Friday, October 30, 2015

We Can Do Better

I can’t remember a time when I didn’t want to be a teacher. As far back as primary school my dreams were of standing before a class with colored chalk in hand.  These days it’s a dry erase marker, overhead or computer screens.   

How things change.  There is something that hasn’t changed though, and that’s my desire to keep reaching new heights in the way I do things.  You could say that I have a competitive personality, but it’s not always aimed at outside competitors.  My goal isn’t to see if I can do better than someone else, but to improve in areas in my own life.  There’s always something inside me that says, “You can do better than this." If that is true, I want to live like that.

Learning to do better in my career began many years ago when I was student teaching.  It was something the principal said that drove me into thinking “I can do better.” 

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The Board Contest 

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A recent conversation with a friend took my thoughts back to an October over a few decades ago when I created my first actual bulletin board for a classroom.  I got ideas from this book.

Each class was to participate in a bulletin board contest and the winner would be given the honor of designing the school’s theme for the season. There was another prize but I can’t remember what it was. 

I was the only student teacher in the school, and for some reason Mrs. P. decided it was time I work on the decorative aspect of the classroom.  It didn’t take lots of brain activity to see what the other teachers were doing to replicate it with some sort of a twist. 
Incorporating student papers was key to a successful board I was told.  So that’s what I did using various subjects the class was studying.  The kids really were the stars; I just stapled their papers in some sort of pattern and added a bit of color. 

The principal liked the work and I was selected to design the board for the entrance hall of the school.  It was my senior year of college and I already had a lot on my plate, I didn’t expect this.  Within a few days I received a copy of a letter he had sent to the college on meeting the criteria for graduation. 

In a letter of recommendation he included this statement “…. the only concern we have is the high standards she sets for herself …” His report raised the bar on how I would approach going about designing the board for the entire school.  It was pretty scary. 

Although I was surprised and flattered to be chosen being a rookie, I didn’t know if I could take on the task.  My nerves were getting the best of me as a young teacher.  What could I do to capture the essence of the school, all the while bringing my personality to the piece?   

For weeks I bounced ideas off my husband until I finally decided on a 3D concept. With some creativity, paint, paper, cardboard, pudding boxes and various textures, the masterpiece became a reality.  In the end my choice was a medieval castle with rounded towers, windows that opened, cotton clouds and other materials to make it an interactive activity for the kids.  It was a hit with the staff, parents and students, but I was less than thrilled.   

The bulletin board had to be set up in sections and took hours to assemble.  It may have looked cool, but was it really better than the one I did in the classroom?  I wasn’t pleased with my prideful attitude. My PMA (Positive Mood Attitude) was all over the place. 

Happy Accidents, Really Bob? 

What would be the lasting effects of the purpose of this theme that people really learned from it?  I doubt anyone remembers that board and frankly, why should they? 

What was the difference between the two boards?  The “prize” board was all about me and showcasing my abilities, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  However, when I designed it my thoughts did include the classes, but I mainly wanted everyone to shower me with praises and tell me how creative I was. 
Trying to “do better” didn’t include making Jesus look good, nor did I take into account if He would have been pleased with my work. 

“Every day is like a gift on a canvas. Study it. Sometimes even the mistakes turn out to be a learning experience that is even better than you were trying to do.  Evaluate it. We don’t make mistakes, just happy accidents.” – Bob Ross 

I’m not sure God would have considered my selfishness a “happy accident” like painter Bob Ross said, but it does make mistakes seem less harmful emotionally wouldn’t you say?  I do know that God doesn’t make mistakes and if we let Him, He will turn our life brush stokes into masterpieces for Him. 

Doing Better without Disobeying  

My second thought along the lines of “doing better” brought me back to another learning experience about ten years after the first incident, only this time I did bring Jesus into the process, well for the most part anyway. 

We had three 8’ x 16’ kennels in our yard for our dogs.  Dream kennels of my husband’s design for a “better way” of living for pets.  These were the best kennels any pup would love … you would think.  These wonderfully built dwellings were never occupied by our precious four legged kids, because they refused to go inside of them.  Well, that’s not completely true.  They would if we did! 

