Thursday, September 22, 2016

Today was a good day...

Today was a good day. It was that kind of day that every teacher dreams of. Oh, the kids were in their normal pre-October, pep-rally tomorrow kind of frenzy, but it was still a good day. A really good day.

Wonder what could make a teacher say this amid the stacks of papers to grade, lessons to plan, and paperwork to fill out? It was a teachable moment. Teachers understand that unmistakable shift in the cosmos when a student asks just the right question and suddenly you are no longer talking about how to punctuate a sentence or find the answer in the text. You are touching that glistening edge of eternity. Okay, that's probably a bit overdramatic, but it's still pretty amazing because today I got to inspire.

That would have been a pretty good day with just that moment, but there was more to come. Later in the day, I had the opportunity to see the lightbulb go on in two students who previously seemed oblivious to the English lessons I was trying to teach. I got the chance to see them succeed at something they had been struggling with in class and the smile on their faces when they saw that their efforts had finally paid off. A connection was made.

Now all those who are teachers understand my excitement about this day, but those who don't teach may be wondering why I am going on and on about these brief moments in an otherwise ordinary day. What makes it worth paying attention to is the way this day started.

It started with a devotion that challenged me to center my life on Jesus and invite him into every moment of every day and then be sensitive to how He leads. To be honest, I thought this was pretty neat, and I needed to read this devotion again when I had more time...and I said a short prayer inviting Jesus to lead me.

On the way to school, I listened to a CD sermon from Charles Simpson about sharing your life with those around you and being ready for those "moments." It wasn't just about sharing the gospel, it was about sharing our lives and getting to know those around us. So again I prayed. I asked Jesus to make me aware of those "moments" that He brought my way. That was all. Nothing fancy, no lightning bolts or even sunshine streaming through the clouds. 

I really didn't even think about those prayers again until I got home and my husband asked that "How was your day" question. Then I realized, it had been a day with a whole lot of "moments" that I had somehow recognized, and that had made all the difference. Could it be that these were the result of the simple prayers I had uttered this morning? More importantly, would I pray them again tomorrow?

The devotion that came in my email this morning challenged me to take the next 7 days to "Stay open to the new and unexpected. This centering process is like thrift store shopping: frequently we don't find what we're looking for, but we encounter something better that wasn’t even on our list. Trust that Jesus knows what you need today." It also challenged me to write down what happens...so I did. Can't wait to see what happens tomorrow.

Yep, it was a really good day, indeed.

Interested in the devotional? Here's the link.  Jesus Centered Life I look forward to hearing from others who take the challenge and discover what happens when we center our lives on Jesus.

The eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him. — 2 Chronicles 16:9 NKJV

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Getting tired yet???

The following is a repost from 2013...but it seems appropriate for us all, but especially for teachers. This goes out to all my "teacher friends" out there...

Unless you are a teacher or in a field like it, you don't understand how tough this time of year can be. I've been teaching now for over 14 years and this is ALWAYS my toughest season. We've been in school long enough to start to get on each other's nerves and the weather is changing so the kids get restless, there ALWAYS seems to be a full moon, and thoughts of Halloween and candy are beginning to hit the stores and imaginations of children in every classroom. It is always at this time of year that I begin to wonder why in the world I went into teaching in the first place!

After many years of dealing with kids bouncing off the walls, parents who are exhausted because they've been working and playing taxi driver and homework helper for a few too many weeks, and first report cards looming on the horizon, I have learned that if I can just hang on till mid-November, it will all get better. Candy will be gone, some sports have slowed down, kids are finally realizing they actually have to DO the work to get the grade, and we all have Thanksgiving and Christmas to look forward to.

This season shouldn't surprise us, but it always does - perhaps because it can be so wearisome. You see, teaching, like so many other professions, is a seed-planting industry. At first each year, we must break up the fallowed (fallow: 1. Plowed but left unseeded during a growing season: as in fallow farmland. 2. Characterized by inactivity) ground. This alone is hard work. Students have spent all summer having fun. (I joke and tell my students I just know they rushed home after pool parties all summer so they could diagram sentences!)We have to loosen up the soil again, remove the thorns that have cropped up, and get them ready for planting once again.

Next, we begin to plant the seeds and we wait. Right about now we are exhausted from all that "breaking up" and the "thorn removal" and we've put in the seeds for the first crops, but all that is staring back at us is dry earth. It takes an act of faith to believe that in the future, a harvest will come. But we're already tired. Did I forget to mention that we are those parents who are pulled between work and practices and helping with homework at night, too?  
Teachers plant and plant and plant, then water, weed, and tend...but before we can truly see the harvest, the year is over and the students move on up to another who will tend what we have planted and plant a little more. (If this doesn't make you want to go hug a teacher, I don't know what will!)
But we have a promise from One who never lies. We will reap a harvest if we do not give up. 

