Wednesday, September 23, 2015

I've Been There

I tell my students all the time, "Guys, listen. I've been where you're going. I've been to 10th grade English, and I know what they expect you to know. I've been to the SAT, and I know what you have to be able to do. I've been to college, and I know that the quality you're turning in now won't cut it then."

I tell them I've been there because they need to know I'm trustworthy. They need to know my methods aren't haphazard but are preparing them for what's to come. They need to know my knowledge of their yet-to-come determines my actions in their happening-right-now.

They need to know, and so do I.

I need to know my God is trustworthy. I need to know His methods aren't haphazard, and I need to know His knowledge of my yet-to-come determines His actions in my happening-right-now.

It's so tempting and natural for me to forget God knows. He knows what was and is, and most comfortingly, He knows what will be. The future is past to Him, and He is not limited by the space and time that bind me. Nothing I face surprises His heart, and everything I face passes through His hands.

When I lose sleep worrying about what I can't see, His eye is on the sparrow - and on me, too. When I fear all that is to come, He knows exactly what I'll face and has prepared me throughout my life specifically for it. Nothing in my life has been haphazard or without plan. 

If I, as a fallible teacher, plan ahead for what my students will face, how much more does my loving Father plan ahead for His child?

When my world-hardened heart tries to convince me there's something I need that I don't have, my always gracious God reminds me that " good thing does He withhold from those whose walk is blameless" (Psalm 84:11).

When my weary body and restless mind convince me I cannot keep going, my understanding and encouraging God tells me, "Everything is possible for one who believes" (Mark 9:23).

When my pain and isolation whisper, "Nobody understands," my Savior and Redeemer says, "I will never leave you or forsake you" (Hebrews 13:5).

When my trial feels unending, my God reminds me, "Weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning" (Psalm 30:5).

Nothing reassures us quite as much as encouragement from someone who has been where we're headed, whether it's a class we're taking, an illness we're facing, or an age we're parenting. But sometimes there's not a person who can tell us we'll be ok. Sometimes we face waters uncharted by those we know. Sometimes we just don't know anyone who has been where we're going. It's in those moments that we can tell what our faith is really made of, and it's in those moments we can see if we really trust the God we profess. 

God has been where we are going. His throne "has stood from time immemorial," and He is from "the everlasting past" (Psalm 93:2). Even if no person we know has been where we're going, our God has. Not only has He been in and seen our future, He has ruled sovereignly over it. We can trust that He plans to prosper and not harm us in the hope and future that is to come. 

He is not only the teacher who has seen the future courses, He is the one who created them. He is also the one who made us for them, knitting us together to successfully navigate them all. 

Our God is the One who can truly say, "I've been where you're going," and He is the One who is truly trustworthy. His ways are not haphazard, and His knowledge of the future determines His actions now. When the fear of the unknown presses heavily into our souls, may we press heavily into the One who knows. 

Monday, September 21, 2015

A Veteran's Advice for Newbie Teachers

Fourteen years ago, I taught my first group of students, and recently I gave some advice to a practicum student under my supervision. Poor guy - he probably doesn't realize that classroom experience doesn't qualify me as an expert or even mean I halfway feel confident in what I'm doing.

Nonetheless, I decided to compile a list of my best advice. If you're a new teacher, here you go. I'm hitting you with my best shot:

1. Forget approximately 56% of everything your university just taught you. It's theoretical methodology that only holds water in ideal conditions with high-achieving, issue-less students. The students you face will not follow the formula, and each must be treated individually. There is no "one size fits all" method for your wee ones. Take bits and pieces of the best theories and combine them with your teacher's intuition. A teacher's gut is better than an untried theory any day.

2. Remember Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs. If your kids are hungry, exhausted, or stressed from their parents' all night screaming fests, they can't learn. Period. Fix what you can and love them through what you can't. If their basic needs aren't being met, your love will have a much greater effect on them than any standard ever legislated. Be their safe place, and you will have made a difference.

3. Be funny. Only poor classroom managers say things like "You can't smile until after Christmas." If you can't laugh in a room full of children and simultaneously maintain control, you should never have been awarded a teaching certificate. 

