The Professor and His Parents

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An oversized cardigan and a bow tie were his going home clothes. At the age of two days old, he was heading home from the hospital with his exhausted but overjoyed parents. “With that outfit, he looks like a little professor!” exclaimed his father as he tucked him into his car seat.

The nickname seemed to stick and so it came to be that little Titus David Mueller became known as “Professor Titus” or just simply…“The Professor.”

The Professor wasn’t entirely happy about his lot in life outside the womb and wasn’t afraid to let his parents know about it. After a couple of nights of continuous, inconsolable crying and no sleep for anyone, the father reached out to me, The Professor’s grandmother, who was happy to come and spend a few days in the classroom of townhouse #190.

I was nervous. Even though I had experience with newborns, it had been many years since I had helped care for one. Would I remember all the tricks? Would any of them still work? I knew the parents would be in a precarious state, not having slept in days. What would I encounter when I crossed over the threshold of their townhouse? I had packed a suitcase for a few days but had no idea exactly how long I would be staying. To free up Titus’ mother to do nothing but baby care and self care and better sleep for the whole household were my goals. Titus’ father was off work for a few days, but eventually, he was going to have to return to work. Just how long would this take?

As I pulled into their parking lot, I breathed in deeply and slowly exhaled. “You got this,” I murmured under my breath. The Professor’s father actually appeared rather calm, albeit haggard, when he opened the door. I stepped into the darkened room, which would become somewhat of a classroom for the next several days. Soon The Professor’s mother joined us, clutching the object of their love and dreams and angst. Titus David. How could such a tiny person upend their world so quickly and completely?

As I scooped him up, I shooed the parents upstairs with orders to go to bed and sleep. I sunk into a deep chair with the swaddled Professor and didn’t move for two and a half hours. My arm went to sleep as deeply as the child. Studying his face, I marveled at all his features, at times seeing glimpses of his father as the little boy who was once my own and other times seeing his mother’s face. Titus slept soundly as his parents snoozed away upstairs, and I thought maybe, just maybe, I was going to be able to handle this.

When his parents descended the stairs, they couldn’t believe The Professor had slept that long. Handing him over to his mother to be nursed, I headed for the kitchen to see what I could put together for a late supper. Simple and quick seemed to be the order of the day, and I put together some sandwiches, which were hastily devoured by the three of us.

Although the household had come to a screeching halt since the arrival of The Professor, I sensed no chaos. The parents were stumbling through their days and nights as if in a dream, but I could tell they had kept their love on. Together, they would learn the rhythms of life with a newborn, and I was privileged to be called alongside to see the beginnings of this new family unit.

The first lessons taught by The Professor at townhouse #190 were unforgettable. In Fluidity 101, it seemed as though the class was held under water. There was an ease of movement as we “went with the flow.” We didn’t establish any rigid standards of how things were supposed to look with a newborn. We took our cues from Professor Titus, which gave us increased mobility and less strain.

I thought Flexibility 101 was going to be a stretch for me, but I actually found it be a fun class! The three of us, who were taking the class, took turns leading. Sometimes The Professor’s father took over in handling him. Other times it was the mother. And other times it was me. I marveled at the grace the parents exhibited towards one another as one would step up while the other stepped back.  We took turns sleeping so the others could rest. Even I had to have my nap times! Fueled by healthy food, naps, and even some laughs, we powered on. Little by little, we were gaining ground. Laundry was done, groceries purchased, meals prepared, diapers changed, bedding changed, bathrooms cleaned, and floors mopped. The Professor’s mother was slowly but surely recovering from childbirth. Soon it was time for The Professor’s father to return to work, and I knew my time here was coming to an end.

As grateful as I was for passing Fluidity 101 and Flexibility 101, my favorite class of all is still being held, and most likely, I will never graduate from it. Fascination 101. In this class, I study The Professor himself. He is fascinating! Every little furrowed brow, purse of the lips, wisp of hair, brush of eyelash, tiny sigh, and mammoth yawn are studied and memorized. And when I am apart from him, the chords that are struck in the sweet companionship we share, cease not to vibrate. That is the wonder of grandparenting.

I am convinced we are to be living in a state of fascination not only with little humans, but with their Creator as well. It is how He has hardwired us, to be completely fascinated with Him. To be drawn irresistibly by the attention and interest He has in us. We are His creations, and I believe He finds us fascinating as well!

