Kingdom Come

Innovation can be defined simply as a new method, idea or product. You were made to innovate for the fulfillment of your own soul and for the betterment of the masses.

The theme verse of one Christian school this year is, “May your Kingdom come and your will be done on Earth as it is in heaven.”

With a team of dedicated women, I facilitated discussion around the topic of innovation yesterday in a junior high classroom. I asked, “Who likes problems?” and no hands went up. I asked students to list the problems they see in the world, the “Not rights” and the “Unjusts.” Answers varied from slavery to trafficking to poverty to illness. Yes, God, may your Kingdom come.

Problems in the world can be devastating, but problems give purpose and purpose is what tantalizes the human spirit. God takes the dearth of problems and sends sparks of revival through His problem solving innovators.

In the classroom, I asked which students believe they are creative and only a few hands flung into the air. Creativity is simply defined as “Having or showing an ability to make new things or think new ideas.” Every person is divvied some creative juices and unique interests at birth so they can accomplish their purpose, solve problems, bring the Kingdom, and live fulfilled. The human brain is stimulated by new experiences and thoughts, we are drawn to them, and when we see, think, experience or express something novel, we open the floodgates for the happy rivers of dopamine to trail the crevasses of our brain channels. We anticipate something good to come from the new experience – we are actually wired to hope for positive change, if we are willing to think new. People who routinely think new thoughts and do new things increase their capacity for brain change and effective learning.

In our culture, in a typical junior high school classroom I asked the students what things might hold them back from using their creativity for solving problems that interest them in the world? What might keep them from being motivated?

First, they acknowledged the need to believe they have something to offer. They are people of worth with much to contribute to the world. One group strongly pointed to jealousy as a barrier to problem-solvers, even within this small city classroom. Jealousy snuffs, stifles, sucks life and stomps on dreams.

Teens are in major development and their ideas are wonder-marked, but remarkably fragile. Charles Bower says, “A new idea is delicate. It can be killed by a sneer or a yawn; it can be stabbed to death by a quip and worried to death by a frown on the right man’s brow.” – Charles Bower

Jealousy and judgment kills new thinking in playpens, classrooms, streets, busses, planes, businesses, and in our homes and organizations. Near the end of our time in the classroom, I dared the group to hope. What if each one became unswervingly committed to stomping out jealousy and committed to unreservedly appreciating, encouraging and reinforcing the interests and uniqueness of the people around them. What the somber sneers and yawns became celebratory cheers. Oh, would confidence grow, and purposes penetrate people.

Practicing purpose living is hard, and I admire my colleagues who do it. This week I listened to two incredible teachers as they talked of late nights they spent designing final assessments that were engaging, fun, creative and authentic. Heather created a complicated escape room for an English assessment that required students to know and apply all kinds of knowledge and learning outcomes. Stacey had her math students build amazing little treasures just to scale with pages of calculations for one little cardboard creation. I watched them build, dream, design and finish their measured products with great delight and pleasure. Their sleepless nights and inventive work matters, because there are problems in the world waiting for courageous new thoughts to emerge, for God’s Kingdom to come.

This is Living

Most students in North America spend between 175 and 180 days in school every year, with about 900 to 1000 hours of that being instructional time. What we do with our time shapes our brains, thoughts and character. A teen brain is capable of mighty developments as it undergoing major construction. Let’s just say, the hours I get with students are sacred minutes. They matter.

The semester is coming to a close this week and it’s reflection time. My teaching experience has altered dramatically in the last year.

During my first year teaching – I found myself feeling downright insecure in many ways – this effected my practice more profoundly than I care to admit…. I remember being offended when a student spoke unkindly to me – this would cause me to dislike the student. I remember feeling agitated when students would come in late because of the distraction to my perfectly planned out lesson (sometimes not bothering to ask what is going on at home that would cause the ongoing tardiness). I remember taking it personally when a student neglected to hand in assignments, as if it reflected on my ability as a teacher. I remember being angry when the class achieved poorly on an exam – as if this was a “Kait Cey value statement”. I remember feeling frustrated with students who were too shy to ask questions and then performed poorly, and those who couldn’t understand English but never came for the extra help they needed. No, this is no way to live my one life – frustrated, graceless, desperately clawing for evidence of my own worth as a teacher … as a human. This is no way to lead lives in the classroom– this is no way to spend 1000 hours of God-given moments set apart by our Nation for lively free learning. I’m sorry for these moments. I’m sorry.

