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.

You Talk Like Me!

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Those are the first words my daughter has ever said to me.

28 years.

This is gonna be short because I can’t sit still. I either keep dancing or start to cry.

Wow.

Thank you, adoptive parents, for taking care of my little girl. She sounds like a fabulous woman now. Oh my goodness. Seems so impossible.

So, you know what I say about God’s timing? It’s always perfect.

She put herself on the registry of adoptees a few weeks before my friend prayed, which was a few days before her father found me, which was only a month or so ago. Thank, You, God. Thank you, Jennifer for listening to Him. Thank you, daughter of mine for forgiving me and understanding.

OMIGOODNESS! OMIGOODNESS! I can’t wait to meet her!!!!

You guys might want to buy ear plugs. There’s gonna be lots of squealing, I’m sure 🙂

 

Who’s Tough?

I have a double standard. I believe I can survive anything and that I should have a ribbon for making it this far in the obstacle course of my life. Not having a ribbon doesn’t phase me, because I am that tough. Ruff!

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Totally not me. Thanks, Pixabay!

 

But…

At times, I’ve gotten perturbed at God, even less than polite.

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I know, SHOCKING! Pixabay again

 

Not for myself. For those I care about.

Getting everything we want prevents us from becoming who we want to be. I know that. I know God protects us from some trials and carries us through others. I love being stronger, wiser, more determined and more understanding when I step out of a dark tunnel into the light. But that’s me. Watching other people suffer just kills me.

The other night, I visited a friend. He’ll be singing at a coffeehouse in a couple of weeks and asked me to sing harmony. He’s picked out some beautiful worship songs. After one particular song, he told me a story. Several years ago, he had a wife and family. Then came the day when instead of a house full of joy and love, he had child support and court dates and a small apartment for one. That January, his one-bedroom apartment had no heat or lights.

One night, he was bundled up in this place he was forced to call home. In his coat and gloves and boots he began to sing this worship song, the same one we were practicing. He let himself go, his voice breaking the darkness, his spirit a candle, flickering and then growing brighter. Every square inch of space was filled with an awareness of God’s love—permanent and unconditional.

I need to be reminded that spiritual truth works for everybody, not just me. I don’t have to bully God into pampering people. He’s better than that.

The Happiness Project and other scientific studies have uncovered the spiritual law of gratitude. Just as the natural law of gravity is true whether you’re in a basement or jumping out of a plane, the spiritual law of gratitude applies regardless of your position. These studies have shown that happiness is not the result of our circumstances—it’s a way to transcend and even change them. Gratitude is the key. People who make a habit of expressing gratitude are happy people.

You absolutely must watch this video. It’s the best one you’ll see all week. In a happiness test, subjects wrote a letter describing someone who made a positive impact on their lives. Afterwards, their happiness scores increased 2-4%. Other subjects wrote a letter describing that someone, but then picked up the phone and called those special people to thank them. These subjects saw a happiness increase of up to 19%. The person who experienced the highest increase had been the least happiest person at the beginning of the test.

This is what my friend had known, that icy January night: we don’t wait until the situation turns around. We give thanks and voilá! Our hearts lift.

We don’t have to make stuff up or be fake. In this life, we get a lot of really special blessings. None of them are permanent, not even the body we inhabit. Our spirits and our relationship with God last. So let’s compare our relationship with God to marriage, the other relationship we all hope will be long-term. If a spouse focuses only on a disappointment or on something they want the other spouse to do, intimacy dissolves. When at last that partner reaches out, the bruised heart is tender and distrustful. Happy couples whose marriages last a lifetime don’t have some unusual history of perfection. Instead, they decide repeatedly that their relationship is important enough to preserve, above anything that might try to divide them. They hold hands, express their love and find ways to laugh together.

In our relationship with God, worship gives us that intimacy. It takes us past our list of wants and into a place of handholding and companionship. In times when we feel as though our hearts have been ripped out completely, worship causes the raw connections to bud and bloom.  When our thoughts circle nervously around our struggles, worship puts God back into the center of our focus and we feel steady again. And when everything is great? Well, worship should be automatic! Find 10 minutes today, maybe during your commute, to worship. Tell God how awesome He is, sing along with a worship song or just make up your own. Notice the scenery, take stock of how far you’ve come, and just enjoy the embrace of the eternal.

Here are a few worship songs that make my day:

Upbeat: Mandisa Shackles and Dave Barnes Carry Me Through and Phil Wickham This is Amazing Grace

Return to Intimacy: Hillsong Draw Me Close and Kim Hill You are Still Holy

Reflection on Jesus: Hillsong Lead me to the Cross and Charlie Hall Center

 

I didn’t ask if You were done

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What were the last five questions you asked your best friend?

I don’t know the statistic, but I’m sure you’ve noticed the routine. The first few times you talk to someone, you discover about 70% of everything you’ll ever learn about them. I enjoy introducing long-term friends to each other. By the end of the night, I usually know at least one new thing or one thing I’d forgotten about each of them. I want to study my friends better, to dig in their attics a bit and unpack the memories, letters and clothes. It’s so important to me that I’m actually going to share an upcoming project with you soon.

All good stories have a bit of suspense, eh?

For today, I want to look at the reason we enjoy our oldest friendships, even when we’re not eagerly flipping their pages for the first time. There’s a level where only a few friends belong, the level of just being. If my best friend walks into the room I’m already in, I feel at home. I may have thought I was there before her arrival, but a hug from her turns the key and I discover I’m on the porch. Some friends have that effect on a person, and it’s a stronger force than interesting conversation or deep emotional sharing or world-changing joint efforts. Don’t get me wrong, all of those things are important, but I can do them with strangers. With those who know us best, we can hang without saying a thing. Being able to simply exist near someone without trying to impress them—that’s tar for the streets of the soul. It expands to keep you together when things get hot, and it doesn’t crack when things get cold. It’s also why friendships suffer a bit when we only communicate by text or other media—we need time to just be together.

This weekend, I went to a gospel sing-along at Nightbirds Books in Fayetteville, Arkansas. Harmony and stand-up bass was great, the guitarist had us laughing and snapping, and the pianist kept the songs coming. The sang some old hymns we all knew and added protest verses to a few. Think Woody Guthrie gets Old Time Religion. They sang a song that makes me wrinkle my eyebrows and laugh, but also reminds me that we’re supposed to have child-like faith. “Jesus on the mainline, tell Him what you want….” Kids ask for everything, even when we tell them no, right? At the end of the song, I wanted to add, “Make sure to ask what God wants, too!” It wasn’t my show, though.

On my way home from Fayetteville, I stopped at Natural Falls in Siloam Springs. I’ve been multitasking during my devotional time, multitasking during everything really—it’s been a BUSY week. I needed space. I needed to stop before I got home, where I’d be surrounded by things to do. I needed to notice God’s work around me and look at His face instead of my plans and just be. I walked for awhile and took pictures. I waited for an inch worm to vacate a bench. I’m not much of a sitter, but I felt the need to just sit still because while I walked, my eyes were continuously looking around. My mind was wandering in every direction. Sitting still, I focused completely on God. I talked to Him for a few minutes, and then rose to walk. After a few steps, I thought, “Wait, I didn’t ask if You were done, Lord.” I sat back down and the persistence made room for peace to grow. A wind gently rushed in, then held silently, the size of a large hand soft but strong against my arm. The nearly solid but gentle pressure remained for a long time, like God was just putting his arm around me.

Do you believe God made the wind?

Then God can use the wind like a hand.

Friends don’t always have to talk.

Psalm 46:10 NIV Be still and know that I am God.

 

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