Last week we did not send out a Connection Newsletter. This was due to my being tied up with Identity Theft Issues. It seems that someone was able to get hold of some of my basic information and gain access to an email account, bank account, and shopping account.
This last week has been one of my having to prove who I am to a number of sources. Fortunately, I had enough security in place that this was a little easier for me than some people, still I am dealing with a lot of headache and much heartache. I may lose some money if any of my claims can’t be proven and my credit rating may take a hit for a while. I now have extra layers of security on everything I do online and it is a bit more time consuming to do many of the things I took for granted before with the internet.
This now leads me to the question of where does our identity truly lie?
I can safely say that I take my true identity from three sources
First – I identify as a child of God. I have been redeemed by the blood of Jesus Christ. This is a free gift and there is nothing I have to do for this gift or identity (Ephesians 2:8) Nothing can separate me from the Love of Christ (Romans 8:31-39). This is truly unconditional love.
Second – I identify as a child of my parents. One of my greatest joys through my life has been when I meet someone who says, “oh, you’re Dorothy’s or Ralph’s daughter.” I can honestly say I have always taken joy in being recognized as their daughter. They are the ones that first brought me to church. They are the ones that brought me to be Baptized and did not hinder the work of the Holy Spirit in my life. When I chose to become a Lutheran School teacher these are the two that took joy in my choice. They truly lived Proverbs 22:6. My parents showed each of their children unconditional love. My mother continues this with her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren to this day.
Third – I identify as the spouse of an amazing man. I truly believe the LORD chose him for me. When I look back at the road I traveled, the LORD was slowly leading me to Gerry. There were at least four times in my life that our paths almost crossed before they did. Gerry was a man after God’s own heart. When I was discouraged, he knew how to lift me up. This was evident even when we were just friends. Gerry was called home to the LORD just over seven years ago and I still identify as his spouse. When I look at choices and decisions that I need to make I still look as how we would handle it together as a couple in the LORD. My husband truly followed the example of a Godly husband as found in Galatians 5:25-33. My husband showed me the unconditional love that Christ shows His church.
These are the identities that can never be taken from me!
Most importantly my identity as a child of Christ can NEVER be taken from me. For I know that according to Romans 8:38-39 nothing can separate me from the love of Christ. This is an identity that can never be stolen!
(C) Vicki Helmling
In my apartment I have a wall of crosses. Among this wall of crosses is one cross made up of many crosses. It reminds me of a cross my husband, Gerry, bought me for our home many years ago; a cross I lost in the fire that destroyed our home three years ago.
Each of the crosses on the larger cross are different. All of the smaller crosses are decorative. They hang on a very rustic larger cross.
As I sit looking at this wall hanging, I realized there are various ways of looking at this piece of art in relation to our relationship to our LORD.
As I look at the cross, I see all of us as smaller versions of Christ, being attached to Him. Each of us are unique and different – yet each of us is the same in that we are each part of His family, individual Christians; no one more important than the other.
I look at the larger rustic cross as Christ and the way He lived His life. He gave up the riches of Heaven to live an earthly life. He lived the life of a poor person, a human so that He could take our place. So that he could pay the price for our sins, since we could not do this. He paid with His perfect life since we could not pay the price for our salvation.
Yet, in the center of the rustic cross is a large ornate cross which helps me remember Jesus’ divine nature. I remember that Jesus had to be fully God in order to give Himself as a sacrifice for us to have eternal life.
As I look at this cross, I see all the different children and people we here at Grace come into contact with and are sharing the Good News of salvation with; again, each with unique gifts and talents for His work here on earth.
I see an example of Matthew 16:24 – 26 where Christ told us to take up our cross and follow Him. I see each of us having various events in our lives that make us who we are. These events can be pleasant or unpleasant and they make and mold us into the people we are called to be. We can let these events make us beautiful and reflect the Light of Christ and follow Him, or we can put out His light and not follow Him.
It is up to us to if we let ourselves become lights that allow the Light of Christ shine out of us as 2 Corinthians 4:6 says. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.
We have routines in our classroom.
We have ways of doing things. We have ways of getting ready for the day’s beginning.
Four mornings a week we start our day with the rest of the school with morning devotions. We have a routine for this. First we open, “In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit”. We then say the pledge to first the American Flag, and then the Christian flag. It is then time to start our walk with God. This prepares our children to start the day in the “right” mind-set.
