Posted tagged ‘high school’

Religious Suspicionists

February 26, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                       February 26, 2017

                                     

A tragic event happened this past week that traumatized a local high school. A student took his life. Teen suicide has happened way to often in recent times. For the high school effected it was their sixth student suicide in the past year or so.

Half of the suicide victims at this high school had been involved in some way with the Young Life club of their campus. The local newspaper had a headline article featuring that point. A couple of the people that were interviewed more than hinted that there might be a connection between students killing themselves and what they were experiencing at Young Life.

When suicides happen, especially amongst adolescents, people search for answers…they long for understanding. Like common threads in a TV police detective episode, they look for connections between the victims. Young Life was a common thread half of the time. That led to comments by those being interviewed that perhaps the theology…the belief system of Young Life had been a contributing factor in the deaths.

A tragic situation followed by tragic assumptions. Religions, not just Christianity, are viewed with more and more suspicion these days. There are radical Muslims, radical Jews, and radical Christians…and a growing number of people can not differentiate between the radicals and those of us who see our spiritual faith as a motivator for positive results. And, quite frankly, there are a number of religious folk who look with suspicion on anything that they are uncomfortable with! That’s been true for centuries. Remember? Rock music was of the devil, tattoos are of the devil, movies are of the devil, Harry Potter was of the devil…the list was, and still is, long!

A number of conspiracy theorists have taken up residence in the Church!

There’s a growing number of suspicionists who WERE a part of the church. They were burned in some way, mistreated by the people of grace, and exited congregations never to return. A burned Baptist is like a parent whose daughter just got stood up by her prom date. Hell knows no greater fury. Anger has been planted deep inside.

So perhaps the suspicions about Young Life are understandable, although untrue. Perhaps we should expect doubts about our faith to become more prominent, and more reservations about our calling and purpose to rise to the surface.

If I remember right the first followers of Jesus had the same challenge. Their language was misinterpreted, as they took the bread and cup and referred to them as the body and blood of Christ! Their citizenship was questioned, as they talked about following Christ the King. Their theology was concerning, as they experienced the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and expressed belief in someone who had been crucified and then was said to be raised form the dead.

Suspicion is not new to followers of Christ. We sometimes forget that we were gifted with “good news”, and that good news contains hope, love, peace, and grace that needs to trumpeted in a refresher course for Christ-followers.

One last hopeful point that the newspaper article made was that in the midst of the school tragedy the leaders of Young Life were coming alongside students and helping them cope with the loss, praying with the grieving, and listening to the confused. I guess you would call that the ministry of presence.

The Power of a Substitute With Skittles

September 3, 2016

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                          September 3, 2016

                               

My journey into the world of substitute teaching (“guest teaching”) wrote a new chapter this week when I subbed for a high school social studies teacher for three days. What an experience!

World History for the partially motivated…Advanced Placement (AP) U.S. History for the more motivated, or, for some, more stressed…and a classroom full of freshmen for Foundations of Learning, a sophisticated academic way of saying “study hall!”

The school I subbed in, two blocks from our house, operates on a “block system”, which means the classes are ninety minutes long and meet every other day.

The Foundations of Learning Class was the first class I had my first day. It consisted of freshmen who want to study, freshmen who pretend to study, and freshmen who could care less about studying. The conversation was continuous, but I let it go. I had brought a book with me, Valiant Ambition by Nathaniel Philbrick, but I found it hard to concentrate on the words. Back in my seminary days I would have to read some of the pages of theological writings out loud to hep me try to stay focused. I needed that as in the midst of the classroom conversations. When I read I either have ear buds in listening to music or I like it quiet. Being the teacher, it seemed that ear buds might be a bit risky.

Two days later I began the day once again with that study hall. I pondered how the ninety minutes of torture might go better. What might I do to change the culture of the classroom?

And then it hit me! Skittles! I emptied my piggy bank and bought a bag of Skittles for each of the students in the class. Yes, it set me back $10 of my already minimal guest teaching pay, but what an experience!

The class began with the regular suspects present. I took attendance and then showed the class the book I was reading, went into a brief excited explanation about how much I enjoyed reading history, but then explained how I either needed ear buds or quiet to comprehend what the pages were saying to me.

“I would really love to get twenty pages in my book read during class this morning, and, you know something, if I get twenty pages read I will be in celebration mode. I will be so happy…so, so happy that I think I’d like to give each of you a gift of celebration. So if you can help me concentrate and get twenty pages read…I want to give each of you a bag of Skittles at the end of class.”

Shock! Dismay! Confusion! Delight! Wondering if they heard me right! Open mouths of temporary astonishment!

“But, mind you, I can’t concentrate in the midst of a lot of noise, so you’ll have to help me out here.”

They dug in, but I noticed a few of them were looking at me to make sure that I was starting to read. I had instantly created the Skittles Security Guard , making sure I was on task with what I was suppose to be doing.

