Thursday, December 28, 2017

Lesson from the Shepherds

     So, have you ever read or heard something so often that you practically have it memorized, and then something new strikes you in a way you've never noticed before?  I had that this Christmas season, and wanted to share it with you.  It was really an encouragement to me...I hope it is to you as well!
     As a mom and a teacher, I have taught through or read through the Christmas story in the Bible a lot of times.  Kids memorize and learn through repetition, and this is one story I want to stick with the ones I come in contact with.  So every year in class we memorize a portion, and in the month of December I teach it through from Elizabeth to the flight to Egypt.

    This year as I was teaching, the thought struck me: why did God choose to announce the Messiah's birth to the shepherds first?  I mean, why not the faithful priests serving in the Temple?  Weren't they the ones who had been praying and looking for so many years?  What made these shepherds special?
     And then it hit me--maybe they weren't special.  Maybe they were just shepherds.  Shepherds doing their job in the tough season of the year.  Shepherds who had a spirit of obedience.  Shepherds who weren't afraid to sacrifice their comfort to get their job done.  Shepherds we can learn from.

    Let's face it, shepherding isn't a glamorous job.  I'm sure there were times that they really questioned their career choice.  Frustrating, complicated, stressful, smelly, tiring.  Kind of like being a parent.

    Maybe God chose the shepherds as a way to encourage us.   To remind us to keep being faithful doing the tasks He has called us matter how unlovely they might be.  He chose to reveal His glory to a group of tired people in the middle of a field just doing their job the best way they could.  He saw their hearts.  He knew their spirits.

    And that's what I want.  God to reveal His glory to me in the middle of a stressful day.  When I'm tired, frustrated, and busy.  I want my heart to be open so that God can show me His plan and give me His peace.  Just like He came to the shepherds first.  Because He knew that they would be ready to stop what seemed important to be a part of what was important--God's plan and purpose in their lives.

    So, that's the new lesson I got from the familiar story this year.  Be faithful in the crazy, tiring, frustrating work God has called me to.  Because you never know when He will reveal His glory in the every day.  :)

Monday, October 2, 2017

Grocery List Christians

     Well, our pastor (aka my dad!) preached a sermon from Matthew chapter 16 yesterday.  It really resonated with me, and I wanted to share what I took away from it with you...maybe some of you can relate!

    So, anyway, in this chapter, Jesus and His disciples are arriving on the shore after a trip across the Sea of Galilee.  This is right after He had fed the 4,000 with seven loaves and a few fish.  That's the background for where we pick up.  In verse 5, the author tells us that the disciples had forgotten to bring bread with them for the trip.  The next verse says that Jesus gives them a warning to beware of the leaven of the Pharisees. 

    Well, the disciples' minds immediately went to the spiritual application, of course.  I mean, they were the Lord's chosen 12... of course they were more spiritually minded than the rest of those who followed Jesus.  Umm, nope.  They began whispering among themselves: "See! I told you He would notice, Peter! He said that because you forgot to pick up those baskets of leftovers!"  "Me?!  Why was it my job?  I thought Matthew or Nathanael would get them...they're the responsible ones!  You know I never remember anything!"  "Well, now Jesus is upset with us, and He's trying to prove a point!  What are we going to do?" 

     Of course, Jesus noticed all the whispering and knew exactly what was going on. (As He always does!)  I like to think maybe He sighed a bit and shook His head.  Once again, the guys had missed the spiritual lesson.  So He patiently explained in the next few minutes that He was not talking about actual bread...why would He be concerned about that?  Didn't they remember that He had just feed thousands of people with a few small loaves and fishes?  Why would He be concerned about forgotten bread?  He was warning them not to get caught up in the trap that the Pharisees had fallen into of adding to God's law to try to prove their own righteousness.

    This struck such a chord with me because I totally do this!  It is so easy to get caught up in being a "grocery list" Christian!  You know... making sure all the "right" things to do are crossed off our list of what we think Jesus wants from us.  Like making sure we sit down and have our "quiet time" so we can say we did it, but not actually having communion with our Lord.  Or praying down the prayer request list without really giving voice to heartfelt, intercessory prayer.  Or making sure we are on time for church with dressed and pressed kids, but being so frazzled and stressed that we get nothing from our time of worship.  The list.

