Lessons from a High School Dance

The Creator of the peacock, created us to be creative too.

The Creator of the peacock, created us to be creative too.

Last weekend, my hubby and I volunteered to chaperone at the Bandathon, which is a dance held every year for the members of the high school marching band. I’ll have to admit that I was not looking forward to it. It was on a Friday night and I was tired from a long week.

But, band dances are different from other school dances and I was in for a treat.

First of all, there’s always a theme at those dances. This year was simply music and anything that had to do with it.

There was a girl who simply showed up with musical notes on her shirt. John Lennon was represented. There were rappers present and so were the Village People. The children’s group, the Wiggles, was there. We saw a disco era John Travolta and the more recent group, One Direction. Weird Al was there too.

It was a never-ending parade of different genres and musical styles and that was before the first song was played.

The DJ played music almost exclusively requested by the teens. It certainly wasn’t what I expected to hear at a school dance in 2016. There were line dances like the Electric Slide and the Cha Cha Slide. There was disco music by the Bee Gees. There was a ton of 80’s music and some newer tunes as well.

As I looked out across the dance floor at the eclectic group of teens, I was amazed at how they all danced together in big groups to whatever music they heard. Nobody sat out and no one got left out. From time to time, the parents jumped in and danced too and what did the kids do? They just danced along side us.

I have thought about that dance all through the past week. I have thought about how those band kids weren’t afraid to use their creativity. In fact, they were encouraged to be creative and no one was afraid of feeling stupid. They laughed and clapped for each other as they entered the room.

They cheered each other on. When the DJ played a song from the children’s television show, the Wiggles, the group dressed as the Wiggles, danced together and the other kids danced with them and clapped.

Can you imagine the average teenager, being willing to express themselves like that?

High school can be a rough place and so often, fitting in, is every kid’s mantra. Grown up life can be very similar, can’t it? Things from saying the right thing, to wearing the right clothes, to having the right job, to living in the right neighborhood, to having the perfect kids, can wear us out emotionally, physically and spiritually.

We can get so focused on being just like everyone else that we forget that God made each of us wonderfully unique for a purpose, His purpose.

We weren’t meant to all look alike, or act alike, or think alike. We are different and different is good, because when people of all different ideas, colors, styles, shapes and sizes, come together to let our light shine and build the Kingdom of God, the world takes notice.

And this world is in desperate need of all of our individual gifts and graces. A high school band dance reminded me. Perhaps you needed reminding too.

Have an awesome day!

Wendy 🙂

 

Categories: Building Christian Character | 2 Comments

Clearing Away the Overgrowth

When we remove the things that don't matter, we can sometimes be stunned by the view.

When we remove the things that don’t matter, we can sometimes be stunned by the view.

There’s a window in the office I work in. It’s a rather large window. Until this week, it had a very large Japanese maple tree growing in front of it that almost completely covered it. I love Japanese maple trees. They are beautiful, ornamental trees. But, this particular one had grown so big that it totally blocked the window. We couldn’t see out.

Our principal put in a work order to have it trimmed. A few weeks passed and no one showed up.

Last Saturday, he brought his son and his own trimmers and trimmed the tree.

I can’t tell you the difference the trimming has made to those of us who work in the office and use the copier, which happens to be under the window, a hundred times a day. Every time we make a copy, we can now see the yellow cone flowers blooming beside the building and the gourds that are climbing the fence. We can see the sunshine and the clouds. We are now able to appreciate all of the landscape.

Almost everyone who has used that copier has commented on the view.

It’s amazing what a huge difference a couple of people could make when they rolled up their sleeves and got to work.

I have thought about that tree trimming all week. I have thought about how removing the overgrowth in our lives can have such a huge impact on the world we see around us. I have thought about how much beauty we miss by allowing our lives to become so overgrown.

I was reminded that overgrowth happens over time. I’m sure that tree took years to get that big. The problem with overgrowth in our own lives, is that it’s often so gradual that we don’t realize it.

