Dec 29, 2009

Let it Snow!

Snow! Photo taken today: Tuesday, December 29, 2009

I never missed snow when I was in Saipan. "Let it snow, let it snow somewhere else", I said in a blog entry from last December. I was perfectly content with the endless summer of Saipan, and once we made the decision to move back to the Mainland, I dreaded the bitterness of our first winter back.

However, I since we've been back here in America, as the temperatures have dropped as fall turned into winter I've found that the cold hasn't bothered me as much as I thought it would. Furthermore, I found myself as excited about the season's first snowfall as a little kid on Christmas morning. I checked the weather forecast daily, eagerly awaiting predictions of snow. Our first snowfall of the season was a few days into December, and while the roads were a bit tricky on the drive to work that morning, by the time I reached Columbus there was no snow at all, and when I returned home that evening, the snow that had fallen in the Dayton area had long since melted away. There were a couple of other snow showers in the weeks leading up to Christmas break but it never got cold enough to stick. So our first real snowfall of the season was on Sabbath, December 19, 2009, the first day of Christmas vacation. I woke up Sabbath morning to a world blanketed in white.

Waking up to our first real snowfall. The view outside our bedroom window, Sabbath morning, December 19, 2009.

Of course I was especially excited to get the Little Feller out there to experience his first snow. It turned out that everyone was a little slow getting ready for church. Barbara's mom was in bed with a cold, and by the time Barbara and her dad were ready to go, we'd already missed Sabbath School. So I volunteered to just stay home with Elijah (since all I'd be doing at church would be following him around in the foyer, since he's not yet learned to sit still through an entire church service). Of course the first thing we did was bundle up and head out into the winter wonderland of God's creation. The Feller loved it, of course, and had a blast exploring the once-familiar now remade in a covering of snow.

My son and I set off to explore the winter wonderland. Sabbath, December 19, 2009.

The view of the garden and back yard from the back patio. This is where the Feller celebrated his first birthday. How different it looks now!_

That afternoon, temperatures warmed again and the snow slowly melted over the days leading up to Christmas. There would be no white Christmas this year.

But this past Sunday, the snow started falling in earnest again. When the snow began to fall, I was watching the Little Feller while Babs was at the store and I made the mistake of carrying him outside for just a moment so he could experience the heavy snowfall. He seemed interested, reaching to try to catch the flakes, but he didn't seem overly fascinated. Since we were both outside without coats, we went right back in and immediately he started crying. He wanted to go back out! I was on the phone with Carol Paez at the time and thought I'd finish up the conversation first, but he kept fussing. Two more times I carried him outside, the cell phone cradled in my neck so I could keep talking. Each time his whining ceased the moment we re-entered the gently falling snow, and each time he started crying as soon as we came back inside.

Finally, I bundled him up and took him outside for a proper snow adventure. The snow's been on the ground since then and every day Feller and I have ventured out for a little while to play in the snow. It's funny, because both yesterday and today , he asked me to go out. He'd bring over his hat, saying "hat! hat!", and then his coat, and then his shoes, indicating that he wanted me to put them on. So we'd bundled up: snow pants, coat, woolen hat, and mittens, and head out into the snow.

The front yard. This photo was taken today, December 29.

He's having fun! Look for more snowy photos of the Little Feller as well as video on his blog. It is a private blog, so if you can't access it, e-mail me and I will invite you to become a member so that you can view it.

I know it's early in the season, and I'm sure I'll soon tire of the bitter temperatures. I know that the commute to work is going to be slower, and perhaps on some days impossible with the snow and ice that will surely continue in the next two or three months. And while I tend to have the same kind of unreasonable enthusiasm for a winter storm that I used to have for typhoons in Saipan--no school!--I dread the possible power outages and storm damage that could come with such an event. (In fact much of the rest of the United States experienced just such a winter disaster, with record snowfalls on the east coast the weekend before Christmas, and parts of the midwest and south blanketed this past week. The really bad weather completely skipped us here in Ohio). Despite all this, at least for now, I say let it snow, let it snow, let it snow here in America.

I made a snow angel for the first time in my life yesterday during one of our forays outside. This is another one I made today. Next up is a snowman, but the snow is too loose and powdery right now to get a good snowman going. With several months of winter to go, I'm sure there will be plenty of opportunities.

Dec 19, 2009

Beautiful Dentists

The offices of Worthington Dental Group in Worthington, Ohio. The great staff there made me feel right at home, and brought a lot of great memories to mind.

