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I remember the first time I really took to heart those words. Pastor Mike was speaking from James and it hit home. I had taught for years in the churches I had attended, and in church preschools. school-1019989_1920Until that moment, though, teaching was just something I enjoyed doing, sharing information that sometimes people wanted, and sometimes they didn’t. I know that all teachers are trainers, but not all trainers are teachers.

It is amazing how you can read, even think you understand the scripture, and then suddenly it really becomes a two-edged sword…

It has been suggested, by many folks, that I overanalyze things. Perhaps. Okay, yeah, I do. But that message and my analyzing of it took me on a journey to determine why I taught, how I taught, and even if I should even be teaching. The process changed my outlook on teaching, gave it a richer meaning, a deeper sense of responsibility and accountability. I was humbled, relying not on my teaching as a proof of what I knew, but seeking wisdom from God to use the knowledge I had to give students what they needed because judgment awaited me. But not a judgment as the world sees it, as the world uses that word. At that point in my life, I understood what all of James was saying in relation to the leading statement of James 3:  Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.

So when I was offered a teaching position in a private Christian school I could accept it with confidence, because I knew I was trusting God to tame my tongue and keep my heart pure for these young people. And I could enjoy it, even the difficult times, because I knew at that point in my life I was fully in God’s Will.

A few years later I started working on my master’s degree in Spiritual Formation through an accredited online seminary, and one of the books I was required to read was The Courage to Teach by Parker J. Palmer. I still have the book, even though life circumstances didn’t allow me to complete my degree, I gained a lot in those classes. I was a bit surprised at first by the book because it was not a book on teaching, Biblical or otherwise.  It was a book about being a teacher, and what the life of a teacher is all about. Relationships, responsibilities, joys, sorrows…not just in classroom situations, but in all levels of life; jobs, communities, governmental positions – anything in life that required the heart of a teacher.

I saw it on the bookshelf the other day and decided to pick it up and read it again. Mostly because I don’t teach anymore, or at least that’s what I’ve told myself. Oh, I blog, and I share my own life learnings, but something has been missing. All that to say, I’m going to take some time to read the book, pray about James 3 and then make decisions about some things in my life.  And so, after this week, the blog is taking a sabbatical.

Keep seeking God. Keep trusting God. And, sooner or later, if it’s His Will, I’ll be back.

God bless you all! – Vicki

James 3  (ESV)

 Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body.  If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well. Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs.  So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things.

How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.  With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water?  Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water.

Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom.  But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth.  This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic.  For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice.  But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.  And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.

One of the definitions of scrutiny includes referring to the careful examination of data that is judicial, public, and scientific.
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When I was listening to someone not so long ago refer to themselves as being under scrutiny, my mind, of course, went in many directions.
Sometimes in our work, we are under scrutiny to assure we are doing our jobs correctly. Or we are under scrutiny to make sure we aren’t a bad example. In the world of social media, it seems everyone is under scrutiny.  Sometimes just because we are staying in contact with friends and care about what is happening in their lives. Sometimes because we are looking, consciously or unconsciously, for something to be critical of, to make comment on, to somehow prove to ourselves that we are not like the others. 

I sincerely hope it is a misconception on my part that my observations of people in the last decade have shown me that sometimes people are so obsessed with being individualistic that they have forgotten the strength and joy found in being part of a like-minded community. Even a popular type of community found online cannot have the connection that physically being with others that share your same world views, concerns, affections, and goals do.

My thinking process naturally turned to the Bible in relation to the definition I shared at the beginning of the post. Both the Old Testament and the New Testament are full of examples of the judicial process. In my research, I found a ten page PDF file of a report on how the judicial process came about in the Old Testament.  It is logical, if as a believer I recognize God as Supreme Judge, that I accept that He would assure a proper system was set in place by those who penned the scriptures.

It also would seem logical to include anything public in the idea of Biblical scrutiny. There is accountability among fellow believers to be and do the things pleasing to God, in regards to ourselves and to our fellow Christians.

Then there is science. I love science, and I am a firm believer that science reveals God to mankind. There are scientific examples in the Bible of things that for a long time were unexplainable, and so discounted as myths or stories to explain something that couldn’t be explained. But modern science, bit by bit, is proving what we who believe by faith have known. The Creator’s level of intelligence and creativity cannot be matched by mankind, and the mysteries of creation are slowly being uncovered.

One last thought. I know that every time I put word to paper (or word to a computer screen), I am putting myself into a position of being under scrutiny. It’s a good thing for others to read, and to weigh knowledge and truth in what they’ve read. I have hope that any scrutiny is deep enough it leads someone to do their own research, decide in their own hearts the right, or wrong, in what they have scrutinized. I am not infallible. Believe me, I know that. I’m learning as I go, just like everyone else.

Being under scrutiny doesn’t have to be a bad thing. But when you are the one scrutinizing something, or someone, remember to be like the Bereans and check things out before you come to conclusions.

It might just be someone like me who is working through this life of faith and sharing the journey, ready for a new revelation. Always.