When did we get too busy to have lunch with a friend? When did we get too busy to sit down to a family dinner? When did we get too busy to sit out on the porch or to take a walk? When did we get too busy to read a book? When did we get too busy to pray or read the Bible? When did the people in cyberspace become more important than the people who are standing in front of us?

The great thing about overgrowth, is it can be trimmed away and we can be left with a beautiful new view that we didn’t even know we had.

We can simply wait for something to happen to clear it, or we can pick up some trimmers and do it ourselves. Personally, I can’t imagine why we would want to wait.

My principal and his son, reminded me that clearing away the overgrowth and making changes, is a choice that can have beautiful results. Perhaps you needed reminding too.

Have an awesome day!

Wendy 🙂

 

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Changing the View

I couldn't change what was going on outside, but I could change his view.

I couldn’t change what was going on outside, but I could change his view.

Last weekend, I was up before my teens and having some much needed quiet time at the kitchen table, with a cup of coffee, my laptop and my Bible. Silence is a rare thing for me these days and I was basking in it.

Then, the dogs started barking. They ran to the window in the dining room and barked to the top of their lungs. I kept shushing them, but they kept barking. There was someone walking another dog in the cul-de-sac and they were upset and stressed and no amount of shushing them would make them stop.

Have I mentioned that they aren’t the most obedient dogs on the planet?

Exasperated, I finally pulled the curtains closed, so they couldn’t see out. It worked like a charm. Immediately, all barking ceased and my peace and quiet were restored.

It was really kind of amazing. Covering up what was agitating them, was all that it took.

I thought about the resulting peace from my action over the next few days. I couldn’t remove what was going on outside of my house, but I could limit their vision of it.

What other things would have the same results?

Well, for one thing, there’s social media. Depending on who you follow and the pages you like, your news feed may be full of inspirational quotes or it may be full of political rants. If social media stresses you out our makes you angry, or makes you feel badly about your imperfect life, stay off of it. Life will go on, and quite likely, more peacefully.

Then of course, there’s the news, this election cycle is a hot mess to say the least. There’s been nothing that’s ladylike or gentlemanly like about it. Sure, we need to stay informed, but reading through the headlines in the evening before bed will probably suffice. If we all refused to watch all of the mudslinging, it may even get better.

But, here’s the bottom line, we can’t change it at the moment. The election is not until November. Is watching the daily negativity helping us in any way? If it’s causing stress and anger, we can simply turn it off, pull the curtains, like I did with my dogs.

As I continued to think about it, there are many things in daily life we could choose to block out, things ranging from office gossip to squabbles among friends.

In each situation, we could ask ourselves if participating or watching can better ourselves in any way? Will it cause us stress? Will it draw us closer to God?

If the answer is no, then perhaps, we should pray about it because that always works. We can give it to God on a spiritual level, but physically, we can just close the curtains and block it out. We can’t always change what’s going on, but we can change how we view it.

We might find ourselves living with a little more peace.

My barking dogs reminded me. Perhaps you needed reminding too.

Have an awesome day!

Wendy 🙂

Categories: Building Christian Character, Trusting God | Leave a comment

Shedding the Bullets

Healing is a choice.

Healing is a choice.

My pastor told a story on Sunday about preaching at a revival in Maryland, many years ago. He said that during his visit, he took a walk with the pastor of the church he was visiting, to the Battlefield of Antietam. That spot marks the single bloodiest day battle in American history. There 22,717 men killed, wounded, or missing when the battle was done.

As they walked around the area, the other pastor pointed to the houses that had been built around the area. Almost every single house had members in it with cancer.

As it turns out, the tens of thousands of bullets that were shot during that battle, settled into the ground, and scientists believe, into the ground water. The bullets were made of lead.

Over two hundred fifty years later, the bullets shot so long ago, are still killing and wounding people.

I suppose that’s not too surprising, because our hearts work the same way.

We can carry around hate and hurt for generations allowing it too, to slowly kill us if we aren’t careful. We can pass down anger and distrust that stem from situations so far back we don’t even remember. Things like, someone refusing to go to church because of some hurt from the distant past, can keep the next generation out of church too. Racism can get passed down from generation to generation.  Distrust of authority, because it was abused at some point, can get passed down to future generations and hatred of police officers is born.

