Last night was our church’s small home group. Each week our group will discuss the sermon from Sunday, or chose a story from the bible to study. Our leader chose the book of Jonah for the next eight weeks. All I knew about Jonah was he was swallowed by a whale. I did not understand why and had never read the story. Here is what I learned last night.
God asked Jonah to go to Assyria and call the people to repentance. Assyria was an evil empire known for brutal murders. Jonah hated the Assyrians and only wanted vengeance rather than forgiveness for the people, so Jonah was disobedient and run away from God. Here we learn that Jonah had a selfish heart, wanting nothing to do with the “unlovable” people. He did not want the Assyrians to receive God’s mercy. In Jonah’s mind, they did not deserve forgiveness.
The question from the study asks us, who are the, “un-lovables” in our lives? Who do we feel uncomfortable to be around and share the word of God? All of us seemed to agree on particular groups of people; drug and alcohol abusers, homeless people and those of other non-Christian beliefs. I was reminded of a situation years ago that I knew I had to share.
While living in Oregon, I often asked God about the people I’d see on the streets begging for money, doing drugs, and causing havoc in the city. These were also God’s children, but could He expect Christians to feel the same way he did toward these people? This question had been on my heart for months. Most of us would be terrified to be anywhere near these people, which is why I avoided certain areas of downtown Portland. The famous, “Burnside Bridge” area was known as skid row. That was where the shelters were. Any day you could drive through the area and see dirty drunks, drug addicts, and undesirables just sitting on the sidewalks or mulling around begging for change.
It was an early Saturday morning when I woke up and heard God speak. “I want you to go down to Burnside and get the answers to the questions you pose. Remove all your jewelry and go as you are. Take your dog and do not be afraid, for I will be with you.” Like Jonah, I wanted to run the other direction. Was He trying to get me killed? That area is dangerous place, for a woman alone. However, God was persistent. I put on an old pair of thongs and a dirty pair of jeans and a ripped up, paint spattered T-shirt. I didn’t bother to brush my hair or my teeth. My 70 pound lab was excited to go for a ride. I was trembling as I neared the area. “Really God?” I asked. “Are you still with me? What do you want me to do?” ‘Just go’ is what came back in my head. “Trust in the lord your God and do not depend on your own understanding.” ~Proverbs 3:5.
I parked the car, and my dog and I walked toward the area where all the people hung out. It was still early so I rationalized that most of them would still be sleeping. I saw a man standing along- side the street with a sign asking for change. I asked him where the woman’s shelter was (I didn’t even know if there was one). He was very polite. He asked to pet my dog. He gave me directions to the shelter and asked me, “Do you need money miss? I only have 75 cents, but if you’re in need?”
I was touched by his generosity. I politely refused by saying, “God bless you, but I’m fine.” I continued my journey until I arrived at the destination. Tears filled my eyes at what I saw. There before me, stood twenty or more people, smoking cigarettes, drinking coffee and socializing with each other. I felt God’s presence and no longer felt fear. The questions I had began to fill my head. I was overwhelmed with emotion and suddenly, the tears were streaming down my face. A middle aged woman saw me as she passed by. She quickly turned around and asked me if I was ok. I explained that I wasn’t sure why I was here, but that God sent me. She smiled and said, “God sends most of us here. This is where we find refuge. You’re welcome to go inside and get a cup of hot coffee, tea or hot chocolate and some breakfast.” Again, I was touched by a generous heart. She obviously sensed how fearful and uncomfortable I was, so she asked me to wait for her. She went into the shelter and came back with a cup of hot coffee and some pamphlets of services to help the homeless. I never knew such places existed. They had places to get clothes for little or no money, health care, haircuts, food, churches that welcome those in need, medications and services to get people signed up for food stamps and low income housing. It was another world.
