A Time to Love God’s Children

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The past two weeks at school, students have been struggling through their state test.  This is such a difficult time for the students that I love so much.  It is also difficult for teachers, parents, and the entire school community, just read the post by parents and teachers on social media.  The state places a whole years worth of work on a few hours each May.  If a child is sick, had a bad night, didn’t get breakfast, etc. then their score is effected which determines their placement for the next school year.  I know both good and bad can result from testing because I have witnessed both over the years, but it does not make these 4 days any easier for the school community.

All I do is pray that God will show me how to love and care for our students through this time and beyond.  Educators stand in the gap for them and guide them through each spring.  Philippians 2:4 reads, “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interest of others.”  This verse is a constant reminder each day and especially during this testing period to love my neighbor.   I try to understand how we got to the place that a few hours determine a child’s ability going forward that a teacher could not determine after building relationships for 10 months.  I just struggle with the whole child being cared for because so many students need so much more than to be successful on a test.  Of course, test like these provide data but should not be all that defines our students.

A quote by Woody Allen reads, “If you don’t fail now and again, it’s a sign you’re playing it safe.”  This quote reminds me that in order to be successful in life we all need some failure.  As I watch students test this week, I wonder if we are teaching students this valuable tool.  Are we teaching students how to fail?  Are we teaching students how to learn and grow from failure?  Or are we burdening them with the what will happen if they fail.  I have heard teachers over the past month give passionate encouraging speeches, but what will be the speech for the child that had the bad day.  How will we leave them after we give them a score.  I pray that students feel loved and encouraged as  Thessalonians 5:11 expresses, “Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.”

As we close out this year and testing completes for students, I grasp for the verse found in Matthew 11:28, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”  It is time for students to just rest, have fun, and prepare for a new school year to build on both their successes and failures.  I find myself digging deeper in how I can show students how to grow?  How to believe in themselves in the midst of failure for some and success for others?  How not to be defeated but to find their inner passion?  How do I show them the love they need during this time of their life when they are learning and growing?  How do I love these students (my neighbors)?  Failure is important for us all.  The struggle for some will be too much failure.  These are the students I am praying for moving forward.

As I sit in the silence as students test, I pray for God’s guidance in their lives.  I pray for success from failure.  I pray for a time of rest and renewal.  As I watch students during these testing settings, I am  reminded that this too shall pass.  There is a time to test and a time not to test.  There is a time for everything as Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 reads,

1 For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:

2 a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;

3 a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;

4 a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;

5 a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;

6 a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;

7 a time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;

8 a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace.

Always time to love God’s children.

Closing Verse:  Matthew 19:14  ‘but Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.”‘

Challenge:  Are you loving all God’s children as Christ loves you?

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Did I Do The Right Thing?

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The past week in our house there has been a focus on the Dove House and their annual fundraiser.  My husband and I became involved 3 years ago with the Dove House and each year we feel our hearts pulled more and more to become involved with this organization.  This year I spent the week really looking over myself again and the decision I made or really didn’t make many years ago.  Many people know that my husband was a victim of a sexual predator.  When he was in the 4th grade, his teacher earned his trust and that of his parents and changed his life forever.  He wasn’t his only victim there were many others, little did we know how many till it all came out.  As he grappled with realizing the truth of what happened as he matured and believing that no one would believe him, as the teacher had earned so much trust from his parents and the community,  he hid this secret away.

One day while we were dating and soon to be married a door opened where he had the opportunity and chose to give me some insight into this part of his past.  Just a little piece of what had happened to him.  I chose to listen, question little, and to also never bring it up again.  Did I do the right thing?  Even with this decision I know God answers prayers, because I have spent our entire marriage not just praying for our marriage, or just for him, but praying for God to heal him.  Deep down I always knew that he was suffering and prayed for God to heal this pain.  Over those 22 years of pain, I was blessed to watch a slow healing process that prepared him for the time when he would really heal and get the opportunity to tell his story, face his abuser, and feel the relief of a conviction.  This alone does not end his healing or my prayers, but God has answered my prayers in helping him find healing.  As always I pray knowing that God answers prayers his way as Isaiah 55:8 reads, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD.”  This verse brings me comfort that God was working in my decision.

