Posts Tagged ‘Teaching’

The Ministry of Accepting Questions


I was in elementary school before my family began attending church on a regular basis. Whereas Lutherans ordinarily baptize infants, I wasn’t baptized until the age of 9, the summer after my third grade year. As a school-aged kid who hadn’t been in church my whole life, I felt like I had a lot of catching up to do to learn about the faith. The attention given to me in my childhood that enabled me to learn more and grow in the Lord, I attribute to the Spirit of God at work.

My usual mode of processing the world is to ask questions, lots of questions. And I’ve been that way since I was a child. So, as I tried to catch up with my peers, I asked a lot of questions about all this God and Jesus stuff.

I am deeply grateful to the Sunday school teachers who fielded these questions. To be honest with you, I don’t remember anymore exactly what questions I asked. What stuck with me though was the sense that it was okay to ask questions.

I mean, if you think about it, there is something rather bold about some kid questioning the very existence of the God of the universe. But one Sunday school teacher after another stuck with me as I tried to get my mind around it all.

One year in particular I remember asking my usual million questions, but it seemed that my questions were beginning to annoy my fellow students. I began to feel self-conscious when I had a question to ask and wondered whether it was worth asking knowing that I was irritating the other kids.

But I asked anyway. And when the other students groaned and begged to get on with class, the teacher, Mrs. Johnson, patiently entertained yet another question from me. I saved a couple of less pressing questions for after class, after the other students had left. Mrs. Johnson gave me the extra time I needed.

When I then apologized to Mrs. Johnson for asking so many questions and for holding up the class, first she told me not to worry about holding up the class. But then she said, “Keep asking questions! That is how you learn!”

When the world might otherwise dismiss a pesky kid, when other kids would rather get on with the lesson, Sunday school teachers like Mrs. Johnson saw me and my questions as valuable. And I just know the hand of God was in that. The love and patience that my teachers showed me were evidence of God at work in their lives.

In turn, the faith that took hold in me is evidence of God at work in my life. My friend, Clint Schnekloth just posted on his blog today about a conversation he had with a mentor about different ways of being in the world. It was an interesting post, but it was something Clint said in the comments that really struck me as I prepared to write this post:

One thing another mentor told me one time: “For some people, there is a division between heart and mind. For you, your mind and heart are the same thing.”

For me, thinking through issues, asking questions and processing things in my head is inextricably linked with what stirs in my heart. So, when I asked questions in Sunday school as a kid and tried to get my mind around who exactly God is, the answers I got and the care I received sparked my life-long and heartfelt journey of living faith.

“I’ll do it myself!” (How Identifying with this Desire Can Help Kids)

Adults and Kids Aren't That Different

“I’ll do it myself!”

It can range anywhere from heart-warming to petrifying to hear children in our care say that. But kids are not alone in this desire to do things on their own or in their own way. Perhaps our identification with these feelings can motivate us to give them more autonomy and responsibility.

We as grown-ups know, all too well, the feeling of wanting to stand on our own, to do things our own way:

  • When supervisors hover just a little too much, we squelch the inclination to tell them to, “BACK OFF!”
  • When acquaintances we’re not too sure about find out we’re having a rough day and offer their time in case we need to talk, we politely decline thinking we’ll work through it on our own.
  • When house guests offer to help in ways that make us uncomfortable, we suggest they leave it to us.

If you can identify with any of these scenarios, then you know what I mean. Maybe you can think of other times in your life when you rebuffed someone’s help (or wished you could).

But what about the times our need to do things ourselves interferes with children’s opportunities to make meaningful contributions to what needs done? Sometimes we inadvertently discourage young workers when we say, “You don’t know my system, I’ll just do it myself.” Our need for order, for things to be done our way (aka the right way), can be in direct conflict with kids’ needs to be involved.

In recent months my husband and I noticed that our son was getting away with doing fewer chores than he had before our move to Texas a year ago. We recognized, after the stress of moving, it was easier, in a way, to take care of things ourselves. But the less our son helped, the the more he whined when he was asked to help and complained when housework didn’t just magically happen.

One of the things that our son had helped with before the move was unloading the dishwasher, so we wanted to get him back to that. And since he was a little older we thought he was ready to begin learning to load the dishwasher as well. So, my husband and I made a pact that from then on we would never load or unload the dishwasher without our son involved.

We braced ourselves for the possibility that getting our son more involved with loading the dishwasher meant that it would not always be done “the right way.” I mean, he didn’t know our system! Then again, even my husband and I each have different systems!

Instead of trying to impose a system on him, we’ve encouraged him to develop his own system. As much as we want it to be done our way, that’s how much he wants to do it his way!

We are finding that as we let him develop his own system, his system is improving. Not only that, but since he started doing more chores, he has, almost entirely, stopped whining and complaining. Plus, he started taking a great deal of pride in his dishwasher-loading gig!

