A Prayer for Parent-Teacher Conferences

Tonight our school will have parent-teacher conferences.  It got me thinking about all of the time and effort that goes into this evening.  Without further ado, here are my thoughts on PT Conferences:

If you are a parent:

Please understand that your child’s teacher truly does care about your child.  They do!  And if by some chance your child ended up with those rare teachers who do not care… FIND A NEW TEACHER!  When you disagree with your child’s teacher or have questions, please do so with respect.  In this era, teachers–right or wrong–feel under attack.  Because of the internet, many parents are coming into conferences thinking that they know more about education than the teacher.  But please remember that your child’s teacher is a professional–trust them!  It is their job to stretch and exercise the thinking faculties of your child.  This will make your child uncomfortable from time to time.  This may mean that the teacher does some “weird” stuff.  In the end, it is all about your child and trying to help them grow.

And also please be aware of the circumstances the teacher is facing as they enter the conference with you.  Teachers are human.  They have trouble with family members and spouses; they have illness; they have financial problems.  In one school where I served, we would teach a full day, then have conferences from after school until 9.  The following day, we would repeat.  So by the time we got to the 8:30 conference on the second day, we had put in back to back 14 hour days–days in which we have to be extra careful with our words and actions.  Yes, I know you work hard, too.  All I am asking is for you to show some understanding.  I know of one instance in which a parent berated a teacher over the phone (I could hear the yelling) and the teacher started crying.  The parent then called in to the administrator to say, “I’m worried about ____.”  The parent could not understand why their vicious attack would hurt a teacher.  Please understand that this isn’t just our “job,” this is our calling; our vocation; our passion.  We pour ourselves into our students every day.

One last piece of advice:  If you have a very specific issue with a teacher, please handle it one of two ways.  If you would like for the teacher to have an answer or plan on dealing with the issue when you meet for your conference, then please let the teacher know of the problem ahead of time so that they can prayerfully come to a solution.  If it is something that doesn’t require an answer the evening of the conference, then share it at the conference, but–along with the teacher–come up with a time-frame for the teacher to work on the problem.  Do not come in and blind-side the teacher with a problem and then expect them to come up with a good solution in the next 30 seconds.  Good, reasoned solutions require some thought and planning.

So as you prepare for your conference with your child’s teacher, please pray.  Pray that the Lord would grant you focus and clear thinking.  Pray that the Lord would grant you patience and the right words to say in the right way.  Pray that the Lord would continue to bless your child’s school year.  And remember that you are on the same team.

If you are a teacher:

I’ve been there, brother.  I no longer teach in a classroom.  This will be the first conference season in 13 years in which I will not be meeting with parents.  I know of the uneasiness that you have when you have to talk to that parent that would make a great poker player–you can never read what they are thinking.  I know of the fear of facing the parent who has yelled at you in the past and started whispering campaigns against you.  I know the eager excitement of having a chance to tell a parent of the great things their child has accomplished… and then the disappointment when the parent finds something about which they criticize their child.  I know of the humble gratefulness you feel when a parent says “thank you.”  I know of the pain you feel for the family that is struggling to hold together–when the marriage is falling apart and the facade falls during the conference and you do not have enough tissue boxes to wipe the tears of a sobbing mother.  I know of the desperation you feel–“I need to do SOMETHING”–for the family at the end of their rope and THIS school and THIS classroom is the brightest thing in their lives.

I’ve been there.

Please remember that the parents you speak to are facing many other issues in their lives.  The fact that they care enough to not only schedule a conference but to actually come in and keep the appointment–an appointment that follows a 12 hour work day at the end of a 60 hour week on a day when they are told their job is in jeopardy and their supervisor has chewed them out–speaks volumes to how important their child is to them.  And even though the students are “your kids,” each one has individual parents who all want various things for their children.  Your aspirations may not match theirs… and that is okay.  God has entrusted those children to those parents for life; He has entrusted them to you for a few years.