About two weeks ago I went to the dentist, and it was a little like going home. As I walked into the tastefuly decorated waiting area of the Worthington Dental Group, I felt a warm feeling of nostalgia wash over me. The good feeling lasted throughout my visit.

I know that may be an unusual reaction to going to the dentist, so let me explain. Somehow I ended up having a lot of friends in the dental profession. Dr. Ludders, the Piersons,Mike Stafford, Bev, Twyla, Lori Cerna, Malou--so many of the people I've gotten to know and like over the past ten years or so have been involved with dentistry. Perhaps for that reason, I've always found dentistry an interesting profession, though I myself could never enjoy doing it. Somehow my friends have made dentistry seem more accessibl than other medical professions. This has less to do with the actual practice of dentistry, and more to do with the people I've known who do the work.

While I signed in at the front desk at Worthington Dental, I remembered Jho and Tammy and Frank, who were always so helpful whenever I'd call or stop by the SDA Dental Clinic. As the hygienist gave my teeth a good scrubbing with her little sonic tool (help me out, dentists that are reading this, what is that tool called), I thought about Bev and smiled--as much as one can smile while his teeth are being cleaned. When Dr. Purcell came in with his assistant to make his assessment, I was reminded of Ken, the director of the Saipan SDA Dental Clinic, and also of Malou who worked for so many years as a dental assistant back in Saipan.

Dr. Ken in Saipan. (This photo and the one below were taken by the Piersons during their annual Clinic with a Heart day last spring. Once a year the SDA Dental Clinic offers free dental care to people who otherwise might not be able to afford to go to the dentist. Beautiful!).

My friend, filmmaker and actor Dan Shor used to refer to the Drs. Ken and Crystal Pierson as the "beautiful dentists", and indeed they, along with their colleagues are beautiful people all. As a result this one small group of beautiful people have colored an entire profession in my mind--and the fact that the folks at Worthington Dental Group were so great only helped reinforce that positive impression I have dentisty.

Tomorrow I'll be driving up to Columbus for my follow-up cleaning and to get my one cavity filled. (Allow me to brag a bit--Dr. Purcell marveled at my enamel--he says it's like iron, and despite my spotty record of dental visits, I only have one small cavity). And of course, I'm excited to be going back--because I know my experience will be great at Worthington, and because sitting in that chair brings back some beautiful memories of some beautiful people.

Dec 18, 2009

CAA Christmas: Leaving a Legacy of Love

There is a story told among teachers about a lovely, little old lady teacher--as gentle and a loving as a lamb. This teacher never raised her voice, never got angry, never lost her patience--except once a year. Every year at Christmas time, the little old lady blew her top. She raised her voice to a bellow, shook her wrinkled fist, and stared down her class who would invariably be shocked into silence. After that, the she went back to her meek and mild ways and never had any further trouble with her class.

I always smile when I think of that story, and I think most teachers do, because we know that those chaotic weeks leading up to Christmas are some of the toughest of the year. We understand what would cause nice old ladies to lose their cool--the disrupted schedule that comes with hours of extra practice for the Christmas program and the kids (and the teachers too, if we're honest) hyped up about the coming vacation and ready for school to be out now, not in two weeks. Not much work gets done, disciplinary incidents spike, as does anxiety as the school gets ready to make it's annual mark with the biggest school event of the year--the Christmas program.

Things were no different this year, as Columbus Adventist Academy prepared to bring the Christmas musical Legacy of Love to the stage. This past Wednesday, December 16, 2009, the hours of practice paid off in a crowd-pleasing performance that went off almost without a hitch. It was a long road to get there, but in the end it was worth it.

Legacy was my 12th school Christmas program and I'd never experienced one quite like this. The rehearsals were the longest I've ever been a part of--during the final five days of rehearsal, practices ran all school day from first thing in the morning until minutes before the buses pulled up at 3:45 P.M. This also seemed to be one of the most complex programs I'd ever been a part of, with dancers, a 74 student choir, dozens of actors, and eight scene changes. We also divided up the seven member cast into multiple parts so that every student in the school had a speaking part (with the exception of four of my students who worked with Mrs. Lee on props, and thus limited their performing to membership in the choir). Imagine working with 70 actors! Sometimes the play felt like a massive supertanker helmed by six captains--getting it to change direction was a an arduous and time-consuming process.

