Thursday, August 21, 2014

Love Chapter

Am going to assume you know the importance of 1 Corinthians Chapter 13 - it is called the "Love Chapter." Just to refresh your memory, this is how it goes:

1 Corinthians 13 New International Version (NIV)

1 If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.
2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.
3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.
5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.
6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.
7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.
9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part,
10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears.
11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.
12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

Being a Sunday school teacher is a challenging and thankless job. Now, here is a teacher's paraphrase based on the 'Love Chapter'. It is worth posting on the classroom wall.

If I could explain everything perfectly to my students, but did not love each one of them, I might as well be talking to an empty room. If I could find all the answers to educational problems and did not love, my efforts would be futile. If I could buy every kind of educational aid and sacrificed to do so, but did not have love for my students, it would be a complete waste.

Love is patient when it is necessary to repeat a concept over and over to a student who is having difficulty. Love is kind when an irate parent accuses and berates other teachers or me. Love is not jealous when the other teacher has an entire class of well-behaved and extremely intelligent children while mine are not so great.

Love is not proud or boastful when my students improve greatly and really want to come to my class. Love is willing to yield my schedule and plans to fit in with the needs of others. Love does not scream at my class when they misbehave, but seeks to help them understand the importance of self-discipline.

Love does not broadcast all of my students' problems and misdeeds to those in the lounge. Love keeps trying even when it seems a student will never understand long division or the difference between an adverb and an adjective.

Teaching methods, bulletin boards, textbooks, yes, even computers, will eventually be discarded, but love is everlasting. These three things I have learned through teaching: endurance, patience and love. And the greatest of these is love.

Ugly the Tomcat

Everyone in the apartment complex I lived in knew who Ugly was. Ugly was the resident tomcat. Ugly loved three things in this world: fighting, eating garbage, and, shall we say, love.

The combination of these things combined with a life spent outside had their effect on Ugly. To start with, he had only one eye, and where the other should have been, there was a hole. He was also missing his ear on the same side. His left foot appeared to have been badly broken at one time and had healed at an unnatural angle, making him look like he was always turning the corner.

Ugly would have been a dark gray tabby, striped type, except for the sores covering his head, neck, and even his shoulders. Every time someone saw Ugly there was the same reaction. "That's one UGLY cat!!!"

All the children were warned not to touch him, the adults threw rocks at him, hosed him down, squirted him when he tried to come in their homes, or shut his paws in the door when he would not leave. Ugly always had the same reaction.

If you turned the hose on him, he would stand there, getting soaked until you gave up and quit. If you threw things at him, he would curl his lanky body around your feet in forgiveness.

Whenever he spied children, he would come running, meowing frantically and bump his head against their hands, begging for their love. If you ever picked him up he would immediately begin suckling on your shirt, earrings, whatever he could find.

One day Ugly shared his love with the neighbor's dogs. They did not respond kindly, and Ugly was badly mauled. I tried to rush to his aid. By the time I got to where he was laying, it was apparent Ugly's sad life was almost at an end.

As I picked him up and tried to carry him home, I could hear him wheezing and gasping, and could feel him struggling. It must be hurting him terribly, I thought. Then I felt a familiar tugging, sucking sensation on my ear. Ugly, in so much pain, suffering and obviously dying, was trying to suckle my ear. I pulled him closer to me, and he bumped the palm of my hand with his head, then he turned his one golden eye towards me, and I could hear the distinct sound of purring.

Even in the greatest pain, that ugly battled scarred cat was asking only for a little affection, perhaps some compassion. At that moment I thought Ugly was the most beautiful, loving creature I had ever seen. Never once did he try to bite or scratch me, try to get away from me, or struggle in any way. Ugly just looked up at me completely trusting in me to relieve his pain.

Ugly died in my arms before I could get inside, but I sat and held him for a long time afterwards, thinking about how one scarred, deformed little stray could so alter my opinion about what it means to have true pureness of spirit, to love so totally and truly.

Ugly taught me more about giving and compassion than a thousand books, lectures, or talk show specials ever could, and for that I will always be thankful. He had been scarred on the outside, but I was scarred on the inside, and it was time for me to move on and learn to love truly and deeply - to give my total to those I care for.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Lessons from Sunday School

Teaching the word of God to those little children of God is a serious matter. Though our Sunday schools courses and classes are taken lightly by parents and children, those serving as teachers can make all the difference in a child's life.

Sunday school teaching is a voluntary profession and a difficult calling. Often times one has to find time to educate the self and prepare for classes. In order to bring the Gospel to children, one must first make a sincere effort to learn it. This has to be done religiously, on a continuous basis. Carving out a Saturday afternoon is a good idea, and if that becomes cumbersome, maybe an hour a day everyday will help. 

Communication is vital. Speaking to children is an art by itself and one can never master it. To keep one's skills sharp, the teacher has to continuously speak to those young minds. We should be able to stand in their shoes and think just like them. With little practice, and help from above, it is a skill that can be practiced. If we make a sincere effort to enter their world, it will magically open up. 

As a Sunday school teacher, may you stand on two strong legs. May your right foot bring in empathy, and the left foot bring in creative imagination into your Sunday school classroom. Those are two factors required on a continuous basis to maintain the teacher - student relationship with younger children. 

Two sins in a child's world are: 
(a) Speaking to them in an insulting, superior, loud and domineering manner.
(b) Talking to them in a language using hard words, when they cannot understand head or tail. 

