Thursday, January 26, 2012

Encouraging Words for Teachers by Jaye Lewis


The Difference a Teacher Can Make  by Jaye Lewis
             Steve, a twelve year old boy, with barely, literate, alcoholic parents, was about to be lost, forever, by the U.S. education system.  Remarkably, he could read, yet, in spite of his reading skills, Steve was failing.  He had been failing since first grade, as he was passed on from grade to grade.  Big as he was, looking more like a teenager than a twelve year old, Steve went unnoticed...until Ms. White.

            Ms. White was a smiling, young, beautiful redhead, and Steve was in love!  For the first time in his young life, he couldn't take his eyes off his teacher; yet, still he failed.  He did no  homework, and he was always in trouble with Ms. White.  His heart would break, under her sharp words, and when he was punished for failing to turn in his homework, he felt just miserable!

            In the middle of the first semester of school, all the seventh grade was tested for reading and math.  Steve hurried through his tests, and continued to dream of other things, as the days wore on.  His heart was not in school, but in the woods, where he often escaped alone, trying to shut out the sights, sounds and smells of his alcoholic parents.  No one checked on him to see if he was safe.  No one knew he was gone, because no one was sober enough to care.  Oddly, Steve never missed a day of school. 

            One day, "Steve!"  Ms. White's impatient voice broke into his daydreams.  Startled, he turned to look at her.  "Pay attention!" So, Steve gazed at Ms. White, with adolescent adoration, as she began to go over the test results for the seventh grade.

            Ms. White pinned Steve to his seat with a sharp stare, then her eyes searched his face.  With a sigh, she said to the class, "You all did fair, except for one, and it breaks my heart to tell you this, but..." She hesitated.

            Ms. White, again, fixed her eyes on Steve. "...the smartest boy in the seventh grade is failing my class!"  She just stared at Steve, as the class looked around at him, and Steve dropped his eyes, and examined his hands.

            After that, it was war!!  Steve still never did his homework, but the punishments and the lectures, became more severe, and the pleadings took over.  "Just try it...ONE WEEK!  Give yourself a chance!  Don't give up on your life!  Steve!  Please!  I care about you!"

            Wow!  Steve's attention was immediately captured!  Someone cared about him?  Someone young and beautiful!  Someone, totally, unattainable, and perfect, CARED ABOUT HIM!!!

            Steve went home that night, taking one look around the slovenly hovel.  Both parents passed out, in various stages of undress, and the stench was overpowering!!  He, quickly gathered up his camping gear, a jar of peanut butter, a loaf of bread, a bottle of water, and this time, his school books.  Then he headed for the woods.

            Next day, he was at school, on time, and he waited for Ms. White to enter the classroom.  Here she came, all sparkle and smiles!  God!  She was BEAUTIFUL to the adolescent boy, as he yearned for her smile to turn on him.  It did not.

            Ms. White, immediately, gave a quiz on the homework of the night before.  Steve hurried through the test and was the first to hand in his paper.  With a look of surprise, Ms. White took his paper.  Then, obviously puzzled, she began to look over it.  Steve walked back to his desk, his heart pounding within his chest. As he sat down, he couldn't resist another look at the lovely woman.

            There, on Ms. White's face, was a look of total shock!  She glanced up at Steve, then down, then up.  Suddenly, her face broke into a radiant smile.   In his first seven years of school, Steve had just passed his first test!  And he had gotten every answer right!

            From that moment, life changed for Steve.  Life at home, never got better, but life still changed.  The change that took place was within Steve's heart, all because of ONE teacher, who cared.

© Jaye Lewis, January 26, 2001

 This is a true story.  I know it, because Steve is my husband, and I am the love of his life, as he is mine.  Steve is a wonderful husband and a loving father.  He has excelled in life, having three careers, and now embarking on a fourth.  There has been no seed money.  He came from nothing, and so did I.  Everything he has is because of the grace of a Merciful God.  Steve has worked hard, every day of his life, since Ms. White inspired and encouraged him.  I will always be grateful to her.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Encouraging Words for Those Who Feel Lost by Jaye Lewis

Hello friends,

On January 24, 1988, I was a resident in a psychiatric ward.  No, I was not a nurse or a nurse's aid.  I was a patient.  On January 10, 1988, I had a complete nervous breakdown.  You might say that I was at the bottom of my life, and you would be right.  But I was also at the beginning.  In that psychiatric ward I learned about a deeper part of myself, perhaps a better part of myself, which began to understand just how alike we are as human beings.

