Friday, September 29, 2006

Gifts for Students, Participants, or Attendees

While we're on the gift-giving subject, sometimes teachers like to provide simple, low-cost gifts for their students just to say "thanks" or to help the remember key lesson points or to celebrate certain holidays.

Here are some reliable web-sites where you can purchase token gifts items inexpensively or in bulk.

Magnetic Express (decorative magnets)
A Promotional Outlet (for larger quantities)
Oriental Trading Company (very inexpensive, even for small quantities)
Carnival Source (like Oriental Trading Co.)
Pin Mart (for lapel pins, lanyards, bracelets, etc.)
Crown Awards (for trohies, plaques, ribbons, and such)
Fun Express
Gifts in Bulk (for nicer gifts and favors)
Bulk Foods (for just about any food gift you can imagine)
Christian Book Distributors (great prices, especially on close-out gifts and bookmarks)
Making Friends
Educational Innovations
Visual Image Plus (for custom bookmarks)
Save on Closeouts (bulk liquidations and party supplies)

And for bulk teaching supplies, try these sites:

Really Good Stuff
Smile Makers (a division of Staples)

Also, don't forget about these perpetual discounters (stock changes daily):
E-bay's Wholesale/Bulk Lots (by category)
Christian Book Distributor's Gift Store Bargains

These are just some basic ideas. Maybe some of these web sites will springboard your creativity when it comes to showing your students how much you appreciate them!

'Til next time,

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Teacher Appreciation Gifts

It seems that many of you who visit this site are looking for teacher appreciation gift ideas (at least that's what my search-word stats tell me). And I'm glad. Teachers need to know they're appreciated.

Most of the teachers in our program know we appreciate them (at least I hope they do), and we try to let them know through several means:

1. We offer (and budget for) a teacher incentive program: if they complete certain training tasks, we purchase a teaching tool or resource for them at our expense (up to $25), It's our way of saying "thanks" for their hard work and investing in their growth and development as teachers.

2. We give thank-you gifts. They're not expensive and are truly just tokens of appreciation, but the teachers seem to value them. Here are just some of the things we've given over the years:

  • Plants (potted flowers, hanging baskets, single-stem roses, etc.)
  • Teaching idea books (to springboard creativity)
  • Devotional books (to encourage their hearts)
  • Leadership books (to encourage their roles as leaders)
  • Paper weights with fitting sayings (to remind them of some relevant truth or encouraging idea)
  • Bible memory-verse cards with decorative holders (for their reflection)
  • Mugs: you can give funny mugs or fancy mugs or inspirational mugs or teacher mugs--any mug consistent with your teachers' interests will do.
  • Food: fruit baskets, gifts baskets with teas, coffees, nuts, cheese/crackers sets, popcorn tins, home-baked goodies, prepared ready-to-make mixes with recipes (hot cocoa mix, soup mix, cookie mixes, etc.) packaged in mason jars or zip-lock bags, etc.
  • Reader gifts (book lights, book marks, etc.). Most teachers are readers.
  • Blank, lined journals and pens. Many teachers enjoy writing.
  • Gift certificates to restaurants, books stores, on-line sites (like amazon of CBD) or teaching supply places.
  • Decorative magnets
  • Hand-written thank-you notes (probably the most appreciated thing of all)

3. We host a once-a-semester Teacher Luncheon that we put on for the teachers at no cost to them. A few people volunteer to prepare food (something easy, like sandwiches or wraps or soups or quiches) and decorate a room (or host at a home), then we invite the teachers to come and enjoy a meal together just for fun (no agenda).

4. We try to support our teachers however we can: offering training events, making ourselves available to help as needed (with copying, or room set-up, or getting equipment set up, etc.) or to brainstorm ideas, praying for them, etc.

5. We recognize them and express our appreciation to them publicly once a year (at end-of-the-semester functions or other leadership meetings).

These are just some of the ways we've tried to let our teachers know how much we value them. Many of the things we've done we've been able to do at little expense (keeping our eyes out for gifts bargains, recruiting volunteers to make or provide things, hand-making treats or gifts, hand-writing notes, buying in bulk, etc.). Or sometimes the students go in together on gifts, everyone contributing just a dollar or two.

