Do We Always Know What’s Best?

One of the keys to fulfillment in a person’s life is knowing what actions to take and then following through with them.  Our lives are filled each day with decisions we must make and we don’t always have the luxury of a wealth of time to make “best” choices.

There are also times in our lives when we observe  someone else in their own existence and think that we know what’s best for them as well.  Sometimes we keep this to ourselves, but many times we feel obligated to tell them what we think they should do.  Are we playing God in their lives?

Looking back on my own life, I can honestly say that I’ve made some very poor choices.  I suppose I did what I thought was best at the time, but looking back can see the error of my ways.  It’s also  been said that making mistakes for many is the best way to learn valuable lessons.  In that case, each of should be well-versed in important lessons of how to live life.  The bottom line is that I don’t always know what’s best for me.

There then are those times when we see somewhat else in a situation of their own making and we can attempt to change their pathway or offer them kindly advice on what to do. Sometimes they solicit for advice, but then again many times we tell them what we think is best without being consulted.  I have found that is especially true when we think there’s something we can do to help them out of the difficult situation.

But wait a minute, isn’t that what loving people are supposed to do… help other people in their hour of need?  My answer would be yes and no.  Yes, if there is an obvious immediate need, I think it’s great to offer assistance.  But I also need to consider that people need to become adept at figuring out the answers to their own problems without anyone else’s input.  They have their lessons to learn as well.  I recently found some words that express it well:

“Shakespeare said, ‘All the world’s a stage, all the men and women mainly players.’  He forgot to mention that I was the chief critic.  I was always able to see the flaw in every person, every situation.  And I was always glad to point it out, because I knew you wanted perfection just as I did.  There is a bit of good in the worst of us and a bit of the bad in the best of us; we are all children of God and we each have a right to be here.  When I complain about me or about you, I am complaining about God’s handiwork.  I am saying that I know better than God.”

A.A. Big Book, p. 449.

Many times when I am trying to help someone else, there’s an another motive for wanting to do so.  If they will only do what I say, I stand to benefit something from it.  I’m attempting to manipulate the world so that I have an outcome that is beneficial for all, but most importantly beneficial for myself.  This is an example of self-centered thoughts and actions that are usually not what’s in anyone’s best interest.

That for me is where my faith life comes into play.  I have to know that there is a God watching over all. He helped me and nourished me through the most difficult time in my life, but He is also willing and able to do the same for anyone who asks.  We have to allow others get to the point where they are asking Him for help instead of trying to solve all their problems themselves.

I think we also need to be aware that there are many times when people don’t really want our help anyway. If you’ve been trying to get a relationship or circumstance to go the way you’d like and despite repeated attempts, it’s just not working out, you have to assume that it’s not meant to be the way you want it to be. This lesson is one of the most difficult life has to offer.

Once again, I find someone else’s words that seem to express it best:

“This is how and why of it.  First of all, we had to quit playing God.  It didn’t work.  Next, we decided that hereafter in this drama of life, God was going to be our Director.  He is the Principal; we are His agents.  He is the Father, and we are His children.  Most good ideas are simple, and this concept was the keystone of the new and triumphant arch through which we passed to freedom.”

AA Big Book, p. 62.

May God be with us all this day and lead us to do those things that He would have us to do in His name.  Give us the guidance, wisdom, and strength to carry out Your will.  But above all else, help us to understand that sometimes the best thing we can to do help someone else is nothing at all.

David Lee

My life as a story…

I recently was looking for a quote to use as my Facebook status message.  I came upon an email that I had gotten and found one that make me think a lot about life as we live it.

“Life is like a library owned by an author. In it are a few books, which he wrote himself, but most of them were written for him.” –Harry Emerson Fosdick

At first I thought it was just a neat way to think about the way our lives unfold, but then later on in the day, I read another book that approached life in a similar fashion.

“What if I actually am a character in a story?  In one way, I already know that I am.  If you were to ask my parents about me, you would have definite confirmation that I am indeed a character in many stories – only the stories happen to be theirs.  Likewise, ask my friends, my clients, my co-workers – they’ll all tell stories about me.”  – Robert P. Hopcke in his book “There Are No Accidents.”

