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Shut Your Mouth!

Posted by on Nov 21, 2014 in Christ life, Stuff about Me, Uncategorized | 0 comments

have several talents I am grateful for, that I hone and try to improve, that I practice alone and with groups. But I have one particular talent that brings me far more shame than pleasure: speaking without thinking.

I have used this talent in far too many places with far too many people to far too disastrous results. It’s not always end-of-the-world stuff. But it is always annoying at best and damaging at worst.

When I was in college, my friends would laugh at me because, no matter what was being discussed, I’d have a story for it. Rather than listening to what others were saying, engaging them, asking them questions about their story, I sat waiting, mentally preparing for when I could speak and regale the group with my story. Looking back now, I realize how incredibly self centered I was. And how incredibly gracious my friends were: They just let me talk, rather than turning to walk away because – invariably – I would be telling a story they’d already heard.

And that’s a more positive example. Let’s not even talk about when I yelled at a good friend, calling her a selfish jerk in front of a whole crowd of our friends. Or when I told a young man, in a very unkind manner, that he was not worthy of the girl he was dating. Or when I completely lost it in front of the entire cast of a play I was directing (more than once, for more than one play).

In every case, I let my mouth run while my brain raced to catch up. By the time I realized how ridiculous, rude, and/or arrogant I had been, it was too late. The damage had been done. What I needed to do, in every case, was to just shut my mouth.

I am going to get frustrated, I am going to get angry, I am always going to think of stories I could tell. But that doesn’t mean that I need to say everything that pops into my head. I need to think over what I am going to say, I need to make sure that what I am saying is kind, beneficial, necessary. I need to guard my mouth so that what comes out builds people up and doesn’t tear them down.

“The mouths of the righteous utter wisdom,
and their tongues speak what is just.” ~Psalm 37:30

The Semester Exam Principle

Posted by on Nov 18, 2014 in Christ life, Stuff about Me, Uncategorized | 0 comments

“You’re going to test us over EVERYTHING we’ve learned this whole semester?”

Semester exams are just a few weeks away and students who have barely said a word for the last few months are suddenly wide awake and quite vocal. “But why??” “We can use notes, right?” “You don’t mean everything do you?”

I used to be super easy in my semester exams. It is a lot of material, and the students do have several other classes to keep up with, and, yes, you can successfully navigate life without being able to identify a predicate nominative or explain the theme of “Tell Tale Heart.”

I have changed, though. Now, I do test over everything, and I do expect my students to be able to identify a predicate nominative and explain the theme of “Tell Tale Heart.”

Do I hate my students??

Absolutely not.

Do I think they’re all going to be English majors?

I always hope for a few. But, no. That’s not it.

It’s because of my “semester exam principle”: Retention of information is crucial to success in every facet of life.

Students today have SO MUCH information that it all ends up just crashing over them like a wave. They are drenched with information, but then they “dry up” and get ready for the next soaking. Nothing sticks, nothing lasts. I see students cramming for tests every day, stuffing information in their brains just long enough to get a good grade, then forgetting it.

What would happen if our doctors did that? Our accountants? Our pilots?

And though students think it doesn’t matter right now, those of us “older” folks know that the habits we develop in school carry on through college and into our careers. 

But even more important than our grades or career, this principle applies to our Christian life.

A quick search of the word “remember” in scriptures yields 231 results. Several of those verses refer to God remembering his people and his promises. Many are commands for believers to remember God’s commands. Over and over again, we see the prophets lamenting the fact that the people of God have not remembered His faithfulness. We see the writers of the epistles challenging the readers to remember what they have been taught, what they have seen, what they know to be true.

So don’t let all that information just wash over you. Soak it deep into your pores. Drink it in.

Remember.

The WORST 4-Letter Word

Posted by on Nov 14, 2014 in Christ life, Stuff about Me, Uncategorized | 0 comments

There’s a new 4-letter word these days: a word that causes chaos in checkout lines and rages at red lights, a word whose very syllable makes us cringe in horror. We hear – or experience – this word and our entire day can be ruined. That word?

