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Back To School Rules: 10 Things Every Student Should Know

It’s B2S time and man, do I love the smell of freshly sharpened pencils, the colorful display of dry erase markers, and the inspirational notebook covers. *sigh* I love being an educator and a nerd. It’s such a beautiful combination. *smile* Being in this profession means that I see a lot of preventable mistakes from students and that I’ve made some of my own.
Someone who is like a little sister to me asked for advice as she embarks upon her freshman year of college next week. I thought about my response later and decided to share it #ontheblog to aid others who are transitioning to higher education. Some come from the perspective my teacher’s desk and some from my student experience. Needless to say, I wish I had these reminders when I began, so I hope they help. Feel free to share your own as well!
10 Things Every Student Should Know
  1. “Go in there, get what you need, and get out.” That’s what my grandmother told me when I began my freshman year at the University of Alabama at Birmingham(also known as UAB; #GoBlazers). You literally don’t have time to do anything that isn’t accomplishing that goal.  Have fun, but get your work done.
  2. Enjoy meeting new people and understanding different cultures. College is where life-long friendships can start. Just be selective.
  3. Everyone doesn’t believe in God. Don’t be easily offended. Be firm in what you believe and stay focused. Listen closely to the heart of people and you’ll hear the truth in their voice. See the person, not the religion and love accordingly. We can all learn something from each other. From the Buddhist, I learned how to be still. From the Jehovah’s Witness, I learned determination. From the atheist, I learned how to think critically. From the Muslim, I learned devotion. And I’m still Christian after befriending them all.
  4. Make an appointment with your instructors at least twice during the quarter. Before midterms and after midterms is a good practice. It’s easier to give an F to a student you don’t know. I tell my students the following every quarter: I don’t give grades; I give opportunities. What you make is up to you. Don’t suck up, but make sure s/he knows your name.
  5. Be open to discovering more of who you are. Everyone starts out thinking they know everything. You’ll quickly find out that you don’t. Soak in as much as you can and watch your back along the way.
  6. Your name will be the only name on your transcript, not your friends, “friends,” or family. So, do what you have to do to maintain your character and your grades. If your best effort is usually on point, then a slip up is not detrimental enough to forfeit the instructor’s grace. But it’s hard to ask for mercy when all you have projected is laziness and absences throughout the quarter/semester.
  7. Be in charge of your own learning experience. Don’t wait for the instructor to give you information. Seek it yourself then show them what you’ve found that matches what they taught. This will also help you remember course content long-term instead of just memorizing information for the test.
  8. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and ask them early. Just be careful what they are because most professors hate repeating themselves. Instructors don’t want to overextend themselves at the end of the semester when you had ample opportunity to gain understanding for months.
  9. Study smartly! Study content weekly instead of cramming. Ask how the tests are constructed (multiple choice, essay, etc.) and if it will be timed. Then practice… just like you would at a rehearsal). This of the test as an opportunity to show off what you know, not a way to crash and burn. It’s just a big worksheet, not the apocalypse. Reframe the way you approach the exam and watch yourself shine!
  10. Count your losses and let them go. I’ve walked out of a class before with the truth of failure tapping me on my shoulder. I’ve turned in a test where most of the questions were unanswered. I’ve lost hours of work due to technological problems and couldn’t reconstruct the masterpiece I wrote in the computer lab. I’ve failed a pop quiz. It’s not the end of the world. Chalk it up to immaturity, poor time and energy management, go get yourself a smoothie, and make a plan. And, keep your old notes for next quarter.

Peace & Thanks for listening! Have an awesome fall quarter/semester!

Got some hardknock lessons you can share with new students? Share the wisdom below!

– Here’s a short stop for your week. God bless! – CJW –

The church is not aWhen God breathed into Adam, the Breath kept going (Genesis 2:7). Think of all the people in the world and how many breaths are taken each second. That’s a lot of breathing.

If we look at the Church as the Body of Christ, then inhaling and exhaling take on a new meaning. Church is not a social club. It’s a place for the Breath to resuscitate the Body so it can leave the building and touch the world. It’s a well for the Body to be refreshed enough to share the Living Water with others. It’s a hospital for the Body to be mended during war so that the battle scars become proof of life.

Don’t hold your Breath. It is literally the Ruach Elohim… the Spirit of God. Exhale His goodness. Exhale His grace. Exhale His Word.

