Granny’s Tulips

“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.”                                                                                                                                    Hebrews 11:1

 

Last fall, my Granny pointed out her window and said, “I’ve been planting tulilps all day.” Now, I don’t have her green thumb, but I know enough about plants to know that her tulips come from bulbs. I looked out and saw…nothing. Nothing except for a small bit of evidence that the soil had been shifted around.

“And they’ll come up…when will they come up again?” I asked her.

“Oh, they’ll come up in the Spring. They better, after all that work I did!” she exclaimed.

All winter long, Granny has waited expectantly for her tulips to arrive above-ground. This has been an exceptionally wet winter, with days upon days of rain. Some days, when the gloom just fell down like a blanket, she’d sigh and say, “I’ll be glad when my tulips come up.”

She never even considered that they might not bloom. She KNEW they’d come up. She KNEW that what she planted in the fall would come to pass, even though she couldn’t see the growing, the moving, the changing underground. She never dug up the bulbs to see if they were doing what she knew they should be doing. She had faith that what she couldn’t see was what was happening.

We live right beside my grandmother. For the past week, she has told me to come down and look at her tulips. They are glorious! Today, I snapped some pictures of the product of her hard work and faith.

It gave me pause.

This week, I have grieved over my empty classroom and the empty church building. I have missed my kindergarten friends more than I thought I could, and I have cried over thoughts of a sanctuary on Sunday morning with no singing, no rustling of the pages of scripture, and no precious times with a church family that I love.

But this is our time to take what has been planted in us,  and use it to push forward! To change, to transform into a more Christ-centered, prayer-focused people. This is our time to appreciate what we never knew we had. To plan on how we can be better stewards of what we still have, even if we can’t get to it for a temporary time.

And this situation, it is temporary.

And when it is over, can you imagine how many teachers will be just a little bit softer towards the hearts of their students, their voices a little more gentle, their hearts a little more understanding? Can you imagine how many classrooms will be filled with joyful laughter, celebration of just being together, and  happy welcome-back hugs? How many jobs will be filled with purpose for the task at hand?

And just imagine with me…on that first Sunday back in the Lord’s house, together again with our families, the joy in the hearts and on the faces of our loved ones, the singing that comes from a soul rejoicing, the voices lifted in praise to the One who brought us through this hard winter of the uncertainty of an illness…I can’t wait.

It may be in April, May, or even next fall.

I don’t know when the time will be. I don’t want to rush this time, as much as I miss my school babies and my church family. It is a necessary time.

As hard as it can be, I hope that we all cherish this time and praise the Gardener for the planting, the changing, and the growing within us.

Because when we push through the surface, it will be a glorious and beautiful time.

Just like Granny’s tulips.

 

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Leaning

“What have I to dread, what have I to fear, leaning on the everlasting arms? I have blessed peace with my Lord so near, leaning on the everlasting arms. Leaning, leaning, safe a secure from all alarm. Leaning, leaning, leaning on the everlasting arms!”

I will admit, worry is always a struggle for me. It follows me around like a shadow, step-by-step sometimes, until I give God control of my fears. The problem is, once I give Him my fears, I’m bad about keeping a string around them, one I can yank back towards me whenever I want to.

In the times that we are in right now, I have found that God’s Word, communication with Him, and singing praises to Him are what light up the shadows of my fears the most and chase them back into the darkness.

Just this morning, my daily devotion came from Psalm 46:1. “God is our refuge and strength, a helper who is found in times of trouble.”

Yesterday, during my prayer time, I was drawn to the sound of the birds singing, and I felt like the Lord was saying to me, They’re not worried. They’re praising the Creator. You are worth more than the birds. Why do you worry?

And this weekend, at a women’s retreat with ladies from my church, we sang the old hymn “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms.”

The words have come back to me time and time again. If I’m truly leaning on Him, I am safe and secure from any kind of alarm. What kind of things do I have to dread? Why do I insist on carrying burdens that weren’t made for me to bear?

His arms are strong enough to carry the world when our strength is gone. His arms are steady enough to hold us when things that we thought were un-breakable crumble at our feet. His hands are gentle enough to calm us when the suffering around us threatens to shake our very souls.

