Why Teach?

This extended quotation is from Dr. Howard Hendricks in his book Teaching to Change Lives.

Years ago I took part in a Sunday school convention at Moody Memorial Church in Chicago. During a lunch break, three of us who were teaching at the convention walked across the street to a little hamburger shop. The place was filled, but soon a table for four opened up. We saw an elderly lady whom we knew was attending the convention because of the bag she was carrying, and we asked her to join us.

We learned she was eighty-three and from a town in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. In a church with a Sunday school of only sixty-five people, she taught a class of thirteen junior-high boys. She had traveled by Greyhound bus all the way to Chicago the night before the convention. Why? In her words, “To learn something that would make me a better teacher.”

I thought at the time, “Most people who had a class of thirteen junior-high boys in a Sunday school of only sixty-five would be breaking their arms to pat themselves on the back: ‘Who, me? Go to a Sunday school convention? I could teach it myself!’” But not this woman.

Eighty-four boys who sat under her teaching are now young men in full-time vocational ministry. Twenty-two are graduates of the seminary where I teach.

If you were to ask me the secret to this woman’s impact, I’d give you a totally different answer today from what I would have said thirty years ago. Back then I’d have credited her methodology.

Now I believe it was because of her passion to communicate.

My heart’s concern for you is that God will give you a passion like that . . . and never let it die.

And I hope you never get over the thrill that someone will actually listen to you and learn from you.

THE JESUS STORYBOOK BIBLE

I’m an English major and I’ve recently been studying the benefits of reading the Bible as literature. That sounds strange, doesn’t it? But we don’t always think of the Bible as literature. We forget this human element of the sacred.

We’ve become so accustomed to reading the Bible in bits and pieces that we forget that it really is One Story. A Bible teacher once commented, “You wouldn’t take your new novel up to the counter at the bookstore and ask the clerk where you should start reading, would you? Why do we do that with the Bible?”

This is the concept of literary unity.

Think about how strange (and slightly depressing and/or confusing) it would be to only watch clips of movies. Randomly. It simply wouldn’t work. And yet this is often how we approach Bible reading.

My suggestion as an introduction to reading the Bible as literature is the Zonderkidz Jesus Bible Storybook by Sally Lloyd-Jones, illustrated by Jago. It isn’t a literature tutorial, but it is the whole Bible paraphrased for kids in a way that demonstrates the Bible’s unity. We bought Ada the Deluxe Edition that includes the audio book on three CDs for her birthday. So far it has rave reviews from our house! The writing is brilliant, the artwork is gorgeous, and the voice work is amazing. (The first time Jesse gave it a try he listened/read for 45 minutes in the car and then asked to continue when I made a stop at the store.)

The tag line of the Jesus Bible Storybook is “Every story whispers His name” – I love this. Jesus is the unity of the Bible. Check out the book’s website and listen to the audio clips. I especially recommend to the first chapter, The Story and The Song.Or read the Creation story and enjoy the illustrations here.

Sometimes we need to make it simple. And remember the Big Story.

My Number Ten

My eight year-old son, Jesse, is playing organized basketball for the first time this year. I’ve always loved watching sports and I’m Jesse’s biggest fan, so I knew I would enjoy watching his games even if he mostly sat on the bench. But he doesn’t sit on the bench. He starts, which in his own words means, “when the game STARTS, I’ll be playing!”

He plays tough defense and has made a few points. But what I love the most is who he is on the court. When he makes one of those few shots, he acts like every one is the game winner. Hands up, cheering for himself, high stepping to get back on defense – he embraces the moment of joy and accomplishment.

He is also the first guy to offer assistance to an injured player, even if that player is on the other team!

Tonight Jesse’s game happened to be played in the gym of my old high school. Many, many hours logged on those wooden bleachers. When old friends and acquaintances would ask, “Do you have a kid out there?” I would very proudly point to Jesse and say, “Right there. Number Ten. He’s mine.” It doesn’t matter to me if he’s the high scorer. I’m proud of how he smiles at me when he first notices me sitting in the stands. How he runs as fast as his little legs can carry him all the time – from the beginning to the end of the game. How he skips a little when he hits his mark at the wing position.

When it comes down to it, I just love him. Isn’t it cool that this is how God thinks about us? We don’t have to be the best. He’s just happy with how we look like Him, how we try hard, how we care about others.

Yep. That one right there, He says, she’s mine.

Why I Love Aquamarine

Being a teenager is kind of like living in a communist country. Have I mentioned that?

Communication within said communist country is severely limited. No messages are allowed in. Few messages are allowed out. The regime (teenage queen bees or any other group of friends) cuts you off from all other sources of influence until you forget you are living in a world bigger than the small area of your immediate proximity.