As my visit came to a close with The Professor and his parents, I stood in the doorway of townhouse #190. What a week it had been! I turned to his father and remarked, “The Professor is going to teach you more about life and love than you will ever teach him!” He laughed and nodded in agreement. I looked at The Professor, and a little newborn grin broke out over his face. “Class dismissed!” he seemed to say as I turned to go.

Loading and Unloading: A Perspective on National Educational Reform

The bedrock of my beliefs regarding the education of our children is this: The rights and responsibilities of educating our children lie with the parents first and foremost. Of course, there are many parents who forsake that right and responsibility or just lack the belief or confidence it is theirs. While we have the right to delegate much of that to someone else, such as public schools, private schools, charter schools, etc., at the end of the day, it is we, as parents, who are still responsible. I believe this is a God-given right.  It’s time to unload the weight from where it has been and put it back squarely where it fits.  By expanding our nations’ educational options, we better serve our parents in their roles as overseers of their children’s education.

Recently, I read this in an article written by Mark Bauerlein, a professor of English at Emory University. It was posted on vox.com as part of The Big Idea, a section for outside contributors’ opinions about, and analysis of, the most important issues in politics, science, and culture.

“As the cost-benefit numbers continue to look bleak, the qualifications of a public school insider should mean less and less. And the more politicians and commentators insist that the first responsibility of the secretary of education is to represent and support public schools, the more we have an example of “capture” in government.

Capture takes place when an agency charged with monitoring an industry or profession ends up in the service of it. The agency or official starts to regard the object of evaluation as a constituency that must be supported. When the governor of a state gets too close to the public employee unions around negotiating time, he has stopped representing the people of his state and become a partisan of special interests. He has been captured.”

The Department of Education and the National Education Association have long been mainstays in how we view the education of our children, possibly for generations. Over time, they have flipped how our nation once believed (the responsibility of the education of our children lies with the parents) and have instead placed the responsibility squarely upon the shoulders of the government.

The DOE and NEA are powerful structures, which I believe have been “captured” and now work to serve their own interests above the interests of our children. It is no wonder they are so threatened by an outsider, who dares to think differently and propose additional avenues to the education of our children!

In some ways, I believe we as a nation have adopted a “slave” mindset concerning how we perceive the education of our children. This is how things are. It’s all we have known. Our grandparents and our parents have served under the mindset of public education being first and foremost the responsibility of the government. We can’t fathom or imagine anything else. We have no grid for it. But the door to freedom has cracked open a bit. Do you perceive it?

What I see happening is the dismantling of some of these incredible power structures in our nation for the purpose of introducing innovative, creative solutions. And the power structures in place will have none of it!

It is my own natural bent to cling to the way things have always been, to hold onto the status quo for dear life because it is the most comfortable and safe way of doing things. But when I listen to my spirit, I hear something else. I hear embrace innovation, offer choices, expand opportunities, etc.

Honestly, I rejoice to see this day come.  My children are grown and gone, but I have a grandchild, who could one day greatly benefit from this opportunity.  It’s an exciting, albeit sometimes terrifying, season for our nation! It is my hope and prayer that our nation’s educators and administrators will see the opportunities that lie before them and welcome the kind of change that could lead to the betterment of our educational system.

I will end with this quote from the aforementioned article, which can be found here: http://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2017/2/7/14529608/betsy-devos-defense-critics-wrong-public-schools

“Indeed, as the alternative schooling movement spreads, one can imagine it attempting the same kind of capture that every other large industry aims for in its relations with the federal government.

If done with integrity, however, this diversification of primary and secondary education is clearly a threat to the privileged status of public schools. In objecting to Betsy DeVos on the grounds that she is insufficiently committed to the public schools above all other deliveries of education, her opponents are maintaining a narrow and disappointing status quo, whether they realize it or not.”

Ship Turning: A Perspective on National Course Correction

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You probably have heard the adage that goes something like this: The bigger the ship, the longer it takes to turn it around. A small ship can turn on a dime. A large vessel needs lots of time and careful preparations before making a shift in direction. While this is true as a whole, it also depends greatly upon the type of large ship we are talking about.

A cruise ship is designed primarily for the comfort of the passengers. Turning around in a critical situation would take several minutes and anything faster could create big problems, not only with the passenger’s comfort but with all the ship’s systems that are not equipped to handle sudden change. A cruise ship is a type of floating hotel. Tables and beds would be overturned. Passengers would be thrown off balance and fall. Injuries would probably ensue. Perhaps lives would be lost.

