Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Back to school we go!

Here we are, gearing up for yet another school year.  Remember when we were kids and still in school ourselves and all we could think at the end of August was how fast our summer vacation had flown by?  It's no different now that we're adults!  We look back over the summer and think how very short those two and a half months were.  It seems like just yesterday we were packing up the classroom for summer break, and now this week we are putting all the charts back on the walls and making out lesson plans again.  Did I even do anything this summer?  Seriously, I think all our family did was sleep in, do cursory chores, and laze about.  Hmmmmm.........on second thought, it sounds like we did summer right!  :-D

My girls have been helping me get my classroom ready for school, which starts on Tuesday, August 27th.  I've been able to clean out a bunch of teacher junk which I tend to hoard "for a rainy day."  Well, since we live in Washington---aka RAIN FOREST---my "rainy day" stuff becomes my "every day" stuff, and what I haven't used by now I probably never will.  Hence, the need to clear it all out.  (I do this at home too, occasionally going through closets and boxes and taking loads of stuff to Goodwill.  I've often told my kids not to expect to someday find wonderful antiques in Mom's attic 'cause I will have thrown them all away long beforehand!)  Anyway, I've been fretting because I don't have any extra money to spend on special things for my classroom---which, being interpreted, means I can't just go buy anything that suits my fancy!---and decided to dig through my boxes of seasonal decorations to see if there was anything that needed to be tossed.  To my surprise and delight, I found a couple of beginning-of-the-year bulletin board themes that someone had donated last year and I had grabbed up and simply filed away for use later.  Well, NOW is later!!  I was so excited and rather ashamed of my "poor me" attitude when I found them, and Amanda, Katie, Ashley, and I spent some time sticking them to the walls and door.  I must say, they look pretty nice!  I had to stop and thank God on purpose for providing those decorations just when I needed them........and of course apologize for my bad attitude and lack of faith that He would provide what I needed when I needed it.  I know Philippians 4:19 is in the Book, but I forget to abide by it sometimes!

Bro. Minge, our principal, and I hammered out Dale's schedule yesterday.  Praise the Lord!  Dale is going to have the chance to catch up this year with his studies so that he doesn't lose any more ground academically.  He is taking 8th grade math and English, but all other classes are 9th grade level.  We hope Dale can work steadily enough at his English PACES to be able to complete the 8th grade course and continue straight into the 9th grade course.  He will also be taking Earth Science in PACES, which is a 9th grade level course and counts as a full credit toward his diploma.  We've cut out most electives, keeping Dale in 9th grade history (Pacific Northwest History/Geography) and Bible.  He will have four study hall periods each day; this should allow him ample time to get his PACE work done as well as any homework and perhaps enable him to work ahead some in his PACES, thus finishing the 8th grade English course and working on into the 9th grade course.  I've already sat down with Dale and talked with him about taking responsibility for himself and his grades, telling him that I intend to ride herd on him and make sure he's getting his work done.  I also intend to ask Katie if she will keep an eye on him during study halls they may have together, but it is ultimately up to Dale to work hard and study hard.  We can set up a good schedule and keep pushing him to stay on task, but Dale has to be the one to want to do it.

Emily is entering 2nd grade; Ashley is going into 7th grade; and Katie will be a junior this year.  This is her last big year for academics, and she has at least one hard class (geometry).  But she also gets to be my TA (teacher's assistant) for an hour after lunch, and she doesn't intend to join the volleyball team this year so she doesn't have to worry about her grades making her ineligible to play.  Next year, as a senior, her class load will be much lighter and she'll be available to TA more.  She's scared about some of her classes but looking forward to the year still.  And then there's Amanda........our soon-to-be-gone-to-college student.  She is so excited about college and scared nearly stiff at the same time.  She has almost all of the stuff she needs, just a few odds and ends left to get.  Now comes the chore of packing it all up to transport down there!  She's attending Golden State Baptist College in Santa Clara, CA.  We've known several people who attended there, including church kids and staff.  I know she'll have a good time, get a solid education, receive further instruction in how to live her life for God's purpose, and maybe meet someone special!  She's poised on the brink of the rest of her life, and I can't wait to see what God has in store for her.  She's such a wonderful, caring, sweet, beautiful person, and I'm so proud to call her my daughter.  I'm going to miss her so much I can't think about it without crying, but I wouldn't hold her back from this for anything.  She's going to be someone greatly used of God, I know.

