Horse Thief

This is a little story I made up a while ago. I’ve told it to a couple of little kids and they thought it was funny.

There was a girl, and she was on a farm with lots of horses. She was standing outside eating an apple, and one of the horses was standing nearby. Someone needed help in the barn, so the girl went to help them. She set her apple down so she could use both hands.

When she came back, the horse that had been standing nearby was right next to her apple. The horse looked at the girl.

“Don’t you dare take my apple,” the girl said.

The horse looked at the girl, and then he went chomp! and ate the apple in one bite! He tossed his head as if to say, “What are you gonna do about it?”

The girl put her hands on her hips. “I’ll show you what I’m gonna do about it!” she said, and began to chase the horse around the field.

The horse whinnied like he was laughing, and the girl laughed as well. The two ran around the field for a while, and then they both stopped. The horse turned around and put his head down, walking slowly towards the girl as if to say, “I’m sorry.”

“Are you really sorry?” the girl asked, catching her breath.

The horse touched the girl’s shoulder with his nose.

“Okay,” the girl said. “I accept your apology.” She then went to get another apple.

The horse had followed her, and watched as she ate the apple. When the girl was halfway done, the horse looked at the girl and stretched out his neck. He pointed his nose at the apple in her hand as if to say, “May I pleeeaase hab dat apple?”

“Oh, all right,” the girl said and held out the apple. “But only because you asked nicely and didn’t steal it this time!”

The horse grinned a horsey grin and ate the apple happily.

Talking to Yourself

Anyone here ever talk to themselves?

If you said no, I don’t believe you.

Whether you talk to yourself out loud or not, you do talk to yourself. It happens when you think, “I can hit the snooze button one more time,” and, “I can probably do that tomorrow.” It happens when you argue with yourself, when you really want that cake, but you made a New Year’s resolution. It happens when you realize it’s probably the most intelligent conversation you will be having today. It happens when you have a brilliant idea that you need to practice before presenting. It happens when you have an important decision to make and you are weighing the pros and cons. It happens frequently throughout the day in many of your decisions.

Talking to yourself is a good thing, as long as you are saying good things. Sometimes you can convince yourself that a bad idea is a good one when you talk to yourself enough. Sometimes you can avoid doing something bad if you talk to yourself. But you’ll only have good self-talks if you have good thoughts, and you won’t have good thoughts unless you talk to the God who keeps your thoughts clean. Let God in on your self-talks. He makes them more interesting and more intelligent.

Sometimes we don’t let God in on our self-talks. This usually happens when He has told us something that we don’t like or don’t want to do. We talk to ourselves about how to justify what we are currently doing, or how to justify not doing what we should be doing. Don’t let yourself get away with talking like that. Ask God to correct you and to teach you the correct things to say to yourself. It will make things easier. Things won’t always be completely easy, but they will be easier.

So by all means talk to yourself, but don’t forget to let God teach you wisdom. You’ll keep your sanity a lot longer that way!

God’s Sense of Humor

God has many attributes: love, mercy, justice, righteousness, patience… and even humor. If you think God is this enormous being in the sky that looks down with a grumpy face at the world He has created, you would be mistaken. God loves us – that’s why He created us. He also has a sense of humor, which is why He gave us senses of humor. It’s a little hard to enjoy life to the fullest without a little humor!

So, one day my siblings and I had a fight, and I went to be alone. I asked God to help me figure this out and show me a Scripture that I needed, and I opened my Bible. The first words my eyes found were, “Ye have need of patience.” (Hebrews 10:36) I smiled and chuckled, and thanked God for the help. Not soon afterwards, my siblings and I had made up and weren’t upset anymore.

I’d like to hear from others about this. Does anyone have a story of their own to share?

Learning from Animals – Dogs

I’m convinced that one of the reasons God created animals is so we could learn from them. Sometimes I am particularly struck by how much you can learn from your own dog. While dogs do have their own bad habits, I’m going to point out the good ones.

I should probably also point out that I do not currently have a dog myself, but I have family and friends with dogs. That’s close enough, right? Of course it is.

Dogs are generally happy and carefree. They get excited about little things and loyally love their people. Many dogs are happy to just play a simple game for hours on end, or to just sit and do nothing as long as they are with their best friend! They are also very grateful in their own way. Just look at your dog. Look at your friend’s dog if you don’t have one.