A battleship, however, can turn around much quicker, perhaps in several seconds, although even then it could cause some discomfort for the sailors and damage to equipment if it isn’t securely affixed. But these vessels are designed for war, where every second of maneuverability can mean the difference between life and death. Every man and woman on board is ready for this type of quick turnabout and is trained for it, plus, the logistics of the vessel are designed for the possibility that a sudden change may need to be taken. A battleship will suddenly change direction for strategic and tactical advantage, while a cruise ship would never have a similar reason for turning.

I think you may catch my drift here. As a nation, we have been accustomed for many years to being on a cruise ship. However, that is no longer the case. Whether you realize it or not, we are in a battle for the heart and soul of who we are as a nation. It is a spiritual war primarily but with many earthly ramifications.

For many years, we have been making a beeline in a certain direction. It has been extreme. It has been purposeful. It has been mostly unchallenged and in many cases ignored. Its ultimate destination would have been deadly in regard to our identity and sovereignty as a nation.

Change was needed and needed quickly. It has come. Although we have been duly warned, even so, we are still shocked and rocking and reeling with the change. We are being thrown about the vessel and many have threatened mutiny.

Here is why I am still “on board” and not being tossed about the ship:

1. I am a nationalist. By this I mean, I support the concept of individual nations, not a global society where borders and boundaries are erased supposedly for the common good. By being a nationalist, I am NOT saying that I believe our nation is intrinsically “superior,” should suppress weaker nations, or have no regard for other nations’ concerns. However, nations cannot be nations if they do not have boundaries and borders. They are what make us distinct and yes, defendable. If you know my husband and me, you know of our great love for the people of all nations. You know we have supported the work of the church in many places around the globe. We, ourselves, were foreigners in another country for the first year of our marriage. In no way, is the love for our nation exclusive, but our first national loyalty is to the one that has given us so many freedoms and privileges for which we are ever grateful.

2. Someday, I will be a “globalist”…but that day has not yet come. As a Christian, my first and foremost loyalty is to another kingdom – the Kingdom of God. For now, this kingdom is primarily invisible and resides in the hearts of Christians. It is manifested to some degree wherever Christians abide and are “salt and light.” However, it is not here fully and will not be until Christ returns. On that day, there will be a “one world government,” and we will be a “globalist” society with a benevolent King. But in the meantime, we have nations. Individual nations each with a unique identity, purpose, and destiny.

3. Sadly, between the time of individual nations and the return of Christ, there will be another “globalist” society. One that is ruled by a man. This is prophesied in Scripture so we know it is coming. We will lose our national identity and sovereignty, as will all nations. It will appear as if peace and world harmony have come, but it will be a false peace. Does that mean we just accept it and go along with it? No, of course not. It will be a time of great wickedness unlike we have ever seen. But for now, we have a window of opportunity to turn our crash course around. Are you aware of it?

The national course correction we have embarked upon seems severe. It seems extreme. But if you look behind us, for several years we had been on another extreme path, one that I believe would have led to destruction. We have mercifully been extended an opportunity to turn it around.

Having said that, no amount of extensive, broad reading and listening to news will give you a complete picture of the true state of the affairs of our nation. It is partial and incomplete at best. We know in part and we prophecy in part. Likewise, no amount of Scripture study and knowledge will give you all the answers. In fact, you can probably find Scriptural reference for just about any stance and opinion you have. What is needed most is discernment, an understanding of the times and seasons in which we live.

Here are three ways to grow in discernment:

1. Hold to the “main and plain” things of Scripture. There are really only a few firm stances that I maintain in life that won’t budge. Most of these are contained in the Apostles’ Creed. Many other stances are loosely held and adjustable because they are preferences or opinions.

2. Look for discerning individuals and listen widely but with wisdom. Because we only have partial knowledge and understanding, we need to put the pieces together by listening well. No opposing views should be summarily dismissed as invalid but kept under consideration until proven otherwise.