I don't know where you are in life, whether you are young and just starting out like Mandie or a young married person with a child or two or middle-aged (like I guess I have to call myself!) or nearing the end of God's path for your life; regardless, I want to challenge you to ask God to show you His will........and then do it.  Ask God for some great thing, some impossible thing........and then believe He will bring it to pass.  Talk to Him and wait for His answer.  It will come; we just have to slow down enough to hear it.  We get so busy racing around that we can't hear that still, small voice.  I think we kind of want God to do some huge, unexplained thing to get our attention so that we have a big story to tell about how God Himself talked to us.  We want to see His hand appear and begin writing on our dining room wall exactly what He wants us to do so that we can have visible proof that He has spoken to us.  Just talk to Him, and He'll answer.  Give Him a chance to get through to you; pay attention when the Spirit touches your heart; read His Word.  You'll be amazed to realize that the God of Heaven doesn't just love the world..........He loves you.

Jeremiah 33: 3  "Call unto Me, and I will answer thee, and shew thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not."

Monday, August 5, 2013

A life worth living..........

People who aren't saved sometimes look at us and wonder,"Why in the world would anyone choose to be a Christian?"  Have you ever had a family member or friend ask you that?  "What's so great about church? I mean, isn't Jesus dead?"  Even saved people who aren't fully surrendered to living for God don't really know why we are so involved in our church and God's service.  They think we're part of some cult, that we're brainwashed into thinking we're happy while some revered official bilks us of all our worldly possessions.

Our pastor just preached about this last night in church.  His sermon title was "What Sports Fans Can Teach Us."  He reminded us that the word "fan" is a shortened form of "fanatic" and that some sports fans are, indeed, fanatic about their team.  They stand by them when the team is losing, cheer for them when they are struggling, spend hundreds of dollars in merchandise or tickets, and have no problem speaking up for their team in the company of strangers.  Our pastor challenged us to be just as fanatical about serving Christ.  We should not be fair-weather Christians, attending church when we feel like it, putting money in the offering plate only if it doesn't interfere with our purchase of something else we want, and shying away from "too much" involvement in our church's ministries as if we'll be sucked in against our will.  We should be more than willing to meet together in God's house as many times as our church holds services because that's our time to hear God's Word preached, be convicted of sins we need to let go of, be stirred to draw closer to our wonderful Lord, and fellowship with other Christians---some more mature, some less mature---in order to encourage each other in our pursuit of His holiness.  We should be grateful enough to God for His blessings in our lives that giving Him ten percent or more or our income should be a joy, not a drudge.  We should willingly volunteer for different ministries, knowing that Jesus, when He left this earth, commissioned His disciples and all those who follow Him to so do.  No, the Bible doesn't specificially mention working in the nursery or driving a Sunday school bus or helping out in the baptistry as part of the Great Commission, but surely we can see that any service that aids our church in getting folks saved, teaching us how God says we should live, and encouraging us all to "press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus" is a worthwhile occupation.  We shouldn't find it difficult or embarrassing to speak up for Christ in everyday conversation.  We should be ready and waiting for any opportunity to share our testimony of what Jesus has done in our lives or a few words pointing someone to Calvary.

