Friday, August 6, 2010

Set Apart

'Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit" John 3:3-6

This is a conversation between Nicodemus and Jesus. Nicodemus was a Pharisee, and according to them, entrance into heaven came from living by the law and possibly God granting you favor based on how well you lived. Jesus, of course, turns all of that upside down and says that you must be born again and born again by the Spirit. The Holy Spirit.

This was the intro for my devotional today, and instead of going farther in the lesson, I had to stop and really ponder what it means to have the Holy Spirit in me and to be born again. The lesson goes on to say that Holy comes from the word hagios which means "set apart, sacred, or pure". Spirit is pnuma, which means "a breath, a breeze, or a strong wind". So what does it mean to be set apart?

I recently started a new job and yesterday learned about how I will be evaluated. I've always been a competitive person. A good friend of mine once commented that it's surprising how poor I am at playing sports considering how competitive a personality I have. While going over the evaluation matrix, I was already plotting where I hoped to be evaluated at. I thought about how good it would look for a new employee, a rookie, to get such a high score and how that would compensate for my lack of phone and sales experience (a background of many of my co-workers). I laughed when we were told how we would be compensated for the higher we scored on the matrix- a concept that was so foreign to me coming from a career that only rewarded meager raises for educational advancements- not performance based ones. All of these thoughts continued to swirl in my head as I thought about how I would make a name for myself at this profession.

I don't think it's bad to desire to be good at what we do. God gives us gifts and abilities to use- for His glory- and it angers Him when we squander them away. I think the thing that I am going to have to remember and remind myself daily of- and possibly multiple times a day- is that I am called to be set apart in this job not by my killer performance on my evaluation rubric, but in how I go about loving people and reflecting the love of Christ that is in me. I hate to say it, but I still feed off of approval. I enjoy being recognized for my achievements. Again, I don't think God wants us to hide those under a rock, but I think instead He wants us to check daily where our motivation lies.

I desire to be set apart. I desire for my life to look different because I am a child of God and because DAILY I am pursuing His will for my life. I want to be confident and yet humble in the gifts He has given me so I a may live a life that draws people to the cross.

Jesus help me to rely on your spirit daily. Help me to remember that You have called me to live a life that should look radically different than the goals and ambitions of this world. Help me to live according to your spirit and be truly Set Apart.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

What I've learned about being a teacher

Today is my last day of teaching, at least for now, at least in this capacity. A few weeks ago a friend told me that she always knew I was going to be a teacher, because I bossed people around and had no problem telling people what I thought. Why occasionally these two personality traits do come in handy, there are a few more things I've learned about being a teacher. I thought I would share a few.

1. Contrary to what the non-education world might think, teaching is not an 8-4 job. I cannot tell you how many hours I have spent in my classroom, with my laptop at home, on a bus, in a suburban, or at a conference, because I know that quality education does not occur when your hours are only 8-4. My students would often joke about where the cot was located in my classroom, I know that teaching only partway would never have been enough for me.

2. If parents don't respect you, your classroom, your content area, your style of teaching, or your authority, their student will not either. I am so blessed to have parents that when I got in trouble at school, I was in double trouble when I got home- no questions asked. They might not have agreed with everything my educators did, but they were not about to speak disrespectfully of them in front of me. Teaching our children respect for authority figures seems to be a dying trend, but it's one I'm so glad my parents instilled in me.

3. You have to be able to laugh. Teenagers are ridiculous, parents can be ridiculous, paperwork, inservice, advisory councils- they can all be ridiculous, and unless you know how to take these things in stride, you are going to go bonkers! I know without a doubt my sarcasm, off sense of humor, and ability to laugh despite the circumstances has kept me going through some crazy times!

4. A dedicated yet relaxed administrator makes all the difference. In the three schools I have taught at, I have witnessed how much impact a great principal makes in the environment of the school. Last night I attended a touching, yet upbeat retirement party with a wonderful staff that will be hard to leave. The people you work with truly make a difference.

5. Sometimes it's okay to show a movie. My first year teaching I was overwhelmed- and that was an understatement. I remember feeling like I just could not go on. I emailed one of my former ag teachers and he told me that sometimes it is okay to show a movie. It's not for the students, they don't deserve it, but sometimes you just need some time to breathe. I hope that learning, in some form, occurs everyday in my classroom, and sometimes the best learning occurs when I've had time to regroup thanks to a wonderful Disney film occupying my students' time. Remember the Titans was always my go-to flick.

