Sunday, August 9, 2015

bloom and grow forever

I said I'd write tonight. I spent the  day with two of my nieces yesterday, spent today reading  Greek mythology for school, and spent the evening grocery  shopping because I have decided this is the year I'm going to take care of  myself at school, and that means that there must be breakfast at this house.

Now I want to go to bed, but I said that I would write tonight.

So I'm taking some advice that I would give to one of my students if she  knew that she needed to write a journal entry before bed but she was so sleepy she almost tripped and fell over a washcloth in the  bathroom. I would tell her to write what's been on her mind.

So here goes.

I've been thinking of the body of Christ. My little town has been going through a series of crises over the  last couple of months-- violent crime from bored/angry/misguided/who knows? youth has sprung up and the good men and women of this once fairly sleepy town have responded in so many and varied ways, and so many of them beautiful.

Honestly, they've just amped up efforts they were already pouring themselves into. Feeding the hungry, praying for the church, housing the homeless, offering Him worship, crying out for justice, caring for the elderly, loving the unlovable, giving their money, cheering on the discouraged.... so many jobs, so many faithful ones.

Anyway-- and  this is a little scattered, I guess-- I've been thinking about the body of Christ and why we're here and all of  the nuggets of gold He has been dropping  into my heart over the last  couple of months. Like, when my dear friend Kenny Peavy came to lead us in worship in my living room last month and he poured out words about the kingdom. Kenny said something like this: People are walking around all day looking and longing for the Kingdom-- for Jesus Christ-- and we walk up and bam, there it is! The Kingdom of God!

Selah. Pause and think about that.

We carry around with us the  power of  God. We carry around the answer to all of  the pain and sadness of the world. The One who can mend broken hearts lives in us. Our lives of  freedom and redemption are  proof of His ability and willingness to take  and redeem anything at all. He has shone His light deep into  us. And we have the treasure of His presence and His power in these jars of clay, evidence that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. He has taken up residence in us. His's here. And holy smoke, what can happen when the Kingdom draws near. What could happen if the Church were to say Yes? One mighty, holy Yes.

My friend Hayley sat on my front porch in the middle of a riotous display of God's power through thunder and  lightning, and she said, "Lord, You have my YES."

Yes. You have my yes.

I've been thinking about what happens when an army of believers  who have given Him their YES and who have determined that they will embrace the Kingdom of God within them, let His light shine through our faces and noses and elbows and toes, letting every word  drip with the richness of His life within us-- what would happen if that army rushed on the city? Climbed the walls? Loved every single kid they came in contact with? Prayed for instead  of cursing  their leaders-- even  the corrupt, weak, fearful leaders; the ones who have lost our respect? What would happen if the people of God held His Word aloft as our only weapon--the mightiest weapon for which there is no counter?

What is required of us?

We must submit to Him. I must submit to Him. He is worthy of it all.

We have to know Him.

We have to study His word, we have to listen close for His voice because His sheep know His voice, but I will tell you, it takes practice to recognize His voice in the middle of a world where things are hardly ever quiet and every single person you know has an opinion and many of them add "thus saith the Lord" to their opinions.

We are at a critical place (I speak to myself; I share my journal with you) where we have to invest in so much time with Him in the secret place where we are more used to the light of His glory than the light of our iPhones, televisions, and computers.

We have to run toward Him in worship-- musicians, non-musicians, it doesn't matter. His word says that He is looking for worshipers (John 4:23-24). I don't know about you, but if my God is looking for something that specific, then if I don't know anything else about what He wants, at least I know  THAT. What does it mean to worship Him? It's to give Him our attention, our words, our ideas, our hopes, our everything. It's to sit before Him in the quiet or in the loud and put our eyes on Him and tell Him how good He is and how much we love Him...and then wait for Him. Not metaphorically. Wait.

We have to come alongside Him-- figure out what He is doing and do that with Him.


These are some of the things I have been thinking about.

He has planted us-- we  are called to be oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of His splendor (Isaiah 61:3).

I want to be one of those oaks whose limbs bend and sway with the wind of the Spirit and whose roots grow deep into the soil of His presence and His goodness. I want Him to cut me down and use me to build. I want Him to call me up out of the dirt to stand with arms outstretched in worship. I want to bow or sway or burn, but for His kingdom. I want His Kingdom established on earth as it is in heaven because I love Him and it's what He wants. I want Him. There is nothing more important.

Night and day and day and night, let incense arise.

Bloom and grow forever.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

welcome :)

It's been ages since I updated this blog.

I think about it almost daily, honestly. "I should write about this" and "Hm...interesting... I should record this on the blog..." are thoughts that fly into my mind and sort of escape by the time I make it home. Time, worship rehearsal, Facebook, the house, front porch conversations, art, reading, grading-- these things compete. The reality is, though, that I should be writing.

[all the writers nod in total guilty understanding]

But here's what I have been thinking of the last few days-- every year, my blog registers a surge in readership around the beginning of the school year. Parents and students do what we all do (I did it in college, too!) : google your professor, look up that teacher, see if you can find a mugshot, hope to find academic honors, get the inside scoop on the person who will be waxing [hopefully] eloquent from the front of the room for the next nine months.

Anyway, I'm not advertising this blog on my school website-- this is my personal blog, but if you guys are as nosy as I am, you'll find yourself here eventually.