Be creative, and don't let cost be an issue. At the very least, hand write a thank-you note (a lost art these days). Teachers often serve thanklessly, so let them know you appreciate and value them. Your simple words of thanks may encourage them far more than you know!

'Til next time,


Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Don't Forget Time to Be Still

Well, our Bible-study program is back in full swing, and September has been filled with the usual plethora of details to manage.

In the midst of our Fall hubbub, my dear hubby turned 50 years old, and to celebrate we took a day off for hiking.

I snapped this picture at Lake Jean, 2.5 hours or 130 miles northwest of here, just as we were preparing to sit down for a late afternoon lunch after six hours of strenuous hiking.

I thought this image captured well the spirit of Jesus' standing invitation to us to sit and sup with Him in quiet, stillness, and reflection. It represents rest and intimacy and conversation in the midst of what otherwise could be non-stop activity. It portrays rejuvination after hard work.

How long has it been since you or I have taken time to be quiet and still? How long since we've dined with our Savior?

I think the question is appropriate as we begin another semsester of service. In our busyness, let's not forget to guard our hearts (Proverbs 4:23) and to take time for renewal. Jesus did (Mark 6:32; 46), and so should we.

'Til next time,
Joan Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

From the Archives: Don't forget your soul!

Originally posted June 16, 2005, this entry reminds of the need for summer soul care:

Five Ways to Nurture Your Soul This Summer

By now, most of us who were leading spring Bible studies or classes have wrapped up our semesters and are looking forward to a few weeks or months off from regular lesson preparation.

Downtime, recreation, junk reads, lazy beach days--these are some of the things we equate with our summers off. But don't forget to feed your soul.

Here are five things you can do this summer to foster some soul time:

1. Take a personal mini-retreat. By that I mean, take a day, or a block of six hours, or a two-hour chunk of time, and set it aside for prayer, reflection, stillness, and meditation on God's word. You don't have to have a big agenda, nor do you have to go away, to experience an effective mini-retreat. Try going to your local library or coffee shop. Or, better yet, go to the home of a vacationing friend or to a local park where you can find alone time. Then commit to spending the time you alotted in prayer and in God's word.

2. Try recording your thoughts on faith, God, the Bible, prayer--just some aspect of your spiritual life (in a journal or notebook or on tape). Set aside an hour each Sunday for processing your thoughts.

3. Read a short, classic Christian work. Try Brother Lawrence's The Practice of the Presence of God, or A.W. Tozer's The Knowledge of the Holy, or Ole Hallesby's Prayer, or Andrew Murray's The Deeper Christian Life. Try journaling about what you read. (For free classics, check out the Christian Classics Ethereal Library on-line.)

4. Write a psalm or hymn.

5. Watch a sunrise from a hilltop and worship our Creator God.

Summers can be busy times filled with fun, travel, and activity, but if we plan for it we can include "still" time for our souls.

'Til next time,

From the Archives: Take Time for Fun

This entry was originally posted in June, 2005, but seems apropos for Summer 2006:

"For those of us who maintain heavy teaching or ministry schedules from September to June, summer provides the opportunity to "catch up" on all those things we set aside during the academic year. House projects, filing, crafts, gardens, reading, letter writing, and other tasks eat up our discretionary time, and before we know it September is here again.

This summer, don't forget to guard time for relaxation and play. God did, after all, create a weekly day of rest and recreation; he also provided a year of Jubilee. We weren't created to carry continual, on-going stressors or demands without reprieve; and when we do, our health and functioning suffer.

What one thing can you do for 'play' this summer? What one thing can you participate in just for fun?

Take time to giggle and laugh and enjoy the life you've been given, no matter what your circumstances. Your soul will thank you for it; you'll be glad you did.

'Til next time,

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Inexpensive Resources on Ebay

I know I keep plugging the need for teachers to be well-resourced, that is, to have solid Bible study and research tools at their fingertips. It's because I'm so passionate about responsible preparation and being faithful in our handling of God's word. In earlier posts I've encouraged every Bible study teacher or leader to possess at least the following:
  • a good study Bible (one with cross-references, footnotes, concordance, and maps)
  • an exhaustive concordance (based on the same translation the teacher uses most)
  • a Bible dictionary or Bible handbook
  • multiple translations of the Bible (or a parallel Bible)
  • a topical Bible (like a concordance but arranged by topic or subject)
  • a Bible atlas
And that's just the minimum.

