Classroom Whys ~ Five Minute Friday

I almost didn’t join Five Minute Friday today when I saw the prompt was “Why”. With everything going on in the world around us, I knew it was going to be difficult to write something meaningful in the wake of such tragedy. Yet, here I am.  Thoughts have been pounding around in my head and so with prayer, here I go.  I am sure you will find many moving posts to read today over at http://www.fiveminutefriday.com

Time starts now.

“”But Jesus called the children to him and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the Kingdom of God belongs to such as these.”” Luke 18:16 (NIV)/ Pixabay

The call came over the intercom.  Door locked. Lights off. Curtain on door drawn. Blinds shut. Table in the corner of the room turned on its side. Precious Second Graders huddled low behind the table.  Roll taken.  These were the steps I followed in my classroom every time a “Code Red” drill was scheduled. With each action, my heart beat a little faster as I tried to move with confidence and put on a brave face.  No matter how many times we went through the practice though, worried “whys” tumbled from the tiny lips of my students. “Why do we have to do this?” “Why would someone want to hurt me?” And each time I would try to quiet their souls with the best answers I had, which between you and me, were weak at best, because I had (and have) the same “whys” they did!

During every drill, I made a promise to those nervous, wide-eyed babes; “I’ll do everything in my power to keep you safe. No. Matter. What.” But could I?  Oh, I had plans and ran through scenarios in my mind. But the news had shown me way too many times that despite heroic effort, my promise could be hard to keep. And so my “whys” just kept coming.  It was the stuff my nightmares were made of!

Fast forward to today.  I’m retired now and so thankful that in my 32 years of teaching I only heard “Code Red” as a drill.  Even though I’ve had to imagine what a school shooting would be like, I cannot fathom what those involved go through. Why was I spared when others have suffered so? Why are children becoming murderers?  Once again, I only have weak answers.

You and I know that the “whys” aren’t just confined to the classroom.  They tumble from lips in our homes, our workplaces, our churches, and in the world.  It’s easy for me and maybe for you too, to get so lost in the “whys” of it all that we forget the Who.

 Jesus said:
I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace.  In this world you will have trouble.  But take heart:  I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 (NIV)

There’s so much suffering everywhere we look. My tendency is to question and to want to somehow understand the purpose in it all. Depending on myself or the opinions of others though, just leaves me asking more questions. Can you relate? I’m learning that instead of those “whys” we need to be WISE and depend on  Jesus.  When we do, we can take heart in The Promise that is never broken, The Peace in the midst of chaos, and The Only Answer that can overcome the whys of a troubled world.

I invite you to join with me right now and say a prayer for all those who are suffering.

 

 

 

 

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Agree to Disagree ~ Five Minute Friday

I look forward to Five Minute Friday!  It’s always fun to see where it leads my little brain! Today’s prompt is “Agree”.  If you’d like to see more thoughts on the subject click over to http://www.fiveminutefriday.com

“Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other. Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.” Romans 12: 9-10, 18 (NLT) / Pixabay

We couldn’t be more different, my husband and I.  From the moment we met, when this city girl shook up his country world, it was evident that there was little upon which we would agree.  He’s talk radio and I’m music up full blast.  Sweet tea with a little ice is his preferred drink; Mine? Unsweet with ice to the max.  He’s an early bird. I’m an owl.  We have dueling thermostats. Mine usually requires a sweater while he’s in short sleeves.  Sleep number? His, high. Mine, low.  And when his head hits the pillow? He’s fast asleep, while my mind whirls and twirls before I finally drift off.  And after all this time, the list continues to grow.

They say opposites attract and for thirty-four years and counting we’ve been proof it’s true. It hasn’t always been easy; but early on we made the decision to just agree to disagree on the simple stuff.  More importantly though, we realized that when it comes to things of greater significance: our faith, our mutual respect, our love for each other and our family, we’re on the  exact, same page.  Our differences have generated laughter, prompted discussion, expanded our understanding of things, and added variety to our lives; but it’s those core values we agree on that have made our relationship possible.

“Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, so it is with Christ’s body.  We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other.  In His grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well.” Romans 12:4-6 (NLT)

Our world today seems focused on all the ways we are dissimilar in an attempt to force us further and further apart. I’m afraid it’s working.  How about a different approach? What if we applied a little magnetic science (and the experience of an old married couple) and allowed ourselves to be drawn to those “opposites” we come in contact with? Think of the laughter we might share, the new things we could learn, the better understanding we would have if we would give “agree to disagree” a chance! I believe we’d begin to see people sharing more mutual respect, genuine care being given, commonalities discovered, and relationships being formed.  I don’t know about you but this beach girl married to a mountain man thinks that’s exactly what this world needs more of!

