A Fantastic Friday Salute to Teachers

A new school year is about to begin. Here are 10 ways to show kindness to the teachers who will be part of our kids' lives for the next 9 months.The teacher in our town went back to work this past Monday. So this Fantastic Friday features ten reasons to be kind to educators in the next few weeks and months.

My teacher friends and former co-workers in our school district went back to work yesterday. Speaking from 25 years of personal experience, here are 10 reasons to be kind to teachers for the next few days and weeks.

10.  Contrary to popular opinion, most teachers didn’t sit around the pool eating bon bons all summer. Most teachers spent much of the summer going to school to hone their skills. They even turned in assignments, sat at the other end of the red pencil, and received grades.

9.   During summer school classes, teachers wore flip flops. At home they went barefoot. And now they have to shove their feet into teacher shoes. Remember those teacher shoes? Not a pretty sight.

8.   The first few days back to school, before the kids return, are packed with meetings about exciting topics such as Proper Procedures for Cleaning Up Bodily Fluids (I’m not making this up) and the latest No Child Left Behind government regulations. The powers that be grant these topics higher priority than things allowing teachers preparation time in the classroom.

7.   Teachers know those meetings will eat away their preparation time, so they’ve already donated several unpaid days to get their classrooms ready, plan lessons, and prepare materials. And because of budget cuts, they often pay for materials out of their own pockets.

6.   At some of those meetings before the kids come, teachers learn about newly assigned duties that take away their scheduled planning time and in some cases much of their lunch hour.

5.   Once the students return, teaches spend much of their lunch hour doing one of the following: running home to let the dog out, eating at their desk while preparing for afternoon classes, or supervising students.

4.   You know how hard it is for your kids to adjust to the school schedule every fall? It’s that hard for teachers, too, because they’re big kids at heart. That’s why they’re teachers.

3.  Teachers would rather help kids succeed than mark assignments with red pencil and fill out report cards. But their job description requires they do both.

2.   Teachers spend all day supervising 25–30 people who are crowded together reading and doing paperwork in a small space without privacy cubicles. Can you think of businesses that ask adults to work in conditions like that?

1.   Your child’s teacher cares about your boy or girl. A lot. Your child’s teacher cares about every student. But teachers know they can’t give students everything they need. Teachers know that no matter how hard they works, at some point they will fail students. They will obsess over every failure and try to do better the next day, knowing they will fail again. But they keeps trying because they believes kids are worth their best effort. And if you tell teachers they’re doing a good job, they’ll remember your kindness and pass it on to a child. Because that’s what teachers do.

What would you add to the list? Leave a comment!

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Standing on my Red Card Kids Soap Box

Red Card Kids

Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them,
for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.:
Matthew 19:14

In the last five years, I’ve spent a considerable amount of time climbing on special needs soap box and preaching the special needs ministry gospel. I keep doing it, not because soap box climbing firms flabby glutes, but because I am passionate about reaching out to kids with special needs and their families. And because doing so follows the example of Jesus, who in Matthew 19:14, commanded his disciples to bring the children to him.
That’s why my co-author and I chose to use the verse from Matthew to begin our new book Every Child Welcome: A Ministry Handbook for Including Kids with Special Needs. Perhaps it’s also why the creators of the Red Card Kids chose the same passage as one of its key verses.

So many kids in this fallen world live in conditions inconceivable to you, me, and the children in churches in our country. Too many kids live in poverty. Homeless and hunger are the norm for millions. Others are orphans due to war and diseases like AIDS and ebola. Some are conscripted into armies as soldiers or sold by human traffickers into slavery. The statistics are heart-breaking.

Even so Jesus calls every child, every single child, to himself. Throughout his ministry he sought out the homeless, the poor, the oppressed, the sick, and the disabled. But how can we, as a church in a small rural town in Iowa, follow in his footsteps and seek out kids living in terrible conditions?

A good first step is to become educated about the lives of these kids who are precious in the sight of God. This summer, my home church is committed to educating every person, young and old, in our congregation about these issues. To accomplish that goal, Red Card Kids will be used as our VBS to be held during the Sunday school hour for eight weeks, starting May 31.*

Red Card Kids VBS is an opportunity for all of us, adults and children, to step outside of our comfortable lives, and experience in small ways how kids live in places far, far away.
If we are willing, God will use Red Card Kids to break up the ignorant, stony spots in all our hearts, from the youngest, the oldest, and everyone in between. He will then sow seeds of compassion into our brokenness. If we are willing, he will transform our compassion into passion that motivates all of us to climb on a soap box and preach the Red Card Kids gospel to our friends, our neighbors, and anyone else we meet.

Not because soap box climbing firms flabby glutes. But because our hearts are broken and soft. Because the compassion of Christ compels us to do what we can to reach kids who are sick, poor, homeless, hungry, orphaned, sold into slavery, or conscripted as soldiers. Because we are passionate about reaching those kids with the true gospel of hope and a better life to come.

I’m ready for Red Card Kids. My soap box ready for action. Will you start looking for your soap box and join me?

*If you live in or near Boone, Iowa, you’re cordially invited to join us at Grace Community Church each Sunday (May 31–July 26 except for the July 4th weekend) at 9:15 for our Red Card Kids VBS program. You’ll find the address and a map at the church website. If your church would like to do Red Card Kids, visit their website for more information.

Babies on the Brain

Babies on the BrainAnd He is the radiance of His glory
and the exact representation of His nature,
and upholds all things by the word of His power.
Hebrews 1:3

Babies on the brain. That’s been the state of affairs at our house ever since this summer. When both our children and their spouses announced Philo grandbaby #2 will arrive in late January followed by #3 in early April. Hiram’s busy building baby furniture and baby toys in his shop. I’m busy ordering board books and preparing freezer meals. My sister is planning a small family baby shower the weekend after Thanksgiving, and Hiram and I are planning other Christmas surprises to make life easier for the mammas after their babies are born.

