Monday, December 31, 2012

Random Thoughts On The Last Day in 2012

            The kids and grandkids are gone.  The house is clean . . . and quiet.  Too quiet.  Bittersweet covers it perfectly.

            There is a beautiful, soft snow falling today cleaning up everything outside.

         December went by so fast.  All during the month I kept thinking about Psalm 61.  For the first time in my life, the TV news was so unbearably sad I wouldn’t watch it.  My mind kept going to Psalm 61:2 – “ . . . Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.” 

            I love how Edward Mote, the hymnwriter, put it.  “When all around my soul gives way, He then is all my hope and stay.”

            As I read everyone’s Christmas letters this month, it occurred to me that in four heartbeats I went from being the grandchild, to the child, to the parent, and now to the grandparent.  It made me think of Psalm 61:5, “You have given me the heritage of those who fear your name.”

            But mostly during December I kept thinking about Emanuel – God with us.  For some reason we only talk about that name at Christmas time, but it so clearly captures what God always intended.  We were created to have a personal relationship with Him.  God with us.

            That changes everything.  George Wade Robinson, another hymnwriter, said it so beautifully.

Heav’n above is softer blue, Earth around is sweeter green!
Something lives in every hue Christless eyes have never seen;
Birds with gladder songs o’erflow, flowers with deeper beauties shine,
Since I know, as now I know, I am His, and He is mine.

 Have a beautiful New Year.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Biography Book Reports

            “Can we put our stuff in here?”

            I looked up as Landon, Jeremy, and Ramon spilled through the doorway, their arms loaded with bags and posters.

            “Sure guys.  Put your stuff on the counter by the printer.  Are you all ready to present your biography book reports?”

            “I’m doing Shakespeare,” said Ramon.  He pulled a bathrobe out of his plastic Walmart bag and began putting it on.

            “Let me see you other guys’ costumes.”

            Landon struggled to pull a brown wig over his head.  His blond hair flipped out on the sides, and wig hair hung over his eyes.  He pulled a pair of orange-tinted sunglasses out of his bag and put them on.

            “So you’re doing Elvis,” I observed.

            Landon bent over his bag again.  “I’ve got this really neat jacket my mom had that I’m wearing too.”  He stood up and held out a sequined blazer.

            Who has a sequined blazer in their closet?

            “Very cool,” I said.  “Did you practice your speech at home?”

            “I didn’t have time.  Can I say it for you?”

            “Sure, I just need to . . . ,” I stopped.  “Jeremy.  What are you doing?”

            Jeremy had peeled his shirt off and was trying to tie a sheet over his shoulder.

            “I’m doing Caesar.”

            “I think you need to keep your shirt on.”

            “But the picture shows him without a shirt.”

            Landon and Ramon tilted their heads and studied Jeremy.

            “I think he needs to have his shirt off, Mrs. Jones,” Ramon said.

            “You can ask Mr. Sanderson before class starts what he thinks you should do,” I punted.

            Jeremy gave up on the sheet and set up a large poster displaying an exotic picture of Elizabeth Taylor as Cleopatra. 

            “I’m going to tell about how Caesar went to see Cleo . . . ,” he paused struggling to read his notecard, “PuhTRAH and her brother Peetolemy.”

            “Jeremy, did you practice your speech about Caesar at home?” I asked.

            “Yeah.  I practiced three times saying it to my dad.”

            “I don’t think you say the ‘P’ in Cleopatra’s brother’s name.  The ‘P’ is silent.”

            “Nuh Uh.  My dad said you say it.”

            Not going to touch that one.  “Oooookay.”

            “I have a poster too,” Landon interrupted holding up a pink board displaying King Elvis in his earlier slender period.  “I’m going to tell about how he recorded his first song when he was 16 and how after his wife died, he moved back to Mississippi.”

            “After his wife died, he moved back to Mississippi?”

            “Yeah.  His wife was Priscilla.”

            “Is that what the book you read said?”  I stared long and hard at Landon, but he didn’t back down.

            “Yeah.  That’s what the book said.”

            “Do you still have it?”

            “No.  I took it back to the library yesterday.”

            Well this is great news for the world of rock and roll.  It was Priscilla who died.  Elvis is alive and well in Mississippi.

            “Here’s my poster,” said Ramon.  On his blue posterboard was a picture of Shakespeare and a picture of a king on a throne.

            “OK.  I can see that you have a picture of Shakespeare, but who is that?” I asked pointing to the king.

            “That’s a picture of the first play he wrote.  King Henry Vee Eye Eye Eye.”

