Work!

Work only counts as work if there is movement.

That’s the simplified, paraphrased definition that applies to physical science as taught to my third grade students.

Definition+of+Work+In+Physics,+work+means+more+than+something+that+requires+physical+or+mental+effort.

Experience, time, and knowledge can change our understanding. As I read the lesson, I realized how much more there is to add, how many different ways there are to think about what work is and what it means! Purpose, Laziness, Balance, Traditional Family and Career Roles vs. Non-traditional Roles, etc. . . .  All of these I touched on in the original lesson, but each idea can be enriched so much more. 

At the time, I was about to start teaching full-time for the first time after being primarily a stay-at-home mom. When I started this blog a year ago, teaching was something I realized I wasn’t going to be able to do the way I wanted to do, and I was going through some major soul-searching. Today, I am a full-time student starting the practicum part of becoming a school counselor in an office where I am learning what counseling work looks like, feels like, but I don’t get paid for it.

Essentially, my perception of work has changed a bit in the interim. And I need to simplify tonight’s post because I still have a lot of work to do tonight!

 

Maynard Work

So, I’m going to post the original lesson with a few comments and a wrap up at the end –


Lesson 2 – Working Hard

The objective here is to understand that each of us has work we are supposed to do. We rely on God’s provision of the gifts and talents He has given us to use in order to share, to build, and to grow in faith. We should also understand, as we carry out our work, God blesses and encourages the faith of others. Whatever kind of job we may take, if we are working with the knowledge that we are using our skills and talents for the Lord, we can trust that He will “delight” in our service and obedience. We will also respect and appreciate others who are doing different jobs.

  • Proverbs 31:13-19, 27 (NIV) She selects wool and flax
 and works with eager hands. She is like the merchant ships,
 bringing her food from afar. She gets up while it is still night;
 she provides food for her family
 and portions for her female servants. She considers a field and buys it;
 out of her earnings she plants a vineyard. She sets about her work vigorously;
 her arms are strong for her tasks. She sees that her trading is profitable,
 and her lamp does not go out at night. In her hand she holds the distaff
 and grasps the spindle with her fingers. 27 She watches over the affairs of her household
 and does not eat the bread of idleness.

Discussion Questions

  • What are some things you have had to work hard to get – grades? – job? – sports? – something else?
  • How did your efforts benefit you? Others?
  • What motivates you to work hard?
  • Do you find it difficult to stay motivated to work hard in any areas?

Personally, I find it tiring just reading all that this proverbial woman did. I struggle a bit with being lazy at times, and working too hard at times. I have to make an effort in keeping things balanced and not give in to selfish ambition or self-centeredness.

Balance is something I lacked while teaching. I missed a lot of my daughter’s senior year of high school. I was trying so hard to do a good job at school and still be available to my family, but I essentially burned out. I stopped going to church, and my prayer life became one of panicked cries for help on a daily and hourly basis. My family was incredibly supportive, but it was too much.

  • Ephesians 2:10 (HCSB) For we are His creation, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time so that we should walk in them.
  • Colossians 3: 17 (HCSB) And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
  • Ephesians 4:28 (HCSB) He must labor, performing with his own hands what is good, so that he will have something to share with one who has need.
  • Proverbs 20:13 (HCSB) Don’t love sleep, or you will become poor; open your eyes, and you’ll have enough to eat.

Questions to Consider

  • Do you ever let the efforts of your work consume you to the point of damaging relationships?
  • How do you handle it when the work required of you seems unimportant?
  • Does God only care about our work if it’s for church ministry? Why do you think so?

Why It Matters

Some people think God is only interested in our church activities. If that is what we believe, then we can behave in a way that is contrary to Christ living in us when we aren’t in a church setting, and our testimony and the fullness of Christ’s love in us is not complete. To be a disciple of Christ means we follow His way in all areas of our life. All things are under His authority, including our job, and how we do it. If we have to do work that is mundane and tedious, we can still bring glory to God by doing it with a positive and uncomplaining attitude.