He is enough.

He has always been enough.

He always will be enough.

I heard the verse this weekend, over and over, “Be still and know that I am God.” I have always cherished that verse and clung to it, and this morning, while reading Psalm 46:1, I continued on and found that my “Be still” verse was in the same chapter of Psalms, in verse 10. I heard the Lord loud and clear.

I will give Him my worry and lean a little closer to Him and be still. Once we are so still, and listening carefully, we can hear His heartbeat, which always beats for His children, calling us to come and cast our cares away.

What a different time we are living in today, but what a special time we are living in. We have been granted this moment to be still, and lean on the One who cares for us more than anything else in this world.

closeup photography of book page folding forming heart

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Our Day

We had a good day yesterday! It was easy and fun, and we talked a LOT together. We decided to tweak just a few things, and I’m sure we’ll change something little every day to work for us, but here’s how it went down…

8:30 ish (or when we all get awake–there is only one morning person among us, and it is not me)- Fire up the ol’ Toshiba laptop…it takes awhile to come on. Meanwhile, we eat breakfast and talk about today’s date. What famous things happened on this day in history? What holidays are this month? Remember, I’m a kindergarten teacher and I can’t let go of calendar time. I’m glad for these chats, because my very smart middle school boys needed to polish their calendar skills, even simple trivia like how many weeks are in a year, what day of the year is this if we count in order, what effects does Leap Year have on the next month, etc.

After Breakfast- in class, I always read a story to my kids after calendar time. At home, I read from a devotion book for teen boys that the boys’ Papa gave to them last year. We also read aloud from one hymn a day. The old hymns are very lyrical and introduce my boys to some new vocabulary words while also promoting fluency in reading.

Reading Stations- We do four “stations,” just like my super-smart kindergartners.

1. We do Read to Self, where the boys read a book of their choice to themselves for 20 minutes. For younger kids, I’d suggest 15 or 10 minutes. Right now, one boy is reading an I Survived  chapter book and the other is reading The Hunger Games. I also grab a book for Read to Self, and we all find a comfy spot on the couch or chairs to read.

2. We do Work on Writing, where the boys and I write for 20 minutes. This is where I blog (I won’t finish this post before Work on Writing is over–it will post later today) and the boys write on a topic of their choice. I thought they would buck me here, but it is so silent while they are writing. This has been my biggest and most pleasant surprise so far. They love being able to write! I have never thought to ask their teachers if they are so enthusiastic about writing at school.

3. We learn with technology for 20 minutes. A GREAT site for this right now is Moby Max, which is free for a limited time due to our very special circumstances across the nation. Moby Max has a “teacher”, albeit a somewhat creepy-robot-voice teacher at times, that actually goes over specific skills for reading and math. Since these are our Reading Stations, the boys work on reading skills. Once a child gets into Moby Max, I’d suggest either taking the placement test and going from there, or working on sight words, vocabulary, or fluency skills, depending on age. My kindergartners work on letter naming, letter sounds, and sight words at school. 🙂

4. We do the Teacher Station. At school, this is called the Mrs. Givens station, but at home, I just sit down with the boys and monitor/guide them as they work through an i-Ready Student At Home Activity Packet for reading.

*Reading Stations takes us about an hour to an hour and twenty minutes to complete. It’s not over in a flash. Yes, I’m aware that it sounds very school-ish, but I am a public school teacher, and I do like to work on grade-specific skills per the Alabama State Course of Study, which you can find here:  https://www.alex.state.al.us/browseStand.php . I will work on these skills whether we are required to or not, because it is what I do! Also, my boys like it so far. I will admit that I thrive on structure, and at home I am realizing that it is okay to be a little un-structured. For instance, today I let the boys do Reading Stations in any order that they wanted to, lol! We also took a very extended recess outside, and just picked up where we left off when we returned.

I read to them again. After reading stations, I read again to my boys. Yes, you read that correctly, I read aloud to my middle school kids, just like I would to my kindergartners. We pick a chapter book together, and I read a chapter a day. We’ve done this for years right before bed, and we decided to stick in our day right here. Your kids are never too old to hear fluent reading, and it’s even better if they hear it in a genre that they normally wouldn’t pick for themselves. They are introduced to a world of characters and places.

