Thursday, December 29, 2016

Choking Thorns

Today I (Scott) read one of the parables that always seems to speak to me - the parable of the sower. A man sowed seed in his field. Some fell on the path, the hard-packed ground where people walked. Some fell on the rocky ground. Some fell among the thorns. Some fell on the prepared tilled ground. The seed on the path was eaten by birds, never penetrating the ground. The seed on the rocky ground grew in the limited soil there but withered since it had shallow roots among the rocks. The seed among the thorns grew but the thorns also grew and choked it; this seed was unproductive. The seed that fell on the good ground produced an abundant crop.

I'm definitely not a farmer and not even a good grower of any plant. (Plants beg me not to take them home from the garden center.) But I understand this parable. And Jesus even explains the parable so that we less agriculturally inclined can understand. (See Mark 4:1-20.) Here's the breakdown:
  • Seed is the word of God.
  • The path represents those who hear the word but ignore/disregard it; Jesus says that Satan snatches the seed from them.
  • The rocky ground illustrates those who hear the word and respond joyfully to what they hear; but do not allow it to take root in their lives and any opposition to it causes it to wither in their lives.
  • The thorny ground represents those who receive the word but let the worries and desires of the world to choke out its influence. They produce no spiritual fruit.
  • The good ground are those who hear the word and let it change their lives; they impact others with God's message.
So often I find myself among the thorns. I worry about what's happening around me. I become distracted by earthly pursuits and concerns. I let other things take root in the soil of my spirit and push aside God's word in me. 

Maybe that's what this current part of my journey is all about. Maybe He's pruning out the thorns, trying to make room for the seed of His word to produce fruit. 

As I said, I'm a terrible gardener. At the end of the fall, I worked to clean out flower beds. Our poor azalea has had to contend with other "unplanted" things growing by and through it. I pulled out all the weeds, grass, and other plants. (Pulled with great difficulty since I didn't tend to them when they were small and more easily dealt with.) A few days after this, I noticed that the azalea seemed fuller; it spread out and up - because there was room for it. It benefited from any rain that fell since no other plants were soaking it up.

So, as this year ends and the next one dawns, I'm evaluating and thinking and praying. What things are growing in my spiritual life that were not planted by Him? What things are soaking up valuable resources and energies? What thorns are choking out the fruitful word in my life? 

I think I have some weeding to do.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

What About Him?

 In John 21, Peter and the disciples went fishing. It's after the resurrection but the men seemed to be unsure what to do next. They caught no fish but Jesus appeared on the shore and told them to cast their nets again on the right side of the boat. They hauled in 153 large fish!

After breakfast Jesus talked with Peter. He restored Peter, telling him three times to feed the sheep/lambs. He also told about the kind of death that Peter will have.

Peter turned around and saw John there behind them. When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, “Lord — what about him? (John 21:21) Peter had heard Jesus' words about his future. He wanted to know if John would have a similar fate. Jesus answered, “If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you? As for you, follow Me.” Jesus reminded Peter that they were talking about Peter, not John.

We often ask a similar question: Why him? Why not me? Why is this happening to me? Why do good things happen to her and I get this? What about them? Will they face difficulties? Will they have it easy?

How tempting it is for us to spend our time looking at others--comparing circumstances and blessings and struggles. I'm having this problem but she's just skating through life. I'm looking for a job or working twice as hard but everything just falls right for him with no effort. Why am I facing this battle? Why must things always be so much more difficult for me than for him or her?

We may not know the whys of someone's story. We often do not know why a blessing or burden falls one way or the other. But also don't know another's struggles or challenges. Maybe that high level job is costing him time - away from his family. What seems like her good fortune may be a test of her faith or a way for her to grow spiritually. Maybe. Perhaps. We don't know the story.

But we do know that God is God. God's work in someone else's life has nothing to do with His work in mine. God's generous gifts are for Him to give. Why does God's generosity and favor on someone else make us feel cheated? God took nothing from us to give to them. He took nothing from them to give to us. Often we are too busy looking at what He's done for someone else that we overlook the generous blessings He is pouring out on us.

Is God faithful? Does He provide? Is He sovereign? Does He reign? Is He God?

Thank Him. Know that He is giving us what we need to grow. Trust Him.

Keep eyes on God and not on those around us.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

What We Gain

The good is the enemy of the best.
Sometimes you have to give up something good to get something even better.

Have you heard these types of things before? I have. I've even thought if not said them.

