Saturday, November 30, 2013

I am a fan of football...

It's the weekend after thanksgiving and that means lots of football on tv. This is a good thing because I am currently going through some major withdrawals. For the past few months, I have planned my every move around football and before I knew it, the season (for our high school) was over!

Every afternoon I knew I'd be at the school till at least 5 (if not 6) waiting on my son to finish practice. Every night there would be a football game on tv, either in real time or a repeat and you could be sure my son would be glued to every move. Every Friday night I knew I'd be at a football game somewhere, sitting in the heat, the rain, and finally - the cold. Every weekend I knew I'd be listening to a play-by-play of the Friday night before. I'd be asked, "Did you see when...." about every moment of the game. My life was consumed by football.

Now, for a time, it's over; and I am truly missing it. This comes as a surprise to me. You see, I really don't care that much for the game. (SHOCK!) I actually watched the Superbowl only for the commercials. Until a few years ago, I could count the number of games I'd even paid attention to on one hand. It was just....a game.

Then came Levi, and everything changed! I have a picture of him when he was about 2 and he's holding a small stuffed football. I guess that should have been a sign for me. This boy was going to LOVE this game. It wasn't until 5th grade that he actually rediscovered it, but once he did...well, life changed for all of us. (Levi has a way of making sure EVERYONE is interested in what he's interested in.)

Now...well, I love football. At least, I love high school football. Pretty sure in a few years, I'll love college football. Seeing a trend?

I now love football because I love Levi. I love watching him do what he was created to do. We tried him in band for one year - he was miserable and so were we! The boy is simply BUILT for this game! He has a love for it and it is infectious! Mostly, I just love watching him be Levi. And everyone around me knows it. I am a fan! People can hear me cheer in the voice tends to carry. They see me at the games. They see the absolute joy all over my face every time my son hits the field. No matter how far away the game might be, no matter what the weather, I loved watching those games. Whether we were winning or losing, I would be in those stands, watching every move.

I love football because I love the one who is playing, and I'm pretty sure everyone around me can tell that. I am my son's biggest fan!

Then I find I have to ask myself, can people tell that I love God in the same way? Do they see someone who is excited about what God is doing? Do they see someone who is ready to go anywhere at the drop of the hat in order to be a part of what He is doing? Do they see someone who gets up and goes to work each day with anticipation because I know that God is leading me there? Am I a true fan of God?

Will I look forward to church as readily as I look forward to those games? It's far more climate controlled than the stadiums. In my Christian walk, will I cheer each victory that I see and make my voice heard for each injustice? (Oh come on, don't tell me you never got upset over a bad call!) Will I show up no matter what the conditions, no matter how difficult it might be, no matter who else comes? Will God be as big a part of my daily conversation as football now seems to be? Will I be a fan of God in my everyday life?

Yes, I love football because I love Levi, and it's obvious to anyone who knows me....but I hope my love for God shines through even more. I want the world to know that I am a fan of God. How about you?

Oh, and for those who care...I'll be rooting for Auburn today, because that's who my son roots for.

Romans 1:1-2, 9-13

The Message (MSG)
1-2 So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.
9-10 Love from the center of who you are; don’t fake it. Run for dear life from evil; hold on for dear life to good. Be good friends who love deeply; practice playing second fiddle.
11-13 Don’t burn out; keep yourselves fueled and aflame. Be alert servants of the Master, cheerfully expectant.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Running with one contact in...

Today I ran the Hobble Gobble Thanksgiving Day race. I love this event because it's for the ARC, it's filled with fellow runners out to have fun, and it's a great excuse to eat whatever I want later in the day.

Today as I ran, I had one of those "random thoughts" that find their way into this blog. Today it was about running with just one contact.

Using only one contact isn't a new idea for me. I know a lot of people who use only one contact in order to see both far away and close up...but today I thought about it in a different way. Today I thought about it in terms of heaven.

This morning, I almost made the mistake of running with BOTH contacts. I figured I wanted to be able to see ahead...keep my eye on the prize as it were. Before going out the door, however, I happened to glance down at my phone and realized I couldn't read the screen with both contacts in. I wouldn't be able to even turn on my music! So, I took out one contact and headed out the door.

That's when it hit me. Running with one contact is a little like living life with heaven in mind. Mind you, it would have been great to see WAY ahead by wearing both contacts, but if I had, I would miss a lot of little things along the way because with both contacts in I have trouble seeing what is right in front of me! Mostly I would miss the faces of those around me. I've heard it said that it's not a good idea to be so "heavenly minded that you're no earthly good." God obviously has a job for me to do or I wouldn't still be here! I need to be able to keep my eye on heaven while still doing what God has for me here on earth!

