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Have You Ever Felt Adrift?

Posted in A Class Act by Linden Barrick on August 9, 2013
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Last week, I spent an amazing week at Lake Greenwood in South Carolina with my step-mom, Suzy, and her family. Every year the days at the lake take on a familiar pattern. We wake up, eat, take a walk down the road to visit the donkeys that reside in a pasture nearby, spend time in the lake, eat lunch, more lake time, eat dinner, and play cards or a board game late into the night.

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It’s a calm, unplugged week with poor cell reception and two television stations. If we need to make a call or want to go online, we usually have to stand on the end of the dock or walk out to the road.

While on the water each day, we boat, tube, ski, jet ski, swim, and float. Mark and Colton spend many hours fishing, which rewards us with a delicious fish fry dinner. Of all the time on the water, I have to admit I love to laze on a raft most of all. The speed of the jet ski, excitement of the tube, and freedom of boat rides are glorious, but basking in the sun while bobbing in the water makes me content and happy. Usually I close my eyes, listen to the kids play, feel the water ripple around me, and chat with whoever is floating alongside.

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On Thursday, the breeze tried to ruin our raft time. We ended up floating to the neighbor’s dock and paddling back numerous times. Although I could use the exercise to combat the many meals we consumed, it wasn’t our normal relaxing float. The old quote says, “Necessity is the mother of invention.” In this case, laziness gave birth to inspiration. Digging a ski rope from the boat, I hooked the handle around a dock piling and looped the other end around my ankle once I dragged myself back onto my raft. Suzy and her sister Kit paddled up, grasped the neighboring float, and created a raft convoy.  Once again, we were able to enjoy our raft time without drifting away.

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Suzy commented that our spiritual life resembles our raft experience. We held on to each other and also tethered ourselves to a stable structure. As Christians, we must stay connected to one another while tethering ourselves to Jesus to keep us in the right place. Without Him we become adrift, never really knowing where we will end up, and once we are lost, we struggle mightily to return to the path He has planned for us.

Are you adrift? Are you floating slowly in the wrong direction, seemingly unable to change your course? Tether yourself to Jesus and connect with other believers. Your spiritual life will be transformed. It could even feel like a peaceful, contented day at the lake!

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Some Amazing Teens…

Posted in A Class Act by Linden Barrick on May 23, 2013
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This blog is a shout out to the teens in my youth group. They are amazing! They continually impress me with their hearts to serve and their love of Jesus. Whether to pray together, play together, or serve others, they choose to spend their free time week after week in positive ways.

MBC Youth…you ROCK!!

Last weekend, they fed the homeless in Richmond.

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They pray unashamedly and publicly.

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Competition gets fierce!

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Helping others makes them happy.

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Worship is an important part of their lives.

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I love all of you! Thanks for allowing me to be a part of the best youth group around. Anyone who believes teens are lazy, uncaring, and/or disconnected needs to come spend a few hours with you.

The Choices God Makes

Posted in A Class Act by Linden Barrick on January 8, 2013
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Last week I wrote about making choices to please other people, and the thought continues to poke around my mind. Why do humans bow to the will of others so often? Why is approval from others so significant in our lives?

Over the years, I’ve said many times to a student, “Why do you keep making poor choices when you know they will result in negative consequences?”

Usually the response includes something about friends thinking it’s funny or other friends being involved. Peer pressure is an ugly thing, and it doesn’t end in the teenage years.

I struggle to control my frustration as it creeps into the rest of the conversation with the student. How do I make this student understand? And who am I to think I can make my students understand? I’m as guilty as they are when it comes to making bad decisions to please other people.

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Last night – well, early this morning – our puppy woke me at 3:30 to go outside. (I’m not complaining…it’s better than the alternative.) Anyway, I had a hard time drifting back to sleep once I crawled back between my warm blankets, and I again started contemplating this dilemma.

On Sunday, the teens in my Sunday school class got into a discussion about Adam and Eve making the choice to eat the apple. Their comments were very thought-provoking and philosophical, and they wandered through my mind as I tried to go back to sleep.

I began to consider the Garden of Eden situation from God’s perspective. God knows all past, present, and future, so didn’t He know they would choose to eat that apple? Why did He put the tree there?

Once that thought hit my mind, sleep fled. I had never considered why God did that before. And He made that choice knowing it would have negative consequences…just like we do!

As I let the idea float around in my mind, I came to this conclusion:

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God knew humans would become complacent in the bounty and blessings of the Garden and forget to give Him thanks and glory. Don’t we do that all the time? When life is good, our gratitude wanes and we begin to expect the beauty in the world. If that happens, it often takes something traumatic or stressful to remind us to look to God for guidance and give him thanks for the blessings we have.

Maybe, just maybe, God made the choice to put the tree with forbidden fruit in the Garden so we would live on earth without forgetting to give Him the glory He deserves. It certainly wasn’t the last time He did something that would be hurtful for Him to benefit the human race. Just ask Jesus.

