Monday, June 25, 2012

A New Chapter

Am I crazy? I muttered to myself again as I ran my hands through my hair and looked at the map on the computer screen.  Arizona?  Show Low?  Where did this come from?  

I had been looking for a job for the last few months.  Teaching jobs aren't exactly easy to come by in the best of times, especially not early in the summer.  But with extensive area budget cuts and the job markets flooded with experienced (and desperate) teachers, I felt like I wasn't getting anywhere.  I had done everything I could.  I applied at three different districts, done several screening interviews, and personally dropped off more than 20 application packets at schools.  Nothing had clicked. 

I felt like I was banging in vain on the doors, hoping one might open.  Playing the waiting game, hoping the waiting didn't go on all summer.  My prayer became:  God, I'll knock on all the doors I can.  I trust you to open a door in your timing. 

(Sometimes I wish it were that simple, but I suppose that would not foster true faith)
And then, it came out of the sun.  Something completely unexpected.  A school in Arizona had several open positions.  Teaching in Arizona had never even crossed my radar.  My girlfriend's family live in Arizona, so I had visited the town.  I had visited the school.  I may have even met the principal.  I had even joked with my girlfriend that I should go teach there.  But seriously considered it for more than half a second?  No way!  My girlfriend is finishing her senior year of nursing school in Indiana and moving across the continent didn't even cross my mind.

I laughed when I first heard about the opening and dismissed the thought.  But it kept coming back.   The more I thought about it, the more the knot in my stomach began to loose. 

  • It is a small school, one with a very small student to teacher ratio.  I've learned a lot about teaching here at Bethel, but I still have a long ways to go.  This would be a great way to learn how to teach without the stress of a 24 student class. 
  • This school would provide an excellent, positive environment to grow as a teacher.  There are several other experienced teachers and I know I would be able to ask as many questions as I need to.  Every Friday is a "day of collaboration."  Although three days weekends are a plus, I am looking forward to days to work alongside the other teachers in the building.
  • It's a huge step, but it's not so far away from what I thought I'd be doing when I graduated.  I never planned on staying permanently in Indiana.  I've always wanted to learn how to be a good teacher and then go overseas.  Recently, my thoughts and prayers have been turning more and more towards Arizona.  I just wasn't expecting a door to open this soon. 
  • Both the first year of teaching and the final year of nursing school are very intense and time consuming.  Although the time apart will be tough, this may be to our benefit as it will give us the time and space we need to focus on what God has put in both of our paths.  

However you slice it or dice it, it's tough.  Leaving friends and my second family here in Indiana is hard.  A year apart from my girlfriend isn't high on my list of favorite things.  But the more that both of us have prayed about it, the more convinced we are that it would be good. 

So to shorten the story, I applied for the job.  I figured it was a long shot.  Who hires a green teacher from across the United States when they know next to nothing about him.   On top of that, I didn't even have an Arizona teaching license.  But I filled in an application and prayed that God would open or close the door.  

Several days later, I got a call from the principal in Arizona.   He said he wanted to schedule an interview.  In shock, I agreed to an interview a few days later.  Now I've really got to decide, I thought as I hung up the phone. Do I really want to go to Arizona?

In a bizarre series of events, I randomly got called in for an interview a few days later at a local middle school.  It was the first real interview I had landed for a local job.  And it fell on the same day as my phone interview for the job in Arizona.   I went in and did the interview at the local school, leaving feeling really good about how it had gone.  Then, later that day, as I was doing my interview with Arizona, I received a voice mail thanking me for coming in for the local interview, congratulating me on a wonderful interview, and informing me that they had offered the job to someone else.  

It felt as if the doors to a job in Indiana were closing and stubbornly staying shut.  The interview with Arizona, on the other hand, went wonderful and resulted in another phone interview with the entire school board.   (Sidenote: If you think it is intimidating to do an interview with eight people, HA!  Do one with eight people you cannot see or hear but you know are listening very intently to every word you say...)  

In the end, I was offered a third grade position.  Just like that.  An open door.   Something I never would have considered.  It seems to be how God works in my life a lot of the times.  I'm praying about doors A, B, or C...and then trapdoor H opens beneath me. 

The more I look into the job, the more excited I get.  I believe more strongly each day that this is the next step in my life.  Easy? No, not at all.  But I am confident that it will be good.  I am sure that I am in God's will and the next year will be one of growth and drawing close to Him. 

It'll be an adventure!  That's for sure. Closing this chapter will be tough. I've built a lot of relationships here in Indiana and I feel like I'm leaving part of my heart in this sorry state.  But that's how leaving always is.  I am comforted and encouraged by the fact that my master walks before me, hemming me in behind and before (Psalm 139).  

So here's to adventure and the next chapter!  Hurrah!  