4. Decorate your classroom. You will literally be locked in those four walls for hours at a time. Create for yourself (and your children) a haven that reflects your personality. Your school kids want to see pictures of your home kids, and they need something interesting to look at when you bore them. Which you will. (Sometimes you're boring. No offense. You'll even bore yourself). Teach long enough, and I promise you'll start to sound like the Charlie Brown teacher even to yourself. 

5. Never try to start a diet during the school year. Caffeine and sugar are food groups that will sustain you in this profession, and trying to give them up will only give you unbelievable headaches and a case of the grumps that will make your students (and colleagues) beg for mercy. Do everyone a favor and eat a Snickers. You're not yourself when you're hungry.

6. Stop trying to grade everything. Collect it all and assess only what's most important. If you try to grade everything they create, you will be a crazy person by week two. Trust me - I know. (Read this if you're currently trying to do it all. It will free you.)

7. Know that being nice doesn't mean being easy. Push those little boogers until they plead for mercy. They can work harder than they think they can, and they will never know how much they can accomplish until they have no other option. Forget giving them "Free Fridays" and "Ketchup Days." (Click here to read my thoughts on such things. Don't get me started. Don't even get me started). Don't reward laziness and a lack of responsibility with extra time to complete assignments or entire school days to play board games. When was the last time you were given Friday off just because you worked hard Monday through Thursday? Aren't we supposed to be preparing these kids for life? Jobs? Maturity? Come on, now. 

If you didn't get the grade you wanted, it's highly possible I didn't get the work I wanted.:
8. Learn the names of your janitors, secretaries, and support staff. They make the school run, and when you hypothetically lock your keys inside your classroom for the third time in a week, they will smile and unlock the door if you know their names and speak to them like the people they are as they sweep the floor of your trashed room. If you think you're better than they are, you need to quit teaching and work the long, thankless hours they do so you understand. (BTW - Mrs. Lizzie no longer cleans my room, and I am devastated. She would come in and we'd talk about books, my favorite thing. She always checked them out of my classroom library, and she'd take some for her granddaughter. Bless. I miss that lady).

9. For the love of paper clips and Rubbermaid containers - get yourself organized. You do not have enough hours in the day to be fumbling around trying to find the answer key you created for the vocabulary quiz. Spend time up front creating yourself a system, then use the heck out of it. You will love yourself for doing so, and your students will be grateful that you know exactly where their make-up work is. 

10. Use Google Drive. Thumb drives are so 2007. Google, that blessed miracle of technology, lets you access your files from ANYWHERE IN THE WORLD. Begin a document at school and finish it at home. It's a wonder. If  you don't know how to use it, email me. Seriously. No shame here - you will drop to your knees and praise Jesus when you realize how handy the old internets can be. 

11. Get a hobby. I love to read, write, and run, and if I neglect any of them for very long, I become very grouchy and my husband begins to ask questions like, "Do you want me to watch the kids so you can go run?" Do something to unwind. You could devote 24 hours a day to teaching and lesson planning and emailing parents and grading. Don't. There's a time and place for working your tail off, and there's a time to let it go. (Stop singing Frozen. Seriously. Let it go). Let yourself be just you for a little while each day. You will be a much better teacher (and spouse and parent and friend) if you take off your teacher hat every now and then.

12. Don't analyze the kids' permanent records before you meet them. Seeing test scores and guidance reports and custody arrangements will give you preconceived (and perhaps wrong) ideas and will subconsciously impact your treatment of that child. Let the kids, not the documents, give you first impressions.

13. Wear comfortable shoes. (I am very bad at this. Teaching high school freshmen makes me want to be cute and fashionable, so I make unwise footwear choices. Case in point - today I wore tall wedges. My feet now look as swollen as they did when I was 36 weeks pregnant. I regret my vanity).

14. Only praise sincerely. Don't say their work/effort/answer is good if it isn't. If you dole out empty words, you will lose their respect (and invite mediocre work). Praise them when appropriate and encourage more work/effort/answers when it isn't. 

15. Be OK with students not making all A's. All A's don't make you a good teacher, and I used to fall into the trap of thinking they did. A's should indicate mastery, so if your students aren't yet experts on the material, they should not receive an A. If your students immediately master everything you "teach" and never struggle or need any remediation, are you even really teaching? 

