Yet I Will Rejoice

Well, it is safe to say that shit hit the fan this year. Schools closed on Friday March 13, all gyms, bars, and restaurants closed on March 17th, and then we found out that Carol Baskin killed her husband. Yet even as our world has crumbled around us, God has given us joy.

Joy seems a little inappropriate of a feeling to our current state. Maybe anger would be more appropriate. April and I wanted to go on a small vacation this summer, maybe a trip to Guatemala, but Covid has canceled that. Some of my favorite people ever, the seniors on this years basketball team, weren’t given a true graduation. Injustice has reared its ugly head when murders go unpunished which has caused Social unrest and has torn apart our nation. And now we are looking at opening schools back up even though it seems like Covid has gotten worse than it was in March. All of these issues stir me to fear and anxious thoughts. Yet, God wants more for us than fear and anger.

He has reminded me that He is working for me, He is working through me, and He will work within me no matter what happens. I will teach in one way or another starting in August because that is what I have been called to do and when I log in online or walk into my classroom I know God will be right by my side. I just ask that I am able to speak kindly and offer a voice of healing, hope, love, joy, and peace so that those I come into contact with know that God is for us and because of that I will rejoice!

But it was easier to rejoice last year when April and I traveled around England, Scotland, Amsterdam, and Ireland. Now I am traveling around my Kitchen, Living room, Bathroom, Bedroom, and with occasional trips to the Backyard. Okay, I have been able to go see my parents, but because they are both in a higher risk category due to their age and a couple health issues, I didn’t see them at all in April. I have also been able to go on decent social distance hikes, but for the most part because I have a small hole in my heart and I nearly died of necrotizing pneumonia five years ago, I have stayed inside. Okay, I did go to the grocery store on March 12, I needed to buy two avocados, and it was chaos. A lady rammed me with her cart because I was in front of her. Since then April has done all of the shopping, well except for the one time I went in to grab two things and noticed that no one was following the grocery store’s guidelines. I digressed a little, so now I’ll get back on point: How have I been able to find joy in my daily life as smelly things have hit the fan.

I am taking each day at a time. This has helped me sleep and let go of the anxious thoughts the world tries to force into my life. I’m alive today. I can breathe today. I can see beauty today. God is in control today and His love for me today remains as strong as it was the day before. How can I not rejoice when I remember how much I am loved. As I have been taking each day at a time I have been using the Pause App to help me refocus my thoughts and give over everything and everyone to God.

I am looking for beauty. April makes this easy as not only is she a knockout, but dang she can decorate a house. Walking from room to room is a decadent delight. I am immensely thankful for the home God as blessed me to shelter in and the fact that God has brought beauty to my life is really where the blessing resides. Also, April and I planted a garden and despite my ineptitude, things are growing. How beautiful is that! When I choose to focus on the beauty in our world, I might be able to add more beauty than chaos.

I am giving up control of my my life and because of that I can take a huge breath and relax. When I give God my desire to control my life, I can be saturated in him and live wholeheartedly. Each morning in prayer I ask God to father me in how to surrender so I may live in his freedom. This has been a true adventure because each day I tend to hop out of bed and sit down at my metaphorical command center and say engage, only for God to remind me that he is the captain of my life. Like the other morning when I woke up as the sun started poking its way in through my window. Everyone, including my dog, was still asleep, but I couldn’t force myself to fall back to sleep. Why God didn’t give us a secret turn off switch that lets us sleep, I am not sure. Or maybe he did. It’s called giving everyone and everything to him at all times. So I had to let go, be gracious to myself and about an hour later Gryffin, my dog, yelped and I was pulled from a deep sleep. That’s what it looks like to let go and when I let go I am able to live wholeheartedly. Living wholeheartedly means I choose to live in love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Fruit of the spirit). Life in these is a life full of freedom and joy.

