Saturday, February 14, 2009

Happy Saturday and Valentine’s Day! Our plans for the movie went south as we arrived at the Studio Movie Grill only to find all of the movies all sold out. So we went to a Chinese buffet and had a fun time having dinner together.

1 John 4:9 says, “God has sent His only son into the world, that we might live through Him.”

A weird event today caused me to remember last Valentine’s Day. Bruce went to pick up the dry cleaning only to discover it was lost. Bruce called and asked if I still had the receipt. I went through my desk and in my search I found several copies of the folder used at the celebration of life service for Casey as well as obituary notices and a couple of copies of the service. Casey died four months ago today. I remembered what I did on Valentine’s Day last year. I prepared a dinner for 2 for Casey and his fiancĂ© and served it to them in the hospital (he was receiving chemotherapy at the time) complete with red table cloth and a candle. I set the table, served the dinner and left them to their first and (not knowing at the time) only Valentine’s Day they would spend together. It was a wonderful event and they both enjoyed it. After they found our garments at the cleaners, Bruce picked them up. He walked in and found me in tears as I remembered the day a year ago and then remembered that four months ago today we lost our son with paper reminders in my hand. I placed the memorabilia in Casey’s memory box. Bruce held me as I cried and I told Bruce, “I’ll bet every day is Valentine’s Day in heaven.”

I have always loved red. It has always been my color. As I am a bit older I am beginning to enjoy pink, but for most of my life, red has been my color. In my classroom I use primary colors of red and yellow. I love red coffee cups and red roses, red sweaters and red lipstick. There are some Bibles that are red-letter Bibles. Most of the print in those Bibles is black but there is special red-letter print to denote the words spoken by Jesus. Louis Klopsch published the first red-letter Bible. Mr. Klopsch purposely printed the words of this passage of scripture in red ink to call specific attention to these words. Luke 22:20 says, “this cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you.”

God sent us a valentine 2000 years ago in the person of Jesus Christ. If you ever spent a Valentine’s Day when you thought you did not receive a Valentine…think again. God sent us His heart when He sent us Jesus. God sent us His love on foot in the personhood of Jesus Christ. And God’s plan for Jesus was culminated on that cross when Jesus’ blood was spilled to cover our sins. Jesus placed that blanket of red between us and His Father so that His love is always covering us and the cleansing blood of forgiveness is never washed away.

For the believer every day is Valentine’s Day because Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so. The first verse most of us ever memorized is John 3:16; “For God so loved the world, He gave His only son that whosoever believes in Him will not perish, but have everlasting life.” This is the love letter from God to us that holds every assurance of how much He loves us, what He has done to show us that love and that He wants to inhabit our life here on earth and life eternal with Him. Friends…that is a Valentine Card we receive every day.

Take joy in the journey. Love you all, Bruce, Gaylene, Geni and Travis.

I am not moved by what I see. I am not moved by what I feel. I am moved only by what I believe and I believe God.

PS Tomorrow I am wearing pink with hearts and our dry cleaning was found. Praise God!! Love, gc`

Friday, February 13, 2009

Happy Friday, even if it is Friday the 13th. Valentine’s Day celebrations were the order of the day at school. Valentine’s Day at school is the hardest day of the school year. Christmas is a snap compared to Valentine’s Day. I don’t know if it is the secrets with the Valentine Cards or the candy or what, but children are super active on this day. But we got through the day and no one was maimed or injured. And I now own about 10 pounds of chocolate. This evening Bruce, Geni and Travis joined me at the gym. Not many people work out on Friday night so we had our choice of equipment for as long as we wanted. Not a bad time to work out.

1 Corinthians 13:7 says, “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things and endures all things.”

This journal entry may take a couple of days. Tonight I grilled pork steaks. I did not begin the grilling until about 7:00 so it was dark. I lit these silly tiki torches that Casey bought last summer. And then I began to remember last summer when he finally got out of the hospital for a while and he bought us a wonderful grill. We have used the grill a lot (as I grill all year round), but never lit the torches until tonight. I hope that if the citizens of heaven are able to look down on us that Casey could see his torches and know that I was thinking of him and remembering how much fun he had buying them last summer. So there I am, grilling steaks by the light of tiki torches, crying and missing Casey so much I could hardly stand it.