I can't run without contacts either...tried it a couple of times. I lose sight of my goal all together and simply have to run on "blind faith"...I'm not too good at that. I can do it for a while, because I can see my next step, but I eventually get frustrated that everything else is a blur.

So, today I'm going to try and "run my race" with one contact...keeping an eye on heaven but not forgetting what God places before me on earth to do.

How about you? How's your focus today? Oh...and Happy Thanksgiving Y'all!

Colossians 3:1-2 (MSG)

So if you’re serious about living this new resurrection life with Christ, act like it. Pursue the things over which Christ presides. Don’t shuffle along, eyes to the ground, absorbed with the things right in front of you. Look up, and be alert to what is going on around Christ—that’s where the action is. See things from his perspective.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

This one is different...

Every parent looks at their child and at some point says those 4 little words...."this one is different." Usually, they are saying this in a positive way, but sometimes.......

It's true. Every child is different, but as a parent and a teacher, one of the things I have come to realize over the years is that while children are different, there are a few things that remain constant in all least the ones I've met.

#1 - Children lie. Unless your name is Mary and your child's name is Jesus, face it - they will lie. It's a part of human nature. I have always wanted to say to a parent who says that their child does not lie, "Well, at least now we know where they learned it from." As a parent, I do not need to be ashamed that my child will lie, but realize it is an opportunity to teach them. Teach them, not just of how wrong it is to lie and the ramifications that come from it, but also that God never lies. His promises are true and He can be trusted. Lies have a way of eroding a person's ability to be trusted in ANYTHING! That's why it's so important to remember that God has NEVER lied...His Word is true.

#2 - One size does not fit all. (Okay, I guess that fits the "this one is different" idea.) What worked in disciplining one child will not automatically work for another. Ask me about the time I tried using psychology and reasoning with my son only to have him strip down to his birthday suit and go out the door! He was only 3 and I caught him before he got to the street...almost. The education plan for one child will not automatically fit another. (I always try to counsel parents who are trying to choose between home-school, private school, or public school to ask God. He knows what is right for their child. Some have a mixture of kids in all three!) The Bible talks about training up a child in the way that HE should go. I may want to train up my child to be a doctor...and God plans for a police officer. I may plan for a teacher, and God may plan for a president. I may plan for a pastor, and God may plan for a CEO. One size does not fit all, and that's a good thing!

#3 - Your children don't belong to you. Seriously. I don't care if you adopted them or gave birth to them, they do not belong to you. They don't belong to the world either. They belong to God. He helps US grow up by giving us these children for a time. Our responsibility is to train them to follow Him. Notice I didn't say take them to church, although that is important. I didn't say teach them to follow rules, although that is a part of growing up. We are to teach them to FOLLOW God. They learn that by watching us do the same. They learn when we screw up and run to God. They learn when they see us succeed and run to Him. They learn when they see us do anything and always run to Him. I've tried to "teach" my kids a lot of different things, but it's the things I've lived in front of them that seem to "stick."

There is ONE thing more thing that is true of every child. Each child is loved by God. He loves them even more than YOU do! I know, it's hard to imagine, but He does. He has a plan for them, one for good and not for evil. Plans for a hope and a matter what things look like right now.

During the holidays, when you have your children and a bit of extra stress to add to the mix, you can remember this - while your child is "different", so are you. Know that God doesn't make mistakes.....YOU will, but He doesn't. He really does know what He's doing....and He has a plan. It may be different than yours, but it is good.

Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

Proverbs 22:6 (MSG)

 Point your kids in the right direction—
    when they’re old they won’t be lost.

Can I be honest?

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving...can I be honest? I'm pretty un-thankful.

Don't get me wrong. I am the FIRST to say "thank you" to people for just about EVERYTHING! Thank you to the cashier at the grocery store. Thank you to my students for walking in line. Thank you to the traffic light for finally turning green...I try daily to see my blessings. I am so thankful for my children, my husband, my all around me I am pretty sure that I appear to be a thankful person.

But I know the truth.

I see the success of the "world" and I am jealous. I see those around me with plenty, those who do not seem to serve God, and I get angry. I see the exciting, new toys enjoyed by the "rich" and I secretly seethe. No, I'm not thankful.

I am pretty sure I am not alone. If I am the only one who struggles with this, I simply ask that you pray for me and see me as a flawed child of God who is still growing. You see, I often forget just how blessed I am.