I understand and welcome the research, so I thought that this year I'd make it a bit easier to get to the bottom of some things! :)

1. The first thing to know about me is that I'm pretty much exactly the way I seem. Some of you will meet me for the first time tomorrow night (freshman open house at our school) and you will wonder if I'm always this hyper. The answer is YES-- if I seem like I'm having a great time, I really am. Being crushed together in one place with one goal is one of my favorite things, whether it's in our classroom (because it's not just mine-- it's yours, too) or in a living room packed with friends who are worshiping or studying. I love being part of a pack. And that means that I love community. And that means that I like being with people who like each other. And that means that I am going to do my best to help create an environment in our classroom where we like each other. Mutual respect-- it starts with me because I'm the grownup. You're welcome :)

2. You won't find any mugshots of me online. That doesn't mean I'm perfect, it just means God has been watching out for me for a very, very long time. My life is a constant example of His grace and goodness. And my life is also pretty much an open book-- when you google my name, you'll see that I am very active in church (I lead worship with a team of passionate believers)-- but I will love and accept you no matter what your belief system is (I guess I draw the line at cannibalism, though). I kind of like mean people because usually they're ridiculously sweet under all that anger, too, so don't count yourself out if you're a turd.

Btw, while we're on the might indeed find dirt or mugshots or hear rumors about your teachers, but I will tell you this-- if it makes it to you, it's not a scandal and you didn't discover it. Your teachers are [mostly] good men and women who are trying their best to do right by you. We've all made mistakes, right? Your parents, your friends, YOU... let's just do this: try to treat others the way you want to be treated. You don't judge your teacher for what you've heard about him/her, and we'll try not to judge you based on what we've heard about you. Let's deal with the person standing in front of us. Deal? :)

3. I like English Literature a LOT, but I LOOOOVE teenagers and I feel called to be in your lives. I feel part of what I was created for was to be an adult in your life that does her best to find the gold in you. If that involved reading a good story together, or figuring out why an author chose THIS symbol over maybe THAT symbol, then all the better. I'm nosy, so I'll ask you to write about things that make you sad or that make you happy. I will also want to know if you've ever been in love :) I want to know what makes your heart sing and what makes you laugh or cry. And I think sometimes you care about what I'm feeling, too. I love that about teenagers. I want to help you get ready for life-- I want to help you figure out what you want to be when you grow up and how to work through all kinds of problems. Many times, writers have done the work of figuring out some life lessons we can learn from, and I feel that I glean new stuff from old classics every year-- often, through some insight brought to the class through the voice of a 14 year old genius (A4, class of 2017, I'm looking at you guys). And that's why I teach high school.

4. Did I mention that I'm nosy? I have one word for you: journals.

5. The classroom: My classroom is very much conversation centered. We'll talk all year. Which means that you need to do the reading that is assigned-- hopefully, having your own mini-computers this year will help with some of that. Anyway, in order to have a good conversation, all participants need to feel liked and respected, so we'll start there-- I like humor, but I avoid sarcasm because sometimes people don't know for sure if they're being respected or being made fun of. I don't allow people to talk about people who are not in the room, unless it's Lady Gaga or you're related to one of the Real Housewives and you have dirt. You know. Stuff like that. It's all about respect and information-- you saw that I'm nosy, right? :)

OH! Some of you lucky ones will have a class with two of us in the room-- it's an experiment Mrs. Overby and I are doing, and you lucky things will be the object of all of our studies. You should know that you can completely distract us, especially if you laugh at us. We're pretty much hysterically funny. Mrs. Overby is like no one you've ever met before. I'll let you figure that out for yourself.

6. I will straight up quote you. If you make me laugh, you will find yourself being quoted (anonymously) under the "freshmen" or "overheard" label (see the right margin of this blog-- you should check those out. My favorite is the one where one of my boys said the dumbest thing about sneezing). I don't typically start right away. But it'll happen.

7. Both of my degrees are from Agnes Scott College and I love, love, love my college. If you're a smart young woman, I will likely push ASC on you for the next four years. My little seven year old niece understands that first she will go to Agnes Scott but then she told me this summer that she needs ME to understand that she will spend some time ALSO playing soccer at University of Georgia and also, btw, War Eagle (she has a lot of adults in her life with agendas... :) ).

8. My husband teaches English at Rockdale. And he's awesome.

9. To parents: You guys have my respect. I cannot imagine how much courage it takes for you to release your precious ones into the world every day. They are your jewels. You have fought for them and fought with them and fought over them and will go down fighting for them until your last breath. Thank you for trusting us with your sons and daughters. My heart is to be the answer to your prayers for your child's teacher this year. I'm not bionic, but I want to do my best to honor you and to honor them. I know you're doing your best, too.

There's so much more to know, but we have the next few months to find it all out. Plus, I'm going to tell you all of the class rules for the first week of school. You think I'm kidding?

You're welcome to read anything on this whole blog and find out other stuff. There's some sad stuff here, and there's some funny stuff here. You'll figure out pretty quickly that I'm a Christian and that it's the most important thing about me, but please don't be scared if that's not the way you think. My call is to be loving. I'm trying my best to follow my Savior's example in that. You'd love Him if He was behind the podium in my classroom, and if He lives in need to feel loved by the person behind the podium, no matter who you are.

We'll have fun this year!!!!

Mrs. Swaney

(this is beautiful)