Most of you reading this are now humming that song from “High School Musical” – and hating me for getting it stuck in your head. Sorry about that. But there’s some truth to that ridiculously repetitive ditty. Troy needed to be reminded that, if he wanted to win that all-important basketball game, he’d better focus on that and not on the cute newcomer, Gabriella.
He recognized that if he were to allow his mind to drift off the court, he would let his team down and, possibly, lose the game. So he sang and danced (WITH a basketball! Impressive, you have to admit…) a reminder. Side note: all lessons in life should be accompanied by singing and dancing. How much more enjoyable would that be??
We are all busy, with days that seem to go on forever and calendars that have no white spaces in them for months on end. Because of that, it is easy to spend every day thinking about the next day, or the day after that. Sometimes they’re happy thoughts (we get a day off in three weeks!); sometimes they’re stressful (I have to take the SAT next month!); sometimes our thoughts focus on people (will he ask me to Homecoming?) But whatever they are, if those thoughts dominate our minds, we miss out on the most important day: TODAY.
There’s a great line from “The Music Man”, where Harold turns to Marion and says, “You pile up enough tomorrows and you’ll find you’re left with nothing but a bunch of empty yesterdays.” Side note: musicals are far more profound than people give them credit for.
When our heads are focused on tomorrow, we lose out on the joy of today. We don’t listen when people are talking because we are thinking/worrying about what we need to do later. We miss out on opportunities to minister, to deepen friendships, to encourage, to grow because our heads aren’t in “the game”. We get to the end of our calendar and we find that, though every square was filled, our souls are empty.
So plan for tomorrow, but LIVE today. Don’t just seek God’s will for your future, seek Him for your next hour, and the hour after that. You are in the game right now! Every “play” is important and deserving of your full attention.
“So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. ~Mt. 6:34
I know today’s teens get a tough rap, but I happen to think you are pretty spectacular. You guys have been thrown a lot of curve balls – the ultra-protection that comes from living more of your lives post 9/11 than pre-9/11; the constant influx of new technologies; the increased pressure to get better grades, take harder classes, pass more tests…Being a teen today takes far more work than it did back when I was that age.
But here’s what we had that some of this generation is missing: in-the-same-room communication. While texting and Snap chatting and Tweeting are fine – in the right context – none of that substitutes plain, old-fashioned talking.
In the wrong context, texting, Snap chatting, and Tweeting can actually keep us from having healthy relationships. Subtweeting ( indirectly tweeting something -usually negative – about someone without mentioning his/her name), for instance, can be terribly damaging. Instead of going directly to someone who has upset you, you subtweet their offense (“I hate when it people take credit for my ideas in Student Council!”). This is gossip and it’s cowardly. Just tell that person – in person – he/she upset you by taking credit for your ideas.
Texting too often replaces important, beneficial, face-to-face interaction, also…like getting to know new friends or potential boyfriends. You can only know so much about a person through words on a screen, or even pictures for that matter. You need to see them, hear them, watch them around others. Nothing can replace that.
I don’t think technology is bad – I happen to be pretty crazy about my iPhone! But I do think that technology is a supplement, not a replacement – like Sparksnotes to an actual novel. Don’t miss out on the joy of really getting to know people; don’t allow yourself the easy way out when it’s time to confront, either.
Enjoy being teens in the twenty-teens, but go old school with your relationships.
I don’t know about you, but when it comes to “The Will of God”, I tend to think of the “big” stuff: choosing a career, getting married, having kids….that kind of thing. But the older I get, the more I realize that it is just as important to seek God in the small stuff as it with the biggies.
Because here’s the deal: even the “big stuff” gets small. My wedding day, while amazing, was just a day. Thousands of days have passed since then. On my wedding day, I said “I will” to “for better, for worse; for richer, for poorer; in sickness and in health”. But every one of those thousands of days since, I have had to make the choice, with God’s help, to live those vows out.
Having kids wasn’t exactly a choice I made – God knew we were ready to be parents about 9 months before we did. But it was still pretty huge (as was I!). But having my first child was, again, just a day: a painful, exhilarating, life-changing day, sure. But that day was followed by thousands more days that were far more ordinary, messy, and challenging. Days when I had the choice to be the mom called me to be or to throw in the towel and give up.
I could go on (becoming missionaries; getting books published; teaching…), but you get the idea. The big events in life are just moments – moments that are built on the smaller events. And it’s in the small things – in everything – that we need to seek God’s will.