Peace & Thanks for listening.

Small Things Matter

BHM -> DEN -> SEA:

Small things matter, so be excellent.

IMAG3065What if everyone I met (and didn’t meet) wasn’t excellent at their job today? I wouldn’t be on this flight. I may not have even made it out of the parking lot. I bet someone was nervous about the flight information being correct as they typed it into their computer at work. I’m sure someone was tired as they dressed themselves this morning.  Nevertheless, they did it. They made it happen. They pushed aside the weight and picked up responsibility, hoisted it on their shoulder like a backpack, and trudged forward… knowing that someone needed them to be great.  Not good, not average – great. And that someone was me.

Excellence matters.
Regardless of color, creed, origin, excellence speaks and small things matter.

From the parking lot to the cabin, greatness was the only option and the only item on the menu today. Because everyone needs the same thing… to get to the next destination, even if it’s not pleasantly perfect, we all need to get there. The outside signage had to be flawless in order to direct seamless traffic of various types of vehicles. The roads had to be painted correctly and well lit so we could see where we’re going. The check-in process had to be smooth for my presence to be accounted for and for my luggage to travel with me. It’s a chain of processes that have to work together (seemingly) flawlessly in order for me to get where I’m going.

IMAG3588_1

C is for me.

The attendant that met me with a smile and helped me find the quickest check-in for my baggage… the TSA employee who directed me to the nearest checkpoint route (who by the way was standing in line waiting for breakfast and could have easily brushed me off like the Walmart associate did last week who said that she was off the clock and “couldn’t” redirect my question. Sidebar within the sidebar – Yeah, Walmart ass-ociate… I remember you.)The TSA agent that kept the security checkpoint moving (I thank God for her. Please give her extra jewels in her crown, Lord)the TSA agents that checked my boarding pass and ID and monitored the security scans/process (it’s a hassle sometimes, I know, but it keeps us safer than we realize).. the person or machine that regulates the concourse train (can you imagine your legs running like Chicken Little through the maze we call an airport?)… the attendant that was standing there ready at her post as I handed her my boarding pass, out of breath. She could have been lazy or out of place, but she was exactly where she was supposed to be. The seats I’m looking at across the aisle were once a bunch of parts that had to be put together. The engineer that conjured up this design had to have the exact measurements and mathematical prowess to create this vessel.

Every bolt, every screw, every stitch had to be done with care in order for me to write this entry on my way to Denver. All the parts had to work together. Just like the plane, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Keep that in mind for later.

IMAG3585
the view

I needed everything to work today, and to work well. There was minimal room for error and whatever error that may have occurred, I didn’t see it. Even when I misheard my dear sisterfriend tell me that we were leaving home at 4:30 AM instead of waking up at that time (BIG difference, but don’t worry. I was ready to roll in 15 minutes. That’s the trust, but verify part of this LATSOL moment.), the lovely people at Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson Airport and Southwest Airlines exhibited a level of excellence at each part of my journey. I appreciate that… for real. I needed every last person along the way.

So why can’t the Body of Christ act like that?

I’m still on this “body-kick” and it won’t let me go. Instead of acting like a whole Body with a Head, we act like a body parts – disconnected and dying. Instead of being connected to the Vine, we would rather be scattered like dead branches after a storm. It’s only a matter of time before we shrivel up and return to the dust from whence we came. But, it doesn’t have to be this way. We could complain and blame the fall of man (and woman) for all of our ills, but the truth is that God saved us through the blood of His Son and thus, we are reconnected by our word of faith. Therefore, there are no excuses. Therefore, there is now no condemnation, either (shout out to Romans 8:1). Nothing can keep us apart from each other and nothing can separate us from the love of God, the Vine, the Head. I beg to differ that we can simply coast through life alone, needing no one, touching no one, loving no one. We were designed to a Body, a significant part of a whole that just happens to be contained in this shell called humanity. This Body needs to operate as a whole organism, moving one direction… just like this plane. As long as we stay separated and live recklessly egotistical off our own laced supply of judgment and ignorance, we won’t get anywhere. Instead, we’ll die as broken branches with the Source within our reach.

I may not have met all of the people, but I met their excellence. And it spoke volumes as it helped me get to my destination. Let’s hope that someone meets our excellence everyday.

