When we teach children safety about crossing the street, we tell them to stop, look both ways and listen for the traffic.
At Grace we have a phrase we use with the kiddos when we want their extra close attention. It is "stop, look at me and listen". All I have to do is say this phrase and all eyes are on me, and the children are waiting for an important announcement.
This past Sunday we celebrated the TRANSFIGURATION of Jesus. The day we remember when Jesus appeared with Moses and Elijah to three of His disciples. What I find interesting is that while Jesus is on the mountain with Moses and Elijah, Peter is busy talking and making plans about what they should do while Moses and Elijah are there. I think this aspect appeals to the teacher in me. I have to wonder if Jesus just wanted to tell Peter "Shhhh!" Jesus didn't have to do anything. His Father in Heaven took care of it for Him. While Peter was still speaking, God the Father said, "this is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!" (Matthew 17:5).
When the disciples heard the voice of God, they were terrified and fell on their faces. Jesus, the Great Comforter, told them to get up and not be afraid. He knew the love His Father had for His children. He knew the message and ministry that was to come and the purpose He, Jesus, had to accomplish.
It is important that we as Christians stop, look, and listen to the Word of God, just as the disciples had to stop look, and listen on the mountain.
We need to STOP what we are doing once a week. Stop and attend a church service. Stop what we are doing and be in fellowship with other Christians through Word and Sacrament.
We need to LOOK, pray, and meditate daily on the word of God and seek His message in our lives.
We need to LISTEN to what He has to say to us throughout our lives through His word. The Word of the LORD is a living and breathing word. It has applications for us at every stage of our lives. We need the fellowship of others to help us understand what He has to say to us.
The children of our school stop, look, and listen to the word of the LORD each and every day. We as adults need to do this as well.
This is what our LORD told us.
Wednesday begins the season on Lent with Ash Wednesday.
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." (1 Peter 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?
One possibility of actions in Lent is performing an act of service for someone without their knowledge. By doing this, we make not only others better, but ourselves better as well.
How about you? What will you be giving up for Lent?
Thursday of this week we had a special visitor at school, Bosco. Bosco is a pet therapy dog who works with Mr. Hayford's sister-in-law (Mrs. Dietre Hayford) through Pet Partners. Bosco's job is to help comfort people in need. They may be sick, dying or have emotional issues.
We had a great time learning all about Bosco, his training, and what is expected of him.
We met Bosco last school year, so he was a returning friend!
Bosco has a unique calling. He must behave differently than many dogs, when he is working. Many of Bosco's natural instincts must be trained out of him. When Bosco is working, he must not react to loud noises, people trying to get his attention, other dogs or animals. As one student put it, Bosco must resist temptations.
This is Bosco's "calling". He knows what to do when Mrs. Hayford takes Bosco into a hospital. He knows what the person needs. He will often cuddle with the ill person and simply lie they and be "loved" upon. This calling can't be taken out of him. We were told this is something he loves to do at home with his family, as well.
While Mrs. Hayford was speaking to the classrooms about Bosco, I thought about our calling that the LORD put in us before we were part of our mother. We are told in Jeremiah 1:5 that the LORD knew Jeremiah before his birth, He said to Jeremiah: "I knew you before I formed you in your mother's womb. Before you were born, I set you apart and appointed you as my prophet to the nations."If this is true of Jeremiah, this too must be true for us as well.
We all have been given special gifts and talents that we are to use to glorify the LORD in whatever He has called us to do.
Some of us know what we are called to do from an early age. Some of us don't know until we have the "aha" moment and find that position that just seems to "call" to us. Some of us have someone who directs us to the path we are to take. Some never seem to find it till they retire and then...there it is! But no matter what we do we are to do it all to His glory.
It was interesting to watch Bosco with Mrs. Hayford. He waited for her to give him the directions he needed before he acted. At times it was a bit of a wait. For us it was a couple minutes. For Bosco, it must have seemed even longer, because he would be receiving a treat at the end of his task or trick.
