Sunday, May 24, 2015

God's Doors

And they went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia. And when they had come up to Mysia, they attempted to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them. So, passing by Mysia, they went down to Troas. And a vision appeared to Paul in the night: a man of Macedonia was standing there, urging him and saying, "Come over to Macedonia and help us." And when Paul had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go on into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them. - Acts 16:6-10
The world is not always a kind place. It is filled with bitterness, hatred, and betrayal. Life is just not fair at times. At times like the last few days, it seems like there’s no way out of the situation I'm in. I pray and pray (day and night) asking God to open up the windows of opportunity for me, but what can I do when all the doors seems to be closed. I looked to God and the Bible for an answer. I found e beautiful passage above.
In the sixteenth chapter of Acts, Paul was on what many refer to as his second missionary journey. He and his companion Silas had traveled to Derbe and Lystra, where they were joined by Timothy. They then departed through Phrygia and Galatia. Luke says that while they were passing through this area they were forbidden by the Holy Spirit to preach the word. When they came to Mysia, they wanted to turn to the northeast and take the gospel into Bithynia, but the Spirit did not allow them to go there either. While in the Mysian city of Troas, in a vision at night, Paul received the Macedonian Call.
“So, passing by Mysia, they went down to Troas. And a vision appeared to Paul in the night: a man of Macedonia was standing there, urging him and saying, "Come over to Macedonia and help us." And when Paul had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go on into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.” (Acts 16:8-10).
Determining that they had been called by God, they went to preach to the Macedonians. Paul was very successful on this journey. Several important and noteworthy churches were established; including churches in Philippi, Thessalonica, Corinth, and Ephesus.
There are times when we pray and ask God for things. “God bless me with a job; give me that promotion at work; help me to pay my bills and etc”. We ask God for a lot of things. Most often, I ask God to guide me on the path that he has chosen for me. However, we never ask God to open doors He wants to be open and shut doors He wants to be closed.
Today, I’m looking for a job, which I've been doing for the past seven years. My last teaching job was never, in my mind, meant to be permanent. Other jobs I've applied for, I have been turned down for time and time again. With this latest setback, the loss my very flimsy safety net, I realized that God has something better in store for me. My plans are not always His plans.
Sometimes the things we pray for aren’t the things God has in store for us. Oftentimes, we pray for little things when God wants to bless us with bigger things. Sometimes we pray for God to bless us with the wrong things. I had to encourage myself and tell myself: when one door closes, another one opens, just as many of you and many others have told me in the past few days.
You may be going through a situation right now feeling as though nothing is working out for your good. You might want to give up and throw the towel in. I know in the past two days, I have certainly felt that way at times. I am hopeful one minute, hopeless the next. My emotions have been a roller coaster. I want to encourage you today, as I have done my best to encourage myself, so not to give up.
When God closes one door He opens up another. It could be that God wants me to have or be somewhere else in life. Or that God simply has another route for me to go down. Sometimes we have to hear no in order to get to where God wants us to be. Sometimes door closes not because God is against us, but simply because it’s used as a tool to guide us where God wants us to be.
When you feel as though you want to lose hope; don’t! You want to give up; don’t do it. Know that God is with you. This has done more for me these past few days than you could imagine. God is guiding and ordering our footsteps. He has a specific path just for us to travel down but sometimes as children wondering we lose track and go down the wrong path. I'm not for sure that this job I lost was not the wrong track for the past five years, but it has gained me the experience I needed in education. Because of this, God put road blocks in the wrong paths to get us going down the right path.
I am encouraged and know that God has the key to open every door; change every situation and open new windows of opportunities. Sometimes, road blocks are there to lead us to the path Jesus would have us go.  It may feel like your naked in a hallway of closed doors, but eventually, we will all come to an open one.
I am encouraged and know that God does everything for a reason; not for our downfall, but for our good and to His glory. The road blocks we face is simply God guiding us. Be encouraged in Jesus name knowing that when one door closes, another one opens. I want to leave you with the words to a song we will be singing in church tomorrow (I know this because I will be the song leader tomorrow, a job I do when our regular song leader is not there):
Farther Along
Tempted and tried, we’re oft made to wonder
Why it should be thus all the day long;
While there are others living about us,
Never molested, though in the wrong.
Refrain:
Farther along we’ll know more about it,
Farther along we’ll understand why;
Cheer up, my brother, live in the sunshine,
We’ll understand it all by and by.
Sometimes I wonder why I must suffer,
Go in the rain, the cold, and the snow,
When there are many living in comfort,
Giving no heed to all I can do.
Refrain
Tempted and tried, how often we question
Why we must suffer year after year,
Being accused by those of our loved ones,
E’en though we’ve walked in God’s holy fear.
Refrain

Friday, May 22, 2015

Flabbergasted

There will be no Moment of Zen tomorrow.  I am not sure I will be posting for several days.  As I was leaving school today, I was called in to the principal's office and told that I no longer had a job.  I have no idea what I will do, except look for a new job.  There was no warning, no reprimands on my record, no hint of me not returning for next year.  I was simply told there had been complaints made, though no one can tell me what they were.  It is a mystery to me, and a mystery to all those who I've spoken with about the issue.