One thing I’ve always told teachers is that you always want the first contact with home to be positive.  Hopefully, you have made that first contact prior to the conference.  If not, take the time to send an email or leave a voicemail.  Just a little contact to help strengthen that school/home connection.

Another piece of wisdom I learned over the years:  Never, ever ambush parents at the conference.  If you have a problem with a student, let the parents know.  If there is a bad grade coming on a report card, let them know.  You know that you hate it when you are stopped in the hallway and asked to handle a serious problem of which you are just becoming aware… and now you have 15 seconds to come up with a solution!  Do not put parents into that situation as well.

Be professional.  You may have to share the same information 20 times at the conference.  You may answer some of the same questions over and over.  You will have a parent whose child receives straight “A”s and yet asks you if their child is doing well.  Yes, you will see all of these things… but you cannot roll your eyes or get frustrated.  Remember that for some families the school is the only place in which they hear the Gospel.  Be Christ-like!

Finally, remember that the parents want what is best for their children.  They may quiz you; they may question you; they may yell and complain; they may think they are much smarter than you in pedagogy; but in the end, they love their son or daughter.  You are on the same team.

Dear Heavenly Father,

We thank and praise you for the gift of Your Son to save us from our sin.  We thank you for the gift of our Lutheran schools and for dedicated, passionate teachers who lead our students to you.  As we get into conference season, grant us patience and understanding.  Lead our hearts and give us wisdom and the proper words as we work to find what is best for these children.  Strengthen our relationship that, in all things, we give all glory and honor to You.  In Jesus name we pray, Amen.

Whom Do You Trust?

Every once in a while, I read something that makes me say, “OOOH! I would love to blog about that!”  And… yes, that just happened now.

To give you some background, I take heed of Mark Twain’s quote regarding the importance of taking time to reflect.  As a school administrator, I feel this is very important when it comes to educational trends.  And so, even though I am excited by the possibilities of PBL, Maker’s Space, flipped classrooms and learning, and many other current education topics, I find myself taking a step back.

After all, we are Lutheran schools!  We are the bedrock!  Our firm foundation is laid in His most excellent Word, not in the most excellent blog!  Our message and heritage should NEVER be cast aside and we should NEVER diminish the “Lutheran” part of “____ Lutheran School.”

To help keep myself in check a bit, I like to read this blog and especially have started reading Neil Postman again.  If you are unfamiliar with Postman, I suggest reading this article and reading this tribute page.  Here is a video of an interview with Postman:

The book I’m currently reading is “Conscientious Objections.”  And as I was reading, right there on page 20, this quote jumped out and hit me:

“In the thirty-five years or so since Orwell wrote [‘Politics and the English Language’], it has become even more obvious that the principal purpose of most political language is to justify or, if possible, to make glorious the malignant ambitions of nation states.”

Wow.

Postman so poignantly, succinctly, and eloquently got to the root of what I was getting at in a previous blog post.  It is the tension of our times–How much do you trust government?  I am disheartened at times by friends who seem to go “all in” for this particular candidate or that particular organization.

The sooner we divorce ourselves from the concept of “American = Christian” the sooner we can come to understand that our faith and trust is not in that which is temporal.  And to be clear… governments are temporal.  Because our hope is in that which is eternal, it is only through the Holy Spirit that we can transcend the fear and uneasiness of government.  So, while we fully affirm Colossians 1:16 and Romans 13, we do so with the understanding that government is not “sovereign.”  Sovereignty belongs to God alone and earthly governments are merely the stewards of that which has been entrusted to them.

Postman’s quote gave me pause; but the Gospel gives me promise.

Thoughts on INPEC 2014

A few thoughts coming back from our Indiana Non-Public Education Conference:

1–The more things change, the more they stay the same, don’t they?  Time and again, our speakers told us that our students–not the teacher–should be doing the work in the classroom.  I had flashbacks to Harry Wong!

The idea of “students doing the work” is not new.  And, when we think about it, the idea isn’t novel, either.  In fact, it should be what school is all about!  But in the era of teacup kids and helicopter parents, the expectation is that the TEACHER will do all the work and the student will (somehow… maybe through osmosis?  diffusion?  absorption?) sit back, not have to do anything, learn everything, and be the next president/astronaut/find-a-cure-for-cancer doctor.

