The War for Independence

independent-woman-3566942_1920“I REFUSE TO BE DEPENDENT,” proclaims an inspirational poster in the physical therapist’s office.

Amen. Why else would I be torturing myself twice a week and committing (more or less)to exercise at home?

Americans have always had a reputation for being fiercely independent. We celebrate the anniversary of our War for Independence from Great Britain every July. Much of our youth revolves around “growing up” and milestones such as getting our first job and our first car, then moving away from home.

That’s normal, right? Even preferable to being dependent on someone else.

We even let this attitude infect our spiritual lives: God helps those who help themselves. If you’re up for following a short rabbit trail, check out the discussion of this saying in Wikipedia. The final section, which covers how many people think this statement is in the Bible, and whether this idea is actually biblical, is fascinating!

In my life, the “War for Independence” is one of my primary spiritual battles. Winning this battle means I must lose my independence. Just as I rely on the Lord for salvation, I must learn to rely on Him for my other needs. Unfortunately, when my sin nature flares, I find that I don’t really like to be dependent on God. I want Him to be there when I need Him, yes, but I’m not wild about needing to need Him!

Does that make sense?

Adam and Eve apparently felt the same way. They opted for trying to become as wise as God. Abraham got tired to waiting for God to make Him the father of a great nation and took matters into his own hands. Satan may have been counting on Jesus to cease being dependent and submitting to His Father’s will when he tempted Jesus in the wilderness.

On my fleshly and feisty days, I dislike being a clay pot in the hands of the Potter. I’m like a terrible two-year-old, stomping my foot and saying, “No!”

But it’s the Potter’s job to make sure I learn to rely on Him and remember the good results when I do. Despite their Ebenezer stones, various festivals, and scriptural records, the Israelites struggled to remember and rely on God’s faithfulness. I journal and rely on scripture to remind me that God is always faithful and utterly reliable. As I review these and listen to fellow believers recount their own stories, the Holy Spirit strengthens me in my battle to depend on God.

I can adopt the posture of dependence more easily when I think of my relationship to God as a child to her Father. He invites us to bring our all anxieties to Him, which requires humbling ourselves under His mighty hand.

Why be dependent?

Only works done by the Spirit will last.

It glorifies God instead of ourselves.

It prevents lapsing into legalism and works-based religion.

We will grow in grace and become more like Jesus.

What better reason do we need?

Preaching to myself again!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Preaching to Myself: 99 Sheep Syndrome

sheepI memorized Psalm 23 in Vacation Bible School when I was seven. In the King James Version, of course–that’s all we knew. I earned a plaque of the psalm, but the gift I appreciated the most at the time was a Barbie doll! In high school, our choir learned an anthem called The New 23rd. It was based on the Living Bible version, and it’s beautiful. So is the classic Scottish hymn I discovered later.

My point? I’ve known this beautiful psalm most of my life–almost too well.

Psalm 23 was paired with Luke 15:3-7 in a reading this morning, and I almost opted for another passage because of their familiarity.

I’m glad I didn’t. The two passages stewed in my heart along with yesterday’s sermon.

I don’t know if I’m sheep number twelve, or number ninety-nine. But in the story in Luke reference is made to The Ninety and Nine, I’ve called the syndrome I suffer from “the 99th Sheep Syndrome.”

A not-too-recent Sunday sermon was a rousing reminder of our primary mission as Christians: seeking the lost sheep, aka number one hundred. The pastor admitted that the destiny of those who don’t know Christ is a hard truth to swallow, and he even reminded us of ways we cope with the truth that those without Christ will be separated from God eternally, in hell: we ignore the truth, we try to rewrite it, we believe it but do nothing–or we do something about it.

I wander between the do-nothing believers and the doers. I think part of the problem is the fact that I sometimes suffer from 99th Sheep Syndrome! Much of the herd is right there with me, scampering and bleating around the shepherd’s feet. “Baa! Baa! Look at me! Feed me! Listen to me! Hold me!”