I am looking through all my pictures from our trip to amazing trip God blessed us with to Europe. When April and I landed in London I was so anxious about if I would be able to sleep or not, I was nearly sure that insomnia would ruin my trip. Yet, God stepped in and told me to let go. After recovering from jet lag, I slept well all month long. Memories from that trip have been keeping me going. Yet, a year ago this week April and I were in Edinburgh and Amsterdam. It rained the entire time we were in Scotland and the temperatures were over 100 degrees in Amsterdam. We hiked up Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh and it was so crowded it nearly stole my joy. But now, as I checked my Facebook memories from the trip, I saw the picture of us from Arthur’s seat and my caption said, “It’s good to remember that not every day needs to be epic or even 100% enjoyable.” With that mindset I can remember that God took me to castles, dungeons, awesome houses, shire-like country sides, amazing churches, insane cliffs, and beautiful canals and he will take me on an adventure again. As I look back over those pictures, I am reminded of how God provided for me and I know I will be able to travel again, but for now, I will rest in the beauty he has set right in front of me.

Lastly, I have decided that my heart matters. I am in full control over what goes into my heart. So I have been spending less time on social media. In February at the start of Lent, I gave up social media, and it was freeing, but since the month of April I have been back on, and well, we seem to be a society that loves to stir up hate and anger. If you disagree with me about this statement you might as well unfollow me (just kidding, but how many times have you seen that statement on Facebook?). Because my heart matters, and it helps control how I act and react to all that is going on in the world, I want to feed my heart beauty because that brings me joy so I am not interacting with people after a certain hour. If I jump onto any of my social media platforms later than usual, I typically just go to look at my picture history so God can remind me of the beauty he has for me. Instead of spending time on social media, I have been walking my dog, reading with my nephew Linc through FaceTime, having a weekly book club with my friend Holland Webb, and April and I have been watching all the Hitchock and James Bond movies we can come across.

These five things are life savers because our world is crazy, but they are only a start. And the best starting place is to knowing I am a man who can choose to rejoice in all times because I have a God who saves!

A Fruity Guatemalan Spiritual Lesson

Of all the classes I taught, Bible wasn’t the one I looked forward to teaching every day.  I enjoyed my gym classes and my screen writing classes, but this Bible class I had to teach last year was a struggle.  Mostly because of the kids.  Yes, I said it.  I had a class of kids I didn’t enjoy.  Okay, these kids were fine individually, but put them together and they would start to pick on one another.

I knew, as their Bible teacher, it was my job to teach them the correct way to treat their classmates.  But no matter what I told them, the girls still singled out the one girl they decided was different from them and treated her as if she was trash.  And the boys, well, they just cheated most of the time and complained if they weren’t given the best marks on all of their work.

Telling them how Moses brought the people of Israel out of Egypt in hopes of helping them become a kinder class was just not working.  Sunday school lessons on David killing Goliath didn’t mean anything to them.  By middle school at the Inter-American School, a private Christian School, they’d heard it all.  Unfortunately the way they were treating their classmates wasn’t matching up with the Bible verses they’d heard all of their life, and it was bringing me down.

Kids won’t change if the teacher, who is in charge of their spiritual growth, has a bias against them.  Their bad attitudes were causing me to neglect them.  For a while, longer than I care to admit, I decided just to teach the class, but not try to help them grow in their relationships with Jesus.  Neglecting them was working fine until I came across the book of Colossians.

Colossians 4: 12 states, “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.”

I knew as a Christian leader I had to show my students compassion.  I started praying for them each night.  The prayers were simple, but they helped.  The girls were still mean to one another and the boys still cheated, but I started to love them.  And I believe that’s what it takes when we live spiritually.

As my love grew, I decided to challenge the class as a whole, including me, to start living by the fruit of the spirit.  I stopped worrying if they knew who was king David’s great-grandfather (Boaz) and started focusing on love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

I offered them extra credit to memorize Galatians 5:16-25, the passage in the Bible where the Apostle Paul get’s spiritually fruity.  They complained about having to know such a long passage, but as I was memorizing the passage the fruit started to show in my life.  And my hope was my students could see the change in me, and start to see what it meant to live by the fruits of the spirit.

This is a lesson we can apply to our own lives.  If we want to live spiritually, we need to live by the fruits of the Spirit.  I am not sure if my students learned anything (middle schoolers are a stubborn breed and not all blogs have clear-cut endings), but I know by being joyful for them when they did well, being kind to them when they were mean to me, or by showing self-control when they acted out, my heart changed.  And if they can see me change, then maybe, just maybe, they’ll change too.

I haven’t talked to many of those kids since I returned to Colorado, but I still pray for them.  I challenge anyone to live by the fruits of the spirit and pray for the people in their lives, even if they are annoying.  The change will be sweet, I guarantee it.