March 21, 2016

Feeling the Rub

Spring Break has arrived, and I feel under the weather! UGH! Most of my students have been sick, really sick, and I have tried my best to steer clear of their germs. I think I am suffering from allergies mostly. My ears and nose are stuffed this morning, and I have a slight sore throat. I am sure I will feel better once the morning progresses, and once I get my second cup of coffee (coffee does wonders!)

I have a lot on my plate right now. I am in the middle of grading my student's second essay. I tried to get them finished last night, but after reading through 90 or so, my brain simply shut down. To make matters worse, the quality of these essays is very poor. My students turned in crap-o-la this time around, and well, they are going to be disappointed in their grades as a result. I hate it when they do this to me. I mean, I am a very gracious grader. I tend to be generous in order to encourage them to improve, but when they don't take me seriously, when they think I am a push-over, an easy grader, well, then I get peeved. I am gracious, but I am tough when it comes to doing what is right. If students don't follow the directions, don't find good sources, and don't bother to spell-check -- the result is -- not very pretty. These are marks of college level writing, thus, to not even bother to follow the guidelines tells me that there is little interest in getting a good grade. Sigh!

Feeling the Rub Today

God is good to me, so very good to me. I am able to push on because of His goodness in my life. Still, I do struggle at times, and on days like these, I wonder if all this effort is really worth the cost.  I guess you could say that this is the "rub" that is part and parcel to teaching college courses. I do so enjoy teaching; in fact, I love it! What I don't like to do is read student essays. I detest reading them, evaluating them for grades, and such. I want to just teach, interact in class, and move on. The rub for me is when I have to review less than quality papers. I understand that these are freshman papers, but so often, I will read somewhat solid essays. This time, however, the quality was so poor that I even struggled to make it through some of them. The Lord knows how this bothers me, how this taxes me to no end, and how I hate having to give low grades. But, then I have to reward effort, and in my book, that means that if the student tries hard, puts forth the effort, but turns in low quality, typically there is a reason for it. Most of the time, it is simply a learning issue that can be resolved with direction. If, however, the student turns in low quality work because of laziness, sloppiness, or disinterest, then the effort is rewarded likewise. It is a waste of my time to read lazy or shoddy work.

I am tired of students telling me that they need to spend their time on their science or math courses or they worked on another professor's essay instead of mine. They somehow think that this will make me say, "Oh, okay!" I am tired of students expecting a grade when they are not doing the work to earn the grade. I guess I have been gracious for too long now, and I have not wanted my students to fail. I need to re-evaluate my priorities and to realize that my time is precious. I give my all to my students. I show up, I teach, I train. They show up, they listen to their headphones, they don't bother listening to me. It is time for their grades to reflect their participation and their interest in class.

Thinking More About Life

I wish I could say that I am happy today, but I am not. I am trying to do what is best for my students, but frankly, I feel like an utter failure. I think I would be fine had my mentor chosen to approach me with a different tack. I mean, had he approached me with concerns, but gave me time to process them or even gave me time to know he had some concerns, well, that would have served me better. I would have been ready to listen. Instead, he attacked me without giving me any fair warning, and that in my books, is unprofessional. His feedback was not meant to be this way, of that I am sure. Yet, I am still reeling from his comments, and from the fact that he is now "observing" my classroom on a daily basis. I feel like I am under the microscope without any fair representation. It is like I went from being 100% approved to being treated as though I have one foot out the door. This type of behavior demonstrates a lack of leadership, an unwillingness to mentor and to encourage others. It has had negative repercussions on my work, for certain, and it has left me with a very bad taste in my mouth (so to speak).

I have struggled since last week to pull myself together and to do my own work. This pressure has been building, and thankfully, with Spring Break, I will have time to decompress and focus on my dissertation and other more important tasks. Still, I am sorrowed by this maneuver, and I cannot help but think that the purpose is or was to get me out the door.

I am okay with that push, I mean, why would I want to stay someplace that is punitive and micromanaged like this? I really do not do well in these types of environments, so to me, this is just the push I need to get me moving forward. The problem, though, is that I don't have a place to go yet. The Lord hasn't opened any door to help me find His next best job.

Surrendering All

Yesterday, I went to Scottsdale Bible Church. Our pastor emeritus, Darryl DelHousaye, preached on Galatians 5:22-23, the Fruit of the Holy Spirit. He filled in for our senior pastor, who I am sure, had taken vacation for the upcoming Easter holiday. Pastor Darryl preached on the last of the nine listed fruits, that of self-control. His message was funny, humorous, and self-deprecating (as is his way), but still had some zing to it. I took notes, and I enjoyed listening to him preach God's word. I came away from the service thinking one thing only: think blue dot.