My Story

As you read the following paragraphs, you will see that my concern was primarily with my purpose and my role as a woman. I don’t know that this question has really been answered with any sense of finality, and I don’t know that it ever will. I do know this; I want to be open to growing, learning, and experiencing all that God has for me. I’ve learned to enjoy being surprised and flexible.

While I was in college, I was intent on discovering my place in the world, the church, and God’s plan for me. I decided at an early age that I would become a teacher. I also wanted to stay home to take care of my family when I had kids, but I often felt like there was something more that I could do. Dissatisfaction settled in my heart. While I could see the value of the traditional roles with which I was raised, I was also curious about the restrictions and boundaries placed on women. How much did I agree with the feminist idea that women and men should be treated equally in all situations? Could I stretch what was traditional and still honor God? Did God want me to do something different? Was I limiting myself if I chose to be a wife and stay-home mom? I wanted to explore all this in a way that honored Him. I decided I should start from the beginning of the Bible and read all the way through making notes of whenever women were mentioned and what their roles were. Were they honored? Did they please God? How?

My dad is a carpenter and a preacher. Both of these are very traditional, male roles especially in the area in which I grew up. In kindergarten, they let us use saws, hammers, and nails. I was delighted since my dad didn’t let me use his tools. I loved the feel, smells, sounds, and the creativity of working with my hands and the wood. I told my dad I wanted to be a carpenter like him. He responded with a resounding, “No Way! No daughter of mine will ever work in construction.” Obviously, anything related to carpentry was not going to be supported by my parents. However, as I read through the Bible, I found a place where the Israelites were rebuilding the wall around Jerusalem. Each family was responsible for their part of the wall. One man had several daughters but no sons. Guess who helped build that section of the wall? His daughters! (Nehemiah 3:12) There were female carpenters in the Old Testament! And, they were honoring God with their work. It was notable enough to mention in the Bible. Hmmm.

Dad and me with toolbelt

My dad still wears his tool belt to work every day!  I grew up being proud of my dad’s strength.

I resolved my questions about the female role in this way. God made each of us with unique desires, skills and abilities. Whatever we do, whatever role, whatever work, and whatever relationships we encounter, we should always look to honor God. It is not beneath any woman’s intelligence or capability to stay home to raise her children and support her husband. Not is it wrong for women to use the intelligence and abilities He has given them to be successful in business, science, or even carpentry. As long as we are humble, loving and serving Him, I believe we are living inside His Will and fulfilling His purposes for us. This honors God. Finally, we are not limited to only one role throughout our lives. My time to be a stay-home mom is coming to an end, and I am about to begin teaching full-time. I may never get to become skilled at carpentry, but I have done my best to “build my home” and raise my family with the knowledge and love of God. I am satisfied with that.

There is so much to say and consider about the role of women and work. That is certainly another topic for another time. However, I can’t believe I failed to mention in this section Proverbs 14:1 –“ A wise woman builds her house . . .” It does get more attention in a later lesson.

The Big Question(s)

  • What work do you believe God has given you to do, and how has He uniquely made you for that work?
  • How are you honoring God with the way you do your work?
  • Do you believe and trust that He has prepared you for certain good things for His purposes?

Dig A Little Deeper (All HCSB)

For even more verses, check out this website: http://workmatters.org/resources/workplace_scripture/ 

The specific link inserted here no longer works; however, workmatters.org is an active program with a lot of good information for those wanting to learn how to combine faith in all areas of work. There are resources available for young people who are just starting careers, and those of us with more experience.

Finally, I just have to share that the church I attend is currently doing a series on Kingdom Wisdom, which falls right into the same theme I intended for this Bible study. After the first sermon, True Wisdom, I told Pastor Travis that he was preaching my sermon! Just last week, the Kingdom Wisdom topic was work, and I want to share the link to it here.

Kingdom Wisdom – Work

You know that song, “God is on the Move”? Every time I hear it, I am reminded of the verse that says God is at work even now (John 5:17). His movement is certainly good work!

“God is on the Move” by 7eventh Time Down

 

 

 

Holding It Together

Jesus Holds All Things Together

I am grateful for a small break in my classes to be able to write another post. Over the past several months, there have been many papers to write, tests to take, and an “Intensive” week where I was actually staying on campus in a dorm room with a roommate. Ah, just like old times!