It is a delicate line we walk in trying to allow students to succeed and fail and yet having to coax them to do so… all while assuring mom and dad that the struggle is worth it.

2–I heard a lot about flipped classrooms, flipped learning, and students having a voice in their education.  Yes!  This is great!  But then the thought hit me:  Are we doing that with our teachers?  Do administrators give teachers a voice in faculty meetings?  How about in professional development?  I find it ironic and sad that we tell teachers that they shouldn’t rely on lecture and they shouldn’t use PowerPoint or Prezi as a crutch… all while lecturing to them while showing a slide show.  There has to be a better way and I will be spending time to look into it.

3–On the topic of administration:  How are you doing at being a “releasing” leader?  Teachers, are you releasing control to students?  Do you let them have a voice in classroom rules or projects?  Do you let them do the work?  Administrators, are you allowing others to have a voice in the school?  Do you let teachers lead meetings and have some say in their professional development?

4–I was saddened to see that one of the sectionals offered dealt with “searching for the historical Jesus.”  This was a sectional presented by a teacher at one of the Catholic high schools.  I would urge my Catholic brothers and sisters to remember that once you deny the inerrancy of Scripture, you open a Pandora’s box that has its root in Genesis chapter three (“did God really say…”) and finds full bloom in atheism.

The Fields are Ripe… or Fear?

In a recent blog post, I briefly touched on the subject of fear.

It is easy for Christians in America to be afraid today.  Maybe we fear government retribution because of stories like this one, or this.  Maybe you heard something about this, or this.  It is not difficult to take the next step and say that ministers and congregations may soon face penalties for refusing to take part in homosexual weddings.  This conclusion does not seem so far-fetched in light of recent developments in Houston, Texas.

So…. why are Christians afraid?

I know, this sounds like a stupid question, but it is one that needs to be asked.

And here is why I ask it:  I would humbly submit that never before in the history of the world have so many done so little with so much for the sake of Christ.

If you take a step back and look at the history of our country, you see that God has entrusted us with an embarrassing amount of resources!  And what have we done with them?  Have we been good stewards?  Have we truly sought His will?  Many will claim the name and title of Christian, when in reality they belong to a cult, hold to a social gospel (which is no gospel at all,) or contrive a civil religion based upon an un-Scriptural belief that to be American equates to being a Christian.

What have we done?  We have perverted The Word to conform to the comforts of our lifestyle.  We live in such luxury that we are afraid of losing that which God has entrusted to us because we somehow believe that we deserve it and it is ours and, by golly, no one can take that from us.

But what would happen if we were to set aside fear and diminish the importance of comfort in our lives?

We have fooled ourselves into thinking that culture wants to coexist amicably with Christ.  As time goes on, we are starting to see the folly of that reasoning.  I believe that our fear is of a few things:

1–Fear of losing friends/influence/standing within our community and social networks.

2–Fear of losing our possessions.

3–Fear of violence.

Please understand that I am not saying, “You poor fools!  I am far above you!”  No… I admit… I’m right there with you.  Also, I’m not saying that we will have a brand new car and great house if we were just to preach the Gospel.  In fact, if we were to set aside comfort for the sake of Christ, I have a feeling it would look something like this:

We would take our shots, one after another.  I know that there are many who will say, “But if we stand up for Christ, don’t we win something?”  Look at Scripture.  Throughout the history of God’s people, we see that standing up for Christ does NOT result in earthly comfort.  I confess that when I would read passages about believers who were excited to suffer for Christ, or read modern day examples of those who were honored to suffer for Jesus, I would think to myself, “WHAT??  I don’t want to face that!”

