Saturday, August 10, 2013

His Story in Your Story

Who has believed our report?
And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
For He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant,
And as a root out of dry ground.
He has no form or comeliness;
And when we see Him,
There is no beauty that we should desire Him.
He is despised and rejected by men,
A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.
And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him;
He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.
Isaiah 53:1-3

You may recognize the above verses as those that describe the most compelling figure in history.  I cannot imagine throngs of people lining up to see this Man speak based on this description. Yet, He is known as a great storyteller and possesses a most amazing personal story. He spoke with confidence and passion as He proclaimed Truth to both the weak and powerful. He was sensitive enough to His audience that He was able to distinguish the push of a crowd from the touch of a desperately ill woman. His eye contact was so penetrating that one glance caused one wavering follower to break down in tears. He was so focused on the needs of others that in the midst of the horrific pain of crucifixion He compelled a thief to follow Him and a fisherman to care for His mother.

You may also feel “despised and rejected.” God has created you with purpose; He has given you a story. As you discover the passion for which God has created you, whether it is binary code, selling insurance, or pastoring a church; that passion can develop into a compelling message to which others will listen. I may not understand how ones and zeroes work in programing a computer, but I am grateful to those who do and in doing so impact my life and our world with technology. Even if you think your circle of influence is small, God has given you a story to tell and an audience to hear. Your life and vocation have been ordained by God to reflect His image. You may not feeling compelling, but God can use His story in your life to impact your world.

Excellent Read Concerning Your Vocation:
Every Good Endeavor by Tim Keller

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Where is your confidence?

Each week, my students in Public Speaking at Azusa Pacific Online University respond to a prompt relating to the challenges of speaking in public. Their thoughts on the topic of confidence prompted these thoughts. All of us face the cloud of failure, real or imagined, that strips our confidence when we speak. I want to thank each of my students for their candor in this discussion. I am confident that God will use this diverse group for His glory.

When it comes to confidence, I believe each of us could share a story that would explain why we struggle with confidence when speaking. This is especially true when it comes to sharing our faith with others. It may be that you found yourself stumbling over words as you tried to share your faith with a coworker or maybe you chose to stay silent when the opportunity was there to speak. Some of us have felt the waves of guilt when we have failed. Do not let the weight of your failure overwhelm you. We can learn from each experience in our lives. God is not dependent on our perfection to accomplish His purpose. Consider these examples of failure:

And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.
(I Corinthians 2:1-5)

Friday, June 7, 2013

“Don’t Be Like Me” or “Things Not to Say at Graduation”

It is graduation season. For most of my adult life, this time of the year has been both busy and a blessing as I have participated in over 25 graduation ceremonies. Graduation ceremonies are times to look to the future and inspire hope in the next generation as well as times of reflection and memories. This year is even more profound as my youngest is graduating from high school.

In those many graduation ceremonies, I don’t recall anyone ever attempting to inspire hope in the graduates by stating, “Don’t be like me.” It is not to say that this has never happened nor would I say that I have never thought it before. There are countless reasons for my son and the graduates of PCA not to be like me. Each is a unique creation of God with distinctive gifts, talents and interests. In addition, my own brokenness and failures, even if unseen by others, is reason enough to avoid being like me.

With that thought, however, I realize that they are just like me. Each one has been created in the image of God with great capacity to love, to learn and to create. And each one carries the same brokenness that haunts me. That brokenness may have been displayed for all to see or be hidden deep in the recesses of the heart and mind, but it is there because they are like me. It is exactly that brokenness that brought Jesus Christ to the cross to redeem us through His death and resurrection. I believe this is why the Apostle Paul encouraged others to follow him as he followed Christ (I Corinthians 11:1). It is also the reason I can ask others to follow me: Jesus Christ has redeemed and transformed my brokenness so that I am free to express my unique gifts, talents, and interests for His glory and the benefit of the community in which God has placed me. Graduates, He can do the same for you. Now, that is a reason for hope!

Thursday, June 6, 2013

The Significance of June 5, 1944

This picture was taken on June 5, 1944. The same day, General Eisenhower wrote the following note that never needed to be delivered: "Our landings in the Cherbourg-Havre area have failed to gain a satisfactory foothold and I have withdrawn the troops. My decision to attack at this time and place was based upon the best information available. The troop, the air [force] and the navy did all that bravery and devotion to duty could do. If any blame or fault attaches to the attempt, it is mine alone." Credit to the troops for success while taking complete responsibility for any failures. LEADERSHIP!

