Archive for the 'faith' Category


Highly Recommended

A conversation with my wife led to a headsmack/”yeah, huh?” moment this morning.

We have a friend who needed me to write a letter of recommendation as part of her application to a math and science teacher training program. I love it when people ask me to do things like this, because I get a big kick out of pointing out things I see in people that maybe they don’t see in themselves.

For an antisocial sort, I’m actually pretty fond of people. On a personal level. (It’s just the GROUPS I don’t particularly care for, I guess. But anyway.)

I wrote the letter yesterday, and emailed a copy to my friend, who seemed quite happy at what I had written about her. And it makes me feel GOOD to make people feel GOOD about themselves. And that’s what I told my wife.

In a moment of sheer, clouds-parting clarity, she looks sidelong at me (in the mirror… still working out the geometry of that one) and says, “You know… you don’t have to wait for someone to ask for a letter like that, or for someone to be applying for something. You could just write one, if you like doing it so much.”

My first instinct was, “Why would I do that? Who would read it?”

Oh yeah… I could write it and give it to them.

So I think I’ll make it my goal to write one “letter of recommendation” a week. And see what happens.

I like blessing people. I like writing. ZOUNDS! I can do BOTH AT ONCE?!?!?


Outstanding Essay – Bittersweet Christmas Morning

This comes courtesy of Julian Murdoch (a.k.a. “Rabbit”), member and regular contributor to Gamers With Jobs — a site (and podcast) I frequent since I decided to outgrow the bathroom humor inherent in so many other video gaming communities.

Click and read this.  Now.

Mr. Murdoch has a good ten years on me, but we’re hitting several balls in the same park.  It’s a hard thing when a lifelong hobby and love of mine tends to be equated with immaturity.  It’s refreshing to encounter other “grown-ups” who aren’t just sad man-children that never really left their early twenties behind, but who can still enjoy “childish things” respectably.  Kudos, Rabbit.


Jonah, after the fact

Our pastor finished up a four week series on the book of Jonah this morning.  The following is a hodgepodge of my reflections (and his) on the fourth and final chapter… and one of the most overlooked, least understood “resolutions” in the Bible.  In my opinion.

Jonah has just finished (begrudgingly) delivering a three-day message of “repent-or-yer-gonna’-burn” to the 120,000 citizens of the heathen city of Ninevah.  And it’s an evangelist’s dream-come-true: every man, woman, and child (even the king!) fall on their faces in mourning for the lost lives they’ve led, and beg for God’s forgiveness.  Everyone.  Billy Graham probably never saw results like that.

But Jonah isn’t happy.  To the contrary, he starts raging against God, because “I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity.  Now, O Lord, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live.”  (v. 2-3, NIV)

Seriously?  What is this guy’s problem?  And God calls him on it: “Have you any right to be angry?” (v. 4)

I draw two important insights from this:

One, God can use me EVEN if I don’t have all my thoughts, motives, intentions, or ambitions in the right place.  All I have to be is willing.

Two, I can’t trust my feelings.  I may believe in my heart of hearts that something is right or wrong, but that doesn’t mean a thing if it doesn’t line up with the TRUTH of what God knows.

Jonah ignores God’s question, by the way.  Instead of answering him, he gets up and “went out and sat down at a place east of the city.  There he made himself a shelter, sat in its shade and waited to see what would happen to the city.” (v. 5)

He was hoping that the people’s salvation wasn’t for-real!  Even though he was the one who brought them the message!  He still hated them enough to want to hang around for 40 days or so and see if they would get an almighty smiting of fire, thunder, coconuts, whatever.

That’s devotion.  I guess.

And of course, God isn’t done with Jonah.  He still wants him to understand his way of seeing things.  So he sends a nice, green, shady vine to grow up and keep Jonah cool.  (Causing, as the pastor pointed out, Jonah to be happy for the FIRST time in the entire book.)  Then he sends a worm to chew up the vine, which sends Jonah into another bout of suicidal self-pity.

And God asks again, “Do you have a right to be angry about the vine?” (v. 9) Slightly different question, but still relevant.

Jonah finally stops ignoring God, and whines some more: “I do… I am angry enough to die.”

