It’s Back

I paused Monday School for a short time but I’m bringing it back.

What is Monday School?

From the time I could read, I’ve talked about what I’m reading to anyone who will listen. When I was a girl this happened when my sister and I played school. Most of the time, I was the teacher and she the student, though I never minded being the student. A good teacher is always a good student first.

Not only do we learn as we read, we continue to learn as we meditate on, share, and discuss what we’ve read. The Bible is no exception.

The Bible, especially, is meant to be read and thought about. A lot of times I’ll read a passage and one verse or phrase will stick in my head until I’ve considered it, asked questions about it and shared it with others. My intention is not only to share what I think about it, but to cause others to ponder and ask questions about it as we discuss it. Yes, I will teach and explain sometimes but only with a desire for the hearers to read and think about it for themselves. Mostly I want to have a conversation about it. I’m a fellow journeyer – learning to love God with all my heart, soul, strength and mind and learning to love others well. I have a long way to go and the journey is better with others.

On Mondays I will share a passage, verse or phrase that’s stuck in my head. I’ll call it Monday School. It’s a little like Sunday School but not really because there isn’t an attendance chart or gold stars for memorizing verses.

Maybe sharing what’s stuck in my head will get it stuck in your head too and we can talk about it until it isn’t stuck anymore. Or maybe it’s one of those that should stay stuck in our heads until it pierces our hearts which is the whole point of God’s Word anyway.

Here’s a good one to think about.

Psalm 119:105 from the Message Bible says this:

“By your words I can see where I’m going; they throw a beam of light on my dark path.”

I don’t think any of us like walking around in the dark and according to this verse we don’t have to.

For previous Monday school posts, go to my home page and click the Monday School tab.

 

Photo by nappy from Pexels

Making Headway

I’ve been running for over three years now. I went from believing I could never run to…….well……running. I’m not sure I’m any good at it. I’ve never experienced the “runner’s high” I hear about unless you count how I feel when I’m finished with a run. I’m elated after a run. Because it’s over.

And on my last runs, I felt as if I’ve never ran in my life. It was awful the entire time. Maybe it was because I woke up late and skipped parts of my routine. I rushed out the door before I finished my first cup of coffee because I was determined to get the run in before I had to be in the office. Within the first quarter mile I knew. My legs ached and my lungs burned more than usual, so I slowed my pace. The slower pace only prolonged the misery. The run never got better. I almost quit halfway through my goal, then I thought about quitting the rest of the time. But I finished.

When I read what Jesus thought when he saw his disciples in a boat on the sea it reminded me of my run and our lives.

“And he saw that they were making headway painfully, for the wind was against them.”  Mark 6:48

I can think of no better words to describe the hard parts of my journey. My running journey, the married one, the parenting one, my working and writing ones and the most important journey – the following Jesus one.

Making headway painfully.

Of course, it’s not always like that. There are days when it’s easy. Or easier. Good run days happen. I don’t let the bad run days stop me from working to get better at it.

It’s the same way on the other journeys. I can’t let the hard days of my marriage make me forget the good days. I don’t let the days when I feel uninspired to write any words prevent me from continuing my blog or steal my dream of publishing a book. On the days my parental decision making is less than wise I try to remember all the times it wasn’t.

And on the journey that matters the most…the one that affects all my other ones, I’m learning as I go. There are days I’ve let pride rule my heart, or acted selfishly. I’ve ignored what Jesus said about loving my neighbor or failed to do something good I know I should have done. But it happens less than it used to. I’m learning. Slowly at times. Painfully sometimes. But I’m moving forward and I’m never alone.

Jesus said, “Take heart, it is I”.  Mark 6:50

He sees. He knows when it’s painful and slow. And He’s there giving me the courage to keep at it.

I stumble…..but I’m making headway.

 

 

Splash

I read one of my favorite Bible passages yesterday and it was like I was reading it for the first time. Maybe it’s because I’m reading a different version but I noticed some words I hadn’t before. The passage is a prayer for the church at Ephesus……a prayer for strength and insight.

“For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”  Ephesians 3:14-19

This is beautiful. All of it. But these are the words that jumped out at me:

….and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

What is the fullness of God? The phrase is seen again in Colossians 1:19 referring to Jesus: “for in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell.” It’s everything of God. His wisdom, Spirit, light, love, power and glory.

Amazing! We can be filled with the fullness of God. That’s what Paul prayed for the church then and what we can pray for one another now.

But how are we filled with all the fullness of God?

