Friday, September 30, 2005

In the Beginning

In BSF we are studying Genesis and for the past three weeks have been specifically focused on the creation. I ran across something today that was not addressed in our lesson. Genesis 1.24-27 gives the account of the sixth day of creation in which God created animals and then people, both male and female. These verses say that people would have authority over all the animal life on earth. But later in chapter 2, we have a different story. In verse 7 God creates a man, and then in 18-19 he creates animals in an effort to find a suitable companion for the man. When a suitable companion wasn't found among the animals, God then made a woman (v. 21-22).

So we have here two different accounts with a very noticeable difference. If all of the bible is meant to be taken literally, as some say, how do we explain these differing stories? How literally should we take the creation stor(ies)--is it "gospel truth"? Or are these two stories simply two different oral traditions handed down over time that were meant to explain a difficult concept? Perhaps parts of the bible are meant to show us that humans have always had an imperfect understanding of God.

For the record, these differing stories in no way shake my faith in God. This is simply further confirmation for me that human attempts to fully understand God fall very short and that many doctrines that have been adhered to as "truth" are imperfect in their truthfulness.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Jesus Changes Lives?

Yesterday as I was sitting at a red light, I noticed a van parked at a convenience store. This van was completely unremarkable—it was one of those white work vans, but on the doors, in neatly stenciled letters an aqua blue color were the words “JESUS CHANGES LIVES.” My first thought in response to this statement was “amen.” As the light changed to green and I eased off down the road with the rest of the traffic, I began to think that, no, that statement wasn’t quite right. Yes, the presence of Jesus in one’s life creates definite changes, and his father can definitely change a person’s character, but really, much of the change that a person experiences when deciding to follow Jesus comes from within.

Being a follower of Jesus is a daily decision to take my focus off of myself and tune my attention to matters of his kingdom. This is not an easy task. Naturally, my thoughts gravitate toward obtaining those things that will give me immediate comfort and pleasure. But Jesus was constantly thinking about the comfort and well-being of others. For me to do the same requires a conscious shifting of my way of thinking, a real sacrifice of my thoughts and time. Jesus told his would-be disciples, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must put aside your selfish ambition, shoulder your cross daily, and follow me.” This means that I have to make a choice to set aside all my concerns about daily life—what to have for dinner, when the truck payment is due, how high the price of gas is, how to schedule all of my activities and appointments—and pick up a new burden to carry around. But the cool thing is that Jesus tells me that the burden he wants me to carry is much lighter than all the junk that I carry around now. If I quit thinking about myself and how I’m going to get ahead, and instead focus on the needs of others, I’ll find that I’ll be content with just simple day-to-day living.

The words on the van door are true, but also a little deceptive. When I decide to follow Jesus, he doesn’t just swoop in and, presto-change-o, my life is different. The change comes over time as I adjust my lifestyle and way of thinking to match his.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Lessons Learned

I began grading freshman essays this weekend, and although I have no funnies to report yet, a couple of essays stood out to me. My students wrote about an event they experienced or witnessed that had some kind of impact on them. They could have learned a profound (or a not profound) lesson or gained some kind of insight or wisdom about their own selves or about life in general. The two essays that I noticed were written about trips to other countries.

One student went on a trip to Mexico where, when visiting some Aztec ruins, she noticed a young girl about six years old posing for photographs with tourists. Whenever a tourist would take a picture with her, she would then hold out her hand wanting some money. My student realized that the child's parents must have placed her there in order to earn money for the family. This experienced, coupled with the sights of Mexican families' houses made of scraps, made her realize the poverty that exists in the world and how very blessed she is to live the lifestyle she does. She came to realize that the people who are trying to cross the border to the U.S. are simply wanting better lives for their families.

The other student took a trip to Europe and, while he was there, took a side trip to an outdoor shopping mall aimed at attracting tourists. He noticed that the people running the shops were Asian, and he also noticed that their houses, located near the shops, were no bigger than his bedroom. He learned that the families who run the shops pay a lease in order for the priviledge of working there, and if they don't meet their sales quota, they are kicked out by the shop's owner. My student noticed how the tourists would haggle with the shop workers for a lower price and realized that the greed of the tourists was contributing to the poverty of the shop workers. He left the mall crying over the condition of the people there.

I was extremely touched by these two essays, but I was also glad that these students had experienced these events. I hope that these two students carry these images with them always, and I hope that the next time we have the opportunity to experience a different culture, whether it be a different country or just the part of our hometown that we usually drive quickly through, we take notice of the differences and maybe even cry over the differences.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Rainy Day Rita

I have family spread throughout Louisiana. Just got a report from my Mom who talked to two of her sisters who live there. They are experiencing heavy rain and wind. The power is out as well. Grandpa--who is 95 years old--is with one of my uncles enjoying a game of dominoes today. Everyone seems to be doing fine.

