Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Of reptiles and men

What happens when you cross a hungry python with a hungry alligator? This is what happens:


Apparently the snake swallowed the gator whole, but the gator wasn't going to take it lying down. He put up such a fight inside the snake that the snake exploded. Read all about it here. Two predators, each trying to eat the other, ended up destroying each other.

Nature gives us a very graphic picture of what the apostle Paul was talking about in Galatians 5:14-15:

For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another (emphasis mine).
It's very easy to get into squabbles, especially with the ones closest to us. Sometimes in our anger we want to get the upper hand and really give it to other person: a cutting glare, a sharp word, a harsh comment, in the extreme, a physical blow. We believe that if we are on the offensive we won't get hurt—that if we strike hard first, we'll be safe. Such is not the case. Paul warns us that there is the real danger of both parties getting seriously hurt in the process. There are no winners when we attack our neighbor. A part of our own soul is wounded when we wound another person's soul. Like the snake and the gator, we get swallowed or we explode!

But what if by some freak of nature the snake said to the alligator, "Hey, Al. Why don't you and I work together to get us some prey?" They'd most likely never miss a meal!

Hmmm....So if I'm the snake, who are the alligators in my life?




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Stay awake

There have been a number of thefts on my street and neighborhood in the past month or so. Sometime in the night, a person or group steals tires off of cars left in driveways. The only evidence left behind is the car sitting with its rotors on bricks ("borrowed" from another unsuspecting neighbor.)

Although this has never happened to me, it makes me absolutely sick. I feel violated and angry for my neighbors. What kind of lowlifes would do such a thing! I have often thought that I'd love to catch them in the act. But who knows where they'll strike or when? I'd have to stay up all night every night to even have a chance.

Having been pondering all that, I read this passage of Scripture this morning:

But know this, that if the master of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have left his house to be broken into. You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect. —Luke 12:39-40
More important than being alert for thieves, is to be alert for the return of Jesus. More important that being prepared for a thief is being prepared for the second coming of Christ. My desire to be in a right frame of mind in the Lord should far outweigh my desire to catch a bad guy.

No one knows when Christ will return. It could be next week, next year or next century. But we need to be ready. We must stay awake. We have to "stay dressed for action and keep (our) lamps burning" (Luke 12:35). We don't want to be caught off guard or found sleeping when Christ returns. We must watch our lives and be diligent doing the Father's work. What a joy to know that He is coming back for us, and what a privilege and responsibility to let the world how they can be ready to meet Him.

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Saturday, December 13, 2008

All Things?

The second half of this week has been rather difficult. I can see how the Lord has been testing me. I think it started with a short conversation I had with a fellow teacher. In the midst of our conversation, he said, "And you know my pastor says that God can make something good out of almost anything." I responded that God can make something good out of anything, not almost anything." I had in mind Romans 8:28, "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose" (emphasis mine). That was on Tuesday afternoon.

That night, I went with my three oldest kids to get our Christmas tree. I had my cell phone in my sweatshirt pocket. When we got the tree set up in our house, I looked for my phone but couldn't find it. I called my phone from Amy's phone thinking that I would hear it ring somewhere around the house. Nothing. I tried calling again. This time a man answered the phone! "Hello," the voice said, "I don't know if you own this phone, but I'm going to turn it into Home Depot customer service."

I went back to the store to pick up the phone, and discovered that it was bent and the antenna had been broken off. It must have been run over in the parking lot. Well, at least I found it and it still worked, I thought. The next day, it didn't work. Not a big deal, I could get another phone.

Later that day, Wednesday, I picked up a slight cough. By Thursday morning, I had a full cold and called in sick to work. Again, not a big deal. I went to my school briefly to prepare something for the substitute teacher, and came home to rest. Usually, it's hard for me to rest, but I took great pains to really rest so that I would be ready to go back to school on Friday.

Thursday evening, I was feeling much better and was confident I would be back the next day. But there was an interruption to my plans. After dinner, I was helping to clear the table. I picked up a pot of soup and must have lifted it incorrectly. As I carried it to the counter, I could feel my lower back begin to tighten. Immediately a sharp pain shot through my back. I was able to get the pot safely to the counter, but I quickly doubled over and fell to the floor in severe pain. I had injured my back in the past, so I knew that it had to be a sciatic nerve problem.

If you've never injured your lower back, be grateful. When it hits you, it's very difficult to find a position that does not hurt. I tried to pick myself up, but everything I tried caused immense pain. I didn't ask for help right away; all the while, I was telling myself that I could get up on my own. I tried different maneuvers to get up, but excruciating pain hit me and I would cry out. Eventually, I crawled over to a desk and pulled myself up. Amy helped me to our room, and I lay down on the bed.

Laying in bed, I could not get comfortable. I would have tossed and turned in bed, but moving was too painful. On top of that, Amy and I had an argument adding to the emotional and physical pain I was experiencing. I just need to call a friend to pray for me, I thought. But then I remembered that my phone was broken, and I couldn't retrieve anyone's contact information! Dark thoughts plagued me: Would I walk again? Would I be able to pick up my children? Would I be able to play with them like I used to? Was this a long-term injury such that I couldn't go back to work? How would I support my family? Nagging questions and fears consumed me. Then came the accusing thoughts: You should be stronger than that! Where's your faith? Other people have it worse than you. If you're this emotionally weak, how could you handle a real crisis? It all seemed like spiritual attack. (The enemy loves to kick us when we're down.) I felt very alone. "God, where are You? Why aren't You rescuing me? Jesus, You have to help me. I can't take this!"

In the midst of my crying out, I remembered Romans 8:28. All things? Do I really believe that now? Or is that simply a nice platitude that works well when life is rosy? Nothing physically or emotionally changed that night. The circumstances were the same; but I chose to believe Romans 8:28. I chose to trust God. Thursday night I had to apply what I (perhaps carelessly?) proclaimed to be true Tuesday afternoon.

I stayed home Friday, but I felt a little better. Today, I felt better still and was able to attend a teacher training in the morning. I don't know how I would do in a more difficult situation. I just thank God for His grace on this occasion, and pray for the grace to endure whatever else comes.

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Sunday, December 7, 2008

Bible thumper

If you've known me for a while, you probably have noticed the bump on my wrist. It's called a ganglion cyst. It's not painful, but it looks kinda creepy—sort of like your wrist is pregnant. It's a tiny sac filled with fluid that comes from your wrist joints.

I was at a teacher training yesterday, and a fellow teacher told me that she used to have a ganglion cyst. "I just stuck it with a needle," she told me. "Didn't hurt a bit."

So I decided I would try it....

Alas, I didn't have a needle. But I had read online that in the olden days, some people would whack their ganglion cysts with a hard cover book. The cyst would burst like a water balloon and all would be fine. In fact, a slang term for the cysts was "Bible bumps" because apparently people would use the Bible since it was the most common book people owned. No, I'm not kidding. Google it if you don't believe me.

So I made up my mind to hit this thing with the Word of God. But which version should I choose? I don't know about you, but when I think about whacking a ganglion cyst, I think 1601 King James Version (KJV). I mean, if you're going to perform minor surgery, you don't want to mess around with some loose paraphrase like The Living Bible. You want something that carries some authority—and weight.

Unfortunately, I don't own a KJV Bible. I can't understand the Old English, so I always bought more modern translations. If I had known my health would depend on it, I would certainly have bought a KJV for just such a purpose. (Let me encourage you if you don't have a KJV to go out and get one and put it in your first aid kit.)

Well, I didn't have time to go out and get a KJV, and I just wanted to be rid of the cyst, so I looked at my Bible selection and chose the next best thing:


It was perfect: decent size, hard cover, large print.

So I grasped The Message Bible, took careful aim at the cyst, and swung with all my might.....