The hospital was in the midst of an experiment, and you might say that we were the lab rats.  In that hospital the young were mixed with the old.  The sad and anxious were mixed with the truly crazy, and the violent were included with the nonviolent.  What were they thinking?  It makes you wonder who were truly the crazy ones.  

I disclose this with gratitude, because I learned more in that six weeks, about love, sacrifice, understanding, and acceptance, than I had ever learned in my entire life.  I learned that in the eternal scheme of things, I am no better than anyone.  I’m no better than that sweet soul who had lost her mind long ago, who believed that she was inhabited by a well-known Country singer, whom she believed lived in her stomach.  She argued with him constantly, often shouting orders to “Get out!”

Yes, it was funny and alarming, but I made up my mind to get to know her, to find out what made her who she was.  In a strange sort of “we-come-from-different-worlds” friendship, we got to know one another as well as we could.  I learned that something terrible had happened to her when she was young, and she learned that I was safe, that I did not judge her, and that I would not betray her.

I was also no better than the young man who shouted and threatened, and chased people around the room, including my new, friend and me.  We heard his shout, and when we saw him racing at us.  We leaped up and ran, around and around the room, hoping he would not catch us.  When he finally was tackled and calmed down, we stopped running, and we just looked at one another.  Then I shouted that a violent man like he should be removed from our ward.  The nurse replied that he had never harmed a living soul.

“YET!”  My friend and I retorted together. 

We, suddenly, looked at each other, laughing hysterically, and for one brief moment, the scales of confusion fell from her eyes, and she knew me.  Then, her reason clouded over again, and we were strangers, but I’d seen her soul, and I knew that somewhere in the great hereafter, we would meet again.  Then, we will know one another.  We will remember, and we will be friends, and we will not be ashamed.

There is so much tragedy in this world.  I was one of the blessed ones.  I have a strong, loving family.  I had good medical care, a strong will, and a determination to get well.  In March, 1988, I left the hospital with a clean bill of health, and I never returned.  However, I will never forget the unusual, hurting people within.  I think of them all the time.  I tell their stories, as I am telling you, and I will miss them and wonder about them all the days of my life — those tragic, suffering souls, who will never know the impact they had on this single life, forever.

We are the same, all of us, no matter how we protest that we are not.  No matter the color of our skin, or our religion, or our lack of faith, or our political beliefs.  Our petty grievances and prejudices are like so much chaff, blown by the wind.  None of these things will matter, when we stand before God, judged for the works we have done on this earth, whether good or ill.

Jesus said that He will gather all of us together, and He will separate us, as a shepherd separates his sheep from his goats.  We will not escape His notice, anymore than our bigotry, our jealousy, our rage, or our evil intents and actions will remain hidden.  And yes, my friends, we are, each of us, guilty of these things.

The wife beater — you will no longer be able to hide.  The wife who betrays her husband — you will be found out.  The gossip, the liar, the proud, and those who do their evil works in secret, you will be made known.

Can anyone escape their shame?  Yes you can.  Yes I can.  I can repent.  Every day.  Every hour.  Every moment, if necessary, and I can live my life reaching for the compassion within me, looking for new ways to convey my respect and love for each individual I meet.  I will fail.  I will fail today.  But that is what repentance is all about.  Going back before the only perfect person who ever walked the earth.  Going to the Only, One, True God, asking His forgiveness.  Humbly, before Him, I can repeat my sins of the day, and cast them at His feet.

Oh, it may seem simplistic, but it is not.  It is simple.  It is the easiest thing in the world, and the safest place to be.  All I need to do is throw off the mantle of pride and self-righteousness, and know that I am forgiven by His grace.

These are the thoughts that are on my heart today.  Perhaps I am sick of the assault upon repentance that I see in my own American Presidential Primary.  Of course there is repentance, forgiveness, and redemption, even for Newt Gingrich.  And there is condemnation, even for the self-proclaimed, perfectly pure Mitt Romney.  But, you know, the self-righteous never see.  I have to admit that I have only this moment realized what irritates me about Romney.  It’s his pompous belief that he has never done anything wrong.

I do not say these things in defense of Newt Gingrich.  He has made it abundantly clear that he is perfectly capable of defending himself.  I do, however, say these things to defend the free grace that God gives to us, if we will only accept it and admit that we have sinned.  That grace, for which we are so undeserving, that we can receive freely, if only we ask, comes from the God of all grace, who deserves to hear us say, “Father, I have sinned.”

