Servant Leaders

Helping Nana

I am so pleased when one of my students cleans up without being asked. It warms my heart when a student helps another student just because assistance is needed. High school students often get a “bad rap” for being selfish and self-centered. Yet I am often blessed to see another side – a side that would shock their parents in a good way.

What cultivates a servant’s heart? Why do some young people notice when help is needed – and then respond? There may be various reasons, yet I know of two qualities that fertilize seeds of service.

First – positive examples. When children see adults serve others, it demonstrates a living example of a servant. If parents and grandparents are the ones who help carry groceries in from the car, clean up after meals, offer to sweep the porch, or rake the leaves – children will see this and follow the example. It is a wonderful opportunity to include older children in work days for the church or elderly neighbors. Working alongside your child or grandchild allows fellowship as well as the fulfillment of serving together.

Second – providing opportunities for service. The earlier children learn to serve others, the sooner it allows serving to become a pattern of behavior. It is often easier and less stressful to do a chore ourselves. Yet, when we need help, our children and grandchildren may not know what to do or how to follow through in a helpful way. Depending on the age of a child, giving them responsibility for small tasks develops their confidence and their ability to follow through. Early acts of service may include:

  • wiping off the table
  • putting forks and spoons at each place for a meal
  • folding wash cloths or hand towels
  • sweeping the deck or sidewalk
  • matching socks
  • raking leaves, picking up sticks (stick patrol)

Jesus is the ultimate example of a servant.

Let Christ be your example of humility – Philippians 2:5-11

5-11 Let Christ himself be your example as to what your attitude should be. For he, who had always been God by nature, did not cling to his prerogatives as God’s equal, but stripped himself of all privilege by consenting to be a slave by nature and being born as mortal man. And, having become man, he humbled himself by living a life of utter obedience, even to the extent of dying, and the death he died was the death of a common criminal. That is why God has now lifted him so high, and has given him the name beyond all names, so that at the name of Jesus “every knee shall bow”, whether in Heaven or earth or under the earth. And that is why, in the end, “every tongue shall confess” that Jesus Christ” is the Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Jesus also said –

Mark 9:35-40 (NLT)

35 He sat down, called the twelve disciples over to him, and said, “Whoever wants to be first must take last place and be the servant of everyone else.”

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if our elected officials would take this attitude?

May we be examples of servant leaders to the precious children in our lives.

Falling

God’s Color Study

I tried to capture a photo of leaves falling yesterday afternoon while hiking the Horace Kephart trail in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It was an absolutely beautiful afternoon. Phil pointed out to me that leaves were floating down all around us. I was so focused on the color of the leaves on the trees and on the ground, I hadn’t noticed those falling. It was delightful to watch the floating descent of the leaves, but my little camera wasn’t up to the challenge of recording their fall.

Fall is a great time to enjoy the beauty of God’s creation. The color yesterday defies description; I even took a photograph that I plan to call “God’s Color Study”, even though the picture doesn’t do justice to the vibrancy of the actual color. The sky was intense blue; the leaves were an array of red, orange, yellow, brown, and leftover green. It was truly a feast for the eyes.

Yet, under the carpet of fallen leaves, there were rocks and small ditches carved by the recent rain storms. These were hidden by the leaves, but a concern while hiking. I was so distracted by the autumn display that I slipped and stumbled several times before I realized I needed to pay attention to where I was going.

Isn’t that true of life? I am the queen of distraction. This is a big concern as a parent and now as a grandparent. I am easily distracted – and often by good things. Natural beauty has always fascinated me, and as an artist that serves me well. Yet, our children will tell you of the many times I missed a turn on our way home, because of a beautiful tree, a lovely bird, or a particularly blue hydrangea. For the sake of the safety of our children and now grandchildren, I must focus on where I am going.

As a Christian, I need to PAY attention to my walk with God, and NOT get distracted by things, even good things that could cause me to fall. Some of the things that can distract me and cause me to “fall” as a mother are:

  • Being more concerned about how my children LOOK than how they feel
  • Caring more about what my friends think than what my Heavenly Father wants
  • Putting my children to bed without devotions/prayer because a TV show is starting
  • Attending to needs of others before the needs of my family
  • Allowing “devices” to control my time
  • Putting weeding the flower beds before cooking meals (anyone else have this issue?)