The “who will I marry?” question isn’t nearly as important as the “what do You want me to do today?” question. I met Dave because I followed God’s leading to study His word, to work at a camp, to be the best counselor I could be while working at that camp. It was my day-in-day-out actions that impressed by future husband. Not just my pretty face :). And those of you reading this who want to marry a man who loves Jesus with all his heart? You need to be doing the same — daily seeking what God wants you to do, in the little things.
So let go of the big stuff that consumes your thoughts and ask God to help you obey Him in the small stuff: reading your Bible, encouraging someone who is hurt, waking up for church tomorrow instead of sleeping in, finishing your homework on time…
The big stuff will come. And it will go. The small stuff is always here. So seek God’s will in everything – especially the small stuff!
I don’t like having to discipline my kids – the biological ones or the ones in my classroom. I want them to behave because they know they should. I don’t want to have to force them to behave by bringing in restrictions, taking away gadgets, or writing up referrals.
But, after 15 years of parenting and 7 years of teaching, I have learned that, like or not, discipline is necessary. If I let my own children get away with whatever they wanted, they’d be rotten right now. If I let my students do what they wanted in class, very little actual learning would take place. Discipline, though not fun, is necessary to accomplish my goals as a parent and a teacher.
God is the ultimate Parent and the Master Teacher. As such, he recognizes that sometimes, we need discipline. At times, that discipline isn’t painful…maybe we just need clarification on how to live, guidance to make the best decisions. But, sometimes, when we are being especially rebellious, he needs to do something to get our attention and take us off that wrong path and back on the right one.
Hebrews 12:11 says “For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it..”
The peaceful fruit of righteousness. That’s what I want – for my children, my students, and myself. In order to attain it, then, I must be willing to be trained by the discipline of God.
Maybe you’re feeling this right now – God is trying to discipline you, train you. Are you allowing Him to speak into your life? Or are you complaining, angry, upset that things aren’t going your way? God is a good God, a loving Father. He wants you to have the best life possible. So listen to Him, obey Him. Accept His discipline and grow.
This year, with great fear and trembling, my husband and I agreed to let our son play football (okay, so I was the one with fear and trembling, but whatever…). I’d much rather Thomas play something safe. Like chess. But he is all boy and super athletic, and he has begged for years to play football. I kept saying no (he’s just 11!!). But this year, I gave in.
Last night was Thomas’ first game. He was so excited. He didn’t get hurt (yay!) and he even made a couple pretty impressive plays. But most exciting of all was that he scored a touchdown for his team!
After we got home, Thomas gave us the inside scoop on the touchdown: He had boys from the other team hot on his tail. But he also had boys from his team at his back. When he got to the line that you cross to make a touchdown (my football vocabulary is pathetic, I know…), the boys from his team literally had his back. Thomas said he could feel those boys lifting him over the line, as he cradled that football with all the strength he had left. Though Thomas technically made the touchdown, he would not have made it if it weren’t for his teammates’ help.
It made me think of something my sister-in-law, Jill, tells my niece, Mercy — she encourages Mercy to find a group of friends who love Jesus and who will encourage her to live the life God has called her to live. Friends who have her back, like the football players had Thomas, and who will push her towards THE goal.
We all need friends like that, because even the strongest of us have times when we’re running out of steam, or when we’re being chased down by the enemy and we just don’t think we can take another step. Times when we need a lift – and a push – to get us where we need to be.
“A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.” Prov. 17:17
I figure it’s about time to write a “State of the Union” address as a writer. My last book has been out almost two months, and I’m getting a few “So what’s your next project?” questions from readers.
So…What am I doing next? Writing another series? Sitting back and raking in all the dough I’ve collected from my first two series? Wrangling through a movie deal with a big Hollywood producer?
No, no, and no.
Here’s the deal: I love writing. I enjoyed every minute of writing the six books God has allowed me to have published. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d be picked up by a publisher as amazing as Thomas Nelson. I am humbled and honored and elated to have been able to work with them and to get know others who are seeking to honor God through the words that they write. I have been amazed that people actually paid money to read my words, and that some of them actually liked those words enough to buy more books and even write me and let me know how God used my words to change their lives.
BUT…this is a tough time to be a writer. First, there are millions of us, all trying to get our words out there. Brick and mortar bookstores are dying, and online bookstores are
overwhelming, carrying, as they do, all those millions of books. Also, books are cheap. Or free. And I confess, I take full advantage of the Kindle Daily Deal and my local libraries – I read too much and too quickly to buy most books! So publishers have a hard time selling books when the market is so flooded and the product is so cheap.
