Monday, June 29, 2009

Gopher poop

I've been in my classroom for most of the afternoon today with the intention of working on writing lesson plans for the Ag business curriculum I am incorporating into my animal science class this fall. I've been halfway productive but I definitely felt the need to share something with all three of my blog readers. It's so gross, so disturbing that I can't pass this moment up.

I just returned from taking Jonnie Reb to go potty outside...yep, that's right from the mild heat of an Arizona. Okay, so 112 probably isn't considered mild. Temperature aside though, Jonnie immediately found some gopher poop to eat. Or at least I thought it was gopher poop. After she chewed up that little doggie delicacy she found another pile of it. Meanwhile I'm standing in the shade of my building gagging, and begging her to quit being so gross so she can hurry up and go potty. She has this innate ability to locate and devour piles of poop like this.

The wierd thing about is not that I'm drawn to blogging about this subject, but that it totally doesn't gross me out when she eats cow manure at home. In fact, I encourage her to do so. Cow manure to a puppy is like otter pups to a child. Anyway, there is something just downright wrong about eating unidentified (gopher?) poop.

Okay, that's it. I feel better now that that is off my chest. Thanks for bearing with me. I hope you come back and read my blog again. I promise never to blog about gopher poop again. I swear.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Something I can't live without

Besides God, nothing else is truly essential to my life. I do however like to think that seeing sunrises and sunsets are essential. It's wierd. I'm so drawn to these events each day. I delight in seeing them as if God created each one specially for me. I am also very partial to Arizona's and wish I could say that they are truly the most dramatic. I willingly concede this point only because I myself have witnessed sunsets equally impressive in places like Omaha, Key West and Gainesville. I don't know why I crave seeing them but I do know that are a generous gift from God and perfectly depict his creativity through color. I hope you enjoy this picture of a sunset at Picacho Peak and in it are reminded of God's power, glory and goodness in giving us gifts such as this.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

The hard stuff

Webster's dictionary defines "hard stuff" as any challenge or difficulty in our life that makes us question God. Okay, I joke, I joke. Webster's didn't say that, but I did. I may only be 26 but I have experienced a few storms that have made me question God and ask why. Why is this happening to me? What are you trying to teach me? Why me? Why doesn't God make it stop?

You may have asked yourself similar questions, and also like me you may have not made the most of the pain in your life. Make the most of it? Whoa, Katy, back that horse up. Make the most of pain? Strife? Discomforts? Someone's death? Losing a job? Working with a challenging co-worker? Divorce? Miscarriage? Feeling desperate? How are we to make the most of something like this?

I've been toying with some of these questions during the past two years as I've dealt with various challenges; most of these challenges associated in some way with my new career as an Ag teacher. There were brief moments of feeling desperate, not knowing how to deal with the situation, and definitely not understanding why I had been selected for this. What I failed to recognize through most of this though is that even in the most painful and challenging moments of my life God is still good and I can trust Him. It's not that I didn't know this truth, but I failed to let this truth permeate my perspective of each situation.

In Romans 8:31-32 God says, "What shall we say about such wondeful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us? Since he did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all, won't he also give us everything else?" Think about this-God didn't just lay down the life of His son and then expect us to deal with everything else on our own. No! As Paul states, won't He give us everything else too? Through every challenge we must be confident that God is still good and we can trust Him. The one man who was perfect and blameless still suffered and died (Jesus). If Jesus expected to suffer, we too can expect this. But...the big but...there is a purpose in our suffering. We may not always know what it is or why it is happening to us but we can be confident that God does. God is good and we can trust that He knows the purpose for every bit of suffering and strife in our lives. This is the eternal perspective that we must approach all things.

