Daily Walking with God

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Walking in the Word

Plant City's First Baptist Church

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Y’all, y’all, and y’all!!! (I think that about covers everyone.)  Listen up! There are some critical issues going on in our children’s lives.   And your prayers are needed.

Being a teacher isn’t just about teaching reading, writing, and math.  Oh no.  My job goes way beyond just teaching math. 

In my classroom I’m a threat to throw out some “life lessons” to help my students relate math to everyday life, or sometimes just when the need arises according to issues at school. 

Recently I was teaching about integers (negative and positive numbers).  I always enjoy this topic because I get to relate it to the positives and negatives of life.  (Two entries from last May while teaching on this same subject)

For example, when introducing the coordinate plane, in order to help the students remember the positives and negative on the x and y axis, I hit these bullet points (with a little more elaboration of course):

  • X-axis:
    • When you are heading in the “right direction” in life that is a positive thing.
    • If you are choosing to go the opposite way of “doing the right thing” (left), you are making a negative choice.
  • Y-axis:
    • You want to surround yourself with people who lift you “up” and are positive influences on you.
    • If you surround yourself with people who bring you “down”, those folks are negative influences I your life.

Get it!  We all need to be reminded of those hints as well, no matter your age.

Well, this year I wanted/needed to take it a step further.  We teachers discuss about how we have never noticed so many sixth graders who skip school, get drunk, smoke weed, and cut themselves.  Yes, cutting is a huge problem!  So, when I had finished teaching how to add and subtract integers, I decided to take a break and talk about “The Integers of Life”.  Each class discussed out loud some of the positives of friends, school, and family.  I mentioned how heartbreaking it is to see so many young people making negative choices in their lives, and gave some examples.  Then I gave ample time for the kids to express themselves by writing about the positives and negatives in their lives according the headings of: friends, family, school, and self.  The students didn’t even have to write their name on their paper if it would help them to feel free to express themselves honestly.  Some students said they wanted to write their name on their paper so I could talk to them later.  And then…there were those kids who I WISH I would have known who they were.  My heart ached!

Wow!  Wow!  I was ready for some good reading, but this whole lesson…well, let’s just say that it has been and is life changing and hasn’t ended yet.  This will be an ongoing lesson from what I can see. (And all for the good!  Praise Jesus!)

If you were standing outside of my classroom last week, you would have seen students walking out crying and hugging each other.  I had positioned myself in the back of the room in case anyone needed to talk privately.  Kids would approach me and inform me of others who were making negative choices at school. (Yes, names were written down, and the matters are being looked into. The students knew I was writing names and were glad because they are tired of seeing their friends do these things.) Other students would walk up to me with tears streaming down their faces wanting me to hold them while they poured out their hearts.  Some even wanted me to pray with them. 

When I got a chance to sit down and read their papers, I needed a box of tissues.  The pressures that these young people have!  In every class period there was someone who either had a parent in jail, a parent had died, or they knew of friends doing self-harm.

After reading a few, I went to my principal to inform her of my day’s lesson just in case she received any phone calls from parents, and to let her know that I was going to be giving her a few names.  (I thank God for my boss, Susan Sullivan.  She is a great Christian principal!)

The next day, many children returned their “The Integers of Life” paper.  Double-sided and tear stained papers.  One girl turned in her paper the first thing in the morning, and I didn’t even have her in my class until the last period of the day.  When she walked up she had a pleasant smile on her face.  Smiling for her wasn’t uncommon, but her smile is usually a little more devious.  This smile was a smile of relief.  Half way through the day she said, “Mrs. Shuff, did you read my paper?  Did I make you cry?”  She wanted to feel validated!

Below are a few of the highlights from the students’ negative side.  The list is lengthy, and there are so many more comments and details I could write, but you’ll get the picture:

