Tests for Teachers

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It’s scary how easy it is to become a teacher.

Suddenly it all makes sense… my medically bipolar Physics teacher (who yelled at students)… my hateful and arrogant Calculus teacher (who emotionally abused students)… my perpetually high German teacher (who likely sold marijuana to students)…

As I have started working on my Teaching Certification, I have been astonished by how simple the process is; how easy it is to become certified to teach the next generation of young minds. All I have to do is: shadow another teacher for 30 hours, take 80 hours’ worth of online lessons, and pass the State exam for my subject matter of choice. I’ve only been at it for a month, and I’m already nearly halfway through.

The quizzes for the online lessons are a joke. For the lesson entitled, “The Importance of Lesson Planning,” one of the questions was something like:

(In case you aren’t sure… remember that the title of the quiz is “The Importance of Lesson Planning”!)

 

In the online lesson about sexual assault in schools, the questions were all like this one:

I don’t even read the lessons most of the time and still get a 100%. It’s no wonder our students are growing up believing that global warming is causing the polar ice caps to recede, pro-life organizations deceive pregnant women into giving birth (this from my 15-year-old cousin at Christmas), and that everyone should be entitled to a “free” college education in America.

The more I explore the possibility of teaching, the more I realize that our country is desperately in need of some good teachers.

Authentically Aurora

 

Eating Kumquats

Lumberjack“I think Joe is going to visit our bible study on Wednesday,” Cindy told me, her facial expression carefully neutral. She didn’t want to influence me one way or another.

“Oh really? That’s great!” I told her, unsure of my own feelings on the matter. I’d met Joe a few weeks earlier at a worship night Cindy had hosted at her house. The two of them had been friends for years, and Cindy had not-so-subtly pointed him out to me as a potential prospect once I finished my break from dating.

Joe had made quite an impression on me at the time. Cindy knew my type well. Over six feet tall with broad shoulders and a full beard, all Joe needed was a flannel shirt to make him look like a genuine lumberjack. Cindy had shared with me that Joe went to college at one of the US military academies, which made him all the more attractive to me.

As we sang worship songs together that evening in early March, I’d discovered that Joe not only played guitar expertly, but he also had a lovely baritone voice. He and I harmonized well, and I’d had to close my eyes to focus on the lyrics of the praise songs and keep my heart in check.

Later that evening, Joe had walked in on Cindy and me in full-on “girl talk” mode. We’d been chattering away about him, so we fell instantly silent and then erupted into giggles when he unexpectedly entered the room. He’d just smiled and turned back around, but later he’d asked Cindy for my phone number. After getting permission from me, Cindy sent him my contact information, and Joe had started calling me every other day.

During our phone conversations, I found Joe to be intelligent and academic. He was a deep thinker, and I enjoyed our mental sparring about theology, politics, sociology and all manner of other topics. But I also discovered that Joe had never finished at the Air Force Academy; he’d dropped out after two years. He didn’t have a college degree and had taken a job at the family A/C business. Upon examining my feelings about his lack of degree, I realized it wasn’t his lack of college education that bothered me; it was his lack of ambition. He’d dropped out of school and didn’t seem to have the drive to make his own way in the world.

Joe also shared with me that he’d grown up in a broken family. His mom left his dad for another woman when he was only five years old. He’d grown up with the lesbian couple and was home schooled most of his life. That explained to me something I’d been wondering about – Joe was built like an ox but, candidly, displayed some effeminate tendencies and also seemed a bit socially awkward in groups. I soon learned that Joe had never had a girlfriend, never been kissed and never even been on a date. He is 29 years old.

I wanted to like Joe. I really did. He is a smart, attractive, godly man. He genuinely loves the Lord and is very intelligent and articulate; insightful in an academic sense if not perceptive in a social one. But the chemistry wasn’t there for me. That intangible, indescribable personality spark that came so easily with Seth just didn’t manifest with Joe, and that wasn’t something I could help.

I knew I needed to let Joe down, but I wanted to do it in person, so if he came on Wednesday night as Cindy suspected, I figured we could have the conversation then. What I hadn’t accounted for was that Seth would also visit our group that week. So on that Wednesday night at the end of March – still in the midst of my fast from dating – I found myself at bible study with both Seth and Joe.

