Opportunity knocking

I swear I had only stepped out into the hallway for a minute before the morning bell rang. In truth, I was actually in the doorway but my back was to the classroom as my colleague and I briefly discussed the rescheduling of a cancelled field trip. As soon as I turned to face my class the town criers were up and out of their seats ready to tattle.

Ben and Jay were fighting!

Two very familiar culprits were then called into the hallway for an up-close and personal discussion with me. Out poured the stories, each one collaborating the other while putting the most favorable light on whomever was doing the telling.

“I was in the bathroom and he started knocking on the door saying, ‘911, this is an emergency. Come out with your hands up!’ and then I opened the door and he pushed me down. Then afterwards when he went into the bathroom I did the same thing to him.”

“No you knocked me down and started trying to do karate on me.”

All I could think was, “I was three feet away! How could that all have happened without me hearing it?”

In the end, nobody had suffered anything more than hurt feelings and a need to be right.

But isn’t that just like life is sometimes? We get distracted by things we deem more important and miss the more urgent issue that is right behind us? Like the overwhelming need to be right in a situation that really calls out for an act of mercy and compromise. Or giving into retaliation instead of offering up forgiveness. Am I not so unlike the eight year old boys who struggle to be heard as they tell their side of the story?

When did it become more important to be right than to be happy? Truly- it is the moment I decide that I am more important than somebody else. It is in the moment when I forget that I am called to be a child of God with a loving, humble and forgiving spirit. It is in the moment when I cease to listen with my heart.

I am thankful that I am surrounded by chances to grow each day. Even in the ordinary classroom squabbles or the sometimes annoying inconveniences there can be a hidden opportunity. For it is within those less then desirable circumstances that change can be found. And it is there that I can choose to expand into a little better version of myself. A version that looks a little less like me and a little more like Jesus.

Obedient Hearts

The children in my second grade class were giddy with excitement in anticipation of our Valentine’s party. Controlling the exuberant enthusiasm as we spent our reading time immersed in a Japanese folktale and then later in math computing two-digit subtraction problems was like holding down a boiling pot lid with two hands. Finally the hands on the classroom clock pointed to two o’clock. The explosion of hearts and candy began! Love was definitely in the air and as candy and cards spilled out it was also on the floor!

What would it mean to our lives if we pursued God’s heart the way a typical eight-year-old anticipates a Valentine party? And what does it really mean- to be a man or woman after God’s own heart? We read in Acts 13:22 that King David was a man after God’s own heart. It’s interesting to think that David was the one God chose to describe in those terms. After all, wasn’t David an adulterer? Didn’t David murderously send a good man to the front lines of battle to be killed so that could have his wife? How in the world could he be a man after God’s own heart?

Doctor Luke wrote these words “After removing Saul, he made David their king. God testified concerning him: ‘I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do.” David was not a man after God’s own heart because he was perfect, for in fact he was full of sinful behavior. But God said that David was a man after His own heart because David would do everything he wanted him to do. When God called David to do something he responded by doing it. David had a humble and obedient heart.

If we are striving to be men and women after God’s own heart we can look at David, a child of God as an example of the kind of heart God wants us to have- full of faith and obedience. Obedience is not exactly my favorite word when it applies to my own self. It reminds me of bossiness and there’s probably nobody who doesn’t want to be bossed around more than me. And yet, obedience to God is exactly what He asks of me.

Each morning when I wake I pray the same prayer- “Lord, let me be a woman after your own heart today.” I am sure there are people in my life who might be thinking at times- Really? Because you sure aren’t acting like that! But just like every other human being on the planet, I am flawed and in need of a Savior. My intentions are to follow after God’s heart and then well, life happens and I get sidetracked.

In order to truly pursue God I need to firmly plant the Word of God in my heart. So when life happens, my default reaction is not worldly but rooted solidly in the Word. What is displayed in my life is the overflow of what is in my heart. For me to be woman after God’s own heart, my own heart and mind have to be open to what God has to say to me. And when He calls me, I must respond in obedience.

For God will never call me to a place where He has not gone before. I can rest in the knowledge that His grace is sufficient to my every need. Every day may not be filled with hearts and roses, but if I am obediently pursuing God’s own heart it will be abundantly filled with the Father’s grace and love.

