I can tell that we are at the end of the school year. Just over a month left to go. The eighth-grade students will graduate in less than a month.
How can I tell we are at the end of the year? Lately, I seem to be saying the word NO a lot. It seems as if most everything my students have been taught is quickly being unlearned. We have rules and procedures for how our classroom is to run. These are put into place for the benefit of everyone, not just one or two students but for all who dwell within the walls of the classroom as well as those who dwell within the walls of our school building.
I go home many nights wondering if I should just suspend ALL RULES and let the children run the room. Yes, I said it. No, I would not do it. The sinful part of me wants to "give-in" and "give-up" enforcing the rules that are good for the children. Would it make my life easier? Maybe. No! Chaos would rule the room. Chaos would rule the school.
When our LORD created the earth and planted the garden, He had one simple rule, "Do not eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil". But no, it wasn't followed. As a result, God had to make more and more rules to keep his children safe.
What if our God hadn't put in any rules after The Fall? What if He had just washed His hands of His creation? Just think of the chaos there would have been!
As time went on man tried to hide from the rules that were written on his heart but our God gave those rules to Moses in the form of the Ten Commandments. A list of "eight thou shall nots" and "two thou shalls". Have you ever noticed that the LORD gave us eight things we should not do in the Ten Commandments? Rules that were commands of what NOT to do. The other two were Commands of what to do.
The Third Commandment tells us, "Remember the Sabbath Day and keep it holy".
The Fourth Commandment tells us to "Honor our father & mother". This Commandment also comes with a promise, that we will live long on the earth.
It's like that in our lives as we deal with the children. We are warning them about the dangers that they may face by telling them what not to do, but along the line we are also telling them how to live.
As our LORD tells us in the Ten Commandments not to have any other gods before Him and not to use His Name the wrong way, He is telling us this for our protection. This is just the same as when we tell the children rules for their protection.
The Ten Commandments are for our benefit and for our protection. The rules we make for our children are for their benefit and protection.
Yes, the school year is almost over, but their learning and growing isn't and neither is ours. We continually grow and learn as well. The LORD has a plan for all of us. His Ten Commandments are just that, commands. They are not suggestions to help us get through life. They are the rules that guide us to live in Grace and Knowledge.
When I leave for school in the morning, I have to cross a set of train tracks. If I leave at the right time, I only have to wait for one commuter train, however, if I vary my time by just five minutes I can end up waiting for three commuter trains. Evenings, can be even more of a struggle. If I leave at just the wrong time then I end up getting stuck by a freight train and end up sitting there for upwards of twenty minutes or more.
Timing seems to be "everything". If I have my lesson plans too involved for a sub then the students feel overwhelmed and if they aren't involved enough, then the sub, feels overwhelmed.
In our society of today, we seem to be on a very tight schedule. Our children need to be so many places and at just the right times. They come to school tired and worn out. They seem so rushed. They mirror the lives of their parents. Their parents are rushed.
Our timing never seems to stay on schedule.
Where has the Third Commandment gone? "Remember the Sabbath Day" Our Father gave us this command so that we could rest! We have this so that we could rest and reflect on the Lord and His word. His timing is perfect. In Old Testament times, He put this at the end of the week. He tells us in Exodus 20:9-11 that we have six days to work, but that on the seventh day, we are to rest.
God's timing is perfect!
When Adam & Eve caused the Fall, God promised that He would send a Redeemer! He promised that He would send someone to take our place. Eve thought that as soon as she had her first son, that God had fulfilled His promise, but this was not to be. This was not His timing. It would take thousands of years before all the pieces of God's magnificent puzzle would be in place. It would not be until His fullness of time took place.
In Galatians 4:4-7 Paul tells us that," But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, "Abba, Father." So you are no longer a slave, but God's child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir."
As we approach Holy Week, we remember all that our LORD, Jesus Christ went through as He approached the Cross. He gave His all so that we might be with Him in eternity.
Let us rejoice and be glad that we can celebrate in the Resurrection of our LORD, and in the perfect timing of the Father.
Shoes & Rules
Keep your shoes on, take your shoes off, don't take your shoes off. A few rules that I experienced over the last week.
