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Thursday, January 31, 2013

Final-Year University: Reverse Discrimination

The announcement of our Pre-Med Club meeting had been posted and noted on my list of to-do’s for that week. The group was small and pretty intense at times, but it was a good one to keep in touch with what was happening in the world of Med School applications and admissions.

Interestingly enough, one of the kids in the club was a guy who had played on one of our rival sports teams during my high school days. Of course, I didn’t appreciate Glenn as much on a basketball court or football field, challenging our players for the win, but after these years of university, I had learned to recognize his abilities and valued him as a person a lot. He was a talented athlete, but I also found him to be a really good guy. Now, Glenn was married, with a family on the way.

The other club members, all men, were not as friendly, and rather just tolerated my presence. After all, I was only a woman so not a real contender for one of the places in Med School that they were vying for at the moment. Back then, acceptance in Med School was still fairly fixed on the male gender.

This particular meeting of our little group appeared to have all but one member present, a rarity. So far, all the kids who had received any word back from medical schools had been rejected. Some of the letters really sounded like the admissions committee regretted the need to send the letter, but most were just a form letter that sounded like one.

When Glenn presented his letters, we were totally shocked to hear him read the same type of letters he had received just that week. I mean, this kid was the smartest in our class and had doctors in his family history, etc. His personality would have won the committee, for sure, had he been granted the interview with any of the schools.

I’d been in the second group taking the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT), delaying the receipt of my application to the committees until the later rounds. The schools required the MCAT results be sent to them, prior to consideration of a student’s application. When Glenn had not been accepted anywhere, I held out little hope for my own applications,

“Hey, guys, I want you to meet Charlie here!” Frank, late as always, came bounding through the classroom door. “He’s new to the group; this is his first day.”

“Uh, Frank, it’s a little late to join the club, isn’t it? Graduation is so close we can smell the mortar boards and graduation robes! What’s up?” Jason put a voice to what the rest of us had been thinking. Eyes rolled and snide remarks were tossed Frank’s way.

“Well, I thought you would want to meet someone who has actually been accepted to medical School for next year, but if you don’t, well…we’ll be on our way.” Frank’s grin let us all know that there was more to Charlie’s story.

“Oh yeah, well, where’d you go to school, Charlie, ‘cuz none of us here in this room have received anything but rejection letters so far? You’re not familiar to me; anyone else have old Charlie here in any labs?” Again, Jason expressed our thoughts. Hours and hours spent in all sorts of science laboratory classes over the years meant that we pretty much knew all the students headed for Medical School somewhere.

When no one admitted to having ever seen Charlie before this time, Frank continued. “Nope, none of you know him. Me either, really. I just met Charlie this afternoon when I found him wandering around the Health Science Building, trying to find one of us to talk to.” Frank, definitely, had our attention. “Go ahead, Charlie, tell the group what you received this week.”

Charlie smiled and held up an envelope. “Right here’s the ticket to how I’ll spend the next year of my life. Maybe more, if I find I like it more than I think I will.”

“Awe c’mon, Charlie, spill it; what’ve ya got there?” The question came from somewhere in the room, but we all agreed it was time to just tell us.

“Well,” Frank said before ol’ Charlie had a chance, “Seems that the current climate wants to have more than a science background for admission to medical school. Charlie is actually graduating in English. He’s not taken any science classes here that required a lab. In fact, Charlie never once considered medical school for his next step, because he hates science and math but loves literature and writing.” I had no idea where Frank was going with this and echoed the other students’ groans at Frank having interrupted the meeting with an English major’s appearance. “No, wait, Charlie has something there in his hand we’d all love to have. Go ahead, Charlie, tell them.”

“Yeah, well, I didn’t really know what to do next year, but then this letter came last week.” Charlie held up the envelope as he spoke. “In there, the school asked me to consider going to medical school. They said not to worry if I hadn’t the proper science and math classes, they’d get a tutor for me and I’d do fine, if I applied myself.” To say we were all totally dumbfounded wouldn’t come close to how we were feeling.

“So, you didn’t even apply for medical school? This letter just arrived in your mail box, out of the blue?” I couldn’t believe it, but had to ask. It had cost the rest of us a lot of money to complete the process, yet it seemed that Charlie had been accepted without applying? I must have missed something somewhere.

“Yeah, isn’t that weird?” Charlie laughed but none of us joined him.

“But, Charlie, if you hadn’t considered medical school before, how are you going to be able to work out the loans, etc. Did they offer you student loans, too?” Jim’s question had also been on my mind. Would any financial committee approve such a long-term, huge loan application from an English major without all the required science and math courses under his belt?

“Hey, that was the selling point for me. They are offering to pay me to go, or that’s how it looks to me, anyway. They’ll give me a four-year full-ride scholarship, including a monthly stipend, plus pay for all my books and lab fees. I can stay free in the dorm so the stipend can be used on just stuff I want, not necessarily stuff I need. What better deal could I get, huh? I figure, why not? I’ve not got anything better to do next year. If I like it, I’ll stick around. If not, I’ll find something else to do.”

“So, right now, you don’t have any intention of completing the course and qualifying as a doctor of medicine?” The tension was, definitely, growing in the room, as another club member gripped the rejection letters he had read to us earlier.

“Well, not really, but ya never know, right? I might find I like it and, certainly, the money’d be good if I ended up being a doctor. I just never thought of it before. Would give me some great material for writing, don’t ya think?”

What was the reason for Charlie’s good fortune? Charlie was an African American (called Black American in those days.) None of us were anything but the now-out-of-favor Caucasian. We had not really thought about race as related to our own lives, because we had always just accepted everyone and hadn’t thought about racial discrimination there in our mountain community. This was a rude awakening to the difference being the wrong race could make. It was an early beginning for me as to just how unfair the government rules and policies can be. Never before this had I given discrimination a thought. My heart went out to all of the people in the news stories I’d read about the African American folks being treated badly because of skin color. I’d not been raised in a family that allowed such behavior. I’d never really considered the color of a person’s skin as making him different from me. It just wasn’t an issue.

Let me hasten to say that a lot of qualified African American students were admitted to medical schools and other professional schools during those early days of Affirmative Action; my hat is off to them. I’m grateful that they got the chance to attend medical school, because I’ve known some really excellent African American doctors and surgeons. This post is not intended to show a negative reaction to their admission. Most of those admitted had worked as hard as the rest of us, with med school as our goal.

None of us were admitted to medical school that year, though Glenn did get in another year. My own Med CAT results and grades weren’t as good as some of the others who had not been admitted, so I wasn’t as disappointed as the others. Actually, God had been working on me to head in another direction so that’s what I did.