At that moment I figured out that the hurt I was feeling wasn’t so much that Casey was not with us now, but the memory of him being with us last summer; alive and happy. What I remember was that Casey bought the grill to say thank you for all of the sacrifices he felt we had made for him over the nearly last year. I remember the joy in his eyes as he picked out the grill and the laughter as he bought the tiki torches and how he loved the grilling section of Wal-Mart. I told him that there was no sacrifice involved, but simply unconditional love. It was our joy to do whatever needed to be done and to take care of him and keep him close.

This passage speaks of God’s unconditional love for us. If you substitute “God” for the word love it explains to us what some of the qualities of unconditional love are. “God bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things and endures all things.” God loves us so much that He is willing to bear whatever burdens we have and asks us to let Him carry them. God loves us so much that He assures us that belief in Him will bring us into closer relationship and that our hope is not in this world, but in Him. We will have things to endure while on this side of heaven and God assures us that He will be with us as we endure difficult situations. So in my moment of pain God caused me to laugh as I was standing between two tiki torches and grilling steaks in the dark. I will always miss my son until I see him again someday, but now I can light the torches by the grill and be reminded that as the memory of Casey will always be so close to my heart and the light of God is just as close lighting my way as a constant reminder that He is with me always. Adventures in grilling at night…take joy in the journey.

Love you all and may your Valentine’s Day be filled with love and just a bit of chocolate. Bruce, Gaylene, Geni and Travis.

I am not moved by what I see. I am not moved by what I feel. I am moved only by what I believe and I believe God.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Happy Thursday! Today was infinitely better than yesterday. The class was much calmer and learning went on in my classroom and not chaos. Tomorrow is the day before Valentine’s Day and that means the Valentine parties will be held at school tomorrow afternoon. For some reason Valentine’s Day is far more difficult for the children than Christmas or any other seasonal celebration.

Proverbs 3:6 says, “In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.”

This time of the year teachers hold a lot of parent conferences. Some of those conferences do not hold good news for them as their children are going to need to repeat a grade, or their grades are slipping or perhaps some testing may need to be done or a variety of other issues. I have held four of these conferences this week with a few more scheduled for next week. These are emotionally taxing conferences for the teacher and parents alike. I have been teaching for almost 30 years. Before each conference I practice what I need to say to the parents and then I pray about the conference. I ask for the Holy Spirit to be between the parents and myself and pray that our conversation will be respectful, that we will both listen and remember that we must keep the best interest of the children at the forefront of our conversation.

Scripture says, “In ALL your ways acknowledge Him…” When I read that passage I realize that God wants to me trust Him and acknowledge Him in everything I do. He wants me to pray about not just times that are kind of tough, but to be prepared through prayer and study to whatever comes in our path. As I further meditate on this passage I realize that God does not want me to miss an opportunity to share His love, grace, forgiveness, and kindness with those people with whom I come into contact. That means sharing God’s love through word and action with my family, my co-workers, those in my class, people in the store, at church, my neighbors…If we are willing to be God’s voice and His hands then God will grow us in righteousness and place opportunities in our lives to share His love, grace and forgiveness with others because of the love, grace and forgiveness He has so kindly bestowed upon us. What an amazing journey God will lead us on when we acknowledge Him.

Take joy in the journey fellow walkers in the faith. Love you, Bruce, Gaylene, Geni and Travis.

I am not moved by what I see. I am not moved by what I feel. I am moved only by what I believe and I believe God.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Happy Wednesday! I began my day with a parent conference and progressed on with the day’s activities which included celebrating the 100th day of school. That is always fun. Then we had Choir practice tonight. I love choir rehearsal. It is a great break from the work week and a place where even during rehearsal I can get lost in the songs and sing before the Lord. I had a really rough day at school with one of my students and singing praise songs to God is a wonderful balm to my stressed soul.

Psalm 23:: 3 says, “He renews my strength. He guides me along right paths bringing honor to His name.”

