My Arrows: Reflections of a Second-Year Teacher

As always, the end of the year is an emotional time for me as I reflect on all the Lord has done in Room A-11.

Here are some highlights from year #2 of teaching!

Sweet Parent Conference. Parent conferences always make me nervous, just because I never know what to expect. But during this one particular meeting, the dad looked me in the eyes and said, “Miss Percy, I don’t know what you do, but placing my daughter in your regular ed classroom was the best decision I’ve made concerning her education. She loves you and talks nonstop about your class. Thank you so much for all you’ve done for my baby.” (And yes, I did get teary-eyed right there in front of the dad and my boss!)

The world of AP. Teaching advanced placement students definitely brought with it unique challenges. I’m just going to leave it at that. 😉

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My coworkers. Seriously, there are no words to describe the relationship we have. I love these two so much and would literally be lost without their love and support.

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Day One. I’ll never forget my first day this year. I of course showed my “Welcome to Room A-11” PowerPoint, passed out my syllabus and all the other 500 pieces of paper that accompany the first day of school. But then I had my kids do an assignment. We read a poem together about an old bookstore. We picked it apart, line by line, and discovered that the bookstore was the narrator’s place of solace. I pulled up a Word document on my Smartboard and modeled writing my own poem about my own place of solace – Dillard’s. The kids went nuts! They loved that I had a shopping problem, and that I’m a diva, and in that moment, we started building classroom community. I typed a few lines, but when I got stuck on what to write next, I asked for their help. Allowing students to have a say in my writing not only showed them that writing is hard (even for their teacher!), but it also let them know that I value what they have to say. It was beautiful. Naturally what followed was turning them loose to write their own poems, and whatever they didn’t finish during class was homework. Yes, homework on the first night!

Mentor Sentences! This one gets an exclamation point because Mentor Sentences are Jeff Anderson’s innovative way of teaching kids grammar by showing them well-written sentences, having them NOTICE what’s going on in the sentence, and then having them create their own sentences using the mentor as their example.

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My favorite sentences that my kids wrote this year were:

If this were a silent movie, Hayden would look like he’s having a seizure. – Summer Gray

If this were a rap song, it would be titled “Well, This is Awkward.” – Ryan Elrod

Share Time! This one also gets an exclamation point because it may or may not have been my favorite! I absolutely LOVED was share time, criss-cross applesauce style. We would read a mentor text usually on a Monday, and whatever the message from the text was, I would ask students to respond to that message. For example, we read an excerpt from Positive about an instance where the main character was bullied. But from that experience, she learned a bigger lesson. So I asked students to write about a time they encountered a tough situation and walked away having learned something from it. I allowed my kids at least 20 minutes every day for the rest of the week to add to, edit, or revise their writing, and Friday was share time. We all got in the floor and went around the circle and shared our writing. Yes, I shared as well. You would not BELIEVE the things 13-year-olds wrote… Some stories so funny we all belly laughed until it hurt, some stories so painstakingly beautiful the tears flowed freely.

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This, I feel, was the most special time I shared with my students. Writing is so very personal, and it takes great courage to share that most intimate part of your life, laying down your inhibitions and insecurities of “Oh gosh, did I use the right word there?” or “Ugh, everyone is going to think I’m so DUMB for sharing this!” But the moment you look up and see nods of approval and smiles of encouragement makes the whole gut-wrenching process worth it.

High School Visit. For the past two years, we have taken the 8th grade class across the street for a tour of the high school. This is an awesome opportunity for our kids to get to see the inside of the school before they have to venture there as “fresh meat” *cough cough* freshmen.

During our visit this year, some (okay most) teachers stood at their doorways and allowed their students to say hey to the passing teachers and students. Not only was it overwhelming being hugged by all of my first-year babies, but one student in particular LEFT his classroom and ambushed me in the hallway with hugs and “I miss you’s.” Then, he led me back to his English classroom, and introduced me to his current English teacher. Our conversations went as follows:

She: “You must be Miss Percy.”

Me: “Guilty! I’m so sorry Hakeem left the classroom!!”

She: “Oh, no problem. He was having a fit to see you. In fact, all these kids were.”

(She steps aside and I see 20 waving hands and hear a chorale “Hey Miss Percy’s”.)