God ends the chapter with a question challenging Jonah, and all of us, to try to take on HIS perspective on things.  Jonah was so sad about a stupid plant drying up that he wanted to die, but the 120,000 people who were so screwed up that they “cannot tell their right hand from their left,” (v. 11) didn’t even trigger a tear of compassion from the very man sent to save them from themselves.

How could he… or better yet, how can WE get our priorities so screwed up that we wail and moan over things… our cars, our wardrobes, our 401k, our baseball card collections… and don’t give a second thought to the hundreds or thousands of people who die EVERY DAY without knowing God?

We call ourselves children of God, but where’s the family resemblance?  Why don’t we yearn more to know our dad’s heart?  Why don’t we listen to him, and want the thing that he wants most more than ANY other stupid, finite, earthly pursuit that we spend our days hungering after?

If we’re not spending every minute of every day thinking about how we can help, serve, and love people… then we’re missing it.

(Many thanks to Pastor Marshall Ford of Grace Fellowship Church, Borger Texas, for his continued and contagious fresh look at words I thought I knew so well, yet are being made new to me every week through his unassuming teaching and leadership.)


God to JC: “I’m still here.”

Yesterday found me in a dark depression about my job.

Backing up a bit.  About a week ago, my boss called me in to get my side of the story on something that I did.  Something I did which was stupid.  VERY stupid.  Being the amazing man he is, he turned the situation into a learning experience and promised to help me get things right.  Seeing as how he COULD have just fired me and hired a sane person, I thought this most gracious of him.

Then yesterday, I had what was probably the WORST day yet with my 6th hour class (which is REALLY saying something…   ask me sometime), was already more than a little off-kilter due to sleep deprivation, and was battling a touch of… umm… intestinal difficulties.

And I get an email from my boss saying, enigmatically, that he “wants to see me during my conference.”  Again.  And I get this right at the end of the day.

I have been very slow to move all my stuff into my new room.  I guess I’ve felt like it’s not really “mine,” I guess.  Anyway, I’ve had this big box of smoke-scented college textbooks sitting in my front passenger seat for about a month now, which I only recently have been taking in to my classroom, a few at a time.  I doubted whether I should finish doing so… after all, if the administration and school board changed their minds and DID decide to fire me, what would be the point?  I’d just have to box them all up again anyway.  At least this way I have a head-start of sorts.

So I came home, monster headache, feeling like something that fell off a poop-wagon.  My wife immediately sends me to bed, where I stay for an hour.  As I wait for the Tylenol and Sudafed to kick in, I really let God have it:

“What were you thinking bringing us here?  What possible good can I do for THESE kids?  I don’t have it in me to change them.  They are SO far-gone.  What good will it do us if you brought us all this way, away from our home, church, friends, cozy little house, and established job security, only to let me get myself unemployed a few months later?”

Then I told him I didn’t believe what I was saying… but that I could REALLY use a sign.  And soon.

This morning before the bell rang, I got several.  My department head asked me how things were going, and I told him (a bit of) the rotten situation I have been having with my 6th hour kids.  He offered a little advice and encouragement, and then said…

“Well, we’re glad to have you here.  I’ve walked by your room quite a few times, and everything in there seems to be going well.  If there’s anything you need, please ask.”

I somehow kept from crying tears of relief and release then, as I am fighting crying them now.

Another teacher in the department expressed similar sentiments to me, not more than a few minutes later.

I met with my boss, who told me that despite several irate board members asking him about his hiring practices and whether they should “terminate my contract immediately” he, the superintendent, and the assistant superintendent all went to bat for me.  Undeserving me.  Unknown quantity me.  Guy who pulled the idiot move and made them look bad me.

Okay, that did it… I’m crying now.  Getting hard to see to type.

On top of all that, my lab demonstration worked today.  First time, no kinks.

And I found my dinky little green iPod Shuffle I lost about a month back.  Wasn’t even looking for it.

I love how God answers me in ways that even oblivious, idiot me can’t miss.  Exactly when I really need it.

I am baffled sometimes at how one as repeatedly unworthy as me continues to find love, patience, and acceptance from the God of the universe, and those he puts in my life.  I’m glad he does though.