Galatians 6:9-10 (MSG)
So let's not allow ourselves to get fatigued doing good. At the right time we will harvest a good crop if we don't give up, or quit.

So to all my teacher friends out there. Don't give up. God sees your work and He is in charge of the reward.....We work for Him and He can be trusted to do what He said He would do.

Don't give up my friends...November is on its way.  

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Everything was in black and white.....

Post from 2010...still makes me laugh when I think about it.

I remember where I was standing the day my class and I discussed what life was like 100 years ago. The students were naming things that they used every day which did not exist 100 years ago. I hated to admit that they didn't even exist when I was in college, but I digress. Finally came the statement, "Everything was in black and white." I paused...."Do you mean the pictures were in black and white?" I asked. No, they thought the world was black and white. 

I had to laugh and shake my head in disbelief. At first I wondered how could an 11 year old be so naive'? Then it happened again during a similar discussion...this time the students were two years older! That's when it hit me. These students were basing their conclusion on what they could see, on what they thought they "knew". In both classes, these students were assuming that since the pictures from long ago had no color, evidently the world had no color either. Yes, I know you're laughing, but these kids were sincere in their confusion. They could operate a complex computer and do advanced math, yet in that one area, their understanding was definitely flawed.


As I got to thinking more about it, I remembered that when my sister was a little girl, she got very excited that The Wizard of Oz was going to be coming on TV! She had heard that once Dorothy landed in Oz, everything turned to color! That of course must mean that our old black and white TV would be suddenly transformed and we'd have a color TV at last! Yes, the confusion existed even in my own family....because it is normal.


As an educator, we learn that children are not really capable of abstract thought up to a certain age. Oh, we may think they understand the difference in pretend and real, but probably less than we realize. Some concepts, such as spiritual ones, are very difficult for them to grasp. As children grow and mature, they reach a stage when they can make the connection....understand the "color" of the situation as it were.


What strikes me is, as adults we think we have matured past all that. We think we now understand...but do we? In the 1 Corinthians 13:12 (Message translation), it says, "We don't yet see things clearly. We're squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won't be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We'll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us!"  


We think that we understand so much about God and about the Christian walk, but do we really? We are basing what we know on our ability to understand....just as my 5th graders based their understanding on life 100 years ago based on the pictures they had seen. But God is so much beyond our comprehension!

To think that I have the audacity to try and tell God how He should go about "fixing" things. I am basing all that I know on what I can understand, and the older I get the more I realize how little I really understand!  "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the LORD. "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts." Isaiah 55:8-9

 
All this makes me wonder how many times have I said something that makes God want to just shake His head in disbelief. In my limited knowledge, am I spouting off something that is the equivalent of thinking life used to be all in black and white? Right now, I'm feeling a bit like a five year old trying to figure out the world....and discovering, guess what - it's in color!

Friday, September 2, 2016

Overwhelmed...

Overwhelmed.* 
According to dictionary.com, the word overwhelm means 

1. to overcome completely in mind or feeling
2. to overpower or overcome, especially with superior forces
3. to cover or bury beneath a mass of something, as floodwaters, debris, or an avalanche

Example sentences include: 
Verb 
  • Those who don't become part of the solution will be overwhelmed.
  • Children with autism are easily overwhelmed by information and can react badly-even violently-to the wrong kind of stimulus.
Adjective 
  • Feeling overwhelmed or inadequate is not a terribly unique feeling either.
  • Roberta does her best to help, but she feels overwhelmed.

I'm thinking those last two pretty well hit home for a lot of us. Honestly, for most of us, I probably didn't have to give the dictionary definition or example sentences - we probably could simply point to our own lives and say "This is what overwhelmed means."

Whether it is the daily demands of life, parenting, or the news of the day - most of us feel pretty overwhelmed most of the time. 

But today I heard overwhelmed come from the lips of someone who truly knows what overwhelmed means. Today I got to hear from an extraordinary woman, Allie Mellon of The Hard Places Community as she shared about the mission to fight against sex trafficking around the world. 

As I heard her share the stories of looking at these precious children who were being sold into slavery and because of the laws of the land being unable to do anything, I truly felt the weight of the word "overwhelmed". 

So much pain. So much hurt. So much damage. How do you fix that? Overwhelmed. Looking at how great, how impossible the need is and thinking, I'm not smart enough, rich enough, anything enough to know how to fix this! Overwhelmed. The need is so great. I don't know what to do. Overwhelmed.

