A Time for Every Task

When I feel overwhelmed with multiple projects, I remember the wisdom of setting a time for every task. This way, I can direct my full attention to a project without distraction. In your own life, you might set a specific time for writing, home projects, correspondence, etc.

If you feel scattered, one simple modification might help. For example, you don’t need to respond to emails, texts, and phone calls all day long. Why not respond to these only between 3:00-4:00 PM for example? Or, why not schedule 30 minutes to do that thing you don’t want to do that’s nagging at you? It might be cleaning a bathroom, organizing something, or tackling some administrative task. Just do that thing in the 10-30 minutes you’ve scheduled.

I love learning new ways to keep focused and meet deadlines. That overwhelmed and scattered feeling often goes away when you schedule when you’ll think about that thing that’s overwhelming you.

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Something Beautiful

This weekend, a dear friend shared this painting with me. It’s called “First Day In Heaven” by Egyptian artist Kerolos Safwat. I can’t stop looking at it, and it brings tears to my eyes. I don’t know anything more about this painting or this artist, but I hope this image blesses you like it has blessed me.

 

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More Power

This morning I thought about how much I desire God to display His power more and more in and through my life. What do we have to do to release this power?

I thought about this all morning, and then I realized this beautiful thing:

In the Bible, the most powerful one is the humble servant.

The most powerful moment we observe in scripture is when Jesus lays down His power. I thought about Philippians 2 and how Jesus took on the nature of a servant. What a display of God’s power follows! Consider the words here where Paul instructs us to have “the same mindset as Christ Jesus”:

Who, being in very nature God,
    did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
    by taking the very nature of a servant,
    being made in human likeness.
 And being found in appearance as a man,
    he humbled himself
    by becoming obedient to death—
        even death on a cross!

 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
    and gave him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
    in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
    to the glory of God the Father.

When I think about the upside-down picture of the most powerful one being the humble, obedient servant, I realize God’s agenda for me. It’s a lifelong journey to become less so He becomes more. It’s to serve. It’s to surrender. It’s to live humbly and carefully in alignment to a different King, in a different Kingdom, with a different model of power.

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Rebuild You

Someone recently quoted a special verse from Isaiah 54 that helped him in a time of difficulty. I loved thinking about it this morning. The imagery in these verses refers to Zion, but my friend liked to think about his own heart when reading it. I think it’s both!

O afflicted one, storm-tossed and not comforted,
    behold, I will rebuild you with stones of turquoise, your foundations with 
 sapphires. I will make your battlements of rubies,
    your gates of sparkling jewels,
    and all your walls of precious stones.
All your children will be taught by the Lord,
    and great will be their peace.

I think about those of us feeling afflicted, storm-tossed, and not comforted. Listen to the promise that God can rebuild you. He rebuilds lives. Jesus enters in to crumbling situations and rebuilds. God also adorns; the Holy Spirit beautifies.

If you’ve ever witnessed a home-improvement project, you know it always takes longer than you think it will. It’s always a slower, much messier, and more costly process. You must surrender to the contractor or the head builder. Letting God rebuild your life means you surrender to the process and endure. It means you wait patiently and trust. You do what God says no matter what the cost. It might involve ripping up an unsteady foundation to put in the new foundations of sapphire and the gates of sparkling jewels.

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3 P’s of Good Teaching

Today I talked with a colleague about the 3 P’s of Great Teaching.

Positive Mood: Research shows how creating a positive mood in a classroom enhances learning and creativity. In my classroom, I increase the positive mood by playing music, asking about good news people are celebrating, or having students answer an attendance question about what’s going well for them.

Prior Knowledge:I’m learning to check for prior knowledge before launching into a lesson plan. Asking students what they already know (and allowing them to display their knowledge) allows them to form stronger cognitive connections as they then learn new skills.

Perform the Skill: A great class involves assessing for understanding. I’m trying more to invite students to perform the skills I’m teaching whether on the spot, in an email later, or in a short assignment. Immediately after teaching a concept, good teachers assess for understanding. Then, they make adjustments based on what students need.

Create a positive mood, ask for prior knowledge, and let students perform the skill you’re teaching.

And that’s your teaching lesson for the day!