Southwest pilot photo courtesy of SWA Media
(I always touch the plane too. 🙂

Concourse and sky photos by moi

Kindness Costs

There’s a graciousness in silent kindness.

A simple act of assisting another person can be quickly the perfect rescue in a stressful situation. It can melt tension that stubbornly stands in the way of a peaceful transaction. There may be a cost to this grace – an act misinterpreted, confusion, inconvenience, rebellion – but, I’m here to tell you… it’s worth it.

SCENARIO 1

I watched a man extend himself to me with this gracious, silent kindness during a flight boarding. He was helping me put my bag in the overhead bin. When he adjusted the orientation of the unmarked adjacent bag so mine could fit, the flight attendant aggressively questioned him:

“What are you doing? What are you doing?”

As the man explained that he was helping me, the flight attendant talked over him:

“That is my bag…”

This repeated for about five seconds (which felt like forever as I watched it happen). I knew I had to interject with some cold-watered words.

“He was helping me. We did not know that it was your bag,” I said slowly and firmly, looking directly into his eyes.

The flight attendant calmed down a bit and the kind passenger removed his hands from my bag, then stepped away with his hands up. He apologized to the flight attendant as he took his seat. I agreed with the him that the flight attendant’s reaction was unnecessary as I sat in mine. Then, the flight attendant proceeded to explain himself to us.

“People have tried to take our luggage before. You wouldn’t believe it…”

But his words were floating lifelessly in our ocean of disgust, visible for him to retrieve. The damage had already been done. The transaction was complete, and there was still no apology bobbing around his explanation. I wasn’t interested in any further interaction with him. I prepared my 2nd carry-on bag for the overhead storage across the aisle (after retrieving my notebook and pen, of course). The same gentleman let me know of a quick empty spot and I stored it there.

I thought of how often we mistake kindness as obtrusive and reflected on a previous moment during my trip.

SCENARIO 2

A young boy (about 6-years-old) complimented our hair as he walked by our restaurant table Friday morning  and the woman that walked with him scorned him loudly for “disrupting our breakfast.” When I realized his sweet voice saying “I like your hair” was directed toward us, he had already been accompanied by a relative to their vehicle while another adult woman paid the cashier.

I saw the gap and seized the moment.

I walked outside to their car and asked if the boy was talking to us earlier. The non-scornful woman said yes, and I asked if I could properly accept his compliment and thank him for his sincerity. She agreed. When I opened the door (he was struggling with it a little… lol), there was a mixture of confusion and excitement on his face. He had a visitor! I hugged him so tight that I could feel him breathe and his little heart beat with joy. Then I thanked him for his sweet courage to say his compliment aloud. I encouraged him to keep respecting women and to keep being kind. I blessed him and spoke over his life to uproot the sting of the scorn from the woman paying the cashier. It may have appeared inconvenient or obtrusive to our mealtime, but kindness can be that way sometimes…

THE LESSON

Kindness is an extension of Love – and love is not convenient and obscure. It shows itself in more ways than one and those ways can be expensive. A sacrifice lies in there somewhere. Within every act of gracious kindness – whether loud or silent – there is a cost for it to be manifested. For the flight passenger, it was public conflict. For the boy, it was public shaming. Either way, love was extended and the cost was paid… Just like Jesus’ life. He extended Himself with the biggest cost of all – His blood. (*humming* Oh, what Love He has for me…) So, if you’re ever in a situation where Love opportunities lie in wait, don’t be afraid to pay the cost and accept the receipt. Jump in the gap and let Love flow.

Peace & Thanks for listening.

Transpiration

There have been a lot of deaths around me in the last few weeks. Friends, family, students, and co-workers have lost loved ones unexpectedly. I know that within the silence of poverty and conflict, people die everyday, but in recent news, there have been outbreaks of crime like sporadic wildfire. Random shootings, suicides, and bodies found. When clusters of deaths happen around the same time, I always ask the question “What does this mean? Why now?”

What I got was the message below. It came so fast that my hands could barely keep up as I wrote it on a nearby sticky note. IMAG3365

Transpired is not the same as expired.
We transpire, not expire.
Our lives are transpiration; the transpiration
should be inspiration.

