My Blog

Passing the Test

Posted by on Dec 29, 2016 in Christ life, Stuff about Me, Uncategorized | 0 comments

As a teacher, I recognize tests are important:Tests in my class, standardized tests, AP exams…None are perfect, mind you. But they do assist educators in understanding where our students are and where they need to be. Image result for test

But did you know that God tests us, too? And, unlike tests we humans devise, God’s tests are perfect and accurate and always necessary.

As I look back on this year, I realize it has been a series of tests. And, if I am perfectly honest, I have not done so well. I have chosen to complain when I should have chosen to rejoice. I have cried into my pillow when I should have cried out to God. I have blamed my feelings on others when I should examined myself. I have seen, in short, that I’m not nearly as “great” a Christian as I thought I was. Without the testing this year has brought, I would have continued in a self-righteous kind of mindset, blind to  my faults and hyper-aware of everyone else’s.

Thankfully, God doesn’t test us simply to show us where we are failing. James 1 tells us that the “testing of our faith produces perseverance” and when that work of perseverance is finished, we become “mature, complete, not lacking anything”. Maturity, I believe, means that I can overlook insults and criticism. ‘Complete’ means I am so fully satisfied in God that no one and nothing can steal my joy. ‘Not lacking anything’ means just that – not allowing myself to dwell on the “if only’s…” but recognizing that, in Christ, I have all I need and more.

Image result for test retakeI am so thankful that God is a gracious teacher. One failing grade doesn’t mean I’m out of the class. My friend, Jennifer, is a lot like Jesus in her math classroom. When students fail a test, she calls them back and allows them to retake it, discussing the parts that they misunderstood, clearing up confusion, encouraging them that, yes, they can do math. Students are encouraged, not to simply pass a test, but to mature in their understanding of the subject so they’re better equipped to go onto the next level. I wish I had a teacher like her when I was in school!

I am grateful I have a God who is the Master Teacher, whose tests are always for my good, and who allows retakes. He isn’t testing me – or you – to punish us or make us feel unworthy. He is testing us because He wants us to be “mature and complete, lacking in nothing.” Doesn’t that sound wonderful? Better than any diploma or degree I can imagine!

So, as I look forward to 2017, I am resolved to seek some “re-takes”, to go to extra tutoring, and to sit at the feet of my Teacher and learn from Him. I am resolved to seek maturity and rejoice “whenever [I] face trials of many kinds, because [I] know the testing of [my] faith produces perseverance.” (James 1:2-3)

“Downtown Heaven”

Posted by on Dec 21, 2016 in Christ life, Stuff about Me, Uncategorized | 0 comments

Yesterday, we were almost at Disneyland.

The McGee’s at the Disneyland Gate

For those familiar with the Disneys, Disney World in Florida is truly a “world” in itself. You have to park, walk/ride a tram to the ticket booths, then take the monorail or ferry into the park itself. Disneyland, however, is smaller. You can, as we did, park at the Downtown Disney lot, walk around, then go right up to the front gate. All for $0 (if you leave the parking lot within two hours). We were right there – we caught glimpses of Main Street, heard strains of “It’s a Small World”, smelled the cotton candy. But we did not go in. Not this time. We’re putting our extra money towards helping our oldest pay for college next year. So we enjoyed the beauty of Downtown Disney, but we remained outside the gates of the park itself.

Downtown Disney is just a “taste” of Disney. Like the appetizer before a seven -course meal. It’s nice. But it isn’t the “meal” itself. It draws people in, lets us see, on keychains and ornaments and scaled-down models, what’s inside. Thankfully, we have amazing kids, and there was no grumblingImage result for disneyland or complaining about not getting to go into the park. But we all recognized that, though we were “almost” there, we did not get the actual Disneyland experience. However, knowing we live just a couple hours away, we have hope that, someday, we will get a picture inside those gates!

This morning, my bible study took me to the middle of Romans 8. In this, Paul talks about the reality of heaven and how it pales in comparison to life on this earth. I thought of our time at Downtown Disney yesterday.  I realized that too often, I expect more of this world than I should. This world is like a “Downtown Heaven”. We have glimpses of the Kingdom here, tastes and smells and scaled-down models of the the real thing. But this world is not heaven! Unlike Downtown Disney, which was quite pleasant, this world is filled with the unpleasant, sinful, and sometimes horrific. We suffer and groan and work. We get frustrated because we expect this to be heaven, we expect perfection and ease and sinlessness.

