Syllabi

I can still see my seventeen-year-old self standing in a college bookstore, a stack of syllabi in hand. I expect the prep-for-class process has changed, but back then it worked like this:

  1. Register for classes. (In a gym full of card tables!)
  2. Pick up a syllabus for each class.
  3. Read through each one to see what will be required throughout the semester.
  4. Buy all the books needed for every class. (In person. At an actual bookstore.)

Hauling all those textbooks back to the dorm was no easy task. Talk about a beast of burden! The real burden, though, and the real beast, was in my own brain. I would inevitably look at a whole semester’s worth of assignments and wonder—with a good bit of worry—how I would ever be able to do all that work. Some part of me disregarded the long timeline, the months stretching out before me to offer the gift of ample time, as if it was all due TODAY.

Of course, I did have enough time, and did finish the assignments, and graduate and find employment and…But it took me a long time to learn this lesson:

When life looms large and its demands seem overwhelming, JUST DO TODAY!

Those early weeks of college were tainted by my insistence on mentally tackling way too much before the real time to do so. Life presents plenty of challenge, and when we try to take it all on at once, or even wonder how we will handle tomorrow while we are embroiled in today, we wreck any possibility of peace. Why do we do that? I think it has something to do with that old enemy of ours who seeks to steal, kill and destroy. It may also have something to do with our demented idea that we can control and handle all things on our own. Taking things one day at a time is much easier to do when we remember Who holds our future.

Jesus taught this lesson long ago. The sooner we learn it, the better!

“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matthew 6:34).

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14: 27).

Roots for Fruit by Beth Smith

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This is an interactive lesson, so if you’re game, stop reading and go grab a sheet of paper and a pen or pencil (or, if you want to be really creative, a couple of crayons.) I’m going to write about roots again. Go ahead and draw the trunk of a tree.

In Isaiah 37:31 (NIV), God said of His people, “Once more a remnant of the kingdom of Judah will take root below and bear fruit above.” I think God wanted to remind us that we need roots before we get fruits. Roots do plenty of growing underground, often before we see any results. Matthew 7:16-17 says, “By their fruit you will recognize them… A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit.” We want good fruit, but we need good roots first.

Jesus said, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit;” (John 15:5). Jesus is our taproot, the main root out of which our support roots spread.

Draw a long root straight down from your trunk. Label it Jesus.

So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness” (Colossians 2: 6-7).

Draw two roots out from the taproot. Label them faith and thankfulness.

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10 Things to Do When You Are Tired

My life is delightfully full—and also sometimes a bit out of balance. In other words, I get pretty pooped out now and then. What’s a body to do?

I know the Bible says that if I wait upon the Lord, I’ll renew my strength, but sometimes my strength, well, it needs renewing sooner rather than later. Here are a few steps I try to take:

Play worship music. It lifts my spirits and energizes me.

Use a Bible software app (like YouVersion) to fit in Bible reading on a busy day. Sometimes I listen while doing chores around the house or driving or lying flat on my back for a few minutes.

Put on a pair of supportive shoes. Don’t laugh until you’ve tried it. And this tip isn’t just for the over 45 crowd. I’ve been donning good shoes first thing in the morning since my kids were toddlers, and when I don’t, I pay for it by the end of the day.

Eat a piece of fruit. Sometimes, I just need a hit of sugar, but of the kind that will last a while without making me crash.

Try a cup of green tea—lots of possible benefits, only a little caffeine. Or give kukicha tea a try. (I love it, but its flavor isn’t for everyone.)

Reevaluate “The List.” Is there something that can be delegated or delayed?

Alternate “body tasks” (stuff that takes physical stamina) with “brain tasks” (the ones that require sitting and thinking.) At the very least, take short breaks from any particular type of task.

Remember, this time will probably pass. It’s easy to become even more tired today by thinking about all I have to do tomorrow, so I try to take things one day at a time. An easier day may crop up before long.  

Notice the “chocolate chips” of the day. Even when we’re tired, the day is better if we look for the little blessings and moments of joy sprinkled here and there.

And, of course, ask the Lord to provide strength. (He does promise it after all. See Isaiah 40.)

Back to Balaam

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I’m reading the book of Numbers again, struck afresh by the humor, oddity, and warning found in the story of Balaam. Here’s what was going on way back when…

The Moabites were afraid of the Israelites. Balak the King summoned Balaam the Prophet, saying, “Come and curse these dangerous folks. They’re numerous and far too powerful for me. I’ll pay handsomely!”

Wisely, Balaam asked God about this deal and heard, “Oh, no you don’t. These are my blessed people, and you must not put a curse on them!”

When Balaam conveyed his response to the Moabites, they begged him anyway, promising more money. Balaam, wise once again, answered, “Your king could give me his whole palace filled with silver and gold, and I still couldn’t do anything that went against my Lord’s command.”

Eventually God told Balak to go ahead and go with those begging Moabites, but to be careful to do only what he, the Lord, commanded. Balak headed out the next morning, traveling by donkey. An angel, armed with a sword and visible only to the donkey, blocked the way. What follows is the best part of the story.