Maybe we 99 Sheep Syndrome sufferers forget that we’re supposedly seasoned, mature believers. We like to ride on the shepherd’s shoulders and be coddled and celebrated. (Here’s where the sheep analogy breaks down a bit. Hopefully, we’re not quite as dumb as sheep are reputed to be.) The reality is, though, that we really (should?!) know how to feed and care for ourselves. We shouldn’t require the constant care of our leaders and our Shepherd. We have work to do.

The wonderful news is this: because of Who our Shepherd is, He doesn’t need to look at us, attend to us, or know us more. He already knows us fully, inside and out. Attending to the 100th sheep doesn’t diminish His attention to us one iota! He never fails to provide banquets, streams, fresh green grass, and healing oil.

Assured of his completely adequate protection, we can stop our bleating and look at Him, attend to Him, and learn to know Him more!

He’s chosen us to help search for the lost sheep! When we do bleat, may it be, “Baa! Use me!” 

Preaching to myself today!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Teacher’s Journey: Meet Cassie Franklin

Remember that old saw, “Those who can, do; those who can’t, teach”?

Chances are, you’ve been tempted to think that from time to time about a teacher, but probably not often enough to justify the saying. Cassie Franklin, the main character of The Substitute,  deserves a bumper sticker on her car proclaiming, “Those who can, teach.”

I’m proud to introduce Cassie and have you share in her professional and spiritual journey. Here’s a sneak peek at the back cover copy of my latest release, The Substitute.

 

She has a foolproof recipe for success and even shares it with others.

When her family moves, seasoned home economics teacher Cassie Franklin never dreams she won’t land a job in a school district known for hiring the crème de la crème. But when the first day of school rolls around without an interview, she begins to worry.

A call to substitute at Sully High School just might be her lucky break.

Or not. Sour staff members and a butchered budget sabotage her every move.

Under increasing pressure, Cassie fights to prove she’s still a professional. Can she tweak her cherished formula for success before becoming a total flop?

The Substitute is Book Two in the Sully Parkway series and is best enjoyed after reading Book One, The Jesus Car.

Now available on Amazon in Kindle and paperback versions!

The Substitute final ecover

The Dog Walker Sings for Joy

No, not “dings,” I wrote, “sing.” I started writing this post in my head, and when I hit the keyboard, auto-correct dictated my first line for me! But it couldn’t have been more appropriate…

I won’t start with the ding, though.

It’s been months since our Sunday service was snowed out and our pastor issued the #phil4challenge in his Facebook Live sermon. We had 21 days of devotions reminding us to: choose to be joyful, pray with thanksgiving, think on noble things, and repeat daily. Of course, the “repeat daily” meant the Lord would be assigning plenty of homework! “Anybody can grow in grace”–even me. Even you.

But first, we make mistakes–dings.

Last Sunday morning I had a lot on my plate and left Angie at the sitter’s house before going to church. After church, I wasn’t hungry, so I thought this might be a great time to strip the kitchen floor. Enough with the waxed-on dirt! It couldn’t take more than an hour, could it?

For inspiration, I started playing the long-time AWOL Young Messiah tape I found.  Great beat and immortal words. I opened the front, back, and deck doors and moved most of the stuff out of the kitchen and into the hall. I re-read the directions to the stripping product. Chemical-resistant shoes? Who knows? I ran upstairs and put on a pair of rubber-soled shoes I didn’t like. Mindy the cat was safely ensconced on my pillow. Goggles? I had some downstairs but didn’t want to bother. I needed my reading glasses, and they have big lenses. Good to go! Ding!

mop and bucketApply generously. I used dollar store mops suggested by the clerk at Home Depot.

Ding! Don’t allow to dry before mopping up. Or something like that. I minced over the floor and worked from windows to doorway, hoping I wasn’t leaving tracks with my Bigfoot shoes.

Whew! That smell is strong. Better turn on both ceiling fans. Upstairs, Mindy had left the pillow. Under the bed. Would the fumes be less toxic for her closer to the ground? Not sure.

Ding! Ding! Do not allow to dry before mopping up. The stuff sure was tacky. And the fumes were strong.

