Bible and mug by lake

Am I filling myself with the things of God or is something else taking that space?

I am a preschool teacher. As a preschool teacher, there are many tricks of the trade which help my day go smoother with happier, healthier children. 

Many of those tricks involve snack time. Using a straw for yogurt drinks cuts down on the number of catastrophic spills. Cutting grapes eliminates a choking hazard. Sending only healthy snack options results in the child choosing to eat a healthy snack rather than choosing a sugary, unhealthy option.A juice box

One classic snack item, which has its own host of tricks, is the juice box. Many of those tricks involve how to open or hold it without spilling. Not spilling a juice box is indeed a skill for preschoolers to learn!

Beyond that, a useful trick for getting some preschoolers to eat more of their snack is to not give them a juice box at all. Let me explain.

Over my years of teaching preschool, I have seen three significantly different patterns of behaviour in children who have juice boxes with their snack. 

First, many children will only drink one or two sips from the juice box before setting it aside. This leaves the vast majority of the juice wasted.

Second, some children are able to coordinate drinking their juice with eating their snack. They will drink most of the juice and eat a good portion of their snack before snack time is over.

Finally, I’ve seen a number of children who, upon seeing the juice box in their snack, get excited. They drink and drink and drink until every last drop of the juice is gone. Then, having drunk the whole juice box, they look at the rest of their snack, perhaps apple slices or bread and cheese, but aren’t the least bit interested because they already feel full.

These children drink so much juice, often artificially flavoured with added sugar and colour, that they are not eating the sturdy healthy food they need to grow strong. From these children, we can learn a lesson.

The other day, I was reading in Isaiah 2 the explanation of why God rejected His people at that time:

    “They are full of things from the east and of fortune-tellers …

    Their land is filled with silver and gold, and there is no end to their treasures;

    their land is filled with horses, and there is no end to their chariots.

    Their land is filled with idols; they bow down to the work of their hands,

    to what their own fingers have made.” Isaiah 2:6b-8 ESV

After reading these verses, I paused. I asked, “What am I full of?”

Am I filled with the things of God, or something else?

This question brought to mind another verse:

    “[God is] always on their lips but far from their hearts.” Jeremiah 12:2b NIV

Instead of “heart,” some other translations say “mind” or “conscience.”

Regardless of how much I talk about Jesus and know all the right answers, what is taking up the space inside me? Is Jesus in my thoughts? When my mind wanders, does it wander to the things of God?

Far more often than I’d like, my thoughts wander some other direction.

Is it bad to think about other things? Certainly not! There are many good things in life that require much thought. The problem comes when those other things are filling me, leaving no room for thoughts of Jesus, just like my preschoolers who drink so much juice that they aren’t the least bit interested in solid healthy food.Two babies drinking milk from bottles

In 1 Peter 2:2(NIV), Peter urges:

    “Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation…”

Other translations say “desire the pure milk of the Word.”

Am I desiring the things of God? Am I seeking to be filled with Him?

While there aren’t any shortcuts to being filled with the things of God, spending time in the Bible, in prayer, with other Christians, and in worship are critical.

So for today, I’ll make it my goal to drink just a little less juice and a little more of that pure spiritual milk.

Packages sitting on doorstep

What a comfort that God never makes a mistake.

It’s that wonderful time of year again! Christmas day is coming.

The day we set aside to remember and celebrate the greatest gift in history: that God sent His Son for us.

For many of us, our Christmas traditions include the exchange of gifts. This is true for me.

This year, I completed a large portion of my Christmas shopping online.

I have had primarily good experiences with online shopping, so, while I know it comes with risks, I didn’t hesitate to use that method this time around.

I hunted online for the item I was seeking, and took my time studying various versions of it.

When I settled on the specific item I wanted, I put in my information and completed the purchase. It was a company I’d used before with good results, so I wasn’t worried.

I received a tracking number and the receipt. Then it was time to wait.

The evening before it was expected to arrive at my house, I decided to pull up the tracking number to see where the item was.

To my surprise and delight, the website informed me that my package had been delivered. I hurried to the door, looked outside, and sure enough, there was a package.

I opened the door, then hesitated. I had expected a smaller box.

I stooped, picking it up, but frowned. Shouldn’t the item I ordered be heavier?

