Sunday, April 22, 2007


When I was a teenager, my family often took day hikes into the foothills surrounding the Tucson, Arizona dessert. We would start early in the morning so we could reach higher elevations before the desert heat settled over the valleys below. Ever the eager child, I would sometimes forge ahead of the rest of the group. I experienced the meaning of the word trailblazer, for often in those early morning hours, my body would break through cobwebs strung across the narrow trail. I could also call back to the others to tell them what wonderful vistas lay ahead.

This past week, I have taken the roll of trailblazer for my daughter. As I mentioned in a recent post, she had eye surgery to help correct a genetic eye defect. I have this same defect and had the same surgery three years ago. The surgery is brand new, in fact, when I had surgery, the procedure had just come out of the beta stage. The results of my surgery were above and beyond what even the doctors had hoped for. My visual acuity doubled. Daily headaches I have experienced all my life vanished. My night vision increased enough that I no longer have to depend on others or a white cane after dark.

Several posts earlier, I wrote of the emotion I felt when my daughter entered the surgical unit as a baby. This time, I can honestly say, I felt no fear and no anxiety for Christine. Neither did she. Why? I had been through the surgery. I knew what would happen. I knew what to expect. And I knew, to use a well used turn of phrase, the gain was worth the pain. Over the last two weeks, she and I have been able to compare notes on our mutual recoveries. I know what questions to ask her about what she is seeing. I am able to be compassionate with her because I know, oh I know, how scratchy and uncomfortable and how downright painful this recovery period can be and I can tell her what will help get her through. Several times Christine has expressed gratitude that I have gone before her, how that has made the process so much easier for her.

Several days after surgery and, not lost on me, several days after Easter, that familiar emotional wave of new comprehension hit me once again. Jesus has gone before us through the jowls of death, to burst forth on the other side to new life. He is victorious over death. He has suffered, oh, so terribly. He can identify with any suffering we might face. He can confidently lead us through because He’s been there, He’s done it, and He overcame it. There is indeed life on the other side of the grave and He’ll lead us there, reassuring us at every step.

“Therefore,” says the writer of Hebrews, “since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus, the son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess (Hebrew 4:14).”

As teachers, we are trailblazers for our children. We teach the sound doctrine of the Word of God. We teach through our experiences by showing them through our lives how we have broken through the cobwebs and entanglements of life to put into practice the teaching of Christ. We mentor the children God has put us in charge of, letting them know with confidence that God is powerful, that God is loving, and that we know, oh do we know, that He will bring us safely to the other side of life.

As the song Steve Green sings says, “May those who come behind us find us faithful.”


Our family would again appreciate your prayers and your patience for the irregular posting of this blog. It's now my husband's turn for eye surgery. While his eye muscle surgery is not for the same condition (nystagmus), it will still be the same procedure. His eyes have slowly misalligned over the years to the point that heavy prisms no longer him in brining images together. I look forward to what new concepts God will bring my way this time!

Thursday, April 19, 2007

The Hero of Virginia Tech

Our kids need heroes, we are told. I remember listening to a keynote address at a writer’s conference years ago by a children’s editor of a well known publishing company. “Our children today need two things,” she told us, “And you need to include these two things in what you write for children. Children of today need hope and they need heroes.”

Yet, what is the definition of a hero? For many children, a rock star, athlete or Hollywood actor typecasts the image of a hero. They are someone the child looks up to, someone the child dreams of becoming. After the terrorist attacks, the term “Hero” was lifted to a new level as we lauded those who gave their lives to save others.

This week, the children of our world can see another kind of hero. When the gunman of Virginia Tech started his rampage through Norris Hall, Liviu Librescu, an elderly professor, barred the door with his body so students could escape out a window before Librescu was shot to death through the door. Dennis Miller describes how Librescu, a Holocaust survivor, “saw the face of evil” at 12 years old when he was taken to a concentration camp and when he saw that same “dead shark” look of evil again on Monday, April 16th, he walked toward it and tried to stop it.

That is the essence of a hero. Someone who is willing to walk toward the face of evil in order to stop it so others might be saved. As teachers, we stop evil in many different ways. We teach children the wisdom of God so they can live righteous lives. We teach them how to stand up in their souls against the forces of evil they face on every side. We teach them how to conquer the temptations of evil within their own being. And if necessary, like Librescu, we stand in the way of evil, even walking toward it so they may be safe.

