Friday, December 28, 2007

Christmas 2007

Christmas 2007 was spent with Amy's sister, brother- in-law, brother, parents and grand- mother. Amy's sister has a son, and is also pregnant.

We enjoyed watching the kids open their presents. The most touching moment came when the Burrito opened this present from our former next-door- neighbors in Rochester. She and Morsel used to play with this kaleidoscope when they visited their house, so our neighbors decided to send it to the kids as a gift. It was a deeply emotional moment for the Burrito, and a poignant reminder of the friends we left behind.

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Ups and downs

A few nights ago I was bored, so I started googling some of my old friends from high school and stuff. I realized that I finally made it to that age when just about everyone is doing what they're going to do "when they grow up." You know how when you were younger and everybody who was anybody was always older that you. Well, I'm now at that age when people my own age are doing significant things with their lives.

To be honest with you, I was sort of depressed.

I'm 40 years old, my family and I are living with my in-laws, I don't currently have a regular job (admittedly, something is in the works), and I have no idea what the future holds. I've been going through these up and down periods regularly lately. I know that God is there, and I know He has a plan for me, but my faith waivers when it comes to waiting on Him.

I can only imagine how Abraham felt. He was 75 years old when God told him to leave everything that was familiar to him, and go to a place he had never been before (Genesis 12:1-4). At that time, God told Abraham that he would have many descendants, but the promised child didn't come for another 25 years! How did he handle all the questioning from inquiring minds? "Hey, Abe, it's been 5 years (10 years, 15 years, 20 years) since you left. Are you sure you heard God right about having a kid?" "Maybe you messed up somehow along the way, and God changed His mind." "Why don't you just go back to where you came from? At least it's familiar." Though he faltered some along the way, "Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness" (Romans 4:3).

One encouraging moment came last Sunday when my family and I went to my in-laws' church. The pastor was giving an example of living for Christ, and he related a fictional story of how a teacher can change a child's life. He ended the story with the statement, "You're not just a teacher, you're an agent of God." I wept as I heard those words. It seemed that God was speaking to me through this.

So I don't have a choice but to trust the Lord. Not always easy, but ultimately worth it.

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Thursday, December 20, 2007

Fatherless generation

I've been assisting the regular teacher in the classroom the last few days, by doing some teaching and helping students with classwork. At one point yesterday, the students were to be doing independent work while the other teacher and I walked around and answered their questions.

One young man was distracted from doing his assignment, so I approached him and started talking with him. At first we were only discussing school-related subjects, but the conversation soon turned to personal things.

"So, where are you from?" the 14-year-old asked me.

"I'm originally from Los Angeles," I replied simply, not wanting to get into my whole life story.

"What are you doing here?"

"God sent me." The youth got a knowing look on his face and said, "Oh, you're a Christian man."

"Yes, I am," I replied. The young man paused for a moment, then asked, "So are you single?"

"No," I answered, "I have a wife, three kids, and one on the way."

"Oh," he said with a slightly disappointed look. I was about to walk away after that. I didn't want to distract him any further from doing his work. However, my curiosity eventually got the better of me.

"Why do you ask?" I inquired.

"For my mom," he said.

At that point, I almost broke into tears. Now I really had to walk away. I've heard stories of people going to orphanages and being overwhelmed by the great need in front of them. How they wished they could adopt all of the children. I felt a small piece of that yesterday. I suspect this young guy's story is multiplied many times over at this school—and at schools across the country.

I pray that this young man and others of his generation will not repeat the cycle of previous generations. I pray that the hearts of their fathers will be turned toward them (Malachi 4:6). I pray that these teen boys will grow into passionate followers of Jesus and be lights in their families, local community and the world.

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Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Becoming a teacher

I started a long-term Substitute Teacher position today. This is the position that opened up in God's perfect timing on Friday. I will be teaching five Algebra classes and one pre-Algebra class. Today was a lighter day since the whole school was undergoing state-wide testing. I'll be working with a regular teacher for a couple of months, basically following her around. I didn't do any teaching today, but I did help a few students with an assignment.

One student's father came and sat in on a class today. I was very happy to see him there, demonstrating his involvement in his child's life. Toward the end of the class, I introduced myself to him. "We need more Black, male teachers," he told me. "I'm glad you're here." "We need more involved fathers," I responded. "I'm glad you're here. Keep doing what you're doing."