Again, how much like Bosco we all are. We must all "wait upon the LORD". How often to do get impatient and want it now. Our reward is much more than Bosco's though. Our reward is that one day we will be in paradise with our LORD. For us it is quite simple but also very hard as well. It is very hard to resist the temptations of this world. We are told that all we have to do is, "Believe on the LORD Jesus, as your Savior, and you will be saved". (Acts 16:31a)
Our calling cannot be taken away by anyone - it was placed there by the LORD. The calling that our children have been given is there for them to discover. It is up to us to help guide and lead them to where He wants them to go with their gifts.
We celebrated Valentine's Day on Thursday. A day of showing those we love, that we love them. The kiddos really enjoy this day, as do the teachers. We receive joy in watching the children share their love with the important people in their lives.
We are here for the children. We are here to show them we love them. We are here to protect them. We are here for a multitude of reasons. Mainly, we are here to show them the love of the LORD. We are here to show them the GREATER LOVE! We are here to show them what the LORD did for them. We are here to show them Jesus and then let the Holy Spirit do His work.
We spend the year teaching the students about the Greater Love, the love that Christ gave us, the love of His laying His life down for us.
While we might not be called to lay our life down for another, we are called to do for others. We are called to love not just one day of the year but every day. We are called to show the love that Christ showed us to others. We are called not to ask about the person we are showing our love to but to show that love to them simply because Christ first loved us (1 John 4:19)
12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends. 14 You 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.
Over the course of my teaching career I have been blessed with many leaders, guides, and mentors. They have all made an impression on me. At times I have wondered why these amazing people have given some of the assignments to the staffs on which I have served.
When I taught in Western New York, I worked with a wonderful principal, for one year. He often handed out "strange assignments" during our faculty meetings.
He would say one day next week I'm going to assign you to a random classroom without any warning, or for one day you must teach without any text books, worksheets, or support materials. He would pick the day and tell us on that day. We would have to be prepared to work in either a setting we had to adapt to/or an unfamiliar setting. Needless to say, many on the staff grumbled when he would do this.
The questions and statements always came up "Why? We're experienced teachers, we don't need these kinds of exercises!"
Our principal was training us for a path we might have to walk someday.
He was right, we would face experiences where we had to think on our feet, where we wouldn't always be prepared and have the best, near-best, or even close the to best of everything.
Over the years, I've often thanked the LORD for this mentor, as he taught me not only how to work in extreme settings, like we've had these past couple of weeks, but he taught me what the Bible Parable about the "Ten Virgins", Matthew 25:1-13, is about. Yogi Helming (no relation, different spelling) taught us how to always be prepared.
He taught us that in our calling as church workers we must be prepared, that we don't know what the day, or hour might bring. He taught us that we must be prepared to give an account in and of our faith. He taught us that we can not build up our faith for another. He taught us we must lead by example. He taught that our being prepared will lead others to be prepared.
Shortly after I left Martin Luther Christian School in Western NY Yogi contracted cancer. He led in this area too, by his faith. He faced this disease with strength and dignity. He knew his LORD and Savior. There was no doubt when he passed from this world into the next, that the next world was that where his Savior & our Savior, Jesus is. I know that Yogi is there. I know because he was one whose lamp was full.
What are you being trained for? What are you being challenged to do? Where will it lead you? Where will it lead your children? Let the LORD guide you.
In today's world these, two words often seem at odds. How can one serve and still be a leader? This week the students in some of the classrooms have been learning about just such a man. This man was someone who served the needs of others. He did this when times were good. He did this when times were tough.
Dr. King was a servant-leader. He was taught how to serve others by his parents. He was taught by his father, a pastor. He was taught by example. The examples were taught at home. The examples were based on what his parents taught him from the Bible.
He was taught by the examples of the greatest servant-leader, our LORD. Jesus came into the world to save us. He came into the world to show us the Good News of Salvation. He showed us how to live. 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. Matthew 20:27-28 tells us that Jesus came not be served, but to serve and to give His life up for many.
