Thursday, May 22, 2008

Reaching for a Plunger

Earlier in the week, I just felt stagnated. Stuck in the midst of much to do and the question of where to start. It was time to dump the stuff that had been accumulating in my mind. I have software to keep track of appointments, contacts, email, and to-do items, but I don't use it like I should (if you do, then you are to be congratulated and know that you are an example for me to look up to). So how to get doing (or going) once again?

Time for a mental dump - take the loaded truck that is my mind and pour out all of the items that need to be done out on to a piece of paper. All of it, not just work stuff, but personal items also. Once it's on the paper, I can get it into the computer, prioritize it, categorize it, and act on it. My brain feels like it can function again. I recommend the exercise highly anytime your mind feels "stopped up."

Friday, May 16, 2008

Surprised to Hear...

I drive a school bus for some extra money. The other day I was shuttling pre-schoolers to the Library for a field-trip, less than a five minute trip in our town. One of the teachers was having a conversation with a student and they were talking about what fun the tour, getting to have a story read to them, and time at the playground would be. Then I heard the teacher say, "and then we'll be rid of you!" Not just once, but several times to stress the point that they would be glad to have time without students.

I was floored. Not by the comment. Parents can often be overheard making relatively insensitive comments to their kids. I'm sure that many things that proceed from my mouth are less than encouraging to the people around me - my children and others. The tongue is a difficult thing to tame, that is for certain. What surprised me was the fact that this was coming from someone who had chosen to be a direct influence in the lives of young people. Someone who is supposed to nurture and guide the formation of malleable minds and hearts. What would the parent of that child say if they had overhead the teacher be so callused? Then I started thinking about my own actions.

How many times do my words hurt instead of heal? Every so often, the Spirit will prompt me about the insensitivity of something I've said casually or in jest. I try not to cause pain if I actually consider my words before I speak them, but we all know the impact thoughtless words have. I'm sure that educators do not often let their true feelings about students show because of the negativity that can be lurking under the surface. It was a rare glimpse at an unguarded moment. I guess the real question is... why should I hold her to a higher regard than I do myself? A good reminder that you never know who's listening in or the impact a carelessly chosen phrase can have.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Heading in a New Direction

In a short time, I will be starting a new sermon series. Presently, the Book of Joshua is being finished, so I need some suggestions... My thought is to offer a series on favorite Bible stories. What I need from you is exactly that - you're favorite Bible stories.

If you have one, two, or even three, please add them in the comments section of this post. You don't have to know chapter and verse. A short description of the action will suffice and I will track down the associated verses.


Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Another View of Jesus

I just finished reading Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt by Anne Rice. It was the second time that I borrowed it from the library. The first time, I read a couple of pages and put it down. The opening seemed to be preposterous. I won't spoil it for you because the book can (and did the second time I started it) grab you from the very beginning.

Mrs. Rice's book does a wonderful job of coloring in the area where the Gospels have left a gap in Jesus' life. The years between his birth and his being "lost" at the Temple when the family goes to celebrate the Passover. She brings a richness to Jewish community life in that era and gives a taste of the Judeo-Roman tensions that went on.

As a reasonably conservative Christian, reading the book requires you to give a bit of license to the author to take the subject matter where she will, but the further I got in it, the more I recognized the desire of Mrs. Rice to be true to the Lord and to the truths that Christians hang their faith on.

I enjoyed the book and recommend it as a good summer read. I am considering using it as the basis of the church's book study in the fall - we'll read it and discuss it as we go. If you want to "discover" the contents at that time, you'll have to exercise restraint to not read it before then.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Back from Baton Rouge

Suzanne returned Saturday from participating in the second Baptist Blitz Build in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Yesterday, she shared some of her experiences with us.

Fantastic rapport was experienced by the team that traveled together. Folks from Mattoon, Charleston, Paris, Champaign, and Arthur they had some friends that they just hadn't met yet as they drove south.

The dorms were much less crowded this year compared to last. There was plenty of room to spread out on both the men's and women's side. The bathrooms stayed much more fresh and snoring wasn't near the issue that it had been before.

Food was fantastic. Suzanne admitted that the food was one of the main "fringe benefits" of going on the trip! They ate at a different restaurant each night and shared desserts family style.

A change in philosophy for locating the homes was in effect for this year. Last year, they were built in low income neighborhoods and when the teams were done with them, they sat empty until the families were able (or allowed?) to move-in in November. Consequently all of the copper plumbing and other things of value were stripped from the houses and had to be reinstalled prior to occupation. This year, seven homes were built in a new Habitat for Humanity subdivision of 20 some acres that was donated to the Baton Rouge organization. It is close to one of the malls and in a much better area of the city. Suzanne thought that at least 75-80 homes could be built there over the next few years. Sounds like a better opportunity for the families, but the neighborhoods aren't getting much rehabilitation that way. Much more pleasant to live and work in, I would expect.

The homes are on schedule to be finished by mid-May. This week, trained trade professionals are installing electric, plumbing, and other technical infrastructure to the homes. Next week, another volunteer work force is arriving to finish the homes with paint and landscaping.

Way to go Suzanne! Thanks for letting us know what God is doing to bless the people of Baton Rouge and those who suffered much at the power of Hurricane Katrina! If you would be interested in learning more about the Baptist Blitz or want details of next year's trip, please email the church -

Friday, May 02, 2008

What Really Goes on During Ascension Day?

I asked one of the girls who rides my bus, what she and her family did to celebrate Ascension Day...

"We played kicker (kickball). I flew a kite," she said thoughtfully. "No church?" "No." "Did your mom make anything special or did you get any special treats?" "No."

They just relaxed in each others company around the house. Not a bad way to spend a day, especially in our busy world, but somehow I had expected something more...

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Amish Missing From School

Today, at least 2/3rds of the kids on my bus route were missing. All of them Amish. Made for a quick tour of the countryside south of Arthur. The reason? Ascension Day.

Many Amish celebrate this anniversary of Jesus' ascension to heaven. The event is recorded in Acts 1:4-11 (also lesser accounts in Luke 24:51 and Mark 16:19). The thought of Jesus "rising" into heaven may seen outdated to those of us who have grasped the fact that the kingdom is breaking through into our world all around us (in every area where God is found to be at work - feeding the hungry, caring for the sick, providing for the poor, etc.), but Jesus could have been giving us a visual parable of Heaven being a "higher" place than the broken world we presently inhabit. After all, the scripture did instruct us to lift our eyes toward heaven when we pray and reminded us that heaven is a place "away" from here. But I digress.

A couple of Amish families still rode the bus and went to school today. When asked why they came to school, the answer was, "we didn't have anything special planned today anyway." Not all Amish churches are meeting today and for those who aren't observing, their kids went off to school. I'm glad they did because it gave me an opportunity to ask some questions and learn more about my neighbors.