Time’s up.

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Be a Dandelion!

“Be joyful in hope, patient in trouble, and persistent in prayer.” Romans 12:12 (ISV)

What an example of perseverance!  As I walked across my yard, a glint of bright yellow caught my eye. Despite days and days of single digit temperatures, snow, and wind, this little dandelion found a way to push out of the dark, frozen ground. Bitter cold? Didn’t stop it. Frigid wind?  It kept right on going. Stretched to its limits and facing obstacles in its way, this little sign of life kept reaching toward the sun until it broke through into the morning light. And wouldn’t you know it?  This small, determined, tiny plant showed up just when I needed a little prompting to persist, myself!

I too, have been frozen; stuck in my own wavering thoughts, pushing against uncertainty and doubt, and letting my faith be blown here and there.  It’s been a real struggle to try and find my way in the dark.  And then, here’s this small golden gift put directly in my path, bringing to mind a truth God’s been trying to get me to understand: Just. Keep. Reaching. Toward. The. Son.

Ever been in that place of believing, but asking God for help in your unbelief? That’s right where I’ve been planted of late. Shaken by prayers not answered in the way hoped for? Hold on. Weary of not knowing what to do? Endure. Faith far from where it needs to be? Pursue. Feeling unworthy of God’s love? Abide.  For every question I’ve raised, the answer has simply been “stay”. Stay in My promises.  Stay in My plan.  Stay in My love.

As I’ve read the Bible, talked with other trusted Christians, and prayed, I’ve searched for some preconceived, easy to understand answers.  You’ve probably guessed that I didn’t find what I was looking for and you’d be right. But, what did come to light in the midst of this dark struggle is this: Just Believe!

“”My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord. “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.  For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.

The rain and snow come down from the heavens and stay on the ground to water the earth.  They cause the grain to grow, producing seed for the farmer and bread for the hungry.  It is the same with my word. I send it out, and it always produces fruit.  It will accomplish all I want it to, and it will prosper everywhere I send it.” Isaiah 55:6-11 (NLT)

These words remind me that God’s wisdom is not rooted in human (my) comprehension and reasoning. All my striving to uncover answers I could understand only left me stranded in the cold, but just as an out-of-season dandelion shines in the bleakness of winter, God’s message to me, to us, to persevere in our belief shimmers with hope. Will there be obstacles? No doubt! Winds to blow us off course? I’m sure! Life can be hard! The rain and snow will come. Maybe you’re feeling it piling up right now. Boy, do I understand and I’m learning we have a choice to make:  Will we let it bury us in uncertainty? Or, will we choose to stay?…Stay and believe in thoughts and ways that are higher than ours. It might not be easy and we may have to choose to believe over and over again, but when we’re stretched to our limits let’s take a lesson from a little dandelion (and God) and Just. Keep. Reaching. For. The. Son!  Who’d ever imagine that a persevering “little sign of life” could teach me a lesson that leads straight to THE Sign of Life! Just gotta believe!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Sweet, Sweet Surrender ~ Five Minute Friday

It’s Friday, so I’m attempting to write for five minutes on the prompt, “Surrender” today. If you want to read more or join in hop over to http://www.fiveminutefriday.com

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” Matthew 6:25-26 (NIV) / Pixabay

Time starts now.

When I started thinking about today’s prompt, “surrender”, lyrics started playing in my head.  The calm, pleasant voice of that spectacled, blond haired “country boy”,  John Denver (a popular singer back in the day for you youngsters) began singing to my soul:

“I don’t know what the future is holdin’ in store
I don’t know where I’m goin’ I’m not sure where I’ve been
There’s a spirit that guides me, a light that shines for me
My life is worth the livin’, I don’t need to see the end.”

The song continues:

“Sweet, sweet surrender, live, live without care.
Like the fish in the water, like a bird in the air.”

