Friday, December 27, 2013

I Wasn't Ready For It

God once said, “Let light shine out of the darkness!” And this is the same God who made his light shine in our hearts to let us know that his own divine greatness is seen in the face of Christ.
—2 Corinthians 4:6
I wasn’t ready for it.  I hadn’t dusted or vacuumed. Or prepared my prepare-ahead-of-time dishes.  I hadn’t decorated—I hadn’t bedecked every flat surface with my snowman collection.  My tree was barely up (barely being the operative word). No skirt wrapped around its base.  And worse—no tree-topper crowned its pinnacle!
I wasn’t ready for it.
I didn’t expect family members to come this soon. Family members were on their way. And time was ticking. And…I can’t, Lord.  I can’t do it all. Show me what to let go of and give me peace no matter what unfolds. Help me to focus on what really matters and enjoy every moment.
I wasn’t ready for it.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

The Christmas Coat

And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ
Ephesians 4:11-12

I spotted it when pulling my winter clothes from my cedar chest—the minuscule red coat trimmed in white.  Would this fit Layla? I wondered, as I examined the aged garment I wore when I was six months old.

I knew I had to try.

I placed the freshly-laundered cloak on the bed and then my squirmy six month-old granddaughter on top. With no more than a slight struggle, I maneuvered her chubby arms into the sleeves and crowned her with the rosy hood, its fuzzy white edging encircling her cherubic face like a halo. I tightened the hood strings and lifted her up for the final reveal.

The hand-me-down Christmas coat was a picture-perfect fit!

I love hand-me-downs—and don’t mind wearing them.  I remember, as a kid, sporting hand-me-downs from my older cousins and thinking I was “cool” just like them. And then there was my mother’s wedding dress. It too was a perfect fit.  Hand-me-downs saved me money, yes. But it was more than that.  Wearing them meant wearing a part of the giver.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Smile! It's free!

A cheerful look brings joy to the heart; good news makes for good health.
Proverbs 15:30 

I was ready to pitch it in the trash along with all the other junk mail. But just as I picked it up, the words from the advertisement billowed, “Smile!  It’s free!”
Immediately I recalled an incident from earlier in the week. My student had pointed to my employee badge, “I like that picture.”
“Yeah, you’re smiling.  You should do that more often.”
Ouch! Was it true that I rarely wore a smile? What keeps me from smiling?

Saturday, December 7, 2013

The Planning Committee

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you.
—Psalm 32:8 

Today was the big day for him.  I knew he had to be nervous.  At least I was – when I was observed by my administrator.  “I’ll pray for you,” I called through my colleague's classroom door.
“I hope I don’t need prayers!” he replied with a chuckle.
“I take all the prayers I can get,” I returned with a smile.  But on the inside I kept thinking about how differently we view prayer.
What I consider a vital part of Plan A is Plan B for others.  But it hasn’t always been that way for me.  How many times have I excluded God from the planning committee only to have to call Him in for the clean-up?

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Thanksgiving Day Family Feud

For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free—and have all been made to drink into one Spirit. For in fact the body is not one member but many.—1 Corinthians 12:12-14
It seemed a little unorthodox to me—to watch anything on TV other than football while the Thanksgiving turkey roasted.  But the laughter erupting from the den drew me to a comfy spot between my daughter Emma and her husband Ricky’s cousin who I just met that afternoon.  It seemed Family Feud was a family favorite among my newfound family.  Everyone was shouting out answers left and right.  Before I knew it, I was adding my own to the mix.  I guess I fit in just fine.
I glanced around the room at all the smiling faces and couldn’t help but notice how diverse the group was – white, black, Hispanic, young, old.  Not the traditional family I was used to.  Nor the traditional Thanksgiving.  But things were changing in my biological family.  My aging parents were no longer up to hosting a celebration for 50 family members.  It was time for something different.  So I invited them to a celebration with my children and their families on Wednesday.  That left Thursday open for me to accept the invitation to tag along with Emma and Ricky to celebrate with his family. So here I was—now part of another family.  Truly. For Hispanics mean it when they say, “Mi casa es su casa” (My house is your house).
“Name something that is wasted,” boomed Steve Harvey, host of the Family Feud.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Pack a Heart-Healthy Lunch

The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in Him, and I am helped.—Psalm 28:7
After three straight classes, I need this time to relax and refresh—before the next group arrives in 45 minutes. It’s called a planning period, but I find myself doing every other thing but planning—I'm grading papers, writing discipline referrals, reporting on students with special needs, and answering emails from parents.  My desk is littered with paper and my electronic inbox is bursting at the seams. How will I ever get it all done?  And what can I do with my most challenging class—soon to arrive? Just thinking about makes my heart palpitate--despite rhythm-regulating medicine.