Dogs are just happy to have food. They are excited every time they are fed, even though it is exactly the same thing as yesterday and the day before, and the day before that – and it will probably be that way tomorrow and all the days after that.

Dogs are happy to just spend time with their people. They are happy to see any friend that walks into their space. It doesn’t even matter what you’re doing together. Your dog friend will love it just because you are there.

Most dogs love making new friends, and have a strong loyal streak. Even if they are reserved at first, if a dog becomes good friends with you, you have a friend for life.

Most dogs are also very forgiving. They get upset when you yell at them or are mean to them, but they quickly forgive if you show signs of friendliness. Sometimes you don’t even need to apologize.

Some of the things that dogs do so easily are actually difficult for us humans, especially when we have more than enough. But just take a moment to be thankful. You have food! (Even if it’s leftovers.) You have friends who love you and care about you, and you can return the favor! There are a lot more people out there that you can be friends with, too! But perhaps the hardest thing for us to do is forgive – even when there was no apology.

Jesus Himself forgave without receiving an apology (Luke 23:34). He can give us the strength to do so ourselves. He can give us the strength to do any and all of the good habits that a dog has, and can help us do them even better.

So take a look at a dog today and see what else you can learn.

Adventure!

I have a tendency to gather lessons from everything. Today I have a lesson that I learned from a book and a movie. This one is from The Hobbit.

At the beginning we are introduced to Bilbo Baggins, the Hobbit, in his cozy little Hobbit hole in the Shire. This is a comfortable place where everything is predictable, dependable, and quiet. One morning a man named Gandalf comes and tells Bilbo that he is looking for someone to go on an adventure. Bilbo replies that he wants nothing to do with adventures. “Uncomfortable things,” he calls them.

But that’s it! Adventures are very uncomfortable. They aren’t predictable, and you must always be on your toes, ready to move. No one likes to be uncomfortable, so we have a tendency to stay in our safe, comfortable Hobbit holes, and have no adventures at all. Bilbo intended to to just that. He wanted no adventures at all.

But he is again given the opportunity for adventure when a band of adventuring Dwarves comes to his home. They offer him a contract for their adventure, stating that while there will be many dangers, perils, discomforts, and the distinct possibility of death, he will get a share of the treasure they find. Bilbo again refuses to have anything to do with adventures. The very idea frightens him. He goes to bed with great unease.

Bilbo awakens in the morning to find his home empty. The Dwarves have gone, and have left him – just like he wanted – in his safe, comfortable house with no adventures.

Except he has one last chance.

The adventurers have left the contract behind for him. They are waiting just a little longer for him to catch up before they go on without him.

Bilbo realizes that this is a once in a lifetime opportunity. He can’t just stay in his Hobbit hole for the rest of his life and never do anything! He hurriedly signs the contract and quickly rushes to catch up with the band of adventurers. “I’m going on an adventure!” he shouts excitedly as he runs.

To me, this is a picture of what it is like when Jesus calls you. He gives you ample chance to come on an adventure with Him. He lets you know that there will be dangers, perils, and discomforts. But while the Dwarves’ treasure was unsure, Jesus’ treasure is promised. If you go on an adventure with God, you will find the rewards are great and wonderful! The troubles it takes to get there are painful, but God promises that the treasure is worth it. And do you know what? It is.

Don’t let life pass you by. Take Jesus’ hand, and run! Go on that adventure!

It’s God’s Job to Know

Sometimes God puts a person in your path and tells you to introduce that person to Him. After all, He created them and loves them. Sometimes this dear human being is glad to meet God. Sometimes they want nothing to do with Him. Sometimes they seem indifferent. Sometimes they are curious, but go on their way.

God might put this person in your path on another occasion. So you get to talk to them again about God and answer their questions. Sometimes you even get to see God save someone. Sometimes you find out about it later.

But sometimes you never see this someone again, and you never know what your words did. You never know if they went back to God after you introduced Him.

I’ve had this last experience twice. I told someone about God, they were somewhat receptive and discussed things with me, and then I never saw them again. I have prayed for them every single day since then. At first I asked God to let me know how it went. But He said no.

“But I want to know. May I have the tiniest clue? A tiny inkling, may I have that?”

“No, My child.”

“Will I ever know how it went? Will I ever know in this life?”

“Does that matter?”

“No…”

“Do you trust Me?”

“Yes.”