So now what do we do with these 6 foot tall, concrete floor, chain link enclosures?  Turn them into greenhouses!  When my husband learned of what I had in mind, he agreed that we could do it with one kennel, but not the others.  He had hopes of using them one day for raising dogs.  Like that would happen, knowing how we couldn’t do it with the ones we already had. 

I explained to my husband what I had in mind using building materials we already had.  Part of creating this included placing several 4’ x 8’ lattice pieces on top, fastening them so they didn’t fall through, adding poles, wiring, garden mesh … you get that this was no easy task for a petite lady. 

He was game, but there was one catch.  On that particular day I would have to wait for him to be able help me.  If you haven’t noticed, I’m not good at waiting and that’s when the wheels in my head got to turning. 

My husband was remodeling a house about thirty miles away and would be gone the entire day.  He knows that when I come up with an idea I like to move on it right away if possible, and that I generally get started with or without him.  When he has time he joins the project and doesn’t get upset if I begin the process. 

He was emphatic that I not get on top of the kennel and I knew he was right. One time impatient me didn’t listen and broke a wrist, so I was resolved to do what he said with joy. 

The problem was, how could I accomplish what I wanted to do without disobeying my husband’s wishes? Surely there was a way to create a roof without my feet leaving the ground. 

Walking around the yard gathering materials for the project, I asked the Lord to show me how to do this wisely and without getting hurt.  I worked so hard to have it completed before my husband came home wanting to show off what I was able to achieve during his absence.  

This time being able to accomplish something better wasn’t about finishing a difficult job on my own, but about trusting the Lord to give me direction on every aspect of the task. 

It was just like this. Loved it!
Over the course of the day I can’t tell you how many times I said aloud, “I can do all things through Christ Who gives me strength” as I shoved and pushed cumbersome supplies above my head hoping none would fall and land on me. I took the scripture literally and believed God would do as He promised. He faithfully did provide what I needed.

God showed me how to use leverage, design pulleys and manipulate materials into position without getting on a ladder or climbing on top to wire anything in place.  My neck and shoulders were sore from looking up all day, but boy did I feel good otherwise. 

I was exhausted but thrilled at being able to do a better job because I listened to the Lord and my husband.  Believing God would show me the steps I needed led Him to granting me favor with my husband, who rewarded me with a new outdoor planting station. 

I Can Can
Watch the commercial..
This leads me to present day (October 2015). Every year the Shop Rite grocery stores have something that is called “The Can Can Sale,” where certain products are put on a super sale allowing customers to stock up on the items for the season. 
This is a perfect time to buy cases of cans for 1/3rd the price of what you would normally pay, and a great way to buy more food to give to food pantries.  By the end of October businesses, churches, soup kitchens and homeless shelters are frantically putting the word out for food drives to fill Thanksgiving baskets for the needy. 

Last week a young friend of ours asked us if we wanted to attend the Christian film Woodlawn.  Having already viewed it for an article I wrote, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to see it again so soon.  Then Mark dangled some bait that we couldn’t resist.  

The hook was, watch the movie for free in exchange for a can of food.  That did it, we were in on the invitation, plus there was a bonus … this time it wasn’t work and I’d actually be watching it all the way through. 

When we discussed what food we wanted to bring I told my husband that I wanted to do better than one can.  He said he was thinking the same thing.  We both wanted to bring a case each. Our wanting to do more was based on the scriptures where we are to feed those in need or give when it is in our power to do so. (See Matthew 25:31-44 

The Lord already knew our hearts and allowed a “can can” sale at a store nearby. With cases in hand we walked into the theater, not because we wanted to outdo anyone else, but because as believers we should be putting our best foot forward as representatives of Christ.   

“Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it,
to him it is a sin.” (James 4:17 NKJV) 

After the movie I noticed a few people coming in as we were making our exit.  Each had one can per person in exchange for a ticket.  I wasn’t judging them; maybe they brought all they had, who knows. It was nice to see people taking action in doing something good for the community. 