At the end of our lively group discussion about the deity of Jesus, everyone stood and organically clustered into groups, catching up and socializing before saying goodbye for the night. I found Seth by my side at the end of bible study, and he told me with a smile, “I have something for you.”

“Oh yeah? What is it?”

“I’m leaving for the ranch tomorrow. I’ll be gone for two weeks working the land, but I brought you kumquats to enjoy in the meantime. I picked them from a tree in my backyard.”

“Kumquats? What are those?” I was sad Seth would be gone for so long, but I was glad he’d brought something for me to remember him by while he was away.

“They’re a fruit. Sort of like little peaches.”

“Oh,” I replied with a grin, tilting my head to the side, “So they’re like me!”

Seth smiled at me affectionately and gave a low chuckle. “Yep, you’re my little peach.”

Just then, a group of girls joined us, so Seth excused himself, calling to me as he retreated that I should stop by his truck before I left so he could give me the kumquats he’d brought.

I chatted for a few minutes with Rachel and some other girls before looking around for Seth. He was already standing at his truck, driver door propped open, watching me from afar. “Oh! I’d better go!” I told the girls.

But Joe was waiting for me. I hadn’t seen him standing off to the side until he marched to my side with gusto, obviously intent on walking me to my car. Heart sinking, I realized that I’d parked just beyond Seth’s truck, so Joe – hand on my elbow – was escorting me on a path to walk right past Seth on the way to my car.

Starting to panic – wondering how to navigate the situation – I tried to tell Joe I needed a minute, but he was prattling on about his intentions to pursue a godly relationship with me, oblivious to my attempts to interject, both to tell him I didn’t feel we had chemistry and to explain that I needed to stop and say goodnight to Seth.

The old truck loomed nearer, and soon we were beside it, Seth watching me from his back-lit stance beside his driver seat and Joe still confessing how he felt about me. Frustrated and desperate, I put my hand on Joe’s arm to stop him, finally talking over him by way of interruption, “Hold that thought.”

I turned to Seth with a forced smile and said, “You have something for me?”

Knowing that Seth was leaving for the ranch in the morning – knowing that I wouldn’t see him for two weeks – I really wanted some alone time with him to talk and have a quiet moment to say goodbye. But I could sense Joe’s presence lurking behind me as I studied the tanned face. I couldn’t read Seth’s expression, partly because he was back-lit and partly because he schooled his features. I could only guess what he must be thinking.

Seth extended a plastic grocery bag to me, reaching in as he did so to pull out a small, oblong, orange fruit. “This is a kumquat,” he told me, turning it over in his hand.

Joe stepped closer to examine the fruit, and Seth pulled out a kumquat for Joe as well. The men shook hands and introduced one another. Seth was gracious, commenting kindly, “Ah, I see you’ve got dirt under your fingernails. My dad always told me never to trust a man with clean cuticles.” They laughed together, and I stood in bewilderment at their camaraderie.

Seth had planned to show me how to eat a kumquat, biting off the end and sucking out the meat, mindful of the seeds. He showed Joe as well, and the three of us – not exactly what he’d had in mind, I’d wager – stood outside of Seth’s truck, talking quietly into the darkness and eating kumquats under the partially-visible stars.

After several minutes, Seth seemed to concede that Joe wasn’t going to take the hint to leave. Joe’s delighted, bearded face showed no sign of awareness that he was trespassing on what was intended to be an intimate farewell, so Seth excused himself, giving each of us a cluster of kumquats before climbing into his truck and driving away.

I watched his taillights fade into the distance, my ears only partly registering Joe’s commentary on what a great guy Seth seems to be, the lumberjack’s voice garbled by the fruit in his mouth. Stuffing down my irritation, I allowed Joe to walk me the rest of the way to my car, where we stood and talked for only another couple of minutes before he bid me goodnight.

Feigning calm until he was out of sight, I jumped in my car, started the engine and dialed Seth. When he answered, the low rumbling of his chuckle made my stomach somersault. “Well you’re a hot commodity, aren’t you?”

Authentically Aurora

Undistracted Devotion

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Do you ever feel like Someone is really going out of His way to tell you something? You notice the same theme showing up a few times in the same month. Or you hear a recurring comment from different people in your life multiple times the same week. Or you even pick up the same message being repeated over and over multiple times in a single day. Like that new Adele song on the radio.

