Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Tears of God

It rained in Littleton tonight - the tears of God fell from above.

An hour and a half had passed before I knew it tonight, and I was wet from the rain that fell from the heavens. I couldn't help but think that God was crying down upon the Columbine Memorial, right along with me. In the spirit of remembrance, this memorial has been built in Littleton, Colorado - built to pay homage to the lives of those lost on April 20, 1999, and to forever remember the events of that day. With prayers for strength of heart, I finally felt I could visit this place, and in the darkness and silence of the night, I soaked up the raw emotion of the memories of that tragic day.

It rained in Littleton tonight - the tears of God fell from above.

Tears fell from my own eyes as I read the many quotes on the wall - reflections, reactions, remembrances. So many expressions of shock and disbelief, of uncertainty and despair. Equally present were the thoughts of thankfulness - for paramedics, for fellow students, for teachers, for faith. Amidst the fear and confusion, students stood behind their faith in God, and shared that faith with others. I can't imagine how many prayers were offered during those fear-filled hours - prayers in the hallways, prayers in the library, prayers in the cafeteria. Faith was tested and affirmed that day.

It rained in Littleton tonight - the tears of God fell from above.

The stars above - so many stars above. I was in amazement that, even though the rain pelted down upon the softly lit cobblestone paths, there was a clearing in the sky that allowed the stars and moon to be seen. The memorial is so far removed from traffic and all things city that the stars could shine down without distraction. The fountains on the side of the path continuously flowed, pouring over their stone embankments, as if their grief could not be quenched.

It rained in Littleton tonight - the tears of God fell from above.

The people. Those who lost their lives that day are forever remembered in a circle of celebration. Each one has their own space, their own name carved into stone. Twelve children and one teacher. Each has their own story, their own brief history. As my eyes adjusted to the darkness, I read and prayed over each tribute. Parents wrote of how their child brightened their day, of how his moods were a part of life, of how she loved spending time at youth group, of his grin when catching that big fish. How does one memorialize a child? How does one capture the essence of their family member, and let the world know just how much they meant to them? I couldn't imagine that task. Families recalled how he struggled with his faith, of how she couldn't wait to get to Heaven, how he cherished the time he spent with his grandmother, how his name meant gift from God. Most poignant were the words of the children themselves - diary entries about their faith, conversations with family, poetry about how short their life might be.

It rained in Littleton tonight - the tears of God fell from above.

While the 13 stations were framed with tulips and fresh roses, the tears and fears of families were also present. Words of blame and pain are etched into the stone as well, as parents verbally lashed out at the humans behind this tragedy, at the evil they still see in the world. No amount of carved stone, no words of kindess will bring them peace quite yet. My prayer is that they, too, come to a place of forgiveness and healing. That they can someday realize God didn't abandon Columbine. That God was crying right along with those families that day.

It rained in Littleton tonight - the tears of God fell from above.

It's always a jarring moment, to walk away and bring yourself back into the reality of the world around you. As I departed from the memorial, lost in my own thoughts and emotions, I came upon the baseball diamond that is also part of the park. There it was, right there in front of me: the continuation of life. High school students hitting and catching a baseball, even at 10:30 pm. Teenagers being teenagers. The park didn't close because it was April 20th. The diamond didn't shut off its lights because it was April 20th. The kids didn't stay indoors because it was April 20th. Life continued. They found each other. There was hope.

It may have rained in Littleton tonight, yet the tears of God fell from above as a reminder to us down below of His continued presence and love.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Stunned by Grace

Hooray!  We've begun our Book of Faith:  Romans study here at Bethany Lutheran Church in Denver!

(We've been lucky to have already worked our way through the Proverbs study, authored by our own Pastor Ron Glusenkamp and his good friend, Peter Mayer.  Click here to learn more.  I'm sure it will re-surface once again in our congregational homes in the coming months - there's always room for more conversation!)

We're a Book of Faith congregation at Bethany, and I'm happy to share some adventures and personal thoughts on the happenings behind this exciting initiative!

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Session One:  What Must I Do to be Saved?

    Focus Statement:  We are not saved by anything we do, but by God's grace alone.

    Key verse:  They are now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.  Romans 3:24

Well, Amen and hallelujah for that focus statement!  I think that about wraps it up.

Ok...a few more thoughts:  we discussed in our small group our personal perception of salvation, and how we view it.  An event?  A process?  A journey?  I responded with a hearty YES!  All three - and then some!  Salvation is something I think about daily, something I'm appreciative of each minute.  It's not a competition.  It's not a hierarchy where only the top class is saved.  It's not a ranking system where only the top echelon shall be granted its presence.   It's grace.  GRACE!  It's all encompassing.  It's for me!  That is huge.