16. Avoid the negative Nancy (Nancies?) in your building. You need people to lift and bolster you, not beat down and depress you. Find the hot-air balloon personalities and hitch a ride. Ditch the anvils. Ain't nobody got time to hear all the complaints. Be a solution-maker, not a complaint-giver.

17. Buy stock in Post-it notes. Seriously. You will think of the most random things in the middle of teaching, and if you don't jot them down on the yellow squares that substitute for your memory, you will forget to buy toilet paper on the way home. 

18. Keep a file called "Why I Teach" because some days, you'll need a reminder. Keep those notes, drawings, and emails. When you get down, these will lift you. You're in it for those highlight-reel moments, and if you're not intentional about remembering them, they'll get lost in the tough times.

19. Make your students think and not just regurgitate facts. This world needs people who question the status quo and who don't automatically believe what presidential candidates say just because they're on television. We need out-of-the-box thinkers and people who approach problems from an angle not previously considered. (Hint - this means your tests should not just be multiple choice - even though they're faster to grade.)

20. Talk about what you read. Each day, I open class with an excerpt of something I've recently read. I've shared novels, nonfiction best sellers, articles from ESPN . . . Remind your students - daily - that literacy is the key to the world you're preparing them to enter. Words - and the stories they create - bring people together and show us our commonalities, and sharing words is the fastest way to create community in a classroom. Give your students a word-rich environment that's exciting and fresh, and with any luck, they'll want to recreate one for themselves. 

So there you have it. You're in an incredible profession, and even though it's demanding and under a microscope, you can rest at night knowing that kids' lives are different because of your impact. (Well, you can rest if you know it's a good impact. Don't be that teacher who's remembered 30 years later for being a complete jerk. Don't be that guy). Do what you do the best that you can, and just love the kids. Laugh with them, challenge them, and be a real person to them. That's what they need - real laughs, real challenges, and real love. Maybe there is a formula to this teaching thing after all

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Just Do Your Assignment

There's been a whole lot of this in my life lately.

My firstborn - my 6 pound baby boy - is tackling and being tackled. He owns a helmet and knows about defensive plays, and I have to watch as boys built like men drive him to the ground.

Needless to say, my prayer life has changed.

He loves football, but this is his first year. Most of the other guys have been out there before, so he's had a lot of making up to do. He's had to learn positions and plays, and he also has what we'll call a significant size deficit. (He's a year younger than everybody on his team, so the poor kid is easy to pick out of the crowd.)

At this week's game, though, this happened.

He got one of the two golden game coins. After each game, the coaches choose both an offensive and defensive player to receive recognition. And my baby boy got one.

Now, listen. He didn't score a touchdown. He didn't catch a pass. He didn't do anything for which his name would be in lights.

He just did his assignment.

He was told to block, so he blocked. Play after play, every time he was in, he tried to block whoever was in his path. Nothing fancy, nothing worthy of a highlight reel. He just blocked. He just did his assignment.

When that coach announced his name, though, I swear to you I got a lump in my throat and wanted to yell (but didn't) "THAT'S MY BABY!"

Isn't that the goal we all have for our babies? To do their assignments? I don't know yet what God's purpose is for that child. I know it's going to be amazing, and I know it's going to be specific, but I can't tell you what it will be. Chances are high his name won't be in lights, and chances are high he won't be world-renowned. Regardless, though, I just want him to do his assignment. I just want him to know what he's been told to do and to do it. Period.

Sometimes I forget this applies to me, too. Just today, I was scrolling through Instagram after work, and I saw post after post of amazing, unique, and attention-worthy things people had accomplished while I was working. It made me jealous, and it made me want to do what they were doing. But you know what? I have an assignment, and my assignment is not what they are doing. For now, my assignment is to cherish and raise up the young adults in my classroom. So that's what I'm going to do. My name may not be in lights, and I may not be world-renowned, but that doesn't mean my assignment is any less important.

If a blocker doesn't do his assignment, neither can the play-makers. If I don't do my assignment, neither can the play-makers I'm charged with influencing. My assignment matters. It may not always feel like it, and there may be days I wish my assignment were different, but my assignment in the right-now matters right now.

Sometimes, our assignments must be done in the rain.