Thankfully, Our Heavenly Father knows our weaknesses and His desire is to keep us from falling.

Jude 1:24-28 (KJV)

24 Now unto Him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy,

25 To the only wise God our Savior, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen.

Celebrating Family

Tyler and the turtle

“I love my Pop because he plays with me and reads stories with funny voices. He takes me in the barn and gives me rides in the cart. Pop loves me and I love him.”

These and other words reflect the sentiments of our six eldest grandchildren as we celebrated Pop’s 60th birthday this weekend. Phil’s actual birthday was September 24th, but our eldest daughter couldn’t come from the west coast until early in October. So, since Phil doesn’t put much value on special days (or holidays in general) he was fine with celebrating when all of our four children could be here together. In fact, the only request that Phil had in regard to turning 60 was celebrating with family. We did well in that regard – all four children, one brother, 8 grandchildren, one son-in-law and 2 parents-in-law.

There was lots of playing outside in the leaves, piling them up and jumping in the pile. We had a campfire and roasted marshmallows and made s’mores.  Great grandpa lived up to his reputation of roasting the perfect marshmallow – an evenly light brown crust with a soft, oozing center. It is an art form!

The grandchildren played with a box turtle found by Great grandpa. This amazing turtle was oblivious to the children’s squeals of delight and never receded into its shell.  It crawled around and every time it was picked up and moved, it stayed out of its shell and just crawled more. It eventually crept under the periwinkle and hopefully has found peace, safety, and a food source.

The little branch that runs through the yard (it is too small to call a creek) was the next center of attention. The grandchildren made “soup”, “spaghetti” and other tasty delicacies. All had wet feet (including their socks and shoes) and mud splashed on clothes. Pop found a crawdad, and the claws held fascination for the children.

We picked some of the remaining flowers in the yard and the little ones took them to their mothers (or aunt). Then they came back to me and wanted a flower for themselves!

All these activities were a time to enjoy the wonder and beauty of God’s creation. The beauty of the fall trees and colorful leaves is often appreciated this time of year. Yet seeing the turtle and crawdad were special surprises that added to the blessing of being together as a family. Picking a flower blossom, even if it is taken apart petal by petal, is a chance to examine creation first hand.

Matthew 6:28-33 New Living Translation

28 “And why worry about your clothing? Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, 29 yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. 30 And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, He will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?

The beauty of the leaves and flowers and the wonder of the turtle and crawdad were especially meaningful because we saw the wonder of God’s creation through the wonder in the eyes of our grandchildren.

Celebrating Family with our children and grandchildren this weekend was such a blessing. It didn’t cost any money to participate in those activities outside. After the children were in bed we talked and laughed and talked some more. We discussed watching a movie or playing a game, but we were all tired and only played a game together as adults once.

Celebrating family comes in many forms – different families have unique ways to celebrate. The important part is to celebrate the blessing of being together.

Harvest Time

a wheel barrel full of fun !!!

I love this time of year and I love working outside. For many years we have collected pine needles on the campus of WCU to mulch our flower beds. We used to pile our four children in the back of the pick-up and drive to several parking lots on campus where our four children would help Phil and I rake up the pine needles that had recently fallen. The key was to rake them up before they had been driven over very much so that the needles were easy to rake up. We would fill the bed of the pick-up and then the kids would ride on top of them back to our house. (Before you have horrific visions of kids bouncing out of the back of the truck onto pavement – you must know that we lived adjacent to the campus and the furthest parking lot was within a mile, two at the most)

When our children were young this was a great adventure. It was fun to ride in the back of the truck on a pile of sweet-smelling pine needles. As they grew older and became teenagers – this chore lost its lustre. They didn’t want their peers to see them raking pine needles on campus or, heaven forbid! riding in the back of a pick-up! Appearing cool begins to win over the wind whipping through your hair while bouncing around on a soft bed of pine needles.

That is one of the best parts of having grandchildren. I can do some of those activities I first did with our children and the grandchildren now think it’s FUN! Notice what our grandsons are riding on in the wheelbarrow. Yes – those are pine needles from WCU. Phil and I now go get them ourselves and it is a ten-mile drive for us since we moved from Cullowhee. But there is no better mulch for our hydrangeas and azaleas then white pine needles! We’ll “harvest” those pine needles next week.