  • The donkey stopped walking.
  • Balaam beat the donkey.
  • The scene repeated two more times.
  • Then the donkey talked!

The beast of burden said, “What have I ever done to you? Why would you beat me three times?”

  • Did Balaam gasp in utter amazement? No.
  • Did he get on his knees and ask the Lord what in the world was going on? No.
  • Did he argue with the donkey? (Surely not!) Yes, that’s exactly what he did.

At that poing God finally let Balaam see the armed angel, gave Balaam instructions and allowed him to proceed. When the time came to pronounce a curse, Balaam blessed Israel instead (three times, in fact). Balak the King was plenty angry, but all the obedient prophet had to say to him was, “Must I not speak what the Lord puts in my mouth?”

Look for the lessons in this crazy chapter:

  • Nothing is too hard for the Lord.
  • Obey God’s instructions, no matter how hard the pressure to do otherwise might be.
  • The Bible is not boring!

Do you have a favorite Old Testament passage? If so, I hope you’ll share it with me!

The Rock or Great Words from the Bible and Beth

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I like rocks. I have one from an ancient fort in Honduras, and one from a glacier I walked on in Alaska. I picked one up in Greece at the site of the first Olympic Games, but happened to see a sign that removal of any rock or plant was prohibited. I put it back.

My husband Bert is happy that I like rocks. They make for cheap souvenirs. Some women buy jewelry. I pick up rocks. Yes, I’ve reminded Bert that diamonds are rocks, but he didn’t offer any for my souvenir collection.

Rocks are also a good reminder of our Lord. Psalmists called the Lord God a rock many times.

  • “The Lord is my Rock, my fortress and my deliverer. My God is my rock, in whom I take refuge” (Psalm 18:2 NIV).
  • “Turn your ear to me, come quickly to my rescue; be my rock of refuge, a strong fortress to save me” (Psalm 31:2-3 NIV).
  • “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the Rock and firm strength of my heart and He is my Portion forever” (Psalm 73: 26 AMP).

When life is hard, we feel as if we’re walking through mud, slipping and sliding and trudging along. Where can we find firm footing? Here’s where:

“I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand” (Psalm 40: 1-2 NIV).

We need the Rock. In Psalm 61:2 (NIV), David cries out to God, pleading, “Lead me to the Rock that is higher than I.” He is the One who knows more about everything than we do. He can put us on the right, high, firm path. Why will he do that? Because he loves us.

When things all around us are crumbling, God is firm.  2 Timothy 2:19 (AMP) promises that, “The firm foundation of God stands, sure and unshaken.”

My dad was a humorous, kind and hardworking man. I loved him, and was blessed to know that he loved me. We were churchgoers, but Daddy often fell asleep during the sermon. In the superior attitude of my teen years, I wondered if he was really saved. Daddy always said, “People shouldn’t talk about politics or religion. It always causes an argument. Just talk about fishing or pretty girls.” So we didn’t talk about church. Then one day I learned that Daddy’s favorite hymn was The Solid Rock. From then on, I always knew where and how Daddy stood on faith.

  My hope is built on nothing less

  Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.

  I dare not trust the sweetest frame

  But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.

  When darkness veils his lovely face’

  I rest on his unchanging grace.

  In every high and stormy gale,

  My anchor holds within the veil.

  His oath, His covenant, His blood,

  Support me in the ‘whelming flood.

  When all around my soul gives way,

  He then is all my hope and stay.

  When he shall come with trumpet sound,

  O may I then in Him be found!

  Dressed in His righteousness alone,

  Faultless to stand before the throne.

  On Christ the solid rock I stand.

  All other ground is sinking sand.

  All other ground is sinking sand.[1]

I hope you’ll pick up a rock today and carry it in your pocket or purse, or maybe put it where you pray or where you will see it often. Let your little rock remind you of the Rock, the One upon whom we can stand firm. Christ is still the rock and wants to be, as David declared him to be, our Savior, our Refuge, our Fortress, our Sanctuary, our Redeemer, our Deliverer, our Firm Strength, and the Cornerstone of our lives.

All other ground is sinking sand.


[1]Words by Edward Mote, circa 1834. First appeared in Mote’s Hymns of Praise, 1836.

Rooted in the Right Place by Beth Smith (my mom!)

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Imagine this conversation between God and a typical Christian. (I’ll call him Chris.)

God: “What sort of person do you want to be?”

Chris: “I want to be filled with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.”

God: “Terrific! That’s just what I created you to be. ‘Made any plans for becoming like that?”

Chris: “Well, I do as many good things as I can and try really hard not to do bad things.”

God: “How’s that working for you?”

(We’d all have to answer just like Chris) “Honestly, it isn’t working.”

God: “Well, let me remind you of why you’re failing. Apart from me you can do nothing. But, with me all things are possible. If you want to be that sort of person, to have that good fruit, you’ve got to be planted in the right place.”

Chris: “But, God, how do I get planted in the right place?”

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