It doesn't matter what the conditions are. It might be raining, and you might be tired, and you might be praying for the clock to get to the final seconds. The assignment matters even then, and sometimes most especially then. When you understand the importance of the task you've been given, you keep going even in the rain. You keep blocking even when you're tired. And, sometimes, you might just get the golden coin that reminds you your assignment matters.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

A Bold Prayer

A Prayer as Our 21 Day Fast Ends:

"God, we've been through a lot these past 21 days. There have moments of enlightenment, times of frustration, and nonstop reliance on you. It's not easy to give up things that are such a normal part of life on this planet, and whether it was food or Facebook, substances or sleep, we all set aside something to hear from you more. We all abstained from something to grow closer to our Sustainer. As this time of deliberate separation from the world comes to a close, we pray that the real results are only beginning. We ask, God, that what you began in us during these 21 days will grow and multiply in ways we cannot imagine. Many of us were praying specific prayers, and we ask you to show us the specific answers we seek. Many of us were looking for breakthroughs, and we ask you to show us the paths we couldn't see before.

What BOLD prayers are you praying?  Don't stop praying because God is listening and waiting to answer!!!  Mark Batterson quote from The Circle Maker.:
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But we're also praying something else, God, and we're courageously asking it. We're asking you to show us both something about ourselves and something about you that we didn't even know would come through this time. We're asking for a divine revelation that completely takes us by surprise. Remind us that you are bigger than we dare think, and teach us that you can do more in us than we even know to ask for. Begin it even now, Lord. Sweep us off our feet, and leave us in awe of who you are."

Friday, September 11, 2015

Bags of Good Intentions

I had an argument with God today over trash, and He won.


I was innocently walking to my car after work, juggling three bags across the parking lot (because who doesn't need three bags full of stuff you won't actually work on over the weekend even though you tell yourself you will?).

And there it was. A piece of trash. Plastic littering the serene asphalt landscape.

I saw it and had that thought we all have: "I should pick that up." And then I had the other thought we all have: "Nope. Not mine. And my hands are full."

So I loaded all the bags of good intentions into the mom van and intended to head on my merry way. That's when I heard it. No, not the James Earl Jones voice of God booming from heaven. The quiet whisper of God in my spirit. "Go back and pick that up. Right now."

I didn't want to. I wanted to blast the air conditioning in that van and drive away and enjoy the beginning of my weekend. I wanted to let someone else's trash be someone else's problem. But I couldn't. So I didn't. 

The thing about God is that He's not bossy, but He's compelling. When He speaks, He will be heard. The thing about humans, though, is that while we often hear God, we often choose to ignore what He says.

For someone seeking to set herself apart for God, small matters like trash become great opportunities to practice obedience. Walking across parking lots provides opportunities to listen for the Spirit's words. 

There is no place we go and no action we take that is not important in our faith journey. Mundane Friday afternoons (when you think the important work of the day is already done) can be the most important parts of the week. 

Someone else's trash, when you take it on as your own, can escort you into the very presence of God.

So, Lord, thanks for winning the fight today. I guess you really do know best. 

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Time Out!

Today continues our 21 day series on setting ourselves apart for Christ.

Do you ever just need a time-out from your life? Do you ever wish you could press pause and freeze the action around you while you catch up?

Time is in short supply for many of us, and a 24 hour day just doesn't cut it (if you really feel that sleeping is necessary).

So much is asked of us that it sometimes seems impossible - truly not realistic - to get it all done and still maintain sanity.

Here's what I've discovered about time.

First - you cannot do it all. There really is a limit on your time, and only you can know how much is too much. Learn to say "no" and be unapologetic about it. The Lord has given you the ability to discern what is realistic and what is crippling. Ask Him, listen, and don't be afraid to turn down what you cannot do.

7 Simple Notes on Living with Less:

Second - time spent with people is always better than time spent on tasks. I am a list maker, and I can create tasks to do like nobody's business. Tasks are important and often must be done, but your friends and family need to take precedence over your to-do list. Make it a priority to step away from the to-do's and just be.