I have been traveling this last week. I was blessed to be able to attend the LEA Administrators' Conference in Orlando. I had clearance to go through prescreened security at Midway and wasn't supposed to have to take off my shoes, however, my boots had metal and set off the alarms, so I had to take off my boots.
One of the sessions I attended was the Disney Experience. It was a behind the scenes learning experience at WDW. As we traveled to Disney one of the rules we were told was "Don't take your shoes off when behind the scenes." This rule struck everyone as a strange rule. We all thought, "Why would we (adults all) even think to take off our shoes?"
These "shoe" rules started me thinking about how we look at rules, especially the rules that God gave us.
When Adam & Eve approached the Tree of Knowledge of Good & Evil, did they think why would God make this rule?
What about the 10 Commandments? When God Gave Moses these rules, did he think "Why?"
God's rules are given for so many reasons, but first and foremost they are given for our benefit. Just as the rules for plane travel have now been put into place for our protection and the rules for keeping our shoes on behind the scenes at Disney are for our safety (who knows what might be on the ground). God wants us to be safe here in the world He created for us.
He gave Adam & Eve the one basic rule at the beginning of time. This rule was given to Adam even before Eve was created. The rule was to not eat of the Tree of Knowledge, Genesis 2:15-17. This was all the rules needed to survive in the Garden.
Once God and man were separated by the Fall, our Father had to give man more rules to live by to keep us safe. He first gave the Ten Commandments and then He gave the Israelites rules to live by to keep them safe and healthy.
The first of the Ten Commandments is to "Have no other gods". This so important that God put it at the top of the list.
When Jesus was approached and asked what the most important commandment was, His response was, "Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This the first and greatest commandment." But interestingly, Jesus didn't stop here. He continued before another question could be asked of Him, "Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments." (Matthew 22:36-4).
What is even more interesting is what Jesus said in John14:23 (ESV), "If any loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him." This is following right along with the First Commandment.
Here in our world we follow the rules because we have to, because we will receive a punishment, not be allowed on the plane, lose our place on the plane, not be allowed to participate in the event. But with Christ, we follow the rules because we love Him. The reason we love, is very simple. We love because He first loved us (1 John 4:19)
This past Saturday I had the privilege of leading the devotion for the parish nurses for the Northern Illinois District of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod. I was asked to do this by Nurse Pat, our school nurse, provided by CLEF.
On the drive home from this event, I started thinking about the growth of CLEF. They are now celebrating their 25th anniversary.
They started very small, with a man with an idea, a dream, and a group of dedicated people. These people approached a handful of Lutheran schools with this idea of helping in a small way. I was there the day my former school's principal was approached. Our school started with the painting and repair of a couple of students' bathrooms.
The seeds were planted!
I remember the words that were spoken to the principal of our school. It might just be bathrooms today, but who knows where this will go in the future? As CLEF grew the goal became to fill the desks to tell the children about Jesus.
Today, CLEF is so much more than painting bathrooms, and it never changed from the goal of telling the children about Jesus.
Also, on the drive home I began thinking about how I was asked to write and lead the devotion. This is not something I would ever have thought I would do when I graduated from Concordia forty years ago. In fact, this is the LAST thing I ever would have wanted to do.
When I took the call to my last school, I was required to write a devotion for a series of devotions our church was putting together. Our Pastor, Bob Burke, was insistent that ALL the teachers write one. I didn't feel qualified. He encouraged. The seeds were planted!
When I took the position of principal at my last school, our District Executive, encouraged me to write a weekly message for the newsletter. I didn't feel qualified. He encouraged. The seeds were planted!
When I would write for our newsletter, here at Grace, my late husband Gerry, was my editor. I didn't feel qualified. He encouraged. The seeds were planted & watered.
Today, I have another editor, and when I'm not sure how my message sounds, she encourages. The seeds are watered!
The children of our school are here because the parents have planted them with us.
We are now the ones that are planting and encouraging - watering and feeding.
Who knows what these seeds will produce?
