Tag: teaching

A Wide Angle Bible Study on Teaching

Life is a classroom. The sooner we give up on the idea that we learn only at church or during study sessions, the easier it will be for the Lord to open our eyes.

Do you remember what Paul told Titus? “The aged women..teach the young women” (Titus 2:3-4). There is no qualifier. Paul didn’t say the older women should be teaching, but that they taught. Their example resonated, and he wanted them to be “teachers of good things” (Titus 2:3).
Dear reader, you are teaching someone right now. It might be your children, or a young woman who admires you or the lady across the street. We teach, and we should become more deliberate in the lessons we’re sharing.

Teaching Life Skills

What do you know that you didn’t learn? Nothing. How many of those skills were taught to you by someone? Almost all of them.
What are life skills you feel are essential?




Who taught these to you?

Most of us had parents to show us the basic life survival skills. Or there might have been an elementary school teacher who we bonded with, or a Sunday school teacher.
You are that person to someone else.
Read Titus 2:3-5 again. What things should the older women teach the younger women?

How do you teach someone to love their husband and children?

Once again, this teaching can be done more effectively by example. Believe me, if people think you have a great marriage, they’ll ask you how you do it. My answer is always, “By the grace of God.” (Being married to Mr. Wonderful also helps.)

How is teaching different from mentoring?

How are they related?
You can teach without mentoring someone, but it would be difficult to mentor someone without a small amount of teaching.

Modeling Holiness

Now let’s get back to the subject of godly focus in our lives. How can we model this for other people?

What is holiness?

People get confused about this term. They think it is something superlative and out of reach. If that’s the case, why did God instruct us to be holy like He is (1 Peter 1:16)?

This is what Vine’s says about holiness:
It is used of men and things in so far as they are devoted to God…This sainthood is not an attainment, it is a state into which God in grace calls men; yet believers are called to sanctify themselves…from all defilement, forsaking sin, living a “holy” manner of life and experiencing fellowship with God in His holiness.5

Great, but what does this holy manner of life look like? Read Titus 2:11-15. According to verse 12 what does God’s grace teach us to avoid?

What does it teach us to do instead?

In verse 13, Paul tells Titus what the people who live by God’s grace focus on. What is it?

How does looking to Jesus help us in our walk (v. 14)?

Notice verse 15. These things are so important, the Apostle Paul told Titus to speak about them, exhort according to them, and rebuke concerning their lack. Wow.

Look at 2 Peter 1:3-8. This passage has much to say about holy living.
First things first. According to verse 3, what does every person who knows Christ as Savior have?

How do we get this “divine power”?

In Christ, we are heirs to exceeding great and precious promises. One promise is access to the very nature of Jesus Christ himself.

Is this automatic at salvation? I don’t believe so.

Picture this if you will.6 Christ’s nature is a tower. When we’re saved, God hands us a key to the door. Ahead of us, a staircase winds up and up. At the top hangs a mirror where we see ourselves conformed to Christ’s image.
The stairs are found in verses 5-7. What are the things we must add to our faith if we want to access Christ’s holiness?
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5.
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7.
Christianity requires a lifestyle of dedication to constant learning and improving. I thank the Lord for the love of learning He gave me. Some days it even helps me live the way I should.

This Bible lesson was first published in FINDING FOCUS THROUGH THE LENS OF GOD’S WORD in 2016, copyright belongs to Sharon Hughson

FINDING FOCUS: Teaching

I spent fifteen years working in public education. During that time, I met fabulous teachers who cared about every student and mediocre teachers who plodded through their classroom like an ox with a plow. I learned tons about teaching theory, application and practice from these educators, but my most important lessons came from the students.

One remarkable example: I cried in front of a classroom filled with teenagers. Okay, the first time it was merely three students, but I was doomed to repeat this humiliation more times than I wanted. So why didn’t I learn from my misery? Because emotions are slippery fish.

Rewind to my first year as an instructional assistant. The teacher assigned me three small groups of students, each reading a different novel aloud and then discussing it together. Everything seemed fine until I saw the title of one of the books: Where the Red Fern Grows.

“I can’t read this book,” I told her.

“What?”

“I can’t read this book.” Repetition is often the key to understanding. For emphasis, I shook the book at her.

“Why not?”

“The dogs die.”

Blank, non-comprehending eyes stared back at me. What part of “I can’t read aloud a book in which dogs die” is so difficult to understand?

