Sunday, September 30, 2007

Sometimes cleaning house isn't the smartest thing to do...

Have you ever been cleaning the house and you found something you should have found a month ago? Hm. A little while ago, I found something that needed attention like whoa (as my little college buddies would say...) about a month ago. Of course, Don is camping with the youth, so there's no talking to him about it-- my husband is the best person I know. I never had any idea how comforting it could be to have another person, the person you are tied to in this life-long three-legged-race, look at you and say, "Hey, this is no big deal. We'll take care of it." My panic level took a serious nosedive when he came into my life. I mean, don't get me wrong: I still panic. Just not as regularly as I used to. You can't exactly set your watch by it any more.

But it stinks to open an envelope with icky news when you were feeling pretty okay.

So he's not here to toss it over his shoulder and laugh (then pick it up again to make sure it doesn't get lost, mind you), so I prayed (imagine that. Sometimes I think about how my spiritual life changed when I got married. I married a man who was my peer in every way: he prays with and for me, he is on the same page as me 100%, but I find myself looking to him more than the Lord sometimes. My married friends told me about this when I was single and I sort of shrugged it off-- that was just because they weren't nearly as mature as I was, right? whatever).

And when I prayed, I honestly felt that it was going to be alright. That I shouldn't panic and worry.

Remember that old Second Chapter of Acts song? "So why should I worry, why should I fret? 'Cause I've got a mansion builder who ain't through with me yet" My old Christian hippie parents exposed me to the most amazing music, and the Lord seems to bring those songs to my mind at the most precious moments. Here are the lyrics to that song-- and if you've never heard of this group, you need to google them right now and buy a CD. Warning: they are a totally Christian 70's band and they look and sound it. I LOVED them as a kid-- they toured with Keith Green some and they always had YWAM booths next to their album and t-shirt booths at their concerts. I have always loved the focus of this song:

I've been told that there are those
Who will learn how to fly
And I've been told that there are those
Who will never die

And I've been told that there are stars
That will never lose their shine
And that there is a Morning Star
Who knows my mind

So why should I worry?
Why should I fret?
'Cause I've got a Mansion Builder
Who ain't through with me yet
(Repeat)

And I've been told that there's a
Crystal lake in the sky
And every tear from my eyes
Is saved when I cry

And I've been told there'll come a time
When the sun will cease to shine
And that there is a Morning Star
Who knows my mind

Chorus

Finally, here is something I heard this weekend. There is an older professor at Dallas Theological Seminary named Dr. Pentecost-- the interview wasn't incredibly recent, so I don't know where he is or what he is doing now, but he was being interviewed and he said that it doesn't say anywhere that Jesus is returning to take us to heaven... he paused, took a deep breath and smiled (he was blowing my Southern Baptist upbringing in seconds!). "Jesus," he said, "is returning to take us to Himself."

Suddenly, that envelope isn't so big.

Jesus is returning to take me to Himself.

Why should I worry?

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Sometimes they amaze me...

There are these moments... certain moments during teaching when it's like the air is packed with thousands of little gold freckles. It's this moment that happens during worship leading sometimes, too, and it's what I am always looking for when leading a group of people in anything: this moment of total connection. Some call it synergy. When suddenly we are all in one place, on the same page, discovering or uncovering something.... It's powerful when it happens while teaching the bible or leading worship, but when I discovered that something like that could also happen while teaching literature.... WOW. They paid me today to do something I would gladly do for free...


I was leading a class discussion on Decision making, which is one of the themes in a book we are studying. We hit "survival" a couple of days ago, but today we melded the themes at some point at the end of class, which is hard enough sometimes with a group of people who are good at discussions, but these 9th graders are only just now falling into the groove of whole-class discussion-having (it's a brand new discipline for most of them) so it has been rough with them many days.


But I plug on, because I am determined to train my students to be able to do full-class discussions. Because they are fun, it's a valuable skill to develop, and it's a great way to learn material. It's also a good way to keep the kids engaged for an extended period of time. There are weaknesses, including the fact that it's easier for some kids to hide in a full-class discussion, but that can be mended with some techniques I am going to experiment with in a couple of weeks.

Anyway, I don't teach in order to get the goose-bumpily feeling and for fun conversation any more than I lead worship in order to get that feeling and positive "strokes," but I'll tell you what: it's a bonus like crazy in professions that demand much of you physically and spiritually, but whose pay is often minimal.

I'm tired now, and this post is a patchwork from something I was writing last week and had to abandon when the computer went down (next thing on the list to buy-a-new-one of), but wanted to get it off my list of things unfinished.

Now, that's down and fourteen million more things to go...
:)

Monday, September 17, 2007

Some Random Thoughts While Waiting for a Mud Mask To Dry

We've been trying to go to bed earlier this school year-- it suddenly occurred to both of us that we'd probably feel better if we went to work with a full night of sleep behind us.

We're geniuses.