RECESS- How fun is this? At school, we are limited due to having so many minutes per day and so many children waiting for their turn on the playground, so our recess is only 15 minutes. At home, we are unlimited! Our time is unlimited! I’ve been so glad for pretty days that we can all get outside and take a walk, play with the dogs, look at the cows, and enjoy the fresh air.

Music- At school, my class has a time of music and singing right before lunch. We watch videos from The Singing Walrus and Super Simple Songs that correspond with current holidays and themes. At home, one boy practices piano and the other beats on the–I mean practices–the drums.

Lunch

Trivia Time- for my tiny kindergartners at school, we so love this time right after lunch (that doesn’t actually include trivia). At school, I read a chapter from Junie B. Jones and her latest adventures. At home, given my boys have a love for trivia, that is what we do for a few minutes to transition back into a learning mindset. We are currently using a Bible trivia book, but there are many resources online for trivia!

Number Talk- For very young children, this can simply include counting to 100 from any given number, counting collections of things and discussing how the child counted, counting by tens, fives, etc. Yesterday my boys and I revisited what a prime number is and visited Khan Academy to sharpen our skills with prime numbers.

Independent Math Work- for about 20 minutes, one boy works on i-Ready grade-level math work while the other one works on Moby Max math fluency. Remember, Moby Max is currently free and is very good for taking your child at his/her current level of learning and moving forward from there.  After 20 minutes, the boys swap.

Science Experiment- This week we did an experiment with an egg that I found here. We are watching it and recording our observations daily.

Social Studies- Yesterday, we talked about St. Patrick’s day, and today we discussed Ireland, their government, economy, etc. We will also look to see how society is being affected by the current global situation.

Pebblego is a great resource for ideas for social studies and science.

PE- back outside! Running, basketball, football…I don’t have to encourage them much to get out and get active!

Read or Rest-So, my kindergarten friends always rest after PE, and I have told the boys they can read or rest quietly for a few minutes. Yesterday one looked at his baseball cards while the other built with legos. I was the only one who read! Haha! Maybe this time is really for Mama!

Snack- Who am I kidding? They’ve been eating the whole time!

Jobs- my school kiddos love to have a job at school. My boys are less-than-excited to do chores, but chores must be done, and this is when we are doing them. So that’s that.

Afternoon Meeting-  I was a little unsure about this part. At school, we talk about our day and what we loved about the day, what we will do tomorrow. So yesterday, the boys and I had a quick discussion about the day, and they said today they might want to “get all the school done early and play the rest of the day.” However, our plans changed this morning with a quick trip up to the church gym (which was empty…we are following the social distancing rules, don’t worry!), and we all learned that flexibility is a great aspect of learning at home. The seventh grader said he loved the afternoon meeting most of all, and my heart grew and swelled a bit bigger, and then he said he loved it because it meant that now he could go play Madden, but you know, whatever. I still know he had a good time, and that he spent a lot of it with me. 🙂

 

*So that’s a lot of words to explain our day, but that’s what our day’s framework will look like for now. It’s two days tested at home, and 15 years tested at school, and it’s never failed me yet. What are you doing to keep a routine at home? I’d love to know!

By the way, the first thing I noticed this morning when I woke up were the birds singing outside. I immediately thought of this  passage, found in Matthew 6:26-27. Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” 

They were singing without a care in the world. You are worth so much more than a bird, my friend. Sing loud, and cast your cares on the One who cares for you more than He cares for the birds.

beautiful bird bloom blossom

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

 

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All Things Work Together

Well, it seems that I have a little extra time on my hands…so I write!

I felt a lot of things yesterday when I looked around my classroom one last time before turning off the lights and locking the door.

I was sad. Sad that I won’t get to see my kids for three weeks–we’re a family, you know. Sad that I won’t be back in my home-away-from-home. I was uncertain. Wondering what kind of days were before the boys and myself as we tried our best to stay at home, away from crowds of people. I was contemplative. Already thinking up some kind of plan to keep doing some kind of school routine with the boys at home, because, you know, some teachers never stop…

I had just sent my classroom parents a schedule of what our school day looks like and how they can make their home day look similar if they wanted to. I thought to myself, You can do that with the boys.

