Third Times the (Temporary) Charm

Week three has come and gone, and I’d be lying if I’m didn’t say I’m glad I’m reaching the end of this assignment. It’s been hard trying to integrate myself into a school environment nearly 3/4 of the way through an academic year, and the students’ attitude towards me kinda reflects that. Many of the students warmed up to me after a week or so, but the “problem” students almost got worse, and certainly didn’t really improve much. There’s a whole lot I could talk about here, that would expand way beyond the school environment as a whole, so I feel it is fair to say that I have nothing against this school, its students, or the environment, but rather that I wish to recognize how difficult the circumstances surrounding this assignment has been for me to really establish myself in the classroom and with my students. It also doesn’t help that Daylight Savings Time now forces me to wake up when it’s still dark out, and I definitely start out each day pretty glum. But on to the daily reflections:

Day 11-

Today was the start of a new quarter, which means changes in some classes and a “clean slate” for many students. The overall downside to this period of transition is that my 7th grade Math Lab class got even bigger, and most of the students they added have already given me headaches in other classes. It only compounds the control issues I have with this class that the new students do not have access to the online program they are supposed to be using for this remedial math class, which means it’s basically a study hall. I’m about to blitz a mini-unit on fossils and dating the earth’s layers to finish out our Earth Science portion of Science 7 in order to take the Acuity test at the end of the week, which is honestly a lot to try to do for the start of a new quarter. But honestly, the only way I can see to maintain control in any of my classes is to constantly have work for them to do. I am excited to be teaching a new Project Lead The Way class, which is basically Intro to Engineering for 7th grade, because I’ll be learning just as much as most of the students. Hopefully this week isn’t as taxing as it appears it might be.

Day 12- 

I honestly have nothing new to say that hasn’t been beaten into the ground. Dealing with disrespectful students and poor attitudes has just become routine at this point, and I’m starting to count the days until Spring Break. There are a couple students who constantly toe the line of being sent to the office, and I might just have to make it their new home for the last week, because they do practically nothing productive in my class. Again I’m reminded how difficult a situation I was thrown into at the start of this assignment, and I’m honestly just doing all I can to teach the students who want to learn and ignore those who don’t care anymore.

Day 13-

Today was probably the worst day I have had so far of this assignment. Not only did I have a headache all day, but certain students seemed to be doing everything they could to only increase my discomfort. Science and PLTW are going fine, but the Math Labs are almost pointless. Students don’t want to work and those who are have about hit the ceiling of their ability anyway. I sent one student to the office today because we watched an educational video explaining a key concept to the day’s lesson, during which he was obviously not paying attention and goofing off, and, after it finished, was very disrespectful when I tried to get feedback from the class. To be honest, he got the short end of the stick because I was already tired from my headache, a lack of sleep, and the previous period, but his behavior was still uncalled for and very disruptive. I feel very out of place in my desire to explain to some of these students why their behavior is uncalled for because most of them haven’t been shown differently and they already lack the respect necessary for my authority for that explanation to have much of an impact.

Day 14-

Today I was just sore, and wanted a break. I did a review trivia game with my Science classes to help them get ready for the Acuity test, which is always a highlight for me because I love trivia and competition always seems to get kids interested in the activity. The students seemed to like the competitive nature of the review, so as far as the classes go, today went pretty well. But come the end of the day I was exhausted, mentally and physically. I actually put off any grading because I just wanted to go home and rest. This assignment as given me valuable experience for being a full-time teacher, and a greater appreciation for building relationships with the students from the first week.

Day 15- 

If I’ve said it before then I don’t want to say it again. So the sparknotes of today are as follows: Math Labs were just a period to get through, Science was all about the Acuity test, and PLTW was a project workday. This meant I had plenty of time to work on catching up on grading, so I was able to leave the school at a pretty decent time. Plus Fridays are a tad shorter, so the only work I had to do was get my lesson plans for Monday ready and I was home free for the weekend. However I had an incredibly frustrating situation occur during my 4th period Science class (which if you’ve been reading these reflections you’d know this is the largest class I have). I caught two male students, who sit in the corner, working on something other than the Acuity test while they were “taking” the test. This honestly could’ve been grounds for cheating, as I told each class that I should see only two tabs on their laptops, music and the test. Yet these two boys decided whatever else they were doing was more important than the Acuity test and I about lost it. I confronted them and they seemed to have no idea why I has upset. I reported the incident to the Jr High counselor, so it’s no longer in my hands but still I struggle to find any logical reason behind why these students thought what they were doing was acceptable.

