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In the parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30), Jesus gave the illustration of three servants who were given money to invest. Two of them earned good returns. With the World Series recently completed, you could say the first hit a home run and the second had an RBI double. “Well done,” said their master. The third was scared to make a wrong move so he made sure he didn’t lose the money. He refused to swing the bat and was called out on strikes. The boss was not happy.

 

Strike 3

 

I’ve always wished Jesus had introduced a fourth servant. What about a guy who invests the money and loses it? He swings with all his might but strikes out. Does the master say, “You’re fired?” Or “Poorly done, good and faithful servant?”

 

I’ve been mulling that one over. Maybe Jesus is telling us that if we make the effort to step out in faith and use our talents for Him, He’ll make sure there is a return on our investment. We will contribute to the team’s victory.

 

I confessed last month that I’m a natural born klutz. Along with a penchant for falling out of boats, I own a string of poor performances. I can’t water ski to save my life. During my one experience on snow skis, I spent most of my time sliding downhill on my backside. I can’t throw a ball properly, can’t swing a bat effectively, and my bowling scores are atrocious.

 

Why I'll Never Be a Ski Instructor credit to: twobeanornottobean.blogspot.com

Why I’ll Never Be a Ski Instructor
credit to: twobeanornottobean.blogspot.com

 

After years of failures, I wouldn’t even try to participate in anything athletic. Fear and pride took over.

 

Did my friends and family understand? Did they pat me on the head and say, “You poor thing. Just come along and cheer us on.” No! They told me to get over myself and have fun.

 

With a little maturity and a lot of trepidation, I returned to the world of sports. And you know what? I’ll never be the guy who received five talents. But God offered me a little mercy.

 

I’ve learned to see the angles in billiards. My coordination is erratic, but on good days I can beat my husband in Eight Ball. I can swim. No speed, but my endurance and buoyancy give me confidence to swim across a small lake if I have to.

 

I’ve used athletic talents to make a point, but God gives us all kinds of abilities, and He wants us to use them for His glory. Some people were born to run like Eric Liddell of Olympic fame.

 

2012_olympics_gold_medal

I was born to teach and to write. I will never win a gold medal nor am I likely to be nominated Teacher of the Year. Selling a blockbuster novel is a distant dream, but I do pour love into my students, and I pour words into this blog and other projects. I strive to honor Jesus in every endeavor.

 

Sometimes I fail, but I’ve also seen my investments pay off as former students return to thank me for preparing them for high school. I’ve watched them grow into servants of Christ and realize I contributed to their Biblical worldview. I receive feedback from readers letting me know how my writing encouraged them in their own walk with Christ.

 

Perhaps, God doesn’t pronounce praise over us because we’re so smart in how we invest our talents. He congratulates us on the fact that we screwed up the courage to act.

 

I invest my God-given talents in the faith that He is the one who makes my investments profitable. And if I fail, He is the one who chooses to allow failure to happen. Jesus won’t fire me on the day of reckoning. If I made an honest investment, I will still hear:

 

Well done

my2ndnature Linda Samaritoni:

Powerful witness by Leah Ness

Originally posted on Isaiah 43:1:

tumblr_mmtsumPwXC1r9zlymo1_400

Three months ago, almost to the day, I set out to have a great adventure with God. I left behind almost all the people and things that used to mean ‘home’ and headed out into the wild blue yonder, hoping and trusting that God had my back.

I was sure that taking this leap was going to strengthen my faith and bring me closer to Him. But as the days trickled into weeks and months, I felt my strength melting away and my faith felt weaker than ever.

I couldn’t figure out why all my best laid plans were crumbling. I had felt so well prepared, so eager to showcase God’s greatness. I felt like I’d spent months, maybe even years, sculpting this offering of a good Christian heart to lay at the feet of my King.

Imagine my hurt and confusion when my beautifully sculpted offering began to melt.

View original 425 more words

Any Christians out there have the “following Christ” thing down to perfection? No? Didn’t think so. Every honest Christian I know goes through the despair of ever getting it right. Our best laid plans…

 

We are klutzes. Stumblebums. We slip on banana peels. Our spirits are willing, our desires pure, but we mess up trying to carry them out.

 

banana peel

 

I freely admit I’m a klutz, both in physical coordination and in my spiritual walk.

