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Category Archives: Spiritual insights

It’s my birthday!

So I woke up this morning with a sore throat and full schedule and thought, “Well, welcome 32. It’s great to be single, childless, and sick.” :: note sarcasm::

I like that God can still bless me even when I’m being a brat, and he allowed the day to be redeemed; my sore throat cleared up for the most part, and the sweet people in my life blessed me in numerous acts of kindness. One of the tutors in the writing center insisted on treating me to a bagel lunch; one of my co-workers made sure it did not go unnoticed that is was my birthday while I was in my administrative meeting this afternoon, which gained me a rousing rendition of happy birthday; one of my other co-workers made a special trip to the school in gym clothes to deliver a beautiful scarf; another friend called and left the sweetest birthday voicemail because her little girl repeated every line after her, and another friend fed me dinner and chocolate and peanut butter whoopie pies. Earlier this week, my parents gave me a new sewing machine for my quilting endeavors, and my sister chipped in three new quilt patterns. I’ve got to do some lesson planning tonight, but I sure would rather be taking that new sewing machine out of the box!

So, 31 is a done deal. I can say 100%  for sure that I would never voluntarily live that year of life over again unless I could change many things about it and the months leading up to it; it was a honestly a year of heartbreak, struggle, spiritual wrestling, and discontent. But, as hard as it is to not be able to change it, not to get to erase the pages and try to rewrite that chapter again with a different ending, I do have 32 ahead of me. And, when I see the godly mature people around me, I have to admit that the most mature and beautiful of them are that way because they took the soil of heartbreak, struggle, spiritual wrestling, and discontent, and they planted seeds in that soil. They planted relationships that are more precious because of a new awareness of the irreplaceable gift that good relationships are. They saw fruits of perseverance and trust and patience spring forth from the branches of struggle. They emerged from wrestling with God to be more fully surrendered to him, having settled the fact that if ever they were going to try to leave him it would have been then but there was nothing better to move towards, no higher purpose to pursue, and no better relationship to embrace. And, they realized that discontent is often a stirring to something else.

Those seeds haven’t grown; it’s like they are in the little greenhouse of my heart trying to pop above the soil. And 32 is ahead of me. So what do I hope to see this year:

  • Clarity for the future; it’d be great to get a little glimpse of what lies ahead. PhD or no PhD? more than one date for the year (maybe with someone who even pays for dinner this time)? an idea of where it would be best to invest the majority of my time and attention in the next 2-3 years of my life. I’m not expecting to get a full 10 year plan, but I’d sure like to know what the next baby step is supposed to be.
  • Creativity – I want to spend more time quilting (and hopefully selling them), and I have some lamps in the basement that I plan to make dazzling as well. I’m excited about some business plans that I have in mind and the way that I might be able to use them to make a little money but to also draw attention to social justice and to give gifts to others who need them.
  • A closer walk with God – I want to exit this period of struggle and anger and suspicion, so I can start to move back towards more trusting surrender where I don’t just need God to be there, but I want to be hearing from him in amazing ways.

It’s going to need to be a year of intentionally tending the tender seeds that have been planted in the roughly tilled soil of my heart over the past year. It’s kind of weird to be watering them because I feel like I saw the picture on some of the seed packets and know what should be springing forth, but some of the seeds feel like a mystery grab bag. I’ve more and more begun to think that God has something else, something new, but I can see any pictures. I’m just going to have to water, pull weeds, and wait for a blooming.

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Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day ends in t-minus 85 minutes, and I’m ready. It’s not been a pleasant day overall. There was  just no way for me to really, truly embrace the cliche that it’s better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all on my first Valentine’s Day back to being single. I’m ready for tomorrow when all the hoopla dies down on Facebook, and I certainly could have gone without seeing every third person buying flowers at the grocery store tonight. Sorry, blog readers, I know that’s a bummer of a way to start a post, but lest you’re ever tempted to think as you read this blog that I’ve got life all pulled together, think again. Today, I would have gotten an F on my report card when it came to rejoicing with those who rejoice — ok a D- because at least the thought occurred to me that I was having a bad attitude and should be immensely happy for all those who were celebrating love today.

