I need a schedule. I don’t like a schedule. I am not naturally a scheduled person. But I need a schedule. I need it because, when I have a schedule, I am forced make a plan to get everything done.
During the school year, I get up and have my Quiet Time. I have my class schedule throughout the day. After school, I go to the kids’ (scheduled) sports, or help them with homework or just hang out with them and my husband. I have my nightly routine and my regular bedtime. Then I get up the next day and do it all again. And I like that. I need it.
But today was the last day of school. It’s summer break! Exciting. But…that means no more schedule. I can sleep in, I can stay up late, I can wear stretchy pants all day long, if I so choose.
The danger is that I can also be lazy. Because I can do my Quiet Time anytime, sometimes I just keeping putting it off. I decide to read instead, or play Stop (so addicting!!), or watch Netflix. Suddenly, it’s bedtime, and I realize I haven’t spent anytime in God’s word all day long.
I find that, far too often, summer is a time when I stagnate in my relationship with God. But summer should be a time of renewal. It should be a time when prayer and study can go longer, a time when I can fellowship with other believers more. A time to slow down and listen and worship and just sit at Jesus’ feet and be still.
It really comes down to “scheduling” what’s most important. I would never forget to eat during summer, even though I don’t have a schedule to remind me to eat. Eating is important!! My time with God should be even more important. I need to hunger and thirst for righteousness, to “indulge” in time with Him during these weeks off. I want to come back to school refreshed and renewed in my spirit, closer to God then than I am now.
So I will enjoy my summer break, but I will not take a break from what is most important. My prayer is to be like David and say, “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God.” Ps. 42:1
We are one week and four days from the end of school. But who’s counting?
I am! And so are all my students. We have put in a full year – lots of work, lots of assignments, lots of late nights, lots of pushing “Snooze” on the alarm. But all that ends in one week and four days.
This is the time of year when everyone – students AND teachers – are tempted to get lazy. But, as I remind my students (and myself): We’re not done yet. We need to do our best to finish well.
Do we need to finish well because getting good grades is important? Nope…some lazy kids can get great grades and some hard-working kids can barely pass. We need to finish well because our character is important.
People of character finish well. Even if they’re exhausted. Even if they hate what they’re doing (i.e. Geometry*). People of character finish well because they desire to honor God in all things, to work for Him, not for an A, or for a boss’ approval.
People of character know that they are constantly developing habits, and they want those habits to be good ones. The habit of finishing well is a very good one. One that will reap benefits far into the future.
So, keep going, keep studying, keep resisting that “Snooze” button, keep pressing on toward the Finish line – wherever yours may be.
“Now finish the work, so that your eager willingness to do it may be matched by your completion of it, according to your means.” 2 Cor. 8:11
*Life lesson: Geometry was one of two courses in HS that made me cry (Chemistry was the other). But I did not finish it well. I didn’t even start it well. As a result, I had to take a whole year of “Dummy Math” in college, where I had to re-learn what I failed to learn in school. A year. So when I challenge you to finish well and stay the course, I speak from experience. Learn from my mistakes. Or you may end up in Dummy Math. Just sayin’.
One year ago this week, Dave and I were finishing up a one-year contract with a Christian school in Florida. We had no clue where’d we go once that contract ended. We were, in fact, still adjusting to that move – a move that had taken us 45 minutes from “home” (Tampa, where we’d lived for a total of 10 years).
One year ago this week, we’d sent applications to Christian schools as close as Tampa and as far as South Korea. We had interviewed with several schools and none seemed like the right fit. I am an English teacher with a passion for AP courses and musical theater. Dave is a Bible teacher with a passion for digging deep into God’s word. We have three kids who love sports and the arts, and we want them in a school where both those activities are encouraged. It’s tough to find a school that can check all those boxes!