            Oh, this is just too, too, too good.

            “Do you like our costumes?” Ramon asked.

            Landon had taken off his sequined blazer and was stuffing it back into his bag.

            “We’re going to get a good grade huh,” Jeremy said.

            “I think Mr. Sanderson will love it,” I said enthusiastically.

            Landon straightened up, swirled around and pointed his finger at me.  “Thank you.  Thank you very much.”

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Taxing Math

            Hi.  I’m Bob.  And I’m an alcoholic.

             AA really has the right approach.  You can’t get help until you acknowledge your need.

            “Guys I noticed you were having trouble in math today calculating tax.”  I passed out small whiteboards and markers to Landon, Jeremy, and Ramon sitting at the table in front of me.  All three boys have learning disabilities, and the classroom instructions on moving decimals had sailed right past them.

            “When you did the Restaurant Game, you did a good job adding up your orders, but none of you seemed to know how to calculate the tax.  Before you multiply, you have to turn the percent into a decimal.”

            As each boy got their board, they immediately began drawing on it.  Landon scrawled his name in big loopy letters.  Jeremy drew an alien, and Ramon began pounding dots.  I handed everyone a dry eraser and grabbed a board of my own.

            “OK guys, look up here.”  I wrote 6% on my board.  “I want you to change 6% to a decimal.”

            “I need to go to my locker and get my notes from class,” said Ramon.

            “Just stay here,” I said.  You didn’t take notes.  “I’m going to go over whatever you need.”

            “I already know how to do this,” Ramon objected.  “I just need to get my notes from my locker.”

            You didn’t write a single thing down in class.

            I ignored him and continued, “Think of 6% as six cents.  How would you write six cents as money with a decimal?”

            Landon and Jeremy erased their boards and began writing their decimal version of 6%.  Ramon just continued to stab dots on his board.

            “Ramon.  Come on.  Give this a try.”

            “I don’t need to try.  I already know how to do this.  But you won’t let me go to my locker, so I can’t do it.”

            “If you know how to do it, then just show me a couple on your board.” 

            I waited.  I could see both Landon and Jeremy had written .6 on their boards.  They shielded their work waiting for Ramon to write something.  Ramon finally stopped dotting and wrote 6.0 on his board.

            “You’re almost there,” I said.  I wrote .06 on my board and turned it to show the boys.  “See how if I add a dollar sign to this it looks like six cents.”  To the left of .06 I added a dollar sign.

            “Why do I have to do this?” Ramon argued again.  “I know how to do this.”

            I wrote 8% on my board.  “OK guys.  Now try another one.” I turned my board around.  “How would you write 8% as a decimal?”  

            Landon and Jeremy bent their heads down and began writing, but Ramon was now stomping dots on his board.  I reached over and softly tapped his board.

            “Give it a try please.”

            “Is this right?”  Jeremy turned his whiteboard towards me.

            Jeremy had .08 written.  I watched as Landon finished writing .08 on his board. 

            “Just a sec.  Let’s wait for Ramon.”

            Landon and Jeremy turned and looked at Ramon.  He ignored everyone for a minute, but then stopped his stabbing and wrote .8 on his board.

            “That’s not right,” Landon said showing his board to Ramon.  “Make it look like eight cents.”

            Ramon glanced at Landon’s board, then at his own.  He scrawled a dollar sign to the right of .8, and stabbed three dots over it.

            Now it’s money!” Ramon growled.

            I dropped my voice to a lower register.  “Ramon.”  I wrote .08 on my board and turned it around.  “This is how you write 8% as a decimal.”

            “Told you,” Landon said triumphantly.

            “That’s how I wrote it,” said Ramon furiously erasing his board.  “I know how to do this.”

            I blew out a little sigh.  As I wrote 3% on my board, I fantasized Ramon standing earnestly in front of me.

            “Hi. I’m Ramon.  And I have no idea how to do my math.”

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

When Jesus Cooks

There is no school today, so I can sleep in.  But I didn’t.  I have a turkey to brine, dressing to prepare, and a sweet potato casserole to put together.  I woke up at 5:30 with a million things on my mind.  So I write.

When you were on earth . . .
You touched water and it became fine wine.
You touched small loaves and fish,
And they became a feast that fed thousands.
During your last meal on earth
You touched bread and wine and elevated them to a reminder
Of Your great sacrifice for our salvation.

Thank you for taking delight in touching broken lives
And transforming them into a shining picture of your image
So that the world can see what You can do today.

But we have this treasure in earthen vessels,
that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.
2 Corinthians 4:7