Friday, May 31, 2013

The Value of Play

I had the privilege of hearing a young lady in our second grade recite the following poem. Not only was the recitation well done; I was reminded of the value of stories and free play in our children’s lives. Read and imagine!! 

People think it's only a garden,
With roses along the wall;
I'll tell you the truth about it
It isn't a garden at all!

It's really Robin Hood's forest,
And over by that big tree
Is the very place where fat Friar Tuck
Fought with the Miller of Dee.

And back of the barn is the cavern
Where Rob Roy really hid;
On the other side is a treasure chest
That belongs to Captain Kidd.

That isn't a pond you see there,
It's the ocean deep and wide,
Where six-masted ships are waiting
To sail on rising tide.

Of course it looks like a garden,
It's all so sunny and clear ---
You'd be surprised if you really knew
The things that have happened here! 

-- The Secrets of Our Garden, Rupert Sargent Holland

For more thoughts on the value of play: Corey Shuffle

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Photo Albums and Home Videos

My youngest graduates from high school next week. I am still convinced that I am not old enough for that to be happening. However, it does cause me to reminisce as we have looked through his pictures. These snapshots can bring both laughter and tears as we consider the memories. If we were to watch old videos, we would be able to remember even more of how this young man’s personality developed over the years.

It is also the time of year when schools complete their annual testing. These, too, can bring tears (and maybe incredulous laughter). However, I believe that the illustration of photo albums and home videos provide perspective as to the purpose and interpretation of the different methods that are used to evaluate your child’s academic progress. The snapshots in our photo albums are like the annual testing that occurs whether you call them SOLs, PSSAs, Stanford or TerraNova. They are an important part of the academic portfolio, but they are only a reflection on how your child did at that particular moment on that particular test. It is a snapshot; rich with information, but we have all been captured on film with a not-so-flattering expression on our face. J The ongoing, daily assessment that occurs in the classroom is like a home video. Teachers and parents partnering together to share observations, encouragement, exhortations and progress reports enhances the information gleaned through the annual testing.  Just like photo albums and home videos work together to provide your family with memories; annual testing and daily assessment work together to portray a complete picture of your child’s academic progress. Educators and parents must see these tools in the proper perspective in order for a complete picture of the child to become clear.

Note: TerraNova and Stanford Achievements Tests are examples
of norm-referenced tests while PSSAs, SOLs and other state administered federally mandated tests are criterion-referenced tests. The criterion-referenced tests are typically referred to as high stakes tests as a public school's funding and rating is affected by the results.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

A Tribute to a Teacher

As a 23-year-old laid-off flour mill worker, I stepped nervously into a familiar yet foreign room. As a graduate of Blue Ridge Christian School, I had been in this room countless times. In fact, during my years as a student this room was the music room. This time, however, I was entering as a substitute teacher. The first group of students was an energetic group of freshman English students. I introduced myself, gave instructions, then settled into the teacher’s desk and attempted to look “teacherly.” When I glanced down, it hit me! Actually it did; the “it” being a paper wad. I knew enough not to overreact: I had been fairly adept at testing substitutes when I had been a student a few short years before. I scanned the group looking for clues. I knew the line of fire so it did not take long determine the perpetrator. I called the young man to the desk and asked his name. He told me a name, but I had heard him called “Wes” as he came into the class. I asked again. Same answer. I asked if he was interested in a walk to the office with me between classes to talk about this situation. Knowing the great consequences of continuing the lie, he quickly recanted his original story. I fell in love with the classroom at that very moment.

This past week the teacher who providentially was sick that day went home to be with the Lord. Miss Norma Jean Taylor left an impact on the hearts and minds of many young people, but I am not sure that I ever told her that her absence gave me a passion for investing in young people. I was blessed to have served alongside Miss Taylor for several years; she was true friend and dedicated colleague. I am rejoicing with her as she celebrates God’s grace in His presence; free from pain. She is standing among the “great cloud of witnesses” encouraging those who have been touched by her legacy including my niece and nephew.

Check out these links.