6. As much as want to, we can't save them all and we can't take them home. Gosh I love teenagers. I love their energy, spark, personalities- watching them explore who they are and who they want to be. It kills me when I see them struggling and when I know that I could provide a more stable and loving home life as a young, single female then there supposed parents could. I cried for them. I longed for them. I wanted better for them all the time. And I told them when I stopped nagging them, to be concerned, because at that point, I had stopped caring. Gosh they pulled on my heart, but I am so grateful that I got the chance to love them, even when they seemed pretty unloveable.

7. Teenagers will always surprise you. People will always surprise you. Good teachers know how to handle the surprises- to learn from them and use them to help grow others.

8. Take advantage of the teachable moments. There is a very big world going on outside high school- and high schoolers tend to forget about that. My favorite moments in teaching occurred when we stopped to look at what was going on outside the high school bubble and how we could positively influence it.

9. A fancy building does not determine the quality of education inside it- but they sure are nice. The greatest school I taught at consisted of several FEMA trailers and sidewalks for hallways. Despite the circumstances, we were still striving for excellence.

10. As a teacher you are an educator, counselor, mentor, coach, friend, parent, sibling, teammate, advocate, and cheerleader. If you would have told me 10 years ago that I was going to come back to Chapman and teach, I would have thought the person was crazy, but this has been an amazing experience. In my heart I will always be a teacher, no matter what the path God leads me on, because I desire with everything in me to leave this world a better place the way only a teacher can do.

It's ironic that as I sit here typing this it's raining- as it was my first day at CHS. It's also ironic that my favorite song is playing- Enough, which talks about how God is enough. He truly is. Whatever direction He leads me in, whatever path I might take, God is enough. And as a teacher, He made me enough.

A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell, where his influence stops.” Henry Brooks Adams

Monday, March 8, 2010

Sick of Sin

This past week- I was sick. Not the sniffle, I need a tissue, I have a headache sick- the I have to visit the bathroom every hour, there’s a path between my bedroom and the toilet, I cannot even go downstairs sick. The I wish my mommy would come home and take care of me even thought I’m 27 sick. The please take this pain away dear Jesus sick. So I might be exaggerating just a little, but it was no fun. I remember thinking one day a few months ago that getting sick wouldn’t be too bad so I could stay home and just rest- well that was a dumb thought because Tuesday and Wednesday I would have rather been teaching nine different classes of crazy kids then the state I was in. It’s not much fun to revisit those feelings of last week, but as I sit here thinking about the message this morning on sin I think the analogy, while crude, can be used to compare how God views sin.

Because of the fall of Adam and Eve, we are a people prone to sin. Sin entered the world with that first original sin, and today we still see the affect of sin in our world. God hates sin. In reading Numbers this week, I was reminded of how God continued to poor out his righteous wrath on the Israelites as they turned from him towards sin.

So back to me in bed. Every hour I had to get up to go to the bathroom. It was not fun. Not pleasant. When my mom came home she gave me medicine and then told me to eat something. How ridiculous was that! The contents of my stomach have been coming up all day, and she wanted me to eat something. What a gross, disgusting, horrible idea! The idea of putting a morsel of food in my mouth was the most repulsive thing I could think of.

Sin should be that gross to us. If we love God, if we are passionately pursuing Him, if we desire nothing but to fall more in love with His mercy, His righteousness, His justice- then we should want to only put things in our bodies that are good and nourishing and that lead us to right relationship with Him.

Why doesn’t it work that way? Why don’t we automatically throw up things that are not of Him? Why do I let myself be filled, or even seek out, things that will not fill me and instead be things that separate me from the life-giving nourishment only He can supply?