I have also applied to an alternate certification program that, once I get accepted, will allow me to serve as a regular full-time teacher under contract. Tomorrow, I take a pre-test which is one of the last prerequisites I need to be accepted in the program. I'm applying to be certified to teach Math, Physical Science and Engineering. The school district and the certifying agency have both been very helpful in trying to get me in the certification program as soon as possible. Pray that things go smoothly and quickly.

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The Lion, the Burrito and the Morsel

Last Christmas, I started reading The Chronicles of Narnia books and couldn't put them down. I read through the whole series in a couple of months. I love how clearly the character of Christ is portrayed in Aslan the Lion.

A few months ago, I read The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe to my 7-year-old daughter, "Burrito," and my 5-year-old son, "Morsel." They both liked it so much that they wanted me to keep reading books in the series. We read The Magician's Nephew, The Horse and His Boy, and yesterday we finished Prince Caspian.

Sometimes the plot and difficult words make things a little hard for them to understand, but we talk about what's going on, and they stay pretty engaged. I find it not only a good way to increase their vocabulary, but there are many spiritual lessons that come up.

For example, in Prince Caspian, Lucy, who is a main character, meets Aslan again after not having seen Him for quite a while. "Aslan," Lucy remarks, "you've gotten bigger since the last time I saw you." "That's because you have gotten older," Aslan replies. I asked Burrito what she thought Aslan meant by that. "Daddy, it's like when we get older and know more about Jesus, He seems bigger to us." It's really cool when they "get it." I would highly recommend the Narnia books for personal and family reading.

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Monday, December 17, 2007

On turning 40

This morning I felt a sudden surge of maturity and wisdom. All of my issues were immediately resolved. Revelation after revelation came pouring forth from on high. I had great insight into theological paradoxes and geopolitical conundrums. At the same time my fathering became flawless. I discovered the perfect balance of grace and truth, love and firm discipline. Life's questions that I had pondered over and struggled with for years became as simple as 2+2. I learned the secret of perfect relational dynamics, and had instant skill in counseling others to experience the same. And to top it all off, my humility rose to even greater heights....

"Babe! Babe! Wake up! What are you mumbling about?"

"Huh? What happened?"

"Happy Birthday, Babe."

"Oh, thanks, Dear....But you interrupted a great dream."

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Sunday, December 16, 2007

Divine appointment pt. 4

On Friday, I had an appointment with the district math coordinator. She was going to tell me about a long-term subbing job that was coming up. The assistant superintendent (A.S.) had previously offered me a full-time position at an Early College high school that was to start in Fall 2008. The A.S. wanted to get me working as soon as possible, so he was going to try and get me into a long-term subbing position until they could hire me as a regular teacher.

I went to the district office early on Friday to finish my sub paperwork and get my district I.D. so I could begin subbing. I had some time before my appointment with the math coordinator, so I sat in the district lobby area to do some reading. It was 9:10 a.m. At 9:20 a.m., the automated sub system called me to offer me a one-day assignment for that day. I turned it down because I already had the appointment scheduled for 10:00 a.m. At 9:35 a.m., the principal of the 9th Grade Center called.

"Hi, Mr. Andrews. I'd like to meet with you today to talk about an Algebra 1 teaching position at my school."

"Oh, is this the position that the district is going to tell me about?" I asked.

"No," she replied, "this position just opened up 10 minutes ago."

I couldn't believe it. She could probably tell that I was surprised, so she asked me if I knew a man named Bob. I told her that Bob was the man that I met at Panera Bread a couple of weeks ago. Apparently, Bob had told her about me. "He must be prophetic," she said, "because when he told me about you, I didn't have any teaching positions open. Now this comes up." I told her that I would meet with her that afternoon and let her know what the math coordinator said.

The math coordinator told me about the long-term sub assignment, and I told her what the principal said. The math coordinator said she would contact the A.S. and that we could probably figure something out.

After this, I went to Panera Bread to work on my application for the teacher credential program. While there, I overheard two men sitting across from me talking about church. I and one of the men exchanged a few words, and then they left. I didn't think anything of it.