We know how Dr. King fought for equality for all. We know how Dr. King fought for the rights of all through civil disobedience. We know about Dr. King's marches. We know a lot about his public person. There is a lot written about this great man. Just one search this morning on Google for "Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr." turned up over 108 million hits.
We consider Dr. King a hero!
Dr. King had heroes as well. Three of his heroes were: Martin Luther (1483-546) Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862) and Gandhi (1869-1948). From these three men he learned many things. He learned more about his faith and how to handle events in his life in a peaceful manner. Dr. King was no stranger to having to "turn the other cheek". Dr. King was a man of principles. He held his views high and expected that of those around him. Dr. King inspired a whole generation of people to look at their neighbor differently. He inspired a whole generation in history of people to move out of what we now call a "comfort zone" and do something different. I know he influenced my husband, as a college student to travel to Birmingham, AL during a turbulent time and register voters.
Although Dr. King held these three men in high regard, he didn't get his beliefs from them or those around him. Ultimately what he believed came from what he was taught by his parents as a child - What they taught him from the Bible.
When Dr. King was questioned about who he was, or what he considered most important in his life his first answers didn't have to do with what he had accomplished or the changes he made. His first response was that he was a Baptist minister. He was first and foremost a child of the LORD's. What he saw in people was that all were equal in the sight of the LORD. We are all equal in our sin and we are all equal in our forgiveness through Christ. Dr. King knew this, believed this, and practiced this.
When Dr. King faced the hard times in his life, it was to the Word that he went, it was to other ministers of different denominations that he went - to whom he reached out.
As we celebrate or remember Dr. King this Monday, January 21, 2019, in whatever way(s), take the time to thank the LORD for placing Dr. King in a time in history when he could speak out. Christ said," There is no greater love, than to lay down one's life for one's friends." (John 15:13)
Take a moment and read the "I Have A Dream" speech. Take a moment and look closely to see how much Dr. King referred to words from the Bible.
As we enter a New Year, how do we handle the stresses and the challenges that we will face? They are often the same challenges that we faced at the stroke of midnight when the calendar went from 2018 to 2019. Just because the calendar year changed, doesn't mean our lives changed.
How do we handle the joys, disappointments, the ups & the downs in life?
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?
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."
I heard a Christian musician once say, that when she complains about this not being her day, her dad tells her, it's not, it's the LORD's day.
Psalm 118:24 - This is the day the LORD has; We will rejoice and be glad in it.
Psalm 136:1a O give thanks to the LORD
Small Business Saturday.
All but one of these are new since I grew up. We had Thanksgivng Day and then the day after was the day all the stores surprised us with their Christmas displays.
So much has changed over the years, but yet it still stays the same. Families look forward to getting together for the Thanksgiving holiday. Many of my family and friends tell me Thanksgiving is their favorite holiday. They say this is the day "nothing" is expected of them. My question is "Really?" So many people set expectations for this day of family.
They have forgotten it was a day set aside to give thanks.
Why do we have to have expectations on the holidays? We plan, and plan, and plan, and then are disappointed.
We put our faith in what others should be doing in relation to what we have done for them.
Let's look at each of the above days.
Thanksgiving - giving thanks for what the LORD has given to us!
Black Friday - getting as much as we can possibly get. This has often turned into an example of the 9th and 10th Commandments' examples on greed.
Small Business Saturday - supporting those independent businesses in our community.
Cyber Monday - again, a way to get the best we can (often for our own benefit)
Giving Tuesday- Helping out others, usually a charitable organization.
Are we using the Thanksgiving season in a way that would please the LORD?
Black Friday was so named because this is the day that many businesses count on finally going into the "black" for the year.