Hmmm. My kindergarten schedule? With the boys, who are in 7th grade and 5th grade? They’d never go for that.

But my boys surprise me sometimes. I pitched the idea to them like this: “Hey guys, I worked on a schedule for some students and parents who wanted a daily routine while we were out.” A little chuckle from me, trying to seem nonchalant. “I thought, we could do it at home, and we could just insert your grade level into some of it, and you could do my kindergarten day with me and we could make it fifth grade and we could make it seventh grade and some of it might seem funny and some of it might seem–”

“Yeah! Let’s do that!” they said. Quickly.

“I think that’d be fun,” the seventh grader said.

“We’d get to talk a lot to you,” said the fifth grader.

My heart broke and grew at the same time. Since when did my boys think we don’t get to talk much at home? When did I become unavailable? I thought they were the ones who’d become unavailable?!?

So, here we are. They are currently in Reading Stations, which my kindergartners love. And I love. And–surprise–fifth and seventh grade boys love. I’m not jumping the gun here. I know this is day one. I know that tomorrow Fortnite could be calling their name and Facebook could be calling mine, and I don’t say that second part with pride.

But here we are. Working on Writing. To my kindergarten friends out there, my boys are loving Work on Writing as much as you do. I used your stories to inspire these boys to write today. The seventh grader said he wrote “like, a moral story.” The fifth grade wrote a piece titled “My Journey to a Rock.” He says it has a tiny bit of violence in it. Say what?

And I wrote this.

With my boys. We wrote together. My writing heart is happy, my teacher heart is ecstatic, but my mother heart is full. Completely, and utterly full.

All things DO work together for our good.

Tomorrow during Work on Writing, I just might share our schedule with you and let you know what worked and what didn’t!

boys 2020

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It Has Passed, But It’s Not Over

It makes me a little sad.

Packing it all away, putting up the decorations for another year. Sometimes I feel like I’m putting up Christmas for the year.

In Luke, we see that after the Savior’s birth, after the star, after the shepherds, the wise men, the gifts, “Mary treasured these things in her heart, and thought about them often.” 2:19 NLT

It wasn’t over, even though the events had passed by. I imagine she pondered the miracles of His birth and the tiny tender moments as her boy grew and taught, performed miracles, and yes, even when He died a terrible death.

When others saw hands that healed, she remembered little fingers that grasped her hair as she rocked Him to sleep.

When others heard a voice that brought the dead to life again, she heard the little-boy laugh of her son as He learned how to hammer and build from Joseph.

When others mocked Him as He cried out on the cross, don’t you just know that she remembered His cries in that manger?

I’m sure she also remembered and held on tightly to her words, spoken to an angel over thirty years ago, “I am the Lord’s servant. May it be as you have said.”

Often in our lives, things happen that have a lasting impact on us. Impactful things. Both good and bad; big and little. Our Father told us that He will work everything for our good, for our hope. Even bad moments can eventually transform into treasures with the grace of God.

Christmas for this year has come and gone. 2019 is almost be a year of the past, but the treasures of the year will not be over. You can store them up in your heart like Mary, and pull them out to comfort you, to celebrate with you, to spur you on—whenever and however you need them the most.

If He did it for Mary, He’ll do it for you. ❤️

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The Cross Means Freedom For Me

Freedom…it’s getting to run as fast as I can across the field to Granny’s, the wind slapping my hair all around. It’s getting to swing as high as I can in Paw-Paw’s swing under the big Oak tree with its gnarled, welcoming arms. It’s the fresh air of summer, the grass grown up to my knees, tickling and soft. It’s the smell of wildflowers blooming in all their rainbow glory. It’s the comfort of a favorite book under a whirring fan on the back porch, and knowing I’ve got plenty of time to read.

summer freedom

Did I ever remember to thank the ones who gave me freedom in my childhood? The ones who worked every day so I could read on a comfortable porch or swing under a welcoming tree?