 

So three weeks down, and one to go. And this week I earn a full-time teacher’s salary! My bank account will be happy haha. I apologize to those of you who looked for this post yesterday but I just needed 24 hours to unwind before reflecting on everything that happened in the classroom this week. Hopefully next week goes better and I receive the good news from the teacher I am covering for that she will indeed be back after Spring Break, which she should know on Monday. And in all things, dear reader, I hope this has been as entertaining for you to read as it is therapeutic for me to write. Cheers!

 

 

S.D.G.

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Secondary Minutes in the Life of a Temp

I can honestly say there’s a noticeable difference between how last week and this week has gone. Not only is the daily schedule fairly normalized as ISTEP testing is all but over, but also that many of the students have accepted me as their new teacher for the next few weeks. It goes without saying that some students are still a handful, but at least I’m in a better place to handle those disruptions now than I was last week. So on to the day by day!

Day 6-

I just realized that this week the dates actually coincide with the number of days I have been on this assignment. Crazy huh? As far as Monday’s go, today wasn’t too bad, but some students are really toeing the line with me. I decided to try to entice my Math Labs to work harder by offering them a reward if they can maintain a good average for learning across the week, so we’ll see if that actually worked or not. Things do feel a little subdued at the school today, which could either be due to it being the final day of ISTEP for 7th grade or just because it’s the beginning of a new week. It’d be nice if this level of lethargy sticks around for the rest of the week , but that’s probably wishful thinking haha.

Day 7-

Still can’t quite get over the fact that the days line up the way they do, maybe it just appeals to my peculiar sense of number structures. Sadly, this thought was about the only entertaining thing about my day. I officially put my foot down in my science classes, basically telling them to “sit down, settle down, and shut up”. In general, each class has a few students who struggle to contain their talkativeness and end up carrying on conversations while I am trying to teach, which is extremely disrespectful and disruptive. I told every class that this little speech I gave was their final warning and if I had to stop class to reprimand them for being disruptive, it’d be a write-up. If they continued such behavior after this, they’d go to the office. To be honest, the fact that some students haven’t already been sent to the office already shows a great deal of leniency on my part. I really don’t want to send students to the office, especially on days I’m covering new material, but I’m also certainly not afraid to start writing up students who still don’t handle themselves in a proper manner.

Day 8-

Well I definitely called it. Sent one student to the office today and wrote up another for talking. These two students, in particular, fall into a category of students that are self-absorbed and not very socially conscious of their behavior and honestly I hope they learn something from my time at this school because I’ll probably be pretty hard on them from time to time. It might be tough love, but I do believe I’m doing it for their ultimate good. Overall however, most of the students seem to have responded positively to my speech yesterday and are much better behaved and respectful to classroom operations. Another problem I’m facing now is a host of students who have missing or late work. I’m not entirely sure how this school handles such situations, but I need to find out so I can get those grades in before the window closes for the nine weeks. Several students will have lunch detention in order to get those assignments done, but I just need to figure out who to notify about that. I also need to find more ways to accommodate for students with special needs and/or learning disabilities, but I have almost no information to work with there. It’s easy to forget how hastily I was brought into this position and in many ways I’m playing a lot of catch-up when it comes to school policies and operations. Thankfully, the teacher I am covering for is very organized with her lesson plans, so the content really is the least of my worries.

Day 9-

Today was super laid-back because many of the Jr High was gone on a reward trip for keeping up with their homework and grades. However that did mean the students left behind were usually the “difficult” ones to begin with. But because I had significantly less students in every class, I was able to focus on certain students and get to know some of them a little better, which hopefully helps build respect between myself and the students in general. My math labs are barely short of meeting their goal for the week and earning the reward (donuts for my morning class and cookies for the afternoon). My planning for the end of the Earth Science super-unit is taking shape and I just need to setup a time for the students to take the Earth Science Acuity test, most likely next Friday. But before that, I need to teach them about fossils, which I find to be a very dated topic…

Day 10-

I was really glad today is the end of the week and that classes are just a little shorter. Not only was I up late last night for a “skype date” but also I need a break from some of these students. Especially the ones in my 7th grade Math Lab, I mean I had to write-up one girl for hitting another student on top of the head, one boy for always antagonizing other students into creating disruptions, and a third for throwing pencils and paper across the room. I hate to put it this way, but I barely tolerated being at school tonight because I was heading out of town to see my brothers (and their wives) this weekend. It’s always meaningful for me to see my brothers, because in many ways they understand me better than anyone else I know, including most of my friends. My Science classes did a practice test over the unit we just completed, and the only reason I didn’t collect it for a grade is because I did NOT want to do any grading this weekend. Not that I wouldn’t have the time, but I just didn’t want to do anything school related for a couple days. That said, I might go in on Sunday to put the finishing touches on my lesson plans for my fossils mini-unit, but I might just need a nap instead haha.