Often, when we are not accepted for a job or training program we had our hearts set on, we cry out that God didn’t answer our prayers. However, in my own life, I can look back and see that God really did answer the cry of my heart…the primary cry of my heart: that God use my life as He had intended when He decided to create me.

Of course, all along the way, I have my own ideas of just how that might play out, but ultimately, I want my life surrendered to God’s plan. That means not always getting “what I want” or what I think I want. To stay along the path God has designed for me, I will sometimes get those rejection letters. The letters are a part of staying on the right path to God’s goal for me. I have learned to not be discouraged by them but to celebrate the fact that God’s still in control. There is nothing I cannot do, if it is God’s will that I do it. On the other hand, I don’t want to do anything that God doesn’t want me to do.

At last, I am old enough to not strike out ahead of God’s direction and just hope God will bless my efforts. God understands that I want to obey Him, and do what He has planned for me to do; but it is up to God to give me the direction to follow. He is faithful to do so. God will, also, use everything imaginable to direct my path, so I don’t worry about discrimination, reverse or otherwise.

*All names have been changed.

****Final-Year University: Morality Discrimination …Next Post

Monday, January 28, 2013

Final-Year University: Honda Happiness, Scene 2

At last, the wonderfully warm days of summer had come. Graduation behind me, I accepted the kind invitation of one of the families at church and moved to their home for the summer. I worked weekdays with social science researchers, and unless we were near some deadline, had weekends off.

One Saturday, the itch to ride out of town for the day grabbed me mightily. Spreading out an area map, I calculated the distance I could go on one tank of gasoline and still return home. My motorcycle got 119 miles to the gallon and my tank was a bit bigger than that. Thus, I chose a spot on the map roughly fifty miles away, fixed myself a lunch to add to the contents of my daypack, and out the door I went. No, in fact, it had not occurred to me to tell anyone in the family where I was going. I’d be back before the Mom and Dad returned from their jobs and I didn’t figure the kids would care.

The sun was delightfully warm; the distance to the park-like area reached without incident. I pulled out my book and began to read. Somewhere around noon, I enjoyed my little picnic lunch before taking a hike. It was so peaceful, only the sounds of nature surrounded me.

All too soon, the afternoon showed signs of moving into evening, so I collected my things and jumped back on the motorcycle. The traffic on the highway was minimal, making the return an enjoyable, stress-free ride.

About ten miles from town, my bike began to “act funny.” I had no idea what the problem could be. I prayed that God would keep me safe and the little engine working, until I could get home. The sense of unease lingered, therefore I decided that I would fill up my tank as soon as I reached the city limits…just in case I might not make it all the way across town, plus a couple of miles to our neighborhood.

Then, a sound I recognized…coughing and sputtering. But, how could that be? I’d calculated the distance and filled up before I left; how could I be running out of gas? When the beloved red treasure’s engine lost its purr and rolled to a stop on the side of the road, I knew I’d miscalculated somewhere. I was, indeed, out of gas. Cell phone communication was nowhere on the horizon at this period of time; our homes still had rotary dials on the land lines. Nothing to do but wait to see if someone driving by might go get me some fuel. Like I said, there was not much traffic on the road that Saturday. After about half an hour, seeing not a single vehicle, I decided I would just walk back to town myself, but what to do with the bike. It weighed 300 pounds so I couldn’t push it alongside as I walked. A steep slope led from the asphalt to a property fence, and while I could probably manage to get the bike down to the fence, getting it back up the steep incline would be problematic. Suddenly, fatigue hit me and I just longed to lie down for a nap. So, leaving the motorcycle on the shoulder of the road, I walked down to the fence and stretched out on the long grass for a little shut-eye.

The longer I lay there, though, the more anxious I got. I couldn’t sleep out here; I needed to stay with the bike, in case a car came by. Back up the incline to flag down a passing vehicle.

My father had said not to take help from just any car that stopped; be discerning, because not everyone is a good guy. Dad had said that truckers were usually safe and they knew a lot about car trouble so, if I could flag down a trucker, I’d be okay. One car stopped, but the guys inside gave me the willies, so I waved them on before they came over to see about the problem. Fortunately, they resumed their travel, without incident.

Finally, I saw a semi heading in my direction. I held up my hand, prayed for God to protect me, and signaled the trucker to stop. I ran to the passenger door as his rig came to a stop just ahead of my motorcycle. He opened the door as I approached. “Well, howdy, little lady. Gotcha some trouble there with that bike?”

“Hey, thanks for stopping. Yeah, I ran outta gas. I had calculated how much I needed but missed it somewhere. Can you help me get some?”

“Climb on up here, dearie, I can take you into town. My outfit here uses diesel, or I’d give you some of my fuel. You need gasoline, though, so the best I could do is give you a ride into town.”

“I guess you couldn’t bring me back, huh?” We both laughed.

“Sorry, darlin’ but I got a schedule and a loop like that isn’t on it. C’mon; get up here now and let’s git into town. The garage might have a way to get you back. Just cross that bridge when you come to it.”

Glancing back at my motorcycle sitting there so forlorn on the shoulder of the road, I prayed for God to protect it, too. Someone could steal it, especially if they figured out it only needed gas. Someone could hit it if they weren’t staying on their side of the line. I just hated to leave my precious bike out there all alone. But, what could I do? I stretched my five-foot, four-inch body’s extremities to the max, finding footholds and rings to grab as I climbed into that cab. At last, I was sitting high atop the road in the huge bucket seat.

It was a quick trip to the service station just inside the city limits, but while we rode together, the trucker told me how to calculate fuel usage. Yup, I’d missed some important points there.

I found it was more difficult to climb down from the cab than up, but I managed it without falling on my rear. Giving the kind man a final wave of thanks, I headed into the station.

Now late enough that the parents in the family had returned home from work, I accepted the station attendant's kind offer and phoned them. The lady of the family came right out, with a gas can. I purchased a gallon of gasoline, which in those days was a whoppin’ twenty-five cents due to gas wars.

Back on the road again, she asked me for details. Embarrassed to death, I told her of my error that had caused me to run out of gas. She laughed and joked with me about my college book-learning, and before long, I was laughing right along with her.

As we approached the area where I had left the motorcycle, my nerves began to tighten. Would it still be there? Would it be lying on the ground in a heap? “Oh, please, God…” Since we had to take the eastbound lanes and the bike sat off the westbound shoulder, we needed to pass by the bike and look for a crossover point or off- and on-ramps to loop back. 

At last, approaching the mile marker where I had left the motorcycle, I held my breath. Where was it? Catching sight of a flash of red, I began to breathe again. Yes! There it was, standing right where I had left it. Talk about your happy camper! I was ecstatic; my hands even shook a bit when I filled the tank.