One of God’s growth lessons for me has been asking for help. Little 9-pound Mindy needed help even more than I did. I should get her out of the house asap. Remembering the time I’d mixed cleaning products when I cleaned the bathtub and felt mega-woozy, I realized I needed help too. I mopped a few more inches and caved in to the Lord.

I called three people and struck out. Mopped some more. Still tacky.

Call three, my RN friend with the chemistry teacher husband, finally called back. As they had done many times before, they changed the agenda for their day and came to my rescue. While I waited or their arrival, I called poison control. They could only help if something were wrong with me. Thank You, Lord, not yet.

What a relief to have someone else to help me. My nurse friend insisted that we work on opening the windows I was convinced were painted shut. Success. Much better for Mindy upstairs.

It turned out this speed reader had misread the directions! Do not allow to dry before rinsing two times with warm water. We headed out to Home Depot for advice. The flooring salesman, despite the fact we weren’t going to buy anything, listened to our tale patiently and that was about it. Nice guy, though.

My friends encouraged me to eat lunch. We stocked up on dollar store mops and rubber gloves. I sent them home. What amazing friends. Thank You, Lord! I hope I can return the favor someday.

Mopped some more.

Seeing the front door propped open and kitchen furnishings sitting in the foyer, a passing friend inquired if I was okay–or was I moving? Thank You, Lord, for surrounding me with concerned friends.

At least the stuff dries quickly, even if the yellow stains on my floor were still there! With just enough energy to put everything back in place and stumble to the car, I texted the long-suffering dog sitter again. “On my way. Finally.” Yet another friend. We’d shared about more than dogs. Thank You, Lord.

Thank You that I survived the fumes. Thank You that I have such great friends. Thank You that even I  can learn to reach out. 

I don’t think I walked Angie that afternoon, but I definitely sang in the car. Songs of thanksgiving. I’d been protected, and I’d learned to reach out for help.

Don’t wait as long as I often do to reach out for help! The results are worth singing about!

Anybody can grow–in grace!

Two, Four, Six, Eight…

…who do we appreciate? If you can finish this rhyme and know the context for its use, you might be Holly Bush, but you’re definitely not Pam Green! I had no clue that it’s used by youth teams at the end of a game to cheer their opponents!

I was just looking for a clever way to approach Teacher Appreciation Week and introduce you to Holly Bush, the PE teacher heroine of The Jesus Car.

My dreams of writing mini-tributes to the teachers who encouraged my writing efforts fizzled as I wrestled my manuscript to the mat for submission on Amazon.

Why did I, named last for the team in a grudging tone, make my heroine into a PE teacher?

Holly Bush entered the world of Sully Parkway as a minor character in The Substitute, Book Two of the series, which I actually wrote first. Holly’s optimism, thoughtfulness, and enthusiasm charmed me so much that I wanted to know more about her. As I planned The Jesus Car, I “learned” that Holly was most at home on the volleyball court, and didn’t consider herself much of a scholar. She also wanted to grow closer to God and farther from the influence of a fellow named Frank. She came to Northern Virginia and landed her dream job teaching PE at Sully High School. The Lord began to refine her faith, because anybody can grow—in grace.

I survived those miserable years in PE class, bullied by classmates (and occasionally by teachers) and lived to tell a different tale. God used those tough experiences to teach me empathy and perseverance. When I became a teacher, I vowed to be like my many encouraging teachers and to watch out for the underdog.

What a blast to dredge up the once nauseating gym smells and routines and weave them into Holly’s day! Thank goodness I never had a class with  Holly’s colleagues Yolanda and Katrina! But there’s a story behind both these ladies, too. You’ll see!

The Jesus Car front cover

Meet Holly and her colleagues in The Jesus Car, now available in Kindle and paperback versions on Amazon! 

For those of you who’ve already met Holly, here’s a trivia question that you can prep in advance of my Facebook launch party in June (exact date TBA): Name at least one reason the lovely coach pictured above CAN’T be Holly Bush. 

Please don’t answer in the comments. Email your response to me at:

pam@pamgreenwrites.com

If you’d like to receive my newsletter, you can request it in your email!

 

 

 

Psalm of the First Spring Walk

forsythia-324055_1920Praise the Lord warmly

All His people!