I've been thinking a lot recently about giving things up. I entered an essay contest and wrote about giving up my grandmother's piano. At a recent conference about a writing assignment, I had a wonderful idea for part of my writing; as I delved into it I had to give up that wonderful idea. It just didn't fit with what else I needed to do. I've written about giving up my classroom teaching dream - or releasing it, which for some reason sounds better to me.

In each of these very different circumstances, the things were all good. But as I look at them, I'm not sure I gained anything "better" as a result. I did lose some anxiety once I gave up the piano...but is that better? I think the content I'm writing will be more cohesive after giving up the other...but not necessarily better, just good in a different way. And my current freelance work is fun and good...but we've had some struggles too in this new way of living. And in some ways it's definitely not better than a regular job with benefits.

Is "give up the good to get the better/best" biblical?

I thought about some people in the Bible that were called to give up, lose, or change something.

Abraham was called to give up his son, to sacrifice him to God. (Genesis 22)
Job involuntarily gave up everything--children, animals, possessions, health. (Job 1-2)
The fishermen gave up their entire livelihood, the only professions they had known. (Matthew 4:18-22)
Paul changed his life, forsaking his position as one of the Jewish religious elite. (Acts 9, Philippians 3:4-7)

In giving up the good, did they gain better?

Abraham received a ram and did not sacrifice his son...but he didn't gain anything material.
Job regained more than he had before...after suffering greatly and bearing scorn from his friends.
The fishermen became wandering disciples of Jesus, learning from Him...and faced persecution from others.
Paul traveled the known world and preached...and was beaten, stoned, jailed, and mocked.

They didn't gain much more materially or physically...and in most cases had less or suffered a lot.

But they grew closer to God as a result of the change they experienced. Abraham's faith in God was strengthened and his covenant secured through his actions. Job stayed faithful to God and learned that God is in control even when things seem overwhelming. The fishermen received power and saw lives changed in Jesus' name. Paul spread the gospel and brought many souls to faith in Jesus, all while learning more and more about the Savior and writing to teach generations to come.

In giving up things we may not necessarily receive anything better, or even anything as good. I think we often look for that but it may not be there. God didn't promise that giving up things, even good things, equals a greater benefit in exchange.

But, if we are following God and giving up what we have to Him, we gain Him. The very Spirit of God is in us. We would certainly say that it the best. But it's not the point. We don't give up things to gain Him. We follow Him and drop anything that hinders our obedience to Him.

It's not about getting. It's not about giving up. It's about God.

It isn't what we have. It isn't what we do. It's who (and whose) we are.

But everything that was a gain to me, I have considered a loss because of Christ. More than that, I also consider everything to be a loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. Because of Him I have suffered the loss of all things and consider them filth, so that I may gain Christ. (Philippians 3:7-8)

Monday, October 31, 2016

Be Not Do

When you think of God's will, what do you think about? What does that mean? Often I (Scott) think of what God wants me to do - what actions does He desire, what work should I do?

But I'm learning more and more (over and over) that God's will is less about doing and more about being.
You do not want sacrifice, or I would give it;
You are not pleased with a burnt offering.
The sacrifice pleasing to God is a broken spirit.
God, You will not despise a broken and humble heart.
 (Psalm 51:26-27)
David wrote that God did not want him to give an offering - to do something. God desired a humble heart - to be something. 

We are easily caught up in doing for God. We go to church and do our worship. We help people and work at other things. We check our boxes and know that we have served God.

But we can do all those things and still be far from God. We can sing songs and give money and read the Bible--all while our hearts are far from Him. We can do all those things and never even think about Him. 

We can feed the hungry and bind the wounds of the hurt. We can build houses and care for children. But all kinds of organizations do those things, too - organizations that have nothing to do with God.

God's will is not doing; it's being.

Our hearts must be broken and humble. We must connect with Him and glorify Him, not through what we do but through our realization that we are nothing without Him.

God's will is for us to glorify Him - to praise Him because He is God, the Creator and the Fulfiller. Our worship and our service flow from our connection to Him. 

As I write, these words seem inadequate to communicate the thoughts. But I see a lot of doing going on - both in my own life and in the world around me. We are busy. We are working. We are doing.

But are we listening. Are we heeding? Are we broken and humble at the sight of Almighty God?

Oh, God. Grant that I may BE more than I DO.

Saturday, October 15, 2016


You'd think that I (Scott) could learn and remember the lessons that I've encountered in our current journey. Apparently not. I mentioned in my last posts that I am a slow learner. Or I'm a re-learner. Here are a few things that God keeps needed to teach me.

Be content. I know we're where God wants us right now. But sometimes it seems like we're in a holding pattern. I want to be or do something else. I want something to change. But I must remember that being content means resting and even growing where we are now. Being content is feeling pleasure and satisfaction RIGHT WHERE I AM, and being happy to be here - with no promise of anything ever changing.