A very interesting feeling followed. You know that sensation you get when you bite down on a whole cherry tomato and it bursts in your mouth? It's just like that. Except add to that the sensation of simultaneously being punched in the face.

Actually, it hurt a little, but not as much as I thought. And here is the after photo:


With the exception of some fluid remaining in the area and a slight, dull ache, all evidence of the cyst is gone. If this cyst somehow comes back, however, I'm definitely going to buy a KJV Bible.

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Tuesday, December 2, 2008

After Thanksgiving

Hope you had a great Thanksgiving. We went to Amy's parents' house. There were about 15 of us with Amy's brother, her brother's friends, and a friend's family. Aim made her cheesy potatoes, and I made sweet potato pie.

Speaking of which, we interrupt this blog post to bring you a special news bulletin. Is nothing sacred?

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Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Climbing higher

I just got back from rock wall climbing with my two oldest kids at the gym where we just became members. Usually when Amy and I go to the gym with the kids, all six of us go into the pool. Today was the first time climbing.

Rock wall climbing is a lot harder than it looks—especially if you're doing it wrong, like I was. Apparently, you have to keep your hips close to the wall and let your legs, not your arms, do most of the work. Despite my poor form, I made it up to the top of a section of the wall that was medium difficulty. It was a glorious feeling to be 400 ft. up in the air dangling by a rope. OK, maybe it was more like 40 ft., but I'm telling you the air was really thin up there.

When I got down, I saw my 5-year-old son, Morsel, on his way up another section of the wall. He got about 1/3 of the way up, when he looked at me and said that that was as far as he was going to go. I looked at him and said, "No, Son, keep going up. You can do it." He was a little hesitant at first, but he started to make his way up the wall. Soon he was taking more confidant strides. When he would get stuck, I gave him suggestions on where to put his foot, where to reach, etc. I knew he could make it to the top, but I didn't know if he would go all the way.

He was almost to the top of the wall, when it looked as if he might go no further. I kept urging him on: "You can do it, Son. You're doing great! You're almost there!" I was so proud of him when he finally grabbed the top of the wall. I think I was more excited than he was.

Every young man needs an older man who will not let him give up after only climbing 1/3 the way up his wall. Every young man needs an older man who declares his belief in him, pushes him forward, cheers him on, and celebrates his victory. Older men, do you have a younger man that you are encouraging to go farther than he believes he can go? Younger men, have you found someone who can speak into your life and push you out of your comfort zone, so that you don't stop short of your potential?

If not, let's commit to seeking those out so that we can walk in the fullness of who we are in Christ.

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Monday, October 20, 2008

Big kid Bible

We just got our 5-year-old his first real Bible: the kind without the pictures. Although, it does have some maps in the back. He loves it. He's started reading through one of the Prophets. It's very encouraging to see him interested in the Word.

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Sunday, October 19, 2008

If your student asks for a fish...

A few days ago, I was rushing through my 30-minute lunch at school. I had been working into my lunch period trying to prepare my room for the PSAT test I was giving my students. I only had a few minutes to myself to eat my meal: leftover tilapia and rice. I just wanted to eat my lunch in peace and not be bothered.

Not long after I sat down for my meal, one of my students walked into the classroom, where I was trying to "hide."

"Hi, Mr. Andrews, what are you eating?" she asked.

"It's tilapia," I responded, not wanting to engage her.

"I've never heard of that. What is it?"

"It's a kind of fish."

"Oh, I've only had catfish." I thought she would lose interest at this point, but then she continued. "Can I have some of it?" Quite honestly, I was taken completely off guard. You're kidding me, right? I was thinking to myself. I was blown away by her boldness, but also the innocence with which she asked me. She obviously thought nothing unusual about her request, but fully expected me to give her some of my lunch. Speechlessly, I broke off a piece of fish and gave it to her. She seemed to enjoy it.

Reflecting on this incident, I remembered Jesus' parable about the man who boldly went to his friend at midnight asking for bread. I also thought about His words after that:

"Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead?...If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!
It was a reminder to me to persistently ask the Lord for a fresh filling of His Spirit. He will satisfy my hunger.

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Sunday, October 12, 2008

Here comes the judge

Yesterday, we went to the International Bar-B-Que Cookers Association Cookoff held in a town a few miles from our house. I was excited to take in the sights and sounds (and tastes) of this yearly event. I figured that the public could probably buy barbeque at an inflated price, but I was willing to pay.

When we got to the location, the first thing I heard was, "Folks, we're going to need some judges for the cook off." Imagine being a little kid at Toys R Us at Christmas time and your parents saying to you, "Johnny, you've been such a good boy this year, here's our credit card. Pick out some things you like."

That comes close to the feeling I had. But then it seemed like the bubble of my dream was about to burst:

"We're looking for people to be judges in the ' best beans' category."

Beans? Beans??

"So when are you guys judging ribs?" I asked.
"Oh, that's not until tomorrow (Sunday) at 1:00 p.m."

Immediately I began to plot a strategy to get myself back to this location the next day in plenty of time to sign up to be a judge. I would go to church in the morning, making sure I sang all the praise songs loudly and confessed all my sins so that God would have favor on me. On the way home from church, I would promise my wife three straight days of alone time without the kids so that she would have favor on me. Then with all humility and pitifulness, I would ask her if she minded me going back to judge the ribs contest. "It's a great opportunity for me to be a witness for Jesus when I pray before scarfing down tasting the food."

My plan was foolproof...until my wife said, "Are you remembering we're having lunch with my parents tomorrow?"

[heavy sighs, biting my lips to hold back the tears]

"Oh yeah."

So I settled for judging in the finals of the "best beans" category. There were 19 finalists, so we had to pace ourselves.

If you ever thought to yourself, "I wonder what kind of people volunteer to be judges in the 'best beans' category at a bar-b-que cook off," I can give you the answer to that question. I sat across from a guy who must have been a veteran at this sport. The guy next to me looked as if he might eat beans right out of the can...and then eat the can.

"Howdy," I said warmly to my fellow judge across the table in the best Texas accent I could muster. He sat still as a statue and looked at me as if I had just called his mother an iguana. I figured I came across as too friendly; I decided to try a different approach with Mr. Tin Can.

"Hey," I said coolly as if I had just ridden a bucking bronco and was bored to tears to be judging a bean contest but only did so as a favor to my ailing grandma who lives for this day.

"Hey," he responded. (We must have the same grandmother.)

So I enjoyed my 20 minutes of fame as a judge in the finals of the 'Best Beans' category at the IBCA Cookoff. On the drive home, however, my wife was sorry that it was beans and not ribs that I had judged.

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Shocking!

I saw regular unleaded gas for $2.99/gal today! I should have taken a picture of the sign because I know that many of you don't believe me.

UPDATE: $2.89/gal is the new low that I've noticed here in Arlington, Texas.

What's the lowest price of gas that you've observed? What city?

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Thursday, October 9, 2008

Scientist for Jesus



"Daddy, I want to stop the fighting in Science," my 5-year-old says to me the other day.

"Oh, yeah? How so?"

"I want to prove scientifically that God created the world."

You know, I believe he could do it. Last week he was explaining to me how a combustion engine works. Went totally over my head, but he knew exactly what he was talking about. He can spend hours with his microscope, reading about dinosaurs, building planes and helicopters, and coming up with ideas for experiments.

There used to be a time when to be a scientist meant to have a strong faith in God. Many scientists nowadays seem to take pride in ridiculing or being condescending toward believers. I pray for a generation of upcoming scientists who can converse with skeptics, atheists, agnostics and prodigal scientists on a highly technical level, but who are themselves passionate about the Lord Jesus Christ.

"Father, strengthen my son's heart and sharpen his mind. Let him bring glory to the Name of Jesus through his love of science. Let him bring light into dark places. Let him reach people that are far from You. Let me be an encouragement to him as he follows the path You have laid out for him."