Move small children away from the screen….

 

 

 

 

 

WAIT.

Mmmm-hmmm.

We used to have wait for stuff all the time. I waited for “Wizard of Oz” to come on TV (once a year, at Christmas, right after “Sound of Music”). I waited for cartoons on Saturday mornings. I waited to get my film developed to see what my pictures looked like. Later, I waited for Dave to get off the phone so I could get online. Then I waited for the dial-up internet to pop up on my huge desk top computer.

Waiting was part of life for millennia.

Not anymore, though. We – and by “we”, I mean “I” – no longer accept waiting. Food should be fast. Information should be faster. Want to watch “Wizard of Oz”? Sure! On your tablet, your phone, or your TV? And waiting for pics? What?! It’s actually kind of sad that we have no more terrible pictures floating around. Unless someone screen shots a Snap chat…

I am a big fan of technology (she types on her blog, attached to her social media sites…), but I recognize that we have lost something precious as we have gained all these cool gadgets. We have lost the discipline of patience. We have lost the gift of a gentle and quiet spirit. We are so desperately trying to keep up with all the things we don’t have to wait for that we no longer have the ability to enjoy the silence (what is that??).

Patience is a virtue, it is a gift, it is a fruit of the Holy Spirit in the life of a believer. And patience is developed by *gulp* waiting. So don’t see it as a bad word or an inconvenience – waiting is an opportunity for God to speak to you, to be real to you, to develop patience in you. It really isn’t a 4-letter word. Except that it is. But you know what I mean.

So hurry up….and wait!

“Extracting” Sin

Posted by on Nov 9, 2014 in Christ life, Stuff about Me, Uncategorized | 0 comments

God has been working on me, lately, in the area of hating sin. We hear this a lot in reference to others: “Hate the sin, love the sinner” and all. But adages like that tend to make me even more self-righteous than I already am. I need to focus far more on my own sins than the sins of others.

I was reading part of A.W. Tozer’s book, The Pursuit of God (free on Kindle!), and was hit pretty hard with this discussion of our sinful nature:

tooth-extraction-orange-county-tips1-300x199

“The tough old miser within us will not lie down and die obedient to our command. He must be torn out of our heart like a plant from the soil; he must be extracted in agony like a tooth from the jaw. He must be expelled from our soul by violence as Christ expelled money changers from the temple. And we shall need to steel ourselves against his piteous begging, and to recognize it as springing out of self-pity, one of the most reprehensible sins of the human heart.”

I have had more than my fair share of dental work in my lifetime, so the image of ripping a tooth from the jaw really resonated with me. When I have had an infected tooth, I HATED it. I wanted that thing out. Now! Whatever it took.

But have I ever viewed sin like that? Take gluttony, for instance. I know it’s a sin. But since my weight is within the “normal(ish)” range, I figure it’s no big deal. Eat that second donut, that handful of leftover Halloween candy…Even though I know I don’t need it. And what about laziness? Also a sin. But, again, I have grown accustomed to it. I know I should clean up, but I’d really rather read. Those dishes will still be there tomorrow. No big deal.

But Tozer reminds me that sin IS a big deal: Jesus had to die because of our sin, because of MY sin. Yet, daily, I squander the amazing gift of salvation by willfully choosing to sin against the God who loves me so deeply.

God doesn’t ask me to let go of sin because He wants me to be miserable, but because He wants me to soar. He knows I can know Him better, serve Him with greater passion, minister more effectively to others when  my mind and heart aren’t weighed down by sin.

So I want to hate my sin and love my Savior. I want these “entanglements” gone so I can “run with endurance the race marked out for” me (Heb. 12:1).