As I carried the package into our family room, I read the name and address on it. It wasn’t my name, and it certainly was nothing like my address.

Still, the package had been delivered to my door, and my tracking number told me my package had been delivered that day.Person delivering package to someone

Perhaps the contents of the package were correct and they’d simply put the wrong label on it?

I decided to open the package. I slit the tape and carefully lifted the flaps… an air purifier? That was nothing whatsoever similar to the … Wait! I can’t tell you what I ordered since I’m posting this before Christmas day.

Right away I searched the company’s website for a phone number. I called to explain the mix-up. Thankfully the wait time wasn’t overly long.

The first lady I called couldn’t find my tracking number or even my order number anywhere in the system! My alarm was growing! It wasn’t a cheap item.

It took us a while to realize I’d called the American branch of the company rather than the Canadian one. They forwarded me to the Canadian branch where another lady took my call. When I explained the situation, she told me to wait a couple of days to see if my package showed up. If not, I was to try calling the delivery company. If they couldn’t find my package, then the company I ordered from would send the item again.

So I waited, with that air purifier sitting in its box waiting to see what its future would hold.

On the appointed day, I called the delivery company. I explained the situation.

The lady checked their system and found that my item said it’d been delivered. They even had a picture of my house to show exactly where the box had been left on my front step. Yet somehow they’d given me the wrong box. On top of that, their system said the air purifier I received was still in process of being shipped.

She promised to look into it more closely. If I didn’t hear back from her by the following day, I was to call the company I ordered from so that they could try sending the item to me again.

When I had not heard back from her the following day, I called the company I’d ordered from. They looked into the situation and willingly sent me the item again.

This time the package arrived on the appointed day. It was a smaller, but heavier box. The label had my name and my address on it.

I eagerly opened the box. It was the item I ordered, neatly cushioned with bubble wrap. Relief.

As I reflected on this experience, and tried to guess how the mistake occurred, I realized there is a lesson about God’s character to be reminded of here.

We, humans, make mistakes. God never makes a mistake.

The company delivered the wrong package to me. It didn’t fit my needs. It didn’t have my name on it. It wasn’t intended for me.

God never does that.

In the Bible, we read: “As for God, His way is perfect…” (2 Samuel 22:31a NKJV)

God never makes a mistake, or as I heard a speaker say, quoting a child, “God never says oops.”

I say oops far more often than I care to admit. What a tremendous comfort can be found in knowing that God never says oops!

I like how the verse ends: “The word of the Lord is proven;

He is a shield to all who trust in Him.” (2 Sam. 22:31b NKJV)

As I unwrap my gifts this Christmas, I want to remember that God never makes a mistake in what He gives me. He knows what He is doing. He is trustworthy.

May this truth warm your heart this Christmas.

Merry Christmas!

     Doors with Christmas wreaths

Disgruntled boy - Not wanting to trust the Lord - S. J. Little

 

Have you ever seen a child having a temper tantrum? As a preschool teacher, I’ve seen countless. Thankfully, the children in my class typically learn quickly that a tantrum won’t get them what they want. Have I learned that having a tantrum against God doesn’t help?

Child crying. Tantrum or meltdown

Did you know? While they may look the same, there’s a difference between tantrums and meltdowns? A meltdown is when a child is overwhelmed or over-exhausted to the point of breaking down in tears and frustration. A tantrum, on the other hand, is a controllable action. It is a decision (though potentially subconscious) to behave a certain way in hopes of getting something. 

Not too long ago, little Tommy, a 2 year old, had a tantrum. 

He had just arrived in class, and wanted something he wasn’t allowed to have. Upon being informed that he couldn’t have it, he started crying and declared even louder that he wanted it. Pretty soon he was lying on the floor screaming.

I tried to talk him out of it (without giving him the forbidden object), but he wouldn’t quiet. I tried distracting him with exciting toys, but he cried harder.

Therefore, I moved to another part of the room, though still watching him out of the corner of my eye. I gave him space to scream it out while I went about my morning with the other children.

Finally, after a considerable length of his crying on the floor, I noticed his tantrum beginning to lessen. As his crying decreased, I came alongside him. I gave him a toy and reminded him that we’d soon be cleaning up for our next activity.

It took him a few more minutes with a teacher by his side, but soon he got to his feet and joined the other children with the toys.