I must admit – I didn’t know transpiration was a word. I figured it had to be because of expiration and inspiration. So, I looked it up. You won’t believe what I found (unless you’re a hydrologist).

“Transpiration is the process by which moisture is carried through plants from roots to small pores on the underside of leaves, where it changes to vapor and is released to the atmosphere. Transpiration is essentially evaporation of water from plant leaves.” (U.S. Department of the Interior/U. S. Geological Survey)

My eyes got so big after reading that definition, and so did my understanding of the words I heard. Check this out.

Since we are the seeds of God and He formed us from the ground, we are essentially spiritual plants on Earth. Have you ever heard of “Bloom where you’re planted?” There you go. Well, when we die, we return to the dirt from whence we came, yet our souls are not expired. They are transpired from our bodies. If you read my post Water Proof, you’ll see where this is headed.

We are made of water and dirt. How appropriate for a seed to transform into a plant. Since we have been planted, at some point, we must be harvested. It’s gruesome to think about. It makes me cringe, but it’s the truth. The fruit of us – the lives we’ve touched, the people we’ve birthed, the service we’ve rendered – lives beyond the harvest. Essentially, we pass from one state of being into another in a form, i.e. spiritual transpiration. We don’t expire when we live in Christ. We don’t choose the manner in which loved ones transpire, but if they have been an ambassador for Christ on Earth, drenched in His living water… I believe we transition in Him as well.

Some believe in reincarnation while some believe there is no eternal home for the soul, and I respect your beliefs with sincerity. The following prayer is mine:

May we all transpire after we have expired all that
we were purposed to inspire on Earth.

Peace & Thanks for listening.

Photo courtesy of picture-perfect-world.tumblr.com

Can You Help A Mother Out?

Good Day, Good People!

So, it’s the day after mother’s day and I intentionally planned to post this message today. Yesterday, I chose to be present in my mother’s presence. No social media, a few quick texts to give my well wishes, and that was it. I absorbed the day with my parents and loved every minute of it.

Well, consider this the morning after Mother’s Day (see what I did there?) and you have a special treat. Below is a link to my free downloadable 3-day devotional called “Can You Help A Mother Out?” I wanted to share words of encouragement based upon the experiences of my friends and family. Hopefully, this eBook will envelope someone in positivity this month – long after the flowers and cards. If you’re not a mother, please share this free eBook with a mother near you (plus three more).

Here’s the link: Can You Help A Mother Out by CJW

Peace & Thanks for listening (and Happy Mother’s Month)!

Holey Folks

A visual I saw on Sunday, May 7th: A man is walking on a deserted small town street. He’s dressed up for church – suit, shoes, trench coat, and hat – but, there were holes in his chest. Perfect round holes with the circumference of an aluminum can. It was a windy day and his posture slanted forward as he pressed into the force. As the wind whipped around and through him, green bacteria grew in the holes. He kept walking, but his pace grew slower. Then I saw the same man, in the same scenario, only this time the holes didn’t exist and the bacteria bounced off his chest as he walked into the wind.

What I Heard:

God wants to clean the holes in our heart left by others and fill it with his Love and Light. You were not designed to walk around with holes in your soul.
You were not created with a deficit in mind.

The truth is that we have a lot of holy folks with holes in their hearts. They’ve learned to breathe around them, look pretty around them, and even preach around them. Those holes are lined with bacteria of hate, prejudice, lies, and unforgiveness. And some bacteria is good for you, even the bad ones, for they help build your spiritual immune system. But imbalance and infestation is what causes death of the soul.

I am not exempt. I have had many moments where I didn’t want to love someone, didn’t want to extend myself, didn’t want to be kind, and definitely didn’t want to forgive. But I realized a funny truth about this badge called “Christian” that I wear. I don’t have a choice in representing His character. I have a choice to trust, but I don’t have a choice to forgive. Once I said “You are Lord of my life. Take me as your own. I’ll do what you say. I want to love people like you love. I want to be like you.” I relinquished my duty as a free agent of this world. I now have a duty to show Christ in everything I do. I’m an ambassador, and I don’t choose when and where to take off that title. So, when He says “Call her/him,” I do it. It doesn’t matter if I was wronged or if I know they have spoken ill of me… when He commands it, I do it. It’s frustrating, yes. It’s unfair; yes it is. It’s aggravating; indeed. But, I don’t always get it right either, so I only hope that I receive the same diehard response when it’s my turn. I don’t want the bacteria to stick. I want the Love of God to repel it.