Accessing the feelings we have about wanting to do things our own way, we see how important it is to let our son have that opportunity. Instead of keeping him out of what needs done, we have given him opportunities to serve our family. And by letting him figure out for himself what works, he has become even more fit for the task.

Certainly we all have our reasons for asserting the need to do things ourselves from time to time. But when our need to do things ourselves denies children opportunities to learn and grow, we may want to reconsider imposing our need on the situation. We may even be surprised at what kids can do when we let them at it!

Can you recall a time in your life when you wanted more autonomy than you were given? What did that feel like for you? What can you ask or let the children in your life do that they haven’t tried on their own?

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If you enjoyed this post, you might also like these:

Do I Don’t Know?

Stuff You Learn After You Say “I do”

This post was inspired in part by using one of the 52 Positive Discipline Parenting Tools called “Jobs” as a writing prompt. Much of my approach to parenting as been honed by the Positive Discipline books.

A Simple Farm Girl Overcame Obstacles and Became a Leader in Her Field


Welcome to “Tuesday Tributes,” a series for lifting up people who have impacted our lives. They may be our teachers, neighbors, parents, friends, or mentors.

Each Tuesday I will share a story about someone who has inspired me, mentored me in the faith, or shaped my character. Then you can tell your stories in the comments about someone who has impacted you in a similar way.

Today’s tribute is about my mother. There is so much I could say about my mom and how she has inspired me, but I just got back from her retirement party and I want to pay tribute to her career in particular.

My mother, Sharol Herr, was a career nurse and retired in February after 39 years. Her career was full of dedication to patients, interdisciplinary collaboration, and mentoring others in her field. My mother overcame obstacles to her dream of becoming a hospice nurse and became a leader in the field of hospice and palliative care.

My mother chose nursing at a time when it was one of only a handful of options available to aspiring professional women. As the first in her family to pursue education beyond high school, mom left the family farm to attend Mount Carmel College of Nursing in Columbus, OH. She got a nursing license and began working in the Mount Carmel Health System.

When I was in grade school my mother began seriously investigating her dream of becoming a hospice nurse. She hit a roadblock though; her basic nursing license was not enough.* Even as a kid I empathized with how hard it was for her. She wanted to be a hospice nurse so badly, but she wasn’t allowed because she wasn’t qualified with the education she had.

She was faced with a choice; she could ignore her dream or she could go back to school. She followed her passion and returned to the classroom. She continued working and took classes as she was able. My favorite times were when I got to go to class with her because I got to see her learning important things to fulfill her dream.

Eventually she got her bachelor’s degree and had a little more waiting to do before she finally got to fulfill her dream of becoming a hospice nurse with Mount Carmel Hospice. This much of her story alone blows me away because of the obstacles she overcame to get to that point. She was a simple farm girl who finished college while raising two children and got into her dream specialty.

Eventually mom went back to school again to enrich her mind and she got a master’s degree in counseling. She remained working at Mount Carmel Hospice.

Then the field of hospice began to expand. Hospice is part of a broader philosophy called palliative care which emphasizes comfort rather than cure and patient and family education to help cope with illness. Hospice is reserved for patients with a terminal illness, but palliative care can be applied in other situations as well. When Mount Carmel Hospice embraced this broader philosophy they became Mount Carmel Hospice and Palliative Care.

Mount Carmel became one of the first hospitals in the country to offer palliative care more broadly and my mother was part of the interdisciplinary team that pioneered it. Not only that but Mount Carmel became one of six hospitals in the nation to teach other hospitals how to develop their palliative care programs. My mother has taught about palliative care around the country. She also helped teach at and administer the teaching program for Mount Carmel.

That simple farm girl blushes when I talk about her being a pioneer and leader in her field, but this is my blog and I’m calling it like I see it. I am so proud of my mom’s amazing career. She inspires me to keep reaching for my own dreams.

*I just spoke with my mom and she clarified that getting her bachelor’s degree was a “self-imposed” limitation. All the same her degree was a great accomplishment and was a great asset in her career.
For more information about palliative care, visit Get Palliative Care.

The Teacher Who Showed Us Jesus and Gave Us a Conscience


Welcome to “Tuesday Tributes,” a new series here on the blog. The series is about lifting up people who have impacted our lives. They may be our teachers, neighbors, parents, friends, or mentors.

Each Tuesday I will share a story about someone who has inspired me, mentored me in the faith, or shaped my character. Then you can tell your stories in the comments about someone who has impacted you in a similar way.

Today’s tribute is about Mrs. Bricker who was my 5th grade teacher.

How do public school teachers manage to remain faithful to Christ when they are not supposed to invoke his name in the classroom? If Christians are to be light to the world, how much are public school teachers allowed to shine before administration tells them to hide it under a bushel?

I don’t know if Mrs. Bricker ever told us she was a Christian that year, but when I found that out it was not a surprise to me. She probably wasn’t supposed to talk about such things, but even without talking about Jesus, she showed us his love.

