Friday, March 31, 2017

Teaching Falls Like Rain

Daily Gratitude Year 5-Day 88: Today... I am grateful for teaching that falls like rain.

Who were the teachers that really changed you life? We all have them. Some came out of formal education settings. Others, worked beside us in barns, in workshops, in Sunday School and even at the local library. Learning is exciting when the teaching falls like rain. 

This has been a happy - sad week. 

A man who is one of the most treasured in our school district has spent 19 years at the junior high teaching students just entering the treacherous waters of adolescence. 

He should get a medal for that alone, right? Actually, he passes through with a smile every, single day.He has loved what he does and the ripple effect cannot be measured. I do not doubt the difficulty of this decision as he prayed through it with his wife. 

He received his doctorate, but remained in the middle school classroom. He had more to teach and more to learn. Yes... he learns from his students and that is what makes it so hard to leave them. 

I am so grateful he waited and I was able to get to know him. He is a real treasure.

As a mutual friend and teacher said so well, "I don't remember having any education professors with that much classroom experience." Illinois State University has just added a gem of great worth to their education team. He will raise the bar with his character, his experiences and his love of students. 

To say teaching is his passion would be an understatement. His heart and his art is to teach them to think for themselves. 
As we grow up, we must learn to take in the information and messages around us and discern and learn from them. 

Critical thinking is a skill learned best in a safe environment that encourages one to think outside the box... and to support those thoughts with facts, research or better yet... more questions. 

The best teachers are those who engage the student who question them with excitement. Anyone can find ways to teach facts. The gifted teacher inspires a student to ask more questions than they have the knowledge or opportunity to answer in a short class period. 

Masterful educators don't shut down the student who disagrees... they engage them. They encourage them to think it through. "What led you to that belief?" "What have you seen that supports that idea?"

As I let the news settle... yes, I am sad. But, I am so excited for his next chapter, too. He has proven faithful and God has blessed him. When I didn't have the right words... I turned to "The Word". It never fails. The Prayer of Jabez came to mind in an instant. 

The Prayer of Jabez is not a prosperity prayer, but the prayer of a sincere heart to good... and not bring pain. To increase the margin of influence to make a difference. 

And Jabez called on the God of Israel saying, “Oh, that You would bless me indeed, and enlarge my territory, that Your hand would be with me, and that You would keep me from evil, that I may not cause pain!” So God granted him what he requested. -1 Chronicles 4:10 (NKJV)

Educators have a powerful place in society. To think what the future has in store for this man is the happy. More students will experience his teaching like fresh rain... I pray their souls will be thirsty for what this special educator has to offer. 

One more verse came to mind.It from Deuteronomy 32, when Moses is passing the torch to Joshua before his death at age 120 and 40 years of leading the Israelites in the desert. Not every day was easy or joyful. Some days, Moses was not sure of his leadership when they refused to learn and listen. Still, Moses persevered. Every day there were lessons. The certainty of God's promises and His love for them proved true. 

The best teaching prove themselves true. Some take more time. Love never fails and truth prevails.

May my teaching drop as the rain, my speech distill as the dew, like gentle rain upon the tender grass, and like showers upon the herb. -Deuteronomy 32:2

Thank you Ben W. for all you have poured out like rain. The cup overflows.

Today... I am grateful for teaching that falls like rain.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Holy Appreciation

Daily Gratitude Year 5-Day 87: Today... I am grateful for "holy appreciation."

The timeless Rev. Fred Rogers will forever hold the sweetest spot in my heart. We country kids never missed a chance to watch when the TV antenna had good enough reception for PBS to be watched. 

A minister who was discouraged by what was on the television... even back in the day... decided to jump off the complain train and BE the solution. This quote speaks a simple depth into what he offered every day... love for his neighbor: 

"I believe that appreciation is a holy thing- that when we look for what's best in a person we happen to be with at the moment, we're doing what God does all the time. So, in loving and appreciation our neighbor, we're participating in something sacred." -Fred Rogers

Wow! Right?

He offered gratitude for all of his neighbors from the delivery men and the mailman... to vets, firemen, custodians, grocery clerks, nurses, teachers, people with disabilities, garbage collectors and grandparents. He honored every human he encountered by loving them with appreciation and gratitude. He tried to see each human... and even animals... with God-vision.