Sometimes those festering bullets can be a little more recent. Sometimes something was done or said to us personally, as children, and we are still allowing ourselves to be poisoned from them, carrying around pain and anger, refusing to let it go and let it heal.

But, walking around hurting, hating, distrusting, and angry ,is not God’s plan for His children. Jesus offers us another way.

He is willing and able to heal anything that we bring to Him, no matter how old or new those bullets may be.

Jesus said: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 12:28-30

We know that carrying around unresolved anger and pain causes all types of stress and even physical sickness. Those people who lived in Antietam probably didn’t know the physical danger they were in. They probably didn’t have a choice until it was too late.

We do. The question for us, is are we willing to be healed? Are we willing to remove all of the bullets? Jesus always gives us a choice.

A Civil War battle reminded me. Perhaps you need reminding too.

Have an awesome day!

Wendy 🙂

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Leaving Clear Space

Respecting the margins, can earn us some much needed blank space.

Respecting the margins, can earn us some much needed clear space.

When I was a kid, and learning to write, I remember my teachers being downright fanatical about writing in the margins. There was a clear red line on both sides of the page. One teacher even had us hold our papers up to the light to see the line on the other side of the page. We were taught that under no uncertain circumstances, were we to write in the margins.

The margins were the place where the teacher could write her comments or make her corrections. They also just helped to keep everything a little neater. And believe me, with my handwriting, every little bit helped.

Even word processing software, has built-in margins. The program automatically knows when to start on the next line. The margins are kept clear.

Kids these days, don’t give much thought to the margins. They often will write all over them, leaving themselves no clear space and no room for correction.

I wonder if it’s somehow a reflection that comes from the fact that they are often overscheduled and have very little clear space of their own.

We all need some clear space in our day, space to breathe, space to pray, space to exercise our bodies and our minds, space that allows us to have some quiet time.

But, when we live to please others, feeling guilty for saying no, we can find ourselves with zero clear space. We can find ourselves with scheduled activity from the minute we wake up, until the minute we fall back into bed. We can find our reserves completely empty, yet we can’t understand why we are so exhausted.

When we change our focus from what others think about us or what they might say about us, to what God thinks about us, the clear space can change dramatically.

When we come to understand that clear space isn’t a luxury, but a necessity in our walk with Jesus, we can shift our priorities, and saying no, becomes a type of obedience.

Those of us who call ourselves Christians, have an enemy who would love to steal our peace and even though he knows he can’t have our souls, he’s also content to stunt our growth. If we can’t spend regular time in prayer and reading the Bible, how can we grow our faith?

If we leave ourselves zero clear space, how can we have time to spend with God?

The world is not a peaceful place at the moment. Turning on the news for five minutes, can make your stomach hurt. But, the peace that Jesus offers is different because it’s supernatural. It’s not of this world. It’s for our souls.

Jesus said: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” John 15:27

Sounds pretty good. Right?

We can have that peace, but we have to be willing to provide the clear space to get it.

A sheet of paper reminded me. Perhaps you needed reminding too.

Have an awesome day!

Wendy 🙂

 

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Faith in the Messy

When we yield to God, it's amazing where He shows up.

When we yield to God, it’s amazing where He shows up.

I was driving down the road yesterday after dropping my son off at marching band practice. I was annoyed that the band director didn’t cancel it. I mean seriously, the skies were dark. The thunder was rumbling and the radar showed storms heading our way. But, no, practice was on. Sigh.

I was on the way to the pharmacy to pick up a couple of prescriptions, stuck in our ever worsening traffic situation in our little Mayberryesque town, wondering what I would write about for today’s post, when a rainbow caught my attention.

It was faint, but definitely there. All of a sudden, sitting through two cycles at the same stop light, wasn’t annoying. Being stopped, gave me the opportunity to snap a photo. I figured I could edit it when I got home.

