Part of living a life with Christ is giving back to others in your community. This weekend I had the wonderful opportunity to volunteer to teach Kindergarten through second grade students how to write a good story, the parts of a story, how to identify problems, and find solutions. The Young Writer's Conference was held at Sherrod Elementary School in Palmer, Alaska. Students from all over the Matanuska-Susitna Borough School District came to participate.
I ended up teaching 54 students in three groups, who came with their parents and grandparents to the event. I began by sharing the story Mimsy Mouse Searches for a New Home by Linda N. Walz and Stephan Linton. Students learned about the three parts of a fiction book: the beginning, middle, and end. Each section was later broken down to help students identify the problem, the turning point, and solution. All the students fell in love with Mimsy's story and who wouldn't; it's a wonderful tale of friendship.
After explaining what makes a good story to the kids, I brought booklets for each student to create his/her own story. Perimeters were given to help students focus on writing their stories in the given amount of time. The stories had to be about a main character that was a moose. The moose had to have some problem based on a desire or talent the moose had that was not "normal" for other moose. I gave the examples of maybe the moose wanted to play the piano, ski down a mountain, or ride a bicycle. Then the students began the creative writing process.
In the end, I loved all the different stories the children created. There was a moose who lived on the sun and wanted to move because he was so hot. He moved to Antarctica and was much happier. There were two young ladies in the last group that really surprised me by working together. None of the other children had thought about coauthoring. These two girls attended the same school and were friends. When the first little girl started her story about a moose, named Bilmy, that was scared of everything and lived in a cave to feel safe, the second little girl made her story about a friendly girl moose, named Emily, who befriended Bilmy to teach him the world isn't scary when you have a best friend. Together the young ladies wrote a very touching story of friendship, which displayed their own good hearts as well.
It was wonderful to share with the kids and watch them learn. I also laughed a lot at their imaginations: from moose going to the moon to driving trucks or ice skating, these kids had endless ideas for problems and solutions. I also loved that every time I asked as question, they jumped right in to answer. Every child thought he or she was a great artist. They all tried their best to draw moose, even when their skills were not as well-honed as others. Most children thought they were good writers too. Every student believed he had something to share. Saturday made me wish many adults would go back and capture their child-like hearts, when they believed in themselves so completely as these kids did. Somehow adults lose sight of their abilities and imaginations. Trials have made us stop believing in ourselves or start comparing our gifts to others, who have are "better" than us. These kids didn't have that problem. Each child worked diligently on his drawings and story, regardless of whether other students were better or worse in those talents. Spending time with children can help bring our own childlike qualities back to our lives. We can learn to believe in ourselves again and use our gifts without comparison to others. We can not only have childlike faith, but childlike confidence too. Yes, you can write a book. It might be as crazy as a moose on roller skates, but it would be fun and creative. Judging from the 54 students I worked with on Saturday, we are all born with creativity. Don't let the world steal your joy from you!
This weekend, I took some time to watch a movie. I usually unwind with a Hallmark, happy-ending kind of story, but on Sunday I stumbled across "The Five People You Meet in Heaven." Apparently this movie was based on the book by Mitch Albom, which I'd never read before but am thinking would be an awesome book to add to my must-read list. It was a spiritually deep movie in many aspects. Too often we feel our daily life is uneventful or tedious, and we often associate those "normal" events as basically meaningless. The theme of this movie addresses the anger and unhappiness which stem from feeling your life is meaningless. Eddie, the main character, was a man dissatisfied with his life, wishing he had lived a more exciting or more valuable life. All the woulda, coulda, shoulda's haunted him. When Eddie dies unexpectedly, he goes to Heaven but it's not what he expected. In Heaven he meets 5 people who help him understand his 'meaningless' life, some of whom he never really met in life. I won't give away the ending, but I'll tell you it's something you won't expect. If you have ever struggled with wondering about the purpose of a normal or boring life, you will be encouraged to know that every life: no matter how short, boring, or seemingly inconsequential is part of the wonderful plan of God. Every life matters more than we ever know this side of Heaven.
Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows.
This revelation—holy, just, and true--
Though oft I read, it seems forever new;
While light from heaven upon its pages rest,
I feel its power, and with it I am blessed.
Henceforth, I take thee as my future guide,
Let naught from thee my youthful heart divide.
And then, if late or early death be mine,
All will be well, since I, O Lord, am Thine!
