Friday, August 02, 2013

Can Scientists believe in the Resurrection

This is a really well-done presentation by Biblical scholar NT Wright; it's a little over an hour long, and I find it very engaging.  Extremely worth watching at least once.

Monday, July 15, 2013

The Gospel transforms

The Gospel should TRANSFORM
- the way we relate to one another in the home
- the way we relate to people in the workplace
- the way we talk to people
- the way we talk to people about GOD.

... Those were the four main points from the sermon at my church yesterday.  Let me revamp those a little:

The gospel should transform
- the way I relate to my family
- the way I relate to my students and coworkers
- the way I talk to people
- the way I talk to people about God.

... Well, does it?  ever? sometimes? most of the time? all the time?

Colossians 3: 16-17 says: "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him."

Chapter 4, verse 5-6 says "Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of your time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person."

In these few verses, there is a call toward community -- a community in which fellow believers help each other to answer the call to be more like Christ, a community in which we are being transformed by the renewing of our minds.  There is also a call to reach outside of our community, to people who don't know Jesus, so that they might hear the gospel.

My prayer is that I would LOOK for ways to speak about Jesus to my students and co-workers more often, to be purposeful in those conversations when they happen, and to be gracious in all conversations so that Jesus can shine through.  In every workplace, school, etc. there are people that need to be loved and who need grace.  Am I overlooking the students who try to 'blend into the walls' or do I seek them out. This is something I know I need to work on.

Thursday, June 06, 2013

Image of the Invisible

I'm thinking of using something like this as a poster in my classroom next year... love the lyrics to this song; here they are:

We're more than carbon and chemicals
We are the image of the invisible
Free will is ours and we can't let go
We are the image of the invisible
We can't allow this, the quiet cull
We are the image of the invisible
So we sing out this, our canticle
We are the image of the invisible

We all were lost now we are found
No one can stop us or slow us down
We are the named and we are known
We know that we'll never walk alone

We're more than static and dial tone
We are the image of the invisible
We're emblematic of the unknown
We are the image of the invisible
So raise the banner, bend back your bows
We are the image of the invisible
Remove the cancer, take back your souls
We are the image of the invisible


Though all the world may hate us, we are named
The shadow overtake us, we are known

We're more than carbon and chemicals
Free will is ours and we can't let go
We are the image of the invisible
We're more than carbon and chemicals
We are the image of the invisible
Free will is ours and we can't let go
We are the image of the invisible
We can't allow this, the quiet cull
We are the image of the invisible
So we sing out this, our canticle
We are the image of the invisible

[Chorus x2]

Raise up the banner, bend back your bows
Remove the cancer, take back your souls
"Image of the Invisible," Thrice. 2005.

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Pulling it all together

Over the past five months, I have met with a group of ladies on the first Monday evening of each month to read and discuss II Timothy.  I'm less familiar with II Timothy than with some of the other New Testament epistles, so this study was something I really hoped to get a lot out of-- didn't really go in with a set "goal" other than learning and fellowship, but with expectations that the Lord would provide opportunities for growth-- ended up being a very rewarding study, indeed. Here's a synopsis of key ideas I picked out from the book and a few remarks about what I learned and why it matters.

In chapter 1 of this epistle, Paul says "fan into flame the gift of God" (v. 6) and "join with me in suffering for the gospel," (v. 8) and finally "What you have heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus. Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you with the help of the Holy Spirit" (v. 13-14).

In chapter 2, Paul continues: "be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus." (v 1) "Endure hardship with us" (v. 3). He gives the charge: "God's word is not chained. Therefore endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they too may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory... If we died with him, we will also live with him. If we endure, we will also reign with him. If we disown him, he will also disown us. If we are faithless, he will remain faithful because he cannot disown himself. Keep reminding (the brethren) of these things... Present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth" (v. 10-15). "Those who oppose him, he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance that leads to knowledge of the truth" (v. 25-26).

In chapter 3, Paul warns Timothy: "Have nothing to do with [people who are disobedient]" (v. 2-5), but instead "continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work" (v. 14-17).