I get my eyes off what God has given me and instead stare at the blessings of others. I am ADHD and distracted by the shiny and sparkly of what I perceive to be as better. I become a person who views the world through the glasses of want instead of those of abundance...despite all that I have. I forget.

Today, I want to remember.

As I clean out my old van that is older than my son who just got his driver's license, I want to look at the stickers that still remain on the back window, a reminder of the vacation taken with my children when they were young. The laughter that filled that van...yes, it's even better than a new car smell could ever be....and I give thanks.

As I pick up the dirty clothes for the millionth time, I want to remember that God chose my husband and me to raise two of His precious children...and while my son talks non-stop or my daughter leaves her stuff everywhere, I want to remember what life was like before them...and I give thanks.

As I see people with jobs that seem perfect - complete with large salaries and bonus perks - I want to remember the blessings of the career God has chosen for me. While there never seems to be money in my account, I can hardly go anywhere without hearing my name called or being recognized as a teacher. (Okay - not sure how thankful I should be about that!)

As I see magnificent homes exquisitely decorated for the holidays, I want to remember that each ornament I hang on my little tree represents a year of my life with family. There is only one tree, but it holds a lifetime of memories, one that, honestly, is filled with far more good than bad....and I give thanks.

I want to remember.....and give thanks.

Maybe I'm the only one that struggles with being thankful. Perhaps people will see this blog and think of me as a horrible person from now on. Or maybe, just maybe, there are other "un-thankful" people out there who like me are learning....remembering to give thanks for what they have.

Honestly, sometimes it's hard...but I'm working on it.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (MSG)

16-18 Be cheerful no matter what; pray all the time; thank God no matter what happens. This is the way God wants you who belong to Christ Jesus to live.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

I'll never be fast....

I have come to the realization that I will never be fast. I used to be at least "sort of" fast, but as my years have advanced, my speed has diminished. With that in mind, it would be easy to see how I would get discouraged and just give up, but then things like this happen to remind me why...

Tonight I participated in a local "Go H.A.R.D." (Hug A Runner Day) event. It was only a mile run, and totally for fun, but just what I needed as I start to work on getting back into running again.

I started out with all the other runners as they started into an easy jog. The best part was watching all the parents with their kids as they made their way around the course. Before long, I found myself running alone. I've noticed that happens a lot. There are a BUNCH of runners ahead of me and a few behind me, and I run alone. That's okay. To be honest I am kind of comfortable in that spot. I actually like running alone.

It was then that I came up behind two little girls who had sped past me earlier, but now they were walking. I encouraged them a couple of times to keep going. They would, of course, take off at top speed and leave me, only to have me plod up behind them in a few seconds.
Finally, I ran along side the littlest one, (I'll call her "pink kitty" since she wore a pink kitten hat,) and this time I told her I'd run along side her. She started to kick on the jets again only this time I told her to slow down...we'd just go slow. 

She was doing her best, but she looked up at me and said, "My heart hurts! It feels like it's breaking!" 

I nodded and said, "I know, but that's just your heart growing stronger. Don't stop. Don't give up. You can do this!"

We ran along side by side, me talking to her about her really cool hat, asking about her school, telling her she was doing great, encouraging her that she was a really fast runner for a 5 year old..."I don't think I could have run that fast when I was 5," I said. 

She looked up and asked, "How old are you?" 

"I'm 54. Pretty old, huh." Yes, she nodded. ( that moment it felt pretty good to be that old!)

Step by step we ran together. "Not much further," I said. 

The finish line was getting closer, and she wanted to speed up, but I told her to hold back till the final turn. As we approached that last turn, I told her I wanted her to run as hard as she could. I figured she'd leave me behind when she kicked in those afterburners, but we weren't done. She gave it a burst of speed, but then I could see her slowing. I had to speed up and run beside her, egging her on.

That little "pink kitty" crossed the finishing line at full speed, so proud of herself and what she had done! She finished her mile run!

I have to be honest, I was pretty happy too. No, I hadn't run my fastest mile - far from it. Instead, I helped someone else reach their goal.

The Christian walk is a lot like this run. Sometimes I feel my "best" days are behind me. I'm not nearly as fast as I once was. Only now, I have an even better reason to run. I get to run alongside others who are just starting their race....those whose hearts "feel like they are breaking" and I get to encourage them that they are just getting stronger.

I get to talk to them about little things to help get their minds off the pain. I get to remind them to slow down...we'll get there one step at a time. I get to watch them do things they never thought possible and help them simply not to quit.