When Ashley and I took that road trip to visit our alma mater earlier this week, going on a Tuesday was intentional. A bible study that really impacted our college years still meets every Tuesday night on campus. Well, I call it a bible study. It’s more of a weekly conference now, with literally thousands of students gathering in the basketball arena to listen to the speaker, Ben, share his wisdom, insight and hilarious anecdotes.

So on Tuesday night, after visiting our favorite college study spots and coffee shops (and singing in the Globe Room!), Ashley and I made our way to the basketball arena to get good seats for the bible study session. After about thirty minutes of amazing worship music, Ben took the stage and announced that the topic for that night would be…. (wait for it)…. Singleness!

I seriously laughed out loud. And then groaned. And looked at Ashley with an expression that surely communicated my internal, “Really?! Ugh.” 

Just that morning, I had drafted my blog post on how I want to use the freedom of my singleness to make a positive difference babysitting foster kids. “I want to enjoy this season of singleness,” I’d written. “There is so much I can do in this chapter of life where I have freedom from spousal responsibility… I am freer than I will ever be. The world is my oyster.”  I get it, God! I know singleness is a gift of a season! So why do I have to sit through another message about it?!

I knew it was going to be a good message – Ben never fails to deliver amazing, inspiring, goose-bump-inducing messages – but I was internally (and externally) groaning at the thought of having to listen to yet another person tell me how “wonderful” singleness is.

Sure enough, Ben started off by reading from 1 Corinthians 7, describing singleness as a “gift.” But out of genuine respect for Ben and his teaching (and, you know, God… and the apostle Paul), I stayed tuned in. Ashley and I had driven all the way into town for this, after all! Here’s what Ben had to say:

What we want isn’t always what’s good for us. And what’s good for us isn’t always appreciated. Sometimes it takes love and wisdom to recognize the benefits of certain blessings. Like a 7-year-old boy getting 100 shares of stock instead of that slingshot he wanted. Or a 28-year-old girl getting another few years of singleness instead of that husband she thought she’d have before age 30. You know, hypothetically speaking of course…

According to Scripture, singleness is a gift, and God is good and loving. If we believe the bible is the inerrant Word of God, we must accept that – painful as it can be – singleness is a gift to us from a good and loving Father.

Singleness is a gift God gives because He wants to secure in us an undivided attention to Him. Dating is distracting. Marriage is distracting. And God doesn’t want us to be distracted in church; in bible study; in life by looking at or for a significant other.

God desires our good, and since He knows He is the only one who can truly satisfy our deepest longings, He grants us the gift of a season of singleness so we can learn to zero in on Him; to focus on the One who can meet our needs so that, in marriage, we don’t lean too heavily on a spouse who will inevitably disappoint us. We must stop pursuing the satisfaction of our souls in the arms of other people. They were not created to satisfy. 

“There is a tendency in humanity to downplay the circumstances of your current season and play up the benefits of other seasons,” Ben went on. As a married man himself, he reminded us that marriage is great, but it is taxing – mentally; emotionally; financially. Marriage is a beautiful season in its time, but there is SO MUCH POWER in singleness!

In seasons of singleness, you are unencumbered. You have freedom. Time. Resources. You will never have this same amount of free time and resources again in your life, and the most content single people are those who understand the purpose of singleness. Don’t spend hours of your life living in fantasy worlds when the real world is burning up. You have opportunities afforded to you in singleness that will dissipate when you get married.

Ultimately, singleness, dating and marriage are not the main story of your life. They are not your primary purpose, and they should not be your life’s focus. There’s not a lot of time left in this world. We are living in the last days, and life is short. Why do we not care more about the state of someone’s soul than their relationship status (including our own)?

If you are single, God has given you the gift of singleness in order to glorify him with undistracted devotion, not to fill your life with distractions to pass the time until you get married. Which of these defines your singleness? Are you living your season of singleness with purpose and intentionality? This is the million dollar question.

God will give you grace to endure singleness for its season. Make the most of this time! Pursue an undivided devotion to God. And, in the words of Jim Elliot, “Let not our longing slay the appetite of our living.” Amen.