She: “I’ve heard so much about yo—“

Me: “Oh, I’m so sorry, I know how obnoxious that can be!”

She: “No, no! They really love you, and you really prepared them for this year! They are great with text-based questions!”

Me: Speechless. Beaming with pride. Overwhelmed with love for my first group. In AWE of God’s goodness and faithfulness.

If you’ve ever had a conversation with me, you know that I seriously love what I do. I love English, I love reading, I love writing, and I love teaching. But more importantly than that, I know that Jesus has placed me exactly where I am to make a difference for His Kingdom. I am so thankful and so grateful that I have the opportunity to love on 90 different kids each year. And boy do I ever love the kids I teach… It’s hard to put into words what I feel for them. I feel like a proud parent whenever a struggling reader makes an A on a test; I am definitely a cheerleader on the sidelines when my football boys make a great play; I am that scolding mother when my kids tell each other to shut up; I am a disciplinarian when some yahoo lets a cuss word slip; and I am a listening ear when the burden of being a teenager becomes too much.

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And I am only these things because Jesus lives in me; I am only these things because of God’s providential hand in my life; I am only these things because Psalm 127 applies to me as a teacher:

[4]       Like arrows in the hands of a warrior,

So are the children of one’s youth.

[5]       How blessed is the man whose

quiver is full of them;

They will not be ashamed

When they speak with their enemies

in the gate.

Arrows are meant to be shot out from a bow. And while these kids aren’t biologically mine, it’s my job to invest in them while they’re still mine in the classroom, to prepare them for high school, and then to send them over to the other side of Dilworth Lane. But that’s not all I desire—I so desperately pray that my students grow and mature into good people, people who fear the Lord, people who love and serve Him, and people who honor Him with their lives. My prayer is that when I see them years and years down the road that I will not be ashamed, and that the Lord will have fulfilled my prayers concerning my arrows.

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Here’s a video of my 6/7th period arrows. 🙂 Please watch and fall in love with these kids as much as I did! (It might take a minute to load, or you might have to press the HD button in the bottom right corner.)

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What Students Really Need to Hear

Last year, I came across this really awesome blog post this guy had written to his students. I loved it so much that I printed it out and let my babies last year read it. Needless to say, it was a hit. But this year, I decided to take his post and model my own writing after his. So here’s my letter to my students.

It’s 10:30 at night. I’ve struggled for the past two hours to go to sleep. I am tossing and turning, unable to let my mind rest. Why? Because I am burdened for my students. Really burdened. I am so burdened that the only thing I know to do is reach for my journal and record these thoughts that haunt me long after I’ve left work.

This is what you really need to hear, 8th graders:

You need to know that I love you, each and every single one of you. I love those of you who make it incredibly easy for me to love. But I even love those of you who ask for love in the most unloving of ways. I love some of you maybe even more than you love yourselves. When I say that I love y’all, that means I care for your ultimate good—in and out of the classroom. And because I care about you as people, I must be honest.

Here’s the thing: I often times cry, either for you or because of you. And these crying sessions have gotten more frequent now that we are nearing the end of the school year and you are losing your minds.

Before I tell you why I cry for you (or because of you, depending on the day), you should understand the truth about your public school career. Despite what you may think, school isn’t really all about academic learning. It’s not about studying for tests or working really hard on projects to earn those good grades. Granted, good grades are admirable and definitely something you should strive for as a student; but grades and academics… That’s not what school’s all about.

The primary purpose of school is to teach you to deal with whatever life throws at you. Believe it or not, school is preparing you for “the real world.” Right now, the most difficult thing you may deal with is a forgotten locker combination or an obnoxious peer. But dealing with these instances is preparing you for life after school. You can count on it: you’re going to face far greater challenges than anything middle school can throw at you. Don’t get me wrong, you’ll have times of extreme accomplishment and you’ll do things that give you a sense of self-worth, but you will also face adversity in your lives.

I don’t mean to scare you by saying that. Everyone will face trials, but it’s not the trials you need to be afraid of. What you need to be worried about is that you’re setting yourself up to fail at dealing with life. You are setting yourself up to be quitters. You are practicing throwing your towel in when the going gets tough. You 8th graders that I love and care for so much are quitting on me.