I can't stop crying, and I'm just in shock.

Hallelujah



I gave my final exam yesterday.  The kids are gone.  There is a little more paperwork to do today, and I have to attend graduation tonight.  Other than that, school is out for the summer.  I am so happy, and for the next few weeks, I'm going to spend as much time with my boyfriend as possible since he will be out of town most of the summer.  I am going to miss him so much.
By the way, my headache finally subsided.  Hopefully, it will continue to get better.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Short Post



This will be a short post.  Last night I had one of the worst headaches I've had in months.  Medicine and sleep didn't phase it all day yesterday.  I'm hoping it will be better today.
The good news is that I am giving my last exam today.  If they all pass the class, I will have no more students until August 12.  I still have a teacher workday tomorrow, but that's just taking care of some administrative loose ends.  I am so glad that this year is over.  I've had some of the worst students I've ever dealt with this year, and luckily, most of them are graduating tomorrow night.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Omar Currie: A Story of Courage



Three weeks ago, Omar Currie, a 25 year-old third grade teacher at Efland-Cheeks Elementary School in Efland, North Carolina, overheard some of his students calling one of their male classmates "gay" and "a woman." Instead of sending the bullies to the principal's office, Currie took a different approach: He read his class King & King, a children's fable by Linda de Haan and Stern Nijland that features a same-sex romance.

Currie, who identifies as gay, said that he wanted to have an honest conversation with his students -- whom he affectionately refers to as his "kids" -- on how to treat people who may seem different.  Sometimes the best approach to dealing with our "kids," as I also refer to my students, is to give them a different perspective and a new way of looking at things.  I often play devils advocate with my kids when an issue of ignorance comes up in my classroom, but I deal with teenagers not third graders.  My kids have realized that I'm the school's liberal, and they are learning what provokes my sermons about their ignorance.  I try to be diplomatic at times, but often I end up getting angry, because I think they should have learned this much younger, which is why I find Mr. Currie such an inspiration.

According to Currie, there was a group of boys that had been referring to the child as a girl or a woman, saying "OK, woman," or "OK, girl.". He stepped in and addressed the issue, he said, but then it happened again. It was obvious that this particular child was being bullied and was very upset.  To address the issue, the following day, Currie read his class King & King, a picture book whose main character, a prince, must find a suitor to marry. After meeting with a succession of princesses and feeling no spark, the prince eventually falls in love with another prince. The two wed, becoming kings together, and the book ends with the two kings kissing.

When one student said that it made them uncomfortable, because they'd never seen two men marry each other, Currie said: "Well, it’s normal to feel uncomfortable when you feel something new, but what is the moral? The moral is to treat people well, no matter who they are."

Currie's decision was not without controversy. At least three parents filed formal complaints against him, leading to a meeting at the school last Friday to determine whether the book would be banned. About 200 people showed up to the meeting, with the majority of community members supporting Currie's decision.  "The experience was very overwhelming in terms of the amount of support I received," he said.

However, a number of parents said they were dismayed to find out that Currie had read King & King to his students.  "[You're] infiltrating young minds, indoctrinating children into a gay agenda and actively promoting homosexuality to steer our children in that direction," parent Lisa Baptist said at Friday's meeting, according to WRAL.

"The comments that were most difficult were the ones from parents and community members saying that my kids can't handle this conversation," said Currie. "These people are underestimating my kids. I know what they’re capable of, how intelligent they are and how passionate they are. To say my kids couldn’t have a conversation about bullying was very disgusting to me, quite honestly."

Currie said he knows all too well the pains of being bullied at school. He said the classroom should be a safe environment for all children.  "Every single day in middle school I was called a faggot," he said. "I was called that in front of teachers and no one ever stopped to address the problem. It gave me an understanding that it must be fixed immediately when it happens."  I think many of us faced similar circumstances.  Middle school and high school were hell to me.  I turned to my books and studies harder hoping to get far away as soon as I could, and education was going to be my ticket out.