And, I know I’m loved deep, deep down. The worship this morning in chapel was amazing, and it reminded me that God is big, much much bigger than I am (no comparison at all really) and holy in what he does. He’s not doing exactly what I want him to be doing right now in my self-centered, panicky little heart, but in a few years, I’ll look back as I’ve done many times before and be grateful that he doesn’t cater to my every whim. I’ll see that he was molding me and shaping me into someone far more mature, and if I chase after him, someone more grounded, secure, and holy than I am today. And, I’m sure he did prompt the hearts of friends and family who texted throughout the day to say “I love you.”  One dear friend reminded me that she is praying for me. God has used her time and again to remind me that he is there.

So, in the midst of the pity party that I’ll stop writing about now, I tried to do what I did in college when I was single on Valentine’s Day and tempted to mope about it. I tried to focus on blessing others. One of my former students is taking her girls on a retreat this weekend, and she emailed me awhile back to see if I would bake the desserts for it, so I got to baking. I put together some of my new favorite nutella lava brownies and baked a chocolate cherry cake that I’ll share the recipe for in a post in the near future. I also tried a strawberry cake mix adaptation that I saw in a comment box on Pinterest. Here’s what I put together:

  • 1 box strawberry cake mix
  • 8 oz. cool whip
  • 1 egg

I combined that, rolled it into balls that were then rolled in powdered sugar, and baked them for about 14 minutes. They are cute and pink and taste ok but not really make again worthy. But, how fun is it to take pink cookies on a girls’ retreat? Fun. And, the girls always have the nutella lava brownies and chocolate cake to make up for the slightly lackluster cookies.

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAAlso, I decided to do a little something for myself. So, I made some peanut butter hot cocoa. This wound up not being my cup of cocoa. It was a bit too rich for me (of course, I’m jaded since I stepped on a scale this morning), and unless consumed while scalding hot, the peanut butter in the cocoa solidifies, which created a texture of which I was not a fan.

The cookies in the picture are supposed to be a delightful, celebratory pink, but I guess watching only lesson one out of 24 in my photography DVD series has not yet prepared me to capture the nuances of color.

I will go to bed tonight with a valentine of sorts from God. Lamentations 3:22-25, ” The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease,
For His compassions never fail.They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness.
The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul,
‘Therefore I have hope in Him.’ The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, To the person who seeks Him.”

 

When it rains…

As I heightened my defenses against the mouse, he upped his game too. Shortly after writing my last post, I heard a trap snap, but when I checked the traps in the morning, the snapped one was empty. Also, all the peanut butter on the other traps was gone. All. of. it. But, I did find another package of 4 mousetraps.

I came home from work that night, pulled everything out from under the sink, and wiped up some of the mouse droppings. So. gross. Then, I decided maybe I’d better watch a Youtube video about mousetraps. Sure enough, I was setting them all wrong. I tried to focus on the calm man telling me about the mouse traps and not look at the horrifying screen shots of related videos on the side of the screen, ones with glaring horror shots of mice and mice being snapped in traps.  After getting a mouse trap education, I set seven snap traps and two glue boards and tucked everything back under the sink.

With that done, I set forth on what I hoped would be a productive Friday night since I was leaving in the morning to spend the weekend near the hospital to see grandma. I prepared my quilt fabric, so I could get it all washed and ironed. I can shared the nice hues of greens, blues, and browns but can’t say what they are for.

book quilt fabricThen I worked on cleaning up the kitchen and started the dishwasher. Later on in the evening, I went downstairs to pull the quilt fabric out of the dryer.

There was a fairly substantial puddle of water near the drain in the basement. At first, I thought the dehumidifier was being overzealous though that’s never happened before. But, then I heard it.

Drip.

Drip.

