Hello, God. Welcome to My Classroom


Need Restoration?

Posted in A Class Act by Linden Barrick on February 25, 2013
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The Piankatank Bridge is under construction. I have to cross the bridge every day on my way to and from work, so I was worried at the beginning of the school year when it was announced there would be one-way traffic over it for a very, very long time.  If I consider the situation logically, I realize I’m never sitting there for more than 3 or 4 minutes. In the grand scheme of things, it’s not a big deal.

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It’s a slight inconvenience, but I’ve found I’m in awe at the process. The construction workers aren’t simply repairing the roadway; they have completely eliminated one lane and are rebuilding it from scratch. It’s a little unnerving when I see one side of the bridge completely demolished while I drive across the other. How do they maintain the stability of one side while obliterating the other? If I’m in my car, my perspective doesn’t provide me with much of a view, but when I drive Mark’s truck, I sit high enough to see straight down to the river. Scary!

As I consider the bridge, I think about God’s restoration of His believers. Many people hit rock bottom, become completely destroyed, before they reach out to Him for help. He keeps part of us stable enough to cry out for His help while other parts must be rebuilt from scratch. He doesn’t just patch up our flaws; He completes a total overhaul, starting with our hearts.

He can renew anyone, no matter how deep the wounds. So many of my students need restoration. A boy searching for guidance but without a father figure. A girl who believed the words “I love you” and wants to feel clean again.  A victim who wants to die rather than face the bully who demonizes his days. All can be renewed with God’s love even when the world feels cold and lonely.

Like the bridge, it might take total demolition before restoration can begin, but God’s power makes it possible.

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How Do You Show Appreciation?

Posted in A Class Act by Linden Barrick on February 13, 2013
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Valentine’s Day is tomorrow (in case you missed the memo). I’ve never been one to get too hung up on gifts for Valentine’s Day. I think it’s wonderful to know I’m loved and appreciated, but it seems slightly forced when I receive a gift on the day when society, card stores, and flower shops say I should. Thankfully, Mark and I usually go out to eat and focus more on giving gifts to the kids.

Everyone likes to be appreciated. It’s nice to get praise from someone you respect or admire, and it’s awesome to hear “thank you” for something you’ve done. It’s the old “atta boy” pick-me-up we all treasure. Appreciation for our loved ones, for other people, for our jobs, or for our world can be shown in a variety of ways.

Appreciation is a small gesture of kindness.

Appreciation is a thank you for simply being you.

Appreciation is doing a task even when “it’s not my job.”

Appreciation is a note of encouragement when facing a tough challenge or everyday stress.

Appreciation is a gift for no reason at all.

Appreciation is a touch on the arm when no words will do.

Appreciation is seeing the sunrise and thinking, “Good job, God!”

Appreciation is taking advantage of an opportunity.

Appreciation is serving with a smile.

However…

Appreciation is NOT receiving a gift that has been requested or demanded.

Seeking Horizontal Approval

Posted in A Class Act by Linden Barrick on February 5, 2013
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Today’s society wallows in sexual innuendo (did you see some of the Super Bowl ads??), so some would read the title of this blog and let their minds wander to the bedroom (or a parked car, or a bathroom stall, wherever). But that’s not what this is about. Sorry, but there’s nothing racy here.

Recently, I’ve heard the terms horizontal and vertical approval used on occasion. I understand the concept of seeking approval either from those around me (horizontal) or from above (vertical), but I didn’t analyze the small aspects of my life in regards to the distinction. Until now.

I know many aspects of my life probably reflect my need for horizontal approval. Not always because I thrive on the approval itself but because sometimes it’s easier than seeking the vertical type. But there’s one area of my life that really needs a change.

What I’m referring to is my “connectedness” to other people. Nowadays, it’s so simple to stay connected. I remember while growing up, sitting on the hard, dining room chair next to the built-in desk between the kitchen and dining room, winding the phone cord around my fingers while I chatted with whoever happened to be on the other end. If I wasn’t near the phone or in the house, I simply wasn’t connected.

That was it. No email, no iPhones, no tablets, no Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, or Snapchat. How did we ever survive?