 

dock pile

 

One particularly embarrassing incident occurred in high school involving a dinghy on a romantic little inlet off the bay one lovely autumn afternoon. As we pulled up to the private dock, my date (let’s call him George to protect his identity!), realized he didn’t have a rope so he could moor us to the post. “Just stand in the boat and hold on to the dock till I get something,” he told me.

Seemed simple. As he headed toward a nearby shed, the boat began to pull away, and my weight and strength were not enough to pull it back against the dock. I had to make a choice: let go of the post and drift away with the boat or hang on to the pile and fall out of the boat.

I’m sure George disagreed with my decision. Remember, I’m a klutz. I didn’t trust my own rowing abilities to get me back to the dock. In my defense, I did try to hang on to the boat to the very end with the tops of my feet as my five foot five inches stretched between the dock and the dinghy.

George returned to find me hanging on to that post with my lower half submerged. Always a gentleman, he hauled me up on the boards first, then jumped in the water to chase down his boat. That might have been our last date.

 

photo credit: clarkjbrooks.blogspot.com

photo credit: clarkjbrooks.blogspot.com

 

I’ve observed two reactions from Christians who are disappointed in their efforts to follow Jesus. Either we hold on to Christ for dear life like a man dangling from a cliff holds onto a rope (having fallen off said cliff in our klutziness), or we give up, say, “I’m not trying anymore,” and live whatever way we please for the moment. To continue with the word picture, we let go of the rope, drop a few feet to a God-provided ledge, then spend the rest of our lives trying to figure out how to climb to the top of the cliff all by our lonesomes.

Meanwhile, God remains at the ready if we would just ask.

By now you can surmise I have dangled from many cliffs, and each time Jesus hauls me up. I can’t imagine giving up and letting go of my only possible means of safety.

 

photo credit: snowaddiction.org

photo credit: snowaddiction.org

 

If you have let go and given up on God, do you feel your life is better for it? And if you find yourself in even more despair, remember: God will still throw you a rope and pull you to the top. If you ask.

 

 

Last week we left Junior prancing down the street with balloons of love and goodness bouncing along behind him. He knows God loves him, blesses him, and he’s learned that he can share those blessings. The more he shares, the more joy for everybody.
I’ve enjoyed creating these theoretical conversations with a kid all summer, and today’s is the final segment. The last part of the last verse of Psalm Twenty-three. How will Junior put the whole thing together?

 

CS-Lewis-Quote-Living-Forever
Theoretical Conversation #12

 

You: And what happens next as goodness and love follow you?
Kid: I dwell in the house of the Lord forever. I go to heaven!
You: Right. All those good balloons for your whole life and then heaven forever.
Kid: Yeah, and all I have to do is good stuff.
You: Whoa! You’re forgetting the other five verses. The last verse is just what happens because of the others.
Kid: But you said goodness will follow me my whole life and the more good stuff I do, the more good stuff that follows.
You: I did say that. And where did all that good stuff come from to start with?
Kid (has to think back as he mumbles the entire psalm): The Shepherd prepared the table for me.
You: So the Shepherd’s the one who gave you all your blessings. And how come He gave you blessings but not everybody?
Kid: I don’t know.
You: Keep going backwards through the psalm.
Kid: He uses the rod and staff to comfort me…
You: Keep going.
Kid: I walk through the Valley of the Shadow of Death…
You: And you fear no evil. Keep going.
Kid: He guides me in paths of righteousness…
You: Ah, now you’re getting somewhere. Keep going.
Kid: He restores my soul…
You: And?
Kid: He makes me lie down in green pastures and leads me beside still waters…
You: And who is doing all this for you?
Kid: The Shepherd.

 

green pastures

green pastures

You: And why does He do all that – the pastures, the water, restoring your soul, comforting you?
Kid: Because I’m a sheep?
You (triumphant): Yes! Because you’re a sheep! A sheep follows the Shepherd. That’s why you go to heaven.
Kid: Because I follow the Shepherd, because I follow Jesus.
You: That’s it.
Kid: So it all goes back to the first verse? I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever because the Lord is my Shepherd.
You: The Shepherd starts it all. We get to go to heaven because of the Shepherd. Beautiful, isn’t it?

