Adjusting the Definition of "Teacher"

I get really apprehensive when called to "teach" about Christianity.  Give a talk, talk to students, teach a study…it's all a challenge in my brain. 

When I'm in the moment and someone brings up a question that I think I can tackle - I'm shocked at what God gives me… (way more than I thought I had already.)

I had a bit of an epiphany… 

With teaching middle school (and elementary) I feel like I can really handle the material.  Some years I'm discovering wonderful new truths with the students - but it never feels out of my reach.  It - meaning the content. 

The mystery of religion upsets the equilibrium…makes me think I'm not qualified…I don't know it inside and out… 

The answers are sometimes more questions. 

When I help a child learn to study - I have a bunch of strategies.. Most times kids get it - one way or another - after twisting it upside down and backwards…meeting them where they are…putting it in their language.

But I don't teach math…can't manipulate it…don't know it well enough…can't explain it more than one way (if that.)

Now - with faith - and Jesus - and Christianity - there are a few things I've got - a few truths I feel secure with.  And those are my go to's when I'm called to prepare some kind of teaching.  But they are getting pretty well tapped.

(Hence my desire to attend seminary)
(And yet also my apprehension - as it is a journey of faith - and yet also a distinct statement of purpose…)

In fact - I remember - Andy Smith saying - on more than one occasion - "I don't know..." 

That always rattled me. Wait - what?? You're the pastor. YOU don't know? How is that possible? 

Julie taught me that pastors are humans just like everyone else. (She may not know that she taught me that but I give her credit.) 

Of course, as I've come to understand things.  There are some things that are up for interpretation.  And then - each group interprets some things their own way…and they may even call it fact/truth/the only way to see it... Fascinating. 

All that uncertainty… How can it be taught??

How can it not be taught though??

In 5th grade, if we're reading a story and we want to know if that street is a real street in a real town - we can Google it.  If we have a question about a Native American tribe - we can Google it.. Information is waiting to be discovered…answers are out there. 

I don't feel funny saying - let's explore this further - someone grab an iPad… 

You don't have to know all the answers to be a teacher.  Teaching doesn't necessarily mean you have access to unlimited answers.. 

Teaching can be about patterns of thinking… 
And big ideas… 

I'm just reading some Romans - and all those words that are still kind of foreign to me are all jumbly mumbly…making the message a little bit lost in my head…justified... redeemed.. I spent a fair amount of time fleshing these big ideas out a few years ago.. Clearly I need more study.  And I can't
imagine trying to share that stuff.. 

Hm. 

 

 

Tracy Alexander is a middle school teacher in Annapolis, MD. She enjoys leading small groups, painting, singing and hanging out with her beautiful nieces. She attends Trinity United Methodist Church and has been a good friend of Andy and Melinda Smith for years.

A look at 2 Corinthians 12:9

One of my favorite Scriptures hangs on a painted wooden sign in my room. It reads, "But He said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me." 2 Corinthians 12:9

Scroll back up. Read that again. The Almighty Creator of the universe, the One Who knit you together in the womb, not only extends His grace when we mess up, He knows it's going to happen... He expects it. He knows we are going to make mistakes, that we will fail and screw up on a daily basis, but His grace covers all of that. His expectations are for us to love like He loves, to show grace and forgiveness like He does, and to try again when we fail to do those things. When we acknowledge our failures in life, when we own our weaknesses and faults, His grace and glory are made greater, they are made perfect.

I heard someone compare us to ships once, and to this day it is my favorite analogy about this scripture. We are like ships, and things happen in our lives, we are tossed by the waves and our ships begin to break. Cracks and holes appear, and we start to panic. Our ships are not perfect anymore and we fear that water will begin to seep in. But with Christ, something completely different happens. When we accept God's grace and love, that is what begins to seep through the cracks. Instead of water rushing in and sinking our ship, the rest of the world is able to see Jesus through us, because he shines through all of the cracks and breaks in our lives. 

That's what I want this year. Instead of running around my ship, trying to seal all of the cracks and holes and hoping for the best, I want to embrace them. I want to give all the broken pieces to God and let Him shine through them. I want 2016 to be the year that when people look at the broken parts of my life that they see no shame or guilt, but instead the wonderful glory of God shining brightest in those parts of my life.

 

Tonia Bishop is a student at Indiana State University in Terre Haute, IN. When not actively participating in Christway's "Roaring Twenties" group, she enjoys reading, blogging, and coffee shop talks.