The woman’s name was Jean and she introduced me to her close friend Marie. They both wanted to know my story, but I was just as interested in theirs. (I couldn’t reveal that I was not, ‘one of them’ so I listened). They had both been meth users. They had lived on the street for two years. The questions came pouring out of my mouth with such compassion and non-judgment, I knew it was God using me to help resolve the issues I had had in my heart. “Do you believe in God?” I asked. They both lit up with enthusiasm, “Yes” they answered. I posed an even more personal question, “Do you blame God for your situation? Don’t you think that God should help you?” What I heard next revealed to me what God wanted me to learn. Jean responded, “God has, and is helping me. It’s not His fault I’m an alcoholic and meth addict. Those were my decisions. Though it all, God kept me safe. He brought me to the shelter and is helping me get clean. We have our name’s on the low income housing list and are waiting for our own apartment. In the meantime, we meet with our sponsor, attend AA meetings two or three times a day sometimes, we have a roof over our head, food in our bellies and the holy spirit in our hearts.” She then pointed up toward “Snob Hill” where all the rich people live. “See those people? Those are the people I don’t want to become. They have huge mortgages, expensive toys, clothes, cars, and are stressed out all day, every day. Most don’t even know God or give thanks. They just go about their lives feeling entitled and look at those of us here as an eye sore, but I pray for them anyway. I pray they will find the Lord and have compassion for those of us that were less fortunate than they were.”
I felt the guilt swell up in me. I was one of those people she was referring to. And she was right, by most accounts, I did feel entitled. I had worked hard to get where I was. I believed in the Lord and I gave thanks, but there was something I had missed. How could I be more like Jesus? Marie then added, “And Jesus used to eat with the undesirable people in the community. He said they needed him more than the rich people thought they did, and he gave his love and blessings on them.”
Since that day, I have looked upon the homeless and the downtrodden differently. I realized than many of them are more obedient to God than those who play “Christian” on Sundays. I have been eternally grateful that God gave me this experience, and I felt His presence with me the entire time. I never felt in danger. He removed the fear and replaced it with curiosity and compassion. Thank you Lord Jesus. This was truly a leap in faith for me.
I realized my mortality last week. I looked up a friend I hadn’t seen or communicated with since we moved to Idaho. When I searched her name, I saw a picture of her with that sweet smile and funky looking hairstyle. I snickered at first until I noticed it was her obituary. My friend had passed away two months ago. Devastated I searched the story to discover there was no mention of the cause of death, but since the family asked for donations to go to the American Cancer Society, I put two and two together.
She was only three years older than I, and it had been four years since I last saw her. Where had the time gone? I had traveled to Oregon a half dozen times since we’d moved, and not once did I take the time to stop in and say hi. I realized that it could be me in four years, next month, or today. For, “Each man’s life is but a breath”.~ Psalm 39:5. We are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. ~James 4:14.
We often fill time with things that don’t matter. Phone calls, texting, emails, social media, TV, video games, the internet. *Adults in the United States spend over five hours each day on “non-voice mobile activities,” including Internet use on phones and tablets, and about four-and-a-half hours watching television according to a study released by e-Marketer. *(www.huffingtonpost.com/2013)
Have you heard, “The jar of life — Rocks, Pebbles, and Sand” story? In this metaphor, the sand represents the small things such as email, texting, phone calls, and non-essential material possessions. The pebbles represent the other things that matter in your life, such as your job, your education, and your home. The rocks are equivalent to the most important things in your life, such as family, health, and relationships. By filling the jar with all the sand first, there is still room for the pebbles, but many of the large rocks don’t fit, so they get left out. When we fill our time with little things that don’t matter, we have little time for the things that truly matter.
How much of your life is built on sand rather than rock? As we allow the physical things to dictate rather than the spiritual things, we feel empty. Real life does not comprise your earthly possessions. God created us with a hole in our heart that only He can fill. Worldly priorities will never satisfy. Know how you spend your time. Always remember, the Lord comes first.