Computers make it easy to crop out all the not so pretty stuff, we don’t like. With the help of the right software, we can make any picture look perfect.

I said a prayer of thanks on my ride home. I thanked God for showing Himself in the monotony of the traffic, in the tedious times like doing errands, and in the times when the skies look positively frightening.

I worked out in my mind how I would write encouraging words about how that rainbow reminded me God is always with us, in times that are mundane, and in times that are exciting, when skies are blue and life is grand, and when times are dark and scary.

And I planned to produce the perfect rainbow picture that I snapped while stuck in traffic. But, like they say, a picture is sometimes worth a thousand words.

When I reviewed the pictures, the yield sign caught my eye. The yield sign reminded me that the true path to the peace that passeth understanding is to yield our hearts to Jesus. I felt like that ugly, ordinary, yield sign, spoke God’s truth as much as the rainbow did.

And the power lines and the building, represented the busy life that most of us lead. It’s not always picture perfect. It’s sometimes messy and unattractive, yet through it all, just like the rainbow in the distance, God’s love for us still shines through.

If I would have cropped out the unappealing parts of the picture, I would have cut out an important part of the story and it’s probably a part someone needed to read.

Everyone’s life is a struggle sometimes despite what people would like for you to believe on social media. No one has the perfect family, or marriage, or job, or friends, or house. I know this because I know that perfection does not exist on this side of heaven.

The rainbow right there in the middle of the messy, reminded me that Jesus came to earth to become one of us and He walks with us through the good and the bad. His death and resurrection mean we will one day live in perfection, and that truth makes life beautiful no matter where we may find ourselves at any particular moment.

Sometimes I need reminding. Perhaps you did too.

Have an awesome day!

Wendy 🙂

Categories: Choosing to See the Bright Side, Watching for God | Leave a comment

Being a Naomi Woman

Famous words from Ruth

Famous words from Ruth

I just finished a Bible study on Ruth. I love her story. I have read it quite a few times. It’s got all of the elements of the ideal love story. There’s a marriage and then there’s tragedy. There’s some dark days, but in the end, the main character, Ruth, finds true love and the son she has gets to be in the bloodline of Jesus.

I love the story because I know how it ends. I imagine while Ruth was living it, it wasn’t so great. She married a foreigner. Her father-in-law died. Her husband died and her brother-in-law died. I’m sure this was not the happy ending that the young bride was dreaming about.

At least she has her little family with her sister-in-law, Orpah and mother-in-law, Naomi. Perhaps they brought comfort to one another. But, then Naomi decided she was going back to her people. She tried to send Ruth and Orpah back to their own families, but Ruth refused to go.

That’s the part of the story that has really intrigued me this time. I could easily write about how Ruth is a perfect example of how God doesn’t judge us on where we came from. Ruth was a Moabite and they were enemies of Israel. I could point out that God will use and bless anyone who willingly worships and follows Him and I would be right.

I could write about how even when our world is at the very darkest, our sovereign God is at work, even when we can’t see Him or feel Him. Ruth teaches us that even on days where getting out of the bed is more effort that we feel like we can handle, He has a plan.

Ruth lost her husband, father-in-law and her sister-in-law. Naomi lost her husband and both of her sons. Her days were surely dark too. But, we know that God was at work providing a new husband for Ruth, a Godly man and eventually a grand baby for Naomi to bounce on her lap. I would be right about those observations too.

But, this time, Naomi’s faith is what stayed with me, for days after I was done reading it. In the end, it was Naomi who led Ruth to her God, to her people, and eventually to a new husband. It was Ruth’s deep love and trust in Naomi that led her to Boaz on the threshing floor.

What was it about Naomi that made a young Ruth leave her birth family and travel into enemy territory where she would likely be judged and looked down upon?

Perhaps it was her deep abiding faith. Perhaps Ruth knew that she just had to get to know Naomi’s God and her people better because Naomi was so different from the women Ruth knew. Even in deep grief, Ruth clung to Naomi.