3. If you are a Christian, the Holy Spirit resides in you. Ask Him for discernment. One of His main purposes is to lead us into all truth. “When the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all the truth. For He will not speak on His own, but He will speak whatever He hears. He will also declare to you what is to come.” John 16:13

If you are a fellow Christian, we owe to one another a terrible loyalty as well. We are on the same team, not opposing ones. Most of this loyalty is expressed, not in the high places of speech and rhetoric, but in the trenches, in the low places of service as we walk out our citizenship in this great nation. See you in the trenches!

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Honor Works

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Honor Works

Are you an influencer? If so, you care passionately about communicating your beliefs, ideas, positions, concerns, and yes, even truths. However, in all our desire to influence, we can push aside the very thing that gives us the power to influence in the beginning. That is the dignity and honor in every human soul.

When we present our ideas, they should come as an invitation to others to think with us, to reason with us, to consider with us. As with any invitation, it automatically includes an R.S.V.P. In other words, the other person(s) can say yes or no or maybe. A true invitation does not include shaming, demeaning, degrading, or humiliating the invitee if they choose not to take you up on your invitation. Anyone should leave an interchange with you with their dignity as a human being intact or even elevated. They should not feel made “less than” you just because they do not see things your way. By leaving the choice with them in a winsome way, you are actually increasing your power to influence. By shoving, pushing, and cramming your opinions and beliefs, you are sadly diminishing the great gift you have as an influencer.

As you are well aware, in our society today there is tremendous pressure to polarize, divide, cast blame, point fingers, and name call, all in an attempt to present truth and win others to our side. It’s not working.

In the great arena of ideas, those that will excel and win are the noble ones, the ones that are grounded in truth. But they don’t stand a chance if they are presented in such a way that dehumanizes and even demonizes those who choose not to share them. This is my invitation for you to take a higher way. The way of honor. It works.

Gratitude and Healing: A Weird Formula

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“There is a weird formula I have observed in three decades of working with the broken: The greater the gratitude, the faster the healing journey! The less gratitude someone has, the more he or she is stuck in revenge, anger, bitterness, a sense of entitlement, and a victim mindset. There seems to be a direct correlation between the speed of the healing journey and one’s ability to forgive and be grateful.” I read these words the other day from Rebecca McDonald, founder of Women at Risk International, and I couldn’t agree more.

In my own journey towards healing, thanksgiving was and still is a powerful tool, a weapon really, in a battle against physical pain. I remember the days when I would literally keep an open journal on my table, and every time I took note of the tiniest thing to be thankful for, I would write it down. Because so much was happening that was negative, inspiring more fear, hopelessness, and loss of confidence, it became absolutely vital I identify every little blessing on a daily basis for which I was grateful. Because of this practice, it became second nature to me, and I no longer have to write it all down. But if I ever catch myself focusing on the negative, I begin this practice of penning all the evidences of God’s grace and favor on my life. And it is warfare! Every word I write is a bullet in the chest of the Liar, who suggests maybe God really isn’t all that good.

Rebecca went on to say this about the correlation between seeking justice for wrongdoing and the healing journey: “I have spent my time, resources, and energy to help our women find justice only to see time and time again that it doesn’t heal their deepest wounds. Justice is right! Don’t get me wrong. But it doesn’t magically make the pain of the scars go away.” Although I have not been the victim of any serious injustices, I found this fascinating because justice seems to be the highest prize we set our hearts upon when we have been a victim of discrimination, betrayal, abuse, or wrongdoing of any kind. However, healing still seems to elude those who obtain the prize of justice! Perhaps gratitude for what is still good is the more powerful healing agent.

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Summer Residue

Summer ResidueIn honor of the cooling temperatures and a heavy, much-needed rain last night, I broke out the first autumn candle and burned it. With the sweet, heavy scent released throughout the house, other August memories came flooding back. This time of year holds boughs laden with melancholy for me. Preparing the kids for back to school, squeezing every last drop out of summer with last minute drives to the beach, eating fresh Michigan peaches right out of the orchards, sticky juice dripping down my fingers. All of my heart cries, “It’s time! Time to wrap up another summer and begin a new season.”

Here is a little post from six years ago written as I sat on the deck on an August evening:

“I quietly step outside once again before night descends upon this late August evening. The air is subtly different now, unlike midsummer nights, signaling the upcoming change. The steady drone of cicadas remains unbroken, providing a comforting background for my evening rendezvous with the early stars. I inhale deeply and remind myself to memorize the moment to savor some dark, dreary December day. There is no turning back now. Summer silently slips away from Michigan’s grasp like sand through her fingers. Autumn quivers with anticipation behind the curtain awaiting her debut.”