As 2018 draws to an end, we look to the beginning of a new year (As a teacher, the ” New Year” always began Labor Day, but I digress). When the subject of New Year Resolutions comes up, I tend to remind myself of Romans 12:2; “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Rather than stressing myself out with the same old “resolutions” year after year, I enjoy sitting in my big walk-in closet with a single candle burning, focus on the Lord, then humbly ask, “How can I best serve you in this coming year? How can I best glorify your name?” Since He was the one who made me, it seems only right I ask my creator what areas I need to improve on, how I should be spending my time, my money and sharing my gifts to those who would greatly benefit from them. By spending time with the Lord and in the word, becoming depressed, unmotivated, and lethargic is kept at bay. While the secular world focuses on themselves and believing material goods can bring them happiness, my physical and spiritual health is far more important. Jesus reminds us in Matthew 6:19; “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven where moth and rust do not destroy and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will also be.” For me to represent the Lord, in the best possible light, I have been working on two scriptures; 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” And Romans 12:1 “I appeal to you, therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” Since the age of eight, I have had a weight problem. I loved food more than anything else. Sugar was my god.
As I have matured to trust the Lord, I begun to ask Him how to deal with the demons that have taken over my body, have caused decay and disease and brought me to the depths of despair. Over my entire adult life, I’d spent thousands of dollars on diets and counseling. The results were minimal as well as temporary. After hitting rock bottom in August, I decided to turn to the Lord and ask how He could help rid me from the grip sugar had. He put Proverbs 3:5-6 on my heart. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” That was thirty pounds ago. I have sixty more to go.
How will you glorify God in 2019?
I won’t lie, December 24th and 25th are difficult days for me. As a Christian, I know it’s about the birth of our Lord and Savior, but it hurts every year when Christmas Eve and Christmas Day come and my husband and I have no family to spend the holidays. His grown children disowned him when he married me. My nephews have moved across the country with families of their own. This year, I lost my ex-brother-in-law to cancer back in May. I lost my God-parents three years ago and Three years ago next week, one of my close friends committed suicide. Those were the few people we shared Christmas.
Don’t get me wrong, I love the season. Working in a private school, the children are still allowed to sing Christmas carols, make gifts for their parents, and decorate the huge Christmas tree that stands in the hallway. The staff does “Secret Santa” and every year we have a staff Christmas party hosted by our boss. I love to entertain, so I decorate the house and host our bible study group one night in December. But those two days are reminders that it’s just the two of us with no fellowship with others. However, there is a silver lining in all of this.
Back in August, my husband and I began following the Ketosis diet. We splurged tonight and had shared a baked potato with our ham and green beans. What a treat that was. No candy, cookies, pies or specialty desserts this year. We are grateful we won’t fight the five or more pounds we gain between Thanksgiving and New Years Day. We also didn’t max out our credit cards on gifts.
Yesterday, I kept my mind on the birth of Jesus and gave thanks to God for giving us the best gift ever. I also lit a candle and said a prayer for those who are no longer with us, and for all others who have no homes due to the Campfire in California.
Today, the tree came down and the decorations have been put away for another year. December 26th is a regular day. I don’t return to work until the 7th of January, so I will continue to listen and follow Jesus on this new adventure He has started with me. Jesus comforts our soul and eases our pain. I am grateful for the wonderful husband I have, our home, our community and our church. Happy New Year!
Here are thoughts as we get closer to Christmas Day. Remember that not everyone is looking forward to Christmas since they may not have loving and supportive families. Some people have problems during the holidays. Great sadness plague those remembering the loved ones no longer with them. For many, it is their first Christmas without a particular loved one; many others lost loved ones at Christmas time. Many people have no one to spend these times and are lonely. We all need caring, loving thoughts right now. Pray for all those who have family issues, health problems, job struggles, or worries of any kind. They need to know someone cares. Pray for our military families, those who lay terminally ill in hospital beds, those who are in prison, as they are all someone’s son or daughter, spouse, parent or friend too.
I recall breathing a sigh of relief on December 26th. It was over, and I could get back to a “normal” life. When I was a young, single woman, my next concern was not having a date for New Years’ Eve. I’m grateful those days have passed. Now I have more important matters that consume me such as filing taxes. I have stopped making New years resolutions as I am still trying to fulfill the ones I made back in 1995! Instead, I make short and long-term goals. For 2019, I want to become a disciple maker for the Lord Jesus Christ. I will volunteer where I am needed at my church and my community. I will continue to grow my blog followers and offer more personal support to the women in need. Finally, I will give thanks every day to the Lord who created me to do His work and will do it with a loving heart.