Each week, our study will explore the four interconnected contexts:  Historical, Literary, Lutheran, Devotional.  Talk about giving us a whole-picture approach!  Love it.

Pastor Carl provided us with some background knowledge of our good buddy, Paul.  How reading Romans is like 'reading someone else's mail' and that the letters would have been read out loud.  That was an important point for me - keeping in mind the style of oral transmission of that day.  I've switched to reading our weekly passages out loud, as if sharing the information with a gathering.  (Mind you, I live alone, but perhaps my neighbors will start to tune in if I read in the breezeway...)

Romans 3:  9-31:  We read three different translations (which I think will be a super important strategy to continue each week) and one of them said this:  "believing not achieving".  Dang.  There you have it.  Talk about going against the status quo.  Even yesterday, as I'm walking through Target, there are wall signs and hangings all over that said, "Achieve".  Now, as a teacher, I'm certainly behind the efforts and thoughts put into achieving, and I think achieving brings you to a deeper level of understanding.  But, if that's the end all, be all, we're in a world of trouble.  Or at least I am.  

Grace.  Lots of grace in Romans.  One of those gifts you can't believe you've received.  We're so human in our understanding of gifts, that I think we fail to fully comprehend the overwhelming and TOTAL gift grace really is.  We measure it.  We rank it.  We put our own limits around it.  SO not the point of grace.  I marvel at grace - I'm thankful for grace - I'm stunned by grace.  

Ponderings:  I think the term 'justification' confuses me as a Lutheran, as a Christian.  When I'm justifying something, it sounds as if I'm defending it.  As if I have to give reasons behind the choices that were made, and allow for supporting details to win my case.  Justification is a hard concept to reconcile with the notion of grace.  They seem to be in conflict with one another - it's clear I need to ask more questions and do more reading!  And pray.  Definitely pray.  I'm guessing that the Holy Spirit will jump all over ponderings such as these!

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Book of Faith Adult Learning Series - ROMANS

Writer:  Matthew J. Marohl

Augsburg Fortress 2009

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Beauty and the Bit

It is  66 degrees at 5 pm on a Sunday evening.  

Life is good here in Colorado.

The Colorado sky was absolutely amazing today.  
A sky filled with hope!

One of the following two things have been happening:  either my dear hearts have become too rough with their classroom instruments OR seven years of happy use has started to show itself, because my xylophone pegs are beginning to break.  Snap.  Wear down.  Self-destruct. 

C  pegs?  Broken.  D peg?  Standing tall.  

Doot doot doo dooooo!
Brenda and a power tool!  
This could be a very baaaaaad idea....

Did I mention the beauty found above?

So, after using the power drill to clean out the old peg, I would carefully fill the hole with Krazy Glue, and insert the new peg.  Worked just fine.  Other than those 2 minutes where I thought I would be permanently attached to a classroom instrument.  But other than that, all is well.  

Ta-da!!  I'm one happy camper for having thought this one through - I couldn't dig the old pegs out (they were rubber and just laughed at me) so this seemed to be a workable solution.  The kids will be very happy to have their tone bars stay in place!

Things were going JUST fine, 
until the drill bit got stuck in the 6th hole.  
And the power drill battery died.
And then I pulled.   To the side.
And snapped off the drill bit in the instrument.
Are we surprised?!


Saturday, April 17, 2010

A Life of Imbalance

This is a total stream of consciousness blog post. I may not even post pictures or change the colors. Oh, who are we kidding. The colors will change. Moving on. I write most of my blogs in the car. No worries, I'm not driving and writing, I'm simply working through most of the thoughts in my head. Every time I think about driving the 20+ miles to and from friends or church, I'm actually grateful for the time in the car. That's my time to chit chat with God, to pull my thoughts together, to transition to what I'm doing next. I talk out loud in the car. I sing out loud. I've come to many realizations zooming up and down interstate 25 here in Colorado.

One realization on the drive home tonight: the imbalance of work and play in my life, and how it somehow works itself out for me. We're taught to make sure our life is balanced, but what does that really mean? I think I try for balance, but will never achieve it. And quite frankly, I'm beginning to become okay with that. I'm a worker. There's no getting around that. I'm simply wired to work hard. And the thing is, I usually enjoy it. I thoroughly enjoy it. It drives me. It keeps me going at night and gets me up in the morning. I like accomplishing things. Not for recognition, not for acclaim, but for the joy in getting them done. Pride? Perhaps. But I think a healthy dose of pride is good for people. I also think the worker in me goes hand in hand with the helper in me, too. I'm a born helper. I wrote about that years ago during a workshop - I need to go find that. It was validating and really helped others understand me. I'll find it. Tomorrow.

