Monday, January 31, 2011

Repentance a Gift of God

    "Repentance, as well as forgiveness, is the gift of God through Christ. It is through the influence of the Holy Spirit that we are convicted of sin and feel our need of pardon. None but the contrite are forgiven; but it is the grace of God that makes the heart penitent. He is acquainted with all our weaknesses and infirmities, and He will help us.  
    "Some who come to God by repentance and confession, and even believe that their sins are forgiven, still fail of claiming, as they should, the promises of God. They do not see that Jesus is an ever-present Saviour; and they are not ready to commit the keeping of their souls to Him, relying upon Him to perfect the work of grace begun in their hearts. While they think they are committing themselves to God, there is a great deal of self-dependence. There are conscientious souls that trust partly to God and partly to themselves. They do not look to God, to be kept by His power, but depend upon watchfulness against temptation and the performance of certain duties for acceptance with Him. There are no victories in this kind of faith. Such persons toil to no purpose; their souls are in continual bondage, and they find no rest until their burdens are laid at the feet of Jesus. 
     "There is need of constant watchfulness and of earnest, loving devotion, but these will come naturally when the soul is kept by the power of God through faith. We can do nothing, absolutely nothing, to commend ourselves to divine favor. We must not trust at all to ourselves or to our good works; but when as erring, sinful beings we come to Christ, we may find rest in His love. God will accept every one that comes to Him trusting wholly in the merits of a crucified Saviour. Love springs up in the heart. There may be no ecstasy of feeling, but there is an abiding, peaceful trust. Every burden is light; for the yoke which Christ imposes is easy. Duty becomes a delight, and sacrifice a pleasure. The path that before seemed shrouded in darkness becomes bright with beams from the Sun of Righteousness. This is walking in the light as Christ is in the light."  
Faith and Works p. 38, 39

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Ready for Either

I stand as the property of my Lord,
Before a heavy plow,
Ready to serve in any field,
Where He may send me now.

I stand as the property of my Lord,
Before an altar made of stone,
Ready to bleed and give me life,
And the choice is His alone.

The field is hard and full of stones,
But I’ll go in this my might,
For I am yoked up with my Lord,
It’s easy, the burden is light.
A life of service, whatever the toil,
On stony, hard, or thorny soil,
To go wherever Jesus leads,
However and with whoever,
In whatever way that He sees fit,
He’ll be with me forever.

The altar is bloody, it may mean,
A death to all my cherished dreams,
Or pain with all its dread and fear,
But in the east, morning beams.
And all the weeping of the night
Cannot endure the morning light,
And pain, and sacrifice and death,
The loss of the last thing I have left,
Mean nothing, when by faith I behold
The glitter of the streets of gold.

I stand as the property of my Lord,
Facing altar or plow, fearing neither,
For He Himself has gone before,
So I am ready for either. 

Tuesday, January 25, 2011


Characters:  An all powerful yet helpless Father; a rebellious, defiant child

"Even though it hurts that you don't like me, I am more concerned with your bad attitude.  What is making you act this way?"  Nothing, I don't have to be acting the way I am.  
"Then why are you doing it?"  Because I don't like you. 
"But it is hurting you not me!  You won't be able to hold a job, have a happy home, or make lasting friendships with an attitude like that.  The other children are annoyed by your attitude.  You can't ever be happy this way!"  (Defiant smile, challenging eyes,  silence.) 
"Child?"  (more silence.)
"I care about you.  Please. . . "(no answer, same eyes.)
(Noise, other people show up, other distractions)
The child retreats into the relative comfort of isolation from the Father. . .  The Father cries.
Will she ever understand?  

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Against the Whole World: Me or Jesus?

I was struck this evening with the thought that I am contending with great powers for the minds, hearts, and souls of my students.  Everything in the world is calculated to tear down the principles that I am trying to build up for the foundation can even be laid.  One little teacher with a bunch of lesson plans and a big smile isn’t going to be able to do anything against the media, the lack of family strength, and the materialism that attacks these kids.  Only the power of God will make my students into powerful men and women of God.  I can never take the credit for anything good.  Even if I become the best teacher in the world I will still be helpless against the world, but Jesus is strong!  I pray that He will live in me, love through me, and teach through me. 

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Thoughts on Contentment

“I have learned in whatsoever state I am therewith to be content.”

