Three Questions


Faculty Devotions – May 8, 2017

*** It’s time once again for me to lead faculty devotions.  It’s always a bit daunting.  Here’s what I came up with this time. ***

This devotional is about questions.  I’m going to give the answers at the beginning.  Here goes…

Isaiah 55:9 – God says, “ …As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

Esther 4:14 – “And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?”

When crafting a story, writers will often ask the question, “What if…?  They’ll explore different scenarios to see how the characters react.  They’ll think about choices the character could make that might move the story along.

For example, what if the main character in a story is a 7th grade teacher, say language arts, brand new out of college?  What if she feels the need to prove her worth as a teacher?  What if, let’s say … it’s the day before Christmas break and, dog-gone-it, no matter what, she’s going to teach that lesson on, oh … how about ‘heroes!’  And there’s a snow storm going on outside… and it’s the last period of the day… and the students are, well, you know… kids.   What if, she breaks all her earnest first-year-teacher-rules and… deviates from the plan and tells a story… from her life… what would it be?  Who knows?  Well, the writer, of course…

In real life we could drive ourselves crazy asking the question, “What if?”  What if I would have taken that job in New Jersey 43 years ago?  Would my kids be asking for a glass of ‘wooder’ when they’re thirsty?  What if I went to that other college?  Or didn’t go to college?  What if I would have been on I-94 that day, at that place and time when… you know?  What if ….

Of course, the ‘what if’ scenarios didn’t happen.  However, what if in looking back over the life-paths we’ve traveled, thinking about events that did happen – good and not-  our thoughts take us to another question.  “Why?”

Why has God blessed us so much with [You fill in the blanks.]…? Why was [you fill in the blanks] taken from us, so soon?  Or why was this person placed in my life at that time, that place?  Why is this kid in my class this year?  Why?  Why am I here?

Sometimes, not often, maybe rarely,  after a long time, we get, at least a partial answer to the question, “Why?”

I had the privilege of running into a few of my first students.  We had a rollicking good time reminiscing, reliving the time they were in middle school and talking about the present.  In a quiet moment one of them said to me, “You just don’t know what an influence you’ve had…”  Who knew?

Who knows?  That goes for all of us.  We don’t know… We don’t know to what extent God has used our  talents, personalities, love and care to influence the lives of those around us.

Who knows?’  Often we shrug our shoulders, roll our eyes, move on and think about something else.  We plead ignorance.  Of course  we don’t know…. but deep down we do.

God is the master story teller.  He knows the beginning, middle and the end of all of our stories.  He has been at work in our lives from before the beginning, calling, nudging, pushing or even dragging us, sometimes kicking and screaming, to where we are, have been and will be, for his glory, his kingdom, his loved ones.

‘What if…?  Why… ? Who knows…?  ”  God knows, and gives us what we need to know –  “because… who knows but that you have come here ….” – for these students, for the people in your lives, for God’s kingdom – “…. for such a time as this?”


Once again I’m sitting on the train. We’re zipping through soggy Ohio on our way to a family Thanksgiving holiday in New York. I can’t wait. We already know what the main part of the menu will be – turkey. Pretty traditional, pretty tasty.

Once upon a time, at school I taught in a long time ago, we had a Thanksgiving tradition. On the Wednesday afternoon before Thanksgiving Thursday, after we sent the students home for the holiday, we went someplace for lunch together. The entire staff, there were about five of us, drove to a nearby pizza joint. It became our annual Thanksgiving tradition… Italian style. 

The details were a bit sketchy, but we figured that sometime, someplace, Italian pilgrim, Giovanni Something or other, and his band landed in Massachusetts. After sailing great distances in ships built by the great grand descendants of Enzo Ferrari, they landed near Plymouth Rock. So thankful to have new neighbors, the traditional English pilgrims brought out the pizza crust, mozzarella and pepperoni and had feast of thanksgiving to welcome their new paisanos to the New World. I may not have the story quite right but I remember sharing a tasty lunch with group of good caring people.

Yesterday, I remembered  a traditional Thanksgiving psalm, with my class, Psalm 100. Some of them remembered memorizing it when they were younger. I memorized it at some point in my life. My own kids memorized it when they were little and I’m sure that my grandchildren have or will put the words of the Psalm in their heads and hopefully their hearts. It reminds us that “… God’s love endures forever and his faithfulness continues through all generations.”

So, whether the menu today includes traditional turkey, pizza, spaghetti or whatever, it’s good to give thanks to God for, ________.    Well, you fill in the blanks.


Today we said’ “Goodbye,” to our friend, Kevin.

In the past week thousands of words have been spoken, written, read and sung — comforting words, angry words, encouraging words, gospel words, words of peace and words unable to be voiced.

I believe all of these words are gifts from the God who loves us and wants us to be comforted, to have peace.

Tonight, however, I’m ready to put the words away for awhile and ‘be still.’

It’s time for me to be still and know that whatever comes of all of this is in the hands of our loving God.  I know this because of his Words.