During the month of September, I have been blessed to lead the children through devotions. In order to spend this time with the children leading them in the WORD, I must first prepare myself. I must pray and then research what I will be speaking to them about. I must have knowledge of the topic.
The same is true when we gather in the classroom. When I lead the children in the subject I teach, I must not only have the knowledge of the subject matter, but I must be prepared. I must have the proper supplies for the children as well as the knowledge.
When God told Adam and Eve that He would send a Redeemer He did not do this right after they sinned. He took His time and prepared the world.
The timing had to be just right. The world had to be ready to not only receive Jesus, but also ready for Jesus to spread His Gospel. The world had to be ready for the Gospel to be easily spread.
God’s timing is always perfect, even if we don’t think it is right.
Sometimes we have to wait for God’s timing. Sometimes, it’s difficult to wait and we want to hurry the LORD along. Sometimes we aren’t prepared for God as we tire of waiting.
God always gives us what we need when we must wait. He has given us a book of instructions. He has given us the Bible.
All throughout the Old Testament God gave His people hints or insights into what His plans were for the birth of His Son and they often missed or ignored the clues. We now look back and ask how could they have missed the obvious? WE do this in our daily lives as we miss the clues the LORD is giving us. How do we know what He wants from us? We find His messages as we weekly attend worship and hear His Word and partake of the sacrament of His Supper.
You have this chance this Sunday to hear His word when you come to Grace Lutheran Church to hear the children of Grace sing praises to the LORD and see the dedicated teachers being installed for yet another year.
Come and join us as we worship and lift praises to the LORD!
Matthew 18:20 – “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”
This past week it has been quite warm in our classrooms. We know we are in the season of summer still, however; Monday is the official start of fall. This might be a bit hard for some to believe since we are expected to have warm weather through the next few days.
Our calendar seasons don’t always follow the weather seasons. It was our God who created the seasons as He placed the sun & moon in the sky on the fourth day. We know when He created the seasons, they were PERFECT. We also know, that sin entered the world and this messed everything up.
We are told in Ecclesiastes 3:1-8, “To everything there is a season.” We don’t always want to wait for the season. I’m already hearing in my room, “I can’t wait for the leaves to change color” or “I want for my birthday” or “I can’t wait for Christmas” and my favorite, “When do we get out of school?”
When the children tell me, they can’t wait for certain events, I explain, they have no choice but to wait as we can’t speed up time.
What season are you in?
To everything there is a season. Ecclesiastes 3:1 “
“Patience” “Wait your turn” “That’s for the older kiddos” “Trust me, you’ll understand when you’re older” It seems that many children want to do things before it is time to do them. The younger ones in Ms. Laurie’s room want to do the things the children in Mrs. Helmling’s room do and those in Mrs. Helmling’s room would like to have the privileges of the children in Mr. Jurica’s room. Of course, those in Mr. Jurica’s room…. (well, I’ll let you fill this in).
Aren’t we as adults also guilty of this as well? When we are expecting a new little one in the family, we are very excited and hope the child will be like everyone else. Parents count the fingers and toes, reflexes are tested. From that point on the comparisons begin and the race begins the be “THE BEST” - Not necessarily the child’s best but to be better than everyone else’s child. There’s the push to get things done in a hurry. We expect our little ones to walk early, talk early, learn to read early, learn their colors, numbers, and letters early. When they do, we are often in a hurry for them to slow down. We often wish we had the time to do over with them. We spend our time comparing ourselves and our children to others. Why do we do this? We do this because of sin and temptation. The very temptation the evil one used in the Garden with Eve, when he said the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil would make Eve like GOD.
When we rush ourselves and our children to do better than everyone else, are we teaching them to do their best for the LORD - to be their best for the LORD or are we doing it out of pride to show off to others?
In Ecclesiastes we are told there is a season for everything. We are in the growing season here at Grace. I know, it is fall, but we are growing your children to be the best the LORD has created them to be.
As we watch the children reaching up towards the nurturing that comes from their teachers not one of these children is going to be learning at the same rate. None of us would think to force a flower to grow. Help us grow your children in grace, knowledge, and wisdom as we teach them the ways of the LORD and the knowledge to be successful in their lives. Remember – we are all fearfully and wonderfully made – Psalm 139:14
· Pencils, pens, erasers, crayons, coloring pencils, and book bags – these are the things of which the first day of school is made.
· Being prepared that is another thing of which the first day of school is made.
· Math books, English books, spelling books, and reading books more of which signals the first day of school.