This insightful poem was penned by Phoebe Worrall, age eleven, on the inner page of her bible. Phoebe, born in 1807 to a devout Methodist family, experienced a problem faced by many Christians today. She was under the false belief that an intense emotional experience was required for or accompanied the act of salvation. The belief in an emotional connection to one's salvation has led many unbelievers to falsely assume they were saved simply because they had felt guilty and shed tears over their sins, without truly embracing the Savior. Emotion has also led many Christians to be unsure of their salvation for lack of "feeling" saved. Even the great evangelist Billy Graham knew not to trust emotion as the sign of genuine salvation, which he learned from watching many people come forward in his crusades, only to discover later they emotion was not connected to genuine repentance or faith in Christ.
Phoebe never felt like a Christian as a child, although she grew up in a Christian environment and had known and believed in the Lord since birth. She later married Walter Palmer, and two of their children died only months after birth. Phoebe wrongly concluded God was somehow punishing for her lack of faith and devotion to Him, because she could never "feel" the way other Christians described feeling salvation. As you can imagine, this led her into a very dark spiritual time.
Thankfully, Phoebe's spiritual crisis ended when she had the realization that she didn't need "joyous emotion" to believe. She discovered the biblical truth that the simple act of believing was the foundation for salvation. The verse that changed Phoebe's mind was Matthew 23:19, "Ye fools and blind: for whether is greater, the gift, or the altar that sanctifieth the gift?" While many overlook the implications in this verse, Phoebe received rhema from it. She realized the Bible taught whatever was placed on the altar was sanctified not by the act placing it there, or anything a person did. It was the work of God, upon whose altar the item was placed, to sanctify the item on the alter. This spiritual revelation helped Phoebe realize that her life committed to Jesus was sanctified not by her doing (keeping a list of do's and don'ts to follow) but by her surrender to the Lord, who was and is perfectly able to sanctify her by His power. As a result, she no longer needed a sign to validate her faith in Jesus.
Phoebe Palmer understood other believers were struggling in their faith in a similar way she once had. So she took her biblical revelation and applied it to John Wesley's Methodist perfectionist's movement, dividing it into a three step process.
1. Consecrate your life to God.
2. Believe God will sanctify what was consecrated to Him.
3. Tell others about it.
As a result of her three step process, Phoebe began holding prayer meetings, which eventually grew beyond measure. She was an active supporter of many Christian causes, including the first inner-city mission in America, located in New York City. Phoebe also inspired many other women of faith to trust God and step out in faith, like Catherine Booth of the Salvation Army. Phoebe went on to author the book, The Way of Holiness, which was a foundation in the Holiness Movement. The Holiness Christian movement believed upon salvation believers were cleansed from the power of sin and through sanctification could lead a life without committing willful sin. Whether the movement was entirely right or wrong, it impacted the way many believers thought and inspired new denominations like the Salvation Army, the Nazarene Church, the Church of God, and many Pentecostals.
More importantly, Phoebe's teaching that neither salvation nor sanctification are validated by emotion is relevant for believers today. While it is powerful to experience emotion, the Word of the Lord is not changed by it. Phoebe often said, "Earnest prayers, long fasting, and burning tears may seem befitting, but cannot move the heart of infinite love to a greater willingness to save."
Years ago my friend told me that I was exactly where I was supposed to be. Mind you, this came at a time in my life that was one of my lower points... my husband was broken physically, and I was carrying a HUGE load of additional responsibilities. I didn't believe it at first and complained that was not okay, because this was not where I wanted to be. Heck, it was a serious of terrible events that had brought me to this point in life. My wise friend told me to stop fighting the moment. She assured me that God knew exactly where I was, and I was where He wanted me to be for the moment. She told me to accept where I was at this point in life, embrace it because when I did that, I would finally understand the power of the moment I was in.
Well, I didn't truly understand her advice that day, but I pondered on it. How could it be that I was supposed to accept and be grateful for the horrible moment in my life? How could I believe this painful place was exactly where God wanted me to be? Surely, God wanted better for me than this, I thought. It took me years to fully understand, but now I see my friend was 100% right. There is great power in embracing where you are at this moment in life. However you got to this moment doesn't matter. Whether was a freak accident, series of mistakes or bad choices, or a series of good decisions or unexpected blessings, you are exactly where you are supposed to be at this moment. When you accept where you are without blame or ridicule for past mistakes and are not bound by the desires or dreams of the distant future, you can experience great power in the moment of now.
Living in the present can empower and inspire us to change the future from a more realistic vantage point. We need to remember we are not forsaken. We have not been abandoned, nor did this moment surprise the God of Heaven who watches over us. He is still with us, and in this present moment, He is blessing us and helping us. Be mindful of the power of living in the present moment. Do not despise its small blessings, for in them tomorrow's future begins. If you need encouragement for the small blessings in life, Our Daily Bread put out a great book on it. I've included it below.
"Do not despise these small beginnings,
for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin..."
An Alaskan Author, Prospector, Homeschool Teacher, Ordained Minister,
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