Stranger’s Gift Part 1

He reached out his hand. “Take this. I bring it with me every time I come here, and you’re going to need it.” Read Stranger’s Gift Part 1 here.

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Immanuel, God with us. God, sharing our vulnerable experience. The concept falls like a feather on my heart. Read Kristi’s latest post here.

Teacher of the Year

I love Facebook. Me gusta mucho Facebook. J’adore Facebook!

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Make your own cartoon at bitmoji.com

That might sound strange if you’ve barricaded yourself against the election year zombie virus infecting your friends. Hide your brains, and enjoy this laugh if you have a strong stomach.

I am grateful for the way social media connects me with friends who inspire me, entertain me and pray. Friday night, I watched one friend play the blues from 1,000 miles away. Saturday night, an amiga I haven’t seen in 15 years posted a prayer request.

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Three hours on the phone wasn’t enough. We must talk more often. Sunday morning, my Bible reading reinforced something we’d discussed, so I’m passing it on to you.

James 1 ESV3You know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 4And let steadfastness have its full effect, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”

My friend’s tear-stained post had asked, “When your heart is broken over and over, how do you know when it’s safe to hope again?” There is an educational style called “Experiential Learning.” The idea is that we learn best by experience. Would you be able to ride a bicycle if someone had handed you a manual? No, you were pushed. You were pushed by someone who probably loved you, but you ended up on the ground. With your knees still stinging, they pushed you again. To an observer (or a 6-year-old with tender knees) this might have seemed cruel. Today, if you haven’t been on a bike in years, you could grab those handlebars and pedal with a mere moment of wobble. The lesson lasts.

A good teacher is always trying to implement this brain-changing technique. It can be a challenge if the lesson is on taxes or spelling, but we want our students to retain and use what they’re learning. God has been Teacher of the Year forEVER.

With that in mind, my friend described what she was going through. We pondered whether suffering the same heartache time and again might be a sign of important training. If the lesson didn’t matter, the Teacher wouldn’t keep reviewing it. In The Art of Changing the Brain, James Zull says, “Even if we experience something that has happened to us before, it is hard to make meaning of it unless it engages our emotions.” God knows that. He made us that way. Experiential learning requires us to cooperate—to try, reflect and try again. If heartache leaves me wondering when it’s safe to hope again, I should examine where I’m placing my hope. If I have a dream I want to come true, do I need everyone to love it? No. I need to reach the people the dream will help. Others can love what’s in their own hearts. Do I wish that certain people loved my idea? What makes them important? Is there truly no way to accomplish this without them? Am I wrapping my dream around an unresponsive tree and tugging? Can I release others of the pressure to come with me, so I can run free with my flag held high?

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When I stop depending on someone and start doing what I love, I may be surprised to see them run to catch up to me. Even when they don’t, if I am meeting a need, I am never alone.

I’m excited to watch my friend’s dream unfold.

God isn’t mean. He knows how awesome it feels to have the wind in your hair and explore the countryside, so He’s not afraid to push your bike a few times. In her book Reflection in Learning and Professional Development, Jennifer Moon seems to describe God’s method exactly. She says teachers should use tasks which encourage reflection. Those tasks involve:

  • – Messy, real-life situations
  • – Asking questions for which there aren’t always clear-cut answers
  • – Challenging the learner to integrate new learning with old
  • – Feedback

So many times, we fall to our knees howling “Why!” We doubt the importance of the lesson, the love of our Teacher, the goodness of others or our own common sense. In order to learn well, it’s good to question our common sense. We might need to examine our How and Why and When. But if we wake every day asking God to lead us, and the days start feeling like Groundhog Day, let’s ask God to show us what this lesson is about. “Let steadfastness have its full effect, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” James continues with the verse upon which my company, 1 Moment Wiser LLC, is founded:

James 1: 5 NIV If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.

What are you waiting for? Ask.

 

 

Chrysanthemum Rain

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Chrysanthemum Rain – Kristi Bridges Photos thanks to Pixabay, blended using Enlight

Coasting the Van Gogh hills of southern Iowa, I could have been Rip Van Winkle in the blink of an eye. I had chosen to drive home at night from Des Moines to Tulsa. I ended one class Wednesday afternoon and planned to teach another on Thursday morning. There are no direct flights—everything goes through Dallas or Chicago—and the recent Midwest flooding made it likely I’d miss my connection if I flew. I looked forward to the cool summer air and starlit Kansas countryside.  My stereo held a playlist of songs to practice for my Friday night show. I was packed and ready to go…

To sleep.

I was so tired. I’m a high-energy teacher, and by the end of the day I’m ready for a nap. Rip can keep his twenty years—a twenty minute reboot was all I needed, but the only place to rest was the road. I asked God to wake me up and bought a mocha to help Him out. After an hour or two of singing, I called my friend Nicole. I met her at a blues festival in Kansas, where she was raising money for a mission trip and I was dancing like a hooligan, high on music and summer air. She got a Goliath Down cd and I began sponsoring her ministry. She calls me once or twice a year and asks how she can pray for me, so I decided to surprise her by calling and praying for her. Excitedly, she told me about her work in Orlando and recent trip to the Philippines. “The students barely need us to help—they’re so passionate about reaching out to others at their school.”

“That is so cool! Hey, can you stop for a second and pray for me?” I had reached Kansas City, and from three directions, cars raced in and slid to a halt. Go, stop, go stop. I-35 intruded, I-29 wound over and under slick twists of interchange. The GPS spat swift orders: Keep left on I-29; stay on US-71; keep straight onto I-70/US-40/US-71; keep right on US-71, take ramp right for 670; take right for I-35. I-70 siphoned off a few cars. The rest of us edged onto 670 and pressed down on the gas, but the rain was a traffic cop holding us back.

“Do you need me to let you go?” Nicole asked after praying.

“No, you’re keeping me calm.”

Five minutes later, the rain was so fierce I could barely hear, so we said goodbye. The clatter of hail hit my windshield. I drove a little further, telling myself I’d soon be past it and I didn’t want to get stuck in a Missouri flood. When I saw a sign for Chili’s, I took the exit. Relying on my instincts, I turned right. Wrong. I wound around, gave up and returned to the highway. The hail wore itself out during my detour.

Dark met the storm for a date, and the three of us traveled the winding, two-lane country road. I realized I was no longer sleepy and smiled wryly at God. Lightning flashed and lit the way ahead just before a car rounded the curve. Its headlights turned the horizontal rain into a firework bursting on my windshield.  It was exquisite, but it was the only thing I could see. I recalled the strip that had been lit and drove. Another strike displayed another half-mile before another car approached. The rain blossomed, a chrysanthemum of light and drops, and my car sketched the path from memory. After a few miles of this, I relaxed into the routine. I was two hours from home when the clouds clocked out. They hung around, obscuring the stars I’d hoped to see, but I was glowing from the show they’d put on. Even writing this now makes my heart flutter.

God is creative and powerful. “Easy” is for lesser beings. When we ask for what we know, He gives us so much more. If we relax into what He’s doing, He’ll show us enough of the map that we can follow it blind and still make it home. Now, instead of a pleasant drive completed, I have a memory that will give me good goosies forever. Happy sigh.

Be blessed this week with at least one unique experience into which you can relax, trust and appreciate the creativity of the One who loves you.