Monday, September 15, 2014
Sunday, September 7, 2014
A sleepless night. Above the darkness the ceiling stares back at me coldly, offers no counsel or consolation. Mamma had asked me, So Daughter, do you have any fears? Yes, Yes I do. I number them. I am afraid of confinement. I am afraid of not getting [any or enough] exercise. I am afraid of the Loneliness. I am afraid of potential relationship tensions with roommates and co-teachers and students and administrators. I am afraid of shaming my hosts or dishonoring Jesus through my own cultural ignorance… But these are not the fears that surround me tonight.
Teaching Sunday school, way out in the country, I get face time with young people in a small setting. My tiny flock challenges me with their purposeful theological inquiries. I co-labor with God the Holy Spirit to teach us from John’s book…
I muse on subbing, an Adventure!I taught in the ‘burbs. I taught in the city: in elite Sacramento communities, and in shady ones. I taught at a charter school, at fundamental schools, at mediocre schools, at handicapped and emotionally disturbed schools, at alternative schools, and at blue-ribbon schools. I taught Kindergarten (oh, terror! and, oh! Miracle! and, oh, experiment proving the grace of God!), I taught seniors, and I taught everything in-between. I read stories, ran laps, pedaled bribing candies and awarded with fruit bars. I danced. I played board games and DVDs, walked with and heard troubled teens. I glared, laughed, threatened, disciplined, and learned why some people drink after work. I made a list of “Why Jesus is Better than Substitute Teachers.” I earned a nickname (Mis sMackdown), earned praise, and felt the sting of failure. I was assaulted with criticism, with hugs, and with students’ encouraging hand-drawn papers. I sent students outside, dismissed them to the principal’s office, left good reports, and left my jacket. I often made a single outfit last for a week (because each day I frequented a new school). I taught P.E. and French, Algebra, English, History, and Art. I taught Spanish, study hall, and science. I taught Government, Econ, Music, and Music… M-U-S-I-C! My thoughts slow, and on my bed a flood of knowing suddenly sweeps over my body. It’s an assaulting physical sensation of astonishment and peace, giddiness and calm: I am remembering that my substitute teaching career literally began and ended. With Music. Tenth and Eleventh grade Music, Western Sierra Collegiate Academy. At Trader Joe’s the night before I’m rehearsing with my coworkers what to say to these students. They don’t need to know that I’m green, that I’m terrified, that I literally have no idea what I’m doing. Let them think I’m a professional substitute. But I will be straight up with them about one thing: I know nothing about Music. I’ll tell them that today, they are the Teacher and I am the Pupil; they will school me in Music. Kids like that- people like that- when you’re transparent about your limitations. And they like being asked for help. And so I am, and they do. And they sing me through a fabulous first day of school. A strong and satisfying start to my substitute career. Months later, last week of school, at Cottage Elementary I am filling in for the long-term sub who had been covering for music teacher. Kindergarteners clap, stomp, and chirp their way through class (yes, with hand motions!). Third and fifth graders proudly bellow songs for Years’ End celebration. First and second graders faithfully warble their repertoire. With their songs my career ends, music reverberating from classroom to car, cheering me onto my next adventure…
Thursday, September 4, 2014
http://www.baysideonline.com/weekend/curt-harlow-habakkuk/ The prophet's words sound like my own: “God, how long do I have to cry out for help before you listen? How many times do I have to yell, “Help!...”?” This mouth-for-God man, Habakkuk, whose name means ‘embrace,' writes a book about waiting: Embrace the waiting. Know that God is not ignoring your questions as you wait. Two weeks, six days. Waiting in this Nothing vacuum. Not knowing for what I wait, nor for how long. Learning to name the Nothing a God gift and to give thanks. A beautiful song of Steadfast Resolve from the Prophet and Poet, Embrace-Waiting author: (For the Director of Music. On my stringed instruments) ‘Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior. The Sovereign Lord is my strength; He makes my feet like the feet of a deer, He enables me to tread on the heights.’ With this song Habakkuk concludes his book. With this sermon God has renamed the Nothing I hold: Wait. I wrap myself around it, embrace this Wait gift. In my hands, God transforms the gift with alarming speed. Forty-five minutes from the waiting sermon and song, phone startles me from my errands. It is the Call: “Our national partners have traveled to Dohuk. They’ve assessed the conditions there and say it’s safe for our return. School is scheduled to commence on time and we want you there in the next two weeks!” John renames the gift. Now it is Prepare. It is Wednesday and in one Wednesday I will away for the Thing for which I've waited. What form then shall the God gift take? What new name shall my hands embrace?