· Meeting old and new friends figuring out our class schedules makes for a very busy first day of school.
Welcome back to another school year.
Here at Grace our first day of school is even more than what I have listed above –
Our first day involved:
· Chapel lead by Pastor Gomez – Our first of many worship experiences together, where we learn and remember the LOVE our Savior Jesus has for us.
· Classroom time – learning the classroom rules, which center around the 2 Great Commandments:
1. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind (Matthew 22:37)
2. Love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:39)
· Lunchtime – Joining together in lunch fellowship by beginning in prayer.
The first day also means a new start. For the children this means a new grade.
For those of us, Christians, this new start holds a special meaning.
· We are given a new start every day.
· We are given a new start every hour
· We are given a new start every second.
This happens as we ask our LORD for His forgiveness. Each and every time, we are made new in Him!
For we are new creations in Christ! 2 Corinthians 5:17 “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old is gone, the new is Here!
This school year we look to showing the love we have for others that Jesus first gave to us and watching children become the New Creation in the LORD.
Definition - freedom from fault or defect
This has been a busy year - but it hasn't been perfect!
We have had many successes - but no perfect successes!
The children have learned many things - but nothing to perfection!
One of my students had a goal this year. Her goal was for perfect attendance. This meant that she couldn't be late or absent at all! She did a great job and will receive a certificate on Wednesday, June 12 at our closing ceremony.
If we follow the exact definition of perfection, then she missed the mark, because she wasn't in her seat in the classroom every day before 8:30 a.m. Some days she couldn't be in her seat by 8:30 because I had to be out of the classroom. Also, she left early some days, because her mom picked her up early. But we don't count perfect attendance that way!
Perfection! We spend a lot of time looking for perfection in our daily lives. We expect so much from the others in our lives, we often expect them to be perfect.
I read an article once, about expectant parents. The author stated that parents spent the time waiting for their newborn asking that their child be "normal/average". Once the baby is born, they then spend their time expecting their child to be better in everything to the point of being perfect, leaving little room for mistakes. The child has to walk sooner than others, talk sooner than others, read sooner than others, be at the top of his/her class all through school. The author went on to say that rather than look to the gifts and talents the LORD gave the child, parents often expect perfection, often because these are the expectations, we place on ourselves.
What does our LORD have to say about perfection?
He expects it from us! Surprised at the answer? Our God does expect us to be perfect. But it's not in the things we do. It's not a perfectly lined up diploma, a perfectly baked chocolate chip cookie, or the perfect grade our child brings home in every subject in school.
What our Father expects us to be perfect in, is our daily life, our daily sinless life. One of the differences in His expectation of our perfection and our expectation of perfection, is that He knows WE CANNOT BE PERFECT! We think we can be perfect!
It is only in Christ that we can be made perfect. We cannot enter eternal life without being made perfect in Christ. We are told this in Matthew 5:48, Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. And in Hebrews 10:14, For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.
So, as we end the school year and begin the summer months, let us remember that while we can do all things in Christ who strengthens me (Philippians 4:13). It is only through Him that we can be made perfect in our faith.
Let us remember that while we strive for the best with our children, it is only through the LORD that we all will be made perfect.
Memorial Day - Easter Season
What do you do to remember people who have died for their country? If they are from your family, you might go to the cemetery to put flowers on their graves. From the time of the U.S. Civil War, Americans have set aside time to remember those who served their country. One of those times is Memorial Day.
We originally called this day Decoration Day, because the graves of the soldiers were decorated with flowers.
When I was in school, we would bring our pennies (yes, pennies) to school to be collected for flowers to be placed on the tombs of soldiers in our local cemetery. I can remember proudly giving my teachers my pennies to help brighten up the graves of soldiers who I would never know.
It is important that we honor those brave men and women who have sacrificed for our country, who have given up their lives, without question for our freedoms. For freedoms we so often take for granted.
Most people of my generation have someone who has served in the military. You see, I come from the time when young men were drafted. You didn't have a choice, you SERVED! You served proudly. It was an honor to serve your country, if you were drafted into the armed forces.
The Bible tells us, "No greater love has no one than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends." (John 15:13)
We all have someone in our lives who gladly gave His life for us. He did this willing, when He went to the cross. Our LORD gave His life so that we may live in Heaven with Him. He didn't do this for love of country. He didn't do this because he received a notice telling him to report for active duty. He did this purely out of His love for each and every one of us.