One year ago this week, I was job-hunting. As always, I put in the parameters “High School English and Bible” in the Christian school job search database. Calvary Christian Academy popped up. It was near San Diego. Dave always wanted to move back to California. The Golden State had gotten deep into his bones as a child living in the Imperial Valley – no Mexican food anywhere in the world tasted as good as the Mexican food in Southern California (this is true!). So I researched the school, and found, to Dave’s shock, the principal, Dan, had gone to high school with Dave in Long Island, NY over 25 years ago!
One year ago this week, Dave reached out to Dan and discovered this school had a need for an English teacher with a passion for AP classes and musical theater; they also needed a Bible teacher with a passion for digging deep into God’s word. The school also had sports for the kids – all the sports they love and then some.
One year ago this week, we had a Skype interview with the CCA administration. We were drilled on our relationships with God, our philosophy of teaching, and questioned why we would even consider a cross-country move to a school we knew nothing about. We, in turn, asked questions about the school, its academics, and why they would consider hiring a couple, sight unseen, who lived across the country.
A year ago this week, our world changed forever. Within a week of our interview, we were offered the job. We accepted after a few days of prayer and seeking advice from friends and family. A month later, we had packed up our house in Florida and began the 2400 mile drive to a school we had never seen, in a city we had never visited, with no house to move into, and no friends within a 100 mile radius.
A year ago this week – May 2015 – I could never have imagine what life would look like this week – May 2016. This week, my oldest will go to prom with her “squad” – an amazing group of kids who have taken her in like she’s been here forever, not just 11 months. This week, I’m watching my middle daughter play softball on a team that is virtually unstoppable. A year ago, she had no idea she could even play Varsity softball, and this year she has been a starter on softball and Varsity volleyball. This week, my son will help lead worship for the middle school youth group, playing an instrument he had never even picked up last year. This week, Dave and I will teach classes we love to students we love in a school that we love – a school that was just a just a position on a job search board a year ago.
One year ago this week, unknown to us, God would begin a process that would stretch us, change us, and move us in more ways than we could have imagined. The year has not been easy, but it has been good. We still miss Florida – we probably always will. But God has blessed us for our obedience in following His lead to California. He has shown us His power, His grace, and His mercy throughout this year.
What has God done for you this year? What does He want to do for you next year? Is He asking you to take a leap of faith? If He is, learn from us…take that leap. God is with you on this side, and He is waiting for you on the other side. God is good. ALL the time.
Teens today are saturated with the pressure that they should be prettier, stronger, skinnier, smarter. And they are collapsing under the weight of all that pressure.
Teens are pushed to be above-average. But the truth is that far more people are average than are above-average. That is, in fact, what average means.
And that’s okay. It’s more than okay – it is from God. God made us for a purpose. HIS purpose. He has works for us to accomplish, a career to pursue, people to impact, and, for many, a spouse to marry. And He gave us each exactly what we need to accomplish those things.
Some people need above-average intellect because the careers God has called them to requires that. Some need above-average people skills because God is going to use that ability in ministry. Others are given above-average appearances because the spouse God has chosen for them is also above-average in appearance. Does that make them better than those of us with average intellect, people skills, or looks? Absolutely not!
God gives us each exactly what we need to accomplish His purposes.
God calls most of us to be “average”. That doesn’t mean we don’t work hard or that we don’t seek to do our best in all things. It is not an excuse to be lazy. But it does mean that we STOP comparing ourselves to others. We stop getting down on ourselves because we aren’t prettier, stronger, skinnier, or smarter. We stop whining about what we don’t have, and we allow God full access to what we do have. We remember that He is in control, He knows best, and He is incredibly good.
The pressure from the world will not go away. But, friends, you don’t need to give into that pressure. You were created for a purpose, and you are perfectly equipped to accomplish that purpose. Be who God called you to be without embarrassment and without excuse. Stop allowing the world to tell you who should be. Listen to the Voice of Truth and follow Him.
