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Change is Good…Right?

Posted in A Class Act by Linden Barrick on August 31, 2012
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Do you like change? Some people require it. Their life isn’t complete without shifts and obstacles. Others prefer a routine that remains steady and sure with few surprises to create bumps in the road.

There are numerous changes in my life right now. I’m trying to embrace each one because they’re all good.

Well, at least I’m trying to convince myself they are good, but some changes are difficult to swallow without a little sugar added.

School starts on Tuesday. Every class has its own personality, its own reputation. I try to ignore most of what I hear because in the past, more often than not, what I hear doesn’t equate to the reality in my classroom. Kids mature, and my relationship with them is never exactly the same as the relationship they shared with previous teachers.

Autumn started driving this week. Yes, she’s been driving for quite a while, but this week she took off alone. My stomach knots each time she’s behind the wheel until she sends me a text saying she’s arrived at her destination safely.

My 8th grade team has one less member this year. Our only male teacher was moved to the high school, and the change will dramatically alter our team dynamic. He kept the rest of us smiling and prevented the female emotional response from overwhelming situations too often.

Mathews Baptist finally found a new pastor after more than 1-1/2 years with an interim. Tag Kilgore has challenged, inspired, taught, and even entertained our congregation for months, and he will be truly missed. We excitedly welcome a new pastor and his family to our church family, and we anticipate a powerful future with them.

Magic, our cat of 13 years, died two weeks ago. If I walk through the house in the middle of the night, I still see her lurking in the shadows. When I enter the laundry room, I instinctively look in the corner to see if her water bowl needs to be filled.

Autumn has a new job at Chick-fil-a. I’m very proud of her, but I miss her when she’s not around. Usually everywhere she goes, I’m there too. Youth group, camp, shopping, wherever. She’s my sidekick, and now there’s a void when she’s gone.

Two of my five positions at church end this weekend. Roles I’ve held for three years will cease without any adjustment period. The abruptness almost seems harsh.

Change is good? I realize some of my “changes” above don’t seem so, but I have to seek the goodness in each one. Autumn is growing up, whether I like it or not. Magic had been sick. Tag’s desire isn’t to be our permanent pastor. The high school students will thrive under the instruction of my colleague who has been moved. I will have more time at church to devote to the youth group. Yes, good can be found in each change if I look carefully enough.

Change is good. When life doesn’t change, I get too comfortable and start to slip into bad habits. Change challenges me, creates opportunities to stretch my faith, and keeps me alert. I’m ready. Bring it on!

What changes are you facing right now? Are they churning up excitement or fear in your heart? Please share in a comment.

Dear Family and Friends,

Posted in A Class Act by Linden Barrick on August 27, 2012
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This is a difficult blog for me to write. When it comes to my faith, I’m not as vocal as I should be. I squirm at the thought of giving my testimony, and I don’t believe I have ever directly asked someone if they believe Jesus is their Savior. (Yes, I realize I need to work on this. A lot.)

Recently some books I’ve read and some experiences have caused me to reassess my spiritual health and think about the spiritual health of you, my loved ones.

And I feel an urgent need to ask some direct questions:

If you were to die today, where would you go?

Do you believe in Heaven and Hell?

Do you believe Jesus is your Savior?

Do you understand your relationship with Jesus is the only path to eternal life?

I’m not asking for answers to these questions. Many of you, I feel confident, will be with me for eternity in Heaven.  Others I’m not quite sure. And some I fear will not be with me unless changes are made in your lives. But I won’t know for sure until I’m no longer of this world because I’m not part of the equation.

The answers aren’t for me. The answers are between you and Jesus. The Bible says on the Day of Judgment many people who feel they’ve lived good Christian lives will face Jesus and He will say He never knew them. We may know who Jesus is, believe in His existence, and do good deeds, but if we don’t have a personal relationship with Him, He won’t know us.

My birthdays seem to be getting closer together. Time flies, and I’m old enough now to wonder how much time is left. This focus on my future – and how fleeting it may be on earth – has caused me to reflect more often and more deeply on my eternal life with Jesus.

Will you be in Heaven with me? I pray you will. That’s my sole purpose for writing this. I realize everyone’s response to this post may not be completely positive, and because of that, I feel ripped open and raw as I prepare to hit the publish button.

Please, examine your life. Think about everyone you love. Decide whether you want to spend eternity with them in Heaven. I want you there. And so does God.