He yawned a few times and, indeed, appeared rather sleepy. That tantrum had taken a lot of energy. He was mellow, though happy now and engaged with the activities.

His tantrum left him tired and didn’t get him the thing he wanted.

Not long after that day, I happened to be reading Proverbs chapter three in my morning devotional time.

Prov. 3:5-6 is a beautiful passage that I’ve been encouraged and challenged by many times in the past. In fact, in my post “My Cat is Bad at Following” I use these verses. In case you need a refresher, Prov. 3:5-6 NKJV says:

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.”

I continued reading. At verse 8, the image of Tommy on the floor crying, then being so tired after, came to mind.

Prov. 3:8 NIV says:

“This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones.”

Because of a health issue I deal with, anything saying it will give health catches my attention. I want to know more.

What is the “this” that will increase my health? I had to look back to find it.

At verse five, which I quoted above, a new paragraph starts. Verses five and six talk about trusting God rather than my own understanding. Verse seven is straightforward. It says, “Don’t be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and turn away from evil.”

Trusting the Lord and not being wise in my own eyes sounds like the opposite of a tantrum. Tommy wasn’t trusting that I knew best. He wanted what he thought was best and wouldn’t listen to my reasoning.Girl feeling unhappy - Not wanting to trust the Lord - S. J. Little

Sometimes I’m like Tommy.

Sometimes God says no, but I still want that thing. Sometimes God says move, but I want to stay. Sometimes God says wait, but I want it now.

In the past few years, I’ve gone through seasons of having a form of tantrum against God. Times when I am frustrated because He hasn’t taken away my health issues. Times when I remind God of all the serving opportunities I’d be thrilled to be involved in, but have had to turn down because my health isn’t good enough. Wouldn’t it be better if God took away my health issues so I could serve more?

Yet whenever I get into that mindset, I am not trusting God. It steals my contentment. I find myself frustrated and joy-less.

After seeing how clearly Tommy was exhausted after his tantrum, and after reading Prov. 3:8, I realize that these seasons of tantrum in my life only burn me out, rather than convincing God to change His mind.

While it doesn’t take away my health issues, being content to trust the Lord’s understanding rather than my own does make a noticeable improvement for my physical health, and even more so for the health of my soul.

Oh, that I would learn to always trust the Lord rather than tantrum against Him.

*Note: details of this allegory have been altered to preserve confidentiality
River with ice melting along the banks. God is working to melt the ice in me. S. J. Little

Autumn, my favourite season of the year. The leaves turn colours, the air is crisp, and the first snow coats the ground.

I was recently blessed to be able to spend a few days in the Rocky Mountain foothills. I enjoyed the opportunity for quiet morning walks and time to reflect and press deeper into my relationship with Jesus.

Although it had snowed a couple of days before I arrived, the temperatures during my stay reached above freezing.

As I strolled through the forest on my second morning, I followed my footsteps from the previous day to a rocky beach along a nearby river where I’d sat the day before.

I looked up at a sound, not quite sure what it was. River with melting iceAfter watching and listening for a time, I concluded that the sound came from the ice on the river as it melted. Indeed, the ice lining the edges of the river was far smaller on this second day than it had been the day before. No longer was the ice threatening to span across the river.

As I ran my gaze over the melting ice, my mind wandered back to the things I’d been pondering and praying about at this beach the morning before. They were painful thoughts rather than pleasant. Thoughts of some challenges I’ve been facing in my life recently. Thoughts which, at times, inspire tears.

Looking at the river, I recalled a common allegory. It pictures me, a Christian, as a channel through which God’s love can flow. The love doesn’t come from me. Rather, God is working through me.

Sometimes, however, things in my life hinder the flow of God’s work through me. In the same way, the ice on this river hampered its flow. Indeed, the ice had constricted the river to a mere half of its typical width. Yet now, as the ice continued to melt, the river flowed more freely and fully.Cracked ice on a river - S. J. Little

Using this allegory, God reminded me of a different perspective on the challenges I’ve been facing. God is using them for good. 

In my life, I have areas, just like the ice, constraining the flow of God’s work through me. In order to melt that ice inside of me, God is allowing these challenges. They hurt and throb, perhaps like fingers thawing after a snowball fight. Yet, somehow, the end result will be good, as I lean into God during this time of challenge.

