A Teachable Heart

I’ve been spending a lot of time lately in 1 Corinthians 13, aka “the love chapter”. Really sitting for a while in one place in the scripture is not something I am used to doing. I’m more of a full steam ahead kind of reader, but God is calling me to rest in this place to soak in what it means to love. It’s sort of the “crock pot” approach to learning. Simmering all day at low heat to allow the Holy Spirit to season and soften my heart.

I’ve been listing the characteristics of love as Paul lays them out, journaling my thoughts and comparing supporting scriptures. This week in the second half of verse five the apostle Paul writes that love is not easily angered. As I journaled about it I truly wasn’t thinking of that characteristic in relationship to me. After all, I reasoned, I am a patient person who really doesn’t get angry often. So as I wrote I found myself using pronouns such as “us” and “we” instead of “me” and “I”. And then the Holy Spirit allowed me an opportunity.

My dear husband asked for help with something. I was in a rush to get to school, but I stopped to help him. However, when he didn’t respond in what I thought was “the proper attitude of gratitude” I got annoyed. And then before I knew it I was standing in the kitchen saying the very words I swore I hardly ever said, “I am so angry with you.” The irony of the situation was not lost on me, but I still left the house in a mood. As I got into the car I continued to dialogue with Holy Spirit saying, “I know I am not supposed to get easily angered, but surely you can see why I am so ticked off! Seriously, I just feel like being mad for a while.”

I turned on the radio full blast and wouldn’t you know it out came a song about forgiveness. I had to laugh as I pictured God choosing that very song at that very moment for me to hear. I waved the white flag and when I got to school I texted Phil “I forgive you“. Isn’t it funny that the lesson we often feel we need to learn the least is the one we need to learn the most?

Father God, thank-you for loving me so much that You take the time to correct me when I need discipline. Lord, keep my heart pliable so that I may have a teachable heart and be able walk in Your ways more fully. I love You!

The Boy with the Hurting Eyes

You could see it in his eyes. At first glance it might have been mistaken it for anger, but when you lingered a moment longer your gut told you that you were looking into the eyes of a wounded soul. My husband, Phil saw it immediately after he took the picture. I had asked him to come to school on the first day to take photographs of all my new second graders and when I came home that evening he asked me about the boy with the hurting eyes.

I wish that all of the children who entered through the doors of my classroom arrived well rested, well fed and well-loved. Unfortunately we live in an age where poverty and toxic family dynamics take an enormous toll on the vulnerable and the young. Without a word being spoken, that little boy’s eyes told me that he had already learned that the world was a place where promises were broken and disappointment was the norm.

About a week after I had hung the kids’ pictures in the hallway a colleague came to me to ask about that particular student. She’d had him in kindergarten and was so upset to see his expression. She’d had hopes that things had improved in his life since she had been his teacher, but was discouraged to see his unchanged appearance.

“What can we do about kids like that?” she cried. “It breaks my heart.” I agreed with her, but reassured her that God had placed him into my room for a reason and that He knew what was happening to him.

“Does he really, Anne?” she said angrily. “Does God really know?” I could identify with her. There have been times when I have looked at the desperate situations that the children in my classroom live in and have thought to myself, how can this be, Lord? But the truth of the matter is that we live in a broken world where sin ravages our relationships and our lives. Still, God does not stand far off looking down in disinterest, but intimately knows our troubles and longs for us to find solace in Him. Jesus tells us to “Come to me all who are weary and heavy laden I will give you rest.

I told my colleague that afternoon that God did know what was happening. God was aware of that child’s every falling tear and that He put people like her and people like me into the lives of those children to be His hands and feet to make a difference. I assured her that on my watch, that little one would know that he was loved, valued and a person of worth. I would not do it on my own, but only through the saving grace of Jesus Christ.

Lord Jesus, don’t ever let an opportunity go by that I fail to be your ambassador to the children in my charge. Be the watermark on my life so that they see You through me. Enable me to do the things that You have set before me this day to help another child know that he is loved.

Power Outage

Last week a summer storm blew through town taking my electricity with it. I awoke Sunday morning to unaccustomed silence- no whir of the ceiling fan or hum of the air conditioner. It was completely dark as I stumbled through the house by the light of my cell phone. My husband Phil, flashlight in hand, was already up assessing the situation in his ever-ready-for every-situation mode. That man would have made a brilliant Eagle Scout.

As the sun rose and it became apparent that we were not going to have water or electricity to facilitate my getting ready for church routine, Phil made the journey into town to see just what damage the storm had left. He returned with a full scouting report. Power was out through about half the town including the church. However, he had driven out to my mom’s house and her neighborhood still had lights. I was relieved that that the members of my church would not have to see me in all of my bed-headed glory.

