Posted in Devotion

Steeping My Tea

Yesterday I heard a metaphor that I think will stick with me for a while. When I go to make tea, I boil the water, pour it over the tea bag, and let it steep for several minutes. Alternatively, I could boil the water, pour it in the cup, and dunk the tea bag in and immediately take it out. That wouldn’t make very good tea, though.

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Similarly, I have two options for how I spend time with God. I could take brief and irregular dunks into God’s word and say short prayers sporadically. Alternatively, I could saturate my life with God’s word, spend time pondering the application in my heart, and communicate consistently with him through prayer. Which will make me a better “tea”?

One way to “steep my tea” a bit stronger is to be involved in a good church that challenges me to spend more time with God (and I feel blessed to have one right now).

“I love the habitation of your house and the place where your glory dwells.” (Psalm 26:8)

“One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple.” (Psalm 27:4)

When life gets crazy or my schedule gets interrupted, I’ll make a cuppa and remember that in order to be fully “steeped” I have to spend time in the living water. No one likes weak tea, and God doesn’t like a half-steeped follower.

“Send our your light and your truth; let them lead me; let them bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling.” (Psalm 43:3)

Posted in Book Review, Devotion

Fleeing from Anxiety

What if he doesn’t show up? What if I don’t like it? What if I forget that? What if I can’t get them under control? And the list goes on.

I often find myself thinking through every detail and possibility of the future in order to attempt to avoid embarrassment or failure. That’s worry. It’s not so much that my fleeing thoughts of worry or anxiety are a sin but that they potentially keep me from trusting God if I don’t push them away. Reading Max Lucado’s Anxious for Nothing helped me think through my reaction to worrisome thoughts that pop into my mind.

My anxiety stems from a lack of control. I worry when I don’t know exactly how a future situation will pan out. As Lucado points out, those initial thoughts aren’t the problem. It’s what I do after those thoughts that counts. I can either continue to dwell in that dark place and panic, or I can praise God.

I’ll admit, the idea of praising God when I’m anxious seems crazy and a bit impossible, but it’s Biblical.

Rejoice in the Lord always, again I’ll say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to all. The Lord is at hand. Do not be anxious about anything, but instead in prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:4-6

The solution is clear: rejoice, be thankful, pray, and allow God’s peace to take over.

Here’s an example. The first day of school always makes me nervous, even though this will be my third year of teaching and my fourth first day of school as a teacher. As the day grows closer, worries about classroom management, likeability, and content knowledge will seep into my thoughts. I can be completely prepared physically, but mentally I will still have anxieties. Knowing what I do about Philippians 4 and remembering Lucado’s admonitions, I should replace those worrisome thoughts with gratitude and prayer to God. Every time they pop up, I need to say a little prayer and breathe a breath of gratitude because my God is in control.

God is in control.

Then comes the second part that helps the peace stick in my mind. Paul goes on to say,

Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think on these things. Philippians 4:7-8

Once I’ve given the worries to God through prayer, I have to let them go. The easiest way to let go of something and not grab it back is to fill your hand, or brain in this scenario, with something else. In almost any situation, there is something true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, or worthy of praise. On that first day of school, I can focus on the opportunity I have to minister to my students, the training I have received, or the successes of my peers. Even if I’m in a situation where it’s really hard to find something else to think on, I can always think on God because he fills all of those requirements.

If worry and anxiety plague you, even just on occasion, I’d encourage you to get your hands on a copy of Max Lucado’s Anxious for Nothing, or at the very least, start memorizing Philippians 4:4-8. Christians, let’s show the world that, because of God, we don’t have to live constantly in worry.

N.B. I do want to clarify that I recognize the difference between anxious thoughts and and clinical diagnosis of anxiety. While I believe God can overcome a mental illness, I don’t want to simplify anyone’s pain or anxiety.

Posted in Devotion, Gratefulness

Replacing thoughts

Worry and fear are often what separate me from God’s presence. The devil knows that I am susceptible to worry, fear, and over analyzing situations, so in order to keep me from worshipping God, he plants little thoughts into my brain. Through reading Max Lucado’s book, Anxious for Nothing, I am reminded that the fastest way to destroy those worrisome thoughts is to fix my eyes back on God.

In Philippians 4:8, Paul gives a formula for thinking in order to achieve his difficult command to “rejoice in the Lord always… Do not be anxious about anything.” (Philippians 4:4,6). He says, “finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things”.