Then she said a very simple phrase. God told her to just get out of the way and let Him meet the needs. He knows what to do. The need is great, but He is greater. Just share what He has given you - pour it out on them and get out of the way.

Overwhelmed, but this time by the love of God for the least of these. Overwhelmed by the desire to wake up and do something....anything. Overwhelmed by the knowledge that God loves these little ones and has spoken a dream into their hearts (have I forgotten that?) Overwhelmed that God wants to use me in this process. Overwhelmed. Overwhelmed. Overwhelmed.

I wonder if Moses looked at the vastness of the Red Sea and feel overwhelmed, yet he obeyed when God told him to hold up his rod. Did Joseph look around at the prison cell he sat in and yet still hear God speak to him about that dream he'd had so long ago? Did Nehemiah look out at the city that was torn to ruins and feel overwhelmed, and yet hear God tell him to go rebuild the walls.  Surely Peter must have looked at the stormy waters and felt overwhelmed - yet Jesus told him to step out. I wonder if even Jesus, when he looked at the cross that was before Him, feel overwhelmed, yet He went forward still.

Maybe it's time we felt overwhelmed not by the impossibleness of the task, but by the power of our Lord that calls us to it. That dream - the one you thought could never possibly be because it was just too overwhelming...maybe it's not so overwhelming after all. The needs He allows you to see, the ones you hope someone else will meet...maybe they are there for YOU to see so that God can work through YOU. 

The things you never thought you could do simply because you felt so inadequate and they seemed so overwhelming....Maybe it's time to realize that the things that look so overwhelming to us are not nearly as huge as the overwhelming love and power of our God. How overwhelming is that love? Remember the feeling you got the first time you looked into your child's eyes and thought no one had ever felt a love this great? Well that is only a small grain of sand compared to the vastness of God's love for us. (Yeah, I know - impossible to wrap you mind around, isn't it.)

I don't pretend to understand how so much evil can exist in the world today...all I know is that now I am overwhelmed with the knowledge that somehow God wants to use me to take back that which the enemy has stolen.

I try not to think too much about the "how" - since that overwhelms me. It's sort of like standing too long at the end of the high dive and looking down. Do that long enough and you'll talk yourself out of diving in at all...the kiddie pool looks like a much safer place to be. I'm thinking it's time to stop thinking so much and just walk to the end of the board and dive in. Then I can be overwhelmed by the depth of God's love instead of fear. That sounds live an overwhelmed I can live with.

Psalm 139:17-18

The Message (MSG)
Your thoughts—how rare, how beautiful!
      God, I'll never comprehend them!
   I couldn't even begin to count them—
      any more than I could count the sand of the sea.
   Oh, let me rise in the morning and live always with you!

"We are intimately linked in this harvest work. Anyone who accepts what you do, accepts me, the One who sent you. Anyone who accepts what I do accepts my Father, who sent me. Accepting a messenger of God is as good as being God's messenger. Accepting someone's help is as good as giving someone help. This is a large work I've called you into, but don't be overwhelmed by it. It's best to start small. Give a cool cup of water to someone who is thirsty, for instance. The smallest act of giving or receiving makes you a true apprentice. You won't lose out on a thing.

"The seed cast in the weeds represents the ones who hear the kingdom news but are overwhelmed with worries about all the things they have to do and all the things they want to get. The stress strangles what they heard, and nothing comes of it.

*Repost from 2012.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Am I A.D.D. or just A.W.D.

* Repost from 2009...

Today in worship, I became acutely aware of God's presence and I thought about how often I go through my days wishing I could sense His presence more. That's when I started thinking about how A.D.D. I tend to be and decided that in spiritual matters, perhaps I suffer a bit from A.W.D. - Attention to the World Disorder.

Since I am a teacher, I am well aware of how difficult it can be for a child who has A.D.D. to focus on what is important in the classroom. An overload of stimulus makes their brains take a detour from what they should be concentrating on to just about everything else. They often become frustrated and act out...or they withdraw from the very things that could help them. I heard the lead singer from Casting Crowns say he suffered from dyslexia and ADD which meant it was hard for him to read well and if he somehow managed to read well, his ADD still messed things up. I wonder at times if I am not undiagnosed ADD myself. I find I am easily distracted from what I need to get done, but over the years I have learned techniques to deal with my "random thoughts".....such as using them to write a blog. :)

Back to today's random thought. As I contemplated the fact that God is always with us, but somehow we don't sense it, our pastor began to talk about the very same thing! I was so excited I wanted to raise my hand and say, "I was just thinking about that!" To quote our pastor, "It's wonderful to know God is everywhere, but being in a place where you are AWARE of his presence is a whole other thing. When we focus, we become less aware of our surroundings and more aware of God." Yep, there it is. We are all a little A.W.D. 