As if this challenge wasn't big enough, I'm embarrassed to admit I apparently failed to understand that I was the director of the drama portion of the program, until less than a week before showtime. I thought I was responsible for just a few sections of the play--my colleagues understood that I was directing the entire thing, and were understandably confused that I didn't seem to be stepping up to do my job. Thankfully, God stepped in to shore up my weaknesses and the other teachers--Mrs. Lavalas, the choreographer, Mrs. Lewis and Mrs. Lee on props and set design, Mrs. Gray assisting with drama, and Mrs. Arthurs, the principal, directing the music--made the program a collaborative effort. Without them, the various pieces of this program would never have come together the way they did.

Legacy of Love is a fun, bouncy musical with strong gospel message that reminds us that the Christmas story is really about Jesus, who came to earth to leave the ultimate legacy--that of a love that will last for eternity. The story itself--a simple tale about a group of multi-media club members who decide to enter a webcast contest for laptop computer they want to give to their beloved sponsor, the Christmas-obsessed Mrs. Thompson.--might not win any Pulitzers; this play is really about the music. The tunes are catchy and contemporary, the lyrics snappy yet thoughtful, and Brenda Arthurs did a fantastic job of bringing out the best in our student mass choir. From the peppy opener "Christmas Groove" to the funky "God's Done Bigger Things", to the infectious, "Leave a Mark" and the emotional sweep of the theme song, "Legacy of Love"--the program was packed with great songs.

The practices were marked by frayed nerves, many raised voices and raised hands. We were constantly trying to quiet down our ever chattering students who seemed to take every break in the music or dialogue as an opportunity to start talking. Long director's conferences convened while the noise of the students grew around us. Misbehaving students were unceremoniously yanked from the choir and made to sit in the pews where their mischief couldn't spread. Various threats about cancelling the Christmas parties at the end of the week were made. But in the end, everything worked out, as we all knew deep down it would. We pushed our students hard, we asked much of them, and when it came down to the wire, the students delivered.

Highlights of the play included the scriptural recitations we inserted into the play. These were performed by the kindergarten class and a few 1st and 2nd graders, and let me tell you, those selections from God's Word far outshone the actual scripted dialogue. The little ones brought down the house with their plaintive and passionate recitation of the scriptures. It was also interesting to see what lines from the play itself resonated with the audience--one line that nearly got dropped, ended up being one of the bigger laugh lines of the evening.

Another highlight was the choreography. Lisa Lavalas, kindergarten teacher and choreographer extraordnaire shone with her troupe of dancers. The dancers were graceful, beautifully illustrating the messages of the song "Legacy of Love" and adding spirit to the rousing reprise of "Christmas Groove" at the end of the play.

And of course there was the music--one highlight for me was watching a group of first and second grade students sponataneously link arms and sway together while their older schoolmates in grades 5-8 sang "A Little Means a Lot." Another highlight was watching one of our students most often sent to sit out from the choir during the practices, sing his heart out, swaying in time to "Christmas Groove" at the end of the show. At these and other moments during the performance Wednesday night, I felt my heart swell with love and affection for these kids and my fellow teachers. I felt that we were family just then and all the stress and strain semed worth it to be a part of this community, this family, motivated for this moment by the power and presence of God's love. Sure there were a few kids that looked like deer caught in the headlights--their choice not to take practice seriously catching up with them when the chips were down. But it didn't matter. The vast majority were ready, and those that weren't. . .well, they were still part of the family too.

And that, in the end, was the legacy left behind by this years Christamas program. This program was destined to leave a legacy, not of chaos, but of, well. . .love. Love in the hearts of our CAA family, and the infinitely larger love of the of our Father in heaven.

Dec 4, 2009

An Old Fashioned Saipan Thanksgiving. . .

Our Saipan family gathering, Friday, November 27, 2009. From L to R: Mai Rhea Odiyar (Grades 3-4 Teacher, 2006-07 & 2007-08), Judith Edwards (Grades 5-6 Teacher, 2007-08), Babs and the Little Feller, Me, "Little Sister", Fredo Paez, Carol Paez, "Cool Guy", Wylie Paez, and Keisha Paez.

. . .in Oregon!