Lucado gives the example of a woman in a difficult situation who found something within her situation that applied to each of these qualifications. While I can’t take credit for this idea, praying to God following these qualifications seems brilliant. I think when I find myself worrying or over thinking, I’ll try to focus on this scripture.

(Sorry the picture is sideways)

Posted in Education

Summer Plans

One of the benefits of being a teacher is summers off, and it’s not just because it’s a great time to Netflix/book binge and clean my house. The (somewhat) free summer means I actually have time to breathe and reflect upon my teaching, attitude, and goals. That’s what I plan to do this summer with some binging, cleaning, and travelling thrown in for good measure.

Colossians 3:23 says “whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, and not for human masters”. While I agree that times of rest are important, especially for teachers who pour in so many hours and emotional energy for ten months of the year, God makes it very clear that we are to work with our whole heart. He doesn’t instruct me to work for ten months and then forget about my task for two months. Instead, I think he expects me to spend these two months resting and reflecting in order to ensure that I can teach and lead my students better when August comes around.

Practically for me this summer that means reading some teacher books that I never seem to find time to read during the school year, continuing my grad school classes, and spending more time in fellowship with God. That last point is especially important because the school year gets so busy at times that I can easily lose focus on my God-time. I believe the summers are great time to ground myself again in good spiritual habits, sharpen my sword, and shine my armor. My students need someone who is ready to fight spiritual battles with prayer, encourage them when they’re fighting, and speak truth. The only way I can do that effectively is to be sure I am spending daily time with God. If my eyes are fixed on God and I’m working at my task of teaching for Him, the quality of my teaching has to improve because he will lead me to the most effective teacher I can be.

In the next few months, look for posts about how I am relaxing, reflecting, and re-grounding. Yay for summer!

Posted in Music

Anthem Song

“This is how I fight my battles.”

You want to know how I fight battles? Prayer is my weapon, the Bible is my sword, and my faith is my shield.

My battles are mainly mental battles of worry, insecurity, and frustration, but my God is bigger than all of that. He gives me peace and quells the lies of the devil.

“It may look like I’m surrounded, but I’m surrounded by you.”

Even though the battle rages all around me and threatens to overcome me, God has me wrapped up in him, so I can’t be defeated. He fights for me. He’s the best warrior of them all because he’s already defeated death. Astounding. I’m humbled that he’s on my side. The God who created everything and knows everything takes time to listen to my insignificant babble. He doesn’t need my praise, but he deserves it all the more.

The word says
For the spirit of heaviness
Put on the garment of praise’
That’s how we fight our battles

Song lyrics are from Michael W. Smith’s song Surrounded (Fight My Battles).

Posted in Life

Church

In the past month, I’ve been in four different churches because of various circumstances such as flooding and travelling. All of them are teaching the Bible, and there are people in each one who are genuinely seeking God. None of them, though, leave me feeling completely content with how I imagine the perfect church to be. The music is too slow or too loud; the lights are too bright or the building too cold; the people are too old or the crowd is too large; the drive is too far or I don’t want to go alone. These are just a few of the complaints that run through my head as I leave a service.

I know being plugged in to one church is what I desire, but the grass looks greener on the other side. Lately it seems as if there’s always something better somewhere else. That’s not normal for me, so I started praying. After some heart-searching, these are the answers that God gave to me. Maybe these thoughts will help someone else in a similar circumstance.

What I need to remember is two-fold. First church is not about all of the frills, which I’m honest is where most of my complaints lie. The most important part of church is God. God can speak with old hymns, new rock, bright lights, a yelling preacher, a long sermon, or a quick devotion. God is not bound by any circumstances. The only thing that binds me from hearing his words is myself.

Secondly, all of these churches are run by people. Granted, I think all of the churches I’ve been at lately are led by people seeking God. Still though, I find myself wanting certain circumstances to worship. Rather than looking for perfection in the man-made aspects of church, I should look for perfection in the God-driven aspects of church. My focus should be on praising God and leaning toward him rather than examining the layout of service.

Lastly, even with all of the imperfections I can find in churches, I still find church to be very important to my faith in God. Yes, all of the answers I need for my relationship with God are found in the Bible and through time with Him, but God made us for fellowship. When Jesus left the Earth, he left a group of believers and told them to stick together. God didn’t design me to navigate this world alone. He intends for me, and others, to meet together regularly to worship Him and study his Word. While I can, and should, worship and study all week long, there’s just something special about gathering with other believers no matter which building I do it in. I have no answers about what the perfect church service or atmosphere looks like, probably because it doesn’t exist, but I do know that no matter where I end up on Sunday, my one focus should be to worship God and learn more about Him.