Wouldn’t that be lovely?  To live without care? How much time do we spend (waste) caring about what we look like, what others think about us, or what the future holds?  I can tell you right now, that for me…..It’s. Way. Too. Much!  The fish and birds have it right! They swim and fly along being just who they were designed to be. Wondering if their feathers make them look fat,  if their nest is as big as others, or if they swim faster than anyone else isn’t part of their make up.  And guess what?  It isn’t meant to be part of ours either! 

In the midst of our crazy, social media driven, high-speed lives, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and alone.  Cue the music…We must remember that there IS a Spirit who guides us and a Light that shines for us! And even when we’re worrying and scurrying, God says we’re valuable.  Think about it…..Our lives were worth dying for! And because of that, we can sing at the top our lungs right along with John, “My life is worth the livin’, I don’t need to see the end” because we KNOW the end.  So, how about it?  Ready to practice some sweet, sweet surrender? I sure am!  I continue to work on being set free from the comparison trap.  What’s one care you can give up?  Let me know in the comments below.

(Yes, yes, I know.  More than five minutes.  I’m a work in progress)

Motivate ~Five Minute Friday

“I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.” Romans 7:15 / Pixabay

After a break I’m joining back up with the Five Minute Friday gang to write for five minutes on the prompt, “Motivate”.  You can read the posts or join in at www.fiveminutefriday.com

Time starts now:

Motivation doesn’t come naturally to me.  Actually, it usually takes something big to get me to do what I know I should.  It’s not until I receive a high blood sugar report that I’m motivated to exercise.  Company coming is usually the reason that motivates me to clean my house and unfortunately, guilt is what motivates me to do a lot that I don’t want to do but know I should.

Prayer is the same for me.  When things are going smoothly I sometimes let my quiet time be filled with other things even though I know to live a life connected to Christ, I shouldn’t. Often, it’s when life becomes challenging I find the motivation to pray.  Boy, Paul knew what he was saying when he wrote those words in the “do-do” chapter…..you know the one, ” I don’t do what I should do but instead do what I shouldn’t do”!  From his pen to my lips!!!!

It’s the time of year when a lot of people are making New Year’s resolutions.  I admire those who are motivated by a goal and follow through. Me? Obviously, not so much.  It’s never too late to change though, so maybe writing these words will be motivation enough to get me started to do what I know I should do and not do what I know I shouldn’t do!! What DO you think?

 

Blinded by a Critical Eye

“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen” Ephesians 4:29 (NIV) / Pixabay

I’ve been given the gift of seeing life through a critical eye. It’s allowed me to create balance with color in my artwork, improve writing by discovering hidden mistakes and places that need revising, and to analyze my students’ work to determine where my teaching had fallen short. Even decorating my home is easier with a critical eye, as it enables me to know just where to hang things on the wall without the need of a tape measure or level.  My favorite thing about seeing through a critical eye? I think it’s that my view of the world around me comes in bits and pieces, minute details that can be easily missed.  Recognizing those little nuances gives me a greater appreciation for the intricacies of nature, helps me perceive unspoken needs and emotions in those around me, and often it offers me a clear vision when problem solving.  Sounds great doesn’t it?

Recently, my eyes were opened to recognize how blind I really am!  You see, as positive as my critical eye may be, it also can plunge me into the dark, short-sighted practice of criticism. And while hearing that wasn’t easy and as much as I wanted to defend myself, I’m ashamed to say I know it’s true.  I’m not sure where it comes from, insecurity I suppose, but it’s way too easy for my critical eye to focus on and pick apart the most insignificant things in others: the way they dress, their manner of speech, what they do or don’t do, and unfortunately the list goes on.  In hindsight, I recognize, however unintentional it’s been, being blinded by my critical eye has caused me to hurt those I care most about. In diagnosing my critical eye blindness, I’ve bumped into another realization: the vision I have of myself is also blurred. As hard as I am on those around me, I’m even harder on myself.  I tend to set my sight on my imperfections, mistakes, and failures until those are all I see.  Maybe you can relate.

So what’s a blind critical eyed gal to do? I read some very wise words this week over at http://www.CindyKrall.com 

She wrote, “Self-talk can be empowering or defeating.  Many of us are careful about what we say with regards to others, but we can fall short when it comes to the way we treat ourselves.  This verse (“No longer will there be any curse.” Revelation 22:3) reminds me that we can “curse” ourselves, sometimes without meaning to.  Christ nailed those kind of curses to the cross as well.” 

I think Cindy’s words apply not only to what we say, but to what we see in ourselves and in others, as well.

