Change is in the air


I am pretty excited about this.  Yesterday, my husband and I took our dog to the park to walk after a long winter hibernation.  We were not alone.  The paths were crowded with prisoners set free from the bondage of subzero temperatures.  We sprung the clock forward and were launched into spring, or so it seems.

My husband announced this morning, “I packed my winter coat away.”  I walked across campus in just jeans and a sweater.  The sun is shining and it looks like we’ll hit the high forties and low fifties most every day this week.  Yippee!

Spring is so hopeful.  I just know that under the thick crust of snow, some daffodils are waking up and thinking about breaking the surface of the soil.  As the dingy whiteness melts into the river, fresh green grass will sprout and blanket the yard outside our home. It’ll be fresh and new.

I could use a little ‘new’.  Could you?

Some friends and I are meeting once a week to talk about turning, repenting, resting, renewing, and re-setting. It’s a pretty Lutheran/Lenten thing to do, really.  We start with Ash Wednesday acknowledging that “dust we are and to dust we shall return.”  We enter the Lenten season contemplatively, acknowledging the truth about ourselves and admitting — “I’m getting it all wrong.” So, these friends and I are really opening ourselves up to one another and inviting one another to ask, “How can I turn from this? How can I rest in this? How can I be renewed? How can I re-set?”

I didn’t really give anything up for Lent, but the addition of this weekly community of confession — of agreeing with one another that we don’t have it all figured out — has provided a space for me to be ok with my insufficiencies, to openly admit that I am a work in progress.

Now that may not be revolutionary for you, but for me it’s a space that I haven’t always allowed myself. I have spent a lot of energy over the years thinking I was right, justifying my actions, and plowing over (or simply ignoring) those who didn’t agree with me.

I mean, as long as I’m confessing, why hold back, right?

Over the years in my classroom, I often taught my students that “anybody can change.”  This was one of my many “mini-sermons” I gave to teach life lessons.  I would give the “anybody can change” sermon when students were annoyed with coaches, other teachers, each other, or their parents.  I would say, if we expect that people will never change, we don’t allow them the space to make changes.  I sometimes cited as an example a former student who prided himself on being the class clown.  He disrupted almost every class he attended and found himself meeting with the Admissions Review Board on more than one occasion.  We would say, “You are a natural born leader.  Please, use that power for good!  Lead your peers positively, not negatively.” For four years, we encouraged this student to change.  For four years we believed he could.  Yet, as he walked across the stage at graduation, we were still witnessing the immature disruptive student.  Three years later, the student showed up at my classroom door — shirt and tie, freshly cropped, and somewhat sheepish looking.  He wanted to let me know that he had become the captain of the football team at his university and that he had made the dean’s list.  “You were right, Mrs. Rathje.”  Anybody can change.

Now, I usually tell that story to point out the fact that anybody can change, but also to show what an amazing teacher I am — see what an impact I had on that student!  But really, the object lesson is for me.

Anybody can change.  Anybody can turn.  Anybody can re-set.  Even me.

2 Corinthians 5:17

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.

The old has passed away; behold the new has come.

Relentless, pt. 2

You won’t believe what happened yesterday afternoon.  I had already ordered my Bible study on prayer from Amazon, I had already blogged, I had done my editing work and a few other tasks around the house, so I decided to drop by the library and pick up the books that were being held for me.

Remember how I said I had been looking for a Bible study and I had even checked the library for one, to no avail? Was I surprised when I got to the library, picked up my ‘held’ books and found among them a Bible study called “10 Weeks of Devotional Prayer”.  He is relentless!

God knew that I would find the online study with email reminders yesterday, but a week or so ago, He had me request another study (I think I actually requested two or three and this is the one that arrived) because I am just – that – thick and He wanted to be sure I got the point! He wants to hear from me every day!!!

Let me clarify here that I was not actually looking for a Bible study on prayer — that would require yet another change in my life, another commitment, another step in acknowledging that He is God and I am not; a daily confession that He is in control and I am not.

Have I mentioned before that I am stubborn?  It is no small miracle that at this moment I am open to receiving this message from God.  It is no small miracle that I am willing to act on it.  But it is a HUGE miracle that I am actually excited about this next part of the journey.