Thanksgiving is a time for family. And we spent our Thanksgiving holiday, as we have for several years now, with family--our Saipan family. There was the "immediate family"--the Paez tribe, who, with us, have anchored our annual Thanksgviing feasts over the years--and the "extended family" as well--former teachers from years past who came together at our table over the course of the weekend. It was a regular Hall of Fame of Saipan vets from several eras: Sheri Rodman from the Knowlton years; 4Runners, Judith Edwards and Mai-Rhea Odiyar (who was also one of 06-07 Rock Stars); and one of our Professionals from last year, Nicole French. The weekend even featured an actual flesh-and-blood relation, my father, Duane Maycock who I hadn't seen in about 12 years.

Yes, it was quite a family gathering and one I hope we'll get to repeat for many years to come.

The flight on Thanksgiving morning from Cincinnati to Portland via Salt Lake City was on time and uneventful, thankfully. I expected a crush of holiday travelers and the accompanying delays, but in fact all the airports were relatively uncrowded. I guess most people did their flying the day before. Our son, although newly mobile, managed to stay relatively still through the entire seven hours of travel. We touched down in Portland a little after noon, welcomed by classic Northwestern Oregon weather--gray skies, cool temperatures, and steady rain. There was a brief "emergency" when, I realized I left my cell phone on the plane. But some helpful Northwest Airlines employees helped me recover it, and I arrived back at the front of the terminal just as Carol pulled up in her hunter green Honda Accord. It was so good to see her and her youngest son, who I will call "Cool Guy." We'd been looking forward to this day, literally since the day we left Saipan.

Carol took us back to their cozy little apartment in Gresham, where "Little Sister" and Fredo were waiting to welcome us. We spent the afternoon relaxing, catching up, and easing into some preliminary cooking. "Little Sister" and I entertained ourselves on Facebook, sometimes choosing to write on each other's walls, even though we were sitting in the same room. While the rest of America was celebrating Thanksgiving that day, we were planning our big feast for Friday (when the rest of America would be out shopping) so that more of the "family" could make it. Mai was driving down from Vancouver, British Columbia. Keisha was coming up from Eugene the next day.

Black Friday dawned bright and beautiful. I got up early (mainly because our jet-lagged Fella also did--believing it was 9:00 A.M instead of six), and worked on two of my contributions for Thanksgiving dinner--homemade artichoke and Morningstar sausage stuffing and Clarie Kosack's delecatble sweet potato casserole. Around 9:30 A.M., Judith and Mai came over. It was so good to see them again. It was hard to believe it had been a year and a half since I saw them both get on a plane and fly away. Much had changed since that day. Both sported longer hair--Judith's darker, Mai's with lighter highlights. Mai had taken a lengthy geographical journey and Jude a considerable philsophical journey; I had embarked on a new adventure as a father; and all of us living new lives apart from the place that had brought us together--Saipan. And yet, it seemed as if no time had passed at all. We headed out for a run, just like the old days. Jude took us up to a winding path that provided spectacular views of the Portland cityscape. Before we set out, we paused for a "moment of silence" to honor our missing comarade, Jessica Lee. It wasn't much of a moment of silence as we spent the whole moment talking about good old Lee. And then we were off. Sort of. The run never quite materialized. There was just too much catching up to do and we ended up walking and talking instead.

The 4Runners minus one at the end of our morning "run." Friday, November 27, 2009. (Thanks to Mai for the photo).

Back at the Paez place, Jude and Mai took my casseroles to bake at Judith's house (the turkey was hogging up Carol's oven). I took a hot shower and a quick power nap before starting work on my pies--an apple and a cherry, like always. Babs and Carol went to go pick up Keisha at the bus station, while I kept working on the pies.

By 3:30 or so, everyone was back and it was time to eat. Wylie Paez, the oldest of the Paez children living in America (Tito, the oldest, is still in Saipan), arrived last rounding out the group. The group was smaller than in years past, the apartment too small for one large table, but the love and friendship was as big as it ever had been. Our Saipan family was together again for the holiday, here in America.

Some home video. . .

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Judith sets the tables. The dark plates you see here are actually our plates from Saipan! We tried shipping one over as a test, and it broke. So we had Carol bring the rest over on her container. We hand carried them, a set of dessert plates, and bowls, along with two of our larger mirrors, back home to Ohio at the end of the weekend.

The finished pies waiting to be baked.

The Guests:

"Little Feller" and Fredo.

Carol and Judith

Babs and Mai

Me and "Little Sister." I taught all of the Paez kids (except for "Cool Guy"--she was the last one I taught

"Cool Guy" and Wylie

Carol and Keisha with a very fussy Feller.