God himself is reminding us to  “…be still and know that I am God…” [Psalm 46:10]

Today’s gift.  Enough said.

Little Things


Sometimes it’s the little things that people do that have a big effect.  Not a big deal to the one who does the little thing, but a big deal for the one who receives it.  A small act of kindness, at the right time, delivers just what we need. That’s how it was with a card that showed up in the teacher’s workroom today.

I don’t know the family very well.  I taught their kids at one time.  There it was on the counter, a greeting card from them, with a handwritten note … a little thing …

“…Although we didn’t know Kevin… clearly felt your immense anguish…  sincere sympathy…”

 Simple words profound meaning.  Great effect, wonderful comfort.

That’s what struck me today… Then I wondered about the  ‘little things’ I do.  Helpful? Not so helpful? Big effect, no effect, ‘eh! whatever’ effect.  God can use those little things that we do, and often unknown to us, works his purpose for his kingdom through our hands.  And, that’s no little thing.

Never Alone (2)

Tonight we got word that our friend and colleague, Kevin, died from the injuries he sustained in yesterday’s car accident.  Kevin is with Jesus.  Nothing new there…  He always was with Jesus…. because… Kevin belongs, body and soul, in life and in death to his faithful Savior…. and so do Shari and the kids… and so do we.

My hope is for the day that will come when  “…God will wipe every tear from our eyes.  There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain…”  Revelation 21:4.

That hope, for those who belong to Jesus, is today’s gift.

Never Alone

I can’t remember how it all came to be, when I first tried it.  It’s been a few years ago that I used this technique with my cross country teams.

Technique… that makes it sound like something I planned, something that I gave a lot of thought to in order to help make my runners, well, better runners… and better people.  Not so.

You see, on my middle school cross country team, it usually works out that we have some really fast runners, some really slow runners and some in the middle. When we run long distance workouts, it works out that the fast ones finish waaaay ahead of the slow ones.

One day, I must have said to the fast ones when they finished, to jog back out to the last ones and run in with them. “Nobody runs alone,” I said.  From that day on that has been my mantra for workouts like that.  The fast go back to help the last.  Nobody runs alone.

Today, at the school where I teach, we received word that a friend and former colleague was in a serious automobile accident.  As I type this, Kevin is in critical condition with severe head trauma.  Age 37, married with three little kids, Kevin is clinging to life.  The news hit us hard.  Kevin, is too young, is too needed here on earth to be called home to Jesus, just yet.  So we prayed…

Our principal, one of Kevin’s closest friends, gathered the middle schoolers in the commons so we could pray together.  He struggled.  It was hard for him to get the words out.  They came slowly and clearly, wet from his tears.  He led us in praying for healing, in praying for Kevin’s family.

And there they all sat.  Two hundred plus middle schoolers, nary a one knew who this Kevin guy was, but still praying because a handful of us who did were suffering.  When just a part of  the body suffers, the whole body suffers…

We had cross country practice again today.  It was one of those distance workouts.  The fast ones took off, zipped around the two and quarter mile course finishing waaaaay ahead of the slow ones. After about half of the team was in and after a little bit of recovery time, the first runners gradually started jogging back along the course, and I watched, amazed.  The first, the fast, picked up and jogged in with their slower teammates.  Without me saying a word, they came alongside them and helped them finish the course.

I don’t know where Kevin’s course will lead him.  I do know that many people have already come alongside Kevin’s family and friends – praying, caring, supporting, helping, encouraging, loving…  praying for peace, strength, courage and healing.  God is showing his presence through all these good people.  God is showing Kevin and his family and the rest of us that nobody runs alone… never alone… never… never alone… never…

Heart Songs

Friday, I decided to try out next Monday’s faculty devotions (See my last post.) by showing it to my science classes.  It gave me an opportunity to talk about God the creator in a different way. I think they liked the pictures. They heard the message and surprisingly, in each class, after the presentation, while they were doing their work, I heard kids humming “This is My Father’s World,” the last song in the slide show … a ‘heart song.’

I’m quite bad at remembering musical things and if you asked me what my top five ‘heart songs’ are, I’d be hard pressed right now to name two. However, I know one when I hear one. Right now, “This is My Father’s World,” would be at the top of my list. For someone else, it would be something different, I’m sure.  

I wonder what songs my students will have stored in their minds and hearts as they get older? What songs will make them smile, give them goosebumps, cause them to burst out in singing or whistling or coax tears to come bubbling to the surface? What will be their ‘heart songs?’ 

No doubt, a ‘heart song’ will depend on the circumstances in which we find ourselves. My hope for you today is that the Spirit plants a ‘heart song’ in you so that you will be comforted, strengthened and find peace… that, for you, it will be one of today’s gifts.

Here are some ‘Heart Songs’ from Israel 2013…

Go Fly a Kite


All work and no play makes Dave a dull boy.  So… I flew my kite.

