When Life Sucks…Use a Straw

On a personal level, these past few weeks been quite trying. A few things that really looked as if they were going to turn out positively spoiled at the last second, I was thrown multiple curve balls, and during the brightest spot of the week (yes, I got to go to Universal Studios for a few days and that was AWESOME), I ended up hurting myself which caused a major damper on my softball game Friday night. For whatever reason, my wife and have been at each other’s throats, and I have just generally been annoyed all the time. If you are in anyway unsure of the reason for this particular rant, it is because I am COMPLANING! Yes, I am.

One of the things that I have always found interesting in life is how your life lessons tend to mirror your particular experiences of that time period. It becomes even more noticeable as a teacher; in this case, a youth group leader planning a lesson for Sunday morning youth worship. I suppose I should have known what would happen when I decided to teach on 1 Kings 19, which is a lovely story in which Elijah the prophet wants to kill himself. Don’t let anyone say that the Bible doesn’t cover the hard topics.

Reading through this particular chapter, it is truly amazing to see the difficulty of life through Elijah’s eyes. In the previous chapter, Elijah had won his biggest battle which included insulting Baal and Asherah—this is one of my all-time favorite stories, because Elijah actually mocks the other gods’ prophets by asking where their god is. “Is he sleeping? Or maybe on the toilet?”—along with the killing of each of the 850 prophets after God shows up licking up the entire area with fire. It’s the perfect chapter for movie treatment. Major obstacles, an angry and hateful king, a harlot queen, and a man confident enough in his mission to bring it all down would make an amazing silver screen spectacle. The problem is, though, that you can’t leave the story half-way finished. Coming down from that incredible mountaintop experience, Elijah has to run for his life from Jezebel (the harlot queen), which is a chase that leads him to destitution at that mouth of a distant cave somewhere.

He hasn’t slept, eaten, relaxed, or talked with a friend in who knows how long. He is alone, starving, and frustrated. That’s when he lets it out. “God, let me die!” He screams his pain into the night air. It’s fairly easy to picture. Elijah finally was able to sit down and take care of his feet that had beaten up and down while on the run. Blisters the size of quarters were compounded on each other, the result of broken sandals not able to hold up to the vicious pace of his gait. Standing must have felt like murder. His blood sugar was most likely crashing, as that can happen to anyone who burns too many carbs without replenishment. Shaking, not just from the cold, he had nothing but a jagged rock on which to lay his head. ‘This sucks’ (or the Hebrew equivalent) must have raced through his head a thousand times. It is at this point, the still, small voice of God begins to act.

Funny, though; God doesn’t fix Elijah’s problems. One of the godliest men in history prayed and prayed for an answer, yet God did not accept his request to die, nor did He change Elijah’s situation. What God did was much more intimate. First, he helped Elijah fall into a deep sleep to regain some strength. Then, He fed Elijah with manna from Heaven. After a few rounds of eating and sleeping, God opened Himself to Elijah through an experience of power. He showed Elijah a windstorm, earthquake, and other powerful storms, yet those God was not in (funny, He was in the fire storm on Mt. Carmel). He was in the still small voice that flew on the gentle breeze. God is who you need Him to be every time you connect with Him. Sometimes it’s the mighty power of a fire storm, or a pillar of cloud to follow. Other times it’s a still, small voice. The key is, He is who you need Him to be.

Lastly, he commands Elijah to go connect with other people and give them instructions – in other words, go back to work. The last command, however, is more than just his next assignment. God has Elijah go find Elisha and start preparing him to be the successor. In other words, God gave Elisha to Elijah to keep him company; build his community. Now he has some support to lean on. It was also the light at the end of the tunnel.

You see, God never promises an easy life. He doesn’t even not promise that we won’t face difficult times on occasion. He goes all the way to promise that we WILL have them! “All those who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:12). Yet, inside the chaos he offers three things: chicken (NOT literally), connection with Him, and community support. God won’t let us die until our job on earth is over. He will give you the resources you need to accomplish the work he has for you. That doesn’t mean you’ll be rich and happy; it means your needs will be met until He decides to call you home. You may not always be comfortable, but at least you know He will provide. Suck it all in; His water does quench.

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What Do You Care About? | The Difference between the NFL’s Labor Union and the Chicago Teacher Strike

Teachers' Excuse for Not Starting Merit Based Pay

The proverbial $#!& finally hit the fan with the late night ending to last week’s Monday Night Football game showcasing the Green Bay Packers and Seattle Seahawks. If you have not seen the play itself, view the video replay on YouTube. NFL fandom has reared its ugly head since the end of that game screaming for blood because of the horribly missed call by the replacement refs; that is, except for Seattle fans (they’ll do anything for a win). This ended up forcing the end of the labor disagreement between the NFL and the officials’ union; a deal was reached and the real refs go back to work immediately.

NFL Lockout Details (NY Times)

  • NFL wanted to dismantle the pensions for officials – officials will keep them
  • NFL wanted to cap salaries – average official salary will increase 15%
  • NFL has option to hire full-time officials (everyone is currently sub-contracted) in 2013

What’s interesting about this is that it was considered a “lock out” meaning that the NFL refused to allow the referees into the games until they (the refs) agreed to the terms the NFL wanted. Roger Goodell (NFL Commissioner) finally caved as a result of the public outcry over horrible officiating since the season began.

Public outcry over this entertainment industry has largely out shadowed another significant labor dispute in recent weeks – the Chicago Teacher’s Strike. This one means the teachers refused to come to work until their demands were met.

Chicago Teacher Strike Details (The Economist)

  • The Teachers Union (TU) want control over hiring and firing of teachers (not teachers and schools)
  • The TU does not like utilizing teacher evaluations – a modified, lower impact evaluation created
  • The teachers ended with an average 17% increase in pay
  • The school year was lengthened, keep teachers at work longer – win for city and education

You would hope that our country would deem educational issues more important than professional sports, but I don’t think anyone alive actually believes that’s true. This is where it hurts, though.

The average Chicago teacher’s salary was $71,236 (ABC News). Notice the financial discrepancies. Notice the pay verses teachers in other cities and states. Notice the teachers willing to harm education for children for a minor increase in pay and the incentive to NOT work harder to educate. Notice the officials were locked out over pensions and raises for a multi-billion dollar industry.

The thing that makes this article so ostentatious is the fact that we are comparing entertainment to education. By looking at the salary figures it is an insult. It is, however, worth noting who the plaintiffs were. Who cared enough to cause work stoppage. The NFL didn’t want to pay officials their pensions. The teachers didn’t want to be paid based on their quality of teaching. It seems to me there are a few priorities out of whack.

Americans, we need to pay more attention to the important things in life – of which a football game (as much as I love the sport) is not included. We also need to understand that only so much money to go around the people who work harder, grow smarter, and fight stronger are the ones who will succeed. Grouping together to fight against those standards goes against what’s best for everyone on the individual level. Why not accept incentive based pay? Because it requires them to put daily effort in what they do. I believe that is one of the biggest reasons our economic system is in such shambles.

Then again, the vast majority of professional sports officials are also board certified lawyers…

How about you? Did you even hear about the teacher’s strike?

Teachers' Excuse for Not Starting Merit Based Pay

From http://www.cnn.com/2012/09/14/opinion/navarrette-teachers-unions/index.html – Don’t you think a solid argument would be more than, “just because you don’t have to do it, I shouldn’t either”?