Finally, in chapter 4, Paul declares: "Preach the Word, be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke, and encourage-- with great patience and careful instruction... Keep your head in all situations, endure hardships, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry" (v. 2-5)

Now, if you read this epistle, it is likely that what jumps out at you is not exactly what jumped out at me, but the above is the summary that makes the most sense to me.  Here is what I gained from reading II Timothy and from the fellowship and insight of the other ladies in the group:
  • Following Jesus faithfully includes suffering-- suffering in general, and suffering specifically for the sake of the gospel.
  • We are entrusted with spreading the gospel through our conduct and through the proclamation of the Good News.
  • We are called to be actively faithful to Jesus, to the Truth, in response to God's faithfulness to us.
  • The Scriptures give us knowledge and understanding of the Truth and instruction in how to live godly lives
  • With the help of the Holy Spirit, armed with the Truth of the Word, we are to always be prepared to do whatever it takes to spread the gospel and to give an answer for the hope that we have, no matter what the cost.
Phhheewww... glad I am sitting down as a write this.  That last point, especially, if I let it sink into my brain, is a high, high calling.  What a task!  I mean, really, if I read what I just wrote (and written rather quickly, actually... like in, maybe, 5 minutes), there's no way that I can absorb the challenge of what I just typed onto the page nearly as quickly or as easily as I composed it.

So ... how does this affect my daily life, my routine, my patterns, my choices, etc?  Not that this is by any means exhaustive, but here's a start:

  • I often wonder: if I do not feel like I am 'suffering for the sake of the gospel,' am I doing something wrong?  I've wondered this for a few years now.  Still pondering it, don't have an answer; I'll table this one for the time being, because here's where my heart and life are being shaped in a specific way...
  • I work in a place where talking about Jesus ought to be very easy.  Do I take full advantage of this chance when I interact with colleagues and/or with students? Since beginning the study of II Timothy, I have put much more thought and consideration into the Scriptures I choose to read to the students at the beginning of each class period since beginning this study.  Praying with my students became increasingly dearer the closer we got to the end of the year; I began to think really carefully about what I said when I prayed with them.  And the Lord was faithful to me and to my students through that time.  He gave me multiple, specific opportunities to share the gospel with my classes.  At times, kids asked some really intense questions about life, about faith, about being a Christian (in some cases, questions they admitted had been on their mind all year long).  As I answered these questions, however imperfectly, it seemed as if all 25 kids were riveted to my answer -- way more tuned in than they usually were to chemistry.  What a blessing and a burden all at the same time! 
This post has become very long.  Maybe I'll post more on this topic later on.... 

Friday, May 24, 2013

What is wisdom?

As we wrap up yet another school year, I find myself once again looking for the right parting words for my students.  I chose to leave with them the following admonishment from James...

Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.
But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.
(James 3:13-18)

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Galatians 5:22 – 24 says: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.”
The word ‘fruit’ used in this passage is a singular noun, not plural, which suggests that a person who lives through grace with the help of the Holy Spirit possesses all of these qualities.  In other words, as we strive to be like Christ, these attributes – love, joy, peace, forbearance, etc – should be part of our daily pattern as we strive for holiness.  Every day, all day long, we are faced with situations to which we can either react in a way that is governed by Christ or in a way that is governed by our flesh.  Many things evoke a passionate response—anger, love, or fear, to name a few—so the question then becomes: how do we wield our passions? Are they channeled through grace so that we grow in faith and so that our reaction to passion is good? Or do our passions give way to selfishness so that our reaction to the circumstances that brought about our passion is a sinful one?
Daily, we must die to ourselves—put our own desires and selfishness aside – in order to become more like Christ.  It is only by trusting in Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit that we can put aside the flesh.  Humans have only two choices as to how to live their lives: they either serve God or they serve themselves. In his Letter to the Romans (chapter 1), St. Paul points out that God has revealed himself to mankind: “his eternal power and divine nature have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made so that men are without excuse.”  In the third chapter of his Letter to the Romans, St. Paul tells us that the righteousness of God is revealed to us through the Law and the Prophets and that his righteousness is a gift bestowed upon those who believe in Jesus Christ. We are justified freely and redeemed by the blood that Jesus shed on the Cross.  Justification is a gift of our faith, not earned by any merit of our own “so that no man can boast.”
If we cannot earn our salvation—if it is truly a gift, based not on our own good deeds but on the love and grace of God—then why work so hard to achieve Holiness?  I Peter 1:15 says: “Just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: ‘Be holy because I (Christ) am holy’.” Why? We obey the Father because we love him – obedience is the highest form of worship we can offer.

                                                “For I desire mercy, not sacrifice
                                                and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings.”