Authentically Aurora

An Unexpected Song

Globe Room

Have you ever been a trendsetter who didn’t even know you were setting a trend? Or a key driving force behind a movement that was just something you were doing because it was fun? Sometimes fire catches when we are just playing with our sparklers for no other reason than they are pretty and bring us joy. In fact, I believe some of the best movements are started that way: unintentionally.

On Tuesday this week, Ashley and I played hookie from work to take a spontaneous road trip to our alma mater. Okay, it wasn’t really hookie. We logged our vacation time and told our bosses. And it was only about a 2 hour drive, so it wasn’t much of a road trip. And it’s possible we planned it about a week in advance, so perhaps it wasn’t entirely spontaneous. But still. We were adventurous!

Anyway, it was seriously the perfect day. We got to campus in the late afternoon as warm, golden rays of sunlight sifted through the trees. The weather couldn’t have been better – sunny and 75 – and it was glorious to stroll through the sprawling courtyards and relive our happy memories there.

We took a university bus across campus as though going to classes, ate at one of our favorite college sandwich joints, visited a couple of our favorite bookstores and coffee shops, and we finally tried strawberry tarts at a famous upscale restaurant that was way outside of our budgets during our college years.

The entire day was magical (and we hope to make it a quarterly tradition!), but my favorite part of the day was completely unexpected. There is a building in the center of campus – the Memorial Center – that serves as something of a student union or center for student activities. Within the Memorial Center is a room called the Globe Room, where the mahogany walls are lined with bookshelves, and the hardwood floors are covered in rich rugs of emerald, burgundy and midnight blue. Historical flags hang from the ceiling, and two gemstone globes serve as centerpieces surrounded by rich leather couches where students sit studying.

Everything about the Globe Room makes me feel like I am home; I have found my personal heaven on earth. Each time I enter, I breathe deeply, taking in the scents of leather and old books before giving a happy sigh. The Globe Room also houses a grand piano in one corner of the room, and during my days at university, various students would occasionally walk in, play a few soothing classical pieces (think “Moonlight Sonata” or “Clair de Lune”); then step out again, leaving the rest of us to our books and studies.

On Tuesday when Ashley and I walked into the Globe Room, a young man sat at the piano playing a soothing melody. He was clearly talented – the kind of person who can play piano without sheet music; the kind of person who can play brilliantly by ear.

Ashley and I sat down in two plush chairs, and I closed my eyes to better take in the sounds and smells of my favorite room on campus. I smiled to myself as I recognized the tune the pianist transitioned into. Then I was surprised to hear his low voice quietly singing along. I found myself harmonizing to his melody line under my breath. I hadn’t realized I knew the words to the song, but I did.

The pianist looked up, hearing my harmony drifting over to him, and he started to sing louder. So I smiled, apologized to Ashley (who occasionally is made to feel uncomfortable by my boldness), and walked over to the piano, where the man continued playing. We crescendoed together until we were each singing our parts at full volume. I’d never heard anyone sing along to the grand piano in the Globe Room before, but it was exhilarating, and I smiled to myself as I looked around at the old, familiar surroundings.

The music faded out, and the pianist (Daniel, I learned later) transitioned smoothly into yet another song. As he played the opening chords, I was astonished to recognize it as a Christian worship song: “Great Are You Lord” by All Sons & Daughters. I let him sing the first few lines solo; then I softly came in with gentle harmony for the last few lines of the first verse.

As Daniel and I grew into the chorus, a young man walking past the Globe Room paused in the hallway and leaned in, listening. Near the end of the first chorus, another person stood from one of the couches and walked over to the piano, singing the words along with us. And then we were joined by another. And another.

My heart felt full, looking around at my brothers and sisters in Christ – people I’d never met before; people I didn’t even know. But even without knowing each other’s names, we started a movement in the Globe Room. Daniel unintentionally started a worship service in the heart of a public, state university.

The whole experience was beautiful and awe-inspiring, and I didn’t even realize what was happening until it was almost over. It was otherworldly worshiping together with complete strangers, sharing a spiritual bond as we united in Christ, praising our King without regard for doctrinal or denominational differences. My prayer is that we were not the only ones who sensed it; the supernatural force – the Holy Spirit – that permeated the Globe Room that afternoon. God truly is able to do more than we could ever ask or imagine, and this experience is one I will not soon forget.

Authentically Aurora