How homework changed my life

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Standing at our front window one rainy Tuesday morning, I knew something needed to give. I had a baby on one hip and a toddler pulling on my leg. I loved my kids. I loved this life of mom and wife. But what I really wanted to be called was friend.

Moving had created a kind of loneliness in me that I hadn’t really experienced before. We had moved so many times, but this time it was for real. It was for keeps. My family was miles away, my high school and college friends scattered across the country, and it seemed that everyone in our new town already had friends. They didn’t need one more.

So when someone gave me a church bulletin from a nearby church, announcing a women’s Bible study with childcare, I was in like Flynn. I’ll be overly honest – I went for relationships, not for Jesus. I loved Jesus, but at this point, I probably would have shown up for a raucous drink fest if it would have offered childcare and adult conversation. The fact that this Bible study had coffee was just icing on the cake.

I showed up with my baby boy’s list of allergens, explained his intense dislike of anything stuffed or carpeted (sorry, there, childcare providers…you really do rock), and peeled the toddler in princess garb off my right leg, promising a mommy-date that involved nuggets and fries if she would just sample the fun to be had in the childcare room.

Free of extra appendages, I headed into Bible study, my typical yet embarrassing 3 minutes late, and was met with the jovial smiles of women of all ages who understood and were just happy I was there. I took a seat and they handed me a book.

Ooooo, pretty! I love fresh books, I thought in my mind, until I was brought back to planet earth by the voice of the study leader saying, “We’ll watch the video and then there will be five days of homework that you complete.” She eagerly flipped pages, clearly chomping at the bit to put pencil to paper. Me? I was stuck with my mouth ajar…wait a minute, did she just say homework, five days of it? What did I sign up for?

Holy Toledo, who has time for homework?

I came for coffee and to meet people who might want to hang out at the play land and swap stories of sleep deprivation and husband’s who still wanted to eat food off of ceramic plates, when paper was clearly the better life option at this point requiring so much less personal commitment.

“If you don’t get to the homework, don’t worry about it. Just come anyway. We’ll have a good discussion no matter what. Don’t let that stop you from being in Bible study,” the leader was saying, while her co-hort nodded emphatically.

“Whew,” I thought, with no intention of dedicating time to “quietly digest the Word” and all that. (There goes my overly honest gene again.)

Bible study itself was a smashing success for me. We discussed everything from what brand of toothpaste we used, for sheer silliness sake, to what church looked like for us growing up, even if it had never looked like anything at all. We talked about marriages and singleness and our favorite restaurants. When the leader turned on a video of a woman leading Bible study, I began to dutifully fill in my missing blanks. I loved looking up the Scriptures in a room full of women who didn’t care how long it took me to find the page. This was doable.

The workbook sat on my dining room table staring at me the next morning. I could hear that little flutter in my heart –
“Do the homework. Just try it. Try it.”

Ugh, fine. It was loud enough that it could not be ignored, so when naptime rolled around that afternoon, I took my Bible off the shelf and spread my workbook out on the table. 10 minutes in
I found myself taking notes in the margins. I was transfixed. I flipped through the pages in my Bible and found my nose about an inch from the text. I couldn’t believe how the Word connected to itself and to me, Old and New, Judgement and Grace, Law and Love.

I kept doing my homework. I went to Bible study for the fellowship and kept going for the growth. I needed that Word like I needed breath for my lungs or water on a desert trek.

My anxiety was better, my tongue was nicer, and my home was happier. Life was far from perfect, but loneliness lifted and was replaced by the knowledge that if all this passed away in an instant, Jesus would still be the Lover of my soul and the Filler of my heart.

Homework changed everything.

I didn’t just need Jesus in my life, I wanted Him in everything, in every place and every crack. He seeped in and mended brokenness I didn’t know I had, and slathered grace everywhere I hadn’t realized was parched.

I’m not sure where you’re at in this life. I don’t know your story, but know this: Christ in everything makes all the difference. Reading the Word every day changes things. It puts light in dark places and brings hope – fresh and undaunted.

Try it. Join a study local to you, hop online for our upcoming study, or grab a friend, even a stranger, and do both.

He is in that Word, girls. He loves us enough to pursue us. He speaks directly to our hearts and our minds every time. Crack it open. Aim for consistency. Learn from Eternity.

Always, always rest in His grace.

And do your homework. 😉

Childhood nightmares, adult solutions

So Peter went out with the other disciple, and they were going toward the tomb. Both of them were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first.
John 20:3-4
 
When I was a little girl I had a lot of bad dreams. A lot of bad dreams. It seemed like anything could lead to a nightmare – someone talking about ghost stories, a scary movie preview on primetime television, or a bully’s threat at school.
 
In most of my nightmares, I was running. Running from something, trying to get somewhere, out of breath, exhausted, tripping over branches and divots of grass and hidden treachery. As I laid in my bed, the branches scrapping the window signaled someone trying to get me, I came up with infinite excuses for drinks of water and extra hugs, mostly I imagined what would come for me in my dreams that night.
 
I’m sure there is a psychological explanation for all of this, but honestly I’m not sure I care to know. I came from a stable and loving family. I didn’t experience any form of abuse. The real curse was my extremely overactive imagination.
 