As Far as the East is from the West

This weekend I had the awesome opportunity to speak to a beautiful group of ladies at a women’s conference. As we explored what it meant to be a woman after God’s own heart using 1 Corinthians 13 we took a hard look at forgiveness.

1 Corinthians 13 verse 5 says that love keeps no record of wrongs. What a wonderful thing it is to know that this is God’s attitude toward my sin when I repent. Psalms 103:12 tells me “as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.”

As I was preparing to speak at the conference I ran across a letter that one of my daughters had written to me when she was very young, probably age eight or nine. This is what the letter said:

 

I am so so sorry Mother. I love you. I do not hate you. I was just mad. I’m sorry. Can you forgive me? Please. You mean a lot to me. I tried doing it without you and I couldn’t do it. I need you.

 

That letter was not kept as a reminder of the unkind thing she said to me, but instead because of the love it conveyed. In truth, I do not even remember her telling me she hated me or why she said it. What I do remember is her repentant heart and the great compassion I felt for her plea for forgiveness.

That is how I have come to the Father many, many times over. I have never told Jesus that I hated him, but my words and actions toward someone or something else certainly did not convey love. My prayers could have mirrored her letter.

 

I am so, so sorry Father. Jesus, I love You so much and yet my actions tell a different story.  In my anger at someone else I have sinned against You. Please, Lord, You mean everything to me. I have tried doing it my way and it just hasn’t worked out. I need You.

 

The Lord has great compassion on us and we too need to have compassion on others when they sin against us. We are called not to hold grudges, but to forgive and forget. The world tells us to remember, but God says to forget. How do we get to that place of forgiveness? Very often I cannot get there on my own, but must rely wholly on God. I must pray Psalms 51:10, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.”

 

Love does not keep score. In a world where we want everything to be fair, that is hard. Almost every day at school some child wants me to mediate a disagreement.  I try to be fair. But in general, life isn’t always fair. People I love hurt me and I hurt them. My sense of earthly justice wants to keep score.

 

But then I remember that in my relationship with God I do not get what I deserve. My sinful nature merits justice. I deserve punishment and condemnation, but God gives me pardon and mercy instead. And when I pour out my heart to Him asking for forgiveness and expressing my absolute need for Him he looks at me in love, chooses to forget my transgression and pulls me close. Thank-you, Lord for the undeserved gift of mercy! 

Pity Party

Shortly after attending a teachers meeting this week I threw myself a big ‘ole pity party. I began inviting my colleagues to join me in my party lament of “too-much-to-do-and-not-enough-time-to-do-it-and-furthermore-nobody-appreciates-what-I-do-anyway.” Throwing out complaints like confetti I began cataloging all the things that make my job seem impossible – increasingly higher expectations with larger class sizes, diminished prep time, increased duty time, and no classroom aides. I come to school early and stay late, but there is never enough time to do everything that is required of me. My discouragement-o-meter was pointing to HIGH by the time I got home that night.

My husband lent a sympathetic ear as I continued to complain that talk was cheap. “People can say they appreciate what you do, but unless they really do something to show you it means very little.” Even as I fell into bed that night trying to sleep the party racket went on. Finally, in the war between spirit and flesh I gave in and began praying. “Lord, you know I don’t want to feel like this. I want to be a woman after Your own heart and be thankful in all circumstances. But sometimes it is so hard when it seems like nobody cares that you are doing your best. Nobody shows you that it matters what you do.

And then before I could get another word out, the Holy Spirit began reminding me of the ones who did appreciate me. Little Allie who’d met me at the door that morning with a beautifully drawn picture of flowers and butterflies with the words “You are the Best Teacher” written in crayon across the top. An orange pipe cleaner heart placed in my hand by Katelyn. “I made this for you,” she’d said with a smile. And two bear-sized hugs from the two Justins in my room before they had left for the day. The remembrance of these heart-felt expressions brought me to tears. How could I have been so blind to the appreciation that was right before me? The appreciation that meant the most to me! “Forgive me, Lord! You showed Your love for me through a child’s pure devotion and I almost missed it.

The pity party was over and in its place I threw a big “I love you, Jesus” celebration. I am so thankful I serve a God who loves me so much that He comes to my lousy self-centered parties and changes the atmosphere just by being there. For when Love enters, there is no room for anything else.

Philippians 1:3 I thank my God every time I remember you.