The relief I experienced during the ride home eclipsed the real issue; I had put myself in a very dangerous situation. Though it is much worse today, back then LSD and other drugs were a real problem. Hitchhiking was strictly advised against by authorities. Later, the practice was made illegal on the interstate highways, due to the inherent dangers for the hitchhiker.

How carefully God kept His eye upon me. In Psalm 139, The Bible says that God is aware of my going out and of my coming in; that God knows when I rise and when I lie down. How amazing and comforting to carry this knowledge deep in my soul. There is absolutely nothing I do that is a surprise to God; He’s watching all the time!

When I look back at these early Honda days, I can almost see God smile in His ever-so gentle way. I’d say, “Why’d you let me do such a dumb thing like taking that bike out in the snow or let me head out, knowing that I was about to run into big trouble with an empty gas tank?”

I’m pretty sure He’d say something as simple as this: “Because, you wanted to do it. You felt you needed to do it, so I just stood by and let you. I had my eye upon you. You were never alone. Did you learn anything?”

And, of course, that was the point, wasn’t it? I never, ever forgot the lessons learned; none were ever repeated!

Related Post:
Does God Really Care?

****Final-Year University: Reverse Discrimination…Next Post

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Final-Year University: Honda Happiness

f you’ve not read the three previous posts, you might want to check them out. It may help you understand a little how I could get to this one. The events recorded there contributed mightily to my sense that I owed it to myself to respond to that brief ad in the newspaper for a red Honda 175CL, used but great condition. The fact that winter had not really left our Montana mountain city didn’t enter my reasoning. A motorcycle was just what I needed…for my morale, if not for transportation.

Straddling the bright red Honda, white helmet secured, my right foot jerked the motorcycle to life. What a fabulous purr that little engine made! With a wave to its former-owner, I rode off, as excited as a kid on Christmas morning.

The freezing, still-winter air made it feel a lot like Christmas might be around the corner, instead of months behind. Brrrr, that wind in my face chilled my cheeks more than I had expected. No problem, I just clicked the clear, plastic bubble-shield into position in front of my face. My head felt so confined, but it was a lot warmer without that biting wind.

By the time the transaction had been completed that glorious day, I didn’t have much light left to ride. I made the most of every minute and was frozen to the bone by the time I climbed back up the apartment stairs. A hot, steaming hot, bath sounded really good, even more than food.

All the while I soaked in the bath, I planned just where I’d ride my motorcycle. It was the sole focus of my thoughts, lasting until I realized that the bathwater was cold. I could hardly wait for morning, when I would mount up again and head for anywhere I wanted to ride. Vroom, vroom! Best of all, it was Saturday. I’d mentally leave all my burdens in my dust, until I was too cold to work the throttle or clutch on the handlebars.

Well, I awoke to find several inches of snow had blanketed the streets overnight. My snow boots made working the gears on the foot pedal too hard. I just let out some slack in the laces of my waffle-stompers and put on an extra pair of socks. I needed to keep my hands flexible, so two pairs of gloves were out of the question, had I another pair of gloves, which I didn’t. So I put on an old sweatshirt, the sleeves of which were long enough to reach my fingers. Of course, there were several layers under that sweatshirt, too. I donned the lower half of my thermal long johns, and tugged my heaviest pair of blue-jeans over the top. Jacket zipped, helmet in hand, out the door I rushed…right into the frigid cold air.

Now, if you think I was one of those kids who loved the snowsuit and hours of fun in the snow, read the post from last year entitled “Snow Business”, noted below. Forever, I’ve hated winter activities; but then, riding motorcycles would not usually be on such a list, would it? Nevertheless, there I was, bundled up like a kid stuffed into one of those moon-suits, sitting atop a motorcycle, and simply beaming with joy.

Not long into my slipping and sliding adventure as I traversed the city streets, ridiculous grin frozen (literally) to my face, it began to snow…huge fluffy, wet flakes. You know the kind, if ever you lived through a Montana winter. Gorgeous, brilliant white, but they cling to any and all surfaces, including plastic, bubble-shields. As you might expect, the shield didn’t come with an automatic wiper for bad weather riding. I had to stop every few yards and swipe my gloved hand across the shield to see a few feet in front of my tire. No, I couldn’t let go of one of the handlebars to brush off the thick, wet flakes while still on-the-go; the road was just too full of deep snow.

Then, it happened. I’d waited too long to clear my face-shield, and found myself heading straight for an on-coming car. I was in the wrong lane of traffic…oops! His blaring horn, followed by a skid-like slide that threatened to propel me right into a parked car, woke up my totally paralyzed cells dedicated to reasoning. What in the world was I thinking of to be out riding in a blizzard? Having narrowly escaped the imminent collisions with both the on-coming car in motion and the parked car half a block down the street, I very carefully took my soaked-to-the-skin self home.

Relaxing and thawing out in a lovely hot bath, I began to laugh. In my mind I pictured a few huge angels in snowsuits and idiot mittens* flanking me. Their shiny, golden snowshoes slipping and sliding on the snow-covered street as I rode and they ran.

It was a one-time experience. After that Saturday, I used better judgment regarding weather conditions for a ride. However, weather conditions weren’t the only factors I learned to consider before jumping on for a ride. The next adventure could have been infinitely more dangerous, had God not been watching out for me.

*Idiot mittens is a commonly used slang for mittens that are connected by a string, usually made of yarn. To help small children keep track of their mittens, one mitten is threaded through each sleeve with the string across the back of the shoulders. This way, when a child takes off his mittens and jacket, the mittens, still attached to the string, stay with the coat…ready for when he dons the jacket for the next trip outside.

Aforementioned post:
Snow Business

****Final-Year University: Honda Happiness, Scene 2…Next Post

Friday, January 25, 2013

Final-Year University: Life-Threatening Roommate

Before the internal trauma of the courtroom had been resolved, another change came into my life. Oh, it wasn’t the marriage of my roommate, though she did get married in my final year of university. Her wedding was a wonderful occasion that we had enjoyed looking forward to throughout the planning. I was her Maid-of-Honor. After she was settled in her new home just a few blocks from the apartment we had shared,  I delighted in helping her learn some of the things a new bride might need to learn…such as how to bake a ham for Easter or clean the bathroom mirror. But, her replacement was a total surprise and quite a challenge. I wondered if I’d survive to graduate!

I’ll call her Julie. I met Julie at one of the Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship (IVCF) meetings, which were still a part of my life. Julie needed to find a roommate, but I wasn’t looking for a replacement for Cathy. The reason was that I had only one quarter of school left before graduating; I just wanted to get finished and move on, not start a new relationship of any kind. However, Julie approached me one afternoon when our weekly IVCF Action Group met near hers.