Now as I look back, I have to ask myself did I do the right thing?  Did I make the right choice?  Should I have prodded for more back when he first confided in me?  Although the answer is yes every time I ask myself, I am thankful that God is in control and in his timing was able to provide my husband with the healing even so many years later in his life.  His blessings in our lives reminds me that I am not in control and that he is as Romans 8:28 states, ” And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” and for this I am thankful.  I believe that the Lord has been fighting for him all these years even while he was silent.

His silence struck me again this past week while listening to the radio when I heard the song “Still“.  The singer, Hillary Scott, spoke about how she wrote this song about the verse Exodus 14:14, “The LORD will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.” As I was driving to work, tears just welled up in my eyes, I immediately thought of how my husband had been silent, but then was reminded that the Lord had been fighting for him all these years.  He had prepared him for this time.  The Lord has been fighting for me as well in my silence.  God is Good!

Although, God has blessed us through this healing process by putting great friends around us, new friends who have suffered and understand his pain, and the great people of the Dove House, my heart tells me that I should have done more.  I feel it every time I have to tell his story and then my role and feel the guilt for not helping him sooner.  I feel the guilt that I know my husband has carried all these years for not speaking up sooner to protect other future victims.  I feel it when I think about the demons that have tormented him for so many years.  I feel it when I look in his eyes and see a new man now that has been freed of this terrible secret.  God gave him a voice at the time appointed, and he would want me to tell you that as he went through this process of court, jury selection, and sharing his story with strangers; he has been struck and moved by how many victims of child sexual abuse have been silently hurting.  He shares his story now empowered by God to bring darkness to light and let others know they are not alone.

Our blessing now from God is that forgiveness is real.  The promise of John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”  is God’s provision through the sacrifice of his Son that causes us to realize that we not only have to forgive easily each other but those who hurt us.  It seems so hard, but it is so fulfilling to release the pain and hurt to God and let him be the final judge.

Moving forward we support the Dove House because they do the work that is so desperately needed in our community and so many communities.  They support children as they move through the court system and finally recovery.  They make it safe to tell the truth and stop the abuse.  They save children.  I read this verse this week and it reminded me of the Dove House, “Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.” 1 Corinthians 16:13.  The Dove House watches over, stands firm and is strong for those who aren’t.  May God continue to bless their work as they help others heal.

My constant prayer now is that God continues to heal those affected by child sexual abuse and, as my husband reminds me, there are many layers of victims even those that don’t think they are victims.   Family and others in the community today still do not believe that his abuser was guilty and he continues to have their trust.  May God show us the best way to use the truth to help others now that this secret is finally free, and that we will learn to be still while God is fighting.

Closing Verse: Romans 8:38-39 – “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Challenge: Romans 12:12 – “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.”  Be constant in prayer for God is always fighting and working for your good.

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Listening to God

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Funny how God works on you sometimes, preparing you for the future that is to come.  I can look back now and see God at work for months in my life of my family.  I am the person who thinks I have it all worked out for everyone and then God comes along and turns my world upside down.  I have worked on this post before only to be moved to write something else, but now I am here again writing as God has spoken and now I am finally listening.  I have been mentally making plans for the future for one of my daughters.  I really believed that I had it all worked out for her.  I mean the Lord showed me closed doors and everything. Although, I knew the passion in her heart and what she wanted, and I did pray for the right doors to open that would show her the way.  Yet, I never expected that her persistence and prayers would be answered as they have been and my world rocked.  I am listening now God.  I know that I have not been.  Now, I can see how I did not stop to listen to your answers Lord because I was sure of mine.  I turn my ears back to you and to scripture.  James 1:1 reminds me, “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger;”.

These are powerful words that we forget in our daily lives especially – “quick to hear”.  As I strive to be a better listener to the students I work with, the adults who are my colleagues, and the world around me, I have to be reminded that it is most important to listen to God and hear him when he speaks even if those words are coming from the mouth of my own child.   Scripture is a keen reminder to me of how God’s people have chosen not to listen to him.  So many of these times his people failed to listen and suffered the consequences of failure to be “quick to hear”.  Did I fail his test?  Was he or is he testing me?  “you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams. For the LORD your God is testing you, to know whether you love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul.” are words from Deuteronomy 13:3.  These words are a solemn reminder to me that I have to trust the Lord with all my heart and soul.