So then I learned. I may never know in this life, but that’s okay. It is God’s job to know. One day in Heaven I will know, but it is God’s job to know the whole time.

Every once in a while I talk to God about it. I tell Him that I’m okay with not knowing. But if He’d like to share, I’m all ears whenever He feels like it. At this point, I imagine He just smiles. Then I ask Him to keep an eye on these people. I know that He watches them whether I ask Him to or not, but I feel better talking to Him about it. Sometimes God brings up these verses: “I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase.” (I Corinthians 3:6-7)

This is God’s business. He gives the increase.

In this life, I may never know.

But God knows.

Surrender

There are so many things in your life that demand your surrender to them. Yes, I do mean “demand.” When surrender is called for, it is not a request. The call for surrender is a command.

To surrender is to yield or to give up something that you have to someone else. It means to give a thing to someone because they told you to do so. It means to give up a right or privilege for someone else to control. It means to give up yourself to someone or something else.

Surrender isn’t a word or action that we like most of the time. I am not about to give something that is mine for someone else to have and control. People mess things up! Sometimes they’re downright oppressive! I’m not about to give something that is mine to someone who is not worthy!

But what if someone was worthy? What if someone actually cared about you and your well-being? What if someone could take your surrender without messing anything up? What if someone had the ability and the capacity to take your complete surrender without you being oppressed?

God can do that. God is worthy. God can’t mess up. God will not oppress you.

But what does surrender to God look like?

I saw an adorable partial picture of this in the Toy Story Christmas special this last year, “Toy Story That Time Forgot”.

The setting is right after Christmas. The toys go with their little girl, Bonnie, to another child’s house. There they find toy dinosaurs that don’t know they are toys – they think they are actual dinosaurs meant to do battle. They live to fight. They will never surrender to anyone.

Trixie the triceratops, one of Bonnie’s toys, befriends one of the other dinosaurs called Reptillus Maximus. Trixie tells Reptillus about what it is like to be played with, what it is like to give yourself over to a kid. Reptillus states that giving is surrender, and that he will never surrender.

But he soon finds out what he really is. He is a toy, meant to be played with. Playtime is his purpose. He refuses to believe it, even when the reality of it stares him right in the face. He refuses to surrender to the control of someone else.

Trixie tells Reptillus that he can be so much more than what he is now. He can be anything his boy wants him to be. He can be something he never even thought of. But that can only happen if he surrenders.

So in a moving scene, Reptillus drops his weapon, and lets himself fall into the child’s hand. He quickly finds that being played with is not a bad thing. He finds that playtime is wonderful – or in his words, “Glorious.”

While this depiction is not entirely what it is like to surrender to God, the flavor of it is there. When you surrender to God, He doesn’t just pretend that you are something else. You become something else, you are something else, and it is exactly what you were meant to be.

God knows best what you were meant for because He created you specifically for it. God created you with the talents and abilities to do exactly what He has in mind. But God also lets you decide if you are going to use them for His glory or not. While surrender is a command, it is also a voluntary act.

So who or what has your surrender? Is it complete and unconditional surrender?

Surrendering to anyone or anything less than God will only bring you bondage. But surrender to God is wondrous, and despite having surrendered, you will never be more free! You can be more than what you are. You can be anything that God wants you to be. All you need to do is surrender, fall into His loving hand and let Him hold you.

Surrender is a beautiful thing.

From a Child’s Mind – You’re Going to Live Forever

Just last week one of the kiddos that I’ve had the privilege to teach said something adorable and thought-provoking.

Every Wednesday, I play piano for the 2-4 year old classes while they sing songs for Jesus. Sometimes we have to remind the kids that Jesus is the reason they are singing. We often ask our little information-sponges what the songs mean, and explain if they don’t know. On one such occasion, we had a deep discussion.

One of the teachers was explaining to the kids that it is important for them to learn about Jesus. One day they will be the adults and will teach their own children. “One day, the adults you know now won’t be here.” She named the individual teachers in the room, saying that we would each die some day. Out of all the names mentioned, mine must have been fairly important for one of the little boys. He spoke up. As if he thought my mortality was an unbelievable idea, he asked, “Miss Skyla’s gonna die?”

The teachers all exchanged glances as we tried not to ruin the teaching moment. I smiled behind the piano and tried not to chuckle. But I also had a thought.

