Moments, Day 18: The Teacher Being Taught

By vocation, and by calling, I am a teacher. I am blessed enough to get to spend my days alongside 23 beautiful little souls, impressing upon them everything I can about life and the love of learning. And some days I get so wrapped up in teaching that I forget that I desperately need to be taught, too.

This week I’ve been getting up [extra] early to spend time with God. Real time, not just the showertime prayer I had been giving Him as of late. Real undivided attention…time just for Him without anything else I’m multitasking with. Monday I got up and thanked Him for my day, my wonderful life, His very own presence in me (CA-RAZY, I know!!) I sang some songs to Him, thanked Him some more, asked him for loads of stuff on behalf of my husband, and asked Him to speak to me in some little way.

I sat there. Nothing. I sat longer and waited. Nuthin. I listened. Not a peep. I was starting to get frustrated, because after all I had gotten up at 4:30 instead of  my usual 5:00, and I was there just to spend time with Him and have a great life-altering conversation. But so far, it had been completely one-sided. So, after waiting for what seemed like an eternity (probably something like 4.3 minutes) I finally asked Him to show me something in His word that He had in mind for me.

Now, I know there are a lot of good bibles out there. Probably a lot that aren’t wrinkly and half torn and missing 2/3 of the concordance and all the cool maps. There are more “grown-up bibles” that don’t have all the notes in them like mine does. I keep thinking that I oughtta get me one of those grown-up bibles someday. But there’s something about that ratty bible, the first one I ever owned, because its like it knows me. This bible, and it’s Author, speak to me without fail when that’s what I ask for. Hmm…seems like I’ve heard that somewhere…if you lack wisdom you can ask for it! : )

So my wrinkly bible opens up to Psalm 86. I read through the beginning and then saw what I knew was just for me:

“Teach me your way, O LORD,   and I will walk in your truth;
give me an undivided heart,  that I may fear your name.”

I thought of one of my favorite songs…What Do I Know of Holy? by Addison Road. One of the lines sings…

“…I think I’ve made you too small….I’ve never feared You at all, no….”

Which reminded me of some other lovely words from scripture: The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.

 It was clear to me that God was wanting to teach me something, which was kind of weird because I’d been asking Him to show me how to be closer to Him, to have a better relationship with Him. And here He goes wanting to school me on something. Not what I ordered, but I was still okay with it (like I have a choice!) because my heart is so divided at times. I needed this so badly.

Then later that day I checked the biblegateway.com verse of the day, which is a regular habit for me. And wouldn’t you know…?

“The LORD confides in those who fear him;  he makes his covenant known to them. -Psalm 25:14”

Huh. So God does want to reveal more of Himself to me in our relationship, our covenant. He wants to make the whole of our covenant with each other known to me. Apparently I need to make a couple of adjustments before that can happen, like having that healthy fear of Him again (or for the first time, maybe?) It’s something I’ve noticed in myself lately, but this really shows me that He wants me to go back to basics, to learn rather than be a teacher right now. I’m so thankful for His gentle nudge, His quiet confirmation in these things.
Althought I know it’s not what I expected, I am so looking forward to being taught, just being taught by the master teacher Himself. It might take a long time. It will likely take a lot longer than I’d wanted. But it will be worth it. Please pray that I can be a good pupil.

This post is part of a series called 31 Days of Making Moments. If you’re new to the series, feel free to click here and you can view all posts in the “31 Days” category and learn what the whole making moments thing is about. Thanks for stopping by!

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I hate this question.

I’m in the second week of the James read-along and I literally just had the thought that maybe my current near-nervous-breakdown (don’t freak out on that one…I use that term fairly regularly to describe my ridiculous overly-dramatic reaction to things) might be related to it. It’s going to take a while to piece it all together, but I’ll put that little idea in my back pocket for a sec.

Anyhooooo….moving right along from that ADD moment…Here’s the killer verse this week:

What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone? Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing, and you say, “Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well”—but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do? So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless.

Flashback to The Help movie, which I just saw a few weeks ago with my book club gals. I keep thinking about how Hilly the Terrible (that’s my personal name for her,  a high-society, self-righteous, racist snob in the 3rd degree)  responded when her maid asked her for an advance in pay in order to be able to send both of her boys to college, rather than choosing which one she would be able to afford to send. Hilly the Terrible responded by saying that she, as a Christian, was going to “help her out,” and you could see the smile faintly crack on the maid’s face. That is, until Hilly the Terrible continued on to explain that “God doesn’t give charity to those who are able” and told the maid that she’d just have to find a way to come up with that money herself.

Nice.

So what does that have to do with the book of James? Specifically that chunk above? Well it has a lot to do with me, a high-society (aka richer than 99.9% of the rest of the peeps on this planet,) self-righteous, (albeit non-racist) snob in the 10th degree. You know why? Because even though I have my moments where I feel that double-edged sword cut through me and divide my self from my spirit and I truly feel love for someone else to the point where I would just meet their needs (like Danny, for example) …the other side of that coin is that most of the time I catch myself thinking: How far does that verse really go? I mean, if I have the means to do anything I can to meet the needs of a fellow human being, how detailed do we get here? Does that mean in the big stuff that comes my way, like sponsoring a child in a faraway land? Because I have that box checked, twice (yay, look at me, right!?) But does it even “count” if there’s no sacrifice involved for me? I mean, I can provide education, clothing, food, shelter, medical care, stability, and spiritual growth for  a child for less than it costs to fill up my gas tank 1 and 1/2 times. So….what did I really do that cost me anything?

