Monthly Archives: April 2011

sirens at 5:00am

The sirens don’t usually startle me, neither do storms. I’m a want to be chaser. If I didn’t have a family, I’d chase. I love the energy in the air,  the tension in the atmosphere, the pregnant pause that precedes a storm.

So, I usually get the kids to the basement, to our below ground room and head to the front porch to watch and pray. But, this morning, something in the siren signaled for me to do otherwise.

The storm, actually straight line winds, blew strong, north of our enclave. Trees did go down near to us. But, the worst of it headed for the city. This morning, something in that siren spoke differently, warned in another tone, “Don’t play today. Don’t take time to watch, pray.”

The plan is to let us all out at 1:00pm today. There is a big storm set on the way from MS. The weather folk are all a frenzy. It gets like this every other day in Alabama in the spring time. Tornadoes are no big deal, unless they have your name.

It’s cool, right now, too cool for good storms. But, that siren this morning struck a chord not usually hammered and it’s still ringing in my ear.



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Are you going to write the letters?

“Mrs. Sullivan, are you going to write the letters?”

I have written two curricula and hosted three extra classes unexpectedly for them this year. I have written the students in those classes something most everyday. I have helped with their senior play. I have counseled and cajoled them into sticking with things and giving their best. I have been there through break-ups and the falling away of friendships and minor tragedies. I have, best I know how, been there. I have not yet, written senior letters. I wrote them the past two years. I guess these seniors heard about it.

I shrugged my shoulders at the question. I now have some of these students 4, yes 4, times in one day. You would think that they would never want to hear my name again. ( Some probably don’t and I don’t blame them.) I thought since I had been writing and sharing so much of what I was writing with them that I could get away with not writing the letters. ( It took me days to write them last year.)

I’m not real sure that they mean much to most of the students. A few of them have come  back and told me otherwise. Most of the letters probably got a quick skim and ended up in a wad in the bottom of a book-bag, if they made it past my trash can. Two years ago, one of the girls cried in class as she read it. She didn’t see what I shared coming. One girl made a trip back from college to tell me what it did for her. I got an extra big hug at graduation from one fella. I hope this doesn’t sound like bragging. That’s three stories of some impact. I wrote 60 -70 letters. That batting average isn’t so great.

I’m really weighing this. It’s so much work and honestly, I’m pretty overwhelmed right now. It’s not something I can just do for a few of them. It really is an all or nothing proposition.

The girl who asked me about the letters today has really blue eyes, strikingly so, like ol’ Trent’s. I keep seeing those eyes and remembering notes she wrote me when she had my bible class, the christmas card she wrote me and the gifts she made for me. Most anybody who writes a note likes to get them, a lot. It’s usually a favorite thing. This girl has had a tough year. She has worked really hard in school. And she has opened her heart in so many ways to God’s love and to growth.

What could possibly keep me from writing her something worthy  of who she is and who she is growing to be? Could having to write a few more letters?


See y’all next week. I’ve got a few letters to write.


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Reading wrong

A fellow faculty member said to me the other day, “These kids really don’t like to worship.” I understand how that may appear so.

We have mandatory chapel once a week at my school. The speaker is usually my bud, Jeremy. He does a good job. Most of the kids listen to what he shares. We also sing a bit. Well, a few of the kids sing with the band of students that play. Most just stand there. Even many of the kids who sing their lungs out at youth group just stand there. Obviously, we have not discerned the dynamic that facilitates freedom and worship during chapel. But, that doesn’t mean the students do not like to worship. On the contrary, I think that it is one of their favorite, even if undiscovered, things. So, in bible class, I try to find ways to facilitate worship amongst us all: the lovers and the leery. It’s a tough assignment. Yesterday, I tried to do so for the first time during this section of bible class, as many of the students had requested such.  I learned a lot.

It’s always hard to discern the best posture and mode the first time that a group gathers for such. Do I put them close together? far apart? Will they want to see one another? Will that make them nervous? Should I put the words on a screen in the front of the room? Will that be more help or crutch? What will help break up the thousands of fears that float through the minds of teenagers?

In the class are some of the students (people actually) who know me best in the world, we’ve been everywhere and through everything together, we’ve asked one another all the ugly questions and screamed at and to God often, together. We are pretty dang comfortable “out there” with one another. Then there are those who have sung thousands of songs with me, but have never been out so far, with anyone, far as I can tell. And then there are those who seemed a bit terrified even sitting in a darkened room, with music blaring – it helps those of us who don’t sing as well as others, out of earshot of any other.