The Christmas season was not always a happy time for me. During the early childhood years, I believed I had traditional Christmases. I remember my mom stressing out over my grandparents and aunt and uncle coming to visit from other states and staying an entire week. Mom would often invite one of her closest friends who was a widow and no children or family to join us. We had a house full of people and I being the youngest was spoiled with every imaginable toy, new clothes, and the richest cookies and candies from across the world.
When I was in my teenage years, Christmas holidays were not so enjoyable anymore. Grandpa and my uncle had gone home to be with the Lord, my grandmother had moved in with us, my sister was married with her own family, and I became savvy about how much my mother and grandmother drank, especially at Christmas.
When my sister, husband, and children would arrive, they were often late for Christmas dinner, causing my mother further stress and anger. She would then drink more. My mother was not a doting grandmother either. Children annoyed her. Knowing when the grandsons were coming, she would spend a couple of hours “Childproofing” the house. I always enjoyed playing with my three nephews (It became my responsibility to keep the boys entertained), and they were a nice distraction from the drunken fighting and arguing that often took place.
Then, at age 23, my life and holidays would be changed forever. My sister and her husband had divorced, and, my mother passed away two weeks into the new year. That was when I became angry with God and turned away from Him for many years. I no longer had a “home.” My grandmother moved in with my sister, and we had to put the house on the market. When Christmas rolled around, I spent a couple of them at my sister’s, but there was a new man in the picture who was an alcoholic, as were his parents. He also had six children. Her small house wasn’t large enough for everyone to sit together and so we all found places on the floor, fireplace hearth, and steps to have dinner. There was so much drinking and arguing; I couldn’t stand going another year. For several Christmases, I spent alone in my new home. I remember feeling so resentful and depressed — no presents, no Christmas dinner, and no family. I was alone. It was difficult, and I hated Christmas.
When I gave my life to the Lord in 2004, my life and my views completely changed. It was time to make new traditions with my husband. We’d sometimes go camping over Christmas, go to a nice lodge, or stay home and watch Christmas movies. We have the Lord and each other. We feel blessed that we no longer have to deal with the expense and stress of Christmas gifts for each other and family. We prefer to set a budget that we would spend on gifts for ourselves and others and donate that money to a family in need. I still decorate the house and put up a Christmas tree, but next year, I would like to do something different.
The season is really about Jesus’ birth. As I’ve grown in Christ, I am moving away from the secular celebration of Christmas in this country. Santa, reindeer, snowmen, Christmas trees have absolutely nothing to do with the true meaning of Christmas. I have heard the Christmas story many times from many different pastors this year, and they all have opened my eyes. Instead of a huge Christmas tree that takes up a good portion of the living room, I would like my husband to build a manger scene similar to what we would imagine it looked like on the day Jesus was born (not the sanitized secular type version). I believe this would help both of us to keep our heart on the true meaning of Christmas and not get caught up in the secular traditions or the sadness of not having our family members to celebrate together. Knowing what Jesus was born to do for us is the greatest gift any of us could receive. The best gift we could give Jesus in return would be to follow Him and go out and make disciples. May you all keep the true meaning of Christmas, not just during the season, but through the entire year.
I was never familiar with what discipleship really meant until my husband, and I moved to North Idaho in 2014. We had attended a lovely Baptist Church outside in our small community for ten years. There was a ministry in the church that served as the “Welcome New Guests.” They would ask people if they would like to know more about the Bible and Jesus Christ. As a new Christian, I wanted to know everything I could. A few weeks later, I was assigned to a beautiful woman named Ruth who was to Disciple me. It was an excellent experience, and throughout nine months, I grew more deeply in my faith and understanding of Jesus and the Bible.
Our church in Idaho is all about making Disciples. I honestly wasn’t sure what that meant, or how to become one, but I was curious.
