What are you thankful for?

Ahhh Thanksgiving….

Photo Credit: dog.happy.art via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: dog.happy.art via Compfight cc

Many a blog post has been written about Thanksgiving not really being about the turkey, not about the food, and all about family! Not necessarily on this page, but you know what I mean.

So for this blog, I want to tell you about my Thanksgiving break assuming that you already know all of the above. Why beat a dead turkey, you know?

I am blessed to usually be able to spend Thanksgiving with my family. My parents and sister live in Nebraska, which is really far away from Texas, yet somehow we manage to meet up for this holiday!

Last year, they came to our house in Marshall. This year, we all met in New Orleans and had SO MUCH FUN!!

If you’ve been to NOLA at all, you know that all the food we had was awesome. And the shopping was great too!

But now that I’m reflecting on the trip, I can see that I also learned/was reminded to be thankful for a whole lot. And that’s what I’d like to share today.

1. I am thankful for the hospitality of the south.

As you can see, it was super cute, and really close to the French Quarter!

As you can see, it was super cute, and really close to the French Quarter!

We tried something new on this trip; instead of the six of us (both my parents, my husband and I, my sister and her husband) paying for 3 hotel rooms for 4 nights, we found a house to rent from AirBnB.com.

It was just really nice to be able to stay in a neighborhood and get the full experience of New Orleans :)

2 women own this house, and they left us all kinds of necessities like shampoo, soap, hair products, a hair dryer, etc.

Their hospitality was just amazing!

2. I am thankful for the rebirth of New Orleans since Katrina.

When Hurricane Katrina hit, I was living in Nebraska. I have a whole lot of family who live down here though, so I still felt some of the effects personally.

street

I have one uncle who lives in Kenner (about 30 minutes from New Orleans), and he and his wife had to evacuate and rebuild their home like so many others.

Seeing the city back to life on this trip made me so happy! There were lots of musicians, street performers, artists, and tourists back on the street like it used to be!

You can still tell that the storm had lasting effects on everything. Even some of the street art we saw was made out of reclaimed Katrina wood, or wood from the rebuilding of houses, etc.

The people have picked themselves up though, and I love that spirit!

3. I am thankful for my husband.

I am thankful for my husband every day, but he was especially wonderful on this trip. You see, he was crazy sick.

Coughing and snot-filled, he drove us to New Orleans and still managed to have a great time while we were there!

Admittedly, he couldn’t taste the beignets at Cafe du Monde on the first day (TRAGEDY!), but we went back the next day just for him :)

Photo Credit: nerdling via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: nerdling via Compfight cc

It was a real hardship!

So all in all, we had a great Thanksgiving!

I hope you had a great one too, and that you can remember what you’re thankful for!

AL

Real Live Prof

Spoiler Alert! If you are thinking about applying for a position of Spring Blogger for ETBU, maybe you shouldn’t read this. Or, maybe you should …

My biggest impression was that I was surprised at how much work and effort this discipline really takes, at least for me. My regular Fall preparation for classes is generally lighter than is my Spring schedule. (3 preparations in the Fall, and 4 in the Spring). Even so, blogging filled out my schedule every week. Maybe I should not admit this but it usually took me 4 to 5 hours per week to get the blog done. I found myself thinking about the week’s topic (or trying to think of a topic!) for hours, usually on the way from Longview to Marshall. Once I had settled on a topic, I would try to write the bulk of it in one session. The next day, or later, I would try to edit it some more (often based on commuting musings). Finally, posting day would arrive, and I would edit and even, correct it all again. I would often try to include a picture, which I would snap with my phone, edit, and then get uploaded, cross loaded and placed just so. Plus, I had to learn a new software program, which is always a challenge. (Now it sounds more like 6 or 7 hours.)

