Grace, Karma, & My Students


Last week I blogged about my first period class laughing at me and my sock monkey hat hair. The next day I read it to them as an example of how a change in perspective can lead to a change in your entire day.

Well, knowing they’d been blogged about was more than they could handle, so they’ve asked me each day since then when I was going to write about them again. Here ya go, sweet kids.

The other morning I had another slightly rough start to my day (this is becoming a theme), and was a bit down as I headed to class after morning carline. As I round the corner to my room, I see my first period in two lines, arms in the air, whooping and cheering like cheerleaders to my starting basketball player.

I’ve never been cheered into class before. Amazing boost to my soul and reminder of one more reason I love my job so much.

But as I smiled and sat down to take roll and start the day, I silently asked the Lord, “What did I do to deserve this?” To which He replied, just as quietly, “Nothing, my child.”

And He took me back over some of the highlights ofmy stellar high school career:

Once, on a below freezing morning, a teacher in a fully lined wool pants suit asked me to remove my sweatpants from underneath my skirt because wearing them was a uniform violation.

With all the respect I could muster for the following statement, I replied, “I’ll take my pants off when you take off yours.”

It did not go well for me.

If you came to class unprepared, you received an Academic Progress Report sent home. Three of them equalled a Saturday school. I collected so many for missing assignments and forgotten folders that my dad once asked me if I realized most people only went to school five days a week. He was convinced I was running for President of Saturday School.

I nearly failed 2nd quarter of freshman English on principle because I thought Jane Eyre was the most ridiculous book I’d ever read and I refused to finish reading it.

I struggled to get any assignment turned in that was both on time and up to my ability, and often received progress reports about living up to my potential.

I got caught smoking cigars in the hot tub at Disney World on my Senior Trip.

I did absolutely nothing to deserve the precious kids who love me and let me love them. I was a middle of the road student with a rebellious streak a country mile wide.

See, that’s the thing about Karma. The world looks at our messed up world around us and KNOWS it’s wrong. The concept of Karma (what goes around comes around) makes sense to the human mind. Scripture even tells us we will reap what we sow.

But grace trumps Karma. Every day.

Grace knows my calling is to pour my life into those kids, to connect with them, to not waste my own pain and problems by using them to help them understand they don’t have to make the mistakes I’ve made. that they can serve the God of grace in their lives right now.

If there’s nothing else in my life I want them to “get,” it’s that we each have a responsibility to listen and to learn and help other make better choices themselves. Christ died to make a way for us to keep the Law that condemns. Knowing what it says is good. Doing what it says is even better, but being who God created you to be is the best of all.

So there, kiddos, I blogged about you. Love and blessings to you all! 😊

Silencing Fools


I like to debate. I like to win debates. But I have learned that there is no point in arguing with a fool.

A fool is one who holds to their beliefs, even in the face of being proved wrong. Their beliefs and behavior are not based upon reason or Truth, but upon personal experience and perception.

I used to like arguing with fools. Not because I hoped to teach them or to change their minds, but because they were easy to prove wrong, and I was very interested in being right.

Eventually I learned that being proved wrong didn’t silence them. And it didn’t make me look smart. They kept on in their foolishness, and I looked arrogant and obnoxious.

So if proving them wrong doesn’t do it, how do you silence fools? Not by arguing with them or proving them wrong.

For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. 1 Peter 2:15

There are several places in Scripture in which God clearly tells us his will for our lives. This is the one I need to hear most.

God’s will is not that we would take the time to prove fools wrong. His will is that we go about our faithful service to Him. In doing this, the foolishness of fools will be obvious to everyone.

Don’t stoop to the level of the fool. Rise to the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. Create a separation between yourself and the fool that is so great, all who look on your lives will know who the fool is.

Garbage in, Garbage out: How do you know what’s good for you?


Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Philippians 4:8

“All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be enslaved by anything. 1 Corinthians 6:12

Growing up, we had a pretty matter of fact standard for what we could and could not watch, read or listen to.

Garbage in, garbage out.

If mom thought something was influencing us negatively, it showed in our behavior, and it was immediately nixed.

Garbage Pail Kids? Burping, farting, snotty kids? Not in the Mason house.

Goosebumps? Fear Street? Anything else written by R.L. Stein? Why would you purposefully read something that’s gonna give you nightmares? We all liked our sleep too much, so they were out.

“What’s the harm?” you may be quick to ask, much like my brothers and I did at the time.