The Food
We had all the usual favorites. Special K Loaf, boxed and scratch stuffing, potatoes--mashed and sweet, green bean casserole, cranberry relish, a crisp green salad, and possibly the best turkey Carol's ever produced. For dessert there was apple, pumpkin, and cherry pie with lots of whipped cream and vanilla ice cream. We washed it all down with delicious fruit punch garnished with blueberries.

The feast

Judith takes a stab at carving the turkey.

A few members of the Saipan SDA School Hall of Fame
One of the nicest things about our long weekend in Oregon was seeing old Saipan friends. Mai and Judith hung out with us all weekend. Besides them, we also heard from Jessica Lee, who called during our Thanksgiving dinner. We passed the phone around until her cell battery died, bringing the reunion to an abrupt end. Later that same evening, Nicole French stopped by for a few hours. It was great to see her again. All of us spent some time scrolling through old entries of my blog reliving those golden days in Saipan.

On Sabbath, we had a visitor from even further back in our Saipan history: Sheri Rodman. We hadn't seen Sheri in eight years, since she left Saipan in the summer of 2001. Sheri was one of the school earliest and best pre-school directors (from 1999 to 2001). To put some perspective on the time that's passed: Sheri was the preschool director when "Little Sister" was enrolled there. We knew Sheri then as easy-going but professional, a warm and kind presence in our lives, and dependable presence in our school. The years haven't changed her a bit. Sheri also has another island connection to us--her father, Keith Rodman was the Guam Micronesia Education director, and thus Barbara's boss and mentor, for many years. She and her husband Dave joined us for lunch on Sabbath and stayed to catch-up and reconnect for most of the afternoon.

Three from our Golden Age in Saipan: Judith, now an anthropology major at the University of Portland; Mai, teaching middle and high school classes in Vancouver, Canada, and Nicole, recently accepted into optometry school in Portland.

A lot of Saipan SDA School history in one place: Sheri is on the left next to me with her husband Dave next to her. Sheri is the principal of a small Adventist school in the Seattle area. She and Dave are expecting their first child next year!

The Paez Tribe
They're like the Kennedys. A big family with the charisma, good looks, and energy that make them larger than life. But unlike the Kennedy clan, who we only know from TV and the pages of magazines, this clan are some of our closest and dearest friends. We've watched the Paez kids grow up and taught most of them for years. Carol has grown to be one of our closest friends and most trusted confidants. She was the first person we told when we found out we were pregnant. She was there in the delivery room when our son was born. It should come as no surprise that we chose her to be his godmother.

We really enjoyed spending time with the Paez family. They were wonderful hosts, even giving up the master bedroom so that we could have the extra space and privacy. The kids and Carol all pitched in looking after the Little Feller. They even bought him some toys which he got to take home with him.

The Tribe (minus Tito): Fredo, striking a beefcake pose on the floor, and on the couch from left to right, Wylie, Carol, "Cool Guy", "Little Sister", and Keisha.

The Paez Tribe with their godbrother/son.

Brothers (with the stuffed wombat from "Little Sister's" Australia trip with REAL.

"Little Sister" and the woman formely known as "Bono Girl", Keisha. I just realized Keisha didn't wear shades all weekend. It appears she's moved past the shades as well as her nickname.

Sisters: The combined acting talent sitting on this couch is worth an armful of Oscars!

Carol and Babs

Amidst all this adopted family, there was one biological representative on hand, my father Duane Maycock. I hadn't seen "Papa," as we've always called him, for probably about 12 years--shortly after Babs and I were married and just before we moved to Saipan. Since I knew he was in Oregon, and figured he'd probably want to see his first grandson, I got in touch with him a week or so earlier and he agreed to come up and see us.

We met at church, and spent most of the service out in the foyer following the Feller around. He then joined us for lunch at the Paez house and stayed to visit for most of the afternoon. It was a good visit. We've never been what I'd call close. He and my mom split up when I was seven and we only saw him a handful of times after that. But, despite the time and distance, it really wasn't awkward. He regaled me with stories of my early years of life--adventures our family had when I was too young to remember. We talked about politics and religion and, to my relief, stayed away from the truly controversial topics (like anything relating to the divorce). Over all it was nice to see Papa, and I'm glad he was a small part of our family weekend in Oregon. Perhaps we'll see him again next time we go out to visit.