Drip.

Water washing down the basement wall and dripping from the pipes under the dishwasher and the sink. To be honest, I’m so numbed by catastrophe in its minor and major keys at this point that I just kept dealing with the fabric in the dryer. Water was already flowing into the basement; I guess I figured that a few more minutes wasn’t going to make that big of a difference.

I went upstairs, opened up the cabinet under the sink, and found the glue traps saturated with water. Clearly something had gone very, very wrong.  Water was spurting out of the hole drilled in the side of the cabinet for the dishwasher supply lines. If the mouse had appeared at that very moment, I have no idea what I would have done. As it was, I shut off the dishwasher and grabbed the phone to call my mom though I was really trying to reach dad. He wasn’t home from work yet.

Now, my mom is both my kryptonite and my comforter at the same time. I can be brave in bad situations until I talk to her; then I dissolve into tears. That happened back in elementary school when I slid down an ice pile, sliced my hand, and didn’t cry until I saw her in the school office. I happened in fourth grade when I chipped my tooth on a third grader’s head and didn’t worry about being a ghastly mess for the rest of my life until I saw her. And, I didn’t cry until I started telling her what I was looking at on Friday night.

But, I tried to get off the phone kinda fast. I wanted to at least be a little brave for her. Immediately after I got off the phone, I laid my head on the kitchen counter and sobbed into the pile of rags I’d gotten to dry up the mess. I was like, “Really God? Really? I still miss the person I wanted to spend the rest of my life with, and my grandma is laying in a hospital. She’s been there for two weeks. That’s the big stuff, but then let’s talk about the bat and the possum and the constant torment of this mouse. And, now this!”  Mix in a little PMS, and I was just shy of being a crumpled heap of humanity sliding down the side of the kitchen cabinets in despair.

But, no one else was here to clean up the mess and I was mad too, so I dove under the sink and started mopping up the water and more mouse droppings. And, God was quietly implanting in my spirit. What if I want you to respond to this in a way that makes you stronger? What if I want to remind you that I will provide even if this does cost a couple hundred dollars to repair? What if I just want you to talk to me even if you’re really frustrated?

I knew there was wisdom in those thoughts, but I still told God that I thought if I was going to deal with all this garbage, I should at least get a husband to help. It was an honest spiritual moment under the sink with the water and mouse poo, but it wasn’t a pretty one. Then, I stormed off to the bathroom to sob some more, run a hot bath, and read a book to just escape life for a little bit.

After some restorative sleep and waking up to have to get rid of a very pudgy, peanut butter filled dead mouse, I did pray on the way home. Scattered prayers, but still, I refrained from tuning out God by listening to my audio book, probably partially because when I had tried to download a new one after my bath, my computer froze up. I guess God didn’t want to be ignored. And, I was able to visit my grandma who after giving us a real scare with a bowel obstruction was back on the mend again and starting to eat. I was able to rejoice in small things like taking some time to make meatloaf for my parents since my mom has been either at the hospital or work every day for the past two weeks. Mom came home and told me that she had wanted meatloaf; in fact, she had planned to make it for me so I could have leftovers but was just too tired to get to it. I was so glad that I had decided to make meatloaf; sometimes unexpected blessings can come in 9×13 casserole pans.

And, then, I arrived home tonight with echoes of helpful friends’ Facebook posts, ones that reminded me that dishwashers can be fixed. That adventure in appliance repair was going to actually be the post of the night, but it was quite the road to climbing back under the sink after that first initial mopping up of last Friday, so I’ll let that adventure keep for another day.

 

Birds Won’t Fall

This past weekend didn’t go as expected. I thought I’d do a little laundry, a little crafting, a little quilting, and a decent amount of course prep work. Instead, I called my mom around 9:00 Friday night and found out she was at the emergency room with my grandma who had a collapsed lung. They were waiting for the doctors to come put in a chest tube. After a little waiting and some texts back and forth with my sister, I was heading down the road towards my parents’ house with some hastily packed clothes and books in the back of the car.