These challenges are melting those troublesome areas of ice within me, that I may more fully be available for God to work through me.

Is this an easy thing to remember? No, but what a burden it lifts when I do remember.

Indeed, I write this post as a reminder to myself to keep my eyes on the end result, rather than the current challenges which threaten to overwhelm me.

Romans 6:3-5 is a good reminder for me along these lines.

“We also rejoice in our afflictions, because we know that affliction produces endurance, endurance produces proven character, and proven character produces hope. This hope will not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured out in our hearts…” Rom. 6:3b-5a CSB

In reflecting on these things, I have found A. W. Tozer’s words to be true.

“When I understand that everything happening to me is to make me more Christlike, it resolves a great deal of anxiety.” – A. W. Tozer

Oh, that I would remember that God is working in me when challenges come.

Is it my power, or God’s power, that brings the impact? - S. J. Little

Is it my power, or God’s power, that brings the impact?

Ah, camp. I don’t know about you, but I love being at camp. This summer I was again blessed with the opportunity to volunteer at a Christian summer camp. I thoroughly enjoy such times, though, boy, can they be busy!

Each morning, with the knowledge that I’ll be hardpressed to find downtime during the day, I try to get up fifteen minutes early in order to slip out for a brief walk in the woods.

As I slipped out for my early morning walk with Jesus on the first morning, I wandered into the woods. How wonderful to be out of the city and surrounded by God’s creation.

I found a log to sit on while I stopped to read a short Psalm. Glancing at my watch, I knew I had to get moving, so I put my Bible back in my bag, and strolled toward camp singing a song of praise.

Then I heard it. I stood still and listened. Tap, tap, tap. A woodpecker must be nearby.

Slowly I turned in a circle, eyeing the trees. Could I spot the bird?Looking for woodpeckers in the forest - The Woodpecker's Power - S. J. Little

It sounded rather distant, so I started walking toward the sound. Five steps later the sound appeared to be coming from the opposite direction. I turned and walked toward the sound again. This time I only took one step before the sound seemed to switch direction again. I was confused for a moment. Then, looking straight up the nearest tree, I smiled.

There it was. A little woodpecker.

He wasn’t a fancy woodpecker – no red crest or orange wings. He was a small brown and white bird.

He was hard at work, far overhead, pecking away at the tree.

I dared only stay a minute or two, as I couldn’t be late for staff devotions, but what a lovely way to start the day. I spoke a prayer of thanks as I moved away.

Seeing the woodpecker brought to memory an allegory I’ve heard before. I don’t know who first used this allegory, but Corrie ten Boom and Jonathan Goforth are among those who’ve included it in their messages. It is a powerful reminder.

The allegory goes like this: Once there was a woodpecker. He went about hisDid the tree split because of the woodpecker or the lightning? - S. J. Little business of tapping on trees, whether looking for bugs to eat or building himself a home.

One stormy day, as he pecked at a large sturdy tree, a bolt of lightning struck the very tree he was tapping on. The tree split in half.

The little woodpecker blinked. Then lifted his head proudly. “I didn’t know I had such power!”

Of course, I know it was not the woodpecker’s power that split the tree. The power belonged to the lightning. 

The little woodpecker was helpless to take down the tree by himself. Likewise, I am helpless to bring people closer to God in my own power. God’s power must be at work.

Keeping that in mind, I appreciate how this allegory goes a little further. Allow me to explain.

God has instructed me to work with all my heart, on whatever has been placed in front of me, as working for Him. (Colossians 3:23)The woodpecker thought it was his own power that split the tree - S. J. Little

The woodpecker exemplified this in that he was pecking away at that tree. He wasn’t sitting lazily on the branch. He was doing the job he was given to do with all his heart.

It was as he laboured at his job, that the lightning struck.

Do you see it? I am to put my heart into what God has given me to do, but the real impact happens through God’s power.

As Paul said:

“I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.” 1 Corinthians 15:10b ESV

Or as the New Living Translation puts it: “For I have worked harder than any of the other apostles; yet it was not I but God who was working through me by His grace.”

Oh, that I would never forget what the woodpecker forgot, that even as I work for the Lord with all my heart, it is God’s power that brings the impact, not mine.