No, I'll never be fast like some others, but this is my race, the one that allows me to meet people all along the way that simply need to hear, "You can do this." This is why I run this race called life.  Care to join me?

1 Thessalonians 5:11 (Msg)

So speak encouraging words to one another. Build up hope so you’ll all be together in this, no one left out, no one left behind. I know you’re already doing this; just keep on doing it.

Hebrews 10:22-25 (MSG)

So let’s do it—full of belief, confident that we’re presentable inside and out. Let’s keep a firm grip on the promises that keep us going. He always keeps his word. Let’s see how inventive we can be in encouraging love and helping out, not avoiding worshiping together as some do but spurring each other on, especially as we see the big Day approaching.

*Note: I originally said this was Pink Kitty's FIRST mile. I later discovered after reading a post from her mom that it was not her first mile. Thanks Christy for allowing me to run with your precious child. 
I also realized, it was probably one of the most fun miles I've run in a long time....Pink Kitty took my mind off my own labored breathing for a while!

Saturday, November 16, 2013

An unlikely couple...

We've all seen them - that unlikely couple that makes you wonder, "How did THEY wind up together?" Maybe  she's gorgeous and he seems dorky, or his is bold and she is meek, or like me and my husband, she is hyper and loud while he is quiet and calm. Whatever the mix, they just seem like they don't fit, but they are obviously perfect together.

This week I've been thinking of another "unlikely couple" - Confidence and Humility.

On the surface these two might seem like they don't fit together, but when you look closer you find that you can't possibly have one without the other!

Think of someone you know who walks in confidence. You know them. When they walk into a room, people are drawn to them. They aren't cocky or full of themselves, they just are.  They do their job in confidence, parent their kids in confidence, even play in confidence! They just seem to not worry and instead walk into any situation as though they know what to do.

I've been thinking a lot about what makes a person confident. Is it their ability? Is it their knowledge? What is it about them that allows them to walk in such confidence? That's when it hit me. It's because they aren't just confident, they are also HUMBLE! Yes, you heard me right, they are humble....THAT'S the reason they can be so confident. They realize it's not about them. 

A humble person doesn't think too highly of themselves, in fact, I'm pretty sure they aren't thinking of themselves at all. They seem to be "about their Father's business," and that is enough. The confidence is intertwined so closely to humility that they can't be separated. Think about it, no one ever has walked in more confidence and humility than Jesus. He could have called down angels to do His bidding at anytime, but instead He walked with sinners, sick people, and thieves showing mercy and grace. He just went about doing his Father's will.

Unfortunately, I find that I more often walk with another "odd couple"....the evil twins of Confidence and Humility - Low-self esteem and Pride. Confusing, I know! Most people see someone who speaks of themselves with words of debasement and self-depreciation and think THAT is the person who is humble. Like most things, however, looks can be deceiving. After all, those words are usually mostly about THEM. It's about what they can or cannot do. The focus is on THEM. What seems to be Humility is actually Pride in disguise. While
I'd like to believe I can walk in confidence, I more often seem to walk in pride. I want to lose the focus on myself, but often that's exactly where it lands. On me. Not a very pleasant thought, I know.

Confidence knows that everything isn't based on our own ability to make things happen. It's hard to get to this point because the toughest part is that all this requires Trust. It's a simple word, but that doesn't make it easy. 

We have to Trust that our Father God loves us more than we can imagine. Trust that He sees all the days of our lives and has already walked through them. Trust that He has planned an end that will be for our good and His glory. 

Now that I think about it, maybe it's not that Confidence and Humility are a couple. Maybe they actually walk as a trio with Trust. I want to hang with these friends a lot more than I do their evil counterparts, Low Self-esteem, Pride, and Fear. How about you?

Luke 2:49
He said, “Why were you looking for me? Didn’t you know that I had to be here, dealing with the things of my Father?”

Psalms 25:9 He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble his way.

James 4:10   Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.

 Ephesians 2:10 - For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

George Washington slept here...

Today I was listening to an interesting story about someone who had been given a guitar. It was a very nice guitar, top of the line. It was, however, extra special because it had been signed by Eric Clapton. Because of this, this guitar was extremely valuable. The new owner took great care of this guitar, making sure he cleaned it after each use, storing it in a special place - not exposing it to elements that might cause it harm. You get the picture...and I'm pretty sure you see where today's post is heading. 

All this got me to thinking about all the other things that we see as valuable because some great person signed it or used it. In the past, people would claim importance to some place that looked like just a shack to most people...its one claim to fame was that "George Washington slept here." The name of the famous person was used to garner recognition, prominence,  even money. It is not the HOUSE that gave the place value, but who had stayed there.