I hate when the grace of God is maligned, as though He has no power, as though His arm is too short to save.  If that were true then I would still be a lost soul, without hope.  But I am no longer lost, because God came to me, and He made me His own, not because He needed me, but because I needed Him.

With love,
Jaye Lewis

Friday, January 13, 2012

Encouraging Words for Those Who Feel Overburdened by American Politics by Jaye Lewis

Hello friends,

I suppose that I should send a copy of this blog post to each of the candidates in every election in the United States.  I doubt they would listen, but then, maybe they would understand just how much they exhaust us, and sometimes disgust us.

Yes, I, as an American voter, do become disgusted with the political sniping, barbs, innuendos, lies, and cruel remarks.  I am disgusted with the new definition of “truth.”  Remember when your grandmother, at least my grandmother, said, “If you can’t say something good about someone, then say nothing at all?” Another grandmother of mine used to say, “There are three sides to every story:  yours, mine, and the truth.”  Truth would be nice for a change.  And when did it become okay to claim truth when facts are twisted, so that truth is no longer truth, but a lie?  Billy Graham tells of a woman who came to him and asked, "Dr. Graham, how can I stop exaggerating all the time?"  Billy Graham's answer was, "Call it a lie."

A wise teacher once said to me, “Right is right when nothing is right, and wrong is wrong when everything is right.”  Meaning, no matter how you flavor it, snipes, barbs, innuendos, lies, and cruel remarks are never the truth, no matter how blind society becomes.

You know, in the early days of our Country, we had real heroes, who risked “their lives, their fortunes, and their honor,” all in the defense of liberty.  Patrick Henry, a fiery red-head, and true patriot, said, “I care not which course others may take, but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!”  Where is today’s Patrick Henry?  Where is today’s George Washington, who could have been, but who refused to be, King?  Where are the heroes of our time?  Where is honor and truth?  We once knew what that was.  

To my friends from other countries, you know of what I speak.  It is written in the hearts of all of us.  We long for honor and truth, and when we don’t have it, we are not fooled by false heroes.  We know truth, even if, as it is in some countries, you dare not speak it.

In America, with all our faults and imperfections, I am free to write this blog and criticize, by name, if I want to, every leader in my country, from the President of the United States, down to the smallest clerk in the smallest town.  I can speak my mind, out in the open, and disagree, and most of the time, no one will molest me.  In spite of the many ways that I am disappointed in my leaders, I’m proud of that right that I have to speak out, and to have my speech protected.

I may not be thrilled with the selection of people that I have to choose from, in an American election, but if I want to, I can decline to vote, and stay home.  Or I can choose whom I think is the best candidate.  Or I can even vote for the least worst candidate.  Sometimes we have great choices:  Ronald Regan; Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Harry Truman, Teddy Roosevelt, Bill Clinton.  Great Presidents, not perfect men.  Then, there are others who were not so great.  I will let you choose the losers.

My mother always said, “The office of President makes the man, not the other way around.”  She, of all people, inspired my interest in the American political process, and I have never been able to shake the need to know, “who’s on first.”  Now that I have a laptop on my lap, and I have the internet, Google, Facebook, and the World Wide Web, I have at my fingertips more information in a minute, than my mother had available in a year.  And, still, my mother was more informed than I.  I remember that fondly about her, and the memory always makes my eyes sting and my heart smile.

To many of my friends overseas, if you live in a repressed country, where fear follows every utterance of your tongue, do not give up in working for change.  Change, no matter where you are, comes from within.  Small changes within oneself can make big changes possible.  If you live in a free country, the message is the same.  Change comes from within.

In my own country, you don’t have to be a genius to see the things that are wrong.  Read the remarks after every news article on the web:

“The President is perfect,” if you are a Democrat.

“The President is evil,” if you are a Republican.

“You must vote for this candidate, or you are not a true Republican,” says the Republican establishment.

“If you don’t vote for this candidate, then you are at war with Free Enterprise and Capitalism,” again says the Republican establishment.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t like to be told who I must vote for; and I certainly don’t like to be told that I’m some kind of traitor for not buckling under.  If you try to control me, I am likely to do exactly what you do not want me to do.  I’m not easily pushed, and bullying has never worked.

My friends overseas are obviously confused about what they see on our news, so I will let you know, that the very arguing that you see on TV, while often offensive, is the direct result of total freedom.  In the end, we are still friends.  We still love our country, and we honor our laws.  If necessary, when attacked we fight as a unit.  When you harm one of us, you harm all of us.

