When Jesus Lets You Down…

God didn’t protect me the other day.
He totally could have stopped the circumstance that happened.
But He didn’t.

And I was mad.
My head knows the answers:
God has higher ways.
His thought are not like ours.
He is good.
Everything He does is right.

But I was still mad.

I told Him that.
We hashed it out.
It took several days.
But in the end, I once again concluded that He is either God, or He is not.
And if I truly believe He is God then there is only one answer to give Him:
Your will be done.

I don’t have to like it.
I don’t have to understand it.
I don’t have to think it is the best course of action.
But I am not God.
He is.
And this is where the rubber meets the road on my faith.
What do I REALLY believe?
And do I TRULY trust Him?

I got to thinking about all the people that Jesus let down.
The people He frustrated.

I realized there is quite a list in just three short years of ministry!

It started with His very first miracle, turning water into wine.
His mom knew who He was and what He could do. So she asked for help.
He told her the timing wasn’t right.
Her response? She simply told the servants to do whatever He told them to do.
She didn’t nag, whine or yell.
She quietly believed and then sat back and watched.

His cousin John sent him a desperate message.
John, who had prepared the way for Him, knowing He was the Messiah.
John, who said, “I’m not even worthy to lace up his sandals.”
John, who said, “He must increase while I must decrease.”
He sat rotting in a dungeon simply because he told the Herod the truth about his sin.
John, from the depths of his pain cried out, “Are you really the One we’ve been waiting for? Or should we look for another?”
In other words, Jesus, did I waste my life on You? Are You really worth it?

Jesus was with the disciples when the storm came up.
With them in the boat – but not active against the storm.
He was sleeping.
And these seasoned fishermen cried out, “Don’t you care if we drown?”

Mary and Martha sent word to Jesus that their brother, His dear, dear friend, was very ill.
And then they sat and waited.
Because Jesus didn’t come.
He didn’t heal him.
He didn’t even send a message back with the messenger.
And when He finally did manage to show up it was four days too late.
Four days dead.
Decay had set in.
And all hope was lost.
And they said, “If you had been here, our brother would not have died!”

The rich young ruler asked Jesus how to be saved.
And the answer Jesus gave him was a huge disappointment.
The words were, “Sell all that you have and come follow me.”
The message was, “Make me Plan A. The only plan. No other gods before Me.”
And the young man went away sad because he couldn’t let go.

The crowd in Jerusalem – hundreds of people – were so frustrated that Jesus rode in like a King but then didn’t do what they expected that they went from “Hosanna!” to “Kill him!” in a few short days.

Peter was so unprepared for seeing Jesus arrested that he went from “I would never disown You” to “I’ve never met him”.

Thomas was so shaken by His death that he refused to believe in His resurrection without proof.

Judas was so disappointed by Jesus’ overall behavior that he sold his location for a bag of coins.

Over and over again, Jesus did not respond “correctly”.
The person had one idea.
He had another.
The person had one plan.
He saw a bigger picture.
The person had one agenda.
He had an eternal perspective.

It is easy for me to look at their lives, their reactions, and judge them.
Find them wanting.
Wonder why they didn’t have more faith.

But in those cases, I know the end of the story.
The best wine ever tasted.
John praised by Jesus, held up as an example of faith.
Jesus calming the storm with just a few words.
Lazarus resurrected.
The crucifixion leading to my redemption.
Peter’s denial showcasing how the Holy Spirit can transform a fearful coward to a bold and faithful minister.
Thomas’ doubt leading to Jesus blessing me and all of us who “have not seen and yet believed.”

Or, in the negative cases of the rich dude and Judas, their ultimate destruction because of their lack of belief.

I know the end of their stories.
But really, the only difference between their lives and mine is that I know the details of the ends of their stories.
I know the end of my story, too.
God has promised to be with me in trials.
To give me help in time of need.
To supply all that I need.
To give me wisdom when I ask.
To work out all things “in conformity to the purpose of His will.”
To show His glory – the evidence of Who He is – in every circumstance I face.
To work them ALL together for my good.
And to ultimately take me home to be with Him forever, leaving all the pain behind.