It didn’t take too long to find out that my grandma had the fluid in her lungs due to a large inoperable tumor the size of a lemon that is in her lung. I think it’s not just taking her breath away but the breath of our entire family. But, we’re still family, and she’s still the same grandma. I was reminded of that this weekend.

Grandma is actually quite the riot in the hospital. She’s always been a strong, resilient woman, the last to complain in any situation. My mom told me that when the ER doctor was taking her health history, he asked her what was going on. She told him that she thought she had being fighting pneumonia for three weeks but that she thought her lungs were back to 90% capacity. I’ll bet he never heard that diagnoses from someone with an entirely collapsed lung. She’s probably a legend in the doctor’s lounge now.

And, my grandma always thinks of everyone else before herself. When I got to the hospital on Saturday morning, she was gushing over my blog post about the mouse in the house, which my mom had read to her to keep her entertained during their 10+ hour stint in the ER the day before. And, then my mom proceeded to tell us that while a hospital staff member was pushing my grandma’s wheelchair, my mom saw my grandma waving the staff member down to her level and saying something to him. My mom thought maybe she was uncomfortable and needed him to slow down, but she found out later that my grandma was telling him that he smelled good. Grandma laughed as mom told the story and said she’s always appreciated good colognes.

Of course, there have been tears and questions this weekend too. The family arrived and we commandeered a small waiting room on the critical care floor. We were so packed in there that I had to sit on the magazine table because there were no chairs left. The nurses were enforcing the two visitors at a time rule pretty strictly as the day wore on and grandma started to get more and more worn out. So, we rotated in and out of the room. Two of us would go see her while the rest of us stayed behind and tried to keep our minds occupied by telling family stories and catching up with each other. Then, two people would return and two more would get to go visit. We rotated in and out, laughing and looking restless by turns.

After we left the hospital that evening, God gave me such a reminder of his presence. Dusk was setting in, and I was sitting in my car, waiting for a light to change. Clouds and clouds of little birds came swooping in. They filled the telephone lines, sitting side by side until the lines were one solid mass of birds. Then, something would disturb the birds, and they would take to the sky again in their massive clouds. After swirling around a bit, they’d alight on the lines again, jockeying for the limited space on the lines. So many birds. As I was watching them, Matthew 10:29-31 came into my mind: “Are not two sparrows sold for a cent? And, yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows.” And, I knew that just as God saw the birds on the power lines, jockeying for their space, God also had seen my family that afternoon, jockeying for chairs.

Matthew talks about birds in chapter 6 as well. He says, “Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they?” (26). The rest of the chapter is about not worrying because we know that God knows us and knows our needs. Verse 34 says, “So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” One of the best ways of paraphrasing that verse that I’ve ever heard is this: Don’t open your umbrella until it starts raining.

Our family is still waiting beside my grandma for answers, waiting for tomorrow. Since it was a holiday weekend, the hospital was running on mostly a skeleton crew, so there haven’t been any follow-up CAT scans to tell us more about the edge of the tumor that the doctors also saw in her stomach. We’re still waiting to see when she’s going to be able to get the chest tube removed and what the treatment plan is going to be when its time to start chemotherapy. So, what I think we’re all trying to do now is keep our umbrellas closed, to remember that we have not escaped God’s attention and that he has a plan. It might not be our preferred way of doing things; we tend to want to stay out of emergency rooms and away from cancer entirely, but he does have a plan and he’s careful to provide what is needed as he children travel through it.

Work, work, work

Tonight, I’m reading Walking with the Poor: Principles and Practices of Transformational Development. ( By the way, I was sorely disappointed to discover while tracking down that link that I’m reading the original publication and not the 2011 update…. I’ll need to get our librarians to order the new version).

Bryant Myers’ core thesis is that poverty is a result of corrupted relationships between God, self, others, and creation. As a result he sees the gospel as beneficial for not only individuals but also systems. Those two sentences definitely don’t do his work justice, but they give enough background for tonight’s post.