“Quitting?” You ask.

Yes. Quitting wears many masks.

Did you know that you quit on me every time you stare off into space during reading time? You also quit on me every time you forget your pen and ask to borrow one of mine. You quit on me with each homework assignment you don’t turn it or halfheartedly do.

But not only do you quit on me when you don’t do your assignments; you also quit on me every time you tell one of your classmates to shut up. You quit on me every time you roll your eyes or look at someone else in this classroom like they’re stupid. You quit on me when you let the world harden your heart.

Did you know that another way you quit on me when you question my authority in front of your classmates, when you doubt that I really do have your best interest at heart? It absolutely rocks me to my core when you would rather argue with me for the sake of argument than trust that I really do know the answers and I’m trying to help you understand them as well.

You see, my ultimate purpose here is not making sure you bring necessary items to class. The real purpose is you learning to be prepared, learning to plan ahead, so that when you have a real job in the real world you don’t get fired because you didn’t think far enough in advance to actually bring your work with you to work. It’s called responsibility.

The ultimate purpose of school is not to teach you to refrain from talking back to or sassing a teacher for “taking off points on your test” or telling you to get your butt in a classroom. No, my dear sweet children. The main thing that I so desire for you to learn is to respect everyone—even if you don’t necessarily like what you are being told. There are going to be times in your life when you are going to be angry and you are going to be disappointed. And you’re going to feel that sometimes you haven’t been treated fairly. Bowing to authority is not what I want you to learn; no, what I want you to be able to do is solve problems maturely. Because in the world beyond these school walls, you must not allow your emotions to cloud your judgement. You are going to have to learn how to handle difficulties with grace and class. It’s called maturity.

Ultimately, young people, I have a huge responsibility with you all. You have been entrusted to me for nine months of your life, and within that short period of time, I not only am required to teach you about the English language, but I also need to prepare you for life.

The reality is that your generation is going to be taking care of my generation one day. Let that sink in for a minute. One of you sitting right here could be my child’s English teacher one day. One of you could be my accountant in the future, doing my taxes. One of you could be my pharmacist at the local Walgreens, filling my prescriptions. One of you could be performing open heart surgery on me one day. The reality is that your generation is going to rise up and take the work force by storm. You’re going to be somebody one day.

But if you choose not to do your work to the best of your ability right now, if you choose to take the easy way out right now, those characteristics will transfer to other areas of your life, and they will stick with you. Do you see that it’s not just about you choosing not to do your homework? Do you see that I’m not a bad guy because I won’t let you leave the room to grab something you forgot? Can you see that the habits you develop even in middle school will carry with you for the rest of your life??

Oh, listen to me, 8th graders. You are deciding right now what kind of person you’re going to be later in life.

My greatest desire for you is that you would be upstanding men and women of integrity. And because I so desire to see you do the right thing, I am not going to let quitting be easy for you. I am going to challenge you, confront you, push you, and coach you. You can whine. (Oh wait, no you can’t. This is a No Whining Zone.) You can “get salty” with me. You can cop an attitude. You can shout and swear and cry. And the next day, guess what? I’m gonna be right here waiting to give you a fresh start. Why? Because you’re worth it. And because I expect great things from you.

So, do everybody a favor: Step up. No more excuses. No more justifications. No playing the blame game. No quitting. Just pick your head up off the desk. Put your phone away (before I lose my mind). And pull your crap together. Let’s do this.
Love,

Miss Percy

Persistent Prayer

My Jesus never ceases to amaze me.

Today, my chronological Bible reading was out of Jeremiah chapters 19 – 20 and Daniel 1. If you are not familiar with these stories, I highly encourage you to take a quick minute to read over them.

Last year, I spent the night before the new school year in my classroom covering it in prayer and there is no doubt in my mind that that is the reason why last year was such a success. So being the OCD, anal retentive, hyper particular person that I am, I added “Pray over classroom” to my never-ending list of things to do for today.

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After working my BUTT off decorating my classroom (you know, someone should have told me that an effective classroom doesn’t always have to be a Pinterest-worthy classroom), I sat down and opened God’s Word. I couldn’t even make it through the first passage without laying my head down on my open Bible and weeping.

As I journey into teaching the world of Pre-AP kiddos this year, I have been fearful that I won’t have what it takes.