“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
My daughter, Ellie, a Freshman, is playing varsity softball this year. She has played softball before, but on church leagues where the coaches pitched and everyone got a prize at the end. This is the “real” thing, where girls pitch FAST and teams have to fight to make the playoffs.
I’m not new to being a “sports mom”. But softball is different than the other sports my kids play. There is a distinct language among softball players, a unique cadence to their voices when they’re talking to each other that I haven’t heard in other sports.
I teach all of the girls on this team, and I thought I knew them. But they are different when they’re together. Not a bad different – a “team” different. They speak the same language, know the same secret code words, understand the Coach’s hand signals. They spend time together in practice and it shows on the field. I watch them and realize that they have something I just don’t get, I can’t get (I am ridiculously un-athletic!). They have a unique bond, forged on the field.
As I sit on the bleachers and watch these games, I think of the Christian life. As Christians, we have our own language, we have our own music, we have a Coach whose instructions we follow, and we have a bond that is out of this world. And, like Ellie’s softball team, those on the “outside” sometimes think we’re a little crazy. (Who am I kidding — some of us are a little crazy!) But that’s okay. We don’t need to apologize for being “weird”. We’re in the game. We need to help each other, be ready to catch a ball that flies past the short stop, cheer on that home run, and give a word of encouragement when a teammate strikes out.
So, as the Lady Knights say, “You got this, Babe!” Just keep running toward Home.
There is MAJOR pressure, I know, to have “someone”. Especially when everyone around you seems to have a “someone” and you’re stuck home on a Saturday with Netflix and a pint of Ben and Jerry’s.
But, if you observe most high school relationships, there are problems: Young couples are often unprepared for the feelings that come from being in a romantic relationship. They can become completely oblivious to the outside world, losing friendships and, too often, pieces of themselves in the process. When girls, especially, come out of those relationships, they are devastated, lost, and, if they’re not careful, look for another guy to replace the one they’ve lost, starting the cycle all over again. As a result, they only see guys as potential boyfriends, and they lose valuable opportunities to really get to know the male species on a deeper level.
On the other hand, there’s the “Friend Zone” – a place that seems, to many, like the “Mush Pot” in the childhood game of Duck-Duck-Goose. This is the place where guys and girls are friends. Just friends. No romantic interest, no clandestine flirting, no wondering what that emoji in that text means. Friends.
But, ladies, the Friend Zone is NOT the Mush Pot. It isn’t negative, it doesn’t mean you’re not pretty or interesting or desirable. What it means is that you have opportunities to get to know guys as people, not as potential boyfriends.
You can get to know how guys think, what they like, what makes them laugh and what makes them angry. There’s no pressure with friends, no expectations. You can go out with no makeup on, eat that Double-Double cheeseburger, ask the tough questions…and it’s fine!
Sometimes, during the turbulent teen years, you can forget that they are just a stage of life — like toddlerhood, elementary school, and (groan) middle school. It really will end! And those who love you want you to look back on these years with more positive memories than negative ones. More growth than regret. We want you to focus on deepening the most important relationship – the one between you and your Savior. We want you to allow Him to develop a strength of character that will be a guiding force as you enter adulthood.
So let go of that “thirst” to have “someone”, and be a friend to the guys in your life. Make knowing Christ your priority. Enjoy this stage of life without striving to leave the “Friend Zone”. You’ll find, in the end, that the Friend Zone is actually a pretty great place to be.
What is Good Friday?
It is the day Christians remember Christ’s work on the cross.
On Good Friday, Jesus was led to his execution. He was sentenced to a death so horrendous that it was reserved only for non-citizens of the Roman Empire. Not even the worst Roman citizen would have to endure this. And Jesus was sentenced for one reason:
Because he claimed to be God.
He wasn’t killed for being a good person, for being a wise teacher, for hanging out with tax collectors and prostitutes. He was killed because the Jewish leaders of his day found his claims of deity to be blasphemous. They did not believe he was the promised Messiah. And they understood – rightly – that that is exactly who he was saying he was.