I found myself in a true identity crisis last year when the expectations and plans for the empty nest period of my life suddenly evaporated. After taking a season to mourn my lost purpose, I started this blog to share what God has taught me, and continues to teach me, about His faithfulness, His trustworthiness, and His loving-kindness while remaining open to what God’s plan was for me. With the encouragement of my husband, I am now working on a master’s degree for school counseling. Going back to school after more than 20 years has been just a little bit intimidating.

During the months since, with each class and assignment, there have been times when I felt like I wasn’t able to do what was required in the time frame given. When moments of doubt, weakness, and insecurity take hold, it can be difficult to continue giving my best effort. Yet, I know I am not alone, and the only way to fail for certain is to give up. I can’t give up.

2e00d8d7b51d40851f3a45791179b244-motivational-posters-poster-prints

Every adventure and challenge calls for perseverance. But this perseverance only comes when I believe that Jesus knows and provides what I need. And, when I’m only getting a few hours of sleep, isolated from my family and friends, dizzy from staring at the computer screen for hours on end, struggling to make a complete thought, much less an intelligent sounding one, it is easy to give in to the fear that I can’t do it. That this was all a mistake.

I remember having similar thoughts and feelings in my earlier college days. Back then, I didn’t have the level of faith and experience to fully trust God. My confidence, faith, and belief wavered, and while I got through school, I didn’t feel like I had conquered and achieved a victory.

This time is different. I remember and hold onto faith that this task is part of the plan God has for me, and I am able to get through it even when it’s hard – with an expectation of a battle won. He knows what I need, and He sustains me. He holds me together. Sometimes, it is just by the act of a simple prayer thrown up in desperation, and other times, it is in the sweetness of my husband, one of my children, or a friend encouraging me. But through all of it, I find just enough strength to press onward.

You also may be going through a difficult time where things seem to be falling apart or too difficult to manage. But, if you know Christ Jesus, you may allow yourself just enough faith to believe that the One who spoke the world into being is sovereign, and He holds all things together. His plan is bigger than what we can see right now.  He doesn’t show us the whole plan, but He will help us through today.

**I wrote the above last week, before everything happened in Virginia. It may seem our country is falling apart, but let’s remind ourselves of what is true.

John 1:1-2 Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB)

1 In the beginning was the Word,
and the Word was with God,
and the Word was God.
He was with God in the beginning.

Hebrews 1:2-3

In these last days, He has spoken to us by His Son. God has appointed Him heir of all things and made the universe through Him. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact expression of His nature, sustaining all things by His powerful word. After making purification for sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.

Colossians 1: 15 – 17

15 He is the image of the invisible God,
the firstborn over all creation

16 For everything was created by Him,
in heaven and on earth,
the visible and the invisible,
whether thrones or dominions
or rulers or authorities—
all things have been created through Him and for Him.

17 He is before all things,
and by Him all things hold together.

Someday List

I wasn’t going to post anything today.  However, I really want to share a couple of thoughts from some things I’ve heard and experienced that I think you will find interesting. Again, I find it amazing how God moves among His people.  Only He can put things together in a way that cause so many variables to connect at just the right moments to meet just the right needs. Like when you hear just the right song when you’ve just been praying about a particular need.

If you’ve been following my blog, you know I began writing when my expectations for this season in life were suddenly blocked.  It is an obedient act of faith to write publicly about my faith, the struggles I’ve overcome, and to do it without really knowing where it’s heading, or who is receiving the message.  My main hope is that my obedience is a blessing to those reading it.

My dreams and desires have been altered.

As a mom, as a teacher, as a friend, there is nothing more exciting to me than seeing the ones I love grow.  When I was teaching, we had something called a “Someday List.”  It was a list of books students wanted to read in the future and didn’t want to forget.  I have in my mind a “Someday List” of prayers and dreams.  More than a “Bucket List” of activities to do before I die, the “Someday List” is a list of prayers I’m waiting to see God answer.  I don’t know if I will see everything resolved the way I hope, but I know I have to have faith and cooperate with Him.

