Posted in Thoughts from Life, Thoughts from Others

Do They Know?

Last Thursday we returned to our alma mater for a one-day conference. This conference is held every year for pastors, and I get the privilege of joining my husband for some fantastic teaching. It’s such a nourishing time. Every year we leave with our heads and hearts full of teaching, encouragement, and renewed passion. Almost before we walk out the door, the date is reserved on our calendars for the next year. There are several things we look forward to every year, but not much tops this particular day.

But, it’s about more than just the training. It’s about the mentoring. I graduated over fifteen years ago. My last religion course was first semester of my senior year. Yet these professors still know me by name. Their secretary, the precious and amazing lady who makes this conference possible, was my Sunday school teacher 19 years ago. All of them still invest in my husband and me. They greet us with enthusiastic strides across a room to say hello, check on us, and give us hugs.

I can spin that thought around and think of other people who have crossed our paths over the years. The youth we have led. The couples we have mentored and encouraged. The church members in whose lives we have invested. Oh how I love hearing from them! How I love knowing where they are now and participating in their lives. I might not be close enough for daily involvement anymore, but it’s so rewarding and encouraging to see God working through those with whom we’ve been allowed to mingle over the years.

There is a key to all of this, though. That key is keeping in touch. Think back to the people who have mentored you over the years, whether formally or informally. Do they know where you are today? Have you talked to them recently? Do they have any idea what God is doing in your life right now?

Allow me to let you in on a little secret: They want to!

Mentors come and go. They fill our lives for a time, and then that time passes. In today’s transient society, few of us truly have the opportunity to stay near everyone who has invested in us throughout the course of our lives. But, that does not mean we have to completely walk away.

As I type this, I cannot help but think of the various people who have invested in me over the years. Older mentors. Peers. Church members. Church leaders. Family friends. The list grows in my mind with name after name after name. I smile as I think of them. I want them to know about that smile.

What about your mentors? Do they know? Do they know where you are today? Do they know what they’ve meant to you over the years? Do they know the fruit of their investment?

Our former professors and Sunday school teacher thanked us for attending the annual pastor’s conference. They thanked us! Here we were overwhelmed with gratitude for the effort they put into hosting the conference every year and continuing to invest in us, and yet they were the ones thanking us for coming.

Yet I can understand that. When someone I’ve invested in seeks me out to ask for prayer or ask my opinion or just to say hi, my joy overflows. I love it! My gratitude knows no bounds.

What about your mentors. Do they know? I’m willing to be they want to. Look one of them up today, just to say hi. Believe me, you’ll be glad you did.

Posted in Thoughts from Others, Thoughts from Scripture

Decisions

There are certain verses in Scripture for which, in all honesty, we need no context. The whole of Scripture is their context. The knowledge of God’s character is their context. If we are familiar with those things, we really need not know what else is going on specifically in the surrounding verses. Zechariah 6:15 is one of those verses, especially the last part.

“Those who are far off will come and build the temple of the Lord.” Then you will know that the Lord of hosts has sent me to you. And it will take place if you completely obey the Lord your God. Zechariah 6:15 (emphasis mine)

I struggle with decision making. I want to know beforehand, with absolutely certainty, that something will work out. What if I make the wrong decision? What if I’m not hearing from the Lord correctly? Ultimately, though, the pros and cons are not what I need to consider when making a decision. Obedience is. And if I step out in obedience, He will take care of the consequences. They might not be pretty consequences. But, they will be blessed if I walk in obedience, and I will know beyond a shadow of a doubt that my choice has been based in obedience to the Lord my God!

There is a song by Smalltown Poets that I just love. It’s probably my favorite of their songs, and it deals with this very issue. The song is called “Hold It Up to the Light,” and one particular stanza affects me most strongly:

I was dead with decided, afraid to choose

I was mourning the loss of the choices I’d lose

But there’s no choice at all if I don’t make my move

And trust that the timing is right

I will hold it up, hold it up to the light

If you do look at the context of the verse from Zechariah, you will see that God is sending messages to the exiles. Their whole world fell apart when Jerusalem was taken and the children of God were hauled into exile. Slowly, they are beginning to come back around to their God. Slowly, they are learning that their exile is the direct result of generations of sin and unfaithfulness.

Now, a man stands before them, claiming to have a word from God. He’s a prophet, and some strange things have come out of his mouth. Yet he has given them instructions that he declares to be from the Lord their God. They have a decision to make. Will they step out and follow the instructions? Or will they continue to walk in disobedience? Ultimately, only after they step out in obedience to His commands will they receive confirmation and see the promises of God fulfilled. And some of the fulfillment will be seen by future generations, not by themselves. But first, before anyone sees anything from the hand of God, they have to obey.

I want to make sure I have heard from the Lord. But, I cannot allow my indecisive nature to prevent me from walking in obedience. I will obey. I will step out. And He will take care of the rest.

