Be Kind. Choose Respect. Embrace Change

When I opened my bible today, I saw the story of Job. His life was certainly one of suffering. Job was a good servant of God. There is no doubt about that. As the devil weaves in suffering to Job’s life, Job continues to serve God. Job chooses kindness, respect, and most of all he embraces change. Don’t get me wrong though, there was a lot of anger before the change began to unfold.

Suffering always causes change. Job’s suffering was not without considerable lamenting. Trust me on that one. Job and his friends go back and forth for about 30 chapters.

Job is angry and filled with distrust of God’s plan for him. Job’s friends try to support him through the suffering, but end up finding ways to help Job explain why it was all happening. “What have you done, Job?” They figured Job had done something to put him in a bad relationship with God. Why else would he have such tragic events happen to him?

This back and forth banter reminds me of an ugly facebook post. Job says one thing, and his friends each take turns saying something back. It is a post that seems to go on and on. I probably would have hidden it from my feed. Job’s friends are anything but supportive. They egg him on. They produce more anger within Job. They consistently show their lack of understanding of Job’s struggles. They force Job to defend himself.

After much bantering, in steps Elihu. Elihu stops Job and his friends immediately in their tracks. He basically calls them all out. He calls out the friends for condemning Job, and he calls out Job for saying he did nothing to endure such suffering.

Elihu knows that Job must bear the suffering to become a better version of himself. God has given Job this opportunity to grow in his faith, and Job is taking it for granted. Job is trying to explain to his friends that he is blameless, and in turn exults himself instead of exulting God. Job by shouting his own innocence is deterring from God’s message that Job can conquer suffering by embracing God’s Will.

Job could choose to be angry and continue to prove his innocence or he could choose to respect God’s Will and endure the pain. This would require Job accepting that others may always point to his suffering as his obvious sinfulness toward God. Humility or Pride?

He could choose to be angry at God or he could choose to embrace the suffering and respect that life would change. In turn, Job would have to accept that God’s Will was more important than Job’s own will.

We all know that Job ends up embracing change. He chooses kindness toward God’s plan, and opens himself up to humility, bowing to God’s change.

This made Job very different than most people. Job knew he was different, yet embraced sameness. He did not lift up his problems any longer as bigger or more unfortunate than others. He accepted that God had a plan, and he was open to it. No matter what. No matter if it makes him look bad in the eyes of others. Job would be open to people’s whispers and gossip about this life.

I think we all like to be seen as different. I mean God made us all unique for a reason right? But why can we not see our sameness?

Differences create loneliness.

Sameness creates community.

It is easy to say we are all in a different boat today in this pandemic situation. After all, we see this post all over social media. We aren’t in the same boat… That isn’t wrong, but what does that give us?

It makes the loneliness of this isolation seem even more lonely. Once Job accepted his sameness, his loneliness disappeared. He felt loved.

For some reason it seems difficult for us to unite in our suffering. We love to lift up our suffering as more intense than others. Yet do we recognize that it takes us down a deep hole of loneliness when we do this?

We say, you can’t possible understand what I am going through. You can’t possibly understand my circumstances. Why am I being persecuted and others are not?

This sort of internal messaging sends us into depression.

When we are able to be kind, choose respect, and embrace change, things happen.

We begin to see that there are others around us who are suffering, just like us. We begin to empathize with others circumstances. We begin to see things more clearly, lovingly even. We are able to embrace change and God’s will. We stop searching for blame and begin to understand humility.

Job was a great model for all of us during tremendous suffering. Sure, we can go through the “woe-is-me” dilemma. We can talk to our friends. We can banter back and forth on facebook as to who is right and who is wrong. In the end, we have to choose change. That is hard. It certainly is humbling.

So, we have a choice….

We can all choose to shout our opinions and stand our ground for what is right in our own eyes. We can banter back and forth about who is to blame for this suffering. We can choose to ignore others and tell them to mind their own business. That is our freedom, right?

Or….

We can be kind. Choose respect. Embrace the change.

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Curiosity Does Not Kill the Cat, It Keeps Him Alive

Cats by nature are curious. I watched as my own cat tiptoed across the floor exploring all sides of the house. I had just found him on a walking trail about 2 weeks ago. He was all alone, crying out, and very skinny. My animal-loving heart could not leave him. After all, so many people right now are suffering and struggling to pay the bills. I knew the amount of animals being left out in the cold would only grow. I did my due diligence though before claiming the cat for our family. I searched everywhere for an owner, took him to the vet to scan for a chip, posted on social media accounts, and even had 5 different families come meet him. So, we now have a cat. We call him Fauci.