God is faithful. We have seen God provide again and again. Sometimes we don't know exactly how we have what we need. But we always have. So why do we wonder or stress when things happen? I look over the past year. I had someone contact me about writing articles for their site. Contact me unsolicited. I've been writing things for this site for several months. It's similar to the things I already write, but different enough to challenge me. I've picked up other duties for another site for which I work. And recently I applied - and got - a contract editor position for a third site; this one is a completely different topic from education or preschool but something I love to do. I continue to get writing assignments from my main client and have picked up a contract editing job from them, too. God is faithful; He is supplying. Why do I worry and doubt?

Redefine success. If success is teaching in a classroom, then I've failed. But if success is following the purpose that God has given - which is to help educate children - then I'm doing okay. Sometimes...well often...our purpose is fulfilled in ways that are different than we imagine. I've often prayed, "God I want to be used by You, for Your purpose." But recently I read this: The aim is to do His will, not be useful. (from My Utmost for His Highest) Success is defined by Him and not by me. I must do His will and not get caught up in what I must do to succeed.

My word for 2016 has been PURPOSE. When I chose it in January, I didn't know how important it would be. God has been refining my purpose and helping me know just what that purpose is.

Oh, there are other lessons that I must continue to But God is a patient teacher.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Letting Go

Okay. I'm (Scott) going to confess something that I've only told one other person. Well, maybe I said it to Cindy, too. I don't remember saying this to her, but I say a lot of things to her. But I recently made this admission to someone else.

When I look at my short stint as a public school teacher, I feel like I failed.

I started on the journey of teaching school with lots of ideas and lots of reasons I wanted to do it. And when I moved to teaching, lots of people said, "You will do great!" It was my dream to do it.

And then it ended. Not by my choice.
And it's never started back again.
I let all those people down. I let myself down. I failed.

Now I don't regret making the change. I absolutely know that it was the right change. I learned a lot in the two years I was a teacher. I have grown even more since that time.

I think the hardest thing I'm learning is that I must let that dream go. I cannot make it happen. I'm not supposed to make it happen.

I have to be on the journey that God has for me. And - by closing doors over and over...and over (I'm a slow learner, apparently) - He is showing me that this is not the direction for me now.

Sometimes we are called to do things for a season. My teaching season was a short one. Maybe it will come around again - or maybe not.

So maybe it's not failure. I didn't fail if I followed where He led...and am still on His path.

Right now, God has called me to a new place - a wonderful place of writing and editing as a freelancer. My schedule is very flexible. I can sleep late if I choose. I can take a day off if I choose. I can work all night if I choose. I must meet those deadlines - otherwise my schedule is my own.

That's a great gig. A dream gig. Just not the one I was expecting.

Now to Him who is able to do above and beyond all that we ask or think according to the power that works in us--to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen. (Ephesians 3:20-21)

God can do above and beyond anything I can think or imagine, beyond anything I can dream. I just must let go of my own way and embrace His ways.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016


"Look, I am about to do something new; even now it is coming. Do you not see it?" (Isaiah 43:19)

About a year ago I (Scott) read this verse. I connected with it. I wrote it on a card and added it to my board in my office. I prayed to be ready for the new thing that God was doing.

Today, I read this verse again. I look back and think back and see some new things that God has brought to us. New opportunities. New challenges.

And yet.

I still feel that a new thing is coming. I'm restless. Anxious. Uneasy. Excited. And a little worried.

Because I think part of that new thing is me. I must be the new creation that God is working in me. And something is holding me back. Expectations. Old dreams and desires. Sin.

In writing this post, I did something that I rarely do. I started typing without a particular conclusion or overall theme in mind. While I often allow the writing (and God) to shape these words as I write, I usually have an idea of where it's going. Not so this time.

Things are restless. I don't know where we're headed. I don't know what's coming.

But an old hymn has come to mind. "Ready to go. Ready to stay. Ready my place to fill." I knew that I had mentioned it before so I looked. A year ago.

Am I in the same place as last year? Well, no. I see things that have changed, hopefully to the good. And yes. I'm still working to be content. I'm still working to let go of my own dreams and expectations. I'm working to rest in Him.

I'm restless. It's exciting and unsettling.

But - I think - it's where God is working.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Expectations Can Be Trouble

River (RSWiley)
I've (Scott) been thinking about a Bible story lately--the story of Naaman. Do you remember it?