Book recommendations:
Not a fan. by Kyle Idleman
Weird: Because Normal isn’t Working by Craig Groeschel
Crazy Love: Overwhelmed by a Relentless God by Francis Chan
Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream by David Platt

The Lost Art of Conversation

Posted in A Class Act by Linden Barrick on August 24, 2012
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Conversation, good conversation, takes skill. And it takes at least two participants. Carrying on meaningful conversation is becoming a lost art. The younger generation no longer knows how to communicate face to face using the spoken word.

Last week, my 8-year-old invited his best buddy over to play. They hadn’t seen each other all summer, so Colton was ecstatic. Actually, that’s an understatement. He resembled a pinball after waking at the crack of dawn. When we picked up Daniel, they sat in back seat talking excitedly. As I listened, I realized neither seemed very interested in what the other was sharing. They didn’t listen. They simply waited for their turn to talk.

Do you know any adults who do this? They don’t care what’s being said, and they never ask questions to find out more about another person or situation. Why would they? Hearing their voice is the main goal of speaking.

But why? Does their ego make them believe everyone is especially interested in what they have to say? Or is it a form of shyness because they think asking questions is nosy and intrusive? Or maybe they feel the need to impress others by talking themselves up. Whatever the reason, it’s an ineffective way to communicate and definitely not a good way to build relationships.

Yesterday was Autumn’s first day as an employee at Chick-fil-a. One of the directives she received from the owner was to talk to the customers and try to build relationships. Hallelujah! She’s always been reluctant to talk to people, even to order food or talk to a salesperson. With her friends, I’ve told her to quit texting and have an actual conversation because texts can be misinterpreted, feelings get hurt, and relationships suffer.

Again, conversation is a skill, and like any skill, it takes practice. The practice requires two people, and one of them must be listening. To listen, you can’t talk. Sometimes this is difficult, but as a reminder just remember the words LISTEN and SILENT are spelled with the same letters.

If you need a partner to practice conversation, try God. He’ll listen. And if you’re silent, he will definitely communicate with you.

A Parent’s Pain

Posted in A Class Act by Linden Barrick on August 17, 2012
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I have heard about people experiencing phantom pain when they lose a limb. As I sat in the waiting room two days ago while my baby girl (okay, she’s sixteen) had surgery, the pain I felt seemed more real than if they were cutting into me. I have all my limbs, Thank you, God, but feel as if I have experienced a certain kind of phantom pain – parent pain.

Yesterday, Autumn felt quite a bit better. Her face, swollen a little from having all four wisdom teeth removed, didn’t hurt much and her restlessness prompted her to make plans for a short period of time today.

Unfortunately when she woke up this morning, the swelling has stretched her cheeks even farther and the pain has increased. Tears flowed as she tried to accept the fact that she’s not ready to go anywhere. One more day of hanging on the couch, watching television or reading, seems to be the best choice.

Sometimes the best choice is hard to accept.

Seeing the tears this morning hurt almost as much as it did when I left her two days ago, her eyes imploring me to make it all better, when the nurses told me I had to wait in a different room during the procedure. My mommy instinct couldn’t reconcile with those instructions. How could I leave her? They didn’t know my baby like I do. How could they possibly take care of her?

I sat in the waiting room, fidgety and unsettled. I prayed. I commiserated with one mom and one dad who sat there, also waiting for each of their daughters’ procedures to be finished. I prayed some more.

Even though the surgery didn’t take long, less than an hour, it seemed endless. When the nurse finally called my name, I entered Autumn’s room to see her red-rimmed eyes overflowing with tears and confusion. Another nurse was trying to calm her down, but it was my voice she needed to hear. Eventually, with me sitting next to her wiping her tears and holding her hands, awareness returned to her eyes.

Although she hurt and felt disoriented, her gaze gripped my heart. I could see the trust in her eyes. Trust in me to take care of her. Faith that I would make it all better. A joy and a burden settled in my heart.  Emotionally, I was overwhelmed with her belief in me. Logically, I knew I couldn’t do what her eyes said I could. Only God, time, and a couple prescriptions were going to ease the pain and heal her wounds. All I could offer was support and comfort.

I realize parents go through much worse with their children every day. Critical illness, horrible injury, even death. I thank God I haven’t experienced anything of that magnitude with my kids. And God understands. He has certainly suffered through the pain of a child. He experienced the ultimate parent pain.

Are You a Mess?

Posted in A Class Act by Linden Barrick on August 13, 2012
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One of the perks of having a teenage daughter is getting to embarrass and/or annoy her on a regular basis. It doesn’t take much. A goofy face across a crowded room. A few dance steps in the mall. A mention of her toddler years.

On the way home from church yesterday, I was singing along with the stereo. I’m the first to admit I can’t carry a tune, but when Autumn starts rolling her eyes at my attempts, it’s my cue to crank the volume and my enthusiasm. After the eye roll, a shake of the head, and a slight grin, she declared, “You are a mess.”