But what a balm to my soul was Jeremiah 20. Verse 11 says:

 

“But the LORD is with me like a dread champion;

Therefore my persecutors will stumble and not prevail.”

 

Verse 13 says:

 

“Sing to the LORD, praise the LORD!

For He has delivered the soul of the needy one

From the hand of evildoers.”

 

If you don’t think that God is intimately acquainted with every small detail of your life, if you don’t think He cares… Then slap yo’ momma!

Before I continued reading, I just spent some time praying for myself. I asked the Lord to hear my prayers. I beseeched Him to ordain my steps, to give me wisdom that comes only from Him, to direct all the words of my mouth. I pleaded with Him to let me be the teacher that HE wants me to be, that I would meet whatever needs my students have.

But most of all, I asked the Lord to empower me to love each and every one of the kids in my classes this coming year. Now, that may not seem like a loaded prayer to you, but I have had a couple of talks with God where I ask, “Lord, how am I ever going to love another group of kids as much as I loved my first group?” (Because if you don’t already know, I came to love my first group of babies like they were my OWN children.)

So after I had my little head-on-open-Bible-crying-sesh praying for myself, I open my Bible to the book of Daniel and read about how God used this young man in the midst of one of the most notorious rulers of the age – King Nebuchadnezzar.

I knelt in front of one of my students’ desks and laid my head down on it and began to pray that God would raise up some “Daniel’s” and “Shadrach’s,” “Meshach’s,” and “Abednego’s” from this group of new students that I meet tomorrow.

I do not know exactly how long I stayed in that position, but I prayed everything I could possibly pray over my new kiddos. I prayed that God would save them and change them and use them MIGHTILY for His glory. I prayed that my young ladies would find their identities in Jesus Christ alone and not look to boys or popularity or any other temporary thing for their self worth. I prayed for my young gentlemen – that God would take them and grow them into strong, courageous, biblical men.

And I’m not even going to lie… I prayed that they would be good kids! All my fellow teachers – don’t even act like you haven’t prayed the same thing at least once before!

“Lord, just let them be good, let ‘em be quiet, just let me get ‘em in the building, get ‘em fed, and get ‘em safely on the bus!”

[All God’s people said… AMEN!]

As I was pouring out my heart, still kneeling in front of a student desk, crying – as is my natural tendency while praying, one of my coworkers stood in my doorway until I finished. And then dadgummit if she didn’t kneel down and hug me and we both started tearing up again!

After she left, I returned to my kneeling position in front of the student desk. By this time, mind you, my feet below the ankles were completely numb from sitting there so long. I began to pray for my babies from last year – my babies who aren’t really babies anymore, because they start their very first day of high school tomorrow. And let me just tell you, this is when I started “ugly crying” – the whole big, alligator tears that fall in streams, the hiccupping every couple of minutes, the dimply, quivering chin… the complete heinous works.

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I prayed that these 9th graders would lay their heads down in peace tonight, that they would get a good night’s rest. That they would wake up in the morning with their anxiety replaced with sheer excitement. That the Lord would raise up good, godly friends, that they would be protected against the wiles of the kingdom of darkness, that teachers at the high school would truly invest in their lives, that these kids would make wise decisions, that God would start a work in them and see it through until completion. That at the end of the day, they’d know they had someone cheering for them and wanting them to take on the world.

And then there came a point where I couldn’t pray anymore; all I could do was “ugly cry” and hiccup and try not to choke on all the snot running down my nose. But that was the sweetest part to me, because even when I couldn’t find the words to pray over that sweet, special group of kids, the Holy Spirit interceded for me in prayer, “with groanings too deep for words;” (Romans 8:26)

The next thing I did was shut my computer down, turn off my Scentsy, make sure all five hundred stacks of paper were neat, and then I sat Indian style smack dab in the middle of my classroom floor, turned on “Be Thou My Vision,” and sang the words to my favorite hymn as a prayer for my life – not just as a teacher, but as the core of my being.

 

“Be Thou my vision, O Lord of my heart. Naught be all else to me save that Thou art….”

 

Out of the corner of my eye, though, I kept seeing this shadow. Every time I’d turn around to look, nothing would be there. About the third time I looked around, I saw what was making the shadow – a former student, one of those sweet, special, 9th grade babies that I love so much, was standing in my doorway!