Right now, what I previously believed of my ability and dreams is being stretched in  directions different than I ever imagined.

Some of you may have dreams on hold.  You may have dreams which seem unattainable.  Or, you may have some dreams which have been dashed.

One of the big things on my prayer “Someday List” is for Christians to become stronger in our faith, able to stand against the cultural tide moving against us, and to be able to reach those who need Jesus.

This past Sunday was the last in our church’s series on Obstacles to Movement. Each Sunday began with a personal testimony video. Today’s obstacle was culture, as in living in a culture that is opposed to God. As soon as I heard the video, I knew I wanted to share it with you. The descriptions of cultural obstacles are poignant.

Obstacles to Movement: Ben Robertson from Williamsburg Community Chapel on Vimeo.

Our pastor, Travis Simone, followed with a sermon with practical applications using Jeremiah 29 as an example.  You can follow the link to the sermon here: http://wcchapel.org/watch-listen/chapel-media/preacher/travis-simone/

He did suggest a book which he recommends.  I haven’t read it yet, but I expect to soon; To Change the World: The Irony, Tragedy, and Possibility of Christianity in the Late Modern World by James Davison Hunter.

Then in a podcast I heard about pursuing dreams, a book was mentioned several times.  Since the impetus of my blog had to do with certain dreams and expectations being dismantled, and some of you are either waiting or going through something similar, I thought I would share the title with you:  The Dream Giver by Bruce Wilkinson.

So, I give you the start of a book Someday List, but also the idea to think about a prayerful Someday List of dreams.  The books and videos are relevant towards the theme of why I am writing this blog – living out one’s faith in purpose and action.

What’s on your “Someday List?”

 

A Bookworm’s Battles

This week is the last Bible study meeting for Entrusted .

Last week was my first week of classes for my master’s program in school counseling.

books

It’s a little interesting that as we are getting to the end of Entrusted, I am finding it difficult to figure out how to handle the new commitments and the old. I can’t do everything I want to – the blog, the master’s program, the next Bible study, exercise classes, not to mention the responsibilities I have to my family and home.

I’ve been in a battle this week and last.   There have been reminders of difficult experiences, relationships, and habits of mine. I’ve been overwhelmed with doubt, fear, and a general sense of maybe I am misunderstanding what I’m supposed to be doing.

Then, Beth Moore, who always has the kind of homework you need to concentrate and spend time doing, has us do a timeline from birth to present marking specific things about our walk as Christians. It was an exercise following the topic of teachers and mentors in the faith. In being reminded last week of my failings, I was surprised at what I found. By this exercise, I was able to hear God saying to me, “But you, Melissa . . .”

Painful Reminder #1: I moved and still move too much to have a constant present friend and companion other than my husband.  In my youth, I read ALL THE TIME. I often felt alone and unknown. It was my escape. Reading is my thing even now. I do have a few exceptional long-standing friendships, but we still don’t get to be physically present with each other. I miss y’all!

Painful Reminder #2: I have a real issue with time management. Everything I do takes longer than I expect. There is even the challenge of getting to the right place at the right time. There is a particular horror of bringing your daughter to the first birthday party she’s been invited to in a new town, a week late. Or how about driving your husband’s brother and family around looking for that “Apple Festival” two weeks too soon? These are the special issues that keep one from achieving success. I’m supposed to get a master’s?

Painful Reminder #3: Even though I know how to pray, I know scripture, and I know what I’m supposed to do, I really don’t know how to look at life with the expectation of victory. I get through things. I don’t necessarily win things. Grin and bear it. If it’s hard, I must be doing it wrong.

So, here’s what I learned from last week’s homework, and what I am realizing. Maybe you can relate.

First, on the timeline, most of the people who have been influential in my life are people I have never met. They are authors. Of course, I already mentioned some, Beth Moore, C. S. Lewis, Max Lucado, and others. There are many others. Being a bookworm has been a good thing for me. Reading has given me insight and knowledge that I’ve been able to apply when I didn’t have someone to talk to. What a blessing. “But you have resources to share with others because of the time you’ve spent reading. You haven’t been as alone and isolated as you thought you were.”