Remember that feeling? As a teenager you feel the watchful eyes of your peers even when they are nowhere in sight. You feel their judgment and think of ways to win their approval. It is a nasty regime. A manipulative government.

My parents did an awesome thing during my years behind the Iron Curtain. Like the smartest outsiders who were able to send in secret messages of hope to the prisoners inside the communist controlled countries, my parents found a way to penetrate the walls of my too-small world.

When everyone else in my sophomore class ordered a class ring, my mom made me a better offer – a daughter’s ring. Even now I’m not sure how she did that. Mom, how did you do that? But somehow, even though teenagers are known for temporary decisions and not foresight, I remember thinking I would wear the daughter’s ring longer than I would wear a chunky ring with an eagle inscribed on the band. We told the jeweler my birthday month and the birthday months of both of my parents.

What arrived was the most beautiful ring I had ever seen. In the middle was a pale aquamarine stone; one each side were the smaller birthstones of my parents, one golden topaz and one dark purple amethyst. The setting was silver, another sign of my weakened state since I picked it to match my braces. Like I said, it’s a rough country.

That ring was a parenting stroke of genius. Every time I wore that ring I was reminded of my real place in this world. I was reminded that I belonged to something bigger than the high school corridors I walked and the teenage relationships I cherished. Like the leaflets dropped from bombers during war, my little aquamarine sat on my finger and whispered messages of hope and safe passage.

*The ring in this photo is an antique from the Flikr account Camellia Collection.

On Writing

This is from an essay called “The Intelligent Heart” by Patricia Foster. It was assigned reading in one of my classes. Now I know why. The essay was so bossy, I stopped mid-paragraph and pursued a lead on a story I’ve been thinking about for a long time but have never been brave enough to chase down. Here’s the section from Foster’s essay that moved me to action:

We believe that personal stories matter . . .

When functioning properly, the intelligent heart knocks at our door, awakens us from dreams, shudders from the drafty places in our apartments, and demands a quick audience. Write this, it says. And this. And this. And this. Faithfully we write it down, trying to quiet the alarm that it will be embarrassing, stupid, irrelevant, or that most insulting of faults: already done. We listen because it is urgent, because it sneaked up behind us and blithely tongued our ear. We listen because it seemed hungry and furious, as alive as thunder before a late summer rain. We listen because we know that stories come from the mystery of knowable places. . .

Happy Birthday, Ada Jewel!

Ada looked like this when we started calling her Ada Bean. She was just so cute and round! When she was in preschool her teacher asked her what her full name was and she said, “Ada Bean Jewel White.” We still call her Bean or Beanie.

Sometimes we call her Little Mama, too, because she mothers us all. This year Claire is moving into her own room upstairs and Ada is happily taking on Macy as her new roommate. I don’t think having her own room has even crossed her mind. She is a giver, a lover, a friend.

This morning at breakfast she was explaining to me that she and Jesse had decided NOT to sign up for the school reading program at school that would earn them free tickets to Six Flags because “Macy and Claire would still be too afraid to ride those rides, so we can go when we’re all older.”

She took to school a package of candy bracelets and watches and was plotting in her little mind which of her classmates would choose which sticky accessory and making sure she would have enough.

I couldn’t love this girl more.

Happy Birthday, Our Ada Bean Jewel White! Six years old TODAY!

We Win!

You know we’re football fans at our house. College, NFL, flag in the backyard, we like it all! When I say WE I mostly mean Dan, Jesse, and me, but when we told the girls about the joy that is a Super Bowl Party they were suddenly interested in our beloved sport. (Much like the rest of America, I’m sure. Football game? No, thanks. All the best kinds of snack food, drinks a plenty, funny commercials, hype, AND my friends? See you there!)

We are a Sunday night kind of church, so we had to DVR the game to watch later at our very own Family Super Bowl Party. Pizza, spinach dip, bean dip, chips (of the pretzel and tortilla varieties), individual sized sodas, and brownies. We were all in the spirit.

As we loaded our plates and settled in downstairs (a place the kids don’t usually get to eat), Macy looked at the TV and called out, “I watch Carly” – that’s iCarly and, yeah, she totally missed the point. And was very upset about it.

Claire tried to do better. At one point she cheerfully shouted out, “Go Texas!” Which is very strange since we never cheer for Texas and this was an NFL game – New Orleans and Indianapolis. The wiser among us chuckled a bit so she tried again, “Or – whoever is playing!”

It was just fun to be together – no matter what happened in the game, as far as family time – We Won! It was also fun to see Drew Brees kissing his infant son while confetti filled the air above them. Oh, and it was pretty nice to win my Fantasy league over my father-in-law and brother-in-law who spend actual time thinking about it and calculating their decisions.

Yeah, that was definitely fun! : )