We too have a Black Friday. This is a day when the sky turned dark, the ground shook, the Temple curtain was torn in two from top to bottom. This is the day that our LORD was crucified and put into the tomb. This is the day that all seemed lost. The followers of Christ gathered together, but they didn't do so to celebrate. They did so in fear. Then, like in the days when I was growing up, came the day (Sunday) of an "unveiling." This unveiling was different. While the stores after Thanksgiving had their windows all decorated, this unveiling had an angel telling the women, "He is not here! He is risen, just as he said!"
Let us put our faith in the risen LORD and not be disappointed! Let us enjoy the holiday celebrations!
Let us remember what we are celebrating as we go from Thanksgiving to Christmas.
Let us remember to set the example that we want children to learn from.
Let us remember the baby in the manger that lived His life for us.
Let us live our lives for Him
Let us read Psalm 136, where each verse ends, "His love endures forever."
Five loaves and two fish, that's all it took to be a good neighbor!
It had been a long day and the people had been listening to a rabbi (teacher) speaking. As far as we know most hadn't prepared a meal to bring with them and they were hungry! What were they to do?
The teacher had an idea! He asked his followers for advice and they were NO HELP! But the teacher had an idea. He called over a little boy who had a lunch with five small loaves of bread and two small fish. It couldn't have been much as it was his lunch.
The teacher had those assembled sit down in groups of fifty. He then blessed the food. He and His followers passed out the food. When everyone had had enough, they collected the remains and there were twelve baskets left that day. The number that was fed was about five thousand men (we don't know how many women and children there were in the group). This teacher was of course, Jesus! This history is of course the feeding of the 5,000!
Just think what Jesus did with so little!
It was a tough year and many friends and family are no longer around They have died, due to the extreme living conditions. They were among strangers who seem to be kind and helpful. Many speak a different language than they did; thankfully, there are those among them that understand your language.
They wanted to invite them to join as they gave thanks to the God, they know to be true. Yet this group of strangers didn't worship the same. They weren't certain they would join in the celebration. If these new-found friends do show up, there might not be enough food.
Yet, that is what happened 487 years ago in 1621, when the Pilgrims gathered together to give thanks that the LORD brought them through the harsh winter of 1620. Half of their family and friends had died. The LORD showed them the compassion of the Wampanoag Native Americans when they, the Pilgrims, were strangers in a strange land.
The Pilgrims were escaping religious persecution in England. The Pilgrims were scared. This was a new, unknown place.
The Wampanoags did not see the Pilgrims as a threat because they had seen many ships come and go. What was different with this group was that the Pilgrims brought their women and children with them. What they did for the Pilgrims in befriending them was part of their culture. As a result, both groups ended up working together that first year.
The Pilgrims knew that the only way they were able to survive the year of hardship was by the Grace of God. When they decided to give thanks to the LORD, it was natural to share this with their helpers - the Wampanoags. What the Pilgrims did not expect was the arrival of more than 90 Wampanoags.
The Wampanoags did not arrive empty handed. They made sure there was enough food for all. Again, the LORD provided. They turned a little into a lot.
The sharing & togetherness, the reaching out to one another was an example of "loving their neighbor" even though they were from very different backgrounds.
The Pilgrims had to make many choices in their lives for their families. These choices ended in tragedy in at least half of the families. They faced the unknown with the KNOWN - the KNOWN GOD. This is what took them through their first year and many more years.
We too have many choices to make as we face the unknown with our KNOWN God.
This Thanksgiving season, your children are choosing to bring in nonperishable items for people they don't know, for people they know won't have as much. They are being good neighbors, "Good Samaritans"! Let us always remember to give thanks to the LORD and to teach our children to reach out to those that need us.
Our children know who their neighbors are. They are those the LORD has called them to help. They have answered the call, "Here am I, send me!"
Our LORD was able to make a lot out of the little with the loaves & fish, simply through His word. The Wampanoags were able to make a lot out of a little with the Pilgrims simply out of their adding what they had to what the Pilgrims had.
Let us let the LORD use us to make a lot out of a little.
Vicki Helmling is a teacher at Grace English Lutheran School