Sunday, February 24, 2019

Lessons from Kid's Church for the teacher...

Sometimes it can be a challenge to teach in Kid's Church - especially if it's a story the kids "think" they know. They want to tell the story and never slow down long enough to hear it...today I was challenged with teaching the story of the conversion of Saul, a story most of us know very well. 

In an effort to find a way to help my kids understand this story in a fresh way, I learned something that is worth sharing.

We all know in our head that no one is so bad that God can't change them, right? But as I studied today, a phrase struck me. Saul was raised in the Jewish faith and "knew" it better than anyone. I bet when they ate around the table at night, he recounted on how he had "shown those stupid Christians a thing or two." They probably laughed and toasted over each perceived victory. 


Yep, it's pretty hard to change someone who goes home each night to a reinforcement of wrong...that's when it hit me...but it's NOT IMPOSSIBLE.

As a teacher, at times we grieve over our students who go home each night to rest their heads in a place where rest is not to be found. Sometimes it's a place of sadness, heartbreak, need, anger and even violence we know nothing about. We worry that we can't make a difference when we have them a few hours a day and then they go back into an environment of chaos that to them is "normal" and "right." Much like, I'm sure, the Christians thought there would never be a change in someone the likes of Saul. But there was.


As an educator, a mom, and a child of God, I sometimes I fall into the "I know they can change but it seems impossible with the circumstances they face." But nothing is impossible for God. Nothing
I need to ask God daily to remove the scales from MY eyes so that I can see what He can do in a life, no matter the circumstances. 


So there you have it - thoughts from Kid's Church, where very often the teacher learns as much if not more than the students.


Acts 7: 59-60
As the rocks rained down, Stephen prayed, “Master Jesus, take my life.” Then he knelt down, praying loud enough for everyone to hear, “Master, don’t blame them for this sin”—his last words. Then he died.
Saul was right there, congratulating the killers. (emphasis mine)
Acts 8:3
3-8 And Saul just went wild, devastating the church, entering house after house after house, dragging men and women off to jail.
Acts 9: 1- 19
1-2 All this time Saul was breathing down the necks of the Master’s disciples, out for the kill. He went to the Chief Priest and got arrest warrants to take to the meeting places in Damascus so that if he found anyone there belonging to the Way, whether men or women, he could arrest them and bring them to Jerusalem.
3-4 He set off. When he got to the outskirts of Damascus, he was suddenly dazed by a blinding flash of light. As he fell to the ground, he heard a voice: “Saul, Saul, why are you out to get me?”
5-6 He said, “Who are you, Master?”
“I am Jesus, the One you’re hunting down. I want you to get up and enter the city. In the city you’ll be told what to do next.”
7-9 His companions stood there dumbstruck—they could hear the sound, but couldn’t see anyone—while Saul, picking himself up off the ground, found himself stone-blind. They had to take him by the hand and lead him into Damascus. He continued blind for three days. He ate nothing, drank nothing.
10 There was a disciple in Damascus by the name of Ananias. The Master spoke to him in a vision: “Ananias.”
“Yes, Master?” he answered.
11-12 “Get up and go over to Straight Avenue. Ask at the house of Judas for a man from Tarsus. His name is Saul. He’s there praying. He has just had a dream in which he saw a man named Ananias enter the house and lay hands on him so he could see again.”
13-14 Ananias protested, “Master, you can’t be serious. Everybody’s talking about this man and the terrible things he’s been doing, his reign of terror against your people in Jerusalem! And now he’s shown up here with papers from the Chief Priest that give him license to do the same to us.”
15-16 But the Master said, “Don’t argue. Go! I have picked him as my personal representative to non-Jews and kings and Jews. And now I’m about to show him what he’s in for—the hard suffering that goes with this job.”
17-19 So Ananias went and found the house, placed his hands on blind Saul, and said, “Brother Saul, the Master sent me, the same Jesus you saw on your way here. He sent me so you could see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” No sooner were the words out of his mouth than something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes—he could see again! He got to his feet, was baptized, and sat down with them to a hearty meal.
Photo by Adrien Taylor on Unsplash

Sunday, February 3, 2019

Waiting for the other shoe to drop...