I think I’m beginning to understand, though.  I admit that I am still not brave, but I am beginning to see what Scripture is teaching us.  Our hope is not an earthly hope.  As the great hymn says:

And take they my life/Goods, fame, child, and wife/Though these all be gone/Our vict’ry has been won/The Kingdom ours remaineth (LSB, 656)

We will face SOME form of discomfort and opposition.  Perhaps we lose friendships.  Maybe we lose business.  We might be ridiculed online or in public.  But we do not have to let fear drive us!  We can look to the future in fear for our children… or we can look forward thinking, “I cannot wait to see what the Lord will do through my children.”  We can be afraid of subpoenas and jail time… or we can respond by saying, “God can use me to share the Gospel within the government!”  We can be afraid of culture turning against the church… or we can respond by saying, “The fields are ripe for the harvest!”

Isaiah 9-11 Day, part 2

Yesterday’s blog post ended with little hope.  It was a time of desolation for us, similar to what Isaiah prophesied for Israel in chapters nine and ten.  The best thing about Isaiah chapters nine and ten is that it is followed by chapter 11.

After all of the death and destruction; after all of the pain, fear, and violence… when all is a silent grave…

a sign of life.

Isaiah 11 is a beautiful and clear prophecy of Jesus.  In the midst of our spiritual death, He gives us life.  In the seemingly complete destruction of the people of God, there is hope and life.

Isaiah uses the term “shoot,” denoting a small sign of life, just as Jesus came to us as a baby.

A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse;
    from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.

October of 2010 was difficult because our twins would have been born that month.  Prior to our June 17 visit to the doctor, we had joked that our baby (babies, as we found out later) would be our Halloween child.  Our oldest child was born very close to Thanksgiving and our second child was born the day before Valentine’s Day.  It seemed as if our children would all have birthdays close to some sort of holiday.

As Halloween approached, I was very restless, and I noticed that my wife was acting strange, too.

The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him—
    the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding,
    the Spirit of counsel and of might,
    the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the Lord
and he will delight in the fear of the Lord.

He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes,
    or decide by what he hears with his ears;
but with righteousness he will judge the needy,
    with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth.
He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth;
    with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked.
Righteousness will be his belt
    and faithfulness the sash around his waist.

Finally, she told me:  she was pregnant.  To be perfectly honest, neither one of us was jubilant or extremely happy.  The news of the pregnancy, at first, was a reminder of our pain.  And, of course, we had the question hanging over our head:  Would this child be okay?  Would we go through another loss?  To be blunt, we were living a life of fear.

The wolf will live with the lamb,
    the leopard will lie down with the goat,
the calf and the lion and the yearling[a] together;
    and a little child will lead them.
The cow will feed with the bear,
    their young will lie down together,
    and the lion will eat straw like the ox.
The infant will play near the cobra’s den,
    and the young child will put its hand into the viper’s nest.
They will neither harm nor destroy
    on all my holy mountain,
for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord
    as the waters cover the sea.

As time went on, we began to realize that you cannot live a life in fear.  Fear–especially in my life–is Satan’s biggest weapon, his “star punch” (for those of you that remember the game… and for those who don’t here’s what I’m talking about) if you will.  Fear destroys.  Fear is the opposite and enemy of faith.

This experience was a valley moment for us.  But in that valley, we learned.  We learned about faith, about love, about hope, and about God Himself.  I grew in my faith.  It hurt; but it was beneficial.

And so, after a period of time, we allowed ourselves to feel happy without caution.  We began to think about the future–baby names, clothing, etc.

10 In that day the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples; the nations will rally to him, and his resting place will be glorious. 11 In that day the Lord will reach out his hand a second time to reclaim the surviving remnant of his people from Assyria, from Lower Egypt, from Upper Egypt, from Cush,[b] from Elam, from Babylonia,[c] from Hamath and from the islands of the Mediterranean.

