Big and Little Suitcases

Sometimes I can get so frustrated.  I want to know the plan.  I want to follow God’s will.  So, can’t He just tell me what that is already?  I feel like I’m ready for bigger ways to serve Him.  I’m ready to follow.  So, why can’t He just get to the point?

“Who does the Lord think we are?” they ask.

   “Why does he speak to us like this?

Are we little children,

   just recently weaned?

He tells us everything over and over—

one line at a time,

   one line at a time,

a little here,

   and a little there!”

Isaiah 28:9-10

The Israelites were feeling this way, too.  Just like me, a little over confident and a lot impatient.  However, they were forgetting a HUGE detail.  He was speaking to them.  They just were too busy looking for their answers in their way that they weren’t listening for His words.

God has told his people…

   But they would not listen.

So the Lord will spell out his message for them again,

one line at a time,

   one line at a time,

a little here,

   and a little there…

Isaiah 28:12-13

God is telling us constantly and consistently the ways we should go.  We have to be willing to listen to what He is saying and how He is saying it.

e8c20db5360a8ad2b5dbfd3ba3b4af9aWhen I was little, I would want to know things that I shouldn’t/couldn’t know.  My dad would always talk about suitcases at that point.  He would say something like, “Remember, when we went on vacation?  You helped carry bags.  I gave you a bag I knew you could carry.  I carried the bigger, heavier suitcases.  This is a big, heavy suitcase.  So, I’ll carry this one and you don’t have to worry about it.”

My dad’s wisdom is also applicable here.  God tells us things one line at a time, a little here, a little there for a reason.  We don’t necessarily know the reason, but we have to trust that he will tell us at the appropriate time.

We will be prepared for what He calls us to if we stop and listen.  However, we also have to trust His timing and His way of telling us.

-S

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Good Intentions and Love Acted out

“Help me to remain open to ways I can be a gift to others, even when I’m busy or burdened. Don’t let me underestimate the comfort I can bring, since Your spirit is alive in me”

I hate good intentions; they mean nothing. Action is what matters.

But… I have a lot of good intentions myself. A lot of kind ideas that I set aside because I convince myself (or let the devil good intentionsconvinces me) it wont make a difference and/or I’ll look foolish.

That’s why I love the last part of this prayer: “don’t let me underestimate the comfort I can bring since Your spirit is alive in me”

I talk myself down from kindness when I am focusing on myself.

I fail a lot. I look foolish a lot.

When I lean on my own understanding, I confuse myself and let the devil take me in circles of good intentions with little action.

Scripture is very clear:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understand. In all your ways acknowledge him, and He will make you paths straight. Proverbs 3:5-6

I am highly efficient. I would much rather go straight than in in circles, I hate going no where. Yet, when I start over thinking (kindness of all things) circles are all I’m doing.

Truth is the answer is simple, go to the Lord. Lean on His wisdom, wait for his nudge then ACT. Don’t doubt it, don’t over analyze it.

And worst case scenario, it’s always better to err on the side of kindess, love acted out.

-J

A Plea for Help: My Kids, Our Kids

This isn’t my typical blog, but it is what is laying on my mind and heart.  Those of you that know me, know that my heart lies in/with/for urban youth.  They humble me with their trials and their triumphs.  The potential that they have is limitless.  They (and all kids) need our help.

Let me paint a picture of what my district looks like.  I work in inner city Kansas City.  Our population is 89.09% free and reduced lunch.  82% is straight free lunch.  We have homeless students.  We have refugees.  We have students who speak no English.  We have students who are the only income for their entire family.

However, due to the investment of teachers, principals, custodians, secretaries, nurses, paras, coaches, etc…We have students who are Gates Millenium Scholars.  We have students playing collegiate sports.  We have students at Ivy Leagues.  We have students going out and giving back.  Our students are not where they come from, but they are shaped by it.  It builds their dreams (and can crush them).  It gives them purpose (and can snatch it).  It makes them multicultural and open-minded (when molded).

What is the point I am trying to make?  We need to invest in them.  They are our future.  The state of Kansas is operating in a huge deficit.  The number one place that keeps getting cut, though, year after year, is education.  It took the court system to tell the legislators that they need to fund schools fairly for any change to be made for the kids in my district in the past and we are in the middle of another court battle based on recent legislation.  For the 2014-2015 school year, we were frozen at the 2003 level.  This coming year, the state of Kansas is freezing us at last year’s budget (which really means at the 2003 level).  There will be no adjustments for enrollment.  So, the fact that our district grows by an average of 500 students every year?  Doesn’t matter (at least to state officials).  Typically, schools are funded based on needs.  So, if you have high numbers of at-risk (high poverty), special education, and/or students who don’t speak fluent English (all of which we have high levels of here in KCK), your school gets extra funding to pay for their special services that are required.  Doesn’t matter any more.  There will be no weights for funding.