As most of you know, I am a first grade teacher. This year I have a particularly difficult student who causes problems in the classroom daily. Today this student lost a great deal of self-control. Many of this student’s actions are behaviors that I will not tolerate either in my own home or my classroom. By lunchtime I was stressed to the max and in need of a “time out.” Since I don’t drink, smoke or chew I found myself back in the classroom while the children were at lunch just standing in the middle of the classroom taking deep breaths and trying to figure out my next strategy to help this child get their act together. I began to pray and before long I was not so stressed and ready to face the afternoon and hope that lunch and recess would help calm down this child and we could have a peaceful afternoon. Peace was not the order of the day and the child had to spend the day with my principal. I felt bad that my principal, for whom I have the highest respect, had to take this child so that I could teach the rest of the children for the remainder of the day. When 3:15 came today I was very ready to leave school.

Then it was time for choir practice. One of the pieces we practiced tonight was “Thank You for the Valleys.” It speaks of the valleys in our lives and how they are the place to grow. The piece also affirms that in the valley God is with us and leads us and provides with peace. Peace is found in the valley. The struggle is climbing out of the valley. The lessons learned in the valley and the wisdom God gives us while walking calmly with Him in the valley gives us the plan and the path out of the valley. As much as we wish to leave the valleys of our lives, it is the place to learn the lessons to reach the mountain top.

I read somewhere once that nobody starts at the finish line. Well, the same is true for the Christian life. We must start at the lowest place; at the foot of the cross to land at the highest place; at the feet of the Father. The coolest part is that God promises to be with us each step of the way. The path may not be smooth, but it will always be right. So tomorrow, with my strength renewed, I will continue the journey once again. I will surrender my will and plans over to the will of God and in teaching the children and interacting with my co-workers and parents, I pray that I will bring honor to His name.

Take joy in the journey friends. Love you, Bruce, Gaylene, Geni and Travis.

I am not moved by what I see. I am not moved by what I feel. I am moved only by what I believe and I believe God.

PS Carme Russell update: one of the drains has been removed, PTL!! And she has begun short walks to the mailbox with her mom and brief outings. She tires easily, but she is very determined. We ask your continued prayers for her recovery. Thanks!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Happy Tuesday! It was a dark and stormy night…okay I have made it to the gym to walk or work on the elliptical for the last 4 days. I made it before the storm came. I am just glad the storm seemed to be short lived.

Philippians 3:13 says, “No, dear brothers, I am still not all I should be but I am bringing all my energies to bear on this one thing. Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead.”

When I read this the first thing that popped into my thoughts was “God is not finished with me yet.” I am 53 years old and anticipating retiring from teaching in 2 years so I can complete my Masters of Divinity degree at Brite Seminary and set out on a second career as a hospital chaplain somewhere. I don’t think I will ever forget my nearly 30 years of teaching experience, but I do believe God is calling me away from the profession of classroom teacher and setting me on a new path. Recently I have been thrust into the lives of people who were in need of a chaplain. I have gotten practical experience before I have the actual authority to do the job. I know however, that I am not ready to become a hospital chaplain.”I am not all I should be…” I do not have the knowledge that seminary will provide…yet - but someday I will. I am looking forward to “what lies ahead.” I am sure I will miss teaching, but I am looking forward to the time when I am a full - time student and truly on the path I believe God has laid out for me.

When Casey was diagnosed with cancer it became very apparent that even though his time on earth was not to be very long, God was not finished with him either. God still had a plan for Casey and a mission for him to accomplish before he went to live with God forever. Casey could have shut himself down and lived a life of self-pity and faithless bitterness, but he did just the opposite. Casey opened himself up to whatever God placed before him. Casey became a mighty prayer warrior and an inspired servant for God and the furthering of the kingdom of God while here on earth. Within the last two weeks of his life, he spent a weekend serving on a Kairos Prison Ministry. He sacrificed his last energies in the service of Christ. God was not finished with him.

How old are you? Is God finished with you? Are you willing to let God continue to grow you into his likeness no matter your age, or vocation? A phrase from Bruce’s BSF comes to mind: God doesn’t look for ability, He looks for availability. Do you make yourself available God? Are you looking forward to what lies ahead and if so, are you looking forward to the future God has planned for you with fear and uncertainty or with trusting excitement? Are you ready to take joy in the journey?