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Thursday, September 25, 2008

Recently released

I was sitting at my desk at school at the end of the day, when I looked up through the window in the door and noticed a familiar face. It was a student I had last year. I went out to greet him.

"Whassup!" he said as he greeted me with outstretched hand.

"Hey, Jarold (not his real name), how are you doing?"

"Good. Where are all the other teachers at?" He was expecting to find teachers that he had last year.

"Oh, this section has been turned into a different school. All the other teachers are upstairs." We walked together to try to find some of his other previous teachers. "How have you been?"

"I just got out of jail today," he informed me. "I was in a little over three months." I wasn't surprised. He had been one of the more challenging students. Having ministered in a jail for a while, I could relate some to his situation.

Having brought him to one of his other previous teachers, I went back downstairs to start my tutoring session.

"Lord, touch Jarold's heart. Transform him and make him new."

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Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Balloon Festival

We attended the Plano Balloon Festival last Saturday. It was a great day to watch balloons take to the sky.


That's a lot of hot air.

There were some pretty interesting balloons.



This one's in honor of National Talk Like a Pirate Day.

Couldn't figure out if this was a dragon or dinosaur. It doesn't matter. It deflated in the parking lot soon after take off.

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Sunday, September 14, 2008

Ike evacuees at Grace Community Church

Our church is housing about 100 evacuees from Hurricane Ike. Some drove their own cars, others came by bus. Pray for these folks that God would meet all their needs according to His riches in Christ Jesus.

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Saturday, September 13, 2008

Are we nearing the end?

Has anyone else noticed that natural disasters seem to be on the rise? Earthquakes, floods, tsunamis, hurricanes have all made the news recently. Are they increasing in frequency? How about armed conflicts? How about the state of our world, in general? The Bible talks about wars and rumors of wars, and an increase in natural disasters as a sign that the end is approaching.

I noticed that for two weeks in a row, my pastor indicated his belief that the return of Christ would be in our children's lifetime. Of course no one knows the hour when He will come back, but He did tell us to take note of the signs.

Many past generations of Christians believed that Jesus would come back in their lifetime, but of course He did not. Is this another false alarm? Or are these "birth pains" as the Bible calls them, indicating the time is drawing closer?

So what do you think? Post a comment. I'd love to hear your thoughts. If you believe we're nearing the end, why do you believe so? If you don't think the time is approaching, what signs would make you think twice? If you're a Christian in a country other than the U.S., do you believe that talk of the end times is an American thing, or have you or some you know thought about this recently?

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Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Contentedly discontent

I'm getting into a pretty good groove at school. I love my students more and more each day. The environment has a genuine family feel to it. I'm definitely being stretched, but I'm not stressed. I'm content with where I'm at. There are an abundance of opportunities to be a witness for Christ at my school by how I interact with and "father" my students.

But I do have a longing in my soul, a feeling of discontent. Even as I find myself enjoying teaching, I can't help but think about my friends in West Africa. Most of the time I go about my merry way, but when I have time to think about or pray for them, the desire to minister there returns.

I have gone through periods of feeling guilty for not just being happy where I'm at. "Why can't I just be grateful for what I've got and quit thinking about moving on to something else?" I would say to myself. I would feel guilty for praying that God would allow me to go back to West Africa.

But then a few days ago, I read something that the apostle Paul wrote that encouraged me. He wrote to the Roman believers that in his prayers he always asks "that somehow by God's will I may now at last succeed in coming to you. For I long to see you..." (Romans 1:10-11). Paul had an intense desire to spend time with the believers in Rome that he might minister among them, and that he and they might be mutually encouraged by each others' faith. Though he had never met them, he had a love for them.

Paul's words resonated with me. If he could pray constantly that God would allow him to go to Rome—and he eventually made it—then I can pray every day that God would allow me to return to West Africa. There are pastors there whom I have never met, but have grown to love through our email correspondence. I would also love to reconnect with pastors I met and ministered with while there.

In the meantime, I and my family will continue to plug in to fellowship here and prayerfully seek ministry opportunities where we're at.

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Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Two down, thirty-four to go

I finished my first two weeks of teaching, and I'm happy to report that things seem to be going pretty well so far. I'm enjoying my students, laughing and joking with them, and generally having a much better year than last year. My first year teaching was a major trial. There were many days I wanted to quit, but I knew I had to keep going. This year is very different. Smaller class sizes, motivated students and supportive parents are a great combination.

It isn't all a cakewalk as I am teaching three different courses: Algebra 1, Geometry and Algebra 2. I do feel the pressure of being the only full-time math teacher at the school. I'm under the microscope in some respects. Many people are watching closely to see how the students will perform on the state math test for 9th graders. I need to remind myself that my job isn't to worry about who's watching me, but to teach my kids to the best of my ability and to trust that God has me exactly where He wants me.

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Thursday, September 4, 2008

Prayer meeting for my school district

I just got word that there will be a prayer meeting specifically focusing on my school district, Cedar Hill ISD, Friday, September 5 from 7:00 p.m to 12:00 a.m. It will be held at High Pointe Baptist Church. The public is invited to be a part.

What an encouragement that that is taking place!

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Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Where's Aim?

Dozens of you have asked, "Brian, how come you're doing all the posting? Where is your wife?"

OK, "dozens" is a slight exaggeration....Actually, nobody has asked, but some of you were probably thinking it. Anyway, the answer to that question is that Amy has resurrected her previous blog and doesn't have time for us "little people." So I guess it's up to me to hold down the fort.

Some of you are saying, "This fort is not going to be held down if Brian is doing the holding." That may be true, but I will still do my best to post at least once a year to keep y'all—(that means "you all" in non-Southern)—updated.

In the meantime, visit Amy's blog and plead with her to post over here at least on occasion. Because you really don't want to read through another entire post of mine and discover, once again, that there was really no point to it.

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Shelter from the storm

Our church was designated a shelter for those who left New Orleans because of Hurricane Gustav. People left with their pets, and since many shelters do not accommodate animals, our church decided to set up an area for them. The grassy area just to the east of our building has been dubbed "Poop Park."

In his sermon this past Sunday, our pastor was talking about taking action and not being slothful. In the middle of his message, he got word that our shelter was to be activated. It was a perfect illustration when he called the shelter volunteers into action, and 20 or 30 people got up out of their seats to set things up for our guests from New Orleans.

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Sunday, August 31, 2008

This place is crawling with missionaries

Amy and I became official members of our church, Grace Community Church, after having gone through the membership class. We're excited about being a part of this church. There is a HUGE missions focus. It seems like every other person we run into has been on the mission field, is home temporarily from the mission field, or wants to go to the mission field. We just got back from a small group meeting for new members and probably 80% of the people had some missions connection. One woman went to Amy's rival high school in Nairobi, Kenya, and another couple knows Amy's parents.

We hung out with a family from church today who plan to go to Indonesia for Bible translation work. Our kids played with their kids and some others from the neighborhood. One neighborhood kid (also a missionary kid) turned out to be the sister of some folks that went to our church in Rochester, NY.

It still blows my mind when I think of all God did to bring us here. I continue to feel an increasing burden for West Africa, and being around all these missionaries has only fed that desire.

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Off to a not so great start

Bummer!!!

It was about 4:56 am last Monday morning. I was driving to a prayer meeting when all of a sudden I see the red and blue flashing lights in my rear view mirror. My heart sunk.

"Good morning, sir," the officer began. "Was there a reason you didn't come to a full and complete stop at that intersection?"

"Well, officer, I'm late to a prayer meeting where we're specifically praying for men in uniform such as yourself."

(It was true that I was late to the prayer meeting, but I didn't actually say that to him. I mumbled something about being confused about which way I was going blah, blah, blah.)