Friday, November 8, 2013

True Colors

Now the Lord had said to Abram:
“Get out of your country,
From your family
And from your father’s house,
To a land that I will show you."Genesis 12:1

I couldn’t quite put a finger on it.  Why the tightness in my throat? I felt like I was on the verge of tears.   My steps were heavy as I crunched the gravel on the farm road.  A walk should do me good. But it didn’t seem like it was working.
Winter is on its way, I thought, noticing the migrant Canada geese gliding along the placid pond.  I pulled my jacket a little tighter and returned my gaze to my feet, watching every step, being ever so careful to avoid holes and obstacles that could cause a slip—and a fall.  Dry, coffee-colored leaves lined the lane and crackled beneath my feet.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Never Clueless

But you are not like that, for you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light.—1 Peter 2:9 

“I’m surprised you didn’t find the crest,” said high school student Mariah, referencing the pendant necklace borrowed from my colleague for the after-school murder mystery.
“What crest?  Where was it?” cried the students who had just completed the clue-finding circuit.
As leader of the campus ministry, Mariah had orchestrated every last detail of the outreach event and recalled where she had placed it. “In the garbage can in the ladies restroom.”
“The only thing we found in the garbage can was the journal.”
I knew that was true, for I was the one who had RE-placed it there, having rescued it earlier from the custodian’s trash hopper.
A quick check in the restroom confirmed our fears.  The crest was gone.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Fueling Foul Up

Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed,
Because His compassions fail not.
They are new every morning;
Great is Your faithfulness.—Lamentations 3:22-23 

I do it all the time—every time I fill up. I notch the lever on the gas pump handle and trust it to stop automatically when the fuel reaches the top of the tank. Wednesday was no different. I positioned the nozzle, squeezed the trigger, secured the lever and let it do its thing.  Meanwhile I watched the numbers on the pump climb higher than the dollars in my wallet.  Click! I reached for the handle and then quickly withdrew my hand, as gasoline gushed out, splashing down the side of the Jeep and spilling onto the concrete. “Oh, no!” I groaned, fumbling to release the lever.  Wasting fuel in our conservation conscious culture is sinful. What a mess! What do I do? I scanned the pumping station. Not a paper towel in sight! Angrily I rummaged through my car and pulled out a rumpled napkin.  But I knew I had no one to blame but myself. I will never take my hand off the nozzle again! 

How many other things do I do automatically?  Has routine become my routine? 

Friday, October 18, 2013

Daddy to the rescue!

When you cross deep rivers,
I will be with you,
and you won't drown.
When you walk through fire,
you won't be burned
or scorched by the flames.--Isaiah 43:2

I was still on the phone notifying the electric company about my power outage when I heard the rumble of a truck in my driveway.  I stuck my head out the door.
“You’ve got a fire out here!” my father called to me.
“What! A fire! Should I call 911?”
“No, I think I can put it out!” he shouted over his shoulder as he trotted off toward the front of my house.
I ran after him and rounded the corner, gasping at what I saw—tongues of flames licking the dry grass, traveling toward the pasture in one direction and toward my house in the other.
“No!” I shouted, “There may be a live wire on the ground!”

Friday, October 11, 2013

When the Enemy Prowls: Tomatoes Take Two

Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.—1 Peter 5:8-9
I fumbled for my house keys in the dark, as I stepped over my tomato plants, which were spilling onto the sidewalk. Why didn’t someone leave the light on? I thought, as I made my way onto the back deck. Suddenly, a flash of black and white caught my eye.  I turned to my side and faced a furry creature with its fluffy tail lifted in my direction.  My breath caught in my throat.  Oh, no! One wrong move and I’ll be doused with eau de skunk!  My heart beat harder than Ringo Starr, and my fingers shook like Elvis as I struggled to unlock the door to escape the perilous situation. The door flung open and I flew in, slamming it hard behind me. Whew, that was close!
But that wasn’t the end of our escapades with the skunk. The next evening my son-in-law Ricky experienced his own close call with the nighttime visitor on the deck. And the following night we saw him again. As our car pulled into the driveway, the headlights illuminated the deck, revealing our caller scavenging from the cat food dish.  Ricky blew the horn, while Emma and I protested, fearing the retaliation of our frightened guest. To our surprise, the scavenger scampered off the deck right down into the crawlspace opening. Now what?