Let’s walk this journey together and see what God has in store for us. Love you, Bruce, Gaylene, Geni and Travis.

I am not moved by what I see. I am not moved by what I feel. I am moved only by what I believe and I believe God.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Happy Monday! I hope this writing finds all of you well and healthy. Each time I passed the nurse’s office at school she had quite a group in her office including one of the children in my class who ended up going home. So far all are well at our house and pray the same is true for yours.

Carmella Russell update: she is recovering rapidly and doing very well. The only hitch is that the drains need to remain in a bit longer. Carme sends her most heartfelt thanks for your prayers throughout this event in her life. Carme is a tremendous woman of faith and knows the value of prayer. Thank you for your continued prayers as she continues to recover.

Mark 1: 38 says, “Jesus answered, “We should go to other towns around here so I can preach there too. That is the reason I came.”

Jesus said these words to His disciples when they came to find Him as He was having His prayer time after healing Simon Peter’s mother-in-law. As I was meditating on this verse after last night’s writing I began to think. What was Jesus praying about? And what was His Father’s answer? Jesus has just healed Simon Peter’s mother-in-law and a crowd of people who gathered at her house. Do you suppose Jesus was asking His Father what He should do now? Where should He go? Where is this ministry taking Him next? Perhaps Jesus was praying for His Father’s guidance in the next path of His ministry. I think God answered Him. God must have told Him to leave Capernaum and take the ministry of reconciliation and healing “on the road.” God gave Jesus His marching orders. Jesus surrendered Himself to the will of God and God blessed His ministry.

Jesus was obedient to His Father, and in that obedience Jesus knew beyond any doubt why He was called to this ministry. Jesus was called to preach to as many people as possible about the love of God and His grace.

How do we pray? Do we pray for what God can do for us? Or do we ask God what we can do to further His kingdom here on earth? And if we were to pray for God to lead us are we willing to go where He calls us? Are you willing to listen to the answer and the plan God has laid out for each of us?

Martin Luther said, “We are to be little Christs.” We are to model our lives after the godly life Jesus led. Jesus knew the reason he came through prayer to His heavenly Father. Are we willing to pray to our heavenly Father about our “place in this world,” as Michael W. Smith sings about? Are we ready to be called to obedience when God answers. What a journey we are on!!

Take joy in the journey. Love you all, Bruce, Gaylene, Geni and Travis.

I am not moved by what I see. I am not moved by what I feel. I am moved only by what I believe and I believe God.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Blessed Sunday to you all! When I was a little girl Sunday meant Sunday School and worship, lunch at home or at my mamo’s house and the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday or the basket ball game or the baseball game (whatever sport my Daddy seasonally watched) and then as a teenager, youth group on Sunday evening. And believe it or not it was a day of rest and worship. Not anymore! Today was worship, lunch at Steak and Shake, Academy for the kids because they both needed new tennis shoes, a Happening Staff meeting, elliptical at the gym (two days in a row!), Travis is at work, Bruce doing the laundry and then taking it to the Laundromat because our dryer is out, lesson plans for me, cleaning the kitchen and finally the journal. Not a day of rest any more!!!

Mark 1: 29-39 vs. 35; Early in the morning while it was still dark, Jesus woke and left the house. He went to a lonely place where He prayed.”

This verse comes from the passage about Jesus healing the mother-in-law of Simon Peter. This is an amazing story about a woman who was in bed with a fever. She had a house to run and people to feed and she was in bed sick with fever. Back in the time this was written there was no Tylenol at the local Walgreens (nor was there a local Walgreens) with which to combat this fever. So she must have really been sick. Of course at the time of this writing a fever could possibly mean death. So Jesus went to her house, went over to her bed, held her hand, helped her up, the fever left her and she immediately began her normal routine of serving the people in her house. What an amazing woman of faith and what an amazing Savior she had! Then the word got out that Jesus was healing at the home of Simon Peter’s mother-in-law and the crowds flocked to her home to receive healing from all kinds of sicknesses. Now all of this happened on the Sabbath Day because it says the followers of Jesus left the synagogue. Not a day of rest for Jesus either!