Today, I get it, deep down in my bones, that I am worthy and valuable, because I am human – no more than the next person – but equally and carefully crafted by the hand of Almighty God. Until I got that, I was incapable of teaching in the love mode John Lennon describes:

“There are two basic motivating forces: fear and love. When we are afraid, we pull back form life. When we love, we open to all that life has to offer with passion, excitement, and acceptance. We need to learn to love ourselves first, in all our glory and our imperfections. If we cannot love ourselves, we cannot fully open to our ability to love others or our potential to create.” – John Lennon

One day last semester, I quietly asked a disengaged student in my classroom to remain after the class because I was concerned for her. She came in with an attitude and had missed more classes than I can count without taking any initiative to keep caught up. I gently asked her if she hoped to pass the class, she said yes. I asked her why she does not open her book during class, or come for extra help (even though I had asked her to do this countless times). My gentle questions prodded unexpected authentic responses that broke my heart for her. In the past I may have asked the questions out of my own frustration (Had I done this, you can bet she would not have shared so authentically) instead of genuine care for her.

Today, I do not feel more valuable when my students succeed. I celebrate their success with all my might and strive to provide every support I can so that they are able to flourish – but their success doesn’t make me more valuable. I am remarkably valuable to God, and so are you. The more I understand this – the more I recognize the stunning value of each student – pass or fail, attend or don’t attend, mistakes, disrespectful comments, awesome success, or otherwise. They are worth it. We all are.

This is how God treats me after all– with all of my imperfections – he sends waves of crashing grace through blood-spilt love that gives me freedom and ability to spread love and live free. He’s done this for you, too. Yes, this is living.

Present and Future

One year ago, I had the joy of sharing last minute wedding bustle with a passionate and fun couple as glue guns, plans, speeches and laughter led the way to the big day! The beauty of their fun and elegant wedding still makes me smile wide.

Alysha and Jalen only got to live their wedding day once, but they knew it was leading to an adventure-filled God-marked path paved just for them. This knowledge is what made the day exciting for them.

Last week I sat across from a burning sparkler and birthday song … Jalen and Alysha leaning over the blazing sparks joyfully. Jay is twenty-three years old, and the guy knows how to enjoy the present without worrying about the future. This was another celebration day for them that will lead to more joy, more adventure, more God, more purpose, and more love – as they follow Him.

With God, everyday is a celebration day. Because life lived loved is sweet. Because days spent connected to Him always leads to more. Because the moments are precious and hope for the future lives where there is a present connection to God now. Because celebration of God can live in any moment and always ripples into a hope-filled future.

God gives us this one day, too. Just today. We don’t have tomorrow or next week – and we can’t jump back into yesterday like a comfortable pair of yoga pants. Today, right now, is all we have. God asks us to live present because he knows it changes our hearts and our future.

Love himself said, “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” – Matthew 6:34

You may feel like its impossible for your mind to rest as you fret about your current situation or upcoming days, but as you let go of thoughts that trouble you today, let the words of love ring joy and truth into your moment, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” – Matthew 19:26 You are empowered to choose to rest in God right now by letting go of anxious thoughts and deciding to rejoice in who God is. He is one hundred percent on your side. He goes before you today into every situation. He is far more concerned to see you thrive in heart, mind, and soul than you ever could be. He has plans to share His God-joy with you today, as you choose to trust Him and be thankful in all.

Let today and everyday be a celebration day with God, Rejoice in the Lord always (Philippians 4:4), let worried thoughts leave you, and you will experience the God-hope of today expand into your future.

 

13177644_10154007094526539_2263658792775796411_n

 

 

Getting Ready

There were tears and gaping smiles as the bride took strides down an isle decorated just for her. The ceremonial room held sparkles, rings, a husband and family and friends – just for her. Even the music was selected and sung with lyrics and tones that she chose with care and thought. Her dress was striking and spotless as she walked lightly on the pathway marked, just for her.

As long as I’ve known Kendall, she has been on a fierce and committed journey to become all she was created to be. Kendall has had the courage to recognize things in her life holding her back and worked diligently to change those things. She was humble enough to let other people keep her accountable when change felt impossible. Prayer has transformed painful periods in her life into shimmering treasure that she now shares liberally – to help others navigate pain in healthy ways.

Kendall’s commitment to a healthy life in soul, mind, body and spirit is authentic – she has allowed God’s power to flow through her, and has chosen healthy thinking and exercised the willpower God offers each of us to make consistent healthy choices. The girl loves her Joyce Meyers and looks for God’s truth to stand on in all situations. Behind her striking face is a passion to see people freed on the inside from inner hurt, unhealthy thought patters and addictions. She knows the way to freedom, she knows the Greatest Grace displayed by Roman nails pounded through God-flesh. She knows how to lead others there, too – forgiveness and freedom.

