthday greetings today like May you keep dancing and spreading happiness around the sun, because well, who could have guessed about Facebook?

And I reread Mary Anne’s sermon from Sunday last night as well, about Paul’s prayer in Ephesians, For this reason, I ask God to give you a Spirit of wisdom and revelation so as to understand these blessings and know God better.

(I pray that you) May have POWER

To GRASP (to understand, to comprehend) the amazing dimensions of God’s love:

How wide  (Includes all peoples and beings in heaven and on earth)
How long  (from this day through all eternity)
How high  (Beyond the immensity of the Universe)
And how deep is the Love of Christ  (Deeper than all of our human sin, need,
guilt, failure, emptiness, loneliness) 

And may I not only rest today in this great love, but rejoice, to drink from Lewis’s fountain of joy.

Because last night C. S. Lewis smiled as he invited me to join him: Meanwhile the cross comes before the crown and tomorrow is a Monday morning. A cleft has opened in the pitiless walls of the world, and we are invited to follow our great Captain inside. The following Him is, of course, the essential point.
And Mary Anne smiles as well: We pray to the Father of all, who loves us
We ask that He strengthen us in the inner man by His Spirit
So that Jesus will make His home in more and more areas of our lives. And will feed us and fill us with His love, so we can give it to one another and to the world around us.

And Nicole, dear beloved Nicole, Nicolasa Calabasa, smiles just before she heads off down the road to love her jungle of aching middle school wildebeests, smiles and posts a reminder from the great prophet who saw things that none of us will ever understand, Albert Einstein: There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.

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,
 (Will we ask and let His power work within us?)
To Him be glory in the church
And in Christ Jesus
Throughout all generations
            Forever and ever


Monday, April 27, 2015

I am thankful that I was able to comfort and play games with children in a nearby field all afternoon and distract them for a bit.

I will confess you among the peoples, O LORD; I will sing praise to you among the nations. For Your lovingkindness is greater than the heavens, and Your faithfulness reaches to the clouds. Psalm 57:9–10

My desktop photo is now this line of little Syrian boys in front of the tents of their refuge camp. And my prayer is Luke 18:16, أمّا يَسُوعَ فَدَعا الأطفالَ إلَيهِ وَقالَ: «دَعُوا الأطفالَ يَأتُونَ إلَيَّ، وَلا تَمنَعُوهُمْ عَنِّي، لِأنَّ لِمِثلِ هَؤُلاءِ مَلَكُوتَ اللهِ, let the little ones come unto Me.

And every month we send twenty dollars to a girl who is loving little children in Nepal, and yesterday her email was full of thanks at the goodness of God in the midst of ruin and chaos and pain.

And every day I am reminded that it is not about me, as I learn to love my kiddos well.

And I am wandering through a school in rainy Denver this week, with a notebook and pen, as I watch some wonderful people love children well, with creativity and passion, with a team of equally inspiring teachers.

It is about His honor and glory and His great lovingkindness. His great lovingkindness that I certainly cannot wrap my small human mind around, but that which is declared day after day, night after night by His mercy and His grace.

Particularly in His image-bearers, who fill my heart with tenderness.

Now they were bringing even infants to him that He might touch them. And when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them.  But Jesus called them to Him, saying, “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God.  Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.”

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Shut the F up Miss is trying to talk.

Search for the LORD and His strength; continually seek His face. Psalm 105:4

O Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world, have mercy upon me. O Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world, have mercy upon me. O Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world, grant me Your peace.

So yesterday I popped back into my room between library sort-of-research moments, for instance really a bunch of refugee girls jumped on the table and bumped like Everette when I turned my back for just an instant. And another kid whipped books at a kid’s head because he crumpled his paper. And every class period students demonstrated that the book detector would beep and flash bright lights if they walked through it with an unchecked out book. But some of the teams were actually researching how to start an after-school soccer league and how to order frogs to dissect to make science class exciting and how to apply for grants for school technology. Really.

The first thing I noticed was that someone(s) had shoved all of the books and papers and tape dispenser and sharpened pencils and little box of paper clips off of my desk. As I knelt down to pick up the ream of project packets one of the kiddos gasped, “Miss!”

My board was covered. In big capital letters in the middle it read BITCH. And all around the edges were variations on the theme: Fuck you Mrs. Voelkel. At least it was spelled correctly. And some equally vivid illustrations.

So as I erased it all before the next class shoveled in, they were already lining up outside, I wondered whose toes I had stepped on that day and smooshed, unaware. And I know it’s not about me, but I want to be a healer and not a smoosher.

We met with a mother the day before yesterday during planning period. Her son is incorrigible. I just pretty much send him straight to the little desk with side panels as soon as he walks in the door just to keep him from tormenting the other kids.

