Friday, October 18, 2013
Wednesday, July 24, 2013
Saturday, June 29, 2013
Wednesday, April 24, 2013
Monday, April 15, 2013
Wednesday, February 27, 2013
The decisions we make today will define the stories that get told about us… we are all writing a story with our lives. ~ Josh Becker
Near our home in Lance aux Epines, Grenada, when I was growing up, two old women lived together in a small house. We really never knew them. In fact, we couldn't get to know them because every time we got close to their home, they would come out and threaten us—“Get away from here or we’ll call the police!” We didn't even have malicious intentions…well, not in the beginning anyway. They continued to over-react and threaten us for seemingly no reasons at all. So, we began to push back. And, then Halloween came around. Of course, we had to trick-or-treat at every house around us, so not even the old ladies would be spared. They were given the wonderful opportunity of gifting us with candies…but, again, “Get out of here!” So, we rained down rocks on their roof…and in Grenada at that time, roofs were all corrugated tin…and the sound of raining stones was quite deafening for them, I’m sure. They called the police…but, really—it took them an hour to arrive, and we were long gone.
The point of the brief vignette is this—the story we have about the old ladies is a story of rejection, rudeness, and retribution. How different might that story have been if the old ladies had taken time to tell one of us about a desire for quiet and solitude, if they had engaged us just briefly to tell us that they were in fact ‘old’ and just wanted to be left alone? Their decisions and actions indeed determined their story. (Oh, I cannot in any way justify the silly, childish response on our part, so I won’t even try! Now, that foolishness is part of my story….)
Dr. Sarah Wingard was a person to be feared above all others in our college English department. Yet, she was perhaps the least imposing person physically. Where her slight 5’ frame and arthritis twisted hands might have revealed weakness, an amazingly intimidating persona with a withering look made her seem larger than life. She was not an amazing lecturer, per se…but somehow she captured our minds and carried us with her through centuries of literature, introducing us to hundreds of unforgettable characters. While the average person on our campus would know well the reputation of this lady, a few of us had and have a different take on Dr. Wingard. She was a person who cared about her students, but one wouldn't find that out until one needed care.
I had been wrestling with some depression, issues of personal identity, and some soggy winter weather—all three of which conspired to keep me snuzzled in my bed for a day or two…or three. Then, the knock came at the door late one morning. “Hey, Jon. Dr. Wingard wants you at her office today at 2pm.” That was all it took. She sent word to me to be at her office? Yikes! I knew I was in for now. I had skipped her class twice in a row. With fear and trepidation, and with a pocket full of well-crafted excuses and explanations, I went to her office door. I rapped softly and heard that voice, “Come in.” I went in. She sat. “Sit down, Jon.” So I sat. “What’s going on, Jon—you've missed two classes, and you’re going to get so far behind you won’t be able to catch up. You’re too smart and too good a student to let that happen. What’s going on?” All of my pretense fell away, my excuses went out the window…and I just told her about my depression and struggles. She gently reminded me of the poets we had studies, of their struggles…and pointed me back to the same literature we had studied in class. “There, in those words, you will find words that will lift you and carry you and inspire you.” And, she was right. To this day, the words of Wordsworth and Blake and Shelley DO move me and carry me. And, because of her compassion, to this day, I remember Dr. Wingard not only as a ‘formidable’ professor, but as a person who cared enough to call me out of my pit and point me towards the light….
So, our decisions and our actions do pen our stories. When we reach out to others, when we engage, when we act out of good intentions, we write stories that others will eagerly tell with joy. When we refuse to engage or when we engage negatively, we write stories that others will tell as well…stories of warning and how not to be. Therefore, I determine anew and afresh to act in ways that write a good story…on the outside chance that someday, somewhere, someone will tell others stories of Jon. May they be good stories….
Sunday, February 24, 2013
Sunday, February 17, 2013
In a perfect world, what we do and who we are fall into a beautiful alignment. Even in our imperfect world, there are those who find this alignment…some for a season and a few for a lifetime.