Freedom…it’s my heart pounding, my throat getting full, my eyes welling up as I sing “America the Beautiful” with my church family. I can never finish out loud because my heart is so full of emotion. It’s the goose bumps and shivers that dance on my arms as I stand and hear the National Anthem while the American flag waves gently on the breeze. It’s getting to believe in Whom I believe in without fear of persecution. It’s the ability to choose my vocation, to vote for my leaders, to live where I decide, to worship where I want to worship.

flag

Have I ever really thanked the ones who gave me this freedom? The ones who left their spouses, their children, their parents to fight for my freedom? Have I thanked the ones who left the comforts and safety of home, of a free land, to go into the darkness of warfare? The hot, dusty, dryness of the unknown? Have I really thought of the ones who died? Have I thanked the mothers who lost their babies? Who weren’t by their sides when they took their last breaths? Have I thanked the daddies, brothers, sisters, and friends who are mourning the loss of the ones they love? The ones that died so that I can be free?

Freedom…it’s a sin-stained cross. It’s Calvary, the place where forgiveness was nailed in place once and for all. It’s the blood-soaked trail up a winding hill of suffering. It’s the sound of weeping, wailing, and mourning mixed with jeering and mocking. It’s the lashes and pounding of nails. It’s the sweetest voice ever heard saying “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?” It’s the crowd shouting “Crucify!” and my sin being brought to the front and center. It’s my Savior saying “Forgive Paige, she knows not what she does.” It’s Jesus. Freedom is Jesus. It’s beautiful, and it’s for me. It’s for all of us.

cross

Have I thanked Him? Have I really and truly remembered to thank Him for the freedom that He gave to me? He offered it up as a beautiful sacrifice, and my spoiled heart takes it for granted, just as I do my American freedom and the freedom of my childhood.

Have I thanked You enough Lord? Mere words will never come close. So I offer my life, my hope, yes, my freedom to You. To the One Who gave the freedom. Forgive me and let me never forget the precious gift of freedom that has been given to me. Let freedom ring in my heart and fill it up and spill over the sides. Let it soak those around me so that they too can discover a freedom like no other that starts at the cross!

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Teaching Kindergarten: The Daily News

The first time I ever shut the classroom door and turned to my students on that first day of school, that first minute, I had a brief panic-filled thought. What do I do now?!? How do I start this?!?

After a moment to collect myself–and I do mean a moment, because, you know, there were 18 five-year-olds who needed me to be in charge–I remembered my plan and I remembered the place to start.

The Daily News routine.

I started with Daily News that morning and I’ve started roughly 2610 mornings since then with Daily News. I am such a creature of habit that it is almost impossible for me to start my school day without a classroom routine that we call Daily News.

The Language Experience Approach (LEA) is an approach to language that uses personal experiences to connect to reading and writing. Described as a whole-language approach, LEA uses the skills of listening, speaking, reading, and writing to build fluency in language skills. There are many ways for teachers to use LEA to enhance literacy skills for their students, and a prominent LEA in my classroom is the Daily News.

So picture a room full of kindergarten students, all busy with various morning activities. The teacher taps a wand or taps a chime, and the students clean up and go to the “Classroom Meeting” area, chatting as they go. This is January, by the way–the glory days of kindergarten. August would look, sound, and smell differently. Anyway, I digress…

The students have made it to the rug, and the teacher leads them in a song or rhyme of greeting, and then it is time to start the Daily News. My routine goes something like this…

Me:  I’m going to start our news the way I always do…with the word good. (Several students have already started to say the word good and make the initial sound for good.)

Student 1: /g/…./g/….You need the letter G. 

Student 2: You need an uppercase G, because you are starting a sentence.

Me: Okay, I’ve got my uppercase G. Now what? (Students begin to make the middle sound in the word good.) What two letters go together to make the /oo/ sound?

Student 3: Two o’s. 

Me: Okay, how do I end the word good? (Students are stretching out the word and isolating the final sound.)

Student 4: With the letter d. Lowercase because you didn’t start the sentence.

And we keep going with the following words and sentences. 

“Good morning! Today is Monday, January 21, 2019. No one is absent.”

We pause on certain words or phrases according to the amount of time, student engagement, and according to the skill that I am really wanting my students to gain for the month (see below).

Once we make it past the section where we report absences, I invite our Helping Hand to share a bit of personal news of their choice. Our Helping Hand is a person chosen systematically to lead the class for the day and generally help us as needed. For a kindergarten student, being the Helping Hand is an important highlight of their month.