 

 art by toia Thompson

art by toia Thompson

 

 

I’ve always pictured Junior at approximately eight years old. Soon, my four-year-old granddaughter will arrive for a visit. I’m going to try the same kid conversations with her and see how she responds. If she comes up with some adorable insights, I’ll share them with you.
In the meantime, I’m ready to return to creating spiritual metaphors from the physical world as such thoughts come to mind. I would appreciate feedback on this: if you look in the archives to see other types of blog posts I’ve written, would you prefer to see them as a Conversations-with-kids format? Or do you prefer the original style? Thanks for any help you can offer.

Long, long ago in a town far away from where I live now, my oldest son chose to share his blessings on Christmas Eve. Anonymously. He planned the gift, paid what he could for it, and I supplemented the rest. We wrapped it together.

 

 

snowy front porch

 

 

The recipient was a boy from his first grade class. Eric knew the boy was poor, often dirty, and not known to be kind. At seven years old, my son knew how to be a blessing.
After dinner, he and I drove a few blocks from our home, parked several houses away from our destination, and walked the rest of the way. He stole up on the porch, laid his gift in front of the door, and rang the doorbell. Then he ran down the block as fast as he could to remain out of sight.
We never found out how the boy felt about the gift or the giver. The subject never came up in Eric’s classroom, but we experienced the joy of sharing, which far outweighed the desire for a “proper” thank you.
Since Kid Conversation #10, Junior wants to share his blessings as his cup overflows with them. What an opportunity for you and your kid to purposely plan ways to share those blessings!
And on your way back from your good deed, the last verse of Psalm twenty-three might be appropriate for conversation.

 

Theoretical Conversation #11
You: We did it! How do you feel?
Kid: Great! I bet Josh is really happy.
You: Congratulations. You have just helped someone’s cup to overflow. And now do you know what happens?
Kid: We think of another blessing to share?
You: Good idea. But that’s not what I meant. I was thinking of verse six in Psalm 23 – “Surely goodness and love shall follow me all the days of my life.”
Kid: Goodness and love will follow me? How can they follow me? They’re not alive. They can’t move.
You: You mean like when puppies follow you down the street?
Kid: Yeah.
You: Maybe goodness and love are more like balloons on a string. You hold the strings when you’re sharing blessings. The blessings are already good and loving, and the balloons of love and goodness bob along behind you.

 

 

balloons on a string

 

 

Kid: Cool. I can walk around and do good stuff and know they follow me everywhere. Can I have more balloons to hold?
You: Like what?
Kid: Like some more fruits of the Spirit. Patience and kindness, stuff like that.
You: Sure. I guess they’d keep bobbing along behind you, too.
Kid: So if I do bad stuff, do bad balloons bob behind me?
You: You know kids who always do bad things. Does goodness follow them around?
Kid: No. Fighting follows them all over the place.
You: Guess you have your answer.
Kid: I wouldn’t want bad balloons to follow me.
You: I don’t blame you. Keep holding onto the strings of good balloons and don’t let go.

 

 

goodness and mercy

 

 

Would you be willing to share things that you and your kids have done to share blessings? I love learning about what other people have done and adapting those ideas to my own life.

You never know where a conversation is going to end up once you ask for a child’s point of view on a topic that adults have taken for granted. Last week, who could have guessed that the banqueting table in Psalm twenty-three would end up in a discussion about insecticide?
The rest of verse five continues the picture of a feast from ancient times. Feast and fragrance. Let’s see what opinions Junior has to offer.

Theoretical Conversation #10
You: Now that you’ve taken care of the enemy with bug spray, what comes next in the psalm?
Kid: “You anoint my head with oil.” (He puts a hand on top of his head) The Shepherd puts oil on my head? Like what you put in a car? Yuck!
You: Not car oil. More like olive oil.
Kid: You cook with olive oil, right?
You: Right.
Kid: But if He pours oil on my head, I’ll be all greasy. You’ll make me wash my hair.
You: I think in Bible times, they put olive oil, maybe almond oil, on their faces. It worked more like lotion to keep your skin soft.
Kid: So you went to a party and someone gave you face cream? Weird. Why didn’t the psalm writer just say, “You anoint my face with oil?”
You (hug him and sniff the top of his head): That would smell better than your sweaty scalp! Besides, they massaged the oil all over their heads so it spread and made the hair shiny, not greasy. Just like the shampoo commercials: “beautiful, glossy sheen.”
Demonstrate on Junior’s head – without oil, of course! He squirms away.
Kid: I don’t want to smell like a girl.