Today's random thought will be kind of long since it has been on my mind for about 3 weeks now...

As I was growing up, I thought if I did what I was supposed to and was a "good" Christian, then things would go "right" in my life...it didn't take long into adulthood to figure out this was NOT the case. After all, in the Bible, it does say that in this world we will have tribulation...


As I grew in understanding, I realized that not only would I have tribulation, the more I served God the more of a target I would become for the enemy! Even if I did nothing, the fact that God loves me makes the enemy hate me! This resulted in a life of waiting for the other shoe to drop...no matter how good things were going, I knew that just around the corner an attack was waiting. Yeah - not really conducive to peace.


But the past few weeks, I've been thinking about the story of Elisha and his servant from 2 Kings 6, beginning at verse 8. You can read this in its entirety at the end of this blog but what follows is a "Donna synopsis" of the story.


In the Bible, it says that Elisha was serving God, doing what God directed him to do and warning the Israelites of the enemy's moves before they happened. This, as you can imagine, did not sit well with King Aram of the Arameans who was at war with Israel. He thought he had a traitor in his own camp, but one of his men let him know that the problem was this guy named Elisha. So, understandably, King Aram decided to "get rid of" the problem and said, (vs 13) “Go, find out where he is, so I can send men and capture him.” The report came back: “He is in Dothan.” '(Pretty sure this didn't mean Alabama...) (vs 14) "Then he sent horses and chariots and a strong force there. They went by night and surrounded the city." 
See, the plan was to stop Elisha.

Early the next morning, Elisha's servant got up and went out of the tent, I'm guessing to make coffee. What he saw terrified him! He ran back in and woke up Elisha (notice that Elisha was so at peace that he was asleep!) and in a panic told him they were surrounded and asked, "What shall we do?" ( think it probably had a few extra exclamation points...more like, "WHAT ARE WE GONNA DO?!?!?!?!?!?!")

At this point, I imagine Elisha yawning before saying, "Don't worry. Those who are with us are greater than those against us." He then prayed that God would open the servant's eyes so that he could see what Elisha already knew was there. When he went back outside, what the servant saw was fiery chariots surrounding them, basically standing between them and the enemy. The rest of the story is equally amazing, but I wanted to focus on this part - Elisha was at perfect peace because he knew that he was surrounded by God. He didn't deny the army that was there, he simply trusted that God had a plan and would protect him.


So there it is - the other shoe drop. In life it's not that I have to worry because there will be trouble, it's that I can be at perfect peace and enjoy each day because when the trouble comes, God already has me surrounded. I know...amazingly simple, but it took God opening my eyes to see the truth. 


He's got you covered...enjoy each day and do as He directs without fear.