 

Well folks, two weeks down in this assignment, and probably two more to go. The teacher I’m covering for is hopefully she’ll be able to come back a couple days before the school lets out for spring break (which is two weeks long!) but even if she did, I’d probably stay and teach for those last couple days (cuz I’m poor and that last week I’ll be on full-time teacher pay!). Thanks again for reading along and if you are the praying sort, I’d certainly appreciate some! Cheers and God bless!

 

 

S.D.G.

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First Reflections of a Bewildered Temp

So it’s that time folks, venting time. Okay, I kid (somewhat), my first week as a temporary sub wasn’t THAT bad. The teacher I’m covering for is VERY organized and has numerous lesson plans for every lesson of every unit. So the content worries I had (being a history teacher trying to teach science) were slightly lessened. On the other hand, some of the students I have are considerably difficult but I’ll get to some of those stories soon. I actually chronicled my thoughts on each day so below is a relatively unabridged version of those reflections.

Day 1-

Honestly, today went better than I thought it would. The first day with a new teacher always seems to bring out the worst in some students, but I only ended up sending just one student to the office. I later learned said student has ADHD, which would explain the randomness of his actions, but I still wanted to set a precedent that goofing off would not be tolerated. I decided to have all of the 7th grade Science classes write down a question they’d like me to ask, so that they could get to know me a little better. After all, they’re stuck with me for the next four weeks. The Math Labs (remedial classes) are pretty easy, since I’m basically just a glorified babysit and don’t really teach much of anything. However, because this is a remedial class, it means many of the students have learning disabilities and/or attitude problems. The Project Lead The Way (PLTW) class is basically an intro to engineering and 3D modeling class and, since they’ve been at it for 7 weeks, they are pretty much teaching themselves at this point. The Science classes do prove a bit unruly and science isn’t my favorite subject nor my best, it’ll take some time to build confidence and for the students to get used to my personal teaching style. But once that happens, I’m pretty excited to “science the shit” out of the next couple weeks haha.

Day 2-

Today was pretty chaotic still as I’m learning about the students and their personalities. I managed to avoid sending any students to the office, but I probably have ISTEP testing to take for that more than an improvement in student behavior. I’m slowly developing a rhythm for my day as I’m figuring out my lessons and planning out instruction to occupy them. However I must admit my mind is drifting elsewhere throughout the day as I’m meeting a friend tonight for an important conversation. Thankful ISTEP allowed the day to go pretty smoothly as the number of students in each class was significantly smaller, so being slightly distracted by the evening’s anticipation did not detract much from my instruction. Probably the most exciting thing that happened today at school was learning how to write up discipline reports. Which actually came in handy, since I found out the student I told to go to the office didn’t actually go to the office but instead hid in the bathroom for the entire period. The experience of writing him up for this was kinda important if I want to establish the fact that I desire to be stern in my disciplinary style and maintain consistency across all my classes. But at the same time, I want the students to know I do this, not because I want to make their lives miserable and ruin all their fun, but because I value their education very highly (and probably higher than they do themselves).

Day 3-

Man, today was long! It most certainly didn’t help that due to a raging storm and a ill-timed train I didn’t get much sleep last night. ISTEP is still in full-swing so students are having to adjust to shifted schedules. I had a talk with my 5th period Science class explaining that due to ISTEP I’m actually being rather lenient with them when it comes to discipline. This may prove important because there is a specific group of boys in this class who tend to lack any form of impulse control and randomly disrupt class. I don’t doubt I’ll end up sending a couple of them to the office before the end of my time here. The Jr High counselor actually stopped by the classroom, which was very encouraging for me to know I had the support of the authority figures in the main office. My first assignments are being turned in, so I now have a daily stack of grading to get through before I can leave each day. Which I don’t really mind, but it’s very odd for me to leave the school at 4:30 and it’s basically deserted. This is completely different than my experience as a student teaching. Maybe it’s just because it’s ISTEP week, but something sends up a flag in the back of my mind when most of the teachers are out of the building less than 30 minutes after the last class ends. I mean I get having social and family obligations, but leaving so soon almost feels like you’re fleeing the premises, and that brings up questions about the overall environment. These thoughts just add to all of the things I’ve been reflecting on lately, especially with everything God has been doing in my life and the people He’s using to teach me, family, friends, and now students.