12 He will raise a banner for the nations
    and gather the exiles of Israel;
he will assemble the scattered people of Judah
    from the four quarters of the earth.
13 Ephraim’s jealousy will vanish,
    and Judah’s enemies[d] will be destroyed;
Ephraim will not be jealous of Judah,
    nor Judah hostile toward Ephraim.
14 They will swoop down on the slopes of Philistia to the west;
    together they will plunder the people to the east.
They will subdue Edom and Moab,
    and the Ammonites will be subject to them.
15 The Lord will dry up
    the gulf of the Egyptian sea;
with a scorching wind he will sweep his hand
    over the Euphrates River.
He will break it up into seven streams
    so that anyone can cross over in sandals.
16 There will be a highway for the remnant of his people
    that is left from Assyria,
as there was for Israel
    when they came up from Egypt.

Gideon Michael Weber was born May 19, 2011.  (I’ll blog about him later…)

Job said, “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.”

In this instance, “The Lord has taken away, and the Lord has given; may the name of the Lord be praised.”

If you have experienced the death of your child, I can tell you that I have felt your pain, but that does not help your pain.  If I could, I would walk up to you, give you a hug, then sit beside you and cry with you.

If you have experienced the loss of a child, I urge you to pray.  I urge you to read your Bible.  Please speak to your pastor.  I do not have any great advice I can give you beyond that.

God bless and keep you… to quote Francis Schaeffer, “He is there, and He is not silent.”

(Scripture quotes from Biblegateway.com)

Isaiah 9-11 Day, part 1

Yesterday–Oct. 15–was national Infant and Pregnancy Loss Day.

I don’t even like to type that.  It is a clinical and cold term that sounds like I am studying for a real estate license.  But it is better than “change your life forever day” or “feels like part of you died forever day.”

I prefer to think of it as Isaiah 9-11 day.  In Isaiah 9:8 and following through the end of chapter 10, we read of God’s judgment against Israel.  Isaiah’s prophecy is brutally honest and paints a horrific picture of hopelessness and desolation.  Let me share my story:

It was June 16, 2010–the date of our wedding anniversary.  My wife and I went to Buffalo Wild Wings to celebrate.  It was just the two of us for the first time in a while.  The school year had just recently ended and I was starting to prepare for the future year.  I distinctly remember how relaxed and happy I felt.  I hadn’t felt that way for a while.  I felt… good!  I LIKE this feeling.  It is OK to be happy!  We ate and talked.  Mostly, we spoke of our coming baby.  I was surprised when I found out that my wife was pregnant again but I was very much looking forward to the new baby that would join our family.  I started thinking of things I would do with the child–games I would play; books I would read.  I was relaxed; I was content; I was happy.

Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress. In the past he humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the future he will honor Galilee of the nations, by the Way of the Sea, beyond the Jordan—

The people walking in darkness
    have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness
    a light has dawned.
You have enlarged the nation
    and increased their joy;
they rejoice before you
    as people rejoice at the harvest,
as warriors rejoice
    when dividing the plunder.
For as in the day of Midian’s defeat,
    you have shattered
the yoke that burdens them,
    the bar across their shoulders,
    the rod of their oppressor.
Every warrior’s boot used in battle
    and every garment rolled in blood
will be destined for burning,
    will be fuel for the fire.
For to us a child is born,
    to us a son is given,
    and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
    Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the greatness of his government and peace
    there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
    and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
    with justice and righteousness
    from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the Lord Almighty
    will accomplish this.

June 17.  I worked in my office in the morning  and Sarah stopped by to pick me up.  As we were leaving, I stopped to talk to a parent and student.  “We’re going to the doctor to find out if we are having a boy or a girl!”  I called over my shoulder as we left.

The Lord has sent a message against Jacob;
    it will fall on Israel.
All the people will know it—
    Ephraim and the inhabitants of Samaria—
who say with pride
    and arrogance of heart,

10 “The bricks have fallen down,
    but we will rebuild with dressed stone;
the fig trees have been felled,
    but we will replace them with cedars.”


We got to the doctor’s office and waited nervously in the waiting room.  We whispered about possible names.  And then we were called back for the ultrasound.

11 But the Lord has strengthened Rezin’s foes against them
    and has spurred their enemies on.
12 Arameans from the east and Philistines from the west
    have devoured Israel with open mouth.

