I feel like, lately, my inspiration for my blog has come directly from church and from our priest, Reverend Debra at Church of the Apostles in Oro Valley, Arizona. Hmmmm....I guess that isn't such a bad thing, is it? Dave and I always talk about the sermon throughout the week, which proves that it has become a big piece of our lives. The Gospel reading today was Matthew 16:26, which says, “For what profits a man if he gains the whole world but loses his own soul?”
What does that mean to you? For us, it means three pretty important things, not to mention how it reminded me of one of my favorite songs by TobyMac and Mandisa "Lose My Soul".
The best part to me, about that song (have you listened to it, yet? I don't want to give you any spoilers) is when Kirk Franklin sings "While we teach prosperity, the first thing to prosper should be inside of me". That really speaks to me, because I can get caught up so easily in the worldly things until I remember that those are fleeting. They aren't going to sustain me through eternity. So what am I doing about that? Honestly, sometimes, nothing....absolutely nothing. I let the world suck me in, and I listen to negative talk or think I want something I don't need. But what am I called to do? I think it's about these following three things, even though all three of them are hard:
1. I need to continue to talk to people, ask questions, listen (TRULY listen, not just hear the words), and sometimes agree to disagree. I hear people (including me, because I can be just as guilty of it) say they are going to listen, but they can't even wait until someone finishes saying their piece before they shake their head, saying, "No, no, no....that's not right. I just saw on the news.........". We can put our heads in the sand and not listen to anything or we can begin to have conversations with people to try to understand their points of view. If, at the end of the conversation, we are truly not changed, then we can always say to ourselves, "I will simply take what I like and leave the rest". I've had to do that many times. Or, as Dave and I try to practice with each other, when we disagree on politics or other contentious topics, we simply say, "You know, you might be right about that." Because, after all.....how do I really know that my views are the correct ones? Who made me omniscient? Nobody, I assure you. In my mind, there's only one guy that is omnipotent and omniscience and He was nailed to a cross. I make mistakes all the time. I was just talking with a group of educators the other day about how admitting vulnerability can be quite empowering, not to mention how it can build a great deal of trust in those with whom we work.
2. Sometimes, the hard way may just end of being the most rewarding: What does that mean for you? I don't know, but for me, it means that the thing I'm going through in the moment can end up teaching me so many great lessons, even if I don't feel it at the time. In other words, sometimes the toughest times can end up leaving some beautiful moments behind. I grieved so much when my mother died in July of 2005, but she left me so many beautiful gifts, not the least of which was being able to be right there as she passed away. All of our dear pups that have died (sometimes way too soon) have left us with lessons we needed to learn (as I talk specifically and sometimes comically in my book Letting Go of K.C. ).
Even being diagnosed with breast cancer five years ago and going through a double mastectomy, oophorectomy, and reconstruction, while quite painful for me (and Dave, as caretaker), taught us how much to enjoy what we have while we have it. Nobody has a "get out of death free" card, right? We went through that time with a lot of humor and a whole lot of prayer.
I was just talking to one of my graduate students in one of my Educational Leadership courses yesterday. She said she might want to get her doctorate after getting her master's degree. I told her that she should since she wants to continue to learn, but I cautioned that she should be prepared to work harder and have her life be more disturbed than ever before. I always say that getting a doctorate is a family affair. While I may have been the only one taking the courses and writing the dissertation, Dave and the dogs had to put up with me not being "present" for a number of months. But the rewards were so worth it in all those instances, yes, even death. I now have beautiful memories of my mother, our pups, how much I was cared for through my surgeries, and how much I learned through my doctoral program with a great bunch of people in our cohort (yes, I miss you all so very much). So, yes, sometimes the best things in life might be the hardest.
3. Possessions are only temporary As TobyMac, Kirk Franklin, and Mandisa sing about in the song above, what do I have if all I gather with me are worldly possessions? While buying a new outfit or going out to dinner at a great restaurant are fun at the time, I have found the most rewarding times are when I feel most spiritually connected to God and to other people who are seeking the same type of rewards---non-worldly ones. Connections with people (my best friends, for example) have been the cornerstone of my life in addition to the connection to Jesus Christ. I think, as educators, we are "called" not to stay in our own classrooms (or our own silos, as I often quip) but rather to share what we learn and feel about our own teaching. Good ideas shared are free, but they have such long-lasting effects.
Just for today, maybe take a listen to the song above and consider where you are putting your energy, time, and even money. Are you spending time arguing with negative Nellies? Are you spending time gathering all the worldly possessions you can? Or, are you, perhaps, making connections with people and a Higher Power that will last forever?