I was on a search committee at church a few years ago. A group of us were tasked with finding a young man who could work with both the worship ministry and with youth – the list of his responsibilities were pretty long. We prayed before every meeting, asking God to direct us to His choice for this position.
Early on in the process, the supervising pastor told us, “We need to make sure the man we choose has been ‘broken’.” It sounded a bit harsh, but we knew what he was saying: Brokenness in ministry is inevitable. Recovering from that brokenness marks the difference between a mature believer and a baby.
I was reminded of that this morning as I studied the book of Job. Job was broken in every way possible – spiritually, physically, mentally, emotionally…In a few short verses, he went from being an incredibly wealthy father of ten to a man bereft of everything he held dear – children killed, livestock and home destroyed, body devastated.
Yet, the scripture tells us in all this Job did not sin. He did not curse God (even though his wife encouraged him to do just that!). In fact, in his brokenness, Job worshiped God.
I thought, then, of the many people I have known and encountered and heard about, who experienced difficulties in this life and did not respond the way Job responded. People who did curse God. Some turned from the one true God to other “gods” who promise a more comfortable life, or away from God entirely because they “tried” God and He didn’t “work” for them.
Far too often, we choose to believe in a God we have crafted in our own minds – a God who makes life easy for us, who constantly blesses us, who protects us from everything bad, everything negative. And when that God doesn’t behave in the way we believe He should behave, we walk away.
We need to be reminded of the lesson Job learned. After three dozen chapters of Job’s friends trying to explain God and make sense of Job’s situation, God shows up. He rebukes those well-meaning (?) friends and responds to Job’s longing for an answer to the “why”?
In the final chapters of the book of Job, God explains that He is God. He doesn’t offer Job a “reason” for his difficulties, He doesn’t apologize for Job’s trial, He doesn’t promise to make everything better. He doesn’t have to!
He is GOD. We are not. Period.
That is the lesson Job learns in his brokenness. And he worships the holy, perfect God, repenting for daring to ask that this almighty, sovereign Creator God “defend” Himself to His creation.
Brokenness in the Christian life leads to strength and peace and joy. When we understand God is not a genie, not a “Santa”, not a Divine Butler who gives us what we want when we want it, when we fall to our knees and recognize God is God, worthy of our complete devotion and obedience and worship, we are set free.
If you’ve never heard comedian Michael Jr.’s testimony – watch this. It’s funny and inspiring and so God-honoring. In it, he explains how some difficulties in his past really worked out to be blessings. God used struggles to mold him into the man he was meant to be.
But Micheal Jr isn’t alone. God works in all of our lives, bringing beauty from ashes and making sense of the senseless. We don’t get to see the “why” all the time. But God often gives us what a former pastor called “glimpses of the Kingdom” – insight into how God is working to fulfill His purposes through His people.
I can see these Kingdom glimpses most clearly in our moves. Every move (EVERY move) was tough. I hate moving! But every move (EVERY move) was good. God taught me lessons I wouldn’t have learned had I stayed where I was. He gave me friends I never would have had otherwise. He gave me opportunities to minister to people I never would have met had I gotten what I wanted and just stayed in one place forever.
You never know what God is going to use – circumstances that are difficult or confusing can be just the ones that bring you where you need to go or prepare you for how He wants to use you. He is the Redeemer. And He is in control of everything.
By the end of this week, we will have been in California for three months.
You regulars know that this move was major for our family. When I first blogged about it, I was still somewhat in shock….California?? Wha…?? But as we began packing and saying painful goodbyes, the shock turned to sadness, tinged with confusion. Why, God? Why move us all the way across the country, where we know NO ONE?
But we kept packing, we said those painful goodbyes, we loaded up the Penske truck and our old van, and we started driving — away from the familiar into – as the old Steven Curtis Chapman song goes – the Great Unknown.
The first month was a little rough – though we were warmly and graciously received by our new administrators, we struggled to get settled in: everything is different in CA!!
School started July 21. As all beginnings are, it was awkward. The kids weren’t sure they’d fit in; Dave and I weren’t sure we’d fit in. So. Much. New.