Mrs. Bricker worked with us to write our own class rules. She encouraged us to think out-loud together about the importance of respecting one another.

She modeled respect in how she treated each one of us. She never raised her voice. She didn’t have to because we respected her.

When we misbehaved for other teachers, Mrs. Bricker corrected us calmly. She was clear that we had messed up, but her kindness gave us hope that we could do better.

Toward the end of the year Mrs. Bricker taught us a poem that she memorized in school. It was called, “Myself” and the author wrote about wanting to make choices that he could live with. Mrs. Bricker told us that these words had always stuck with her and made her think of the choices she made in life.

Each of us was required to recite the poem aloud to the class. We didn’t have to memorize it but I have always remembered the lessons she taught us with it.

The last couple of lines always stuck with me,

Whatever happens I want to be

Self respecting and conscience free.

I felt inspired by this idea of behaving in ways that would leave me with a clean conscience. The poem resonated with me all the more because Mrs. Bricker showed us what it looked like to live that way.

Like I say, Mrs. Bricker didn’t cross any lines separating church and state. She simply showed us Jesus by respecting us, and teaching us to respect one another. I believe she was Jesus to us when she gave us dignity even when we did undignified things. Through modeling “conscience free” living, she was pointing us to God’s better way for our lives.

When I speak to groups about living out their faith in their everyday lives, inevitably someone raises the question of “what if my job won’t let me talk about Jesus?” I think of people in my life like Mrs. Bricker and I tell them you do it by showing them the love of Jesus through your love and respect for them.

What about you? Do you recall teachers who both gave and received respect in the classroom? Who has helped shape your character or conscience? Who in your life has shown you the love of Jesus in how they have treated you?

How I Became a Deaconess

20130319-043432.jpgBeginning in my ‘tweens, once a month members of my Lutheran congregation on the hill would lovingly cook a big meal and drive from our little suburb to the big city of Columbus, Ohio. We served the patrons of Faith Mission, a homeless shelter in the inner city. The cooking part was fun, but I especially loved interacting with the patrons and seeing “the hungry” as real people.

During my Junior year of high school that same Lutheran congregation gave me the opportunity to teach a 3rd & 4th grade Sunday school class. I loved opening up God’s Word with them and talking together about it in ways that made it come alive. I particularly remember teaching about Noah and the big flood shortly after our suburb had some major flooding.

I cherished these experiences in my church growing up and as early as middle school, I knew I wanted to be in ministry somehow. I knew I was dearly loved by God and my church family and I wanted to spread that love to others. I wanted to be always a part of what God was doing in and through the church.

I felt called by the Holy Spirit into a life of ministry.

There was only one problem, the only ministry role I knew of was that of pastor. I didn’t want to be a pastor and I didn’t feel that was my calling exactly.

My vision was to study Lutheran theology and church-work on an undergraduate level. Then I would go serve in a congregation.

I wanted to partner with people to reach out beyond the church walls (like I had done at Faith Mission). I wanted to share God’s word with people in Bible classes and informal conversations, encouraging them in their faith.

When it came time to choose a college I looked for something like a theology major or a non-pastor, church-worker study program. The Lutheran colleges I looked at during that time had nothing of the sort.

I drifted for a while, starting college with no clear plan for a major or career path. After my first year of college in Kentucky, I married a pastor and moved to Indiana where he was pastoring his first church.

It was early in our marriage that I found out about the Deaconess program at Valparaiso University, a Lutheran university in Indiana.

In a pamphlet from the Lutheran Deaconess Association I learned that through:

  • theological study,
  • hands-on ministry experiences,
  • and being in community with other Deaconesses and Deaconess students,

I could become a trained church-worker!

The pamphlet also talked about a variety of settings (churches, social service agencies, hospitals, etc) in which a Deaconess could serve. I read that regardless of the setting, the common bond among Deaconesses is a “servant’s heart,” the willingness to love and serve others as Jesus loves and serves us.

The more I read about the Deaconess program, the more I knew this was a fit for me.

Becoming a Deaconess was the perfect blending of everything I felt called to do:

  • Serving God in and through the church,
  • Making a difference even beyond the local congregation,
  • Studying and teaching theology and God’s Word,
  • Not being required to be a pastor to do the above!

There were some logistics involved with being able to enter the Deaconess program, but eventually I got in! Then I got my Lutheran theology major, did my required practical ministry experiences, and lived into the “sisterhood” of Deaconesses and Deaconess students around me.

Finally, on August 19, 2001, at our second church in Indiana, I was officially consecrated as a Lutheran Deaconess. Between the beautiful worship service, the hog roast, and the family and friends who came from out of state, it was a grand celebration. It was both the end of a long-awaited goal and the beginning of a whole new journey.

What about you? Have you ever had a vision for something you wanted to do but you didn’t see a way to do it? What obstacles have you overcome to do or be what you felt was meant for you?

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