Third - you cannot be set apart for Christ if you don't set apart time for Him. Although you may have a jam-packed schedule from the alarm to the pillow, no minutes are better spent than those spent with Him. Meditating on His Word and spending time in prayer can transform the rest of your minutes into ones that feel well-spent.

We all have the same number of minutes in our days. Even when it feels like we don't, we have a say in how we spend them. Invite Christ in to your every moment, and even the busy ones will be filled with His purpose.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Just Do What He Said

Sometimes I wonder if Christians are irrelevant to the unbelieving world because we remove ourselves so far from it.

We recite one of our favorites, that we are to be in the world and not of it, and yes, that is true. But while we're in the world we can't just sit back on our velvety cushioned pedestals and rain down judgment and condemnation. We can't see the problems plaguing very real people and rest on our laurels.

What does it say of our faith when we have every comfort the American Dream can provide but our brothers and sisters around the globe are slaughtered for the very same faith? What message do we send when scores of refugees are fleeing imminent death, but we refuse them aid? What is revealed of our God when His people are best known for rejection, isolation, and materialism? What message does the world see when churches squabble with each other over minor issues such as contemporary music versus traditional hymns (and we do so by passively aggressively posting articles on Facebook rather than having actual conversations with actual people)?

People - real people - are starving to death and dying of preventable diseases and are being persecuted for following Christ, and all of that happens while we American Christians shoot daggers in each others' backs (ignoring life and death issues and heaven and hell issues) because we can't believe someone would dare wear blue jeans to church instead of starched shirts and ties.

No wonder so many people think we're crazy.

How about this for setting ourselves apart?

Let's do what Jesus said. Let's love Him and love people. Let's help those who need help and encourage those who are hurting and lift those who are down. Let's be light in darkness and salt in tastelessness and hope in despair.

Let's give our extras to those without, and let's think of how we can show love rather than show why someone's wrong.

Let's be like Jesus, for Pete's sake.

We make Christianity about a million little things it was never intended to be about. We strain out a gnat but swallow a camel and forget that love covers a multitude of sins.

Favorite Bible Verses | Corstina

Love God and love others.

The greatest commandment - the simplest one - and the one that we almost never follow.

Really want to set yourself apart today? Love. Just love.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Filled with Joy

Setting Ourselves Apart by Showing Why God is Good

Shouldn't Christians be the most joy-filled people on the planet? As people who have been plucked from the very pit of destruction, we have the greatest reason ever to face this world with rejoicing. 

Yet, for many, a permanent scowl and judgmental finger are the hallmarks, not unending joy.

Instead of shining light into darkness, we cast blame. Instead of welcoming with open arms, we reject with condemnation. Rather than being the hands and feet of Jesus, we speak words He never said.

If we truly want to set ourselves apart in a world that needs the Lord, we must start by showing why Jesus is desirable. Lives that only testify to what's wrong with the world don't testify to the grace of God.

Yes, it's easy and natural to see the negatives. Yes, it takes conscious effort to bite our tongues when judgmental words come so easily. But if we really want others to want our God, we have to remember that we are His representatives and that our behavior reflects on Him.

Make up your mind today that your life tomorrow will reflect your God.

Monday, September 7, 2015

More Than Enough

In our 21 day journey of setting ourselves apart for Christ, I'll be sharing prayers we can ask individually and corporately. Today's will be a prayer of thanksgiving.

Today's Prayer: "Today, Lord, I woke up far better off than the vast majority of the world. I have more than enough food to nourish me, shelter to protect me from the elements, and people whose priority is to love me rather than take advantage of me. I have the ability to work a job and provide for my children, and I have the right to speak what I believe to be true. Most importantly, though, I know You. I have been told of your love, and I have been taught your word. I am able to worship you with no fear, and your Word is not forbidden in my hands. I have more things to be thankful for than I could list, and I'm choosing to pause right now and simply say thank you. Thank you, Lord, for material provisions and tangible gifts. Thank you for people whose aim is to protect and cherish me. Thank you, Jesus, that I know your name and have experienced your grace. In all of my days, God, let thanks be forever on my lips, and let praise be forever in my heart."

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Solely Yours

For the next two days of our 21 day journey in setting ourselves apart for Christ, I'll be sharing prayers we can ask individually and corporately. Today's will be a prayer of confession.