As our quirky wedding party crew got ready for the big day, I thought of all the ways Kendall was “ready” for this life change. Anyone can sign up for a hair do, a good old spray tan and book a much-needed pedicure. Outward beauty can happen quickly – inner beauty is often a slow grow that requires commitment and grit, and it is the inner beauty that her husband is going to treasure for a lifetime.

Yesterday, I talked with my students about making healthy habits for 2017. We joked that no one sets out with the following habit list “bite nails, waste money, check phone every ten minutes” – However, our brains are habit-making factories and whether you intend to or not, your brain is making habits in alignment with your behavior. As a class, we agreed to make thankfulness a habit by listing three things we are grateful for each morning. Eventually, our brains will make this a habit – and our capacity for joy will expand, just as research shows.

John C. Maxwell says, “You’ll never change your life until you change something you do daily. The secret of your success is found in your daily routine” – John C. Maxwell

Kendall was ready for her wedding day. Her make-up was flawless, the preparations were all in place, even her shoes shone like the sun … but more importantly, Kendall had spent years practicing healthy habits in many areas of her life – so that she could be the woman God created her to be. As the doors flung open and Kendall moved forward towards this new life, she truly was “wedding ready” inside and out.

Gaining Weight

In October 2013 Jared was in a car accident. In one instant,  his life would never be the same.

This week the world is opening an unknown package labeled 2017. The New Year is about to drop 31,536,000 New Seconds into your lap, and into Jared’s too. What are they for? What can we do with them? What should we?

Following the accident, Jared swam in months and moments of rehab, hospitals, questions and courage. I met him in Saskatoon City Hospital, and months later found myself plopped beside his motorized chair at a Church Service. Following the service, a group of us sat around talking about how we could see God’s goodness. One young man told the story of his own recent car accident. Without knowing Jared’s story, the young man looked around the circle and repeated several times, “I know God is good because I walked away without a scratch.”

Sometimes we see the ways God spares us from discomfort and difficulty – and we say this makes God good. After all, no one goes looking for adversity. It is good to be well. But what is wellness? What makes God good and what makes us well?

In that circle, I was far too afraid to ask Jared if He thought God was good and would not have blamed him for thinking otherwise. Jared glanced over at me as if he could read my mind and said, “I’ve been reading the book of Matthew. God has been so close to me, it’s amazing. He is good.” That’s all He said, that’s all he had to say. There was nothing glittery about his words or explanation. I remember wondering, How could Jared possibly say that God is good, even while facing such challenge?

In the Bible, goodness means glory and is called “fruit of the Spirit.” Goodness is a piece of God made available through blood shed on Skull Hill by God. Goodness is God’s presence. Goodness comes from within and makes glory without. The original Hebrew word for “Glory” means the “Weight of God” and it looks like moments saturated and soaked through with Him – sometimes muddled and untidy, always consistent and steadfast. Jared knew God was present with Him. Jared knew God’s goodness within.

Psalm 96:1-3 says, “Sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth. Sing to the Lord, praise his name; proclaim his salvation day after day. Declare his glory among the nations.”

As time passes, the question becomes, How do you sing a new song of God’s goodness when you are living same-old, same-old days?

Yesterday, I sat beside my buddy with football sounds and Christmas sparkles in His living room celebrating the New Year. He is continuing rigorous therapy to build muscular strength. One faithfully lived day at a time, Jared builds muscle strength of his own and heart strength for all who meet him.

With 2017 balloons floating behind him, I asked him, “What are you hoping for in 2017?” He told me he hopes to drive his motorized chair with his hand. He paused, and then added plainly, “I don’t really have goals. Everyday I just show up and give it my all. That’s the goal.” As Jared works to make muscle, he gains weight for himself and glory weight for all. He knows God’s goodness within and shines glory without.

What if the secret for you to experience God’s goodness and to sing new songs in 2017 is to gain the weight of glory one day at a time? To experience God’s goodness through His presence, and to make glory in the world day after day … No shimmer needed. No glam necessary. What if the goal for 2017 is simply to show up and to do what’s necessary to gain the weight of glory in your own life?

Jared, you know the secrets of drawing dripping pales of God-fount strength and of singing new songs on same-old days. You, in your unadorned words and steadfast heart, have taught me much about God’s goodness and true glory.

Yes, it is good to be well. True wellness is having the ability to draw strength from God’s wells, and to daily gain the weight of glory.