I don’t need to go back to Egypt.  I’m bound for Promised Land.


Twilight parenthood

DISCLAIMER:  There are probably no references to vampires in this post.  Besides this one.  Google is not your friend.

Many of my last seven years as a parent have been spent in a state of twilight.  Not entirely lucid, not quite asleep.  I’ve come to regard it as normal, and even to cherish the feeling brought on by days, weeks, or (sometimes) months without an uninterrupted night of sleep.

It starts when they are newborn, especially with your first.  You are getting MAYBE an hour or two of sleep at a stretch, which deprives your brain and body of the good REM sleep that you need.  As a result, you start to go bonkers.  This is a good thing, because if you were entirely aware of the psychological, spiritual, and moral implications of the new arrival of a human life — that you had a hand, so to speak, in creating and bringing into this world — you’d likely go far more deeply and irreparably insane.

Then they get sick.  There will be no rest on the nights when you “sleep” camped out on the recliner with a trash can under one arm, ready to spring to full alertness and catch the vomit at the slightest noise or other cue… most of which are false alarms, but which you can’t afford to ignore.  Or it might be the spiking fevers, the whooping or wheezing of a cough, the sharp cries of pain from newly-cut teeth or the ubiquitous ear infection.

Even when NOTHING’S WRONG you will lose sleep, because the predatory fears of the future do their best hunting at night.  When all seems calm, it’s easiest to remember that the world is a scary, dangerous place… and despite our constant reassurances to the contrary, monsters DO exist.  Twilight hours spent in prayer for our little ones come so often, but never as often as they should.

So, why bring this on yourself?  Why bring on the heartache, backache, and forced insomnia?  And WHY would anyone choose to bring an innocent, defenseless, undeserving human being into a world with such evil and suffering?

I can’t explain it if you haven’t been there too.  Sorry, it’s a little bit of a “red pill, blue pill” thing.

I’ve taken the red pill four times now… and I am eternally grateful for each of them.  Because whether they occurred on my timing or (much more often) not, I am blessed with each nighttime cry I comfort, each diaper I change in a pitch-dark room, each nose I wipe, each bedtime story I read, each sleepless night I undertake.

There will be plenty of time to sleep when they’re grown, and these rooms are quiet and empty.  In the meantime…

… have to go.  She’s crying again.  Where did I put that Tylenol…


Mr. Spock had the right idea…

Emotions.  Puh-tooie…

Here I am on the eve (give or take a few days) of the birth of my 4th child.  I should be ecstatic to meet him.

God has brought us through so much in this last year.  He’s opened doors, moved mountains, and continued to prove his love and provision for us.  I should be overwhelmed with gratitude.

My school and its administration and faculty are professionals in the best sense of the word.  My students, while counting the odd duck (or 12) among their number, are enthusiastic, open-minded, and hard-working.  I should feel privileged to teach where I do.

I’ve been eating better, getting (marginally) more exercise than usual, losing weight and inches off my waistline.  I should feel all healthy-buff.

So why do I feel poopy?  From what seeds sprout this discontent?  Why, in the midst of my beloved family, friends, and God do I feel so utterly alone this night?

I’m usually all about the silver lining.  Why can’t I make myself see anything but raincloud right now?


8 years

This morning wasn’t terribly unlike most other school days.  Since it was a Friday, the walls (and faculty) of Borger High School were draped in red (and denim, in the case of the teachers.)  The kids were rowdy, excited for the coming football game and weekend.  An announcement came after first bell, as usual.  But instead of launching into the pledges and a moment of “silence,” we were told that that would happen at 8:46… in memory of September 11.

I looked around at those kids.  I did the math.  They were all 7 or 8 years old when it happened.

I remember every detail of that day with crystal clarity.  It was my third year teaching.  It was 2nd period, and I was mixing up some stock solutions for a lab for Chem I.  Then Sammy Silva told me that “somebody accidentally crashed a plane into the World Trade Center” in New York.

I hurriedly turned on my rabbit-ears equipped classroom TV, just in time to see the second plane hit the second tower.

The rest of the day passed in numb silence.  I remember that I got a new student, Pamela, that day.  I remember that we didn’t get much classwork done that afternoon.  Classes changed, and one group of kids wandered out as the next wandered in.  The TV stayed on.