                                                                                                                                -- Hosea 6: 8

Sunday, March 10, 2013

the great commission

Today and every time I run the trail around the perimeter of campus, I pass a sign at the entrance to All Saints; it contains the great commission-- Matthew 28:19-20. Friday, we teachers had an inservice day where we went to Kingsport to learn about the Catholic Catechism (we have two such inservice days per year).  During inservices, I doodle.  Here's one of four doodles completed on Friday.

What a humbling and high calling it is for me to teach young men and young women each day. Even more humbling is the realization that chemistry isn't my calling -- sharing the gospel is my calling.  Communicating to my boys and girls that Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life is the order of the day. Every day. 

Thursday, March 07, 2013

Ever get into a situation when you were in school, while on the job, or even with friends, where everyone begins to get sick of each other and odd little fights break out and people get restless-- people forget things or just seem to unravel at the seams, best friends aren't speaking to each other?  That's a pretty common situation in a small, private school.  I remember times like that when I was in high school, and I've seen my fair share of 'unrest' in my eight years of teaching.  Not sure what causes the unrest and the extra dose of bumps and bruises or why it suddenly seems to pop up out of nowhere, especially when a break from routine is in sight; but it does.  This week I found myself handing out more band-aids than usual, distributing pony-tail holders, lending Tide-to-Go, giving permission to turn in homework late... a couple of times, even having to help patch up broken hearts and wounded relationships, young girls in my office crying over I-honestly-don't-know.  Rough stuff!  Today I found myself turning to the following passage in Isaiah during class devotions, stop focusing on our human issues and instead look beyond ourselves ...

Seek the Lord while he may be found, call on him while he is near.
Let the wicked forsake his ways and the evil man his thoughts.
Let him turn to the Lord and he will have mercy on him,
and to our God for he will freely pardon.

"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the Lord.
"As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.

As the rain and snow come down from heaven,
and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish,
so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
so is my word that goes out from my mouth; it will not return to me empty
but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.

You will go out with joy and be led forth with peace
the mountains and the hills will break forth with song before you
and all the trees of the field will clap their hands.
Instead of the thornbush will grow the pine tree, and instead of briers the myrtle will grow.
This will be the Lord's renown for an everlasting sign that will not be destroyed."
Isaiah 55: 6-13

image:, 2/8/13 photo of the day

Saturday, March 02, 2013

warning labels are everywhere!

This past Thursday at mass (I teach at a Catholic school; we go to All School Mass every other Thursday), the homily was given by Father Michael whose messages typically take a very different tone than those given by the regular speaker.  After returning from mass, I told the students in my next class that I really enjoyed the homily; their response was to that they though that Father Michael sounded "angry" and wondered "why was he so serious?"  They had a hard time understanding why the mass "wasn't very encouraging or very happy."  In fact, many of the kids had had a hard time following the message at all.

Here's the run-down of the homily:  (The Old Testament lesson was Jeremiah 17: 5-10; the responsorial Psalm was Psalm 1, and the Gospel lesson was Luke 16: 19ff.) Father Michael showed the warning labels from both a pillow and an extension cord, pointing out: Why are these warning labels needed?  Somebody died."  He used the warning labels to illustrate the significance of the story in Luke 16-- the story of Lazarus and the rich man.  Both the rich man and Lazarus died; Lazarus was taken to heaven and the rich man was taken to hell. The story is a warning that we get one life to live, and if we choose NOT to serve the Lord, then our destination is hell.  Hell is a real place and people really do go there.  This is a serious matter. Father Michael was very grave (and rightly so) in his delivery of his message; hence, the discussion I had with my students one hour later...

... I recapped the story of the rich man and Lazarus and I explained why the message Father Michael delivered IS so very important and so very serious.  The kids responded well to my recap and to my explanation.  I think the reason they understood it coming from me is that they KNOW me-- they've spent the last 7 months being taught by me, asking me questions, seeing me in action, etc.  What a humbling thought-- whether or not my students (or anyone I know) are willing to hear the Word explained by me hinges on whether or not my life gives credence to the words I say. 