2 Kings 6: 8-23 
Now the king of Aram was at war with Israel. After conferring with his officers, he said, “I will set up my camp in such and such a place.”
The man of God sent word to the king of Israel: “Beware of passing that place, because the Arameans are going down there.” 10 So the king of Israel checked on the place indicated by the man of God. Time and again Elisha warned the king, so that he was on his guard in such places.
11 This enraged the king of Aram. He summoned his officers and demanded of them, “Tell me! Which of us is on the side of the king of Israel?”
12 “None of us, my lord the king,” said one of his officers, “but Elisha, the prophet who is in Israel, tells the king of Israel the very words you speak in your bedroom.”
13 “Go, find out where he is,” the king ordered, “so I can send men and capture him.” The report came back: “He is in Dothan.” 14 Then he sent horses and chariots and a strong force there. They went by night and surrounded the city.
15 When the servant of the man of God got up and went out early the next morning, an army with horses and chariots had surrounded the city. “Oh no, my lord! What shall we do?” the servant asked.
16 “Don’t be afraid,” the prophet answered. “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.”
17 And Elisha prayed, “Open his eyes, Lord, so that he may see.” Then the Lord opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.
18 As the enemy came down toward him, Elisha prayed to the Lord, “Strike this army with blindness.” So he struck them with blindness, as Elisha had asked.
19 Elisha told them, “This is not the road and this is not the city. Follow me, and I will lead you to the man you are looking for.” And he led them to Samaria.
20 After they entered the city, Elisha said, “Lord, open the eyes of these men so they can see.” Then the Lord opened their eyes and they looked, and there they were, inside Samaria.
21 When the king of Israel saw them, he asked Elisha, “Shall I kill them, my father? Shall I kill them?”
22 “Do not kill them,” he answered. “Would you kill those you have captured with your own sword or bow? Set food and water before them so that they may eat and drink and then go back to their master.” 23 So he prepared a great feast for them, and after they had finished eating and drinking, he sent them away, and they returned to their master. So the bands from Aram stopped raiding Israel’s territory.
Photo by Jakob Owens on Unsplash

Sunday, January 6, 2019

My views on exercise have changed...

"Target your thighs", "get rid of belly fat," "lose x pounds in 30 days..." seems like this type of headline appears on a regular basis in my newsfeed, especially right after the new year begins. I know that a lot of that is thanks to articles I have previously visited, but lately, I've noticed that my reaction to them has changed. Maybe it's age, maybe it's fatigue, maybe it's even contentment - all I know is that most of these headlines mean very little to me anymore. My views on exercise have definitely changed.

Now, the one on belly fat does catch my eye because I'm too cheap to buy new clothes so I really need to work on this one, but my reasoning for reading the other articles on exercise has definitely taken a different turn. 

No longer do I care so much what I "look" like...now I just want to be able to move. Age seems determined to slow me down, inhibit my movement, and keep me from doing all that I feel like God has for me to do, and that is NOT okay. I don't really care if I look good in a swimsuit (okay, so I care a little) but I do care a LOT if I can't sing and dance through a session of Children's Church without getting winded. I care if my knees won't allow me to kneel by a student's desk to help them with a problem. I care that it's hard to sit down and then get up off the floor so playing with children is limited. I care that I walk like I'm in pain (because I am) and it slows me down. I care that lifting groceries into that old lady's car at Walmart makes my back hurt a bit. I care because I know God's not finished with me yet - I know that because I'm still here!

Lately, I've been working on getting back to exercise but now I have a different reason than in the past. Before I may have said it was for "health" purposes, but honestly, I cared a LOT about how I looked and I think I had something to "prove." Now I think I'm a bit more concerned that I can simply get around.

The other day I saw an older woman, (honestly, she was probably about my age!) at Walmart and she was having difficulty getting her groceries into her car. I stopped and asked to help and she graciously accepted. I lifted the rather large container filled with groceries she had just purchased into her back seat - I noticed how heavy it was and wondered how she'd get it into her house. I held out my arm for her to balance so she could get off the electric cart and slowly move into the driver's seat. I waited as she maneuvered herself behind the wheel and then offered to put the cart up so that she could back out of the parking space. (Let's be honest - I've always wanted to ride on one of those carts!) She had to instruct me on how to make the cart move and after a couple of tries, I managed to "hot-wheel" it into the store. It was one of the most frustrating experiences I've had in a while. I had NO IDEA that those carts move so slow!

Now, I have nothing against those who need to use these carts for assistance - I just realize even more that I really do NOT want to be one of them, so now exercise has taken on a new meaning! I even noticed a change in my thinking...I used to say I wanted to retire in the next five years, but I'm thinking that may stretch out a bit. Who says at 65 you have to slow down? I want to RUN the race God has set out for me. I want to run all the way across the finish line...or at the very least, walk at a fast clip! 

