Why does God have me around all the people-pleasers?

Since I have moved about a month ago, I have met the overwhelming power and presence of God over my life. Through a series of events and daily encouragements, I am so convinced that the Lord is with me, and it is certainly his will that I am here, learning to be a teacher. Overwhelming, nearly inexplicable strength has come over me despite having moved to a new city, making new friends, setting new habits, etc. I have found a wonderful church. I have people I am supposed to care for. I am being groomed for ministry through working with children and other people (and their parents). If ever God lays something so thick on your heart about the direction you should go but doesn’t explain it, listen. I would have never expected that the best training I could receive for ministry would be in a Master’s degree program for Early Childhood Education. The Lord knows all the details. I don’t yet, but it’s so obvious that this is his will that it’s hard to worry about all that.

For the past year or so, the Lord has brought friendships in my life with people who instinctively try to make everybody happy. Which to me, is madness. I am direct. I am decisive. I don’t mince words but I’ll go miles out of my way for a friend. I get the feeling that I’m supposed to learn something through all these people, and I have. I get the feeling also that I’m meant to strengthen people somehow, and model/teach about what healing is and the freedom available in Christ. It isn’t always easy.

When you are made aware of people’s needs by the Holy Spirit, that can be a heavy burden. It’s hard watching my friends struggle to parse out how to meet what they need. I often watch people pursue all sorts of paths that I can tell you from my own experience won’t serve you for nothing. I can often tell you why those paths are false, both from scripture and personal experience. I can even tell you what it feels like to be in that specific situation, because I remember. It’s maddening to know what people are going through and only be able to tell them what I know about the truth: That Jesus came and rose again so that we would not just have life, but have it to the full. That Christ is strong enough. That literally the only thing that is going to fill that hole is Jesus. It sounds crazy. It is crazy. It’s also true.

When people see where God has brought me but weren’t witness to where I’ve been, they just have to take my word for it. If you already have a hard time believing, that may be a stretch. I’m just trying to keep the same steadfast behavior and even become more kind. Shifting your heart attitude to a place to where you’re willing to believe that there could be a God takes time. You can’t rush it.

Which is maddening. I know what could heal you TODAY, but most people aren’t ready. I have to patiently wait and continue to show grace until the day comes (if it comes) where you’d be curious or desperate enough to seek Jesus. That’s hard. My soul mourns and cries out watching all of these people killing themselves for a grace that can’t be found where they’re seeking it.

God has honored me by teaching me these things while I am still young, but that’s also difficult. So few people have found God at this age. So few people of my generation believe that Christianity could be genuine. We are scattered in 1000 different directions because of the lack of integrity in the generations before us. We are desperately pursuing authenticity wherever we believe it might be, despite all of these bitter old people who want to act like we’re the most shallow generation that’s ever lived. When you criticize Millennials, you basically admit that you aren’t willing to help us, and you aren’t actually invested in growing the next generation of the kingdom of God. That’s selfish.

Lord, please teach us to bear with one another, ESPECIALLY when it’s hard. We are a people in need of healing. We believe that you are powerful. That you’re strong enough. Please come and heal us through your own name. Amen.

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Spiritual slavery to false idols

Reflecting on Luke 8:26-39. In this passage, Jesus cures a man of many demons. Upon leaving his body, these demons (Legion) rush into some nearby pigs and drive them off the side of a cliff. Upon seeing a man previous naked and insane clothed and in his right mind, the people of this village beg Jesus to depart from them, in fear. Jesus tells that man to return home, and declare all that God has done for him.

For my mature Christians in the room, how often have y’all shared the gospel with someone, and because of past or present addictions, someone is afraid to receive the truth? How often do we let the demons in our lives that we have been worshiping continue to enslave us, after encountering the one true God? Maybe our hearts aren’t ready to receive it. I’ll say it again.

The spirit of the Enemy wants to kill, steal, and destroy. The spirit of confusion, disorder, death, and chaos will try whatever it can to take your peace, your joy, your faith, and in faith, your grounds for boasting in the power of God. If even demons (like Legion) beg not to be cast out, can anyone doubt the power of our God? So what keeps us from believing in his power? What present or past slavery still enslaves us?

With any kind of idolatry, there is a transaction being made. Unlike the free gift of grace, worshiping false idols costs you something. Whether it is worshiping self-image, substance abuse or other addictions, lies about the man or woman you were called to be, or other forms of false worship, you sacrifice God’s gifts in your life in order to believe more in the sin than in those things you surrender. For example, those of us who venerate our own image sacrifice the promise that there is a God that loves us just as we are, that we don’t need to perform to please him, that there is nothing more (or less) we could do to receive love from him, that his love is the most important. As debt racks up and we add sin to further sin, the Devil delights in casting us far away from God. His goal is to mislead as many people as possible, and his wages lead to death. We may enjoy attention we get from other people, but it’s a shallow joy. It’s being seen versus being RISEN. There is a power in Christ that can resurrect people from the grave, and resurrects all of us who believe in him in every weak place we surrender to him. So what stops us from surrendering our hearts?

