Archive for April 2006
A joke from this morning’s sermon at Oak Hills:
A minister, out for a morning stroll through his neighborhood, happened upon two young boys and a small, stray puppy. The boys seemed pretty excited about something, and the minister decided to find out what was going on.”What are you two up to?” he asked.
One of the boys turned toward the minister and grinned. “We found this puppy, and we’re having a lying contest to see who gets to keep him.”
“A lying contest?” asked the minister.
“Yep,” said the other boy. “Whoever tells the biggest lie gets to keep the puppy!”
The minister felt that this was a very opportune time to teach a much-needed moral lesson. “Shame, shame,” he said, waving a long, bony finger at the two young kids. “When I was your age, I never would have dreamed of telling a lie!”
The first boy looked crestfallen. “Aw, man,” he said to his friend, kicking at the ground in a gesture of defeat. “I guess the old guy gets the dog.”
Sometimes when I go to pick up Jamie from school in the afternoons I get to her classroom and she’s off on one of the many necessary errands of a four-prep high school teacher. I usually go in and wait around a bit, but a lot of times the janitor comes by and we talk about (a) the weather, and (b) disrespectful children. As per my previous post, I would at any time take all the inclemencies of (a) over the weakest sprinkle of (b). That being the case, I probably shouldn’t be a substitute.
My classes earlier this week were a mixed bag; when I’m subbing for the junior high band, I get a lot of free periods and a subject I enjoy. Monday and Tuesday of this week, however, I was in charge of a high school BCIS teacher’s four preps, and there turned out to be a lot less break time. I’m not particularly good at classroom management, and when an intended two-day assignment is finished in ten minutes it can cause some discipline problems. But it’s not really the teacher’s fault at all; the classes I had the most trouble with were the ones whose assignment actually lasted the entire two days.
My favorite incident from this experience came shortly after lunch break. That particular class was supposed to be copying notes down from the projector screen, and had done all right before lunch; however, when they came back from lunch we had some difficulties. One student who had been giving me trouble in several different periods all day came running by my classroom on top of another student; I suppose the technical term is “roughhousing” since they didn’t look angry, but it was enough for me. I demanded that he come into the classroom, and since the bell hadn’t rung yet the kid wasn’t too happy about it; he stormed into the room complaining, walked around in a brief circle, and socked the classroom laser printer as hard as he could.
Seriously, who punches a printer?
As I was writing his discipline referral (mildly shaking with rage), both he and several other students started mimicking and laughing at me. That’s hard, and I hated that it was hard. I was in the right, but they were the ones making me feel ashamed of myself.
In the end, of course, I got over it and ate some Chipotle. Few worldly pleasures soothe the troubled soul like a giant burrito.
People down here have been talking lately about our need for rain. I don’t know much one way or another about how dangerously dry it’s been, since I’ve never been good at keeping up with that sort of thing. But I know one thing for sure: I miss North Dakota thunderstorms.
I think Jamie thinks it’s a bit weird to like the rain as much as I do; after all, when it rains in Denton it generally raises the smell of bird poop everywhere, and it’s not very pleasant. But the other day when we got home from somewhere and it was raining hard, I wouldn’t even get out of the car for a few minutes because I liked the sound so much. It was relaxing; it reminded me of sitting in the garage back home in Dakota with the door open, just watching the storm as it raged down.
It’s probably crazy to miss something like that, but heck, I liked it.
I’m living a very different life these days than I’ve ever yet lived. A year ago I was a mildly disillusioned college student whose girlfriend had recently started wearing his academic scholarship on her ring finger. I lived with five other guys in a house that could only be called “The Mansion” on account of its extreme un-mansionliness. I remember struggling a fair bit with the things I was learning in my philosophy classes; my faith took a bit of a beating in there and although it came out alive, I can’t say I was always happy about it.
Things are still difficult at times, but for wildly different reasons. These days I’m a freshly married, usually clean-shaven college graduate doing temporary jobs that have nothing to do with his degree just for the simple fact that, without such work, my family will go into financial struggles. I suppose most people wouldn’t be shocked about that kind of circumstance, but that scholarship my wife is wearing spoiled me more than I realized.
Following Jesus in all this is a complicated deal; all my old spiritual habits have short-circuited for the worse, and there have been times over the past few months that I’ve found myself not particularly wanting His company. It doesn’t make much sense that things would get that way, but the human condition is such that it happens pretty much all the time. We’ve got to be pretty messed up to want anything other than the God who, a couple thousand years ago tonight, was betrayed with a kiss unto the sacrifice that saved all of us ingrates.
You know what’s funny, though? This kind of thing is all over the Bible, and I’m not sure I ever caught it before these last few months. In John 6, Jesus says a bunch of really difficult things about His intended sacrifice, and lots of His devoted followers just flat jumped ship. So He turns to His disciples and asks them if they want to go too. You know what Peter says? “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” Lord, to whom shall we go… It’s almost like he wanted to leave too but he knew full well that there isn’t anything better.