So yeah, now I see exercise in a very different way. I don't care if my "thighs look good" - I want to be sure my legs are strong enough for the days ahead. I don't care how my back looks or if I have "shapely shoulders" - I want them to be strong enough to help others. I don't care if I finish first in a 5k - I just want to be able to participate in life! Wrinkles - yeah, I have those too but hopefully, the light of Jesus shines in my eyes enough that people don't really notice those.

I guess what I'm saying is that now exercise isn't so much about me anymore...it's more about helping those around me. I doubt anyone will ever write books about my "wisdom" or "spirituality" but I can at least help lift a few groceries or play with my students a bit. I want to be "in on" all that God has for me every single day till the day He says I'm done. 

Now...it's time to get out of my recliner and go for a run...or at least a very vigorous walk - because now I have a reason far greater than me.

1 Corinthians 9:19-27 Message)
19-23 Even though I am free of the demands and expectations of everyone, I have voluntarily become a servant to any and all in order to reach a wide range of people: religious, nonreligious, meticulous moralists, loose-living immoralists, the defeated, the demoralized—whoever. I didn’t take on their way of life. I kept my bearings in Christ—but I entered their world and tried to experience things from their point of view. I’ve become just about every sort of servant there is in my attempts to lead those I meet into a God-saved life. I did all this because of the Message. I didn’t just want to talk about it; I wanted to be in on it!
24-25 You’ve all been to the stadium and seen the athletes race. Everyone runs; one wins. Run to win. All good athletes train hard. They do it for a gold medal that tarnishes and fades. You’re after one that’s gold eternally.
26-27 I don’t know about you, but I’m running hard for the finish line. I’m giving it everything I’ve got. No sloppy living for me! I’m staying alert and in top condition. I’m not going to get caught napping, telling everyone else all about it and then missing out myself.

Photo by David Clode on Unsplash - I have no idea why this picture called to me for this blog, but it certainly did!

Thursday, January 3, 2019

Look at me...

Today as I was reading a devotional from Our Daily Bread, one of those random thoughts came. The devotional, titled "Eyes Tightly Shut" by Kirsten Holmberg, recounted an event with her nephew where he thought if he couldn't see her, she couldn't see him or what he had done wrong. 

The article got me thinking about times I have tried to talk to my students or even my own children and I've had to repeatedly say, "Look at me." No, I'm not talking about saying it in anger or demanding in any way, but the times I've said it because I desperately want them to see in my eyes that I was not angry, but that I loved them. It did not change the fact that I needed to correct what they were doing, but I wanted them to see that my motivation was love for them.

I wonder, how often have I failed to look to God or in His Word for fear of correction? Or maybe it's fear of punishment - there is a difference you know. Come to think of it, punishment is usually what happens as a consequence of my actions when I don't seek Him. Punishment that comes, not from God, but from the way my defiance makes me feel inside. The feelings of failure, of imminent doom, of self-hatred - those all hover trying to make me look away from God. Yet, still, I hear Him say, "Donna - look at Me." 

I want to hear the love in his voice that I know is there but my own shame and self-hatred yells so much louder..."Don't look! Hang your head! Harden your heart so it won't hurt!" I see this in my students when I say those words - "look at me."

If only I could make them hear my tone along with the words. Tone is pretty important, you know. It can take words and make them have TOTALLY different meanings! The words "look at me" aren't being said as a demand, but as a plea - a plea of love. 

In my students, I also see pride - not the good kind, but the kind that makes it so difficult for them to admit wrong. They point their fingers at those around them, or circumstances, or ANYTHING other than admit they are wrong. They don't realize that all those excuses set up a barrier to change...to growth...to freedom. They see them as reasons they fail instead of seeing them as walls they build themselves that keep them imprisoned in fear and anger and failure. All because they refuse to listen to the words of love calling, "Look at Me."

