The Truth Principal

Buy the truth and do not sell it; get wisdom, discipline, and understanding. Proverbs 23:23

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Seeing the Potential

Recently, while visiting my daughter, I started watching HGTV home remodeling shows.  Watching homes transform from ugly to beautiful is inspiring. This evening, I took a break to watch Fixer Upper (my favorite of the house shows) after my brain could no longer focus on my work. In each episode, Chip and Joanna Gaines show prospective home buyers 3 homes that are fixer uppers at various levels of disrepair. Joanna gives the vision of what could be in each house, helping the buyers look past what is, to what could be.  Then, once the home buyers make a decision, Chip and Joanna use the home buyers’ remaining budget to remodel the home.

As I watched two shows tonight, in both instances, the home buyers chose the most dilapidated old houses.  Joanna was so excited. She kept saying, “I just love this house!” The houses looked like they should be torn down, similar to the old house in “It’s a Wonderful Life”.  Something unexpected always happens as they begin to tear out walls – leaky pipes, mold, rotting wood, old wiring, etc. Undeterred, each challenge is met with both realistic acceptance of the situation and creative ways to resolve it, while still maintaining the integrity of their transforming plan. The transformations for both homes were amazing, and always within budget. As I heard Joanna say once again, “I just love this house!” it made me think of my teachers and students.

Students come in all shapes and sizes, at various levels of academic success, with varying personalities, talents, and struggles. Some students are easy, some are more difficult, and a few can really challenge the teacher’s bag of tricks and the depths of her love and patience. They have a lot of “character” but it’s hard to see past the “junk” of their challenges. Sometimes, just when we think we are making headway, new problems arise that impede progress. It can be discouraging!  It takes a special person, one who sees what everyone else is missing, to see the potential and beauty in that challenging student.

I have wonderful teachers at my school!  In the next few days, I will be finalizing the class placement for the coming year. I don’t know how other schools do it, but I take a lot of time, read input from teachers and parents, and prayerfully consider the placement of every student. My prayer is that each student would be with classmates and a teacher that is the right match for them. I will admit I take a little extra time for those few students that we find challenging; I work extra hard to ensure they have a teacher that will see past the difficulties and hard work to the finished product, someone who will love the student and welcome the challenge to bring that student to their full potential. I know I am successful when I hear “I just love this student!”


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Random Thoughts on Obedience – Inside and Out

Have you heard the story of the little boy (some variations are of a little girl) who has been told to sit down for time out, to fasten a seatbelt, or to sit in a highchair? The child refuses repeatedly, then finally sits, but declares, “I’m still standing on the inside!”

As I have been pondering obedience, that story comes to mind. Did the child obey? Well, he wasn’t quick to obey, but did he obey? Yes, he did eventually sit, so that was certainly outward obedience. As a parent or a teacher, we aren’t always satisfied with that level of obedience, are we? We want our children to obey both outwardly and inwardly.

Another story also came to mind. Jesus tells a parable of two sons. Matthew 21:28-32 (NLT) says,

“But what do you think about this? A man with two sons told the older boy, ‘Son, go out and work in the vineyard today.’  The son answered, ‘No, I won’t go,’ but later he changed his mind and went anyway.  Then the father told the other son, ‘You go,’ and he said, ‘Yes, sir, I will.’ But he didn’t go.

“Which of the two obeyed his father?”

They replied, “The first.”

The first son clearly did not want to obey, but he did it anyway. The second son said what the father wanted to hear. He seemed willing, but he didn’t follow through. He didn’t obey. Obedience, then, is the doing of what is required and it is not necessary to like it or agree with it to fulfill the requirement.

The third thing I have been pondering along these lines is submission. Unlike obedience, submission isn’t limited to those in authority over us, and it is a choice we make; submission is not coerced or mandated. When we submit, we put aside our will and do the will of the one to whom we are submitting. It could be a one time thing or a constant sacrifice of love to a beloved. But unlike obedience, submission is a choice. It is a gift, an act of love and respect for the one to whom we are submitting. The most vivid picture of this occurred when Jesus was in the Garden of Gethsemane. He prayed, “Yet not as I will, but as you will.” and ““My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.” (from Matthew 26:36-46) Although Jesus was “overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death”, He set aside His will to do the will of His Father. That is submission.

