My novel about the rewards and challenges of teaching elementary school is finished! You can preorder it on Amazon, and it will be out December 23 in time for gifts for teachers or parents on your Christmas list.
Here’s what Barbara Reed, San Joaquin County Teacher of the Year, said about Queen of the Third Grade.
“’Love them first. They’ll learn their heart out for you.’ The Queen of the Third Grade teacher’s quote in her last year of teaching says it all in this beautifully written novel. Her heart is wide open for her dizzying array of third graders–from a learning-disabled boy unable to read to an autistic child fixated on Quantum Physics to an emotionally disturbed boy to an angry girl with questionable bruises to a girl who doesn’t speak English. She addresses her students’ vastly different abilities, challenges and gifts by focusing on strengths, teaching to each child’s ability, rewarding the good, giving her students power; and embracing “Truth and Grace” to apologize in front of the class when she is wrong. However, the teacher’s work is not limited to the four walls of the classroom; she goes far beyond, working with the families, mentoring new teachers, and challenging the shameful dictates of state-wide testing that leave students feeling worthless. Intertwined in her school life is her full-time devotion to her husband and family with all its blessings and tragedies. Just when the reader thinks this teacher’s retirement signals a final departure from her students, her trust in the Lord opens a brand new and heroic chapter in her life!”
I hope you enjoy Queen of the Third Grade. If you do, please leave a review on Amazon, Goodreads, or both. And Merry Christmas!
I’m coming to the end of the writing process on Queen of the Third Grade, where my protagonist, Gwen Murphy, finishes her last year teaching. She ponders as she faces various challenges how to manage life in truth and grace. Somewhere along the line, she realizes only God knows truth and only God can find the boundaries between truth and grace, which puts humans in the position of needing to turn to Him whenever life hands us sticky situations.
Now, I’m not talking about whether to do the dishes or not. If you choose not to, that can get pretty sticky. But that’s not the sticky I mean. The sticky I mean is more like when you become friends with someone who lives in a culture or lifestyle you don’t share. The Atheist and the Christian, the person of color and the white, the straight and the gay, the rifle-toter and the pacifist, that kind of thing. In those kinds of relationships, one pastor suggests you need a yes, no, yes philosophy, which I think is one way of applying grace and truth.
My understanding of yes, no, yes is yes, I’m going to be your friend, respect you as someone made in the image of God. No, I can’t agree with everything you think or do. But yes, I’m going to be your friend anyhow. And I’m going to pull this off because as we move through life, I’m going to keep turning to Jesus to ask where truth and grace are right now, in this situation and copy His example of open arms and honesrty.
I hope, when Queen of the Third Grade is published, you’ll take a look at Gwen’s last year. It’s a doozy. Hopefully, it’ll be on Amazon by Christmas.
This Christmas will dawn on a changed world. I hope I don’t just mean masks, social distancing, and filled to capacity ICU’s. I hope I mean each of us is trusting God more. I hope our faith in Him is born or rekindled as a result of this crazy virus. And I hope, that in the midst of this hard time, instead of blame Him for not intervening, we experience how much He loves us.
In the menatime, we can do more than bemoan the lack of family gatherings. We can follow Jesus’ leading. We can do something for the least of these He puts in our path. We can keep our eyes open for the weak, the sick, the poor, the widow, the orphan, the imprisoned, the hungry and thirsty — and along with our prayers, provide for them. Let’s not make it just with money, but with the gift of ourselves, our involvement.
Let’s also thank God for His little miracles, take care of ourselves of course, and look for Him and to Him in all we do.If the pandemic has you in a panic or a depression, head over to Amazon and check out Joy Out of Chaos by Charlie Crane and me. May He bless you and yours as we end this year with blessings you know came from Him.
For the purpose of this blog, the first kind is keeping the secrets entrusted to you by others. “Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another; for love covers a multitude of sins.” I Peter 4:8 This secrecy applies to the hidden thing someone has told me about themself, not my own secret. Telling someone else’s story isn’t my job. It’s a lack of love.
I have several choices when someone tells me a secret of theirs. I can stuff it in my brain closet and forget about it. Another possibility might be to discuss with them their motives for secrecy. Do they have to do with deception or discretion? Secrecy can be a tool of Satan when it keeps justice from being done. Deception is the kind of secrecy that hides the truth to get what we want. Discretion is telling the truth at the right time, and to the right person. Even when the two of you have thought these things over about the truth they are hiding, their secret is theirs to tell, or not. To respect them is to allow them the choice.
The second way we deal with embarrassing or hurtful truth is to keep our own secrets.
“Don’t air your dirty laundry.”
Common sense, right? However, let me suggest that common sense doesn’t always make sense. I understand that we worry that if our secret gets out there will be people who take advantage or twist the secret to make us look bad to the world, or hurt the people we love. I lived twenty years of my life in secrecy that I thought protected others.
