Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Piece of my life's puzzle

Yesterday I had one of those "A-ha" moments that lingered with me through the day. I was busy setting up my new classroom and putting decorations on the wall when I came across the "puzzle" from last year and more importantly, another one from years ago.

For those unfamiliar with my "puzzles," you can check out the entire story from a previous blog - (Just doesn't fit) - but in a nutshell it was about how each person is important to the picture. In the lesson I gave each person a puzzle piece and they put their name on the piece and then added it to the completed picture. Without every "piece" the picture would be incomplete. Cool lesson, huh. 

But yesterday I learned something more.

You see, lately I've been dealing with unforgiveness. Oh, I know, as  Christian I'm supposed to know how to do this....but I still struggle sometimes. I'm like that song by Tenth Ave. North called "Losing". When I forgive it feels like I'm the one losing. My usual reaction to the situation is to simply avoid the one who caused me pain. That works (or so I think it does) unless the one I have to forgive is someone I must see daily, then it gets a bit (make that a whole lot) more difficult.

Anyway, yesterday I looked at that puzzle from years ago and there at the very top was that name, the one of the person who had caused me so much pain that year.  There was the name of the student who had bullied me. It may surprise people to learn that teachers can be bullied, too. After all, teachers have a place of power! (Not if they approach teaching as a place of service but that's for another blog.) At any rate, there was the name of the student who had subtly bullied me all year until at last he/she stepped over the line and was removed from my class. It was a mild threat but one that finally revealed what was happening. Once the student was removed, I realized that what I thought was just a difficult situation was truly one of bullying. As I looked at that puzzle piece, some of that year came back to mind. 

If anyone had asked me, I'd have said I would rather that the student had never been a part of that year. Life would have been so much easier for me and all those around me. I can't say I ever reached that student despite prayers, second (third, fourth, fifth, etc.) chances. I can't say I've even reached the place where my stomach doesn't tighten when I think of that student or that year. I look at some of the other names in the puzzle and realize that one name almost causes me to forget all the others that were such a blessing. 

That one name. That one puzzle piece. That one part of the picture.

But you see, that is what hit me. Underneath the puzzle I have a quote from It's a Wonderful Life. It's that part where Clarence the angel says, "Strange, isn't it? Each man's life touches so many other lives. When he isn't around he leaves an awful hole, doesn't he."

Without that person who had caused me so much pain, the picture would be incomplete. 

There would be a hole in the picture.

Are you seeing what I am seeing? That person I wish I had never had to deal had a part in helping create my life's picture. The question is, what will I do with that "piece." Will I allow it to be a painful dig, or start to look at it as a beautiful part of the painting God is creating in my life?

It's such a small piece, but without it the picture would be incomplete.

Our life story, a picture of Christ's love and redemption. It has a lot of pieces....everyone is a part of a beautiful picture in Him.

Forgiveness is a difficult, sometimes painful piece - but without it the picture simply would not be whole and complete.

Genesis 50:20 (NIV) 

You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.

Colossians 3:13 (NIV)

13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Wet wood...

Then Elijah said to all the people, “Now come to me.” So they gathered around him, and Elijah rebuilt the altar of the Lord, which had been torn down. 31 He took twelve stones, one stone for each of the twelve tribes, the number of Jacob’s sons. (The Lord changed Jacob’s name to Israel.) 32 Elijah used these stones to rebuild the altar in honor of the Lord. Then he dug a ditch around the altar that was big enough to hold about thirteen quarts of seed. 33 Elijah put the wood on the altar, cut the bull into pieces, and laid the pieces on the wood. 34 Then he said, “Fill four jars with water, and pour it on the meat and on the wood.” Then Elijah said, “Do it again,” and they did it again. Then he said, “Do it a third time,” and they did it the third time. 35 So the water ran off the altar and filled the ditch.
36 At the time for the evening sacrifice, the prophet Elijah went near the altar. “Lord, you are the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel,” he prayed. “Prove that you are the God of Israel and that I am your servant. Show these people that you commanded me to do all these things. 37 Lord, answer my prayer so these people will know that you, Lord, are God and that you will change their minds.”
38 Then fire from the Lord came down and burned the sacrifice, the wood, the stones, and the ground around the altar. It also dried up the water in the ditch. 39 When all the people saw this, they fell down to the ground, crying, “The Lord is God! The Lord is God!” (1 Kings 18)

Most are familiar with the story of Elijah and the prophets of Baal. There had been no rain in the land for 3 years and as far as the king was concerned, Elijah was to blame. (Guess he chose to forget that he had taken to worshiping idols.) After 3 years of this, Elijah returned and it was time for a "show-down" between Elijah and the God he worshiped and the king with the gods he chose. The challenge was simple. Build two altars and prepare the sacrifice then see which god/God would send down fire and burn it up. The prophets of Baal did their best to get the attention of their god but nothing worked despite the fact that they tried all day. Now it was Elijah's turn.

Elijah started by rebuilding the altar and, well, you see the "rest of the story" above. God consumed the sacrifice and all around fell down to worship The Lord, God. Lately this story has been on my mind, in particular one specific part. Elijah didn't just prepare the sacrifice, he used wet wood!

Now anyone who has ever tried to build a fire knows that you just can't use wet wood. You may get smoke, you may wear yourself out, but you are not going to get a fire unless you find a way to dry out your wood. The other day I was watching one of those survival shows and the people were stuck in the swamp. They wanted to make a fire because they were cold and tired, but the problem was all the wood was wet. To make matters worse, it started to rain! Any wood they thought they might be at least a little dry got soaked before they could gather it. Wet wood = no fire. Nothin', nadda, zippo, zilch.

But Elijah purposely had them soak the wood, maybe just to prove that nothing is impossible for God; then he simply asked. Fire came down, burned the sacrifice, the wood, the stones, and dried up the water around it! When they saw this, the people around fell down and worshiped God.

I don't know about you, but lately I've been feeling a bit like my wood was wet. I remembered the fire of God but no matter how hard I tried I just couldn't seem to get it rekindled inside me. Life had dumped water on me till I was just plain soggy and the thought of fire inside was but a distant memory. 

But something is happening. Though my "wood" is wet, I can feel that God is up to something. We may be bringing wet wood but God is getting ready to start a fire that cannot be ignored. An "all consuming fire." One that others will see and it will cause them to worship God. (I love that part. It's not the wood the people worshiped, but when it caught fire, they sure did worship the One who caused it to burn!)

So how about it? Are you feeling it too? Life may have dumped a LOT of water on you and your wood is just plain soaked, but you can feel that stirring that something is about to happen. I don't know about you, but I am ready. Let's watch God start a fire, wet wood and all. 

I'll bring the marshmallows.