Praise Him,  ye revelers in the sun

And seekers of the shade.

Praise Him in gentle breezes

Bearing smells of yesteryear

And swell with hope for tomorrow

Ye quickened hearts.

Praise Him with sound of lawnmower

And crack of baseball bat.

Raise unto Him the tang of mulch

Mingled with incense of box elder.

Tweet unto Him, ye songbirds

Shower Him with velvet petals

Ye flowering trees.

Feast on His presence

In froufrou of forsythia

All His creatures.

Chirp in contentment, ye crickets.

Rest in Him

All His children

In cool starriness of night.

Praise the Lord

All the earth!

Dogged Pursuit of Joy

Thanks to an unfortunate mishap last week, Angie has been on a new medication that’s been tough on both of us. Her tummy has been upset and her appetite has been poor. We will soon rate a brass plaque on our exam room at the animal hospital. What a week!

Because I had an early orthodontist appointment this morning, I had to skimp on some of my usual morning routine. Angie had slept with her crate door open overnight so she wouldn’t be trapped if she had GI “issues.” I found her on the gold chair when I came downstairs. The crate was in good shape. She rolled over a bit for a tummy rub but wasn’t overly perky. I carried her into the back yard for a quick potty break, but she came right back inside and plodded upstairs. Reluctantly, I crated her with the door shut and left for my appointment.


I’m grateful that I’d seen an email devotion while I scarfed down a banana and yogurt. Susie Larson urged me to “scoot a little closer to Jesus.” I tried to do that on the way to my appointment. The germ of a plan began to form regarding Angie.

At the orthodontist, they took multitudes of pictures and scans in arcane positions. I have about a month wearing my current aligner only at night, and now I’m celebrating that freedom. At the time, I was in a rotten mood. I think I stopped short of being rude, but I was far from cheerful. I ignored the Holy Spirit’s prompt to compliment the receptionist on her necklace, but at least we exchanged the obligatory wishes for a nice day before I left.

I’ve had to make a dogged attempt to choose joy over the last two or three days. With the exception of Angie’s situation, nothing about my life circumstances has changed. I am well aware that the enemy would be delighted if he could get me to procrastinate on my writing, start dreading my role helping with the new Freedom Group, not invite any of my favorite couples to the Love and Laughter Date Night (they’d be on their own, of course), and panic about Angie. Sometimes choosing joy is counter-intuitive and just a dogged act of obedience. Feelings (may) come later. The enemy wants me to think that depression, which troubled me as a young adult, will come back to stay–that God hasn’t freed me from it. That’s not true–he is guarding my heart and my mind in Christ Jesus.

After eating a Panera breakfast (plus my lunch baguette!) in the car on the way home and washing it down with real iced tea (not herbal), I felt better. I decided it was worth the risk to discontinue the medication. I told the doctor when she checked on Angie later today. We worked out a compromise I’m happy with.

The sun came out while Angie and I took a nice walk. It was a great opportunity to sing as much of “There is Sunshine in My Soul Today” and “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” as I know. It really is true that praise is a powerful spiritual weapon. This time, the feelings of joy came along with the spontaneous (not dogged) praise.

The Prince of Darkness grim– We tremble not for him; His rage we can endure, For lo, his doom is sure, One little word shall fell him.

What do you think is the “one little word” that will fell the enemy?

Hard-hatted contentment

I was convinced I’d be Teacher of the Year in no time. Make that at no time. Eventually, I made my peace with that. I concentrated on doing a good job and learning to be content. I loved Blaise Pascal’s take on contentment in his Pensées:

[…] we never actually live, but hope to live, and since we are always planning how to be happy, it is inevitable that we should never be so.

Of course, the Apostle Paul learned the secret of contentment the hard way: beatings, stonings, shipwrecks, and imprisonment. And I thought I had a rough time of it with impossible classes, papers to grade ad nauseam, and unreasonable colleagues!

In Living Beyond the Daily Grind I*, Chuck Swindoll addresses the “grind of discontentment.” He asks the reader to consider what Jesus’ life would be like if He were on earth today, and whether He’d be content or not.