Myers’ thoughts on the way that work has been corrupted by the fall stuck out to me with these three points being my top take aways:

  1. “Instead of a way of using our gifts for ourselves and others, work has been corrupted. It can be toilsome and frustrating.”  I see this played out on both sides of the fence all around me. I know people who slog to work in the morning and can’t wait until they get out in the evening. Their job is a means by which to pay the bills, but while sustaining a material life, the job seems to be sucking the life out of them. Then, I know people who can’t seem to leave work; they’re passionate and see great value in what they do. Certainly I would not go so far as to say that they never get frustrated in their work, and I would not advocate a life’s habit of never leaving work, but for some of these individuals going beyond the 40 hour work weeks seems sustainable because their work is life giving. I think all of this sticks out to me because I’ve wrestled much lately with what the next thirty years of my life will look like. On the one hand, I want to serve God, yield to where He wants me. On the other hand, I wonder why he keeps coaxing me towards administrative tasks, which I often find more life draining than giving. I think it’s worth bearing in mind that God originally created work to by wholesome and a good.
  2. “Work has become..an idolatry whereby one makes a name for oneself. For the poor, this distorted work is often not available and the poor are vilified as ‘not productive.” I’m only two classes into the semester, and already I’ve talked with students about how things are not always as they seem and about various ways of perceiving the world We (middle class Americans) are often quick to judge people as lazy without investigating systemic injustices that are complicating the matter. As a class, we’ve also touched briefly on how the middle class standard is not necessarily deserving of the near perfect label often assigned to it. And, these discussions get complicated because indeed there are people who are lazy, and indeed some elements of the American dream are good. But, in this world of work and achievement, surface answers are not sufficient. I’m glad that so far the students are engaging with those complications the best they know how.
  3. “The product of work is seen as human property, no longer belonging to God. Claims of ownership are privatized and made an absolute, ignoring the claim of God on all things in creation or the transcendent responsibility each has for the well-being of the larger community. Worse, those who create wealth use that wealth to influence the laws and the economic, political, and cultural system to protect their advantage.” I think this insight gets at the heart of one of the biggest challenges I’ve encountered as I’ve prepared to teach this course. Pre-prep time, I would have had the knee jerk reaction of screaming communism or at least socialism in response to the phrase “transcendent responsibility each has for the well-being of the larger community.” However, my reaction is now different. Don’t misread this as me saying that I’m supportive of communism or socialism, but I do think far too little discussion is taking place about our individualistic culture and its me, myself, and I mindset. We lose much in the sense of responsibility to community. I’m quite good at vehemently denouncing greedy CEOs who took their companies down in flames, but I’m not nearly as good at looking at the balance in my checkbook and deciding how much of it goes to me and how much of it is freed up to be used by God to enhance the lives of others.

There’s no fancy conclusion to wrap all of these thoughts up. The topic is messy, and my brain is fatigued, so that is all for now. At the danger of getting ridiculously addicted, I’m going to go watch my first ever episode of Downton Abbey, so I can wind the day down.

 

O Christmas Tree – Part 3

This is the final reflection that I’ll post on this year’s tree, and it was the toughest reflection too. While I was setting up the tree, I kept debating whether I wanted to use the tree topper bow. This wasn’t a matter of decorating preference like the lights or the spacing of the ornaments. I was struggling with what the bow symbolized. This bow is on its third year, and I still remember the year I made it. It was a date night to decorate the tree, and I was in a new and fresh relationship that felt like it was going places. This year, I was decorating the tree by myself, and I knew that when I took that bow out of the box, the ribbons for the tree weren’t going to be trailing out of the box on their own. Trailing along with that bow were many memories, ones that I didn’t know how to handle.