That night, Rebekah and I watched Fox News coverage (broadcast over the UPN, which was the only station we could pick up at home) and, though I don’t remember doing so, eventually tore ourselves away from the screen and tried to go to sleep.

Eight years later.  Certainly there has been time enought to mourn, right?  Time to move forward and put this behind us.  Right??

3rd period today — my conference time.  I made a run to the bank to deposit a check (another one of those things I’ve never been able to do before during a school day.)  I was pulling back in to the teacher parking lot, when I caught the opening monologue of The Rush Limbaugh Show.  Rush read the Gettysburg Address.  Then he told the story of Todd Beamer.

Todd was 32 in 2001.  He had a wife, two sons, and another child on the way.

In the face of evil, this man rallied with his fellow passengers and stood up to the hijackers of Flight 93.  And saved who knows how many lives.

As I listened, I started crying uncontrollably in my car.  I’m 32.  I have two sons (plus a daughter) at home, and another on the way.

If it had been me, would I have been able to selflessly give all I am and have to do the same?

So few of us are ever called upon to be heroes.  While many hope for the chance, I shudder at the thought that I might be tried in the fires of momentary, life-or-death crisis… and be found lacking.  That history might forget me as just another coward-on-the-scene who didn’t stand up and DO something when I had the chance.

I thank God that there ARE heroes in this world.  I am eternally grateful for those who have stood and fought evil wherever they have found it, or where it has found them.  Without them, I would have no country… no life… no hope of eternal salvation.  No freedom.

And I pray that if I am ever called upon to stand in the gap and give my life for my fellow man, that I too will be filled with the resolve to stand firm, clench my knuckles, set my jaw, look my enemy in the eye, and sincerely say “let’s roll.”


Where circumstances find me: August 20, 2009

As Summer breathes his last, hot, dying breath, I see where I AM, and realize that I am long overdue for a reckoning with where I WAS but a short time ago.

Last May found me finishing up my tenth year at Lockney High School, home of the mighty fighting Longhorns of Lockney, Texas.  Great place to work.  Wonderful, blessed community.

And I was in the depths of a despondency of my own design.  It wasn’t where I was supposed to be any more.  And I was faced with a decision: leave the comfort, security, and familiarity I had grown into for the last 14 years of my life, OR stay and continue to spiral downward.

Believing that God had called me to do so, I chose to resign my position in late May.

Some would call what I and my family did “stepping out on faith,” and would use reverent tones in doing so, like we were saints.  In all honesty, we did what we have always done (to one degree or another): we put all trust for our future in the hands of an almighty, omnipotent God who has never yet proven us foolish for having done so.

And we waited.

I sent out multiple job applications in a variety of public and private fields.  And heard nothing.

And we waited.

I had a fantastic couple of interviews with McLean I.S.D., and remarked to my wife, “If they DON’T offer me this job, it HAS to be God.”  And they were silent, and evasive for weeks.

And we waited.

I had another fantastic interview at Caprock High School in Amarillo.  Again, I felt reasonably sure that THIS must be the perfect place.  And I never heard from them again.

And we waited.

One day saw me interviewing at Hedley I.S.D. in the morning, where they promptly offered me a job… on the spot.  They were hungry to fill a spot, and I could sense that.  I almost said YES.  That afternoon, I interviewed at Borger High School.  Having come from a job offer, I may have exuded a bit more confidence than any of my other interviews… I don’t think I did, but who really knows?  It was a good conversation — I met and spoke with principal Tony McCarthy, and his enthusiasm for the changes being wrought in the school and community of Borger, Texas, was very contagious.

And we waited.  A few days.

I was offered the job in Borger, and called to accept the following day.

We had roughly a month to sell our house, find and buy a new one, and pack/transport/unpack all our stuff before the school year began.

Then we saw God, who had watched US wait on him, begin to MOVE.

We listed our house the next Monday, and sold it in two days…

We shopped houses in Borger on Friday, and made an offer on Saturday… which was accepted, after a few negotiations, in a few days.

We packed up our house, and closed on it in a further two and a half weeks.