Do you agree God knew we would disobey Him but chose to place the tree in the Garden anyway? Please let me know in the comments. I’d love to have feedback on my early-morning musings.

 

Christmas Traditions

Posted in A Class Act by Linden Barrick on December 24, 2012
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Tonight we’ll go to Christmas Eve service at church then come home to open one gift before we get the plate of cookies and carrots ready for Santa’s arrival. It’s a tradition in our family that the kids get to choose one gift to open the night before Christmas.

This tradition started in 1998 when our area suffered a devastating ice storm during the holidays and thousands were without power. We were camped out in our living room where the propane fireplace fought off the cold that had invaded the rest of the house. Mark’s camping stove warmed up cans of soup and other provisions for our meals.

Autumn was 22 months old then. It was difficult to keep her occupied while trapped in one room of the house, so we allowed her to open a present. There were already quite a few to choose from that had been arriving in the recent mail deliveries from my family in other states.

I’m not sure at this point, 14 years later, why we continued every year to open a present the night before Christmas, but it has become customary in our family.

Every year there are new experiences. This year Colton played Linus in “A Charlie Brown’s Christmas” and did an incredible job reciting the Christmas story. Autumn portrayed Mary in the Living Nativity. I went shopping with 30 teens from the youth group. Every day there is another exciting event to help celebrate the season. Maybe one or all will also become traditions that we enjoy every year.

The day after Christmas is another one in the Barrick house. We have a pajama day. Our Christmas Day is usually fairly hectic. As soon as we open gifts at home, we head to Mark’s brother’s house for breakfast. By noon we’ll be at his mom’s house to spend the rest of the day with everyone, opening more gifts and eating a blessedly generous meal. By the end of the day, we’re content and thankful, but we’re also ready for some time at our own house, so the next day we stay in our pajamas, watch new movies, and have a pizza carpet picnic at lunchtime.

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Traditions are wonderful threads that hold families together. The only fear is we get so wrapped up in the traditions that we forget the real reason for the season. I pray everyone who reads this is blessed by their time with families and friends. Enjoy your traditions but remember to tell Jesus “Happy Birthday” sometime during the day.

Merry Christmas!

What traditions do you share in your family? I’d love to hear about them in a comment.

It’s My Party

Posted in A Class Act by Linden Barrick on December 12, 2012
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I’m hosting a good ol’ fashioned pity party, and I’m the guest of honor.

On Saturday, Colton had play practice in the morning, his Cub Scout troop walked in the Christmas parade and collected canned goods for the local food bank in the afternoon, and Autumn attended the Holly Ball at school that evening. On Sunday, Colton played Linus in “A Charlie Brown’s Christmas” at church.

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My calendar is brimming with activity. Not only are the weekends packed with holiday plays, parties, and other events, almost every evening there’s something planned. Yesterday, Mark called me at work and said, “Get out your calendar. We need to see when we can go shopping together.” We actually found one evening when both of us are free. And thankfully, it’s before Christmas Eve.

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The busyness has reached insane proportions, and I love all the activity. Right now I need it because I find myself celebrating my melancholy whenever I’m still. I haven’t read a book in over a week, I’m not writing like usual, I’m unenthused in my classroom, and I don’t want to clean (not that it’s ever a complete joy), cook, bake, or grade papers.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not moping around all the time. Certain moments coax me from my sullen fog. When I focus on the reason for this blessed season, my heart swells. When I watch Colton play Linus in the Christmas play at church, my smile cuts my face in two while sentimental tears overflow. When Autumn dresses up for the Holly Ball dance at school, I couldn’t be more proud of what a beautiful, young lady she’s become.

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But in the quiet moments, my mind immediately thinks of Christmas day without my mom and Fred. This will be the first Christmas in quite a few years I haven’t been with them. I know they are also feeling sad. They can’t make it from St. Louis to Virginia, and we aren’t able to go there. It just won’t work this year.

Usually, I accept disappointment without wallowing in it, but I’m having a hard time right now. I think God knows that because frequently when I’m starting to drift into my sour mood, He’ll put someone in my path to make me smile.

A student who asks how my day is going. A puppy that crawls into my lap on the couch. A smile from a stranger. A post on Facebook that forces me to realize I’m too blessed to be depressed.

No, it won’t be a Christmas like the ones from recent years, but it will still be a celebration of one of the greatest days in history, that of Jesus’ birth.

So if you see me with a frown on my face or a faraway look in my eyes, don’t feel sorry for me. I’ve been doing enough of that for myself. Instead, ask me what my kids want for Christmas or how big the puppy has grown or what events are planned for the youth group at church. Those things will snap me out of my mood and help me to enjoy this glorious holiday season.

And thank you, God, for all the reminders.

Praying for Spouses

Posted in A Class Act by Linden Barrick on November 26, 2012
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I frequently pray about my kids’ spouses. Autumn is 16 and Colton is 8, so I hope this won’t be something that happens too soon, but it’s never too early to pray for their future.

Obviously, Autumn will probably be the first to marry. I know God has already chosen her spouse, so I pray she will open her heart to “the one” He sends her way.