A few minutes later, a teacher at the school, and a friend of mine, stopped by to speak with one of the students, but when he saw that I was there we got into a conversation about basketball, his sons, and coaching. Talk about eyes of consternation being upon me. When our conversation had hit five minutes one of the students reminded me that I should be reading. I felt chastised and my teaching friend felt chased.

Back to the reading. Every few minutes someone would come by the desk and ask me how many pages I still had left to read? I was now the student in a room with twenty teachers.

At the end of class the Skittles became a reality for each one of them. Perhaps they were all sugared up for their next class, but in the process I hoped they discovered that Foundations of Learning could be ninety minutes of study and discovery on a regular basis.

The power of Skittles, a new tool for educating young minds!

Opening A Door

January 23, 2015

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                  January 23, 2015

                                                  

I watched a video online this week that my wife had forwarded to me that brought me to the edge of tears. It told a story about a young man who had lost his dad, and then he and his mom used from a small town to a city. His mom thought a change in setting would ease some of her son’s pain as he dealt with his father’s death. His new high school was substantially larger than the one in his small town.

It’s hard being the new kid in a setting where people have their friends already, their peer groups, and their places of standing. That is, high schoolers know the pecking order…who to give space to, who to chum up with, and, hard as it is to say, who doesn’t matter that much.

This young man, Josh, started to be picked on and bullied. He had pictures in his locker of his father that got torn down. Sometimes insecure students will do unbelievably cruel things to others…just because!

In the midst of new surroundings and a journey of grief Josh started opening doors for people. He would arrive at school early and hold the door open for other students coming in. In between classes he would hold the hallway door open as students rushed from class to class. After a while some of the students started noticing. He started being referred to as “the door guy.” More and more students started saying “thank you” or they would give Josh a high five! More students became familiar with his story and were taken back by his wounded heart that was still looking at doing simple acts of kindness.

Such a simple thing! Opening a door!

Josh began speaking to groups of elementary and middle school students about bullying and overcoming. He developed his new gift of public speaking…and continued to open doors!

I so often hear people say they have nothing to offer, that they don’t know what their gifts are and how they can serve. There’s a tendency to make it a grandiose thing that is out of their reach. They wallow in their defeat and sense of worthlessness.

Josh’s story hit me, because almost all of us can open a door for someone. Seeking to help is a personal decision, not a talent. Every person can be a benefit to others. Telling a cashier that you hope he has a good day, shoveling your neighbor’s sidewalk, donating a book to the library, mentoring a fatherless child, praying with a parent in a hospital waiting room, or…simply opening a door!

Opening doors doesn’t require training, or to be certified. It’s simply a choice that we avoid or welcome.

 

Missing A Sixty Gathering

September 22, 2014

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                        September 22, 2014

                                              

I graduated from Ironton High School in 1972. For those who are math-challenged that means I received my diploma 42 years ago. It also means that most of the people in my high school class hit the “6-0” sometime during this year.

This past weekend people from my “Class of ’72” had a 60th Birthday Bash in Ironton.

I couldn’t go! I had a team of three year olds I needed to coach in soccer…otherwise known as “herd ball.”

But I did see pictures from the birthday bash that several of my Facebook friends posted. Here’s the hard part! When you don’t see people for decades you tend to ask the same question over and over again: Who is that?

Sixty looks different than eighteen! My frame of reference with Ironton High School is still with an eighteen lens. But things happen! Hair turns grey…or white…or disappears! Waistlines expand, people get shorter, more bent over. Wisdom has its price tag…support bras, support leg stockings, back support wraps. Aging is not easy.

I miss a lot of my high school classmates…Dave Hughes…Margaret Whaley…Mike Fairchild…Tommy “TD” Douglas…Jim Payne…Susan Heald…Greg Harding. The memories come back of Carl Pyle singing “Climb Every Mountain” at graduation, Sunday night youth gatherings at First Baptist, Junior Prom with Mary Cronacher, setting the school record for the mile run (which lasted for one..maybe two years) in a race in Charleston…and only finishing fifth! Getting ribbed for not getting my driver’s license until I graduated (Jeff Waddell kept asking me how the stereo system was on my bicycle!), Smitty’s for unhealthy lunches, the protest of some of the African-American students, during which they got on the school P.A. system.

Good times!

I’m assuming that most of us in my class have grown out of high school. We’ve matured, gone on to raise families, become overbearing parents just like ours were, and now grandparents who carry around thousands of pictures of our grandkids…and maybe one each of our originals! We’ve gone our different ways and now we look back on what was and miss the Friday nights, the possible teen romances, and the laughter of crazy adolescence.

Sixty is a new phase of life that came along whether we were ready for it or not.

I have to admit something. In some ways it’s hard for me to go back to my old high school. For one thing, they tore down my school and built a new building on the spot, with the exception of the nostalgic front entrance columns that they kept standing. But it’s also hard for me to go back because I’ve moved away and moved on. Life is better in many ways, harder in others, but most of all, completely different. I’ve been a pastor for thirty-five years, married the same number and only once, father of three, grandfather of two and a half (3 next March). Most of my life these days is focused on a completely different set of priorities than I had at IHS.

I miss my old classmates, and I’m okay with that.