Not one of us is perfect, but if you watch even one episode, it is hard to miss the love that oozed from him. He loved. Children could not get enough. Even adults, who wanted to make fun of him found that love sucked them into the fan base. Every lesson was worthy of a watch. 

What if instead of reliving, rehashing and magnifying how each and every segment of the population has been wronged in one way or another- we spoke hope, appreciation and gratitude into their journey?

No one is perfect. Everyone has had "hard stuff". Some are wronged more than others. Anger and retribution are not justice and mercy. Change begins when we step away from the hurt and anger and choose to be the difference. Jump off the complain train and reign as children of the living God. 

It is the very reason Fred Rogers campaigned for his little television show that everyone told him would surely fail. They said such a show would never fly. They didn't know his Jesus. 

Remember Peter? He jumped off a fishing boat to follow Jesus. People thought him nuts. Jesus saw his potential and his worth.

Peter was warned he would betray Jesus... three times before the rooster crowed. Peter was almost always in the "inner circle" of what was happening with the disciples. Jesus kept him close. Why? I can't really say I know the mind of Jesus on this matter... but I know he loved them all equally and differently. Peter got things started... John was the Fred Rogers of the crew. 

Peter could be kind of a loose canon and Jesus needed to refine him for the mission ahead, and Jesus time was short. Peter would be "the rock" on which the church would form, grow and the good news of Christ would spread. Peter the Fisherman... electrifying evangelist... but he had to go through a little something tough to refine him. 

Denying Christ three times was his refining "fire". Jesus forgave him and the "Peter, do you love me?" question three times. "Lord, you know I love you was his reply." Jesus had forgiven him - but Peter needed to work through it to forgive himself. He found solid ground when he knelt before His risen Lord... took up his cross and follow. He had a "holy appreciation" of Jesus that few others could fully grasp at that time. 

Peter's hard stuff was an integral part of his refinement. He made mistakes... Christ forgave. Some things... horrible things... we can't take back and get a "re-do". We have to learn and move forward. We have to BE THE CHANGE we want the world to see. We must be his hands and feet. 

The prophet Isaiah wrote these words about Jesus: 

He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. Isaiah 53:3-4

He bore our sins and our shame on the cross so that we could be free of sin. True belief results in real change. It all comes down to this...

And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:30-31

A holy appreciation for WHO God is... the great I AM... and an appreciation of the children he created and loves. All of them. 

Today... I am grateful for "holy appreciation."

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Complain or Reign?

Daily Gratitude Year 5-Day 87: Today... I am grateful we can complain or reign. 

This morning I prayed for God to speak into my weariness. Be careful what you pray for. He answers. 

Everything is harder when we are tired. Decisions aren't as wise. Tongues are not as controlled. Is it possible to be a complete failure by Wednesday? 

I hope not. Our Lord is one of redemption and restoration. 

This image appeared. I have the source book "Lioness Arising" sitting on my shelf, waiting for time to read it. I loved this quote.

"I hope you will rise up with the strength of a lioness and bring God-wonder wherever you go. Then together we will be that force this world has never seen." - Lisa Bevere -

When I think lioness... I think "Queen of the Jungle". The lioness is important to the health and well being of a pride of lions. They are not fragile They live in community. Some days, they probably irritate each other. Still, they figure it out for the good of the pride. Now, the one thing they have to their advantage is the lack of a tongue that can speak. They don't spew out things they can't take back. Words can wound and even scar. 

Still, our God reminds us often that we are his children. Children of the King of Kings... akin to royalty. Our worth is not in anything of this world, but in the truth that He delights in us and loves us. He is enough.

It is easy to get caught up in the "stuff". Something seems unfair? How we long for justice upon others and mercy on ourselves (or is that just me?) Relationships are complicated. We make mistakes. We seek mercy and forgiveness. We are called to unity and community as people of faith. That whole "salt" and "light" instruction can't happen if we place ourselves in seclusion, as tempting as it might be to do that very thing. 

Today, I am challenged to make a new choice. Complain or reign?  