What was the cure to my stomach flu? Some time in bed, a little medicine, and eventually, chicken noodle soup. I think God provides us with the things we need to avoid our own spiritual flu. The cure to the spiritual flu- Christ. Continuing everyday, being intentional and deliberate, and consciously pursuing the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world. He is the only cure.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Changed- Day 3

Our reading today was from Acts 12. It is the story of how an angel appeared to Peter in jail and released him from his chains. A community of believers had been praying for this to happen, but as my devotional points out, while they were praying with conviction, they were not praying with expectation. If our Father wants to give us the desires of our hearts, as His Word states, then we must pray with conviction and expectation that He will do just that. With our expectation, though, we should realize that His answered prayer might not be in the form or time that we desire. In that case, our hearts and eyes should be open to His work in our lives.

I think when we begin praying with conviction and expectation, our hearts also have to be focused on trusting God. I know for me, I really struggle with this because I like to be in control. I like to know what is coming next. When I was little, I'm not sure there were many times I would actually wait til Christmas to sneak a peak at my gifts. Not only was I master at finding where my mom hid them, but I also mastered re-wrapping them if they were already under the tree. Sometimes when I read a book, I jump to the end if the story is too gripping and I just have to know if there is a happy ending. Even now, with situations in my future, it is hard for me to relax and trust that the Lord will provide those opportunities or desires that are on my heart. I know that I need to, I fully realize this, but it's still hard.

It is my prayer that the Creator of the universe would continue to build in me a heart that prays the things He wants for me and then waits patiently for His timing.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Changed- Day 2

Our reading today was from 1 Kings 3:1-5. Here Solomon turns to the Lord for wisdom in governing his new kingdom.

As a teacher, I think I'm suppose to be wise. I mean, I must know something, otherwise my students wouldn't be calling my name all day long. Of course there is a distinct difference between knowledge and wisdom. As an FFA advisor, "...I hope that my advice will always be based on true knowledge and ripened with wisdom." When I think about the word "ripened", of course I think of fruit that grows as a result of time and care of a plant. Is my wisdom ripened? Do I take time to pray for this everyday? Probably not.

As my role as a teacher, it is my calling to impart wisdom, but if I am not praying for Godly wisdom everyday, how am I any different from the other sources of advice that my students may go to- friends, the media, possibly harmful sources. While I pray for my students daily, an additional item to that prayer list is that I am praying for Godly wisdom that will look, feel and be given out very differently from the wisdom of this world.

Father help ripen in me wisdom that is from you and not me and not from this world. Help me seek this wisdom through Your Word and Your Spirit living in me. As I rush to meet the needs of others may you make me slow to speak and quick to listen to Your truth.

At Gibeon the LORD appeared to Solomon during the night in a dream, and God said, "Ask for whatever you want me to give you." 1 Kings 3:5

May this be my prayer as well.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Changed- Day 1

Today is the first day of the BIC week of prayer and fasting. There are a couple things I decided to do this week, and blogging each day is one of them. The topic for today is Changed with the scripture Mark 5:21-34. It is the story of the woman that is healed by simply touching the end of His robe. She is healed from her suffering and Jesus acknowledges this. It is such a simply act of mercy, yet it ended her 12 years of suffering. That same act of mercy is extended to us each day.

It got me thinking about things I am suffering from. Honestly, I couldn't think of anything big right off the bat. I am in fairly good health, my friends and family are well, I have a roof over my head, and a job that allows me to love on others everyday. Nope, not so much suffering. But then I remembered what the title of the reading was- Changed. Change doesn't just have to come when we are suffering. Change should occur everyday; changing from the sinner we were yesterday to a person that is a little bit closer to the person that God created us to be. So what changes do I desire to see happen in my life? Changes that simply require me to touch the edge of His robe?

I desire to love people better. I know this one is pretty broad, but specifically love those that are hard to love- the students that drive me crazy, my parents that are sometimes difficult to love, the people I come in contact with that maybe are a little unloveable. Love is a choice and an action and something that should be distributed freely, as it is to me.

I want to love myself better. Take care of the things that need taken care of. Help de-stress my life instead of increase it. Spend time with my Creator to learn more deeply how much He loves me. Allow Him to love me more.

So I just looked at my devotional book for the week and I see the topic all week is Changed. Funny. Today, though, the theme is that Jesus healed, even without words needing to be spoken. These are the changes I have spoken, but I know Jesus sees even bigger changes that I have yet to see.

My prayer is that He changes those things in my life that I do not see. Heart issues I have not acknowledged. Oh that I might touch His robe and be healed.