My New Job as a PHM: On quitting teaching, walking labyrinths, and foolishness (part 1)

A lot has changed in a matter of about a month.

I quit my job. That was probably the biggest thing.

No longer am I a CPS teacher on the Southside of Chicago. In fact, no longer am I a teacher at all, unless you count fitness classes, but I don’t. No longer am I getting a large paycheck every 2 weeks either… which is also quite an adjustment.

Can I be honest? Oh, you know I will be no matter what you say– I’ve been wanting to quit my job at CPS since about the second week of school this past year. Going there everyday for the rest of the school year was very hard for me. There were days when I could barely keep it together before the kids left, and sometimes when I had to physically leave my classroom to keep from breaking down in front of them all. The end of the weekend was hard, and so was the close of a long break. Getting out of bed was hard. Walking through those doors was hard.

But do you know what as harder?

Actually making up my mind to leave. 

That was way harder.

“I am not a quitter.”

— This is what I kept telling myself day after day. But inside my soul was crying out. Inside I knew that I could be so much more alive and so much more fulfilled in a different environment, doing a different kind of work– a different calling.

After wrestling with God about this for month after month, I finally felt it deep down in my bones: the only reason I would be staying is for the financial security; I was afraid to leave only because of the pay cut it would mean for me. Was that a reason to hang on to a draining job that was quickly squeezing the life out of my passion? Would staying be truly acting out of my identity in Christ?

“For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons and daughters by which we cry out “Abba! Father!” The spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God” -Romans 8:15-16

My heart burned with the conviction that God would be with me, wherever I went and whatever I was doing. Being a CPS teacher was a calling— for a time— and leaving my job as a CPS teacher was also a calling–for this time. I couldn’t live as a true Child of God if I was acting out of fear– being a slave to it, and in doing so, a slave to my identity as a teacher.

I mentioned before about how God took my identity away from some things, and so doing, healed me of a 7-year-long battle with bulimia, and so I knew that if God wanted to take away my identity from the role as “Teacher”, then some serious healing or blessing would probably follow. See, whenever He takes our identity from something, he places it in Himself. This way, we are never defined by this world, but by He who overcame the world. This, in and of itself, is a blessing.

What could I do? God did not give me a spirit of fear! I informed my principal that I would resign from teaching at the end of the year. 

As more and more people “found out” about my departure from CPS, there were mixed opinions.

Some were proud of me, wishing they could do the same with their disliked job.  Some were confused– why would I quit a high-paying job that I was having such success in? Some were supportive, encouraging me to do what what was best for me and my family. Others were discouraging, implying that I was quitting and giving up too soon.

I would be lying if I told you that I didn’t let any of their opinions effect me. But after some Spiritual Direction and time of solitude at the Portiuncula Center for Prayer, I found myself ready to truly say “Goodbye” to my former job, be utterly grateful for every part of it– the good and the bad– and to fully embrace this new and refreshing season in my life.

At the Center, there is this blabyrintheautiful labyrinth that the hermits can walk while meditating or praying. There is only one way into the middle of it, but you must walk the entire interior of the maze. There are no dead ends and no ways to skip or even look ahead in anticipation. You simply have to follow the path, trusting that it will lead you to your destination.

This is how it is when you follow God. You cannot look ahead but a few steps. You cannot fear getting lost, because He is guiding you, and although you may stumble, you will not fall off the path (Psalm 37:24). This takes a lot of trust, and many people on the outside will probably just think you are taking the long way, going around in what appears to be meaningless circles and odd turns that make no sense. But…

“..the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.” -1 Corinthians 1:25

What appears foolish to the world is often the wisdom of God. What appears like weakness to humans, often is taking the mighty strength of God. These facts have comforted me as I think about how my career change may be perceived by others.

All this to say that I now have a new profession.

I call it a “PHM”.

I’ll be explaining what that is in a later post, but rest assured that is it far more energizing, fulfilling, and live-giving than my previous job, and I am so grateful to God that this job is part of my journey on this labyrinth of life. Even if the rest of the world scoffs, I have the reward of my Savior shouting “Well done faithful servant!” in the far corners of my heart.

Stay tuned for more… I’ve got  to get back to work.

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Truth: I am a weirdo

“Those who are ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the son of man will also be ashamed when he comes in glory of his father with the holy angels.” Mark 8:38

There are times when I feel that being a Christian makes me weird. In a world where it’s encouraged to devote your entire life to making money and having fun, my life choices and opinions seem to contradict with the general population, oftentimes making me the awkward Jesus-freak at the party.