Anyway, he is very curious. He mostly stays in our garage, but ventures into the house once a day to check things out. I watched him the other day. He was very curious.

I began to ponder my own thoughts about being curious. I teach in a middle school Montessori program. Our program only works when students are curious about learning. Actually, if you ask me, all educational programs only work if students remain curious. Curiosity drives their intrinsic motivation to learn. When a student becomes interested or intrigued in something, you cannot stop them from learning. In education, we sometimes stifle this by giving out worksheets, homework, and forgetting that when we see that spark of curiosity, we need to tap into it.

The same thing happens in my faith life. When I am curious, I am at my best. When I begin to question, seek out answers, and research, I find myself closer to Christ.

So how do you incorporate curiosity into each and every day?

When you find something that intrigues you, don’t stifle it. Go with it. Tiptoe across the floor like a cat and explore all angles. Listen to opposing views. This often solidifies why you feel a certain way. Pray for God’s guidance and wisdom. Do this every day.

Curiosity doesn’t kill the cat, it makes the cat feel alive. Allow curiosity to grow your faith. Listening to and memorizing the faith is not enough. Delving into the questions and researching how it all began will be the only thing that satisfies your hungry heart. So don’t wait! Be curious now!

Read some scripture today. Purchase a book about your faith. Listen to a podcast on Christianity. Fill your soul with Christian music. Attend church (or view livestream) and concentrate on the message. Pray that God shows you the way to curiosity.

I am off to see what my cat is up to, or maybe I will just let him be curious…

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Running the Race

Hebrews 12:1-3 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

In the last 6 weeks, I have done more sitting, well, let’s just say I never thought of myself as running a race. A race is one that requires a special mindset, a preparation of body and brain. Not sitting in a chair all day.

Yet, the job I do requires intense preparation. In fact over the last 6 weeks it has required an entirely new perspective on progress. The finish line used to be visible with these things called standards and tests. Now it is visible in new ways – mastery assessments. The race winner is now determined by all different finish lines. There is no set pace anymore, and certainly no set finish line. It is an individual approach that never before has been possible in the herd mentality of education. Okay, it was possible, but few did it. If you haven’t guessed, I am a teacher. I have the opportunity every day to teach middle school students.

Before Coronavirus, we went to school each weekday to learn, socialize, and participate in life lessons as a community. Now, we sit on zoom sessions, teaching from afar, listening from our homes, waiting to see what the race will bring.

Before, the race ending was evident. For me, it ended with 8th grade graduation, moving on ceremonies for each level of learner. Other students the race ends with passing grades, award ceremonies, and graduations. Now it ends with none of that.

Persevering through the race is no longer about physical sweat and determination. It is all about beating mental obstacles that no one ever expected a teenager to maneuver.

In some ways, this new race will create amazing young people. Young people who can tread water in the roughest of oceans. For generations, they will say to others, “That’s nothing, I went to school during the Coronavirus Pandemic.” They will teach their own children that nothing can stop them from learning, if they just persevere through the race.

Many will say this is a complete disaster that will have devastating effects on our children for generations to come.

I don’t see it that way. I see it as a new race that our children are leading the way through. Some of them are working part time jobs to support their families. Some of them are determined to find new opportunities which all lead to the finish line. Each finish line looks very different. Depending on the student’s home life, their perseverance through the race, and most importantly, their relationship with their “coach.”

Yes, some are struggling. There are always some who struggle through the race, but I have heard many teachers offering help to these students. Students that never would have had the teacher’s attention before. Students who now have the direct one-on-one contact from someone to help them get through this race. All because the finish line has changed. We are now seeing the students as individuals. Each individual requiring something a little different.

This new finish line has teachers and administration scrambling. Even those schools who thought they were prepared for this new race are finding things to be more difficult than they ever imagined.

No one counted on the hours that teachers would spend re-tweaking their lessons. No one saw the hours of one-on-one time that teachers would be inspired to utilize. No one saw the exhaustion that teachers would face each day because they sit in front of a computer or talk via Google chats or use technology they never thought they would EVER in a million years need to use. All of these new obstacles in the race don’t need physical stamina, but they do require intense brain power to jump through new hoops.