I am a mess.

In the infamous words of Phineas and Ferb, let me just say, “Yes. Yes, I am.” (I have an 8-year-old, so quoting cartoons is a favorite pastime.)

I am a mess, and I’m willing to admit it. I know people who try to hide their weaknesses. They try to act perfect. They put other people down to shift attention away from themselves and their own flaws. I would rather just let everyone know up front that I am a mess.

My house is usually cluttered. My lesson plans are last-minute a lot of the time. My desk at school is covered in piles (though I know what is in each pile and can find things fairly quickly). Colton’s toys aren’t in neatly organized, labeled bins. My bathroom drawer is a jumble.

And those are just the visible, outward messes.

Inside, I’m insecure about an endless number of issues. I need confidence instead of fear. I worry what others will think. I know the right steps to take to make aspects of my life better – my health, my appearance, my marriage, my teaching, my spiritual life, and the list goes on and on – but I frequently fail to take those steps.

I am a mess.

And I’m proud of that fact because it means I’ve acknowledged I need help. I’m useless on my own. Without God’s guidance and strength, I can’t make it.

Alone, I am a mess, but with Him, all things are possible.

Are you a mess? 

Do You Live by Common Sense?

Posted in A Class Act by Linden Barrick on August 9, 2012
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“We had more guts than good sense.”

I heard this comment last night during a conversation about the crazy behavior of teens. Peer pressure, too many hormones, and growing pains can all cause teens to make really stupid decisions. Did you ever do anything ‘back in the day’ that makes you cringe when you think of it as an adult?

Did you ever climb a water tower to spray paint a name and a heart to impress a girl?

Did you ever toilet paper a house?

Did you ever steal something for the thrill of it?

Did you ever drive too fast so your buddies thought you were “super cool”?

You may not have done any of those, but I think many people can look back, shake their heads and proclaim. Wow, I was a total idiot back then!

As adults, many of us become more conservative in our actions and use much more common sense. Those who don’t are seen as renegades or rebels, and it’s rarely considered a positive trait.

But does God want us to use common sense? At M-Fuge, the mission camp I attended with my youth group last month, Pastor Tim Bertram made me realize sometimes ignoring common sense is the best choice. The Bible is full of examples of this.

Did Noah use common sense when God told him to build an ark – even though it had never rained a drop?

Did Moses use common sense when he spoke to the burning bush?

Did the disciples use common sense when told to drop everything and follow Jesus?

Did David use common sense when he faced Goliath?

No. If they had used common sense, they wouldn’t have followed the path God planned for them. Sometimes, we just can’t fathom what God has up his sleeve, and we need to follow without trying to figure it out.

It’s called obedience.

And it often doesn’t make sense to us. Why in the world does God want me to go to an impoverished country? Why does God want me to embrace that rebellious teen who threatened me? Why does God want me to unlock my car door and give that scary-looking individual some money in the part of town with the highest crime rate? Why would God want me to teach Sunday School to preschoolers. I don’t like kids that age.

None of it makes sense. But we’re called to do it. The next time your brain tells you something doesn’t make sense, maybe you should listen to your heart instead.

Because obeying God makes the most sense of all.

When have you ignored your common sense to follow God? Share in a comment.

Are You Trapped Within Your Natural Habitat?

Posted in A Class Act by Linden Barrick on August 6, 2012
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What is your natural habitat? How do you define your comfort zone? Existing within boundaries of familiarity can certainly create peace and contentment in life.

But can you become too comfortable? Be too content? Our daily routines become similar to a worn pair of jeans. They fit so well, we want to wear them every day. Sometimes, though, the jeans aren’t hanging in the closet and we have to choose something different.

Does stepping outside familiar boundaries cause you discomfort? Do you cringe from stress or do you view it as an adventure?

Today, I visited the St. Louis Zoo with my mom and my kids. As we braved the brutal heat and admired the animals, I couldn’t help but consider them trapped within their fences, glass walls, or screens.

The zoo has created beautiful environments for the animals, each closely resembling their natural habitats. But what if they broke out? Would they be scared and confused? Or would they run, fly, or jump with excitement?

I have to admit sometimes breaking free of my natural habitat is scary. I like having a plan and knowing what to expect. When I have to step (not run, fly, or jump…more likely tiptoe, creep, or even crawl) outside my comfort zone, my heart pumps erratically and my breath comes out in shallow gasps.

I realize after the fact this type of intimidating situation is a good thing. Logically, I acknowledge my need to embrace change as adventures and/or opportunities because I know I miss out on a lot when I don’t.