Do you KNOW what a joy it was to see someone that I had just prayed over?! I’m telling you, God knows exactly what you need, and He will send it when you least expect it and when it falls into His perfect schedule.

So friends, I just want to encourage you tonight to intercede for someone in prayer. Prayer is our spiritual breath as believers. God hears our cries to Him, and He is faithful to answer us, maybe not always in the way we expect. But we’ve got to remember that the ultimate purpose of prayer is not that God would let us have our own way… “The value of persistent prayer is not that He will hear us but that we finally hear Him.”

 

 

No Turning Back – Reflections of a First-Year Teacher

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Beth Moore once said, “The lyric, ‘I have decided to follow Jesus’ is never more moving to sing than when we don’t recognize the road ahead. Still no turning back.”

As a first year teacher on the evening before school started, these words could not have rung more true in my life. I had survived four years of college, taken extensive courses in my content area and classroom management, and yet there I was – kneeling in the middle of an empty classroom, pouring my heart out before the Lord, asking Him to help me because… I had no idea what the next day (or the next eight months) would hold. No amount of education could prepare me for a room full of 13-year-olds; only the Lord could steady my racing heart. And so I cried out to Him. I’m unsure of how long I knelt there – crying, pleading, praising, and worshiping my Savior – but when I left, my heart and mind were at peace.

The next day went as smoothly as any first day of teaching could go – my kids were perfect angels, I only mispronounced one child’s name when calling roll, and I got them all on the bus at the end of the day.

One of my prayers as a brand new teacher was that I would be a good disciplinarian, and that through a disciplined and orderly classroom, I would earn the respect of my students. Over the next two months, my students tested my patience. Certain ones would see just how far they could push me, and to be completely honest, I drove home some afternoons questioning if I had chosen the right career path. I grew discouraged when students would talk back to me, disrespect me, disregard instructions given to them, say harsh things about their classmates…

But each day, in the midst of my discouragement, I prayed that God would move. And in His time, He did. Somewhere between October and November, my students became my babies. I had shown respect to them, and in turn had earned their respect. For the rest of the year, I flourished. I taught my little heart out, and I really feel like my kids learned something. Most of the time, it was English; but I jumped at every opportunity to give a “life lesson.”

I’m grinning right now thinking about it, but if you were to ask my students which particular life lesson I harped on, they would say, “Don’t date in middle school! The purpose of dating is to find someone you want to marry. Yeah, we get it Miss Percy.” (And all God’s people said AMEN!)

Instead of telling you why I love these kids, I’ll let you see for yourself. 🙂 Here’s the link to our video of this year.

After we watched this video together as a class, I read them this entry from my prayer journal (dated the night before school started):

“God, I start my job tomorrow. The job that You gave me, the job You chose for me, the job You ordained and set aside for me… You are so good and I am humbled in Your presence. Thank You for providing for me… And Father I know You have me here for a reason. Please help me be purposeful and intentional about building relationships and sharing Your love. Lord, I pray for my kids – I am soo nervous to meet them tomorrow! I’m excited, too!! Help me love deeply, Father. Help me care. Empower me to be a good disciplinarian. I want my kids to know that they’re worth something. I want them to see YOU in everything I do, God. I pray that you would help me meet needs, but most of all help me look like Your Son, Jesus. I ask all of these things in the mighty name of Jesus. Amen.”

[Side note: I made it about halfway through reading that entry before my voice started cracking and I broke down crying. My boys brought it in for a group hug, and when I looked up, my girls’ faces were red and their cheeks were wet with tears. Such a sweet, precious time. It’s funny how I started the year on my knees crying before the Lord and ended the year that way as well. In case you didn’t know it, God is GOOD, friends! And He is faithful to hear and to answer prayers.]

Do you see now why I love them so?!

Will I miss them? Terribly.

Will I think of them? Often.

Will I love the students who come after them? Absolutely. But these guys – they are my first group of babies to teach, and no one will ever be able to take their place. Their stories will live on in Room A-11 and in my heart long after they’re gone.

 

I hope you enjoyed reading about my first year as a teacher. Don’t forget to love on someone today; you’ll never know the impact it may have. And don’t forget to give it all to Jesus and follow Him; even in the midst of the unknown, no turning back.