Day 4-

Today did not get off to a good start, but mostly because I was almost late! I hit the snooze button on my alarm WAY too many times haha. So not only was I almost late, but my usual levels of being “slunk” (because I am not a morning person naturally) were being exceeded. This level of lethargy is usually paired with an oncoming illness but I really just think my body is trying to get caught up on the new schedule and routine. Still in ISTEP, so the students did an in-class project with a partner. Unfortunately with any group work, there’s always at least one student who just doesn’t try to help or needs to just do the project on their own. Sadly, this attitude of lack of effort isn’t just found in my science classes. I have one female student in particular that I have in three separate classes who rarely tries and has a very defeatist attitude. I ended up sending an email to the principal and Jr High counselor expressing my concerns about the apparent attitude problems in the 7th grade math lab in particular, and mentioned this female student by name as one of the worst offenders. The hardest part about doing the math labs is that I don’t actually have any say in the students’ final grade, so my ability to enforce discipline is greatly diminished. For example, I had one student spend the entire period on Google Earth and despite my frequent intervention through remotely closing his window, he’d just reopen it and continue. This is the sort of behavior in my time as a student that would have gotten students a trip to the office to meet the thick end of a paddle, but schools can’t do that anymore…

Day 5-

So I managed to nearly repeat my tardiness from yesterday, but this time it was due to a nice and long hot shower. I’m hoping I manage to arrive at school on Monday at an earlier time, because tardiness is not a habit I wish to develop, in any area of my life. I’m usually that guy who shows up five minutes before the established time. Maybe it’s just been a long week with ISTEP testing and being in a new and unfamiliar environment that’s sapping my energy levels. If I had to pick something, the only real highlight of my week is the time I spent with friends and the excellent conversations I had. Hopefully Monday is more “normal” and that this weekend proves helpful in resting my mind, body, and spirit. Which considering Major League Soccer starts this weekend, I might not do much more than watch soccer all weekend haha.

 

Well one week of being a temp in the bag, and three more to go (at least). With the end of a quarter looming ahead (next Friday), I might find myself in desperate need of carefree fun and fellowship. Considering my sister-in-law is having a birthday party next Friday, I might just get exactly that! Thanks for reading this reflection piece and have a great weekend y’all!

 

 

S.D.G.

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A Commitment to Reflection

Something must be very wrong with me… I mean I go from writing three posts in as many years to three posts in one week! But really, this time I’m just popping in with an update and a preview. So I accepted a temporary substitute position at a nearby public school for their 7th grade science teacher and today I was in the classroom observing. Next week I’m on my own, doing something I feel wholly unprepared for. Honestly though, this position is perfect for me except for one thing: it’s science, which was my least favorite subject in college. So there’s some anxiety associated with this job, because it’s definitely outside my comfort zone and I feel like I have a good amount of “catching up” to do. But because these next few weeks might prove to be very interesting, I want to share my reflections with you all. So every Friday, until the regular teacher is off medical leave, I’m going to write a “week-in-review” post. Maybe they’ll be funny, maybe they’ll be difficult, and maybe they’ll just be perfect. So stay tuned!

S.D.G.

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How to Find What You’re Looking For (By Noticing Where, or What, It’s Not)

To think that I’d actually be writing two posts so close to each other must mean I have a lot on my mind. But to be honest, I always have a lot on my mind. It’s just that something I’ve realized I need to do more often is talk about it, and I’ve heard it said that writing words down make them all the more real. So here I am, writing out my thoughts, for my own benefit and for you, my readers, as well.

So what is this all about? It’s actually a rather embarrassing subject for me but I’m here to talk about relationships, and specifically those of the romantic kind. So why here, why now? Well I’m back to a place in my life that I’m looking for that sort of thing and, before someone asks if I choose when I want to date and when I don’t, I should tell you a story.