My second biggest impression was that I was so glad I had decided to attempt this project in the first place. It has done me a world of good. The first benefit I realized was that as I was trying to introduce readers to my discipline, (sociology), I realized again why I had been attracted to it in the first place. I am not sure, but I might have fallen in love with sociology all over again. A second benefit was that as I was attempting to integrate my faith and teaching, I realized I was much more deliberate about trying to find those teaching moments and launching them when doing so seemed most appropriate. A third benefit for me was the realization that I am a feedback addict, though not so much from students. I loved and benefitted from long discussions about up- coming topics with several colleagues. I may even be guilty of plagiarizing a few of their brilliant thoughts. A fourth benefit was having a creative outlet besides just teaching. I think most people have deep thoughts (even Jack Handy) but few of us have a place to bounce those thoughts around. Writing a blog forces one to think deep thoughts and then, to commit those thoughts to “paper”. 

On the negative side of the ledger, I would have to confess that I repeated the mistake I made in seminary. I allowed deep thinking and blogging to be a substitute for the personal pursuit of face time with God. In seminary, I allowed religious course work to substitute for pursuing God personally. After all, I was studying Scripture, but not on a personal, what-does-this-mean-for-me basis. (I was never this bad, but while I was there, the school had to enact a new rule that required the students to actively participate in a local church because many of my fellow students chose to sleep in on Sunday morning.) A second drawback for me was that I realized I have a limited capacity for deep thinking, and so I wonder at what else I should have been thinking about during those times I spent thinking about the blog.  

As I am writing my last blog for this series I wonder at what will be my final takeaway. Will it be another crossed-through item on a not-yet-started bucket list? Perhaps it will be the first of several blogs. I honestly do not know, but I am so grateful for the opportunity. Thanks!                

 

Thankful

When you ask a professor to reflect on and blog about her experiences in the classroom, expect there to be a bunch of grousing about students’Bashaw laziness and lack of commitment, and some lamenting about the moral decline of civilization, as seen in the youth of America.

And maybe I have done a fair amount of complaining as I have pondered the intersection of faith, teaching, students, and society this semester.

However, as I reflect on my job as an educator-counselor-learner-mentor-pastor-motivational speaker, there is much more for which I am thankful.

  • I am thankful that God has allowed me to work in a career that demands constant learning, that challenges me to get better and know more every day;
  • I am thankful for the privilege and challenge of teaching the Bible, in its messiness and glory, and for the opportunity to communicate my love for Scripture with my students.
  • I am thankful for daily deadlines (and I also curse this!), that I must keep on top of things and strive for excellence not just for my own improvement but for the education of others.
  • I am thankful for the constant interaction with young people, which forces me to learn how to tweet, compels me to learn new colloquialisms (that’s ill!), and keeps me in touch with the challenges and contributions of this up-and-coming generation.
  • I am thankful for flexibility of my classroom, that my teaching need not fit into a rubric or someone else’s expectation. I can lecture or use pod casts or facilitate discussion or show youtube clips or encourage journaling or sing songs or have confession time, depending on what best communicates a particular subject to my students at a particular time.
  • I am thankful for the teamwork involved in a university setting, that professors and administrators and maintenance crew and IT and cafeteria workers and student workers and resident directors all work together for one noble goal–to provide the best education for our students.
  • And I am thankful for my students: students who are trusting enough to listen and learn, who are brave enough to show vulnerability in the classroom, who are caring enough to support their peers in their needs, who are committed enough to be leaders even in their young age, who are strong enough to overcome all the challenges they face in their personal and private lives in order to remain committed to education and to their faith in the midst of a distracting, discouraging, sometimes dream-crushing world.

For all these things, and all these people, I am truly thankful.

jgb

Grumbling or Gratitude

In her book, One Thousand Gifts, Ann Voskamp says this: “If authentic, saving belief is the act of trusting, then to choose stress is an act of disbelief . . . atheism.”