Contentment is not the passive lack of motivation and desire.  Contentment is not complacency. 
Contentment strives for improvement, but it does so by clinging to the only true source of improvement and clinging when all else would seem to entice it away.  Contentment hopes, but it hopes confidently, resting in the promises that cannot fail.  Contentment desires, but it trusts those desires to God. 
The contented man isn’t blind.  He knows full well that there are plenty of worthwhile things he doesn’t possess.  He simply prizes contentment over these.  He realizes that he may lack something, but at least he has contentment.  The discontented man possesses neither thing.  Contentment is knowing there is something you do not have and trusting God to get it for you or to make you complete without it.  Contentment is hoping for heaven while rejoicing in the heaven God creates today in your heart. 
Contentment does not ask, “What do I need to make me happy.”  It has that already. 
Contentment does not come from having all of your needs met; it comes from having all of your God.  It is not the product of luxury, abundance, comfort, or ease; it is the product of the presence of God. 
“For He Himself has said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.” 

Contentment will not be anchored to earth by fears however legitimate and logical they may be but will soar on eagle’s wings to heights that the all the frantic flapping chickens will never reach.  Contentment isn’t for chickens.
The beauty of contentment lies in its ability to transform time into treasure, poverty into plenty, loneliness into loving service, and pressure into peace. 
Contentment gets its smooth, calm, stillness from the dam that keeps the little blessings of today from rushing downstream.  It gets its sparkling clearness from its ability to let the little trials of today sink to the bottom or wash away.  The muddy trials of tomorrow are allowed to stay upstream.  
“Godliness with contentment is great gain.” 

Monday, January 10, 2011

First Day of School

More from my journal.  

On Friday, Mrs. Moses informed me that I will be teaching the fifth and sixth grade by myself from now on and that she will be taking grades seven and eight.  This meant splitting up the class since she had been teaching all four grades in one room until now.  I was excited about the chance to have a fresh start and my very own classroom and students.  (I’m a little independent.) I was also nervous.  Not only was this to be my first full time teaching experience, my full time grade school experience (I have these kids from 7:30- 2:30!) , and my first time being responsible for the full curriculum, but I was also nervous about the student’s reactions to the change.  

I wanted to make a change.  I didn’t want them to insist that I run the class the way Mrs. Moses did.  I wanted to be in charge.  So, I cleaned the classroom from top to bottom and redecorated.  I put up new pictures, put fresh paper on the bulletin board, and rearranged the books.  I changed the schedule, adding personal worship time, and two full hours of reading. (Reading workshop from Literacy methods class.)  I carefully planned my lessons for the first day, and prayed for the best.  

This morning I awoke to six inches of beautiful white snow.  The whole morning said “Fresh Start.”  My students arrived and were shown to their desks to begin personal worship time following the instructions on the board.  

The day progressed with minimal challenges.  The students are testing me to see if I really mean what I say.  Do I. . . I am still having trouble with group discussions getting out of control.  I will add talking chips tomorrow and see if that helps.  I think I am firm, but exactly how to you get students to take turns talking? 
The girls were a little upset about the change.  At one point both of them were begging to be promoted to seventh grade so they could be back with Mrs. Moses and Brittany.  It didn’t hurt my feelings. . . I don’t like change either.  We got through the morning.  

Case Study student (hereafter referred to as CSS) is struggling in math.  I discovered today that she can do long division accurately in her head but can’t do the steps of a long division problem.  How in the world and what do I do?  She is reticent to do it the hard way since she is getting the right answers.  She will need to be able to use the algorithm when the problems get harder.  I guess I’ll keep teaching and insisting.  

Reading workshop was a huge success.  The students like being read to. . . No surprise there, and they liked the true stories and informational books I insisted they choose.  They liked those too.  Esther really likes Fiddlesticks and Freckles.  (I thought I could count on Sam Campbell).  After thirty minutes of personal reading I directed them to go to the art center (another hugely popular success) and create reading journals.  During the first couple minutes the students were enthusiastic about sharing with their classmates the stories they had read.  Creating a community of readers. . . Yeah!

By the end of the day I had the class won over.  That wasn’t my primary goal, but they learned, they experiences success, they worked hard, they felt good about, and they enjoyed the whole experience.  They left the class enthusiastic about the new program.  One of the girls even said she likes it better this way.  I overheard another say, “We had fun with Miss Johns today.”  I hope that good attitude spreads to Gaby tomorrow.  

I finally got them all to leave at 2:45 and went to work cleaning out the closet, shooing birds out of the school and lesson planning.  Teachers definitely don’t work just eight hours a day. 

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Student Teaching. . . the first week

One of the many things I have to do as a student teacher is to keep a daily journal of my experiences.  I thought that my family and friends might be interested in hearing about it.  I will try to only post the things that are of interest and skip the mundane and the educational jargon.  Here are the last few entries.  

