Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Sheep, Shepherd or Dog?

Today was the culmination of a unit about sheep with my first graders. I read them the story of "The Shepherd Boy". It tells of a little boy, Ben, who rises early each morning to care for his father's 50 sheep. He has two dogs to help gather them and direct them through the canyon, across a mesa, and to a secret spring where lot's of fresh green grass grows. Upon returning home and counting the sheep, Ben discovers there are 49, as opposed to the 50 he started out with. He secures the sheep in a pen and runs after the one ewe lamb. He finds her under an old house hidden between rocks. He gently picks her up and carries her home. It is a beautiful story of dedication, love and compassion. My students were captivated. For every page I read and turned, they sat as still as statues and quiet as mice, with an occasional, "Aah!" blurted out here and there.

After reading it, I asked them about the sheep, "How did they feel? What did they do? What's their personality? How did they look?" As expected, their responses were quite simplistic. They responded with "Happy, sad, scared." They did not think of the word, "safe", but agreed the sheep must have felt safe because they were being cared for. As for what sheep did, I got responses like, "Eat grass. Walk a long time. Rest." Finally, after some coaxing, one little girl called out,"They follow the shepherd."

By this time, 12:30 p.m. was fast approaching and I wanted them to share with a buddy which one they would choose to be. I asked them, "If you could pick, would you rather be a sheep or a shepherd and why?" Their responses were extremely insightful! Most of them wanted to be sheep. All except for one little boy, who wanted to be a shepherd. When asked why, the boy responded, "Because then I can get money for taking care of the sheep and I get to touch them." The others explained, "Sheep are soft and puffy; I want to be the baby; I want to be the lamb and be carried." My sole entrepreneur, shepherd enthusiast, asked me, "What do you want to be?"
I paused for a moment to think and responded, "Sometimes I want to be a sheep and have someone take care of me and other times I want to be the Shepherd and take care of others."
"Which do you want to be right now?," he persisted.

Once again I had to pause,think, and listen to my heart's cry. "I probably want to be the Shepherd now because I want to take care of sheep."

Over lunch, I asked another boy, "What would you be? A shepherd or a sheep?"
He surprised me by saying, "I want to be the dog that protects the sheep from the wolves."

Overall, I was encouraged and enlightened by each of my students' responses today. Most like to be sheep. They want the security of being cared for, while another wants to gain a reward and nurture, and yet a third to love and protect.
In God's eyes we are all sheep. His sheep in a pasture. Each has a different role, but all are needing to follow and be cared for. I must admit, I have not felt like following much. I like to be the one leading and yet I know I still need to be cared for and carried safely home.

Matthew 18:3 "And he said, 'I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven..."

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Moving Up and Out

It was time. The leaves on the fern I bought over a year ago were now dwindling and not because of thirst. Months ago, it was much more lush, but I noticed some of the roots had begun to sprout up along the sides of the brown ceramic pot. I guess you could say I've known for awhile that it was time to transplant it into a larger home, but kept putting it off. There was never extra time to make the switch. Thoughts well intended and informed, but not enough until tonight.
About 8:45 p.m., I walked through the door, flipped on the lights, and stared at the green fern sprouting only seven or eight branches from it's center. The dirt was dry and when I tried to water it, it ran straight through and seeped out the bottom. I'm a teacher, not a horticulturist.
When I picked it up, I could lift the whole plant with the dirt compounded around it, out of it's pot. Sure enough, it was root bound. Yellow, thin roots were poking through the sides. I went straight to the closet for potting soil and to search for a bigger pot. Ah, yes. The plastic pot from Home Depot left from another plant. This will have to do. I poured the dirt into the bottom of the larger pot and gently added the fern to the center, before adding more soil on top. I finished with watering. It now rests on the counter in the kitchen to the left of the window. I only hope it starts to thrive once again.
Years ago, I had a similar problem with another plant, except it wasn't getting enough light. Once I moved to a different apartment and placed it in the window that gets the morning sun, it slowly grew back. Today, it is the same size as when I received it five years ago. It was resurrected by the warmth and nutrients from the sun.
I often reflect upon this lesson. There is a time for moving up and out. Location, location, location as they say is truly everything. It is so easy to stay where it is comfortable and put off changing at all costs, but may we not do that when it comes to survival and growth. Ecclesiastes 3:2-3 reads "A time to give birth, and a time to die; A time to plant and a time to uproot what is planted."
I have lived and worked in the same area for many years now. I've enjoyed it. It is comfortable and it is home, but if God wants to move me up and out, may I have courage and faith to embrace whatever changes lie ahead, so that I may continue to grow and thrive. Time will tell, if and when it will be time for me to move up and out.