Yet for all this, his anger is not turned away,
    his hand is still upraised.

The technician was quiet.  I stared at the monitor.  There he (or she) was!  I could see the baby!  I could see the head slightly bowed.  I could see the hand up, almost as if in prayer.  And in retrospect… maybe it WAS in prayer.  Was the prayer “Lord, have mercy” or “Father, be with my mom and dad as You call me home to You”?

13 But the people have not returned to him who struck them,
    nor have they sought the Lord Almighty.
14 So the Lord will cut off from Israel both head and tail,
    both palm branch and reed in a single day;
15 the elders and dignitaries are the head,
    the prophets who teach lies are the tail.
16 Those who guide this people mislead them,
    and those who are guided are led astray.
17 Therefore the Lord will take no pleasure in the young men,
    nor will he pity the fatherless and widows,
for everyone is ungodly and wicked,
    every mouth speaks folly.

Yet for all this, his anger is not turned away,
    his hand is still upraised.

The technician got up quickly and left the room.  I was still smiling like a fool, waiting for the results.  I looked over at Sarah.  She knew something was wrong.  I saw fear and sadness on her face, but I had no idea what was going on.

18 Surely wickedness burns like a fire;
    it consumes briers and thorns,
it sets the forest thickets ablaze,
    so that it rolls upward in a column of smoke.
19 By the wrath of the Lord Almighty
    the land will be scorched
and the people will be fuel for the fire;
    they will not spare one another.
20 On the right they will devour,
    but still be hungry;
on the left they will eat,
    but not be satisfied.
Each will feed on the flesh of their own offspring[b]:
21     Manasseh will feed on Ephraim, and Ephraim on Manasseh;
    together they will turn against Judah.

Yet for all this, his anger is not turned away,
    his hand is still upraised.

The doctor came in.  As best I can remember he said, “Well, there are two babies…”  TWO!?!  Immediately my mind started racing and I didn’t catch some of what was said.  TWINS!  Let’s see… twins ran on my side of the family, so it would make sense.  This is wonderful!  I wonder if they will be identical or fraternal?

Woe to those who make unjust laws,
    to those who issue oppressive decrees,
to deprive the poor of their rights
    and withhold justice from the oppressed of my people,
making widows their prey
    and robbing the fatherless.
What will you do on the day of reckoning,
    when disaster comes from afar?
To whom will you run for help?
    Where will you leave your riches?
Nothing will remain but to cringe among the captives
    or fall among the slain.

Yet for all this, his anger is not turned away,
    his hand is still upraised.

“Unfortunately, they have both died.”  I couldn’t comprehend those words.  Just do something to make them well.  They can’t be dead.  How do we make this right again?

“Woe to the Assyrian, the rod of my anger,
    in whose hand is the club of my wrath!
I send him against a godless nation,
    I dispatch him against a people who anger me,
to seize loot and snatch plunder,
    and to trample them down like mud in the streets.
But this is not what he intends,
    this is not what he has in mind;
his purpose is to destroy,
    to put an end to many nations.

Slowly, the weight of what I was being told started to constrict around me.  It felt like a vise, slowly turned and squeezing the very breath and life out of my body.  I had died.  I was certain of it.

I remember walking through the thickest wet cement you can imagine as I moved from the office to the waiting room and then outside.  There were no words.  What can any doctor or nurse offer you after you hear that news?  I was numb; I was nothing.

But my wife needs me.  By the grace of God, we made it through those plodding steps, through tear stained eyes, through the looks of those waiting in the waiting room and out to our car.  At that moment, I called family members.  I also called to schedule the DNC.  I remember that I couldn’t finish the conversation on the phone with the scheduler.  She felt sorry for us; and I felt sorry that I made her feel that way.

‘Are not my commanders all kings?’ he says.
    ‘Has not Kalno fared like Carchemish?
Is not Hamath like Arpad,
    and Samaria like Damascus?
10 As my hand seized the kingdoms of the idols,
    kingdoms whose images excelled those of Jerusalem and Samaria—
11 shall I not deal with Jerusalem and her images
    as I dealt with Samaria and her idols?’”