On the way to my mother’s I called my pastor to get an update on the church’s situation. He told me that they had candles burning all over the church and were operating on “Plan B”. I laughed as I wondered what that meant for me as the worship leader of the contemporary second service. After all, we used the projector for words to our songs and all of our instruments were powered by electricity. It was going to be an interesting morning.

I began to notify the members of my praise band about the situation in a mass text. “The church has no power” I typed quickly into my phone and pushed SEND. Seeing those words on the phone screen caused me to shudder. “Oh, Lord,” I thought, “Thank goodness that isn’t true. We may not have electricity, but the church with Jesus Christ as its head surely has power!”

The service that Sunday was certainly different than what most of the members were used to, but it was still a powerful service despite the lack of air conditioning or electric lights. As Tuesday rolled around and I met a new group of bright eyed seven-year-olds for the first time I thought about what power I have as a teacher. I have the power to be a positive or negative role model. I have the power to show grace and mercy or condemnation and judgement. I have the power to love or not to love.

I do not take that responsibility lightly for I am not only accountable to those children in my class, but to God. For I know what I do with the time between 8:30 and 3:30 Monday through Friday will make an eternal impression on those little hearts. The thought of it can almost be overwhelming, for how can I handle such an awesome commission on my own? Where is the source my power? The answer comes in the Word as Paul states in 2 Timothy 1:7 “For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.” It is in God alone that I can face the wonderful challenge that He has placed before me to love, nurture, teach and delight in the little ones in my life. He is the source of true power that can stand against the strongest storm that life may ravage. Any spiritual power outage that I may experience means that I have strayed too far from the source.

Father, keep me close to Your heart so that I can walk in Your light. Lord Jesus, thank you for the power you give me each day- that holy spirit of love and self-discipline. Holy Spirit, grant me that spirit of boldness to love more completely. 

The Call

The first day of school is just around the corner so this year I decided to call each of my soon-to-be second grade students. Every child’s reaction was just a little bit different. Some were shy, some enthusiastic and one even sounded a tiny bit annoyed that I had interrupted his last few precious moments of summer! Unfortunately, there were also a few students I was unable to reach because the telephone number that was listed had been disconnected.

Early this morning as I woke and said my first hello to Jesus I thought about the parallel of those phone calls and my own prayer life with God. There surely have been times when I have answered His call to me with enthusiasm and vigor, but if I am honest I know there, too, have been times when I have been shy and insecure about what He has called me to do. The sad truth is that there have been times in my life where circumstance or my own willfulness has totally disconnected me from God and I couldn’t even hear the phone ring!

Thankfully, the apostle Paul reminds me in 1 Corinthians 1:9 “God who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful.” Even when I am not faithful, the Lord of the universe is. What a blessing to know that even if I happen to miss a call from God, He continues to pursue me into fellowship with Jesus.

I love you, Lord! Today, let me hear Your voice and be sensitive to Your calling.

Waiting for transformation

I recently spent time at the hospital visiting a friend. Cancer is a respecter of no one and straddling the precipice between life and death is a difficult place to be. I gave comfort in places where I could- cool towels to flushed faces, warm hugs to grieving hearts, and prayers for strength. When I returned home I wept at the scene I had left. Suffering is hard to bear.

It wasn’t long before sorrow soon stirred up memories of the time I had spent at my father’s bedside as he died. He had chosen to forego any more medical treatment and so we waited. The final three days of his life were so precious and yet so agonizing. But later when my tears had dried I remembered that “Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning, great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, “The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.” Lamentations 3:22-24

At times, waiting seems too hard- waiting for the pain to stop, waiting for healing, even waiting for death. Yet it is clear to me that waiting is what I am called to do. It is what I do with that time between petition and provision that allows me to be transformed. Even when I do not see the answer at hand I must lean into the Father’s arms knowing that new mercies are poured out on me morning upon morning. And in the deep well of the LORD’s compassion I can draw my strength.

A seed does not grow into a flower overnight. When it’s planted into the ground the time before it sprouts remains a mystery. I cannot see the root pushing through the soil to gather nutrients. Before the tender green stem sprouts through the ground I have no knowledge of it. I can only have faith that the soil in which it is planted is rich and warm with life. It is in the time of waiting between planting and sprouting that the seed is transformed. Oh Lord, let me be transformed in the places where I must wait! Let me draw from your fertile soil of love and compassion to be the woman you have called me to be. And when the waiting is hard, remind me Holy Spirit that your steadfast love is never changing and new every morning.