A.W.D. is being ADD when it comes to God. Instead of being able to focus on Him, we are so easily distracted by the things of the world. We have allowed the things that are not eternal, things of this world, take our focus off of God....and we start to sink under the weight of it all.

The Bible is full of stories where man got his focus off God and onto the things of the world with disastrous results. One of the most evident was when Peter stepped out of the boat and tried to walk toward Jesus. He did just fine as long as he kept his eyes on Jesus, but the moment he lost focus and started looking at the waves (the things of this world) he started to sink. 

It happened to others as well. Different things pulled their focus from God...sometimes they were problems, sometimes they were things we'd think of as blessings, but once they lost focus - their troubles really began!

To paraphrase today's sermon, when our focus is right, we sense His presence and with that we find Purpose, Power, Protection, and Provision. With these come the greatest benefit - Peace. The key is to FOCUS!!!

I tell my son all the time...Focus Levi, focus! He's a lot like me, easily distracted by the shiny and new, or overly occupied with the one little thing that seems wrong. Once our focus is off, it's really tough to get us back to where we need to be. We're a little like the dog on the movie "UP" who could barely finish a sentence if a squirrel ran past within a hundred yards of him. Before you know it, we're off chasing something that is irrelvant in regards to what we're supposed to be doing! Unfortunately it doesn't take much to shift our focus from Sunday morning worship when we felt God's presence, to a place where all we can see are the things and problems of this world.

Yep, I admit it. I have A.W.D. but the good news is, G.O.D. is much bigger than any other letters of the alphabet combined! He is patient and willing to help me focus on Him. His GOODNESS OVERCOMES DISTRACTIONS....(G.O.D.)

When I wonder why I don't sense His presence, I can check to see, have I just lost focus. Am I seeking Him in the every day of my life? In His presence there is fullness of joy!(Psalm 16:11) If I'm not sensing His presence, I'm not experiencing true joy! It doesn't mean that life will suddenly become a big picnic, but it does mean that nothing the world uses to distract me can separate me from Him or His joy if I will keep my focus right....if I'll keep my focus on God.

Psalm 51 gives us a prayer that we can use to help us "re-focus". "Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me away from Your presence, And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, And renew a right spirit within me.

I don't mind being a little A.D.D., but I surely don't want to have A.W.D. As the old song says: Turn your eyes upon Jesus. Look full in His wonderful face. And the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace.

He is with you...you might just suffer from A.W.D. Take time to focus today. 

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

A battle of the mind...



* I needed to be reminded of this today...repost from 2009.

Today was a beautiful morning in South Mississippi and a great day for a race. That's what I should have been thinking, but truthfully I just wanted to pull the covers back over my head and get a couple hours more sleep. Still, I got up because I had promised friends I would be there to support a good cause. 

When the run began, I found my usual place in the back. I had no illusions that I would have a great race...I simply wanted to finish. The whistle blew for us to begin and I took off at a fairly slow pace. This would be the first time I'd run in weeks and I didn't even have time to warm up...guess I'd just consider my first mile the "warm-up."

I was surprised at how good those first few steps began to feel. I had a bit more "pick up" in my feet than I thought I'd have and even though the race began with a slight incline, I quickened my pace just a bit. When I finally allowed myself to check my distance, I'd covered half a mile. Not bad. I just might be able to pull out a decent run after all.

It was at the one mile mark that the random thought hit me. I had just had an "argument" with myself about whether I should stop and walk or keep running, and I realized, it wasn't that I was out of breath or in pain. I was tired, but not to the point of exhaustion. If I stopped running and walked, it was because I'd lost the battle in my mind. 

I started thinking about "battles" we fight in other areas of our lives and it occurred to me that most of them are won or lost in the mind. It is in our mind that we either quit or endure.

There is a verse in Titus that ties in with this and it caught my attention. It is Titus 2:2:"Teach the older men to be temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, and sound in faith, in love and in endurance." I never really thought about the fact that it is the older ones among us who need to be reminded to endure. Perhaps it is because we have convinced ourselves that since we are older, we should have an excuse to tire more quickly...to stop before the race is done. For some, it is even an excuse to not begin the race at all. Think about how many times you have heard, "I'm too old for this." Just because we are older does not mean that we should no longer endure. Romans 5:4 says: "For everything that is written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope." When we look to the scriptures we can find that encouragement that helps us win the battle of the mind.

