Monday, January 26, 2009

Favorite Teacher

I just learned few days ago that one of my favorite high school teachers passed away in October.  Tony Bryant taught me English at Page High School in the late 1970s.  I think was a sophomore.  He would always mark up my papers until they bled.  I don’t remember if I made an A or a B in his class, but I remember butting heads with him.  It seemed like he was most unreasonable as he pushed me to write better and better.  But he really cared about the students, and he would let us tease with him.  He was fun in his own opinionated, hard-headed way.

Once I challenged him on the spelling of a word.  I wrote the word “coƶperate,” with the two dots over the second “o.”  He marked the word as misspelled.  It should be “co-operate,” he declared.  I pushed back, saying that the word could be spelled my way.  He instructed me to go look it up.  I found a dictionary in the room and located the word—spelled my way.

Of course, I took the book to him, smugly.  “Well, the dictionary is wrong,” he concluded, saying that the spelling had changed in contemporary English.  Now  I had the upper hand.  “How do you expect me to spell words correctly, then, if even the dictionary in our room is incorrect?”

 He did not count off for the spelling of the word, and he made a special point of getting a new dictionary in the room.  He even announced that there was now a means for checking spelling accurately.

 I often thought about going back to Page to show him one of my articles in the Northwest Observer.  I wanted to tell him that all his harassing and haranguing had really made me a better writer.  I wanted to tell him how much I appreciated it.  I wanted to laugh with him about the whining of his students today.

 I never got the chance.  He was only 60 when he died.

 Now I have my own class of 9th graders, home school students who have a day-long tutoring session every Tuesday.  When I talk to them about their writing, I hear Tony Bryant’s voice coming through me.  I only hope that these students are as blessed by my pushing them as I was by Mr. Bryant’s pushing me.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Eternal Living

Sometimes I read a book, and it feels like I’ve got to finish it so that I can understand life.  Dallas Willard is an author referenced by many speakers and authors I respect, but whose works I had never read.

 I found myself in Barnes and Nobel with my family recently.  Browsing through the shelves, I found lots of books to peruse, knowing that I could buy something with a gift card given me by one of my ninth grade students.  Then I happened upon The Divine Conspiracy, by Dallas Willard.  I picked it up and read the foreword by Richard Foster.  Foster called it, “the book I have been searching for all my life.”  Whoa.  That’s the highest praise I can imagine, coming from a very profound author. 

 I brought the book home, and have been taking every free moment to read it.  Willard says that coming to Christ is more than a visa stamped in one’s eternal passport.  Jesus wants to be an intimate part of our lives here and now.  Salvation is not just about heaven.  Salvation is not just about doing good for the down and out.

 God invites us to an eternal kind of living.  He truly transforms us, inside and out.  He makes us new creatures.  That’s the life I am getting a taste of.  That’s the life I long to delve into.  That’s the joyful, abundant, risk-filled life that Jesus wants us to have.

 The Christian life should not be dull – it should be exciting.  It should not be about following rules, but following Jesus. 

 I think Willard has a lot to teach me about that.  I think the Holy Spirit has a lot to show me about that.