My job title is “Institutional Effectiveness & Assessment Analyst.” Seeing my title, you might actually think that I am an analyst. But, you’d be mistaken. You see, in my heart, I am a teacher, an educator. A set of circumstances in the last year moved me into this position, but I’ll save that for another time. Suffice to say, what I do is not in line with who I really am. I don’t love that, but it is what it is.
However, in my position as an analyst, I do have the freedom to teach a course each semester at our college. The Office of Institutional Effectiveness & Assessment ‘owns’ me for eight hours a day, but before or after those eight hours, I am free to do as I wish. And, thanks to a wonderful English department chair and a constant need for adjunct instructors, I get to teach an evening course each semester.
Now, I could have taken an attitude of “all or nothing”—I want to be a teacher, or I want nothing to do with it. But if I did that, I would miss out on knowing the 18 wonderful students I have this semester, students whose lives I’m entering, with whom I’m sharing my life. I’m teaching them writing…and—hopefully!—a whole lot more. Since I need to work to support my family, I’ll take the analyst job and make the very best of it; since my soul burns to teach and be with students, I’ll take whatever teaching opportunity—large or small—that comes my way.
I have a feeling that this same disjunction happens in the life of faith. What we do and who we are spiritually often doesn’t line up either. So many followers of Jesus want to spend their lives in service to God…but there’s work at banks, firms, restaurants, etc. Many, I’m sure, would enjoy spending day after day losing themselves in Scripture, song, or prayer…would prefer to be far away in a distant land sharing the faith through friendships…would rather be constructing a house of worship or training young Christian leaders. But, what they do and who they are just don’t line up.
What to do? The same thing I do—take every opportunity large and small that comes along to live that life of faith. If there is a mission trip, jump on it! If there is a project in the community, latch onto it. If there is a chance to spend 20 minutes in Scripture, song, or prayer, enjoy those 20 minutes. If there is a short-term trip to a distant land, save your money and take the trip. If there is a mission team going to build a church or going to help train and encourage new Christian leaders, go for it! Don’t “wait for retirement.” And for goodness sakes, don’t take an attitude of “all or nothing.”
Yes, I wish that my work and my passion were better aligned, but they’re not…for now. Just another reminder that we live in a ‘broken world.’ But, I don’t have to let that ‘brokenness’ break me. I will do the work I have to do in order to be the provider I must be as a husband and father. But, I will also keep my eye on the dream…I’ll keep the passion alive…and work in that direction. And, every time I get a chance to take a step towards my true self, my passion, my faith, I’ll take it…and enjoy it…and make it count. We aren’t what we do—we are who we are…with the call and passions that God has placed in us.
Tuesday, January 29, 2013
Monday, January 28, 2013
Outside...walking, standing, stretching, breathing deeply.
Inside...clear, clean air goes unnoticed;
Outside...a hundred smells--some good, some bad, all noticed-- tickle my nose
with smells of life.
Inside...walls of light grey, ceiling of white, carpet of faded, speckled purple;
Outside...my eyes feast on the palette of God's creation--colours of the rainbow in
a thousand hues.
Inside...a steady 75 degrees;
Outside...cold mornings give way to warm afternoons which fade into cool evenings.
Inside...seemingly unmoving air hums overhead incessantly, unchanging;
Outside...winds from off the Gulf rise and fall whispering in different tones as they pass through
leaves of live-oak...palm trees...the rubbery stuff of banana trees.
Inside...four silent florescent tubes light my space;
Outside...the star at the center of our solar system licks my skin, sharing warmth and glow.
Outside, standing, playing, imagination running wild, far and free...I live.
Monday, January 7, 2013
Tuesday, January 1, 2013
Happy New Year to all! I hope that you are as happy to see this year beginning as I am. 2012 was a pretty good year…but this year will be even better!
I wish you and yours the very best in the days, weeks, and months to come. May we live well, live to the full, and live lives that impact others.
More to come…!