“Hello, Sojourner, my name is Julie. We met last Friday, but you probably don’t remember me.”

“There are a lot of kids at that Friday meeting with all the Action Groups coming together, but I do remember meeting you. You’re a twin, right? Is your sister still visiting you?”

“No, that was just for the weekend. I talked with Pastor Dan and he suggested I speak to you. I need a place to stay and he said your roommate got married over Spring Break.”

“Yeah, that’s right, she did. But, I’m not really looking for a roommate. I only have this one quarter left so will be giving up the apartment in a few months. I can ask around for you, though. Maybe someone else is looking.”

“I’ve already asked around. Please, I need a place for this quarter. I can worry about what comes next after that. Can’t you pray about it, at least?”

Well, how could I refuse to pray about it? I’d also talk with the pastor, but I was not going into this seeking-the-Lord-for-an-answer mode with a very open heart or mind. I just didn’t want one more change in my life right then.

I discussed the situation with the pastor, who reminded me that spring was a time I rarely found myself at home for any length of time. I wouldn’t probably be starting a new relationship with Julie, as much as I would just be sharing the apartment space. There were all sorts of activities in the spring, including touring weekends with the IVCF singing group to which I belonged. On paper, I didn’t really have any good reason to deny her request.

Julie moved in shortly after her request had been made known. There were things I told her about the place in a manner of brief orientation, and we discussed personal likes and dislikes to make things run more smoothly. However, there was one bit of information that seemed obvious to me but not so much to her

The temperature had plummeted overnight, which was not an uncommon occurrence in the mountains of Montana. The ancient hot water radiator in the apartment took awhile to warm the chilly air, but did get there…eventually. Well, eventually was too slow for Julie. She took matters into her own hands, but then left for breakfast with a friend on campus.

My alarm broke the quiet, startling me out of yet another disturbing dream about final exams, though they were months away. Shuffling around, finding only one slipper, I staggered half-asleep to the open bedroom door. It was the usual routine and the icy cold water of the bathroom sink always served to finish the wake-up call.

The impression of heat hit me before I reached the doorway and slowed my pace. Gingerly, I approached the open door; the heat increased. Fire? I thought which shot my eyelids fully open. The appliance closest to the bedroom was the oven, whose door had been opened wide. I reached out to shut it but found it too hot to touch. The coils were burning white. Glancing at the temperature dial, I read the selected temp to be 500 degrees, though I doubt that this old gas stove could accurately register the temperature.

The problem was that, when the oven door was open all the way, the doorway out of the bedroom was completely occluded. I would have to find something to close the door. The dial was also too hot to touch, so I couldn’t just turn it off. There was nothing I could reach on the kitchen table next to the stove, and the countertop where I spied a potholder, was against the opposite wall from the table.

Finally, I folded up a tee shirt and pushed the door closed with a bang. I, then, used the clumped up fabric to turn the dial until I heard it click off. The tiny apartment was so warm, I wondered how long it had been since Julie set up this dangerous quick-warming situation.

The hot oven door had completely blocked off any exit from the bedroom. Had something happened and there been a fire…? Like I said, I thought it was obvious one didn’t do such a thing, but guess not.

The next challenge came soon after the above incident. I climbed the wooden stairs to our apartment one afternoon, expecting to quickly retrieve a textbook I’d forgotten, only to discover our small living room full of tough-looking older guys and Julie. 

“Sojourner! Come here and meet my friends.” I looked at Julie when she spoke, but I was checking out the assembled friends out of the corner of my eye. “Guys, this is my roommate, Sojourner. Sojourner, this is Bill, Tom, Paul, and George. I was so surprised to see them. I’ve been writing to Bill, so I knew he would be in town soon, but didn’t know the exact date. Now here he is with some of his friends. Isn’t that great!” Julie was so excited, just glowing, really.

“Hello,” was all my dumb-founded brain could manage at the sight of these large men. They smiled slightly and returned my greeting. “Julie, can I see you in the bedroom for a minute, please. I’ve got to hurry back to class; I just came home to get a book.” On the other hand, did I want to turn my back on these strangers? 

Once in the bedroom, I tried to lower my voice as much as possible, because I was afraid to close the door. “Julie, who are these guys? Why did you bring them all up here? You’re in a very vulnerable position here.”

“No, it’s okay. I’ve been writing to Bill for the last two years. Now, he is out of prison and wants to go to church with me and study the bible. We’ve been sharing Scriptures in our letters and it’s so nice to have him here now.”

“And his friends? Are they also interested in going to church and reading the Bible?”

“Well, I suppose so. I’ve just met them but Bill is ready to make a totally new life for himself so he’ll need friends, won’t he?”

“Julie, I think you should take your friend to meet Pastor Dan. He’ll know how best to help him get settled here.” Lowering my voice even more, I continued, “And, Julie, I don’t want to see these guys here when I get back from class in an hour and a half. It is very unwise to bring four much-older men into this small apartment, housing two young women. The ‘appearance of evil,’ the Bible calls it, you know?”

“Oh, you’re right, Sojourner. I didn’t think of that. We’ll just have a Coke and then I’ll take them to meet the pastor. That’s a great idea!”

Well, Julie and her new friends weren’t there when I returned. For several weeks I wondered if they would be there, every time I opened the apartment door. I felt so vulnerable and that frightened me.

I can’t say that these men all having criminal records didn’t affect the way I feared solitary contact with them, but it was more their somber faces and overwhelmingly large, tattooed bodies that struck fear into my being at first sight. After learning they had recently completed their incarceration, I felt vulnerable to the potential for unpleasant surprises. Our IVCF singing group had ministered during chapel services in the State prison, and perhaps the reminders of the briefing of what not to do from the prison officials affected my reaction to finding them in my home.

As a mature adult, I do believe that a man or woman who has paid for his or her mistakes by time in prison deserves a second chance. Jesus gives us all many second chances in our lifetime, and we should follow His example of compassion and mercy. However, there is always a bit of wisdom needed to be sensitive to the newly-released person’s needs, while protecting the vulnerable side of the young folks so eager to help.

I never heard anything more of these men, except that they did not go to meet the pastor, so I can’t really say, for sure, that Julie put us in any danger. But, it certainly did feel like it!

Though I quickly recognized the Lord’s protection in these two potentially disastrous situations, I was about to put myself in even greater danger…without giving it a second thought!

*The names of Julie and her friends have been changed.

****Final-Year University: Honda Happiness…Next Post

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Final-Year University: Academic Catastrophes

Study? Yes, I must have studied during those dreadful weeks and months before and after my marriage ended; but here again, nothing was normal. In fact, my Classical Greek Final Exam was on the very day I needed to be in court. So out of touch was I as to the emotional effect the court appearance would have on me, that I re-scheduled my exam for the hour following court. My professor would be in his office then and said I could just drop by and take the exam there, since I’d not be able to join the class at the regular time.