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Six Lessons from Unified’14

Disciple Now weekends have always been a special time in my life. Looking back over the past couple of years, it has been through these weekends that I have forged so many friendships and relationships in the life of my church. It has been through these weekends that I have invested in the lives of students and have been tremendously blessed by their testimonies. It has been through these weekends that I have seen God move in their lives in response to their obedience to Him. But this weekend — this D-Now, Unified ’14 — I experienced God in a new and awesome way.

Now for some background info: For the past three months, I have been walking through a season of hurt, heartache, and broken plans. The year-long relationship that I had been in dissolved and I held all of my broken plans in the palm of my hand. I had planned on being engaged within the next 6 months and married in a year. What I felt at the time was so bad about it all was that everyone else seemed to think the same thing! So when it ended, I’m not even gonna lie – I felt incredibly stupid. I was so sure of the fact that this was the person I was going to marry; it had to have been right because everyone else was sure of it, too. I can’t tell you how many times my students, friends at church, or even random strangers asked when I was going to be a “Mrs.” Can you imagine their shock when I explained, “Weeeelllllll, it’s kinda, sorta over?”

I do not say any of this for pity. Let me say this again: I DO NOT DESIRE YOUR PITY. This is my story, and I’m about to tell you how God has used it for GOOD in my life! To really understand how mighty my God is, you need to understand that He takes broken things and restores them. He takes mourning and turns it into dancing. He takes account of every tear you cry, puts them all in a bottle, and promises that your hurt isn’t in vain. What a mighty God we serve!

During this time of dating, I had really struggled with the idea of serving. I knew that I needed to be serving in my church, but I just chose to stay so busy – busy with my new job, busy with my friends, busy with my boyfriend… And that was NOBODY’S fault but MINE. I made those decisions consciously. No one else was responsible for my decision to choose things with no eternal value over things that absolutely had eternal value. And not serving is a sin. Consciously, I knew that I got such a blessing from serving; but I believed the lie that it would just be to hard to “get back into that whole serving thing.”

Fastforward to January of this year. A good friend asked me to be a leader for D-Now at my church… And God got a hold of my heart. I knew that’s exactly where I needed to be. So I prayed. And I had a sweet time of repentance before the Lord Jesus. I prayed that God would move in the lives of the girls that I would be leading. I prayed that He would do a mighty work in them. I prayed that He would be lifted high. And then I prayed that He would change me, that I would walk away from Unified ’14 having really and truly experienced Him in all of His glory; I prayed that I would respond with a heart and a life of worship; and that I would walk away completely and totally changed. And let me tell you, God hears prayers and He is so faithful to answer them. Not only did He answer my prayers, but He did far more than I could have ever imagined.

Here are some of the things I learned at D-Now this weekend:

1. Being able to serve others is a blessing.

Serving others is such a sweet way to lift Jesus high. This weekend, the Lord allowed me to serve alongside one of my closest and sweetest friends as we ministered to our group of 8th grade girls. We were both blown away by their answers to questions in small group time! They were so plugged into the sermons over the weekend and they were so eager to live life for Jesus… at age 13! I am so humbled by their faith.

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I think our most fun time serving them was when we did “Beauty Shop.”

First, we did Mint Julep Masks. That was… fun.

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Then, we did nails. With glitter!

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And then, of course, it was time for hair!

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Abrianna and I were blown away, once again, by our girls when they served whole-heartedly and without complaint at our mission project! We helped organize/wash baby clothes and deep clean the Save-a-Life Pregnancy Center. The woman we helped kept thanking us for helping her clean everything out; she said she used to dread looking into a room that was overflowing with clothes that needed to be sorted and washed and dried and organized and hung up.

As you can see, we were all pretty obsessed with the amount of cuteness in the room! I mean, a little baby chick on the butt of a pair of baby pants?! C’mon, you know you want to “Awwwwwhhhhhh,” too!

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All the girls who served at Save-a-Life!

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Such a sweet time this weekend! As believers, we are called to submit to one another out of reverence for Christ and walk in love. I think the season of life I walked through where I didn’t serve actively made my time this weekend all the sweeter. God wastes nothing, and I hope I never forget how big of a privelege it is to serve others for the glory of God and how much joy it brings in the life of a believer.