The good news is that we are longing for a real place – there really will be a time (eternity!) where we will experience pure joy and endless worship, no tears, no pain, no disappointments. Until then, “we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance, we wait eagerly for it.” (Rom. 8:25b)

As we celebrate the birth of Jesus, I am challenged to remember why He came – to redeem a fallen world, to offer hope, and to provide a way for us to join Him in heaven forever. May we choose to rejoice, choose to remember why we are here and what waits for us just beyond the “gate”. May we enjoy this life, but not live it in the expectation that this is all there is. There is far more, my friends! Let us “wait eagerly for it”.

My Self Has Enough Help

Posted by on Nov 29, 2016 in Christ life, Stuff about Me, Uncategorized | 0 comments

Go to any bookstore – online or in person – and you will find rows and rows…and rows and rows… of shelves housing books devoted to “self-esteem.” Most seem to focus on loving yourself, forgiving yourself, being good to yourself. Because we just don’t think enough of ourselves.

Riiiight.Image result for self centered

Here’s what I think: our problems with self-esteem aren’t that we don’t think enough of ourselves. Our problem is that we think of ourselves WAY too much.

At least I do, anyway. I don’t think a day goes by when I don’t think about myself, my needs, my wants. When I don’t feel frustrated that I am not being treated well enough. I look at people and wonder what they are thinking about me – do they like me? Are they talking about me to their friends? Are those conversations positive or negative? They better not be saying bad things because, believe me, I know some stuff about them…Yeah, um, you get the idea.

But plenty of days go by when I don’t think about others: the needs of others, the wants of others, whether or not I am treating others well enough. I am an expert on being self-centered. In fact, I could write a book about that! But being others-centered? I need some help there.

Good News!

Image result for phil 2:3-4I have help there: it’s called the Bible, and it is SO much better than any self-help book on any real or virtual bookstore on the planet. The Bible has a whole lot to say about how we should think about ourselves. The verse I need to be reminded of most often is this one:

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” ~Phil. 2:3-4

The English teacher in me has to point out that those verses are imperatives – the “bossy” sentence. That’s Paul (lovingly) sticking his finger in our faces and saying, YOU – that’s right YOU – stop being so selfish! Worry more about others than you worry about yourself. The rest of the chapter (which I highly recommend reading) goes on to demonstrate how Jesus lived out this principle. He set the example for a selfless life, and we will experience great joy if we follow that example.

So if I really want to make ME happy, I should think about ME less.

Because my self has enough help

When People Don’t Like You

Posted by on Nov 21, 2016 in Christ life, Stuff about Me, Uncategorized | 2 comments

No one likes to be disliked. But some people can just naturally tolerate it better than others. My husband, for instance, is slightly bothered when he finds out someone dislikes him, but he can move on.Image result for i don't like you I, however, am incredibly bothered and try to figure out why that person dislikes me, what I did to offend him/her, what I might be able to do to make him/her like me. OR I get angry and think of all the reasons why I don’t like that person, having
dozens of imaginary conversations with them in which I reduce them to a quivering pile of tears, giving them a real reason to hate me. And, if I am being honest, in my worst moments, those imaginary conversations become all too real. And they don’t feel nearly as good as I thought they would.

The fact is, there will always be people who don’t like you. Sorry if this is news to you. But Jesus Himself was hated, so…

The hardest part, I think, is when the person who doesn’t like us is someone wlike – a person we thought was our friend or someone we look up to. I could care less if some jerk hates me. But what if it’s a colleague, the parent of a student, or an authority figure?? If you’re a student, maybe it’s someone you thought was a friend in your class, or maybe a teacher or a youth leader. That hurts!

I’d like to say there’s a formula to make everyone like you. But there’s not. Sorry. There are, however, principles that  can help us deal with being disliked.

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Matthew 7

Check Yourself

Before we get all “woe is me”, we must remember that we are sinners. Jesus didn’t come for everyone but us. He came for all of us – because we are all in desperate need of a Savior. So examine yourself. That person who dislikes you may have good reason. Ask God to reveal any sin in your own life. Ask that person if you have offended him/her. Come to him/her humbly, seeking restoration. That person may or not be willing to forgive you (we’re getting to that). But there is great peace in taking the humble position and seeking to restore what is broken.

 

Pray for the “Hater”

This does not come naturally to most of us. I know when I feel hated, I want to hate right back. But the Bible is filled with verses telling us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. This can only be accomplished through the Holy Spirit working in us. In fact, I have found that God often allows “haters” in my life to draw me closer to Him. Because I hate it so much, being disliked gets my attention. Too much attention! I can become obsessive about it, thinking all the time about that situation. Every time, though, God gently reminds me it is HIS good opinion I need to focus on. It is HIS commands I need to follow. And those commands are not burdensome. Instead of obsessing over why that person dislikes me, I simply need to pray for them. God will let me know what to do next.