Let me fast forward through those first awkward weeks, though…we are at the end of the first quarter, and we’re thriving. God has given each of my kids great friends. And, to the delight of this mother’s heart – my girls have many of the same friends. Most are fellow volleyball players (CCA Lady Knights are 4-0, thank you very much!). They are a fun group and, to be around them, you’d think they’d known each other for years.
Thomas is enjoying school, as well – when he’s not getting Demerits for talking (those of you who know him are not at all surprised at that!), he’s playing his ukulele and singing in the middle school worship team, and playing flag football with his new buddies.
God has given Dave and me amazing coworkers who have treated us like family. We are so blessed. I feel like we see confirmation, weekly, that this is exactly where God wants us.
Of course, we still miss “home”, we miss our friends, we miss rain! But we are adjusting well, and we are experiencing the blessings of obedience. We still sometimes wonder “why”? But we trust in a God who is far wiser than we could ever be. He knows what is best for us – even when it seems crazy, scary, and confusing.
God is good. ALL the time.
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. ~Jer. 29:11
Over the last couple weeks, I have heard from several students that they are staying up until 2am or later to complete homework.
First, I blame the parent — who lets their child stay up that late?? Seriously!
Then, I blame the parent again — who is telling that student that an “A” is so important it’s worth losing sleep over?
Finally, I blame the student. Because they are either WAY too busy, way too perfectionistic, or simply have priorities that are way too out of whack.
(Why don’t I blame the teachers, you ask? Because students and parents choose the kids’ classes – they don’t have to take a course-load full of AP and Honors’ classes. You CAN tell the Guidance Counselor “no”.)
Sure, these are the kids who grow up to be “successful” – but they do it by staying up until 2am in college, in grad school, in post-grad school…then they’re staying up until 2am to keep their job, to move up in their job, to get a better job. These are the kids whose marriages fall apart, whose children never see them, whose doctors are on speed dial, and whose pharmacist is their best friend.
Why? Because we need sleep! And free time. And friends. And exercise.
People, God placed each of us here for a purpose. He desires for us to be successful. But He does not define success the way we do. He desires us to do justly, to love mercy, and walk humbly with our God. He desires us to do OUR best, but He never asks us to be THE best. In fact, sometimes, striving to be THE best is downright sin.
So, kids, go to bed! Parents, make your kids go to bed. If the only way to get an A is to stay up until 2am studying — DON’T GET AN A!
Let God’s word be your ultimate rubric, let His “report card” be the one you’re most concerned about. Let’s show our success, not by GPA or SAT scores, but by character, integrity, and passion for the Savior.
Before I start, please hear me when I say this isn’t a rant against public education. I am a product of America’s public education system. I am proud of what I learned and where I attended. My character was shaped by Christian teachers who invested in me and even by non-Christian teachers who challenged me to to examine what I believed.
But God has called me (ME – not everyone) to be a teacher in a Christian school. I think we should all be passionate about what God has called us to do, and I am quite passionate about my calling. I love teaching in an environment where I’m not just “allowed” to talk about my faith, I’m required to.
Christian schools – like Christian churches, Christian families, and Christian organizations – aren’t perfect. You can find those schools who are only Christian in name, schools where academics are pitifully weak, schools where rules trump everything else…But, as someone who has been in and around Christian schools for almost a decade, now, I can tell you there are many Christian schools that are fabulous.
Here are just a few of the reasons why I love Christian education:
- Every subject is taught in light of God’s word. As a firm believer in the supremacy of scripture, I want my children to learn everything from a biblical perspective. I don’t believe “faith” has one place and “education” has another. Nor do I believe that ‘intelligent Christian’ is an oxymoron. I believe that intelligent Christians examine what they see, what they learn, and what has been presented to them through the lens of scripture. If my purpose on earth is to glorify God and make Him known, then that should color everything. Especially my education. My goal as a Christian educator is to challenge my students to know God better, to love Him more, and to use the Spirit-enhanced brain they have to go into the world and accomplish great things for God’s glory.