THE LORD knows - just as He knew where CLEF would go those 25 years ago. Just as he knew that I would someday take the time to use His words to encourage others.
What will you plant today?
We are now in the church season of Lent!
This is a time of the year so many people give up something. There are many reasons for doing so. The reasons range from following Christ's example to making oneself better, to following the crowd - everyone else is "giving up something."
The tradition of giving up something for Lent has its roots in our doing something for God, rather than God doing something for us. This is what was required before Christ's death and resurrection.
While we observe the season of Lent as a time of sorrow and preparation in remembering what our LORD and Savior Jesus did for each one of us, we are not required to give up or deny anything for what Christ did for us. Jesus, "himself bore our sins" in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live for righteousness; "by his wounds you have been healed." (1Peter 2:24)
Jesus' death and resurrection is a pure gift, "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith - and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God" (Ephesians 2:8).
In the Old Testament, the Israelites were to sacrifice their first fruits to the LORD. They had to give of their best. This after all is what was going to happen when Christ would go to the cross - He is the only begotten Son of the Father who would be the final sacrifice for all.
Once Christ died on the cross and uttered the words "It is finished" (John 19:30) and the Temple curtain was torn in two, there was no more separation between man and God. We do not have to sacrifice to the LORD - Christ did it ALL.
Now, is there anything wrong with giving up something for Lent? No, not if your heart is in the right place. Is it being done for betterment? Is it being done for improvement? Is it being done to make a deal with God? When the item being given up during Lent becomes the focus such as "I can't wait until Lent is over so I can..." then the focus isn't where it should be.
Remember, our LORD doesn't call us to sacrifice to Him as was done in the Old Testament. He does tell us to "Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me." (Matthew 16:24). This doesn't mean just for Lent - this means at all times
If you are giving up something "for Lent" are you focused on what you are giving up or are you focused on the better person in the LORD you are becoming? If you are giving up something for Lent that has cost you money in the past, are you able to use that for the betterment of others?
In last Sunday's sermon, Pastor Gomez spoke on the topic of giving up for Lent and suggested that instead of giving up for Lent we spend time giving, giving to others. He suggested that the use of these 40 days be used for making the world we live in, our little portion, a little bit better.
I like that suggestion - I want to see how I can do it, without anyone really saying that I have done something special, but at the same time know that I have enriched the lives of those around me.
How about you? What will you be giving for Lent?
We are now at the end of February. Hard to believe! We have finished a month in which we focused on the theme of "Love".
How have you shown your appreciation, love, to the special people in your life this month? Did you give gifts, cards, words of appreciation? In our classroom last week, we exchanged a variety of Valentine items.
Have you ever thought about all the meanings of the word love? There are at least eight types of love; from love that focuses totally on ourselves to love that focuses totally on others.
We know the greatest love is that of the Father who sent His Son to be our redeemer. This selfless love is known as agape love. We come close to this as parents, spouses, and teachers in Christian schools.
Have you ever thought of how appreciation and love go together?
It is easy during the day, or month that focuses on love to make the effort to show love & appreciation to others. But how often do we do this the rest of the year?
The Bible tells us where our treasure is, there is our heart. What do you appreciate? What do you value? (Matthew 6:21)
When we place value on something or someone we are willing to sacrifice for what we value.
The parents here at Grace value what we are able to provide for the children they have placed in our care; the Christ-centered education, the caring staff, the safe environment, the quality education, and the extras we offer.
The teachers value what we are able to provide, as they give of their time, their talents, and their treasures to offer more to the children.
Both school and church families make sacrifices for the children to attend Grace.
Our school families make the commitment & sacrifice to give up some things in their lives to be able to pay tuition, so the children are able to attend Grace and receive a Christ-centered education.
There are sacrifices & commitments with both our school & church families.
At the beginning of time, there was also a commitment and later a sacrifice made so that we too would not be without. When Adam and Eve fell into sin, our LORD made the commitment, a promise, to send His Son at a later time to make a purchase - He would buy us back using Jesus as the ultimate sacrifice.
