Eager Students

It sounds like ancient history now, but back in 1952 I was enjoying 2nd grade to the max at our local grade school. Each day Mary and I walked across a field to get there and then walked home again for lunch.  My teacher, Mrs. Kludy, was a classic schoolmarm who loved her students but ran a tight ship.

Mrs. KludyI remember the day Mom came to school and explained to Mrs. Kludy and my classmates that I was going to be gone for 2 long weeks. After multiple sore throats, I was scheduled for a tonsillectomy, the preferred treatment at the time.

I loved everything about school, and saying goodbye that day was hard. Not only would I fall behind in my work, but I’d be away from my school chums.

The surgery and early days of recuperation went fine, but I was near tears looking out my bedroom windows watching friends play in the school yard during recess. I longed to be with them, working and playing in our usual routine.

Mom brought comfort in the form of ice cream and Jell-O, but all I wanted was to walk across that field and back into Mrs. Kludy’s room. When I asked Mom if I could go, she said, “Not for another week.”

But I couldn’t wait that long. The next day while Mom was driving Dad to his commuter train, I put on a dress and walked across the field to school, strolling into my room like I’d never been gone.

It felt good to receive the welcome of a room full of 7-year-olds…. until Mrs. Kludy appeared. She walked straight up to me and said, “Margaret, did you check-in with the nurse?”

My heart sank. Both of us knew it was going to be bad news. When the nurse asked to look down my throat, I knew I was on my way home.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we were always that enthusiastic about getting into God’s classroom? Opportunities abound with churches on every corner and Bible studies available every day of the week. There are weekend retreats, mission trips, and family camps. We can listen to sermons online, read good books, and attend small groups. And the fellowship is top notch. Yet we often opt out anyway. And sometimes even when we participate, our thoughts are a million miles away.

I suppose the only way to be eager about God’s school is to have a strong want-to. And that probably doesn’t come without first feeling the need. So when we’re confused, depleted, or suffering, we should view those negatives as positive prompts that will motivate us to get back in school.

At 7And thankfully, God won’t ever send us away, even if we’ve just had a tonsillectomy.

 “Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long.” (Psalm 25:4-5)

A Wintry Mix

Today outside my windows is something weathermen call a “wintry mix.” This forecast includes a potpourri of snow, rain, sleet, ice, and hazardous driving conditions. Welcome to late-winter in the Midwest.

We’ve all heard the description of March as “in like a lion and out like a lamb,” and the weather can’t get much more beastly than it is today.

IMG_5185But on my front door is a wooden plaque that says, “Winter Welcome.” I won it in a Christmas grab bag 16 years ago and like to display it until winter finds its way out of the neighborhood. I’m not sure if the plaque is meant to welcome wintertime visitors or to welcome winter itself, but if it’s the latter, I’m going to take it down. Winter and its “wintry mix” has worn out its welcome.

Often we feel this same way about life’s struggles, especially the ones that are long-lasting and particularly harsh. It’s easy to become immersed in the misery of our troubles, and just when we think things can’t get any worse, they do. Like the deep snow outside my windows is getting slammed with an ice-coating today, a season of suffering makes us ask, “What next? Will this season never end?”

Traveling through life’s “winters” reminds me of C. S. Lewis’ books about Narnia, a magical land “where it’s always winter but never Christmas.” In other words, all the negatives of winter dominated Narnia without even the Christmas season to bring light and warmth.

Against all odds, though, Narnia’s 100-year winter did eventually melt into springtime, and it had everything to do with a lion named Aslan. In Lewis’ allegorical story, Aslan represented Jesus Christ, the only One who could rid Narnia of the evil White Witch and her desire to keep Narnia trapped in the debilitating deep freeze of winter.

AslanBut Aslan was “on the move,” and as he was, Narnia began to thaw. The warmth of spring came to the world and ruin came to the wintry White Witch.

As we slog through circumstances that feel like we’re trudging through hip-deep snow, we should remember that the Lord will, indeed, bring an end to our “wintry mix.” Along with a new season, he’ll bring relief and warmth. That’s because Jesus is on the move in our world much like Aslan was moving through Narnia. The big difference is that Aslan was a fantasy; Jesus is real.

Though our problems often come to us much like March comes “in like a lion,” according to God’s control of the calendar, they will “go out like a lamb.” And isn’t it interesting that two of the names of Jesus in Scripture are “The Lion of Judah” and “The Lamb of God.”

We go into our struggles with The Lion and move out of them with The Lamb.

“Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever; wisdom and power are his. He changes times and seasons….” (Daniel 2:21-22)

Watch out!

The other day I bought a piece of glass that had a warning attached to it: “This glass may have sharp edges.”

???????????????????????????????The company wanted to make sure every person who purchased their product would be thoroughly informed, so it printed the warning in 19 languages. In other words, it was made as easy as possible for consumers to stay safe.

God has done the same thing with his warnings, not necessarily with 19 languages in one document, but definitely with words. In the Bible he repeats warnings over and over in an effort to persuade us, wanting us to avoid mishaps just like the glass company does.

For some people, listening is all the caution they need to stay out of trouble. God says, “Watch out!” and they do. Others consider themselves the one exception to every rule and plow past warning signs, assuming nothing untoward is going to happen. They figure the odds are in their favor. Still others believe that most warnings are exaggerations, and on that basis they can be disregarded.

But when God says “don’t” followed by “if you do,” it’s more than just a casual suggestion. He’s really saying, “Don’t hurt yourself by doing such and such. Your life will turn out better if you follow the water-tight counsel I’m giving you. Ignore it to your own peril.” Yet setting aside the “peril” part, we can be pros at the ignoring.

Whatever God says goes, and once he has told us to “Watch out,” if we haven’t, he usually lets us find out why we should have. But lest we think all his advice is “you’d better not,” he’s quick to include plenty of “how about this?”

Scripture includes far more positive promises than worrisome warnings. Instead of, “Don’t do this” God often says, “Do this…. and then watch my blessing flow!” So we can either “Watch out!” or just “Watch….” If we heed the warnings and claim the promises, it’s win-win.

As for that sheet of glass with its 19 warnings, I was so intent on studying the different languages that I cut myself on its sharp edges.

“Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety.” (Proverbs 11:14)