Tag Archives: teacher

Tart Tutor

“A gem cannot be polished without friction, nor a man perfected without trials” – Lucius Annaeus Seneca.  Teaching is love and one of the greatest gifts one can give.  Some may say opportunities to learn exist everywhere we go.  How much we learn depends on how open we are.  God sends us teachers to take us as far as they can, then to release us as we soar to the next level.  The measures of our lives are not how high we fly or how much we gain, rather how long we are willing to low-hover or how far we are willing to bend to give away His great riches.

On Saturday morning, I practiced yoga as I frequently do.  In the early morning when I awakened, I read scriptures before I got out of bed.  I had my tea and moseyed through the morning at a very gentle pace to conserve energy as I was slated to attend a half day celebratory event at local synagogue mid-morning.

I arrived at yoga radiating peace and serenity.  We had a substitute instructor who had an extremely low energy.  Her energy was so low, it was almost depressive.  15 minutes into the practice, I found it increasingly difficult to transition from one pose to another.  By the halfway mark, my practice had completely degraded.  The only reason I did not leave class was because to do so would have caused great interruption to the rest of the students in the class.  So, I spent at least half of the class in corpse pose, feeling listless while searching for even the smallest glimpse of life’s joy.  It was as though I was in a funeral procession.  The only thing that was missing was the mortician and the hearse.  Little did I know that the experience was a preparatory event for what was to happen later in the week.  This low vibe the teacher emanated was her interpretation of calm.  The spirit was uniquely saying “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10 – NIV) because the Lord knew that my upcoming loss would create a familiar feeling in an unconventional way.

After getting cleaned up and changed, I went to the confirmation ceremony of a girl who reached the point in her life where she willing takes responsibility for her own actions regarding Jewish ethics, law, and tradition.  The lessons imparted during the celebration were seek the truth for yourself, people are deserving of second chances, and reconcile and move on once an event has passed; a prophesy for what was to happen later in the week.  The lesson was taken from Numbers 12:8-16 which says, “How dare you speak against my servant Moses?”  The Lord was angry with them; and so as he departed 10 and the cloud left the Tent, Miriam’s skin was suddenly covered with a dreaded disease and turned as white as snow.  When Aaron looked at her and saw that she was covered with the disease, 11 he said to Moses, ‘Please, sir, do not make us suffer this punishment for our foolish sin.  12 Don’t let her become like something born dead with half its flesh eaten away.’  13 So Moses cried out to the Lord, ‘O God, heal her!’  14 The Lord answered, ‘If her father had spit in her face, she would have to bear her disgrace for seven days.  So let her be shut out of the camp for a week, and after that she can be brought back in.’15 Miriam was shut out of the camp for seven days, and the people did not move on until she was brought back in.  16 Then they left Hazeroth and set up camp in the wilderness of Paran.”

Later in the week, a friend emailed me to say there had been a major change in perspective on life that required us to untie the knot of our friendship.  At first, I experienced heart-break and questioned the “true” motivation for the change.  I then grieved at the loss as it felt like a loved one had passed away.  After prayer and a good night’s sleep, I realized that although I was sad about the dissipation of the growing closeness, I found the truth of openness in the relationship.  I gained far more from the bond than I lost by its disconnection.  I will miss my friend but believe that a more abundant life will come from the death of the relationship as we knew it than if I tried to cling to it.  The undertaker removed what was as the birthing center cradles what is.

The next day, I witnessed someone in a pivotal position engage in questionable activity.  I spent the next 24 hours contemplating my next move.  I felt conflicted because James 5 tells me, 19-20 My dear friends, if you know people who have wandered off from God’s truth, don’t write them off. Go after them. Get them back and you will have rescued precious lives from destruction and prevented an epidemic of wandering away from God.”  However, my training and trade urged me to expose the behavior and allow an independent party to examine the facts and find the truth.  I chose the latter option to deal with the issue.

