Monday, June 15, 2015

Just Fit!

My walls must be completely bare, my desk entirely cleaned off with my computer unplugged and all the cords wrapped, and every single box, book, and pencil crammed into my one classroom closet before I can say "it's summertime!" at the end of the year.

Teaching in a charter school that rents space in a church, my classroom is used on weekends and throughout the summer in a variety of ways. Most teachers must pack up their room and move things at then end of the year, but my room doesn't look at all like a classroom when I walk out for the summer break.

As I packed some items in boxes two weeks ago, I sat and thought about how much easier it would be if it all fit in the box! I have a wire rack that holds five buckets. I use them to sort supplies for the different subjects I teach. The box they came in is long gone and the rack is too long to fit in most boxes. I filled my closet full of my library books, curriculum, markers and notebooks, and boxes of other things. That wire rack just doesn't fit in a box. Urgh!

Wouldn't life be more simple if everything just fit in a box? But, it doesn't. Emotions don't fit in boxes. People don't fit in boxes. Relationships don't fit in boxes. God doesn't fit in a box.

So, I shall pack away what I can in a box, seal it with tape, and stack them high. Then, alongside or on top I'll perch that wire rack and remember that sometimes things just don't fit in a box.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Gratitude

There are several popular books in the Christian bookstores right now all centered around the idea of gratitude and thankfulness. It's not just a "thanksgiving" time thing. Many believers are realizing that a grateful heart changes your entire countenance and studies support the idea that a grateful heart even prolongs your life. It makes sense, really. If you are focused on being grateful, your heart feels full. You are less depressed. Happy people live longer, according to all the studies I've heard of. Happiness and joy release all sorts of good things in your body.

Now, I've heard some criticisms of these books on being thankful. Most of the criticism revolves around the fact that some books claim you are nearer to God when you are grateful or that you'll live your most fulfilled life by focusing on gratitude. I don't know about all that, but the overall idea that we should be more grateful is something I can wholeheartedly support.

It's really easy to focus on the things that frustrate us, disappoint us, make us angry, scare us, or worry us. Those things can consume you if you let them.

Scripture is clear that worrying about things won't change them or add a day to your life (Matt. 6:27). Scripture is also clear in telling us how to deal with our anger. Anger tells us there is a problem that needs to be confronted. We are told to go to the person who offended us (Matt. 18), to make every effort to make things right from our side (Rom. 12:18), and to not let the sun go down on our anger (Eph. 4:26). We are told anger is an emotion that's okay, but that we aren't to hold onto it.

Disappointment is real. People let us down. We have expectations that aren't met. Maybe they were unrealistic or maybe the other person just didn't have the character to follow through. Either way, we meet with disappointment daily. Sometimes it's as simple as a meal not being as tasty as we'd hoped or expected. Other times, someone fails to be the person we needed in our life. We can continually focus on those failures--our own or someone else's--or we can attempt to move past it.

I have found that one of the fastest ways to get past what worries me or disappoints me or even angers me is to focus on being thankful. God tells us in 1 Thes. 5:18 to give thanks in everything. He also tells us in Phil. 4:6 to be anxious about nothing but to pray about everything. In this verse, we are told "in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God." That word thanksgiving is right now. It's an integral part.

I don't do it nearly enough, but when I stop to reflect on my life with thanksgiving as my goal I am overwhelmed. My hope is to take more moments this summer to just sit back, step back, and be thankful.

There are plenty of things weighing heavy on my heart--worries, fears, disappointments...but I want them to be crowded out. None of them adds to my life. Thanksgiving reminds me I'm extraordinarily wealthy and no good thing do I lack!

Here's to a summer of reflecting on things with gratitude....