What I do know is that I hated to run for years. I saw it as a punishment inflicted to my body and soul. At recess my best friend and I would sit on swings and hash over our current favorite book reads and imagine what we would do when we were grown up – anything from European princesses, to journalists, to doctors curing disease. Watching everyone one else on the playground run around us.
 
Running the mile in gym class…pure torture. “Why would anyone ask this of awkward adolescents?” I complained. I circled around that track four times and consistently came in at my 12 minute marker. Gag. It was anxiety producing and embarrassing.
 
At 14, I decided to face my running “fear” head on. I joined track and ran the 400 for about 3 weeks. By the end of which I embraced my new general life rule of – Why spend time doing something you hate so much?
 
And so I didn’t. I quit, but unbeknownst to me I began simultaneously running in another way, looking and searching. I ran to everything else, instead of what I really needed to be running to… that empty tomb, that risen Savior. I ran to be the best academically. I ran to boys that I thought might love me. I ran to adventures and folly and anything that hinted of excitement.
 
So, this Easter, sitting in the pew listening to my husband speak the Word, these verses jumped out to me.
 
Both of them were running together…”
The other disciple outran Peter…”
 
Instantly in my head I could see myself in those disciples running toward something that mattered. I realized that God’s grace was in the running. That with Christ, I was no longer running from something, but I was invited to run towards something.
 
I remember one glorious spring day in college, my husband-to-be flippantly asked me to go for a run with him. We weren’t dating, I’m not even sure at that point I was interested in him. God reveals all that good stuff in His time. But I was shocked to hear my own tongue say, “Sure. Meet you in 15 minutes in the Triangle.”
 
 
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Looking back, Dave was safe. His gracious spirit and tongue that constantly dripped words of encouragement, spoke grace in my life in a way that was new and fresh and sent me running to find an empty tomb, a unneeded burial cloth, a new day.
 
Who has been that person in your life? Who has spoken Jesus afresh to you in this season of your life?
 
Can you walk to the tomb? Of course. No need to take up running as a hobby to cement your relationship with Christ. That’s not the point of this message. The point is, for me running was fear. Running was anxiety. And Jesus offered me gifts beyond what I could even see, which He revealed this Easter day, March 2016. I was made to run to Him, no matter the darkness or the daylight, the sorrow or the unexpected sweetness.
 
Jesus’s Word, His empty tomb always offers healing, sometimes in very specific ways. Where are you in need of healing? What anxieties surround you? Run them to Him. Run, run, run. Let His grace seep in to every little place. And then rest in His presence. Assured of His marvelous mercy.

The miracle that is a paycheck

The term daily bread was the theme of our Bible study at church this week. It left me searching my Bible and the Lord’s Prayer section of my catechism to understand this concept further. I was struck by the lengthy list Luther wrote out in his explanation of the Fourth Petition –

Give us this day our daily bread.

What does this mean is no empty question and this list is also not accidental, I am sure. Anyone who has had to memorize this segment in their younger years can attest, most of the explanations are short by comparison. 

Luther’s list includes: 
   anything to support the body
   food
   drink
   clothing
   shoes
   house
   home (interestingly two different things) 😉
   land
   animals
   money
   goods
   a devout husband or wife
   devout children
   devout workers
   devout and faithful rulers
   good government
   good weather (rain and shine, even snow!)
   peace
   health
   self-control
   good reputation
   good friends
   faithful neighbors
   “the like” 

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs has nothing on Luther.

Every single thing listed above and all the things left unlisted are gifts from God, what we call provision. He causes the sun to rise and set, our heart to beat, and gives the oxygen for our lungs. Without Him, we have nothing.

I belly-ache about things I don’t have all the time! I complain about stretching the grocery budget, or having to pay a doctor’s bill and God gently reminds me of something central to all of this:

Wow…we get paid for this.

So often in church work land we can lose site of the basic miracle that churches come together, by the grace of God. They pool funds, they build buildings, they create children’s programs, and they make ministry happen. 

They pay for pastors, for teachers, for those they entrust to share the Gospel intentionally, everyday.

Do not lose the remarkable of this in the day to day of ministry.

This is perhaps most important when we feel devalued and unloved. God has provided daily bread, not just in the form of a paycheck. A paycheck, no matter how small, that says “We value what you do so much, we don’t want you to have to make tents. We want you to spend your time feeding us, filling us with Him.”

Churches, and the struggles you find there, have always existed throughout time, since that first Pentecost. That alone is a beautiful testament to God’s provision. In our culture, God takes it one step further. Some of us do this full-time. Some of us are worker priests or “part-time” church workers. While others of us are trying to figure out what “time” we are and what a fair wage is for that time. God is working in and through all of it with His daily bread and faithfulness. 

Thank you Lord, for every little thing, every big thing, and every small miracle. Thank you for faithful people and your provision in Faithfulness when we are not. Thank you, Lord, for churches and paychecks, and tents to build and all of your goodness in plenty and in want. You, Lord, You are sufficient.


Join us in proclaiming God’s provision in our lives in the #dailybread challenge. For 2 weeks, add #dailybread in social media posts of people in your lives, places you go, and things you enjoy- recognizing every single thing in our lives comes from God.