Tuesday, September 2, 2014

The Urgent vs. the Important

One of the things I have found most challenging about my new job as a high school secretary is the sheer busy-ness of the job. I admit that it is more challenging right now at the beginning of the year when I am new and several hundred students are purchasing parking passes so they can park on campus. This particular season will pass, only to be followed by other major projects, but the parking pass procession is particularly difficult.

image found here
You see, at various times of the day, I will have a couple dozen students lined up in front of my desk, all wanting to get their parking pass before security starts issuing parking fines. Plenty of urgent business.

Yet at the same time, I need to keep up with the more weighty issues of student discipline that the assistant principal for whom I work needs to deal with. She sends me emails to let me know what tasks I need to do next. Today, I missed noticing several of these important emails until too late. It is so easy to get focused on the urgent, and miss the important.

This focus on the urgent - the tyranny of the urgent as Charles E. Hummel puts it - tends to plague the best of us. We allow the things that are right in front of us to take our full attention. In the meantime, we allow more important things to slip past our attention simply because they don't clamor as loudly for our attention.

I can take steps to fix the problem of not seeing my boss's important emails until much later by setting an alert whenever a message from her comes into my mailbox. It is much more difficult to ensure that the "tyranny of the urgent" does not crowd out the truly important things in our lives.

What will I do to make sure THAT doesn't happen? What about you?

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Has It Already Been a Year?

Last year, on August 12th, Rachel and I boarded a plane in Bali, Indonesia, and began our long flight back to the United States. So much has been jam-packed into this last twelve months.

Time certainly flies, doesn't it?  Image found here.
Some of it has been difficult...
  • a long and bitterly cold winter
  • months of work that, although enjoyable, was unstable
  • re-adjusting to new dynamics of life back in the States
Some of it has been a blessing...
  • reconnecting with people who I rarely saw while living overseas
  • seeing Rachel bond with a larger family than just me
  • seeing her thrive at school
  • being blessed finally with a full-time job
I have learned much about trusting God when I don't see clearly what lies ahead. I am still and always learning that no matter how much I think I know, I can do nothing apart from Him.

I look forward to the adventure of this next year. What will God have in store?
Whatever lies in store, I can be certain of this one rock-solid truth.

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. 
Phillipians 4:13

Friday, August 1, 2014

Learning Through Life's Loops

This picture of Cedar Point's Corkscrew is found here.
Tomorrow is a day I have been looking forward to for over a year. It has been at least ten years, I think, since I have visited Cedar Point, one of the very best amusement parks in the world. Seven members of my family are going. I am looking forward to spending time with them.

I am also very much looking forward to the roller coasters. Of all the roller coasters I have ever ridden in my life, I think there is only one I haven't liked. (I won't mention the name of that one here, though.) 

Cedar Point's Mantis - image found here
I thoroughly enjoy the excitement of being taken to the top of a hill and then plunged at high speed down the other side. You say goodbye to your stomach at the top of the hill, and it catches up to you at then platform at the end of the ride. Once you're strapped into the car and it starts to move, there is absolutely nothing you can do about it.

Scary? Yes. 
Exhilarating? Definitely!

There are other rides at the amusement park.
  • Rides like the carousel. Tame. Predictable. Safe. 
  • Rides like the ferris wheel. True, you have to deal with being pretty high up, but still, much tamer than a rollercoaster.
  • Rides like the teacups. You sit in a large teacup and spin as fast or slowly as you choose. YOU are in control. 

Rides like these have their place. After all, it would be a bit hard on the stomach to be subjected to nearly non-stop flips and rolls of rollercoasters all day long. But without the rollercoasters, and amusement park wouldn't be all that interesting.

In life, there are many different things that happen.

  • Much of life, like the carousel, is made up of fairly ordinary and tame events. Mundane. Not all that exciting.
  • Then, there are the ferris wheel events. These events stretch you a bit, even as the riders of a ferris wheel are stretched to adjust to seeing the world from high in the air.
  • There are the teacup-like parts of life. The events that we try to control in some way or other. These adventures are ones that we choose. We get spun around a bit, but we still remain in control.
Cedar Point's Maverick . Image found here.
And then, there are the rollercoaster events. These events can be amazingly exciting in a good way, or they can be terribly painful. 
The journey of adoption.
The journey through illness or injury.
Raising a family.
Losing a job.
Once you are strapped into the car of journeys like these, you can't get off. You have to go through it. You are committed for the entire ride, whether you like it or not.

For the believer in Jesus, we can be assured that we face the ups and downs of these "rides" with the safety restraints in place. Jesus will not send us out to free fall when the train barrel rolls around a loop in the track.

Might we be terrified as our car gets ready to take a steep plunge? Sure.
Might we want to close our eyes as the train goes into a dark tunnel? Perhaps.
Is it possible that we might wonder if, spiritually speaking, our stomachs will ever catch up with us? Probably.
Will there be times when we find it hard to even breathe? Without a doubt.

One thing is for certain, though. After riding one of life's wild rollercoasters with Jesus at our side, we can step out of the car, look at Him and say, "Wow! That was amzing!"

You see, some lessons in life, we can never learn on a carousel. We can only learn it on a rollercoaster.