Inside, I was hoping for mercy. Maybe he would check my record, see that it was clean, and let me off with a warning...? No such luck.

Not the best way to start the day, my first day of school....But as Amy said when I got home from the prayer meeting, "At least your day can only get better from here."

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New teacher orientation

New teacher orientation for teachers in my school district took place a couple weeks ago. The main speaker was the City Manager. I was really impressed by this man who demonstrated a clear and genuine faith in Christ. He was very open about his faith in this decidedly secular setting.

He told us all that he believes God brought him to Cedar Hill, and that he believes that there is going to be spiritual transformation in the city that will affect government, business, churches and schools. It was very encouraging to hear his heart for the city, and to catch his vision of what God wants to do here.

After his message I sp0ke with him privately, and he shared more of what he believes are God's plans for the schools. As he was talking, I felt the presence of the Lord and I got a new sense of calling to my position as a math teacher. It was just what I needed to hear. I pray that the Lord will use me as a vessel at my school and that the light of Jesus will shine clearly.

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Friday, August 1, 2008

Gearing up for school

I finished teaching one week of a two-week summer session at my new school. The summer session is designed to prepare the students (high school freshmen) for the rigorous material they will see during the school year, and for the college entrance exams they will soon be taking.

My school is an Early College High School. According to the website, "the schools are designed so that low-income youth, first-generation college goers, English language learners, students of color, and other young people underrepresented in higher education can simultaneously earn a high school diploma and an Associate’s degree or up to two years of credit toward a Bachelor’s degree—tuition free."

The students will be taking many of their classes for dual high school and college credit. When they graduate high school, they should have between 48 and 60 college credits. They need to pass some college entrance exams in order to be eligible to begin taking the dual credit classes. The ECHS concept is very new—only six years old. There are currently about 160 ECHS schools nationwide. My school is opening this fall with about 104 9th graders.

I was very pleased with the performance, attitude and behavior of my students. The vast majority of them are very motivated to succeed. Their parents/guardians have demonstrated a commitment to be actively involved and supportive of their children. You can tell that these students have a goal in mind, and understand that they need to work hard to achieve it. They're still 14- and 15- year-olds with typical issues for that age group. But they're starting to "get it." They're beginning to realize that this is a huge opportunity for them that they might not otherwise get.

Teaching in this environment has so far proven to be a good experience for me, as well. My principal keeps me on my toes, and pushes me beyond what is comfortable. I don't always like to be pushed, but I can see in this short time ways that I have grown as a teacher because of her coaching and modeling.

I'm very curious to see how the Lord uses this experience, and I'm still amazed at how God started me on this teaching journey.

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Sunday, July 27, 2008

Man shoots lawnmower...

...because it wouldn't start.

Maybe if he hadn't set it on fire it would have started.

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Saturday, July 26, 2008

Our anniversary

Today is Amy's and my anniversary. It's hard to believe it has been 11 years. We give all credit to the Lord for getting us this far, and we look forward to the future. Both of our parents are inspirations for us. Her parents have been married around 35 years, and mine have been married 52 years.

We celebrated this past Tuesday. We went to Six Flags Over Texas and saw "Cirque Dreams Coobrila." If you've ever seen or heard of Cirque du Soleil, it's the same idea: amazing acrobatics, breathtaking balancing acts, and other-worldly costumes all swimming in an explosion of colors, surrealistic props, and hauntingly dreamy music.

We had a great time.

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Tuesday, July 22, 2008

We are now free to leave the country...

...at least in the eyes of the U.S. government.

Amy had to renew her passport, and all the kids needed passports. No, we don't have any plans to go anywhere at this time. But it's nice to know we could go if the opportunity arose

I believe every Christian should have a passport just in case we are called into service outside the borders of our home country. At least five times, Jesus commanded His followers in general to go worldwide with the good news:

"Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit" (Matthew 28:19);

"Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation" (Mark 16:15);

"Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations..." (Luke 24:46–47);

"But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth" (Acts 1:8);

"And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come" (Matthew 24:14).
That last one always gets me. As long as there are nations, tribes, or people groups who have not heard the good news, the end will tarry. God will wait. Judgment will be delayed another day. But when we, Christ's followers, have finished the task of going to every nook and cranny of planet earth, look to the heavens because the time will have drawn near! How exciting that we get to be a part of God's great plan of salvation, and that we are a part of the timetable for Jesus' return!

So get your passport ready. You may not go across the world, but like the Boy Scouts say, "Be prepared."

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Saturday, July 5, 2008

Divine appointment at a prayer meeting

I've been getting together with a younger pastor, named Brad, from the church our family attends. We talk about theology and whether Kansas City has better barbecue than Texas. Last Tuesday, he told me about a prayer meeting that he wants to start going to. Since we both talked about giving our prayer lives a shot in the arm, I decided to take him up on the offer.

"Oh, yeah," he said, "it's from 5:00 to 6:00 am." Since I'm now a math teacher, it was relatively easy for me to calculate that I would have to get up pretty darn early for this prayer meeting. But I was motivated and curious.

The prayer meeting was this past Thursday. We had a great time. There were about eight of us altogether meeting in the living room of this young couple. From a quick survey of the room, I'd say that I was about 14 years older than the next oldest person, but I felt right at home. One guy led worship on guitar, and we prayed in between songs.

Afterward, I introduced myself to the guy who hosted the prayer meeting. His name is also Brad—no relation—and he's a 23-year-old, on-fire-for-Jesus type of guy. I couldn't believe how much energy he had at such an early hour. (Then I reminded myself that he had no kids.) We clicked right away and started talking a little bit about our backgrounds.

"I did some mission work in Africa," Brad told me.
"Oh really, what country?" I inquired.
"Mali. I went there in 2003."
"No way! I went to Mali, too, for mission work in 2006," I responded with surprise.
"That's crazy!" he said. "Most people I talk to about it have never even heard of Mali. What city were you in?"
"I was in Bamako."
"So was I!" he said excitedly.

We were both amazed at how God set us up to meet each other. Brad was involved with evangelism when he was there, as was I. We talked about how we would both love to go back some day. Since it was getting late—it seems strange to say that 6:30 am is late—we agreed to get together again and share our stories about how the Lord called us to Mali. I left the prayer meeting rejoicing over what God had done that morning.

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Sunday, June 22, 2008

An exciting day of mowing

I finally got around to mowing my lawn Friday, so I wouldn't go to jail. I didn't know how my mower was going to work since I hadn't used it in so long. I put some gas in it, primed the engine, and pulled the cord. It started on the first pull, and I was in business.

I finished the front lawn and headed to the backyard. Now if I had been smart, I would have only mowed the front and not worried about the back because that's when my troubles began.

I turned the mower off temporarily to move stuff out of the way. When I tried to start it up again, I couldn't pull the cord. I called Amy's dad to get some pointers. "Try turning the mower sideways and spin the blade," he suggested. "That might loosen things up." I tried it and it worked. But in the process of turning the mower sideways, oil began to run out of several places. I cleaned it up as best I could, but when I started the mower, it smoked liked a Texas barbecue. The smoke temporarily blocked out all sunlight reaching my house. This wasn't a bad thing because it helped to cool things off a bit.

I continued mowing, feeling very manly for having fixed my mower myself and not having to pay a repairman to make a house call. But then the mower stopped on its own for some reason. Ah, no problem, out of gas. I put more gas into the tank.

Now, here's a word of caution for all of you. I do not recommend putting gas into an overheated tank. I poured the gas in, but when I was done pouring, the gas level continued to rise in the tank because it (the gas) was expanding due to the heat. O Lord, please don't let this overflow. It did. But not by much—or so I thought. At the time, the thought went through my mind, I really should wipe up this excess gas. But I convinced myself that it wasn't that much gas, and would probably just evaporate quickly anyway.