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Very Truly Volunteers

Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.—John 12:24

 “It’s a jungle out here!” my mother called, approaching my back deck.  “Jungle” was a good word for my overzealous overflowing tomato plants that are more like thriving trees. They have overtaken my flower beds, subduing rose bushes, camouflaging shrubs, and now running up both sides of the steps, depositing a red-ripe harvest right on my doorstep.

Amazed at my abundant garden, all my visitors ask, “What’s your secret?”  But the truth is nothing.  I did absolutely nothing.  No planting, no fertilizing—nothing. The plants are products of nature called volunteers.  Last year rotten tomatoes fell to the ground, and the seeds replanted themselves, producing an even greater harvest this year.  Now I have more tomatoes than I could ever eat!  And gathering them is also a challenge.  Many are ripe but difficult to reach. I lean over luxuriant leaves, being careful not to break them, and stretch as far as I can in order to reach those beneath the edge of the deck. Others grow in and around angry rose bushes that attack with vicious thorns when I approach the plump rubies. 

Friday, September 27, 2013

Idioms, Peculiarities, and Personal Satisfaction

Let everyone be sure to do his very best, for then he will have the personal satisfaction of work done well and won’t need to compare himself with someone else.—Galatians 6:4

Okay, I admit it.  That bugs me.  There, I’ve said it.  What I’m talking about are those random spires of sorghum that rise far above the rest of the field.  I can’t help but notice them as I drive past—a peculiar sight that sticks out like a sore thumb. I imagine myself furiously slicing the stalks to line up with their neighbors.  But why?  Why do the overachieving shoots of grain bother me so much?  Is it because I prefer tidiness and clean lines—even, straight lines?  It’s true that a well-groomed lawn without a blade out of place is like a breath of fresh air to me.  And evenly aligned desks in my classroom make my heart sing. But could my annoyance over the perceived anomaly in the sorghum field stem from something much deeper?

Lately I’ve been feeling like I’m behind the curve at work.  A few of my colleagues are flaunting cool technology in their classrooms, while I’m still trying to install the software—let alone use it.  They’re head and shoulders above the rest of us.  That bugs me.  But why?  Can I not celebrate their success without getting my nose out of joint?  Do I have to keep up with the Joneses?  Why do I want to be like them?  Is it fear that they will get noticed by the principal and I will not?  For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man?”—Galatians 1:10

Friday, September 20, 2013

Dig it up!

He reveals profound mysteries beyond man’s understanding. He knows all hidden things, for he is light, and darkness is no obstacle to him.—Daniel 2:22
I couldn’t say no.  A chance to get together with longtime friend Tracy and explore history—I’d definitely go—despite the scorching heat.
There we were standing on the grounds of an archaeological dig, wiping sweat from our brow, in the oppressive 90-degree temperature, listening to Tracy’s son Christopher deliver a crash course in Archaeology 101.  A student at St. Mary’s College, Christopher was involved in archaeological field work at Historic St. Mary's City, the site of the fourth permanent settlement in British North America.  He invited us to tour the site to see what his team had uncovered—literally.  I listened intently as he pointed out the varying layers of soil, notably marked by differences in color and texture, including the plow zone, which extends beneath the surface to the depth at which a plow would penetrate.  He explained how his team had dug a pit and stopped when they reached a black plastic barrier left behind by a previous team, indicating their stopping point. I was in awe as Christopher shared treasured findings, such as broken pottery, fence lines and outlines of colonial homes, including the brick foundation of the Brome-Howard house—surprisingly built on the foundation of the Calvert home.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Divine Design

Show me Your ways, O Lord, teach me Your paths.—Psalm 25:4

The students were chatty that September morning, as we rode the school bus en route to a local college.  I couldn’t blame them.  It was a beautiful morn, and I was excited too. Just a handful of my high school students had been selected to participate in a poetry workshop directed by a college professor.  All of us hoped to hone our budding talents, myself included.

I peered out the window at the disappearing landscape and caught glimpse of a strange sight.  Translucent films appearing to hang in mid-air!  A stop at a traffic light allowed me to closely examine the curious sight.  What I thought was hanging in mid-air, I soon discovered, was actually suspended from power lines—spider webs!  Dozens of them!  Why have I never noticed this before? I wondered.  And then I realized that morning mist clung to the strands, reflecting the sunlight, and only because of that was I able to see those glorious intricate designs.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Naked and Afraid

Disclaimer: The following reference to Discovery Channel’s TV series “Naked and Afraid” in no way  indicates my endorsement of the program but is used for comparison purposes only.

"Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed."—1 Peter 4:12-13

Remember the peacock from my previous post…standing in front of the glass door, gazing at his reflection, his beautiful four-foot-long plumage gone.  Does he feel naked without that gorgeous train that was once a part of him—his identity even?  I mean, what’s a peacock without a fan of blue-green feathers, each marked with that distinguishing feature, the all-too-familiar eye.  Without it, does he feel afraid—naked and afraid?

The truth is that all mature peacocks shed their tail feathers every year in late summer.  The shedding process is called molting.  If it happens every year, then the peacock shouldn’t be surprised, right?  Doesn’t he know this isn’t something strange happening to him—that his feathers will grow again and he will be beautiful in time?

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Proud as a Peacock

For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”—Luke 14:11

There he was staring at his reflection in the glass door of the stripping house, a barn attachment once used for stripping tobacco.  But the irony in the picture was that the peacock had been stripped of his tail feathers…well, he had shed them. 

I had seen him in early summer admiring his reflection in the shine of the car door and had to admit he was stunning, his train of brilliant tail feathers extending four feet or more.  On a different occasion I had watched him shake his tail feathers and then fan them out in a beautiful array of blues and greens, turning around like a supermodel at the end of a runway.  Scientists say this is the peacock’s mating strut, designed to attract the peahen.  But I say he was just showing off for me, for there was not a peahen in sight. Hence, the origin of the saying proud as a peacock?

Monday, February 25, 2013

The Hurdles

Lessons learned in elementary school extend way beyond reading, writing, and arithmetic...

The Hurdles
By Desiree Glass

Peering out the window, breeze blowing in
Hair flying
Chatting friends by my side, bouncing up and down on the bumpy bus ride
The pleasant ride that screeched to a halt
When what I spied made me jolt
Dotting the school yard like blemishes on a supermodel—
The Hurdles!

Dread threw itself on me and fear grabbed me by the neck
Squeezing tighter than my red uniform tie
Choking out silent screams,
Oh, no! I can’t!  I’m not fast! 
They’ll laugh at me! I’ll trip over—
The Hurdles!

But I had no choice
No one could escape the trials
Or Sister
Towering over us, her black habit blowing like a thunderstorm coming off the coast
Green baton in one hand and stopwatch in the other
Ticking down the seconds till my turn to face—
The Hurdles!

Terror seized my stomach and twisted it
To kingdom come
Breakfast churned and my soul yearned
To slip from my skin and disappear in the dirt like a spring sprinkle
To escape—
The Hurdles!

Get on your mark!
Get set!
Monique took off faster than BB the bird dog let loose from the chain
Her head bobbing, eyes focused
Fuzzy braids flying, and her feet n’er touching the ground, let alone—
The Hurdles!

A new record and a smile
On Sister’s face, framed with a white un-halo
O Lord, help me—I’m next!  Send out the seraphim!
Save this girl, slow as a terrapin!
Help me get over—
The Hurdles!

Get on your mark!
Get set!
I took off as fast as my chubby legs would go
Hair flying, eyes on the hay bales
Legs up and over and over and over and over and I made it over—
The Hurdles!

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Forever Stamps

“Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance…”—Ephesians 1:13-14

Pull. Peel.  Press.  Pull. Peel. Press.
I had a rhythm going—thanks largely to my stamp dispenser, which made light work of adding postage to numerous envelopes.  With ease I pulled the plastic-coated backing from the coil, causing the edge of a stamp to slightly peel as it exited the mouth of the dispenser, giving me quick access to pinch it and press it on the next piece of mail.
One of my responsibilities as treasurer of my church is processing our church donations to missions, which includes printing and mailing the checks—a time-consuming task I can perform with very little thought, as I’ve had umpteen years of practice. To keep my job from becoming monotonous I incorporate a little prayer in the process. Each time I sign a check, stuff it in an envelope, and stick a stamp on it, I offer a prayer for that particular ministry. 
This morning while reading the recipient’s name printed on the face of the envelope, I applied the stamp, running my finger across to smooth it, taking in the picture of the American flag. Then I noticed something I had never seen before on the “Forever” stamp—the word “freedom.”