Lighthouses Blow No Horns

I don’t know about you, but sometimes I’m not sure what I’m doing in life. I go through my days trying to be productive, but at the end I wonder if I’m really doing anything worthwhile. I want to be a light, but I wonder if I’m filling my day with so many earthly distractions that I’m actually just reflecting them rather than being the light of the world, reflecting Him. This all really boils down to the ultimate question, what is my purpose?

 

I asked my husband the other day, “Do you think we’re doing what God wants us to do?” The question was a reflection of my internal struggle mentioned above. He reminded me that it probably isn’t so much about what we’re doing, but if we are glorifying God in it. I love that. I really do. Throughout my life as a believer, I come back to this basic tenet frequently---my purpose is to glorify God.  I’m grateful for a companion that reminds me of this when my vision is cloudy.

 

God wants us to know this, too. He reminds us in scripture why He saved us to begin with—to reflect Him as the Light of the world and in so doing, glorify Him.  “You are the light that gives light to the world. A city that is built on a hill cannot be hidden. And people don’t hide a light under a bowl. They put it on a lampstand so the light shines for all the people in the house. In the same way, you should be a light for other people. Matthew 5:14-15

 

He wants us to be a light, but what does that mean practically? Thankfully, Jesus tells us in the next verse.  “Live so that they will see the good things you do and will praise your Father in heaven.” If I’m going to be a light, then I must be doing good things so that others will see our great God. This isn’t what saves me. This is what I become when I am saved.

 

So that then begs the question, “What are these good things I’m supposed to be doing?” At various points in my life I’ve believed that these things were reading my Bible daily without fail, having a clean cut appearance, surrounding myself with Christians at all times, voting Republican, being at church several times a week. You get the picture.  Some of these things are scriptural and important to our ability to be a light, but some of these things are not. Some of them exist solely to make me look a certain part, but are frankly unimportant to God. I have spent some of my life trying to look the part, but I have found when doing so I am actually just glorifying myself.  It’s when I’m taking a critical look at the Word of God, discovering and applying what He says the“good things” are, that I actually shine like Him.  And He once again provides the answer to the question, what are these good things?” Read it with me. And actually read it. I have a terrible habit of reading a book or devotional and skimming over the Bible verses to read the authors words. Don’t be like me.  Pay attention to what our great Author says.

 

“They say, ‘to honor you we had special days when we gave up eating, but you didn’t see. We humbled ourselves to honor your, but you didn’t notice.’” But the Lord says, “you do what pleases yourselves on these special days…you cannot do these things as you do and believe your prayers are heard in heaven. This kind of special day is not what I want….”I will tell you the kind of special day I want: Free the people you have put in prison unfairly and undo their chains. Free those to who you are unfair and stop their hard labor. Share your food with the hungry and bring poor, homeless people into your own homes. When you see someone who has no clothes, give him yours, and don’t refuse to help your own relatives. Then your light will shine like the dawn, and your wounds will quickly heal. Your God will walk before you, and the glory of the Lord will protect you from behind.” Isaiah 58: 3-8

 

I recently returned from a mission trip to Haiti where I had the privilege of digging a well for a local community with Living Water International and supplying beds for street boys through an organization called Streethearts. (I also had the privilege of being humbled on the soccer field by some teenagers. Thank you, Lord, especially for that one.)  It has been a long time since I have felt this alive, and it has been made incredibly clear to me as to why that is. I was being a light by doing the good works God prepares for us to do—taking care of the poor, homeless, and hungry. I was glorifying God. I don’t think that’s an arrogant thing to say, although admittedly it sounds like it. I think it’s scriptural. I think it’s Truth. I think when we do what God has told us in scripture is what He wants from a believer, our light shines like the dawn and we glorify Him. We live out our purpose.

 

So here’s my challenge. Do the good works. Don’t just follow the laws or work hard at looking the part. Do the good works. Don’t overanalyze what it means to take care of the poor, hungry, and homeless. He doesn’t ask us to verify that they are worthy of help. He just tells us to come alongside them and provide. God has also made it crystal clear to me that I don’t have to go to Haiti to help the poor and hungry. There are people in our local community and in our local body of believers that need us to show compassion through action. I could talk for hours about why as believers it is a part of our DNA to take care of the poor (and we should begin to examine ourselves if we have no desire to do so), and if you give me much room on this blog I just might do that. But for now, I trust when I take God at his Word and do the small things I can do to take care of these people that He will walk before me, that my light will shine, and that I will glorify Him. I can think of no greater way to live.

 

“A holy life will produce the deepest impression. Lighthouses blow no horns; they only shine.”