Try to Make PeaceImage result for be a peacemaker

Along with being a people-pleaser, I am also incredibly non-confrontational. I would rather walk away from a friendship than take steps to seek restoration. This is yet another area where God is continually working in me. We are called to do our best to be at peace with all men. So if I know someone is upset with me, I need to try and work things out. If someone has hurt me, I need to try and work things out. I don’t need to wait for them. I need to go to them – in humility and grace, with lots of prayer – and do all I can to make peace and restore what was broken.

Let It Go

You can can only do so much. You can’t make people like you. You can’t make people forgive you. You may take all of these steps and still find that person dislikes you. Then what? Let it go! SO much easier said than done, I know. But there it is. If you can say, in clear conscience, that you have done all you could, and that person is still unwilling to forgive or move on or admit their actions – then you are “all clear”. Don’t obsess. Find those who do like you and strengthen those relationships. Be in God’s word daily, in prayer continually, so you are pleasing the One who has given you life. Move on. That is possible – even with deep hurts. It takes time and prayer and supernatural strength, but it is possible. And you will come out of that hurt with more compassion, more humility, and a stronger relationship with the Friend who sticks closer than a brother.

The Blessings of the Broken

Posted by on Nov 7, 2016 in Christ life, Stuff about Me, Uncategorized | 0 comments

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 Image result for praying man crying‘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 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”?

Image result for praying manIn 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.

Till We Have Faces

Posted by on Oct 26, 2016 in Christ life, Stuff about Me, Uncategorized | 0 comments

C.S. Lewis’ greatest and least-known work is his final novel, Till We Have Faces. We just finished studying this work in my AP Literature class, and, even after years of teaching it, I still finish in awe of this amazing writer and his incredible story.

If you are like most people, you’ve never read this book, maybe even never heard of it. I don’t want to give too much away, but I do want to whet your appetite. This is far too good a book for readers to miss out on!Image result for till we have faces book cover

This novel is a combination of everything Lewis loved, and it is his fiction writing at its most glorious and most mature. Based on the myth of Cupid and Psyche, the novel’s protagonist is Psyche’s oldest sister, Orual. The novel is a first-person account, detailing Orual’s complaint against the gods and her eventual retraction of that complaint.

This novel, Lewis insisted, is a parallel, not an allegory, like Narnia or the Space Trilogy. It doesn’t fit into neat boxes in its connection to Christianity. And yet, this is an even greater apologetic, in my opinion, than Mere Christianity. As Orual rails against the gods – who seem to torment her and mock her throughout the first part – we see humanity. Orual is incredibly intelligent, strong, able, and she loves deeply. But she is blind to the truth. In her hatred for the gods, she cuts herself off from everyone – her disconnect with others symbolized by the veil she wears over her face most of her life. She views life through the “veil”, sure that she is correctly interpreting reality, but actually becoming more and more blind with every passing year.

Her understanding of the world and the gods is limited, and yet she sets herself up as the gods’ accuser, as the victim, as God Himself.

She finally discovers (spoiler alert!) that she has been lying to herself her whole life. That the Truth can only be seen when she is honest with herself, when the veil is removed, when she accepts, like Job in the Old Testament, that God is God and she is not.

This book is so rich – an incredible work of literature and an incredible reminder of who we are before a holy God. If you have not read this – get it! Read it. If you have read it – read it again! I find some new nugget of truth and beauty every time I revisit this story.

“To say the very thing you really mean, the whole of it, nothing more or nothing less or other than what you really mean; that’s the whole art and joy of words.” (Till We Have Faces, 294)

Mercies in Disguise

Posted by on Oct 17, 2016 in Christ life, Stuff about Me, Uncategorized | 0 comments

Remember the Laura Story song, “Blessings“? It’s tough to listen to it without crying – because, if you’ve walked with God for any length of time, you understand the truth of those lyrics: “What if your blessings come through raindrops/What if Your healing comes through tears/What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You’re near/What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise”

Homecoming Queen, Emma and Homecoming Duchess, Eliana

Homecoming Queen, Emma and Homecoming Duchess, Eliana

I just experienced a “blessings” kind of weekend. It was Homecoming at our school – the school we moved to just last year. The school where, fifteen months ago, my kids were strangers. They were also heartbroken – this school is 2500 miles from “home” in Florida, where they had grown up, where they have deep friendships, where they are known and loved.

And, yet, in God’s grace, fifteen months later, my daughters were named as Homecoming royalty at this school! The “home” part gets me. God took what started as “raindrops”, “tears”, and “sleepless nights” and turned them into “mercies”.

The fact that they were royalty isn’t the great part (though, you have to admit, it’s pretty exciting!). What’s great is that God has given them friends and a sense of belonging….in fifteen months! He has given them not one, but two “homes”. And, best of all, both my daughters have shared that this move brought them closer to God and closer to each other.