Three generations of Maycock men.

Papa's got lots of stories!

Festival of Lights
Saturday night, after Papa and Sheri and Dave had left for home, we headed out to take in the Festival of Lights at the Grotto, a Catholic monastery in Portland. It was a classic holiday outing with Christmas music sung by choirs, quartets, and soloists; hot chocolate; a puppet show for the kids; and of course lots and lots of twinkling lights.

It was a fun trip, though perhaps ill-advised for our son. By the time we got home it was 8:30 P.M. which was a late bedtime for him even by Pacific time. He was still on Eastern standard time though, and the 11:30 lights out left him in a cranky mood when he awoke at 5:30 the next morning as well throughout the long flight home.


One last photo of the Paez family at the Festival of Lights, Saturday, November 28, 2009.

Nov 20, 2009

Paradise Broken

On the morning of Septemeber 11, 2001, when I saw the towers in the flames, I felt an unusual pang of longing, a longing to be in America. My country was shattered, and I felt I should be there, with my people, sharing their grief, mourning with them. (And yes, of course Saipan is part of the United States, but nonetheless, I felt so far away).

I felt that same longing again this week, here in America, only this time, my heart was breaking for the islands that have been our home for over a decade. My islands were broken and hurting, and I feel I should be there, with my people sharing in their grief and shouldering a portion of their pain.

The first blow came with the news of the murder on Wednesday of student missionary Kirsten Wolcott on the island of Yap. I never knew Kirsten, never even met her. But because she was a student missionary, just as I once was; because she served on the islands I've come to love; because she set out on a morning run on the last day of her life, just as I did a hundred times with student missionary teachers in Saipan, I felt an automatic kinship with her, as well her colleagues at the Yap SDA School devasated by loss. She, and they, are my tribe, my people. And my heart hurts.

The second shock came hard upon the first, and this one closer still to home--a mass shooting that resulted in five deaths and a half dozen injuries in Saipan on Friday. Nothing like this has ever happened in Saipan, and the island, already beleagured by so much trouble, is reeling. The Facebook updates of friends recorded shock and confusion in real time, as schools were put on lockdown while police looked for the shooter. They found him eventually, dead by his own hand, at the edge of Banzai Cliff. When I first heard the news, my thoughts immediately went to our teachers at the Saipan SDA School. I knew based on the location of the shootings and the descriptions of the victims that they were physically fine, but I was concerned about their emotional well-being as well. These courageous young women have been through so much--wading through their first year of teaching (which in itself is quite ordeal), enduring multiple break-ins of their home, and now the murder of one of their colleagues on another island--and then this. I felt for them, these teachers who would have been my friends and co-workers if we had remained in Saipan. And I felt for my island and for people of the Marianas that have become extended family to me over the years. These--the teachers of Saipan SDA, and the people of the CNMI--are my people. They are my tribe and I feel I should be with them.

But I cannot be there, and so I mourn our paradise broken from afar.

Kirsten Wolcott. Our prayers our with her family, friends, co-workers, and students.

Last Command Post on the northern end of Saipan, where the gunman shot the second group of victims. Our prayers are with the families of those who lost loved ones in this tragedy, and with the victims who survived for healing for their wounds and a speedy recovery.

Mighty to Save

So lately I've been claiming a song as a prayer. Can you do that? I hope so, because I am.

I've come to realize that in the end there's only so much I can do for my students. I can reward them and punish them. I can threaten and cajole. I can try to inspire their curiosity and rouse their interest. I can listen and care; advise and guide. I can plead with them and I can pray with and for them. But in the end, I cannot save them. Only God can do that. It's hard to accept that there is only so much you can do. You don't want to lose a single one, and it's hard when you think you might. I've got a couple students right now that I'm really struggling with. Today, in particular, I drove him feeling a pretty down. And then that song I'd been claiming came up on my ipod. . ."Savior, He can move the mountains, my God is mighty to save, He is mighty to save. . ." I wasn't feeling it so much at that moment, but I decided that just because I wasn't feeling it, didn't make it any less true. He is mighty to save, and He alone can do what I cannot--reach a life where hope seems lost and turn it around. And so once again, I claimed, sang, prayed, that song for my troubled students, believing that Jesus can move the mountains in their life.