I also know that accumulating this kind of library can be expensive, and I've suggested purchasing softward bundles (less expensive than books overall) or buying books through local discount warehouses or on sale at Christian Bood Distributors or to defray expenses. I've also mentioned several on-line tools available free of charge (see list of "Bible Study Tools" links in sidebar on right; click to your heart's content!).

And in one of my recent posts, I offhandedly mentioned eBay. Little did I know!

Yup. Now that I've entered the eBay underworld (it really has its own subculture), I have to say I'm thoroughly impressed. Every seller with whom I've done business has gone above and beyond the call of duty to get my books to me safely, in good condition, and in a decent amount of time. Ebay is a far greater resource for purchasing inexpensive study tools than I first imagined.

Random searches I did this morning at eBay yielded these finds:
  • an NIV exhaustive concordance (hardback) for 99 cents
  • a leather-bound John MacArthur study Bible for $2.99
  • a hardback NIV study Bible for $1.99
  • a Zondervan Illustrated Bible handbook (new, unused hardback) for $1.99
  • a new Zondervan Nave's topical Bible for 99 cents
  • several various Bibles translations (study Bibles and otherwise) for $2.00 or less
  • complete multi-volume hardcover commentary sets (by solid, reputable authors) from $20 to $130--all new, unused, in publisher's original packaging
If you'd like to see for yourself, go to eBay, and type in what you're looking for in the search box at the top right (search by title or general subject or author...doesn't matter). Some items located in your search will be up for auction (you can see how much time is left to bid) and others are "buy it now" offers (immediate transactions). Either way, you'll find boatloads of tools at reasonable, even less-than-reasonable, prices. You may have to search a bit, but the deals are there.

Having said that, keep these cautions in mind:

1. Check out the sellers' ratings first (before your bid or buy). Ebay's success is largely due to its seller/buyer feedback system (made public to all). Literally every buyer and every seller can leave feedback about their transaction experiences. Avoid those sellers with less-than-ideal ratings (read the comments left by other buyers to see what to expect).

2. Don't get caught up in the last minute bidding rush. Some items' prices skyrocket quickly in the last few minutes of an auction. Remember: if you see your desired item at eBay once, it will be there again. Almost guaranteed. Be patient, and you'll find what you want for the price you need.

3. If you don't want to risk losing the auction to another bidder, you can often find "buy it now" options on identical products offered by other sellers. You may pay a teensy bit more for that option, but some sellers just want to unload their goods.

4. Check the seller's location and shipping costs, too, before you bid or buy. Some offer flat rates; some offer media mail; some only offer more expensive Priority mail. It won't do you any good to get a great deal on the book cost, but then get overcharged on shipping. Most sellers list their shipping fees upfront, but some don't. If your item's seller hasn't listed shipping rates, e-mail the seller to ask about shipping fees before you buy or bid (this is standard protocol). If you're unsure, don't use that seller.

5. Make sure the photo you see in the item listing is of the product you're buying (or that the seller has clearly stated that the photo is only a stock photo and not of the actual product). Again, the seller's feeback ratings will alert you to any problem with misrepesentation, so this shouldn't be an issue.

6. Do your homework: know how much the item you're looking for costs at Amazon or CBD first, then see if you're getting a deal on eBay. Some things that look like deals aren't when you check out the competition. you have several ways to resource your teaching library for a relatively small expense. Think about it: for less than a trip to the movies or a stop at a fast food restaurant, you can purchase some solid Bible study tools to have at your fingertips. If you haven't done so already, start now, and add to your resources one book at a time.

You, and your students, will be better for the investment.

'Til next time,

Saturday, March 04, 2006


Sorry about the last post. Oooops! That was supposed to be published on the web log site I do about living with our three Labrador retrievers (called Lab Tails).

But after rereading what's posted here, though I'll repost it there later, I think there's a lesson in that entry that applies not just to Lab owners, but to Bible study teachers, too. Well two lessons, actually.

Lesson 1: Details, though they aren't everything, can be very important. My Lab Tails blog entry ended up on this blog because I was sending photos and failed to notice the destination link at the top of the page had changed from its norm (my default destination setting is for Lab Tails since I post most photos there). The last time I posted here I sent photos, so I changed the setting, but failed to change it back again. One mouse click was all it would have taken for the blog post to have ended up in the right place: one little detail.