The love of Christ. To be rooted in it. Grounded in it. To comprehend it and know it.

This is a supernatural knowing that surpasses knowledge and God is the One who gives it. But we can be willing seekers. We can humbly ask Him to give us eyes to see and ears to hear. We can resist the idea that we know all we need to know and instead ask for clean hearts and greater faith and the strength to comprehend.

Then when we’re filled we will pour out. We’ll be filled again and again as we follow and learn, and pour out again and again. Even better than that.

We’ll splash onto others a life-giving splash because that’s what God’s love does.

 

This is the most recent session of Monday School, the newest feature on my blog. You can find out what Monday School is all about here.

Photo by Amritanshu Sikdar on Unsplash

 

 

Not A Lost Cause

This is another story for Monday School. For more on Monday School go here.

About a month ago, I read the story of the man among the tombs in Mark 5:1-20. My heart is encouraged again and again as I think about it.

The same story in Luke 8:26-39 tells us for a long time the man didn’t wear clothes or live in a house. He lived among the dead. In isolation. Away from those he knew. We’re not told how the man ended up naked and alone in the tombs.

It doesn’t matter.

We know he was desperate and in pain. We know he wasn’t really living. Not how an image bearer of God should live. I can guess that his friends and family had given up hope for him. According to the story, some had tried to help by taking him away from the tombs, keeping guard and binding him but eventually “no one had the strength to subdue him.” The story doesn’t tell us how long “a long time” is.

However long was too long.

Without meaning to maybe his friends and family forgot who he was before he lived naked among the tombs. Maybe the weariness of trying to help over and over was too much. Maybe the waiting and the disappointment of the man returning to the tombs again and again hardened their hearts and they drifted away. Or worse, maybe they lost sight of his humanity and they condemned him for his bad choices or lack of faith. Maybe they even wrote him off as a lost cause. And so the man stayed among the tombs.

“Night and day among the tombs and on the mountains he was always crying out and cutting himself with stones.” (Mark 5:5) 

Then the man sees Jesus. Although the man falls at the feet of Jesus, the story never tells us the man asked to be healed. But Jesus healed him and the people noticed.

When Jesus was leaving, the man begged to go with him. We’re not told why. Did he simply want to be with the One who saved him? Was he afraid he’d go back to the tombs? Was he embarrassed to see his family and friends? Possibly for all of those reasons the man wanted to go with Jesus, but Jesus didn’t allow it. Instead Jesus told the man to go back to his friends and tell them what happened. Go back to the ones who lost hope. Go back to the ones who forgot. Go back to the ones who tried to help over and over.

And he did. The man went home and all around the city, and he proclaimed how much Jesus did for him and everyone marveled.

Because God changing us is never just for us.

God loves the man among the tombs and He loves the ones who gave up on the man among the tombs.

“But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy………”
       Titus 3:4-5a

 

Photo by John Gibbons on Unsplash

 

Caught My Eye

My husband tells me I ask more questions than any person he’s ever known. It’s probably true.

Mom used to tell me I was curious from the beginning with a genuine desire to learn all I could. She called it a zest to investigate and it landed me into some pretty funny situations when I was younger.

I’ve not lost the zest. I wonder about things. I think of a question then search for the answer. Or something catches my eye so I’ll take a closer look.

I was pulling weeds when I noticed a few mushrooms on the other side of the yard. As I walked closer I saw this little family of mushrooms. IMG_5660.jpg

I spent the next few minutes or so observing and taking several photos of the mushrooms.

Just because they caught my eye.

We came into this life so generous, alive, unarmored, & curious.  Curious, in the best, silliest, most fixated, life-giving way. ~ Anne Lamott

A Face in the Crowd

The New Kid

The day I turned 12 years old, my family moved from our small town in Alabama to a big town in Tennessee. I lived in an unfamiliar house in a peculiar neighborhood and all my friends were too far away. A few weeks later I walked into my new school wearing a new dress because that was the rule. Girls wore dresses and boys wore collared, button-down shirts tucked in their pants. I never had these rules before and this made everything feel even stranger.

My classes went well though. I was late to Mrs. Bradshaw’s 7th grade English class because I had trouble finding the classroom. I listened intently to the teachers and was eager to learn, especially Tennessee History. Then there was lunch. I hadn’t thought about dreading it until I stood in line waiting for the glob of potatoes to fill the square on the top left corner of my tray. As I finished going through the line, I glanced around to see the entire lunchroom.