We think this way about some people in our own lives, don’t we? There are some people that you just can’t imagine ever dying. Surely they’ll live forever. After all, they’ve made it this far.

But we all die. But also, that is okay.

Death is okay when you know Jesus. Death is okay when you know it isn’t permanent. Death is okay when you know it is a defeated foe. God has conquered and defeated death! When you are in Christ Jesus, death is only sleep. When you are in Christ Jesus, those who are “dead” have only gone home before you have. You’ll be along later, God’s just got some work for you to finish up!

Are You Even Listening?

Ah, the joys of teaching small children! I have found them numerous in my time with the 2 and 3 year old Sunday School class. Isn’t it just a beautiful thing when a child sits and listens attentively to the important lesson you are teaching? Isn’t it wondrous when your group of little ones leans forward with anticipation and engages with you?

Don’t laugh! That actually happens sometimes!

It doesn’t happen often, but it does sometimes.

Yes, a lot of the time it feels like these wonderful children aren’t listening at all. Sometimes they aren’t. But sometimes they are. It is difficult to tell at times, but you might be surprised at how much they actually do listen, even (and especially) when you aren’t actively or consciously teaching them.

Children are like sponges – they soak up everything. It may take a few times for them to get all of it, but sometimes children have the ability to absorb more than adults do. They see what you’re doing when you think they’re busy playing. They pick up on things you didn’t tell them directly. They hear you talking to the other teachers and to their parents. Believe it or not, they do hear you when you teach a lesson. They don’t always listen to everything, but when they do, they don’t forget it – and they will repeat it!

But sometimes you are just sure that there is absolutely NO listening going on. The wonderful children whom God has given you to teach are wiggling and giggling and pestering each other. One of them is picking his nose. Another is picking at a loose thread on her dress. Two of them are best buddies (or partners in crime), and probably should not have been allowed to sit next to each other.

So you snap your fingers, clap your hands, or vocally get everyone’s attention. You tell them this is important and that God wants them to know about what is in His Bible. So the children quiet themselves, and sit as still as possible for their little energy-filled bodies.

But they start wiggling again as soon as you start teaching once more.

You manage to keep the wiggling to a “minimum,” and eventually finish your lesson. Then the delightful kiddos are allowed to jump up and do whatever comes next. You think that maybe one of them got something – maybe. You might even look to the heavens and give an exasperated prayer to God for these children (and yourself).

But then the next Sunday, someone’s mommy or daddy tells you what their child told them about the lesson you so painstakingly tried to teach. Sometimes they tell you about something else their child did that pertains to the lesson.

“He just lined up all his stuffed animals and taught them a Bible lesson!”

“She was telling her little brother all about Jesus!”

In that moment, you feel so much better! There was some listening going on!

If you are teaching children of any age, you will notice the difficulties of keeping the collective attention span. But rest assured that God has not called you to a fruitless endeavor! One of these days, these children will need to know the things you are teaching. While your lessons may be one of the repeated stepping stones along their way, one day a child will understand something very important. One day a child will follow Jesus.

Growth Spurts

Growth spurts were quite an issue for me when I was younger. I’ve heard some people have relatively easy physical development through childhood, with minimal growing pain and small growth spurts, giving you plenty of time to get used to your new size. But I was not one of those people.

In my experience, growing pains came first. Then I would have a sudden growth spurt. Which means I would then be clumsy for a while until I got used to my new proportions. I would run into walls when walking around corners, stub all my toes on random furniture, trip over my own feet, close my fingers (or my whole hand) in doors, smack my shoulder (and sometimes my head) on doorways when walking into rooms, and hit my ribs, hips, or elbows on the edges of tables and counter-tops. Hitting my elbows usually resulted in half of my arm going numb. It was humerus, but not funny.

Then I finally got used to everything, and I became slightly more graceful once more. Which meant another growth spurt was not far ahead, and I got to do it all over again. But I like to think that is part of the reason I’m (mostly) graceful now.

Sometimes going through life is like having growth spurts. You go through stages of change. Sometimes the change is sudden. Sometimes it is gradual. Either way, you have to get used to a new normal. By the time you get the hang of it, it is almost time for another growth spurt. But you have some experience under your belt now. The next change still takes some getting used to, but you will get the hang of it eventually. It takes time, so don’t get too frustrated when you stub your figurative toes on the metaphorical furniture of life. It gets better, I promise.