Setting: About a year ago

So I’m in the middle of a time in my life where I’m actively seeking a relationship (mostly through online dating sites) and I had just parted ways with someone I really liked (and she liked me too), but the timing just wasn’t right (that’s a story for another time). To be honest, I was fighting some real feelings of disappointment. I mean, that girl was someone I felt I could probably marry, given no red flags came up later in the relationship. Over the next month I went on a couple dates but nothing developed. Then one day I came across this profile that really jumped out to me. I mean this girl seemed to match my ideal perfectly: blonde, loved soccer, a fellow educator, a bit of a nerd, independent. So I sent a message, not really expecting to hear back (I mean, this is the basis of online dating, it’s basically a numbers game). But to my surprise when I woke up the next day, she had messaged me back. We started talking, and it didn’t take long for us to really get “talking”. I was blown away by how similar we seemed to be but I couldn’t quite understand why she was so hesitant to meet in person, despite living less than a hour apart. Normally this sort of behavior means someone is hiding something or lying about their profile. This went on for weeks, and while there was no physical aspect to our “relationship”, we were “hot and heavy” in the intellectual and emotional realms. For those know me personally, you know I am not really an emotional person, and I tend to keep everything under the surface because I don’t always know how to handle raw, vibrant emotional display. Anyway, back to my story. So I finally get this girl to meet me. I made us lunch and we watched one of my favorite movies together. I was deliriously happy. Not only was she as gorgeous in person as her profile pictures, but she genuinely seemed to care about my emotional state (or the general lack thereof). But this is where things went downhill. I hate to admit this but I’m a pretty mellow guy, like I tend to do whatever comes naturally and requires the least amount of planning. So when we started spending time together, it usually consisted of me driving up to her place and hanging out watching Netflix or movies. *Strike One* Then, our time together became less about what was on the TV. *Strike Two* Finally, she confronted me on my lack of initiative when it came to planning actual dates and going out. *Strike Three* And, well you probably guessed it, I was out. So how does this all tie into my title? Well I’m getting to it.

Lesson Numero Uno: “Sometimes it is the lack of doing that is wrong”

You see, I really dropped the ball by not actively creating an environment of creating shared experience and romantic pursuit within that relationship. It wasn’t that I was doing something wrong or hurtful to this girl, but rather by not doing much of anything I was revealing a source of immaturity in my life. A lack of action can be just as bad as doing the wrong thing. This rings true outside relationships as well, but it’s a lesson I had to learn the hard way when it comes to dating. It is honestly an area of growth I’m continuing to work on, both in my relationships and in my day-to-day schedule.

Lesson Numero Dos: “Seeing what’s there shouldn’t blind you from what’s not”

Like I said, this girl seemed to have many qualities I was looking for. And we connected in a way that I hadn’t felt in years. But I let it muddle my perception of some things that are truly vital to my person, things like my faith, my direction in life, and even my sexuality. Looking back, I think I willfully suppressed those red flags because I was desperate for intimacy, and I ended up looking for it in a wrongful manner. Having maintained my virginity all my life, I struggled with whether or not holding out until marriage was getting in the way of my ability to build intimacy in a relationship. This dating experience reminded me that waiting for sex until marriage isn’t about me, but it’s about God, and His plan. My virginity isn’t a curse that prevents me from building intimacy with someone but a gift that proves to the person I marry that I am truly giving myself to them, one and for all.

But not to get derailed by rambling about my v-card, something that always bothers me about online dating is that women tend to seem very cut and dry when it comes to what they want in a guy. Like either you measure up to a specific standard or you don’t. For example, I’ve admitted I’m not a very emotionally expressive person but that doesn’t mean I’m not affectionate or passionate. Rather it takes me a good while to feel comfortable showing deep, raw emotions around someone new. Some women take this lack of emotional display or “intelligence” as an inability to be outgoing or affectionate. Or another example, physically active women (something I’m highly attracted to) tend to want a gym rat or workout buddy, and quite frankly going to a public place like a gym (especially by myself) has never appealed to me. I am a pretty active guy, but you won’t find me at the gym. I’m driven by external competition, so I’m inclined to pursue my daily exercise playing sports. And sadly, I’ve found that this just isn’t good enough for some people. And it’s not like I won’t go to a gym to workout with my significant other, in fact I’d happily do so. But it’s because I value that time with them and not because I particularly enjoy being in the environment. This mindset also stretches into my spiritual walk. You see, I’ve dated women who fit that nominal Christian portrait. It was easy to get along with them, because we were both believers at least. But I’ve come to realize over the past couple years, just going to church semi-regularly isn’t enough. My faith isn’t about attendance or memorization, but about a relationship with my Creator and my Savior. And unless I am willing to life out a passion for Christ in my own life, I’d be deceiving myself if I expected this level of spirituality from someone I was dating.