Tonight, though, I couldn't stay asleep. We went to sleep early-- like, around 8:30-- and now my prince is still back there sleeping, while I am awake wondering if I told 1st period that they would have a quiz tomorrow or on Tuesday.

I'm also thinking about my car. My beloved piece-of-poo 1989 classic Toyota. The thing just keeps ticking, but I'm nearly done with it. I honestly adhere to the belief that one should drive one's car until the wheels fall off, and it should be noted that this former Hudgens is completely capable of figuring out how to make at least one of the wheels fall off (we're incredibly creative with breaking automobiles. One night, years before cell phones were common, my friend Kristen and I were summoned by my little brother to meet him at a gas station somewhere in North Georgia. Seems that he had gotten a wild hair to drive home from Toccoa Falls in the middle of the night. He got bored because his radio was broken-- see?-- so he pulled out his guitar. My little brother was driving down 85, I'm pretty sure, in the middle of the night, in a stick shift little Nissan truck with one foot propped up on the window, the neck of the guitar out the window, cruising and singing Grateful Dead, when all of a sudden something went "snap" and he was quickly headed off the next exit without breaking anything on his body. Don't ask me how he did it, but he did, and when we drove up a couple of hours later, he was happy as a clam, sitting in the bed of the truck, playing his guitar and drinking gas station coffee. Turns out it was the timing belt. Kristen rigged something up-- I swear to you, I am not lying-- with a cord from some of Nathan's camping gear (I think it was a sleeping bag drawstring) and he followed us home. He drove that truck til it was patched together with so much duct tape and running with ropes and strings that he couldn't give the thing away. I don't know where he left it, but that's what Hudgenses do with cars. Don't even get me started on Enoch, the Caravan that would not die).

At any rate, it's time to abandon this vehicle somewhere. She's been the Nameless Faithful Car (I just never got around to naming her) for about 8 or 9 years now, and it's just time. And for the first time in my entire life, I am considering buying a car worth more than $1500.

Yikes and pass the checkbook.

But we'll see. There is always the Rabbit (1979), which I adore. It's straight-up ugly, but you can't beat it for character and it runs like a champ. Well, it will once a few things are tweaked. Question is, how long to continue with cars you must "tweak" all the time? I can't imagine what I'd do with a car that I could lock, that doesn't make inexplicable noises, even when it's off, and that had air conditioning. I might have to move into it.

In other thoughts, I've been thinking about a topic that seems to come up for me about three times a year. It's weird how it happens-- I think that working with youth and young adults has everything to do with the recurring nature of the thing. I keep thinking about how good it is that the Lord does not continue to hold our sins against us. When I think of the things I did and said to people-- and not just a select group of people whom I am convinced had issues that stretched waaaay beyond my influence, but pretty much everyone I knew-- when I was in my early 20's, I am eternally grateful for the [for the most part] incredible generosity of the adults the Lord put into my life.

I remember a conversation I had with my friend Leonie, during my DTS in Cimarron (YWAM). I was a brand new believer, and she was a full time missionary who had given her life to serving the Lord and investing in buttheads like me. I was 20 years old and an idiot (not to say that all 20 year olds are idiots, but I was: combine ignorance and pigheadedness and you get an idiot-- me) and I was arguing with her over a verse in 2 Peter or something. I remember my argument to this day, and without going into it, I was obviously incorrect. She sat and said, in her gentle Aussie way, "Sam, just look here ("HEEyah")-- this is what it says." I promise you that I looked at the verse, saw exactly what she said, and was convinced that she was wrong.

Oh my gosh, how infuriating for her, I'm sure.

But how loving she was toward me. Oh my gosh, she was amazing.

During those formative years, God was so good and faithful to send people who seemed to have hearts of pressed gold into my life. It was like the Lord brought people who were gentle and wise and so humble that they didn't have to win fights with me, and made them my leaders. And the patience went beyond intellectual and theological things-- people in their 20's are going through so much hormonally, emotionally...it seems that they are sometimes so overwhelmed with the right now, and their intensity can be driven in so many directions, to be friends or leaders or mentors to them can be exhausting. I'm fortunate that the 20 somethings in my life are some of the most exciting, mature, hilariously funny individuals I have ever known, but me? I'm lucky that I didn't get shot by any of my leaders.

But some of my leaders failed me, and I mourned that for the longest time. Does it matter, as a leader, if you are right when it comes to the life of one you are mentoring? My understanding, watching my mentors in Oregon and experiencing their patience with me, was that the mentor is somehow out of the picture-- removed, almost clinical, when it comes to the life and issues of the person they are investing in. What I mean is, like parents who do not decide to just not be friends with their children any more when they make them angry, mentors do not take the mistakes of their "pupils" personally. Maybe. I don't know. It's just that, when I think of the kids I have invested in over the last 10 years, it occurs to me that some of them have done some pretty slimy stuff, but I still love them.