Part of the issue is that a slave runs around thinking how she/he can do more to pay debt back, instead of slowing down long enough to comprehend the forgiveness of God. If Christ really loves you, then his love is absolutely free. Busyness is not godliness, but incites chaos that serves as an effective distraction. If the Lord’s peace is our strength, if his promises are certain, if his justice is sovereign, then who will slow down long enough to learn about the goodness of God? Who is willing to be a Mary and not just a Martha?

If there is a light in us, then it comes from Christ. Goodness is a spiritual goodness, not a man-made goodness. We have the image of God, but we need the light of Christ to illuminate that image of God in us, and give life to the places that are far from him. God can transform every area of your life if you are willing to submit to him. How many people are willing to accept that the good things in their lives are not their own? In order to become wise, are you willing to accept the limitations of your own understanding? Are you willing to be made a fool so that you might live?

The world doesn’t believe in spiritual activity unless we define it to be neutral. You talk about the Devil or the divinity of God, and immediately you piss off people who want to remain comfortable, because they are so afraid of the ways that oppressive spirit will move against them. On our own, there is no freedom. Only in Jesus is there resurrection. If you really want to break free, you have to submit to Christ and exchange the freedom you have on this earth for a spiritual freedom that transcends just what you can see, know, and hear. If you are willing to believe, freedom comes at no cost.

May we receive what we did not purchase

Who will believe what was spoken to us? Who will take up this sacred offering?

I see the song of my life, an anthem of your forgiveness in the face of certain death. I watch you redeem my every plot twist, and give me a new name. Who still believes in the intimate love of God, that transcends sex, transcends human intimacy, transcends the limits of our own forgiveness?

Who would believe in the audacious love of God, and the promises of his Son? Who is willing to hope so large and so wide that the love of God is with us to acknowledge the divinity of the Son?

Who has need of resurrection? Who among us has tasted the fruit of the world, and found it to be bitter?

The love of God rolls out like waves we haven’t wanted. We resist the very fiber of what gives us life to insist on our own choices that don’t sustain us. We plead with each other and sculpt individual credos of morality, without every encountering the Almighty who made us all. Ignorant of religion, ignorant of sin, ignorant of fulfillment, devoid of peace. We act as though each one of us being judged separately means that there is no love, no judgment, no justice. We long for justice, but don’t believe in it. We ache for God’s love, a love we’d never believe in.

Who is capable of becoming less, so that he might be more? Who among us is wise enough to hear him calling her by name? All the works of his Kingdom acknowledge his divinity and obey, but we resent it. How could you love us after that? Is there really grace?

May my generation realize that the love of God always triumphs over your attempts to outrun it. May the church actually believe in grace, as we look around and realize that all have fallen. May we testify to the truth that is in us, and this amazing love that was and is and is yet to come.

On my own, I will always be disappointed. Only when my sin was nailed to the cross and my righteousness is defined through the Son of God can I truly be free. Yet who will have a heart to know what he has heard from us? Greater love has not been known than the all consuming love of God.

Lord come quickly

Trying to sit in the silence. Like a steady gaze, the need to just breathe and be seen by God is all I can manage. Trying to believe that there is a reason for the things that happen in my life, that God understands the ins and outs of this life, the sorrow, the death, the joy. When the whole world seems fragile and so quick to point out one another’s flaws as we speed forward towards a land of few solutions, I just want to be still.

I can’t give up hope that the Lord will do something. There are children looking to me to remain steady, giving up isn’t a choice. If we let our fear distance our hearts from the Lord, we accept defeat on behalf of the next generation, who is looking to us. We are still alive. There is still work to do. In a time where simple honesty seems to stir up everyone’s emotions, where we have the sacred right to destroy ourselves and others, and when abandoning the need to prove something makes you into a martyr, at least we have meaning. That our lives are actually valuable to God, and are capable of being useful. Where we can actually know God’s spirit, and trust him. I am not a fan of everything God does, but he is God. Who can disagree with him? Who can question his ways?

When I was younger, I wanted to pursue wisdom. I grow older only to find that most people have abandoned it. Running off in ten thousand different directions, trying to find a way to be less hungry, bitter, and cold. Has your senseless idealism bought you anything? Have you gained wisdom in all the places you know you should be happy? The truth is passing through our fingers and are throats are so thirsty. Who will be bold enough to drink? Who still believes that God owns these things: the things we take for granted, the things we do not recognize, the people we often forget? It’s terrible, but I find myself hoping that he would judge even to wrath with his coming. May he destroy our foolishness. May our clever words and actions be dashed to pieces.

