Saturday, April 2, 2011

Silence in the Listening

"Listen is an anagram for silent. What is noisy in your life?" (J, BSF teaching leader)
As I considered J's question, common sources came to mind: TV, radio, iPods -- my own inner voice. . .

I need more expendable cash (!) for Pat's upcoming wedding, a new pair of shoes, a piano tune up, some minor home repairs. . . Maybe I need to get a job. I prayed about God's revelation in this matter, but so far I have not heard from Him.

(I wonder why!) I signed up to sub; that's a good-paying job, but I can sub only two days a week, and I just never seem to be organized enough to work it into my schedule. I had good intentions when I signed up! I've applied for some online jobs, but nothing came of those. Maybe God's silence and lack of action means He doesn't want me to have a job right now. Maybe my work at BSF is job enough. But if that's the case, then where am I going to get the money for the wedding?" And I'm off to the races! UGH!

Studying Isaiah 53 this week, I was reminded and, once again, amazed at Jesus' silence before his accusers. "He was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, he did not open his mouth." (Verse 7) Some 700 years later, Christ stood before His accusers and uttered not a word.

Charles Spurgeon writes: "Nothing can be said to to excuse human guilt; and therefore, He who bore its whole weight stood speechless before His judge. Evidently our Lord, furnished a remarkable fulfillment of prophecy. A long defense of Himself would have been contrary to Isaiah's prediction." (

Jesus is the ultimate model of silence. Long before He faced His accusers and the Cross, He spent hours alone with the Father, seeking to hear His voice. I doubt Jesus filled the solitary space and time with a litany of comments or a running dialogue of obsessive worries! I doubt He chattered on so long that He couldn't hear the Father speak! No, He was silent.

And this morning, He calls me to

Be still and know that He is God.
Bow before the Prince of Peace.
Let the noise and clamor cease.
Be still.
(Stephen Curtis Chapman)

Thursday, March 31, 2011

The One and Only Writing Project

The National Writing Project's federal funding has fallen victim to the federal earmark cuts. By April 1, the NWP is hoping for 1000 posts from teachers who have participated in and know the value of their work to convince Congress to restore the funds in its upcoming budget. If you have been involved in the NWP, please take a little time to write something. The Dept. of Education is following this movement.

In twenty-nine years as a high school English teacher, I have been involved with many professional development activities, but the only thing I remember gaining from many of them is a faculty t-shirt meant to jump start team spirit. The one exception has been the work of the National Writing Project, which offers authentic professional development opportunities to educators.

Too often PD is a one size-fits-all presentation by an independent business that talks at teachers, offering simplified solutions to complicated concerns. Not so, with the NWP, which takes a different tactic by using “the knowledge, leadership, and best practices of effective teachers . . . sharing that knowledge with other teachers" (History of NWP - National Writing Project). This teachers-teaching-teachers philosophy is the strength of the Project because professional growth does not occur in contrived circumstances, but in locally formed, self-directed exchanges with like-minded colleagues.

Two other strengths (among many) are the sustainable programs of NWP sites across the country and the diversity of their teacher consultants. Urban, suburban, and rural teachers from different grade levels or different disciplines find common ground as they explore theory, customize strategies to fit their students’ needs, and most importantly, write – to explore, to learn, to grow as both writers and teachers. The WP work is always undergirded by solid educational fundamentals as it also stays abreast of trends and cultural changes. Workshops and other programs include follow-up meetings and networking, so participants stay connected, share outcomes, and offer continual support. These same teachers are often the catalyst for staff development within their schools and/or departments.

The road paved with professional development opportunities leads to the heart of the NWP: the students. Invigorated teachers spark invigorated learning, and I have personally found the truth of this through my association with the Greater Kansas City Writing Project. What I've gained there changed me as both a person and teacher, and in turn, I am confident that I have presented students with opportunities to grow as writers and thinkers because of its influence.

