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.

Posted in Bible Study, Devotion

Idols are more than golden calves

“Anything I put before my God is an idol. Anything I want with all my heart is an idol. Anything I can’t stop thinking of is an idol.” 

These words come from Jimmy Needham’s song “Clear the Stage”, and they’ve made me address some of the idols in my life. No, I’m not building a golden statue, but in my mind certain ideas take up more head space than my thoughts of God. Those gradually become idols in my life. It’s not a conscious decision, but that’s how Satan works. He stealthily slips in a thought here and an image there until it consumes my thoughts. 

“Take a break from all the plans that you had made and sit at home and wait for God to whisper… Shine the light on every corner of your life until the pride and lust and lies are in the open.”

That’s what I did. I spent some time the past few days (thank you for fall break, God!) praying and reading the Bible. Every passage I’ve read lately has either revealed a dark part of my heart or given me strength and hope of destroying the darkness. Those are God’s whispers. 

“Then read the word and put to test the things you’ve heard until your heart and soul are stirred and rocked and broken.”

Here is some of what I came up with.

“Think on whatever is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, of excellence, and worthy of praise” Phil 4:8

“I have set the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.” Psalm 16:8

When these thoughts begin to take up too much space, I’ll look to God instead. I’ll ask for strength, and I’ll praise him. 

“We can sing all we want to. Worship is more than a song.”

To listen to the full song, follow this link.

Thanks for taking the time to read my thoughts. You’re awesome for supporting me.

Posted in Bible Study

God, I’m so…(blank)

This comic was posted by someone on Facebook, and while I chuckled, I also had some deeper thoughts in relation to it. 

This may be how we treat God sometimes, or at least I know I have. I have a bad day, and I rush to God and start complaining. My complaints are even sometimes similar to Dagwood. I expect God to listen to all of my complaints, and then I expect to move on with life. Sometimes I feel guilty about complaining, so I throw in a few comments about how great he is. Mostly though I just vent.

I don’t think God completely minds when I come to him with my problems and complaints. He does urge us to come to him when we’re weak and weary. He is pretty great that way. In fact he’s better than Dagwood’s doctor in that he can provide a miracle cure for my ailments. 

My problem lies in the time though when that’s all I come to God for over a period of time. If I’m only coming to God when I have problems, what kind of relationship is that, and how does that depict how I view God? God is so much bigger and more capable than any problem I’ll ever have. I’m grateful for that, so when things are going well, I need to come to him as well and thank him. In fact I can also thank him during problems as well because I know he’s capable and willing to give me rest. 

Thanks God!

Posted in Bible Study

God, I’m so…(blank)

This comic was posted by someone on Facebook, and while I chuckled, I also had some deeper thoughts in relation to it. 

This may be how we treat God sometimes, or at least I know I have. I have a bad day, and I rush to God and start complaining. My complaints are even sometimes similar to Dagwood. I expect God to listen to all of my complaints, and then I expect to move on with life. Sometimes I feel guilty about complaining, so I throw in a few comments about how great he is. Mostly though I just vent.

I don’t think God completely minds when I come to him with my problems and complaints. He does urge us to come to him when we’re weak and weary. He is pretty great that way. In fact he’s better than Dagwood’s doctor in that he can provide a miracle cure for my ailments. 

My problem lies in the time though when that’s all I come to God for over a period of time. If I’m only coming to God when I have problems, what kind of relationship is that, and how does that depict how I view God? God is so much bigger and more capable than any problem I’ll ever have. I’m grateful for that, so when things are going well, I need to come to him as well and thank him. In fact I can also thank him during problems as well because I know he’s capable and willing to give me rest. 

Thanks God!

Posted in Blog, Life, Remembering

You want me to pray???

Recently I saw a Facebook post reminiscing about the times in youth group when the youth leader asked for a volunteer to pray and there was dead silence. I can certainly remember those moments, and often I was one of the silent ones. On the off chance that the youth leader called on me or I volunteered, there was a brief moment of panic. If I’m honest, there’s still that moment of panic when I’m asked to pray aloud today. My question is “why?”. Why are we afraid to pray aloud? It’s just talking to God after all. I do that frequently, so what am I afraid of?

After some soul searching, I have come to the conclusion that I think for me it’s a fear of the people listening more than a fear of talking to God. I panic that others will think my prayer isn’t “holy” enough or long enough. Maybe I won’t use the right words, or maybe I won’t have any words at all.

This morning I was reading the passage in Matthew 6 where Jesus teaches the crowds how to pray. If pointing out that pagans pray so that others can hear them wasn’t enough explanation, Jesus follows up with an example prayer of his own. Guess what? Jesus’ prayer isn’t long and drawn out. It uses fairly simple words and has a pretty straightforward message.

This example gives me courage that when I feel like talking to God, I should do so freely whether out loud or in my head. After all, when I’m praying aloud, it’s God’s ear that matters, not the ears of others.