Prepare to Be Hated

Posted by on Nov 4, 2014 in Christ life, Recommended Reading, Stuff about Me | 1 comment

I was reading an article today about the young terminally ill woman in Oregon who chose to end her life last weekend. The author, Joni Erickson Tada, gave her perspective on the controversy. I thought it was a gracious and well thought out discussion of a complex issue.

But many readers did not think that. In fact,as I scrolled through the comments, I saw that several readers were angry – VERY angry. And they weren’t just angry that Christians are giving opinions on this matter, they are angry at Christian opinions in general. They are angry that we hold to scriptural principals. They are angry that we believe the Bible. They are angry that we think we’re right about what we believe. So. Very. Angry.

Part of me wanted to just exit out of the site. I only like conflict in fiction. I hate it in real life. Another part of me wanted to respond to some of the comments, so I could convince people to like us. I don’t want to be hated.

We can all see that America is far less “Christian” today than it ever has been. Being a believer used to be totally acceptable, popular, even. But that is changing, and we Christians don’t quite know how to handle it. Some are holing up and avoiding the world all together; some are trying to win the world back to Christianity by accepting sinful actions and attitudes; and some are lashing out, spewing out toxic words and actions, and pushing people even farther away from the Truth.

But the bottom line is that this is what it means to be a Christian — we will be hated. We just haven’t had to deal with it much, as Americans, until now. Ask believers in other countries. They know. They’ve dealt with it for centuries.

As much as I want to be liked, I have to be careful not to let that desire override my desire to be like Jesus. I must love, yes. Deeply and passionately and sacrificially. But I must also stand up for what is right, without compromise. I must be willing to be hated. I must love those who hate me, forgive them, pray for them. But I must not allow their hate to change who I am and what I know to be true.

Brothers and sisters, there are worse things than being hated by the world. Let us not fear it, let us not be surprised by it. After all, ” If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you.” ~Jesus (John 15:18)

On Finding God’s Will for Your Career

Posted by on Oct 29, 2014 in Christ life, Recommended Reading, Stuff about Me | 0 comments

How do I know what God wants me to do?” This is a question that people of all ages ask – from teens finishing high school to retirees finishing their careers.

First, God has called all of us who are believers in Him to do the same thing: live a life that glorifies God in all that we do. This is of primary importance. I  have had several different occupations in my life – day care worker; bank teller; stay-at-home mom; missionary; teacher; writer – but in every one of those jobs, I was first and foremost a follower of Christ. If you aren’t seeking Him in ALL you do, nothing you do will be truly satisfying.

If you are seeking Him, and you’re looking to begin, or maybe change, a career, here are a couple questions to ask:

“What do you like?” God won’t call you to something you hate. He might call you to something you’ve never thought of, or never imagined yourself doing. But it won’t be a job you hate. So think about what interests you: My love for reading led me to major in literature, which ultimately led to my jobs as both an English teacher and a writer. My husband’s passion for the word of God led him to seminary, where he trained to be a professor of the Bible. One of my favorite former students, Janell, took the love she’s always had for science, combined with her deep compassion for others, and chose a career in the medical field.

The second question is, “Where does God put you?” For me, from the time I turned my life over to Him, God kept giving me opportunities to teach. From VBS to Sunday school to Bible studies…age sixteen on, I was thrown in situations where I needed to teach. I didn’t see it at  the the time, but looking back, I know it was God preparing me, showing me what He made me to do and helping me to get better at that. So where does God put you? Are you often asked to help organize events? To care for the hurting? Do people always come to you for advice? Consider the places and situations God places you in, in the present, and evaluate what that may mean for your future.

Don’t be among the people – young and old alike – who choose a job because of the prestige it may bring or the salary it may pay. Seek God’s direction. He knows exactly what you should be doing.

“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

Learning to Shine

Posted by on Oct 24, 2014 in Christ life, Stuff about Me, Uncategorized | 1 comment

Jesus, in Matthew 5, tells us, “Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” Sometimes, though, as we go through the Christian life, we lose our “shine”. We get dull. Rather than being a light to point people to Jesus, we blend in to the world around us.