The next day was a blur.  I can’t even begin to imagine what was going through my wife’s mind.  Somehow we made it home from the hospital.  The next few days are lost to history.  I posted online about the experience.  After a week, I thought, “Okay… I should start feeling better.”  I didn’t.

12 When the Lord has finished all his work against Mount Zion and Jerusalem, he will say, “I will punish the king of Assyria for the willful pride of his heart and the haughty look in his eyes. 13 For he says:

“‘By the strength of my hand I have done this,
    and by my wisdom, because I have understanding.
I removed the boundaries of nations,
    I plundered their treasures;
    like a mighty one I subdued[a] their kings.
14 As one reaches into a nest,
    so my hand reached for the wealth of the nations;
as people gather abandoned eggs,
    so I gathered all the countries;
not one flapped a wing,
    or opened its mouth to chirp.’”

By the end of July, I was a mess.  Financial problems from a house sale… car problems that became expensive… medical bills… all of these piled up and compounded to our anguish.  I began to lose my temper over the smallest things.  I would cry.  Thankfully, a friend pointed me to Lutheran counselor and we all went in for counseling.

12 When the Lord has finished all his work against Mount Zion and Jerusalem, he will say, “I will punish the king of Assyria for the willful pride of his heart and the haughty look in his eyes. 13 For he says:

“‘By the strength of my hand I have done this,
    and by my wisdom, because I have understanding.
I removed the boundaries of nations,
    I plundered their treasures;
    like a mighty one I subdued[a] their kings.
14 As one reaches into a nest,
    so my hand reached for the wealth of the nations;
as people gather abandoned eggs,
    so I gathered all the countries;
not one flapped a wing,
    or opened its mouth to chirp.’”

As the days began to count down toward a new school year, I was in dread.  How would I deal with students?  Should I step down?  Can I do this?  Then we had our back to school night.  I saw students in the building.  I knew I would be okay… not good, but enough to get by.

15 Does the ax raise itself above the person who swings it,
    or the saw boast against the one who uses it?
As if a rod were to wield the person who lifts it up,
    or a club brandish the one who is not wood!
16 Therefore, the Lord, the Lord Almighty,
    will send a wasting disease upon his sturdy warriors;
under his pomp a fire will be kindled
    like a blazing flame.
17 The Light of Israel will become a fire,
    their Holy One a flame;
in a single day it will burn and consume
    his thorns and his briers.
18 The splendor of his forests and fertile fields
    it will completely destroy,
    as when a sick person wastes away.
19 And the remaining trees of his forests will be so few
    that a child could write them down.

That was a rough school year.  Every time I felt I was fine, something would knock me down.  A visit to an office would hit me when a secretary would ask, “So, when is that baby coming?”  When October approached and the babies’ due date came up, I felt a wave of sadness.  A friend, trying to be helpful, said, “Well, at least you have your other two kids.”  I didn’t know what to think about that, let alone how to respond.

20 In that day the remnant of Israel,
    the survivors of Jacob,
will no longer rely on him
    who struck them down
but will truly rely on the Lord,
    the Holy One of Israel.
21 A remnant will return,[b] a remnant of Jacob
    will return to the Mighty God.
22 Though your people be like the sand by the sea, Israel,
    only a remnant will return.
Destruction has been decreed,
    overwhelming and righteous.
23 The Lord, the Lord Almighty, will carry out
    the destruction decreed upon the whole land.

I admit:  I do not remember much of that school year.  I made it through and we did some good things that year, but I don’t remember much (if anything) from that year.  I was an ineffective teacher, principal, father, and husband.

24 Therefore this is what the Lord, the Lord Almighty, says:

“My people who live in Zion,
    do not be afraid of the Assyrians,
who beat you with a rod
    and lift up a club against you, as Egypt did.
25 Very soon my anger against you will end
    and my wrath will be directed to their destruction.”