Second, I do have to be more mindful of time in a practical sense. Can I say, though, that it is very reassuring to know that God doesn’t show up on the wrong weekend. His plans prevail. He doesn’t get lost or overwhelmed. Even if I do mess up, it doesn’t mean I’ve messed up His plan for me. In every move, looking backward, I can see how He’s been with me, guiding me, even in churches where I was there, but not present. “But you have never been out of My reach, neither time, place, or season.”

Third, I’ve come to realize the battles are God’s way of strengthening me. I’m not supposed to go through life’s battles with a feeling of defeat or fear that I misunderstood what I’m supposed to be doing. It is through these battles that I get to see Him be victorious. In those victories, I’m learning how to fight the good fight with confidence. Battles don’t mean I’m doing something wrong, it means I’m being pushed and stretched. I’m through using the wrong form and getting hurt. I’ll take the discipline willingly if it makes me stronger. “But you have already been given victory, every gift for the plan and purpose I have for you through the power of the Holy Spirit.”

This morning, my boot camp instructor and some others were talking about pushing us to our limits. When I started the first week, I felt like I would throw up before we were even half way through. I don’t feel that way now. I’ve gotten stronger. Last week, this little bookworm felt pushed to the limit in spiritual battle. But guess what, now I feel stronger.

So for now, I may have to post only every other week instead of every week. I think I will spend the next several posts sharing with you some of the different books I’ve read with more specific details and reflections. Coming soon, a link to Amazon. This blog is part of what I’m supposed to do.

Holman Christian Standard Bible
Proclaim the message; persist in it whether convenient or not; rebuke, correct, and encourage with great patience and teaching. 2 Timothy 4:2

And as we press on, here’s a great song to keep going. Steady Me by Hollyn

What is Beautiful?

Lately, there have been so many coincidences in my life; I can say without a doubt God is doing something. It’s exciting, but I still don’t know exactly what it means. Just a quick update – I’m starting classes for my master’s program this week. It’s a real thing now. The Beth Moore study, Entrusted, is incredibly timely for this transition. I’m being shown how God has been putting together all the events and people in my life for His purposes. I’m doing things I didn’t think I could and being more open to new adventures. It’s fun as I discover all kinds of places of His matching and meeting needs in unexpected ways.

Last week’s post was about God’s holiness. I struggled with it because I wanted us to think about the pure goodness, love, and perfection that is God. No matter how I tried to frame it, I couldn’t just make that picture without bringing in my own sin. I did say it’s hard to understand. I’ve been thinking a lot about how we cannot understand it properly because we just aren’t perfectly good, don’t know how to love properly, and are naturally full of selfish desires.

Many of us have had a lot of snow lately. Looking at fresh snow on a sunny day is beautiful and painful. It’s too bright. God’s holiness is like that – pure, clean, beautiful and powerful.  God’s holiness is like His glory.

snowy-field

New Living Translation
His face shone like lightning, and his clothing was as white as snow. Matthew 28:3

New Living Translation
The Son radiates God’s own glory and expresses the very character of God, and he sustains everything by the mighty power of his command. When he had cleansed us from our sins, he sat down in the place of honor at the right hand of the majestic God in heaven. Hebrews 1:3

I am the one who walks our dogs in the mornings. There have been occasions when I’m the first one out after a snowstorm. It always pains me to break the perfect layer of glittering beauty to let the dogs take care of their business. I always feel regret at having to ruin the pure whiteness with our steps and other remainders. Even if it’s not me, the plows come by, the cars, and everything gets pushed to the side. It all becomes a slushy, ugly, mess. It becomes hard to see the beauty.

We can’t violate God’s holiness. It stays. It’s firm. It can’t be polluted. We can’t step on it and leave our footprints marring the perfect, seamlessness of it. Yet He wants us to be with Him. He knows us. He wants to have a relationship with us. We, who are so NOT holy or pure. He knows we can’t help it. We’re born this way.