We can’t continue to walk around in garments of gold pretending like we aren’t rotting wood underneath. We’re holy by His grace, not by our standards. We can’t give place for the Body to be infected. After all, infections spread fast, but they don’t have to. We don’t have to die holey.

I’ve been on this Body kick lately. I’m interested to hear everything God has to say.

Peace & Thanks for listening.

Photo courtesy of Human Anatomy Chart. They have awesome images for biology nerds like me. Check them out.

The Plan

​Perfect timing.

Just when I was questioning the blueprint and the Architect’s design, He gives me this beautiful reminder. He knows the Plan. I just need to keep walking in His direction.

I mean, really… who argues with the Architect? Especially years after the Masterpiece is built. Who questions the plan after perfection is proven? Certainly not me. An architect knows the pressure that each beam can hold. She knows which materials are best for the purpose of the house. He calculates the foundation and its ability to host the vision. There’s wisdom and care that materializes into a physical plan… a plan for a future and hope.

Because I trust the Architect, I put my faith in the blueprint. It just seems like the journey is dysfunctional and pieces won’t fit, but the Builder used a wooden cross as the Architect instructed so I have no need to worry about the structural integrity of my life. It has an expected end, a hope, not some aimless steps that happened to host good things along the way. He knows the Plan. I just have to keep walking.

Jeremiah 29:11 was a good dose of medicine for my aching soul. Take some for yourself.

Peace & Thanks for listening!

In the Moment

Good Day, Good People!

I had a great conversation with a girlfriend of mine on March 14, 2017. We established that fear of the good is real. What do I mean by the good? You know, the good stuff in life. That moment when you have a smile on your face so bright that it could burn the sun. The moment when all feels right with your world. The instant you close your eyes and tilt your head back. When the good happens, you know it. You feel it. Everywhere.

Unfortunately, you can have so many scars from the not-good (because there are some that feel the bad are just “life lessons”) that you expect it to come around the corner at any moment. Lurking like a burglar, the not-good appears to be ready to stand in your sunny spot on the concrete and steal your shine. Fear of the not-good coupled with a fear of the good can cripple the strongest of souls. You can be scared of success and fulfillment and the responsibility they could bring to your current and future statuses. You could also be terrified of the good holding hands with an invisible evil twin that could devastate your life in a single breath. Both fears are real. That’s what she and I discovered that night. That’s what we share. What a beautiful moment of transparency.

Fear has the capacity to suck in all the hope you had in your hands and leave you cold and isolated. It’s a sad transaction. The exchange of wanting more out of life and being anxious of the deficit of despair in return. Who doesn’t want to take a month long vacation? Or sail on a cruise ship more than twice in a lifetime? Or sit still in a cabin in the mountains and drink hot chocolate while gazing at God’s Handiwork? What would actually happen if in the moment, we absorbed the good? Not anticipating the bad news, the hiccups in the plan, or the no-show of the crowd, but soaking in the goodness of expectation? It can actually be sweet, you know. I’ve tasted it once or twice or three. Somewhere along the continuum of God’s favor, grace, and purpose lies me… scared of both ends. Then, there comes a time when you are simply sick of being afraid. You want to drink the sunshine with the biggest cup you can find in your heart. You want to dance the street (with or without rhythm) because you got the best news of your life. You want to walk into the interview like a victor, expecting to get the call back. It doesn’t matter if 5 minutes from that moment you get a phone call that’s nerve wracking. Maybe the sunshine in which you chose to stand can grow your tree of hope a little taller and set the roots a little deeper to withstand the winds of the storm ahead. You won’t know until you stand in the moment and the take the good and all she has to offer.

2 Timothy 1:7
For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline.

I’m convinced that the power, love, and discipline (also called “sound mind” in some versions) come from standing strong in the good and soaking it well beyond your pores and into your soul. Beyond that polarized fear, there’s all Three waiting to secure our hope, to anchor it down deeply in His omnipotence. That’s the power of the good. It serves as a reminder when the not-good comes.

So, what’s stopping me from hugging the good with both arms? Absolutely nothing.

What about you?

Peace & Thanks for listening!

Photo courtesy of The Chicago Now

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