Caught in the Act (When Imitation Doesn’t Work)

Attending a one-room schoolhouse is something most people have only read about, but for me it was a reality for the first and second grade. Eight grades in one large room provided an experience like no other. Of course there were only a few students for each grade and as I think about it, those moms today who home school their children probably have a greater feel for the experience than most anyone else. Even so, to have 25 students in one room at different grade levels taught by one teacher meant you needed an extraordinary teacher. My teacher’s name was Mrs. Queen and the name fit her as perfectly as the smile she always wore.

The room was arranged with desks in rows and sections according to grade level. A large coal stove stood to one side and was used to heat the room in the winter. Behind the stove were a row of hooks for coats and jackets. Bathrooms were the more primitive outdoor variety. The playground had one set of swings and an abundance of grass.

I was one of three little girls in the first grade. Our desks were up front in the room, but the front wall’s black chalkboard gave us a glimpse of what other grades were assigned and we could also hear and benefit from the instruction students above us received. The disadvantage for me was my seeming inability to tune out the instruction for other grades and focus on my own work. It sounded more interesting than the work I was assigned. I also am and was a very auditory learner so I would zero in on all sorts of new information long before that material would be given to me. In fact, I learned a lot by listening.

I listened so well to the other girls in my class reading aloud that when it came to my turn, I could read the pages without stumbling over a single word. It seemed like I was the best reader in the class and I got credit for that until Mrs. Queen discovered the truth. I was not reading the words, but imitating. I pretended to read, but had instead memorized the stories in the reading book. It was almost the middle of the first grade and I was caught. My parents were told and I needed to start at the beginning of the first grade reader again.

There are many things I learned by imitation and this may not be a bad thing, but some things do not work that way. I can imitate the way my mother crimped a piecrust. I can imitate how I use my camera lens after I watch a You Tube video. I can imitate a British accent after watching Downton Abbey.

In the spiritual realm, I cannot imitate the nature of Jesus. It is either in me or it is not. As a believer, I am called to often be and do what is not my duty, to love when it would be easier to resent, to persevere when it would be easier to walk away, to respond with grace when a comment made is less then loving. If I only imitate, I will be found out as surely as Mrs. Queen detected I was not reading. I will also dishonor the Lord in my life when others discover I was only imitating. His character cannot be imitated. It only happens by the infusion of His life and Spirit at work within me.


I sat at my desk focusing on a project or at least trying to do so. I had been interrupted more than once and then the phone rang again. I thought I would ignore it, but by then the interruption was a reality so I took the call.

Interruptions. They cut into our time and intrude on our plans, our project, and our rest. Interruptions hit the pause button, if not the stop button, of that thing we want to do. If we are working on a task that we do not like, for the moment the interruption might be welcome, but most of the time we chafe at an interruption. It slows us down from doing what we want to do. It stops us from moving forward. It reminds us that we are not the center of the universe and not in control.

Interruptions come at us from all directions. They are a normal part of living.

Jesus was often interrupted when He walked the earth. The woman with the hemorrhage touched him as He was walking, on His way to something else He planned to do. Children interrupted Him in the midst of teaching adults. What was His response? Did He see interruptions as a frustration or an opportunity?

What can we learn from that? What can I learn from it?

The man on the phone identified himself by a name that jarred me into alertness. The name was that of an author whose book had greatly impacted me thirty years ago. In a split second my mind was whirling trying to sort out if this was the same person. The man went on to state he had called me because he noticed I shopped online often for his father’s book. He quickly went on to tell me his middle name, which differed from his father’s.

He explained that his father had died and he had some copies of unsold books so requests routinely came to him. He was curious. What caused the interest in the book after so many years? How had his father impacted someone that now looked for more copies?

Our conversation lasted for nearly fifteen minutes. I shared about its impact on me and said I used the books with others I counseled. He said he was coming to my area in a few weeks and wondered if he could stop by my office. We hung up and I leaned back in my chair reflecting.

The call had interrupted things I needed to get finished that day, but if I had not taken it I would have missed meeting the author’s son, which blessed me. I would also have missed being a blessing to the author’s son as I told him about the impact of his father’s work.

As I reflected on the call, I felt challenged to consider what the Lord might want to show me through the many interruptions I experience every day. Not all interruptions seem like opportunities or blessings. Perhaps before I chafe at an interruption I need to pause and consider what the interruption is about, whether the Lord is in it, whether it is an opportunity. What can I learn from it?

What do you do with interruptions?  

Standing on Tiptoes

I remember so well that day some years ago when I walked down the hall at the hospital holding my grandson’s hand. What excitement and anticipation I was feeling as we went to look at his new little sister on the other side of the glass! All the bassinets were lined up in a row facing the glass so that everyone could get a better look at these new little ones. We had both seen her the previous day, but we were back for another visit to continue to get acquainted with this new little lady with the dark hair and round cheeks.

As we stood there, my grandson inched up closer on tiptoes, holding onto the ledge at the front of the window watching his new sister as she lay sleeping. He wanted to see as much as he could even though he could not yet imagine how this sleeping beauty would change his world.

No matter what our age, there are times we all stand on our tiptoes. Most of the time, we do so because we want to be certain not to miss something, something very special.

I remember standing on tiptoes to see Santa Claus at a Christmas parade, to reach a particular book on the library shelf, to catch a glimpse of a bird’s nest resting on a tree branch near my front porch. I also remember standing on tiptoes to give someone I love a kiss, to watch my children march into our local high school stadium for graduation, and to catch the first glimpse of the plane that carried my husband back home after fourteen months in a war zone.