Lesson Numero Tres: “Live Faithfully, Lead Boldly, Love Sacrificially”

I’ve always had fairly traditional views on dating, relationships, and marriage. This is largely due to my Midwestern, Conservative, Christian upbringing. I mean I was one of those kids who “kissed dating goodbye”, was gonna only court (whatever that actually means in today’s society), and thought I’d wait until marriage to kiss someone. Well that all changed in high school. I went from a quiet, reserved homeschooler to a well-known and respected soccer player, class officer, and honors student. Granted I went to a small private school, but still it wasn’t the same as being taught at home with my brothers. Cue high school romance. I mean there was about a year where most of the school was taking bets on when this girl and I would start dating. Officially we were a couple at the school banquet, but secretly we had been dating for months prior to that. We both graduated and ended up going to the same university, which probably was more beneficial for me than it was her, as far as the relationship went. Just follow this progression of my schooling dynamic: homeschooled for most of elementary and jr high- 3 students, private high school- ~250 students, liberal arts university- >3000 students. Here I was, an introvert in a bustling scholastic environment, and I loved and hated it at the same time. I was so far out of my comfort zone that I relied heavily on my relationship and new friends to provide a stable foundation for my life, and this led me to neglect the one person who’s relationship that should always be my foundation, Jesus. Now I went to chapel regularly and attended church, for the most part, but my faith was pretty rocky especially when my Grandpa Stichter passed away from a heart attack during my freshman year. The only real spiritual lifeboat I had during college was working at Springhill, a Christian summer camp. This thriving spiritual environment oozed Jesus and I couldn’t get enough of it. This place became my escape each summer, especially now that I had ended things (selfishly) with my high school sweetheart. But once I finished college, my direction in life led me away from camp and into a dark, dark place. I moved away from my family and friends, into unknown territory. Here I experienced one of the greatest struggles of faith I believe a person could have; I stopped going to church, I was addicted to porn, I lived alone and partied on weekends, and I refused to tell a soul back home what was going on in my life. It was almost as if I was challenging God to give up on me, because I already had. Thankfully that is not my story and God led me through that time of my life, teaching me some painful, but necessary, lessons along the way. And over the past year, I’ve really begun to see why those lessons were so important. So when I say “live faithfully”, I’m referring to a state of utter dependence. To live by faith, I must deny myself daily and carry my cross whilst following in Christ’s footsteps. Once I have surrendered my future to God, only then can I truly lead others in a bold and fearless manner that mirrors the life of my Savior. Because of my Biblical upbringing, I do believe the man is the leader in a relationship and I have been challenged by the thought that until a man is ready to face all obstacles, firmly rooted on God’s foundation, he cannot hope to succeed in leading a relationship, much less a marriage. And in order to sustain and create a relationship, not only must a man be bold and fearless, but he must make sacrifices. I’m not talking about compromises in order to please one’s spouse, I mean full-on “I’m doing this, even though I really don’t enjoy it, because it’s important to you” sacrifices. And frankly, I’ve always been a giver. I prefer to give my time and money to those with who I desire a relationship, whether it be platonic or romantic. But the one area I fail at is doing it from a place of love, instead I realized I do it as a means of manipulating a person’s opinion of me. You see, it’s easy to get people to like you if you’ll go along with their ideas or go the “extra mile” to be with them. And while this can be genuine, it’s often way too shallow. Love isn’t about easy or shallow. Love is allowing yourself to be stretched and even broken for another’s sake. That is the mindset I desire for when I pursue a Godly relationship, and I trust my Creator to give me the courage and wisdom to do so when His timing is right.

 

Holy Crap. That was way longer than I thought it would be. For those of you who took the time to read this, thank you. Hopefully you found something to encourage or even challenge you. I hope the point I’m trying to make about not getting so caught up in the things you’re attracted to about a person (or a situation in life) causes you to overlook the things that are lacking or that should be red flags has gotten across. If this blog has any true purpose, it’s that others can learn from my experience and maybe even empathize with the lessons I have learned. And while I might not be the type to actively initiate conversations with strangers, I do enjoy talking to you people all the same. Peace to you all, and God bless.

 

 

S.D.G.

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The Greatest Commands (and the Will to Obey)

I’ve had a lot on my mind the past month, as God has been showing me some of my current weaknesses and blindspots within my current state of belief and relationships. I am ever thankful I am surrounded by family and friends who provide sound counsel and intellectual feedback. And because I am often better at externally processing that which bothers me, here I am to share what is on my mind.

Let me begin by saying God isn’t always subtle when He tries to get His message across. I’ve had some completely unrelated events point me back to the same truth over the past week, which I know are God’s reminders for me to trust in Him. But back to my point of how God can hit us over the head with a proverbial holy frying pan to get our attention. Consider the story of the rich young man from the Gospels. This man seemingly had everything; wealth, piety, and a desire to do good. But Jesus saw into this man’s heart and loved him so much he had to point out this young man’s greatest weakness, his reliance on earthly riches. And what Jesus commanded the rich young man still rings true for us today and it is as follows (from Matthew 19:21): “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions, and give to the poor, and you will have treasures in heaven. Then comefollow me.” Most of the time, we get fixated on the first couple of commands, “go” and “sell”, but as my emphasis hopefully pointed out, that’s only part of what Jesus commanded. To be honest, something I’ve been wrestling with is how well I’m currently obeying these commands in my own life.