Teachers, don’t stop now. I know you are tired. I know you are mentally exhausted. I know you feel helpless to reach out to kids that seem impossible to contact. It only takes one child to change the race. Take it one child at a time.

The race for teachers, just like their students, looks very different. Their finish line doesn’t exist anymore. In fact, teachers know deep in their hearts that they need to prepare for a very different finish than even their kids realize. That may seem to scary and daunting, but I think in the long run of this, the race always needed to change.

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Keep Your Eye on the Ball

Ephesians 6:10-18

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.

The talk of relaxing our rules and regulation began last week. Some protested their rights to return to work, some have been hiding away in their homes, and some have just watched all the bickering and fighting transpire. I watched as our governor, here in Ohio, spoke to us about his concerns and ideas on reopening the economy. Things he said comforted me, but other things made me filled with anxiety. I began to reflect on what it would look like to relax a little bit and maybe not worry as much about this invisible enemy that we are all fighting.

Growing up I played my share of softball and golf. Both required the great skill of keeping your eye on the ball. In softball, as I stood to bat, I often had great anxiety of missing the perfect pitch, of swinging too high at the ball. My coach continued to yell out, “Keep your eye on the ball, Anne.” When I did as he said, more than half the time I would get a hit. It wasn’t perfect, but it certainly helped my game. In golf, the percentage of hits increased dramatically when I kept my eye on the ball. The game requires that you concentrate, watch the ball, swing high while in position, and line-up your body to control where the ball lands. Keeping your eye on the ball was essential to a good game of golf. In fact, it kept me sane. I had a competitive streak that was similar to my dad’s. When I didn’t do well in the game, I found myself frustrated and mad at myself. I could hardly bare to continue to play when I had a bad day. My life today looks a lot like a bad golf game.

Keeping my eye on the ball not only kept my spirits high, but also made me a strong, competitive player.

That is why I am beginning to worry about relaxing regulations for this virus. I am not worried about the actual relaxing because in my heart, I feel like that needs to happen. We need to battle out the fear that is in our hearts. What I worry about is people keeping their eye on the ball.

If we get back to “life as normal,” then we just may forget that we are still in a war. A war against an unknown enemy.

If we get back to “life as normal,” then we may forget that there are people dying every day because they are exposed to this virus by unknown asymptomatic people.

God called us in Ephesians, just like my coach, to keep your eye on the ball. Don’t stop praying. Don’t stop arming yourself for the battle. It isn’t over. Stand firm. Keep your feet in position, and most importantly….keep your eye on the ball.

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Yes, I Have Been Judas

One of the Twelve, who was called Judas Iscariot,
went to the chief priests and said,
“What are you willing to give me
if I hand him over to you?”
They paid him thirty pieces of silver,
and from that time on he looked for an opportunity
to hand him over.

Often on Palm Sunday, I think of Jesus parading in on a donkey, the palms waving in respect, and the beginning of the best and the worst week of his life. So, today when I read the beginning of the Gospel, I realized that my focus went to Judas.

Judas, the traitor.

My eyes couldn’t move past that part of the scripture.

Judas comment, “What are you willing to give me, if I hand him over?” was pretty telling of where Judas was in life. He was looking for an opportunity, but what opportunity exactly?

Judas was confused, scared, and falling into the hands of materialism and pride. Money and pride can get the best of anyone, but for Judas he would go down in history as the worst friend ever.

Judas is known by almost every Christian – even children – as someone NOT to be. It is easy to pretend that achieving the low status of Judas is next to impossible, but is it?

“I may be bad, but I am never as bad as Judas. Have you ever thought that to yourself before?”

Yet, I have been Judas.

I have hurt others reputations by talking about them and selling them out. It wasn’t the Son of God I was doing it to, but it was the children of God.

People sell out people all the time. It doesn’t even take someone who needs money to sell out someone else. As a society, we cast blame on others, we take money from those who need it most, we take bribes to do things we normally wouldn’t do, and we sell off someone else’s reputation to make us look better.

You might think – not me, I am never Judas.

Unfortunately, Judas is more relatable than you think. He is representative of our humanness. He comes into the story of Jesus for a reason. We are to reflect on him – not to say we will never be like him – but to say we are just like him. Jesus forgive us.