So I pulled the cord to start the engine. The good news is that it didn't smoke. The bad news is that I could distinctly see a bright, orange 5-inch-long flame coming from the engine where the gas had spilled. No problem, I reasoned. The gas will burn off in a minute. After a couple of minutes, the flame was still flaming and I was beginning to not be at peace about the whole thing.

Brrrinnggg. "Hi, Dad.....Yeah, I'm fine.....What do you do when your lawnmower is on fire?"

"Well, you get your fire extinguisher."

"Where would that be?"

"Wherever you put it when you bought one." Since I had never bought a fire extinguisher, I wasn't happy. "What do you do if you don't have a fire extinguisher?"
"You get the garden hose."

Now, in my own defense, the thought of getting the hose had crossed my mind, but I had seen too many fire safety videos where they tell you that you shouldn't use water on some types of fires. I was afraid that using the hose on my flaming lawnmower would set off a thermonuclear explosion. By now, however, the little 5-inch flame had matured into a blazing inferno which would make forest fires in California look like candles on a birthday cake.

I quickly hung up the phone, and rushed to get the hose which, as fate would have it, was attached to the opposite side of the house from where the lawnmower was. I turned on the water, grabbed the hose, ran to the other side of the house, and aimed the stream at my lawnmower. As fate would have it again, the water fell about a foot short. (No, I'm not kidding.) I went into slight panic mode and dialed 911. "Welcome to Verizon Wireless. We're sorry; we cannot complete your call as dialed." Click.

WHATT!!!

Now, I was really panicked. I told my daughter to go get a neighbor, while I prayed a half-prayer. You know that story where Jesus multiplies the fish and bread to feed the 5000 men? Well, He must have miraculously lengthened the garden hose because when I tried it again, the water hit the target. I doused it for several minutes just to be sure the fire was really extinguished.

Now, I know some of you might be thinking I made up this story. Below are a couple of pictures, including a close-up of the charred engine.


All is well now, and I get to buy a new mower. But a thought kept running through my mind as these events were taking place: The Flaming Lawnmowers would be a good name for a rock band.

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Wednesday, June 18, 2008

America's Most Wanted...Homeowner

I'm a lawbreaker. I've been caught red-handed. Or maybe "green-thumbed."

We just got a letter from our friendly neighborhood Homeowner's Association. It reads, in part, as follows:

Dear Homeowner:

As the managing agent for ______ we are assigned the duty of enforcing the Association's...rules and regulations....We are often contacted by owners and other residents from the community with reports of rules violations.

I am writing this letter today to inform you that it has been observed or reported that the following item(s) is (are) in need of your attention:

6/04/08 - Please mow, edge, weed and maintain the lawn. Thank you.

We thank you in advance for correcting the referenced item(s) and request that you address this matter within ten (10) days after your receipt of this letter.
"Exhibit A"

"Exhibit B"

This brings up all kinds of "issues" in my mind. First of all, who ratted us out?! I wouldn't say that I'm as friendly as Andy Taylor, Cliff Huxtable, or Mike Brady, but I think I'm a pretty good neighbor, and a darn good American. I put my trash out on the curb on a regular basis. I don't blast rap music at all hours of the night. My children are under constant adult supervision and do not roam the streets like hooligans. I pay my taxes, pledge allegiance to the U.S. and Texas flags (as required by law), and support our troops.

But for some this just isn't enough.

Don't these concerned "owners and other residents from the community" understand that I have a higher mission than to worry about the height of my grass? I'm protecting the environment, for goodness' sake! The longer my grass is, the more greenhouse gases will be absorbed and the more oxygen will be put back into the atmosphere. (Go ask your science teacher if you doubt my word.) It's not just the rainforests in Brazil that need protecting; it's the lawns in Texas that we really should be concerned about. So while these earth-haters are persecuting me, I'm trying to save the planet. Where is Al Gore when you need him?

New Yorkers are much more sympathetic to environmental issues than Texans. No one ever criticized my gardening skills up north. In Rochester, I would let my lawn go for weeks without trimming it. My daughter went out in the front yard to play one day and we couldn't locate her for several hours.

But hey, I'm not bitter about the letter. "When in Rome..." as they say. I just bought some gas for my mower. I had to hock my wedding ring to pay for it. No, actually, my father-in-law gave me a gas can with some gas in it. He told me, "Brian, it's a good thing the Homeowners' Association is on top of things. It'll keep your property values high." Now, that I think about it, perhaps that's why our former next-door-neighbors in Rochester sold their house for so much more than what we sold ours for. They actually mowed their lawn more than once a season.

At any rate, I'm finally ready to mow my lawn. Just as soon as I find my son.

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Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Six Flags and one headache


We went to Six Flags over Texas a couple weeks ago and had a wonderful time. It was the first time for all of us, and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. We wish we had had a video camera for the above ride. Sausage was laughing himself silly on this ride.

We got season passes for $60 plus tax—a great deal when you consider that one day at Disneyland is $66.

The only down side was that I got a little woozy on the Batman ride. Well...maybe it was the merry-go-round, but that horse going up and down is a killer!

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Thursday, June 12, 2008

I'm surrounded by pastors

I may have mentioned that at my previous school, there were a lot of former pastors on staff, including an assistant principal and two teachers.

A couple of days ago, we got mail meant for our next-door-neighbor. The kids and I walked over there to deliver the mail.

"Hi, I'm Brian, your next-door-neighbor. We got your mail by mistake." It turned out that the neighbor to whom the mail belonged had moved out, and another family moved in.

"Oh, hello," my neighbor responded, "I'm Rev. Andrews."

Freaky.

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Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Elmo is a 45-year-old Black man


Did you see Oprah the other day? It's true. She introduced the person who is the voice of Elmo, and it's this guy named Kevin Clash. He comes walking out with a furry red muppet on his hand. I would not have believed it if I hadn't heard "Elmo" talk.

How do you get a break like that? I mean, who says when their a kid, "When I grow up, I'm going to make millions of dollars by never showing my face and talking in a squeaky voice."

It was an inspiring story, I have to admit. Maybe five years from now, I could be preaching in a squeaky voice and hiding behind a giant pulpit.

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Monday, June 9, 2008

Moving forward in teaching

School let out for the summer May 30. That was certainly a day of rejoicing for both teachers and students alike. I had to go in the following Monday to finish doing grades and check out for the year.

It had been a somewhat rough five months of teaching. I had heard that the first year of teaching is the hardest, and that many would-be teachers don't continue after that. Now I know why.

There were days I didn't know if I was going to make it. I remember one morning literally laying out on the floor weeping and crying out to God because I did not want to go into work that day. But what do you do? You get up and go anyway.

The Lord was always faithful, however, and would send other teachers my way on those days when I felt like never coming back. One day in particular stands out. I had been struggling with some things personally and related to being a teacher. Two fellow teachers came into my classroom during my prep period. Both of these men had been pastors in their former lives, as well. We had a great time sharing about personal and professional stuff. At the end of our time, they prayed for me. It was a very encouraging time, and just what I needed to get me through all the difficult things I was facing.

Thanks, Jeff and Jeremy. You guys are a blessing.

Next year, I'll be working at an Early College High School that is opening up in the new school year. The mission of an ECHS is to give motivated, at-risk students a rigorous, quality education such that after four years of high school they will have an Associates degree in college. I am looking forward to teaching students who, along with their parents, have made specific commitments to working hard to achieve high educational goals. My life's passion is still to be involved in full-time ministry, but this will suffice for now.

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We've moved in!

We closed on our house Thursday, May 22 and began the moving in process that Saturday. Fortunately, we had the long Memorial Day weekend to get things sorta set up.
Our POD arrived safely with no major casualties. There was one lampshade that didn't survive, but in reality it probably never should have left Rochester.