Pastor Darryl has given his "red dot, blue dot" sermon many times. He uses it to illustrate how to control your thoughts, and since he was preaching on self control, his illustration fit the bill well. In his message, he linked thinking about blue dots over red dots with surrendering to the will of God. Let me explain...

In DelHousayean linguistics, red dots are those things we shouldn't think about -- things like jealously, anger, lust, etc. Blue dots are the things we should think about -- things like the fruit of the Holy Spirit (goodness, gentleness, meekness, etc.). Thus, when we face issues of self-control, rather than trying to use our own will power and THINK about blue dots rather than red dots, we find the effort rarely succeeds. Instead, his reasoning states that blue dots are really thoughts directed toward one end: obeying God. Therefore, when we choose to think "I will obey God," we are choosing to think in a wide range of blue dots. He says, "God empowers obedience," thus suggesting that when we obey, the power of God is activated within our lives so that we can overcome whatever obstacle, trial or issue we face.

In this world and in this world system, we are told that we have the power to choose, the power to control, the power to overcome -- all through our own effort and will power. Yet, in the Bible we read that we cannot overcome, we cannot do anything good, in and of our own strength. Therefore, no matter how many times we choose to think and do the right thing, we often will fail simply because of our inability to keep ourselves in control. In many ways, this line of thinking supports the idea of two standards: one is kept under the law (legalism) and the other is kept under grace (freedom in Christ). This point is that when we attempt to control our words or deeds, we are using our own abilities, and thus, we are trying to legalize our actions. We may be able to do this for a time, but the cost to our attitude and our countenance will be to be as Darryl says, "to look like we have been baptized in pickle juice" (soured).

The answer according to DelHousayean logic is simple: surrender to the will of God. When we surrender to the will of God, we are saying that we want to obey His will in every area of our life. In doing so, we are choosing obedience above every other action. Thus, our attitude is one of submission. Our submission brings glory to God the Father, and it enables the Holy Spirit, our comforter, to do what He does best -- that is -- to empower us to "describe the character of God" through our words and our actions.

As I sat in the worship center yesterday, I couldn't help but marvel at the simplicity of His message. Pastor Darryl has always had a very simple outlook on life. Despite the fact that he is the President of Phoenix Seminary, and despite that he holds numerous degrees and has been a preacher for nearly half a century, he still is able to make the truth of Scripture easy to understand and digest. I left yesterday thinking to myself, "in all of this mess (my life), all I need to do is to surrender, to submit to the Lord in obedience" and His will will be done. Yes, it is through obedience to God that the Spirit of Christ can have His way in me. In this manner, He will be able to transform me from the inside out, make me think, do, and live in such a way that my life pleases the Father.

So while I stress over what has happened at GCU this past week, I remember that I can do nothing in my own strength. My will power is very strong. I am adept and skilled at many things. I am capable, and in many ways, I am an achiever. Yet, I can do nothing on my own. It is in His strength that all things are possible. I desire to please God, but I cannot. I desire to live rightly (righteously), but I cannot. I desire to live a holy life, to remain free from sin, but I cannot do it no matter how hard I try or how long I place myself under the rules and regulations of the law. I am not able to save myself -- nor (get this) -- sanctify myself for His name, His praise or His glory. No, I can not save, sanctify or set myself apart for His work. Only He can do this. Only He has DONE THIS.

As we transition into this holy week, the week leading up to Easter, I am reminded that my efforts will also be "less than quality" when they come to meeting His standard. Thus, no matter how many times I think "blue dot," my mind will always choose "red dot" instead. Unless, that is, I choose to surrender my thoughts, my will, and my effort to Him -- as a pleasing aroma, a living and holy sacrifice.

This is my act of service today. This is my desire, my intention, and my will. I will obey the word as it is written in Romans 12:1 AMP,

Therefore I urge you, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies [dedicating all of yourselves, set apart] as a living sacrifice, holy and well-pleasing to God, which is your rational (logical, intelligent) act of worship.

There is no other way to be happy in Jesus -- then to trust and obey.

Thank you, Pastor Darryl! I needed your gentle, but so powerful reminder that obedience is always a sure way to please God, the Father.

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