Are you also trapped inside your comfortable life? Do you need to break free and embrace opportunities that force you outside your boundaries? Together, let’s be brave and accept the next situation that would normally make us cringe in trepidation.

Do you like being in your comfort zone? Or do you thrive on change and the unknown? Share in a comment.

 

This baby in the primate house was the highlight of my day!

P.S. Just a short public service announcement…the St. Louis Zoo is a wonderful place. Entrance into the zoo is free, and if you’re patient enough to wait for a spot to open or willing to walk a bit, you can park along one of the roadways nearby instead of the more costly parking lots. Picnic areas surround the zoo, so you can pack a lunch and enjoy an inexpensive or even free day with the whole family. The gorgeous landscaping must take continuous care. The animals are whimsical and majestic. The staff and volunteers are helpful, friendly, and informative. The zoo is one of our favorite spots when we visit St. Louis. If you ever find yourself in the area, it’s definitely worth the time.

 

 

What Churns Up Your Memories?

Posted in A Class Act by Linden Barrick on August 2, 2012
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Do you rush through life and miss simple things? Do days and weeks pass without you noticing your surroundings? I feel that way most of the time, but occasionally something happens to remind me to open my eyes a little more often.

Yesterday, we were headed to the airport and had a brief sighting of a peacock. It changed my whole day. Have you ever waded through a creek, letting your feet shift through the mud, churning it up in swirls through the water? That’s how my mind felt after I saw the peacock. Memories swirled up and clouded my focus for much of the day.

Some of you might be thinking those must be awful memories to be compared to mud, but you obviously haven’t squished your toes in cool mud on a hot summer day. It’s a glorious experience and so was reliving my memories. Distracted and happy – that’s how I would describe the rest of my day.

My grandparents had peacocks on The Farm. Yes, it’s capitalized. To my dad’s family, The Farm represented a little slice of heaven on earth.

I remember sitting on the porch swing, wrapped up in a quilt against the evening cool, cuddled up with Grandmother. She would swing us back and forth, sing Bible songs or just talk about life on The Farm. And occasionally she would be interrupted by the cry of help from a peacock.

Have you ever heard a peacock cry? It sounds like “Help!” But Grandmother’s birds never sounded distressed, and if I squinted against the dusk, I could see them getting ready to roost up in the trees. The cries were simply one element in the peace and tranquility of an evening on The Farm.

After remembering those pleasant times, my mind refocused on the present, hurrying to the airport so we could sit and wait. But soon another memory floated in. And then another. All day long, my mind shifted through memories of The Farm, Daddy, Grandmother and Granddad, aunts, uncles, and cousins. What a beautiful way to spend the day.

Here are some more memories caused by from my peacock sighting (I think I’m blogging about them so I can relive them again):

We used to jump from the roof of the chicken coop onto the trampoline, and finally, after a lot of practice, we were able to stick the landing. Of course, Uncle Kevin could go the opposite direction. He would jump from the trampoline up to the roof. He stuck his landing every time.

Grandmother always produced huge meals, whether a holiday or not. Everyone gathered around the table, either in the kitchen or the dining room, long after the meal disappeared.

My uncle Kevin, my cousin Scott, and Grandmother

When snow blanketed the cow pasture, the men fashioned a sled from plywood and would pull us behind the old pickup truck.

When the hay barn bulged with bales, we would divide into teams, climb to the top and swing on a bag swing the length of the barn, picking up new riders at the top of every swing. Usually after two or three were on the swing, we would end up in a giggling pile on the barn floor.

Daddy and Uncle Tom usually spent some quiet time together. I’m not sure if it was mostly silent while they read or if most consisted of conversation, but I know Daddy relished their time together.

My uncle Tom and Daddy

To celebrate the 4th of July, we inserted firecrackers into cow pies and watched them explode.

I have no memory of shooting a gun myself, but I enjoyed carrying a gunny sack and trudging along with Daddy and the rest of the hunters. The gunny sack was for carrying whatever game they killed.

Me, my BFF Monique, my uncle Brant, my “uncle” Lewis, my cousin Karey, and my uncle Kevin

Those memories, along with so many others from the time I spent at The Farm, continued to surprise me throughout my day of travel from home to St. Louis yesterday. The most incredible part of the peacock sighting is I’m going to see Uncle Kevin and his family on Saturday. I haven’t seen them for many, many years. That peacock not only churned up my memories but also my anticipation for the reunion to come.

Do simple things flood your mind with memories? Do you take time to notice those simple things? Share your experience in the comments.

 


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