The kids asked if I had ever considered becoming a religion teacher, and I told them that I couldn't teach religion at the school; it's not my field of expertise and I'm not Catholic.  Then I explained that I definitely have a relationship with Jesus, so a student asked if I was a Christian. And I said "Yes, that's what I meant when I said I had a relationship with Jesus." He replied that you CAN have a relationship with Jesus but not be a Christian.  That gave me the opportunity to explain that being a Christian means being in a relationship with Jesus and having one's life shaped and molded by him. I had the chance to talk about the importance of reading Scripture and of daily prayer.  What a blessing to be able to take time away from Chemistry to talk about the Lord!

Jeremiah 17: 5-10
This is what the LORD says:
“Cursed is the one who trusts in man,
who depends on flesh for his strength
and whose heart turns away from the LORD.
He will be like a bush in the wastelands;
he will not see prosperity when it comes.
He will dwell in the parched places of the desert,
in a salt land where no one lives.
“But blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD,
whose confidence is in him.
He will be like a tree planted by the water
that sends out its roots by the stream.
It does not fear when heat comes;
its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought
and never fails to bear fruit.”
The heart is deceitful above all things
and beyond cure.
Who can understand it?
I the LORD search the heart
and examine the mind,
to reward a man according to his conduct,
according to what his deeds deserve.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

perspective and the importance of a sweater

Each day I begin class by reading Scripture and saying a prayer. Usually the Scripture is a selection of a few verses that I find encouraging or instructive-- most of the time, these are "old favorites" that many of us Christians are accustomed to hearing: Romans 12: 1-3, selections from Philippians 2, Psalm 1... you get the idea.

 But, I felt a challenge to go beyond that because of the once-monthly women's Bible study I attend, in which we are studying II Timothy, and for which the first assignment was to read read II Timothy in its entirety several times-- to get the main idea, recognize themes, etc. In doing so, it occurred to me that when I read a short passage to my students, many of whom do not read the Scripture on their own, these passages are in fact lacking context. For example Romans 12: 1-3 makes much more sense and is even more powerful (at least _I_ think so) in light of the 'doxology' of Romans 11. While I think that reading those 'selected' passages to my students is beneficial, maybe it conveys to them (or even perpetuates, in the minds of others) that Holy Scripture is merely a collection of pithy sayings; or worse, maybe it conveys that Scriptures contains a lot of 'nuggets' of truth buried in a lot of 'hard to understand', ancient (read: irrelevant) writing. Yikes! (Am I being a bit harsh or hard on myself? Maybe... but bear with me and keep reading.)

So what was my response to this new-found awareness? I decided to read II Timothy to my students. All of it. Not skipping any verses. Not all at once, of course. I read sections 8-10 verses long until, after about two weeks, we worked our way through the four chapters of II Timothy. Obviously this raises a couple concerns, namely-- could the students remember enough of the passages from day to day that this read-through/fly-over would have any real value? Another concern, is... why should they care? Do they? Are they listening when I read? Are they thinking about the words? About the message? I did try to 'recap' the previous day's reading to the students, so that might have helped out a bit. I guess the next step is to ask the kids what they thought-- takes a bit of courage, but it ought to be done.

All that aside... Here is how *I* benefited from reading II Timothy aloud to my students: I became (almost painfully) aware of just how *personal* this letter is. Seemingly out-of-place asides like "Bring me my cloak" toward the end of chapter 4, and especially cautions about the deviousness or hurtful behavior of certain acquaintances of Paul's, are jarring-- why do I need to know that Paul wanted his sweater? Is Paul gossiping by letting Timothy know about the 'snakes in the grass' in his town? I won't attempt to answer those questions now; it isn't the point of what I'm writing and I'm not qualified to answer that anyway. Here is my point: Do you ever set out to read through one of the Epistles and, as you go, gloss over those parts that seem like 'personal business that can't possibly be relevant to me'? I certainly have! I do it *all the time*! Especially in some of those familiar epistles, I may even skim from passage to passage and focus only on my favorite parts-- those 'pithy sayings' that the Bible is so full of. But the Bible ISN'T a collection of pithy sayings; it's every-day life, the recording of which was ordained by the Holy Spirit. It's everyday life, but it's the everyday lives of people whose lives were molded by the Gospel. The Epistles really ARE letters-- sometimes even personal letters. Why is this important? Why should I care? (Why should my students care?)  because being a Christian IS *personal*. And it is REAL. Why else would Paul ask Timothy to send him a sweater?

Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!

“For who has known the mind of the Lord,or who has been his counselor?”
“Or who has given a gift to him
that he might be repaid?”

For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.
Romans 11: 33-35