And tonight on that drive home, as I lifted my current students up in prayer, I thought of one of my former students, also going through a tough time though in quite a different way. I talked with her for a long time on the drive to work the other day, and I ended the conversation feeling as if I'd done little good. I wanted so much to really encourage her and make things better for her, and I didn't know how to do that. Once, again I had that horrible, helpless feeling we teachers sometimes get--the feeling that we can't do what we want to do most of all--make a difference. And so I turned once again to the only one who can make a difference--the Author of salvation, the One powerful enough to conqueor even the grave, and lifted my former student to Him as well.

I can't save my students, as much as I want to. But I know Who can, and so I turn to Him, every day.

If video doesn't play, you can go directly to the link, here.

Introducting. . .Shadow!

The Shadow Team: Year 1. These kids have the honor of being a part of the very first season of CAA's own drama ministry, Shadow. The nicknames will come as I get to know these kids better. In the meantime, I can identify my co-director, Mrs. Wayna Gray, in white on the right. All the members of the team are present in this photo taken at the end of our retreat, Sabbath, October 31, 2009, except for two. One boy had to leave early, and the other was out of town that weekend and was unable to attend.

It's been a new chapter in so many ways for me this fall. So much of what I've known for the past decade or more is now a memory. And yet so much of my new life here in America carries echoes of the old life in Saipan. I'm in another small Adventist school with 70-odd students, many of which are not Seventh-day Adventist. I'm teaching another 8th grade class, helping them fundraise for their class trip in the spring. I'm once again one of the few men on a mostly female staff. And, now once again, I'm co-directing a team of young and enthusiastic thespians--Columbus Adventist Academy's brand new drama team, Shadow.

People asked me if I would continue REAL Christian Theater in the states, and I always said no. REAL belongs at the Saipan SDA School--in my view it shouldn't be transplanted or restarted elsewhere. REAL is special--it can't be replaced or replicated. But I always had a sense that I would start a new drama ministry at my new school--one that would be uniquely CAA, special in it's own right. I thought I'd wait a year or so, to get a feel for things at my new school, but I guess God had other plans. And so Shadow was born.

We held auditions in mid-October and the kids who came out blew us away with their creativity, energy, and talent. On October 31st, we held our first retreat at in the school cafeteria. It was an all-day affair, from 9 in the morning until 7 in the evening, with the emphasis on teambuilding, drama workshops, and most importantly, a spiritual focus for the year. Ten kids made it to the retreat, and they became the official new drama team, joined later by one more student who was out of town the weekend of the retreat.

After the retreat, we began meeting for rehearsals every Friday afternoon from 2:30 to 3:30 in my classroom, and last Friday we finally settled on a name for our team--Shadow. The name references many things--God's Light, for example, casts a shadow: us! We seek to remain in the shadow of the cross, under the shadow of His wings. And of course the whole idea of shadows has a uniquely theatrical feel to it as well. I'm excited to see how Shadow will reflect God's light and love on stage in the months and years to come.

This year's Shadow team consists almost entirely of 5th and 6th graders. We have only one older student, in 7th grade. This is great because it means we'll have three or four years together as a team to work together and hone our skills. It also means a team that is literally bursting with excitement and energy--which is great, but can also sometimes be bit draining! Still, I love the kids in Shadow, and I look forward to seeing them grow in their performing abilities and even more importantly, in their love for the Lord.

Pray for our team this year as we seek to be His shadow!

Three "Shadows" work on creating an original skit during the retreat, October 31, 2009.

Another group of three Shadow actors working on their skit.

Two "Shadows" taking a break during the retreat. The girl in the yellow is our youngest member. She is in either third or fourth grade--I can't remember which. Shadow auditions were open to all students in grades 3-8. This girl was the only 3rd/4th grader to make the cut.

Two "Shadows" perform their skit for the group.

Shadow circles up for some team sharing.

Nov 7, 2009

Autumn in America

The Maycock Family, November 1, 2009. We're a world away from the tropical environment Elijah was born into, but we're still surrounded by beauty.

The leaves are mostly gone from the trees now, the brief but brilliant season of color is already passed. But we managed to capture the tail end of that beauty last Sunday afternoon, the first of November.

The only reason I'm having so much fun is because I only raked for about 15 minutes before I went inside to work on my lesson plans. Mom Leen says she'll be raking through Thanksgiving!

The Little Fella in his favorite place: Outdoors!

Down the quiet street we live on.

Mom Leen labors on the never ending task of raking leaves.