Phil has harvested all the sweet corn and we blanched it, cut it off the cob, and froze it. We are still getting a few tomatoes until we have a frost, and Phil has dug potatoes. This was not the best garden we have ever had, but the beans and corn did especially well. Our squash and cucumbers did poorly, but we did enjoy the few that we had. The good aspect of gardening is enjoying the “fruits” of our (Phil’s) labor, eating, sharing, and putting up the fruits and vegetables. There is NOTHING better to eat in my estimation than vine ripened tomatoes and fresh corn on the cob. No wonder God said “It was good” after He made those plants!

Now that the garden is all but finished for this season, we could look back with regret on the vegetables that did not do well, or we can savor the blessings of the vegetables we enjoyed eating  – and the ones in the cellar waiting to be eaten this winter.

I believe that God looks on us and the “fruit” we bear in that way. Galatians 5: 22, 23  lists the results of the Holy Spirit dwelling in our lives: 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control.

Just as our garden has a good harvest for certain vegetables one year and less the next, our lives face similar situations at times. Last year a groundhog ate every green bean plant so we had no fresh beans to eat or can. Yet we had the best cucumbers ever! This year Phil foiled the ground-hog (don’t ask how) and we had the best beans we have ever grown. The cucumbers, sadly, were a sorry lot.

Sometimes we have peace in our lives, other times our joy may be abundant. We may feel that our patience is GONE, but we still feel love for those little ones with sticky fingers and runny noses. In our garden we work to achieve optimum results each year, but there are often (furry) things beyond our control. So it is with the fruit of the Spirit. We can’t control all the circumstances of our lives, but we can seek to bear God’s fruit and nurture its growth. We can be thankful for each fruit that we manifest in our lives and seek to improve where we know we fall short. God is faithful to do ” immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us,” Ephesians 3:20.

Cracked Pots

It has been one of those weeks where I have been hit with the same message from three different sources. You think I better pay attention?!!

#1      My Honors Art III class is working on pottery. They are making ceramic pots and learning the properties and limitations of clay. I tell them clay is very forgiving, you can mold, re-mold, and even crush it and start all over again. Yet once you commit to a shape or design, you must follow certain rules to ensure successful completion of your project. Last week two students didn’t follow the “rule of thumb”. This rule states that no part of the form can be thicker than your thumb without providing a vent to let trapped air escape. Two students added clay to their pottery while forming and created areas that were thicker than their thumbs. Both of these pots blew up in the kiln while firing. These two students had been very successful making pottery that has been entered in several art shows, yet they had become a bit complacent and thought they knew what they were doing. Message for me – God is very patient, forgiving, and gentle. Yet at some point I am held accountable for following His Word. Past accomplishments aside – I must walk with God faithfully each day so I don’t become a “cracked pot.” 

#2       We attended a Sunday service with our two daughters and their families yesterday. There was a potter’s wheel in the foyer of the church building as we entered, with a bisque fired (first firing) pot from which part of the bottom was blown off.  The pastor preached from Jeremiah 18:1-12  on “In the Potter’s Hand”. The part of his message which spoke to me was in verses 1-4.

18:1  This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: 2 “Go down to the potter’s house, and there I will give you my message.” 3 So I went down to the potter’s house, and I saw him working at the wheel. 4 But the pot he was shaping from the clay was marred in his hands; so the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him.

Pastor Thompson stated that God is the potter, we are the clay. He shared something I teach my students  – 75% of successful pottery is in the preparation of the clay. Message for me – God is at work forming me  – and every time I resist His effort, I make it harder on myself because God has to “re-shape and re-mold” me. Otherwise I will be a cracked pot.

# 3   The calligraphy calendar my sister-in-law Renee’ gave me has this verse for October 2nd  –

                            Isaiah 64:8    Yet you, Lord, are our Father.
We are the clay, you are the potter;
we are all the work of your hand.  
Message for me – as a loving Father, God wants the best for me. God does not form cracked pots.

As I have reflected on the three ways that I have been confronted with the reality of God at work  – creating me to be the vessel He wants so I can accomplish the purpose He has for me – I am reminded of God’s unconditional love for me.

God doesn’t give up, as I have been known to do when a piece of pottery isn’t formed the way I want. As our Father, God will continue working on us until we become the unique vessel, the work of His hands, that He planned. Then we will be able to pour out His Glory!