To begin with, The church offered classes if you were interested in becoming a member. Once a member, you are encouraged to take bible study classes and volunteer in a ministry. They often say, “Don’t just GO to church, BE the church. And so I did, I jumped in with both feet. I volunteered a couple days a week with the Benevolence Ministry, the Job Club Ministry, Women’s Ministry, and Children’s Ministry. What I loved about this church that I had never witnessed at any other church were the numerous ministries, support groups, homegroups, children’s activities, Bible study groups, kids camp, fundraisers, and missionary training and travel. The church is open seven days a week, and there is always something happening. The campus is also home to a private Christian School, grades K-12. Recently added, a new sports facility for not just our member’s children, but for our entire community, other churches and public schools to use. No child has ever been turned away from playing a sport because they, “Didn’t make the cut.” This is one of the many ways our church makes disciples who make disciples.
Jesus’ purpose for coming down to earth was not just to get people to believe so they could go to heaven. Even Satan believed in Jesus. Jesus wanted to make people into holy people. His goal was to spread the gospel to other nations. When Jesus began his ministry here on earth, his purpose was to make disciples that would go out and make disciples. “Come, follow me and I will make you fishers of men.” ~Matt 4:19. Our church uses this verse to define discipleship. As a Christian, your call is to follow Jesus and commit to His mission (making disciples). This challenges people to step out of their comfort zone because many Christians have never been discipled. Many Christians find a church they like, attend once in a while (definitely on Christmas and Easter), tithe occasionally, and thumb through the bible (if they own one) during a service. They have no time to volunteer or attend Bible classes to help them grow in the word, but they do believe that Jesus was the Son of God and was reserected from the dead. Unfortunately, these types of Christians tend to look a lot like the rest of the secular world.
While the bible says that we are saved by grace and not by good works, Jesus does tell us that we are to share the word with others. This does not mean the goal is to boost the membership of the church by making converts. As a disciple, it means to invest in them, teach them to love God through relationship and obedience and encourage them to grow in Christ so they can go on to be disciple-makers. But first, we must start with ourselves. Is your church a disciple-making church? At our church, there are classes we are encouraged to attend, books that our pastor has written we can purchase or borrow from our church, curriculum you can find online as well as a Christian bookstore. Not all churches are disciple-makers, but that doesn’t mean you can’t do what Jesus has called all of His followers to do. Penn Jillette, a famous magician, comedian, TV personality and a host of other titles is also known as a hardcore atheist. In 2009, Jillette praised a Christian businessman for giving him a Bible and proclaiming that salvation comes only through faith in Jesus Christ. Jillette did not accept the man’s invitation to become a Christian, but his assessment of believers quoted him as saying, “I’ve always said that I don’t respect people who don’t proselytize. If you believe in heaven and hell and people could be going to hell or not getting eternal life, but you feel it’s not really worth telling them because it’s socially awkward, how much do you have to hate somebody to believe that everlasting life is possible and not tell them that?”
I have had an issue with the Santa Clause myth ever since I found out there was no Santa (no tooth fairy, or Easter Bunny either). I will never forget that evening. I was eight years old. My sister was 18. She was thrilled to get a job working at Santa’s Village in downtown Eugene. Every Christmas, Eugene, Oregon decorated their streets with Candy Canes, and Santa Faces on the light posts. In the city park, they had Santa’s village with a train for children to ride around the park. There were three different size fountains in the center of the park, and Santa sat proudly in a white gazebo with his bag full of candy canes to hand out to all little girls and boys that sat on his lap and told him what they wanted for Christmas. My sister was one of Santa’s elves that helped the children up the stairs and placed them ever so carefully on Santa’s lap. One elf took a picture of Santa with the child, and several other elves helped the children on and off the Christmas train. They served hot chocolate and cookies at a little booth, and the smell and sounds of popcorn and Christmas music were prominent in the air for blocks. I looked forward to Santa’s Village every year.