We need a disclaimer here. There is a difference between complete secrecy and discretion. If I walk up to someone I don’t know and tell them my deepest secret, A. They’ll think I’m nuts, B. There’s no reason to be so forthcoming in a relationship that doesn’t even exist yet. This should be a no brainer. Figuring out that I get to know the person before I share myself is the beginning of discretion. If I listen to people, get to know them, and then share myself and a secret or two in areas where they struggle and I might help them heal, that’s discretion. But if I get to know them, trust them, but share nothing, that may be self-protective secrecy.
Keeping our own secrets may be pretending not to be who we really are, and sometimes it’s pretending to be sinless. Not only that, it avoids bearing one another’s burdens. Why? Because if I think I’m alone in my sin, that no one has ever messed up as badly as I have, or been as totally affected by wrong as I have, I’m not likely to tell anyone about my experiences. If no one knows what I’ve dealt with, how can they bear my burden? How can I bear theirs? In this situation, I follow God in faltering steps because I’m spending my strength covering up, and healing never happens. On the other hand, if someone whose been through what I’m going through keeps quiet, I’ll never realize they might have answers.
Telling my own story is encouraged in Scripture. “Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.” James 5:16
When I hear someone say they have struggled in an area in which I also struggle, the thought crosses my mind that they may know something that will help me find truth and healing. I’m freed to reveal my experience to them and find out whether they know something I need to know. And perhaps whether I know something they need to know.
So, who do I tell my secrets? The ones who struggle in the same areas I do. Without telling my secrets, there’s no way for me to know who those people are. That’s the strongest argument for transparency I can think of. Others who should hear my secrets are people who might be affected adversely if I keep the secret.
Though people can take advantage of knowing our secrets, it doesn’t matter. We belong to God, He loves us, and what others think of us or say about us is of no consequence. They are just people, like us. Satan loves closed mouths and hidden truths because they keep justice from being done, and all of us living in the dark. It’ll take courage, but God’s got plenty of that. Ask Him for some.
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, Who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourelves are comforted by God.” (II Cor. 1:3 NAS)
I’ve never hosted a guest blogger before, but authors need to support each other. So, Jennifer Slattery has a new novel, Building a Family (see cover below), releasing soon, and she has written a blog for me. Welcome, Jennifer! Will you all please welcome her by writing her a comment.
For years, I was a stale and stagnate Christian. Christ had deposited His living water within my soul, but it was more like a trickling creek than the gushing river He desired.
I wasn’t thriving. In many ways, I was barely surviving. Then one weekend, I went on a women’s retreat and heard the account of the Samaritan woman (John 4:1-42) who’d gone through a string of relationships and, I felt certain, lived as empty as I was. She may have been widowed numerous times, abandoned by her past husbands, or she may have chosen divorce. Regardless, she’d engaged in and lost five relationships, and that had to leave emotional scars.
Jesus saw her pain and He sought her out. Knowing she’d soon reach the community well, He arrived first, sent His disciples away, and waited.
Just as, each day, He patiently waits for us. Once she arrived, He initiated a conversation by asking for a drink of water, triggering a deeper thirst than any liquid could quench. “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks for a drink,” He said, “you would have asked Him, and He would’ve given you living water” (John 4:10, NIV).
In Ancient Palestine, water was rare, precious, and necessary. Rain only fell during a few months each year, and when it did, the previously brown and barren countryside became lush and green. Against this backdrop Jesus said, in essence, come to Me to come alive, fully alive. Speaking of the Holy Spirit, He later said, “Whoever believes in Me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them” (John 7:37-39, NIV).
This felt confusing. I’d already entrusted my eternal salvation to Christ. But I had never learned to truly live in Him, for numerous reasons, many that took over a decade to unpack. However, much of it came down to this: I didn’t know how to live loved. Past hurts, fears, and a continual blanket of self-loathing covered my heart in scar tissue, and it blocked me from fully receiving the grace God continually poured upon me. Equally depleting, I spent so much time attempting to fill all my empty places in my own strength—through alcohol, social functions, food—I routinely distanced myself from the only One who could fill me completely.
I hadn’t a clue how to hold authentic relationships—with anyone, let alone the all-knowing, all-powerful, ever-present yet invisible Creator. So I asked Him to show me. To teach me. To heal me. And He did. For the next fifteen or so years, He soothed my hurts, removed my distrust, and helped me discover the freedom of living love.
Of living filled.
We receive God’s living water, the Holy Spirit, the moment we trust in Christ for salvation. But our experience doesn’t end there. As we deepen our relationship with Christ and our surrender, the streams God deposited within us grow stronger, soaking into every crack and crevice in our hearts, filling us so completely, His Spirit pours out in a refreshing, life-giving stream.
Let’s talk about this! Have you experienced God’s living water? How’s your stream? Is something slowing the waters of God’s Spirit? How can you give Him more access to yourself so that He can flow within and from you unhindered?