Back to the imbalance and how it works: take today, for instance. I worked hard today. Hard. Even now, I have work running in the background on this computer. I'll be working for another hour or so, for sure. Thankfully, this blog is fun. Therapeutic. Freeing. I have Louis and Ella filling my home with music. Good stuff. No matter how hard I work, though, I can always re-charge during play. I played tonight. Physically and mentally. It revived me. I worked from 8 - 5 today. Solid work. I played from 5 - 930. That's 9 hours of work (plus more now) and 4.5 hours of play. Horribly imbalanced. YET, though my play was half as much as my work, I'm twice as happy as I was earlier. That's where the imbalance works for me. I get so much out of my time with dear friends that it replenishes all that was taken from me during my work. My heart is happy again, no matter what the activity. A family dinner around the table. A little boy tossing leaves on my head. Chords on the piano. Giggling teenagers. Finding the stars in the sky.

It's an imbalance that works for me.

Okay, just one photo. You knew I couldn't resist. I'm a graphics and photos kind of gal. There was nothing more amusing today than having to ring the doorbell of the next-door neighbor and ask for the yellow ball that was kicked into their yard. Especially when there is a 10 year old boy standing next to you, snickering. Especially when you, the 31 year old who should know better, was the one who kicked that ball over the fence, as hard as you could. Who's 10 years old now!? :)

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Dive Bomb

Twenty-three eight year olds.
Twelve Buzz Lightyear and Spiderman kites.
One really really REALLY windy day.

Note: when the wind was as gusty as it was, kites will DIVE BOMB the children. The kids were getting pretty good at learning to dodge them as they fell from the sky and raced toward their little heads.

...up to the highest height...
"Ms. G, we can't see our kite anymore."

"That was AWESOME!"
they said, as they blew back into the classroom.
Resilient little people!

23 kids when we started.
23 kids when we were done.
Whew! Thought for sure they'd be carried off into the sky!

(Note: fun photos removed from original post...)

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Open Immediately

And just think, before blogging, you never would have
had the chance to enjoy these photos and stories!?

What in the WORLD is happening at the back of my fridge?! I keep a small container near the back to catch the random dripping of water from the freezer, and this lovely ice sculpture is what I found inside there this week. Might need to look into this...

Who knew my lunch could be so amusing...

Kelly. I'm blaming Kelly. Honestly. An entire jar of hot fudge topping? And you really expected me not to go and fill up my water bottle with milk from the cafeteria and grab a spoon? Kelly. I'm blaming Kelly for the latest pounds on my frame. Curse you.

This is about the last thing I want to see when I pass by the mailboxes at my school. Open immediately? If not sooner.

"Ms. G, I need to read you my note. Right now."
Everyone needs to hear an afternoon poem
about someone named Squishy.
Who goes to the bathroom.
Because he wants to. At home. At 10:00.

There is a special place in heaven for moms who individually wrap fudge for their child's birthday treat and then deliver it to the music teacher on a track-off day. This mom happens to also be 36 weeks pregnant. Bless her.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Mobile Munchkins

Finally, a school event that wasn't too cold or too rainy! We won't talk about the wind...we will talk about the happy Spring feeling it gave everyone, the blue sky that was above, and the sunshine our kids enjoyed! Hooray for Bike/Walk to School Day!

(Note: fun photos removed from original post...)

Well, knock me over and call me Sally - it's Mr. Al, our Building Manager! He was the last one in the building this morning, riding all over the school grounds as the kids arrived.

Look at them roll! Good job, Flagstonians!

Is this not awesome?! Talk about participation!

The kiddo that came with this bike was just as cute.

Holy Full Bike Racks, Batman!

Liberty and a Locksmith

We're learning about all things American right now

 in first grade, and these kids are cracking me up:

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Me:  The Statue of Liberty was a gift to America from the country of France.

Kid:  Why didn't they give us something more practical?

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Me:  The Statue came to America in over 300 pieces.  We had to put it together once it arrived.

Kid:  What piece did you help put together, Ms. G?

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Me:  She's actually hollow, you can climb around inside of her.

Kid:  Could you fill her up with milk?

(Apparently, there are hollow cereal straws

 through which you can pour milk.  Who knew.)

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And this kiddo.  He REALLY was this specific.  So funny:  

"Ms. G, I do not want to be an astronaut for two reasons.  First, if you happen to fly too close to a star, you'll burst into flames and become a star yourself.  Second, what happens if you leave the space shuttle for a space walk, and forget your keys?  How are you supposed to get back to earth if you lock yourself out?"

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Swift Kick

Simply absurd. 

This had to be the most ridiculous thing I saw online today:  my little brother Brad (who is in Haiti, mind you) and Kate (who could be considered my little sister) becoming fans of Taylor Swift on Facebook!  Honestly, you two need a Swift kick in the....oh, wait...that's when I remembered....