perfume bottle
You: Well, just remember that verse is in there because the person giving the party wanted to give his guests anything they might need. And since this is Jesus’s party, the oil also means the Holy Spirit. Jesus pours His Holy Spirit on us.
Kid: The Holy Spirit’s a lot better than perfume!
You: At the same party, the psalm says your cup “overflows.”
}pic of overflowing cup}
Kid: I’m supposed to spill my drink at the party?
You: Nope. God does. He fills up your cup so much it spills over.
Kid: And that’s a good thing? I get in trouble if I spill my milk all over the table.
You: You have to look at what it means if God lets things overflow. When He fills your cup, that means He fills your life with blessings. So many that your soul just spills out happiness.
Kid: I thought the food on the table was all my blessings.
You: And the drink is even more blessings.
Kid: Wow! More blessings than I know what to do with. Don’t the blessings get wasted if they spill on the table and the floor?
You: Yes and no.
Kid: Can’t be both.
You: Yes, because God expects you to share those blessings. Other people can enjoy them, too. And no, the blessings aren’t wasted because God chose to give you so much more than you ever thought to ask for. What if you asked me for one Lego set, and I brought you ten different sets? How would you feel?
Kid: Lucky!
Legos
You: So doesn’t it make you feel lucky, feel like God loves you so much, when He gives you great surprises even better than Legos?
Kid: Yeah, and if I share the blessings like I share my toys, it would make people feel happy.
You: I think you’re onto something…
blessings shared
What ideas can you come up with to share blessings?

For the last several weeks, your favorite kid has been providing some great insights of his own as you and he pick apart the 23rd psalm. You’ve gotten through the valley of the shadow of death. What might Jr. think about the Lord’s table?

courtesy of goodfoodie-keith.blogspot.com

courtesy of goodfoodie-keith.blogspot.com

Theoretical Conversation #9

 

You: So now you see why we don’t have to be afraid. Jesus has everything under control. The next thing that happens is the Shepherd “prepares a table before you in the presence of your enemies.”
Kid: He prepares a table? If my teacher says, “Put your books away and prepare for lunch,” then I have to get ready to go to the cafeteria. How do you get ready for a table?
You: The shepherd doesn’t get ready for a table. He gets the table ready.
Kid: Ready for what?
You: For a big party. For you. He puts all kinds of good things on your table.
Kid: Like spaghetti and chocolate cake and pecan pie, and cherry Popsicles?
You: A lot more than that.
Kid: Must be a big table!
You: It sure is. He puts everything on that table that you could ever need or want.
Kid: So food, and plates and glasses and forks and spoons and –
You: You can picture it like a fancy dinner with candlesticks and everything, but remember there’s always a deeper meaning to what the psalm talks about.
Kid: If I’m the sheep and Jesus is the Shepherd, then what is the table?
You: I think the table is your life, and God has put all these good things on your table, lots of blessings in your life.
Kid: Cool!
You: And you know what? He sets you up with wonderful blessings in the middle of a bunch of your enemies.
Kid: Why would he do that?
You: I’m not sure. Maybe to show you that even when the enemies try to hurt you, your table of blessings is still there. They can’t steal any of the wonderful things God gives you. God won’t let them.
Kid: But I don’t have any enemies.
You: Everybody likes you, huh?
Kid: I think so.
You: Doe the devil like you?
Kid: He doesn’t like anybody!
You: So you do have one enemy.
Silence while he considers this bombshell.
Kid: But God won’t let the devil hurt me, just like the psalm says?
You: God promises you still have his blessings on your special table that he prepared. I think I would be mistaken if I said he never lets the devil hurt you.

 

UH-OH. Jr. is getting upset.

 

Kid: But you said before that He keeps me safe.
You: And He does. That doesn’t mean you never get hurt.
Jr. is not consoled.

mosquito

You: Look. If you get a mosquito bite, does it hurt?
Kid: A little, then it itches even worse.
You: What about a bee sting?
Kid: That really hurts.
You: Does it kill you or hurt you so bad that you have to stay in a hospital for the rest of your life?
Kid (starts to relax): No. It swells up and hurts for maybe a day.
You: Well, that’s all Satan can do. He might hurt you, but when you know you’re going to spend forever with Jesus, the most Satan can try to do is sting you.
Kid: (pounds the table): Yeah! I’m getting the bug spray. The devil will be sorry if he tries to sting me!

wasp spray

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