In the day and age of deficit spending, budget cuts DO have to be made.  They CANNOT be made in education.  I would argue by cutting education now, you are increasing deficits later.  You want a smaller welfare system?  Give kids the tools to pull themselves out of the cycle of poverty.  You want less healthcare costs?  Give kids the opportunities to be active and engage in extracurricular activities.  You want lower prison/safety costs?  Give kids safe places to be, alternatives to gangs for afterschool activities, and the tools to break out.  Help kids to see their purpose and help them become part of the solution to build up our communities.  This all requires at least investment in our schools.  (I would also argue it requires more people to invest in these kids through other avenues as well.)

This cannot happen if the trend of taking from education to fund other things continues.  I am using my district as a case and point, but it is common across Kansas and across the country.  My school district has had to cut over 55 million dollars over the past 7-8 years.  That is 55,000,000.00.  We’ve cut 2.2 million in the last three months and are cutting 6.2 million for next school year.  This is just the beginning and it is felt across the board.

Make it more than a whisper of hope for kids everywhere.  Don't help support the world shouting no.
Make it more than a whisper of hope for kids everywhere. Don’t help support the world shouting no.

Please, PLEASE take the time to learn about how the people you vote into office view and support the education of ALL kids.  All kids deserve the same opportunity and chance for success, no matter their background, their parent(s)’ history, or their zipcode.

Please, PLEASE take the time to contact your legislators to urge them to support the futures of all students.  (See who your representatives, state and national, here (http://www.capitolconnect.com/oklahoma/).

Please, PLEASE think about the hopes, dreams, and possibilities of the kids in your lives.  Also, think about the hopes, dreams, and possibilities of the kids in all underprivileged areas (urban and rural).  Think about the hopes, dreams and possiblities of our kids that will build our futures.  Remember the hopes, dreams, and possibilities of my kids in my city.

-S

More infor Kansans on the state of education and ways to have a voice:

http://gameonforkansasschools.com: Grassroots organization made up of parents, teachers, and concerned community members.

http://www.mainstreamcoalition.org/public_education: This is a group made up of representatives from every political party trying to fight for many things, but especially to support education.  After all, republican, democrat, independent, we all need to support leaders of tomorrow.

Momma’s Wild Child

My Nici Bear has the worst sleep schedule of anyone I know. This includes parents of newborns…and he’s going on 2 years old.

I’ve had many well-meaning people offer me so many well-meaning suggestions.

Co sleep, don’t co sleep, stricter routine, cry it out, don’t cry it out, later bedtime, clothes that smell like us, face-time with daddy, no middle of the night snacks, phase out naps (he’s done that on his own now).

I could continue, I wont.

Yes, all well meaning; also useless because I’ve tried them all. They don’t work for my wild child. My walking contradiction of aggression and puppy dog kisses.

He will change the world, but it will be on his time frame and with a snack in hand.

This morning a friend restored my tired spirit with her simple and profound words, “I pray for you all the time…Nici just has too much to contribute to this world that sleep is not an option for his spirit.”

(I pray everyone has this kind of friend.)

That reminder, that peace, it brings more rest to MY spirit than any sleep theory advice has ever come close to. Raising humans is hard (and it never ends, just ask my mom).

I’m strict on Nici in so many hard and right ways, but for only so long can I soothe his nightly loneliness.

mommas wildchildFor only so long can I comfort every fiber of his tiny being simply by letting him cuddle into me…and then roll like a gorilla all over my bed and body.

I could get mad and irritated, I do get tired.

But at this point, my body is fairly well adjusted to very little sleep, so sleep deprived mommas hang on…even if your child’s sleep doesn’t improve your body will adjust….so try and smile at you 3am gorilla child.

They are on a journey of greatness and sleep just isn’t an option for their spirit. Compassion starts right now, in the middle of the night with them.

Hold their loneliness and let their wild run safely free in the jungle of your bed.

-J

Hope in Devastation

“…But you never ask for help from the One who did all this.

You never considered the One who planned this long ago.”

Isaiah 22: 11b

Let me give you some context – Isaiah is outlining a message he received from God about Jerusalem.  In it, he sees the entire city in a “terrible uproar” (verse 2).  There is death and destruction everywhere.  After describing the state fo the city, he describes the actions of its citizens in response.  “You run to the armory…you inspect the breaks…you store up water…”  It goes on like this for several verses.  They are trying to respond and take care of things.  However, the response that should happen, never does.

“But you never ask for help from the One who did all this.  You never considerd the One who planned this long ago.”

tumblr_m6nc16hUPc1qdwo7go1_500
Golden Tears by Gustav Klimt

There is a lot of depth, questions, and answers in this chapter.  “The One who did this.”  What is the “this?”  By my earthly standards and interpretation, it is the devastation of an entire city, a lot of families, a lot of people.    Isaiah even says, “Let me cry for my people as I watch them being destroyed.”

We see natural and man made disasters every day.  People, cities, countries are being destoryed as I write this, as you read this.  “The One who did this.”  God allows things to happen.  Things that don’t always make sense and seem unfair to us on earth, based on our limited human understanding.  One of the hardest things for me to learn after AIDS stormed my life was that God has a plan and I don’t need to know it.  The first part was easy to accept, but the second part was not.  I think I need to know and control everything.  It is typically effective professsionaly, but not in faith.  I have to trust that He knows better than I; I have to trust that He has a purpose.  I have to hold onto the fact that no matter the devastation, there is hope in “the One who did this” – because, after all, He “planned this long ago.”