Haven't heard from anyone on Daddy's side of the family--also in Louisiana and in East Texas--but we really aren't worried.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Body Surfing With Jesus

This morning on the news, I saw the Galveston police forcibly remove a man from the ocean, handcuff him, and, presumeably, arrest him. This man apparently wanted to body surf on the waves this morning.

My first thought was if that guy wants to put himself in danger, let him. He knows the risks, and if he's stupid enough to swim during a hurricane, let his consequences be what they may. Then I felt a little guilty, knowing that I also have stupid moments.

Here's my question: If Jesus were in Texas today helping people evacuate, how would he handle the man who didn't want to leave the beach?

Saturday, September 17, 2005

I Will Survive--if Presidental speeches are on some other night.

I have to admit that I really like Survivor. Yes, I know, I know, I've heard all the arguments, but I still like it. Husband and I have watched every episode every season except for Africa in season three. When we watched that first episode, for some reason we just weren't all that impressed and decided not to watch. But we haven't missed since then, and now that a new season has started we are back to our Thursday night routine of avoiding all phone calls between 7 and 8 p.m. (That reminds me of when we used to watch the X-Files back when it was still on. We were really into that show, and we even went to see the movie. I remember watching one night when Husband's brother called. Husband told him that he couldn't talk at the moment and that he'd call him back when X-Files was over.)

Thursday night, Husband had to leave the house for a little while and said his goal was to be back by 6:45, leaving plenty of time to get ready to watch Survivor. Unfortunately, he was detained and didn't get home until after 8:00, so I had to record the first episode, and we watched last night. Actually, I went ahead and watched when it was on and watched it again with him last night.

When we heard that the President was going to speak on Thursday night, we kind of panicked until we realized that he wouldn't be on until after Survivor. I would be willing to bet that when the President asked for TV time for Thursday night, CBS panicked as well. And I'm sure that those who were expecting Survivor at the regular time were pretty upset when the President's face appeared on their TV screens instead of Jeff Probst's much prettier face. I don't know what happened in the different time zones, but I'm sure everyone who wanted to watch either or both were eventually satisfied.

I must say, right or wrong, if I had to choose whether to watch our President speak or watch Survivor, I'll take Survivor. At least on Survivor, you know who all the players are, and the deception is all out in the open.

Friday, September 16, 2005

A Prayer Offered in the Aftermath of Katrina

Oh Lord, while I struggle to understand why events such as this occur, I know that out of tragedy and suffering, you can bring peace and deliverance. However, I also know that the major instrument of this peace and deliverance is your people. Therefore, I pray that the people who acknowledge you as Lord, those who believe in your son Jesus, will put the teachings of your son into practice.

I pray that your people who have seen the poverty of their neighbors will share their possessions with those in need just as the apostles did, investing in heavenly treasure rather than hoarding material wealth for themselves.

I pray that like Jesus, who looked upon the distressed people, whom he compared to sheep without a shepherd, and felt tremendous compassion for them, your people will look upon their neighbors in distress and feel that same compassion. But I pray that your people not be satisfied with simply feeling compassion but also act as shepherds, providing for the needs of those lost sheep.

I pray that your people remember that whenever they show kindness by feeding the hungry, giving the thirsty a drink, clothing the naked, caring for the sick, showing hospitality to the stranger, or visiting the prisoner, they are actually extending this kindness to your son Jesus. In doing so, they forget their own worries and make your kingdom their primary concern.

I pray that just like Jesus, who wept over the death of his friend before restoring his life, your people weep over the tragedy but then dry their eyes and go about restoring the lives of those who have suffered.

In this way, we will all be blessed and, through our generosity, share in the riches of your kingdom.


Saturday, September 10, 2005

School's In

Well, school is in full swing now, and I made it through the first two weeks. I got caught up on all the news from my colleagues and am now getting ready to handle the first set of rough drafts coming in from my freshmen next week. They are writing about an event that had an impact on them and made them who they are today, so this will be interesting. I always get at least a couple of essays in which I learn much more than I wanted to.

I have a great schedule this semester: I teach on two freshman composition (I always want to spell that "compostion"--some of their writing would make really good compost!) Monday and Wednesday (MW) afternoons, and two more on Tuesday and Thursday (TR) mornings. Then I have a literature class on TR afternoons. I don't have to come in at all on Fridays!!!!