Next blog: Not everyone should teach

 

 

We all have had and will have assignments in our lives. From school to work, it is a given that there will be a task, many times with a timeline attached to it, that needs to be accomplished. pencil-308509_1280

I remember homework assignments in school. I remember assignments as a reporter. I remember assignments in the business world. But the most life-changing assignment I ever received was when familiar words from the Bible suddenly came alive and set me on a course that I pray continues.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort. – II Corinthians 1:3-7

I knew I had, and I would, experience affliction and that I would be comforted by a loving Father. But as I read these verses, a stirring in my heart, that recognition that more was required of me, came alive. The understanding that in whatever happened in my life I needed to endure it patiently and accept comfort from the great Comforter, willing to offer the same to others. I realized that the more things seemed to go wrong in my life, the more I was being trained to reach others, to offer them the comfort God gave me. I would be able to help them understand how much they are loved, and that God’s plan may not always be understood, but it is a plan for ultimate good; eternity with Him.

I remember standing on the stage of that little church on the hill and proclaiming to the congregation that the Lord had given me an assignment through these verses, and for the next ten-plus years I was obedient to do the best I could to follow through with the assignment. I trained in evangelism, and then taught classes in evangelism. I did outreach ministry. I talked to hurting and grieving people. I visited and prayed with people. I worked with children to senior citizens, doing what I could to help them find their own assignment.

I wondered sometimes if I succeeded in what I set out to do. I discovered the more I did, the more I learned, and I was finding out just how much I didn’t know. Still, through it all, I learned about the Triune God, about people, about myself. Now I wonder if that wasn’t the real assignment. All those years, and efforts, and mistakes, and joys – discovering, sometimes in painful ways, that it just is not about me. At all.

We all have assignments. Fine-tuned to fit our gifts, perhaps, but still, we are all charged, by Jesus:  Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,  teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”Matthew 28:16-20

I can’t do all the things I used to do. At this time in my life, being able to physically get out and visit people is a major challenge at times. The season for me to do a lot of things has come and gone.  I spent years on the church stage with a worship team, either on the keyboard or playing the guitar. Arthritic hands hinder that now. I used to sing on the worship team, and at revivals and special programs, and the voice is not what it used to be, rarely on key. That doesn’t stop me from praising with a thankful and joyful heart. I confess that took longer than I like to admit, my getting to that point. When the bottom fell out of “my” ministry, I felt like I had failed somehow, had become worthless. Ah, the lessons my loving Father taught me in that season about pride…

God gave me an ear to hear, not only Him but also my brothers and sisters who need someone to hear them out, to have empathy, to truly understand what they have been through. To pray. To love. To offer hope.  My assignment made that possible. It humbled me to see as He sees…at least in some small part. To understand that just because the how has changed the why hasn’t, and the opportunities to continue the assignment remain. Thus, I write.

Oh, there have been many assignments in my life, but that one was the life changer. What assignment do you have that will determine the journey God has waiting for you?

Next blog: Candlesticks

 

 

If I were to ask you what the word glory meant, how would you respond? Like so many of the words in the English language, it can have many definitions, many uses, some overlapping, some very different.

Glory is one of those words I find fascinating, whether I hear someone exclaim Glory, whether it’s used to describe the American flag, or whether it’s used in Christian circles or other religions, as a word person I find myself looking at different dictionaries to see what can be found about the word. But of course, as a Christian, discovering the word as it relates to my faith walk, is the most captivating.hot-air-balloon-1668703_1920

It has been reported that glory is the most common praise word in the Bible. The concept of glory is relayed with several different Hebrew words throughout the Old Testament, relaying the concepts of deference, importance, heaviness, honor, majesty, and respect. In the New Testament, these concepts were translated into Greek, with the meanings of good reputation, honor, opinion, and judgment.

Of course, the above are mere generalizations of years of scholarly theological research by a non-theologian who just loves words.  What I will include are different references on the use of glory in the Bible.

Glory (Heb. kabhod; Gr. doxa).

These dictionary topics are copied from
M.G. Easton M.A., D.D., Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Third Edition,
published by Thomas Nelson, 1897. Public Domain, copy freely.

After researching a word like glory, how it is used, both secularly and Biblically, it helps me comprehend just how feeble my own efforts to bring glory to God can be. Yet, it encourages me, it reinforces my awareness of the supremacy of God, and it makes my daily prayer of “Father, do not let me do, say or think anything that doesn’t bring glory to You” richer and more meaningful to me.

Glory to God!

Next blog: Assignments

 

Haven’t we all had those moments of confusion in life?  Those moments of unsureness, hesitation, indecision, doubt, even skepticism? When so many things seem to be thrown at us that settling the mind can seem a major challenge. question-3385451_1920From where to eat out to what to watch on television, too many choices can lead to confusion. But that isn’t the only kind of confusion. In today’s world, we are faced with a barrage of things that distort our view on so many things, creating confusion that can stymie even our walk of faith.

