My homeroom is the very definition of chaos. My blood pressure spikes as my fourteen girls and six boys sporadically enter the room for the first 15 minutes before the school day even starts. They unpack, go to their locker, to the bathroom, to breakfast, we say the pledge, they go deliver money and excuses, go to their locker, exchange insults, start drama, discuss nuances of TikTok dances, go to their locker, they try to charge dead iPads, they fight for attention, they tell me stories, they tell me lies, they go to their locker, they feverishly do homework, and somewhere in there, we take attendance, oh, and inevitably, someone needs to go to their locker just one more time. Needless to say, most days in homeroom range in between DEFCON 3 and 2. Consequently, I need a remedy to this weekday stress: coffee and a hearty fast food. It may not be adding any years to those taken away by the stress of homeroom, but it helps me cope with the free-form jazz that is my students getting ready each morning.
A month ago on a pretty typical Friday, I walked into my classroom in just the nick of time. The McDonald's in hand filled my classroom with a familiar waft of fried goodness. Sausage McMuffin, hashbrown, and a large coffee - my usual. At the commencement of homeroom, a student approached the table where I was eating breakfast and pulling up the slides for the day, eyed the familiar paper bag, and asked with the candor that only a 12-year-old can bring, “Why don’t you ever bring us anything?” Ouch. Great question. It would have been easy to give the classic spiel “teachers don’t make very much money so...,” or I could have turned the tables and said, “YOU never bring ME anything!” or I could answer the question with another question “What makes you think you deserve it?” On any other given day I might have said one of those things; however, I was interrogated mid-chew, which gave my brain a little longer to seriously entertain this question. As I enjoyed the different notes the sausage, English muffin, pasteurized cheese product, and potato (because the best way to have a McMuffin is with the hashbrown placed on it) playing in my mouth, I pondered. After finishing my bite and a sip of coffee, I simply responded, “That’s easy - because you’ve never asked.” There must have been a small glimmer in my eye, or a smirk forming along the corners of my mouth that showed my typical sarcasm was giving way to seriousness. “Are you serious?” - “I am.” Placing my next bite in my mouth, I stopped what I was doing and quickly made a small menu of options to share with my homeroom, so each student could get a single value menu breakfast item from me the following Friday <insert comment about teachers don’t make very much money>. Why? It’s simple. I love them. I like McDonald's. And I like to share the things I like with the people I love.
One week later, alongside my usual Friday order, came a box of iced coffees and a couple bags of breakfast sandwiches. Each student claimed their order, said “thank you”, and/or gave me a hug, and then, surprisingly and unconsciously, sat or stood around the table where I eat my breakfast on Fridays instead of returning to their seat. It was an unusual experience. All the typical hustle and bustle had faded away. Not only was homeroom not stressful, it was actually peaceful. Everyone was still...ish, and we enjoyed each other’s company with a little help from grease, caffeine, and sugar. But 8:00 came quickly. I forgot to take attendance! The first class of the day was arriving at the door. Back to business as usual. “Hurry - Get to your first block!” I shouted. The moment was over.
I had no clue this most likely would be my last morning in my classroom with my students; yet, in our current season, I how found these few minutes to be so important for reflection as I frame my faith for this moment.
“You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.” James 4:2,3
“If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.” 2 Chronicles 7:14
“If only You would bless me and enlarge my territory! May Your hand be with me and keep me from harm, so that I will be free from pain.” And God granted the request of Jabez. 1 Chronicles 4:10
1. If you don’t have what you need, or even what you desire, you then need to appeal to your Father in heaven. It really is this simple with a couple of provisos or conditions that we see so many times in the scripture: the turning from sin and the acknowledgement that God has bearing on the outcome of our situation. It takes humility and wisdom to realize that He is in the driver’s seat, whether we like it or not. This is something to be especially mindful of in our time and culture. Action in faith is great, but we cannot simply “work” our way into a blessing from God without his direction or instruction (Eph 2:8,9). We must seek our Good Father, who wants nothing more than to shower us with His blessings. This makes the yoke easier, the burden lighter, as we act. Sometimes these blessings take the form of earthly inheritances, other times it is a renewal of our minds and a peace that passes understanding, and sometimes it is the building and storing of the treasures in heaven, but we can be assured that our God will give us not only what we need (value-menu sustenance) , but often times, when we are truly seeking Him and our cravings are attuned to his, his gives us the desires of our heart.
“Come and see what the Lord has done. the desolation he has brought on the earth. He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth. He breaks the bow and shatters the spear; he burns the shields[d] with fire. He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” Psalm 46: 8-10
“The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” 1 Kings 19:13
2. Make the most of this still...ish time. I would be naive to think that this time is sunshine and lollipops for everyone. There are many people who are sick, lots of families mourning and worrying because of it, and there are many indirect consequences that stem from this outbreaks families simply trying to make ends meet. College semesters, weddings, and retirements have been postponed. Graduations and raises have been foregone. Vacations have been canceled. It is though there has been a dam placed right in the middle of the rushing river of our lives. But have we not demanded a break either through appeal or through our go-go-go lifestyle which has infringed upon on prayer time, devotion time, church time, and God time? Don’t we need to pause and breathe some Father’s fresh air? Look up at the heavens and contemplate our Creator? While I don’t believe any sickness comes from God but from the condition of a sin-inhabited earth, I do believe we can still have a blessing because of it. God will still use this time for His glory, with or without us. Don’t be like the children of Israel who grumble about the manna from heaven and then watch the blessing from God rot on the ground (Num 11). Let us not spoil this time with complaint, endless chores, or even loads of schoolwork (Wait. What?). This time is short and fleeting. The bell will ring soon, your next class will be waiting at the door, and life will continue, most likely, faster than ever, as this is the nature of man. It is time to secure the foundations of your lifestyle and family before the rains come down, and the flood begins to rise (Matt 7:24-27).
“When the hour came, Jesus and his apostles reclined at the table. And he said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God.” After taking the cup, he gave thanks and said, “Take this and divide it among you. For I tell you I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” 19 And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.” 20 In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.” - Luke 22:14-19
3. This could be your final moment, and no, I don’t mean death. Yes, there is a looming imminence of mortality that lingers in the air, and sometimes we are more aware of it than others; however, we must ultimately consider, in everything we do, how will we be remembered and more importantly, how will Christ be reflected in what we have done? The simple truth is there are some students I will never hear from again through varying circumstances. As I perused the list of those who haven’t done their assignments, make unreturned phone calls, and send unreturned emails, I often reflect on my final interactions with each of these students. If it truly was the end of our relationship, what was my message to them? Yes, I want my students to be ready, responsible, respectful, to give their best, and to have fun, but did I ultimately share this in the most relevant and eternal perspective I know? Did Jesus talk to the woman at the well about the weather and TikTok? Did he spend his time with Zacchaeus discussing football and video games? Did he spend his tentative last meal with his friends arguing politics and current events? It is no doubt Jesus spoke of relevant things to varying degrees in his ministry, but they all came back to the purpose of sharing the Gospel. Thousands of people had a single, personal encounter with Jesus, and thousands were forever changed. Those who were infected with the Gospel were far more contagious than any disease. Their every day faith did not shelter-in-place, but was moved, spread, and exposed the world to the greatest hope they could ever know. So, as we consider the perspective for our current situation - if this is your final breakfast, your concluding lunch, or your last supper with those in your current circle of influence, how will your message of the fulfilling eternal hope of Jesus Christ be remembered in you?