Tag Archives: Bible

Done.

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Today (Thursday) was the last day of school for my kids and my 5th graders too.  Teachers still have to go for another day to close up things and enter grades into the computers.  But we are done!  I just didn’t expect to feel sad.  I expected to feel giddy and happy, but instead I have said good-bye to some students who are going onto another country and some teacher-friends that I have come to love this year.  As I drove home alone in the rain, I actually cried a little.  No joke, I cry about 3 times a year, so this really surprised me.

Last day of school

Last day of school

Aside from knowing that I’m going to miss these smiling faces, I think it was the emotion of completion that got me chocked up.  This was a really hard year for me… but I succeeded.  I did it!  With God’s strength and constant help, I made it through something really tough.  The pressure of being “strong” has held me together for so long that once the need to be strong was no longer there, I collapsed under the weight of it.  I didn’t even realize that I had been carrying that burden.

Me and a flower from sweet Hannah

Me and a flower from sweet Hannah

Now it’s going to sound shallow when I tell you that I am coming home with some really nice and thoughtful teacher-gifts.  (I have some parents with good taste represented in my class!)  I had a special needs girl in my Bible class, and she gave me a flower and several hugs.  I love it!  And I have a collection of precious cards from my kids.  Here’s a few of my favorite lines from those cards:

~ I will miss you as long as I remember 5th grade memories.

~You have been my very favorite teacher this year so far.  (several kids have come mid-year)

~I enjoyed doing all the art projects and Bible class because you made me understand things from the Bible that I did not understand.  P.S.  Do not tell anybody that you are my favorite teacher.  (Just in case some other teachers are reading this… you didn’t see anything here.)

~I am thankful for all the hard work you’ve done this year.  I know it can be hard to not get angry at us. (haha!  I think I only lost my temper twice the whole year.)

~Thanks for keeping an eye on me this year.

And here’s the best one from one of my 9th graders.  Earlier in the year I surprised her by anonymously putting a couple of big bags of chocolate chips in her locker after she teared up in class telling me how she missed baking treats for her family back home.  Then she returned the surprise a few days later when I found a batch of cookies on my desk.  She said this poem wasn’t original, but I still really like this.  I’m going to keep this card, for sure!

“Once in a while you meet someone, and your thoughts are rearranged, ’cause their wise words affected you, and you realize you’ve been changed.  They give the special gift of truth, and teach you it’s okay to wonder; so you search ’till you find what you’re looking for, and your doubts are torn asunder.  God placed them in your life for sure, and He used them as a key, so I’ll take just a minute to thank you, because you were that person for me!”

That’s a keeper.  Pretty words nicely said, I like to have them in my head.

What’s Your Life Verse?

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I grew up in the church and I loved it.  For me to have to pick my favorite Bible verse is about as impossible as having to choose my favorite U2 song, it just can’t be done.  But when I think about the verse that I most reference in my heart and mind when I’m thinking about the direction of my life, then I know right where to turn.  It is the verse that acts as a standard or rule of thumb for every decision I make.  If a choice is contrary to the heart of this verse, then I know it’s not the right choice for me.  This is the verse that I start with.  This is the verse that forms me and defines me more than any other.  Ready to hear it?

“One thing I ask from the Lord, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple.”  Psalm 27:4

You may think this is an odd verse to chose for a Life Verse, but this is the thing that I long for the most.  This verse puts into words the cry of my heart.  So here’s my challenge for you today, think about what Bible verse could be your Life Verse- the verse that defines what or who you are, the verse you cling to when times get rough, the one you have hanging over the door of your heart.  There are a lot of good ones out there… and there’s no wrong answer (though I can tell your inner junior higher is dying to pull out some gross verse from the Old Testament).  Then once you know what your verse is… tell someone else!  Share it with someone else and see where the conversation leads you.

Remember Sunday School?

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I teach 5th grade in a Christian school here in Costa Rica.  Half of my students are Costa Ricans and half are Americans.  The overwhelming majority of my teaching is in English, with constant consideration for the students learning in a second language.  Often I translate an unknown word directly into Spanish for a confused student.  Other times I ask my students what the Spanish word for such-and-such word is.  And whenever I let the kids chat with their friends my Spanish speakers always revert to their Mother Tongue.  (Sometimes they forget that I can understand them when they’re speaking Spanish, so that’s amusing.)  Sometimes I wonder if certain lessons really connect with my Spanish speakers.

Because we are in a Christian school, we have Bible class a few days a week.  In general, I have found that my students know very few of the classic Bible stories- except for a couple of my missionary kids who grew up in church.  Names like Abraham, Joseph, Ruth and Saul are virtually unknown.  Yesterday I told the story of Lot and Abraham choosing land for their flocks.  I said, “Lot chose the good land around Sodom” and a boy asked, “What’s Sodom?”  He had never heard of the original Sin City.  I blame this on a lack of Sunday Schools in Latin American churches.  I feel the responsibility to teach them what they are missing.  The majority of my teaching time is spent telling the stories that I grew up on in Sunday School.  I kind of enjoy it.

At the end of our lesson yesterday was a brief story about the classic church hymn “I’d Rather Have Jesus”.  (I don’t know if this song has ever been translated into Spanish or not, but hymns are NOT popular in the Latin Churches now days.)  The lyrics of the song were printed on the page after a description of how it was written.  Scanning the lyrics, I got a lump in my throat.  Years and years of Sunday School music and stories filled my mind with sweet memories of church.  The old hymns carved deep grooves into my young, supple theology.  I quietly asked the kids if they wanted me to sing the song for them.

