Thank you, Jesus!!

The event

This article is written as a response to discussion on Facebook about an event that happened in my house yesterday. Here is a quick recap of the event timeline, for background information:

  • 4:59 AM – I receive an email from my server stating that two of my 17 hard drives have failed. Because of my redundancy setup, no data has been lost.
  • 5:00 AM – Marlene’s alarm clock goes off, and I hear a beeping in the basement.
  • 5:02 AM – I find the basement is filled with smoke, and the server is powered off.
  • 7:00 AM – I have disassembled and reassembled the server, and found that the culprit was a SATA power cable (feeding two drives) that caught fire, as seen below. The server is back up and running, and no data has been lost.


My personal response

I am very happy with the sequence of events. No one was hurt. Nothing valuable was damaged. Because of the specific timing of things, the server (which hosts a number of parts of my life, including this blog you are reading right now) was only down for 2 hours. And I feel that I have learned a valuable lesson from the experience: I now know the hidden cost of using dirt cheap power cables in my system.

On the whole, I am thankful to God that this scenario occurred in exactly the way that it did. I can think of many ways it could have played out worse, resulting in more inconvenience, higher financial impact, and even injury or loss of life.

But didn’t God cause the situation in the first place?

Hmm… Good question! My best answer: I don’t know!

Seriously, he might have. In order to explain further, let me relay my own personal viewpoint of how God works.

DISCLAIMER: This is my own model of God’s influence in my life. I don’t claim that it is true. As with any scientific / mathematical model, I have created it to explain my observations, and find it useful as a predictor, but I am open to revising or rewriting the model as inaccuracies are discovered.

Given: God created the universe. I’m not going to discuss this here, and without this presupposition, the rest of the discussion is irrelevant.

  1. God designed the universe with physical laws that govern the way things work. We have discovered many of those laws, but many of them are still left to be discovered.
  2. God is able to intervene, as He sees fit, to make events happen that are beyond the scope of the laws he put in place. How often He does intervene is unknown.
  3. God has created humans with the capacity to make choices outside of this system of physical laws. For more on my perspective, see Supernatural me.
  4. Sometimes, God allows the results of our choices to play out completely according to physical laws and according to interactions with other humans, whose actions are outside the physical laws.
  5. Sometimes God intervenes, for His unknown purposes, to prevent or to cause actions other than what would otherwise occur as a result of human decision and physical laws.

I don’t always know when God has intervened in a situation and when He hasn’t. There have been times when I was strongly convinced that He had; this is one of those times. I believe that God orchestrated at least the timeline of this event, if not the actual occurrences themselves. The convenience of the timing has exceeded my own personal coincidence threshold.

Why would God cause your computer to catch fire?

I’m not going to get drawn into a deep philosophical discussion on “Why do bad things happen to good people?” That’s beyond the scope of this article, and often involves conjecture and assumptions about God’s purposes and other peoples’ situations that I don’t find very productive.

The best that I can do is examine my own life and try to figure out why events have transpired as they have for me. I know, it’s a bit of a cop-out. By most standards, I live a blessed life. I won’t say my life is easy; I find it quite challenging enough, thank you very much. I can’t directly compare with another person’s life, though, for obvious reasons. We work with what we have.

I feel that this particular situation was valuable to me. Let’s examine the results:

  1. I learned a lesson about computer parts.
  2. My faith in God grew.
  3. I shared my experience with others.
  4. I wrote this blog post.
  5. ???

Hmm… Notice #5? Now this is important. I don’t know all the results of this incident. There is no way that I could. I can’t see what my life (and the life of others) would have been like if my computer had not caught fire. I can come up with multiple scenarios, ranging from plausible to ridiculous, but it’s all just conjecture.

It comes down to faith

We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him.

– Romans 8:28 NIRV

Notice that in this verse, it says that God works in all things. I consider this to be different from saying that God works in each thing. I can’t analyze each individual event in my life and find the purpose of every circumstance. The very concept is meaningless. I liken it to trying to decipher the picture in a 1000 piece puzzle by examining a single piece.

In the end, I see the pieces fitting together in my life, and it is meaningful to me. I can share that with you, but none of you will see it with the clarity that I do. You must come to your own conclusions based on the circumstances in your own life.

I can’t prove God’s hand in my life, nor do I feel the need to do so. I believe it is there: guiding, shaping, comforting, protecting, loving. I thank God both for His intervention, and His lack of intervention, as the situation may be.

 – danBhentschel

I am Mr. Dan

The King will reply, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”

—  Matthew 25:40 (NIV)

20150301_122054 (2)At the beginning of 2009, Nora was in the 2-year-old Sunday School class in our church, taught by a beautiful woman named Desiree Holliman. Desiree had been masterfully teaching toddlers at Victory for many years, and we greatly appreciated her. Unfortunately, she decided to step down soon after Nora “graduated” to the 3-year-old class.