When I stand on tiptoes, my heart flutters with expectation at seeing or experiencing something special that I do not want to miss. I wait for a first glimpse, a first touch, and a first sound. Everything else in my life gets suspended as I push the pause button to experience this moment. All my focus strains forward.

As I read the gospels, so often Jesus was followed or surrounded by large crowds. Certainly, many stood on tiptoes to see Him better, to hear Him more clearly, to discover who this man was, to not miss this moment. He was right there. They could see Him and hear Him. There were many who touched Him. Some came to know Him.

Even though I was not in the crowd then, I came to know Him also. Jesus is not here in person, but I read about the promise of His return.

Am I standing on tiptoes looking for Him, listening for His voice, anticipating His return?

He lives within my heart. Each day I seek to sense His voice within me to live the day as He would want, but too often the tasks of the day dull my senses to the anticipation and excitement of seeing Him return, of hearing His voice audibly, of seeing the look in His eyes.

Today as I recalled that day at the nursery window with my grandson, I felt a flutter inside and realized that I want to be standing on tiptoes filled with anticipation when He returns. I don’t want to miss a thing about that moment!

What about you? Are you standing on tiptoes?

What are you anticipating? What do you want to see and hear?

Are you listening?

The Best Way to Milk a Cow

Despite growing up on a farm, I did not have a great affinity for the animals that were a part of my daily life. Looking for eggs under clucking chickens that fluffed their wings with every step I took was not what I considered fun. Cows? They were ginormous! I know that because when the fence that kept them corralled was not working and they decided to go exploring, my dad would do his version of a cowboy to get them back where they belonged. My job? If they ran in my direction, I was supposed to wave my arms, yell, jump around, and persuade them to go where my dad wanted them to go.

Cows and the farm fascinated Debbie, my city friend. On her first overnight at my house, she announced to my dad, “I want to learn to milk a cow”. My dad said that he would be glad to teach her the next day.

In the morning, trudged out to the barn and my dad began to give Debbie all the steps she needed to follow. He patiently guided her step by step. He had been a farmer his whole life and certainly knew the best way to milk a cow. She seriously followed each step until she got to the one where she needed to touch the cow.

Suddenly, the reality of sitting on a milking stool beside a cow that looked like the size of an elephant made touching her in order to milk her quite daunting. Debbie would move her hand toward the cow and then jerk it back. She looked helplessly at my dad and said, “Make me do it”. My dad laughed and told her there was really no way to milk a cow unless she would touch it. He patiently tried to help her, but after a half hour he and Debbie both realized this was not going to happen.

You see, the best way to milk a cow means you need to touch her and grab hold and squeeze in order to get the milk you want.

For many of us, our desires, hopes, and dreams have nothing to do with milking a cow and yet, like Debbie, we hesitate. Our fear cripples us and the voices in our head whisper over and over again well-worn lies that keep us stuck from ever reaching out and touching that thing, grabbing hold, and squeezing to get what we desire.

Going after that desire, hope, or dream is difficult and too often we want to cave in to the doubt and fear. If that thing you long for is a part of who you are, a part that the Creator put there, then it is something that requires bravery and courage to achieve and is worth the fight to reach out and do or be what captures your imagination.

Thinking about the thing you desire will not give birth to it. You will need to fight past your fear and doubt, labor over the dream, have patience, and grab hold and squeeze to get the rich goodness your heart desires.

The best way to milk a cow or pursue any other desire, hope, or dream means you will need to reach out, touch it, grab it, massage it, and trust the One who gave you that vision at every step along the way. You will get no milk if you simply sit on the stool beside the cow!

Am I Important?

All the other reading students scurried out of the room as the bell rang. Michael was usually the first one out the door, but not this day.

Michael was a ten-year-old boy with a tough guy image who wrestled with more than just reading. Some of that struggle related to the difficulty with reading, but much more lay hidden beneath the image he portrayed. He had fought receiving help at every turn since the beginning of the school year. I knew the fight well. I was the tutor for elementary children with reading problems; problems that he tried to ignore or shove away.

Then one day in February in the midst of a tutoring session, he slipped beneath the table where he was sitting to retrieve a pencil. From that vantage point, I heard his voice ask me the question, “Am I important?” After all this time, in one unexpected instant he dropped his guard and asked the pivotal question hidden beneath the tough guy exterior.

I was stunned by his candid honesty, filled with admiration by his courage. I tried to assure him that he was indeed important as he slowly emerged from under the table. I do not recall what words I used and I cannot be sure of what he believed about my reassurances, but I know from that day forward Michael did not fight coming to the tutoring sessions and he slowly began to make progress.

What lingered in my mind later that day was his bravery, but what also showed up on what seemed to be an ordinary day was the truth. Each of us keeps that question hidden within us at some point in our lives. No matter what our home was like, our teachers were like, or our friends were like, we have all wanted and needed to know we were valuable and important to someone. We have looked for a myriad of ways to try to prove to ourselves that we matter very much to someone.

Most of us, however, have never risked asking it or we asked the wrong person.

Only the One who created us can answer that question in a way that resolves it once and for all. Insecurity and rejection are staunch enemies of the truth of God’s love for us. Even when we have come to know Him, there can be shadows of those feelings lurking beneath the surface that get deeply rooted within us too often by judgments, slights, and loneliness.

The beliefs that are formed from these things silence our voice from asking the One who can best answer it, from the One who knows us best and loves us perfectly.

He wants us to ask Him, to resolve the nagging uncertainty, to settle the question if we will only risk asking and listen to His response.