Caleb was 80 when they entered the promised land. When it came time to divide out the land, he asked for the hill country! That would be the most difficult to settle, but he was ready for whatever challenges might come. Caleb had long ago won the battle of the mind. When he went in to check out the promised land, he believed not what his eyes saw, but what God had said. He didn't worry that the promise had "expired" like some out of date coupon. He did not consider his age in whether or not God could do what He had promised. It wasn't even a factor. God had promised it, and that was enough.

I finished the race today, a bit slower than I would have liked, but I finished it all the same. I can't say I completely won the battle of my mind, but hopefully I learned a few things along the way. It is time to turn more to the scriptures to find the encouragement that I need to endure...not so much in races, but in the spiritual battles I face. If I am following the promises of God, then He will be faithful...the question is, will I endure? This is a battle of the mind that I want to win.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

When life gets hard...

Sometimes life just gets plain hard. You don't understand. 

Yesterday I reposted on Facebook a blog I had written years ago about being tired. (A different kind of tired...) and I had no idea how appropriate it would be for that day.


It was just a day of....disappointment. 


We all have those days. Life just doesn't seem to be going according to our plan. (Does it ever?) Or perhaps it IS going according to our plan, but the dreams that looked so shiny from the outside now seem a little less "perfect" now that we are living them. 


Perhaps you have had one of those days recently and you know what I mean. Those days are hard when they happen to us, but when they happen to our children - well, that is an ache that goes deep. It's an ache that just weighs on your heart like a lead blanket. You want to kick it off like a heavy quilt, but you have no idea how.


Just this week I'd been having a conversation with a friend about a disappointment her son was facing. I reminded her of the promises God has given us - that He uses all things for His glory and for the good of those who love Him. I reminded her that God loves her son more than she does, which to a mom seems to be an impossible statement. I even found a familiar quote that spoke to me: "God has a plan for you that's good....so if it's not good yet, He's not finished." The cake is still baking, the picture is still developing, the quilt is still being sewn..... He's not finished yet.


Then I think of times when I need to call someone and ask them to repeat my own words back to me. 


I think of those nights whenI lay awake underneath that "lead blanket" and pray, asking God to please show me how to help my child deal with "life" that doesn't always go the way we thought it would. How could I help them see that God truly does work all things for our good?

I have to admit, I had to examine my own life and things that were a little difficult...make that, things that were HARD! How do I get my heart to believe that God will work those hard things not only for His glory but for my GOOD? How could I look at what lay in front of me as a blessing? How could I thank God in all things, apart from simply an act of will? I'm a little older (make that a LOT older) than my children and even I have a hard time doing this at times despite YEARS of experience seeing this to be true.


Then this morning, I had a verse come across my screen that gave me a way I could pray for my children (and myself.) A way I could help them see and understand that God is up to something that will eventually work out for them that is GOOD! 


2 Corinthians 2:16 - Isaiah’s question, “Is there anyone around who knows God’s Spirit, anyone who knows what he is doing?” has been answered: Christ knows, and we have Christ’s Spirit. (Emphasis mine.)


There it is. I can pray that my children understand what is happening because THEY HAVE CHRIST'S SPIRIT in them. I can pray that Christ's spirit will greatly increase in them so that no matter what disappointment crosses their path in life, they can trust that God has got this. He has a plan for them that was written before their first moment of life, and it is a GOOD plan. 


Now I have something I CAN do. I won't lie and say it's easy - it's never easy seeing the hurt in your child's eyes...but I know that even in that, God is working to draw them closer to Him and the plan HE has for their life - that GOOD plan. He is teaching THEM the lessons He taught me through the years - that He can be trusted even with their dreams.


I love my babies - but God loves them even more. Thank you, Lord, for that and Your good, good plans even when life gets hard.


Footnote: After posting, I thought of something I saw just this week. A gecko was after a moth and the one he "wanted" got away...then shortly after another moth, a much BIGGER moth, settled right in front of this gecko. You can figure the rest. (Yes, I realize it wasn't so good for the moth, but still, it started me thinking.)

The gecko was on my mind that day and I remembered the verse about God seeing even a sparrow that falls. So here's my "adaptation" of that verse. "If God sees and cares for a tiny gecko, will He not also take care of you?"

John 15:15
I don’t call you servants any longer; servants don’t know what the master is doing, but I have told you everything the Father has said to Me. I call you friends.


Matthew 10:29-31The Voice (VOICE)


29 Look, if you sold a few sparrows, how much money would you get? A copper coin apiece, perhaps? And yet your Father in heaven knows when those small sparrows fall to the ground. 30-31 You, beloved, are worth so much more than a whole flock of sparrows. God knows everything about you, even the number of hairs on your head. So do not fear.