 

GO

The first thing Jesus commands is to “go”. Naturally, one must ask “go where?” and sometimes we also find ourselves asking “go now?” The will to obey this command usually stems from our ability to trust God’s plan for our lives (as does the ability to obey any of God’s directives). When considering these five commands, this is one that I feel God has already willed me to obey. There have been certain life events I have experienced over the past few years that I can now clearly acknowledge as lessons God knew I needed to learn, but each one was preceded by the command to “go” where I needed to be in order to learn such lessons. For this reason, I found myself living in Muncie, Anderson, and then finally finding myself back in Warsaw; as well as working in a wide range of occupations. Each experience opened my eyes to something new about myself and understanding who I am and who I could be, yet none of these could have happened if I did not first “go” when God compelled it.

SELL

Next, Jesus commands the rich young man to “sell”. Since he already answered the “what?” (your possessions), the question that comes to my mind is “why?” But to be honest, I realized that if one must really ask “why” we should sell our possessions, it becomes obvious that a materialistic mindset has already taken hold. This is a great danger in our American society, the draw of having more “stuff”. Now do not take this as me saying having “stuff” is evil or wrong, as I believe God does bless us with abundance when we abide in Him and walk by faith. However I do believe that Christians can easily fall into the trap of believing these blessings are their right *Cough* Prosperity Gospel *Cough* and becoming fixated on the idea that evidence of personal wealth is a sign of God’s favor. I truly believe this is wrong. God does not give us good things because we deserve them, on the contrary if we got what we deserved the entirety of the human race would be eternally damned. Rather God gives us good things because He delights in blessing those who further his kingdom and abide in His plan for our lives and the world around us. So why would Jesus ask any of us to “sell” our possessions? I believe it is because he knows we have an abundance of wealth at our fingertips that could be used for furthering the kingdom instead of displaying an image of personal affluence.

GIVE

So if we have been blessed with much, what should be done with it? This is where Jesus’ third command comes in, “give”. And since Jesus tells us the “who” of the equation, that is the poor and needy, I must pose the question “how?”. This is the hardest thing I feel for Christians to decide. We often know we are to give, but most of the time we content ourselves to hand over our tithes and donate the occasional sum to a charity or missionary/missions trip. This mindset runs the danger of woefully selling the kingdom short. Where is the love and generosity Jesus displayed throughout his ministry in this Christian habit? Imagine how the kingdom could be furthered if Christians didn’t just stop their giving at their monthly tithe but dipped so deep into their pockets that it reveals an utter reliance on God to care for their financial needs. Now please don’t take this display of faith to mean I advocate the habit of bankrupting one’s self to support missionaries or different outreaches, because I also believe we are called to be good stewards of what God has given us, including our money. Rather the point I hope to make is that I feel we can get so fixated on saving for the future and stockpiling our wealth that we miss out on all the good we could be doing in our communities and around the world by giving out of the abundance God has given us. Now I must admit that at this present time in my life, I really don’t have much to give in terms of finances, considering I still have a large student loan to pay off. So what then can someone such as myself give to further the kingdom? The answer is my time. Time is the greatest gift we are given, as it is the only form of currency we cannot increase. This is why I’ve come to believe that those who give unselfishly of their time for the kingdom are blessed by God beyond those who give endless sums of money for the same end. While one can argue that “time is money” I would point out that “money is not time”. Or consider this, which shows more love to a person, giving them their money or giving them their time? Paul claims that giving to the poor and helping the needy is important, but if we do not love them, what is the point? Let me end with this thought: those who give to the poor and help the needy and loves them for the person God created them to be only have to look to Proverbs to see what God feels about their efforts.

COME

This command can be a bit confusing, because one could posture that it mirrors the previous command to “go”. However I would point out that “go” implies an outward movement of location or purpose while “come” often refers to an inward focus and humbling of self. This is based on my belief that when we are commanded to “come” to Jesus, the only suitable way to do so is in an attitude of reverence and self-denial. If we are to obey this command, it implies we set aside whatever it is we were doing previous, abandoning our former self and mission, to adhere to the purpose and position God has in store. This hit me hard because I realized I have been stubbornly postponing my obedience to “come” because I wasn’t ready to trust that whatever God had in store would be better than what I had currently arranged for myself. And to be honest, I’m still struggling with doing so on a daily basis, mainly because I struggle with denying my selfish desires, something I believe is a part of our fallen nature as humans. So I urge you, as the reader, strive to deny the self daily, pray for your brothers and sisters in Christ to do the same, and live humbly before your God.