With a heavy sigh, I admit with unapologetic sharpness, “I cry every time.”

She nods. “I know. It’s sad.”

That’s it? It’s sad? I think heart-rending, painful and guaranteed to induce tears is more accurate. My stunned disbelief must be apparent because she asked, “Would you like to take a different group?”

“What are the other books?”

She gestured to the stacks of novels on the round table behind her. I stepped around her to peruse the titles. Gang wars and the Nazi occupation of Denmark. None of the choices looked more appealing than the dead dogs.

“I guess I’ll stay with this.” It will be weeks before we got to the sad part of the book. I’m pretty sure I felt a sick day coming.

Nature offered up a summery spring afternoon when the coon hunt gone bad made its appearance in the read-aloud. Our group was outside, reading beneath tall evergreen trees. Wind ruffled the pages. The fresh, pine-scented air brought those fictional woods to life.

I tried to cover my emotions, but there’s just something about a clot of mucus in the throat that makes speaking impossible.

Three young teenagers practically gaped while my tears, unwilling to be quelled, strangled me. I pretended not to notice their shock, but I felt mortified. To my distress, their attention had never been so completely focused on my face or words.

“Are you crying?” one girl asked.

Gulping down the infernal throat-frog, I admitted, “This part is so sad. It always makes me cry.”

“I hate when animals die.”

“I cried when we had to put my dog to sleep last fall.”

Who knew overly dramatic, hormone-driven teenagers could be compassionate and empathetic?

My tears provided an effective teaching aid. If nothing else, they proved that effectively written prose can evoke deep emotions.

The lesson was about more than that, though. And it took something bigger before I learned it.

Bigger? Oh yes. I broke down in front of the entire seventh-period class. By “broke down,” I mean I wept. Shoulders shook and snot ran like a flood-swollen creek. It was so extreme my co-teacher was forced to take over for me.

Those 24 eyes staring at me expectantly weren’t waiting to hear the rest of the story. Nor were they judging an over-emotional, pre-menopausal, middle-aged woman.

They knew my grandmother had recently passed and that my mother was undergoing a life-threatening treatment. I’d missed work to take her to chemotherapy at least once.
Their silence respected my grief. It endorsed the teacher’s freedom to be human, to show weakness, to be vulnerable. And, in the end, it made the story I was reading more meaningful.

Teaching others means realizing your own shortfalls. A good teacher doesn’t know everything and won’t enter class with haughty arrogance. Transparency is the key to effective teaching because it gives silent permission to the student.

They don’t have to pretend either. So what if they don’t get the concept? If this lady CRIED, they can set aside their pride and ask for further explanation. When they’re having a rough day, they can vent steam in the corner until they collect themselves. They recall when the teacher had to take a break to pull herself together. If all else fails, there’s a box of tissues to mop up tears.

Even the teacher gets overwhelmed sometimes.

Christians must walk with the same authenticity demonstrated in that classroom. No sense pretending we’re infallible when the Bible clearly teaches us Jesus is the only perfect man who ever lived.

If we want our teaching to find it’s mark, our first lesson is humility. The second is honesty. With both of those book-ending the classroom of our life, we might impart a few truths to those we teach.

This Bible lesson was first published in FINDING FOCUS THROUGH THE LENS OF GOD’S WORD in 2016, copyright belongs to Sharon Hughson

Just Another Substitute Teaching Job

September comes. School is back in session, but I know it will be several weeks before I’m called upon to fill in for teachers.

Until I get the first call…before September comes. WHAT?

The Long-Term Job that Wasn’t

So I was a tad surprised when it wasn’t even September and my cell phone showed a text from one of the language arts teachers at the local high school.

This is the same teacher who asked me to talk about writing tropes during her J-Term book club. I’ve covered her classes many time.  At the last-minute or while she was off for long weekends with her family.

Apparently, she hadn’t had the best summer. In fact, she needed surgery and hoped it would only mean two weeks out of the classroom. I hope that’s true.

I conceded to cover for her. The entire month of October if she needed me.

Fast-forward to the last week of September. The job was cancelled. At the same time my inbox got that notification, a text came from the teacher. Complications. She has to wait until January for the surgery.

She’s frustrated. While I understand her irritation, I’m actually a bit relieved. I have deadlines and projects that need my attention at the moment. But January? I don’t even know what I’ll be working on then.

Maybe nothing. Read more about that here.