And even if that stuff counts, then how much am I expected to give, really? Giving (money, anyway) is not really an area where my husband and I struggle. Now I’m not saying that to sound all awesome, because believe me, there are a million other areas where we do struggle that others just plain have it goin’ on in, you know? But that’s one we’ve always been on the same page with since we’ve met, and I believe God has given us a great measure of grace regarding that area because He led us to begin teaching others about financial responsibility and giving. Makes sense, right? But if I think I’m doing just fine and then I’m holding a $6 Starbucks, did I really show my faith? That $6 could go a long way in India, my friends. The other night I was at a party where goods were being sold from a catalog.  Accessories, not necessities. (UUUGGHHH I can’t believe I’m telling this story….) When it was over, the total sales were tallied up and they amounted to several hundred dollars. HUNDREDS OF DOLLARS. Enough to sponsor another girl for an entire year. I pushed down the little twinge of guilt I felt when I heard the total because I wasn’t sure if it was real conviction or a piece of equipment on the devil’s playground, so I pushed it away and decided I’d deal with it later, that I’d ask God to clear all that up for me. This is the first time I’m revealing it at all. In fact, I kinda forgot about it until just now.

So did I, in effect,  silently say, “go, be well and have a good day” to an orphan somewhere overseas because I pushed away that feeling, that thought of Oh, my goodness, a room full of people just spent enough money to take care of an orphan for the next year without saying anything or doing anything differently? I mean, I did want my new purse, after all. And plus, mentioning that after everyone has purchased their items isn’t exactly the best way to keep a party going, now is it? [Here comes Debbie Downer!]

Now, I am certainly not against Starbucks or pretty purses or any of the people who buy them. But those are good examples of the things that race through my mind when I hear this whole “faith without works” verse. HOW MUCH is really expected of us? I know we are allowed to enjoy some pleasures here on earth, but at what point is it just too much excess? Is it wrong for me to enjoy something even though I know choosing not to enjoying it could benefit someone else? In my mind I think well, it’s not like I’m directly hurting anyone or taking something away from someone who needs it. Or…am I?

The fact that I am even thinking so much about the details involved with how much good I have to do is disturbing to me. Since when did my faith become that I-still-want-to-get-away-with-enjoying-as-much-as-I-can-for-myself-while-still-meeting-my-Jesus-quota kind of thing? While I don’t consciously think that whenever I’m going through my daily life, this digging through the book of James business is making me want to get to the bottom of this It’s  like digging out a splinter. Ouch.

Lord, help please dig out this splinter before a full-blown infection takes its place.

What about you? Is this a valid concern or more false guilt? If faith without works is dead (and it is, because, um…the Bible already told us so) then how are you doing? Thoughts, please.

I am being torn up.

The DO-ing part: phase 1

During the first week of our read-along of the book of James, we’ve been challenged not only to read the words of the scripture, but to actually do what James says to do: DO WHAT IT SAYS.

Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. (v.22)

There are many instructions for us to follow throughout scripture, some of which are not explicitly clear or can be applied different ways. But this one is pretty clear…no matter the command, James reminds us to DO what it says! Seems overly simple, but although I have read the bible and have a fairly good understanding of it, I admit that I still find myself daily failing at that tiny little detail of doing what it says. There’s that darn obedience thing again, right?

In fact, James pretty much tells us we’d be idiots not to do what the Word says. He says that a person who just listens to the Word of God but doesn’t do what it says is like a person who looks at his face in the mirror then walks away and forgets what he looks like. (v. 23-24.) I don’t know about you, but a person like that would seem pretty daft to me.

So, my daftness aside, I’ve come to a realization. I am the queen of trying to be an overachiever. (Lord help me with those “mmmm-hmmms” that I’m getting right now just from admitting this publicly!) I have a hard time just saying no to people.  I have a tendency to jump head-first into something without a lot of prayer, then I realize I’ve bit off more than I should have, then I can’t do my best at whatever it is, then I get grumpy and run-down, then I’m all bitter for having ever done the thing in the first place. What is that about!? For some reason I always feel like I have to do the biggest and best thing, and I end up ignoring all the little things along the way that really make up the person I am supposed to be. (You have no idea how hard this is for me to be confessing right now….ugh) So the whole big-shebang is not the point. The big events aren’t what make me who I am.  I’m starting to see that the little, everyday moments– the everyday choices that I make– are the actual threads that make up the fabric of my life. So I can sew a big flashy decoration on it if I want, but if the fabric is bad, nothing pretty and shiny will hold anyway.

So, of course when I read the challenge to share what I plan to do to become a DOer, and not just a HEARer of the word, my mind went to all this big stuff about studying for hours every day and starting a big prayer thing and all this other business. But God was so gracious to shut off that line of thinking for just a second and make me breathe. He’s nudging me in the direction of this to-do list instead:

  • Ask God for a bit of wisdom each day before I do something, instead of wondering later if I should have done it
  • Be slower to speak (that’s going to be a tough one!) and more eager to listen (equally tough for me!)   
  • Write letters to both of our sponsored girls this week, Zoila in Guatemala and Donna in India  
  • Spend some time with my mom, without any other reason to visit.
  • Keep a tighter rein on my tongue, by not participating in gossip or other negative talk when the opportunity presents itself (I’m pretty sure I already blew it this one, but I’m hitting the reset button)

What are you planning to do to become a DOer?