I know the end of my story.
I just don’t know the details.
How He will accomplish the impossible.
IF He will accomplish what I want or something else.
How long I will have to wait.
And what tests lie before me.

And that is where I get lost.
Hurt. Angry.
And frustrated.
I want to know NOW how He is going to work this all out.
And I wonder at times IF He will work it all out.

But that is why He gave us all those people, all those stories.
They are examples of how He took the darkness and changed it to light.
How He transformed “impossible” to “done”.
How His delays were strategic.
His timing was perfect.
And His non-answers were leading to better, bigger, more glorious results.

So that is why I love the message Jesus sent back to John as he sat in Herod’s dungeon. John’s disciples asked and He said nothing. He just proceeded to do the work God gave Him. Here is how Luke records it:
“At that very time Jesus cured many who had diseases, sicknesses and evil spirits, and gave sight to many who were blind.”
But then Jesus spoke:
“So he replied to the messengers, “Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor. Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.”

So what will I do the next time Jesus lets me down?
I pray that I will choose to believe.
Believe that He is good.
That everything He does is right.
That His higher ways really are better than mine.
That He can be trusted.

And I pray that I will not stumble because I don’t understand.

Because He is not a vending machine.
Or a genie in a bottle.
He is not a puppet I control with certain prayers or words or actions.
He is not Someone I can fully understand.

But He is good.
And He is for me.
And I pray that the next time He offends me, this will be my immediate answer:
“I trust You. Your will be done.”


A Tale Of Three Teachers (Or, A Tribute to Vivian Fairnot)

5th Grade
5th Grade…

A Tale Of Three Teachers (Or, A Tribute to Vivian Fairnot)

Ms. H. did not like me. It was obvious.
I annoyed her.
My parents told me it was a “personality conflict”.
But when you are 8 it doesn’t really matter why your teacher dislikes you.
You just know that they do – and you shrivel a little – or a lot – inside.

Ms. M. was way less subtle about her disdain.
I not only annoyed her, she actively loathed me.
And it wasn’t in my imagination.
The last day of 4th grade she told me that I was the dumbest kid she had ever taught and that she was glad the year was over.
It didn’t help that she “told” me that at a loud volume in front of my class as the rest of the school was filing in for the final assembly.

I remember those two teachers vividly.
How much they disliked me.
How worthless they made me feel.

But then you had Mrs. Vivian Fairnot.
She gets her full name in this post because she deserves it.
We switched schools the year I went into 5th grade.
And she was my teacher.
What a difference she made in my life!

She liked me.
Enjoyed being my teacher.
Told me so.
And backed her words with actions.
She gave me responsibility.
Listened to my stories.
Laughed at my jokes.
Believed in me.
And basically loved me just as I was.

I didn’t change much at all between 4th and 5th grade.
But I became a different person because of my 5th grade year.
My whole outlook changed because of one teacher.
She wasn’t perfect.
But she loved well.
And for that I will always be grateful.

All three of those teachers influenced who I am today.
How I teach.
What I believe about children.
And why I do things the way I do.

I tell them the truth.
If I believe they can do better, I tell them.
If I believe they gave it their all, I tell them.
But either way, I tell them every day that I love them.
That I am glad they are my kids.
That I am happy God gave them to me.

I tell them to do their work independently – and sometimes to redo their work – because they are smarter than they think they are.
And I tell them to be respectful because I believe they have to ability to do so.
I tell them to love each other because God loves them and I love them.
And I tell them that they can do ALL things through Christ. Even math. Even loving each other. Even the things that feel impossible when you are 8, 9 and 10.

I tell them to ask for help when they need it.
But to push themselves to do better, too.

All of these things I learned from Mrs. Fairnot.
As well as other amazing teachers through the years.
But she stands out as the teacher who made the turning point happen for me.
She literally changed my life.

I never got a chance to thank her in person here on earth.
I found out that God called her home this week.
It makes me grateful once again for heaven.
Because one of the things I plan to do when I get there is to find her and thank her.

I don’t care if you are a teacher, a parent or simply a person who knows a child.
Please, please watch what you say to them.
And how you treat them.
The things you say and do speak volumes to them.
As well as what you don’t say and don’t do.
They may still hear your voice in their head 40 years after the fact.