Sometimes, in our hurry to prepare or in our passion to make a point, we skip details for the larger issues. My "oooops" reminds me that it's important to notice details and to think through lessons carefully before I entrust them to my students and group members.

Lesson 2: Teaching, like life with Labs, comes with both the good and the bad. To experience one, we must be willing to accept the other (just like to experience the good of my Labs I have to accept things like muddy paws--it's just part of the territory).

So that's it; those are my two brief lessons learned.

Oh, maybe there's one more lesson here, too: Redemption. Even our mistakes can be redeemed: God is big enough to use it all for His glory and our good.

'Til next time,

We Love to be Outside!

The kids (canine variety) just love the outdoors.

It doesn't matter what time of year, what type of weather, or how cold it is. If they can be outside, that's where they want to be.

The only exception is summer heat, but that's another story for another day.

They especially love to be outside when it's messy: muddy, rainy, icy. Go figure.

Well, Don took Baxter, Elsie, and Ridge for their usual lengthy Saturday morning romp out along the dirty roads and streams near our house. And, you guessed it: they loved splashing in anything they could put their paws into: mud, ice cold water, draining ditches. Silly, muddy, muddy kids.

Thankfully we have a somewhat mess-free backyard. And the kid love to hang out there.
They stay pretty clean, all things considered (not that they care; I care, though, especially when they come inside!).

They stay mud-free just about everywhere in the back yard, except when the visit the lower corner beyond the crabapple tree. That's a mud pit. And, of course, it's right next to where the neighbors come and go, so the dogs hang out there to bark and race back and forth. It figures.

So, we decided it was time to throw some straw in the mud pit to at least tone down the splash factor.

Elsie, Baxter, and Ridge had to help, of course.

And they did.

But even two bales later, we still have a mud pit.

And muddy dogs.

I guess that's just part of living with Labs. :o)

I'll take muddy paws and underbellies with Lab kisses and faithfulness any day.

'Til next time,
Joan Posted by Picasa

Thursday, March 02, 2006

The Right Tools: Finding Good Books for Less

A few weeks ago, when Philly got hit with 18" of snow, we made it through the storm and its aftermath quite comfortably.

Why? Because we had the right tools (like the snowblower in this photo).

Teaching Bible study or leading small groups can feel like a blizzard sometimes: too many thoughts and ideas and theologies and questions swirling in our minds and in the minds of our students/group members.

We can navigate these blizzards safely and comfortably, however, if we have the right tools.

Nearly a year ago (February 18th, 2005, Essential Bible Study Resources post), I provided a list of non-negotiable, absolute-must-have-resources for Bible study teachers and leaders, so I won't repeat the list here.

What I've learned recently is that you don't have to spend a fortune to get these things. Here are a few places on-line you can find Bible study resources inexpensively:

1. eBay (in books, go to the non-fiction, religion, and Christian sub-categories, then search your title)

2. (use the used-book seller option). Take Zondervan's NIV Nave's Topical Bible (hardback) for example. Amazon lists this book for their discount rate of $29.99. BUT new and used booksellers at Amazon list the same book for as low as $9.00. I've used the new and used option for many, many books at Amazon without incident. I highly recommend this avenue for acquiring discounted books.

3. Use You can search by author or title and BookFinder will yield lists of sellers and their prices, many of which are unbelievably low.

Also, beyond the Internet, don't forget about your Public Library's used-book sales, second-hand or thrift shops, discount book warehouses, and other discounters like Ollie's Bargain Outlet
I buy a LOT of my teaching resources at Ollie's, as do many of my teachers and students. Check their web-site store locator to find a store near you.

Whatever you're teaching or leading, having the right tools can make your job easier; they may even help you survive a teaching storm. Some tools you can find on-line (see right-hand margin of this page), and some electronically (see my Thursday, February 16, 2006 post), but I like the printed page.

There's just something about books. And it doesn't have to bankrupt you to add a few good, hard-copy resources to your library.

Happy resource hunting! May you find what you need.

'Til next time,

 Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, March 01, 2006


I keep a framed picture similar to this one on my desk in my office. A gift from my sister, it sits next to my computer where I see it daily.

In the upper left-hand corner, superimposed over the image, are these words:

"Recognize and develop great people and great ideas...while they are still small."