Riding in my roommate’s car, loaned to her by her out-of-town parents for just this occasion, we left the courthouse and headed for the university campus. All the way there, I silently conjugated Greek verbs and reminded myself of declensions that should be on the exam. It was my single focus. Cathy dropped me off and probably met up with her fiancĂ© somewhere. The memory of the courtroom was not about to stay in that far away compartment to which I had shoved it, though.

Hearing the “Ave” following my knock, I entered the Greek (and Latin) professor’s office. The usual pleasantries exchanged, he pointed to a student desk in the corner of his large room. I took the exam he held out to me and walked over to the desk. I no sooner had scribbled my name on the top page, when the tears began. Desperately, I fought to keep them off my exam paper. Finally, I stopped and blew my nose. I didn’t dare look up as, most certainly, Prof H was looking at me. “I’m okay,” I said and picked up my pen.

Again, the tears blurred my vision as I struggled to write down the conjugation I needed. When the sobs worsened and my shoulders shook, I gave out a deep sigh, laying down my pen.

“Sojourner? Is there anything I can do? Are you ill? Should I call somebody?” The poor man spit out his questions so rapidly that it was clear he had moved from the mildly concerned to the flustered mode. Like many men when a woman starts crying and they have not a clue as to why, he just wanted to fix it and make those tears stop.

“No, I’m not really sick. Well, not like I had the flu or appendicitis or something. It’s my heart; it’s breaking to bits. I couldn’t take the final with everyone else because I was in court ending my marriage. I thought I was okay and I really don’t know where all these waterworks are coming from. I mean, I didn’t even cry when I left the courtroom. I’m so sorry. I’ve probably ruined my exam. Look; the ink’s smudging the places I tried to write my answers.”

Professor H just nodded. “Well, I don’t think you could get through it if you did the exam orally either. I think that would be pretty hard on both of us.” He let go of a deep sigh and pocketed his pen. “Let me just double-check my grade book.” I watched him thumb through a narrow ledger, stopping at a point near the middle. “Give me your paper.” I did and heard words I had never expected. “Well, you’ve kept an A average for the course, so I’ll just take your paper and give you the mid-term grade. Be sure your name’s on the paper, though, so I can count it in with the total number of exams turned in to me.”

I handed Professor H my soggy exam paper and left the room. The tears had never stopped from the moment they had started, so I could only choke out a “Thank you,” as I left his office.

I finished the course with an A in Greek, but such was not the case with my final chemistry class. I had completed so many required chemistry courses in my four years there that I don’t really remember which specific one this might have been. What I do remember was approaching the Health Sciences building to take the final exam. It was early morning and I hadn’t really felt ill when I left home. However, as I reached the sidewalk to the front steps, my stomach took a major turn for the worst. Knowing I’d never make it to the restroom inside the building, I upchucked in the hedge just outside the building!

Limping into the classroom, my seriously pale face caught the professor’s attention.

“Sojourner?” I only nodded at him and shot my hand up to my mouth before retreating. “Come see me in my office later; go home now!” echoed behind me in the hallway as I sprinted through the restroom entrance.

During the meeting in the professor’s office, I pleaded with him to not insist that I take the exam the next day but to just pass me. If I didn’t pass this course, I couldn’t graduate. He reminded me that to skip the major exam was an automatic F, which would mean failure for the entire course, so great was the value of this one exam. I didn’t plead or beg; I knew he was right. I must have looked pretty pathetic to this learned man of science, because the next words I heard him say were, “Okay, I’ll give you a D but I can’t do better than that. I’m already going against what I should be doing. Obviously, you have something going on in your life right now that’s more important than chemistry. Go on, congratulations on graduating. Have a good life.” He also invited me back into his class for the next spring, should I decide to remove this blot on my academic record the following year. Not a chance I’d be doing that; I just wanted out. All I could think of was that the med school applications had already gone out and this chemistry grade would not be seen by anyone on the admissions committee.

Was God working on my behalf? Well, neither of these men were Christians; the chemistry prof a pretty firm opponent of things not scientific. Remember, I’m writing this blog to look back to see where God was present in my life. I have no scientific proof, of course, but I know, for certain, that God was in my life during this long crisis. It is my belief that God moved the hearts of these men to have compassion on me. I believe, with all of my heart that God understood what I was going through and did not hold it against me that I was not looking to Him to solve the sack full of problems resulting from my poor decisions. He was watching and waiting for me to turn to Him, but protecting me in the process. You’ll see in the next post how literally He protected me from harm. I know that God loves us and wants the very best for us. God understands young people can sometimes do some really dumb things, but he is not turned off by their growing pains. I do think God was with me, influencing my life during this terrible time.

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****Final-Year University: Life-Threatening Roommate…Next Post

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Final-Year University: Flip-Side

Once we hit our 60’s, we can usually look back at the 20’s and shake our heads at some of the things we did, wondering just how many of God’s rescue angels were needed to ward off a certain crisis-in-the-making. At the time, of course, it all seems normal and danger is far from our thoughts. I usually don’t want to own up to such events in my life, but as I looked at where to go with this blog account of my sojourn, I decided I owed it to you to be honest…lest you think my life was lived totally in a rose garden. Ha, far from it! In my twenties I did some really dumb things. Buying a motorcycle at the start of a Montana spring was one of them. Here’s how the final year at university played out, which will show you how I could have decided I owed it to myself to buy a motorcycle, regardless of the weather.

Fall Quarter of my Senior, and final, year at university brought with it the start of some of the most painful times in my life. In only a few weeks, I’d be going to court to have my marriage annulled. As for many women, food became my comfort. Our off-campus apartment was located on one side of the block, and behind us, a fast food hamburger joint. Now, talk about your recipes for disaster in the weight department! When one’s tears can be soothed with the consumption of hundreds of calories by just descending the stairs and walking across the alley…nothing good can come out of this proximity. Sadly, some of the weight remained as a permanent souvenir of those awful weeks.

Unfortunately, the comfort-eating didn’t stop when my lawyer spoke those ugly words, “Okay, girl, you’re now free, white and twenty-one.” His lighthearted attempt at humor with this commonly heard phrase was only one-third correct. I was white, but I was twenty-two and, most certainly, not free. Everyone who has ever been through the dissolution of a marriage will know what I mean; there is residue, scars, and more. Wounded would be a better, more-encompassing term for how I felt; food became my band-aid.