If Jesus were to live on earth today, where do you think He would be employed? What kind of car would He drive? How much money would He earn? Do you think He would periodically fly first class? Would He ever feel the slight sting of discontentment? Why? Or why not?

No, this wasn’t God’s chosen era for Jesus to live on earth. But here we are, as His ambassadors now—His hands, feet, and voice. Swindoll’s questions are a great priority check.

Finding the ideal place for Jesus to live isn’t as easy as you’d think. In the United States, our weather maps focus on—you guessed it, the United States. I admit I was a bit surprised that French weathermen started with France and put North America last in the weather review. We are not the center of the universe in everybody’s eyes, so Jesus might not pick the United States! Wherever He wound up—Israel? Venezuela? China?—I think He’d choose a city because modern cities feature a cross-section of the population. In the New Testament, Jesus touched all strata of society, and I’m sure He’d do the same today.

If Jesus had a home base, it probably wouldn’t be a wealthy neighborhood. He’d be a working man in a lower income area, but not necessarily a slum. Although He could choose any noble trade, I’ll make Him a carpenter. Prior to beginning His ministry, I see Him working with a passion to bring joy to people through His craft. He wouldn’t build any old dining room table but the perfect dining room table with a well-loved family in mind. The enthusiasm would be ten times what Joanna Gaines exudes when she conceives a design idea with Clint Harp!

Maybe Jesus kept working as He taught. Just think of the possibilities a construction site would offer for parables and memorable images. In addition to the wise man building on a rock and the rich fool craving a bigger barn, He could talk about hard hats, bulldozers, window washers, and realtors.

A true minimalist, He wouldn’t own a car. He’d find flexibility in using public transportation and allowing others to drive Him around. After all, in the New Testament, He walked, rode in fishing boats, and borrowed a donkey when He needed it to make a prophetic point.

As someone who touched everybody’s lives, Jesus would occasionally fly first class, but not for comfort’s sake. He’d be after Zack up there, who was itching to see Jesus. Of course, this would draw the ire of the folks roughing it back in coach. Don’t their sacrifices entitle them to Jesus’ attention?

Would He be discontent? Never. The temptation might have come but would never be indulged. Jesus would have had such a clear sense of purpose for His life on earth that He could be content in all circumstances.

Jesus was driven, but in a different way. Am I? Are you?

___________________________

*Swindoll, Charles R. Living beyond the Daily Grind. World Pub., 1988

Wringing out the Old Year

I went to bed before midnight on New Year’s Eve. I’m not into ringing in the New Year.

Lately, though, I “wring out” the old year. (No, I’m not alluding to the unusually wet year we’ve had here in Northern Virginia.)  I don’t evaluate the year as it ends and set perfectionistic goals for improvement. Been there, done that. No more.

Having a word or a scripture verse for the year–or both–is popular now. A writer could get behind that, right? Not when her internal editor transforms one word into three and insists on alliteration to boot. Imposing a verse on myself at the beginning of the year feels too much like a resolution and smacks of legalism.

Over the last three years, though, a wonderful verse has burst onto the scene of my life midway through the year. The concept would pop up in Bible study and in my quiet time, and then again in a book I was reading. What was the Holy Spirit up to?

With His help, the verse and theme of the year took hold of me in the spring or summer and ushered me straight into the New Year.  Whether  “official” or not, they were inescapable. God was working in this area of my life, and He was encouraging me to cooperate with Him so that I could grow in grace and in the knowledge of Him.

So, I am wringing the good stuff out of 2018.

Last year in Bible Study Fellowship we studied Romans. It’s a complex book, but I’d studied it before. Imagine my surprise when I stumbled across this glittering treasure in chapter 6:

We know that our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ so that sin might lose its power in our lives. We are no longer slaves to sin. For when we died with Christ we were set free from the power of sin. (Romans 6:6-7, New Living Translation, emphasis mine)

Wow! As a believer in Christ, sin has lost its power in my life! I don’t have to do what sin tells me to do. Revolutionary.

When Satan says, “You might as well give in. I won’t leave you alone until you do, but then I won’t bother you anymore,” he is lying. I don’t have to give in. Hallelujah! What freedom!

