Hello, God. Welcome to My Classroom

Got Gratitude?

Posted in A Class Act by Linden Barrick on January 29, 2013
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Our puppy, Rico, hasn’t been content lately when we’ve left him home alone. Like many children these days, he’s bored. To overcome his boredom, he has turned to vandalism. Some items he shreds and leaves for us to clean up. Others he actually eats.

shredded book

So far he has consumed or ripped up newspapers, magazines, books, a pair of prescription reading glasses, a plastic toy fan, the television remote, the handle of a hairbrush, two plants, and most recently a game of wooden blocks. He ignores the ten or more chew bones and doggie toys on the floor. They obviously aren’t as enticing as anything he can reach on the tables and countertops.

When we arrived home from church Sunday, the wooden blocks were splintered across the living room carpet. Rico managed to pop the top of the tin container and proceeded to gnash a few of the game pieces into oblivion. Mark declared that as the last straw.

Rico's new crib.

Rico’s new crib.

Off to Walmart we went to purchase another crate. Yes, we had a crate when Rico first became a part of the family, but he quickly outgrew it. By that time he was a well-behaved pup, so we didn’t replace it with a larger abode. All was well until Christmas vacation.

For two weeks, Rico enjoyed our presence almost every day. If we left the house, it was rarely for the whole day, only for a short time. We played, petted, scratched, walked, jumped, retrieved, and cuddled. Spoiled puppy, you ask? Definitely, but we all love him so much, and he is constantly bringing us a toy, leaning against one of us, or crawling in our laps.

A group hug.

A group hug.

Unfortunately, those two weeks taught Rico what it’s like to be smothered with love; therefore, when we returned to school, it also taught him what it’s like to be lonely and bored. I have spent the last few weeks trying to make him feel as loved while I am home in the mornings and evenings as when we were home all day. I even frequently leave the bathroom during blow drying to throw his ball down the hallway. He retrieves it while I blow dry for another minute, he returns, and I flip the switch off so I can do it all over again. Dry, toss, repeat. So far, it hasn’t helped. He’s still demolishing new things every time he’s left alone. It’s so frustrating, especially because he was so well-behaved before the holidays.

A friendly snowball fight.

A friendly snowball fight.

I can’t help thinking he’s acting a little unreasonably. Isn’t he grateful for all the attention he gets while we’re home? We all try to overwhelm him with love, but he just expects more.

I suppose I can’t get too high on my horse about this because I rarely give enough thanks for all I have. My blessings are so far beyond what I deserve. And I think that’s true for most people I’ve encountered. Very few I’ve met are genuinely grateful for everything in their lives. And just like Rico, the more we get, the more we think we need. We get bored and discontent with our present surroundings and expect others to fulfill our wants.

IMG_0138But it’s an amazing life. Sometimes it might take misfortune to make the good seem sweet, but life always seems willing to offer that as a reminder. And once you inhale life’s sweetness, there are so many ways to express gratitude – by what you do, say, create, feel. The list is endless. So don’t ignore all the toys scattered around you on the carpet. Don’t be bored when forced to create your own joy. Embrace all the blessings in life and be thankful!


Where is My Enthusiasm?

Posted in A Class Act by Linden Barrick on January 22, 2013
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At the continual prompting of a caring – and tenacious – friend, I recently went to the doctor to have a physical. Yesterday morning I went to have blood drawn for the lab work. It wasn’t a great visit. The lab tech taking care of me was unpleasant. In fact, she was mean. I didn’t leave with a very good attitude, and I allowed her rotten mood to affect my own.

After I left the lab, Autumn and I headed to Richmond to drop off some soda can tabs at the Ronald McDonald House before hitting the mall so she could spend some Christmas gift cards. During the ride, I continued to whine about the mean lab tech. I was wallowing in the funk she had wrapped around me while collecting my blood.

Then, about half way to Richmond, a sighting completely flipped my mood. First, I noticed a license plate on a silver vehicle that said SNTAWGN.

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It made me smile, especially after I saw the side of the vehicle. It was painted with a red sleigh.


I became giddy. A child-like excitement gripped me as I started to anticipate the driver’s appearance. And I wasn’t disappointed! It was Santa!

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Although Autumn didn’t share my exuberance, she reluctantly took pictures with my phone as I drove. He smiled and waved, probably used to the attention.

