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FIRST-PERSON: Instructions for a lifetime

JACKSON, Tenn. (BP)–Has this ever happened to you? I found myself on my knees on the floor in the middle of our living room at 10 o’clock on a Saturday night. I was hunched over a sewing pattern that was sprawled out across the carpet, looking like I was reading blueprints for the Empire State Building (though my feeling at the time was more like the Titanic).

I had been in this position for almost two hours, reading and re-reading the instructions for just cutting out the pattern — I was trying not to even think about the next step — the actual sewing.

You see, I don’t sew. I don’t own a sewing machine, and my husband has replaced more buttons on shirts than I have. But I have decided I am making our little boy’s Halloween costume, converting a pumpkin pattern into the #1 hero in our toddler’s life next to Blue and Elmo — Bob the Tomato, whose creators, for some unknown reason, have refused to give mom a break and provide store-bought costumes.

To be honest, I don’t like Halloween and never have. My parents were never advocates of the holiday, even dressing up, but my husband’s family was quite the opposite, and so we compromise and go to our church’s fall festival, and my husband gets all the candy he can eat. This year will be our 18-month-old’s first Halloween — and what mother wouldn’t want to see her baby boy resemble a tomato? I can just imagine his excitement as he runs down the hall in his costume saying, “Bah, Bah!” (Bob in baby language) over and over again. So here I am, attempting to sew.

The whole time I’m looking over these pattern instructions, scratching my head (about words whose meanings I understand about as well as any of the Greek language), I’m thinking the same question over and over — WHY did I not pay more attention in Home Ec class?

Mrs. Smith’s Home Ec class my freshman year of high school was both a thorn and a curse in my secondary school education. I’m sure that my enrollment in class that year was also what led to her early retirement — specifically, my fish pajamas.

You see, each student in the class had to pick a sewing project to work on and complete for the last half of the term. I chose fish pajamas — brightly colored neon-looking fish on pants and a button-down long sleeve pajama top. Why my mother didn’t stop me at the material store, I don’t know, but that is what I came home with — fish.

Things started off well enough. With Mrs. Smith’s patient instruction, I had everything cut out, ready to start sewing. But if there was a way to shut down a sewing machine or lock it up, I think I found every possible variation that semester. Mrs. Smith cut more knots out for me, untangled thread and replaced broken needles on my machine than probably any other student she had ever taught. I don’t remember her ever showing any frustration, just calmly showing me over and over that I didn’t have to drive the sewing pedal like I would a car and that I really needed to watch how I positioned the fish so as not to make them appear upside down on the finished garment. The only thing worse than fish pajamas were dead fish pajamas.

Remembering Mrs. Smith’s instruction and direction also reminded me of the importance of passing what you know on to the next generation. This week Baptist Press is hosting its second student journalism conference, a three-day event which brings journalists from all over the country who are excellent in their craft to share and teach 150 college journalism students from a wide mix of colleges and universities. These students are learning what it means to be a journalist, and how the Christian faith can only enhance, not hinder, this important profession. Students need to hear that they can work for The New York Times, the Washington Post, one of the major network or cable news channels, or a national magazine and still hold to their beliefs and convictions. They CAN be a light in the darkness in whatever mission field they find themselves in, be it a newsroom or an office — simply by striving for excellence in their craft for the ultimate reason of bringing glory to God.

While many universities have not embraced this as fully as they could, there are a few, including the one that I am fortunate to work at, that have committed to help students understand just what a Christian worldview is. It’s not just about taking a couple of Christian studies courses, but embracing a view that avoids compartmentalizing your spiritual life from the rest of your life and encompasses everything as a whole. It’s the idea that everyone is called to minister right where they are.

We recently had Chuck Colson on our campus who discussed the Christian worldview and the importance of shaping it among our young people. I loved the reaction from one of our trustees — a sharp, delightful, older lady, probably in her late 70s or early 80s who said afterward that in all of the years she had spent in public service as a social worker, it had never occurred to her that she was also a missionary. That is the realization I believe we must give to future generations now, as they are on the verge of entering their chosen career paths — to strive for excellence in whatever occupation or profession that is taken on — and do it all to the glory of God.

Unlike my sewing instruction for fish pajamas, it’s my hope that the instruction of Christian worldview that is taking place never leaves those who hear it.

After all, it’s the world we live in now that, indeed, needs the light of truth the most. And it’s our job as Christians to give off the glow. We need to ask ourselves everyday — what’s being done to shine God’s light where I am?
Horn is Director of News and Media Relations at Union University.

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  • Sara Horn