For someone who was born stressed, this statement struck me profoundly.  Worrying, for me, comes so easily—trust comes so hard.  But if I believe that God is good and in control and that He is present in the details of my life, then this should drive me not just to trust but to gratitude.  And gratitude is the ultimate expression of trust.  “Thanks is what builds trust,” Voskamp explains.  “Trust is the bridge from yesterday to tomorrow, built with planks of thanks. . . . I can walk the planks—from known to unknown—and know: He holds.  I [can] walk unafraid.”

I love Voskamp’s words and I can intellectualize them.  But fear and doubt and ingratitude still crouch in the corners of my heart.

When my wife and I married 15 years ago, I inherited a cat.  Christopher (an orange tabby) and Sharon had been together for 12 years. She picked him out of a litter of kittens when he was still so small that he fit in the palm of her hand.

That cat was fiercely loyal to Sharon, and, over time, Chris and I grew close as well.  But one thing Chris and I rarely agreed on was meal time.  When it came to food, Chris had high expectations.  He preferred his food fresh from the can.  And if the food happened to come out of the refrigerator, then he liked it warmed in the microwave for exactly seven seconds.  Chris also like his food “fluffed.”  I’d mix it in his food bowl just so with his special spoon and then top it off with his favorite crunchy dry food. These were the rules and I tried hard to obey them.

But most of the time, my meals fell way short of his expectations.  I’d warm his food and fluff it and garnish it—and, still, I failed to meet his five-star dining expectations.   He’d look at the bowl and then look at me as if to say—“Really—this is all you got?”  Exasperated, I’d look at Sharon and she would look at Chris.  And then Sharon would say in a stern voice—“Christopher!  That’s perfectly good food.  Eat it!”  And the funny thing is—Chris would!

He’d lower his little orange head and eat, his I.D. tag clanging against the food bowl.  But that didn’t mean he was happy about it.  And to make sure we knew this, with each bite of food he took, he’d growl—a low constant rumbling coming from his throat. He’d eat, but he wasn’t grateful.

Still makes me laugh.

But, here’s the thing—my ingratitude isn’t quite so funny.  And my grumbling can cast a dark shadow across my life.

In a chilling passage in C.S. Lewis’s The Great Divorce, Lewis explores the character of an unhappy woman possessed by a critical spirit.  And the speaker in this chapter is distressed that such a woman might not enter heaven simply because she is a grumbler.  He voices his concern to another character.

“I am troubled, Sir,” said I, “because that unhappy creature doesn’t seem to me to be the sort of soul that ought to be even in danger of damnation. She isn’t wicked: she’s only a silly, garrulous old woman who has got into a habit of grumbling . . . .”

“That is what she once was. That is maybe what she still is. If so, she certainly will be cured. But the whole question is whether she is now a grumbler.”

“I should have thought there was no doubt about that!”

“Aye, but ye misunderstand me. The question is whether she is a grumbler, or only a grumble. If there is a real woman—even the least trace of one—still there inside the grumbling, it can be brought to life again. If there’s one wee spark under all those ashes, we’ll blow it till the whole pile is red and clear. But if there’s nothing but ashes we’ll not go on blowing them in our own eyes forever. They must be swept up.”

What we need to be careful of, this second character explains, is becoming a grumble, “going on forever like a machine.”

Sobering words.

Am I a grumble?  Am I an atheist?  Have I chosen ingratitude?  Have I chosen not to trust?

Jesus says—“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me” (John 14:1).

And Paul writes in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18—“Rejoice always. Pray continually.  Give thanks in all circumstances.  For this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.”

Rejoice.  Pray.  Give thanks.  Always.  Continually.  In all circumstances.

Some of the most convicting words I have ever read.  And appropriate for this Thanksgiving season.

Clearly, I have a choice to make. I am not a victim.  I am not powerless.  And even though I was born stressed, I don’t have to live stressed.  I hope that there is still “one wee spark” in my heart “under all those ashes” that can still be blown into a fire of faith and trust.  I hope that this Thanksgiving season I choose gratitude over grumbling.

May we all choose well.

skc