When we are training children, they must obey. Sometimes they obey willingly. These are the children who, when told to sit,  are also sitting on the inside. They are the ones who are learning to submit along with learning to obey. I hope as I and my faculty teach our students, that we nurture a willingness to submit that leads to hearts fully submitted to the Father.

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Obedience. The word doesn’t exactly inspire joy in us, does it? As adults, we may tend to consider “obedience” as something for children. In fact, we would prefer to be obeyed than to obey. But the reality is we all have authorities over us whom we are required to obey. Obedience is for all us. And, I would submit, that obedience is for our good and could bring us joy.

A few years ago, I was sitting at lunch with some coworkers who were discussing their experiences using the invisible fence training their dogs to stay in the yard. When an invisible fence is installed, flags are put up around the yard where the fence is as a visual cue for the dog. If the dog tries to venture past the flag, they get a shock from their collar. Eventually the flags are removed and the dog learns their boundaries. The purpose of the invisible fence is to give their dog freedom in the yard while preventing him from going into the street where he could get harmed or lost. It’s a boundary that allows for an appropriate amount of freedom while protecting from dangers.

One of my friends told how her dog did not like the restriction of the invisible fence and would always run through it, getting shocked along the way, and get outside the perimeter of the yard. It always caused pain, but he persisted. Eventually, he was hit by a car and injured. My other friend had the opposite response from her dog. Her dog was so alarmed by the shock he could get at the perimeter, he stayed right by the house, too terrified to venture out into the yard.

As I listened to my friends’ dog stories, I though how much like them we are. God has given us commands to obey. He has given them to teach us right from wrong so that we can live a life that honors Him. His commands give us both freedom and protection. If we obey, He promises blessing and if we disobey, He warns of consequences.  Leviticus 25:18 says, “Follow my decrees and be careful to obey my laws, and you will live safely in the land.” Isn’t that sort of like the invisible fence? Obedience to God brings safety. Some of us, like the first dog, feel restricted by the law and choose disobedience, but it leads to pain, injury, and even death. Others of us are like the second dog. We are so fearful of disobeying that, like the Pharisees, we create rules of our own, more restrictive than God’s rules, to be sure we don’t disobey God. By doing so we miss the freedom that is ours!

Many of us choose to restrict ourselves from some things that we have the freedom to enjoy in moderation. Sometimes our choice morphs into “law”. Some Christians view drinking any wine or alcoholic beverage “sinful” and prohibit its use entirely, judging any believer who may responsibly drink wine on occasion. Of course there are good reasons for many to avoid it entirely, especially if they or their loved ones struggle with alcoholism. That is simply wisdom; a wise choice in light of loving our weaker brother. While this is a wise choice for many, avoiding alcohol entirely is not required by God. It is a man-made rule for a particular person or circumstance. The complete prohibition of anything with alcohol is an extreme to avoid excess which leads to drunkenness, which is sin. Like the Pharisees, we sometimes try to put our man-made rules equal with or above God’s. When I diet, I may try to avoid sweets entirely, and set a rule for myself to not eat cake. But if I decide to eat cake one day, I am not sinning. I am only breaking my own rule and possibly sabotaging my efforts to lose weight.

When we are afraid that we might “accidentally” sin, we sometimes set up our own fence much closer to the house so we don’t get zapped. But in doing so, we also miss the freedom of the yard. 1 John 5:3 says, “In fact, this is love for God: to keep his commands. And his commands are not burdensome.” His commands are not burdensome! They provide boundaries of safety inside which we have tremendous freedom. Jesus says that His yoke is easy, and His burden is light. (Matthew 11:30)

In my neighborhood, there is a dog that has been trained by his invisible fence. He romps and plays all around the yard and when I walk by, he goes right to the edge of the boundary and barks at me to his heart’s content, but is a safe distance from me, protecting both him and me. I think when we understand that God’s commands are good for us and protect us from dangers, we can have the same joy in obedience. I think this is why David spends so much time in Psalm 119 rejoicing in God’s law.

“I will always obey your law, for ever and ever. I will walk about in freedom, for I have sought out your precepts.” Psalm 119:44-45