As church leaders, we take one giant step further. We point them to the Ultimate Hero who saw the face of evil, walked toward it in His Incarnation, and stretched out His arms at Calvary to stop it forever – so that we could escape into eternal life.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Teaching the Troubled Child

The educational community reeled this week from the news of the massacre of 32 people at Virginia Tech University in Blacksburg, Virginia. The lone gunman was a student some describe as “troubled” and a loner.

Many teachers can describe students they know as “troubled.” And any teacher can recount the frustration they feel on how to reach out to the student who doesn’t seem to fit in. I can only begin to imagine that any teacher who remembers having this gunman in their classroom is berating themselves this week, asking “How could I have helped more? What could I have done to make a difference in this young man’s life so this didn’t have to happen?” My heart goes out to the victims, their families and friends. Yet my heart bleeds for these teachers.

You see, teachers are not merely informers. We don’t just drill holes in kids’ heads and insert useful or trivial information. We are disciplers. We are mentors. We inform and inspire. As much as we may want to shape lives with knowledge and discovery, let’s face it. Our students will remember us for more than just what we said. They will remember us for what we did. They will remember if we took interest in them, if, as Nikki Giovanni said, we encouraged them that “we are better than we think and not quite what we want to be. We are alive to the imaginations and the possibilities.”

Yet the frustration comes when a conscientious teacher sees the warnings signs and tries to reach out to no avail. When Lucinda Roy, a professor at Virginia Tech saw the troubled writing of the gunman, she worked with him privately. She referred him for counseling. Yet it wasn’t enough.

I hope today Dr. Roy isn’t berating herself for not doing enough. As a teacher, under the confines of the system, she did what she could. Our students still have free will to make choices; our job is to offer them alternatives in their choices, to show the hurting and troubled child that there is a way out of the hole to live a productive and fulfilling life. This tragedy offers teachers, especially those in the church setting to reassess those they teach and to resolve to make an extra effort to put a virtual arm around the forgotten child. But once we’ve done that, we need to be content that we’ve been faithful to our educational call. While there will be heartaches, like the Virginia Tech murderer, there will also be successes. We may never know of them, but there will always be successes.

Monday, April 16, 2007

When I Was Just a Kid . . .

My friend, Crystal Miller, writes a nostalgic column on her blog site, Chat N’ Chew CafĂ©. Recently, Cris has written features on different writer friends, interviewing them about their childhood. The columns are called, “When I Was Just a Kid . . .”

Cris’ columns have become a stunning celebration of what God can do with the life of a child. As these people share what childhood was like for them, the reader gets a picture of an ordinary life sprinkled with memories we can identify with. Yet each of these people have become outstanding writers, parents and church leaders. Each have developed into men and women that stand in the gap for the cause of Christ, believers who have not been hesitant to proclaim their faith. I know some of these men and women personally and I know life has not always been kind to them, yet they are strong because they have experienced God’s grace and mercy.

I wonder - when they were children, did their parents look at them and ever imagine what they would become? I look at my own children, now teenage ladies, as one friend calls them. I am astounded and astonished at what capable women they are becoming. I still can’t figure out where my oldest daughter got her science genes from or why my younger daughter, now 17, is sometimes a better proofreader than I am! I am humbled when I hear them stir before my alarm goes off so they can have their time alone with God.

I look at the children in my classroom, the boy who thinks he’s no good, the girl who has one father and three step-fathers, another girl who is so shy she speaks with a whisper, the teenage boy who is socially awkward, yet when he finally opens his mouth to talk in Sunday School, pearls of great price fall from his lips with profound explanations for God’s Word that I had not yet thought of.

These children are becoming too. They will grow into beautiful men and women for God, people God will also use to further His Kingdom. I don’t know what God has planned for them, but God does. “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him,” says 1 Corinthian 2:9. I am content, knowing that God’s kingdom will continue to grow because of what He is doing in the lives of these children.

Friday, April 06, 2007

He Took Our Pain

I will not be able to post my weekly blog this coming Monday and I’m not sure when I’ll be able to get back to it. My seventeen year old daughter is having eye surgery.

We’re so excited about this eye surgery. My daughter has the same eye defect I do. Three years ago, I had the surgery that had just come out of beta testing. The results were beyond what even the doctors expected. After being declared legally blind all my life, my visual acuity doubled. My daughter has better vision than I have but we are still hoping for a significant improvement. We would appreciate your prayers for her.