Click here for the rest of the lyrics to “Hold It Up to the Light.”

And here’s the song, if you’re interested:

Posted in Thoughts from Life, Thoughts from Others

Thoughts on Cooking & Writing

I am a competent cook. I can follow a recipe and create a meal my family truly enjoys. In fact, I can create meals that people outside my family enjoy as well. At least, that’s what I’m told.

Then there’s my husband. For him, a recipe is only an idea. He glances at recipes to understand typical cooking times and ratios, and then he takes off on his own. And let me tell you, my husband can cook! Wow!

My husband and I see food preparation very differently. We can think of the exact same menu, but the preparation and presentation of said menu will vary greatly depending on which of us is cooking. For example, last night for supper Doug made us peanut butter and banana toast. Now, I enjoy PNB and banana. But when I make it, it looks like this:

Pop a piece of bread in the toaster. When it is nicely toasted, spread peanut butter on top. Slice a banana and press the slices into the peanut butter. Enjoy.

When Doug made it last night, it was mouth-wateringly different! He pan-grilled two pieces of bread. Then he plated the bread and spooned some peanut butter into the warm skillet. Once that had softened nicely, he stirred in very thinly sliced pieces of banana and warmed them ever so slightly. He spooned this mixture onto the pieces of bread, and then topped the whole thing with a room temperature honey-sweetened peanut butter mixture.

That’s just one simple example of the differences between our cooking. Needless to say, I love it when he cooks. I don’t enjoy cooking all that much anyway. It’s just a chore to me. But he thoroughly enjoys the experience of creating in the kitchen.

Of course, I have my own passions. For example, we’re both writers. And he’s a fantastic writer! But, he enjoys writing because it provides him an outlet for sharing his thoughts. I, on the other hand, truly love words. I love how they fit together. I enjoy the relaxed feeling of just writing whatever comes to my mind for this blog, but I also crave the challenge of making words and grammar work beautifully together for my editing job. There’s something thrilling about learning the rules and then discovering ways to break them.

My husband and I both have similar skills. The difference lies in our vision. We see the implementation of our skills differently. I see cooking as a practical necessity for keeping my family filled. He sees it as an outlet for his creativity and a way to unwind and relax. He sees writing as a way to communicate thoughts that come to his mind but don’t fit anywhere in his role as pastor. I am fueled and energized by writing and working with words.

There are always things we need to accomplish for practical reasons. But how many of us truly stop and let God show us the things He created us to enjoy? I think we are perhaps afraid that we’re being poor stewards of our time if we pursue things we actually enjoy. That’s supposed to be only for vacation or weekends, right? We can’t possibly indulge in such frivolity on a regular basis!

Oh yes, we can! And we should! God Himself created us with those passions. He built them into the core of our beings for the purpose of accomplishing His will. When we ignore those passions, we wear ourselves out with work that brings no joy. When we let Him work through those passions, we are energized to face every aspect of this walk of life. Oh what delight!

What can God do through your passions today?

Posted in Thoughts from Others, Thoughts from School

Homeschool Growth

A thought hit me this morning as I washed the dishes before school: Homeschooling has taught me much about spiritual growth. As I look back over six and a half years of homeschooling, I find it quite amazing how the learning curves parallel. Yet, I don’t always pay attention to the spiritual side of the lessons that are so obvious on the homeschool side. Today, though, I paid attention. Will you allow me to share a few of the thoughts that passed through my mind?

Three Spiritual Realities Homeschooling Has Taught Me

Learning is a long, slow process.

My wonderful husband preached on this yesterday, and my mind mulled over it this morning. When my children first learned to read, it was a slow, painstaking process. Well, for two of them, at least. They learned their letters quickly, but had to work hard to discover what it meant to combine those letters into sounds and then words. My middle child, on the other hand, had no such difficulty. About a month before her fifth birthday I knew she was ready to begin the process. So, we started learning letter sounds. Within four months the child was reading on a fifth grade level. I couldn’t keep up with her! But, where her siblings struggled with the mechanics of reading, she struggled with comprehension. Words never stopped her. Meanings, however, did. All three of them had to work to learn to read. And they are still working to continually strengthen their reading muscles and advance their abilities.

Meanwhile, there is an incredibly beautiful lady at church, one I consider a spiritual giant. She has seen her children and grandchildren to adulthood and is now delighting in beautiful great-grandchildren. She has been a Christian for decades. Yet still she visibly grows. Her heart and mind are curious, hungering, and constantly reaching. Just as my children slowly learn the concept of reading, she, and other spiritual giants like her, are still slowly learning spiritual truths that will more greatly conform them to the likeness of Christ. Slowly. Steadily.

No one can know everything at once.

