Divine Intervention

After a weekend away, I started my morning slowly — putting some things away, thinking through the tasks of today, and generally shuffling around avoiding my Bible study time.  Why was I avoiding it?  No particular reason.  Just out of the flow.

You may have noticed that I haven’t posted in several days again.  A few things got in my way — an appointment here, a symptom flare-up there, a weekend trip to see the in-laws. And I find that when I get out of the routine, it is a little difficult for me to jump back in.  It’s like merging into traffic.  I’ve got to find an opening and just move in.

So, finally I did.  As I mentioned last week, I am studying the book of Hosea with my Bible study battalion.  The book is all about God choosing us, even though we are bent on pursuing other ‘gods’.  He didn’t choose us once, but He chooses us continuously.  It’s not over and over again, but perpetual choosing.  Even though we are perpetually wandering, perpetually looking around at all the shiny objects, perpetually taking our focus off of Him.

He is The. Faithful. Love. of our lives.  Period.

So, small example — He loves me and is faithful to me even though I was inconsistent in my Bible study and daydreamed during church yesterday.  (I’m telling you, this pastor’s wife is far less than ideal.) He’s so faithful that today when I picked up my Bible study, He had the page turned to a huge example.

(I know I’ve written before about how, in some ways, I am thankful for the health issues that I have.  Although I am often uncomfortable, fatigued, and frustrated with running from one doctor to the next, I have been granted an opportunity to slow down, reflect, and enter this new chapter.  In fact, I’ve been slowed down so much that I can do nothing else but sit in amazement at His provision during this time.)

The Big Example — the very first words on my devotion today, I kid you not:

Therefore, this is what I will do:

I will block her way with thorns;

I will enclose her with a wall,

So that she cannot find her paths. Hosea 2:6

Now of course, this passage is talking about Gomer, the unfaithful wife who wandered off to other men.  It is also about Israel, who wandered off to worship other gods.  However, it is also about me.  That’s how the Bible works.  It is, as it says, “living and active, sharper than any double-edged sword.”  And those words this morning cut through my foggy stupor to say, “Hello, Kristin, are you ready to sit down and hear this story about how I loved you enough to block your way with thorns so that you couldn’t continue to follow your butt-kicking, name-taking paths? Are you ready to hear again how much I love you and that I am able to keep you in this pattern of life so that you will make time to fit me into your routine?”

I mean, yes. Yes, I am ready. If I didn’t get caught by that scripture, I would’ve gotten caught by the first question that the author posed,

Can you think of any ‘thorns’ that God may have put in your path to slow you down and make you think twice about something you were doing? 

Maybe some people can get slowed down by hearing a song on the radio, listening to a sermon, or having a good talk with a friend over coffee.  Me?  I need industrial strength slowing down.  I wasn’t about to turn around of my own volition.  I had to be stopped dead in my path by the thorns of chronic illness.  I had to be relocated to a different home, state, and lifestyle.  I needed a re-boot.  Or should I say a re-built hard drive.  I needed a next chapter. 

And because He loved me, He gave it to me. And just like Gomer, even though I have been pursued and claimed, even though I have been given a new identity, I still sometimes try to go back to my old soldiering ways.  I mean, I’m still human.  And He knows that.  So, he perpetually pursues me and reminds me that He has called me by name and that I am His.

Jeremiah 31:3

I have loved you with an everlasting love;
    I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.

Yes, yes you have.

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The Teacher You Need, re-visit

I’ve been teaching since I lined up my childhood friends in chairs or desks in any garage or basement we were allowed to play in and ‘taught’ them the lesson of the day.

Some might say I was ‘bossy’. I prefer the term ‘influential’.  I had to start practicing early to hone the skills I would need to manage a classroom of teenagers and convince them that yes, they would write a three-page paper on the use of dashes in Emily Dickinson’s poetry.

Now that is not to say that I became “the boss” in the classroom.  I can be. I will be if I need to be.

I prefer to be the Ellen DeGeneres of the classroom. I like to make students laugh. I like to learn about them. I like to showcase their strengths and celebrate them. That’s my sweet-spot. Kids need a little “Ellen” in their lives. They need someone to be happy to see them, to dance with them, and to applaud them.

However, students also sometimes need a boss. They need to know that a limit exists. They need to understand that they are expected to comply with the teacher’s expectations. They need to know that if they choose not to comply, there will be a consequence. Not a punishment, necessarily, but a consequence.

Other times, kids need a mom in the classroom. My “mom” self shows up when a student reveals that her mother is in the hospital, that his dog died this morning, or that she hasn’t eaten since yesterday. The mom of the classroom has snacks in her desk, a shoulder to cry on, and the ability to grant an extension on any assignment. The mom oozes grace.

I have been known, on rare occasions, to turn a little Jack Nicholson in my classroom. I cock my eyebrow, quietly walk past a mildly misbehaving adolescent, and crush a hornet on the window sill with my bare hand. “Jack” shows up out of the blue. He makes off-the-wall comments to get a reaction.  He keeps class interesting.

I guess I developed a cast of personas to keep my students engaged, to keep them on task, and to help them feel loved. I wasn’t trying to do this; it just happened.

Sometimes when I was teaching in a high school classroom, “the boss” would show up to re-gain control on the heels of an “Ellen” appearance gone-rogue, and my students would say, “Mrs. Rathje, what’s wrong? Are you mad?” I would reply, “No, I’m not mad. I’m just willing to be whatever teacher you need me to be today.”

Recently I was reading how God used Hosea to announce that He he had had enough. He was going to punish His people, have no compassion on them, and refuse to acknowledge them (Hosea 1).  Yikes! Why so harsh? How could God do that to his own people?

Because He was willing to be whatever His people needed Him to be.

Sometimes we go rogue. We forget that God is God, and we are not.

When we need a line, a barrier, a boundary — He will provide it.

When we need affirmation, celebration, applause — He will give it.

When we need mercy — He has it in abundance.

Why does He do all these things?  Because He loves us, knows way more than us, and understands the consequences of us going our own way.  He is Creator, Redeemer, Friend, Lord. He is the Teacher who is exactly what we need Him to be.

Teacher I will follow you wherever you go.

Matthew 8:18