So, why am I talking about this today? Partly because this message struck a still-sensitive chord in my heart after two years of a specific challenge. Partly because I am still learning to make the most of pain and struggles in my life. And partly because I have been an observer of the grief of two of my good friends. I met Jake and Rebecca Mutz while living in Florida for graduate school. They now live in a suburb of Denver and last year they lost their daughter, Molly Ann, shortly after giving birth to her. Rebecca's pregnancy seemed perfect--full term, enjoyable. Even her labor and delivery went off without a hitch. But after rushing Molly to the NICU they found out that half of her brain had been affected by brain damage. The doctors told them they would need to make Molly comfortable until she passed away. Jake and Rebecca waited nine months to hold their precious daughter in their hands to spend the rest of their lives investing in hers. And then they were only able to spend roughly a week with her, making her comfortable, until she could go home to Jesus. Why? Why the Mutz's? Why Molly? Why this way? It just doesn't make sense. Jake and Rebecca still don't know the purpose of this, but they do have hope. Hope based on knowing that God is good and they can still trust Him.

I know it doesn't make it easier in the middle of your grief for someone to say that grief is good and can still have a purpose in our lives. Even if you believe in Jesus it's not easy to hear this. Sometimes having someone try to encourage you can be frustrating and angering. I pray that you have this confidence in God, that even in the midst of the most miserable circumstances in your life, that God is good and you can trust Him. I pray that your perspective is one permeated by God's truth and God's promises. Even in your suffering, we must trust that God is good and we can trust Hhim. We may not know the purpose of our suffering, or we may not even like the purpose, but we can know without a doubt that God is good and we can trust Him.

God bless you this day as you deal with the hard stuff.

If you would like to know or read more about Jake and Rebecca, check out Rebecca's blog: Rebecca just co-authored a book with her mom recounting her journey through this experience. Also, some info for this blog was taken from my notes on Jim Burgen's May 2 sermon at Flatirons Community Church.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Sweet babies and special friends

Yesterday I was able to visit my dear friends, Jeremy and Rebekah Copeland and their new daughter, Sophie, in Sahuarita, Arizona.

I met Jeremy and Rebekah during the two year period I lived in Florida for graduate school. I still remember the first time I had coffee with Rebekah because I was so hungry for fellowship after moving to a new place and not knowing a soul. Not only did Jeremy and Rebekah welcome me with open arms but the entire Copeland/Mauldin crew did. I consider them like a second family and that's why it so special to finally meet their daughter yesterday! Jeremy's parents had also flown in that morning so I was able to visit with Mr. and Mrs. C. Love you guys!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Good bye calend-grrr

One requirement of my job as an Ag teacher is to complete SAE visits for each student. I also like to call SAE visits "home visits" because I visit the home or work place of the student to check the progress of their project that they are required to have as a part of my class. I was out in Palo Verde this afternoon visiting a pair of freshmen siblings that I had this past year and I brought my puppy along with me because I had several more visits to complete later that evening. Johnnie Reb did really well at this particular place because they had several horses and calves around. She was in heaven because of the abundant manure. After visiting with the brother outside I put Johnnie Reb back inside the cab of the truck so I could see the educational display that the other student had completed inside the house. Twenty minutes later I go outside to retrieve my pup. As I approach the truck I see she has some paper hanging out of her mouth. I silently get after myself for leaving a letter out thinking she has torn it up.

Little did I know that this is what I would find when I opened the planner!! She got a couple of good mouthfuls out of this week and the next couple of weeks. I told Anna about this and as she was driving home she called me to share her thoughts on what was going through Johnnie Reb's head: "Where's that calendar? That schedule of hers is always taking her away from me. Well take this. (bite, tear, swallow) And this. Grrrr. Rip. Shred."

This is Johnnie post calendar massacre. Real innocent? I think not. Her middle name spells T-R-O-U-B-L-E.

Working for God

With the conclusion of my second year of teaching, it seems appropriate to discuss the topic of work. Over the past two years I struggled with the transition from college to career. It wasn't so much the pace or demands of my job, but more how I was perceiving my role as a Christian in a full time career. Many people have told me that teaching is full time ministry, and I whole heartedly agree, but that's not what I was struggling with. It's hard for me to explain, but it was as if I almost felt like I didn't know how to incorporate my life as a Christian into day-to-day living in my career as a teacher. I have slowly acclimated over the past two years while God slowly reveals things to me about this struggle. I am not out of the woods yet on my struggle, but God shared some neat things in a sermon last week at church. The sermon was given by Bill Eaton, a past Deacon of my church and the notes that follow were based on his sermon.