Ruth and Naomi’s stories are intertwined. We can’t read one without the other. Their story reminds me how important it is that we live our faith and not just talk about it. The only way to really bring others to God is through our actions.

Naomi’s actions must have seemed so insignificant at the time. She was returning home destitute, yet she took the young woman who God had put in her life, with her, because Ruth didn’t want to leave her and in agreeing to do so, those two women helped to change the course of human history and play a part in the greatest story ever told.

Ruth and Naomi remind me that no one is insignificant in God’s plan. We all play a part and we are all intertwined. Sometimes I need reminding. Perhaps you do too.

Have an awesome day!

Wendy 🙂

Categories: Biblical Wisdom, Building Christian Character | 2 Comments

Pockets of Quiet

Finding some quiet time is always worth it.

Finding some quiet time is always worth it.

Last week, my pastor’s wife, subbed at the school where I am working. She just retired from there and she was thrilled to be back. She also happens to sit right beside me in the choir and we laugh together a lot, mostly at ourselves and our inability to get the notes just right. I’m thankful that God put her in my path and made us friends.

At the end of the day, she came up to my desk and asked me how things were going with my new job. I told her that everyone was so nice and that I was really enjoying it, but that I also really missed having quiet.

It’s never quiet in the office of an elementary school. The phone rings. Children regularly parade through to the clinic. Parents come to check their children out and then to check them back in. And the bus radio, the bus radio is AM radio on steroids. It’s static and bus drivers from like ten schools talking over each other and ours sits right at my desk in my ear. Remember the seventies? It’s like that.

She smiled and told me that she completely understood, that she too, needed quiet, when she was working and that a lot of people didn’t understand that, but that it’s something that we all need.

She leaned in and told me that I had to find pockets of quiet. She told me that she would sometimes go home and just sit on her porch for a few minutes after work, but that she had to search for and create those pockets.

I thought about our conversation over the next few days. It made so much sense. I had always been one who liked a big chunk of quiet, like an hour or so, but what if I just tried to snatch 10 or 15 minutes here and there?

What if I turned off the radio when I was driving? What if instead of returning phone calls when I got home before my children, I just enjoyed the quiet time? I think she’s right about the pockets and I’m choosing to think of them as peace pockets.

I am choosing to seek out several times a day, whenever I can, to find a few minutes of peace, a few minutes where I can have some quiet and take a deep breath, to say a little prayer, to get back to center, and to ask God for guidance on my journey.

Sometimes, we have to be willing to fight for the quiet and insist on it, but I feel like it’s totally worth it. We can’t hear God, if we aren’t quietly listening.

A dear friend reminded me. Perhaps you needed reminding too.

Have an awesome day!

Wendy 🙂

Categories: Building Christian Character | 2 Comments

Seeing the Hand of God

After experiencing God's power in a huge way, we were rewarded with this sunset.

After experiencing God’s power in a huge way, we were rewarded with this sunset.

Today’s post picks up where yesterday’s left off. My family and I had just left Walmart and we were traveling home on Loop 10 at fifty-five or so, miles per hour. My hubby and I were discussing with our kids the ability, and the call, to extend kindness to others when we can, whoever that person may be, when our conversation was stopped in its tracks.

A car traveling in the opposite direction, ran off of the road, over-corrected and rolled in mid-air (a complete flip), and landed on its tires, facing the opposite way, in the median. The driver and her passenger in the backseat, were securely fastened in their seats. No one was ejected.

Since we were traveling in the opposite direction, and noted that drivers on the other side of the road were stopping, I called 911, with a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes.

There was no one traveling on her side of the roadway when she flew across. Mere, seconds later, several cars came flying by. If she would have made the same mistake seconds later, it may have resulted in serious injuries for her and her passenger, as well as several other drivers traveling on that roadway. It may have even cost them their lives.

That road is notoriously busy and the traffic moves rapidly. What if an eighteen-wheeler had been driving by? What if she had landed back in the road going the opposite direction; she would have had a head on collision. What if she would have ended up on our side? What if the car had landed on its roof; the occupants would have been crushed.