...that I, too, had joined the Taylor Swift Fan Club (by proxy) just this week, thanks to one of my students.  SNAP!  She attended the TS concert here in Denver, and bought me a wicked-cool Glo-Stick.  It rocks.  

Check it out!  I had to swing it around and let it reflect 
in the bathroom mirror in order to capture these shots.  

Dang.  Can't really say anything about Brad and Kate, except...
Welcome to the club! 

Arm Hair

arm hair....OH MY!

Hooray for lilies! I'm taking this photo from the car, because you know it's only a matter of time before I tip the thing over 15 times steering the car too vigorously, completely drop it on its way up three flights of stairs, and forget to water it over the next few months. Welcome home, Lily!

Dear Starbucks Card: Thank you for being such a pal over the last month. You have filled me with Green Tea Lattes and warm panini sandwiches, and lest we forget, the Greek Yogurt Cups. I shall miss your presence in my life, and forever remember our drive-through time together. Sincerely, Brenda.

Want to know what started the whole painting hoopla in the first place? The electronic drum set you see above! ALL I wanted to do was use up the last of our music budget and LOOK where it landed me! :) This drum set is super cool, makes those wicked scratch-the-record sounds (I'm sure there is a much more technical term, but alas, I'm so not rap-cool), and made for some really happy (and surprised) kiddos at school. I don't think they quite know what to make of me this week...and that's saying something!

Oh, yeah. MUCH better than the plain drumsticks.

Soldiers, ready...MARCH!

So, you know how as a teacher you're supposed to be impartial, and fair, and not pick favorites? Yeah, well, blah blah blah....enjoy some of my absolute faves!

A face! Clever!
A spill of silver paint! Not so clever!

"Really? We can use more than one color, Ms. G?"
"Yes, you MAY use more than one color!"
(I couldn't resist)

A one-eyed wood block. Kiss up.

See how much more colorful our classroom will be?
Super stoked to share with the other tracks of kids.

Oh, yeah. A tamborine. A colorful tamborine.
It will sound better. I'm sure of it.

I leave you with two words: ARM HAIR. I finished lacquering everything wooden this afternoon around 4pm. I would just like to help inform the world that when spraying lacquer outdoors, one should always take note of which way the wind is blowing, so as to not permanently affix your arm hair to your body.

Lesson learned.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Color Us Happy!

Ever have one of those crazy ideas that completely
takes on a life of its own? Welcome to my world...

Step 1: Sand down anything wooden that can be painted.

Step 2: Completely cover children in
paint shirts, as to not upset parents.

Step 3: Place a large drop cloth under children,
so as to not upset the custodian.

Step 4: Release the children! Time to paint!

Check out my super-cool stool!

...AND our colorful drum sticks.

They look like tiny javelins!

What? Sand-blocks are made out of wood, too?
They must be painted!

...such technique!

2 teacher stools, 12 drum sticks,
4 tambourines, 24 sand-blocks.

Color us HAPPY!

Wasn't Ready for That

I wasn't ready for Isabel to tell me that her handmade telescope for our Pirate Choir Concert was made from the spools from her Grandmother's collection - the same grandmother who passed away last week. Wasn't ready for that.

I wasn't ready to see that there is a trapdoor that leads into the space above my home. I'm not sure if someone is coming or going. I would say that I should probably sleep with one eye open, but that might make for a rather restless evening... I could have done without seeing a secret entrance to my home. Wasn't ready for that.

I wasn't ready for the range of emotions that accompanied our Space lessons this week. The kids and I followed the launch of the space shuttle, which came with many inquiries from the little people, including questions about missions that had failed. I briefly talked to the kids about the Challenger tragedy, and how I had been a child in elementary school when it happened. It clearly still brought up vivid images and raw emotion for me, which I think is okay for the kids to see once in a while. The above photo was taken this week in Castle Rock, and reminded me of that perfect blue sky in 1986 that was scarred with the white clouds of the explosion. Wasn't ready for that.

I wasn't ready to finish up a practice session in the Sanctuary, only to turn around and see the lone choir robe, resting in the choir loft. The funeral earlier that day was for a man named Ross, a longtime doctor in the Denver area and 30 yr. member of Bethany church choir. This is the same Ross that taught me how to play Bridge at the Senior's group in late February. Seeing that robe stopped me completely in my tracks. Wasn't ready for that.

I wasn't ready to see the live animal and reptile cart not 2 feet from me this afternoon at school. The colorful bird was awesome, but the secured blue cooler beneath contained an animal of which I shall not speak (thanks a LOT, Indiana Jones). Knowing it was even IN the school gave me the creeps, and knowing it was being held outside of its secure case on the other side of my classroom wall made me all but freak out. Wasn't ready for that.