The LORD values us so much that He was not willing to be separated from us. He had created everything with a plan for us to be in Heaven one day with Him. When the evil one thought he had ruined the LORD's plan - our Father revealed how He much value he places on us by offering up His Son as the ultimate Sacrifice - John 3:16. This was not a last-minute plan, but one the LORD knew from before time began - 1 Peter 1:20, He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake.
The LORD has shown us time and again He values us - What do you value? What do you appreciate? How have you shown it lately?
This year we were in the unique position to celebrate both Ash Wednesday and Valentines' Day on the same day. This hasn't happened since 1945!
I find this to be an amazing coming together of two great celebrations!
Valentines' Day is the one day a year that is set aside to tell family, friends, loved ones, and really, anyone, that they are special to you.
We get to do this any way we want! There is no set rule. No gifts are expected. Cards are nice, flowers are nice, food, and meals out are nice. The children can make things and they mean the world to those they love.
It's hard to contain the children at school on Valentines' Day. All the other days of the school year the parties don't hold the anticipation that a Valentines' Day party holds. They anxiously wait to hand out what they have for their friends, classmates, teachers, and staff. They get excited not only with what they are given, but with how their classmates and the others react with what they have chosen to give.
I love to watch the tokens that are handed out that day.
The day saddens me as well, as there are children who don't hand out items. They face disappointment with having nothing to give. Their friends don't seem to notice this in our Lutheran School, they simply accept that some children can't give. We have the policy that if you give you give to all, everyone receives something on Valentines' Day.
I like that this year Ash Wednesday & Valentines' Day were on the same day.
This year as we began to study our LORD's journey to the cross, we can see the anticipation that He faced - the knowledge that He was giving out of the greatest LOVE. Christ was going to the cross to give the greatest Valentine of all! He was going to give us eternal Salvation!
We have nothing that we can give Him in return for this salvation. We know that according to Ephesians 2:8-9 We know that it is by Grace you have been saved, through faith - and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God - not by works, so that no one can boast.
We see the love that the Father has shone down on us and that the reason we love is because He first loved us! (1 John 4:19)
So, as we go through this Lenten Season, remember this year, it started with not one but two special days, both connected to hearts. One heart bigger than we can imagine and the other hearts connected through eternity by the Spirit of the Living God. (Genesis 1:26-28)
Some God Responses...
Most of you know that I am a camera person. I enjoy being behind the lens, much more than out in front of the lens. This was a passion I shared with my husband of 21+ years while he was alive.
It gives me great joy to photograph the people and places that hold meaning for me. Whether this is family members, favorite vacation places, or the children here at Grace.
I enjoy sharing these photos with others. I especially enjoy sharing our school photos with our families on Facebook, our school website (http://www.graceenglish.org/ ), and the newsletter. After taking photos of the children, I get to work and get them ready for publication. When sharing the photos, I am careful that all identifying information is taken out of the photo; children's names are always removed or blocked. I always tell the children that I only use the photos that show them at their best - what represents them & their family in the best possible light.
How about our own Facebook pages? What do they represent? Do they show the world who we are?
We are instructed in 1 Peter that we are to always be ready to give an account for what we believe, but do our actions truly show what we believe?
What if we could make a Facebook page to represent our LORD?
What do you think it would have on it?
Or better yet....
...What if He could comment on our page and the statements we make about ourselves?
Many of the statements I see on my family & friends Facebook pages are the same statements I hear from our children here at Grace. The children don't come up with these statements by themselves; they learn them from hearing them from those around them. They learn them from the actions of the adults around them. When we use negative statements about ourselves we reinforce these statements in our children.
Here are some examples and what God might say in reply:
You say: "It's impossible"
God says: "All things are possible"(Luke 18:27)
You say: "I'm too tired"
God says: "I will give you rest"(Matthew 11:28-30)
You say: "Nobody really loves me"
God says: "I love you"(John 3:16 & John 3:34)
You say: "I can't go on"
God says: "My grace is sufficient"(2 Corinthians 12:9 & Psalm 91:15)
You say: "I can't figure things out"
God says: "I will direct your steps" (Proverbs 3:5-6)
You say: "I can't do it"
God says: "You can do all things" (Philippians 4:13)
You say: "I'm not able"
God says: "I am able" (2 Corinthians 9:8)
You say: "I can't forgive myself"
God says: "I forgive you" (I John 1:9 & Romans 8:1)
You say: "I'm always worried and frustrated"
God says: "Cast all your cares on ME" (I Peter 5:7)
You say: "I feel all alone"
God says: "I will never leave you or forsake you" (Hebrews 13:5)
Remember John 3:17 says "For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him."