I've got a lot to learn myself. The areas of my life that I try to "fix" on my own and all the while God calls, "Look at Me." It's not a cruel demand, but a call of love. I want to learn to listen to His tone and understand that when I release my pride, instead of shame and guilt I find freedom to live.

We all know the verse John 3:16, but it's the verses that follow that came to mind with this blog. With them, I can hear my loving Father calling out, "Look at Me." It's time to turn with eyes wide open to Him.

John 3:17-18 The Message (MSG)

16-18 “This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again. Anyone who trusts in him is acquitted; anyone who refuses to trust him has long since been under the death sentence without knowing it. And why? Because of that person’s failure to believe in the one-of-a-kind Son of God when introduced to him.

Photo by Asdrubal luna on Unsplash

Saturday, December 22, 2018

The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come...

Today's random thought comes from a quote from one of my all-time favorite Christmas stories - A Christmas Carol. Some may not realize that this beloved Christmas classic with Scrooge is actually, in Dicken's own words, a ghost story. Each ghost comes with a lesson and insight that if read/watched carefully reveals so much about human character.

The quote that came to mind today was when Scrooge is facing the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come. "The Phantom slowly, gravely, silently approached. When it came, Scrooge bent down upon his knee; for in the very air through which this Spirit moved it seemed to scatter gloom and mystery.
It was shrouded in a deep black garment, which concealed its head, its face, its form, and left nothing of it visible save one outstretched hand. But for this, it would have been difficult to detach its figure from the night and separate it from the darkness by which it was surrounded...
Although well used to ghostly company by this time, Scrooge feared the silent shape so much that his legs trembled beneath him, and he found that he could hardly stand when he prepared to follow it...
"Ghost of the Future!" he exclaimed, "I fear you more than any spectre I have seen."

The random thought came that Scrooge feared what the Ghost of Christmas yet to come would show him. Could this be because up to this point, Scrooge had very little hope? All he saw was the harsh reality that had been his past and that he saw in the present because of his own ignorance. With a foundation like that, how could the future be anything other than grim?

But for those who know the story well, things take a very different turn for poor old Scrooge. Instead of continuing on his present path, he learns to keep the spirit of Christmas alive every day of the year...and as we all know, Christmas is the day we remember that God sent Light and Hope into our world. We never again see Scrooge fearing that ghostly apparition. In fact, it seems he lived with joy.

"He became as good a friend, as good a master, and as good a man, as the good old city knew, or any other good old city, town, or borough, in the good old world. Some people laughed to see the alteration in him, but he let them laugh, and little heeded them; for he was wise enough to know that nothing ever happened on this globe, for good, at which some people did not have their fill of laughter in the outset; and knowing that such as these would be blind anyway, he thought it quite as well that they should wrinkle up their eyes in grins, as have the malady in less attractive forms. His own heart laughed: and that was quite enough for him.
He had no further intercourse with Spirits, but lived upon the Total Abstinence Principle, ever afterwards; and it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge. May that be truly said of us, and all of us! 

So there you have it, another random thought. And, as many random thoughts do, it brings with it one more random thought. 

Scrooge's first name is Ebenezer, which is a Hebrew name that means stone of help. The name “Ebenezer” actually comes from the Bible. In 1 Samuel, Israel has experienced revival after repenting of their sin (much as Scrooge saw the error in his own past) and destroying their idols - (much as Scrooge destroyed his idol of money.) During this time, their enemy attacked and God sent supernatural help (I guess in the story A Christmas Carol, the ghosts could also be considered 'supernatural help.') When the battle was won, they set up a rock and named it Ebenezer, saying "Thus far the LORD has helped us." It became a constant reminder of how God had saved them and continued to do so.

Ebenezer Scrooge has for many become a reminder that we need to let go of our own past, destroy our idols, and live in the hope God gives for the future.