Naaman was a commander in the army of Aram. He was a great man with a problem. He had a skin disease. An incurable skin disease. One day, an Israelite girl who served his wife said that the prophet in Samaria (Elisha) could heal Naaman. So Naaman went to his king, who wrote a letter and sent Naaman to the king of Israel.

The king of Israel had no idea what to do. He read the letter (which asked him to cure Naaman). He tore his clothes. He worried that the other king was trying to lure him into a trap. When Elisha heard what was happening, he sent a message to the king and said to send Naaman to him. Naaman and his entourage stood at the door of Elisha's house.

Elisha sent a message down to him: "Go and wash seven times in the Jordan River and you will be clean."

Was Naaman grateful? No, he was angry! First of all the prophet didn't even come to the door himself; he sent a messenger. The prophet didn't perform a ritual or speak rich words. He just sent Naaman to the river. And it was the puny Israelite Jordan River...not the great rivers in Aram. Naaman was angry and started to leave.

Naaman's servants were more sensible. They said, "If the prophet told you to do a great thing, you would have done it. He told you to do a simple thing. So why don't you do that?"

Naaman decided to try it. He went to the Jordan River and dipped himself into it seven times. He was healed. His skin was like a young boy's skin. No scars or blemishes or disease.

Naaman had an expectation of what would happened when he went to see the prophet of God. And he almost missed a miracle.

I think my expectations are getting in my way sometimes. I expect God to direct things in certain ways. I'm sure I know what's going to happen. I see how things would work out if God would just do things the way I expect.

But things aren't like that. Sometimes I feel dejected or even a little angry. Why didn't that principal call back? Why are things like this? Why don't I hear an answer? But those are my expectations getting in the way.

What has God called me to do right now? Stay home all day and write. Set my own schedule. Sleep late and stay up late if I want or need to do so. Explore new opportunities to write and edit and monitor an online community. A chance to write whatever I want.

Are those really such difficult things to do? Actually they're about as easy as dipping into a river seven times.

Don't let expectations get in the way of what God is doing. This is a lesson I'm continuing to learn. Over and over and over. Apparently I'm a slow learner. (But that's a topic for a different post.)

Friday, July 15, 2016

God NOT God and...

The past two years have been an interesting journey for us. And the past few months have been especially enlightening for me (Scott).

Back in April, our church had a conference to help us learn more about abiding in God. John Franklin, the speaker, said lots of great things but the one that stuck with me is that our lives should be "God" not "God and." So often we are dedicated to God and strive to commit ourselves to Him. But we keep "and" in the mix, too. Our joy or fulfillment is based on something in addition to God. But God wants us to be wholly (maybe even recklessly) dedicated to only Him.

This thought has been resonating (and rolling around) in my mind since. Then, recently I was reading My Utmost for His Highest and I read this: "Many of us do not go on spiritually because we prefer to choose what is right instead of relying on God to choose for us." I have been praying for God's will...and telling Him what that will is. I believe that I have been asking God to show me what He wants...and thinking in my mind the way He will answer - giving me a teaching job.

I have written about learning to be content. And yet I still seek to be something other than what I am right now.

So I have accepted that I am a writer and will not be a classroom teacher again. I'm okay with that.

It's been hard to let go of this particular thing. It's something I wanted for a while. I saw things fall into place and fully believe that God led me to be a classroom teacher for a short while. It's just been hard to firmly grasp that it was for just a short while.

No longer will I pray: "God, do Your will. And being a classroom teacher is that will for me." No more and. I will seek how to live for God as a writer and a volunteer and whatever other things He places in my path. I will let Him choose what I will do and stop trying to choose myself.

Being in an elementary classroom is not for me. Not now and maybe not ever again.

Being a early childhood writer is for me. Now and maybe for a while.

Being in God - needing nothing else - is for me. Every single day.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016


Where do you do your best thinking? Or maybe your most thinking? For me (Scott), it has to be when driving. (Especially alone. Cindy likes me to talk to her when we're traveling around town together.)

Recently I heard a song that included lyrics about making choices and having regrets. I began thinking about that. A lot. I certainly regret making choices to sin, doing those things that break my connection with God.

But, aside from those choices, I pondered if there are choices that I regretted, that I would do differently if faced with the same choice again (even knowing what I know now that resulted from those choices). For example, would I still go to teach first grade (knowing that I would be where I am today - outside the classroom and working freelance)? I really thought about it. And yes, I would.

I really felt that God was leading me to teach in the classroom then. I really see His work in my life - then and now. While I don't think I would have chosen to be a self-employed writer for two years at this point in my life, I have learned many things about myself (some good, some that show areas that need work). I have learned many things about trusting God and growing spiritually - mostly that I need to do more of both.