As the day passed, I excitedly shared my news with anyone I could. By the evening, it hit me. It had been a very long time since I felt such joy in something. Yes, it is special and unusual to see Santa in January, but doesn’t every single day hold something special? Why are my emotions squelched? Am I too busy? Do I feel too old? Why can’t I become light-headed with enthusiasm each and every day?

I’m not sure the reason or reasons, but maybe my Santa sighting was a reminder that joy surrounds me, everywhere and all the time. I simply have to open myself up to experience all the blessings life – and God – offers.

Are You Rich or Poor?

Posted in A Class Act by Linden Barrick on January 18, 2013
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The rich have computers, televisions, iPods, and God in their heart. The poor have computers, televisions, and iPods.

The rich have barely enough food to survive and God in their heart. The poor have barely enough food to survive.

The rich have brand name clothes to wear and God in their hearts. The poor have brand name clothes to wear.

The rich have no health insurance and God in their hearts. The poor have no health insurance.

The rich live in homes big enough for three families and have God in their hearts. The poor live in homes big enough for three families.

The rich beg on the streets and have God in their hearts. The poor beg on the streets.

The rich have good health and God in their hearts. The poor have good health.

The rich live on a few dollars a day and have God in their hearts. The poor live on a few dollars a day.

The rich serve others with God in their hearts. The poor serve others.

The rich have savings accounts, retirement plans, and God in their hearts. The poor have savings accounts and retirement plans.

Do you want to appear rich externally, or do you want to be rich internally?

Why Are People Mean?

Posted in A Class Act by Linden Barrick on January 14, 2013
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too mean

Today in my homeroom, these are a few of the comments I heard:

“You’re going to lose the basketball game tonight. No way you’ll beat that team.”

“Why in the world are you wearing green pants?”

“Can you believe he wants to be her boyfriend?”

After a few minutes of such uplifting conversation, I can’t stand it anymore and have to tell the students to be silent. Whew, what a relief when it’s quiet.

Why are these kids so mean to each other?

But meanness, cruelty, and cutting remarks are a sickness that infects adults as much as teens, so my question has to expand to encompass a larger population.

Why are people, kids and adults both, so mean to each other?

After almost a decade of observing teens, I’m fairly certain the following list encompasses why most of them are mean, and I would hazard a guess that many grown-ups who continue to be cruel in adulthood fall into the same categories.

1) Learned behavior: Life at home isn’t easy for many of my students. I’m sure the conversation could rarely be described as uplifting or inspiring. When they hear cruel words used on a daily basis, it is hard to rise above it when they are in a different setting. It’s engrained into their vocabulary, their minds, and even their hearts.

2) Chain reaction: Have you ever been around negative, mean people and then found yourself feeling negative and mean as a result? Whether it’s at school, home, a business, or even church, if you are surrounded by unkind people, soon you too will be unkind. I know I have fallen into this trap before. I let my students, co-workers, or family members bring me down to their level. I end up acting exactly as they act.

3) Feeling superior: We’ve all seen it. Someone insults another to make themselves feel better about themselves or to try to impress others. This may start on the playground in elementary school, but it continues through the locker rooms and classrooms in middle and high school all the way to the corridors in office buildings and meeting rooms at church. Comments like these usually tell much more about the speaker than the person they are speaking of, and the audience usually isn’t impressed. What I’ve learned and observed is that words spoken to inflate oneself often end in feelings of regret.

4) Lack of understanding: Admitting we don’t know something is difficult, and some people resort to ugly reactions rather than confessing ignorance. They feel if they divert attention away from themselves, others won’t recognize their lack of understanding. But similar to #3 above, the cruel comments rarely produce the desired results.

5) Just plain evil: As sad as it is, some people simply enjoy being mean. I have students who delight in their own nastiness and exert more effort hurting others than in any other aspect of life. Seeing another human being upset or even crying makes their day complete. I’m not sure about the whole nature vs. nurture debate, but extreme evil definitely exists in some people.

It’s a challenge to be around cruel people. My instinct is to distance myself but it’s impossible in some situations such as my classroom. I have to teach these kids even if they are mean. God loves them and so should I, but as hard as I try to model kindness, many times my patience thins to the breaking point and I find myself being reactive instead of setting a good example.

Please pray for my patience, and if you encounter any mean people today, smile and say a prayer for them as well. Happy Monday!