Sometimes, I ordered double what I ever wanted to eat, just in case I wanted more when I had finished the meal. I was still with it enough to be embarrassed that I was ordering for two, so I also ordered a second Coke, Diet, of course. Having been raised in the “clean your plate” model of pleasing one’s parents, I ate both meals, even though I wasn’t hungry. In fact, I rarely had the sensation of hunger; nevertheless, I still ate like I’d not had a meal in days. It took a long time before I felt disgusted with myself and even tried to do anything to stop it.

The daily life went on as always, exteriorly; but inside, I was just totally numb. When people were around, I had a fairly affective mask so few really knew what was happening at home. Back in the apartment, I sat in the old, sagging, blue winged chair and ate. The television was going sometimes and sometimes I put on music but I never listened to either. It was just to cover up the sound of silence, nothing more.

Where was God in all of this suffering? God was there but I didn’t care. I didn’t let Him comfort me; I just bought another hamburger or order of fries. God didn’t insist that I receive His comfort or follow His Word. He let me choose for myself. Too bad, really.

****Final-Year University: Academic Catastrophes…Next Post

Friday, January 11, 2013

Jesus Loves Me

“Jesus Loves Me” is, perhaps, one of the most well-known childhood hymns around the world. Its origin dates back to 1860, where it had been published in a novel by Susan Warner. In her volume, Say and Seal, there is a heartwarming scene where a household manservant is walking the halls with a very sick child nestled in his arms. To comfort the dying boy, he softly, almost in a whisper, recites the poem, “Jesus Loves Me,” by Anna Bartlett Warner.

Two years later, having read the poem in the novel, William Batchelder Bradbury put the poem to music. In addition he added the familiar chorus, “Yes, Jesus loves me, yes, Jesus loves me, yes, Jesus loves me. The Bible tells me so.”

The following is the original poem, recited to the boy in Warner’s novel:

  "Jesus loves me--this I know,
   For the Bible tells me so:
   Little ones to him belong,--
  They are weak, but he is strong.

   "Jesus loves me,--he who died
   Heaven's gate to open wide;
   He will wash away my sin,
   Let his little child come in.

   "Jesus loves me--loves me still,
   Though I'm very weak and ill;
   From his shining throne on high
   Comes to watch me where I lie. 

   "Jesus loves me,--he will stay
   Close beside me all the way.
   Then his little child will take
   Up to heaven for his dear sake."

In subsequent years, other stanzas were added and, often, the reference to the ill child is left out to spare children any distress in hearing these words

In recent history, we can find reference to this precious song joining two cultures. In 1943, John F. Kennedy’s PT boat was rammed and sunk off the Solomon Islands. Kennedy and the other survivors of PT 109 were found by two islanders, Biuku Gasa and Eroni Kumana, who rode the PT boats in search of any survivors. They remember singing “Jesus Loves Me” with the Marines aboard the boats, a chorus they had learned from missionaries to their island. A wonderful, unifying sound connecting the two cultures.

We may think that a poem written before the Civil War would hold no interest for fans of contemporary music. Yet, one of America’s most famous vocalists chose to sing this song on-stage. Just last year, February 9, 2012, Whitney Houston and Kelly Price sang “Jesus Loves Me” together in what proved Whitney’s final performance. She died two days later in a Beverly Hills hotel.

Many a soldier has reported singing this little hymn under fire in the trenches or running for his life while bombs dropped overhead.

Children all over the world sing this hymn with delight and cheer, remembering that it is true, “Jesus loves me!” May we never forget that simply profound truth, whether under fire, threat of death, or with unspeakable joy…Yes, Jesus loves me. The Bible tells me so! Let Jesus prove it to you!

****Have a terrific weekend!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

The Waiting Heart

During my third year of university, the mighty move of the Holy Spirit was in evidence all over university and college campuses in the United States. Seeing two students kneeling in prayer just about anywhere on campus became so commonplace that no one seemed to notice. Whether sitting in the open air on a bench, heads bowed and hands joined; or kneeling on a patch of grass just off the sidewalk, students everywhere were being introduced to Jesus. Many people said that the conversions of the “Jesus Movement” wouldn’t last, but I’ve met a lot of students who came to the Lord at that time and are serving the Lord well into their sixties so I‘m sure the experience was a genuine life-changing one for many students.

I longed to have the boldness to openly speak of my new-found faith with strangers. I had no trouble sharing what Jesus had done in my life, whenever someone asked; but to initiate the conversation was something else again entirely. I just choked.

Then, a Bible teacher came to our church and encouraged us to just be willing. He said that God would give us the opportunity, if we really did want it. The speaker challenged us to step out and ask God to position someone in our path so that it was obvious he wanted us to share the Gospel with them. All we had to do was ask. So, I did and here’s what happened!

“Hi, how’s it going?” The student sat on the plush, green grass, an open book on her lap. It didn’t appear to me that she was actually reading it. Perhaps, she was worrying over something, and this would be the moment the Lord would let me tell her about the One who could help her? I started to sit down, but didn’t get both knees on the grass before her response reversed my direction.

“Are you one of those Jesus freaks? I’m not interested, and I mean it. Just leave me alone, will you?” I was still hopeful, though standing, because she so obviously needed Jesus to cheer her up.

“Uh, well, I’m a Christian but I don’t want to bother you. I just thought, if you are alone, you might like to talk with someone. Guess I was wrong, huh?”

“Just leave; I’m waiting for someone, and if you are here, he might not come over.”

Of course, it was the sitting alone, waiting for Mr. Right to notice me scenario. Hmm, her crabbiness may not be so much a sign of serious worries after all.

Okay, this day was not going as planned—beginning with that early breakfast. For once, I’d gone to the Dining Room, in case my person might be there. Eating slowly, I surveyed the steady stream of kids wolfing down their meal. Trying to catch a glimpse of some soul eager to hear me out, I barely touched my own food. I wasn’t discouraged when I had to scrape off my half-eaten scrambled eggs, and head for my first class; there was still plenty of time.

At the conclusion of English 350, and every class that morning, I lingered a little, just in case. No one was obvious to me as that “Divine appointment.” The frustrated girl on the lawn had been my prospective candidate during the lunch break. The morning’s unsuccessful strategy--glancing around for anyone who might be looking at me in some special way—bombed out. Perhaps, this subtle approach lacked something; I determined to actually strike up a conversation with someone over lunch. This co-ed was not interested in conversing with me; that was painfully evident. Perhaps, my approach was now too aggressive.

As I left the beautifully manicured lawn of The Oval, anxiety began to squeeze my heart. With most of my afternoon consumed by chemistry labs, I had only one hour remaining. Since we were not allowed to talk during the lab, it was not likely my person would be found there. Well, never mind, God would show me my Divine appointment.