But Jesus was the Messiah. He was God in the flesh, come to earth. He lived a sinless life, qualifying him to be the only one who could pay the penalty for our sins.
Sins separate us from God. But God loves us, and he doesn’t want us separated from him. And so he sent his son to die the death that we deserve so we can have eternal life with him.
This Friday is remembered as Good, not just because Jesus paid the penalty we deserve, but because three days later, He rose from the dead – proving once and for all He is God and has power over sin and death. He is the victor. And through Him, we, too, are victorious. In the words of a beautiful old hymn,
Because He lives, I can face tomorrow
Because He lives, all fear is gone
Because I know who hold the future
And life is worth the living just because He lives
I have been thinking a lot about the arts lately – probably because, at our school, we just finished a fantastic production of “Beauty and the Beast”. And in thinking about the arts, I have realized just what an incredible impact the arts had on my education, on shaping who I am. I was involved in plays, in choir, in drama as far back as I can remember. Whether in church, school, or community theaters, I had the amazing privilege of growing up surrounded by people for whom the arts were valued. And, therefore, I felt valued.
I wasn’t really a “well-rounded” kid. Not that my parents didn’t try — they did. I spent a season in soccer only to make one goal: for the other team. I played one season of softball and in all my at-bats, the closest I ever came to hitting the ball was when I tipped it and the ball went flying backward. I was in dance for a few years. Until my teacher got fed up with me trying to tap in my toe shoes. And trip over my laces. And “standing like a wet noodle.” I took piano for a while, too. But I am not coordinated (see above examples), so I never could make my left hand do something different from my right hand. School wasn’t my thing. I hated math and just barely tolerated all the other subjects. I graduated high school with a 3.3, and that was just fine with me.
But I loved performing. I loved singing and acting. I loved being on stage. I even loved being backstage. I ran lights, sound, worked as stage manager, ticket collector, anything they’d let me do. I spent more time at my town’s community theater than I ever did at school. And I loved every minute of it.
And what benefit did I gain from that? I learned to love stories. I learned to work with others. I learned that speaking in front of large groups isn’t that scary. As I grew in my relationship with God, I learned humility, the importance of putting others before myself, the necessity of working as a team. I learned that God gave me the talent that I have, and I can feel His pleasure when I use it.
I am sure I would be a very different person today if it weren’t for the arts. I would feel like a failure – someone who strikes out at home plate, who can’t make a goal, who can’t play piano, who can’t understand theorums. There could have been a lot of “can’ts” in my life. There were! But I wasn’t bothered by them because I had plenty of opportunities to do things I “can.”
That is why I teach arts’ classes, why I volunteer with the arts in church and in the community, why I value the arts. Because the arts are valuable, and they are fun; they are God-given abilities that can be used to help make our churches, schools, and communities better, brighter, and more exciting.
Have you ever gone through a difficult time and some well-meaning person quotes Roman 8:28?
I want to talk about that today. What does God mean when he says “All things work together for good”? If He means, as we often assume, that good circumstances will arise from bad ones, that a “happy ending” will come to our earthly story, that the sickness will go away, the heartache will be mended, the betrayal be made right…then something has gone REALLY wrong. Because sometimes bad things just happen. Even to good people. And there doesn’t seem to be anything “good” about it.
To understand this verse, we need to understand the word “good”. If we come in believing that word means “made right”, then we will be frustrated. There is nothing “right” about a loved one dying of cancer, of a father leaving his family, of the betrayal of a friend. Those are awful. Terrible. Bad.
Instead of “good”, the word may be best understood “profitable” or “useful”.
We must remember that, when the “terrible” happens, God is still in control. He CAN bring beauty from ashes, He can bring good from evil.
But that doesn’t necessarily mean He will change our circumstances.
What it means is He will change our hearts. He will use those instances in our lives to allow us to know Him better, to know His word better, to become better acquainted with His character. He will equip us to help others going through similar circumstances, and He will remind us this world is NOT our home.