We got our fridge set up pretty quickly (thanks to Amy's dad), but our washer and dryer and stove weren't delivered for another nine days. The house did come with an electric stove, but we wanted a gas one because electricity is more expensive. We're selling this brand new GE electric stove in case anyone out there is interested.

Dad got the gas stove hooked up—after cutting into our wall and cabinet, attaching gas pipes and valves, and hooking up other doohickeys. And we can wash our clothes now, which our neighbors and friends at church really appreciate.

But we still felt like we were in the bush until we got internet. That was a relief. Man does not live on bread alone; he must also have cable. And it got installed just in time. We were starting to pick up bad habits like reading books and talking to each other. Glad that's over.

So as I said, we're back and we'll try not to keep you in too much suspense. But in case it does take us a while to blog again, try reading a book.

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Sunday, May 4, 2008

Offspring update

Sausage turned two a few days ago. We had a little celebration for him the next day (since I had a night class to go to on his birthday.)

He likes listening to music. He thinks every song is called "Jingle Bells," and at the end of the song he says, "Yeah, Jesus!" (whether it's a Christian song or not.)

He loves reading "Clifford," playing chase and going to the park. He's also becoming a fan of Thomas, like his older brother.

Smoky turned three months a few weeks ago. He's a lot more interactive—smiling and talking. We're looking forward to the time he learns to sleep through the night on a regular basis.


Cakes enjoys being a big sister. She likes taking care of her littlest brothers. Her writing is getting more attention, too, as she has taken to journaling (like her dad.)

Sunday school has been a very positive experience. If you ask her what her favorite part about it is, she'll probably tell you it's the "Victory Points" they earn for completing weekly assignments.

Morsel enjoys playing games on the computer (when Dad is willing to share the computer.) He likes to build things with his K'NEX building set, and is quite the inventor.

We thank God for these four unique gifts.

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Sunday, April 20, 2008

Nicknames

Blogger Mark, Allison & Tessa Joy said...

burrito, sausage... do a post on what you call each of the 4 and how they got that name. That would be intersting to hear.

This post is about the nicknames of our kids. (BTW, Amy had some concerns about using the real names of our kids on our blog, so we made the decision to use their nicknames.) Here are the stories:
Our firstborn, H: When H was born, the nurse wrapped her up in a receiving blanket, gave her to me and said, "Here's your little burrito." She did look like a burrito, so that's what I called her: "Little Burrito." Of course as anyone knows me can testify, I am never content with just one name. So Little Burrito became "Burrito" and "Burr" for short. A few weeks later, I looked at her and called her "Babycakes." I don't know where that one came from. But that name soon morphed into Cakes, Cakies (pronounced "Kay-keys"), Cakes of Baby and Cakeasaurus.

Our secondborn, I: He was small for quite a while. Keeping with the food theme, I thought of something small and tasty, like an appetizer or a morsel of food. He became "Morsel." That morphed into a few offshoots: Mr. Morsel, Mr. Morse, Morsey, and Morse. When he started solid foods, he began to gain weight pretty quickly. He became "Mr. Plump and Juicy" or "PnJ." Over time, it was the Morsel nickname (and its various forms) which stuck.

Our thirdborn, J: I looked at him one day when he was wrapped up in a receiving blanket. He reminded me of a Vienna sausage. Thus, he was christened "Sausage." This name evolved into Saucy, Saucer and Sauce. Months later, I was watching "Barney" with the kids. (OK, I was watching it by myself. So what?) Anyway, Barney uses the phrase "Super-dee-duper" quite a bit. For some reason, I applied it to J, and he acquired the nickname "Super-dee-duper." That was too long, however, so I shortened it to "Super Duper." Following the pattern, this nickname also has many versions, such as Super Dee, Sup Dee Dup, Super, and Sup. (Note: Sup and Dup rhyme with "soup." Note also: I do not call him Supy. That would be going too far.)

Our fourthborn, A: First of all, I know you're probably asking yourself why we didn't name our fourthborn something that started with a "K" in order to continue the pattern. The short answer is: just because. The long answer is: just because. I have to admit, I had a hard time with the nickname of A. I actually began to worry about it. Will my youngest grow up without a nickname? Will he need years of therapy and/or healing and deliverance ministry because of the emotional trauma of not having one? Well, one day A reminded me of one of those Little Smokies. You know those 1-inch smoked sausages that you can make pigs-in-a-blanket with? So he became Little Smoky. Most of the time, I refer to him as Smoky, Smoke, Da Shmoke, Shmoky, etc.

Each child also has at least one theme song or tune associated with him or her. But that's a whole other story.

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Friday, April 18, 2008

House update 4/13

Here's the Sausage on our new driveway. The garage doors were put in that week. The yard has also been graded.

How about a peek inside?

This is the soon-to-be kitchen. If you look closely at the bottom left corner of the picture, you can see what appears to be water. Yes, it is water. And yes, there was a leak coming from the bathtub....And yes, there was a good amount of water on the floor and a bit on the drywall. For some reason, I can't seem to get away from overflowing water. (A little inside joke for the Rochesterians.)

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Thursday, April 17, 2008

Downpour

OK, Texas has some crazy weather. And Texans love it that way. It makes for good conversation. I just watched a tag team weather report in which a male and female reporter talked about thunderstorms, tornado warnings, and golf-ball-size hail for about an hour without a commercial break. Well, it may have been only 20 minutes, but really, how many times can you repeat the same doppler weather images.

It didn't look that bad outside, so I decided to go get gas for my car. I got my gas—having to dip into our retirement account—and proceeded back home. All was well until I was about 6 minutes from the house. It started with a light drizzle, and then out of nowhere BAM! It was like a fireman aimed his water hose right at my windshield. I turned the wipers on high, to no avail. I turned on the high beams. Although it didn't help me see the road or potential pedestrians, I could see the rain very clearly. I probably should not have been driving as fast as I was, given the conditions. But rather than slow down, I decided to crank up the worship CD and sing a little louder. I couldn't see any better, but it made the ride more exhilarating.

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House update 4/6


The good news: the brick is in place. The bad news: somebody ordered the wrong style of brick. The good news: the builder is giving us $2000 in incentives for their mistake. And really, who cares what the brick looks like.

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Saturday, April 12, 2008

GOALLLLL!


The Burrito has played in five games so far. Usually she plays forward, but sometimes the coach has her play goalie. In her first game, she scored the only goal for her team. (I don't think I embarrassed her too much with my loud cheering.) She is really growing as an athlete and in sportsmanship.

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Thursday, March 27, 2008

Theft, violation and bitterness

I'm not happy.

Today, I went to a department meeting. A sub was handling my class during the meeting. While I was away, a student or students stole my timer, three of my graphing calculators and possibly my car and house keys. (I haven't been able to find the keys, and I don't think that I simply misplaced them.)

To top it off, not having my keys made me over an hour late for a review session I had to go to for my teacher credential program.

The feeling of violation is what I hate the most. I'm also not sure what the best response is. I don't want to be mired in bitterness. This really made my heart cold toward my students. It's hard to separate out the good from the bad, the innocent from the guilty. I don't like that. I don't like not knowing who's responsible. I can fully understand David's and the other psalmists' pleas to God to take vengeance on their enemies.

"Help, Lord!"

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Sunday, March 23, 2008

House update 3/24



Yeah, the date's correct. I've got a backlog of pictures. It's been a busy time.

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Happy Resurrection Day!

Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed. The same power that raised Christ from the dead is available today for us who believe (Eph. 1:19-20).

Have a blessed day!

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Soccer dad


Well, I've finally joined that exclusive club that I thought I'd never be a part of: Soccer Dads. The Burrito is enjoying playing on the same team—The Purple Dragons—as her friend who lives two doors down from us. Her first real game is this Saturday.

