How Will You Spend Christmas This Year?

Christmas is an opportunity for people to see the peace that the Holy Spirit has given us. The way our society does Christmas is stressful. We should not allow the stress of others to affect the peace we want to experience. Remember, non-believers should see us act differently than others. We experience the same temptations and stress that others do, but with the help of the Holy Spirit and the Word as well as the strength that other believers give, we are not affected the same way. In order to have the peace God provides, we must abide in Christ. This Christmas we are setting aside time to spend in prayer and worship our King. This will give us a different perspective and enable us to be more Christ like.

Colossians 3 is a great text about setting our minds on things above and then the resulting love that comes from that. As people see us differently it gives us the opportunity to speak about Jesus and opens the door to discipleship. My husband and I have no family in Idaho so we have made this holiday season a time to serve others however God wants to use us. We refuse to surrendor to the secular world by putting ourselves into a mountain of debt on possessions we certainly don’t need.

Christmas will also be a good time to work on disciple making skills.  Invite a friend, a neighbor or even a stranger to attend Christmas service with you.  Oh, one more thing, before you go making those New Year’s Resolutions, you might Ask God what changes He would like to help you with. After all, nobody knows you better!

 

Sometimes It Takes A Child To Teach a Teacher

Mondays always tend to be the worst day of the week for me where my job is concerned. Not because I’m coming off a weekend and want another day to relax. On Mondays, we must have our billing logs and time sheets turned in by noon. I’ve always been able to get mine turned in on time. The problem is that every week I get a text from my supervisor asking me to come in after work and fix my billing logs.  I have worked for this company for almost three years now, and at least twice a month, I make errors that require me to sit down and re-do them all over again.  My agency bills the state for each student that receives Medicaid benefits for services.  We are required to bill every 15 minutes which comes out to being 1 unit. Then there are two, three, or four different services students receive, and they each have a different billing log.  It becomes very confusing and requires employees to convert the hours into units and record it in decimal form on our time sheets.

Now math has never been my strong point. Back when I was in high school, we were not required to take algebra to graduate.  In college, I chose to take a foreign language rather than a year of college algebra after many attempts of trying to learn. One of my reasons for wanting to be a special education teacher was to avoid higher math skills that I never really had the patience or the comprehension skills for being successful.   For the past three or four months now, I have had a call every Monday morning. Today, it was from the owner of the company herself, and she does not mince words. She does not care what excuse you may have; it’s the employee’s responsibility to figure it out and do it right. This morning she said, ” I don’t know what to tell you, Karen. You’ve been here about three years now, and this has become a weekly issue.”  I tried to explain that I honestly didn’t know why I continuously mess up, that the conversion of the hours,  the unit hour conversion to the decimal thing is just challenging for me. She offered no sympathy, just a condescending tone saying, “Well, you need to figure this out because it takes time out of my day to have to continuously correct you.  It’s basic math;  it’s not that difficult!”  Tears were about to spill over the brim of my eyes.   I had to make a quick escape before she saw me crying.

I took a few minutes in the restroom to let it out, wash my face and get back to my student.  This young lady is new to our school this year.  She is a sixth grader and falls under the category of developmentally disabled.  She has a lot of behavioral issues as well as academic challenges.  She tends to whine and complain about how difficult the work is; she constantly refers to me to validate her answers because she doesn’t want to get them wrong.  I have found her behavior and learned helplessness extremely frustrating and annoying.  We’ve gone over the same concepts every day since September.  I’m never sure if she just wants attention or if she truly doesn’t understand.   Do you see where this is going?

As I sat down next to her, she quietly said, “Ms. Karen,  I tried to do these problems while you were gone, but I got them all wrong.  I just don’t get it. What’s wrong with me?”  I kid you not; I felt the presence of the Lord and heard the small voice ask me, “Do you ‘get it’ yet?”    Sometimes it takes a student to teach the teacher something you can’t learn in graduate school — empathy, compassion, and patience.  How many times had I used a condescending tone with this student that expressed my frustration?  Many times I found myself saying to her, “It’s simple math.  It’s not difficult.  If you have five and someone takes one away, how many do you have left? You shouldn’t have to use your fingers.”

I looked up and whispered, “I get it, Lord. Thank you.”  I hugged my student and stated, “There is nothing wrong with you.  You are wonderfully made.  Math is hard for me too.  I understand how frustrated you must be to do the same problem over and over and not understand why you keep getting it wrong.  I’m truly sorry that I sound mad sometimes. ”  She gave me a quick smile and said, “I just don’t like getting things wrong because it makes me feel stupid and I want you to be proud of me.”  The tears came streaming down my cheeks, and I reaffirmed, “I am proud of you.  You have come a long way since you started in September.  Now let’s take a look at the question and see if I can help you figure out the solution.”