Memories, particularly ones from a happier time or a different season or a dream that fell apart, are the hardest memories to deal with. I’m learning that more as I interact with others. I’ve seen women who’ve lost their dream homes in the economic downturn, so they’re not retiring where they planned to retire. And, when they speak of the old days, it’s wistful. I’ve seen women whose children aren’t walking with the Lord, and now they sigh or they try to put on a happy face and pretend like everything is ok. Or, in my situation, I remember how a year and a half ago, I really thought that life would look very, very different right now. And, certainly last Christmas, I didn’t fully expect to be decorating a tree alone this Christmas; I was fighting hard not to have to.

And, the weird phenomenon about memories is that they get tangled up with all the hurts and disappointments and broken threads of life that come along after them. The memories get tainted. And, rather than being blessings that we count, they become burdens that we want to drop or tiny needles in our souls. But, I don’t think it’s supposed to be that way. I think we’re supposed to remember the beauty of those moments. I think we’re supposed to remember the gifts that God was giving us in that season of life.

This struggle of the bow reminded me of a sermon that I listened to about a month ago. I had been praying and praying and praying about something. Tough prayers — the kind that put me on my face a few times just begging God to change a situation. And, I got a no. And, the no hurt. And, I sat on my couch and asked God to at least give me something. I asked him to show me some kind of truth to help me see his hand beyond the no, something that would help me believe that he was more involved than simply blocking a path. I wound up finding the first sermon in the Owned series preached by Joel Thomas. And, that was God showing me that he was still there. He wanted to give me more than a no. He wanted to help me see truth.

Joel Thomas preached on what to do with regret, with “if only” and “what if.” It’s as if God wanted to give me a ladder to scale the brick wall of “if only” that I just keep running into over and over again. Thomas preached on 2 Corinthians 7:10-11: “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. See what this godly sorrow has produced in you: what earnestness, what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what longing, what concern, what readiness to see justice done.” And, he pointed out that we will have sorrow; we will have regrets. That is part of life, but sorrow can be godly; it can lead to repentance. What struck me though was how he explained repentance. While I had been praying and struggling through the situation, I had already asked forgiveness for the offenses I had committed the best I knew how, but I still felt weighed down. Thomas talked about repentance meaning that we see the situation as God sees it, a definition that I already knew. But, I was only applying it to the sin part of the equation. I agreed with God that I had been wrong in many ways in the situation that was breaking my heart, but I wasn’t seeing the situation fully as God saw it. Thomas talked about the way that God also sees things through redeeming eyes. So, he doesn’t just cover the sin; he uses the pain and the sorrow to awaken something else. Just like the Corinthians wanted to move forward in earnestness and had a new longing for what was right, God wants us to sign over all of our past to him, the sin debt and the circumstances gone awry, so that he can step in as a redeemer for it all.

I’d love to say that the lesson is all learned in my own heart; it’s not. My heart doesn’t flood with joy when I look at the bow. I haven’t unhitched the memories from the all the weight that they accumulated, and there are some that I don’t even want to try to unhitch because the prospect seems like too much of an uphill climb. But, at the same time, I’m trying to long for something else, trying to be ready for the next step in a redemptive story that I don’t fully understand other than to know that the last page shines with God’s glory. And, until I get to the last page, I can only write one sentence at a time, putting a bow on a tree if that is what one sentence looks like.

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

Logistical, tactical, and strategic

Tim Elmore, president of the organization Growing Leaders, spoke to our student body today. Whenever I know that someone with more creativity in his left pinky than I have in my entire body is speaking in chapel, I try to go. I wasn’t disappointed.

Elmore warned students (and me because I needed reminding) not to sacrifice the mission, the big picture, the vision, for the methods that we take to get there. He used an illustration of drill bits and holes to illustrate this fact, but it’s after midnight, and I’m just hoping to make sense on the next portion of this blog, so I’ll let Elmore’s own article in the Atlanta Business Chronicle explain that part of his message.

Then, he broke down 3 levels of living and how living at each of those levels affects our entire outlook on life. He borrows the categories from the military, but the application of them to spiritual life is profound. To put it rather crudely, I feel like I’m a python trying to swallow an elephant as I get my mind around just how much paying attention to these levels could affect the way that I live.