Monday, March 8, 2010

A Matter of Family

Saturday evening, I opened the front door and entered into Phil and Jean's home for an evening of food, folks, and fun. My friends, Phil and Jean love hosting a potluck supper and night of cards at their home almost every other week. Anywhere from six to ten or more come to gather round their large dining room table for a night of feasting and fun. This particular night there were fifteen of us. Fifteen people elbow to elbow at the table, smiling, chatting, and then quieting down as Phil led us in grace.
I had sauteed broccoli and cauliflower with garlic and olive oil, Jean roasted two chickens, Laura brought turnips, Craig a delicious zucchini casserole, Kathleen, a Caesar salad, Andy, two apple cakes, Tom and Monique the infamous Holy Cow ice cream cake, Mike, a couple of loaves of "pull bread", and someone else the mashed potatoes. It was a feast! I felt as if Thanksgiving had arrived early this year. As I looked around the table I marveled at the wide range of ages present. Bill and Dee, both grandparents are well into their 70's. Mike is a middle aged father of two adorable children, ages four and seven months. Others were parents of college grad.'s or grade school children, a few middle aged singles, and then myself.
We joked, passed potatoes, smiled and savored. We simply enjoyed being together. Being together as friends and family. As each one finished their meal, the women helped Jean clear dishes and clean up. The cards were shuffled and dealt, while Dee, Brian and I tried out another game called Jambo. Dee picked it up from somewhere. We tried it, but Dee was winning. She left Brian and I far, far in the dust. I think her, son Craig knew better not to get involved in that one. He watched the others play Ulcer Rummy and later joined us along with Maribel, for a few rounds of Uno. He laid down the dreaded "draw four" card for his mom. "On your own mother?!", she exclaimed.
"Only business, nothing personal," he replied. Not before long, that became the phrase used by all. We never really kept score, but yours truly managed to win at least 3 rounds. Olivia, our youngest player, age four, was beginning to pick up as well. Dee's winning streak from the first game was now long gone.
What fun! What great food! What a shadow of things to come! Each week we come together for Sunday service at the River to worship. This night it was for pure, unadulterated FUN! Psalm 133:1 reads, "How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity!"
I long for the day when our family and more will be gathered around that great table in heaven for the feast that will never end! We will continue to eat, drink, share, and smile. Until then, may we always give thanks for these memorable snapshots given to us. He has made us a family and He has made us friends. Most importantly though, He has made us one.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

A Picture and An Editor Equal Change

Treasures in darkness
Hidden jewels, buried deep
Jewels waiting to be discovered in a cave or cavern, leading up to the green
A girl with some tools and limited vision
First she had questions swirling, circling, frustrated.
She was wrestling.
Why, Lord, Why? What is this? Where am I headed?
A man clothed in white, standing beside a table, pointing to a tunnel
The Good Book opened up, next to a candle
After that, came an i-phone lit up with scriptures and quotes
She held it in her hand, shining its light to direct her on
With a pick axe in her right back pocket, she begins to move onward and upward
Up through the tunnel
A tunnel so narrow and long
Pearls and diamonds, rubies and opals
Lined the way, waiting to be mined and discovered
This was the image, the picture I got, and set about in haste to create
A girl with tools on a journey, acquiring the treasures hidden in darkness, lining a secret tunnel that led up to the green.
How beautiful and rich, I thought to myself, but oh, the changes He wrought
My Editor had come.
He directed, refocused, clarified, and began to reshape
Two weeks later a very different picture He led me to creating
Images of pearls, diamonds, and rubies were replaced
Now I saw brilliant gifts of creativity and faith,
On Saturday morning, the day before completion, He added something quite different,
the music played by an old violin.
And still more to be added were people, but not in form or body
Their lives he wanted represented by jars, nothing much to look at or shining
The old violin, He said was to be battered and scarred
It embodied the people, passed over and forgotten
The tunnel disappeared, the girl no longer needed
Just a white cross with shed blood, power reaching out, bringing life to the objects
Real diamonds and pearls, I never added or glued, just music coming from the old violin that was battered and bruised
The Book opened wide, the candle still present, sitting upon the old table in a gloomy, dark basement
The cavern rocks all speckled white, black, and gray
I peeled off and set aside
Perhaps another day
Two passages later, a song's lyrics, and reflection
An experience or two, had all refocused my vision
The picture evolved over two weeks time, but the theme of treasures in darkness, all hidden in secret, were now clearly defined
What happened? Why the changes you ask? How intriguing?
I have learned it is better to wait because time with my Editor always results in some changes