Then one word captions the photo: "Potential."

Zechariah 4:10 states, "Do not despise these small beginnings, for the LORD rejoices to see the work begin" (NLT).

The image of a redwood sapling growing among mature, healthy giants, reminds me that we all begin as saplings with potential (we ourselves, our co-workers, our loved ones, those to whom and with whom we minister). We follow the giants who've gone before us; we lead potential giants coming behind. And God accomplishes the growth of us all.

Sometimes we miss the potential in those around us because we're too focused on the giants looming above. Or we're too impatient to recognize the value of solid, though small, beginnings.

God, give us grace to see the potential You have for us and for those around us. Help us to rejoice, as You rejoice, in seeing your work begin. Fill us with hope-filled eyes that see potential, and make us faithful to nurture growth in whatever saplings you've seen fit to plant in our paths.

'Til next time,

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Teaching Trip to Zambia

Some of you may know that four leaders from our women's ministries program at Calvary Church have been invited to teach at a women's leadership conference in Zambia in May 2006.

As the Teacher Coordinator for Tues. AM Bible Studies, I am part of that team, as is our Women's Ministries Director and Bible Studies Coordinator, Joan Wambold, and two other Bible study teachers: Jean Ford and Iyabo Williams.

Here we are (the ZamGals!):

In case any of you Teachers' Tips readers are interested, I've developed a blog specifically for that trip. It's called Four Gals in Zambia.

You can follow our adventure there. Just thought you'd like to know!

'Til next time,

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Never Fear Drought

Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord.

He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.

Jeremiah 17:7-8 (ESV)

How are your roots lately?

'Til next time,

Friday, February 17, 2006

Lights in Darkness

You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house.

In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

Matthew 5:15-16 (ESV)
Posted by Picasa

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Bible Study Software

A recent discussion among the Bible study teachers with whom I serve solidified something I've believed for several years now: if you can afford it, the right Bible study software is more than worth the investment.

Note, however, the I said "the right" Bible study software.

First, what is Bible study software? It's usually a collection of Bible study tools (multiple Bible translations, concordances, atlases, Bible dictionaries, topical Bibles, cross-referencing tools, original-language tools, commentaries, cultural studies, outlines, etc.) in CD or DVD format that you can install on your Mac or PC to make deeper Bible study easier for you. Just the copy-paste features of these programs alone (and the ease they provide in creating handouts and copying passages into handouts for classroom study) is a huge time-saver for me.

But these software programs only save time if they're compatible with your computer, are generally glitch-free, are easy to use for even the computer novice, can be updated or added to in the future, and offer what you need for your lesson preparation.

That's what I mean by the "right" software. Some systems just don't work well; others come loaded with extraneous tools most average Bible study teachers won't use, but not loaded with things we need; still others create problems on a PC; and some are just too complicated to figure out.

Our teachers have found two Bible study software systems to be consistently reliable, adaptable, glitch-free, and user-friendly:

The WORDsearch series system and related products (Bible Explorer, Bible Navigator, LessonMaker), and the Logos' Libronix system.

Both offer several bundle packages (meaning they've bundled a whole bunch of software products together into one package): everything from complete pastor's libraries to individual author collections to home library sets--all on CD or DVD (and downloadable). Both offer the same kinds of study products; both offer add-on and upgrade options; both are point-and-click-easy-to-operate systems; both offer a variety of price options (from tens of dollars to literally thousands, depending on how expansive you want your computer library to be). And both are available in PC or MAC formats.

I use WordSearch 7 and love it. My Bible-college son uses Logos/Libronix and loves it, too. I know several Bible study teachers or other lay leaders who use either one or the other, both getting rave reviews.

The bottom line is this: you'll have to look at both products (and their various options) and then decide what's best suited to your needs.

WordSearch 7 offers summaries of its basic features, a list of all products by category, a list of their most popular library sets, a list of their boxed products (vs. downloads), a list of companion products (including the Rick Warren Library and the CBD Reference Library), and a free trial version.

Logos offers summaries and a helpful comparison chart of their products, a list of their boxed products (as opposed to downloads), a list of all products by category, and a list of companion products (including collections by R.C. Sproul and Max Lucado) among other things.

Oh, and both offer group discount rates when buying several copies of the same product at one time (as in for a church staff or for students at a Bible college). That's how my son was able to get his "Pastor's Library" (student rate as a full-time Bible college student).