2. My struggle is not my identity.

I have been praying for the past couple of months for a heart of forgiveness, one of the areas I’ve been struggling with. I have been praying that God would totally eradicate bitterness and anger in my heart and life, because I know that grieves the Holy Spirit. But looking back over my prayer journals, that was all I ever prayed about. “God help me forgive; God I don’t want to be angry; God let me walk in the Spirit.” And that’s fine and good and all, but prayer isn’t all about my needs; prayer is about worshiping the Lord. It’s about having a heart of thanksgiving for all He’s done for me. It’s about praising Him for His goodness in my life. It’s about interceding for the people He’s placed in my life that you know are struggling. It’s about asking Him to make me more like His Son, Jesus. And while it was okay for me to pray that I would have a heart of forgiveness, I wasn’t laying down my sins at the foot of the cross and leaving them there. I decided that I was going to pick them up. But the Lord showed me this weekend that I don’t have to do that. True repentance is saying, “God, I screwed up. I know my sin breaks Your heart. So, I’m laying it down and leaving it there. I’m trusting that You will help me walk in a new way.”

3. God is not concerned about my happiness; He’s concerned about my holiness.

Can I just say, “OUCH.” God did not send His Son Jesus to die on the cross so Jessica Percy would be happy. God, in His infinite wisdom and abounding love, sent His Son to die on that cross so Jessica Percy would be holy. He sent Jesus to the cross so you could be holy, too. Jason Cook, who led us in studying God’s Word this weekend, said that holiness is not about perfection, but rather holiness is about being set apart.  Leviticus 11:44 says, “For I am the LORD your God. Consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy, for I am holy.” In the long run, happiness is rooted in selfishness, whereas holiness is rooted in Christ.

4. Being a man, according to God’s standards, is a big deal.

One of the most memorable things Jason said this weekend was, “A weak man is the fastest way to a broken marriage.” While the woman has an important role in submitting to her husband, the man has the crucial role of leading his family, of loving his wife like Christ loves the church. The responsibility is his to “sanctify” her, so she might be “clean,” “having no spot or blemish” in her. Fulfilling the role of a strong, biblical man is so incredibly hard… Maybe that’s why biblical men  are few and far between in our culture. The Lord burdened my heart to pray for biblical men to be raised up.

5. God is all about waiting.

God promised that Abraham would be the father of many nations and that his people would inherit a land overflowing with milk and honey. Guess how many years the Israelites had to wait to cross over into that Promised Land? 400. FOUR HUNDRED YEARS. And even as they stand on the opposite side of the Jordan, with Canaan just across the water, God again asks them to wait, to consecrate themselves. Not only do they wait, the Israelites obey. Waiting isn’t all about staying in the place where God has you; it’s about having a good attitude and being obedient while waiting on direction from the Lord. I feel like my life has been one big waiting game, and let me tell you – waiting is hard. It’s hard because you don’t know what’s coming and you have to trust that God knows what He’s doing. Waiting is all about relinquishing control, and this has been hard for me to cope with ** cough, cough, Type-A personality, cough.** Another quote from Jason this weekend: “If it’s a year or ten years you have to wait, WHO CARES?! God is WITH you!” Those words were a balm to my soul. I really believe that not just “good” things come to those who wait, but the very BEST things come to those who wait on the LORD, no matter how long it takes. Immanuel (God with us) and Jehovah Jireh (God provides) carries us through every season of life. When we remember this, we find strength to keep going.

6. Jesus is enough!

And finally, I truly experienced the Lord through worship. I know that the Lord uses tough circumstances to bring us closer to Him, and if I hadn’t been walking through this season of life, I don’t know if I would depend on Him as much as I do. It’s a sobering thought, really. When I get my way and when things are going according to MY plan, I push the Lord to the backburner. I was so broken over how I keep certain parts of my life to myself – mostly the parts that deal with my future and getting married. I repented of giving God my second-best, but not all of me. And do you know what? He reminded me that His plans are for my ultimate best. And I can’t really explain what happened, but laying aside my struggles and focusing more on the Lord Jesus – who He is, His character, His goodness, His might, His love, His sovereignty – allowed me to really meet with Him. I met with Him through singing, reading His Word, and serving others. I was, and still am, blown away by His great love for me. And I know that Jesus is enough. He’s my portion, and He is all that I need. I’m praying to keep these truths with me as I continue journeying through life – bountiful seasons and burdensome seasons alike.