But the real reason why we should be so fanatical about our God is simply because of Who He is and what He has done for us.  I don't mean daily blessings or answers to prayer; I mean the fact that Jesus came to this earth for no reason other than to die for my sins, for your sins, for the sins of all mankind whether they accept His payment for their sins or not.  The God Who created the entire universe just by speaking sent His holy and beloved Son to earth to suffer and die a most excruciating death because He desires a restored fellowship with us and we had no way of restoring that fellowship ourselves.  God wants to talk with us; He wants to walk with us; He wants to hear us ask Him for what we need and tell Him about our day.  God expects the world---unsaved people---to ignore Him, but the sad truth is, most of us saved people turn our backs on Him and live as if we are the most important being in our lives.  We go through the motions of being a good Christian at church on Sunday, but we barely give God the time of day the rest of the week.  We make our own decisions without asking His counsel; we choose our mates without seeking His approval; we rear our children without following His guidelines.  We follow career paths, invest in retirement plans, spend our leisure time, and draw up our wills all without considering God's will and God's desires.  Oh, we give Him a nod every Sunday morning; we may even sing in the choir.  But do we involve God in our very lives?  Better we allow God to involve us in His plans?  We shouldn't give God a portion of our time---we should surrender to Him our whole life to do with as He wills.  And why?  Because He loves us and has given everything for us.

Have you heard the song "But Still He Loved Me"?  The first verse describes my actions as I help to crucify Jesus.  Literally, as if I were there in Jerusalem that day, nailing His hands to the cross and following His progress as He staggered His way through the streets and up Mount Calvary, standing and watching His lifeblood drain away.  Then the chorus:  "But still He loved me, in death forgave me.  By grace He saved me from all my sins.  He now lives in my heart from where He'll ne'er depart, that Christ Who died for me on Calvary."  Jesus gave His very life for me so that I might not just go to Heaven when I die, but live right now for Him.  I have the opportunity to hold daily fellowship with God Almighty because He has given me this wondrous gift of life.  Why wouldn't I serve Him?  Why wouldn't any of us?  It's not so much to ask to read my Bible each day, to pray and talk to God about everything, to meet Him in His house regularly, to tell others about Him whenever we can.

People may look at our family with pity and some confusion since Dale's accident.  It would be so easy to rage at God and ask Him how He could let our son drown (on a church-sponsored trip, no less!).  We could be angry with God and question why He hasn't healed Dale fully from his accident.  Don't we have enough faith?  We could blame the youth leader and the chaperones for not watching the teens well enough to prevent the tragedy from ever happening.  We could turn our backs on our church family, on God, on everything we've ever known because of what our family has endured over the last two years and what Dale will probably have to struggle with for the rest of his life.  This is exactly what many families who have faced similar tragedies have done; this is what the world expects us to do.  But, trusting God means trusting God.  It's easy to trust Him when the sun shines brightly and life's road is smooth.  But when the dark clouds of sorrow or tragedy cover the sun and we can't see clearly, it's harder to trust God.  That is the real meaning of trust---continuing to follow God when we can't see the way, when we can't see the light at the end of the tunnel, when all there is around us is tunnel.  Trusting God is the only way to get through this life with our sanity intact.  You see, it's as simple as this:  as much as I may desire it, I don't have to see the reason behind God's workings.  I don't have to see the end result; I just have to see the Saviour.  If I keep my eyes on Him, I can keep walking through the storm and the darkness and the fear and the struggles.  Keep your eyes on Jesus.

Thank you again to all of you who have been with us on this journey.  Your prayers, your tears, and your encouragement have been so wonderfully helpful to our whole family.  It's been an incredible two years, hasn't it?  May the next two years see our faith and trust in God continue to increase as we let Him have His way in our lives.  God bless you as you serve Him.

I Kings 18: 36 - 39  "And it came to pass at the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, that Elijah the prophet came near, and said, LORD God of Abraham, Isaac, and of Israel, let it be known this day that Thou art God in Israel, and that I am Thy servant, and that I have done all these things at Thy word.  Hear me, O LORD, hear me, that this people may know that Thou art the LORD God, and that Thou hast turned their heart back again.  Then the fire of the LORD fell, and consumed the burnt sacrifice, and the wood, and the stones, and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench.  And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces:  and they said, The LORD, He is the God; the LORD, He is the God."