May your random thoughts today turn you toward the hope of the upcoming day. And for those who mourn because of loved ones who are not still with us, may you also find rejoicing in that they are waiting for you in heaven with open arms. They are free of worry and pain and the daily struggles of life. The same God that delivered in the Old Testament still delivers today. We need not fear the future.  

"And so, as Tiny Tim observed, God bless Us, Every One!"




Friday, December 21, 2018

Ever wonder why a stable?

The following "random thought" actually came about while teaching in Kid's Church just before Christmas. I don't think I've ever heard this before....in fact, I had never thought of it before the words began to come out of my mouth that Sunday morning. 


It was a typical Children's 
Church service a week or two before Christmas. I had a wonderful group of kids, most of whom I had known since they were born. These children knew the Christmas story quite well, so making it real and new was quite a challenge. I had told the story and tried to paint a picture so that the children could experience the story anew. It was then that I asked the question - "Why was Jesus born in a stable?" Of course, the response was "Because there was no room in the inn." Then I asked a question even I hadn't considered before. "Why wasn't there room at the inn? Did God forget to make reservations?" Of course, we all laughed at such a ridiculous question. Obviously the birth of Jesus being in a stable was no accident....but why would God allow His Son to be born in a stable?

It's not like God didn't know when Jesus would be born. Yes, the city was crowded, but couldn't God have made room for this family in an inn somewhere? After all, He's God! He knew when the angel told Mary she'd have a son that they would be making this trip 9 months later! He could have made arrangements! I understand that there are many different views as to what this stable might have been, but it doesn't change the fact that a stable isn't a place for a baby to be born! That's where animals are born....animals like sheep and goats and cows. The kind of animal you'd use for a sacrifice.

You know, every time I think about that, it causes a lump to rise in my throat. Jesus, the King of Kings was born in a place where sacrifices are born. He was laid in a manger - the place where the animals would go for food....The Bread of Life, Jesus - born as a sacrifice.

This Christmas, as you take time to read the original Christmas story, may your heart be filled with the knowledge of God's love for you. Merry Christmas.

John 1:29 "Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!"


This blog was one of the first I ever wrote, back in 2008...but it's one of my most favorites.

Photo by Bill Fairs on Unsplash

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Guilty...

The other night I was coming home from chaperoning a middle school dance and I had one thing on my mind - finally relaxing for the day. I had left home that morning before 7 a.m. and was returning about 10 pm. It had been a LONG day...because of that, I was driving a little faster than I realized. 

Yep - you guessed it. I passed a police car, looked down and saw I was over the limit and then looked up to see blue lights. I pulled over. I was guilty and I knew it. I waited for my just punishment and hoped it wouldn't be a huge ticket.

The police officer came to my window (from behind - for the first time I realized he had no idea that I was me...I could have been someone angry or even someone with a weapon!) I said hello and immediately said I am so sorry. I just didn't realize I was going so fast. I sat there in my ugly Christmas sweater and said something about chaperoning a jr. high dance - I think I was trying to explain my ugly sweater. I'm obviously not used to being stopped.

The officer asked my name, told me to slow down and be careful. I said "Yes, sir!" and thanked him profusely and told him to be safe as well. He then said "Merry Christmas."
Why share this with the world? Because at that moment I was completely overwhelmed with thankfulness for my Lord. I had a perfect example of being guilty and being forgiven. All I could think about was how I deserved punishment and instead, I received mercy. 

To the police officer, whoever you are, I am praying for you daily. You were a picture of Christmas to me the other night, not because you told me to be safe and have a Merry Christmas, but because you were a reminder of what Jesus did for me that very first Christmas when He brought mercy into this world. I pray that you will be safe because, like Christ, you face danger for me so that I don't have to. I pray you feel God's love and peace and goodness just as you showed it to me.

And for what it's worth, I am slowing down.

*(I just realized that I had made this picture at the dance...maybe I should have paid attention! LOL!)


Luke 23:41 New International Version (NIV)

41 We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.”

John 1:29 New King James Version (NKJV)

29 The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!