"So, how do you feel about your upcoming game?"

"Excited."

There you have it, folks.In case you go to the game, she wanted you to know her number so you could easily identify her and cheer.

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House update 3/16

A little late, but here are some pix of our house from last week.
As you can see, we allow our children to roam around freely in dangerous construction zones without wearing hard hats. Please do not report us.

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Saturday, March 15, 2008

Spring Break!...and a new perspective.

Spring Break officially began for me 3:10 p.m. yesterday. I'm so excited to have a week off to (partially) recuperate. Amy's excited to have a couple extra hands to help with our growing tribe.

We visited a home group at our church for the first time this past Wednesday night. I asked them to pray for me for my teaching situation. I basically said, "Please pray for me; I hate my job." I think their prayers, plus the prayers of many others—like you, are starting to have an effect. I'm getting some new perspective on my teaching job.

Last night as I was walking outside with our newborn, I was reminded of how many of my students are fatherless in some way. "Daisy's" father left home when she was only five. She told me he had been planning on being a pastor. He owes thousands of dollars in child support. "And to top it off," she told me, "he forgot my birthday. I guess that's why I carry so much anger inside."

A couple of days ago, I found out that the mother of another one of my students is terminally ill. Apparently, she could go at any time. The student's uncle told me that the father is not in the picture at all. Is it any wonder this student has some behavioral issues?

I've been feeling convicted that I need to more intentionally reach out to my students—especially the boys. I can't keep bemoaning the situation and complaining about what is, when I, by the power of the Holy Spirit, can have an impact in some students' lives.

We'll see what happens.

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Friday, March 14, 2008

Happy Pi Day! 3.14

Today, we celebrate that most famous of irrational numbers: pi. For those of you that forgot your middle school math, pi (approximately 3.14) is a special number used to find the perimeter (distance around) a circle. The formula is pi times the diameter. So if you have a circular jacuzzi that is 8 feet across, the distance around it would be approximately 3.14 x 8 or 25.12 feet.

By the way, pi is called "irrational" because the digits of pi go on forever without repeating themselves. According to one website, in 2002, a team of people calculated pi to 1.2411 trillion digits!

Anyway, I hope your Pi Day was as exciting as mine.

UPDATE:

Here's a cool website that lets you estimate the value of pi by throwing needles on a table.

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Sunday, March 9, 2008

Soul update

We survived daylight savings time, and were up and ready for the 9:00 a.m. church service. The pastor spoke on why there is suffering in the world. When I really stop and think about what others go through, I have nothing to complain about. I am blessed in so many ways, not the least of which is my family. Nevertheless, a few things have been weighing on me.

Teaching has been very difficult. There have been days I have wanted to quit. I feel overwhelmed much of the time. Behavior issues of some of my students cause me a great deal of stress and frustration. Sometimes I have absolutely no idea how to handle a particular situation. But I press on because I know God has me here for a reason, and the leading was so clear.

I have also dealt with loneliness quite a bit lately. I'm used to having a group of men that I hang out with regularly for fellowship. I have not found such a group yet. My soul is aching for quality time with Christian brothers. I know the Lord has something out there for me, but waiting on it to materialize is tough. This is my biggest prayer request at the moment.

Not being involved in ministry is tough. At times I feel my life lacks direction and purpose. Every once in a while, I have an interaction with a student where I feel I've really made a connection and can see fruit. Those times don't occur frequently enough for me.

Gotta go. I'm still missing that hour of sleep.

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A firm foundation


"For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ."
—1 Corinthians 3:11

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Tuesday, March 4, 2008

There's snow place like home

Yes, that is snow on the ground. And no, we did not move back to Rochester. This is the backyard of Amy's parents' house in Dallas (where we're currently staying.) I enjoyed watching the snow fall late last night as I sat in Panera Bread inputting my students' grades and posting them online. Have I told you I love free coffee and free internet?

Here's the Morsel enjoying a cold one. The snow didn't last very long here, but it was nice to be reminded of our battles with extreme weather in upstate NY.

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House update

Here's a picture of the plastic stuff they put down before laying the foundation. My wife says the technical term for it is "plastic stuff." It's starting to look like home already.

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Monday, February 25, 2008

Groundbreaking


Here's the first picture of our new house. Ground was broken on it just a few days ago. The house is located in the southern part of Arlington, a suburb between Dallas and Ft. Worth. We're excited about the fact that the house will be relatively close to the church at which we recently began fellowshipping.

We're hoping to close on the house in mid to late May. We'll try to have regular (weekly?) updates on the progress of the house. But you know us: no promises!

The house is symbolic of the fresh start in life we're getting here in Texas. Although being a Texan is sinking in now, sometimes I still stop and ask myself, "How in the world did I get here?" Never a dull moment.

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Sunday, January 20, 2008

We found a church!

Church-hopping stinks.

We've visited about seven different churches since we've been here. For the most part, they have been either too far away (50 minute drive) or haven't been a good fit.

I was at a really low point a few weeks ago. It was about 6:50 a.m. and I was on my way to the school where I teach. I had been having a rough week, and I was really feeling the pain of not having a body of believers with whom to fellowship. "God, why is there no place for us?"

The next Sunday, we tried the last church on our list of churches to try. It wasn't for us. Amy and I were so discouraged after that. We didn't know what to do. That night we talked about our situation. We realized that to a large degree, we were still not committed to being here in Dallas. We wanted to think that this was only a temporary thing. We had even toyed with the idea of settling for a church that was an hour away because "we're not going to be here long anyway." But that night, God showed us that we really needed to embrace being here. We committed to "diving in" to life here, even though we don't know what the future holds. We prayed and asked God to give us a church close by where we could really get plugged in. We were no longer content to just "sneak in at the beginning of the service, and run out at the end."

Right after we prayed, I did a Google search on churches near us. Buried in one of the lists was Grace Community Church. The name immediately struck me. We looked through the website and saw that there were a number of similarities between GCC and our previous church. It's fairly close to where we live now, and is quite close to where we are thinking about moving.

We visited last Sunday for the first time. They were celebrating their 20th anniversary as a church that day. We were warmly greeted by a number of people, and shown where the kids' classes were. Burrito went to her Sunday School class, but Morsel stayed with us. (Sausage stayed with us, as well, because he was too sick to go to the nursery.)

When we walked into the sanctuary, it felt like home quickly. I cried through most of the worship set. The sermon was about Joshua and was particularly meaningful to me. They had a lunch afterward, so we stayed and met more people.

Today, I took the three oldest to GCC, while Amy stayed home with the newborn. All three went to Sunday School or nursery today—even Morsel, who has never gone to Sunday School by himself since we left Rochester. I was glad that all seemed to have a good time. I look forward to what God will do in our family through this church.

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Learning about grace

Last week, I was rushing to leave work. It had been a long and difficult day at the school, and I was anxious to just get home. On my way to the parking lot, I ran into one of the assistant principals where I teach. He asked me how things were going so far, and this led into a longer conversation.

He told me he could relate to my situation. He had been a pastor, youth evangelist, musician and missionary. He loved working in full-time ministry. He never thought he'd be working in education, but this is where God has led him for now. Though the transition has been difficult at times, he is grateful for the chance to serve the Lord in a public school setting. He talked to me about the opportunities we have to show the grace of Jesus to the students at our school, and to do it without compromising truth.

This conversation was just what I needed. God put me right next someone who has been where I've been, but is a little farther along the road than I am. I'm so grateful to the Lord for that gift. I was also convicted about how far I fall short at showing grace.

Another growth area. Thank God His grace extends to me.

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"I'm not angry!"