I cant think of a single member of my family who isn’t broken, crying out for things they don’t feel like they could ever accomplish, let alone, find. I can’t think of any of the families I have come to know that value each other even most of the time; and even of those that do, in this life they are defenseless. A marginal minority trying to make a difference in overwhelming apathy and disillusionment. I realize that now is an excellent time for people to believe in God. Unique shades of sorrow, conflicted emotions, and confusion speckle the news. Why does it have to take disaster to have something beautiful to share with people? Why does it have to necessitate famine, or war, or illness, or death to get anyone’s attention? If God is just and trying to get to know everyone all of the time, unsuccessfully because of our mixed interests, how can so few people come? We are beginning to cannibalize one another from the depths of our need. Truly, we all want to believe we ourselves are the most broken. We starve our children for affection because each of us is the most hurt. We ourselves are broken children crying out for an answer.

I believe so much in honesty. Like looking in a mirror. But who likes what they see, anymore? When we examine ourselves, are we satisfied with what we have done? Are we happy with the choices we have made? The things we have accomplished? If we don’t allow ourselves to drink in this honesty, we will never find peace and never need to move. We will sit pretty in these rusted seats until the day where each is called to account for it. There could have been hope for you, if you just were willing to take it. There could have been peace. There could have been life. There could have been family. There could have been wholeness. There could have been sanity.

May God finish it quickly. When he’s tired of giving options, when he’s tired of reaching out to us and the last group of people are finally offered the choice to believe or to disbelieve it, it will be finished. We will be home. I wish I were already in that place. There is still work left, but I just see bitterness and chaos all around me. Come quickly.

In a non-white classroom with Jesus

Spending time reading before I start my Master’s degree program in Early Childhood Ed, I often feel overwhelmed. There are so many pieces of information and gritty lessons that veteran teachers have cobbled together for our benefit. In a time where teaching affords you little prestige, little respect, and little political immunity, I am continually impressed by the teachers on the front lines. The sheer amount of responsibilities that even terrible teachers have makes you wonder how anyone stumbled into this profession. I wonder how many people are like me, who wonder if they are really up for the challenge. God will give me the strength.

I am reading a book called “Multiplication is for white people” by Lisa Delpit, and it’s phenomenal. In reading this book, I seriously wonder if my best efforts, genuine care, and previous life experience are enough to overcome any demographic differences between me and my students. Students of color or students living in poverty have such a hard run in today’s educational systems, and it’s overwhelming to think that it’s up to teachers to make up the difference. As a white woman with too little experience with latino, black, or native cultures, I’d be a fool not to seek out help where I can find it. I’m grateful that I have to be thinking about cultural differences before I start co-teaching, and I really hope God will create opportunities for me to learn from veteran teachers of color. I know that being bold in Kansas is not the same thing as being bold in a bigger city. To be perfectly honest, I am not sure I have the stamina or enough hope in anything greater than myself (even God, sometimes) to fight for students in the ways that they need. A lot of my faith has to do with grit and just getting by in hard circumstances. Do I have enough radical hope to give all I’ve got to try to make a difference? Right in this moment, the answer is no.

It’s still the beginning. I still haven’t learned much of anything, and I know that in my program, there will be many chances to learn. It’s just a lot to realize that as a teacher, you are responsible for so many people’s dreams outside of yourself. I am in a position of enormous responsibility in teaching other people’s children, and more often than not, I am in a role that a lot of parents cant do for themselves. Whether it’s time, money, skill sets, or just different life experience, for whatever reason, I am the one responsible. Outside of the white middle class where most of America’s comfy cultural conscience lives, people have various home traditions and relate to their kids in non-white ways. Unfortunately, the system is set up to undervalue and attack the personhood of non-white students. There are remarkably fewer opportunities for students of color to feel valued within our public education system.

As a white woman, can my teaching compensate for my “otherness”? For real. Is there a way to teach kids who are not from my own background in a way that demonstrates God’s love, and partners with their parents to prioritize their children’s learning and happiness? Every parent wants the best for their children, even if not all parents (regardless of demographic, white included) don’t pursue that “best” intentionally. Teachers don’t just provide help to students, but they provide a lot of support and good to student’s families. Given the generational way childhood trauma is passed on, my work as both a Teacher and a Christian is for my students AND their families. I believe God’s love can heal anything, but even if nobody knows why I teach, I can still show it. Teachers have the ability to influence students’ entire life trajectories, in ways that can often be even more powerful than what their parents can give them. What a good place to be a Christian.