Has God taught you something on a "rollercoaster" in your life that you would never have learned on a "carousel"? Why not share it in a comment below?

Thursday, July 24, 2014

It's Not Just a Job

I started my new job this past Monday. The high school where I am working has about 2500 students. The freshman are in their own wing and, except for lunchtimes when they venture into the main part of the school to get to the cafeteria, they essentially have their own  school. 

Grades 10-12 have over 600 students per grade level. That is a lot of kids. I am secretary to the principal who works with the 10th - 12th grade kids with last names starting with A-G. There is also a counselor on the A-G team. Then, there is the H-Q team…and of course, the R-Z team. By dividing the student body that way, rather than by grades, the kids stay with the same principal…and team…throughout their last three years of high school. A  good arrangement, I think.

Image found here
For part of today, I worked on putting stickers into each kid’s cumulative file. On the stickers was printed their grades for the 2013-14 school year. I started with the upcoming seniors today. I’ll get the upcoming sophomores and juniors tomorrow. 

As I place the sticker in each file, I glanced over the grade stickers from previous years and took note of what each student’s grades had been like over time as compared to the past year. It was a small thing, but this gave me a snapshot into their lives. With this little piece of the puzzle, I prayed for each student as I handled their file.

  • When I saw the straight-A student with the bright, smiling face, I prayed for God to bless her in her hard work and to let her know that her worth wasn’t just in her good grades, but she is precious to God.
  • Then I saw the boy who used to get really good grades, but they had really slipped for some reason two years ago. This past year, they came back up again. For that student, I prayed that he would persevere, and keep moving in the right direction.
  • Another student might be consistently in the middle of the road academically. For that student, I might pray that he or she would not settle for doing less that their best.
  • Then, there might be a student who, for whatever reason, had apparently given up. Grades used to be OK, but the bottom had dropped out this past year. My heart broke for students like that, and my prayer for them was that God would reach them…and that He would use me in some way to show that student that he or she is loved.
 So many student. So many situations. So many ways to pray.

Yes, it’s a secular job…but it is still a ministry. 

May God find me faithful.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Home from Camp - Off to a New Job

In my last post, I wrote about Rachel going to camp for the first time. As I knew she would, she had a great time. Lots of good memories, new friends, and some good chapel times. I think of all the great memories I had from my own years at camp, and I can just picture how much fun she had. Rachel is definitely looking forward to camp again next year.

Image found here
As for me, tomorrow I will begin my new job as secretary for one of the vice-principals of our local high school. I am looking forward to this work so very much. It puts me back in the education setting, although not as a teacher. It also allows me to work with teens. This is an age group I came to love working with while I was in Indonesia.

In this new chapter of my life, I am reminded of an important verse. It is a good one to give direction and purpose to all I do.

So ... whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.
1 Corinthians 10:31

Friday, July 11, 2014

Off to Camp Next Week

Image found here
Next week is a big first for Rachel. She and two other girls from our church will be going away to church camp for the first time. We will drive down this Sunday morning and the girls will be picked up on Saturday morning.

I remember how very much I loved going to camp throughout my childhood, and I am excited for my little girl. She is going to have so much fun. This is a different camp than the one I attended as a child, but I am certain it will be great.

Rachel is excited about the games, and the swimming. Perhaps she has pictures in her mind of sitting around a campfire every night making S'mores. That, of course, won't be the case, but there will be more than enough good times to enjoy.

Most of all, I pray that this coming week will be a very special time where she grows deeper in her faith, and comes to love Jesus more and more. I pray that what she learns and experiences at camp will be life-changing in a marvelous, positive way.

I am so thankful for the people who dedicate so much time and energy so that little children can come closer to Jesus.

Let the little children come to me...
Matthew 19:14

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Celebrating Freedom

Yesterday was the first Fourth of July I have spent in the United States in twenty years. As for Rachel, this was her first one ever. She was so excited about the celebration.

Thursday night, I had gone shopping for food we needed for the picnic on Friday. As I headed to the store, I saw that cars were lining up and people were camping out at the edge of cornfields facing the fairgrounds. They were staking out places to see the fireworks.

After I was done shopping, I hurried back to my parents' house where Rachel was spending the day with her Grandma. I took her out to see the fireworks. We drove around looking for a good place to watch. I wasn't sure where, exactly, would be the best place. I turned down an alley beside a local school to cut over to the next street. As it turns out,the perfect parking place was right down that alley. The fairgrounds was perhaps two streets away. No trees blocked the view. I must say, we got the best view of fireworks that I have ever had in my life.

Mom was in on much of this excitement. She and wrote this and posted this photo on her Facebook page. I'll let her words speak for themselves.

Yesterday was the first 4th of July Rachel celebrated in the US. She was so excited. She knew where she wanted the games set out in the yard. She looked at the video I took last year and told me what food she wanted me to serve. The entire day was what she wanted. The weather was great and as Rachel said everything was perfect. However one thing really impressed me. When Chuck hung out the flag, Rachel ask if we could say the Pledge of Allegiance. Of course we did. But seeing her, an 8 year old little girl from Bali, standing straight and tall with her hand over her heart was an emotional time for me. It made me wonder how many things are taken for granted and if we will always have these freedoms.

May we not take these freedoms for granted.
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