Some of us need to stop being angry and bitter because the bad in our lives doesn’t seem to be working out for good. We need to define “good” properly. We need to surrender to God’s sovereignty. We need to long for heaven and store our treasures there.
We need to ask God how He wants to shape us through the “bad” that comes into our lives. How can we grow from this? How can we know Him better? How can we serve others as a result of the trials we have faced? “Bad” can be made useful and profitable if surrendered to the Lord of All. So surrender!
My kids and I got be in the studio audience of “American Idol” last week! What was it like? I’m glad you asked…
It was AWESOME! But let me be more specific….
Getting the Tickets. Believe it or not, they were FREE! I signed us up for tickets a few months ago, on this website.
Audience members are chosen at random. I got the email containing our ticket a few days before the show. It is filmed on a Thursday, so we took the day off school. But it was worth it!
Getting to the Studio. We were told to be in line no later than 2:30pm. We decided to get there by 12:30pm. There were already 50 or so in line ahead of us when we arrived, so we were glad we arrived when we did. Because we stopped on the way to have breakfast with a friend, we left home at 8:30am.
Waiting Part 1. Around 1:30 or so, folks with clipboards started separating those of us in line: cute teens were sent to the front of the line, plain adults were told to keep waiting. Thankfully, as the parent of cute teens, I got to move up with them! I got a ticket and the kids got wristbands. Once we went past the gate (where we saw Nigel Lythgoe, of “So You Think You Can Dance”, drive by!!), we were separated. Cute teens could take their phones and wait to be placed by the stage. Moms were sent around back, no phones, to wait for a seat in the audience.
Waiting Part 2. We waited outside for about an hour an half – me with the old folks and, did I mention, no phones. The kids with their phones in a different area. That was long and dull – especially because, for the first hour, no one around me wanted to talk. Thankfully, the weather was beautiful and we were in a covered area, though sitting on hard metal benches.
Getting In. We finally got in, around 4pm. The adults had tickets with specific seats on them, though we were moved, anyway. (Side note: Taylor Hicks was in the row right in front of me!) The teens were herded in by the stage and encouraged to take as many pics as possible. There was a guy whose job it was to get the teens excited, and he was fabulous!
Demi Lovato! Demi Lovato filmed her songs before the show started, so that happened around 4:15. My kids were right at the stage when she sang, and she gave each of them high 5’s on her way out! They were thrilled. She was amazing, and she seemed very down-to-earth as she waited for the filming to start…and restart.
My Happy Place. So, full disclosure…the whole reason I wanted to go was to see Harry Connick, Jr. I have been a fan of his for 25+ years, and I have never seen him in person. Not only did I get to see him — I was sitting RIGHT BEHIND HIM. And, when he sang, the camera he sang to was RIGHT NEXT TO ME. All the driving, waiting, and phoneless-ness was worth that right there.
The Show. During the commercial breaks, the judges would talk to the kids by the stage and take selfies with them. They would also get “fixed” by their hair and make-up crew (Jennifer Lopez’ crew came every break – though she didn’t need it. She is stunning! The guys’ crews just came a couple times total.) Harry and Keith spent a lot of time just chatting with each other. It was neat to see that they’re just real people, friends who catch up with each others’ lives. They also answered texts, and talked with their kids. Very “normal”. During filming, we cheered and clapped and enjoyed the amazing talent. The
studio is smaller than it looks on TV, so we could see everyone and everything. It was fantastic!
The End. This was filmed from 5pm-7pm, so it could be aired live at 8pm on the east coast. We were back in the parking garage by 7:30pm, exhausted, but thrilled. It was an experience we’ll never forget! The kids were especially tired because, from 4pm-7pm, they were on their feet. They all fell asleep before I even made it onto the freeway. The traffic in LA is always rough, so we didn’t get home until 10:30pm. A long day. But SO worth it.