One final thought – all three of those teachers taught in Christian schools.
All three claimed to know Christ.
But only one showed Him to me through her actions.

Do the kids in your world see Jesus in you?
Do they know He loves them because you do?
Oh, how I hope so!
Because Jesus loved the kids.
Made time and space for them.
Blessed them.
And warned the grown-ups – US – to not give them any reason to stumble.

May you be a blessing in the life of a child today!

And Mrs. Fairnot, thank you.

You always said, “Your walk talks and your talk talks, but your walk talks louder than your talk talks.”
Your walk talked volumes into my life – and therefore into the lives of hundreds of children.
Well done, Teacher, well done.

Lessons From My Classroom

It happens every day in my classroom.
And I am guessing that it probably happens every day in every classroom around the world.

Student: Teacher, I don’t know how to do this.
Teacher: Here, I will show you. (Demonstrates, has student practice.)
Student: Oh, I get it! Thanks.

30-minutes later, turns in paper with all incorrect answers.

Teacher: What happened? I thought you understood.
Student: Ummm…I thought my way was better. (Or some other excuse…)

Or this scenario:

Teacher: OK, class today you will do A, B and then C. Please tell me what you are going to do.
Students: We will do A, B, and then C.
Teacher: Great! Get to work.

2-minutes later:

Student: Teacher, what am I supposed to do?

It happens every day in my heart.

Me: God, I don’t know how to handle this.
God: Here’s the answer in My Word. (Shows me repeatedly, reminding me of past lessons)
Me: Oh, I get it! Thanks!

30-minutes (or less) later, right back at fretting about the issue, making a plan, trying to solve it, trying to figure it out.

God: What happened? Why aren’t you trusting Me and My Word?
Me: Ummm…I thought my way was better…

Or this scenario:

God: OK, Kathy, here is the plan: Love Me first, then love the people I put in your path and as you love them, tell them about Me. That’s is all you have to do. I’ll take care of everything else.
Me: OK, God. I will love You first, then people and I’ll tell them about You. And let You handle everything else.
God: Great! Let’s go.

Two-minutes later:

Me: God, I’m taking back everything I just gave You. I think I can handle it better than You can. After all, do You really know what You’re doing? You are awfully slow. And besides, I just can’t see how You’re going to do it. And it really needs to be done. Feels super urgent to me. So I am going to sit over here and fret about these small things while the world dies and goes to hell with You. Hope that’s OK with You.

Of course, my answer isn’t verbalized quite like that.
It isn’t verbalized at all.
It shows up in my actions.
The rat-race of my brain, trying to figure it out, make a plan, get ahead of the circumstance, wonder what to do.
Instead of doing the three things He commanded:
Love God.
Love people.
Go tell.

At least three times a day I say, “Let me be the teacher, please.”
When a kid takes it upon himself to direct the class.
Tell another kid what to do.
Help me get their attention,
Tattle on someone else.

I have to remind them that I am the one in charge.
I have the plan for the day.
And while I am not perfect, I have more experience and wisdom than they do.

At least thirty times a day God has to say to me, “Let me be God, please.”
When I start to fret.
When I problem-solve instead of pray.
When I lean on my own understanding.
When I forget who is in charge.

He has to remind me that He has got this.
He has the plan for my life.
And He IS perfect, with the whole picture in mind.
He is for me and not against me.
He is my judge – but He is also my vindicator.
He is my provider and my protector.
He loves the people I love more than I do.
And He has the best plan for them, too.
HE is the Teacher.
The Master.
The Lord of All.
Sovereign over all.
The King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

Not me.

Every morning I greet my kids at the door with options:
Hug, handshake, high-five or fist bump.
Different ones choose different things.
Doesn’t really matter what they choose – in fact, a couple of them think it is great game to duck in the door without me “catching” them.

Every morning, God greets me with new mercies.
New hope.
Fresh messages from His Word.
A renewal of my mind.
A refreshment of my spirit.

Always available – when I take the time to stop at the door of the day and meet up with Him.
He just wants me to know that He loves me.
And that He’s got this.

Classroom lessons.
May I ever be a willing student.
Because He will ever be the best Teacher.