My Favorite School

After the cancellation, I decided I should check out the updated computer system.  While I was there, a job popped up: Friday in a social studies classroom.

At my favorite school. This also happens to be my local high school, the place where I won’t be doing a long-term job in October.

Civics class? A bunch of seniors who have a current events quiz and then preparation for presenting in a faux congressional hearing.

Topics they’ll “debate” ranged from lessening gun control (does this surprise you?) to improving schools to changing immigration policy. Yes, I’m the substitute teacher who walks by every group to ask what they’re working on (even if they’re on their phones and don’t appear to be doing anything remotely scholastic).

Two Weeks with Freshmen

This first job is in the hall where I worked with freshmen for the final weeks of the term last May while their social studies teacher was in Germany with a group of students.

When that teacher walked into the classroom, he gave me a high five. He informed me he was heading out of the country again in the spring. Would I be interested in covering for him again?

Because he wanted me to do it. And there would be dark chocolate as part of the bargain.

It’s nice to be wanted, right? Even if it does mean a couple weeks trapped in a room with freshman. One of the weeks in question being the week before Spring Break.

Can anyone say “Spring Fever”?

But, since I don’t know what else will be on my calendar, it felt pretty good to accept a paying gig for a couple weeks. It was my favorite school, after all, even if it wasn’t my favorite subject.

What do you remember about substitute teachers “back in the day”? I remember they didn’t do much teaching, but they did seem to think they had “all the power.”

The Wide Angle Lens on Helping

It didn’t surprise God that Adam needed a companion. The Creator of time glimpses each moment of it in the same instant. The thought boggles our minds, I know. So let’s move on to something we can comprehend.

Now the Lord God said, It is not good (sufficient, satisfactory) that the man should be alone: I will make him a helper meet (suitable, adapted, complementary) for him – Genesis 2:183

If God recognized this problem, we shouldn’t doubt it.

A Lesson from the Garden

Read Genesis 2:18-25.
Have you ever wondered why God didn’t make the woman right away? Verse 19 tells us God made the animals and birds. Look at verse 20. What was the true purpose behind God’s parade of livestock?

You’ve heard the saying: “dog is man’s best friend,” but that’s not a truth from scripture. After God made all the animals and Adam named them, there still wasn’t a suitable helper for him.

List the ways a wife helps her husband in our world.
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I don’t know how things work in your household, but my husband and I share all the domestic chores. If I cook dinner (which is usually a minimum of five nights per week), he does the dishes and cleans up the kitchen. When our kids lived with us, they shared this responsibility. On weekends, he cooks breakfast and sometimes I clean the kitchen up afterward. What can I say? Dishes aren’t my thing.

I keep the house clean. We both do the laundry. He takes care of mowing the lawn and weeding the flowerbeds. (Praise the Lord! I detest yard work. And remember my black thumb?)

We help each other take care of our home. It’s a team effort.
That’s exactly what God created in the garden.

Read Genesis 1:28-30. What responsibility to God give to Adam and Eve?

How does that look in the 21st Century?

Obviously, the Earth is “replenished.” However, reproduction guarantees that humans will continue to be able to share the Gospel and shine the light of Christ in our dark world.

Lessons from Godly Women

You can’t read a woman’s study book without turning to Proverbs 31, right? King Lemuel’s mother described the perfect wife. This Virtuous Woman shows us more than we want to see. (It does me, anyway. Does this woman ever sit down and take a break?)

Read Proverbs 31:20-25. How does this woman help others? Who does she help?
v. 20
v. 21-22
v. 23
v. 24
What is the result of her helpfulness (v. 25)?

Copy Proverbs 31:31.

How does that verse motivate you to be more helpful?

Read Acts 9:36-39.
Who is the godly woman named in this passage?

How is she described (v. 36)?

What did she do to help others?

What did Peter do (v. 40-41)?

Why do you think he did this? Is this what the two men who brought him to Joppa expected?

I believe Tabitha’s death left a hole in the church and community of Joppa. Her helping heart ministered to many people and displayed the love of God for all to see. Even though I can’t sew a lick (and don’t want to learn), I admire this saint. Will I ever be described as “full of good works” like she was? I don’t know, but I believe helping others should be every Christian’s priority.

Lessons from Jesus

Consider the life of Christ. He was always helping others, putting their needs before his own.
List some ways Jesus helped people during his earthly ministry?
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Read Matthew 25:31-46.
When will this separation of sheep and goats take place?