I’m not sure how I will react on Monday. Watching your own child go into surgery is difficult for any parent. I remember when she had eye surgery at three weeks old to remove her congenital cataracts. As the surgical nurse took her from my arms, deep gut wrenching emotion filled every fiber of my being. I took a step forward, agonizing inside. I thought, “I’ve had eight eye surgeries as a child. I dread any kind of eye surgery. Yet, my beloved child, I love you so much, if I could spare you the pain, I would go into that operating room for you if that would fix your eyes.”

A stronger wave of emotion hit me. That’s what Jesus did when He died on the cross. Mankind suffered from the disorder of sin. God’s perfect Son went into God’s operating room to fix the problem of sin for us so we would not have to endure the pain of death our sin deserved. Then He rose again, so He could offer us the freedom of new and eternal life. He did this for me. He took the pain for me. And He took it for you. Because He loves us so much.

Have a blessed Easter.

Monday, April 02, 2007

It's Easter Egg Time!

This is the week of my annual Easter Egg dying party. As soon as we had children, I wanted to recapture my fond memories of dying Easter eggs at Grandma and Grandpa Sharp’s house. I never liked Easter egg hunts, mostly because I couldn’t see well and everybody got to the eggs before I could get close enough to see them. I have fond memories however, of dying eggs with my grandparents. Grandma would mix the dyes and scold Grandpa to come help the children dye eggs, “We have to do this. We always do this, yada yada, fuss, fuss.” Grandpa would grumble, but as he sat down next to me, I would catch his characteristic closed mouth grin that communicated he was enjoying himself.

My parents lived too far away to continue the grandparent tradition but that wasn’t going to stop me. As soon as my girls could sit at a table, I introduced the time honored tradtion. However, there are only so many eggs preschoolers can dye and so many eggs a family can eat. The next year, we invited the children of the Methodist minister to dye eggs with us.

The next year, I decided to turn it into an outreach party. And so the famous Wingate egg parties were born. Each year, we tried to invite different people. One year, I invited my Sunday school class of 5th and 6th graders. Price of admission: one dozen hard boiled eggs and one friend. Another year, I invited my seventeen piano students. Half of them were from churched families; the other half were not. I asked a few leading questions about why we dye eggs before Easter, and my churched kids were off and running in telling the Resurrection story. Yet another year, we made a cake in the shape of a cross/ I simply asked, “Why the cross?” Again, those that knew were eager to tell.

I feared my girls and their friends would outgrow the Easter egg dying tradition; instead, they have become more creative. They’ve drawn Resurrection messages on the eggs with white crayons before dipping them in the dye. They learned how to blow out raw eggs then paint the shells with acrylic paint. We keep saying we’re going to dye eggs one year using natural dyes like tea and red cabbage. This year, we’re going to wet the eggs, then wrap them in different colors of tissue paper. When the eggs dry, we’ll peel off the tissue, to reveal beautiful colors. Some of the girls’ high school friends eagerly accept their invitation each year, saying, “That was so fun last year.”

We pray as we invite friends and we leave ourselves open for divine opportunities. They always come. One year, one girl burst into tears when my husband took pictures, crying, “I hate having my picture taken. I’m so fat and ugly!” I took her aside and discovered a world of hurt and lack of confidence from a horribly low self image. I was able to share with her about One who made her and accepted her as she was.

This year, we decided to invite the high school Sunday School class I teach and the younger Sunday class, the third through fifth graders. When I told my youngest daughter, now a junior in high school, she said, “That’s a great idea, Mom. That way, when I go off to college, you’ll have a group in the making so you can keep having your Easter egg parties.” With a bit of sadness, I realized an era was coming to an end, yet Christine was right. Even without my own children, I can keep telling the wonders of the Resurrection story through Easter eggs.

It almost seems too easy, too fun. I get to share Jesus and my love for him while doing an activity I absolutely love to do and I get to be around people I love to be with – children and teenagers. But maybe that’s what Jesus meant in Matthew 28:19. The Greek word for “Go” actually means, ‘As you go.” As we go about our daily lives, doing what we do, using the gifts God has given, Jesus asked us to make disciples. Whether it’s dying Easter eggs, participating in a softball team, or being part of a band, we’re to be Christ’s representative, building relationships and showing Jesus has made a difference in our lives. Sounds like a great idea to me!