When we have been confronted with people we discover we cannot trust, then confusion bleeds into all areas of our lives, creating such insecurity and doubt. Was my spouse really working late? Is that person really my friend? Is that salesperson trying to manipulate me into getting what he/she wants me to buy and not what I want or need? How do I know that this person talking to me about Christ really knows Christ and the words shared can be trusted? How can I be sure the ministry where I put my money will really be used to help people and not end up financing a trip to the Bahamas? How? Why? What? When? When it gets too much, so many seem to shut down. They close the door to the world and the people in it, both physically and emotionally.

For God is not a God of confusion but of peace. – 1 Corinthians 14:33a

Holding on to that basic truth can be a strong foundation for believers. The greatest way to defeat confusion is to know the Word of God, to study, to know, what God is telling us. Equally important is to communicate with God. Not just give him a want list, but to talk with him, listen for His response.

But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. – John 14:26

The pastor that mentored me taught me to check words, actions, thoughts, and confusing teachings against God’s Word. In order to do that, I had to know the Word, and after all these years I’m still learning. To know that God is speaking to each of us through the God Breathed scripture He gave us, is to know that there are answers, that there is peace.

We have to personally make a decision to trust God, to submit the doubts, the confusion, the scattered thoughts to God, and in surrendering them we can begin to trust ourselves to be able to avoid so much confusion.

We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, – 2 Corinthians 10:5

We have an enemy.  We need to recognize the impact he has in this world, in our lives; to stand firm in God’s strength in order to continue forward in sharing the good news to a world lost in confusion, praying that minds are not veiled to the gospel.

But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God. And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. – 2 Corinthians 4:2-4 

Confusion, small or large, is not insurmountable with God on your side.

Next blog: Glory

 

 

 

 

Each of us has something we enjoy. The Lord has created us to be people of many interests and to enjoy those things we have developed interests in. For a change of pace, just to show everyone there is more to me than just blog writing, I’m sharing a couple of my interests. For as long as I can remember, two of my favorite things are baking bread and reading mysteries.

So, here’s one of my favorite bread recipes, because it is quick and easy.

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English Muffin Bread

Ingredients

1 to 2 teaspoons yellow cornmeal

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon packed brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon baking soda

1 package regular or quick-acting active dry yeast

2/3 cup water

1/2 cup milk (or buttermilk if desired)

Spray loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray. Sprinkle cornmeal evenly in pan. Mix flours, brown sugar, salt, baking soda and yeast in a medium bowl until blended. Combine the water and milk in 1-quart saucepan. Heat to 120°-130°; add to flour mixture. Beat on medium speed 1 minute until blended. (Batter will be sticky.) Spread batter evenly in pan. Cover and let rise in warm place about 30 to 45 minutes or until double. Heat oven to 400°. Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until light brown. Remove from pan. Cool on a wire rack, slice. Serves eight. 

And then, there are the mysteries.

I was the kind of reader that would read one genre for several years and then switch to another. Mysteries were always a favorite, a genre I often returned to.  I devoured any Rex Stout book I could get at the library, and, if I had the room for more books, I would be tempted to find copies of those beloved books and build a library of all those old mystery riders that shaped the kind of writer I desire to be. book-3873977_1920No, they are not Christian mysteries. They were written in the 1940s and the following years. What I loved was the character development, the relationship between the characters, and the way the reader was required to think as they read. Another mystery writer I enjoyed was Ellery Queen. I was overjoyed when once, one time only, did I figure out ‘whodunit’. I developed a dislike for any mystery that I could predict what was to happen and would quickly put it down. I admit I became a mystery snob.

If the things you enjoy don’t deter you from your relationship with God, if they don’t put you in positions to be tempted, then enjoy the things God has made available to you.

Make some bread. Read a good book. Enjoy life in a way that gives God the Glory.

Next blog: Confusions of life.

 

Sometimes a change of scenery helps re-focus different things in your life. Who you are. Who you aren’t. What you really like. What you really don’t like. If you’re really hearing what the Lord is saying through His Word, or if it is your own independent thoughts and desires that are making the bulk of the decisions. A place where you have to take a realistic look at choices, and if the directions you’ve planned are in agreement with the plan God has set out for you.

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You make known to me the path of life; in your presence, there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. – Psalm 16:11

Sometimes that sense of being unsettled hits you as you observe the unfamiliar environment you find yourself in. You have doubts that recent choices are really what you are supposed to be doing. Especially when circumstances of life seem to hinder what you thought would easily happen.  But then the Lord gives you clarity.

 

The steps of a man are established by the LORD, when he delights in his way; – Psalm 37:23

Your path, because you delight in God’s way, is already established. You do your part, you pray, you study instruction in the Word, and you live out what you’ve learned. You have confidence that the scripture that guides you is directly from the Lord, God breathed into the words men have written that make up the Holy Bible.

A change of scenery can be a good thing. You sometimes see some things that need to be adjusted in your life. You recognize things that are on track and rejoice. You are comforted in acknowledging that you are not alone, even if the scenery changes. 

Next blog: Baking bread and mysteries