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A Time to Make Sun-Dried Tomatoes in the Oven

If you’re like me, you planted way too many tomato plants! I’m overflowing with cherry tomatoes, beefsteak, and heirlooms. Nobody needs them at church. And my neighbors who once gladly received my excess bounty now politely refuse. Everyone has too many tomatoes.

What can I do with so many tomatoes? Then I remember!

Just because I didn’t plant Roma tomatoes (the typical tomato for sauces, freezing, and storing) doesn’t mean I can’t dry pans of cherry tomatoes in my oven. You can follow this recipe: https://www.shelovesbiscotti.com/sun-dried-cherry-tomatoes/

I gather a few bowls of tomatoes, wash them, and dry them for the winter. I like to freeze my oven-dried tomatoes and use them all year for pizza, chilis and soups, and sauces.

Just when you thought you didn’t know what to do with your tomatoes, you now know what to do!

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Even More

By now I should expect the surprise second harvest of raspberries, but it always catches me by surprise. Now? After I already gathered so many berries in early summer? If feels extravagant and undeserved to gather so much blessing.

But I love the symbol of it. I love extravagant and underserved things that showcase what God’s grace is really like. It’s unexpected, too. I think of how Brennan Manning describes the love of God in The Ragamuffin Gospel. He reminds us that God requires us to accept His “inexplicable, embarrassing kind of love.”

Extravagant, undeserved, inexplicable, unexpected. So good it’s embarrassing.

I think of that love as I stuff too many raspberries, warm from the late-summer sun, into my mouth. I already had my fill, and yet God gives even more. He indeed lavishes His love.

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Welcome Them Back

It’s the first day of school! In our town, children return in person and in masks. With one daughter at home and still in high school, it’s time. 

It’s time to revive the after school snacks. The snacks have been part of the Warm Welcome now for over 15 years.

Your own children might say they don’t need them. They may say they won’t be hungry. They might even say they are too old for snack time!

Nonsense. People don’t know what they want sometimes.

Pop a batch of popcorn and think about a few tasty beverage options. Set things in place on the kitchen counter just in case. I can guarantee they’ll pause by the kitchen and grab a handful of popcorn. Next, they’ll find themselves sitting down. Soon, you’ll have children now sipping some iced beverages, talking about their day, and feeing refreshed.

They won’t even know it’s happening.

(PS: Popcorn ranks as my top choice for a snack because it takes a while to eat, makes you thirsty, and keeps a person in place to chat for a while. And if you don’t remember the Warm Welcome, it’s all about welcoming a child back home. Play some music. Light a candle. Tidy up. Put out a great snack. Everyone needs a Warm Welcome.)

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As My Helper

This morning I noted the two times we see the idea of God’s helping presence in Psalm 118. I love this verse: “The Lord is on my side as my helper” (7) and “I was pushed hard, so that I was falling, but the Lord helped me” (13).

Can you imagine the full weight of divine aid at your disposal? Who are we to have it? It seems ridiculous to call the Almighty God our helper. But He is!

When we feel pushed hard today or in need of any kind of aid, God is there beside us.

 

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A Commissioning

This morning, our pastor prayed over the faculty who start teaching at Penn State in the morning. He invited the professors to stand up in their seats, and he then commissioned us.

He asked those around us to reach out their hands toward us in blessing. He then asked each faculty member to open their hands in a posture of receiving from God.

So I did.

Our pastor prayed God would bless us and that we might be a blessing to our students. As I prayed along and received this sacred calling on my life, I considered all the ways I’m praying for myself and other Christian professors:

I pray that when students come into our presence, they feel as if they’ve had an encounter with Unexplainable Love.

I pray when students sit under our teaching, they feel strangely filled with hope and possibility for their lives.

When students gather with us, may they feel tied into a community they never thought possible.

May everything we say tether others to a spiritual reality.

When walking into a room, may we know Christian professors bring the very spirit of the living God; they usher Christ into the midst of chalk and Powerpoint, desks and laptops. They change the atmosphere. Christian professors carry redemption inside of them. We carry in Jesus who is the fulfillment of every possible longing, no matter how deep and complex, that can answer every question a student has because Christ is the one “in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Colossians 2:3). 

We cannot fathom this unseen work, but I pray we release it to operate fully.

I do not take this calling lightly. I’ve been commissioned today.

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