We always go back and read the Daily News fluently and expressively. Before reading, I allow my Helping Hand to share some news of their choice to end our writing. I write what they dictate. I’ve heard everything through the years.

I have three dogs and a pig.

My sister is having a birthday.

My brother is going to college today.

My grandma died and I am sad.

We bought a new car yesterday.

I love to eat hamburgers. 

Sam is my cousin and he is spending the night with me.

My kitten ran away.

Being able to share their own experiences and narratives gives students a sense of belonging and the knowledge that their words are important and meant to be shared, even if the words are not always happy or expected. Seeing the words travel from their mind to their lips to the written form on a board lights up so many passages in their brain that point them towards fluent reading, writing, speaking, and listening.

For a teacher who is just beginning an LEA journey, something like the Daily News routine can be overwhelming. I use the following tentative schedule each year, tweaking here and there to fit the needs of my classroom. 

August

In August, my students are just learning how to sit on the rug and attend to the activity at hand. My goal for the Daily News in August is that it becomes an expected part of our classroom routine, and that students begin to realize that written words have meaning. Students who have already been exposed to books and language will begin to notice spaces between words and even punctuation at the end of sentences. It becomes an expectation in our room that the class will actively listen to the ideas of the teacher and students.

September

In September, students begin to supply letters for sounds, as they now realize that every letter makes a sound. They know that when we want to write words, we can write the letters for the sounds we hear. It becomes music to my ears to hear voices start to spontaneously sound out the words that we are writing. Since the first half of our Daily News is so routine, students learn quickly that two o’s make the /oo/ sound and ing goes together to make the /ing/ sound. Students who were previously exposed to letters and sounds before kindergarten being to realize that in many words, two or three letters can be blended to make new sounds. Many students begin to recognize simple sight words within the news as well.

October

In October, the class learns how to use words in our environment to spell many words in our Daily News. Students begin to point out that the correct spelling of their friends’ names can be found on name tags and the Word Wall. They realize that calendar words can be found on our calendar, and also on the Word Wall. They start to point out sight words, color words, and number words in the room; and then I start to see more and more of these words in students’ own writing pieces, whether it is their journals or writing workshop papers. 

November and December

In November, I begin to emphasize the use of punctuation and capitol letters at the beginning of sentences and proper nouns. I gradually begin to let our Helping Hand write a sight word here and/or a letter there. By the time students return from Christmas break, it is my goal that they will be able to write the news on their own, with prompting and support. 

January-May

While students are busily engaged with morning activities, I will call over the Helping Hand and give the level of prompting/support needed for the student to write the Daily News on his own. Some students will need LOTS of help still, and this is okay. Other students will be ready to go! This one-on-one time gives me a good overall assessment of a students’ language skills.

I can’t imagine starting my day without Daily News. Over the years, I’ve learned so much about my students’ language skills through this routine; but just as importantly, through this shared language experience, I’ve learned about their likes and dislikes, their families, and their sweet little hearts.

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A Kindergarten student’s Daily News:”Good morning! Today is Friday, 2014. No one is absent. I like hunting.”

 

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A First Grader’s Daily News: Good morning. Today is Friday, March 24, 2017. Ruby is absent. The other day I had fun at Kite Day. My kite had Optimus Prime on it. My dad bought me a lego set and he put it together and I brought something to school to play with at recess.

If you have a similar LEA in your classroom, we’d love to hear about it in the comments below!

 

 

 

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A Tree for Zacchaeus

In the city of Jericho, there was a very unliked man. He was unfair, unjust, and….un-tall (okay, that’s not a word…he was short).

His name was Zacchaeus. We find his story in the Bible, in Luke 19.

In the time that the gospel of Luke was written, Israel was under the control of Rome. The Romans imposed heavy taxes upon the nations under their control so that they could financially support their empire. The Jews hated these taxes because they supported a secular government and pagan gods. But, they were required to pay the taxes. Zacchaeus was a tax collector so he was regarded as a “sinner” by the Pharisees. Pretty safe to say he was friend-less.