 

“Hey, was the food that bad tonight?” The huge grin on the red-headed Work-Study student wiping the table next to me did not put a smile on my face; the day was so nearly over. Darkness was falling.

“It’s been a really hard day,” I said, still pushing the mystery meat around with my fork.

I had been so hopeful; but, alas, I had to face the truth. The Dining Room was completely empty, save for the student who cleaned up after the messy upperclassmen and me. I lifted my tray so she could swipe her chlorinated cloth under it.

“And, they just had to pick tonight to serve mystery meat for supper. Bummer.” A very slight grin escaped the corners of my mouth, which made her laugh with glee. She tossed down her wet rag and, pulling out a chair, sat down across from me. “So, what’s the deal? Boyfriend problems? Prof just doesn’t understand that a dog really can eat homework?”

“Oh, I wish. No, it’s worse than that.” Well, Little Miss Smiley Face just would not be depressed with me, neither was she going to leave the table until I told her my sad tale. “I have been looking all day; now, the day is over and I never found my person. The conference speaker last night told us that, if we would but ask the Lord, God would give us someone with whom we could share what Jesus had done in our lives. I asked God this morning, and even asked Him for the courage to do it. Ha, it was all for nothing. I spent the whole day looking, and practicing what I would say. Maybe I should try again when I can get to supper sooner. I may have missed my person.”

“Well, I’m here. Maybe, I’m your person.”

“No, that’s okay, really. You need to get home. I’m okay.”

Looking up, I saw the tears in her eyes trickle down her cheeks. She was no longer smiling.

“I’m not kidding. Maybe, I am your person. Won’t you tell me about Jesus?”

Tears filled my own eyes as I realized just how faithful God always is. God had let me go off, doing things my way and stressing out; but when I gave up, God moved in to prove Himself faithful. What a marvelous time of sharing I had with my fellow-student. Truly, she had never heard the Gospel message, and had no idea that God cared about our lives. How sweet her prayer to Jesus that evening, right there in the cafeteria!

I left the Dining Room that evening with a new sister-in-Christ, and the joy that passes all understanding. “My God, how great thou art!” is not just a song; it’s the truth!

****Jesus really does love you and cares that you know!

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Catechism: Testifying Hot Dogs

Sister Mary Margaret* waited for us at the door of our classroom. “Hello, girls. I’ll be speaking with your class today.” Somehow, those words totally froze my little heart, and I wondered if it was still beating at all. “The parents are complaining that you’re not doing the catechism worksheets with their children. Is that correct?”

“Yes, it is Sister Mary Margaret. We give them to the kids and ask them to work on them at home.” Sister Mary Margaret’s eyes narrowed, gone was her familiar smile. “The thing is, Sister, the kids already know the things on those worksheets; they want to learn practical things about God.”

“And, just who decides what practical things they should learn?”

“Well, they do.” When the furrow in her brows deepened and the corners of her lips turned farther down, I rushed to explain. “Really, Sister, they do. The kids really want to know things that will help them live today, not just when they are grown-ups.”

“And, you think that our published worksheets…used all over the English-speaking world…are not teaching them anything?” My, but the air was getting cold inside that building. “Not to mention the expense of obtaining those sheets for the students, only to have their teacher discard them like advertisements in a newspaper.”

“No, well, I guess I can see how it might look like that on the surface, but it’s not like that at all. We look at the lesson each week and briefly speak with the kids about it; but if they already know the lesson it is trying to teach, we tell them to read the story at home and fill in the puzzles and games. We always encourage them to do the worksheets. We just don’t take the class time to do them.”

“But, dear lady, this class is exactly what that’s supposed to be for, you know. The kids just take them home and toss them; they aren’t reading them. Their parents are not happy.”

“I’m sorry about that, Sister. We should have been more insistent that they do the lesson, and maybe bring it to class for us to correct or something like that.” I imagined Sister Mary Margaret squeezing the life out of her forearms inside the sleeves of her robe, where her hands grasped. “Truly, the kids are learning things in this class that will help them through school and life, in general. Things that they want to learn.” The stern-faced nun was, definitely, not convinced.

“Well, we’ll see about how much they are learning, and just how important it is that they learn what they want to; instead of what the leaders of the church’s educational programs think they need to learn.” Groan, this wasn’t going well at all. “So, ladies, I’ll just be asking the children what it is that they’re learning here in this classroom.”

Of course, Liz and I knew what the kids had been learning, but what would they tell Sister Mary Margaret? They were still Hot Dogs, after all, and anything could come out of those little mouths on any given moment. Would they tell her or would they clown around, thinking she was not seriously searching answers for her questions? More Help, Jesus! Prayers rocketed Heavenward.

The three of us entered the classroom together as the children began to arrive. Liz looked at me, her eyebrows arched, her gaze at the rolled up “Prayer Request” chart. I nodded and the two of us moved to hang it up. Of course, Sister Mary Margaret’s eyes followed us. Her expression didn’t give anything away; we had no idea if she approved or not.

“Okay, kids, today Sister Mary Margaret is visiting our class. While Liz finishes up recording your attendance, our Principal will ask you a few questions. Please, answer her the best you can.” The tension in the room was palpable; the children, squirming in their seats, looked as nervous as I felt. Every little pair of eyes focused on Sister Mary Margaret as she moved to stand in the front of the room. “Children, do you get worksheets every week?” Heads nodded all around the classroom. “And, do you actually do those worksheets?” Little faces looked down at fingers clasping and unclasping on the desks, while pairs of sneakers rubbed the floor beneath; my stomach turned over and over, as I gripped my shaking hands under the desk before me. “Hmm? So, it doesn’t appear that any of you actually do the worksheets then?”

“Well, Sojourner tells us to do it when we get home, but we don’t always do it. Sometimes I did, in the beginning…” Bless that little girl who had the courage to speak, even if she couldn’t finish her sentence. The rest of the class was silent, cold stone silent. I just wanted to jump up, throw my arms around them all and tell each kid it was all right, things would be okay; but no such possibility presented itself in the chill of this room.

“I see. Well, are you aware that every other class in this building is doing their worksheets in class and not being asked to do the work outside of class?” Their little heads moved to look at each other, then back down to the desk in front of them. “So, I take it that this is not news to any of you, then?”

“It’s okay, kids, you can answer Sister Mary Margaret. Tell her the truth.” The group didn’t look up, but everyone did nod their heads in agreement that they knew.

“Well, then, children. Just what is it that you’ve been using this class time to learn?” Hands shot up all over the room. My tossing and turning stomach now formed a huge cannonball inside, and I thought I’d be sick right there in front of everyone. Please, God, help them explain to her, I prayed silently to the only Person who could help us now.