With Christmas only weeks away, each time I dream of holding those sweet infants in my arms, breathing in their baby smell, and kissing their foreheads, my thoughts drift to the birth of Jesus. I think of Jesus–the radiance of God’s glory, the exact representation of His nature, who upholds all things by the word of His power–come to earth as a newborn babe. The thought boggles my mind.

Why did God come to earth as a baby? As a human baby, more dependent and for longer than any other babies in all creation? Why did God come to earth as a baby dependent on parents for both his physical survival and for the nurturing, loving relationship that teaches babies how to love? Why would God set aside his power and majesty and glory and come in humility as a baby who needed the love of mere humans in order to thrive and grow?

My answer feels small as a baby.
Insignificant as a manger.

But a baby in a manger changed the world, and the answer the Holy Spirit whispers in my heart changes the way I see the world. God came to the earth as a baby to show us that tiny lives have value. He was born to Mary and Joseph to impress upon mankind the sacredness of family. He was nurtured throughout childhood by his parents to show the importance of relationship and compassion and patience in the shaping of every life.

God sent Jesus to earth as a tiny baby, dependent on the adults who loved Him, to show sinful men how to reflect the radiance of God’s glory, the exact representation of His nature, and the power that upholds the world. It is reflected when we follow the example of Christ by humbling ourselves before the Father. By submitting to His call to engage in relationship with those who are small. With those whose survival depends upon our acts of compassion.

The changing of a diaper.
An Operation Christmas Child shoebox.
Thirty-five dollars a month to support a child in the Congo.
Fixing supper for children at Adventure Club.

Because, “Truly,” Jesus tells us, “to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.”

To Jesus. A baby born in a manger.
To Jesus, Lord of all.

What My Friend Taught Me about Philip Seymour Hoffman

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What to say about Philip Seymour Hoffman’s death? I couldn’t answer that question yesterday while writing the week’s Three Thoughts for Thursday. I didn’t know how to put into words my sadness over the loss of this brilliant actor and my anger about heroin and the destruction it causes. So I wrote about other, lighter things.

Thankfully,  my friend and co-author Katie Wetherbee penned a post that beautifully articulates what so many are feeling in the wake of Hoffman’s death. Not only that, she shifts the focus from condemnation to compassion and from blame to blessing by revealing the truth of the matter as only she can.

Once you read her post, you’ll see how blessed I am to be writing a book about making every child welcome at church with her. You’ll see why I am certain that even when my focus sometimes shifts from tots to teaching tips and from students to strategies, Katie’s compassion and clear-eyed gaze will correct my course. Therefore, you’re invited to hop on over to Katie’s post, What Philip Seymour Hoffman Taught Me, and read her wise words. You’ll be glad you did.

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Top 10 Camp Dorothy Conversations

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10.  “Jo, could you bring me the afghan my ma made. I’m cold.”
“Okay, Mom. Do you want the brown, orange, or cream-colored one?

9.    “Is it time to go to bed yet? I’m tired.”
“It’s about 7:30. Can you make it until 8:00?”

8.    “Jo, what do you have to eat around here?”
“Bananas, oranges, dried apples, cashews, or I can make some popcorn.”
“Oh, popcorn sounds good.”

7.    “Here, Jo. Since you’re going to the kitchen, I’ll let you take my popcorn bowl to the
sink.”
“Okey-dokey.”

6.    “It’s time for the weather/The Price is Right/Jeopardy/Judge Judy/Wheel of                Fortune/Antiques Roadshow. Now, how does this remote work?”
“Hmmm…I can’t figure it out either. Let’s ask Hiram.”

5.    “Mom, do you want to play Skippo?”
“I guess I can, if you’d like to.”

4.    “Mom, would you like to play Uno?”
“I guess so, if it’ll make you happy.”

3.    “Uno!”
“What do you mean, Uno already Mom?”
“I’m out, Jo. Eh-eh-eh!”
“How long have you been practicing that evil laugh? It’s kinda creepy, Mom.”
“Eh-eh-eh!”
“Dorothy, I’m going to record it and make it the ring tone on my phone.”
“Eh-eh-eh. Don’t even think it, Hiram.”

2.   “Okay, Mom. It’s 8:30 if you want to go to bed. Sleep tight. I love you.”
“I know you do.”

1.   “Both my mother and mother-in-law were really good cooks. You take after them, Jo.”
“Thanks, Mom.”

How does/did your mom say “I love you”? Leave a comment.

Photo Credit: www.freeditigalphotos.net

To the Mommy in Seat 10E

Southwest

While we waited to board our flight,
You lowered your pregnant body to the floor,
And play dolls with your daughter,
Your attention fully focused on her.

From the aisle seat across from you, I watched you
Calm your little girl, so giddy with excitement about visiting Grandma.
You had a bag full of snacks, toys, and an iPad, which occupied her
Until the command came to power it down and fasten seat belts.

Then your sweet two-and-a-half year old went ballistic.
She screamed and kicked, threw off her shoes,
Squirmed and kicked her way out of the aisle seat twice,
Until somehow you belted her securely into the window seat.

Not once did you raise your voice.
Not once did you spank her bottom or slap her hand.
Instead you told her what she had to do,
Until finally she finally obeyed and fell asleep, exhausted.

Tears streamed down your face,
As you gazed through the window,
Too ashamed to make eye contact with me
Or the other passengers who’d witnessed the scene.

While your eyes were fixed on blue sky and clouds,
A packet of tissues and a note found its way into the empty seat beside you.
“Every parent on this plane’s been where you are today,” the note said.
“You’re a good mommy. Always remember that.”

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