And his momma tries really hard. His momma with five piercings through her lip and huge bright pink plastic flowers in her hair and a bunch of hearts tattooed up her neck. And she’s missing most of her teeth and it looks like someone bonked her pretty hard on her cheek.

The backside of the story. And last year was pretty rough. Three people in their family died in one week. And she pretty much fell apart. She said. And things aren’t so good with the kid’s father.

And can I say the math teacher with a slight but ever-so-gentle Southern lilt was the kindest thing ever. She has been calling her all the time and sending extra homework sheets. And the guy working on his PhD in Lit who skateboards with the kids during break when he isn’t sitting under the mesquite tree playing his guitar put together a tidy little to do list for her like one hour of homework from seven to eight and don’t let him go in his room and shut the door to do it. And she doesn’t write so good, so I wrote it down for her. And the rather gruff social studies teacher told her the magic trick was to follow her son around through all of his classes. She did that once with her eighth grade daughter and never had any problems after that. And it turns out last year that he missed a lot of school when his momma wasn’t doing so good so the school he went to failed him. They flunked him. Which really wasn’t what he needed. And he kinda curled up and died inside.

So yesterday momma was in my classroom, marveling at the vibrating madness. And her kid was docile and sort of attentive and he asked for make-up work. And when I hugged her good-bye she wept and clung to me a little and said thank you a lot.

And Ms. Morales the principal met with one of my research teams yesterday to be interviewed how we can get rid of bad language on campus. And they were proud as little peacocks with their hall passes and their Rice Krispy treats that she gave them afterwards. And she and Mike Birrer are meeting with two more teams next Wednesday at 9:00 AM to plan a campus cleanup. And Rebecca from Tucson Clean and Beautiful is meeting with an entire class in two weeks.

And yesterday my little lunch bunch who come in and straighten up chairs and tidy up my drawers every single day–I have the tidiest drawers ever–and sharpen pencils told me some stuff like, "Miss, do you know that my family ruled the Sudan for thirteen generations?" And it is a little cluttered because some kids came in yesterday to play Battleship and one of the groups was in the back, really intent about figuring out how to build more little solar-powered cars like the one I found crushed in some drawer and The Solar Store guy gave them a bunch of little panels Thursday when they went in to do their expert interview because he was so excited that they were so excited. 

And yesterday I missed the musical presentation in the auditorium that all of the Language Learners performed, but Nicole took her Leadership class and stood on the chair and cheered. Because they were so very proud and so very happy. And she introduced her Language Arts classes to the wonders of Salad Bowl Charades yesterday, instead of a vocabulary quiz and her little bad boys loved it and won and got their first A on a quiz and they were so very proud and so very happy.

And life is hard every day just down the street.

But good.

And our merciful God is at work. He who has taken away the sins of the world.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Busted ribs feel a lot like a busted heart.

To You I lift up my eyes, to You enthroned in the heavens. As the eyes of servants look to the hand of their masters, and the eyes of a maid to the hand of her mistress, So my eyes look to the LORD our God, until He shows me His mercy. Have mercy upon me, O LORD, have mercy. Psalm 123

The practice of contemplative prayer is the discipline by which we begin to see God in our heart. It is a careful attentiveness to the One who dwells in the center of our being such that through the recognition of God’s presence we allow God to take possession of all our senses. Through the discipline of prayer we awaken ourselves to the God in us and let God enter into our heartbeat and our breathing, into our thoughts and emotions, our hearing (great blog on listening, btw) seeing, touching, and tasting. It is by being awake to this God in us that we can see God in the world around us. Henri Nouwen

I am trying to pull off this one great big finale with my science kiddos, combining the ideas of science methodology with Rachel’s Challenge of being part of the chain reaction. So everyone is divided up into self-selected (yikes) teams designing a project proposal of how they want to address a physical, emotional, social or academic need around the campus… in theory they will put together one of those famous science trifold boards, prepare a propaganda poster and be reading to publically sway the class to choose their project to put into action.

No problem.

So the first Rachel’s Challenge verb is Awake. And I have taken it to mean, Open Your Eyes and See What Is Around You, both needs and resources. Oh yeah, I could spend an entire year on the idea of Awake. And this includes a silent walk around campus just noticing, and then researching on the library computers (don’t even get me started on how fun that was yesterday) on what other schools have done to solve the now-noted area of need, then of course, my old stand-by, interview an expert, thank you Mike Birrer for answering so many letters–it made my kids like real people–and the survey, asking people in the Doolen community what they think.

Once again, no problem.

And I sit here and pray for my very-most-unawake kiddos. I evaluated 78 five-paragraph third quarter TUSD ELA 06 Gr. Q3 essays last night, which was eye-popping. How can you think without words?

And think about old very-barely-awake me.

All of my senses. Enter my heartbeat and my breathing.

Thoughts and emotions.

To You I lift up my eyes.

Time for another swing through the desert. The desert trembling with beauty and life.