Bill shared some startling statistics--we spend more than 50% of our waking hours in our jobs. With that in mind, how might my career be different so that I am pleasing God in this activity that I will dedicate a large chunk of my life to? God calls us to be salt (Matthew 5:13) and light (Matthew 5:14, Philippians 2:14-15) in this world so that means we are to be salt and light in our places of work too. I like how Bill phrased this on Sunday, "Salt is used to prevent decay. It is supposed to flavor what it touches. As God's salt and light in the world, do we touch all things with the will, love and grace of God?"

Hmm. That's something to reflect on now, isn't it? I know I can be salt and light when it's easy and when people are nice to me. But what about those students of mine who just wear on my nerves? Or that teacher who asks question after question in staff meetings? Do I leave a little salt and light in their life? Am I an identifiable follower of Christ throughout the school day? Both as a teacher and a co-worker?

Bill posed the following questions as some things to think about in regard to our lives at work. They can pretty much be applied to life in general. Read over them. Think about them. Make yourself answer them. And don't worry, this isn't like one of those tests in Good Housekeeping that says your wierd if your answers aren't all "yes." I'm not perfect, no one is, so don't feel bad if your answers aren't all yes. Okay, go ahead and feel bad. It's a part of the process if you want to change.

  • Do I reflect the self giving of Christ or the grasping of whatever I can get?
  • Do I seek to serve others or seek to control them by expecting them to serve me?
  • Do I only serve those who are pleasant toward me or all those who God brings in my center of influence?
  • Do I demonstrate that I am only working for money or do I demonstrate that I delight in a God who gave His son for me?
  • Do I offer my work to God in worship of Him?
  • Do I grumble and complain or am I appreciative and thankful?
  • Am I the light of Christ in conversations with others? Do I lend comfort, hope and encouragement or do I appear downcast?
  • Do I act as light with my employer? Do I work with a sincere and pure heart that is full of integrity when I am supervised only?

I'm not off the hook from following and obeying Christ at work, even now with summer break in full swing. I have found that it is sometimes harder to follow Christ at work, laying aside my own desires. But I pray that God will be evident in your (and mine) work ethic, attitude and desire to serve as you work day in, and day out. George Washington Carver said, "When you do things in life in an uncommon way you will command the attention of the world." Bill paraphrased this quote in closing last Sunday by saying, "Do the common things in life in an uncommon way because we have an uncommon God." So when you're at work to tomorrow, give it a try. Do things in an uncommon way. You'll make some heads turn and you'll definitely please God.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Calling it like it is

My friend Ann forwards me devotionals that she receives. I really appreciate the straight forward approach the author of these devotionals writes in; in fact I enjoyed it so much in a recent devotional that I'd like to share a part of it with you. The following excerpt is taken from the Dene Ward's June 1 devotional titled, "Stuck in a rut."

It seems to me that when someone complains that his religion no longer has meaning for him because he is “stuck in a rut,” it says more about him than it does about the religion he practices. While babes in Christ may need special care, mature Christians should be past the need for coddling. It is my responsibility to keep my heart and my attitude right in my service to God and to keep myself out of the rut of rote ritual, even if God tells me to do exactly the same thing in exactly the same way for ten thousand years. Exactly who is it that is being worshipped anyway? It certainly isn’t me and my likes and dislikes—at least it shouldn’t be.

If we need to change the things we can change, by all means, let’s change them. But when the reason becomes “how I feel” instead of what is best for the body of Christ and the mission God gave us, we need to stop and take a better look at ourselves.

These comments were based on a reflection that too often we make the excuse that we are stuck in a rut, especially in regard to the manner in which we worship. That excuse is our justification for changing something about the way we worship simply because it suits us better, not necessarily because it is what God has commanded.

Too often I find myself making changes in my own life simply because "I feel" that it is best. I don't mean to degrade my own or your decision making process but I know that I could exercise more self control and diligence in keeping aligned with God's word for living and practicing my faith. Our culture has become one that encourages self-service and self-promotion when making decisions. Living for God though demands that we set aside our own justification for decisions and seek God's will.

"And now Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you but to fear the Lord your God and to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul, and to keep the commandments and statutes of the Lord, which I am commanding you this day for your good."
Deut 10:12,13.