So as I consider my initial thought, are our lives simply stories?  And if so, are we the ones that determine the other characters, settings, plot lines, and so forth?  Interesting thoughts to consider here on a Sunday afternoon.

I know I like to think I have some say-s0 with the events that occur in my life.  The clothes I wear, the car I drive, the places I go, are all a part of what I think are conscious choices on my part.  But then there are those times when I consider that the story line I’m following is not of my own making.  It’s as if someone else has scripted the lines and left just enough room for me to improvise and make only subtle changes in the resulting events.

Just as an example:  If you had told me ten years ago that I would be divorced, living on my own, teaching at the school I’m now employed, and reading and writing like there’s no tomorrow, I would have questioned your sanity.  Yet here in the year 2009 that’s exactly what I find myself doing.  Were there any things about the story that’s unfolded over the past seven and a half years that I could have changed?  Were there parts of my life that I had no control over what so ever?  All interesting thoughts to consider.

A big part of the answer to these questions for me come from the fact that I believe in a Higher Power whom I choose to call God.  I believe He has a divine plan for my life and puts people in my life and sends me places where I need to do those things to fulfill his will for my life.  Yes, there are many more trivial things that I do have control over, but many times they are truly inconsequential to the bigger picture of what my life’s all about.

I also know that God is aware of what events are going to transpire in our future and what we’ll need to be sustained and survived.  It’s like our pathways are mainly directed by an entity other than ourselves and we are just adding touches here and there to make it more personal.

So no, I don’t think anything happens by mistake.  I am a character in a story of so many other people’s lives and in each play an entirely different role than my story would have me to believe.  My faith tells me that regardless of the circumstances, God is always present and will never abandon me nor deceive me.  It’s a calming thought, whether my life is a story or not, that it’s all ultimately in His hands.

David Lee

Random Thoughts on a Random Day…

Sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in all the hustle and bustle of life and forget to stop and smell the roses from time-to-time.  Of course for a lot of people those times are few and far between.

I have a bit of time before I go to the radio station, so I thought I would write a few words to put into print some of the random thoughts I have from time-to-time.

1.  There are so many things we take forgranted in our lives – I know just being able to wake up each morning and get out of bed is some I don’t take into account most days.  I guess the closest I come to that is when I’m sick and don’t really feel like getting out of bed, but in such a case that’s a choice and not a condition.  I’m glad that I have mobility to get around.

2.  There are sometimes in my day when I just need to stop what I’m doing and start the day over again – I know I’ve found myself frustrated for one reason or another and have to pause for a brief respite.  Working with teenagers all day can be gratifying, but can also test the limits of one’s nerves.  I sometimes need to say to myself, “David, this day has gotten to the point where it really blows… You need to pretend that you are starting your day over and see if things improve as the day goes on.”  Seems like that works most of the time and keeps me from being at wit’s end.

3. It’s a bit unusual when you’re experiencing feelings you haven’t had in a long while – Many times we can get bogged down in the mundane happenings in life and become somewhat shielded from our true emotions.  I recently found myself with feelings that I haven’t had in quite a while.  The feelings were joyous and that was a wonderful thing.  But at the same time, we can experience so of the more unpleasant emotions of our past.  I need to make sure that I’m not living the present based on what I’ve experienced in the past, at least when it comes to those less-than-pleasant emotions.

4.  Sometimes you can try to relate to someone’s problems, but unless you’ve experienced that problem or a similar one, it’s not easy to truly understand. There are many things we can to do help our fellow human beings and one of those things is to listen to them talk.  We can offer our experience strength hope and give them a shoulder to lean on in difficult times.  But unless you’ve been to that same place they’re at, it may be next to impossible to truly understand.  That’s one of the beautiful things about support groups that bring together those that have gone through like experiences.  No one can understand another’s pain better than someone that was in that same situation themselves.  From alcohol and drug abuse to spousal abuse, support groups can provide an invaluable foundation for healing and growth.