Now, we sit on the eve of closing on our new house in Borger, and four days before classes begin at the high school.  I’m teaching IPC (Integrated Physics and Chemistry,) a course new to me, and a challenge that I eagerly look to meeting.  I am in a room which is (to put it kindly) unfinished, but which reeks of potential.  I have a list of roughly 110 students who I will be meeting for the first time soon (and many of their parents in just about half an hour.)

And we have the birth of our new son, Samuel Journey, to look forward to on the 2nd of October.

Ask me whether I prefer the calm or the storm, and I’ll likely point to the Captain of our ship, who is steadfast in either, and still hasn’t let us down.


Columbia, the Gem of the Ocean

Columbia, the Gem of the Ocean

O Columbia!  the gem of the ocean,
The home of the brave and the free,
The shrine of each patriot’s devotion
A world offers homage to thee.
Thy mandates make heroes assemble,
When Liberty’s form stands in view;
Thy banners make tyranny tremble,
When borne by the red, white, and blue.

When war winged its wide desolation
And threatened the land to deform,
The ark, then, of freedom’s foundation,
Columbia, rode safe through the storm,
With her garlands of vict’ry around her,
When so proudly she bore her brave crew,
With her flag proudly floating before her,
The boast of the red, white, and blue.

The star-spangled banner bring hither,
O’er Columbia’s true sons let it wave;
May the wreathes they have won never wither,
Nor its stars cease to shine on the brave.
May the service united ne’er sever,
But they to their colors hold true!
The Army and Navy forever,
Three cheers for the red, white, and blue!

— David T. Shaw


“I’m not dead yet!”


I’ve been neglecting this blog for a while now, and for those (confused) few of you who actually follow this, I thought I’d update you on a few personal news bits as an explanation.

After teaching at Lockney High School for 10 years, I resigned my position there in late May of this year.  It was NOT due to a lack of job satisfaction, or community drama, or a VERY challenging group of kids I had this year (but still, yikes!).  It was a move that I felt led by God to make, impressions of which I actually began to receive about three years ago.

And the funny thing is, even in the face of uncertain economic times and personal/family changes, I have an unbelievable peace about it.  It would have been WRONG, somehow, to continue to teach there after this year.

I wish the community of Lockney nothing but the best in the coming years as they rebuild the high school building and continue the business of getting back to “normal.”  I love the town, the school, and the kids; and they will always have a special place in my heart and memories.

I have devoted the last month to actively trying to track down the job that God has picked out for me.  I’ve applied at several local (and international) laboratories devoted to food-testing, medical research, etc., as well as several schools in the Amarillo and Plainview areas.

I’ve had two interviews with McLean ISD, the last of which was two weeks ago, and both of which (I thought) went VERY well.

I had a screening interview with Amarillo ISD a week and a half ago, and am scheduled for an interview at Caprock High School this Friday.

I continue to seek out opportunities both in and out of education, and am trying to send off at least three applications per week, whether they think they want me or not.  (One for my Alma Mater — River Road ISD — goes out tomorrow.)

spanksOn the family front, we learned a couple of weeks ago that our 4th child will be a masculine child, tentatively named Samuel, and still due sometime in early October.  This news was met with much enthusiasm by eldest brother John, went in one ear of brother Reid before promptly exiting the other ear, and was the target of vigorous raspberries from 15-month old sister Sadie.

John has been into the doctor(s) three times in the last two months for his badly infected left ear, the most recent of which was today.  He is scheduled for a follow-up visit to discuss more invasive options in two weeks time.

We enjoyed a not-quite-a-week-long visit from the wife’s Mom, sister, and two nieces.  It was very hard to say goodbye.  I’m looking into sending applications to schools in Central Louisiana, and sniffing for other opportunities that direction.

Relax, Mom.  I also applied for a job in Minneapolis.  It doesn’t mean that’s where we’re GOING, geez…

Anyway, I probably won’t update here unless some drastically good news concerning a job, etc., comes down the pipe.  In the meantime, feel free to keep track of my more mundane daily info-bits at my Facebook page:

See you on the flipside,

— JC

The random musings of a 30-something, West Texas high-school science teacher. Hoo-RAY.
August 2020


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