Monthly Archives: May 2017

Did you notice?

A little preface: Nate teaches high school social studies in Durham, NC. This is the end of this second year teaching in the public school system. Even though he has a heart for ministry and desires most of all to help others grow spiritually, he has learned a lot from teaching and plans to continue teaching next year. He considers himself the “full-time missionary” at his school, and has earned the respect of administrators, teachers, and students for his spiritual leadership and presence there. He continues to host a daily morning prayer session for faculty and a weekly bible study after school.  

I’ve had bad days before, sometimes bad weeks, even a few bad months at a time. Last Thursday night and Friday counted as a pretty rough one as far as my recollection goes. We had our first day of state-mandated testing, which fills me as a teacher with far more anxiety than it ever did as a student. If a kid sneezes too loud, does that count as a misadministration? What if I do not call time at exactly the 60-minute mark? I stayed up til nearly 1:30 on Thursday night (I usually am in bed by 8:30) vexing myself about this test, over which I have no real control. I became very frustrated because I seemed unable to assuage my own irrational fears and get some rest. By allowing my thoughts to run amok, I was practically guaranteeing a much worse and frustrating tomorrow, one that already had high enough stakes.

When we see visions of the terrible unknowns of life, our vision actually gets darkened. Jesus said in his sermon on the mount, “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!” (Matthew 6:22-23). My Friday was not at all bad, except for the damage I caused myself  by not controlling my thoughts. I came home to a very cheerful wife, which magnified my grumpiness. I plopped down on the couch and stayed there for a good while. It was not until we were going to bed that she said to me, “I got my hair cut today. Did you notice?” I tell you what, I felt about as terrible as I ever have as a husband. It may not seem like a big deal to the seasoned married couples out there – even some of the single folks – but I have been asking Leah to cut her hair short for a long time. Part of her motivation for getting it cut that day was wanting to make me happy. Her actions and intentions, however, fell on blind, darkened eyes. I didn’t notice what was in front of me.

Outlook Determines Outcomes

If there is an abundance of prophecy in this world, it is the self-fulfilling kind. It comes from a listless surrender to negativity and fear that can dominate the mind. We focus on all that can go wrong and then we actually conform ourselves unconsciously to that design. I do not necessarily believe that the mind trumps all other things, but it is powerful. I didn’t notice that my wife cut her hair (which looks great by the way!) but more importantly, I didn’t notice that God was present and available to pray to. I spent my sleepless hours in front of the T.V., not the bible. My vision was blinded by the mundane and my ears ringing with demonic torments, and I did nothing to seek God. With that lens, how can I see the things that are clear and right in front of me?

If all we have is a vision of the awful and unfortunate, we need a vision change, and the prescription is prayer. Vision is essential for those who follow as much as those who lead. Jesus’ spelled it out in practical terms: “Blind guides cannot lead the blind.” The same wisdom also applies to following, because if we do not see God’s hand guiding us, how can we follow?  I don’t know if I would have gone to sleep any earlier or felt any better in the morning if I had prayed, but I know my vision and my mind would be clean and clear. A clear vision, not just a positive outlook, is essential in paving the way for a life that receives blessings from the Lord. That day, with students in a classroom for nearly four hours before their test, I got to spend 2 of those hours leading a bible study with several students. That sort of opportunity is not every day, and I might have missed it altogether.

“And the two shall become one” – the Great Mystery

First post by Nate

They say nothing can prepare you for marriage, you just have to get married to understand – but they never said getting married would make you understand everything! That has been the story of the first months of our marriage, as we learn the complexities of life. I love what Leah said recently, “You can frustrate me so much, but then you’re also the person I want to tell about my frustration, even though it is with you!” Try explaining that to either of us before we got married. That was nothing we had experienced before. Living as one has humbled us both, exposing the truth of ourselves in a completely new way.

Premarital Advice Becomes Post-Marital Workout

Before getting married, Leah and I had the privilege of some excellent counseling (Thanks John and Cindy!) and were able to go through some self-guided premarital study books from some remarkable spiritual leaders. But even having all that at our fingertips, talking through it with each other and with other trusted friends and advisers, we realize now that we could barely get our fingernails onto these ideas. Communication, money, mutual submission and service, maintaining private spiritual life while engaging in life together – these are things we can prepare for philosophically, but never fully. Leah and I are being humbly reminded day by day that love is a verb as much as a state of being, that it takes work, sacrifice, and a lot of humility. We decided to stop caring if we got nearer to a goal of perfection (whatever that is) and more concerned about being close to one another – close enough to know when something is wrong, what the other needs and how we can bless on a daily basis.

But what we have come to experience and are beginning to understand together as man and wife is that marriage does not exist just to build each other up. Great romance and love is never the kind that exists only behind locked doors. True love in a marriage is truest when the two become one with imbued purpose to reach the world for the gospel. These last months have been an experiment in finding our place in a new town, meeting new neighbors, and finding a new church, all of which we are happy to report have been going very well.

Why are you downcast, O my soul?

And yet another thing we have realized from all this time is that things can be going very well, yet still not be easy or understood. There have been times of intense frustration for both of us: professionally, relationally, spiritually, financially. Yet neither of us would say that this time has been bad in any way. I (Nate) have a very emotional disposition, which makes my low moments extra low, even debilitating. And what I realize in those times recently is that I am choosing, voluntarily or involuntarily, to indulge in a posture of pessimism towards my circumstances. This may be my default posture, but it does not have to be the only option. Psalm 118:24 says “This is the day that the LORD has made; I will rejoice and be glad in it.”

We each have to make these good choices each day. Deciding to get married was a one time choice and exchange of vows. But choosing to stay joyfully married – not just happily – is a choice. And we face that choice in so many ways each day. I decided in these last few months this one thing: to let nothing steal my joy of living in the love of God, and my joy in being married to the most amazing woman on earth.

Thank you so much for being a part of our lives and encouraging us in the ways that you have, each in their own way. We ask for continued support as Leah studies for nursing, which she hopes to pursue in the eventual future. For Nate, he has decided to stay teaching for the time being, but continues to be interested in theology, church history, and worship, and plans to serve at our new local church. We would love to have your prayers and your ongoing generosity as part of God’s constant provision and blessing for our family and household.