But the tentacles of this wrongdoing reach far beyond the doer.  It is not possible to isolate the illumination of the darkness of one person when the individual is surrounded by a crowd.  To the doer of wrong deeds, the requisite shepherds and their villagers, the exposure will feel like character assassination and will have the threat of provision elimination because the land owner lacks Godly insights.  Unfortunately in this instance, the shepherds and overseers did not provide instruction, guidance, and correction to their sheep along the way.  Their sights were set on other things and a member of their flock floundered in the meadow and stumbled onto dangerous terrain.  Now the sheep is hanging in the balance with an uncertain fate.  My prayer is that the threat of death inspires a rebirth of energy that promotes great growth within the entire village.  May the independent party find the truth that I was unwilling to look for.

The dichotomy of the coming of age and the going home to rest events as well as the death and rebirth has me meditating on these scriptures:

  1. Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding (Proverbs 3:5)
  2. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God (Philippians 4:6)
  1. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all (Isaiah 53:6)
  2. Make every effort to keep the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace (Ephesians 4:3)

My meditation has revealed that:  Life is full of pleasant surprises and utter craziness; God’s son is our second chance; His message to believers comes in many translations; the greatest growth comes from experiences in the darkest times.  His lessons come from lots of teachers – Be open to all of them and believe.

Newsboys provided my current chant in We Believe with “Let the lost be found and the dead be raised!  In the here and now, let love invade!  Let the church live love – our God will see we believe, We believe!  And the gates of hell will not prevail!  For the power of God has torn the veil!  Now we know Your love will never fail!  We believe, we believe!” 

From Breslau, with love

“On the question of relating to our fellowman – our neighbor’s spiritual need transcends every commandment.  Everything else we do is a means to an end.  But love is an end already, since God is love” – Edith Stein.

God created us to live in community with one another.  We are all souls created in His image.  He uses others to guide us and light the path beneath our feet – a path that leads back to the foot of the cross, a place of love.  In Home, Daughtry sums it up well with, “The miles are getting longer, it seems, the closer I get to you.  I’ve not always been the best man or friend for you.  But your love it makes true and I don’t know why.  You always seem to give me another try.  So I’m going home, back to the place where I belong and where your love has always been enough for me.  I’m not running from, no, I think you got me all wrong; I don’t regret this life I chose for me.  But these places and these faces are getting old.  So I’m going home.” 

Last week I had the chance to speak with a mentor and friend from 35 years ago.  She is a woman of great wisdom, patience and insight who has a keen understanding of long-term investment.  In my formative years, she spent a lot of time imparting lessons on me that she knew very well I didn’t understand.  Nonetheless, she passed the information on with the determination to prepare me for my future, holding out hope that understanding would come.  Although my talents and gifting seemed light years away from coming together, she knew that time would pass quickly and seemingly in the blink of an eye, God would put those pieces together with dime-size precision.  When I look in the rear view mirror at that part of my journey, I see an assertive but confused little person, caught up in the fog of war, who lacked the ability to discern the Commander’s intent.  Having figuratively and literally been through war, she saw an enterprising pre-teen who would go on to do great things.

Our conversation was both intimate and inspiring.  As she did years ago, she repeated last week.  She filled my basket with more than I could consume in the moment, knowing that I would use it to feed the future.  Specifically, she reminding me that:

  1. Hope is a necessary virtue.
  2. Nothing here is ours.
  3. The Lord gives quiet assistance.
  4. My only cut card is love.
  5. We need time with Him to sustain working for Him.
  6. Do not concern yourself with what you may lose when there is so much to gain.

By the end of our conversation, I realized we were no longer the old lady and the girl, but rather two friends from different generations sharing similar experiences.  Her patience with me as a child taught me that there is something deeper than disagreement.  Her insights and experiences shared with me as an adult made me know there is something beautiful in connection.  Proverbs 3:13-18 tells us, “You’re blessed when you meet Lady Wisdom, when you make friends with Madame Insight.  She’s worth far more than money in the bank; her friendship is better than a big salary.  Her value exceeds all the trappings of wealth; nothing you could wish for holds a candle to her.  With one hand she gives long life, with the other she confers recognition.  Her manner is beautiful, her life wonderfully complete.  She’s the very Tree of Life to those who embrace her.  Hold her tight—and be blessed!” (MSG)