- Christ-Centered service is valued. I was part of one Christian school that took a week out of every year to take students on missions trips. Our group went to an orphanage in Honduras. Another group stayed local and served a women’s shelter. Others went to cities in and out of the US. At my current school, we take a day off every quarter to serve somewhere in our community: groups feed the homeless, help at the Ronald McDonald House…our group went to a local church and blessed the staff by cleaning it, top to bottom. The purpose is not just to “do good things” – it’s to be obedient to the commands of scripture to love others, care for the hurting, provide for those in need — for God’s glory.
- Opportunities abound. Christian schools tend to be small. Admittedly, there are some disadvantages to a smaller school. But there are also advantages — small schools need more participation. Kids who play sports are also often in the school plays and participate in
the Science Fairs and are on the Homecoming Court. While those might not be as competitive as in larger schools, students in Christian schools can graduate with far more experiences than a students at a huge school. My daughters have done everything from playing volleyball, tennis, and basketball, to playing leads in plays, running lights and sound for shows, competing in choral and drama events, and tutoring younger kids.
- The community is huge. Though the majority of Christian schools are small, they are typically PreK-12th grade. This means younger students interact regularly with older students, and vice-versa. A few years ago, when my son was in 4th grade, he was “friends” with several of the Senior boys. These boys were kind, fun, and “cool”. They’d pass Thomas in the hall and ask how he was doing, they’d throw a football with him after school. One even invited Thomas and a friend over to tube in his lake (he still talks about that day!). The boys didn’t know the impact they had on Thomas, but I did. And I was thrilled to have him look up to boys who loved Jesus and loved others so well. They mentored Thomas without even realizing it was happening.
I could on, but you get the idea. I love Christian education, love teaching at a Christian school, love that my kids get to attend a Christian school. I love doing what God has called me to do where He has called me to do it.
Getting into college is important. I know – I am a high school English teacher and a parent of three. My oldest, a junior, is starting to look at colleges – which means my husband and I are looking at college tuition. Yikes!! We are encouraging Emma to do her best in school, in her extracurricular activities, and on her SATs so she can qualify for as many scholarships as possible.
But as I think through that – the importance of getting a college degree and being prepared for life as an adult – I am realizing far too many of us parents and educators are missing out on preparing our kids for what is most important. We stress grades and college and scholarships – the “head” – but we are neglecting the heart.
As parents, my husband and my primary goal is not to see our children get into college, make a lot of money, and be successful.
Our goal is to see our children passionately follow Christ – no matter what. We want them to love Jesus, to love others, to obey God’s calling on their lives. We want them to seek Him in every aspect of their lives – schooling, career, dating, and marriage. Everything.
With that goal in mind, we have made intentional choices along the way. Not perfect. Not even close. But with the goal – always – to help point our kids to Christ and His purposes for their lives.
One way we try to help our kids grow is that we make church a priority. We don’t allow the kids to be on sports teams that consistently practice on Sundays and Wednesdays. As a result, they’ve “missed out” on some great teams, some opportunities to go to the next level in a sport. But what they have gotten is mentoring by godly men and women who have loved them and encouraged them to know Jesus better. They have developed deep friendships with young people who are seeking after Christ. For us, that is far more valuable than being on “that” team and advancing in “that” sport.
Another way we try to help our kids grow is that we say “no” to casual dating. Dating should be a preparation for marriage, not practice for divorce. We want our kids to have successful marriages: marriages that point people to Christ. We want passion and romance and deep, abiding love for our kids. We want them to be committed “till death do us part” to the person God has chosen for them. We want our kids to have strong relationships with Jesus first, to know He meets their needs and the longings of their hearts. Because of that, we don’t allow them to “just date”.
SATs are important. College is important. Being productive in society is important. But knowing Christ and serving Him with our whole hearts – that is the MOST important. So, parents, let’s push our kids to excel in what matters most. Teens – keep your eyes on the TRUE prize – “of the upward call in Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 3:14)
I used a circular saw yesterday. And I still have all my fingers! So do the people around me. I’ll pause while you stand and applaud…
My new friend, Cory (an actual, professional Drama teacher), and I (a passionate amateur) were at a Technical Theatre class. The ladies who taught it were experts in all things “backstage” – building sets, creating props, sewing costumes…you name it. They were awesome! And they wanted to share their expertise with other drama teachers and directors, to help us do our jobs better, to have the tools to “build” our programs.