There he will remove the cloud of gloom,

   the shadow of death that hangs over the earth.

He will swallow up death forever!

   The Sovereign Lord will wipe away all tears.

He will remove forever all insults and mockery

   against his land and people.

   The Lord has spoken!

 Isaiah 25: 7-8

We can move forward through the devastation with the knowledge that “the Sovereign Lord will wipe away all the tears” for us as He also promised Jerusalem.  We don’t know for sure if it will be in this world or heaven for each of us, but we know that He has plans for us for good (Jeremiah 29:11).

So, it is a conscious decision in times of devastation, large and small, to trust in the “One who did this and planned it long ago.”  To trust that He allows things to happen that can ultimately work for His good.

-S

Where are the other radicals?

Shauna and I have been talking a lot lately about what it means to live a radical life.

Truth be told, I’m extremely disappointed with my middle class ‘white bread’ peer group.

I hear all the time:

“That sounds like a great cause or a good idea. But I’m really busy…or tired… (or doing something else and don’t want to be inconvenienced)”

radicalLet me tell you a little secret…we are all tired, busy, and have other things to do. We all have busy lives and priorities. We have things we’re saving up for and things that break and need fixing. I think its safe to say 90% of us are walking around in constant exhaustion. (or maybe that’s just me)

And yet, these same people  talk like concerned people, concerned Christians. They want to do the easy things to get warm fuzzies inside. But when it comes to the nitty gritty inconvenient helping, no ones left standing.

I’m not talking about polite conversations, holding doors for strangers, or even letting the person in line behind you go first (because you have a 1 yr old throwing all the food besides the apple he’s already eating out of the cart…)

I’m talking about truly investing in the lives of others less fortunate – in a way that has no personal or monetary gains for you (although I would argue once you’re invested, your emotional gains often outweigh what you’re giving of yourself).

I don’t think I live a radical life; yet I’m often the only married with kids adult in a room full of volunteers.

It’s the time, the inconvenient commitment to care that seems to be missing in my peer group. Most love to donate money and goods, especially during the holidays…oh that feels just great. Big warm and fuzzies! But caring enough to act on it…who has the time for that!?

Not me! I’m tired, and pregnant and still need groceries, and to do the mountain of laundry in my closet, and clean crayon off the toilet…and, and, and.

I don’t like to think I’m radical. Because, if I am, that leaves America in a sorry state of compassion. But then why do I often feel like the only one in my peer group who has a fire in their soul as well their fireplace!?

-J

What should I be praying about?

Sometimes it feels like I’m saying the same prayer every day.  I don’t think there is at its core anything wrong with that if it is intentional.  There is a consistancy in what is important to me and it is evident in my prayer.  As my nephew has now reached the point where he recognizes prayer, and sometimes asks to pray 7-8 times in one meal, it has made me start to think about what I am showing and teaching him in how I pray.  In two books I am reading two quotes about prayer really stuck out to me.

The first is by Lisa Bevere in Girls with Swords: How to Carry Your Cross like a Hero.  She says,“If you are not praying the type of prayers that scare you, your prayers are certainly not frightening your enemy.” How true is that?  Am I willing to ask God to use me, mold me, change me past the point of comfort? If I’m not doing that how am I frightening our enemy?  Complacency is not scary and it is not interesting.  I have said before that I always grew up with a healthy fear of God (and prayer).  As I’ve heard lots of times, be careful what you pr25040c509a70721841b67fb0934d5eebay for because it may come true!  So, am I willing to pray for God’s will even when I am uncertain about it?  Am I willing to trust Him more than I trust myself?  Am I willing to pray for intimidating, scary change?  Because, when I fall to my knees, I want the enemy to think, “Oh no, not her again.”

The second comes from a daily devotional by Ann Spangler.  She says, “Pray honestly and with hope for yourself and for others.” I think these need to be separated.  Pray honestly.  This means being honest with yourself and God.  Do, I really put it all out there every time?  Pray with hope for yourself and others.  Pray with hope, not desperation, not monotony/habit.  Hope is a very specific emotion that is based on a positive belief that something can/will happen.  Pray for hope for others; I would expand this to everyone else.  What if I prayed with hope for people who are difficult or make things difficult?  Not hope that they will change, or make my life easier, but with hope that God blesses them and shows his will to them?
bae558e0655b3bbcbafc6050d3185b41So, what should I be praying?  I think it comes down to me and God.  What do I honestly need to say?  I need to recognize the millions of way he is blessed me and the hope that he gives me daily.  I need to be honest with what I want to see him do in hope myself and others.  I need to be willing to be scared, to be intimidated and ask for this – this is where growth happens for myself and His kingdom.  I need to reach out to Him as my Father, Counselor, and Friend.  I need this for myself and those watching all around.

-S