This might seem like a repeat of the first point, but it really is different. It’s easy to look at the vast amount of information out there and want to dump it all in my children’s heads right now! As my seventh grader starts pre-algebra, a calculus lecture from her father will be incredibly overwhelming for her.

That example seems obvious, I’m sure. Yet how often do we despair because we lack a solid grasp on the entirety of what it means to be a Christian? I remember a conversation with a newly saved young mom. The enormity of all she did not know weighed heavily upon her, leaving her in tears of frustration. Relief washed over her as we discussed taking small bites of Scripture and focusing on what the Lord was teaching her right then. Just as my seventh grader should only be expected to focus on pre-algebra, building on the math she learned throughout her elementary years, so we need only focus on the foundation we have established and the truths God is placing before us right now.

I am not teaching information.

When I tell people I homeschool, one of the most frequent responses I hear is, “I could never do that! I’m not smart enough! I don’t know enough to teach my children.” My response? Neither do I! When I first began homeschooling, I felt I had to know information before I could teach it to my children. I’ve since learned differently. My job is not to feed knowledge to them. My job is to build within them a passion for learning. All three of my precious students caught the learning bug at a very young age. They hunger for it. They crave it. They seek out and heartily embrace opportunities to learn new things. It matters little what I know. I must simply teach them how to satisfy their hunger for learning. I guide them to the appropriate resources, often learning right alongside them. What a joy such learning is!

At church I teach youth girls. Several of these girls have been raised in church, yet they seem to have very little familiarity with the Bible and its contents. Why? It’s not because they haven’t been taught – I know they have! It’s more that they’ve never caught a passion for the things of God. They’ve never discovered the joy of hungering after His Word. I can’t force that onto them. None of their teachers can. But we can live it in front of them! We can exhibit such a passion of our own that they desire what we have! It’s not an easy thing to communicate to teenagers who think learning is uncool. As I walk through the Bible with them, I hunger and pray that my excitement will be contagious. I don’t want to just give them information about the Bible. I want them to catch a hunger for it!

Yes, homeschooling has taught me much about science and history and many other things. But, it has also strengthened me spiritual. What a joy that God can grow me through every aspect of my service to Him!

Posted in Thoughts from Life, Thoughts from Others

Rest & Work

Do you ever have days that simply fly by with little or no rest? Maybe it’s not just days – maybe it stretches into the whole week.

This week has been non-stop from start to finish. We started our new homeschool year on Monday. I have had to try to learn how to balance school and work for the first time. We have had obligations and activities just about every night this week, and I’ve had more work meetings than usual. It’s been a good week. A very good week. But a full one as well.

There has been almost no down time.

I saw a quote yesterday. I don’t remember where I saw the quote, who it was from, or what the exact wording was. But, the idea was something along the lines of this: rest gives birth to our creativity. Without rest, we have no opportunity to be creative.

Oh how true! My heart and mind have been so task driven this week that I have not even been able to think creatively! No blog posts have roamed around in my head. Even attending Bernina Club yesterday with all of the great Christmas ideas and patterns did not stir me out of my “check the box of this activity” mentality like it usually does. I came home with a bag of practicals – things I went in knowing I was going to need. I snapped a few pictures of project ideas, knowing I could come back to those ideas later when I was in a more creative mode. Then I just walked away.

No rest stifles creativity.

I’m realizing two things about this.

First, I must be intentional about working rest into each and every week. If possible, I need a little of it each day as well! But, definitely each week. This is not a new concept. It’s been around since the creation of the universe. God made us all that way. Will I obey Him and ensure that rest in Him happens?

Secondly, however, I need to realize that it’s not all about rest. Sometimes the best way to train the mind to focus its creativity in the right direction is to be busy with a good work. Be focused. Not allow our creativity to take us directions we do not need to go.

Oh how careful we must be with this, however! Careful to surrender all our plans to the Lord and accomplish what He lays before us instead of what we think we must do. Careful to not block out the voice of the Lord in our busyness, but to hear Him each step of the way. Careful to ensure that our busyness does not shut out relationships. But when we are careful and obedient in our busyness, we will find that God’s will is accomplished through us and our times of rest in Him are even more beautiful than ever!

This has been a full, but good, week. Today I still have far to go before I rest tonight, side by side with my wonderful husband. Work will be demanded tomorrow as we prepare for a new week. But, this week has been bathed in prayer. Every moment of anxiety has been lifted up to the Savior. Every task that remains before me has been surrendered to His ultimate authority. And in brief moments of rest this morning, He has directed my thoughts to creativity that honors Himself.

Yes, rest breeds creativity. Obedient work breeds productivity. And submission to Him grants the perfect balance of the two. That, my friends, is where I desire to live.

Posted in Thoughts from Life, Thoughts from Others

Panic!

Ah, I’m chuckling as I watch those chickens panic!