When you're deciding between the two keep these things in mind:

1. The two systems are not compatible with each other (you CANNOT mix and match between Logos and Wordsearch), so once you choose one, you pretty much need to stay with that one (unless you're independently wealthy).
2. If you are independently wealthy (or just want both systems), you may have trouble with your PC. I tried installing both (and I'm certainly not independently wealthy), but Libronix didn't like that I already had Wordsearch installed. I stuck with Wordsearch since that was the system with which I was most familiar, and since I'd already invested hundreds of dollars in developing my Wordsearch library (not to mention that I love it).
3. The two systems offer some of the very same titles in their libraries: various Bible translations, commentaries, study bibles, classics, scholarly works and individual author collections (John MacArthur, for example) can be found in both.
4. The two systems offer some products (specific titles and collections) that are unique to their systems (so chose the one that best suits your interests).
5. In general, Logos/Libronix seems more scholarly and geared slightly more for the academic world (based on their add-on book library selections), although Logos is very lay-friendly. Wordsearch seems to have more lay/general readership ministry resources available (lots of small group leadership stuff, lesson planning and discipling tools, etc...). You'll have to investigate both for yourself to see what will work best for you.
6. Don't just look at the base products, even if that's all you intend to buy. Trust me: once you discover how helpful these tools really are, you'll want to add on to your library. Check out the add-ons to make sure that, should you want to expand your library in the future, the system you select offers the kind of add-ons you think you might need down the road.

So...happy software hunting! And if you already use one or the other of these products, feel free to comment here so other readers can hear about your experiences!

Blessings to you all,

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Ready for the Storm?

This picture captures the corner of our family room.

The fire glows behind the wood stove's door. The wood box (crafted by dear hubby) brims with dry, seasoned logs ready to burn. A few damp pieces sit drying in the cast iron frame to the left and in front of the stove. And the water kettle, filled to the top, rests on the stove humidifying the heat-dried air.

We're ready.

Yup. It's finally snowing in southeastern Pennsylvania. After a snow-filled December and balmy, 60-degree January, we wondered if we'd see winter again.

We are.

Predictions call for eight-to-thirteen inches of snow and blizzard-like conditions over the next twenty-four hours. It's about time. I've been waiting for a storm since January 1st. :o)

Storms are fun when we're prepared. We've done all we can to "red-up" for this storm. The indoor wood supply is full and ready to go.

The outdoor wood shed is brimming (we've barely used a third-of-a-cord of wood this winter so far--that's how mild it's been).

We filled the bird feeders so our feathered friends won't go hungry.

And we cleared the deck and driveway of all obstacles (dog toys included) to make it easy to run the snowblower. We have our bottled water, candles, oil lamps, and batteries on stand-by in case of storm-related power outages. And the pantry is full.

Now all we have to do is ride out the storm.

That got me thinking.

I'm about to begin teaching a 10-week series on the Sermon on the Mount. I suspect, because of the nature of the topic, we'll face a number of storms this semester: emotional storms; discouragement storms, perhaps even theological storms.

Have I readied my heart for the semester's storms the way I have my home for this weather?

Gladly, I can say 'yes.' I've been praying for some time now about this semester. I've recruited others to pray, too. I've been reading the Scriptures and plowing through commentaries to gain the necessary background to teach this awesome passage. And I'm relying on God--on His grace to accomplish His purposes in and through me over the next three months.

Yes, I think I've prepared well. But I have to remember that this preparation isn't a once-and-done thing. Just has I have to refill the wood box in the family room from the stores out in the shed, so I must continually allow God to refill me (my mind, my heart, my soul, my strength and stamina, etc.) from the stores of His word and Spirit.

Otherwise, though I might flame well for a few hours, ultimately I'll burn out, becoming useless to shed light and warmth to others.

So here's to learning to prepare for and weather storms, whether literally or metaphorically. And to allowing ourselves to be refilled.

Take time this week to let God fill (or refill) you.

'Til next time,

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Here's the view out my window at sunrise. Ministry is feeling a bit like this image for me right now: I'm rising to the possibilities of another semester of teaching; coming to life again, peeking over the horizon of change. But I'm still sleepy, too. Not quite fully awake.  Posted by Picasa

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Quotes: Another Tool for Teachers

As teachers, we often look for the details and background information we think will most benefit our students: statistics, word origins, definitions, cross-references, cultural contexts, etc.