Ultimately, it’s not about what’s easy, or what’s even possible. It’s about what God can do, through his spirit. I believe that the Lord desires that every family would be healed, that all people would come to know him, and that all people are able to trust in his name. If there isn’t help and healing for people’s families, why come to Christ? If he isn’t powerful enough to heal our most pressing wounds, is he even powerful? We need people willing to be pillars of strength in our communities, so that we know what the love of God even looks like. My job is to love in a way that shows God’s goodness. Even if it’s not enough, I trust him to make a way.

Though bucket 6/23/16

  • Without repentance, we are not fit to grow in our capacity to hold God’s love. As sacred vessels, if there is no intentional acknowledgement of the way we still fall short, our usefulness to God’s plan is limited. We cannot bear the good things he has for us if we allow ourselves to just coast.
  • Believe in who God is and his promises regardless of whether you feel happy with what he’s chosen to give you. There will be times when trusting God can’t be dependent on feeling happy with him or your present circumstance. Being confident in the Lord can’t just be about our feelings.
  • Do most people have good social skills? These days, I don’t think so. I’m not convinced that it’s bad to have some room to grow in how we relate to other people. It’s like beauty, or perfect physical appearance. We all want to be well liked, to be good looking, to be able to make other people like us, to fit in. It’s probably more important to be respectful and thoughtful than free of social mishaps. So long as you are trying to model Christ’s love for the people around you and do the little you can well, I think it’s okay to leave perfection up to God. God already loves us all more than we can imagine, even if only some of us decide to allow him to care for us. It’s okay to be imperfect and trust God to help compensate for your weakness.
  • Judgmental people are afraid to lose God’s love because they’re living their faith like it depends on their performance. Trust God. Pray for those people. Show them that the grace of God doesn’t depend on their performance, and set somebody free of bondage. Deep down, nobody really wants to wound others. We make decisions trying to compensate for what we are convinced that we need. Pray that people who make others feel condemned for minor flaws would realize that God’s love extends past their own character and past other human’s collective weaknesses. Pray that they encounter the abundance of God. People only judge like that when they are spiritually hungry and don’t know where to eat. Repay judgment with grace and kindness.
  • It’s good to have blessings large enough that they feel like burdens sometimes. Depending on whether you are grateful and trust God’s Holy Spirit, a gift will be good, neutral, or bad. It’s okay to have to take time to grow into the gifts God has for you, and to learn to steward the ones he’s already given. If you are actively trying to pursue Christ, becoming a better steward of what you already have is natural.
  •  A society where Teachers don’t parent and Parents don’t teach is doomed. A good Father teaches his children, and a good teacher cares for her students with a mother’s love.
  • I’m going to do the best I can with the little I have for as long as I can until it pleases the Lord to increase it. He who is faithful with little is faithful in much. Like the parable of the widow’s giving, we should aim to be faithful with what we have instead of feeling overwhelmed by what we don’t have. It’s more useful while you are waiting for certain life seasons to embrace God through the things you already have, than to be disappointed that it’s not here yet. Faith is based on what is unseen, not what is easy.

Sea of opportunity

As of today, here is a list of things that could be part of my career path:

  • Design toys for children
  • Publish a book
  • Design public policy to support children with childhood trauma in schools
  • Lobby and organize for the inclusion of trauma-informed care in school curriculum
  • Teach in a classroom for grades PreK-2
  • Go into full time ministry
  • Travel on an education-related grant
  • Travel as missions
  • Relocate abroad to teach in a Christian international school
  • Relocate abroad to teach as missions
  • Have kids (or not)
  • Pursue research or a fellowship programs related to curiosity and resilience
  • Write grants for a non-profit related to education/children
  • Design Sunday school curricula that re-frames the Teacher as a learner, and vice versa
  • Establish an independent Christian school that can combine faith with self-directed learning and the pursuit of God
  • Run for public office, based off of a prior career in public policy

And those are only the ones I can imagine.

The funny thing about going into a field that from the outsider’s perspective, is dying, is that you have so many veteran educators looking for people to pass the torch. In what other community do you find people this generously willing to help promote a new voice, so long as they think that person would do some good? Given how much teachers sacrifice for others, there are so many people already primed and ready to help lift up a newcomer’s voice. With the US education system in such dire need of long-lasting meta-level reform, it’s an great time to consider being a part of it. Since our congressional leaders aren’t willing to listen to them, those people willing to learn from our brow-beaten veteran teachers inherit an enormous gift.

More than anything, I’m surprised how many helpers there are freely sharing resources and expertise for the good of public education. The main reason that there is a lot of opportunity within this field is not because it’s glamorous, but because our teachers want there to be.