Not every day is going to be a good day or an easy day. Complain or reign?
Not every relationship brings joy, but it may bring growth. Complain or reign?
Not every assignment is fun or fluff. Complain or reign?
Some days are hard. Complain or reign?
Not every decision of  the King is exactly what I hoped for... but He is still good.
Complain or reign. 

Some say "Pull up your big girl panties and deal with it."
I prefer, "Chin up, Princess, or your tiara will slip." Complain or reign?

 He came to his own,and his own people did not receive him.  But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.-John 1:11-13

Complain or reign? 

Today... I am grateful we can complain or reign. 

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Picnic Baskets

Daily Gratitude Year 5-Day 86: Today... I am grateful for the picnic basket. 

Life is not always a picnic, there is always sweetness found in a picnic basket.

The kids received a picnic basket at the bridal shower on Sunday. What a fun gift. I am not sure if it is something they registered for, but it was a real hit. I hope they never forget the simple joys found in a picnic and a picnic basket. 

This is a fast food world we live in. For my friends beyond our USA borders, it is a sickness here. We are always in a hurry to do more and we miss the goodness in taking the little extra time to prepare a meal and share it with community, in no-tech conversations and without distractions. 

Our kids grew up with the wonders of a potluck. On a potluck Sunday - they would see the picnic baskets lined up along they knew the meal would be fabulous. The children would suffer through Sunday School smelling the deliciousness from the ovens in the nearby kitchen. No matter how well the lesson was presented... the  aromas filling the basement fellowship hall were intoxicating. 

Two hours before the meal... two long hours. They survived... and even learned something along the way, but the sight of the picnic basket was the first promise of the feast ahead.

Their proposal story included a borrowed picnic basket and an evening watching a meteor shower for the entertainment. A picnic basket can suggest romance and says "I care enough to prepare". The gift of time is packed and unwrapped from the humble picnic basket.

The simplest of meals becomes a feast. Everything tastes a little better from the picnic basket. It has an uncomplicated charm that casts a spell of delight over all who partake from it's pleasures. 

King David... before he was king, would run food to his brothers who were in the army under King Saul's command. I imagine he has something akin to a picnic basket to carry the food. A soldier loves few things more than a food care package from home. Real men carry picnic baskets. 

There is a sense of "enough" in the basket meal. Enough to be satisfied. Enough to share. 

John 6 tells us of Jesus taking the picnic basket meal of a young boy and feeding the five thousand with five loaves and two fish. 

 “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what are they for so many?” Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, about five thousand in number. Jesus then took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated. So also the fish, as much as they wanted. John 6:9-11

Jesus took time to offer thanksgiving to the Father. From that grace... the fish and bread were multiplied. There were 12 baskets of leftovers! Jesus instructed them to gather and save the leftovers. Good stewardship and the blessing of a leftover. 

Now... I know a miracle when I see one recorded. Yet, the act of gratitude for God's provision can not be ignored. Our God consistently turns what we have into enough when we seek his face with a grateful heart. 

He's a good, good Father. He is... and that's how he loves us. A little turns into enough and so much more. 

We tend to be clear on what we want, but He knows what we need. He longs for us to offer up gratitude so that he can know him better and see his hand in our tiniest blessings... not to mention the big ones.  

Today... I am grateful for the picnic basket.

Monday, March 27, 2017

To Belong

Daily Gratitude Year 5-Day 85: Today... I am grateful to belong.

If anyone was ever confused on the matter... sometimes it is hard to be girl. Especially a teenage girl. 

While culture often praises men for taking new roads, being unique and original thinkers, traditionally, it is not the same for women. Men are "the doers" and female roles are more about "the be". 

We were created for "the be"... to be in relationship. For most women, to be lonely can be a real a struggle. Some will sacrifice much to be included or feel they belong. 

Now... before anyone is in a huff... hear me out. I think equal pay for equal work is fair. There is integrity in that kind of pay scale, but there will always... by God's amazing design... be differences between men and women. 

Communication experts report that women want to talk about a problem or struggle and feel heard... while men want a plan and a solution to fix it. Sometimes... just "venting" is enough to give a girl a deep breath. 

God created us equal but different. Yes, we are programmed differently. We are built differently. We are by nature's design... softer, padded in spots and not as physically strong; that does not make us weak. Historically... men go to war... but women who rebuild. Culture tells us that we are emotionally weak... history proves, that is not true. 