When any teacher does either of the above, he/she has lost the student's attention. This is indeed an act of balancing. A wise teacher knows that jam that contains sugar is tasty, but bread is what the child really needs. Therefore, the wise teacher will prepare a sandwich using two slices of bread and a thin spread of jam to feed the child. The Sunday school teacher should do his/her own homework to understand which flavor of jam a particular student loves and artistically create the lesson plan accordingly. 

The teacher should become one among the children while in their midst. Any adult listening from outside may think the teacher has gone crazy. It may sound ridiculous only to the ones listening from outside (the class). It is in the best interest of the class to keep other adults away during the duration of the class. The teacher can have special sounds or signs which only the class understands. Such words/signs create a stronger teacher - student bond. 

Once the class is coached and trained in a particular way, it will be hard for others to come in and fill the spot. At that time, both students and teachers are anxiously looking forward for that 'next Sunday'. A dedicated teacher will make every effort to attend the 'Sunday school class' every Sunday. Handing the class to a strange teacher will be a bad idea and that Sunday will not be an enjoyable Sunday for those little children as well. The substitute teacher will at that point fill in as a 'baby sitter' and have no clue about the class culture. 

In the end, coaching them about the Gospel is of prime importance. The amazing thing with Gospel is that if we have an earnest desire to learn it, Lord will pour out His wisdom and knowledge onto us. He will open up doors which we never even knew about. 

This year, am not teaching any Sunday school classes. However, am looking back at how things could have done better. Few items top my list. 
1. I should have learned a lot more about the Bible before going on teaching Sunday school lessons. 
2. I now realize how weak I was and how little I knew about those children. 
3. I should have spent more time during the week and prepared better for my classes. 
4. Pay least attention to what happens in the church, rather focus entirely about what happens within that world of my Sunday school class. 
5. I should have taught my class the importance of reading proverbs everyday. 
6. My actions and speech should have been at least closer to that of Jesus. 
7. In order to teach about Jesus, I should have known a lot more about Him - only then I could have effectively shared the greatness of my savior. 

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Portrait of a friend

I can't give you solutions to all of life's problems, doubts, or fears.
But I can listen to you, and together we will search for answers.

I can't change your past with all it's heartache and pain, nor the future with its untold stories.
But I can be there now when you need me to care.portrait of a friend

I can't keep your feet from stumbling.
I can only offer my hand that you may grasp it and not fall.

Your joys, triumphs, successes, and happiness are not mine;
Yet I can share in your laughter.

Your decisions in life are not mine to make, nor to judge;
I can only support you, encourage you, and help you when you ask.

I can't prevent you from falling away from friendship, from your values, from me.
I can only pray for you, talk to you and wait for you.

I can't give you boundaries which I have determined for you,
But I can give you the room to change, room to grow, room to be yourself.

I can't keep your heart from breaking and hurting,
But I can cry with you and help you pick up the pieces and put them back in place.

I can't tell you who you are.
I can only love you and be your friend.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Benjamin Franklin's own epitaph

During one of his lighter moments, Benjamin Franklin penned his own epitaph. It seems he must have influenced by Paul's teaching of the resurrection of the body. As a young man, Franklin confided to his diary what he wanted written on his tombstone:

The Body of
B. Franklin
Like the Cover of an old Book,
Its Contents torn out,
And stript of its Lettering and Gilding,
Lies here, 
Food for Worms.
But the Work shall not be wholly lost:
For it will, as he believ'd, appear once more,
In a new & more perfect Edition,
Corrected and Amended
By the Author.
He was born on January 6, 1706.
Died 17xx

Franklin was surprisingly modest when he made his final wishes known - his grave in Philadelphia’s Christ Church cemetery simply reads, “Benjamin and Deborah Franklin.”

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Let us dance

Let's share a letter written by an 83-year-old woman to her friend.

Dear Bertha,

I'm reading more and dusting less. I'm sitting in the yard and admiring the view without fussing about the weeds in the garden. I'm spending more time with my family and friends and less time working.

Whenever possible, life should be a pattern of experiences to savor, not to endure. I'm trying to recognize these moments now and cherish them.

I'm not "saving" anything; we use our good china and crystal for every special event such as losing a pound, getting the sink unstopped, or the first Amaryllis blossom.

I wear my good blazer to the market. My theory is if I look prosperous, I can shell out $28.49 for one small bag of groceries. I'm not saving my good perfume for special parties, but wearing it for clerks in the hardware store and tellers at the bank.

"Someday" and "one of these days" are losing their grip on my vocabulary. If it's worth seeing or hearing or doing, I want to see and hear and do it now.

I'm not sure what others would've done had they known they wouldn't be here for the tomorrow that we all take for granted. I think they would have called family members and a few close friends. They might have called a few former friends to apologize and mend fences for past squabbles. I like to think they would have gone out for a Chinese dinner or for whatever their favorite food was.

I'm guessing; I'll never know.

It's those little things left undone that would make me angry if I knew my hours were limited. Angry because I hadn't written certain letters that I intended to write one of these days. Angry and sorry that I didn't tell my husband and parents often enough how much I truly love them. I'm trying very hard not to put off, hold back, or save anything that would add laughter and luster to our lives. And every morning when I open my eyes, tell myself that it is special.

Every day, every minute, every breath truly is a gift from God.

Believe that someone somewhere in this world cares for you. Right this moment, someone is thinking about you.

"People say friends must always hold hands, but true friends don't need to hold hands because they know the other hand will always be there."

Life may not be the party we hoped for,
but while we are here we might as well dance.  

Love you,