Second, being a writer isn’t my full-time job. I love teaching. It is what God has called me to do. Working face-to-face with students, investing in them spiritually and academically is my calling. Writing, for me, was always an extension of that calling.
However, to be able to really make it as a writer, it is necessary to “quit the day job”. Most of the really successful writers are professional writers. It is what they do for a living. They spend hours a day on their craft. They attend workshops and conferences and have writer’s groups that they lead and are part of. They take ownership of their own marketing, knowing the publisher can only do so much. They recognize this is a tough business, and they recognize that the actual writing is just part of what is necessary to be a success.
So…I haven’t really “made it” as a writer. My books have sold all right, but not enough. And most publishers don’t want to publish someone with a history of “all right” sales. They, understandably, are in the business of making a profit. And, while I would love to keep writing, I don’t love it enough to stop doing what I love even more: teaching.
I’m not quitting. I can’t. I have too many ideas and writing is too much of an outlet for me. I HAVE to write! But will I have another book out anytime soon….? Probably not.
I have always clung to Francine Rivers’ quote that writing is another form of worship. I don’t need to have works published to be able to worship my Savior through my words. So I will keep writing, keep posting here, keep working on stories. I will keep doing what God has called me to do, how He has called me to do it. I will rejoice with those writers whose calling it is to work at their craft full-time. And I will do better at buying some of their books instead of waiting for them to go on sale as a KDD!
I am grateful for those who have allowed me to be in this amazing writers’ world: the publisher, editors, marketers, bloggers, reviewers, and, of course, readers. For a kid who avoided Honors’ English classes in school because it was just too much work — having close to half a million published words is a feat that is only attributable to the God who loves to demonstrate His strength through our weakness.
Psalm 1 is one of my favorite passages in the Bible. I don’t know how many times I’ve read it, and yet I still find something new every time I look into it.
Psalm 1 examines the difference between the man (or woman) who is blessed and the man (or woman) who is wicked. And what is that difference?
Location, location, location.
The blessed man takes up residence by streams of water (Ps. 1:3). He is compared to a tree who, planted by that water, has roots that sink deep into the earth and branches that stretch into the sky. Rather than wither away, it produces fruit and prospers.
What does the water represent in this Psalm? The man (or woman) whose delight is in the law of the Lord (Ps. 1:2a). The blessed person is so delighted in the law (the word of God) that he/she “meditates on it day and night” (Ps. 1:2b).
The opposite of blessed? In this passage, the opposite of blessed is wicked. These people walk, stand, and sit with the wicked, sinners, and scoffers. They live with and around those who drag them farther and farther away from blessings. And, as the blessed prospers by waters, the wicked will perish.
The “take home lesson” from this Psalm — be careful where you choose to put down roots. Sink your life deep into the refreshing water of God’s word. Seek friendships with those who hunger and thirst after righteousness. Avoid those whose shallow pursuits will end in ruin.
1 Blessed is the man
who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
2 but his delight is in the law of the Lord,
and on his law he meditates day and night.
3 He is like a tree
planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers.
4 The wicked are not so,
but are like chaff that the wind drives away.
5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;
6 for the Lord knows the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked will perish.
As I sit at my desk and write this, I am listening to my 13-year-old daughter chat it up on FaceTime with her best friend, Jessica. This is after she spent about 30 minutes chatting with her best friend/cousin, Mercy. Ellie will talk to her friends anytime, anywhere, for as long as she is permitted.They might be an hour away, but these girls are still in our house often – thanks to the wonders of technology!
These conversations are rarely ended by the girls themselves. They are almost always ended by parents coming in and saying, “Enough time on the phone,” “Time for homework” or “Go to bed!”. The girls would talk all night if we let them. These friendships are important, and it seems like they never run out of topics of conversation.
Ellie longs to talk to her friends. She wants to know what’s going on in their lives, she wants to share with them what’s happening here. They talk about all kids of things – right now, she’s discussing sharing her faith with kids who don’t believe in Jesus. A minute ago, she was discussing birthday parties and annoying brothers. Wait, now she’s on with friend #3, Natalie…
As I listen to the stream of conversation, I think about the most important conversation: prayer. Paul says we should pray without ceasing (I Thess. 5:17). We should talk to God the way Ellie talks to her friends: all the time about everything. I had a youth pastor who encouraged us to never say “Amen,” so that the prayers we start in the morning continue all day – every thought is a prayer. Our conversation with Jesus never stops. It just pauses occasionally.