And we're adept at finding stories and anecdotes to hook or engage.

All of this is good and necessary. But let's not forget the power of a pithy phrase or penetrating quote.

Take these for example (talk about summing up the idea of these subjects in just a few words!):

Exhortation: "Do not use a hatchet to remove a fly from your friend's forehead." (Chinese proverb)
Priorities: "Our greatest danger in life is in permitting the urgent things to crowd out the important." (Charles E. Hummel)
Forgiveness: "Forgiveness is not an occasional act, it is a permanent attitude. (Martin Luther King, Jr.)

Affliction: "Storms make oaks take deeper root." (George Herbert)

Prayer: "To be a Christian without prayer is no more possible than to be alive without breathing." (Martin Luther)

Scriptural Authority: "If you believe what you like in the gospels, and reject what you don't like, it is not the gospel you believe, but yourself." (Saint Augustine)

Scripture: "It ain't those parts of the Bible that I can't understand that bother me; it is the parts that I do understand." (Mark Twain)

Learning: "Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body." (Richard Steele)

Wisdom: "The doorstep to the temple of wisdom is the knowledge of our own ignorance." (C.H. Spurgeon)

Pride: "A proud man is always looking down on things and people; and, of course, as long as you're looking down, you can't see something that's above you." (C.S. Lewis)

Quotes, when used well, can be powerful tools in the teacher's/leader's tool box. Here are some place on-line where you can find quotes pretty easily by subject: (go to sermon illlustrations, arranged alphabetically by subject) (searchable at ) (especially ) (’s quote-of-the-day page)

Yes, keep doing all those other wonderful things you do as teachers, but don't overlook the power of a simple quote.

'Til next time,

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Tips for Annual Goal-Setting

It's January: that time of new beginnings; the time when we feel refocused and energized to be more productive and effective in our ministries. And goal-setting in January is a great thing...if it's handled well. If not, it can set us up for frustration and failure.

Here are a few ideas that, if implemented, will almost surely help you avoid the standard goal-setting disappointments. I call it my "Resolution Solution" (and if you'd like to read a related article I wrote on the subject a few years ago for Today's Christian Woman, just click here).

Tip #1: Write down your goals. They're easier to remember and evaluate that way.

Tip #2: Make your goals realistic. Don't overestimate what you think you can accomplish. Instead estimate, then cut that estimate in half. That will give you a more realistic goal.

Tip #3: Make your goals specific. Don't just say "I want to be a better leader." What does "better leader" look like? How will you know when you've arrived? What do you have to do to get there? Instead, set a goal like "I will read one book on effective Christian leadership this year." That goal is specific.

Tip #4: Make your goals measurable. Part of specificity (tip #3) is measurability. Notice that the previous example ends with "this year." That establishes an end date by which you will have read the book. The example also specified "one" book (not "some"). "One book in one year" is measurable. "Some books sometime" is not.

Tip #5: Make your goals flexible. All endeavors, including our efforts to accomplish goals, rely on God's grace: literally "there but for the grace of God go I." For example, what if one of your goals is to arrive at your evening Bible study class an hour before its start time each week to set up, and then your day job requires you to stay after work on those evenings so that you can't even leave work until that time? Flex. Do what you can. Maybe you ask someone else to set up the room. Maybe you see if your class can switch nights. The point is: don't give up; just flex as you need to!

Tip #6: Review your goals monthly and quarterly. Sometimes we forget what we're aiming for. Other times we discover (by experience) that what we aimed for wasn't the best target, so we need to adapt the goal. Someone once said, "if you aim at nothing, you will certainly attain it." Review keeps us aiming, and it keeps us aiming at the right thing.

Tip#7: Get feedback from those who know and love you best. We can think a goal is perfect for us, but we can be blind to our weaknesses and limitations. Getting feedback will help us set goals that are more realistic, measureable, and suited to our giftings and seasons of life.

Tip #8: Change your goals as you need to based on your review and the feedback you receive. Change is not failure; it's just course correction. Give yourself grace to change and grow.

That's it. Not too complicated, eh? For a fuller explanation, please feel free to check the article at TCW.

And happy goal-setting to you!

'Til next time,