My reflection on the conversation drove home the notion that life’s journey is not a series of unplanned disjointed twists and turns, trips and blunders, setbacks and disappointments, triumphs and victories, and achievements and successes.  Instead, it is a highly planned, coherently organized movement of people, places, and things, designed to bring us back to Him.  God uses the bumps to slow us down and redirect us and the open-country road to build us up and encourage us.  Ellie Holcomb in The Broken Beautiful says it so well:  “I’m better off when I begin to remember how You have met me in my deepest pain.  So give me glimpses now of how You have covered all of my heart ache, oh with all Your grace.  Remind me now that You can make a way.  That Your love will never change, that there’s healing in your name; that You can take broken things, and make them beautiful.  You took my shame and You walked out of the grave.  So Your love can take broken things and make them beautiful.  You say that You’ll turn my weeping into dancing; remove my sadness & cover me with joy.  You say your scars are the evidence of healing; that You can make the broken beautiful.”

Life is not a linear, even-paced walk.  We will stumble into the valley as much as we walk on the mountaintop.  When the going gets rough and forward progress seems like an impossibility, God doesn’t just tell us to find a way.  He makes one for us.  He places teachers, mentors, and sponsors on our path; people who light the way, hold our hands, sing praises of encouragement, and show us that “it” can be done.  He places them there to soothe our misplaced aggression, bandage our bruises, lighten our spirits, and give us wings to fly.

Like my teacher and friend (and her mentor), we are all built to be blessings to one another.  So get going!  Soar high and generously sprinkle His love on everyone you encounter.  Be a Godly teacher, mentor, or sponsor and friend in your next human engagement.  Share your story of God’s love and grace with those you meet.  Do so and your actions will teach people this:  “I am Lady Wisdom, and I live next to Sanity; Knowledge and Discretion live just down the street.  The Fear-of-God means hating Evil, whose ways I hate with a passion — pride and arrogance and crooked talk.  Good counsel and common sense are my characteristics; I am both Insight and the Virtue to live it out.  With my help, leaders rule, and lawmakers legislate fairly; With my help, governors govern, along with all in legitimate authority.  I love those who love me; those who look for me find me.  Wealth and Glory accompany me — also substantial Honor and a Good Name.  My benefits are worth more than a big salary, even a very big salary; the returns on me exceed any imaginable bonus.  You can find me on Righteous Road — that’s where I walk — at the intersection of Justice Avenue, Handing out life to those who love me, filling their arms with life—armloads of life!” (Proverbs 8:12-21 – MSG).  Thank you, my friend!

Silent Giant

Last weekend, I had the experience of a lifetime and the most interesting Palm Sunday ever. I travelled to Charlotte, North Carolina to visit one of the city’s most unobtrusive residents, Dovey Johnson Roundtree; a silent giant who spent 75 years of her life using the lectern, pulpit, and the love of God to impact her community. Today, she spends most of her time in a wheel chair. Her mind seems perpetually adrift, when in fact she is ever-present in the moment, just selective about what she responds to.

The pretext for the visit was to find a lucid moment and tap into the brain trust about the relationship between the 14th amendment and education reform (the law and education – two disciplines that are embedded on her heart and embodied in her actions). Leading up to the event, I watched as many videos and read as much about her on the internet as I could. My readings included her book called Justice Older Than the Law, an award-winning memoir of her life co-authored by Katie McCabe. Nothing could have prepared me for the experience I had; one not of academic value, but of greater spiritual relevance.

I entered the health and rehabilitation center, signed the guest book, and walked straight to her room. Although she was not there, my unimpeded stroll to her sleeping quarters should have served as a neon sign that I would be in the presence of someone extremely approachable. There was a woman sitting in the dayroom across the hall whom I dismissed as possibly her because I was so certain I knew her physical attributes. I looked for her in several other resident gathering spaces and even asked staff members on other halls where she might be. It turns out, she was the first woman I saw in the dayroom. I should have known that she is a quiet soul who possesses the ability to blend in anywhere.

I began talking to her. Her eyes were closed, brows were furrowed, chin was tucked to her chest, and her arms were folded. She did not respond to my unfamiliar voice. I sang a song to her and it was as if there was merely a corpse seated in the wheel chair. My travel companion, quiet in her approach, gently touched her hand. Ms. Dovey’s eyes opened and her spirit awakened. She began to speak of spiritual things – blessings of the day, the glories of God’s gifts, and the mysteries of Christ’s love unveiled. I took the cover off my lens and began shooting the development of this organic bond building that seemed to authenticate this silent giant I had previously only read about. The knowledge I had obtained about her accomplishments and awards for her, were merely footsteps in a life’s journey that, until that day, had persistently ambled for 99 years 361 days. I wasn’t aware until then that stillness is both her sword and her slipper.

A child born in 1914 of humble and meager southern beginnings, she persevered against the odds to become a teacher, an army officer, a lawyer, a civil rights activist, a minister, an author and an advocate for children and poor people in her community. Throughout her life, she blazed the trails before her and lighted the paths behind her while standing firm on the foundation of her faith. Wondering how she could and questioning if she would, were not threads in the tapestry that is Ms. Dovey; answering the call of her Lord and Savior are. She knows all too well the meaning of the words that Josh Wilson put to music in his song Pushing Back the Dark(Let your lights all shine…). Oh, oh, don’t underestimate the God you follow. He is the light that burns inside your soul, So keep on shining ’til the whole world knows. Whatever you do, just don’t look back. Oh somebody needs the light you have. Whatever you do, just don’t lose heart. Keep on pushing back the dark, Just keep on pushing back the dark.” His child still and almost an earthly centenarian, she continues to be a beacon of light that is used to repel darkness in this world.

A few hours into the visit, a stately spirit, with a spouse in tow, arrived. Being a woman of the cloth and of proper southern upbringing, she entered the room and gently inquired about our relationship to Ms. Dovey. Having been Ms. Dovey’s hairdresser and confidante turned minister, they had a special closeness that only comes with 40 years of friendship. When my travel companion explained that she built an affordable living apartment building for senior citizens across the street from the church that Ms. Dovey preached at for 35 years and named the building Roundtree Residences in honorarium, and I pulled up a photo of the building from my phone, the Mrs. Reverend warmly welcomed us and invited us to the service she and the Mr. Reverend were having for the residents.

We went to a multi-purpose room to worship and sat amongst people whose bodies and minds had failed them, but whose souls were still alive. The small crowd of 20 or so were a diverse group who enjoyed singing praise to the Lord and being fed by His word. Hymns familiar to any Christian denomination, including Amazing Grace, Jesus Loves Me, and It Is Well, were selected by the amalgamous congregants to honor the Savior. The Mr. Reverend taught a sermonette from Psalm 100 which says, “Raise your voices; make a beautiful noise to the Eternal, all the earth. 2 Serve the Eternal gladly; enter into His presence singing songs of joy! 3 Know this: the Eternal One Himself is the True God. He is the One who made us; we have not made ourselves; we are His people, like sheep grazing in His fields. 4 Go through His gates, giving thanks; walk through His courts, giving praise. Offer Him your gratitude and praise His holy name. 5 Because the Eternal is good, His loyal love and mercy will never end, and His truth will last throughout all generations.” (The Voice) The Mrs. Reverend, who had a voice and a hat that made Aretha Franklin sound and appear conventional and routine, then asked me to read from the gift my travel companion brought for Ms. Dovey – a copy of the District of Columbia proclamation which made March 13, 2013 Dovey Johnson Roundtree Day. The most widely known accomplishments and accolades in the proclamation were three pages long. As I read, the most muddled minds in the room became lucid as the crowd applauded and cheered. The spirits that appeared to slumber through the message, found voices that filled the room with amen, hallelujah, and praise God! The silent giant then gave a coherent speech that told a story illustrating that faith makes anything possible. By the end, I found myself lost in a fog of perplexity caused by the infinite number of relevant lessons presented when God fills a place with His spirit, reminding us that we are all his children and he has given each of us a calling as well as a purpose.

My greatest revelations from the experience were:

  1. David was not great because he slew Goliath but because God destined him to greatness and David answered his calling
  2. God uses the ordinary to accomplish the extraordinary for His kingdom
  3. Jesus gave His life to bring us all to the same place
  4. Amazing things happen when we come together with a common focus of worshiping Him
  5. Our most luminous moments occur when seeking and praising Him

Lincoln Brewster says it so well in Majestic with, “Oh Lord, Our Lord, how majestic is Your name in all the earth. The heavens declare Your greatness. The oceans cry out to You. The mountains, they bow down before You. So I’ll join with the earth and I’ll give my praise to You…”