We don't have to go to a cemetery to place flowers or flags on a grave to remember the ONE who gave His life for us! The reason is the tomb is EMPTY!
We have the JOY of knowing that while Christ laid His life down for us, this isn't the end of the story! He rose again on the third day and His tomb is Empty!
We don't need a Memorial Day to remember our LORD and His sacrifice for us because we have a Good Friday and an EASTER!
Praise the LORD - We live in an Eternal EASTER Season!
Who are you?
Before I was married, I used the Title "Ms." Instead of "Miss" with my last name, of Tetro. I didn't want to have people know whether I was married or not, it was a security thing. I was proud of where I came from and wanted them to know who I was, and who I was related to - I'm proud of my parents.
After, I married I never used the title of "Ms." again! I proudly "took" my husband's name twenty-eight years ago as well as the title of "Mrs.". I still use the title today, even though it's been six and a half years since he has gone home to the LORD. I would no more drop the title than I would drop my last name.
When we married, I became a new person - I was no longer single. I went from being alone to being one with my husband. Strange math our LORD has when He speaks of the two becoming one.
This is so true of our relationship with our LORD. We are told that when we are His we are a new creation - We read in 1 Corinthians 5:17, Therefore if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone; the new is here!
With the shedding of the old and the putting on of the new we also take a new name, that of Christian. As we take the name of Christian, we become "little Christs" followers of Christ. We strive to follow Him all the days of our lives. We live for Him, become one with Him. He lives in us. We listen to Jesus' words in John 14:15, If you love me, keep my commands. This isn't an earthly command made for proof of love with a chance of the loved one turning away, but a heavenly command with a promise and with a show of love.
When we were brought into the family of God, we are indeed new in Christ and even though He hasn't been on the Earth for over two-thousand years we still use the title of Christian. We still strive to live to the example He set for us. We are still one with Him.
We truly have an awesome God who loves us and has given us a unique identity that changed who we were before the Son set us free through His sacrificial death and resurrection.
HIStory is Coming
(Why We Teach & Lead the Children of Grace)
I love a good story!
I especially love true stories!
I love it when our family gets together and tells family history stories!
I love the Easter Story!
I love all the little stories inside the Easter Story!
I love the various connections in the Easter Story!
This week we begin the telling of Jesus' final walk to the cross.
There are three disciples that are mentioned, by name, with key roles, in the events of Christ's death and Resurrection:
Each of these three disciples responded to their sin differently
Each of these disciples can be compared to the walks people take in their faith.
Each of these disciples can be compared to the seeds the LORD speaks about in the parable of the SOWER in Matthew 13.
Sadly, Judas' faith mirrored that of the seeds that were not able to produce fruit.
Both Peter and Thomas went on to great ministry in the spreading of the Good News of Salvation in the early Church - even to die for their LORD and Savior.
"Sticks and stones will break my bones,
But names will never hurt me!"
This was a popular rhyme when many of us were younger. We all know this isn't really true. Part of growing up is learning to deal with "name calling".
We as teachers work with this on a daily basis.
The Eighth Commandment says, "You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor." This means that we should protect our neighbor's (friend's) reputation at all times. This includes the way we address our friends and neighbors. This is a very difficult concept for children of all ages to comprehend.
We know that the tongue is a powerful weapon. We are told in Ephesians 4:29 (ESV) Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.
It is hard not to fight back when someone hurts your feelings. Both children and adults often lash out with words, with name calling. Often when a child is called a name and his/her feelings are hurt they identify with the name he/she was called. As many times as we tell them they are not that name or that they should ignore the name they were called they have difficulty following our words.
What then can we do?
We can teach them to stand up for what they believe in - by our example!
We can teach them to have faith in their LORD and that He created a unique human being in His image - by our example.
We can teach them through our actions and language that we respect all people as our LORD does.
We can show them through the examples in the Bible where our LORD faced the same issues we face today. We can show them how He faced these challenges as both God and man.
We can teach them that there is one name by which we all are to be called, that will not hurt us for eternity - CHRISTIAN! This is the name that will guide our behavior. This is the name we are given as followers of Christ. In John 15:14-16 Christ tells us that we are now His friends and that He makes everything know to us that He learned from His Father.
We have a choice when calling people names.
We can call people by names that will hurt them.
We can call people by the name that will help them for all eternity!
John 15:14-16 (NIV)
14You are my friends if you do what I command.
15 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master's business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit-fruit that will last-and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you.
Vicki Helmling is a teacher at Grace English Lutheran School