Sometimes the problems seem small, but so is the child.  What I learned here is that we can’t assume just because you have gone over something a thousand times with your child, student,  or an aging parent doesn’t mean they understand.  My students that have autism have taught me that much over the years.  We are all wired differently and what may seem simple to me may be quite challenging for someone else.

I have a comprehension problem with my billing logs each week.  My supervisor made it very apparent that she was frustrated and fed up with my carelessness. It was hurtful and unforgiving, and I left feeling stupid and incompetent in doing what I’m expected to do.    The lesson I hope we all can learn from this story is compassion for others.  The bible has many references regarding compassion.   I am so glad we have a God that is a compassionate God.

 “But you, Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.” ~Psalm 86:15

 

 

 

How to Find Peace in a Country of Chaos

I honestly don’t know how atheists get through everyday life. As our country has fallen into a cauldron of darkness and repressed anger, some Americans become a part of the havoc around them, while others live in their bubble unaware of the surroundings and circumstances that are creating a new world order.  As Christians, what can we do to keep from falling victim to the world’s chaos?  When I find myself worrying about the condition our country is in, when I see the ugly side of people full of hatred and rage, as I listen to nations turning against nations I return to the book of Matthew 24:6 “You will hear of wars and rumors of wars but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nations will rise against nations and kingdoms against kingdoms. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains.”  Our secular population prefers to use the terms, “Global warming, racists, misogynists, xenophobics to explain such behaviors, as tension continues to grow.   Matthew24:10-12 goes on to explain,  “At that time many will turn away from faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold.”

There are five key areas you can adjust to combat anxiety and stress in your life. Self-help guru types claim that it takes 21 days to form or break a habit. If you can focus on doing something every day for 21 days, it will become a part of your everyday lifestyle.  To form patterns out of the critical areas of change is referred to as Keystone Habits.  Keystone habits start a chain effect in your life that produces some positive outcomes.  Let’s look at the five areas of change;  your expectations, your relationship with God, your relationship with others, your priorities and your thoughts.

#1 Expectations: One of my favorite movies during the holiday season is “Christmas Vacation.”  The main character, Clark Griswold wants to host the perfect family Christmas. His wife quickly reminds him of how he tends to have such high expectations of special occasions only to be disappointed. I believe most of us are guilty of this at one time or another.  Norman Rockwell and his famous Home for the Holiday paintings illustrate families lovingly greeting each other, presents in hand, Old English Christmas carolers,  or the family sitting around a beautiful holiday meal. These images all give us that warm fuzzy feeling and expectations that maybe we can recreate such an event in our own home. It seldom ends well.

As Christians, we may feel that we shouldn’t have so many struggles. We follow Christ, we’re making disciples, so we should have an easier go of things. Right? However, God never promised us a life without challenges. “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” ~ John 16:33.

#2 Your relationship with God. With all the disarray surrounding us on a daily basis, it can easily cause a distraction and pull us away from God. It’s imperative we stay connected. If we fill our minds with His words, we can change our perspective about the circumstances that surround us.

#3 Relationship with others. I admit, my husband and I tend to be aloof from people a good share of our time. We often use the excuse that we have worked all week and wanted to spend quiet time together. However, God does not want us to isolate ourselves, but Satan does. That’s when he can do his dirty work of making us believe we don’t need other people. When we first moved here, we didn’t know a single person, so it was imperative that we connected with others right away. As the year’s pass, we have drifted back into our old way of being anti-social.

#4 Your Priorities can be summed up by your bank account and your calendar. Where does the majority of money go and how do you spend your time? If you are someone that allows other people’s expectations of you dictate how you set up your priorities, stop it!  You must determine your priorities and set up boundaries in your life to deal with stress and anxiety.

#5 Your Thoughts. The easiest way Satan can try to hurt God is through us. He is the father of lies and death. He loves to cause stress, anxiety, and depression in those of us that aren’t well suited in our armor of God.  1Peter 5:8 reminds us, “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” Satan knows how to influence our thinking and can lead us away from God.

We know that we can’t eliminate stress and anxiety in our lives. We can, however, look to God for strength and encouragement when we feel we are becoming distant from Him.  Even in a world of dismay, we can learn to be a disciple for Christ remember that this is not our home. We are just passing through. God is in control.