It’s important to note that the sheep didn’t inherit the kingdom because of the works listed in verses 35 and 36. Just as James 2:17, 18 & 26 confirm, authentic faith in Christ produces works.
The children of the kingdom, sheep, were characterized by many good works. What sort of actions does Jesus say they do?

What is the key to this kindness in Christ’s eyes (v. 40)?

Jesus came to minister to others and give his life. We should pattern ourselves after Him, which means helping others on a daily basis.

This Bible lesson was first published in FINDING FOCUS THROUGH THE LENS OF GOD’S WORD in 2016, copyright belongs to Sharon Hughson

FINDING FOCUS: Helping

“I will make him an help meet for him” (Genesis 2:18) is the Bible’s first description of Eve. In fact, when God created the woman (Adam’s name for her since he named all he saw), His purpose was to give the man a helper.

After all, there was too much important work to do–naming everything, dressing the trees in the garden, having dominion over all of creation–for one guy (even a perfect man, which Adam was at that point) to do it all. Eve was created to help him.
Is it any wonder so many women feel inclined to help?

You arrive for dinner at a friend’s house. The first thing you say after thanking her for the invitation: “Can I help you do anything?”

Dinner is over. You stack your silverware in the middle of your plate and reach for the plate next to you and the next one. The thought of setting them on the counter makes you cringe, so you rinse each one and tuck them into the dishwasher (unless it’s full of clean dishes).

Although our world is sliding into a state of selfishness, most women still possess that urge to help others. They notice a need, and they step to fill it. (This is one reason we can fall so easily into the auto focus trap mentioned in chapter two.)
Let’s take a moment to focus on the first woman’s pure, innocent desire to fulfill her role as her husband’s helper.

* * * * * * * *

Eve followed Adam through the garden, listening as he recited the names of each tree they passed. A small critter with a bushy tail scampered down the branch of the oak tree.

“Squirrel,” her husband said. “They like the nuts. Once I tried to count how many he stuck in those fat cheeks, but he hurried away and buried them.”

Eve reached toward the gray and brown fur. The squirrel wiggled his nose at her, ducked his head up and down. The hair on his face tickled the pads of her fingers. When he dashed back up the tree, the fluffy tail brushed against her wrist.

“He’s soft.”

Adam’s handsome face creased with a smile. He extended his hand toward her. “Let me show you how to harvest the vegetables.”

Eve held the broad fingers which dwarfed her own. Together, she and her husband stepped from the shade of the massive tree into a wide clearing.

Rows of green, leafy plants stretched in every direction. Corn stalks towered over her, the browning silk on their ears indicating ripeness. Bushes burst and bowed beneath the weight of green and purple gourds that Adam called squash. Her husband dropped her hand to demonstrate how to tell which ones were ripe and twisted off a smaller green one.

“We can roast the zucchini whole when they’re this size.”

Her lips formed the strange name. Zucchini. He handed her the squash. Its stem felt bumpy and the hide smooth.

The garden seemed endless. Beyond the vegetables, there were rows of berry bushes. The raspberry left a pink stain on her fingers. Tart exploded along with sweetness on her tongue. Carrying these by the handful didn’t seem practical. It would take too much time and too many trips to collect enough to satisfy her craving for another taste.

A pair of deer nibbled on the leaves of smaller bushes. They raised their heads when Adam approached, their ears flicking toward him.

With dewy brown eyes and smooth tawny pelts, the animals were beautiful. Adam spoke softly to the deer, rubbing the one with antlers behind its large ear.

Eve’s mind whirled with all the information. Her stomach gurgled and her tongue longed to taste everything.

Her gaze rested on Adam’s muscular frame. “Are you hungry now?”

She extended the handful of berries toward Adam. He turned from the animals which side-stepped away from the sound of her voice. His dark eyes grazed her face before he grabbed the raspberries and tossed the whole bunch into his mouth. A few of the seedy fruit missed the mark, dribbling onto his bare chest.

Eve flicked the stray bits away, frowning at the pink dot left behind. Adam pressed his hand over hers. Warmth seeped into her palm from his smooth skin. Tingles skittered up her arm, much like the squirrel had scampered up the tree.

Their eyes met.

“If you’re hungry, you can show me how to cook the squash.”

A longing welled inside her chest. She ached to help him take care of the garden. Her heart leapt at the thought of preparing food for them, seeing his eyes flicker with satisfaction as they did when he swallowed the raspberries.