Witnessing the exchange caused me to think about how the unsaved business owners sacrificed their earnings for food they wouldn’t be able to keep.  Immediately my attention was drawn to the passage where Jesus spoke of requiring more from those who believed in Him when He said: 

“… love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you… and just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise. 

But if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you
(meaning you’re no different than the world)?  For even sinners
(those who don’t believe in Christ) love those who love them
(and know to do these kinds of things/deeds).”
(from Luke 6:27-32 emphasis mine)  

God didn’t mean we had to bring more cans to “one-up” the others, but that we were to make a difference by doing something better than what the world can deliver. Doing better may have meant bringing two cans, if that’s what God spoke to a person’s spirit, but not necessarily.  I do know our giving was supposed to be better than what we had done in the past, regardless to what anyone else did. 

Listening Your Way out of Trouble 

We brought green beans and corn to the event. Out of curiosity I asked my friend what he brought to exchange.  Standing by the car door Mark said what it was and continued.  “I was going to bring a can of pineapple too, but wanted to eat it later so I didn’t and I didn’t want to bring anything expired.”  

In a parent-like voice I said, “You couldn’t trust God to provide a can of pineapple for you?”  Why do you think you felt that you should have also brought the canned pineapple?” 

He didn’t know but felt he should have also brought another can.  I explained that,  “It was the Holy Spirit leading you.  Sometimes we miss it, but hopefully in the future we won’t make as many “happy accidents” as Mr. Ross put it.”  

Leaning into the car my friend said, “I know ... I can do better!”  Wow, that really stuck with me.  You see Mark is about the same age I was when I created that first bulletin board many years ago, only he already got the point about learning to do better for Jesus.  It made my heart feel good when I saw his smiling face and heard those inspiring words. 

So many times the Holy Spirit is trying to get us to listen to Him so we can be delivered out of trouble or taken into a spot where the favor of God resides.  God wants our journey of faith to be a good one, and His Holy Spirit will lead us into the paths of righteousness if we would do better when it comes to listening.

This Week’s Challenge:
We Can Do Better  

Wanting to do better the first time was all about me. The second time it was mixed, but mostly what God did for me.  It’s taken some years to get to example three where doing better was all about representing the Christ who lives in me. 

Our challenge this week asks us to “do things better” … whatever it is.  At home, take care of it better. Don’t just sweep the floor, wash it (get my point). Do better at your job and work harder for Christ.  Step out in your neighborhood, community and church by doing better than you have in the past.   

A good place to start is always with kids (they seem to be more forgiving).  Little humans will be making their way to our doors this weekend expecting to receive goodies they’re not allowed to consume without parental consent.  We can do better than hand out treats filled with sugar that only gives a temporary adrenaline high. 

Instead of candy, give something they will remember that will lead them to Jesus. 

Provide crackers, cookies, money (that one they’ll come back for every year), but include a gospel tract, children’s Christian book or Bible coloring page.  

When shopping this week include one extra canned food item to sow for each member of your family.  Bring the family to a food pantry or shelter to see what it really feels like to do better (and more) than the usual.  Can we do this?  Yes we "can can"! 

President John F. Kennedy once said in his campaign, “We can do better.” referring to America; I’m not talking about nations or politics, but am addressing Christians in every nation. 

We don’t have to be like the rest of the world just getting by on what’s required … we can do better church. Through Christ, we can do this.  Let’s demonstrate what we say we believe about the Word of God when it comes to loving as God loves, not as the world loves.   

No matter what task you are doing this week, keep this thought in your mind during the process … I can do better … I will do better!  

P.S. For those where this applies, don’t forget to turn your clocks back one hour Saturday night for Daylight Savings. 

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Until next time, favor God and you will do better!   

“Believe My favor & strength is on your life.”
Jesus Christ

Note: The words satan or devil are not capitalized deliberately, because we give him no place in our lives.
Disclaimer: Article information is not meant to be used as treatment for mental or physical issues, but geared toward spiritual awareness. 

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