Monday, March 19, 2018



[Photo of an open planbook]

“Being confident of this, that he who began
a good work in you will carry it to
completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”
—Philippians 1:6

The teacher lives by his or her plan book. If the teacher has done a good job, inside each plan book you can find day-to-day lessons. Each individual lesson will have an individual goal. Monthly or unit lessons that relate to the individual lessons will have a larger, more encompassing goal. Year-long plans for a specific grade level, or subject, will reflect the goals of the curriculum for the particular subject area.

Some teachers, once they have achieved mastery of all of these levels, begin planning “longitudinally.” This is the practice that I followed. I had music students from Kindergarten through Grade Four, so I looked at my students with the strategy of a five-year plan. How rewarding to see the skills these children acquired over those years and to know that I, in large part, had taught them and watched them grow in their proficiency.

We use a theological term for this kind of progress in our spiritual lives: sanctification. It’s important to note that sanctification follows God’s longitudinal design for us. And, rather than planning for a whole group of students—or disciples—God specifically designs a customized plan for each of us. He measures our individual progress against His long-term goals, which He has formulated for each of us since before the foundation of the world.

Joni Eareckson Tada, who became a quadriplegic as a teenager—on the day the doctors moved her in the hospital from “acute care” to “chronic care”—learned the very hard lesson of looking into God’s plan book. She knew then that this “lesson” of growth would become a long-range process. Here’s how she put it:1

The core of God’s plan is to rescue us from sin and self-centerdness. Suffering—especially the chronic kind—is God’s choicest tool to accomplish this. It is a long process. But, it means I can accept my paralysis as a chronic condition. When I broke my neck, it wasn’t a jigsaw puzzle I had to solve fast, or a quick jolt to get me back on track. My paralyzing accident was the beginning of a lengthy process of becoming like Christ.

As we consider God’s work in our lives, we should ask ourselves what God uses to teach us short lessons, longer chapters, or life-lessons, and how He masterminds all of it for His long-range good purposes in our lives. And, we should remember that lessons always go best when we cooperate!


1 Tada, Joni Eareckson. Pearls of Great Price. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing Company, 2006. Devotional for February 17th.



Monday, March 12, 2018

The Sap of the Maple


[Photo of painting by Charlene B. Willink Kidder]

“The trees of the Lord are watered
abundantly and are filled with sap.”
—Psalm 104:16 Amp.

I love that in the months of February and March a great transformation takes place. The ground lies frozen beneath a blanket of snow and all the trees look like dead stalks. I can remember my childhood on a maple syrup-producing farm. Yes, before the robin sings his first song, before pussy willows pop their soft fuzzy shoots, or before the ice-hardened streams flow freely, we can find new life within the maple tree.

The maple tree, in order to produce the sweet sap, must teem with new life. Through its hidden roots, it must draw up from the moisture in the ground the glorious liquid that becomes its sap.

In a similar way, a Christian should bring forth new fruit and new living nourishment for the benefit of himself or herself and others. This fresh life is produced by the work of the Holy Spirit, Who brings the divine ability to give off the many effects of that new life. The root system of a Christian reaches deep down in God-breathed experiences, deep down to the Water of Life, the Lord Jesus, and deep down into the written Word of God that feeds spiritual nourishment to him or her.

The result of tapping into one of these mature maple trees and allowing a hot fire to boil away the extra liquid can be tasted in the remaining syrup and the many products made from the syrup, such as maple cream and maple sugar candy.

Mature Christians, with the living graces of Christ flowing into them, through them, and from them, produce sweet refreshments for others, as well. In Scripture, Galatians 5:22-23 refers to these sweet refreshments as the “Fruit of the Spirit.”

Charles Haddon Spurgeon had this to say1:

As the sap manifests itself in producing the foliage and fruit of the tree, so with a truly healthy Christian, his grace is externally manifested in his walk and conversation.

Let us continually feed on the Water of Life so that we provide Christ’s sweetness to everyone we meet.


1 Spurgeon, Charles H. Morning and Evening. Public Domain. Devotional entry for October 24th.
2 The photo above was taken of a portion of the mural painted by Charlene B. Willink Kidder for the UPMC Chautauqua WCA Hospital Emergency Department’s Waiting Room in Jamestown, NY.



Monday, March 5, 2018

Spiritual Sinkholes


[Photo of a sinkhole]

“Therefore let any one who thinks he stands—who
feels sure that he has a steadfast mind and is
standing firm—take heed lest he fall
[into sin].”
—1 Corinthians 10:12 Amp.

If you were driving along and came to the sinkhole shown in the photo above, would you try to drive around it? If you were planning to build a house, would you set your sights on the lot adjacent to such a sinkhole? No reasonable person would do either.

Yet, we all sometimes dare walk by and peer into a pit like this and suddenly get drawn into it. Sin entices us when we least expect it and we fall.

For example, we all have “besetting” sins that we get used to having in our lives. Some of us live close to a sinkhole called “Worry.” We find it so easy to step over the side and fall into this sinkhole. Others of us nurse “Grudges.” We stand too near the rim and catch ourselves—on the way down! Some of us get too close to the edge of a pit called “Self-pity.” Before we know it, we’re at the bottom of this sinkhole with no apparent way out.

How do we make it a practice of staying out of the neighborhood where sinkholes abide? Some days we’d much rather build our house right there on the perimeter and enjoy our misery. Do you ever feel that way?

In her book, Jesus Calling, Sarah Young writes about this problem area. She explains the importance of this crisis of daily living.

Be on guard against the pit… When you are weary or unwell, this demonic trap is the greatest danger you face. Don’t even go near the edge of the pit. Its edges crumble easily, and before you know it, you are on the way down. It is ever so much harder to get out of the pit than to keep a safe distance from it.1

Sarah Young suggests that Christians with this problem—the enticement of the pit—should occupy themselves with praising and thanking God for His blessings. She also speaks of living close to God in order to put a distance between us and the pit. Her suggestions are both good ideas.

Scripture itself, in the same passage as our introductory verse, tells us that we have help available if we want it. 1 Corinthians 10:13 states:

No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.

I hope that you will join me as we work at staying away from spiritual sink holes. Comfortable though it may be to peer into them, whenever we put ourselves into that kind of temptation, we cannot please our heavenly Father. He has definitely given us help to overcome such temptation.


1 Young, Sarah. Jesus Calling. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2008. Devotional for February 23rd.