Later that afternoon, I went to meet with the principal. When I got to the school's main office, there was the man I encountered at Panera Bread! We greeted each other, and the principal said, "Oh, do you two know each other?" Crazy. He and I exchanged contact information. It turns out he's the pastor of a church nearby.

From talking with the principal, I discovered that she is a strong believer. She told me about the position, and I met some of the other teachers and staff. She and I both saw God's hand at work in all this, and were able to encourage each other. Tomorrow at 2:30 p.m., I meet with the A.S. again to talk about this position.

Jesus has been very faithful. His grace is truly amazing.

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Friday, December 14, 2007

And speaking again of the Cowboys...

My mother-in-law sent me this one:
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Brett Favre, after living a full life, died. When he got to heaven, God was
showing him around. They came to a modest little house with a faded
Packer's flag in the window.

"This house is yours for eternity, Brett," said God. "This is very special;
not everyone gets a house up here."

Brett felt special, indeed, and walked up to his house. On his way up the
porch, he noticed another house just around the corner. It was a 3-story
mansion with a Silver and Blue sidewalk, a 50-foot flagpole with an
enormous Blue Star flag, and in every window, a "How 'Bout Them Cowboys"
sign.

Brett looked at God and said, "God, I don't mean to be ungrateful, but I
have a question: I was an all-pro QB, I won the Super Bowl, and I even went
to the hall of fame."

God asked, "So what do you want to know, Brett?"

"Well, why does Tony Romo get a bigger, better house than me?"

God chuckled and said, "Brett, that's not Tony's house... it's mine."

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Thursday, December 13, 2007

Sign on a plate

I guess we're supposed to be in Dallas. The license plate on our Honda starts with "DFW" which, for the uninitiated, is the code for the Dallas/Fort Worth airport. I hope the next license plate has HNL or PPT in it.

Out of curiosity, I just checked the license plate on our other car. It starts with "CFR." A little Internet search reveals that CFR happens to be the code for Carpiquet airport in Caen, France. Hmmm....

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"How 'bout them Cowboys?"

We went to a Christmas special at my in-laws' church this past Sunday night. After the program, I headed to the little boys' room. I had just chosen an appropriate location, when a man parked right next to me. He looked at me with a huge grin, deep voice, rich accent, and said, "How 'bout them Cowboys!"

In an instant several thoughts went through my mind:

1. Can't a guy pee without being accosted by a sports fan?
2. Was this a generic Texas bathroom greeting?
3. (As this is a "family" show, we'll skip #3.)
4. Judging by the vast number of other Cowboy fans in the bathroom, if I don't respond to this guy in an appropriate manner I might be the victim of a terrible tongue-lashing.

So I looked the guy in the eyes, raised my eyebrows, nodded slowly, smiled knowingly, and spoke nothing to him. Instead I gave him a look that said: "What the Cowboys did was so amazingly magnificent and awe-inspiring that it is not necessary to talk about it, but only to savor its richness and to silently bask in the glory thereof."

In reality I had absolutely no idea what he was talking about. And I didn't find out until a few days later.

So if you will excuse me, I need to go and read the sports section. I might have to use a public restroom today, and I am not going in unarmed.

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Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Baby in a backpack

When I was living in Rochester, I rarely took the time for exercise. I had a weight bench in my basement, but it was mostly used by my kids as a makeshift jungle gym.

That all changed upon our arrival in Dallas. My father-in-law walks a few miles each morning pretty regularly. I figured if an old guy like him can do it, so can I! (Fortunately, Dad's not very computer savvy and is unlikely to ever read that previous statement. Shhh!)

My youngest son likes to tag along when Dad and I go walking. I get a better workout, and Amy is able to get more homeschooling done with the two oldest, while I have the little Sausage.

Sometimes Dad has early meetings to attend (or is just lazy), leaving the Sausage and me to go it alone. We like to pretend we're exploring exotic places, and discovering uncharted territories.

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Monday, December 10, 2007

We're debt free!...almost

As of January 11, 2006, we were $25,047.93 in debt (not including the mortgage on our house.) My salary, the only source of income, was around $40-45k. My wife got introduced to Dave Ramsey, a Christian financial advisor and talk radio host, a couple of years ago. At that time we were motivated to get out of debt, and began to set aside money each month to do just that.