Yes, at times I feel confused and outcast when I find myself the only Christian in a group full of people who seem to despise anything remotely religious.

And I’ll admit, there are dark moments when I feel tempted to hide my true beliefs in Christ’s words simply because I don’t want to offend other people or be the odd one out.

Reading Jesus’ words here in Mark have deeply convicted me. I do not want to be ashamed of my Savior! I do not want to blend into an adulterous and sinful nation, even if it means I feel completely outcast.

In reality, Jesus himself was an outcast from the rest of society (that’s why they crucified him). But he shown brightly and stood out like the city upon a hill that he calls us all do be.

I too, am called to stand out and be marked as different. I am a child of God in a world that attempts to make gods out of celebrities’ photoshopped images; of course I am going to seem a little strange to the majority of people.

I am deeply proud of my God’s work, even when I don’t fully understand it. I love my Savior Jesus Christ and will never be ashamed of his unique holiness nor will I shy away from the high standards he holds me to as his follower.

“If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves, take up their cross, and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. For what will profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life?” Mark 8:34-35

I am a follower of Christ, therefore my life is not my own. My choices are lead by my God and so may look ridiculous in the eyes of many. But since my life is not my own, I do not live it to seek approval of the world–what good would that do me in the end?! It’s Jesus’ approval that I truly desire.

This is not an easy teaching: to place your entire identity in someone that you have not met face to face yet.

But the weight of the world is much heavier than the weight of his cross, the cross that he already carried for us.

I would rather love Jesus and be a weirdo than be accepted into any social group on this earth.

What about you? Is it ever hard for you to admit to those around you that you live for Christ? Do you ever feel yourself hiding your faith or feeling ashamed of your unique calling? How does Mark’s passages speak to you?

On giving up…

let it go…

You may have heard people say things like “never say never” or “never give up” (woops! I just said “never” three times!), and they might sound like very motivated and dedicated people who inspire you beyond belief.

But the truth is, there are times when “giving up” is exactly what we need to do. Giving up will make us happier, healthier, and most importantly, more like Jesus.

There are probably a hundred things we hold dear that we don’t even realize are killing us spiritually.

Here is a list of 10 of them:

1. GIVE UP YOUR NEED TO ALWAYS BE RIGHT

To some of us, the idea of being wrong is terrifying. So much so, that even when it’s clear we’ve made a human error, we’ll never admit to it. There is always a price to be paid when we don’t let this one go. It might be an honest friendship, or even a job, or it might be that we loose our family’s trust entirely. Isn’t it worth it to just let go of that need to always be right?

Through James, God tells us that we must admit when we have done wrong or are wrong: “Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed”. James 5:16

Do you want to be healed?

2. GIVE UP YOUR NEED FOR CONTROL

I’ll be honest; I struggle with this one…. Proverbs 3 tells us to “Trust in the Lord with all your heart And do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight.”

This means that we really don’t have any control over our own lives. We can’t even count on our own capabilities of understanding the world. We have to be willing to give up our need to always control everything that happens to us and around us. It actually takes the pressure off us if we know that things are out of our control!

The next time you feel like you’re obsessing or worrying over something that you can’t do a thing about, just breathe and know that you’re in good hands; God’s hands.

 3. GIVE UP ON BLAME

This is similar to giving up on control.

When we allow others to have power over us in their ability to make us physically do things, emotionally feels certain ways, or mentally go somewhere in our own minds, we put ourselves in a position where we may end up blaming someone else for our own situation. This is never helpful.

Even when people have done wrong to us, we must never blame them. What did Jesus say when the Jews killed him? Oh that’s right: He said, “Father forgive them, they know not what they do.” Luke 23:34.

God tells us in 1 Peter 4:12 and James 1:2-4 (sequentially), that we should not only expect hardships and persecution, but that we must be joyous in each strenuous situation:

“Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.”

 “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”

4. GIVE UP YOUR DEFEATING SELF-TALK

Okay, this one I’ve been struggling for a long, long time, especially in regards to my body image and a few eating disorders floating around out there. Here’s what we need to understand:

God made us in HIS beautiful, glorious, incredible, and perfect image.

And how beautiful is this?

“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be”. Psalm 139:13-16

In Isaiah 64:8, we learn that God has formed us like a potter does to clay. If we made us and we are the work of his hands, then how can we critique God? Who are we to say the pot needs new handles or a different shape?