Three weeks ago, we visited Northwood Church. The speaker was recounting the life of Moses, and how God did not allow Moses to enter the Promised Land. He noted various points in Moses' life where his anger got the best of him: When he killed the Egyptian (Exodus 2:11–15), when he broke the stone tablets on which were the 10 Commandments (Exodus 32:19–20), and finally when he struck the rock with his staff rather than speak to the rock (Numbers 20:1–12). The last offense was the reason Moses was not allowed to lead the people into the Promised Land.

On each occasion, Moses could claim that he was righteously angry. He killed the Egyptian because the Egyptian was beating a fellow Israelite. He threw down the stone tablets because the Israelites had made an idol and were worshiping it. He struck the rock because the Israelites were whining, moaning and complaining—again—about not having any water, and questioning the wisdom of leaving slavery in Egypt.

Who can blame Moses for being ticked off? If only people would get their acts together and do the right thing, Moses wouldn't be forced to fly into a rage.

At least, that's what Moses thought.

God did not see things the same way. After he struck the rock, God said to him, "Because you " God expected Moses to represent Him and show His character regardless of what everyone else was doing. Moses was supposed to set the example. Moses was to be holy as God was holy. If the example didn't reflect God's character, people would not know what God was truly like. Without holiness, no one will see the Lord (Hebrews 12:14).

I've justified my anger on many occasions. "They're not doing it right. Look what they've done! Did you hear what she said!? Look how he's acting!" But God's Word says, "In your anger, do not sin" (Ephesians 4:26) and "Let all...anger...be put away from you" (Ephesians 4:31).

I can see that this is one issue that God wants to work on at this time in my life. "Lord, just don't let the process be too painful."

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It's a boy!


The newest Andrews was born yesterday, 1/19/08 at 4:31 a.m. He was 7 lb., 10 oz. and 20 5/8 inches. Amy delivered at a birthing center. We used an intern midwife. Amy and I both thought the whole experience was much better than delivering at a hospital with a doctor. The midwife and two interns were all Christian women, which definitely added to the sense of peace.

Yes, he was born 1/19. Amy was skeptical when I told her I thought the baby would come on that day. I have been reading through the Psalms the last few weeks. Last week I finished Psalm 119, the longest chapter in the Bible. The next several Psalms are very short. When I was looking at my Bible, it was if the the different Psalms became dates; i.e. Psalm 120 was 1/20, Psalm 121 was 1/21, etc. To make a long story short, I sensed the Lord saying that Psalm 119, the longest chapter, represented the fact that Amy would go into labor that day. Also, the next days would be easier (as the next chapters are very short).

So far "Double A" has been a very content baby. He's hardly cried at all since he was born. He slept six hours straight last night. (Thank You, Lord!) And he pretty much sleeps in the daytime as well. We'll take it as long as we can get it—especially since my schedule is going to get even more busy.

Blessed are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the Lord!
Psalm 119:1

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Friday, January 18, 2008

Hey, it's me, Amy

Well, since it appears Brian has dropped the ball with regards to blogging...

Just kidding. :) He's been working like a madman, trying to adjust to his new teaching job. As far as I'm concerned, he's my hero. I'm so grateful that he's willing to teach and pour himself into it even though teaching isn't exactly something he's particularly passionate about.

Word on the street is (read: according to his principal), he's doing a great job. I must say, those 9th graders are giving him a run for his money. And I keep thinking: Was I that ridiculous when I was in 9th grade? All I've gotta say is, I'm glad it's Brian and not me; I would have most certainly pinched someone's head off by now. In any case, I'm sure he'll be back to his regular blogging schedule...uh...hopefully soon.

As for the rest of us, we're truckin' right along. Living with Grandma and Grandpa is a definite hit and we're slowly accepting our fate the fact that we now live in Texas. Yes, we live in Texas, y'all. (Please wait a moment while I let that sink in; it's slightly disturbing. OK, I'm OK.) Actually, Texas isn't all that bad. I mean, how could one complain about mostly sunny weather, no snow and temperatures that rarely dip below 30 degrees? Also, the people here are exceptionally friendly.

The kids and I spend our days doing our schoolwork and heading up the cooking responsibilities (a nice trade off for living rent-free if you ask me!). We've been looking for a church since we arrived in November and finally visited one last week that looks promising. The atmosphere and style are right up our alley and unlike many of the others we've visited, this one is less than 10 miles down the road (most of the others were at least a 45 minute drive). We're hoping that we will now start making some friends.

Otherwise, we're just waiting the arrival of the new baby. Brian has predicted that the baby will be born on January 19 (that would be tomorrow). Now, Brian is an exceptional man, as you all know, and I wouldn't trade him for the world. However, I hate to say it, but I no longer listen to his predictions about the arrival of our offspring. Not after what happened with Josiah anyway. For those of you that don't know, he predicted Josiah would be born on April 7, 8 or 9 (or something like that) and Josiah didn't show up until April 28. I can't tell you how thrilled I was about that (uh, hope you caught the sarcasm there).

I suppose I should mention (in Brian's defense) that he predicted Isaiah would be born on December 1 and don't you know, that kid was born at 12:35 am on December 1. So, when it came time for Josiah to be born, I had faith in him. But well, now, well, let's just say my faith in his predictions has waned. Although I suppose there is a possibility he could redeem himself if this baby is born tomorrow. We'll have to see...

In any case, we are grateful that God led us to the midwives and birthing center He did. My only prayer now is that when the time comes, we'll be able to make it to the birthing center before getting stuck in a traffic jam and having to give birth in the car on the side of the road (Dallas traffic can be like that).

Anyway, I'll sign off for now. Just thought I'd throw in my two cents. I don't expect to post often because I tend to be flaky like that. Lots of love to all of you!

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Sunday, January 13, 2008

Blogging hiatus

I haven't blogged in a while as I've been massively swamped adjusting to teaching 9th grade math. I hope to get some more posts in soon.

Amy is due in a week, so we'll keep you informed about that. By the way, we have decided to go with a midwife for the delivery. Our other three were all born in hospitals, but this time around things seemed to point to using a midwife.

We really liked the midwife and the interns with whom she works. They are all Christian women and seem very gentle and caring.

More later....

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Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Olé for Benda Tacos

Somewhat surprisingly, we haven't found a whole lot of authentic Mexican food since we've been here. We've encountered plenty of "Tex-Mex," but that just doesn't cut it. So we were happy to have discovered these tacos sold out of a tiny window at a service station in downtown Dallas. We affectionately call them "Benda Tacos" after the name of the owner of the service station. It's a very interesting place because besides the food and gas, you can also see a herd of longhorn right on the property.

We first visited the place last Christmas (as in 2006), and have been hooked ever since. They're the really small, soft tacos with your choice of chicken, shredded beef, ground beef, steak or pork. Trust me, these tacos are to die for. And at only $1.16 + tax, you're not going to find a better deal. The place is open 24 hours, and the tacos are best eaten at about midnight after your regular dinner has pretty much settled. (They also serve breakfast tacos in the mornings, but we haven't tried those yet.)

My daughter, Burrito (no relation to the tacos), wrote an acrostic poem. Here's the unedited version with a few explanatory notes:

Let's go to Benda Tacos!
Exciting! Huh?
To Benda Tacos we go!
So what are we waiting for?

Go Go Go to Benda Tacos!
Olsons, Andrews, Miersmas! [our extended families]

Tacos, Tacos, Tacos, Tacos!!
Ohhhhhhhh Tacos!

Benda Tacos! Benda Tacos
Exciting, Exciting!
No, Benda Tacos instead!
Down to Benda Tacos!
And to Benda Tacos!

Tacos yea!
Animals we see, Tacos we eat!
Cute donkeys, yummy Tacos!
Ohhhhhhhh, Tacos!
SocaT Tacos! Benda Tacos! ["SocaT" is "Tacos" spelled backwards]

"I highly suggest the pork or chicken tacos...
if you know what I mean."

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