Shakespeare said: "Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned." 
Solomon said: "Strength and dignity are her clothing" Proverbs 31:25

We forget to whom we belong and buy the messages in the media. Strength and dignity are powerful. 
While digging for scripture...this one popped up as my verse for the day. 

On God rests my salvation and my glory; my mighty rock, my refuge is God. Psalm 62:7 ESV
On God rests my salvation... and my glory. "My glory"?  
I don't now about you, but my life is not that glamourous. Since an "and" is a counjunction, let's separate the two thoughts.

"On God rests my salvation." - Absolutely. I think on this often.
"On God rests my glory." - Wow! If there is anything good, or amazing or notable in my life... it is all on him, because I am his and He is mine. We are his beloved. Beyond that, there is no longer a need for worldly approval because the "lover of our souls" satisfies beyond any human relationship.
My beloved is mine, and I am his; -Song of Solomon 2:16
Knowing, believing and trusting in His love changes everything. We no longer need to invitation, the approval or the acknowledgement of the world. There is a quiet, rock solid peace that arrives with this truth. It makes us better lovers of others. 
"What really matters in the midst of all the ebb and flow is who you are and to whom you belong." -Lisa Bevere
Never underestimate a woman who knows to whom she belongs. The world can't take it's punches... but she stands firm in the shadow of the cross and the shelter of his wings. 
Sometimes, I forget. Most of us have those moments. 
Today... I am grateful to belong.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Loved and Known

Daily Gratitude Year 5-Day 85: Today... I am grateful to be loved and known.

We hit the 30 years of marriage mark this year. Gone are the days of big hair (some things are negotiable) and big shoulder pads. Thirty years has seen many fashion trends come and go. Some make us ask "What were we thinking?" Others leave with fond memories and stay stashed in the back of the closet because they are classic and maybe we will be that size again some day. 

My college roommate,Laurie Jean and my Capezio almost flat black shoes are a special college memory. I still remember the day we gave them a little memorial before she forced me to let them go. They were good shoes, but they could no longer able to be repaired and re-heeled. The abuse of the brick walkways left them completely used up. They had served me well. Laurie knew I loved them... but their service was over. She was firm and gentle. We said goodbye with something near reverence. 

Laurie knew me. We lived together through college in rooms smaller than some of my current friends closets. She loved me like a sister. She knew I needed her help giving up something I treasured when it was no longer good or good for me. I had worked hard to pay for those shoes from Donna's Youngtown (a local boutique with the best stuff and the best sales). I needed her support to do something hard.

You are probably laughing... I should be embarrassed... but I do love good shoes. 

Today - our church is having a shower for Chase and Emma. Was it really so long ago that Randy and I were in their shoes. It is the first "homegrown" congregational marriage in 47 years. Ken and Joyce were the last one. They saw these kids born  AFTER their children were all in school. Watched them grow up, and I imagine Joyce will be at the shower today, if life permits. Will she remember their bridal shower? Chase and Emma... like Ken and Joyce... have a deeper understanding of what it means to know and be known. Chase and Emma will have nearly 26 years of friendship before they begin again as husband and wife. 

To know and be known. It is good. It is real. It can be raw and vulnerable... but it is the sweetest gift. 

Our Lord knows us in that way. He wants to be our everything. He wants us to know Him like he knows us. To be known... deeply, truly and completely... and still loved, that is the sweetest of gifts. 

Today, we celebrate and shower them with gifts and love. They have been raised in the way of faith and have seen the difference it makes to add the "third chord" of Christ to the marriage covenant. 

Love is a decision - a choice and a commitment. It makes all the difference. It is waking up every day and celebrating that someone loves me back. Someone who really knows me can really love me, without reservations. 

My Randy does this. My Jesus does this. To love them back isn't just good... it is satisfaction beyond what the world can offer or buy. It's the good stuff.

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. 1 John 4:7

I celebrate that each has chosen well. Chase chose Emma and Emma chose Chase. I am not sure in which order love arrived came. Perhaps, it has been growing for nearly 26 years. An imperfect person that is perfect for them. That is the best part of love. 

Today... I am grateful to be loved and known. 