“There are fragrant herbs to make things more savory.”

His hand dropped away, and he walked ahead. He would teach her what he knew, then she would find the best way to please him.

Warmth pooled in her stomach and radiated into her chest. Helping him be content would give more pleasure than eating her fill of sweet fruit.

Which must be why their Father God said everything was very good.

This Bible lesson was first published in FINDING FOCUS THROUGH THE LENS OF GOD’S WORD in 2016, copyright belongs to Sharon Hughson

What To Do With This Blog

Time for some honest reflection about this blog.

I started it for a college class. I moved it to my website to help my ranking in search engines.  But it has never gotten the following or engagement I hoped to find.

I won’t remove it because…there’s a TON of content here.

But, I’ve gone to posting once each week (and scheduling these posts as much as two months in advance), and I’m still not getting engagement. There’s not a niche this fits.

So, I’m going to change what I do with this blog. I’m also going to remove it from the “main page” of my website. It will return to a “blog” page (that is currently blank).

This Month

This month, I’ve re-purposed content from a Bible study book I published a couple of years ago into a “class” of sorts.
What do you think about that for the future of this blog?

I would start the month with a video (this month’s was first featured in my Facebook group). Then I’d follow that up with other sections from the book (possibly including comments from “real” students who participated in my online class).

Even though I’ve pretty much decided that I won’t do an online course again (because it’s taking a lot of time I don’t have away from writing), I’d still like the experience.

After all, teaching is one of my gifts from God, and I’ve learned to enjoy doing it via video (and I think I’m finally getting better at that).

After That

Do you remember me talking about a nonfiction book on grief? I did it here.

Well, I’m considering posting some of the content from the book in my blog and sharing it widely in circles where people who might want to read it could find it.

Mostly, this is another test. I want to know if people are interested in my content. If they think it’s valuable.

Also, the class I took on writing nonfiction book proposals discouraged me for completing this project. According to that agent, if I can’t prove to a publisher that I have a “ready made” audience, they won’t publish my book.

Would you be interested in reading that content here?

My Dilemma

The real problem is I don’t have enough hours in a day to do all the things I’ve undertaken. In October, my first collection of Christian romances will be available in print. This is a self-published project even though my publisher owns the digital rights to the stories.

In November, I begin the push to get REFLECTIONS noticed and purchased. This series is one hundred percent self-published, and every time I work on it I’m reminded why I want a publishing contract.

In fact, I’m generating so many reasons, come back later for a post on that.

Even when I don’t go online at Fiverr, I’m getting new orders. I’ve had to mark myself “out of the office” the last two weekends because I’d been getting two to four new orders every Sunday. I don’t even WORK on Sunday!

What am I doing on Fiverr? Mostly writing, but I also go to critique my first fiction chapter in August. It was GREAT! The author left a nice review and said my critique helped her focus on what needed changing. I hope it spurs more such orders.
I also recently ghost-wrote a short ebook on cannabis. Yeah, not really a subject I know much about (or wanted to) but during the research I realized my ignorance wasn’t very attractive.

Who knew hemp was among the oldest cultivated crops? Not me. I was vaguely aware that hemp rope was the best for seaworthy tasks, but I didn’t really think much about how it was made. Or why it was so amazing.

If you’re wondering about my Fiverr business, I wrote more about it in earlier posts.

The bottom line is that I don’t have time to take a day off. I don’t know why I’ve given myself busy mornings when that can be my most productive writing time.

And most of all, I wonder “What am I doing writing blogs? No one reads them anyway.”

But here YOU are. You’re reading this post.

What would you like to see on this blog?

FINDING FOCUS: Mentoring

Mentoring is God’s plan for passing along Christianity and the example of Jesus Christ himself.

This month, the blog will take a closer look at this important calling. As in the study book (no longer available for purchase), the study starts with a Portrait.

Mentoring is becoming a lost art. As you’ll see in the Bible study segment, we should be more serious about this focal point of Christianity.

What follows is my attempt to paint a portrait of one of the best examples of mentoring given in scripture. Because the details of the arrangement aren’t spelled out in scripture, plenty of license was taken in the fictionalizing of the account.