I was thinking about “shining” on Saturday night. My daughter, Emma, and her friends went bowling after Homecoming (yep, not much to do in Largo, FL…). I almost turned around because the bowling alley looked deserted from the outside. But we walked in and realized it was because this was “midnight bowling” where the florescent lights were turned off and only black lights were turned on.

As Emma got deeper into the bowling alley, she got brighter. Her neon-coral dress glowed under those lights. It was pretty funny.

This girl is on fire!

As I walked out, I thought about how, though Emma’s dress was  bright, it didn’t glow like that at home while she was getting dressed, at the pictures before Homecoming, or at Homecoming itself. Nope, not until she stood under the black lights did that happen.

In the last two to three years, Emma’s relationship with God has grown steadily. She wakes up every morning and reads her Bible, she seeks out other believers for fellowship; before we moved here, she led a girls’ Bible study and was being mentored by godly women at our church. But, in those two to three years, life had been fairly easy for Emma. She was known at church and school, she was comfortable there. She had good friends and a familiar routine.

The move was tough on her because she had to leave so many amazing friends and influences. She left a school where she had a fabulous group of long-time friends, a church where she was plugged in and involved. She could have easily gotten angry at us – and God – for taking her away from all that. But, in what has probably been the “darkest” time for her personally, Emma has chosen to shine. She has chosen to cling to God even through the tough times. And God has blessed her for it – not just with tangible blessings, although there are those, but with internal, soul-deep blessings that will last for eternity.

And, sometimes, that’s why God allows us to experience difficulties: He wants to strengthen us, to grow us, refine us, bless us, so we can shine even brighter for Him.

So if you’re like Emma, and going through a “dark” time, don’t hide in the shadows, don’t allow the darkness to win. Stand under the “black lights” of your trial and SHINE!

Color OUTSIDE the Lines

Posted by on Oct 20, 2014 in Christ life, Stuff about Me, Uncategorized | 1 comment

My son’s K-3 teacher was named Mari Paz. She taught at a bilingual school in Madrid, Spain, and she had very strong opinions on how to properly educate preschoolers.

In our first meeting with her, Mari Paz held up a drawing of an apple and told all of the parents in the room that every child will color that picture inside the lines. If they didn’t color inside the lines, Mari Paz said she would throw the paper away and give them a new one. The children would keep working at coloring inside the lines until they got it right. She had plenty of blank apples for them to practice on.

I came home one day, not long after that talk, to find Thomas sitting at the table with a coloring book open, his little tongue stuck out, his tiny fingers moving slowly across the page, trying desperately to stay inside the lines. It made me want to cry. I threw that paper away, gave him a blank sheet and told him to create whatever he wanted. I want to foster creativity, not conformity!

This is sad when we think about a sweet little three-year-old. But what about us? How often do we feel the pressure to “color inside the lines”? We females, especially, get this. We need to look a certain way, dress a certain way, fit into a certain “mold.” And we sit, our tongues stuck out, our stomachs sucked in, trying desperately to stay inside those “lines.”

It’s just as crazy for us as it was for Thomas. We are fearfully and wonderfully made. God loves us, he created us for a purpose. And that purpose is most definitely not to try to fit into someone else’s ideals. That purpose is to be exactly who God made us to be. And we are created to be different sizes, different shapes, with different talents and interests.

So toss out that “picture” you’ve been trying to fit into, and look instead at God’s portrait of you. Beautiful. Made in His image. His precious child.

Besides, life would be incredibly boring if we were all pictures of apples colored inside the lines.

You’re Not From Around Here, Are You?

Posted by on Oct 16, 2014 in Christ life, Stuff about Me, Uncategorized | 0 comments

Poas Volcano, Costa Rica

Costa Rica

Learning a second language as an adult is hard. I attempted to learn Spanish at age 30, first in Costa Rica, then in Spain. One thing you find out pretty quickly is that it’s almost impossible to completely lose your accent. As much as I wanted to speak like a native, I just couldn’t.