After the sale of our house in Rochester last month, we were finally able to finish paying off our remaining school and consumer debt. It's taken some sacrifice, but the weight off our backs is certainly worth it.

So we thank God we've got no more debt, except for this:

"Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law" (Romans 13:8).

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Second and third Dallas church visits

We went to The Village Church two Sundays ago. (Village Church is located in Lewisville, TX also known as the Runaway Kangaroo Capital of America.) They're affiliated with Acts 29 and also have some historic ties with the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC.)

We enjoyed worship quite a bit. They did one of Amy's favorite hymns, "It Is Well With My Soul." Matt Chandler's message was engaging, humorous and no-nonsense. This was the second sermon we've heard on money (from two different churches in two states) in three weeks. Maybe God is trying to tell us something!

We felt welcomed by the people, and our daughter enjoyed Sunday School.
----
Yesterday, we went to Grace Church in Frisco, (not connected to the Grace Church we were a part of in Rochester.) The folks were very friendly and welcoming. It was raining here yesterday, and they had some teen boys escorting umbrella-less churchgoers into the building. We appreciated that.

Worship was very good, even though we were not familiar with most of the songs. There was a prophetic word given during worship. I liked the openness to the Spirit in that regard. We didn't get to hear the senior pastor, Craig Cabaniss, speak as he was out of town speaking at another church. Apparently, he oversees a number of Sovereign Grace Ministries churches in this area. A large portion of the families in the church homeschool, so that could be of help to Amy.

Both of these churches had a number of positive points. Because it's Advent season, a lot of churches are not in "normal" mode. We'll probably visit these and other churches again after the holiday season is over to get a better idea of what regular services are like.

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Thursday, December 6, 2007

Divine appointment pt. 3

I met with the Assistant Superintendent of the local school district on Wednesday. He had previously said that he wanted me to substitute teach in his district and perhaps do more. In our meeting yesterday, he told me that he discussed my situation with the Superintendent. They agreed to offer me a regular teaching position. Since I don't have a teaching credential, they offered to pay for me to get my credential through an alternate program. Moreover, they want me to teach at a special magnet high school. The unique aspect of this school is that when the students graduate, they will have two years of college credit under their belts.

"I'll have my instructional coordinator get all the information you need regarding the credential program," he told me. "We'll walk you through the process, and make it as easy for you as possible. Once you get the information from my instructional coordinator, give it some serious thought and get back to me."

I'm still amazed at how this all started through a simple encounter with a man at a café. I'm grateful to God, but I struggled with a lot of mixed feelings. I don't want to be a life-long teacher. I want to be involved in ministry full-time. I know you can do ministry as a teacher, but I don't believe it's my personal calling. Three good friends gave me some wise counsel regarding the situation. They all see God working in and through this job potential. Please pray that I clearly discern God's leading in all this.

BTW, I went back to the Driver License Office (DLO) to return the second NY driver license I had. You may remember that I was going to try and hold on to my new NY driver license and only surrender my soon-to-be-expired NY license.

"Hi, I'm here to surrender my second driver license," I told the woman at the counter. "I surrendered one yesterday, but I have one more to turn in."

"Did you get a letter from New York state telling you that you had to surrender this license?" she asked. (Apparently, the government will track you down if you try to possess two licenses from two different states.)

"No, I didn't get a letter. I was just in here yesterday. The bottom line," I explained to her, "is that God would not let me keep it."

"God's power is strong, isn't it?" she commented.

"Yes, ma'am, it is."

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Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Pray for Africa

We have some friends who are serving as missionaries in Bundibugyo, Uganda. They are currently in the U.S., but plan on returning before the end of the year. They just informed us that there is an outbreak of the deadly Ebola disease in Bundibugyo. Non-medical personnel on their mission team are being evacuated. One Ugandan friend of theirs, who is a medical doctor, died today from the disease. He had been caring for other sick people. Pray that God would stop the spread of this disease in its tracks. Pray for those who even now are clinging to life. For more information on the situation there, click here.

I have another friend who is a pastor in Ghana. Where he is, there are a number of "prophets" who are deceiving people by selling supposedly "blessed anointing oil" at high prices. If they use this oil, the people are told, they will get more customers, get a wife (or husband), get a promotion, etc. He asks for prayer that he and others will stand firm and continue to speak the truth.