I look back at other choice points in my life. Would I still choose to do what I did? For the big things, yes. Would I handle some things differently? Of course. Most of those instances are due to the fact that I'm a different person now than I was then. But, then again, those "mistakes" are what led me to grow and be able to handle those things in different, more mature, ways.

Sometimes I wish I was in a different place than I currently am. But I wouldn't be the same person writing this blog post as I am. In fact, I probably wouldn't be writing this blog at all.

Sometimes I think "if only." (If only I'd done ____, then ____.) But I know that God is Sovereign. I love this quote from Trusting God: Even When Life Hurts by Jerry Bridges:
"God has no 'if onlys.' God never makes a mistake; God has no regrets. 'As for God, his way is perfect' (Psalm 18:30). We can trust God. He is trustworthy."
If I truly believe God is in control, I can rely on Him. I can trust His leading. I can make choices and know that God will be in the choice and in the result. I can put aside regret or doubt and look for ways to honor Him and see His work in the place I am.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

He Is Risen!

Jesus is risen! God loved us and sent Jesus into the world. Jesus died for our sins. He rose again to conquer death finally.

For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. (John 3:16)

Today I pray you would experience the peace and joy that comes from God through His risen Son, Jesus.

Happy Easter!

Monday, March 14, 2016

My Ministry Now

"Whoever welcomes one child like this in My name welcomes Me." (Matthew 18:5)

We are in an interesting season in our lives right now. Sometimes it feels like a holding pattern or a waiting room. But God is continuing to remind us that this is where we are supposed to be at this time. This is where we are called, what we have been led to be and do. This moment in our journey is to be savored just as much as any other we've had or will have.

Recently I (Scott) have had a couple of experiences that have reminded me that I'm doing important ministry right now. I'm not waiting. I'm serving in a different capacity. In my Sunday School class, I had a sobering conversation with two children. We were sitting at the writing table; they were drawing and writing. I noted that one child was writing words, a note. I've seen this child writing before, always a note to her father.

"You can't read it," she said to me. I assured her that I would only read notes when she said it was okay. But when I glanced, I did notice words like "miss you" and "I love you." (I promise. I didn't read the note.) She told me again that her father had left, moved out. She missed him and was writing to him. At times like this I don't ask questions. I affirm what is said and just listen.

After that, her friend said something about her father. Then she told me this story (not a literal transcript): When the floods came, she was a baby. Her mother took her upstairs to be safe from the flood. Her dad watched her. Later, he didn't want to watch her anymore. He went back to Mexico. "No one knows where he is in Mexico," she said.

Then, this week while tutoring at a school, a child said to me: "My daddy doesn't do things daddies should do." Really that's all the comment he said.

God is showing me that teaching in Sunday School and that volunteering to read or play games or practice math with young children are important ministries. I can be a listening ear for young children. I can be a positive male role model for some children. I cannot replace a significant adult in a child's life, but I can be another adult friend who listens and shows interest.

And what greater task could I be given? To be meaningful to a child. I hope I can do that. I hope I can fulfill the ministry God has called me to.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Favorite Sound

An interviewer regularly asks the ten questions on the Pivot Questionnaire. One of those questions is "What sound do you love?" For some reason, this particular question popped into my (Scott) head recently in my Sunday School class. And I knew the answer.

I love to hear young kids say my name. How wonderful it is to hear "Mr. Scott!" (or "Mr. Wiley") spoken in a small voice.

A boy who had been out of Sunday School for several weeks was back. Throughout the morning, he was say, "Mr. Scott, look at...." I had to smile each time I heard it.

As I thought about it this week, another thought entered my head. Does God feel the same? Does He have an emotional response when we speak His name? Well, maybe emotional isn't the right word. God is God and not like us. But we know that God is love. Does He feel that love when we speak His name?

Often I don't call on God's name or ask Him to be a part of what I'm doing. I go though my day and don't give a lot of thought toward Him as I do the things I need to do, choose to do. Just blind neglect of His presence wherever I am and whatever I'm doing.

Or maybe I don't want Him involved in what I'm doing. Maybe I'm afraid of what He would say or do with it.  Or tell me not to do it.

Maybe I'm over-thinking it. But I do know that I need to call on His name more. Think about Him more throughout the day.

My young friend called my name so I could experience things with Him. I need to do that with God. I need to call on God to be with me as I write or read or run errands, as I go about my daily tasks. Isn't that a life that's abundant, lived to the full? (John 10:10) A life that's connected with God. Maybe He's waiting to show me how much more my days could be.

If only I speak His name.