Or David, in the 139th Psalm…
“Where can I go from Your Spirit?
Where can I flee from Your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, You are there;
If I make my bed in the depths, You are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
If I settle on the far side of the sea,
Even there Your hand will guide me,
Your right hand will hold me fast.
If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me,
and the light become night around me,”
Even the darkness will not be dark to You;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to You.”
It doesn’t make much sense that we should want to flee Him; He is our only strength, our only support, the reason we exist. He loves us immeasurably more than we can possibly imagine, and yet we flee Him! Both David and Peter knew full well the emptiness of life outside the Lord, and yet there it is, bold and hideous, that same desire to flee that I too often feel in the midst of everything that’s difficult about life. Why do we so often desire emptiness over fulness, strife over healing, bitter resentment over the infinite love of the Almighty?
“Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” Eternal life as described in the Bible isn’t a future state; it’s not what starts when we die, it’s what starts when we believe. Cf. John 17:3: “Now this is eternal life: that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom You have sent.” Jesus has the words of knowing God, the words that bring us to the life we were created for, the words that heal our brokenness and revive our dying, empty souls. Peter and David, though both possibly frustrated by the inescapability of God (given the latter’s often-difficult ways of bringing us to the abundant life He has for us), both also knew how ludicrous it was to even want to flee Him.
This, to me, is fast becoming the most intriguing paradox of the Christian life.
My substitute teaching work has been pretty lucky so far; the majority of it has been music-related, which means at the very least that I know the subject (if not the kids). On Friday I was teaching trombone sectionals for sixth graders…they had literally been playing for eight months, if that. When one of them asked how long I had been playing, we discovered together that my trombone experience extended his entire life.
I know I’m only twenty-two, but man, did that make me feel old. I realized on further reflection just how much the world has changed since I was a kid: I grew up in the days before the widespread public internet. Since I am now pursuing work in web development, that means that if I had been asked, at five years old, what I wanted to be when I grew up, I couldn’t have even dreamt up the right answer…web design and development jobs didn’t exist back then! Ridiculous.
Anyway, back to the trombone. I don’t think I’ve ever really worked with “rank beginners” before, and so I really have no expectations as to what they’re supposed to be able to do at that age. One of them, while we were playing one of their band pieces, stayed on the same note the entire time, even though his slide was moving. It was an A-Flat, and his slide was only rarely in the position that A-Flat is supposed to be in. I wish I knew what to tell him, but I think a long, complicated explanation of the harmonic series would just make a sixth grader angry 🙂 I made him breathe a little, and then we just moved on.
The others played more correctly, and all of them responded pretty well to the suggestions I gave, but I have no idea whether or not I was on the right track. I suppose that’s where pedagogy classes come in handy, but as I never expected to be a teacher, I didn’t take any. Does anyone reading this know what first-year trombone players are generally expected to learn? I’m curious, because tomorrow afternoon I’m going right back into the same classes. I already told them most of what I know, so I suppose I’ll do it again…? 🙂
Today’s sub work was a little nostalgic. I was filling in for one of the choir directors in Jamie’s district, and the assignment that he left was about ten minutes long. This, of course, meant that the rest of the period was reserved for “homework,” music teacher slang for, “talk to your musician friends and maybe play some cards.” I remember those days well, and I can’t say I felt too bad about letting these kids relive my past. Kinda brought on a warm feeling, to tell the truth.
It had its rough moments, though…I made the mistake of letting most of one junior high class go hang out in the practice rooms, and although they didn’t really make any trouble I found myself terrified that they just might break out of the building at any moment and unleash their eighth-grade fury on the grown-up world…but they didn’t, because eighth-grade fury, in my limited experience, seems to consist mainly of the following: “Hehe…I’m breaking a rule…”
Today was my first day substitute teaching…actually it was sort of an unexpected half-day; I got the call around 10:15, and seeing as how I was free, figured I should take it.
It wasn’t exactly my favorite thing to do…the first class was great, sitting quietly and reading their books, but the second was very obviously aware of how temporary my authority over them was. They were loud the whole derned time, and since I didn’t really know whether I could send anyone to the office without a form (I had been given no referral forms yet), I was kind of limited to loudly suggesting that they be quiet and read their books. That, incidentally, was the day’s assignment, which in all fairness didn’t make things easy on me…it’s a purely discipline-based assignment, and I don’t really do discipline well.
The last class, however, was OK…I got an hour off beforehand and got some encouragement (and referral forms) from the office staff, and then the class was pretty nice anyway. I even felt kind of smart sometimes, because they tried to pull some obvious tricks on me and I didn’t play along (at least not every time…). Crafty little eleven-year-olds, you are no match…