Across the street from the park stood the Eugene Hotel. One of the most beautiful hotels in the city at that time. All of the crew that worked at the village had a couple of hotel rooms set aside so they could change into their costumes or warm up during a short break. My mom had dropped me off with my sister so I could see Santa and ride the train. When my sister’s shift was over, we had to cross the street so she could change out of her costume and back into her street clothes. She didn’t think when she unlocked the door. There, laying on the bed was Santa’s suit, white beard, boots, hat, and two pillows right next to his outfit. I still remember the hot tears rolling down my chilled cheeks. As my sister entered the room, she realized that I had discovered the truth. I didn’t know what to say, and neither did she. When we got home, I ran to my bedroom and cried into my pillow. It was all a lie. Santa wasn’t real. My mom quietly knocked as she entered my room to comfort me. She wasn’t ready to tell me the truth yet, So she made up another story. She explained that the real Santa was busy at the North Pole making toys and getting ready for Christmas. She reminded me that my sister wasn’t a real elf either, she was just there to be Santa’s helper. I sat quietly wondering if this was another lie. I decided I wasn’t going to be so gullible when it came to these types of kid stories anymore.
When it was bedtime, my mother came in and asked me if I recited my prayers. No, I had not. I figured if Santa wasn’t real, neither was God. I didn’t want to tell my mother my rational, so I lied and told her I had.
What brought this memory to mind was listening to a news report the other evening. It was reported that a second-grade teacher had asked the class what was Christmas about. The answer from the students was giving and receiving gifts, Santa Clause and Reindeer. One student responded by telling the teacher that Christmas was about the birth of Jesus and how Jesus came to earth to forgive our sins so we could go to heaven when we die. The teacher quickly replied to the student, “Well, kind of, sort of, but not really.”
Since I gave my life to Jesus fourteen years ago, I struggle with this Santa Myth every year. Many Christmas shows on mainstream TV are about Santa in some way, telling children, they better be good, or Santa won’t leave them any toys; Just a nasty lump of coal instead (I know I was reminded of this particular myth starting about June).
While some worry about the words to the song, “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” and Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer being bullied by the other Reindeer, I believe my concern is more relevant than the liberal wingnuts that pose these issues. How do Christian parents walk this razor’s edge? I would love to hear some feedback. How do parents explain Santa Clause and the birth of Jesus without the child wondering if God is real, or a myth like Santa?
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!
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
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.
I remember when my husband and I first moved to Idaho to follow the Lord, the second sermon our pastor gave was, Do You Know Your Purpose In Life? As I sat there listening, tears were burning in my eyes. I had no idea what my purpose was. As I was leaving the sanctuary, my eyes swollen from crying, I said to the pastor, “I don’t believe I have a purpose.” He embraced me gently and whispered in my ear, “We all have a purpose. You need to focus on God and ask Him.” For years I would ask myself, “What are my talents? What do I want to be? Where do I see myself five, ten, twenty years from now?” I wanted to be a singer, an actress, a teacher, a writer, a motivational speaker, a businesswoman. I took the direction of a teacher since that just felt natural. From the time I was a young girl, I would often come home from school, line up all my stuffed animals and dolls and play school, so it was no surprise to my family that I chose special education as a career right out of high school. But I felt there was more. After thirty years working with the special needs population, I wanted something more. Again I began to ask myself, “What do I want to do? What are my gifts? What is my purpose?” I soon learned that focusing on myself would never reveal my life’s purpose. “In his hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind”~ Job 12:10. I remember reading Rick Warren’s book, “The Purpose Driven Life” years ago. I recall a passage that said, I was made by God for God. Only God knows what He designed me for. It was time to turn my attention to the Original Owners Manual, The Bible. I found Ephesians 1:11-12 that says, “In Him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of Him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of His will, in order that we who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of His glory.” (NIV). That verse made me realize that I WAS created for a reason. I wasn’t an accident. God did give me a special gift and I had been doing it from the time I was a child. I referenced the bible once again and discovered Proverbs 22:6 “Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.” I pondered the question, “How many students have I made a difference in their life/ future? I will never really know the answer, but that really isn’t the question I should be asking. How many students have made a difference in my life/future?” The answer of course is, all of them.
Years have gone by since the days of teaching in public schools with students having special needs. I have grown and matured in God, and now my focus is to help people understand God’s purpose in their lives. I still enjoy teaching and work in a private school. I have taught a children’s bible study group in our church and enjoy bringing Bible stories to life for the younger ones that are just beginning their journey. I give all the glory to God for shedding light on the true gift He’d blessed me with so many years ago. A gift I took for granted because it came so natural to me, that I never realized just how I had made a difference in the life of a child.