  • My parents don’t trust me.
  • Friends are cutting themselves.
  • I do self-harm.
  • I get bullied a lot.
  • The bullying gets to me and I start to believe it.
  • I hate my step-dad.
  • Mom and dad don’t come home until very late and I only eat ice cubes.
  • I think I’m fat and suck at everything.
  • Some friends are fake.
  • My family argues a lot.
  • People make fun of the way I look.
  • My dad died.
  • My dad used to cheat on my mom and hit her.
  • My dad does drugs. Drinks, smokes, and tries to ruin my life.
  • I have a hard time trusting others.
  • I’m shy.  I’m tall.  I have a skin disease and people make fun of me.
  • A friend drinks alcohol.
  • A friend came to school drunk.
  • My parent(s) is (are) in jail.
  • I’ve thought about cutting myself.
  •  Get pressured into doing things that I don’t want to do.
  • I get pushed around and picked on.
  • Kids bring weed to school.
  • My dad doesn’t listen to me.
  • My family doesn’t have money and we struggle paying the bills.
  • Friends ignore me.
  • I want to prove my dad wrong.  He says things like: “You are never going to reach college.  You are never going to be what you want to be.  You need me to have even gotten this far.  You are not smart enough”
  • My dad has turned his back on me.
  • I barely get anything to eat.
  • I wish I was never born.
  • I hate my life.
  • Me and my mom don’t like each other.  We fight and argue all the time.
  • I feel like no one cares about or loves me.
  • I think about if I should even be on this earth.
  • I have no one to talk to.
  • My dad is always with his friends.
  • Friends do bad things to their bodies.
  • My parents are divorced.
  • Dad gets drunk, mom and dad argue, and dad leaves and doesn’t return until the next day.
  • People curse.
  • People call me gay and I’m not.
  • My parents argue a lot and the intensity is increasing.
  • I’m fat.
  • My brother died.
  • My pet died.
  • I wonder if I were to run away would my family miss me.
  • My sister tried to kill herself.
  • My sixteen year old sister has ran away four times, and is now gone again.  It’s been three days.
  • I hit myself or hit my head against a wall.
  • Some friends have dirty minds.
  • Somebody stole my shoes.
  • People judge others.
  • Cyber-bullying.
  • My dad gets out of jail next year. (Yes, this was written in the negative section.)

What has happened?  I remember when I was in the sixth grade, the only thing we did was have recess, play basketball, learn a little math, and one of my teachers (I think she was supposed to be teaching me Language Arts) would shuffle herself out the door, with her cane sometimes in one hand and a cig wrapped in tissue in the other, and excuse herself for a minute.  She went out to take a smoke. Hahaha.  I’ll never forget that!

Many folks in our society are so wrapped up in themselves!  They worry about their own outward appearance and often neglect the inward self that needs some Jesus. (Okay, a lot of Jesus!) People are relieving their stresses in a negative way (getting drunk, hitting spouses, children, walls, etc., yelling at the kids, ignoring the family all together, etc.), instead of turning to God and making their home a safe haven.

I was talking to a friend who is a Christian counselor.  She told me to go to http://www.focusonthefamily.com/ and read about cutting.  She mentioned how people cut (or you can apply other self-harm issues here) to take away the pain they have in their heart.  I encourage you to visit that site if your need assistance. Seek out Christian counseling.

This past Sunday, I took my papers to my Sunday school class.  It tied in (somewhat) to the topic for that day.  I told my 9th grade girls (who probably know many friends who are going through these same struggles, if not themselves) about the life lesson taught and asked them to pray over these papers.  We divided ourselves in two groups and with papers in hand, prayed for my students. One of my faithful prayer girls mentioned in her prayer how we are often ignorant to the world’s problems right around us because we are in our own comfy world (something to that affect).  So true!

As I sat down today to write this journal entry, I picked up the stack of papers to refresh my memory.  There were a couple of papers that I hadn’t read yet because they turned it in late in the day on Friday.  So I read those first.  My heart ached when one student wrote, “I’m afraid to tell my parents things, but I feel safe with you.  I love you, Mrs. Shuff.  You are the best!”  *sniff, sniff, tissues please*

In Isaiah 40:30-13  we read, “Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall;
31 but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.  They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”

Our young are tired and weary!  Will you please join me in praying for our youth?  I pray that we all will have a positive influence on those around us, and that we will surround ourselves with positive and godly people who will lift us up.  I pray that we will put our hope in the Lord.  He will renew our strength! 

Now, there were quite a few positives written by the students.  My heart was smiling!  But this entry was intended to make you aware of the stresses in our youth’s lives (11-12 year olds, for goodness sake!).

If you are a negative person yourself, please change!  If you surround yourself with negative people and choose to not do the “right” things in life, please change!  Let the change begin within ourselves.  May the new godly self flow out into the lives of others.

I pray God’s abundant love and blessings for y’all.

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