Now, I don’t want to tell God His job, but here are a few of the traits and characteristics that are on my wish list for her future husband…

He will make her laugh out loud. Every day.

He will applaud her efforts, even if the results aren’t quite what were expected.

He will love experiences with her more than he will love acquiring things.

He will plan time together, not rely on her to do so every time.

He will never run errands without asking if she needs anything.

He will support and encourage her dreams and goals.

He will provide security and stability without using it as a tool of control.

He will never sit and drink coffee while she does tedious chores.

He will buy her what she wants, not what he thinks she needs.

He will understand her need for female friends and support their time together.

He will indulge her with her favorite activities.

He will listen, even if what she’s saying doesn’t directly affect his life.

He will ask her opinion and truly take it into account.

He will remember when she mentions something would be entertaining and make it happen.

He will consider how his actions and words affect her.

He will have a heart to serve others, not expect others to serve him.

He will treat her like a princess because he truly believes she is one.

He will love Jesus more than he loves her or himself.

Dear Family and Friends,

Posted in A Class Act by Linden Barrick on August 27, 2012
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This is a difficult blog for me to write. When it comes to my faith, I’m not as vocal as I should be. I squirm at the thought of giving my testimony, and I don’t believe I have ever directly asked someone if they believe Jesus is their Savior. (Yes, I realize I need to work on this. A lot.)

Recently some books I’ve read and some experiences have caused me to reassess my spiritual health and think about the spiritual health of you, my loved ones.

And I feel an urgent need to ask some direct questions:

If you were to die today, where would you go?

Do you believe in Heaven and Hell?

Do you believe Jesus is your Savior?

Do you understand your relationship with Jesus is the only path to eternal life?

I’m not asking for answers to these questions. Many of you, I feel confident, will be with me for eternity in Heaven.  Others I’m not quite sure. And some I fear will not be with me unless changes are made in your lives. But I won’t know for sure until I’m no longer of this world because I’m not part of the equation.

The answers aren’t for me. The answers are between you and Jesus. The Bible says on the Day of Judgment many people who feel they’ve lived good Christian lives will face Jesus and He will say He never knew them. We may know who Jesus is, believe in His existence, and do good deeds, but if we don’t have a personal relationship with Him, He won’t know us.

My birthdays seem to be getting closer together. Time flies, and I’m old enough now to wonder how much time is left. This focus on my future – and how fleeting it may be on earth – has caused me to reflect more often and more deeply on my eternal life with Jesus.

Will you be in Heaven with me? I pray you will. That’s my sole purpose for writing this. I realize everyone’s response to this post may not be completely positive, and because of that, I feel ripped open and raw as I prepare to hit the publish button.

Please, examine your life. Think about everyone you love. Decide whether you want to spend eternity with them in Heaven. I want you there. And so does God.

Book recommendations:
Not a fan. by Kyle Idleman
Weird: Because Normal isn’t Working by Craig Groeschel
Crazy Love: Overwhelmed by a Relentless God by Francis Chan
Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream by David Platt

Do You Live by Common Sense?

Posted in A Class Act by Linden Barrick on August 9, 2012
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“We had more guts than good sense.”

I heard this comment last night during a conversation about the crazy behavior of teens. Peer pressure, too many hormones, and growing pains can all cause teens to make really stupid decisions. Did you ever do anything ‘back in the day’ that makes you cringe when you think of it as an adult?

Did you ever climb a water tower to spray paint a name and a heart to impress a girl?

Did you ever toilet paper a house?

Did you ever steal something for the thrill of it?

Did you ever drive too fast so your buddies thought you were “super cool”?

You may not have done any of those, but I think many people can look back, shake their heads and proclaim. Wow, I was a total idiot back then!

As adults, many of us become more conservative in our actions and use much more common sense. Those who don’t are seen as renegades or rebels, and it’s rarely considered a positive trait.

But does God want us to use common sense? At M-Fuge, the mission camp I attended with my youth group last month, Pastor Tim Bertram made me realize sometimes ignoring common sense is the best choice. The Bible is full of examples of this.

Did Noah use common sense when God told him to build an ark – even though it had never rained a drop?

Did Moses use common sense when he spoke to the burning bush?

Did the disciples use common sense when told to drop everything and follow Jesus?

Did David use common sense when he faced Goliath?

No. If they had used common sense, they wouldn’t have followed the path God planned for them. Sometimes, we just can’t fathom what God has up his sleeve, and we need to follow without trying to figure it out.

It’s called obedience.

And it often doesn’t make sense to us. Why in the world does God want me to go to an impoverished country? Why does God want me to embrace that rebellious teen who threatened me? Why does God want me to unlock my car door and give that scary-looking individual some money in the part of town with the highest crime rate? Why would God want me to teach Sunday School to preschoolers. I don’t like kids that age.

None of it makes sense. But we’re called to do it. The next time your brain tells you something doesn’t make sense, maybe you should listen to your heart instead.

Because obeying God makes the most sense of all.

When have you ignored your common sense to follow God? Share in a comment.


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