Favorite “Life” Poems #2

There are several poems that I have read over the past several years that have struck a special place in my heart.  I thought it might be nice to share one or more of these with you to see if there is something you can gain from them as well.

You are who you are for a reason….
by *Russell Kelfer
(*Opens in New Window)

You are who you are for a reason.
You’re part of an intricate plan.
You’re a precious and perfect unique design,
Called God’s special woman or man.

You look like you look for a reason.
Our God made no mistake.
He knit you together within the womb.
You’re just what He wanted to make.

The parents you had were the ones He chose,
And no matter how you may feel,
They were custom-designed with God’s plan in mind,
And they bear the Master’s seal.

No, that trauma you faced was not easy.
And God wept that it hurt you so;
But it was allowed to shape your heart
So that into His likeness you’d grow.

You are who you are for a reason,
You’ve been formed by the Master’s rod.
You are who you are, beloved,
Because there is a God!

Favorite “Life” Poems #1

There are several poems that I have read over the past several years that have struck a special place in my heart.  I thought it might be nice to share one or more of these with you to see if there is something you can gain from them as well.

I have been through the valley of weeping,

The valley of sorrow and pain;

But the “God of all comfort” was with me,

At hand to uphold and sustain.

As the earth needs the clouds and the sunshine,

Our souls need both sorrow and joy;

So he places us oft in the furnace,

The dross from the gold to destroy.

When He leads through some valley of trouble,

His omnipotent hand we trace;

For the trials and sorrows He sends us,

Are part of His lessons in grace.

Oft we shrink from the purging and pruning,

Forgetting the gardener knows;

That the deeper the cutting and paring,

The richer the cluster that grows.

Well He knows that affliction is needed;

He has a wise purpose in view;

And in the dark valley He whispers,

“Hereafter you’ll know what I do.”

As we travel through life’s shadowed valley,

Fresh springs of His love ever rise;

And we learn that our sorrows and losses,

Are blessings just sent in disguise.

So we’ll follow wherever He leadeth,

Let the path be dreary or bright;

For we’ve proved that our God can give comfort;

Our God can give songs in the night.

Found in devotional “Streams in the Desert,” entry for August 9, a date that holds special meaning for me.

Zondervan Publishing, 1996.

Hickory Football/Soccer Player in the N.F.L.

Ryan Succop, a Hickory High School grad, was the last player picked in last year’s N.F.L. draft.  He not only won a spot on the Chief’s roster, but became their starting placekicker.

His stats thus far:

Succop is 9 out of 10 on field goals, with his longest coming from 53 yards.

He is a perfect 9 of 9 on extra point attempts.

He has scored 36 points in all.

Ryan’s best performance by far was against the Washington Redskins, where he kicked 4 of 4 FG attempts in KC’s 14-9 win.  Pictured below is Ryan after one of those four kicks.

[picapp src=”6/5/d/a/Redskins_vs_Chiefs_de14.JPG?adImageId=6404934&imageId=6851134″ width=”500″ height=”765″ /]

What’s Next ??

What’s Next ??

The most obvious question people will ask when I tell of my retirement plans is, “Well, what are you going to do after you retire?”  I would say that a simple question, to which there are no simple answers.  Here is a list of possibilities, in no particular order.

1.  Nothing – This option, at least at first,  is tempting.  But I also realize I’m still just fifty years old and there’s hopefully much more life in front of me.  I think in order to keep my mind working properly, I really don’t need to lean towards this plan.

2.  Substitute Teach – There’s always a need for good substitute teachers and no lack of days to be filled.  I wouldn’t be responsible for all the lesson planning and grading of papers, but once again I would be in school, which is one of the things I’m thinking of steering away from after my last teaching days.

3.  Teach at a community college – I have previously taught math at CVCC.  The pay is good and although there are not benefits, I really wouldn’t need any.  One of the best things about state retirement is that you get to keep your health insurance.  Teaching adults can be easier in some respects, but once again, I would be back in a school setting.