The school board committee ultimately determined that the book would not be banned, but that in the future, teachers must inform parents about every book they plan to read for their class. I think the school board's decision is one of the most ludicrous I've heard of in a long time.  Why should a teacher have to inform parents of every book they read their kids.  It just adds more work to already overworked and under appreciated teachers.  Currie said he disagrees with the school board's decision, but appreciates the love and support he has received.  "Three weeks ago, after I read the book, it was a very lonely experience, because I felt like I was standing by myself," he said. "On Friday, it wasn’t just me standing up for what was right, it was all of us. That was powerful."

I wish all teachers cared about their kids the way Currie does, and I wish I were brave enough to be able to do the same thing if I were in his situation.  However, while teaching at a small private school may afford me great freedom in the classroom, it also keeps me in the closet and forced to deal with the politics of a small minded community.  Teachers like myself have to work with what we have and change minds in small incremental ways.  It's a slow process, but I do see minds changing, if ever so slightly. 

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Theories of Time and Space



Theories of Time and Space
By Natasha Trethewey

You can get there from here, though
there’s no going home.

Everywhere you go will be somewhere
you’ve never been. Try this:

head south on Mississippi 49, one—
by—one mile markers ticking off

another minute of your life. Follow this
to its natural conclusion—dead end

at the coast, the pier at Gulfport where
riggings of shrimp boats are loose stitches

in a sky threatening rain. Cross over
the man-made beach, 26 miles of sand

dumped on a mangrove swamp—buried
terrain of the past. Bring only

what you must carry—tome of memory
its random blank pages. On the dock

where you board the boat for Ship Island,
someone will take your picture:

the photograph—who you were—
will be waiting when you return

I've never been further north on U.S. Highway 49 than Jackson, Mississippi, but I have driven the stretch from Jackson to its beginning in Gulfport, Mississippi, too many times to count.  North of Jackson at the junction of US 49 and U.S. Route 61, was where blues singer Robert Johnson is said to have sold his soul to the Devil.  But it is Gulfport that I am more familiar with because it used to be a short drive down to the beach when I wanted to get away from the stresses of graduate school. I've walked those man-made beaches and taken the boat out to Ship Island to see Fort Massachusetts.  If you are ever in Gulfport, or on the Mississippi Gulf Coast for that matter, you'll probably be there for the casinos, but you really should go out to Ship Island and take a picnic lunch, explore the fort, and lounge on the beach on the south side of the island.  

The first time I went to Ship Island, I remember standing on top of Fort Massachusetts and feeling history come alive.  Having the only deep-water harbor between Mobile Bay and the Mississippi River, the island served as a vital anchorage for ships bearing explorers, colonists, sailors, soldiers, defenders and invaders. The French, Spanish, British, Confederate and Union flags have all flown over Ship Island.  French explorer Pierre Le Moyne d'Iberville charted Ship Island on 10 February 1699, which he used as a base of operations in discovering the mouth of the Mississippi River. The island served as a point of immigration to French colonies in the New World.

In the War of 1812, Admiral Sir Alexander Cochrane anchored between Ship Island and Cat Island with a fleet of fifty British warships and 7,500 soldiers in preparations for the Battle of New Orleans and the island was used as a launching point for British forces.  I remember standing on top of Fort Massachusetts and it was almost like I could see the fifty British warships as they prepared to attack New Orleans nearly 200 years before.  It was one of those magical moments historians sometimes have.  We are standing in a historical place and suddenly we are transported back to a significant moment.  The present world disappears and the world of the past emerges before your eyes.

"Everywhere you go will be somewhere you’ve never been."  So if you ever find yourself in Jackson, Mississippi, try heading down U.S Highway 49 through Hattiesburg and past the beautiful campus of the University of Southern Mississippi down to the Mississippi Gulf Coast, hop on the boat out to Ship Island and let another world take you over. 

Monday, May 18, 2015

The End Is Nigh


No, I'm not predicting the apocalypse, but two other things are coming to an end this week.  One good; one bad.  The good news is that school ends on Thursday.  Monday is our last full day, and the rest of the week consist of half days for exams.  I'm so excited.  This has been one of the rougher school years, and I can't wait for it to be over.  However, my week with my boyfriend as I house sit is also coming to an end.  The owners of the house come back on Wednesday.  I will miss sharing a bed with my boyfriend at night.   So this week will be one of hose weeks where it's out with the bad, but also out with the good.  However, I do have a vacation coming up in a few weeks with my boyfriend that should be quite wonderful.
I hope you all have a wonderful week.