Now, if you’ve done something wrong, then it’s okay to feel convicted by your actions, but this lasts only for a time. And frankly, it’s not God’s voice that’s telling you you’re no good; it’s Satan’s.

 Who do you want to listen to?

5. GIVE UP YOUR LIMITING BELIEFS

This one is clutch for Christians.

Do not doubt what you can or cannot do, about what is possible or impossible.

Philippians 4:13 tells us that “I can do all things through Jesus Christ who strengthens me.”

There is also a ton of stuff in the bible about doubting and having little faith. If you’re doing to doubt Christ, you cannot follow God. So stop limiting your beliefs with logic or hearsay.

It may not be logical; that’s why they call it FAITH.

6. GIVE UP COMPLAINING

Ephesians 4:29 tells us to “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.”

And don’t forget when James says in Chapter 5, Verse 9, “Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door.”

Then God gets a little angry in Numbers 11:1:

“And the people complained in the hearing of the Lord about their misfortunes, and when the Lord heard it, his anger was kindled, and the fire of the Lord burned among them and consumed some outlying parts of the camp.”

There are plenty of examples in the New Testament, when Jesus gets downright annoyed that his apostles are always “grumbling to themselves”. It does no good. We really are doing ourselves a disservice by complaining. When we talk about something, it gives it life, and do we really want to give life to the most annoying things in our lives?

Probably not. So just stop talking about it. Really.

7. GIVE UP THE LUXURY OF CRITICISM

I don’t even have to add to what Jesus says in Luke 6:37-42:

 “Stop judging others, and you will not be judged. Stop criticizing others, or it will all come back on you. If you forgive others, you will be forgiven. If you give, you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full measure, pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, and running over. Whatever measure you use in giving — large or small — it will be used to measure what is given back to you.” 

  “What good is it for one blind person to lead another? The first one will fall into a ditch and pull the other down also. “ 

 “And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own? How can you think of saying, ‘Friend, let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye? Hypocrite! First get rid of the log from your own eye; then perhaps you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye.”

‘Nuff said, right?

8. GIVE UP YOUR NEED TO IMPRESS OTHERS

Stop trying so hard to be something of this world just so that the world will like you. Jesus doesn’t work this way.

Jesus tells us that if we are a friend to the world, we are an enemy to him. If we are impressing those around us, our treasures are here on Earth rather than in Heaven with him.

If we receive our reward here, then no reward awaits for us after life is finished.

In short, we need to impress Christ, not other people. Other people don’t hold the key to our immediate future, or ultimate Salvation.

9. GIVE UP THE PAST

Jesus was arguably the most present person who ever lived. He did not look on past sin in anger, and he did not let his anxiety of future events change his ability to be focused on life within the present moment. In turn, God wants us also to let go of any past wounds or bitterness we hold onto. He wants us to look for his presence within our daily lives, and press on, forgetting what lies behind us.

“Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:13-14

If Paul let his past failures and wounds affect his journey by hanging onto them, he would never have been the great writer and teacher that he was through Christ. He would never have pressed on, determined to overcome future battles and struggles.

Our own memories can sometimes paralyze us. If we want to be like Jesus, we have to let go of the past and be newly created by him everyday. And this happens in the moment.

10. GIVE UP ATTACHMENT

First of all, Jesus tells us that rich men rarely enter heaven, so right there you should be thinking of freeing up some space in our pocket book by giving to those in need.

He also tells his disciples not to carry anything with them when they go out to evangelize; He doesn’t want them to be attached or dependent on anything except The Lord.

Now, this is extreme, but perhaps we are called to be a little more extreme in our faith…. When we are attached to the things of this world, we are essentially creating idols, which God hates. And his hate is fierce.

Galatians 5:19-21 reads,  “Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.”

Idolatry can also look very much like love. I have been guilty of holding those around me up on pedistals that only God deserves to be held upon. This also makes me have extremely high expectations because… well, unknowingly, I’m expecting these people to take the place of God.

If we idolize our spouses, for instance, we will also end up demonizing them because they won’t live up to our high expectations—expectations to fill places and heal wounds that only Jesus can.

When we attach ourselves to our jobs, our house, our car, our clothes or even our family members, we are placing our identity in things that have absolutely no meaning in comparison to what our identity should be placed in: Jesus.

“You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.” Galatians 3:26-27

If our identity is in Christ, then nothing can alter who we are in him. Nothing can touch us!

What are some other things you need to let go of? What is God calling you to give up?