Seriously, I am a changed woman.  It’s almost laughable!  It’s 8:43am.  By this time last year I had been at work for almost two hours, had prepared my classroom for the day, reprimanded any number of students for uniform violations, missing homework, or eating in the hallway, coached a couple of students on writing projects, met with another administrator, returned a dozen emails, and possibly even had a meeting with a parent.  And I had eight more hours to go! This morning, I rolled out of bed around 8:00am, made my tea, had a cup of homemade granola (delicious, by the way), fed the dog, had a devotion (which was about how we get far away from God — I can’t make this stuff up), and am now sitting in my mis-matched pajamas with disheveled hair trying to decide if I should shower or not before my 9:30 walking date.  On today’s schedule?  A walk, a haircut, and a half-dozen young people for dinner. That’s all.

It’s because of this shift, this opportunity to be still, this grace period, that I am able to see that God is God and I am not — to see that He has been holding me the whole time — to know that I am rescued by grace.  It’s because I am not soldiering on that I can see that the fight was never mine.

Today’s scripture verse?  I had a little trouble finding Micah, but it was worth the search.

Rejoice not over me, O my enemy, when I fall, I shall rise;

when I sit in darkness, the LORD will be a light to me…

He will bring me out to the light…”

Micah 7:8-9

I have fallen many times. God has been relentless in His pursuit of me.  He has rescued me by grace over and over again.  He has brought me out of my self-constructed darkness and placed me in His light.


The past couple of weeks I’ve been a little anxious about a tiny detail in my life — my Bible study.  Ok, it’s not a tiny detail.  It’s a major part of the structure of my day.  I’ve told you again and again about how I get up, feed the dog, make my tea, do my Bible study, and write my blog.  It’s my routine.  And, guys, I got to the end of my Bible study! It was an eight-week course that required homework five days a week and a weekly gathering with the girls!  Now, we are going to continue meeting, but our weekly gatherings are lagging a little behind the daily study, so we need a couple of weeks to catch up in class before we start the next book.

And I need homework — now!

I’ve been looking online for a book study that I can do on my own.  I’ve also checked at the library.  But, I just haven’t found anything.

I got up this morning and had some time to do my routine when I realized that (gasp!) I don’t have a Bible study!!!

So, I thought, certainly there is a solution.  I went to my old standby and clicked on ‘devotionals’.  And, a few clicks later found a study for women that drew me in.  It’s topic? Nehemiah and prayer.

Yes, yes, I hear you, God.  I know that it’s good that I have added back the spiritual discipline of Bible study, and I am also aware that although we have spoken to each other recently, we need to start having some daily conversations. 

Isn’t it amazing that after all this time God still wants to hear from me every day? I really used to be pretty faithful in prayer.  In fact it was pretty standard for my husband and me to join the prayer team about the minute we joined a church.  Not sure why it was at the seminary that my prayer life faltered, but it happened.   Sure, I still prayed at the beginning of each class period with my students and I bowed my head in prayer at church, but I wasn’t having those daily bare-my-heart to God conversations.  And I’m still not.

But that hasn’t kept God from pursuing me, has it?  A few years ago, my husband was pressing me and pressing me to have a small group Bible study in our home.  Our family was a bit of a mess at the time; our marriage was a bit of a mess, too, if I’m really going to be honest.  Why, on earth, would I want to welcome people into that?

My husband was tired of me putting him off, so he finally said, “this Monday, three guys are coming over at 7:00pm for Bible study, you can join us or not.”  Well, ok, then.  You should’ve seen these three young single guys — a future pastor, a future doctor, and a future physician’s assistant — standing in my kitchen, grinning.  I asked if they had had anything to eat, of course they hadn’t.  Before I knew what was happening, I had committed to making dinner for them every Monday.

It wasn’t long before three guys turned into twenty young adults — seminarians, med students, scientists, and young professionals. Every week they sat around my livingroom — in furniture and on the floor — studying the Bible,  eating, petting Chester, singing, and praying.  I’ve told them, but I’m sure they don’t fully understand, that they were a tool of God to begin the healing in our marriage and in our family.  They were the most difficult group for me to leave in St. Louis.  They were an unexpected gift from God.

And so is my group of sixteen or more lovely Wednesday morning ladies.  This, from the self-described butt-kickin’, name-takin’ soldier who doesn’t need anybody thankyouverymuch.

I read the devotion on Nehemiah and prayer.  At the bottom of the page, part of the actual devotion, were these words…”consider joining our free four-week Bible study on prayer…it starts today, November 17.”

Seriously?  His pursuit is that relentless? Yup.

I went on Amazon, I bought the book, I signed up for the daily email reminders. Guys, I think God wants to hear from me every day.  Starting today.

I Thessalonians 5:17

pray continually