Sarah stood next to her desk as Sister Mary Margaret recognized her. “Sister, my gerbil was sick, really sick. Daddy said that he would die because he was old, and old gerbil’s die, everyone knows that. But…well, look at our Prayer Chart back there…my name is the first one. We prayed and God healed my gerbil. That was just after our class started with Mrs. Sojourner, and he’s still just fine now! (About two months by that time.) Since then, I’ve known that God hears my prayers, and I pray a lot more, too.” Sister Mary Margaret looked over at the chart and nodded for Sarah to sit down.

I was shocked that David waited to be recognized by Sister Mary Margaret, as waiting was never his strong point if he had something to say, but he did. Then he stood, perhaps a little less cocky, but still pretty rigidly confident in what he had to say. “Yeah, just take a look at the chart. We all have a story. But, there’s more than that. I mean, we learned stuff from the Bible, too. Like it’s important for us all to do our part. If even one of us let’s go of the mat, the paralyzed guy will fall off and he could die or something so Jesus wouldn’t have a chance to heal him when they put him down through the roof.” Another little voice came from near David, but I didn’t see the body who spoke.

“And, we need to be willing to keep at it until the job is done, because the room was too full for the men to take the sick guy through the door to Jesus. We have to come together and look at things and see how we could do it another way to get the guy to Jesus.” David turned back around to face Sister Mary Margaret and finished the other child’s point.

“Even if you have to dig a hole in the roof to get the sick guy to Jesus, then you just do it, but everyone has to help or it won’t work. And, what happened? Well, Jesus healed the man and everyone was happy, especially the four guys who were tired and dirty just getting the man to Jesus. I mean, it had been worth their trouble, hadn’t it? They did the right thing and Jesus did the rest.” Sister Mary Margret’s countenance had changed totally, a huge smile gracing her lovely face. How the air in the room had sweetened. Then fear gripped me, again, as Jimmy stood to speak, unrecognized by Sister Mary Margaret. At least, he waited for her nod to begin.

“The thing is Sister Mary Margaret. It’s not just as easy as writing your name on the chart and telling everyone what you need Jesus to do for you. We do that but, sometimes, the kids had to wait and pray a lot more for the answer to come. Sometimes, God didn’t answer like we wanted Him to, but God is answering all the time. Sometimes, God expects us to listen to His answer and do our part. Do you know that God made the President give his boring speech on all the channels at just the same time the night before my math test? We asked God to help me pass the test, and Sojourner there, said I should plan to do my part, too…to study, if God did what I thought would be the only way I’d know He wanted me to study for my math test. Well, don’t ya know, He did it! The President stopped my cartoons, I studied, and I even got an A on my math test. It was my first ever high grade and it was an A? I ain’t lyin’ neither, Sister; it’s true.” Little Jimmy slumped a tad to the right, his thumbs hooked in empty belt loops, as was Jimmy’s normal pose.  

“So, Jimmy, you think that God will always bring the President on television to stop your cartoons so you’ll know you should study?” Oops, now what would Jimmy answer? I prayed some more.

“Naw, it doesn’t work like that, Sister Mary Margaret. God just did that this time to let me know He cares about me and He knows everything about me. God knew stuff about me that I dint’ know myself. Like I didn’t know I could ever pass the Math test, even if I did study for it, so He showed me that I could do it. Most important, though, God showed me that He knew who I was and what was bothering me. A little kid like me, God cared about me. Sojourner says God even knows my name, but He never used it so I just figure He didn’t need to yet. Don’t you see, Sister, those papers there, well…they did a good job on them in the Pope’s office or wherever they wrote them, but us kids already know that stuff. We wanted to know about praying, and that’s what we learned. Well, it’s one of the things we learned, but it’s something you can see for yourself. Just read our chart and you’ll see.”

Sister Mary Margaret moved towards the chart, in that graceful maneuver she managed so well, her long, black skirt swooshing just a little as she glided to the back of the room. The kids stared at her as she read down the list of names and requests. When she stopped on one line where the answer date had not yet been filled in, a tiny little voice whispered to the nun. “Its okay, Sister, Jesus is still working on mine. We pray for my grandpa every week, and some of the kids even pray for him between catechism classes. He’s still in the hospital, but he was well enough to have me come visit him. I drew him a picture.” Sister did not turn around but nodded her head that she’d heard.

The rest of the class time was a light-hearted sharing from the kids to Sister Mary Margaret. I was so proud of the kids; I thought my buttons would surely pop right off my blouse…well, we all wore tee shirts in those days, but if I’d had buttons...I felt wonderful! Whatever happened now, I knew the kids got it and that’s what mattered most.

Sister Mary Margaret announced that the next Tuesday the children should go to the auditorium for practice for the Christmas program, just a couple of weeks away. The kids bolted from the room at Liz’s final “Amen” in the closing prayer. Great, things were normal again.

We gathered up our things and prepared to leave when we noticed Sister Mary Margaret had not left the room. She seemed to have some trouble speaking. Then we understood why. “Ladies, you’ve done something here that has never been done before. I expect that the children shall not ever forget what you’ve shown them about prayer.” I so wanted to speak but it was obvious that she wasn’t finished. “But, sadly, I can see that your pupils will never do their worksheets in class with you leading them. It’s too late for that now. I have those in authority over me, you know. The parents are not happy and I have been instructed to relieve you of your class. When the new term begins in January, your class will have another teacher. Thank you for your work with this class. Your work here is finished. Goodbye and May God bless you two ladies.”

Sister Mary Margaret left as Liz and I stood in stunned paralysis. We’d just been fired. That must be some kind of first, mustn’t it? Even though they desperately needed teachers for the catechism class, we were being fired. Fired from teaching Hot Dogs! My only hope was that Sister Mary Margaret would take our class herself. She knew what the kids had learned and would be most able to understand when they wanted to continue to pray, even if they did have to do the worksheets in class now.

This was a most difficult experience…both in the beginning when we were learning how to let God teach us to teach the kids and not try to do it in our own strength (ignorance!); and now, at the end when we were fired. However, the between times were marvelous as one-by-one the children opened up to the love of God. They learned He cared about them, personally, delighting in all answers to their prayers… even a No.

We later realized that we had done just what God had intended us to do…nothing more and nothing less. How often do we have our own ideas of what God wants us to do, only to be disappointed when we don’t have enough time to finish what we wanted to do? This experience made me take a second look at such things. If I believe that God is sovereign in my life…and I, most certainly, do…then the project stops when God says, not when I say I am finished. God had His plan, as I said in the very beginning, and when it was completed, it was finished, period. An important lesson, indeed. I no longer try to kick the closing door in to finish my plan! No point trying to keep things going, without God, right? He doesn’t make mistakes, and HIS plan is always perfect!

*Name changed.

****Have a terrific weekend!