Today's Prayer: Lord, I confess my selfishness. I am more inwardly focused than I am focused on you, and my perspective always determines my actions. When I think about myself and what I want, I fail to see the life you are asking me to live and the actions you are wanting me to make. I confess my wrong attitude and my resentment when things don't go my way. I confess my pure laziness, spending time on myself when there are so many around me who need my help. I confess my desires for things of this world other than your Word, and I confess that I make it seem like there's just not enough time. I admit that I often care about what others think of me instead of whether I'm pleasing you, and I confess that I live too closely to the world rather than clinging to you. Lord, before my behaviors can change, my heart must. Soften me, God. Make my heart solely yours."

Saturday, September 5, 2015

When I Consider

For the next three days of our 21 day journey in setting ourselves apart for Christ, I'll be sharing prayers we can ask individually and corporately. Today's will be a prayer of adoration.

Today's Prayer: "Lord, I rarely stop just to tell you thank you for your work in my life. Sadly, too often I overlook it because I'm so accustomed to it. I have somehow let the presence of the Maker of the Universe become commonplace, and I'm so sorry for that. So today, God, I just want to praise you. You have been the one constant in my ever-changing life, and I can look back to moment after moment that you have orchestrated to be for my own good and the good of your kingdom. I am in awe when I stop and consider - meditate on - how you have worked. It's unbelievable that you love me, are jealous for me, and make plans for me. When I feel insignificant and unimportant, all I have to do is remember that the One who knew me before I was born knows me now and loves me still. You are all I need, and I can say that with confidence because there have been times you were all I had. Stop me in the ordinary moments, God, and remind me of your amazing presence in them. Every day of my life, you have been in control, and as my days continue, I pray that my eyes will be open to seeing and trusting all you will do."

Like my AMAZING, awesome, sweet, and adorable friends, My family that loves and cares for me, My awesome youth pastor and his wife, for being placed in a strong, christian home, and most of all for Jesus' HUGE sacrifice for me on the cross.:

Friday, September 4, 2015

Do This in Remembrance

For each of of the next 21 days, I will be sharing specific ways believers can set themselves apart for Christ through prayer, fasting, and intentional focus. Today continues"setting yourself apart by..."

It's impossible to look back on my life and find a time when God abandoned me. 

Yes, there have been times when I felt alone, wondering why I couldn't feel God's presence, but in each of those cases I can look back and make sense of why I couldn't sense Him.

To set yourself apart for the glory of your Maker, remember who God has been and what He has done. His work in your past is a promise of His work in your future. God is always the same, and He makes this promise: "I the Lord do not change" (Malachi 3:6). 

When you're struggling to trust what will be, remember what has been. When it's hard to believe God will bring good, look back to the good He has brought. When your future seems in doubt, your past can remind you of His providence. | I choose to remember what God has done because it frames my perspective for why I wait for what he will do. | Embrace your own story #quote: | I choose to remember what God has done because it frames my perspective for why I wait for what he will do. | Embrace your own story #quote
Today's Prayer: "Lord, in every circumstance of my life, You have been there. Your presence goes before me, and though I can't see the way, I can trust you are there in it. You have been faithful throughout my life, so when I'm tempted to doubt your future provision, bring to mind your past care. I know You are for me and not against me, so whenever my emotions cloud my view of You, clear the fog and help me trust."

Thursday, September 3, 2015

His Word Goes Out

For each of of the next 21 days, I will be sharing specific ways believers can set themselves apart for Christ through prayer, fasting, and intentional focus. Today continues"setting yourself apart by..."

There is nothing more worthwhile than investing time in learning Scripture. It takes discipline and determined effort, but memorizing God's truths will yield results for the rest of your life.

I cannot tell you how many times I've been in the middle of a struggle and God has brought to mind a verse I memorized years before. With no effort after the initial memorization, I'm given comfort and assurance when I most need it. God says in Isaiah that when His word goes out, "it always produces fruit." I've seen it for myself.

Post your #PrayerRequest on Download the free prayer app. #Pray with the world -----> Post your #PrayerRequest on Download the free prayer app. #Pray with the world ----->

If you're not sure how to go about committing Scripture to memory, there are some very practical steps you can take.