Prayer shouldn’t just be something we do before a meal or a test or a hard time. It should be part of the vibrant, growing relationship we have with Jesus – the friend who sticks closer than a brother. We can talk to Him about anything. We can praise Him, thank Him, worship Him in prayer anytime. So put down the phone and pick up your prayers.
That means you, too, Ellie
I love talking about “big” stuff: future plans, dreams, ideas. I remember, when I was younger, wondering what “great” things I’d do for God. I was up for just about anything, as long as it was big and important.
As I have matured in my relationship with God, I have realized that desire, while being pretty self-centered, can also hinder me from doing the things God actually wants me to do.
For example: I stayed home with my kids until they went to school (then, I went to school with them!). During my years at home, I sometimes felt like I wasn’t contributing enough to the kingdom of God. I spent my days changing diapers and reading Dr. Seuss and mixing baby food into watery rice flakes. I remember really struggling during those years: I had a college degree collecting dust in the closet. My kids wouldn’t even remember I was home with them! Wouldn’t it be better if I used the gifts God had given me in a job that actually paid something rather than spending day after day singing Barney songs and fishing Little People (the toys, not my actual children) out of the toilet?
But while I was in my pity party, God would remind me: THIS is my purpose for you right now. I knew God wanted me to stay home with my kids. And, before I had them, it sounded very noble and rewarding. But day after day (after day after day…) I forgot about the nobility. And the rewards could be few and far between (“Yay, you almost made it to the potty that time!”). But that is what obedience looks like. Waking up every morning and doing what God has for you then, whether it’s feeding a newborn or doing your homework or mowing the lawn.
Our greatest purpose in life is to bring glory to God. And, while we might get to do something(s) big and important, it is in the little things that we really demonstrate our commitment to his supremacy in our lives. And, very often, it’s the little things that mean the most to us later…like staying home. I look back on those years now with such amazing memories, such joy. I would not have traded one day, one diaper, one midnight feeding for the time I had at home with my kids.
So dream big for God! But, as you dream, be obedient in the small things. Do those with gladness, for his glory.
“Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men.” ~ Col. 3:23
Remember when you were a kid and you hated what your mom served for dinner, and she’d say something like this: “I know you hate broccoli, but there are starving children in Africa who would love this meal.”?
I hated that speech.
I know, Mom was right. But you know what? I still hated broccoli (still do – there’s not enough melted cheese in the world to make that veggie palatable*). I still gagged it down. I would have gladly given every serving of broccoli to the starving children of Africa. But that wasn’t an option. And knowing I had more food than they did, didn’t change my taste buds or my rotten “you can make me eat it, but you won’t make me like it” attitude.
I don’t make my kids eat broccoli (though a couple of them actually like it!), but I do find myself saying things like that. I say it to myself, too, and my husband. And not about food, but – worse – about life: “Sure, this move is tough, but at least we’re all healthy!” “I know you miss your friends, but at least you’re just an hour away and not thousands of miles!”
It is a terrible thing to do. Worse than drowning broccoli in cheese. When we are struggling, we need to deal with the struggle. We need to look at that nasty broccoli sitting on our plate and recognize we have to eat it. Mom’s not letting us up until we do. We can cry and whine and complain and fake gag, but when we’re done, the broccoli will still be sitting there. Getting even more slimy and bland. Might as well eat it while it’s hot so it’ll slide down faster.
In life, sometimes things happen we just don’t like. Tough stuff. Pretending it’s not tough doesn’t make it easier. Recognizing other people have it worse doesn’t help either. The tough stuff is still there, waiting to be dealt with.
So we need to deal with it. God can handle our ranting and raving. He can handle our crying and complaining. Just read the Psalms. We can let Him know just how much we hate whatever struggle we may face. And, what I have found, after years of eating metaphorical broccoli, is that he doesn’t take the tough stuff away, but he does help you “swallow” it. He’ll get you through it. His strength is made perfect in our weakness. His ways are higher than ours. His purposes for us are great. And “this, too, shall pass.” Broccoli is very often followed by chocolate cake. So hang in there. Things will get better!
*I apologize to broccoli-lovers. I’m sure it’s a wonderful vegetable with great qualities and maybe you even have a recipe that is so good I can barely taste the broccoli…but I still hate it, and now that I’m an adult, I can refuse it any time I want. So no recipes, please! If you feel the need to send something, the name of a good counselor – one who deals in childhood vegetable trauma – would be most beneficial