Enter Jesus Christ, Son of God. The purest, kindest, most honorable Man to walk the earth. A Man from Heaven who was loved and followed by many on earth. Not loved by all, but by many. So many more than Zacchaeus, who was loved by no one.

Jesus was traveling through Jericho, and as was throughout most of His ministry, He was surrounded by a crowd. To the outcasts, the rich, the poor, the sick, the rulers, and the sinners, Jesus was the Way, the Truth, and the Light. He was a force, drawing in the hearts of any person in His path.

Even Zacchaeus, a greedy outcast. A sinner.

Two interesting things about Zacchaeus here:

1.) He is described as “short in stature” (Luke 19:3).

2.) The name Zacchaeus means pure.

Zacchaeus was a “chief tax collector,” so he was very rich. He could have anything he wanted in material possessions. However, on this day, what he longed for was of a heavenly nature.

Zacchaeus wanted to see Jesus.

I imagine in the crowd that he was pushed aside, grumbled over, and perhaps stomped on. He strained up on the very tip of his toes, calves burning like fire–for even just a glimpse of Christ would fill him more than the earthly riches  he currently consumed. So, being the resourceful guy that he was, Zacchaeus came up with a solution for his problem.

He climbed a tree. A sycamore tree (and sing it with me–for the Lord he wanted to see!).

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And Jesus came by, knew exactly where to stop, knew exactly where to look for His beloved brother, Zacchaeus, Child of God.

The nerve of that guy, went the whispers. He steals from the poor, gives our money to the pagans, and…and…he just looks ridiculous up there. What a loser!

But Jesus looked him right in the eyes and said loud and clear for all to hear, “Zacchaeus, come down from that tree. I’m going to stay at your house today.”

And do you know what Zacchaeus did??? The Bible says he came down immeditely and with gladness. Leaves floating, dust rising, and bark flying, this rich business man made a hasty exit from just being able to “see” Jesus and embarked into a true relationship with Christ. “For the Son of Man came to seek and save the lost.” (Luke 19:10)

You know…sycamore trees are noted for their longevity. Some live more than 250 years. Long before Zacchaeus ever needed it, God planted that tree.

He is so Awesome. He is all-knowing. It’s just like God to plan for us, down to the very last detail. It’s what He does. It’s why He is God, and He is in control.

Not only did God plant the tree for Zacchaeus before the tax collector-turned follower ever needed it, but when He formed him in his mother’s womb, He named Zacchaeus for what he would become under the blood of Jesus…pure.

Because he was able to see Jesus and know Him that day, Zacchaeus became a changed man. He gave half of what he had to the poor and paid back those he had cheated their amount by four times. And he followed Jesus.

Think of those around us, friends. The cheaters. The haters. The unfair. The unliked. The unloved. The sinners (much like us). They may not be short in stature, but unless we show them, they cannot see Jesus.

So, long before they ever knew they needed Him, God planted something in their path, so that they may rise up and see Jesus, the Savior.

Maybe He planted you. Could it be that you were planted right where you are today so that you could lift up a Zacchaeus, that he or she may see Jesus? That he or she may know Him as Friend and Savior?

You may lift them up with a kind word or gesture, by including them when no one else will. By showing love. They will recognize a difference in you that is not in the world. Seeds will be planted, watered, and some will be harvested. Souls will be saved by God because someone lifted them up and showed them the way to see Him. Maybe you are that someone. Maybe you are that tree.

Or….maybe you are Zacchaeus. Unloved, unliked, undeserving. You have a Friend. Look for Jesus. Find Him in His Word, the Bible. If you are unsure about finding a Bible or its meanings, look for a tree that He has planted in your path. A person who professes Him as their Savior. A Christ-preaching, Bible-believing, love-giving church family. Look for the trees.

Before you were ever born, He named you. He calls your name now. No matter what you did before, He calls you pure. 

He knows what we need before we’re even aware that we need it. And God provides, just like He did when Jesus walked the earth. He will give you what you need today just like He did for a lonely tax collector 2000 years ago.

He will give a tree for Zacchaeus.

 

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Paperless Post for the Win!

So, my life can get pretty crazy, pretty quickly. Like, instantly. Between a schedule full of sports, two backpacks full of stress, and a family and church life, my days don’t have lots of seconds left for extra things.