One method that has worked for me is write a verse on an index card and post it somewhere you will see it multiple times a day. I had Psalm 91:1 on my vanity mirror years ago, and to this day I remember the words "Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty."

I've also carried around a small spiral-bound set of index cards with my memory verses on them and pulled it out when there were spare minutes.

You can even set a verse to be the lock screen on your phone.

Whatever method you use, Scripture memory is a spiritual discipline that truly makes a difference for you. You will be telling yourself divine truth throughout the day, and in future hardships, God will remind you of it. 

Today's Prayer: "Lord, give us an insatiable desire to know what You have said. Let us not rely on what we hear from the mouths of others but meditate on what came from your heart. Give us the discipline and desire to dedicate our minds to You."

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Steeped in Truth

For each of of the next 21 days, I will be sharing specific ways believers can set themselves apart for Christ through prayer, fasting, and intentional focus. Today begins "setting yourself apart by..."

Setting yourself apart as one who is fully devoted to God requires something so obvious you might not even think of it.

To be set apart for Him, you have to know Him.

I don't mean knowing with your brain the things you've heard about Him or even knowing Him as your Savior. To be devoted wholeheartedly, you have to understand His character - who He is at His core.

Without an understanding of God's character, you will find yourself wondering if He really loves you, if His plans really are good, if this faith thing really is worth it. But once you know Him, you know those things. Once you know who He is, you know how He'll act. No, you might not be able to tell what's coming or what He will allow into your life, but you'll know that everything is for good. You'll trust that everything comes from love. And sometimes knowing is half the battle.

Jeremiah 32:17 ~ There is nothing too hard for You: Jeremiah 32:17 ~ There is nothing too hard for You

A.W. Tozer said, "What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us."

When you think about God, what do you think? Who do you imagine?

Do you envision God as a divine judge with a gavel, condemning you for every mistake?

Do you picture Him as a disapproving father for whom nothing is ever good enough?

Do you think that because He knows it all, He rejects you for your ways?

Too often, we paint our pictures of God with the brushstrokes of humanity, giving Him human failures and frailties. We associate him with humans who have failed us, and we cast Him in the light of those we can see.

God cannot be limited by our finite understanding.

He is only good when humans are often bad.

He is only loving when humans often hate.

He is always patient when humans hurry.

God is not a human, and to set yourself apart for Him, you have to understand that. You have to read what His word says about Him, and you have to commit those words to the deepest parts of yourself.

To be set apart you must be steeped in truth.

Today's Prayer: "Lord, I repent of all the times I have held a wrong view of you, limiting your omniscience to the power of a man. You say that nothing is too hard for you (Jeremiah 32:27), yet I question whether you can act on my behalf. Even more, I question whether you will. Remind me that your always loving nature remembers me and will never forsake me. God, show me more of who you really are. Erase my wrong notions and replace them with truth."

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

For Such a Time

For each of of the next 21 days, I will be sharing specific ways believers can set themselves apart for Christ through prayer, fasting, and intentional focus. Today continues the theme of "setting yourself apart because..."

You were created to exist in this very moment.

There is nothing accidental about who you are, and there is no mistake in where you are. Every aspect of your life is working together as part of Christ's divine plan. Even the parts of your life you wish could be changed are serving a God-ordained purpose. 

the NKJV is slightly different, but it does still give the same message of God calling us into certain situations.: the NKJV is slightly different, but it does still give the same message of God calling us into certain situations.

Your purpose in God's kingdom is why you are to set yourself apart. Because of God's great desires to work in you, Satan has great plans to attack you. Without deliberate action on your part to pursue Christ and his ways, you will fall prey to Satan's ploys and his ways. It is only through setting yourself apart that you can withstand, and it is only through setting yourself apart you can understand.

No one accidentally falls into a godly lifestyle, and no one accidentally becomes righteous. Choosing to seek God's face - deliberately - is the next step for all believers, no matter where and what they are.

Today's Prayer: "Lord, today we say your words back to you and claim them for ourselves.  'My heart says of you, "Seek his face!" Your face, LORD, I will seek.' (Psalm 27:8). In all parts of our lives, it is our desire to see you. It is our need to hear you, and it is our hope to find you. May you find us faithful in relentless pursuit of you."