First, there is the logistical level. In the logistical level, most everything revolves around me and what I need to get out of life. If I’m praying the logistical level, it might look something like this:

God, tomorrow is the day before fall break. Life is chaotic. Help me to remember the bread for my sandwich tomorrow, so I don’t need to eat peanut butter straight from the jar and call it lunch for the third time this semester. It’d be nice too if students finished classes tomorrow knowing what plagiarism looks like and knowing how to find a book in the library. And, if I could have energy to slip in some grading instead of eating a half gallon of ice cream when I get home at 5:00, that’d be a wonderful boost in productivity as well.

Some elements of the logistical life are ok according to Elmore. There is nothing wrong with asking God that my lessons sink into student’s minds or that I have the energy to get some grading done. But those prayers fall short of their potential.

Then, there’s the tactical prayer. That realm makes us reach slightly past us towards others. So, I might pray:

God, tomorrow is the day before fall break. The students and I are tired; help us to stay organized and tie up the loose ends necessary before we leave campus. Give them focus to learn about plagiarism and research because they need those skills to finish the semester. And, please help me to get some grading done in the evening because the more accurate the mid-term grades are that I turn into the registrar the better I’ll be serving my students.

So, those prayers feel less selfish and thus more helpful. I almost feel like there’s even a chance I’d remember to take bread for my sandwich because I’m approaching the day in a mindful, reflective way.

But, here’s the elephant that I’m still trying to swallow — the strategic way to live life. Knowing that I’m called to be an excellent teacher (for now) and to disciple others and inspire critical thinking that leads to Christ (for the rest of my life), here’s how I should pray.

God, tomorrow is the day before fall break. Of course you are aware that I’m having a mini “existential crisis;” actually, I think you’ve led me here to teach me something. But, you also know that I need to be a good teacher now while I figure out what you want me to be doing 10 years from now. So, help me to put my doubts into your keeping and to show up tomorrow ready to do the best that I can through your power in me. We’re going to tackle plagiarism tomorrow, which means we’re going to touch on integrity. Help me not to settle for teaching students not to copy and paste; help me to remember that their ministry reputations could hinge on how much integrity they use when borrowing the work of others. I might have the next best selling Christian author in my class, and she needs to know where ethical boundaries are. And, research — God, if my passion is to train people to think critically about you and your world then help me to teach one step of that thinking — finding solid resources — in an engaging, memorable way. Make students hungry for information that is of lasting value. And, finally, give me strength to grade. I just want a fall break. But, help me to remember that part of why I’m in this profession right now is because professors wrote encouragement on my papers that still resounds in my mind today. I don’t know what exactly each student needs to hear, but you do. Help me to write it and guide them down the path to your ultimate plan for their lives.

It’s now almost 1:00, so I’m going to let the stark contrast of these prayers basically speak for themselves. I’ll end with the biblical example that almost made my jaw drop. The passage is John 12. Jesus has ridden into Jerusalem for his Triumphal Entry, but he knows the bottom is about to drop out of his approval rating with the crowd. He’s going to die – die a death that he doesn’t deserve to pay for sins he didn’t commit.

And he says — as someone fully God but still fully man –, “Now my soul has become troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour.'” This, Elmore pointed out, would have been a prayer on the most logistical level. Jesus, able to feel the full threshold of human pain, could have begged, “God, let’s find another way.”

But, He knew that from the moment God pronounced the curse upon the serpent in the Garden of Eden that the moment of his death would come. So, he continued on by saying, “But for this purpose I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name.” This was Jesus’ strategic prayer, the prayer that saw that God has a master narrative in place.

It looks like following a Christlike model goes way deeper than being kind to one another. I’m called to live out a mission that’s only a miniscule slice of something far, far grander than myself, and I need to strategically orient myself within that realization.

 

 

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