And one last group, those who have not spent much time in such a place…but they are made for it, nonetheless. They are those instantly addicted, as am I and my comrades.

I spread them out, cranked my speakers and filled that auditorium up with sound. Some of us walked and prayed and sang, some of us stood and sang, some of us sat and sang, some of us stared ahead like deer, seemingly terrified. It was okay. But nothing like I’ve seen it even among novices and the unacquainted. I listened and watched and tried to discern what? what needed to give?

When the final bell rang, I turned down the music and motioned so that all, who desired, could leave. Many stayed on, still. Breathing a little more of the better air. Several whispered, “Do we have to leave?”

I don’t think that I got the dynamic right. Maybe bringing us in close will be better for these. Something seemed amiss…some facet that would have  facilitated flow and trust escaped me. ( I have some ideas for next time.) But, I really think that these kids do like to worship. I think we adults read them wrong on that. Maybe I think it because the last questions that the students asked me as they left was, “Can we do it again? Can we do it everyday?”


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You do have me

Played Gungor for the kids in Bible class today. Oh my…we are all in love.

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the rains fall

The rains fall and the creeks rise and we ride, kayaks and canoes. Spring is the season to ride, the rains make the falls flow and keep us from having to do summer’s work of walking the boats over slippery shoals. I have never fallen out of the boat, I’ve eaten many a branch and bungle of hanging foliage, but I have never tipped a boat, even one stranded on the rocks. But, I have so many times fallen when I have been forced out and onto the rocks. I’ve smashed my knees and cut my legs and gone under in two to three feet of water so many times.

So we pray for spring’s storms’ rain – and deal with a little thunder and lightning and an occasion strong wind. It makes the river run, strong and deep and safe.

Life seems so much the same of late. I feel the reverberations of atmospheric collisions, I see the flash of conflicts come and coming. But, soon comes the  downpour and its  flooding, surging, propelling waters.


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the days are slowing

The days are slowing. I know that my seniors feel the slowness. They ask me, “How many more days, how many more minutes?” all the time.

But, time is slowing in a different manner for me. The camera of my eye is taking them in at slower, more focused speeds. And I am seeing them differently. I move near to them and something in my spirit stills me and shows me more than I have seen before: a depth being pressed out, as parental presence is pushed aside. And it makes me smile, to see the real them gaining ground. They get more beautiful, more handsome in themselves everyday. It kinda shakes me, this wonderful, terrible work of God in them.

Parents get afraid and I get glad. ( God, help me see the same with mine next year.)

I love these young men and women. This motley crew of misfits and manueverers, now men in the making. These silly girls now suddenly serious and stunning.  I barely recognize them – these whom I might just know best. They are the subjects of my study, they who have spent thousands of hours with me in class, many more in worship, praying and hiking trails and watching ball games and eating Cheezits and BWC potatoes and crying and hoping and dreaming of what just might be…

I hope they know how happy I am to have spent all that time – the most precious thing I have – in their company, learning of them. I hope that they know that I am as for them as I know how to be. I hope they can see just a little of who they are becoming, in my eyes.

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fine arts

These are some of my kids. You’ll probably recognize ol’ Trent. The rests are mine, too. I certainly want to be identified with them. I claim them every time I can. (smile.)

This is a youth festival of sorts we participate in every year. Sorry the footage is so poor. But, hey, as one who spends most of her time with teenagers, I want to go on record as saying they are not getting worse and worse, but the contrary. Our youth kids have more depth and breadth of understanding and genuine heart for people and God than anyone I knew at their ripe old age of 14, 15, 16, 17, 18. I wish you could hear their plans for spending their futures, the kinds of problems that they are preparing to embrace with passion and resolution to be part of the solution.

We were just trying to figure out how to get that first BMW and live the American Dream and be a pretty good Christian, too. ( And I was already attending one of the finest college ministries while I was their age.)

I am so honored to serve God and man alongside of these young people. I ask God all the time to not leave me behind, but to give them the grace to drag/carry me with them as they go forward in the advancement of His Kingdom.

1 Timothy 4:12 (The Message)

 11-14Get the word out. Teach all these things. And don’t let anyone put you down because you’re young. Teach believers with your life: by word, by demeanor, by love, by faith, by integrity. Stay at your post reading Scripture, giving counsel, teaching. And that special gift of ministry you were given when the leaders of the church laid hands on you and prayed—keep that dusted off and in use.

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