It’s a homemade thing that I’m experimenting with to see if it is something I can do with my science students during the last week of school.  I tried it out a few days ago…not much wind… not much flying… but fun!  This time there was lots o’ wind, so I dropped everything on Saturday and tried it again. 

So, there I was, just me and the kite, the breeze and the wide open fields behind school… Oh, and the sheriff deputy trolling for ne’er-do-wells behind the football field bleachers. 

Anyway, the thing flew a bit, flipped a little, and fluttered to the ground. Tried it again, same results. I might need to make some adjustments and of course much more practice will be needed between now and that last week.  Nothing but the best for my students after all.  Heh, heh…

So that’s what I did with Saturday’s gift… Had a little fun… Became a little less dull…

Light – a story

“You are the light of the world  … let your light shine before others, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.”  Matthew 5:14-16 

A goldfinch watched Harold with little interest from it’s perch in the middle of the bare forsythia bush in the front yard. Harold was violating his self-imposed and oft broken “no shoveling in March rule” by clearing from the end of his driveway, what he hoped would be the last three inches of snow for the season. It was another gray Michigan Saturday. It seemed like weeks since he had seen blue sky and sunshine.

“Even a crummy day like today is a break from school, though,” mused Harold, thinking about the daily rigors of teaching fifth graders and the mountain of uncorrected math papers accumulated on his desk.

As Harold bent down to push another scoop of snow to the edge of the driveway, he heard the roar of the neighbor’s muffler less wreck coming down the street. He looked up just in time to dodge a glob of slush heading in his direction.  The at-least-twenty-year-old Ford something-or-other, crammed with four kids, their mother, and a week’s worth of groceries, squished down the street, past the end of Harold’s partially cleared driveway.  Harold gave a half-hearted wave as the tired old car and cargo turned into the driveway across the street.  A little girl returned the greeting with her black hair, nose and tongue plastered against the fogged window.

Harold remembered seeing the black haired child and her siblings playing around the neighborhood – in their yard, in the street and in neighbor Harriet’s perfect perennial garden.  Two were in diapers and two in dirty shorts, one day as they ran through Harriet’s sprinkler, muddying up her perfect lawn.  However, he hadn’t really met the family – formally that is – and he didn’t know too much about them.

He recalled a ruckus coming from their house one warm evening last fall.  The sound of kids screaming and a bellowing male voice rolled through Harold’s open bedroom window and woke him up.  He remembered a woman’s voice, more than holding her own against the verbal onslaught.  The city police made a midnight visit, probably at the request of next-door neighbor Harriet, the eyes and ears of the neighborhood.

Things had seemed pretty peaceful since then, but hard telling what goes on inside their house.  The teacher in Harold wondered how the older kids got along in school.  His thoughts then wandered to his own fifth graders.  He wondered what it was like when they went home from school.  How many of their worlds are like a Michigan winter – cloudy, dark and gray?

“It’s probably none of my business, anyway,” he speculated.  He flipped the snow on the end of the shovel into the snow pile.  “I’m only their teacher …  Can’t be father and mother as well, can I?”

The question was interrupted by a compact yellow mass of feathers barreling toward the back yard.  Harold smiled.  The goldfinch fledged in some of its new, sunshine yellow feathers, zoomed by, then headed for the feeder Harold kept in the back by the kitchen window.  The small splash of brightness lifted Harold’s spirits, as he tossed his last load of March mush on the pile of dirty snow.

Harold’s wondered again about the kids in the Ford and his own students.  “Do they have any bright spots in their lives…?” Something about being the light of the world flickered through Harold’s mind as he put away the snow shovel.  The flashy finch continued feeding as the cold, gray Michigan clouds opened to release new spring rain.

“Things Went Well”

This is how things went today… at least the important stuff.

Yesterday we had a day off due to icy roads. Today, before school I was met by Robbie’s dad. He stood with Robbie clinging to him like he didn’t want dad to go. Robbie’s dad proceeded to fill me in on the chaos that had become their home-life lately and how it turned extreme during yesterday’s ice day. Obviously, Robbie, not the source of the chaos, was deeply affected and his anxiety level was sky high, affecting him at school. He was particularly worried about unfinished homework and getting into trouble because of it.

Dad and I calmly reassured him that all would be well and not to fret over the homework. We then all went about our day. Robbie’s dad left. Robbie and I each did our school thing.

About mid-morning Robbie sidled up to me after having a couple of classes under his belt. Out of the blue, he said, “Things went well.”

“Oh?” I said. “What do you mean?” What he meant was that he didn’t get in trouble for not finishing his homework. What he meant and didn’t say out loud was he received a measure of understanding and grace at school today. “Things went well.”

I usually don’t know what goes on at home when my students leave school. I don’t know the stresses and conflicts, the anxieties and fears that my students might experience there. I don’t really have a lot of influence over that. However, at school, that’s another story.

Today’s lesson and challenge for me is to be that source of understanding and grace that a kid might need on a given day … so that things can go well.

“Things went well…” Today’s gift for Robbie… and for me