About a month ago this quote from Kyle Chandler showed up on my daily calendar, I am not sure why at the time I took a picture of the quote, but as God rocked my world this last week my thoughts went back to this quote.  Not for me but for the persistence of my daughter to get what she wanted for her future.  Now that I have been forced to listen to God and allow my daughter to walk her own path and not the one path that I was choosing for her,  I turn to God in constant prayer that will cause me to listen more intently to his words as he prepares not just her future but also mine.  It is important to me now that I have had my world rocked to stop and see the plans that God is laying for my family and that includes me.  I pray that the Lord hears my prayers as Psalm 61:1 states, ” Hear my cry, O God, listen to my prayer;”, and I constantly humble myself as Romans 12:12 reads, “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.”  I humble myself and pray and listen so that my prayers might be heard as John 9:31 reminds me, “We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does his will, God listens to him.” I am listening now Lord in order to do your will.

Closing Verse: ‘But Peter and John answered them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge,’  Acts 4:19

Challenge:  Are you listening to God or making your own way?  My challenge to you is to be “quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger” and find comfort in God’s plan.

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Friendship vs Relationship

 

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How does one define a good friend?  We all learn what true friendship is at our highest high and lowest low because these are the friends by our side regardless.   Friendship can be one of the hardest yet most rewarding aspect of this life that God has provided for us.  My husband and I have recently found ourselves in the midst of some shocking revelations.  So shocking that family and friends aren’t sure how to respond. Interesting because response is a small part of what we really wanted, which is just being present with us.  True friends tend to be present regardless of the situation and even hold us accountable.  They search with us, cry with us, and laugh with us.  These friends emulate our relationship and walk with Christ. Christ has promised to walk with us through the valleys and across the highest peaks if we open our hearts and let his light into our lives.  The question is how do we let that light into our lives.  How do we build relationship with Christ.  The easiest way for us here on earth is to look at the relationships we have with friends.

The old testament shows us brief glimpses into the relationship with God.  Abraham walked closely with the Lord, yet we know Abraham was imperfect and made bad choices such as in Genesis 20 when he lied about Sarah being his wife.  “And Abraham said of Sarah his wife, “She is my sister.” And Abimelech king of Gerar sent and took Sarah.”, Genesis 20:2  This was not only a violation of his trust in God but betrayal of the most important human friendship of a man and his wife.  Yet, the new testament remind us of God and Abraham’s relationship in James 2:23, “and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, ‘Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness’–and he was called a friend of God.”  We are imperfect friends.  Yet, if God chooses to stand by us then we have to choose to forgive each other in friendship to build deeper relationships.  We don’t get to see how this affected Sarah and Abraham but obviously the struggle made their friendship stronger and Sarah forgave Abraham.

As I pray for our friends and their lives, and pray for my relationship with the Lord, I realize that maybe I am not praying for what I truly want.  I want friendship with the Lord not relationship.  If you look at the difference in the definition of the two, it becomes clear what I should be praying for when praying for my relationship or friendship with my Father.  Relationship is a connection by blood or marriage.  Friendship is an emotional action based on our choice of who we choose to interact with through trust and support.  As much as I want relationship with the Lord(and he has established that as he is our heavenly Father), I realize that what I truly want is his friendship.  This is the bond that I want with the Lord.  My prayers need to change to reflect the true desires that I have in my heart for the Lord.   The Lord reminds us in Psalm 37:4 to delight ourselves in him, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.”

A relationship that is more of a Friendship can stand the test of reflecting on one’s life.  A friend is able to redirect and call you out when you are in the wrong.  This may not always happen in a relationship.  Even when a tough conversation has to be had between friends, the words of Proverbs 27:9 rings true, “Oil and perfume make the heart glad, So a man’s counsel is sweet to his friend.”  I give thanks to the Lord for the friends my husband and I have.

The Lord tells us in Psalm 25:14 that, “The friendship of the LORD is for those who fear him, and he makes known to them his covenant.”  Yes, we do fear our Lord, but building a friendship with God is not built on fear but knowing that Christ has washed us clean of judgement.  Our friendship must be built on Love with both the Lord and others.  “Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins.”, 1 Peter 4:8.

 

Closing Verse:  “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.”  John 15:13

Challenge:  ” Good friends help you find important things when you have lost them…things like your smile, your hope and your courage.”  Are you praying for a deep friendship not just with your friends but with your Lord?

Quote from  Stayingaliveisnotenough