No one lights a lamp and then hides it or puts it under a basket.  Instead, it is put on a lamp stand to give light to all who enter the room.  You eye is a lamp for your body.  A pure eye lets sunshine into your soul.  But an evil eye shuts out the light and plunges you into darkness.  Make sure that the light you think you have is not really darkness.  If you are filled with light, with no dark corners, then your whole life will be radiant, as though a floodlight is shining on you.” Luke 11:33-36 (NLT)

Christ! The One who nailed curses to the cross, caused the lame to walk, the deaf to hear, and is the same One who came so the Blind. Could. See. I can’t navigate this life with the limited sight I have on my own.  Fixing my eyes on God, trying to see things from His point of view, is the only way to cure my vision problem.

I’m not big on making resolutions, however…. not just for the new year but for life, I want to resolve to use my critical eye to see the intricacies of others and myself the way God sees us;  no longer looking for ways to tear down but instead, with loving eyes, to shine a light  that encourages and uplifts! It will take work, patience, and a lot of prayer (yours are appreciated); but hopefully, I’ll be seeing more clearly very soon!

“Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost, but now am found
Was blind but now, I See!
~John Newton~

 

 

 

 

 

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Silence (Is Golden) ~ Five Minute Friday

“LISTEN & SILENT are spelled with the same letters. Think about it.” / Pixabay

Time Starts Now:

I’m a talker. I love to tell stories, to think aloud.  Several years ago I was riding in the car with my husband and father-in-law; chatting as I normally do when it was suggested that I couldn’t be quiet for a designated period of time.  What? The gauntlet was thrown and the challenge accepted! Not only did I proclaim I could be silent for that period of time, but rather for the entire trip! The prize if I succeeded? My father-in-law had to buy me flowers.  I’ll have you know I won that contest….well… sort of……when the flowers finally arrived, the note on the card simply said: “Silence is Golden“!

I now believe there’s more truth to that statement than I was willing to admit to back then. Recently, I’ve come to realize that when someone’s sharing their situation with me, my first instinct is to open my mouth and tell my version of their experience or to offer my solution. Neither of which were asked for.  Thankfully, I’m now learning to keep the noise in my head from tumbling across my tongue and to just listen instead. “Silence is Golden“!

My quiet time with God also tends to be anything but quiet! When I try to be silent before the Lord, song lyrics may start singing in my head or my grocery list appears out of nowhere and I begin to talk my way through it. Before you know it, I’ve filled the Holy Space I wanted with racket that I could do without!  Tell me I’m not alone! “He leads me beside still waters”. “Be still and know.” You see?  God’s been trying to teach me that “Silence is Golden” all along.  Now all I have to do is listen.  I think I’ll take that challenge! How about you?

Time’s up!

 

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Rest ~ 31/31 Days of Five Minute Free Writes

This is the last post for 31 Days of Five Minute Free Writes at http://www.fiveminutefriday.com

It’s been a challenge and I’m amazed I made it to day 31 and only missed 3 days! Those were spent with family so I don’t regret them at all! All 28 posts are here. Just click on the “Five Minute Fridays” tab above if you’ve missed any or are just joining in. So, for the last time this month, here we go…..

Time Starts Now!

“Be still and know that I am God!” Psalm 46:10a (NLT) / Pixabay

I know this may sound a little crazy, but I have fond memories of a rest stop!  Traveling from WV to Michigan by myself with two small children could at times be, shall we say….stressful! After driving for a few hours, jittery feet, touchy-feely hands, and cranky mouths began appearing in the backseat. Thankfully, it was at about that same time we arrived at the “Welcome to Ohio” rest stop.  It became our tradition to pull off and “rest”  on every trip.  We’d use the facilities and then with the promise of stopping at the vending area on the other side of the parking lot, I’d send both kids marching (literally marching) on the path: up the hill, across the top, down again, and straight to me to get their quarters for the machines. Was there whining at times? Sure. Complaining? You bet, but we were all better off after the break from the long car trip.

This month of writing has given me at times my own share of pacing feet, wringing hands, and a negative Nellie mouth. Just about the time I was ready to give up, the Holy Spirit would send me  welcomed words and my fingers would begin to march across the keyboard. Sometimes those words took me up, down, and all around to get my point across.  Using a donkey, my gallstones, growing grass, and now a rest stop all seem to be unlikely vehicles for a blog post. I love that though! It’s a confirmation to me that the message is God’s and not mine.