Sometimes I long to be unconnected again, but I fear I’m addicted to it. Living far from family is a great excuse to be active in online communities and social networks. Texting is a fast, efficient way to keep tabs on Autumn or keep in touch with Mark, friends, and co-workers. Reading blogs and articles increases my knowledge and awareness.

But is it too much? Does it waste valuable time? When I consider my connectedness based on seeking approval, I think so. Here are just a few of my many habits…

When I’m in my classrrom, I check email every time I sit down at my desk.

Rarely a day passes when I don’t read the news feed in social networks such as Facebook and Twitter.

Frequently (very frequently), I send texts just to find out what other people are doing.

I receive over one hundred blogs and articles in my inbox and/or RSS feed every week.

Each of those isn’t bad in and of itself. But when I think in terms of seeking approval, God plays little if any part in those actions. Do I check professional email frequently so I can answer immediately and the recipient might view me as prompt and on-the-ball? When I send a text to see what others are doing, am I overly concerned with their life instead of focusing on mine? Do I check the social networks (and post status updates on them) to feel an inflated sense of belonging?

What might happen if I dedicated a small amount of this time to gain some vertical approval? Could I eliminate a few email checks or Facebook scrolls and instead read a devotion? Say a prayer? Think of a way to help someone? My relationship with God would certainly flourish. My spiritual walk would follow a straighter path. My need to feel approval from others would diminish as I absorbed the approval from the One who matters most.

Awareness is the first step, and now that I acknowledge my problem, it’s an easy fix, right?

Sure it is. Now guess how many times I checked email while typing this. 🙂

Expectations Revisited

Posted in A Class Act by Linden Barrick on February 4, 2013
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Reblogged from June 2012 –
I needed the reminder this week. Maybe you do too!

Expectations are a part of everyone’s daily life. I expect my children to mind their manners and my students to follow the rules. My family expects me to buy groceries. My boss expects me to show up for work. Life’s roads have fewer potholes when everyone does what’s expected of them each day.

But sometimes expectations ruin a situation. They can be the enemy of happiness and wrench all enjoyment out of an experience.

We’ve been reviewing for end-of-year tests in my classroom. I have a box of candy, toys, and other incentives to reward the students when they do well on a practice test or win a review game. After receiving incentives for a while, the students began to expect them. They’d walk into class and say, “Do we get candy today?” Talk about deflating my balloon. I love giving the kids goodies to keep them focused and motivated, but when they ask for them? Very frustrating.

If something you like to do turns into a duty or expected responsibility, you might not like it as much. I love to bake and cook. I make cakes, cookies, breads, and especially decorated cupcakes. I also enjoy making appetizers and complete meals when I have time. One year my principal hired me to cater our end-of-year staff party. What a shock to find all my pleasure stripped away when great cooking became an expectation. My nerves and anxiety ruined the experience. I discovered a cherished hobby shouldn’t always become a job.

Have you ever planned to take a gift or a meal to someone who is sick or just moved into the neighborhood? I usually I take food because it gives me an excuse to bake, of course. But few things annoy me more than a well-intentioned but controlling person telling me what to do. One time I received an email from a fellow church member who had “scheduled” me to take a meal to someone in our congregation. Had I planned to take that person a meal? Yes. Did I plan to do it on the day I was “scheduled” to do so? It just so happened that yes, I had planned it for that day. Was I happy about being told to do it? No, not in the least.

I readily admit this is my own rebellion against someone else controlling my decisions (that topic requires a whole blog series by itself), but all the joy of preparing a meal as a gift vanishes if someone else tells me to do it. It’s like requiring a mean-spirited toddler to say, “I’m sorry.” When he does so, it lacks sincerity. If I’m forced into kindness, it loses its authenticity.

I think the main reason expectations are the enemy is because they cause us to feel resentment toward others. If you expect to have fun and laugh with someone, that anticipation adds joy to the relationship. But if one person in the relationship expects something such as a phone call at a certain time every day – and gets annoyed if it doesn’t happen – the expectation depletes the relationship. If I can learn to eliminate many of the expectations I place on people and avoid the irritation they cause, life would be more enjoyable.  If I try to live up to God’s will, not that of someone else, disappointment will diminish as I experience the blessings of life every day.

Do you expect too much from someone? Do you resent expectations other people place on you?


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