D.L. Moody


Maggie Johnson is a stay-at-home mom to her two cuties, Broderick and Mazie. Her other interests include helping her hard-working husband Derek at their Chick-Fil-A, reading, global missions, teaching about Jesus, watching and playing sports, and date nights.  Her dislikes include cooking breakfast, cooking lunch, and cooking dinner.

A look at Romans 3:24

When I was a little girl, my Grandmother had a chalkboard in her kitchen here in Terre Haute. When I visited, we would both sneak around when the other wasn’t looking and leave a little note on the chalkboard for each other. When I arrived for my visit there would always be one, and when I left I made sure she had a note waiting for her after I was gone. It’s a cherished memory.

 

My mom just moved and handed the chalkboard over to me as she packed. I knew exactly where it would go–right in my kitchen. I hung it up immediately, but wasn’t sure what to write on it so it sat empty for a few days.

 

Then I read Romans 3:24 and knew it would be my first verse to go up. I have heard Romans 3:23 many times in my life, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” It’s part of the Romans Road to Salvation that I was taught as a child. However, somehow I had always managed to gloss over or ignore verse 24 that follows. “And all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Jesus Christ.” I ignored the BEST PART for so many years. I am in awe of this verse. I am sinful, yet I am justified freely through Jesus. It’s the Gospel message in two verses. I’ve been thinking/praying/discussing this verse for the past month.

 

And then, I had a rough morning. It was as if God said, “I love that you are embracing the beauty in these words. May I show you how this looks in real life? Can I help you apply it today?” Of course, if He’d really asked me, and I knew what was about to happen I would have politely declined the lesson and instead just looked at the pretty words. But alas, He loves me more than to let me miss an opportunity to see His words come alive and renew and transform my mind.

 

My daughter had thrown her third fit of the morning, and it was only 9 am. She was screaming, disobeying, saying “NO MOMMY!!” to everything I asked her to do. I was struggling to handle it and struggling to want to handle it, honestly. She was thrusting her body off of the stairs when I tried to put her in time-out, and that’s when I let out my own yell. Loudly. And as my little children are prone to do, they promptly rebuked me and demanded repentance, because “we don’t yell, Mommy. It’s not nice to yell, Mommy.” Little angels. So I told my daughter I was sorry and explained that we both needed to work on our obedience and our listening. I said it because I’m supposed to set the example, but they were difficult words to get out in the moment. Then I spent the next 10 minutes walking around the house picking up, doing laundry, and venting to God (while she continued screaming). I kept saying, “God I do not understand how I am supposed to handle this differently.  I feel like all she does is throw fits. I don’t have any other options but to yell. No one on the planet would be able to address this calmly every single time. It feels impossible!”

 

Before I knew it, I had walked right by that chalkboard. I stopped and stared at the verse for several minutes. I was telling God how frustrated I was and how I knew I was supposed to handle it differently, but I didn’t want to and honestly didn’t think I should have to. I read it a couple times just hoping something would help me in that moment. Then I sensed the Holy Spirit moving as I realized I was justifying my sin.

 

I replayed it in my head as if I were explaining it to my daughter. I think God was telling me, “Oh sweetie. That loud, mean spirited yell that just left your mouth—that’s still sin. You still fell short. There is no excuse and no amount of frustration that would ever justify your sin, baby girl. And I knew you would do that. I knew you would struggle with anger as a mom. I knew you would even try to justify it at times. So I gave you the only thing that would actually justify your sins. Jesus. Remember? Remember how pretty those words look on that board and how they touched your heart? Let them change you, sweetie.”

 

I’m in tears of gratitude almost every time I think about it again. His grace is so deep and so real. I’m so glad he showed me, yet again, that my sin can’t be justified by either my righteous acts or the lies I tell myself about my sin not actually being sin. I am, and will always be, justified freely ONLY through Christ. I am so thankful He cares enough about me to teach me, to continue working out my salvation, to finish the good works He began in me.

 

My daughter eventually calmed down that morning, and so did I. It took some time, and I imagine it won’t be the last time we have a heated moment together. But I must say, I understand her a little more now. You see, I too am often found acting childish and oblivious to the depths of my Father’s love, yet here I stand. Justified freely. What a cherished gift.

Maggie Johnson is a stay-at-home mom to her two cuties, Broderick and Mazie. Her other interests include helping her hard-working husband Derek at their Chick-Fil-A, reading, global missions, teaching about Jesus, watching and playing sports, and date nights.  Her dislikes include cooking breakfast, cooking lunch, and cooking dinner.