I stuck out a little in Costa Rica – I was taller and paler than most. But I fit in Spain pretty well. I could walk down the street and most people would assume I belonged there.

But then I would speak.

And they’d know I didn’t belong.

I was thinking about that today, and I began to wonder about my “spiritual” accent. I wondered if, when I open my mouth, people around me know right away that I’m not from around here.

In Hebrews 11, we read about some of the heroes of the faith. In verses 13-16, we are told these men and women admitted they were “strangers on this earth.” And that admission led them to a longing for their true home – their heavenly home – in a city God prepared for them.

It was not wrong for me to want to sound like a native Spanish speaker. But it would be very wrong of me to want to blend into this world.

Spain 2006

Spain

I struggle with that all the time, though. I don’t want people to think I’m weird or label me narrow-minded or unintelligent because of my beliefs. So sometimes, I talk like the world, act like I belong here. I try to mask my spiritual accent.

And, sadly, there have been times in my life when I’ve done a great job at that, times when no one knew I was a stranger here.

And then I read about people like Enoch and Noah, Abraham and Sarah. People who, like me, weren’t perfect, but they lived a life of faith that looked absolutely insane to those around them. What they did made no sense – not even to them. But they trusted that God knows better than them, that His advice is better than the world’s, and they obeyed.

Like those heroes, we are not of this world. Our home is in heaven. Let us, like them, maintain our heavenly accents. So what if the world thinks we’re crazy?

We’re not from around here!

 

 

When Your Plans and God’s Plans Collide

Posted by on Oct 12, 2014 in Christ life, Stuff about Me, Uncategorized | 2 comments

I did a lot of theater growing up. I tried some other stuff — like piano (meh), sports (yikes!), and beauty pageants (don’t EVEN get me started…). But theater was my first and greatest love. I was fortunate to grow up in a town with one of the top community theaters in the country and several amazing theaters in the surrounding cities, so I was ALWAYS in a show. I played everything from a mouse to an orphan to an existential wanderer….over 25 plays in all, from the time I was five until I graduated high school.

This is me (age 17) as the Wicked  Stepmother in "Snow White"

This is me (age 17) as the Wicked Stepmother in “Snow White”

Everyone – myself included – assumed I’d pursue theater after high school. Not just because I loved it, but because there was nothing else I was good at! Seriously. I was a terrible athlete and an average student. I was good at one thing and one thing only: performing.

But when I was sixteen, I dedicated my life to God at a Christian camp. I really meant it, too. I told God I would do whatever He asked me to do. So God immediately began working in me. First, he had me break up with the guy I was dating. That wasn’t too hard. But then…He made it clear He wanted me to leave the performing arts school I attended.

Gulp.

What?!

I knew what He was asking — not just that I leave the school, but that I give up my plans to be an actress.

Uh, God, maybe I heard you wrong? I prayed. I mean, Broadway needs missionaries, right? I could SO shine for You on the Great White Way. Pleeeeeeease??

But God was asking me to trust Him, to give up my plans for my life and follow His plans instead.

It was one of the toughest decisions I’ve ever made, but I left the performing arts school – and my dream of becoming an actress – and obeyed.

God blessed my obedience in so many ways. It would take another blog – or ten – to talk about that! I have never regretted following God’s plan instead of mine. Never.

Most people make their most life-altering decisions between ages 16-24. I certainly did. Maybe you’re there, right in that window, and God is asking you to trust Him, to listen to Him, to follow Him wherever He leads.

That decision isn’t easy – believe me, I know! But I also know it is SO worth it. God knows far better than we do what is best for us.

(By the way: I still get to do theater – I direct and act, even write plays! I love that! And though it is a wonderful hobby, it isn’t my life’s passion…Ministering to teens is my life’s passion. But I never would have known that had I not surrendered to God’s leading all those years ago. In letting go of the “good”, God allowed me to have the “great”).