But what my mom and dad knew was that, as kids, we were prone to burp and fart and pick boogers and have nightmares without a bit of external assistance. Those things come naturally, and training generally does not include encouraging the things that come to us naturally.

Some things in life were obviously out. Other things, not so much. They had to be considered carefully and the benefits and detriments weighed out. But without fail, things were either placed in one category or the other.

Because the fact of the matter is that there is no such thing as neutral information intake. Everything we consume impacts us for good or for bad. The results may be subtle, but a lifetime of exposure to things that are against biblical principles shapes our mindset. Even if the negative impact is the fact that we are no longer uncomfortable watching shows with consistent vulgar language or extended sex scenes, those things shift our worldview.

So how do we build a constructive, positive worldview? Scripture doesn’t leave us without guidance on this matter. If you want to know how to make positive and constructive choices for how to spend your leisure time, consider the following questions based on the two Scripture passages above:

First, from Philippians 4:8,

1. Is this true?
This doesn’t mean we should abandon fiction; true also means “loyal, faithful, accurate.” Is what you’re watching or reading or hearing considered faithful, consistent to what you believe about the world?

2. Is it honorable?
To be honorable is to be held in high esteem or respect. Is your favorite brain candy respectable? Is it held in high esteem? I would venture to say we could all agree that watching Extreme Makeover: Home Edition or Undercover Boss are more honorable ways to spend time than perhaps Jersey Shore. Entertainment that has no redeemable value should be questioned at length in your heart and mind.

3. Is it just?
This is where we lose a lot of television and music. To be just is to be “based on or behaving according to what is morally right and fair.” Anything that objectifies people, glorifies abuse, brutality or immoral behavior isn’t just. And watching it repetitively will numb your heart and mind to the consequences of such behavior.

4. Is it pure?
This is relatively self-explanatory. If your favorite movies and music and shows are sexually explicit or full of foul language, ask yourself, “How is this helping me?” If it’s not helping, what’s the point?

5. Is it lovely?
Simply put, does what you put into your heart and mind consistently show you the best or the worst in humanity? I’m a big fan of shows like Criminal Minds and Law & Order: SVU. But after a day of watching a marathon on USA, my general outlook on life is depressing. When we consistently feed on the dregs of humanity, we expect the worst from people and can even begin to forget about the goodness of God in this fallen world.

6. Is it commendable?
Can you formally praise it? Do you feel the need to hide what you’re watching or reading or listening to? Could you share with your small group or your family how you spend your time without feeling embarrassed? Would you want a younger family member or someone you mentor to be doing what you’re doing?

7. Is it excellent?
This is the one that I tend, for better or for worse, to get hung up on. Some “brain candy” is just plain bad. Poorly written, poorly acted, poorly sung. All creativity is possible because we as people are created in the image of Creator God. If you’re going to enjoy the creative nature of humanity, spend your time and energy enjoying GOOD creation.

And from 1 Corinthians 6:12,

8. Is it helpful?
Just because something is legal doesn’t mean it’s beneficial for you. Ask yourself how this thing you like so much is helpful to you. Sure, quoting hours of Insert Favorite Sitcom Character Here is hilarious fun, but if you can quote your favorite show more than you can quote verses that speak truth into your life, you may want to rethink how you spend your time.

9. Is it enslaving me?
Even the best things can become harmful when they control our lives. If something has become such a fixture in your life that it alters how you live, it may be time to evaluate its place in your life. The gift of DVR has helped that issue with our lives being controlled by a tv show, but this idea of idolatry goes beyond just television. If you consider your favorite entertainment when making decisions about relationships or other commitments, you may be enslaved to it.

These questions revolutionized my television watching and music listening. When I began being convicted about the things I was taking into my heart and mind, I did a media “detox” for several weeks and reset my tolerance to questionable material, then I began re-introducing shows and artists into my life. I compared them to these questions and determined what could stay (and in what amount) based on how they held up to the scrutiny of Scripture.

So how do you determine how you spend your time? What entertainment in your life would be kicked to the curb if you examined it under the light of the Word?

Rights, Respect, and Modesty


For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living. Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God; for it is written, “As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.” So then each of us will give an account of himself to God. Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother. Romans 14:7-13

 

It’s summer again, so it’s time for a reminder about clothing and modesty. Each year around this time, men and women alike express concerns to members of church leadership about visible underclothing, short skirts and shorts and low neck lines. Here are a few rules of thumb for being beautiful and stylish while remaining modest.