Tying these two stories together, they both got me to thinking...what makes a person valuable? Is it our gifts? What we look like? The other "houses" around us? No, what really makes a person valuable is who lives within the house...whose "signature" is on it.

Because Christ lives in me, I have value. So do you. I'm not going to "trash" the house, or bring in things that might destroy it or ugly it up. I'm not going to cover my "valuable guitar" with cheap stickers from a gumball machine. I'm not going to allow political ads, product billboards, or just plain weeds to diminish the importance of the dwelling. It's too important. No trash of un-forgiveness can be allowed, no language that paints the house in cheap neon green paint, no habits that block the view like a tacky billboard with lights. The focus isn't even on the house at all. The focus should be on Who lives there.

No, George Washington didn't live here, but the One who DOES is far greater than any man who has ever lived. That makes this house valuable. That makes me valuable...and it's what makes you valuable, too.

Romans 8:9-11 (MSG)

9-11 But if God himself has taken up residence in your life, you can hardly be thinking more of yourself than of him. Anyone, of course, who has not welcomed this invisible but clearly present God, the Spirit of Christ, won’t know what we’re talking about. But for you who welcome him, in whom he dwells—even though you still experience all the limitations of sin—you yourself experience life on God’s terms. It stands to reason, doesn’t it, that if the alive-and-present God who raised Jesus from the dead moves into your life, he’ll do the same thing in you that he did in Jesus, bringing you alive to himself? When God lives and breathes in you (and he does, as surely as he did in Jesus), you are delivered from that dead life. With his Spirit living in you, your body will be as alive as Christ’s!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Thank you...

The following is a re-post of one of the first blogs I ever wrote. "Thank you" for reading....

Today, as I was on my break (those who are teachers will find that term laughable), I came upon one of our special needs students who was outside enjoying the beautiful sunshine with his teacher. As soon as he saw me, he called out "Thank you" and held out what could best be described as a broken weed. Of course, I went over to him to say good morning and he called out again, "Thank you." I reached to take the weed he offered and he gave it, then reached for it again all the while saying "Thank you." The smile on this child's face was so peaceful, I was quite captivated. His teacher smiled that loving smile I see so often on her face as she works with these little ones and she said, "That's all he knows how to say."

I watched as this angel dressed in everyday clothes walked back and forth between his teacher and me saying "thank you" and alternating between giving and receiving that broken weed. His teacher and I talked for a moment and he smiled and toddled tirelessly between the two of us. His teacher said, "He could do that all day." I'm sure he had no idea how much joy he was sharing with each "thank you."

As we ended our conversation, I laughingly commented that perhaps he could come and teach my 5th graders a thing or two...but as I turned to continue on my way to the office I thought perhaps it was ME that needed to be taught.

How often do I complain when life hands me less than what I think I deserve? How often have I grumbled to God and all those around me when life wasn't "fair"? How often have I spewed negative words into my situations because I had to wait longer than I wanted for my turn? And let's be honest...most of my grumbling and complaining isn't because of some great trial; it's because I've been inconvenienced in some way. When traffic doesn't go fast enough for me, (usually cause I'm running late), or someone does things differently than I think they should be done, or - let's be truthful - someone gets the credit for something that I feel like I should be noticed for....I go and throw myself a two year old fit! How dare life not go my way! How many times have I been unhappy with the broken weed I've been given... and how many times has the peace that this child had escaped me?

We all know that the Bible tells us to give thanks in all things - not for them mind you, but in them. We can do this because we know that God works all things for our good and His glory in those that love Him and are called according to His purpose. I know there will be times when I need to cry out to the Lord or to my brothers and sisters in Christ....there is no shame in being honest about our feelings, but I don't need to set up camp there. I need to take my broken weed, look up, and move on.

Lord, help me remember this child's face and the peace and joy he expressed each time he said "thank you." Help me to remember that life will hand me broken weeds at times, but I don't have to be bitter or grumble and complain. Help me to live each day able only to say two words....thank you.

Thank you, Lord....thank you. 

Colossians 3:15 - 17 (MSG)

15-17 Let the peace of Christ keep you in tune with each other, in step with each other. None of this going off and doing your own thing. And cultivate thankfulness. Let the Word of Christ—the Message—have the run of the house. Give it plenty of room in your lives. Instruct and direct one another using good common sense. And sing, sing your hearts out to God! Let every detail in your lives—words, actions, whatever—be done in the name of the Master, Jesus, thanking God the Father every step of the way.