What we cannot copy is his end path. Judas allowed sin to bog down his soul. He could no longer live with himself. Instead of asking forgiveness from Jesus, Judas took his life. Can you imagine Jesus ever saying no to Judas asking for forgiveness? Even throughout the story of Judas, I can feel Jesus’ compassion and empathy for Judas’ sinfulness. Jesus feels the weight of Judas’ sin.

Jesus feels the weight of our sin too. No matter what it is. He feels our pain, our sorrow, and the weight of our burdens.

So, as you think of waving your palms today – think of waving down Jesus to ask forgiveness. Think of your palms as a sign that you are a sinner, and you need Jesus. Don’t let the weight of your sin bog you down like Judas. Think of your palms as a way to get Jesus’ attention and say, “Yes, I have been Judas.”

Come, forgive me.

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Paul’s Message of Discipleship

2 Timothy 1:7   For God did not give us a spirit of fear. He gave us a spirit of power and of love and of a good mind.

God’s message through Paul is clear.  Paul explains to Timothy to use the spirit that He gave you.  Spread His message sensibly with love and strength. Fear does not come from God. Fear is evil working its way through our soul.

Don’t you wonder why Paul felt it was necessary to write to Timothy?  My guess is that Timothy was in a rut. Spreading God’s message through his actions and words must have been exhausting and a little bit scary.  Timothy needed a pep talk, and Paul used his amazing writing skills to do this.  Sometimes when we try hard to spread God’s message we push through our own agenda, and it becomes exasperating.  Our bodies and minds tire from all the turmoil, and we cannot understand why people aren’t listening to us.

Throughout my life I have felt God’s call to accept people where they are and meet them there.  Not only in religious settings, but also as a teacher.  Sometimes we want those around us to be exactly where we are spiritually and intelligently.  We don’t want them to be too far ahead or too far behind, but come on now, that is impossible (and quite frankly, boring).

Wanting people on the same page as you is pretty common. You see it all the time. Recently, I rejoined Facebook. While I love the ideas for teaching lessons to my middle school students, I hate the rhetoric that goes along with it. People fighting with each other over politics. People spewing hate over who is to blame. People using all their energy to convince others that their view is the best. All the while making themselves look “right” while enforcing that others are “wrong.”

When I find myself scrolling down through it all, I encounter extreme exhaustion.  It just seems that God’s Will becomes the back-burner, and the individual will fight his/her way through for the “win.”  These actions and words fall on deaf ears because these people are pushing everyone to become just like them – and we all know that isn’t going to happen.  Pride begins to set in.  Stubbornness blocks hearts. Anger takes over. Divisions occur. God will eventually provide a good humbling situation, and trust me God is always quick to provide this. I personally know.

I know because it has happened to me. After multiple times of being on the receiving end of God’s redirection, I came to the realization that I was not meeting people where they were in life.  I was pushing them to be just like me, to think just like me, and to become mini-me.

If we all were in the same place in life, it would get a little crowded, and I hate crowds.  Crowds make me uncomfortable. They really would make me uncomfortable if we all looked and acted the same.  So why am I wanting everyone to think and act just like me?  Honestly, I don’t even like myself sometimes, so why would I think I am the role model for the perfect Christian?  Talk about uncomfortable.  Who would I look to for wisdom?  Who would provide me with new ideas and inspiration?

If I don’t want everyone to look and act like me, then what do I want?  What I have found (don’t get me wrong I still struggle with this) is that when we accept people where they are at, then we receive the benefit of their perspective.  Some of my biggest leaps in life have been because I have accepted spiritual advice from those much wiser.  Their strength, love and sensibility inspired me to be a better Christian.  Some of my biggest “aha” moments have been from those who I considered a little behind me spiritually (which I know sounds pompous, but stay with me on this).  These beautiful people reminded me of the gift of seeing Christ through a child’s eye.  It inspired me to go back and take a second look at my path.  It humbled me.

Interestingly enough some of the best conversations have been with those who had a different idea of spirituality.  These amazing friends have shown me the beauty of acceptance and love.  These friends are the ones that taught me the beauty of accepting and loving people where they are in the moment. 

Paul sees that Timothy is struggling, so he gives Timothy an inspirational letter to go out and motivate people with strength and love, but don’t forget to be sensible about it.  I cannot help but believe that Paul wanted Timothy not only to inspire, but to be inspired.  He wanted Timothy to increase his faith.  He understood that Timothy had already learned great things from his family, and didn’t want Timothy to keep that under a bushel basket.  He also didn’t want Timothy to go ram that light down someone’s throat.  He wanted Timothy to do it with grace, with good sense, and with a strong spirit.

