God for us?

“God is on my side…” “Don’t worry- with God on your side, you’ve got it made!” “God is for you, not against you!”

These encouragements and others along the same lines grate on me. Songs celebrate how God is ostensibly for us. I get the sense that I should feel great when I finish singing such songs- that superhero confidence should fill me. After all, who wants to fight against God?

But what brought lingering questions when I was younger now brings incredulity. So many people say that God is on their side and do unspeakable things. Certainly, saying that God is for you doesn’t mean that He actually approves of your actions.

I’m coming to a different understanding of this idea, though, and finding some veritable encouragement in the process.*

Let’s pretend for a moment that we have no qualms with the statement, “God is for you.” What would it really mean?

Does it mean that God approves of what you do no matter what because you are special? (I hope not!)

Does it mean that God will go to bat for you, hit your home run, and run the bases for you? (maybe…but don’t expect too many more sports metaphors!)

Does it mean that God is sovereign, knowing what is best for you and the rest of the world that He loves deeply, and will act out of His inherent, unchangeable goodness? (I think we’re getting closer…)

When the idea of God-for-us is blanket comfort, we risk making our own ideas into personal idols. What we imagine as ideal becomes the box for God to work within, and He is unenthused about humanly-designed boxes.

What if God-for-us became less of a get out of jail free card and more of a humbling realization that the God of the universe wants what is best for us?

I see Jesus, working on behalf of the broken people around him. The challenge and joy of being part of His body is evident: giving and receiving grace in brokenness because He makes wholeness possible. Because He is for us, I sit humbled. I have fewer plans for Him to back and open hands for Him to fill.

*This reflects my own changes in thinking over the last ten years, not an accusation or indictment of anyone else. Most likely, everyone else has been living this reality and I’m just late to the party. :)*

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sunrise reflecting off pothole puddles
rain in waves
camera flashes across the sky

beauty does come in small spaces
pain makes even wide spaces feel tiny
and grace pushes back the walls,
invites hope-
anticipation, even-

fears spoken release some of their power
and quiet community
says, “You’re not alone.”

and this is grace:
an invitation to be beautiful
even before you recognize it

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(Thanks to Sara Groves, again, for her well-penned words. This time they’re from “Add to the Beauty.”)

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Self Portraits=Teacher Smile

I always feel better when the self-portraits go up.

I guess that’s what happens when you continue traditions.

Or maybe, they’re just darling.

In any case, this year’s Back to School event is over, the self-portraits are up, the routines inside and out of the classroom are almost set, and two weeks of school are finished.

There’s something special about the first day of school, but there’s also a sweetness about the day in, day out rhythm of life.

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Focus and breathe.

A white plastic chair.

A paddleboard.

A splash.

These were the things of my spiritual growth today. I’m writing now because, well, if I don’t, I won’t. My blogging track record this summer is abysmal, and the only way that will change is by posting asap. So here goes.

There are a few physical activities that I really, truly, enjoy. (I enjoy the endorphin rush from others, but the actual activity? Depends on the day.) Stand up paddle boarding (SUP) is one of those for me. My parents and sister bought paddle boards before I returned to this home, and I’ve spent hours on the water in the last 6 weeks.

Today, I decided to try some stretches on the board. After a few simple poses, I decided to try one involving standing on one foot. Several attempts and perhaps a total of 5 seconds of success, I was suddenly plunging into the warmish water of the lake and reaching for the board- floating away- and my sunglasses- still on my face!

There’s more work to do. I tried several more times with increasing success, and I’m currently sitting by the lake and drying out while I type. There’s still a week of vacation for working on it!

Why is this spiritual development, though?

1. All of life, in my mind, is spiritual. So what I learn on a paddle board has application beyond the water.

2. “Focus” and “breathe” were the directions I needed to find success in my pose today. I needed to focus on something outside of myself to find my balance. The white plastic chair became that focus point for me. When I looked at the board, my paddle, or my feet, I lost my balance. When I tensed up and held my breath, my muscles started to shake the tiniest bit. The tiniest bit of a quiver doesn’t help you balance! When I breathed deeply and relaxed, everything got easier. Not easy, mind you- easier!

3. I need the same lesson on and off the water. Focusing on myself is natural and entirely unhelpful. Tensing up is my m.o. in life…it never bears good fruit.

Implementation of said lessons is forthcoming…and unknown. I’m so thankful for Holy Spirit, Who graciously shows me how to make space for His work and does the heavy lifting.

May the monoblock/white plastic chairs I see in the rest of life remind me of this truth!

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Be still

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even in the ocean, snorkeling,
to notice the details,
the creatures:
the movement of sunlight
on coral
the movement of plants
in current

if you keep swimming,
you’re sure to miss
some of the sweetness

even in life, moving,
to see the fingerprints
of God:
the change of attitude
in a heart
the change of perspective
in a mind

if I’m never still
I’m sure to miss
some of the delight

He is God.

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Little bits of happy

-the excitement of a few boys and me about seeing each other in a few months

-loving life so much in many different places- it seems a bit extravagant, but why not enjoy?

-helpful employees at the meat counter while grocery shopping (and enjoying the name but not purchasing the chicken “lollipops”

-fans, glorious fans

-the satisfaction of finishing a unit plan and being excited to teach it

-internet access at home

-chatting with my dad

-bedtime :)

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You’re in charge!

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And by you, I mean my students. :) This photo shows a “parent” and student practicing for conferences. My kids are accustomed to a few days off for conferences, but I think that they, as the learners, should be the ones to share!

We’ve spent the last week getting ready- writing reflections, choosing a just-right book, putting post-its in place to mark the spot. We even filmed speeches (with Kuya Jun’s help!) to share. Now, just (nervous) anticipation remains.

I’m so proud of my kids and their growth that I may have the most trouble sleeping tonight. Don’t get me wrong- there’s always a little anxiety of the negative kind before conferences for me. But there’s also excitement as I look forward to seeing proud smiles from kids and parents over the next few days.

Student photo is posted with parent permission.

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