But I think I got too close to some of my leaders. Or did I? Should there be a strict line which leaders put into place and determine not to cross? When I think of the friendships that Don and I have with kids who are 10 years younger than us, or more, our hearts are completely open to them, but we do not lean on or depend upon them in the way that we might our peers or each other. Is it because they can't "handle" it? Because we are so much above them? No, not at all. Instead, in my mind, it has everything to do with us remaining a source of help for them. We remain someone that they can come to. Someone whose house is open to them at 1 in the morning, someone they can confess sin to and receive counsel. As soon as I unburden myself on them in return, the sense that I am there to serve them vanishes and the pressure to make sure that we have "equal time" in the relationship shows up. In the lives of my precious younger friends, I want to give them room to be dorks and make stupid decisions and know that they can come to me for love and acceptance any day of the week, and that I do not expect a thing from them in return. Mine is to serve them. Theirs is to let me if they want.

Anyway, it happened in at least one relationship that the signals were mixed. I think that if I were the peer of these leaders and they were seeking me out for advise (which is honestly hysterical, if you knew the details), I would have advised them to hold me at arms-length for a season, but never to abandon me. I mean, why take a mentee's stupidity so personally? Do we only lead when it is easy? Do we only invest in the lives of youth when it feels good?

The question it left me with, and one I still struggle with to this day, is this: is it possible for people in their 30's and 40's to have equal, positive friendships with people in their teens and 20's? You have to know: it's a question only. Don and I are in our 30's and 40's now and we have friends we dearly love who are in their 20's...but there is a separation between us, and I think that it's a good one. I believe that it's one which our younger friends appreciate, and it's one that makes me keenly aware of what I do and say around them, and aware of how I respond to them when they do things I do not agree with. I treat my peers in a way that I do not treat my students and younger friends.

And you know what? It's a respect thing. It just now occurs to me that my behavior towards those friends who are in their 20's is my way of showing them respect. What Don and I know is this: we had to make a thousand mistakes in our 20's. If there were a song called "I'm so stupid you can't believe it and don't get too close to me because I'm a smart-ass and a know-it-all," it would be the theme song to my 20's. And it was my right and responsibility to fully experience all of that. When I recognize similar paths to humiliation and pain in the lives of my younger friends, something in me wants not to point a finger or nail them on it, but rather, be the older sister whose affection for them runs so deep...I'll meet you for coffee to talk about that stupid thing you just walked through. I'm not your peer-- I won't judge you that way. I'm your older sister who knows that you just need to talk it out without being graded or compared. I respect the rights of my younger friends to make mistakes and I want to honor them by not judging them in it, but remembering how hard it was to be their age, listen without determining punishment or withdrawing my friendship.

Thing is, I write all of this and then I begin to think of the fact that, as we get older, some of those relationships seem to naturally become more equal, and that makes good sense. My mentors in Oregon--Kristen, Lynelle, Pam and others-- have become close friends whom I consider to be peers now, though when I was younger they were definitely trying to help me to grow up (Pam, my fearless roommate...pity her for those months with me!!). The change in the relationships has been gradual and not at all awkward, and I give them all the credit for gracefully leading me into the new way of relating we have found. You seem to notice the growing when suddenly, the whole conversation isn't about you any more. You ask and honestly want to know how they are, what their days were like, what's hurting them. It's not just about me getting advise from them-- though I know that that element will always be there. I have had some amazing mentors, let me tell you.

Okay, I think that this mud mask is going to be peeling away enamel from my teeth if I don't go wash it away soon. It's good to be able to "talk" these thoughts out. I'm always interested in the mail people send me after reading something I have written down here, and my hope is that this theme I keep revisiting (as a result of a particularly heartbreaking and embarressing scene when I was about 27 or 28) speaks to something in you, too. I haven't figured it out and am open to other's insights, but I think that I might be on the right track.

The last thing is this: my little brother's wife (um, they are in their 30's) is pregnant!!! Yahoo!!!

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Hm...

So, last week I wrote, "things happen every day that are not [God's] will."

Is that true?

Two things: Jesus prayed that God's will would be "done on earth, even as it is in heaven." Okay, so He instructs us to pray for it. Does that mean that it doesn't happen all the time?

But doesn't the word also assert that there is nothing that exists under heaven which isn't allowed and even planned by God? It's this whole question of sovereignty and omniscience/-potence.... Does God limit Himself? Is it necessary, for the sake of free will, for God to limit Himself?

Hm.

Bottom line, He is perfect and whatever comes into question is strictly limited to our incredible ignorance in the face of His brilliance: this I know. So there are no worries, regardless of what the above answers are. But it does lead one to think....

Okay, I'm going back to cleaning (how cool am I? We are cleaning the house on a Saturday night? Married life is so glamorous... :) But we're together, and that's pretty fantastic), and I recognize that it's incredibly irresponsible to leave the above thoughts without biblical references (because I SERIOUSLY paraphrased, to the point of possibly misquoting an enormous theological idea), but I'm going to have to come back to it in a little while. I was just thinking of it while I was cleaning the toilet and wanting to jot it down for later pondering...