So far, my favorite classes are the TR's. Early morning students, for all their complaining about getting up early, are very animated and talkative. We have had some great discussions so far. Also, both of these classes meet in small classrooms, which I have found forces them to interact with each other. It makes for a nice, intimate, comfortable setting. I was worried about the afternoon lit class because that time period is usually conducive to napping and lack of good discussion. This semester I began giving random pop quizzes, so this group has come to class prepared every day, which has made for a really fun discussion of the literature.

My MW afternoon classes are a different story. While those students seem prepared, for the most part they just want me to do my thing and let them take their notes and get out with as little interaction as possible. They are all very nice though. It doesn't help that one of my classes meets in the agriculture building, which on Wednesday last week had a terrible barnyard odor. We found out later that there were chickens in the building. Also, on Wednesday, I sent my students out on a 15-minute field trip, and while they were gone, I could hear the instructor next door giving his lesson about the different qualities of saliva that different animals have. It was pretty gross. (Remind me one day to tell you about the mechanical cow that is in one of the classrooms!)

I received an email yesterday from one of the English department secretaries informing me that a new student has been added to one of my classes. I can only assume that anyone being added this late must be a hurricane refugee. All of the public universities in Tennessee are admitting students displaced by the hurricane. All a student has to do is show up and say that he or she is from one of the universities that is now closed, and we will admit him or her. Apparently--I got this info from the campus newspaper--the admissions people ask whether the student has already paid his tuition, and if he says he has, he isn't asked to pay anything here. No documentation is required; they are on the honor system. I hope no one is abusing this situation.

So that's my first couple of weeks back at work. This coming week will be fairly easy, but then the essays will start coming in, and the heavy grading will start. I'm sure I won't be able to refrain from telling you about the interesting grammar goofs that some people will commit. Here's a preview from past essays: One student getting dressed for an event put on his favorite quarter roy pants, and another student went through a bad breakup that left him with a hard ache.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Washington Not Linked to Reality

I really liked Bob Schieffer's commentary yesterday morning on Face the Nation:

Finally, a personal thought. We have come through what may have been one of the worst weeks in America’s history, a week in which government at every level failed the people it was created to serve. There is no purpose for government except to improve the lives of its citizens. Yet as scenes of horror that seemed to be coming from some Third World country flashed before us, official Washington was like a dog watching television. It saw the lights and images, but did not seem to comprehend their meaning or see any link to reality.

As the floodwaters rose, local officials in New Orleans ordered the city evacuated. They might as well have told their citizens to fly to the moon. How do you evacuate when you don’t have a car? No hint of intelligent design in any of this. This was just survival of the richest.

By midweek a parade of Washington officials rushed before the cameras to urge patience. What good is patience to a mother who can’t find food and water for a dehydrated child? Washington was coming out of an August vacation stupor and seemed unable to refocus on business or even think straight. Why else would Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert question aloud whether New Orleans should even be rebuilt? And when he was unable to get to Washington in time to vote on emergency aid funds, Hastert had an excuse only Washington could understand: He had to attend a fund-raiser back home.

Since 9/11, Washington has spent years and untold billions reorganizing the government to deal with crises brought on by possible terrorist attacks. If this is the result, we had better start over.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Dumb Questions

Why is it that the President seemed much more saddened and wore a much more somber expression on his face when he spoke this morning of the death of William Rehnquist than he has in the past week when speaking about the death and suffering of thousands of people on the Gulf Coast?

Why is it that the U.S. military responded to the tsunami victims thousands of miles away with supplies the next day but took several days to bring supplies only a few hundred miles?

Friday, September 02, 2005

All I'm Going to Say

My lack of a post about the disaster on the Gulf Coast should not be taken as a lack of concern about the situation. I've been reading other's posts, and they are saying some of the same things that I feel, probably better than I could say it.

I will say that Preston mentioned something in his very thoughtful post that I had been thinking about. The pictures of the people in New Orleans look remarkably like pictures of people from places in Africa where food and water are scarce and people are suffering in miserable conditions. How many times over the years have I seen those pictures on the news and quickly forgot them, lost in my own petty concerns? But now that the pictures are coming from only a few hundred miles away rather than a few thousand, now that the pictures are of people from my own country, I have sat up and am taking notice. I’m now feeling rather ashamed that my concern for my fellow humans has been aroused to this degree only by a great disaster that affects “my own” people.

Ten Years Ago Today

Oh, how the time flies! I can't believe we were really that skinny. I'd love to be able to fit into that dress again--bet you would love it too!

Ten years sure did go by fast--let's go for ten more. Happy anniversary, Baby! I love you!