Posts Tagged ‘God


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.


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.


“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


WHY did God make mankind? Some thoughts…

The following is resposted from a post I made to an ongoing discussion on the existence (or nonexistence) of a “higher power.”  On a video games forum, no less.

nosebleed wrote:
Why be a creator and not make your presence known other than through questionable material? Why this ultimate mystery about your existence? It all sounds like a sick mind game really, either follow blindly or suffer the consequences, which you can’t logically believe might exist.

Consider this, then I’ll stop dragging stuff off-topic. I promise.

IF there is a “creator” of life, the universe, and everything… WHY do it? What would be your motive in creating a sentient race of beings? And then what would be the point of giving them free will? Let’s consider some possibilities:

1. You require their belief in order to exist or to maintain your existence.
2. You’re a cruel [individual] who gets amused by burning the ants in your ant farm with a magnifying glass.
3. You desire companionship, like a pet doggie.
4. You desire companionship, like a friend.

Let’s tackle number 2 first. If it’s true, than we’re all [hopelessly in trouble], and any conjecture on the subject is null and void. However, just in case it’s NOT true, let’s continue. (Anyway, I doubt that it’s true… even a bully gets bored. And really, what’s the logic behind cruelty for cruelty’s sake?)

If the answer is 1 or 3, simply creating them would do the trick, but giving them free will would be redundant, or even antithetical to your goals. If they can choose NOT to believe in and worship you, you run the risk of having a “bad doggie,” or ceasing to exist if the populace chooses to NOT sustain you with their belief.

So of the four, only number 4 makes some kind of sense. Stay with me here.

In order to have a relationship on the level of true friendship / companionship, you need someone who is equal with you in some respect. A boss-employee relationship doesn’t work, because the underling has a motive of self-preservation – keep the boss happy, or I get fired. A man and dog thing doesn’t work, because the dog is obviously NOT the mental or emotional equivalent to man, and likely wouldn’t be IN the relationship if there weren’t material rewards attached – food and living space, for instance.

“But HOW can I create a companion that is truly my equal, and is a willing partner, unmotivated by fear or material needs?” says God. Answer: I give them my “image” – the ability to dream, create, reason, love, and CHOOSE their own path. That way, if they DO desire a relationship with me, I KNOW it’s for genuine reasons – the same ones I have.

Here’s the problem: if I make unbelief in myself impossible (by floating around on a cloud where everyone can see me, for example,) then I remove free will from the equation. I lose the possibility of having “companionship,” and am left with just another form of automatons, worshiping me with no reason to do so other than the fact that they can’t choose to NOT believe in me.

Here’s the rub: people who believe in God and subscribe to a religion just to get a “get out of hell free card” miss the point entirely. “Hell” in Christian theology isn’t some cave full of burning lakes and some dude in red jammies with horns and a pitchfork cackling and poking you with it. (You can thank Dante, Goethe, and Milton for those particular images.) “Hell” is simply an eternity outside the presence of God. The only way to get there is to CHOOSE to get there – NOT by breaking a list of rules, etc., but by choosing to NOT be in that friendship when it is offered to you. And then the consequence is a natural one – I choose to NOT be with God, and as a result I’m not with God.


Trust Fall

I have decided that life is entirely too short to waste any more of it worrying about who might win the presidential election, or what the economy is going to do.

Simply put, God is my financial advisor, my employer, and the guy in charge of my country, world, and universe.  He’s never failed to take care of me or my family.  He got me into the job where he wants me to be, and has (more than once) prevented me from getting a job which I would have likely ended up resenting.  He founded and has used this country to spread his compassion, justice, and freedom, and has stuck with it through much tougher economic times, and much stupider presidents and candidates.

And frankly, the worst case scenario is that I lose my job, my house, my rights, and my life.  Big whoop compared to eternity, and the rewards that wait for me there.

The biggest potential enemy to my peace of mind is ME.  So screw that.  I will NOT drive myself crazy worrying about things I can’t change.

God will still be God.  Money or no money.  Gas or no gas.  McCain or Obama.  USA or no USA.

I don’t know how athiests cope, to be honest with you.


When God shuts a door…

You know, I was discussing my recent not-getting-hired by a certain school with my wife this evening.  She brought up the point that “if we hadn’t heard about the job opening, we wouldn’t have felt let down when you didn’t get it–so what good did it do you to apply?”

I thought about this, and told her that it was the most concrete sign from God that I have been given so far that my discontentment with my job last year was NOT an immediate sign that I need to leave.  “He’s not done with me at L****** just yet,” I said.

So, be it for one more year, or the rest of my life, I’m back at LHS.  The difference will be up to me to make: do I take up the challenge that God has laid at my feet, and excel for his sake?

Time will tell.

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