Driving to Michigan, I still smile as I pass that rest stop.  I’m alone in the car now but at times I can still hear little voices in the back seat telling me when to turn off to stop. Like those car breaks of old, I’m ready for a break from this month of writing.  I truly enjoyed this challenge and  I  cannot express my gratitude to each of you who’ve read my wanderings of words. You’ll never know what it has meant to me.

Time’s Done…..But I’m Not

It’s my prayer that somewhere in the midst of these 28 days of quick writes you’ve found something to encourage you. While my intentions were always to share my writing with you, the reality is that each and every post has taught me a lesson I’ve needed!  As my friend, LaVonne always says, “The Big Guy sends you what you need when you need it!”

I’m not sure what’s coming next, but for now I’m ready to stop for a bit and with fond memories, rest.

 

 

 

Refine ~ 30/31 Days of Five Minute Free Writes

“Bless our God, O peoples, and sound His praise abroad, Who keeps us in life and does not allow our feet to slip. For You have tried us, O God; You have refined us as silver is refined. Psalm 66:8-10 (NASV) / Pixabay

I’ve discovered that editing is something I enjoy. I have an author friend who recently trusted me to fine-tune her latest book.  Looking closely at writing to find just the right place to pause, adding the perfect words to produce the greatest impact, and yes, to eliminate what’s unnecessary are jobs I like to do……for others, that is!

Having my own writing corrected is another story.  It can be difficult to receive feedback about the places that need improvement, to see lines crossed out that when written, seemed so right, and to find characters dear to my heart noted to be underdeveloped.  Each red mark feels as if it’s written directly on my heart. Every author knows that editing is vital if you’re going to improve as a writer.  As painful as it may be, the process results in a much better finished product.

That brings me to today’s prompt: “refine”.  It’s not a word we want to think about because like editing words on a page, we need refining to progress. Refinement evokes thoughts of intense heat to remove impurities, fervent cleansing to get rid of stains, and the smoothing and shaping of any rough edges.  Every Christian knows that those often are the result of going through difficult circumstances. Painful as it may be, we also understand that refinement is vital if we’re going to become the “much better” person God designed us to be.

I don’t know about you but when I’m in the fire, I often find myself bargaining with God, making promises of change if He will just remove the heat.  Refining is aimed at our heart and its fine-tuning isn’t something we can accomplish on our own. It takes trust in God’s process. He may show us where we should pause and rest, teach us how to develop our character, or identify those things we need to eliminate so that we’ll have a greater impact on others; whatever it is, we are assured that the Author will continue to write our story until we are refined like silver, His pure and precious finished product.

Follow ~ 29/31 Days of Five Minute Free Writes

“To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.” 1 Peter 2:21 (NIV) / Pixabay

My husband is having a cowboy themed Halloween at work.  So in keeping with that idea, I followed a new recipe today for the Former First Lady Laura Bush’s prize winning “Cowboy Cookies”.  She has experienced victory with her combination of ingredients and those that have  tried them have shared their rave reviews!  You would assume then, to get the same positive results it would make sense ( she was the First Lady after all) for me to adhere to her instructions step-by-step. But, you would assume wrong.  Oh, it would’ve made sense; but no,….thinking I knew best; I deviated from the proven method still expecting the same (or better) results!

Ever have the lightbulb suddenly come on when you haven’t been the brightest? Well, that’s exactly what happened to me. As soon as I went my own way instead of following the plan laid out for me, I realized it may not have been the best idea. And in that moment, I recognized that I often make the same mistake in my Christian life, too! Sheesh! These lessons just keep coming at me!

How many times have I, knowing God’s “recipe” for life is perfect, veered off in my own direction because I wanted what I thought was best? Ever been there? I don’t know about you, but for me it’s more times than I’d like to admit.  I tell myself, “a little extra of this won’t hurt” or “less time on that can’t make that much difference” and even “I don’t need to add this to my life at all!” As you might guess, the results fail to meet my expectations.

When Jesus said, “follow me” to the disciples, He expected them to follow Him all the way to the cross. His plan for each of us is exactly the same. Recognizing that Jesus died so that we might live and sharing that with others offers the BEST possible results.  So, the next time we’re tempted to alter our way, we must remind ourselves that God’s already given us the winning combination; we need only to keep our eyes on the Prize and follow Him step-by-step to true victory!