March Madness is basketball. Awesome amazingly fun games. Too many memories to bore you with here but two Kansas championships are the highlights!
March gladness. We are to be glad as Psalm 100 has instructed us. “Worship the Lord with gladness;
come before him with joyful songs.”
March sadness. I lost two grandparents in March. But there is gladness in knowing that with each day I am getting closer to a time that we will be reunited. This is the hope of resurrection spoken of in I Corinthians 15.
March madness. School teachers scramble to prepare students for high stakes testing next month. Here, teachers are evaluated partially on how well those students perform on the test. Madness is when a new student arrives in my classroom from Vietnam. He does not speak English, but he must take the test and when he inevitably fails the state will say I failed in teaching him.
March gladness. Although it’s late this year in Louisiana, it means Azaleas. Never thought I’d look forward to the blooming of flowers but it is a sight to see! Come on down friends and family and check it out!
March sadness. A former student of mine is in the news for the third time since I had him a year ago. Involved in two shootings, one fatal, and then the other day he got shot. Sadness for his life, for the lives he’s affected, and for the life lost in the shooting this past week. A 17 year old is on the run from that shooting, the brother of another student I’ve taught. Who will stand in the gap as Ezekiel 22:30 put it: “I looked for someone among them who would build up the wall and stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land so I would not have to destroy it, but I found no one.”
March gladness. Psalm 30:11-12 Hear, O LORD, and be gracious to me; O LORD, be my helper.” You have turned for me my mourning (sadness) into dancing; You have loosed my sackcloth and girded me with gladness, That my soul may sing praise to You and not be silent. O LORD my God, I will give thanks to You forever.
The other day in class my students were not showing their highest appreciation for my efforts to teach them. In fact they seemed to be little aware of the fact that I was trying to teach them. To make matters worse, one of my principals was in the room observing me as part of a state teacher evaluation system. This is the type of thing teachers have nightmares about. (By the way the evaluation turned out well, she thought I handled the difficult children well)
I went home rather discouraged. Janice will tell you this is not the first time. My kids will tell you this is not the first time! They know when I walk through the door. They no longer come running to throw their arms around me and barely seem to notice when the day is good and I come home with a good report on my day. But if it’s the opposite, they know!
Inner city teaching can suck the life out of you. It can also invigorate you, make you smile, make you laugh, make you cry, make you do all of that in one day! It will drive you to your knees. And it will increase your faith.
I’ve discovered that the book of Psalms are wonderful for encouragement. And the reason they are is because many of them were written by men who were in a state of discouragement. In fact, they had it far worse than I did as they speak of their life being in jeopardy. I’ve never felt my life to be in jeopardy although I have experienced death threats as recently as last year. Most of the time my discouragement comes from children being difficult, disrespectful and/or indifferent.
So I pop open my Bible and I see this nice little gem: “This I know, that God is for me.” Psalm 56:9 How about that? Most of us if we’re honest will admit that we feel at times that God is either against us, or indifferent towards us. Our own inadequacies bring these feelings on often. But God is for me is a wonderful statement of 1His Grace, it’s not because of what I’ve done, 2 His mercy, it’s not what I deserve, 3 His protection, Romans 8:31 tells us since He’s for us, no one can be against us, and 4 His love, like a parent loves his child and is for them, God loves his children and is naturally for them.
Wonderful encouragement, but it’s not enough, because even though it’s a good reminder, I already knew God was for me. It’s a little me focused and I need to be focused on others. Like my students who don’t really care that God is for me. Because they’ve got problems of their own. You know of the plight of inner city youth. I was thinking the other day of how many kids I’ve taught with who have been shot and killed, 3, and who have been otherwise touched by violence, either as surviving victims, relatives of victims, or in sadly too many cases as perpetrators.
So I read on through the Psalms. Chapter 82 provided me with the rest of the answer to beat discouragement, mainly by getting the focus off of me. “Vindicate the weak and fatherless; Do justice to the afflicted and destitute. Rescue the weak and needy; Deliver them out of the hand of the wicked.” How selfish of me to think that my peace of mind was more important than the needs of these kids who God preordained me to see them day by day in my classroom! What an opportunity I have!
I’ve been reading through Proverbs at the same time. Here’s a few related verses: 19:17 “One who is gracious to the poor man lends to the LORD, and He will repay him for his good deed.” 14:21 “Happy is he who is gracious to the poor.”
The difficulties of that day have faded. More will come. This I know that God is for me.