FOLLOW ME

The final command Jesus gave is another that seems simple at first but when you put it into perspective with the others that preceded it, the implications can be much, much deeper. I argue this because I interpret “follow me” to be an invitation of imitation. To follow someone means to walk in their footsteps, observe their actions, and repeat or reciprocate what they did. In light of the command to “go”, “follow me” means be fearless. Jesus always went where the Father told him to “go” without question, and without hesitation. In the light of “sell”, “follow me” means God only needs us- our person, He doesn’t need our “stuff”. In light of “give”, “follow me” means handing over everything we have in order to further the kingdom, much like the poor women giving all she had at the temple. In light of “come”, “follow me” means that our humility is a key component of our submission and to try to approach God with even a hint of pride or personal ambition means we will easily stumble and fall behind. To follow Christ is the very basis of the Christian faith, yet we often fail to imitate Christ in our obedience to God’s will and I am the guiltiest of us all.

THE WILL TO OBEY

So where am I headed with this little personal devotional? All things considered, I’m really looking for a means to inspire myself to submit and obey the greatest commandments, that is “Love God” and “Love Others”, with a renewed sense of purpose and vigor. Having completed one stage of my personal journey and now heading into the next causes me to reconsider what my life is really worth and whether who I am is headed in the right direction. It is, as I said, my daily struggle to die to myself and pick up my cross. I hope that this might encourage some of you who might be struggling with the same things and possibly remind others of what the purpose of our time here on earth truly is and perhaps might lead others to question if they themselves are seeking the truest purpose life can have. Regardless of where you are in life, I do hope this can speak to you and that you might benefit from my intellectual and spiritual wandering.

 

S.D.G.

 

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Pulling an Irish Goodbye (or: How I Became a Master at the French Exit)

I told myself that when I started this “blog”, I would write something every month. That didn’t last. Then I was content with writing something every few months. Eventually that became one annual post reflecting on the past year. And then I thought I might renew my efforts at writing something every month as a New’s Years Resolution, but I decided against that. Finally I decided I’d do something very unlike me, I’d own up to the truth and then drop the mic (or just put it back on its stand and slink off to the shadows were I belong).

You see, I’m a creature of habit (as most humans are), but one particularly bad habit I have formed in my adult years is the Irish Goodbye. This refers to leaving a social gathering without letting anyone know or saying your farewells. Initially I told myself I did this because I hated goodbyes and generally I knew I’d see those people in the near future. But eventually I realized I just didn’t care to adhere to the social expectation that is saying goodbye. Yet selfishly, I make an effort to send everyone off with a farewell if I am hosting, or in a position of importance. And truthfully, it’s not fair. You see, I was actually thinking about letting this blog go, just let it sink into the endless waves of the internet’s information. But I realized I can’t do that, because I value this space too much. It has given me freedom to vent my thoughts, and sometimes my feelings, and allows those close to me opportunity to see into my otherwise hard to read mind. So as per my more recent routine, I felt an update is in order.

I’m not really sure how to start off reflecting on my 2016. I mean, a lot changed for me. Perhaps the biggest change was through the Transition to Teaching program. As I strove to obtain my teaching license, I had to “grow up” even more. Along the way I made some pretty dumb decisions, quit a good job to pursue a career in education, made many new friends and lost touch with some old, and watched friends and family get married. And by the time I finished with my student teaching in December, I felt like a totally different person, or at least with my place and direction in life. So many things were now open-ended I got lost in analyzing and imagining the possibilities. This, truth be told, is rarely a good thing for me. Having too much time on my hands to think usually leads to deep moods of melancholy and doubt, and honestly almost brought me here much, much sooner than I eventually arrived. And one reoccurring thought, that I oh so desperately wish to talk about, brought me here. But the truth is, I’m still too scared to be open about it. At least not publicly. I can say that if someone close to me asked what was on my mind considering the state of my romantic life, they’d get an earful. But maybe that’s really why I’m not pulling an Irish Goodbye this time, because I really just want someone to acknowledge me and ask me some genuinely direct questions. So you know what, if you have a personal relationship with me, ask me anything. You know where to find me.

 

S.D.G.

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