At first, they showed us pictures and gave us handouts. It was very helpful, very educational, very impressive. But then, they said, “All right, time to go out back and try some of this.”
It’s one thing to hear and read about building sets and using things like a Mitre saw and 3 inch screws. It’s another thing entirely to actually use said equipment. People can get seriously injured. And by people, I mean me!!
But they said this was a hands-on class, and we had to get our hands on these tools.
I went last.
But I went. I held that saw, pressed the start button, and cut wood.
And I didn’t die!
The teachers explained it’s important to have that equipment “demystified”. We need to understand a circular saw really isn’t that scary. It’s just a tool used to accomplish a purpose. In this case – building a backdrop or a set piece. Sure, it’s loud, and it could seriously injure the user. But, with proper use and a healthy respect, it can be used to create some pretty cool stuff.
I kept thinking of that “demystifying” all day: Do something you think is scary, and you’ll find it really isn’t all that scary at all.
I thought of missions. Christians can get really scared about missions. It is overwhelming to think about visiting another country, where there is strange food and strange customs and even potential dangers. It is intimidating to share our faith in our own cities – forget sharing Christ with people who don’t speak English!
It’s far easier to read about missions, give to missions, even pray for missions than it is to participate in missions. But, as those who have gone on mission trips can tell you, actually going on a mission trip, or even living in another country as a missionary, “demystifies” that fear. You return far less scared and far more hungry to go again.
My social media is exploding right now with posts about friends on mission – some to England (my dream!!), others to inner city NYC, one family literally just moved to Bolivia to serve at a Christian school there. The pictures and testimonies are so exciting. God does amazing works when we step out of our comfort zones! One of the greatest works is to take away the fear of the unknown and replace it with a compassion – and passion – for others, a desire to be a more active part of the Great Commission.
Maybe you are considering missions. Maybe you’re scared, hesitant. Let me encourage you to “just do it!” Get out there. Go! You won’t regret it.
Being a Christ-follower is becoming increasingly difficult. It used to be that Christians were respected in our country. Then, we were merely accepted (“Aw, you’re a Christian. That’s great…for you.”) Now, however, it seems that we are becoming quite unpopular.
As a people pleaser, this terrifies me! But as a student of the Bible, it doesn’t surprise me.
I’ve been studying the book of Daniel in my devotions, lately. Yesterday, I read about Daniel’s three friends refusing to bow down to the idol the king had built. This King was the great ruler of the then-known world, the Head of Gold in Daniel 2. What he said was law. Literally. And refusing was not an option.
But Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego submitted to a Higher authority. The law may have said that all people must bow down to the king’s idol. But the Word of God clearly states that believers are to serve no other Gods. These men counted the cost — “Bow down or die” — and chose to die rather than to live in disobedience.
They chose to die rather than to live in disobedience.
We know the end of their story, but they didn’t. They even said, “Our God is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire…but even if he does not, let it be known to you, O king, we are not going to serve your gods…” Daniel 3:17-18
These man were thrown into the furnace not knowing whether God would save them in this life, or whether He would promote them to the next. Simply living was not their main objective. Living in obedience was their main objective.
The result of their obedience? It wasn’t just that their lives were spared in a miraculous way – though that was pretty amazing!! The greatest result was that the king recognized the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego was the Most High God. God was glorified, His name was made known throughout the kingdom, His power was demonstrated to everyone.
Lots of changes have taken place in the world since the time of Shadrach, Mesach, and Abed-nego. But God has not changed, nor has His purpose for his followers: we are to love Him, to obey Him, and to make Him known. No matter what.
May we be bold and uncompromising in our obedience. The rewards for that, my friends, are out of this world!
I’ve been thinking a lot about God’s holiness, lately. I’ve been convicted that I don’t think about it enough. Like most people, I think about myself and my issues and my desires far more than I think about who God is and what He desires.
My husband teaches that, too often, Christians see God as a Divine Butler — we ask Him for things we want, and He gives them to us, or we “fire” him and look for another.
That thought may seem offensive to us, but as I examine my prayer life, I have to acknowledge that is far too often true. I pray for things I want, things my friends want — not “bad” things, but just very creation-centered. I pray the way I live – as if this life is all I have, as if I am Deity and should be worshiped and should have my way all the time.