I closed my eyes and started singing the well known words of the great hymn.  Some of the children sang or hummed along with me, some sweetly and childishly out of tune.  The peace of the Holy Spirit came down on us in that room.  When we were done singing, one boy said it was “like a lullaby”.  That’s how he described the peace he felt.

Another boy, who is probably my most “random” child, asked if I had ever heard that song before.  I couldn’t resist messing with him.  I sarcastically replied, “No, I just made that up right now.”  The whole class groaned and laughed together at my joke.  It was a great note to end the day on.

I’ve been thinking about that song ever since. Yes, I’d rather have Jesus than anything.

All we like wifi have gone astray…

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You know, the Bible was written by men from the East who lived in an agricultural society.  (Now, it IS inspired by God and he does open our hearts and minds to understand it better.)  But because it’s an Eastern book, there are a lot of illustrations and phrases and word pictures that go right over my head.  I’ve had to LEARN how to understand the message.

For example, I’ve never worked in a vineyard.  So when Jesus says the Kingdom of Heaven is like a vine with a foreign species grafted in, I have to go learn something about grafting a vine to understand that the Gentiles were the foreign species and the Israelites were there original vine.  Basically you make a cut in both vines, join them together and wrap it up.  Then as the vine heals, it becomes one and the new branch is a part of the main vine.  I had to learn that to understand this illustration, but the original hearers would have captured the word picture right away.

Another common Biblical illustration that goes over my head is when Jesus talks about sheep.  I imagine that he is sitting on a hillside with a group of eager listeners around him.  He looks down the slope and sees a herd of sheep, hears them bleating and chewing, maybe sees the shepherd sitting on a rock a little distance from the group.  And he says, “Look over there, all people are like sheep who constantly wander off if someone isn’t taking care of them.”

“Ahhhh!  We know what that’s like!” Everyone smiles and nods, some nudge their neighbor, “That same thing happened to your sheep last week!”

And here’s me, the modern reader in a Western country who has only seen sheep in a pen at the State Fair, “Oh, do sheep wander off a lot?”  Maybe if the Bible would have been written in my context the illustration would have sounded like this:

All people are as committed as a lousy wifi connection in a third world country.

Then I would have chuckled and nodded, “Yep, I gotcha.  Fifty percent of the time it’s slow and the other 50% it’s just not connecting.”  I get it, we’re sporadic and unfocused.  That’s the kind of illustration that would capture my attention.

So when people say you must STUDY the Bible, part of what you must study is how things used to be done. (Want to learn more about sheep behaviors?  click here) History and archaeology will help.  A little knowledge of Middle Eastern customs and culture will help.  And the Holy Spirit will help too.  Ask God to help you understand what you are reading.  Without his illumination, you will feel like I do sometimes.  You’ll feel like you’re missing something that made sense to the original audience.

Ask God to help you understand, and he will.

“All we, like sheep, have gone astray.  Each of us has turned to our own way…” Isaiah 53:6a

Failure is always an option

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I’m not a shop-a-holic… mainly because I have no money.  But I think I’m a Change-a-holic.  I love change.  I crave change.  I am easily bored with routine and the same old, same old.  (I’m pretty sure adult ADD is setting in.  If I ever get Alzheimer’s no one will notice.)  So my short attention span combined with a natural free spirit is lethal for personal disciplines like exercising, sticking to a diet, and doing my daily devotions.  Were personal disciplines are concerned, “failure is always an option” (thank you Mythbusters).

Ugh, my daily devotions!  I go through spurts where I do really well and then I slack off for weeks at a time.  But here’s the thing about that.  God is not condemning me for that- that’s Satan’s voice that condemns- God’s voice says, “Welcome back, I’ve missed you!!”

God knows how I’ve wasted my time, he saw me do it.  It was no surprise to him, but he’s ready to start today fresh and new.  The Bible says, “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases (even when my love is inconsistent) His mercies shall never come to an end (even if I walk away from him- his mercies don’t depend on my actions, they are a fundamental part of HIS character and he never ends) They are new every morning (even if I don’t claim them every morning, and even if many mornings have been awash in failure, each day is fresh and given with the same level of joy and hope and love as the last day was given) Great is THY (not my) faithfulness, O Lord, my God!”

Put it this way.  I’m a mom.  My children are not perfect.  But I don’t love them any less when they are naughty or any more when they are well behaved.  My relationship with them is permanent.  It’s founded in who I am and who they are:  I am their mother, and they belong to me.  My relationship with them never changes because who I am never changes.  It’s the same with God.  Our relationship is permanent.  It’s not dependent on my behavior or my conformity or my consistency or my faithfulness.  It is based on who God is and who I am.  He is my Father, my Creator, my Savior and I belong to him.  He’s my Father and I’m his child.  I am his… forever.  Period.

Since there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Rom. 8:1) I think about all the centuries of Christians who lived and died without owning their own copy of the Bible.  They didn’t do daily devotions (I mean like reading a chapter a day) and I’m sure they made it to heaven because we are not judged on our faithfulness… we are judged on the faithfulness of Jesus who was faithful unto the cross!

All that to say- give yourself grace.  Grace to grow.  Grace to fail.  Grace to start fresh each morning.  Grace to be human.  Grace to say I’m not ALL TOGETHER yet- I’m a work in progress.  Grace to move overseas, speak Spanish like a toddler, feel overwhelmed by culture shock and homesickness, have no idea what you are doing or what is expected of you, feel like you’re a big fat fake of a missionary because you hate praying and fasting, eat rice and beans until you’re sick of them, sit in church and wish that the pastor would just shut up because your Spanish brain burned out 20 minutes ago and you’re ready to go eat lunch… (Oh wait, that’s me, not you).

Give yourself grace and give others grace too.  Grace says “Failure is always an option, but it’s not the end of the road.”