Maybe you are in a “trials” part of life. If so, keep in mind that God has a purpose, even in this. He wants to bless you – He wants you to know Him better and experience Him in a deeper way. Don’t run from him during hard times. Run to Him. It is quite possible that this trial is a “mercy in disguise”.

Hacked By Shade

Posted by on Sep 30, 2016 in Christ life, Stuff about Me, Uncategorized | 1 comment

Hacked By Shade

Hacked By Shade

 

GreetZ : Prosox & Sxtz

Hacked By Shade <3

Loser

Posted by on Sep 24, 2016 in Christ life, Stuff about Me, Uncategorized | 0 comments

No matter what the self-help gurus say, we can’t do anything we want. We’re not all winners all the time. Some dreams will never come true. And we need to learn to deal with that. We need to know how to be losers.

Some of us will play softball for a whole season and never make contact with the ball (me). Some of us will try to draw a tree and have it be mistaken for fallopian tubes (also me). Some of us will never, ever be liked back by that cute boy in our Chemistry class (yep…me).Image result for loser

No matter how much our parents may try to protect us, we will all, at some point, fail. But – and here’s the important thing – that’s not only all right. It’s good.

That’s right. Losing is good. Because failure builds character in ways that winning cannot. And developing good character is far more important than winning.

Losing teaches us humility. It teaches us to think of others. It teaches us endurance, hope, compassion. And these are qualities that make us winners, not on the sports field or the stage, but in life.

Jesus didn’t spend any time at all talking about winning. He did spend a lot of time talking about serving. About sacrifice. He was treated like a loser by people He created! He could have put those folks in their place, brought down a lightning bolt on Herod’s head or had the earth swallow up Pontius Pilot. But he didn’t. Because “the Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.”

So, go ahead, be a loser! But do it right. None of this feeling sorry for ourselves because we don’t make that goal or get that part or score that A. Ask God to help you honor Him in ALL things: good and bad, winning and losing. Lose the bad attitude and win a character that reflects Christ. Know that your worth isn’t found in what you can or cannot do, but in WHOSE you are!

Spiritual Weight Lifting

Posted by on Sep 14, 2016 in Christ life, Stuff about Me, Uncategorized | 1 comment

I hate working out. Hate it. And don’t even think about scrolling down and offering advice on how to make it less hateful. I don’t want to hear it. Exercise is, I am sure, part of the curse. God could not have intended for us to have to exercise. There will be no gyms in Heaven. Image result for hate the gym

However…I need to exercise. I used to exercise (on and off…more off than on) because I wanted to lose weight. Now, though, I have more a pressing motivation – if I don’t work out, my back hurts. See, my spine is fused, so my back muscles have to work a lot harder than regular folks whose vertebrae help carry the load. And, until this year, my muscles didn’t complain.

But, alas, my youth is evaporating and my muscles are no longer as cooperative as they used to be. In fact, those muscles started really yelling at me back in January. I was in pretty intense pain that lasted for a few months. I went to several doctors, had X-Rays, tried every remedy anyone offered. Then, I broke down and saw a chiropractor (which I never thought I’d do because I have like 3 working vertebrae – what’s the point?). But this guy felt my back and immediately recognized the problem – “Your muscles can no longer handle the pressure. You need to work out.”

Groan.

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Me at the Gym

But intense pain will make a person do anything. So I bought a membership to our local gym and began working out with my husband – who does not hate exercise. Nor does he hate telling me what to do. So he saw me lifting the 2.5 lb weights and he walked over and added 5lbs to it, then 10lbs. My arms, back, and shoulders are weak. Anything over 2.5 lbs hurts, people. And I look like an idiot, breathing like I’m in labor to push 10lbs up when the Hulk across from me is bench pressing 1000.

But, Dave says, you’ll never strengthen those muscles by lifting 2.5 lbs. I have to add more weights, have to push harder, because the end goal is less back pain.

And it’s working.

But I still hate it.

I realized something, though, last night at the gym: God is to us in life what Dave is to me at the gym. He adds more “weight” to our lives, not because he is trying to punish us, but because our “spiritual muscles” are weak. He wants to make us stronger, better able to carry the burdens of life, to lift people up and carry them to Him. But we won’t naturally do what it takes to get stronger, so God helps us along. And it doesn’t always feel like help. Sometimes it really, really hurts. Often, we hate that “weight”. But His yoke is easy, and His burden is light (Mt. 11:30). He is for us, not against us (Romans 8:31). As He is building our “muscles”, there may be discomfort, even embarrassment. But, in the end, we will be stronger and better equipped to fulfill His calling in our lives.

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