But the truth is, this life is short, fleeting. And I am not God. I have the opportunity in this short life to seek God and know Him, worship Him and surrender everything to Him, or to reject Him. He gives all of us that choice. Because He is God, He doesn’t have to force Himself on us, He doesn’t have to justify His opinions, He doesn’t have to change so He will fit what we believe God should be. That idea is ludicrous!
God is God – whether we acknowledge it or not. God is in complete control – even when it appears that the world is in chaos. God is holy – deserving of our worship and adoration and reverence. Not believing that, not living in light of that, not liking it, doesn’t change it.
Rather than spending so much time praying for what I want, I need to spend time worshiping this holy God – a God who created the universe, and yet desires to know us. A God who sent his son to this chaotic earth to die on our behalf so we can live with Him forever. A holy, amazing God who is in complete control of everything.
The God of the Bible is not a Divine Butler. He is King of Kings, and He should be worshiped as such.
“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God almighty who was, and is, and is to come.” Rev. 4:8b
What a week. My muscles are screaming, but my heart is soaring. We have a house! And not just any house, a house that is absolutely perfect for our family. For the first time ever, my daughters have their own rooms. And for my kids, this is the first time ever having a two story house. We’re in a great neighborhood – close to lots of stores and just three miles from our new school.
As with everything else associated with this move, God directed us to this house. We looked everywhere, and nothing in our price range was appealing. We really wanted a 4 bedroom, and all the homes we saw were 3 bedrooms (First World Problems, I know…). As the days went by, God convicted me that, rather than praying for what I wanted, I need to focus on what HE wants — what house does He want us in? what neighbors does He want us to love? I was asking for help dying to my dreams and accepting whatever – and wherever – He wanted us.
Then, our new friend, Gail, came to me with a print-out from Craigslist. Craigslist?!? No one finds rentals on Craigslist, right?? She assured me, though, that is how it is often done in San Diego. Realtors, we learned, get very little commission from rentals, so they are reluctant to help. That leaves landlords and renters-to-be needing other options. Craigslist is that option.
We called the owner, looked at the house, and loved it right away. 4 bedrooms and 2 1/2 baths!! Perfect. This was the owner’s previous home – he moved a couple blocks away a few years back, and has rented this home since. The terms of the lease were fantastic, and he and his wife are incredibly kind. When we moved in, several men from the church/school came to help us. They got the entire truck unpacked in an hour. Kind and efficient!
God didn’t have to give us a great house. I have been reminded all week that plenty of believers live in far smaller, far less functional homes. Brothers and sisters in other countries are forced to live in places where there is no running water and barely enough food for everyone. God promises to meet our needs. But, so often, he meets our wants as well. Maybe not exactly the way we planned, but in the way He wants. He is good. He is merciful. He is extravagant in His love for us.
And though we aren’t entirely unpacked, we do have the office done (we have an office!). This is where I am sitting right now, where I will write this blog – and maybe more books. Who knows? This is where Dave spends a lot of time, working on the classes he teaches for Liberty University online and on other projects.
There’s still a lot to do – learning how to get around town, preparing for school (it’s year-round here, so teachers go back July 7!), finishing up the unpacking, getting CA driver’s licenses, preparing for school…the list is long. And, honestly, there are times when I just want to go back “home” – to Florida. I don’t do Change well. I have been irritable and snappy and impatient. I like the routine and familiar. I enjoy being spontaneous – but just in little things, like “Hey, let’s check out Mission Beach today!” not “Hey, let’s move across the country this summer!” Eventually, this will be routine and familiar. But that takes a while.
But I get to wait for that routine and familiar in this great house! And I get to adjust with four others – a husband and kids I love and for whom I am so grateful. We are being stretched and strengthened as a family. My kids are seeing that, though they may not have friends here, yet, they have each other, and they are reconnecting in ways they wouldn’t have, had we stayed in Florida. God is so gracious, so good, and so present.
I plan to get back to the “regular” blog posts next week. Thanks for hanging in while I vented and processed this move. Thanks for all the prayers. We felt every one of them!