 With Jacob’s 2-yer-old birthday around the corner, and no replacement imminent, Marlene and I started to consider teaching the class ourselves. It wasn’t an easy choice. At the time, we had been active in the adult Sunday School class for more than 10 years, and we were concerned that our relationships in that group would suffer if we were to leave.

After a period of deliberation and prayer, we eventually decided to volunteer for the position, and I can tell you that it was one of the best decisions of my life.

Teaching a room full of toddlers isn’t the most glamorous of jobs. When asked to list pivotal roles in a congregation, few people would mention the 2-year-old Sunday School teacher. And yet for a certain segment of the population, a safe, engaging, and fun environment for their young ones is an essential element of a church’s repertoire.

Classroom essentials

The following factors contribute to a classroom that caters to the needs of 2-year-olds and their families:

A safe environment

This is absolutely essential. The classroom not only needs to be safe, but also needs to feel safe to both parents and children. This includes not only the obvious things such as age-appropriate furniture and toys, but also the more subtle things like drop-off and pick-up procedures, and good security practices.

Parents should feel confident that:

  • Only approved adults will have access to their children while they are away.
  • The staff can and will contact them in an emergency.
  • The teachers know and can support their child’s needs including:
    • Diaper changes and / or potty breaks
    • Food allergies
    • Special comfort items

Consistency plays a big part in creating an environment that feels safe to children. If they see the same faces and do the same activities every week when they come to church, then they will feel more comfortable when their parents leave them.

An engaging environment

Many 2-year-old classrooms substitute babysitting for teaching. Adults frequently underestimate what 2-year-olds are capable of. Marlene and I have made age-appropriate-learning one of our teaching goals.

In the 75 minutes that we have the children in our room, we incorporate a wide variety of activities that provide learning opportunities, including:

  • Sing songs – Some songs are Bible-related, some are generally educational, and some are just fun.
  • Prayer – We pray at least twice during every class.
  • Tell a Bible story – The story is always very short (just a couple minutes) and has a very simple moral, repeated multiple times.
  • Review – We are always sure to recap some of the morning’s activities, to help with retention.
  • Simon says – It’s a “dumbed down” rendition, but even the youngest in the class are able to copy a leader’s actions.
  • Coloring – Each week we color a very simple picture related to the Bible story we discussed earlier in class.

A fun environment

Toddlers require fun. It is absolutely essential. If they are not enjoying themselves, then everything grinds to a screeching halt. Two-year-olds are not able to patiently wait for the conclusion of an uninteresting activity.

In order to keep things running smoothly, it is a good idea to switch things up frequently. Alternate between periods of activity and quiet. Limit each organized segment of the class to about 5 minutes. That’s about as long as their attention span will endure.

Here is a rundown of our class schedule:

  • Free play (30 min)
  • Clean up (5 min)
  • Circle time (15 min)
    • Prayer (30 sec)
    • Sing sit-down songs (5 min)
    • Stand up and stretch (30 sec)
    • Sing stand-up songs (5 min)
    • Story (2 min)
    • Prayer (30 sec)
    • Review morning (1 min)
  • Snack time (5-10 min)
  • Simon says (2 min)
  • Coloring (2 min)
  • Free play (until parents arrive)

Attitude is key

Of course not all children are the same, but the majority of toddlers respond well to an adult who is:

  • Confident
  • Cheerful
  • Excited
  • Affectionate

It’s important to be constantly monitoring my attitude, and its effects on the class. For example, if I’m overly enthusiastic, I could scare some of the more reserved children.

Have a backup plan

Children are full of surprises. Some classes go quite smoothly, but some weeks are so disorganized that I wonder if maybe I should throw in the towel.

It is essential to be prepared for disaster. Then, when it inevitably happens, I am better equipped to deal with it. Some situations to consider are:

  • What to do if the children who need attention exceeds the number of adults in the room? This includes unhappy, hurt, and naughty children, as well as children who need a potty break or a diaper change.
  • What if an unhappy child simply won’t calm down?
  • What if a child gets seriously hurt, or goes missing?
  • What to do if a child has a bathroom accident or gets sick?
  • What to do with an overly aggressive child?
  • What to do if you are unable to cope with the class for whatever reason?

Reaping the rewards

Teaching young children can be very rewarding. I have met many lovely families in our church through my teaching position.

I have also formed some strong bonds with the children of Victory. Many of them remember me and say “hi” or give me hugs in the hallway several years after they have moved on from my class.

My favorite blessing, though, is when parents tell me about what their children have learned in my class. I am thrilled when I hear that a  child is able to recount parts of a Bible story, or sing songs about Jesus to their family.

– danBhentschel