    So, once again, I get to learn from the disciples.  Who were just regular guys like you and me.  Concerned about the grocery list.  And I am so thankful that I have access to the same patient, merciful Heavenly Father Who sighs, maybe shakes His head a bit, and patiently redirects my focus to what is important.  Not the list.  Not the bread.  The truth.  :)


Sunday, September 17, 2017

The More Things Change...The More He Stays the Same!

     Hey everybody!  Been busy around our place lately!  Lots of new things and changes have taken place since my last post, and I had some words about change I wanted to share with y'all.  So let's jump right in!

    Well, school got off to a good start.  Hubby has stepped into a larger role at his secular job, so more of the school responsibilities are trickling down to me.  We have 19 students this year, and so there are days I can really identify with Mrs. Duggar!  There were some surprise changes as we began the school year, but I could see God's hand in each one, which made them easier to handle.

    Another big change that just happened was that Firstborn just turned 13!  It has only been a couple of days since this big event, so I am still adjusting to the fact that I have a teenager.  Y'all... I remember being a teenager.  I am not exactly sure how I got to have one of my own already...and we are into it with a vengeance!  Those of you with toddlers, please enjoy them.  Diapers, potty training, attitudes, and all.  Because the worst day with toddlers can be fixed with a nap... or a good night's sleep.  But teenagers don't take naps.  They're just there... All. The. Time.  The transition from boy to man is a rough one, but with lots of prayer and patience I am determined to get through this in one piece with my sanity intact! Because I have to remember that inside all that attitude is this:

     I have had some changes in my personal life as well.  A big one is that I have begun a new aspect of ministry recently.  I know...what was I thinking, right?  A husband, four kids, full-time teaching job, house to take care of, and the other extras like Scouts aren't enough?  I needed to go find something else?  Well, that's what I thought for a long time too.  but God just kept bringing it to my attention.  I realized that if I waited for the "perfect" time, it would never come.  So, I just jumped in with a leap of faith that if God wanted me to tackle this new thing, He would work it out for me to do it.

      I had been praying for a while about becoming involved in our local pregnancy resource center.  This is a local ministry overseen by several people who are members of local churches.  They offer counseling to young women who find themselves expecting a baby that they are not sure they want, or don't think they can afford.  They receive some prenatal care, counseling, classes, and a support network of people who want them to find God's way to deal with the unexpected.  So, I finally sent an email to the lady in charge of the volunteers and told her I would like to give some time, if they had a place for me.  Well, to make a long story short, they were overjoyed to have me and I am now going to be teaching the class for first-time moms!  I sat in on the class in August and learned how to teach it.  The classes are one day a week for four weeks, with the fourth week being a baby shower for those who attended.  The Gospel is presented at the baby shower before they are given the gifts.  Y'all, at the baby shower for the class I sat in for training, 6 people made decisions for Christ!!!  It was so exciting to  be a part of  that!  I will be teaching my first set of classes at the end of October.  Pray that I will have an impact for Christ on the lives of the girls who come.  And pray that more girls will realize that their little ones are gifts from God who ought to be loved and cherished.

     Just this week, another change was added.  Hubby was called to work out of town for 2 or 3 weeks.  Thankfully, this is a temporary change for us.  But I know that there are ladies out there who hold things together for months at a time while their husbands are working or serving our country.  I was only asked to do it for two weeks.  At first, my mind went into planning overdrive.  But then I stopped, and talked to the Lord.  I realized that resting in His promises would give me a better ability to process each change that He puts in my path.

     As we face the changes God puts in our lives--big or small--that is what we need to remember.  That He won't give us what we can't handle...and that He wants us to "handle" it by trusting in His grace and mercy and provision.  To put our hand in His and walk with Him through the hills and valleys of life.  And because He's holding our hand, we can look around and enjoy the journey! :)