If you have a full length mirror, use it. If you don’t have a full length mirror, get one. Looking at yourself before you head out the door is the most practical way to avoid embarrassing “wardrobe malfunctions.”

This season, sheer clothing is “in.” But when wearing this style, please remember to check what is showing beneath your sheer top. If your bra is showing, remember that it’s called underwear for a reason and keep it covered. If your shirt and your bra are sheer, then people can see more than just your cleavage.

Tank tops and camisoles are wardrobe life savers, especially for women who have more difficulties finding clothing that covers cleavage appropriately. It is possible to purchase clothing that is stylish but not distracting.

If you aren’t sure about an outfit, ask someone. If no one is available to check an outfit, a good rule to remember is “When in doubt, don’t.”

Do a “Bend and Squat” (not Bend and Snap) Test. If you can’t bend over or squat without body parts hanging out, it’s best to change your outfit.

The best thing to remember is “Keep your cracks covered.” That covers about everything.

Please know that these reminders are not about legalism at all, but about our helping everyone at church (and elsewhere– we’re Christians seven days a week and represent Christ everywhere we go) without distraction. As sisters in Christ, we need to do everything possible to make church an especially safe place for brothers and sisters to gather for worship without being worried about seeing more of one another than we need to.

Below you will find a couple of links to some excellent resources concerning modesty. If you have a teen (or an adult!) you would like to approach with love and grace about their clothing choices, the video “What Guys Think About Modesty” is an actual letter from a young man who expresses his struggle with remaining pure in his thoughts when we practice our “rights” to wear whatever we want.

The Lord wants us to do nothing that causes others to stumble or that would bring dishonor to Him. Let us always pray and encourage each other to be God’s women, holy and modest in all we wear, and in all we do!

Two resources:
CJ Mahaney’s Series on Modesty

What Guys Think About Modesty

Social Media Tattoos


This article originally appeared in August 2011 on the Christians in Social Media blog.

Yesterday, author and speaker Jonathan Acuff posted a comment on his Facebook fan page that could lead to very beneficial discussion between teens and those who live and work with them.

“Posting a photo online is like getting a digital tattoo. Once it’s on, it’s on forever. You wouldn’t let your 12 year old get a tattoo. Make sure they understand what they’re doing when they post a photo online.”

As Christians who actively participate in social media, it is important that we teach our teens (and first learn ourselves) the importance of applying biblical truth even in our interactions on social media sites.

The fact that our every move is known and “recorded” by God is an ancient truth; in Psalm 139 David praises God that we can never escape His all-loving, watchful eye. But being “watched and recorded” 24/7 by other people is new to human culture, and it places upon believers a new pressure to be wise in our walks, even at our most relaxed times like social gatherings. Here are some tips on caring for your “digital testimony”.

1. Be proactive. Don’t wait until you see that one of your students is tagged in a picture that captured a moment of poor judgment. Begin talking now with your tweens and teens about the permanence of anything posted online, not just photos. Even if you “delete” a comment from a social media site, it is captured and saved somewhere. Talk with them about where they go and who they hang out with. Ask them if they have talked with their friends about boundaries concerning what is ok and what’s not ok to post online. Remind your students that personal information such as address, phone number, and age, should never be shared with people online that they don’t in person. And as much as possible, get to know your child’s friends, both those in reality and those with whom they only associate with online.

2. Be gracious. Even the most well meaning person can end up in a photo or post a comment without thinking, and when (not if) you or child gets caught in a moment of thoughtless social media usage,  don’t panic and don’t blow up about it. Even though that is usually our first impulse. If it is something you or your child posted and you have “social media regret”, delete it. While it doesn’t change the fact that it took place, repentance for a wrong decision includes attempts to make it right, and removing the questionable post shows an admittance that it was wrong and a willingness to correct the situation. If a friend has posted something of questionable and unflattering content, go the extra mile to make personal contact as soon as possible (a phone call, a face-to-face conversation) asking them to remove the photo or comment. Making personal contact lets them know that you are both sincere and serious in your request.

3. Be accountable. The best way to prevent photos or comments of questionable content from becoming social media tattoos is to avoid questionable situations to begin with. Teach your teens (and practice yourself) accountability with a friend in social settings. A good rule of thumb these days for where to be and who to hang out with is to ask yourself, “Would I want my friends and family members to see this posted on online?” If the answer is no, then it’s time to excuse yourself from the situation.

These are just a few ways to protect our testimonies online from negative impact. What are some ways we can share a positive testimony online?