Sometimes I’m so busy that it’s hard to hear the Lord’s whisper on my heart–especially when He nudges me to encourage a friend who needs an extra boost.

Send her a card.

Write a note to him.

Let her know that she did a good job.

I let these nudges slip away like raindrops on a leaf, and in a few days, they are forgotten. But my heart remembers the next time I see the person who needed encouragement, and I know that I should have listened to that still, small Voice.

Recently, I discovered a company called Paperless Post. Paperless Post designs customizable, online stationery. Their mission is to show the world that communication can be personal and well-designed, regardless of the medium.

I about to straight-up give them a plug, ya’ll. This website is amazing. Once you are on the Paperless Post site, you can easily purchase “coins” to buy stationary, cards, and invitations within seconds. Then, you can send your customized message online without ever leaving your living room. Or your car, while your kid is at practice.

It’s that easy.

Now, I’m using it to send a card to a friend who is hurting. I’m using it to encourage a friend who just accomplished a big goal. I’ll be using it at Christmas to send my Season’s Greetings!

There’s no limit to what I can find, design, and send to encourage and uplift others with this tool. If you’re interested, go visit https://www.paperlesspost.com and let me know what you think!

 

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Someone Became A Reader Today

Someone became a reader today. On his mother’s lap, with his favorite book. A book whose cover is worn by many bedtime stories and look-throughs. He loves the colors, and he loves the pictures, and he loves the story. He may not know the words yet, but he can look at the picture of the girl and know that she is sad that she lost her dog, like the story says. He can recite the words he’s heard over and over, night after night. He can tell his favorite parts, and he can say what he thinks will happen next. He has connected with the book and the story and the characters, and he wonders if there are any other books about dogs that he could look at. And there was no worksheet, and there was no grade…but today, someone became a reader.

“Children are made readers on the laps of their parents.”– Emilie Buchwald

Someone became a reader today. In her teacher’s classroom, in a cozy nook,  with her “just right” book. A book that she chose because the choice was given. She likes the cover, because the character on the front looks like her and that makes her feel important. She opens the pages and is drawn into a world of fairies and princes and dragons, and she is sad–SAD–when the class has to move on to another activity and she has to close her precious book. “Later,” she thinks. “I can’t wait.” She was given a carefully mapped path by her teacher, she took the steps down that path to choose a book she might like, and she fell in love. And there was no talk of level G or H or N…but today, someone became a reader.

Reading should not be presented to children as a chore, a duty. It should be offered to someone as a gift.” –Kate DiCamillo

Someone became a reader today. At the kidney-shaped red table, with a teacher who has planned and prayed and cried and tried again and again. A teacher who decided that she will not give up on this boy. He waits for his signal to come and sit at the table with the teacher, and he looks forward to it because he knows the teacher loves him. He knows that she is not going to give up on him. So she calls and he comes over, and at some point during the lesson, a light bulb just “goes off,” and he starts putting sounds together, and things just start making sense, and the story comes to life for him. His teacher gets really shiny eyes and claps her hands and cheers for him. He is so excited that he asks to read some more words. And there was  no timer …but today, someone became a reader.

So it is with children who learn to read fluently and well: They begin to take flight into whole new worlds as effortlessly as young birds take to the sky. “–William James

Someone became a reader today. In a library. In a bookstore. A grocery store bookshelf. A thrift store. A yard sale. They pick up book one in a series that has just been waiting for them. “Maybe I’ll read this,” they think absently. But they go home and have a second, so they sit down and open the book. And the rest is history. The characters become real. The pages are flown through, but the reader is sad when the pages are gone. Laughter bubbles over, tears flow freely, and the heart beats fast. Book one turns to book two, then book three, four, and on it goes. And there was no assignment, no test…but someone who always said they don’t like to read became a reader today.

There is no such thing as a child who hates to read; there are only children who have not found the right book.”–Frank Serafini

You never know when your path will cross with someone who is just waiting to become a reader. You don’t have to be a teacher to inspire a rising reader. Watch for them, offer book ideas and suggestions…because it is never too early or too late for someone to become a reader. It happens every day.

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