I understand why Congress is attempting to stop wasteful spending. However, it disturbs me that (at least in this case) educational funds fall into the category of 'earmarks.' I encourage Congress to rewrite legislation that will categorize these funds differently. In the meantime, I sincerely hope our representatives and senators will listen to the hundreds of teachers visiting them this week and restore the funds for the proven successful, one and only Writing Project.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Little Hen That Brooded

Recently my friend Jan shared, "I know God can do what I pray for, but I don't know if He wants to, so I think I need to worry!"

In light of what she said, God showed me I mistake brooding for praying and gave me a picture of myself as a little hen who sits on her nest, believing if I brood there long enough, one of the eggs will hatch a solution to my situation! It's such a waste of time and only ends in perplexity and anxiety.

The Bible Study Fellowship study of Isaiah has given me a glimpse of the immensity and enormity of God. Yet, the Creator of the universe, the orchestrator of history, has the time and the inclination to give me His tender, singular attention.

He is trustworthy and faithful and calls me to "not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God." He doesn't promise every prayer will be answered as we hope, but He does promise when I follow this direction, "the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 4:6-7)

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Two True Stories

This true story, which I heard a long time ago, came to mind this past Wednesday:

One particular Sunday morning, there was a terrible snowstorm. The pastor of a community church did not know what to do about the service. His wife encouraged him to cancel because no one would be coming out in the horrendous weather, but in reflection, the pastor did not feel right to do that, so he went ahead to the church and prepared for the service. Only two young boys were in attendance that day, and after the sermon, both boys came forward and said they wanted to become Christians. The pastor knelt at the altar with those boys and led them to Christ. One of them was the pastor's son.

~ ~ ~

Wednesday morning greeted the Greater Kansas City area with two inches of snow -- a mere dusting after the blizzard conditions of a week ago, but it made the drive to Bible Study Fellowship slippery and tense. By the time I arrived at the church, the administrative team was shuffling and moving small groups (so no one would have to cross the parking lot to meet in an adjacent building), the whole time being bombarded with questions as class members and visitors arrived. The lobby was crowded and noisy with ladies picking up lessons for friends who didn't brave the bad weather. A bit 'shell shocked' and "rattled" is how one administrative leader described us.

The entire time our teaching leader (JS) felt pulled and pressed, thinking, "Why didn't I just cancel?" Group leaders meet for pre-prayer, but J couldn't escape the chaos to get to the room. Hurrying, she said her heart "pounded with nervousness, but when I walked through the door, it was like I entered the throne room of heaven. I did in a way because we were in the presence of our great God! All that tension left, and tears of relief and comfort just flowed out of me. I was so touched and humbled by the grace of God and all of the leaders' tender, precious prayers! It was beautiful and just what I needed; probably what we all needed."

I shared the story about the pastor and his son with JS, and we agreed God reminds us that He is sovereign over snowy roads, icy parking lots, crowded classrooms, ticking clocks and upset plans. His purposes will be accomplished no matter how chaotic things appear.

We learned through the study of Isaiah that comfort means "with strength," and JS concludes, "That's exactly what I received during those few minutes in prayer with you all. The 'chaos' was over in my heart, and I could face the rest of the morning with His strength. Just like that pastor found out one Sunday morning . . . if one person was touched by the Lord Wednesday morning, then that wildness was worth it all!"

Thanks to JS for allowing me to use the text she wrote in an email message to create this post.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Pitfalls for a Christian

The Apathy of Time Passing
Psalm 90:12 "Teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom."
Ephesians 5:15-16 "Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise men but wise, making the most of the time for the days are evil."

The Pride of Multi-tasking
Psalm 46:10 "Be still and know that I am God. I am exalted among the nations, I am exalted in the earth."
James 4:6b "God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble

The Frenzy of an Over-Committed Schedule
Exodus 20:11 For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day; therefore, the Lord blessed the sabbath day and hallowed it."
Hebrews 4:3 "For we who have believed enter that rest."

The Lull of Materialism
Matthew 6:24 "No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money."
1 John 2:16 "For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life is not of the Father but is of the world."

Looking to the Government to Supply Our Needs
Philippians 4:19 "And my God shall supply every need of yours according to His riches in glory."
Matt. 6:33 "Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness and all these things shall be yours as well."