4.  Go to graduate school – Appalachian State offers a Master’s Degree in Counseling and Addictions Counseling.  I have previously looked into these programs enough to know that my current M.A. would alleviate some of the coursework I would have to take.  I’m not 100% sure counseling is what I’d really like to do and once again, I’d be back in the school setting, at least for a while.  It would be sort of neat to be a college student again.

5. Get a job in the private sector – Something tells me that I’d like a job in which I’m just responsible for me, myself, and I.  Not in charge of thirty-some teens and their raging hormones,,,, not responsible for keeping up with a plethora of paperwork… not having to bring work home.  I don’t know exactly what I’d like to do, but there are many options.  I do know that with the economy the way it is, there may be some limitations with this choice.

Regardless of which choice I finally end up making, I once again trust in the God of my understanding to keep me headed in the right direction.  At the point-in-time when there’s a decision to be made, I’m sure I’ll know what He wants me to do and if not, I know there’s no harm in waiting to find out.

“Trust in the Lord with your whole heart; do not depend on  your own understanding.  Seek His will in all you do and He will direct your paths.” – Proverbs 3:5-6

David Lee

Deciding When It’s Time to Say Good-Bye

Deciding When It’s Time to Say Good-Bye

In the decision I’ve made to retire at the end of the current school year, there are many factors that play a part.  I’ll make a list and to the best of my ability tell what my thinking is in each case.

1.)  I’ve gotten enough years of service and with additional sick days, am eligible to retire…. – I think there’s a reason why the thirty year mark is there.  Not that there aren’t quality teachers that stay around longer than that, but I feel it’s there for a reason.  If I count my years as a student, I’ve been in school for forty-four of my fifty years.  I think I’m ready to graduate!

2.)  Over the past several years it’s become more difficult to be physically and mentally sharp enough to continue teaching at a quality level of performance…. – We’re all getting older, that’s a fact of life.  Our physical selves aren’t able to do some of the things we once were.  Our mental processes slow from what they once were.  I still feel well and I think I’m of a sane mind (at least most days), but I’ve noticed it takes a bit longer to do things and remembering things is not as easy as it once was for me.  I think my patience with things I don’t have any control over has shortened somewhat as well.

3.) I enjoy what I do, but don’t want to let it get to the point where I hate my job.,,, So much has changed about the teaching profession over the years, especially the last several.  It seems that teachers are responsible for more and more and aren’t given any additional hours in the day to take care of all that needs to be done.  And while I think many administrators have a good idea of what it’s like in the classroom, when edicts come down from on high to do this and to do that on top of everything else we’ve been doing, it gets to be a bit much.  It’s a little different to sit in an office somewhere and make choices about what teachers should do, but yet another thing to be in their shoes and actually have to carry those plans out.

I see more and more outside interference in what I do in my day-to-day teaching.  After twenty-eight years, I’m still being told specifics on what I should or should not be doing in my daily lessons.  Not that I don’t appreciate the advice, but I would like to think my years of experience stand for something.  Give me some choices, but don’t micro-manage what I’m doing each day to the point I have to delete some strategies that I know work for me.

4.) I trust my intuition and it’s telling me it’s time to go… – I sometimes kid with people that of all the classrooms in the school, mine’s the one closest to the parking lot.  And before you say, “He’s just saying that,” please know that I look for signs that are pointing me in the direction to take.

I have a determined faith in God and when I feel he’s leading me to do something, I’m likely to take that lead.  I pray each day and ask God to give me a clean heart and a clear mind to do those things He would have me to do.  And if this is what my mind’s telling me on a consistent basis, then I’m going to follow that lead.  I truly think there are other things that He would like me to be doing with my life at this point in time.  And this reason, above all others, is why I’ve made the decision I’ve made.

“Trust in the Lord with your whole heart; do not depend on  your own understanding.  Seek His will in all you do and He will direct your paths.” – Proverbs 3:5-6

David Lee

Years of Service – Part Three

Years of Service – Part Three

During the first two years of my tenure at H.M. Arndt I taught both seventh and eighth grade math and science.  I was paired with Betty Lohr, who had more than thirty years experience.  The second of those two years I taught an algebra class and had a pre-algebra class as well.