I can’t escape freedom. Sometimes God reminds me I’m free so I can simply enjoy my status, and sometimes He allows me to practice declaring my freedom by choosing to obey Him. There’s a clear purpose to my freedom, as it says in Galatians:

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. (Galatians 5:1 NIV)

We are set free with the intention that we stay free. What grace! How can we not grow in it?

What word and/or verse have you wrung out of 2018? How do you ring in your New Year?

Happy New Year from Pam, Angie the dog, and Mindy the cat!

 

 

The Praying Dog Walker

Is it wrong to enjoy praying?

No.

No, it’s not wrong, but that doesn’t mean I always do.

Growing up, we prayed in King James English and said a memorized grace at meals. (I confess I resorted to that memorized grace a lot as an adult, too.)

In college, there were group prayers where I spent most of the time thinking up what I was planning to say and trying to sound spiritual.

During much of my adulthood, I enjoyed journaling and those journals often morphed into real prayers. Praying in the car on the way to school worked for me then, too.

But I’ll confess to years at a time that were close to prayerless.

In His grace, God didn’t let me stay that way. Eventually, I had to pray.

Fast forward a few years to the present.

I still struggle. I love the idea of praying continually, but do I have to wade through an checklist-2077022_640interminable list and feel guilty if I leave someone out? What do I do with the “are we done yet?” in the back of mind, or the thoughts about my grocery list?

 

 

Visuals help. I “pray around the country” for family members and unsaved friends, going in different directions for variety’s sake and zooming off to a foreign country on a tangent, then back again.

hands-600497_640

 

I pray when I walk Angie the dog or when I’m driving. I’ve given myself permission not to finish in one sitting.

I’ve tried a schedule with a different focus on each day, but I always feel like I’m leaving someone out. Scratch that.

A couple of weeks ago, as part of our Wednesday night study on spiritual warfare, our pastor, Josh Daffern, discussed “Praying on Purpose.”  One of the strategies he described was to pray a word for someone, letter by letter–a sort of mnemonic device. (Hang in there. ACTS never worked for me, either.) His first word was PURPOSE. You can check out the recording of the study to hear how he used it, along with a great story.  I guess this process is somewhat addictive–in a good way–because Josh went on to generate several more words!

I got hooked, too. I couldn’t stop thinking of words. At last, a different focus for people and situations–something to make my routine, often burdensome list fresh and exciting. When a word popped into my head, a prayer was born, letter by letter. It was easy to tuck a quick but meaningful prayer into a stray moment.

Here’s how I used LEADERS to pray for our nation’s leaders.  You might come up with something different:

L-Pray that they will LEAN on God’s wisdom and strength.

E-Pray that they will lead with EXCELLENCE.

A-Pray that they will be ABLE leaders.

D-Pray that they will be DEDICATED to serving God and their constituents.

E-Pray that they will have ENCOURAGERS in their lives.

R-Pray that they will LIVE RIGHT. (Thanks, Pastor Josh, for R.)

S-Pray that they will be SAVED.

thanks-1804597_1920

What can you do with THANKS? (See my answers below.)

Before you grab a notebook and pen and go crazy, let me tell you why this has been such a liberating strategy for me:

  • Since I live in a world of words, this process automatically puts me in “pray continually” mode.
  • As I use little bits of time throughout the day to pray, I connect more often with God.
  • I avoid meaningless repetition because I can change the mnemonic when things get stale. I don’t dread a particular category on my list.
  • When I forget what a letter stands for, I’m prompted to think of a different meaning–hence, more variety.
  • If you pray in a group, with a spouse, or with your children, generating words to pray would be an engaging activity. You could even use a person’s name as a springboard for prayer.

No, my prayers haven’t become one giant acrostic, but this strategy has answered a need in my life. I hope you’ll try it, too.

It’s okay to enjoy prayer.

Let me know how it works for you!

Here’s what I did with THANKS:

T-TANGIBLE blessings; H-HEAVENLY blessings; A-ADVANTAGES; N-NATURE and creation;

K-KINSHIP with Jesus; S-SALVATION.