If You Water It, They Will Come

13906830_10208793252601631_8219072198248097418_nI didn’t expect to see him squatting there with his green and brown spotted coat blending in with the still-damp soil and tiny weed sprouts. I had come to the gardens early in the day in search of red, juicy tomatoes for a salad lunch later.

“Well, hello there, little frog,” I murmured. What brings you out this morning?”

Then I remembered how I had watered the garden last night, and the plants and soil were still moist. It’s been a long, hot, dry spell in northern Indiana. We haven’t seen rain in days, and the lawn is sun-bleached and brittle. The vegetable and flower gardens with their bright greenery stand in stark contrast as they get watered nearly every day. Naturally, the frog set up shop where there was a source of water and refreshment.

I thought back to yesterday morning as I peeked out the kitchen window, the first rays of the sun promising another steamy, scorching day. The gardens were full of birds. They flitted in and out, disappearing momentarily among the green beans and bell pepper plants. Cardinals, sparrows, robins, and finches with little mincing steps danced choreographically in and out of the garden for this audience of one. Tiny droplets of water lingering on the plants washed over their feathers. This was their way of taking a morning shower, I surmised.

“If you water it, they will come,” the words sifted down upon my mind. “The water is intended for the plants, but so many others benefit from and depend upon it especially in the drought seasons.”

Ah, yes. I see where this is going…my life, my parched soul, my desperate need of living water. Intentional, daily watering (worship, meditating on Scripture, practicing the presence of God) is necessary for any hope of fruit. But something I hadn’t considered was the secondary by-product of this watering. Others nearby, namely my spouse, my kids, friends, and strangers alike, all benefit, too. When I am well watered, I bring a refreshment to others.

As I reached for a tomato, my little spotted visitor hopped away. I breathed a prayer, “Father, when the heat is on and souls are withering, help me live in such a way that when anyone comes near me, they come under the influence of living water.”

“The LORD will guide you continually, giving you water when you are dry and restoring your strength. You will be like a well-watered garden, like an ever-flowing spring. Some of you will rebuild the deserted ruins of your cities. Then you will be known as a rebuilder of walls and a restorer of homes.” Isaiah 58:11,12

Card-Carrying Couple

LoveBirdsI know of a couple, who on every wedding anniversary would stroll into a Hallmark store together. They would take their time and quietly browse through the rows of neatly stacked greeting cards. Every now and then, a smile would break out on their faces or a snicker escape from their lips. Eventually, they would meet up, grinning as if hiding a secret, both with a card in their hands. First, the husband would hand a card to his wife. “Oh, for me?” she would croon teasingly and open and read it and make some sweet remark. Then she would hand him a card, and he would laugh and do likewise. Then they would quietly place the cards back on the shelves and hand-in-hand exit the store. Mission accomplished. $10 saved. Off to Starbucks!

We are not that couple. And even with the advent of all the digital modes of communication, I still like to give and receive the real deal, a piece of light-weight, colorful cardboard with sticky sweet sentiments imprinted inside. One that I can discretely flip over and see the price. I don’t often visit the Family Christian Stores, purveyors of “jesus junk” or “holy hardware,” but when I do, it’s in search of the perfect anniversary card. Such was the case on this day a few years ago.

As I foraged through the cards, I became aware of a song being played in the background on a Christian radio station. Instantly, I recognized it. “I Will Be Here” by Steven Curtis Chapman. “Wow, that’s an oldie,” I thought to myself. Then it dawned on me. God knows what day this is! He arranged for this song to be played right at this moment while I’m in this store. This is His anniversary card to me. Soon I was scrambling through my purse for a Kleenex.

“Tomorrow morning if you wake up,
And the future is unclear
I will be here
As sure as seasons are made for change,
Our lifetimes are made for years
So, I will be here

I will be here and you can cry on my shoulder,
When the mirror tells us we’re older,
I will hold you and
I will be here to watch you grow in beauty
And tell you all the things you are to me
I will be here

I will be true to the promise I have made
To you and to the One who gave you to me

I will be here”

And when it was over, the announcer informed, “This song was played for many weddings over 20 years ago.” Yeah, I was pretty much a mess by this time. I found the card I was looking for and made a beeline for the counter, swiping at my cheeks.

Larry made good on those words to me.

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