All of these scenarios raced through my mind as I drew the only conclusion that I could. My family and I had just witnessed the Hand of God at work.

There were a hundred reasons why those people should have been seriously injured, but they weren’t. There were many scenarios where other people should have been injured, but they weren’t.

I couldn’t stop thinking about it for the rest of the day. I am still in awe as I write about it.

My teen daughter often tells me that her friends struggle with their faith because the can’t “see” God. I am amazed that we had just left Walmart and were discussing with our kids, being the face of Jesus, to a world that desperately needs it, when God showed up and showed us His mighty hand.

He’s here with us everyday. We probably miss His handiwork more often than not, but sometimes He shows up in huge ways that are impossible to miss. And it’s in those moments that I am reminded that the God we worship, called the stars into being, and parted the Red Sea, and tumbled the Walls of Jericho with a horn blast, and helped a child slay a giant, when an army could not.

There is nothing that is impossible for Him or for those of us who put our faith in Him. Last weekend He sent me a mighty reminder. Perhaps you needed reminding too.

Have an awesome day!

Wendy 🙂

Categories: Trusting God, Watching for God | Leave a comment

More Faith Lessons from Walmart

Sometimes what we think were poor decisions, turn out not to be.

Sometimes what we think were poor decisions, turn out not to be.

Last weekend, my family and I did a supplies run at Walmart. As I have noted here before, I really dislike going there. It’s always so crowded, and you can’t find a parking space, and the people who shop there are rude, and it takes forever to check out, and since we live next to a college town, when thirty thousand people move back into town, everything is picked over. Sigh.

Interestingly enough, I have had quite a few occasions while shopping there, where I had the opportunity and the nudge, to extend a kindness to someone who seemed to really needed it. I have a dear friend who says she has often had Christian kindness extended to her when she’s there.

My daily prayer is always to watch for God in the world around me, but it’s also for me to be the face of Jesus in a world that desperately needs to see Him. I’ll admit I sometimes struggle with the second part. I’m sure the Good Lord knows that Walmart in a prime place for a little light shining, whether or not I may grumble about that particular mission field.

Upon arrival, hubby and I went one way and the teens went another and we divided and conquered in the hopes of getting out of there quickly. Hubby even found a line with only one person in it. We jetted over to it, patting ourselves on the back. A short line at Walmart on a Saturday, is like winning the lotto.

But, alas, we chose poorly, or so we thought.

The gentleman ahead of us was on some sort of public assistance. He had a pre-printed check. He had to separate his groceries into separate stacks. He was arguing with the cashier. A manager came over. Now, my tendency would have been to get super annoyed.

But, I said a prayer of thanks that we had money to buy groceries. Who knew what his story was? Maybe he had just lost his job. Did I really have anywhere I needed to be? Was it that big a deal for me to have to wait? I found that I was infused with a brand new wave of patience. Isn’t it funny how gratitude and prayer work together?

When our turn finally came, we were making small talk with the cashier when she blurted out how mean the man had been to her. I looked her in the eyes and told her I was really sorry about that. She proceeded to tell us the story and to scan our groceries very slowly and my hubby and I listened intently and offered her some encouragement.

She only had thirteen minutes before her shift ended and we assured her she would make it.

Who hasn’t been there? Who hasn’t been in the position where you felt like if you had to spend one more minute at work, or if one more person was rude to you, you might scream?

She was smiling when we left.

When we started on our way home, we talked to our kids about how we were supposed to be in that check out line with that cashier. That woman really needed a little kindness and we were able to offer it.

Kindness is such a small thing; it costs us nothing, but it can have such a huge impact. It’s one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit and I sometimes miss it.

I often find myself desperately seeking the face of Christ, but I easily forget to be His face.

Whether I like it or not, God often reminds me at Walmart. As it turned out, we didn’t choose poorly. Sometimes I need reminding. Perhaps you do too.

Have an awesome day!

Wendy 🙂

Categories: Building Christian Character, Choosing to See the Bright Side | Leave a comment