If you’ve never seen Chicken Run, you’re missing a treat. The owners of a chicken farm are “sick and tired of miniscule profits” that come from simply selling eggs. So, they decide to switch to a more profitable version of chicken farming. The chickens, however, are not nearly as keen on the idea. They seem to think egg-laying is a little less hazardous to their health than being used for chicken pie filling. I’m inclined to agree!

A couple of the hens are bound and determined to think logically through the problem and find a way to escape certain death. The rest of them? Well, just click on the video above for a reminder of their reaction!

I love Chicken Run because it serves as a great reminder. My first reaction to times of stress is to panic. I’m overwhelmed! There’s no way out! I can’t do this! We’re all going to die!!!!!

I’m a worrier by nature. I wish I could just be laid back and have a “hakuna matata” nature (yep, I’m in the mood for quoting children’s movies today, it seems!), but that’s just not me. I’m a “now is the perfect time to panic!” kind of person.

But I’m learning a better way. I’m learning to stop and breathe. To take in the truth of my situation. Sometimes it really is as bad as it looks at first glance, but stopping to breathe takes my focus off the situation and puts it where it belongs – on my Savior. Other times, the changed focus really does help me get a handle on reality and see that things are not nearly as overwhelming as I make them out to be.

Do you need to breathe today? Allow me to offer a few suggestions.

  1. Watch the chickens. Yep, again. Go ahead – you know you want to chuckle!

  2. As you take a deep breath, pray for God’s perspective. Pray that He will overcome your desire to panic with a feeling of rest in Him.

  3. Take stock of the reality of your situation and lay it at His feet. Ask for His wisdom and discernment. Ask Him to show you if anything is standing in the way of finding peace and rest in Him no matter the circumstances.

  4. ACT!!! Take that first step of faith, plodding your way through whatever is before you as if the victory has already been won.

Your moment of panic might be something huge and unexpected. Or it could simply be the normal day in and day out process of life. Either way, go ahead and scream if you need to, and then be ready to receive His peace. He’s ready to give it!

Posted in Thoughts from Others, Thoughts from Scripture

Through Grace

I am so imperfect. So very imperfect. I make mistakes in just about every aspect of my life. Okay, so not “just about.” In every aspect.

Yet, I love to exhort others. I want to show them how they can grow in Christ. This includes my own children. They know I mess up on a daily basis. They know I yell, snap, and get agitated when I should show patience and self-control. They know I am not always diligent with my time. They know I can be a very poor steward of our home. They see all of this.

So, how to I pour into my children – and into others – when I obviously struggle myself?

I think the answer comes from Romans 12. Here are the first few verses.

Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith. Romans 12: 1-3 (emphasis mine)

Sacrifice

Others may see that I mess up, but do they also see that I am continually presenting myself to God as a sacrifice? Sometimes that fire gets hot and I want to jump off the altar for a little while. That’s when I mess up. Every day. Some days more frequently than others, but it still happens daily. But if others can see that my heart desires to present all of me as a living and holy sacrifice, then they know I acknowledge the ways I mess up and they know I know the right way to go.

Conformation

Am I changing? Am I growing? Am I more obedient, more submissive, and less rebellious than I was five years ago? One year ago? Six months ago? Can people see that? If I am growing, then I can feed that growth into others.

Humility

Do I think I’m all that? Or do I acknowledge that any good in me is from the Lord? If the latter is true, then I am not pointing people to my awesome grasp of how it should be done. I am pointing them to the Lord who works through me to accomplish His purposes.

Sound Judgment and Faith

When I think according to God’s Word and trust in His plan, I am not training others in my own agenda. I am pointing them to God’s.

Grace

I saved this one for last because, in all honesty, it is what everything else hinges around. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve heard parents say, “Well, I can’t tell my child no because he knows I did the same thing when I was his age. If I tell him no, then he’s going to think me a hypocrite.”

Oh how that train of thought makes my heart ache! God had granted us grace that overcomes anything in our past. Anything. Are we living that grace? Can we point to how God rescued us from our foolishness and brought us to a path of wisdom? Then we must share that with our children! Yes, we messed up. We sinned. We were wrong. Must they suffer through the same thing?

Or is there something deeper here? Could it be that we haven’t truly moved on from that sin? Perhaps we admitted that someone else thought it was wrong, but we haven’t confessed that we truly sinned. We have simply made excuses for our behavior. If that is the case, it is true: we cannot tell someone else they’re wrong because we’ve never admitted we were wrong.

Oh how God’s grace longs to cover us! Oh how He desires to work through us to draw others to Himself! We are all imperfect, but we are forgiven. We are covered. We are restored. Our shame has been removed. Now, let us pass that on to our children and to our fellow believers. Not because we’re so great but because “through the grace given to” us, we are able to point to a gracious, amazing Father who will work for His purposes.