I know I could use a letter like that.  Here is the good news: Paul wrote that letter for Timothy, but he published it for all to see.  Paul is writing that letter to each of us.  Go spread the Good News!  Use the spirit that God gave you to do so, but don’t forget to soak in the wisdom around you.  Don’t forget to listen and hear the cries of all.  Don’t forget to nurture your own spirit with goodness and grace.  Don’t forget to meet everyone where they are at, not where you want them to be.

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The Sword of Prayer

Ephesians 6:10-18

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.

Many people believe that prayer is passive in nature only. It is something you do when there is nothing else to do. When a friend or family member suffers, the belief is you should act on it. Take them a meal. Let their dog out. Go to the grocery for them.

While all these things are certainly kind, they are not what truly will get your family or friend out of trouble. Going to the grocery is easy. Making a meal is done with ease. How many of us can take time out of our day to sit in quiet and pray?

Prayer takes time for us to sit quietly with God. It is a commitment. It makes us reflect on the circumstances at hand. Most importantly, it makes us reflect on our own sinfulness. We cannot sit in prayer without cleansing our own soul to do so. In times of struggle, true prayer is the action that is avoided the most because to get to the prayer part, we have to move past our own pain.

What truly will defend the struggle is the sword of prayer. Prayer is far from passive. In fact, prayer is the most active thing anyone can do. Society thinks that action must involve something you can see and witness, but that is not the case. Prayer is powerful. It can change the path completely. Going to the grocery doesn’t even compare. Making a meal is nothing. Prayer is powerful.

As we look around today, we may not witness people in prayer, but trust me, they are praying. I find myself praying all day long. I wake up and pray. I pray throughout the day, calling out for God’s help in this crazy struggle for normal to return. I walk up the stairs and pray. I make dinner and pray. I have found unceasing prayer to be one of the most beneficial actions against this struggle.

In fact, during the last few weeks, the change in my own prayer life looks exactly like the Coronavirus curve we keep seeing on television. It has spiked tremendously.

I have known for many years that prayer is an active way to fight a battle, but I have succumbed to society’s – prayer is passive plan – too many times. When you read the scripture from Ephesians above, how could anyone come to the conclusion that prayer is just passive?

The armor of God is prayer.

It clothes us with protection for the battle.

It gives us the helmet of salvation.

Prayer helps us remain alert in times of trouble.

It fits us with peace. It calms our soul. It allows us to think clearly and with wisdom from God.

Prayer is active. Prayer is powerful. Prayer will win the battle.

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Psalm 102

The beautiful Psalm for today’s readings was incredibly powerful…

Refrain. O Lord, hear my prayer, and let my cry come to you.

O LORD, hear my prayer,
and let my cry come to you.
Hide not your face from me
in the day of my distress.
Incline your ear to me;
in the day when I call, answer me speedily.

R. O Lord, hear my prayer, and let my cry come to you.

The nations shall revere your name, O LORD,
and all the kings of the earth your glory,
When the LORD has rebuilt Zion
and appeared in his glory;
When he has regarded the prayer of the destitute,
and not despised their prayer.

R. O Lord, hear my prayer, and let my cry come to you.

Let this be written for the generation to come,
and let his future creatures praise the LORD:
“The LORD looked down from his holy height,
from heaven he beheld the earth,
To hear the groaning of the prisoners,
to release those doomed to die.”

R. O Lord, hear my prayer, and let my cry come to you.

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Blame

“Let the one among you who is without sin
be the first to throw a stone at her.”

John 8:1-11 tells the story of the prostitute that the Pharisees brought before Jesus to trick Him. They were eager to see how he would handle someone who had been caught in the act of adultery. Would Jesus forgive her? Would he condemn her?

Jesus throws it back at the Pharisees by recognizing that in fact – we all are sinful. So instead of condemning her, why don’t we take a look at ourselves first. It was a powerful message to everyone, even the Pharisees.

Sitting on my high horse and pointing the finger at all around me doesn’t do me any good. In fact, it does the very opposite. It takes away my chance at erasing the sin that is blocking God from entering my own heart.

