Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Public School Teacher ..... Why Me, Lord?

     Many of you know the song...Why me, Lord? What have I ever done?  Well, it is all about not deserving His precious grace, however, I am not sure that a day never goes by in the life of a public school teacher without the "why me, Lord, whatever have I done to deserve THIS??"  Yes, I teach in PUBLIC school ... You know the very government-run bastion of hell that is so in the news today. And, I am going to confess.... I teach, gasp, common core standards - created by Satan himself (if you believe the current scandal surrounding that invention.).    ( I am tempted to confess other things: I vaccinated my children, used plastic diapers that are still rotting in landfills, and occasionally rode without a seatbelt. I even let my children drink cow's milk.).
      Of course public schools are at the gates of hell because they are man-made institutions that do not allow God to be mentioned by people in authority.   We spend lots of money going to foreign countries where the Gospel cannot be openly preached but yet we forget our classrooms are not too far removed from being mission fields in themselves.  Which brings me to this:  I teach in public school because I am called to teach in a public school. And while my sovereign Lord allows for my free will, I willfully choose to obey His calling.
      I have taught in Christian school and I believe that He called me there as well for those seasons in my life. I loved my experiences and believe that I helped to impact generations of believers and their future families. And there were challenges there that many times asked me to question "Why me, Lord?"  But I would not look back on any of that with regret because I loved my students, my fellow teachers, and my administrators. And it was perfect training for the next step to public education.
      But, for now, He has me here in Paulding County, Georgia. How did I get here?  I question that also. But that is not for me to question, just to bloom where He planted. And I am blooming.  I am planting  seeds that impact hundreds. My demeanor is not always perfect - far from it.  My mood is not always pleasant - maybe 88.8% of the time it is. But my students know they have an advocate and they know that I am showing them tough love that otherwise does not exist in their lives.
      The odds are heavily stacked against my students. Many will be the first generation in their families to graduate from high school . Many are caretakers of both siblings and parents. Many are making decisions about which parent to live with. They want to be hip, cool, swag, and anesthesiologists, pediatricians, and marine biologists. They want to be heard and will use ANY, and I do mean ANY way, to be heard.  Most of them are never heard by any other adult other than a teacher. Many of them come to school hungry with breakfast and lunch being the only meals they will eat. Some can't read, add, or subtract. They live through their cell phones because they believe the friends that text, snapchat, and kik are their true blood friends that will ALWAYS be there. Their insecurities take over, they see no relevance in an education, and they believe nothing that any adult has to offer them.   They are our future generation that cannot see the future.
       And then, a shining light, usually in the form of a teacher, gets through and they begin to realize that maybe they do have value.  Maybe they can succeed. Maybe they can try harder. That's where my part comes in. I believe that every student has a purpose in life and they have what it takes to fulfill that purpose. It just has to be discovered.
       Today started out as one of the most discouraging days I can remember in a long time. But by nightfall, the light shone through and I was so encouraged. I was invited to a Sensational Senior Banquet by a former student. I stood beside him as he told the audience how he knew I loved him because I was tough on him and I taught him well. I got a certificate!! And I heard other seniors tell the impact that teachers had upon them and the tremendous difference we had made. Then, following the banquet I was checking my messages and got this one:

            Oh my gosh Mrs. Erdman I think I would be a failure in Literature if it wasn't for your class! I went from making a 55 on my first paper in your class to never making below a 98 on a paper as of today by the time I left your class. Best. Teacher. Ever. All of those warm ups you made us do that I hated paid off.. so after two years I thank you for the warm up torture.  All of my teachers always compliment on my papers and I'm all like, "Pshhhh, yeah!" And then I think about you because you're the teacher that actually taught me how to write. c:

         I really hesitate to write and publish this blog. I do. I don't want it to be a reflection of me. I want it to be a reflection of this:

  I Corinthians 12: 4 There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different 
kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.

        What I have is a gift.  A God-given gift that can only be explained by the Heavenly Father Himself deciding that I could be entrusted with it. That is an earth-shattering statement and an awesome, holy responsibility never to be taken lightly. And it is not just for me. I work with incredibly talented people everyday in the trenches who are frustrated, downtrodden, and just plain exhausted. But one thank you from a student makes all the difference. 

       So, why me, Lord?  What have I ever done to deserve this privilege to serve You in this manner?  

Ephesians 4:1 As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.

That's a pretty tall order for somebody like me. 

Thursday, February 13, 2014

A Consuming Fire

This is snow day three. I have literally been alone in this house - well, I have dogs - since Monday afternoon. It is Thursday. Stir crazy is real and cabin fever is a medical condition. But this morning, in the beauty of a quiet snow, I was drawn to my sun porch for my quiet Bible study in the book of James. Huge flakes are still falling. The neighbors' fireplaces are blowing. And it is truly a winter wonderland. And as the writer led me to Ephesians, I read the words .... "He is our peace."

So, after reading the commentary and going here and there, I wanted to continue writing out the book of James in my journal and offering my own commentary, but this circled verse in my Bible caught my eye before I even reached James:

Therefore, since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken,
Let us show gratitude,
By which we may offer to God an acceptable service with gratitude and awe,
Our God is a consuming fire. 
Hebrews 12:28-29

I know this last verse. I hear it often in song and in sermons. But, for some reason, I has forgotten the reality of "consuming fire."  I used my Bible references and found Hebrews 10:27 (with fury of the fire and consuming adversaries) and 2 Thessalonians 1:7 (His mighty angels in flaming fire) from the New Testament. But then turned to Deuteronomy .... A jealous God ..... And then Deuteronomy 9:3:

Know therefore today that it is the LORD your God who is crossing over before you as a consuming fire. He will destroy them and He will subdue them before you, so that you may drive them out and destroy them quickly, just as the LORD has spoken to you.  

And while I believe He was literally saying those words to Moses, He has figuratively spoken to me today. 

I struggle. My mind is daily attacked ..... the temptations are overwhelming to put myself above a jealous God. To meet my needs on my own, knowing that His kingdom that I have received cannot be shaken. He figuratively will "destroy and subdue them before me" so that I can drive them out and destroy them. So, why won't I?

Because, in my flesh, I am weak. In His Spirit, I am strong. In my weakness I am made strong because His kingdom in my life cannot be shaken. 

Having realized this, what is my response?  Gratitude. An acceptable service of gratitude and awe. 

So, here I sit. 
The powerful peaceful natural beauty of a snowfall surrounding me and the knowledge of consuming fire. 
I sit in gratitude and I sit in awe. 

Thank you, Jesus.