The next year Betty had decided to retire and they were losing another position anyway, so I was moved to the eighth grade, where for the first time in my career I was teaching just science with no math classes.  After that year I requested a move to the seventh grade and that was granted, as once again I was teaching only science.  Another move was made the following year and I was switched to yet another pod within the school.  This is the second year with that group of teachers and for the first time in a long, long time in addition to teaching science, I have a class of social studies.

So this is where I find myself at this day and time.  The third month of my twenty-ninth year in teaching.  Twenty-three years with the Hickory Schools and the beginning of my sixth year with the Catawba County Schools.

The decision to retire has in some ways relatively easy, but as the day approaches I realize this is a really big step with lots of implications for the rest of my days on earth.  I’m always open to new possibilities and know better to “never say never,” but it would take some major shift in feeling on my part to abandon the idea of retiring at the end of this school year.

David Lee

Next: “So why is it you’ve decided to hang it up?”

Years of Service – Part Two

Years of Service – Part Two

Once again the school year started up and once again I didn’t have a teaching position.  I decided it would be a good idea to at least substitute teach to have myself  “out there” in case a position would become open.  I made index cards with my name and address and took it to each of the schools so I wouldn’t be just another name on the list.

I got two sub requests from College Park Intermediate School, where I had gone to school at during those years of my life.  I substituted for Mrs. Reeves a couple of days and then for Mr. Johnson another two.  It was on the last of that four day stint when I go a call from Clinton Sigmon, who at that time was principal at Grandview Intermediate School.  He was the principal at College Park when I had been there as a student.  He told me that he had a sixth grade position open and wanted to know if I would be interested in that job.  I agreed and the very next day found myself at Grandview preparing for students that would be coming from overcrowded classes on the hall.

That sixth grade year was much smoother than my first year.  I found the intermediate school schedule much more to my liking.  You would have the students for about an hour and a half and then would get a whole new group. My responsibilities were teaching math and science, so I didn’t have to worry about language arts, reading, and social studies.

The end of my second year in teaching rang a familiar tone.  A month before the end of school I received a certified stating that my contract was not being renewed.  The only difference was, this time the principal said, “I think we still may have something for you.”  A common sense approach would say that those extra sixth graders would still be in the school the next year and the seventh grade would still be short at least one teacher.  So before we left for summer vacation, I had signed a contract for the next year.  It seems that if there’s even a slight possibility that you may not be hired back, that dreaded letter has to be sent.  It would have been so bad if they also hadn’t published our names in the paper without explanation.

The next year I was once again teaching seventh grade math and science and the schedule was very much to my liking.  At the end of this year another teacher had decided to retire, so although I had to switch rooms I didn’t have to worry about being without a job.

During the next twenty years I taught math and science at Grandview.  There was a five year stint where I was moved to the eighth grade, where I taught algebra.  It was during that period of time that I got to teach my son Patrick.  He was in algebra class and there was just the one and I was the teacher, so it couldn’t be avoided.  There weren’t really any problems, although I will say with thirty-six students, that class was the largest I’ve ever taught.

I was back to the seventh grade and during that tenure also got to teacher my daughter Heather.  This time around there were other math teachers she could have been with for her learning.  I didn’t request that she be in my class either way.  At that time I figured if she was supposed to be in my class she would and if not, so be it.  There were some class adjustments after the first couple weeks of school and I do remember telling the principal that I didn’t want her moved out of my class.  Once again, having a child of my own as a student didn’t pose a problem.

After twenty-two years at Grandview and one additional year at Southwest, I decided to leave the Hickory system.  I had gone through a lot of other life changes in 2002 and came to the decision that perhaps I needed to get a fresh start at a place where I could begin anew.

I didn’t have any problems getting another position.  As it turns out if a principal has a teacher with twenty-three years of experience, it saves them a lot of angst in knowing how the teacher will perform.  The choices were narrowed down to River Bend, Jacobs Fork, and H.M. Arndt.  It was indeed a difficult decision to make, but he Arndt job afforded me a unique situation and that’s where I decided to make my move.

To be continued…

David Lee