26 The Lord Almighty will lash them with a whip,
    as when he struck down Midian at the rock of Oreb;
and he will raise his staff over the waters,
    as he did in Egypt.
27 In that day their burden will be lifted from your shoulders,
    their yoke from your neck;
the yoke will be broken
    because you have grown so fat.[c]

28 They enter Aiath;
    they pass through Migron;
    they store supplies at Mikmash.
29 They go over the pass, and say,
    “We will camp overnight at Geba.”
Ramah trembles;
    Gibeah of Saul flees.
30 Cry out, Daughter Gallim!
    Listen, Laishah!
    Poor Anathoth!
31 Madmenah is in flight;
    the people of Gebim take cover.
32 This day they will halt at Nob;
    they will shake their fist
at the mount of Daughter Zion,
    at the hill of Jerusalem.

33 See, the Lord, the Lord Almighty,
    will lop off the boughs with great power.
The lofty trees will be felled,
    the tall ones will be brought low.
34 He will cut down the forest thickets with an ax;
    Lebanon will fall before the Mighty One.

Life would never be the same.  I reached out to friends.  Some responded; others did not–which added to the hurt.  I “unfriended” everyone on Facebook that couldn’t take the time to even say, “I’m praying for you” in the midst of our grief.  Some friends ministered to me in ways that stunned me:  the former student who sent a card; the former classmates who sent gifts and books.

Our forest was gone.

(Scripture references from Biblegateway.com)

Ideas

I saw this commercial a bit ago, and it made me think of Lutheran schools:

I (think I) understand why we fear ideas in Lutheran schools:  Our theology.  Doctrine does not change.  God’s Word does not change.  And that steadfast and strong theology is the bedrock of who we are.  But that also creates tension as the culture changes around us.

Let’s hold fast to God’s Word, but let us be bold and fearless in seeking ways to educate FROM that foundation.  We do not want to constantly throw out the “good” in favor of the “new,” but we can judiciously analyze and try the “new,” keep the “good,” and in so doing reach and challenge more students.

video courtesy of YouTube’s GE channel.

Pray

I recently heard a news story about two teachers in Louisiana who have been charged with a crime that involved a student.  These stories break my heart and there are many victims.  First and foremost, of course, is the abused student.  Second are the families of that particular school.  Third on the list of victims is education system as a whole, which gets a bad name from these teachers.

The problem is even worse within a Lutheran school.  When Lutheran teachers abuse students, the teachers not only scar the children physically and emotionally, but also spiritually.  Here is a person that was placed in a position of spiritual leadership of a child who betrays that inherent trust, and, in so doing, can hinder a student’s relationship with Jesus.  In effect, the teacher is leading the child AWAY from Jesus instead of TO Him.

All of this got me to think of one question:  When does this happen?  When do the machinations go into play that eventually lead to this abuse?

As a child, when the future teacher is dreaming of leading a classroom, does he/she think of abusing students in the future?

In college, when the future teacher is learning about pedagogy, classroom management, and course content, does he/she dream of abusing students in the future?

I would hope that the answer is no.

Author Daniel Webster in his book “The Real Deal” analyzes this question in regard to King David.  King David did not wake up one day and say, “You know what?  I’m going to sin today and put into motion events that will lead to my ruin!”  Instead, as Webster eloquently explained in a presentation, “David walked away from God, one step at a time.”  A bad decision here… a wrong choice there…

That is our danger in church work.  There are some who take the “Nestea Plunge” away from God, but most take a small step, followed by another, and then another.  I believe that we would be foolish to think that we are immune from temptations that have the potential to hurt others, destroy ourselves, and wound the Body of Christ.

So how do we guard against this?  Prayer.  I once worked with someone who would say in any situation, “The first thing we need to do is pray about it.”  I love that advice!  It is so incredibly simple and yet so powerful and accurate.

Pray about it.  Pray for wisdom and discernment and then pray for strength and courage to follow that path.  Pray for yourself.  Pray for your family.  Pray for your colleagues.  Pray for me.  I’ll keep praying for you as well.

God bless!