The Choices God Makes

Posted in A Class Act by Linden Barrick on January 8, 2013
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Last week I wrote about making choices to please other people, and the thought continues to poke around my mind. Why do humans bow to the will of others so often? Why is approval from others so significant in our lives?

Over the years, I’ve said many times to a student, “Why do you keep making poor choices when you know they will result in negative consequences?”

Usually the response includes something about friends thinking it’s funny or other friends being involved. Peer pressure is an ugly thing, and it doesn’t end in the teenage years.

I struggle to control my frustration as it creeps into the rest of the conversation with the student. How do I make this student understand? And who am I to think I can make my students understand? I’m as guilty as they are when it comes to making bad decisions to please other people.


Last night – well, early this morning – our puppy woke me at 3:30 to go outside. (I’m not complaining…it’s better than the alternative.) Anyway, I had a hard time drifting back to sleep once I crawled back between my warm blankets, and I again started contemplating this dilemma.

On Sunday, the teens in my Sunday school class got into a discussion about Adam and Eve making the choice to eat the apple. Their comments were very thought-provoking and philosophical, and they wandered through my mind as I tried to go back to sleep.

I began to consider the Garden of Eden situation from God’s perspective. God knows all past, present, and future, so didn’t He know they would choose to eat that apple? Why did He put the tree there?

Once that thought hit my mind, sleep fled. I had never considered why God did that before. And He made that choice knowing it would have negative consequences…just like we do!

As I let the idea float around in my mind, I came to this conclusion:


God knew humans would become complacent in the bounty and blessings of the Garden and forget to give Him thanks and glory. Don’t we do that all the time? When life is good, our gratitude wanes and we begin to expect the beauty in the world. If that happens, it often takes something traumatic or stressful to remind us to look to God for guidance and give him thanks for the blessings we have.

Maybe, just maybe, God made the choice to put the tree with forbidden fruit in the Garden so we would live on earth without forgetting to give Him the glory He deserves. It certainly wasn’t the last time He did something that would be hurtful for Him to benefit the human race. Just ask Jesus.

Do you agree God knew we would disobey Him but chose to place the tree in the Garden anyway? Please let me know in the comments. I’d love to have feedback on my early-morning musings.


Run, Linden, Run!

Posted in A Class Act by Linden Barrick on January 5, 2013
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I am not a runner chick. In fact, I truly despise the act of running. I have a love/hate relationship with my “dreadmill,” and I rarely go beyond a brisk walk when I climb aboard.

I admire runners. I work with and am close to so many people who enjoy the physical and mental benefits of running, but it doesn’t seem to be a part of my genetic makeup.

But I am proficient at one kind of running. Very often, I run, sprint, dash, and rush in the opposite direction of where I’m supposed to be. I’ll be on a mission, moving as fast as I can to reach a goal, when suddenly I realize I shouldn’t be pursuing it.

It happens all the time. You’d think I’d learn my lesson. What causes me to do this?

Sometimes I attempt to reach a goal or accomplish something to please other people. Have you ever done that? Usually in my experience, if my actions do please someone else, they often leave me feeling void of any triumph. Achieving things for others rarely satisfies my own sense of accomplishment. So why do I continue to do it?

Another reason I believe I run from what I’m supposed to be doing is because what God is calling me to do is scary or just plain hard work. I’m not the most self-disciplined person and taking the easy route appeals to my lazy side. But think about it…God’s will is rarely easy.

Was it easy for Noah to build an ark? Not only was it physically taxing, I’m sure the ridicule from others caused him great emotional anxiety as well.

Was it easy for Abraham to follow the command to sacrifice his son?

Was it easy for Mother Teresa to share the love of Jesus with others?

Is it easy for missionaries today to spread the Word of God in hostile countries?

Honestly, I don’t think God has ever asked me to do anything that extreme. So why do I run the other way in a furious attempt to do my own thing? Or to follow the will of others?

The answers elude me.

The one thing I know for certain is when I’m racing toward something with blinders on, God will shake His head, tap me on the shoulder, and make me realize I’ve chosen the easy path. Sometimes He does this with a Bible verse that pops up over and over again. Or it might be a certain song I hear on K-Love. Or maybe it’s just an uneasy feeling in my stomach. Whatever means He uses, I’m sure I don’t always get the hint on the first try, but He keeps sending me clues and reminders until I recognize the need to switch directions.

Thank you, God, for your patience and guidance.

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