Have you prayed about it as much as you’ve talked about it?

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*DISCLAIMER: This is a political post.

 

**DISCLAIMER: I was angry last night (mostly at my news feed on Facebook).

 

***DISCLAIMER: I walked in the flesh.

 

I’ve done some serious repenting and pouring out my heart to the Lord, and I’d just like to share some thoughts with you on prayer.

 

Prayer is the spiritual breath of a believer in Christ Jesus. Word.

 

I am so disappointed in some of my “Christian” friends who claim “All we can do now is pray.” All we can do? ALL we can do? What does that say about your view of prayer, friend? About your view of God?

 

Shame on you.

 

Psalm 24:1 says:

 

The earth is the LORD’s, and all it contains,

The world, and those who dwell in it.

2  For He has founded it upon the seas

And established it upon the rivers.

 

These verses tell me that the Lord established the earth; He created it. And he rules and reigns over everything in the earth. When we pray, we are talking to the Most High God!

 

James 5:16, ESV

Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.

 

No explanation necessary.

 

You might want to sit down for this one: Mark 11:22

 

And Jesus answered saying to them, “Have faith in God. 23 Truly I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says is going to happen, it will be granted him. 24 Therefore I say to you, all things for which you pray and ask, believe that you have received them and they will be granted you.”

 

I can’t speak for you, but Jesus absolutely wrecked my world with those two verses. He addresses the issue of doubt and ties up every little detail that the human psyche gets caught up on. Believe. Ask. Pray. Don’t doubt. Have faith in God. Mmm, good stuff.

 

Not only do the Scriptures tell us to pray in faith, believing that God is bigger than our circumstance, but they also tell us to pray God’s will.

 

Luke 22: 41

“[a]nd He knelt down and began to pray, 42 saying, “Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done.”

 

Jesus Himself prayed for the Father’s will. In the Garden of Gethsemane, for crying out loud! That was right before He was betrayed to the officials and suffered on a cross for you and me! I think that’s a little bit bigger of a deal than being disgruntled over the results of an election. Just like Jesus, we should pray for God’s will to be done on earth as it is in heaven.

 

Philippians 3:6 is one of my favorites. It says, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”

 

We have access to God through Jesus as believers. We can boldly approach the throne and make our requests known to the Most High God! I am absolutely blown away… And I am so reminded that God cares about every intimate detail of our lives. He loves us and He cares for us in such an indescribable and inexplicable way.

 

I Peter 5:7

“casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.”

 

Such an extraordinary thought.

 

 

I have been so very humbled by this question:

Have you prayed about it as much as you’ve talked about it?

 

**conviction**

 

When I think back on the big decisions I’ve had to make in my life (and ones I’m facing right now), my immediate reaction is to consult people whose opinions I value, people for whom I care deeply and respect beyond all reason. In my rush to seek wise counsel, I find myself running to people – my parents, my best friend, my close friends, my youth pastor, etc.  I do not, however, lay my concerns and anxieties down at the feet of the One who cares for every intimate detail of my life – my Jesus.

  God has really been showing me a lot about faith in my quiet times lately. I think that if we really believed that God is who He says He is, and if we really had faith that He will fulfill His promises, then I think we would live our lives a little differently. Our Facebook statuses and tweets wouldn’t be bashing the voting system, the presidential candidates, and certainly not this country.

 

I cannot effectively communicate to you how weighty is our duty to pray for our President. You may not like him; you may not agree with certain aspects of his campaign; you may not even like the way he looks. But I’ll tell you one thing, brother or sister in Christ – all authority is established by God.  That is where I’m finding my peace. Won’t you join me in praying for and honoring our President? Dr. Moore said it well when he said “Let’s render unto Caesar, as free people with natural rights. Because we know as believers that we will eternally say “Jesus is Lord,” we can as citizens temporally say, “Hail to the chief.”

 

 

“…Pour out your heart like water before the presence of the Lord….”

(Lamentations 2:19, NASB)