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Great, big churches

In case you have never been to Texas, there are many large churches here with massive buildings. And they build them seemingly right on top of each other. There are some corners near where we live that have four church buildings on them. It's certainly a different world.

One church building I sometimes pass literally looks like a fortress. I mean, imagine an Egyptian pyramid with the top cut off and you have this church building. I told Amy that I didn't think I'd want to visit that church, but if there were ever a nuclear attack, that's the first place I'd go!

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Divine appointment pt. 2

Last week, I had a divine appointment with some men in Panera Bread. Later that week, Bob called me and said that he got me an appointment to meet the assistant superintendent (A.S.) of a local school district. I had already planned to attend the orientation for substitute teachers that was taking place at the same time as my meeting with the A.S., but I decided I would skip the orientation and keep the appointment.

This morning, Bob met me in the lobby of the district office and escorted me to my appointment. I told the A.S. about my background, and he said that he wanted me to substitute in the district and maybe something more. I told him that him that I needed to go to a Substitute Teacher Orientation. The A.S. graciously escorted me to the orientation (which had already started).

During the orientation, I discovered that I would need to get a Texas driver license to apply for the job. (I was hoping to hold onto my New York DL as long as possible.) I went to the Driver License Office and was told I needed to get a vehicle inspection and Texas registration. The lady at the DLO recommended a good place to get the inspection: right across the street at a service station.

Thankfully, my car passed inspection. The service station manager, a believer, was very kind and helpful. He said that when I got my new license plates, he would put them on for free. "You also need to get Texas car insurance," he informed me. "What company are you with?" "State Farm," I told him. "There happens to be a State Farm agent two blocks from here."

I got to the State Farm office and told the rep that I needed to switch my car insurance from New York to Texas. She made a call to the Rochester, NY branch to get some information:

"Hello, this is Sally in Cedar Hill, Texas. I have a Brian Andrews in my office and he needs to get his insurance transferred here. Can you look up his records for me?"

[Susie in Rochester]: "I just happen to have his paperwork in my hands right now. I was just reading that he moved out of New York."
At that point, the fear of God came on me. The good kind. I could see even more clearly the sovereign hand of God at work. Who can deny that He orchestrates the events of our lives?

After getting the insurance switched, and getting my car registered, I was finally ready to go back to the DLO to get my Texas driver license. On the way to the DLO, I suddenly remembered that I had two unexpired NY driver licenses: one which is about to expire on my birthday, and the replacement license which is good for another eight years. I thought to myself, "I can just surrender the old NY license to get my TX license, then I'll have a new license for NY and for TX." (I didn't feel any conviction at the time that this was wrong.) When I arrived at the DLO, I took my TX photo, surrendered my old NY license, and got my temporary TX driver license. I was pretty proud of myself.

I went back to the service station to get the new TX plates put on my car. After a considerable amount of struggle, the station manager told me that he could not get the old NY plate off the front of my car. "The rear one gave me a lot of grief, as well," he said. I thanked him for his efforts and got in my car to drive home. At this point, I was suddenly convicted about having two driver licenses. I tried to ignore it, but the Spirit would not let this go. I tried blasting praise music on my car CD player (to make myself feel more spiritual?), but all I could hear was, "Brian, you should have turned in the new driver license."

Darn.

God, why can't I just keep it?

Silence.

The fear of God came on me. The bad kind this time!

Well, to shorten an already very long story, I've decided to go back to DLO and tell them about my second license. I'm not sure what will happen, but my conscience will be clear....And maybe I'll be able to get that second NY license plate off my car.

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Saturday, December 1, 2007

Closed

The sale of our house closed on Friday. We officially have no house in Rochester. We heard from our neighbors that the new owners moved in today. It was a sad moment for us in some ways. That part of our lives is officially over; the chapter is closed. We were really blessed to have had that house and the neighbors that went along with it. That house had been a specific answer to prayer. "Thanks, Lord."

God closes and opens doors for His purposes. We know He has something for us. Sometimes it's hard to remember that. Some days are harder than others. Sometimes all we can do is cry out to Him. But we have seen His faithfulness and trust that He hears us.

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