I stood there. Awkwardly. In a dress I hated. With a hideous hair cut. Holding a lunch I didn’t want to eat in a place I didn’t want to be.  IMG_5631

But like every new or uncomfortable situation I’ve been in since then, I made it through and here I am to tell the story.

We’ve all been there. Maybe not in the 7th grade with your hair cut too short wearing a plaid dress, but you’ve been the new kid or employee in training. The first-timer in an obstacle race, a freshman at college, the rookie gym member, or a newcomer to a writer’s conference…….feeling out of place, unsure and less than.

When we’re new to something we ask questions. That’s how we grow from not knowing to knowing. Is this seat taken? Which way to the math and science building? How can I strengthen my back muscles? Where do I get my timing chip? What do I say to the literary agent?

So we learn where to go and what to say and the next day or the next time it’s easier…..we’re not as unsure. We do that over and over and without even thinking about it we know what we’re doing and we’re confident in it. We’re winning the races, or killing our workouts at the gym, acing the college classes, or writing a book.

Changing circumstances, new experiences, and different environments are normal parts of our lives. Some of them we choose. Others we never would.

The best way to handle any of them: moment to moment, one foot in front of the other, with an open heart and a willingness to learn all we can. We’ll do it well sometimes. Other times we’ll fall flat on our faces. But it’s good either way if we’ve learned something, made a friend, solved a problem or faced a fear.

The more we do this, the better we get at it. We remember how we conquered the awkwardness and insecurity and it gives us courage to try other things. We welcome new opportunities. We’re not afraid to ask hard questions and we go against the flow when needed. We’re willing to be different and we don’t mind walking through difficult circumstances. Sometimes we even choose it because it’s the right thing to do.

But we do it with lots of grace and always thinking of others along the way because that’s the point. All of it means nothing……our learning, our serving, our working, our creating……..it means nothing if we’re not loving others.

I wish I could tell you who I sat with at lunch that day. Maybe I found out we had to sit with our homeroom class. Maybe someone called me over to sit with them. I do remember making lots of friends in 7th grade but I don’t remember anything from my Tennessee History class.

Let’s not forget how it feels to be the new kid and let’s make a newbie feel a little more comfortable when given the chance.

“Walk with me and work with me – watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”     Matthew 11:29-30 (MSG)

 

The Take Away

Last week was a a life changer for me. My heart was refreshed, my confidence renewed, and I was reminded of why I do what I do. I attended a conference called Speak Up, a speaking and writing conference in Grand Rapids, Michigan. I will glean from the abundance of all that was shared at the conference for a long time. There’s still a lot for me to sort through but I know the people I encountered and the knowledge I gained are what impacted me the most.

The People

The most significant take away:  new friends, colleagues, and mentors who want me to succeed and are willing to share their knowledge and help me grow. They not only shared their expertise, they shared the stories of their lives. The kinds of stories that caused hope to grow in our hearts. The conference director, keynote speakers, other writers, an editor with a large publishing house or author of several books. Speaker to thousands or one just starting out. It didn’t matter….all were generous with their knowledge, stories and encouragement.

I was able to participate in a critiquing session at the conference. Authors, publishers, editors or literary agents were given samples of our writing to read aloud. The group then offered encouragement, feedback, and critique of our work. This was the first time professionals evaluated my writing and I’m thankful for the opportunity to hear from them.

The Knowledge

Without even meaning to, I learned a whole new vocabulary last week. I know what a pub board is and what literary agents and acquisition editors do. I learned how important felt need is to a book proposal and the process of a book getting published from beginning to end. I didn’t take the speaking track but I learned so much from those who did during our conversations at lunch or mingling in hallways.

The breakouts were valuable sources of information and practical advice on a variety of topics. I now have a collection of resources I’ll use over and over again as I take my next steps.

But what now?

I Work.

If I do nothing with the knowledge and renewed confidence I’ve gained then my time at the conference is wasted. I’m better equipped to do the work of writing and sharing what I write and what it takes is work. Lots of it.

Having a simple system or plan in place will help me stay focused and disciplined with the work. At least it will make the work more manageable.

Where Are You

Where are you in pursuing the dreams of your heart? What are your gifts and talents? Your work or craft? God gave them to you and they’re meant to be used to offer the world something wonderfully unique.

Each of you has received a gift to use to serve others. Be good stewards of God’s various gifts of grace.   1 Peter 4:10

Whatever your craft, passion, or dream – people, knowledge, and work are important influences.