As Americans, let us remember the day of September 11th.  While the dust still filled the sky, and our hearts and country was wounded, spontaneously, on the steps of our Capitol, all of our Congress members broke out into one of our favorite hymns:  God Bless American.  Let us understand that they are our leaders, flawed though they may be.  So, I guess my message today is as much for me, as it is for you.

We live in a blessed nation, which most of us believe is “under God.”  We care about one another.  Our hearts swell with pride, and our eyes fill with tears, at the first strains of our national anthem.  In our strange and imperfect way, we love each other.  We love our country, and no matter our faith, most of us, love God.  We may see Him in different colors, races, and creeds, but we all know in our hearts, that we need not fear that He might not know who He is.  Because He does.

For whatever strange and wonderful reason, America is blessed by God.  We know it, and we wonder why, but then, He knows why.  God knows why.  Have faith.  We are still in His hands.

With love,
Jaye Lewis

Monday, January 09, 2012

Encouraging Words for Those Who Feel Worthless by Jaye Lewis

Wonderfully Made  by Jaye Lewis

 I was supposed to be nothing.  That was the plan.  At nine years old, my father screamed into my face.


I believed him.  I forgot that I was created by a Great Loving God, Who “knit me together in my mother’s womb," as promised in Psalm 139:13

Despairing, because of  my father's words, I worked hard at being a “nothing.”  I stopped studying for my classes, in school.  I stopped dreaming the dreams that often shape our future, and I barely scraped by.

By the time I was in seventh grade, I overheard my parents talking about how wonderful life would be for them if I had never been born, because, being the youngest, I would be out of the way, and they could follow their dreams.  I believed them, and I forgot what God said about me.

“Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne?  Though she may forget, I will not forget you!  See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands."  Isaiah 49:15-16a.

By the time I was fifteen, my final ninth grade report card read, “She has incredible general knowledge, but no specific knowledge.  She’ll never become anything continuing on this course.”  I believed my teacher, and I continued on my worthless course, reading and studying on my own, everything from history through science, and as my teacher said, I began to have much general knowledge.

I read the Bible, which was a forbidden book, according to the religion of my childhood, and I began to know the God of the Bible and His great love for me.  Yet, still I believed I was a failure, even weird.  Somewhere, in the midst of that, I began to write, and I discovered that with no one to talk to, I began to talk to God.  I did not understand the truth of Psalm 139:14, which says that “I am fearfully and wonderfully made.”

Years came and went, and darkness was all around me, but there, in the darkness, I found the light of God’s presence.  Always there.  Always comforting.  Unknowing, as I was, God was always with me.  I discovered the truth about the presence of God in Psalm 139:7-12 

"Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?  If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. If I say, 'Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me, even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.’”

I discovered that even if I did not know God, He knew me.  There was much darkness in my life.  I had no one to believe in me, but somehow, by the grace of God, I knew that God believed in me.  I stumbled through many a dark valley, yet I discovered that I could not run from God.  He was always with me.  I discovered that in being hurt, I could seek to heal others.  In being lonely, I could reach out and erase another’s loneliness.  In believing myself to be a failure, I could encourage others to succeed.  I could be a woman of honor.  A woman of truth.  I could change my course.  And when I wrote, as I did from an early age, I could give hope to others.

I wish I had known God from the beginning.  I wish that instead of a religious home, that I had grown up in a Godly one.  I wish that in my teens there had been someone to influence my life, and change my course.  However, even though I remember, painfully, my lonely teenage years, I can testify that my present happiness and fulfillment came from no one except God.

You see, it is God who brought me into the pleasant pasture of my middle years, and on into the beauty of my present day.  I can look to no one but Him, for the joys in my life…my wonderful husband, my beautiful daughters, and my precious friends.

I am an award winning writer through His grace.  I have completed my first book.  I don’t expect it to be my last.  A lot of people have lent me a hand in this process, but God alone brought me here.  So now, in my world that is so filled with His light, I still look for those opportunities to be alone with God.  And as I look back, into my teens, I realize what a great gift it was to spend those lonely nights and days with Him.  I have also learned that the ugly words that others speak about me, say more about them, than they say about me.  

So do not listen to negativity.  Your Heavenly Father declares in His WORD, that you are “fearfully and wonderfully made.”  Believe Him.  You are wonderful.  Totally unique. God expects great things from you.  So now you can expect them from yourself.

With love,
Jaye Lewis

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