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The Sound of Genocide

"The Lord said, 'What have you done? Listen! Your brother's blood cries out to me from the ground.'" 
 Genesis 4:15

Abel's blood cried out from the ground What must that cry sound like?  What must the depth and horror of man's sins sound like to the ears of a holy God? 

Nails on a chalkboard?

A loud ringing in His ear?

A mosquito in the middle of the night?

The type of screaming you hear only in nightmares.  When someone you love deeply is hurting, bleeding, breaking, falling, dying...screaming out for you....and you can do nothing.   The kind of gut-wrenching screams that break your heart, make you want to vomit, and echo in your mind when you wake.  

Love consents to all and commands only those who consent. Love is abdication.  God is abdication.        -Simone Weil

God has stepped back.  Abdicated His authority and power.  Why?  To give us free will.  To let us choose.  To choose Him.  Or to not choose Him.  And the devastation left in our wake cries out in anguish.  If God hears the dying breath of sparrows, what must our atrocities sound like to him? 

What did it sound like when millions of Jews, gypsies, and homosexuals were herded into Nazi gas chambers?  

When a man beat another man and ate his face while onlookers drove by on the Miami interstate?  

What do the more than 54 million children killed in their mother's womb sound like? 

What does it sound like in heaven when a child comes home from being bullied at school and hangs himself in the basement?  

The genocides in Sudan, Pakistan, Burundi, North Korea, Lebanon,  Rwanda....

How do these things sound to God?

Unbearable.  The sacred beauty of life trampled and spat on.  An incessant wailing. 

"I seen the misery of my people...I have heard them crying out..."
Exodus 3:7

God heard his people's cry. We are familiar with the story that follows.  God's vengeance on those who had persecuted his people. The great deliverance of His people from Egypt.

Over and over in the Bible, God hears his people's cries and acts. 

How long will it be before God has had enough?  How long until He will not tolerate the killing of another one of his children?  How long will he show us mercy?  

How long, oh Lord?

"Come, Lord Jesus."

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Tebow, Wurmbrand, and Suffering for Christ

Tim Tebow has risen alarmingly fast to be a very prominent figure in football today.  Why?  Because of his mid-season out-of-nowhere winning streak.  Oh yeah, and his praying after touchdowns and thanking Jesus Christ during interviews.   "Tebow mania" has swept the country as fans suspend their disbelief in the hope that the underdog team could somehow overpower other NFL superpowers.

Controversy surrounds Tebow like one of the Patriot pileups he was caught under in the recent game.  Christians hold Tebow's autobiography high while touting him as an excellent example of a Christian who glorifies God.  "Tebowing," or going down on one knee like the Broncos quarterback after a touchdown has been mocked incessantly by the media.   The Saturday Night Live crew happily grabbed the opportunity to tear down both Tebow and the Jesus Christ he proclaims.   

But whatever their religious beliefs or football convictions, everyone is watching him.  Many are just waiting for him to fail.  To be caught by the paparazzi having an affair or something equally un-Christlike.  Or just to finally lose a football game.  Christians across the sports-frenzied states of America watch his games and talk extensively about the seemingly miraculous fourth-quarter comebacks.  Some vehemently defend any negative comment about the quarterback and refuse to watch as Tebow is hammered into the ground again by the Patriots. 

I've even heard some say, completely serious, that God is on Tebow's side

Really?  God on Tebow's side?  I think the better question is whether Tebow is on God's side.  God doesn't take sides with man.  He doesn't get behind man's causes, wars, or football games.  Man takes sides either with God or against God.  

Tebow is being mocked by the press, the NFL, and football fans across the nation.  I guess that in a way, he is suffering for his faith.   But if that is as bad as it gets, I can't say as I feel sorry for Tebow.  

When people talk of people suffering for their faith, I think of Watchman Nee, Polycarp, Richard Wurmbrand, or the hundreds of thousands of others who have suffered and died throughout the world for their faith in Jesus Christ in the last hundred years alone.  Do I need to go into the tortures and atrocities that these faithful men and women faced as they daily were pushed to deny Jesus Christ?  Do I even dare tread that holy ground?  I, who have not faced even a small beating for my Jesus.  Those men and women are my heroes.  As Hebrews 11 says, "the world was not worthy of them." 

I'd like to see you try to tell someone who has been sitting in prison for fifteen years, enduring torture and attempts at brainwashing, that Tebow is suffering for his faith. 

We live in a nation where, by and large, the most persecution we get for Jesus Christ is a few jokes, a diminished social life, and possibly some job discrimination.  Shame on us.  No wonder our faith has grown lukewarm.  

 If our nation was anything like half the other countries on this globe, Tim Tebow would have been dropped immediately from the Broncos for his stand, blackballed from the NFL, possibly imprisoned, and death threats would have started coming on a regular basis to his family.  

If Tim Tebow could still get on his knees and thank his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ after that, then he would become one of my heroes.