Gather with others who share your passion or those who want to learn your craft. Whether they’re experts or newbies, the ideas and know-how exchanged will be beneficial. Who better to give feedback than someone who knows or wants to know your craft?

Surround yourself with people who believe in and encourage you. It’s important to have others who will remind you of why you do what you do and dream what you dream.

There are lots of ways to get the knowledge you need. Take classes offered at your local college. Join a club or read a book. Ask a master if you can watch and learn. And remember……you can Google and find a You Tube video of almost anything. Make a habit of learning something new about your passion every day.

Now the work.

Practice doesn’t always make perfect but it makes us better. Make time for the doing of your craft. For some of us this means it happens after a full day’s work, dinner, and laundry. A calendared plan will help get you through your low energy levels. This is also when those encouraging friends and mentors will remind you why you do what you do and give you the boost you need to keep at it.

One of the keynote speakers, Bruce Martin, quoted a verse in his talk. My verse. The one I’d underlined and highlighted and starred years ago because it said what I felt so strongly!

But if I say, “I will not mention the Lord
    or speak anymore in his name,”
his word is in my heart like a fire,
    a fire shut up in my bones.
I am weary of holding it in;
    indeed, I cannot.     Jeremiah 20:9

This is why I do what I do. More than with the words I write…..but with my life…..and how I live it. Every part of it. The good parts and the messy ones. My life at home and work. My writing and speaking. Who I am with the people who love me and those who hurt me. Who I am with strangers and friends.

Let our craft, passions, and dreams…….let our entire lives tell of the One who gave them to us.

Photo by Clem Onojeghuo on Unsplash

 

Am Learning

I’m attending my first writer’s conference in Grand Rapids, Michigan. This means several things.

First, it means I know I’m a writer.

Second, it means I’m telling others I’m a writer.

Both of those are remarkable because only a few years ago I wouldn’t say it. I thought it and part of me knew it, but I kept it to myself except to those who knew me best.

Attending this writer’s conference means some other things. It means I’m eager to learn from others about what to do with my writing. It also means I’m willing to make an investment in learning my craft.

I’ll share more about it after I’ve had time to process everything I’ve gained from being here, but I can confidently say after two full days of the conference that it’s one of the best investments I’ve ever made. It’s better than I anticipated and the knowledge, support, and encouragement I’ve received is priceless.

What’s your craft? What are you passionate about? What do you dream of doing?

I encourage you to take a step toward your passion. Make an investment to learn all you can. Connect with others who have the same dream.

And see what happens.

“You are the light of the world – like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house.”     Matthew 5:14-15

 

Photo by Ian Schneider

 

 

Hand Holders

I began this Lenten journey anticipating a fruitful time of reflection, refocusing and repentance. It has been that and so much more.

This week’s readings from Bread and Wine: Readings for Lent and Easter have been especially rich with deep truths my heart needed.

The reading from Day 27 by Peter Kreeft about Jesus: “He came. He entered space and time and suffering. He came, like a lover. He did the most important thing and he gave the most important gift: himself. He sits beside us not only in our sufferings but even in our sins. He does not turn his face from us, however much we turn our face from him.”

Let that seep into your soul. Let it flow into the deepest places of hurt and fear and let it heal you. Jesus does not turn away. When my heart is broken…..when the pain feels too much for me…….when I don’t understand. He’s right beside me.

He’s there too when I’m full of pride or when I’ve judged someone and feel justified doing it. When I’ve ignored an opportunity to do someone good. Even when I’m mean or greedy. He’s there. Not turning away from me. Not pointing his finger……but reaching out his hand.

Deuteronomy 31:6 says “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”

Jesus says in Matthew 28:20 “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Then there was this on Day 32. Dorothee Soelle writes: “God has no other hands than ours.”

The good that needs doing in the world will be done by our hands. Our hands.

Sometimes the way others know Jesus is with them and never leaves them……is by our being with them and not leaving. By our sitting right beside them whatever they’re going through. Sickness, painful circumstances, mental illness, bad choices, or foolish mistakes.

Jesus is the Savior. He’s the healer and the heart changer. But we can be hand holders.

Isn’t that what the Gospel is? The Good News that we don’t have to do this thing alone…..that Somebody has our back and loves us right where we are.

He’s here with me, holding my hand through it all……so I can hold the hands of the tired ones, the sick and hurting ones, the ones too weary to believe and the ones weighed down with regret.

I’m learning to be a hand holder.

 

Visit my friend Joy, on her blog  A Life Giving Moment for her Lenten journey.