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Wild Things

Daily Gratitude Year 5-Day 84: Today... I am grateful for wild things.

Today, I was struck by the freedom that comes from embracing what is wild within us. We can color outside the lines. I think God smiles when we do. 

As the mother of sons... I am familiar with wild things. I like them. Our mission is not to tame them, but to grow them. Sure, we put up some boundaries to keep them safe... boundaries that most children will push... but part of discovering their path is experiencing the wonder of their wild. 

Climb the tree a little higher.
Build the tower a little taller.
Jump out of airplanes.

Sky dive.
Explore science a little deeper.
Try strange foods.
Experience sleeplessness.
Seek new places.
Meet new faces.

One of the great lies of this world is the idea living out a relationship with Jesus is boring, dull and uneventful. Big. Fat. Lie.

Religion and relationship are not the same thing at all. The more we love Him, seek His face and chase after His heart, the more we will find we are filled with love for others. Now, I am a long ways from where I want to be, but I am farther along than I used to be. He never changes, but he changes me.  

Learning to love him with whimsy and abandon... it is where the wild ones are.

It is the moment when we present our lives as a sacrifice to His service... whatever that means.

Ask Noah... called to build the first cruise ship for animals.
Ask Moses... who saw one adventure after the next.
Ask Peter... he called him to step out onto the waves.
Ask Paul... Mr. Religion before he met the Master.
Ask Nehemiah... who left his high post with the King to rebuild Jerusalem's wall with a bunch of complainers.

Ask anyone who dared to trust and step out in faith.

"Nobody puts Baby in a corner."

Nobody puts God in a box. He is greater than our human minds can imagine, yet... He wants to be with us, know us and grow us. His love is limitless and it knocks down walls. It already conquered death.

Today, my prayer is to seek a little more wild... and to see the potential for adventure when He lays it at my feet. He really is an amazing God.

Today... I am grateful for wild things.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Do Right

Daily Gratitude Year 5-Day 83: Today, I am grateful for people who consistently do the right thing.

Not the easy thing. Not the convenient thing. Not the profitable thing. Do the good thing... the right thing. Period.

This thought resurfaces from earlier in the week, but with a different twist. A different gratitude.

I am so grateful for those who consistently choose and do the right thing. Not with perfection, but with a heart of encouragement that makes a difference in the lives of all around them. They impact my days... every day.

And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. -Galatians 6:9

By Friday, do you ever feel like you are simply out of energy and out of grace? I do. We all get tired. Still, he promises that He is the source that does not run dry.

We can tap into something bigger... and definitely better... than what we can do on our own.

Persist. Press on. Let Him be our enough! Even if it does not seem that we are being treated fairly for the moment. In time... he promises... people reap what they sow. He keeps his promises.

Dad's saying comes to mind once again. I'm old enough now to have seen it play out with consistent truth: "The wheels of God's justice grind slowly but excessively fine."

In God's time... we all reap what we sow... unless we seek His face and His grace that came to us to be with us, for us and not against us. He became the sin offering... the lamb... and the door. When the curtain ripped and tore the veil into the holy of holies... a priest was no longer needed for protection and intercession. The scriptures are pretty clear about that.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. -1 John 1:9

He is our high priest... in the order of Melchizedek.

The giggle of that is that He is already well are of our sins. Confession is for our souls to be free. His grace that covers them has already been gifted to us. Confession is the blood red paint brush that somehow... when applied... creates the perfect shade of white.

"Though your sins be as scarlet... they shall be as white as snow." King David knew it. Zacchaeus knew it. The Samaritan woman believed and claimed it. Rahab... was changed by it.

Jesus endured that we might be free of the burden of sin. Free to know Him, love Him and plug into His endless love and compassion. Children of the the source. Children who can live with other people and still do what is good and what is right.

So, it will be with those who harden their hearts to the Holy Spirit. Some show no mercy to others. Some will refuse Jesus and his call to accept the mercy offered through the cross. He wants to be our door... or reality changing portal... and to make us right before a holy and righteous God.

We are pilgrims for a season. Learning His truth and His ways as he breathes light, life and hope into our ordinary days. I am grateful for those who hold the lantern light the way. Not perfect people... but those who try every day.

Today, I am grateful for people who consistently do the right thing.