Daily Journal of Student Teaching
                I was late again this morning.  I really will need to work on that.  Still I managed to follow what I hope will become an unbreakable habit of praying on the steps on the school building before entering the door.  I am here as a student, I am here as a teacher- a student of God and a teacher of His ways and I want Him to teach my and to teach through me. 
                Since most of yesterday was devoted to recovering from the crazy hours I kept at GYC and the long drive here from Baltimore, this was my first real day of class.  Miss Johns had the privilege to observe Mrs. Moses as she taught Esther, Josiah, Ria, Gaby, Darius, and Brittany.  I am already starting to like these people.  Mrs. Moses is so sweet and encouraging.  I don’t think I will be nervous teaching in front of her.  I am still a little shy around the students but a good game of hide and seek helped that.  I think they are warming up to me.  I want to show them Jesus.  I hope that they will like me, but I am more interested in teaching them. 
                I can’t wait to start teaching these sweet kids myself, but I am also glad for the chance to get on my feet and learn from the professionals.  I start teaching two subjects next week, I am trying to decide which ones. 
                I am finally a teacher, after all these years.  I pray I will do my best. 

My Name

                I think I am having an identity crisis.  Not only am I a strange mix of student and teacher that leaves me giving more questions than answers (I thought teachers were supposed to know the answers) but my name is under serious attack.  

                When I was born in the late eighties my parents loving named me Janalin Rae Johns.  It sounded so simple and nice to them.  However, it wasn’t long before my name started its life mission of embarrassing a large percentage of my casual acquaintances.  My name absolutely loves to run away from the memories of people.  As a coping mechanism these unfortunate individuals either avoided me or used a pseudonym.  Common pseudonyms include Jana (reserved for family and close friends), Jan (not my favorite), Jenny, Jackie (I don’t get it either), Janni, Janilu, umm you, teacher, uh, etc.  This is not to mention my numerous nicknames which I will not propagate by posting on the web.  I am used to trouble with my first name.  

                This time however, it is my last name.  (Well my first name too, especially the spelling)  My last name is one easy syllable.  John only there are four of us so it’s Johns.  What’s so hard about that?  Then, to be proper and respectful, I call myself Miss Johns around my grade school students.  That’s easy, Miss is for unmarried females like me, Johns is my last name, no stress right?    Wrong.  In the last twenty four hours I have been called Miss J. . . uhm,  Miss new Teacher, Miss Jan. . . uh Johns, Miss John and probably other things which I have forgotten.  I admit, the switch from Janalin to Miss Johns is hard for me too.  Even with the Miss Janalin phase in between.  I choked on it several times in the last two days.  

                The one that really makes me laugh though is Mrs. Johns.  Umm. . . that’s my mom.  I have a theory.  Somewhere in past the southern value system of respect for elders got into a fight with the southern drawl.  This left sweet little southern kids calling someone else’s mama Miz Lee and their unmarried teachers Miz Dixie.  This of course makes my dear mother who has been married for 27 years a Miz right along with the rest of us.  That troubling “r” in” Mrs.” left the poor kids dreadfully perplexed and the whole region has never recovered.  In an attempt to be sophisticated some attempted to put an “us” on the end (which is what the teacher said the “r” stood for) when addressing a woman, but have no idea whether it applies to single or to married women.  I have been called Mrs. so many times since moving to the south.  I just laugh and figure I might as well get used to it.  

                So who am I?  The kids and I are still trying to figure that out.  Am I a Miss or a Mrs.?  (that one at least I can answer J)  Am I mean or nice?  Will I let them get away with goofing off or will I stop them?  Am I a good teacher or an average teacher?  Am I friendly or shy?  Perhaps both?  Am I uncaring and “too busy” like so many adults in this world or do I care?  Does my life measure up to the standard I claim or am I a hypocrite?  Who am I?  

                Jacob was called by his name “supplanter” as an indication of his character.   After his night of wrestling with the angel and his conversion experience his received a new name “Israel” a prevailing prince of God.  God had made him that and called him by a name.  A new name for a new identity.  I am reminded of Isaiah 43:1  “Fear not for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name, thou art Mine.”  

                God not only knows who I am but He knows who He makes me.  He has promised me a new name.  “Thou shalt no more be termed Forsaken; neither shall thy land any more be termed Desolate: but thou shalt be called Hephzibah, and thy land Beulah: for the LORD delighteth in thee, and thy land shall be married.  For [as] a young man marrieth a virgin, [so] shall thy sons marry thee: and [as] the bridegroom rejoiceth over the bride, [so] shall thy God rejoice over thee.”  Isaiah 62: 4, 5.  I want to be known as the one who draws her identity from God.  Not from my job, much as I love it, not from other people, not from my beliefs or ideologies, but from God.  Who am I?  I am the girl that Jesus left heaven for.  I am the one who has been forgiven much and should love much.  I am the one who wishes to stand on Mount Zion with the hundred and forty and four thousand, having His father’s name written in their foreheads.  

I hope my students come to meet Him.  Who I am really isn’t important as long as I am in Him.  I hope they will come to know Him as never before.  As their source of identity.  Their all in all.  Their life and love. 

“And I will write upon him my new name.”  Revelation 3:14