I recently shared with my daughter this quote:
1233499

Every time I think of different pieces coming together to create unity, I can’t help but think of God’s plan for us. Jesus Christ, through obedience to God’s will, who is also God, has made a way for us to be with Him. He has given us grace.  Because of grace, we, who are broken and sinful, get to be made whole, made acceptable, through Jesus Christ. It takes our believing in Him through faith.

You can see it in John 13: 31-32:  New Living Translation
As soon as Judas left the room, Jesus said, “The time has come for the Son of Man to enter into his glory, and God will be glorified because of him. And since God receives glory because of the Son, he will soon give glory to the Son. 

New Living Translation
“Come now, let’s settle this,” says the LORD. “Though your sins are like scarlet, I will make them as white as snow. Though they are red like crimson, I will make them as white as wool. Isaiah 1:18

English Standard Version
And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. 2 Corinthians 3:18

Many of us have experienced some kind of brokenness. At some point, our lives have been shattered, our hearts broken, or we have struggled through pain. The pieces come together through Jesus Christ to create a beautiful masterpiece. What is more different than the holiness of God and the brokenness of mankind?  Yet, He brings them together to create a beautiful kaleidoscope of unity through Christ.

fractal-with-verse

A masterpiece of this magnitude doesn’t take place easily or quickly. It takes planning, time, and endurance with a focused determination. Through His work in us, we get to reflect His glory. This is Amazing Grace!

There are so many songs in my mind I want to share with you reminding me of God’s acts of love. One is “The Broken Beautiful” by Ellie Holcomb.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gpOXrY4BHMA&list=RDgpOXrY4BHMA#t=6

Do you have other songs that express this beauty? Share them with us. I would love to hear from you.

 

 

Help My Unbelief

I promise to be honest with you every time I post. I confess I haven’t always fully believed and trusted God, the Bible, and the love of Jesus. The good news is, God is patient, God is faithful, and He has redeemed me. In fact, the process of redemption is still ongoing. Although I don’t understand everything right now, I DO trust He is revealing to me His goodness in His time.

I just finished Wait and See by Wendy Pope. In the past several months, one word has popped up again and again – cooperation. Wendy puts it in the last sentence of the last chapter. “Breathe deeply and ask the Lord to help cooperate with the work of His Word and the Holy Spirit so you can become more like Him.” (page 251)

And that is what I am doing. I used to think cooperating with God was about being good and obedient. While it’s important to live right, it isn’t the key. When I was young, I tried following the rules. I was kind, loved others, obeyed my parents, and didn’t curse; all the things it means to be a “good” Christian. My life’s circumstances seemed to contradict the good things I expected from living a life that was pleasing to God.  I didn’t trust God because of and with the pain I experienced.  I put up a shield to protect my vulnerable places from others, including God.  Unfortunately, I wound up with a bitter and cold heart.

After God renewed my faith, one of the challenges I faced was believing God had a purpose and a plan for me. The promises about His knowing me from before I was born, and His completing a good work in me seemed farfetched. The chaos of frequent moves and instability seemed to have no relevance to a plan at all.  I felt small and overlooked.

Several years ago, I came across a video about the Star of Bethlehem. I have often wondered about the many references to stars in the Bible, and how people could see constellations, or use them for planning purposes. There are so many stars, and they seem so arbitrarily situated! But in the documentary, I learned how the stars’ movements in the sky match what is recorded in the Gospels. Since we know how long it takes light to travel through space, it shows the purposeful and exacting placement of those stars when God first put them in the heavens. It caused me to reevaluate the apparent randomness of my life. I realized I needed to trust God more.

I have since seen walls torn down in my mind and heart. God is gently and patiently building a stronger faith in me as I spend more time with Him and allowing Him more access to my inner most being. Wendy writes, “Conquering selfish thoughts and behavior initiates a domino effect, and cooperating with God’s work in our life starts with getting personal with Him.” (page 84) A skeptical and compartmentalized mind won’t allow me to develop the intimate relationship I need to trust God completely. He is helping me overcome my unbelief. He is faithful. I know He will do the same with you.

To find out more about Wendy Pope and her book, click on  Wait and See,  or go to:  http://wendypope.org/book/

 

Star of Bethlehem Video: