Saturday, February 27

Kissing Snowmen

Kissing Snowmen, or My Current Understanding of Icons  

I put away the winter decorations in my classroom yesterday. Even if the weather is not yet giving way to spring, the calendar is, and I am glad of it. Among my collections is a snowman called… you guessed it… Frosty. He has been part of my life since I was a child, a poster of sorts that was a Christmas decoration in my childhood home. On Frosty’s tummy can be seen a pencil scrawl where I wrote my name when I was in about second grade.

I have been visiting an Eastern Orthodox Church for around six months. As a history geek and Christian, it has been enjoyable and fascinating. I grew up in a very evangelical “non-denominational” church. In my life, I have spent time experiencing the Church of Christ, Christian church, charismatic, Mennonite and Presbyterian traditions. Eastern Orthodoxy is like none of those, because all of those come from the Reformation. Orthodox Christianity is the oldest breed of Christianity there is; your great-great-great grandpappy’s church. :-) The Catholics broke off from the Orthodox ‘back in the day.’ It is been a treat to peer into the rich history of Christianity, and I am grateful for it.

Many things involved in Eastern Orthodox practice are spot-on with what I already believe; have believed for years. A few things I have found to be not troubling, but unnecessary. One of these practices is venerating icons. Please understand that to the Orthodox mind, venerating an icon or a saint is much, much different than worship, which belongs to God alone. Also know that I have spent zero time on my own researching iconography; what I know can be learned by participation in the life of any Orthodox church. Icons have also been a part of Christian practice from early, early days. (No exact date… see the lack of research??) :-)

According to my experience, the Orthodox say that icons reflect the glory of God to the viewer. They say that we ourselves are icons, as we were made in the image of God. (Genesis 1:26) I rather like that idea. It seems to me that icons are good reminders of Jesus and the ‘Great Cloud of Witnesses,’ (Hebrews 12:1) but as I said earlier, unnecessary.

There were students in my classroom while I was undecorating. As I took the Frosty off of the bulletin board, I told the kids how he had been part of my childhood. I showed them my second-grade handwriting. As I turned away from them to put him away, my heart welled up with joy as I remembered the really fun times of Christmas when I was a kid. With a spring in my step, I kissed that snowman.

Then, it dawned. Frosty is reminder of the glory of Christmases past--an icon of my Christmases. From now on, when I put up my Christmas tree, or Nativity set, or Advent wreath, when I dye Easter eggs or see a cross necklace, I’ll see an icon.

And when I see an icon, I hope I will start to feel some of the joy and lightheartedness that came right before I laid a spontaneous smacker on the old, cold man. Because they are, in fact, a reminder. :-)


Friday, February 26

Kids Say The Truest Things

Okay, so I know 'truest' is not a word.

When Amy came to my classroom after being in Haiti, she spoke about reunited families, healing bones, and inspirational quotes. I know that Haiti is mostly not like that. I was stunned by how well she composed herself to give the children a gift... news of a tragedy tempered with grace. Preserving at least a little innocence, for now.

Kids are never, never fooled. I've been teaching one kid or another since 1993. All of them are 'onto' us adults!! Despite Amy's grace and delicacy, my students gave me reflections that let me know that they understood the most true (truest), underlying issues that arise in human loss and pain.

Here they are...

G.L. girl, 4th grade:
“is being to Haiti a sad exserence (experience)? She wanted to cry we have to much almost everybody here has a job out of 10 people 8 do not have a job. Why? the D. R. has more land than haiti. Why? thay shoud have eqaul emouts of the Island why don’t thay? Why is money so scarce?”

J.T. boy, 4th grade:
“I felt sorry for the people of Haiti and how hard they got hit. One family had everyone with a broken bone. That doesn’t leave you to talking about a good day in bed. or as of Haiti, no bed”

D.J. boy, 4th grade:
“In the morning, Mrs. Glover came to our school to talk about the earthquake in Haiti. She worked in a hospital in Haiti to help people recover from injuries they had. She also told us about how she was planning to adopt three kids from Haiti, when the earthquake happened. I’m just glad the kids are alright. I liked the story she told us about Edison. But I wasn’t happy when she told us she only could have only 2 xrays. when she needed 3 for each person. I’m glad some people survived the earthquake.”

C.G. boy, 4th grade:
“I thought it was cool how Ms. Glover knew how lespwa fe’ la vie ment Hope is/from life.”
“I also thought it was cool that she got to know eddeson who couldn’t find his father. So they got the idea of going on tv. Then they took pictures of eddeson and took the photographs to a tv station. The next day they took eddesons cast off and started rubbing lotion onto his leg when his father walked into the room.”

O.C. girl, 4th grade:
“What Mrs. Glover said was awe-inspiring. Her stories made me want to go to Haiti and help anyone I could. I couldn’t imagine a month or more with a broken leg, with not a lot of help. What she said was great, and if those people can survive an earthquake like that, they must be really strong and I bet they are.”

C.C. boy, 4th grade:
“When Mrs. Glover came, I realized I take a bunch of stuff for granted I have a wonderful life. All these poor people in Haiti have such a worse time then me and I have also learned to always have hope. All the people in Haiti have Broken bones, lost fingers and cracked their heads and barely cry when I whimper when I get scratched! I want to be strong like the people in Haiti and have hope! Like a saying of theirs Lespwa Fe’la vie (hope from life).”

May we be as wise as the children! May news of suffering in Haiti help us see what is true in this world. May it sink into our minds, hearts and actions.


Thursday, February 25

Kaleidoscope Day

The last 24 hours have been such a gift!!

About midnight last night, I was farting around on fb, and I got a message from a dear old friend who lives out of town. “Do you want to grab an early breakfast??” SURE! Not only is she a dear friend, she is a PA who spent the last two weeks at a hospital in Haiti, caring for the injured of body, mind, heart… Not only is she a PA with an odd definition of the word “vacation,” she and her husband were in the process of adopting from Haiti when the quake hit. Happily, those kiddos have entered the country under ‘humanitarian parole,’ and the paperwork will be finished on the adoptions soon. My friend’s name is Amy, and she was fresh off of the plane...

Circumstances in life can flip easily, and the whole picture shifts, like a kaleidoscope. My last two weeks has been like that. I am observing Lent this year; and although I’ve given up things before, this is the first time I have done so in the company of a church that is also observing. *flip!* My heart finally and truly settles a question between good and best in my life. *flip!* I experience a sad anniversary, and realize how long ago a year was. *flip!* My laughing, sleep deprived, clear-of-heart-and-vision Amy climbs off a plane, eats breakfast with me, and speaks to my class. *flip!flip!flip!*

If I had been writing a month ago, I would have put this question out: How much do you MAKE your own life, and how much do you RECEIVE it as a grace and gift from Another?

The question the last two weeks (especially today) has been: What is a good trade for your life? My Amy has decided to trade her life for a small, yet important piece of the world; her children: Chinese, Haitian and American.

Because of my recent kaleidoscope flips, my life has not felt so open for years.

I hope I make a good trade.


Writing and Memory

Today in my classroom, an amazing thing happened. Something I would like myself and my students to remember. After it happened, I had my students write about it. I told them that when I was in fourth grade, my teacher had us journal every day; and much of what I remember from my childhood is from that year... simply because I wrote it down. I told them to write it to themselves as if they are writing what they want to remember years from now.

A year and few weeks ago, I had decided to start blogging. (Or at least writing in my Notes some of my experiences and thoughts.) I love to write; it helps me think, feel, believe and solidify my own experience. Then, The Sad overcame me. When The Sad overcame me, I stopped writing. Not only did I stop writing, but I deleted several bloggish Notes I had written. *shame on me. it's like burning the books in which my own life lives*

Isn't it funny how sometimes your own advice comes back to ring true for yourself? Something happened today that I don't want to forget. How can I expect fourth graders to do what I haven't done myself?

So, I will write. I am not sure if/when/how to share. But I suppose the first thing is to put the fingers to the keyboard...


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