But the next verse tells a lot about Jesus. He went early in the morning to a lonely, quiet, possibly secluded place to pray. He went to a place where there were no crowds, no demands made on Him, no lesson plans to write, or checkbooks to balance, no meetings to attend or sermons to preach. He went just to talk to His Father. Even Jesus, the Son of God, wanted a more intimate relationship with God, the Father. Jesus gave God the beginning of His day before He went about the tasks of loving, caring, healing, preaching and casting out demons. Jesus models for us once again that God desires a more intimate relationship with each of us. We become more intimate with God through prayer. Prayer is a conversation with God. We speak to God and then we need to be quiet and allow God to speak to us.

We are much like the disciples in the next verse. The disciples awake and cannot find Jesus. Simon Peter and his friends went to look for Him and when they found Him they said, “Everyone is looking for you!” They were not very patient or gracious when they found Jesus and began to immediately make demands of Him. The work of the day was about to begin for Jesus. Now I think Jesus was most likely in constant contact with the Father, but I also believe that Jesus treasured the quiet moments He spent with His Father.

Can we take a lesson from our Savior? Can we spend a few quiet moments each day with no distractions and just be with Jesus and our heavenly Father? Make time in your day for some quiet, uninterrupted moments with Jesus. He loves us so much and wants to spend one-on-one time with each of us.

Well, my time is just about up as my wonderful Basset Hound, Lamar has come to visit and is in need of a scritch.

Take joy in the journey my friends. Love you all, Bruce, Gaylene, Geni and Travis and tonight, Lamar.

I am not moved by what I see. I am not moved by what I feel. I am moved only by what I believe and I believe God.

PS The Happening weekend is March 13-15 at Advent Lutheran church. Applications for 15-18 year olds need to be in by February 28. You can download an application from the NTNL.ORG website. Let me know if you need any assistance at all.
Happy Saturday!! Bruce went to a Kairos Advisory Council meeting in Iowa Park today and I went back to the gym for the first time in months. With DVD player and Viva Las Vegas loaded in the player, I did 30 minutes on the elliptical machine. I am a bit sore, but glad I went and am planning to go back on a regular basis.

Matthew 24: 13 says, “These people who keep their faith until the end will be saved.”
Okay, I am at times a creature of habit. At 53 there are some things about me on which you can count. One of those things is (most of the time) parking spaces. When I go to Wal-Mart I park directly on the aisle in front of the door. At the mall I park directly down the row from Barnes and Nobel. If Bruce or the kids are looking for my car they could find it because they know where I usually park. However, if I go somewhere else then I have to find a new place to park. The last time I went to the mall and went to J.C. Penny’s, I parked in the back of the mall. I went into the store and came out later and could not remember where I parked. So now I am walking to where I thought I left it and I am beginning to panic and feel really dumb. So after walking around, cold, frustrated, a little nervous and almost ready to cry, I stopped. I took several deep breaths and just looked around the parking lot. After calming down, focusing on the problem and looking carefully for my car I located it a couple of rows away from where I was standing.

How many times have I been in a situation that caused panic in my heart? And instead of stopping to ask God to take control of the situation and guide me home I have run around the parking lot in my life without focus and in a panic. It is in times like this that I need to stop and surrender myself and the situation over to God and ask Him to lead me to my destination.

In the journey of surrender I go to God’s Word and seek understanding through the scripture and then pray for God to guide me and try as best I can to be faithfully and trustingly obedient to the direction in which He is leading. The journey of surrender is one I walk each day. The journey is not always easy, but if I let God lead and I follow then it is always right.

Take joy in the journey. Love you all and see you in worship, Bruce, Gaylene, Geni and Travis.

I am not moved by what I see. I am not moved by what I feel. I am moved only by what I believe and I believe God.

PS The first staff meeting for the upcoming Happening Weekend is tomorrow. The weekend will be held at Advent Lutheran Church. If you have young people in your congregations, friends, your own children or relatives ages 15-18 that would be interested in a spiritual weekend with other young people then let me know and I can get you an application. Travis is the Rector (youth leader) of the weekend.