This coming week we get to celebrate National Lutheran Schools Week (NLSW), here at Grace. This is always a fun time of the school year, but one thing it isn't, is consistent! WE don't do many things the same during this week.
Consistency, is an important part of life. How consistent are you? Do you adhere to the rule you make? Do you expect others to adhere but you don't? This is a tough concept to teach at the 4th & 5th grade level. I had to have this conversation with one of my students this week. I had to explain, that if I made an exception to the rule for her, I would be breaking the rule; not easy to understand the chain of events.
I think that is why I really like this year's theme for NLSW "It's Still All About Jesus" - "Jesus Christ the same Yesterday, Today, Forever - Hebrews 13:18" Our God, never changes, He stays the same!
It doesn't matter what we do, Jesus loves us and forgives us. Jesus gives us a consistency that is missing in the world; a consistency that has been missing in the world; a consistency that will always be missing in the world, but Jesus will never turn away from us.
Jesus led by example. One example that often comes to mind is when Peter denied Jesus at a time most crucial in Jesus' life. Peter was questioned three times if he knew the LORD. Three times Peter said NO! Each time he was more emphatic that he did not know the LORD, yet when they were together our LORD took Peter back into the discipleship. He even reinstated Peter and showed Peter how to minister to the sheep (John 21:15-25).
Our LORD knows what He expects from us and when we can't, and never will measure up, He has made a way for us. He himself has taken our place. This won't change. The promise was first made to Adam and Eve and it never changed. The promise was fulfilled through Christ's birth, death, and resurrection. The promise is fulfilled as we live out our life in HIM. The promise will be fulfilled when we each enter the kingdom when we take our last breath on earth.
Yes, Jesus Christ is the same Yesterday, Today, and Forever.
On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.
We have just celebrated Epiphany; "Three Kings Day" or "12th Night". The day in which the Magi visited the Christ Child. I find it interesting that while they brought Him gifts, the first thing they did was to bow down and worship Him. It was only after they worshiped Him that they presented Jesus with the gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
In many cultures, this is the day the gifts are exchanged and Christmas Day is the day of worship.
What strange gifts they were for a small child! We know that all small children put things in their mouths. Can you imagine Mary's thoughts?
But God the Father already had a plan in place, didn't he? He knew that Mary and Joseph would have a need for these gifts much sooner than they could imagine. They would have to pack up and travel to Egypt before the night turned into day.
These gifts would be useful in their new life in Egypt. Much speculation over the years has taken place as to what these gifts would be used for in the lives of Mary, Joseph, and Jesus. Did they use them for their travels? Did they use them to set up a life in Egypt? Did Mary save them and use them for Jesus' burial? We will never know...
But these gifts can have a special meaning for us in our lives.
Each of these gifts have a special story to tell...
GOLD - a precious item. What is the most precious gift you have been given? One you would not trade for anything! When you think of it, it invokes the BEST memories. Of course, our first thought is to say our salvation, for this is the best gift we could ever receive. What about an earthly gift?
FRANKINCENSE - this is often used for calming. We can look at this as a gift to renew our faith. Do you have a special devotional book or favorite Bible passages that get you through the tough times?
MYRRH - is an oil that is used for the body. We need to take care of the body both inside and out. The gift of myrrh helps to remind us that it was God who designed us and we must care for the body he gave us. How do you treat your body? Do you get enough sleep? Eat right? It is so easy in the world we live in to miss out on our body's clues?
As we see the three gifts of the Magi, let's look to them as ways to get closer to how the LORD leads us to live our lives this new calendar year.
What is wonderful about the LORD is that we don't need a new calendar year to make changes. Our LORD let us make changes in our lives each and every new day.