As a teacher, I cannot tell you how many times a day I say to kids, “You cannot change him or her, but you can change your own actions.” I also find myself saying, “It is easy to point the blame at him or her, but what was your involvement?” I had thought it was really just today’s world, but now that I look back at this scripture, I realize it has been going on throughout all of mankind for thousands of years.

Blaming each other for situations without recognizing our own fault is a problem for everyone. I wish I could say only a few of us suffer from this syndrome, but that would be completely inaccurate. Pointing the finger at who is to blame creates a position of power. We feel we are better than others. We feel vindicated or our own sinfulness.

Jesus is telling us in this story that we need to set our own hearts right with God. Blaming others is never the solution. Finding what we could have done to make changes in our own life is always the solution.

Today, I begin my second week of online teaching. It is one of the hardest things I have ever done in my life. I have to be on my game; creating new and innovative ways to teach kids that have been thrown into a stressful situation. After texting back and forth with many teacher friends in all areas of the country, I have come to realize just what Jesus taught me in this scripture. I cannot control others. I can control my actions. I cannot stress over my mistakes and try to find someone to blame. I need to use those mistakes to make my teaching methods better the next day. I cannot please everyone, and I certainly cannot stress over trying to do so. I have to find a balance between loving myself enough to realize I am human. I will falter. Jesus will be there to help me up. Most of all, I have to love myself enough to realize that blaming others will not give me hope and determination to continue. What will give me hope is recognizing my faults, allowing God’s wisdom to guide me, and praying for strength to persevere each day.

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Sitting on the Sideline

John 7:40-53 We find Nicodemus in the scripture today. He subtly stands up for Christ in this story. His question, “Does our law condemn a man before it first hears him
and finds out what he is doing?”

Nicodemus is using the law to try to save Christ, yet he seems a little hesitant to do this. Nicodemus appears three times in the Gospel of John. He first appears asking Jesus what it means to be born again in Jesus. Jesus gives Nicodemus something to think about when he tells him we must be born of water and Spirit. We next hear from him in the story above where he seems to be working through what Jesus had told him previously in John. He tries to buy Jesus some time by using the law to question the other Pharisees and chief priests. Lastly, Nicodemus appeared at the foot of the cross. Joseph of Arimathea (another secret believer in Christ) and Nicodemus take Jesus’ body down from the cross and prepare the body according to Jewish tradition.

Nicodemus practices what I like to call a “sitting on the sideline” kind of faith. He sits on the bench watching and waiting for his moment. Sitting on the bench isn’t a bad thing unless you find yourself stuck there for life. As far as I know, we don’t hear much about Nicodemus after these three times in John. I am not sure what he ended up doing with this new found faith in Christ. Did he become a disciple? Did he continue to stay quiet about his belief?

I have been Nicodemus many times in my life. I have found myself quietly witnessing amazing disciples do Christ’s work. I have taken the time to learn from each of them, making mistakes, and practicing hard to be more like those disciples. Sitting on the sideline taught me the techniques of sharing Christ’s light. It was a time of listening and learning – not necessarily a time of action.

I have also been stuck on the sidelines. Instead of watching and learning, I became angry and filled with self-pity that I wasn’t the one playing the game. I have found my heart hardened to what was going on around me. My bitterness caused large amounts of sin to build up in my soul, and inaction became my middle name. Inaction became my life.

When we allow inaction to take over our life as a disciple – what we are all called to be – then we become afraid to make a move. This fear paralyzes us. It is not what God wants for any of us – ever.

We are called when we are baptized to be followers of Christ, but at the same time, leaders of faith. We are called to action.

Sitting on the sidelines is okay for a time, but at some point we have to stand up and shout out God’s message. We can no longer be afraid about life. We must prepare for that moment that our coach calls us into the game.

Yesterday, I watched Pope Francis give a powerful message on sitting back in fear. He read the scripture from Matthew about Jesus and the disciples on the boat when a large storm arose. The disciples were scared and anxious. They came to Christ in fear – asking Him – do you not love us? Aren’t you going to do something? Christ was heartbroken that they had so little faith. They still allowed fear to overcome them even when He was right there in there presence.

When we sit on the sidelines, we need to be aware, alert, and ready for anything. At any moment we may be called in to play the game. We have to know everything that is going on, and how to handle in-the-moment decisions. Fear cannot block us from doing this. After all, our coach is Christ. He will direct us, especially in the heat of the moment. He will be by our side even in the roughest storms. He will calm the storm in our heart if we just allow Him into our soul.

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