Air stagnates in the women’s section at the rear of the Ephesian synagogue. I open my mouth to join the recitation and nearly gag when the body odor of an elderly woman in front of me wafts my way. Lord, help me!
Yes, that is a prayer. I find myself uttering three- and four-word petitions all day long. And the gracious Lord I serve hears and answers.
In this moment, I don’t heave the contents of my stomach onto the women around me. Nor does a retching sound emerge in place of the scripture. God has answered again.
My tongue forms the ancient words from Deuteronomy. Feminine voices embrace me on every side, joining and blending with the deeper tones from our fathers, husbands, brothers and sons.
I tilt my head to the side, searching for my husband Aquila. My father is dead, my brother remains in Rome, uninterested in the Way, and the Lord has never blessed me with sons, only two daughters, both married.
Aquila is more than enough. We serve Jesus Christ together, just as we make tents together.
A male voice begins the first song of degrees. Other voices join in. I twitter out the high part my mother taught me so many decades past. The soprano notes complement the lower voices of both women and men.
A woman behind me joins on the high harmony. My heart leaps as I’m transported back to childhood, learning the part with my younger sister.
I turn my thoughts toward the Lord, voicing each word from my lips to his ears.
“The Lord is thy keeper,” we sing (Ps. 121:5). Praise Him for keeping us safe when Caesar evicted us from Rome.
“The Lord shall preserve thee from all evil” (Ps. 121:7). Yes, Lord, you have preserved Aquila and me too many times to recount.
“I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go into the house of the Lord” (Ps. 122:1).
Tears clog my throat. King David, author of this psalm, wrote of the tabernacle, but I have never seen the temple in Jerusalem. I squeeze my eyes closed to ease the burning.
When the singing ends, several men pray aloud. Their voices make a tuneful backdrop to my own thanksgiving and supplication.
The rabbi reads from Isaiah. It is one of the three books outside of the Torah that this synagogue has available, along with sacred scrolls.
A stranger, dark skin naming his origin from parts to the south, perhaps even Egypt, stands and speaks. The tone of his voice is cultured, smooth like cream. His words are fine. He expounds on the passage from Isaiah’s prophecy before speaking of other prophecies.
I nearly topple over when the man mentions the teaching of John the Baptist. I straighten against the hard seat, nothing more than a plank of wood set atop cinder blocks.
He speaks of the Messiah. My heart thrums in my throat until his honeyed words are nearly drowned by the pounding. Does this man know of the Way?
Many members of the synagogue are believers, but others claim Jesus of Nazareth was not their Messiah. The topic is dangerous to discuss in this Jewish place of worship.
I couldn’t discern whether the young man knows the Way. His focus seems to be validating John as the forerunner, the prophet to make straight the path before Messiah.
A chorus of murmurs from the men interrupts his fine speech, keeps me from hearing what more he says.
Several other men stand to read or recite scripture. No one else expounds on the passages. After another hymn and prayer, the rabbi dismisses the gathering with the traditional Shalom blessing.
Outside the domed building, I breathe deeply, watching the men file out. Aquila comes, head bent close to Benjamin, one of the members of our house church. Aquila’s leanness makes him appear taller than the stout cobbler. They exchange nods before Aquila extends his hand to me.
I take it, amazed that it can be cool and warm all at once. I press my back against the wall of the synagogue, raise on my toes to speak directly into my husband’s ear.
The crowd leaving the worship service is quiet, but the street around us teems with commerce. It is Ephesus. The trading never ceases.
“Who was that man? The one who spoke of John?”
“Apollos, an Alexandrite Jew.”
“Does he follow the Way?”
Aquila shakes his head, a slight move. I stare into his rich, brown eyes and see the motion wasn’t a denial. He thinks the younger man might be a believer, but it is dangerous to assume this. Apollos hadn’t spoken openly of Jesus, like Paul the Apostle had done when he visited here a few months past.
“We should invite him to break bread with us.”
Aquila nods. He scans the trickle of worshipers still emerging from the synagogue. A royal blue cloak swirls at the doorway, and the dark-skinned man emerges. Behind him, the rabbi shakes his head vociferously. My stomach clenches at the sight of the synagogue leader’s stern visage.
My husband shuffles toward the two men, waiting a respectful distance apart. The rabbi looks at him expectantly, but Aquila nods toward the stranger. Apollos stands half a head taller than my husband. Their lips move, but the bustle of the city and my distance from them makes hearing the conversation impossible.
Soon, Aquila is nodding. Both of them step toward where I’m waiting, hands folded over my queasy stomach. Lord, don’t let this be a mistake.
Trivial conversation follows us through the crowded market and into the quieter trade district. I fall behind the men, trying to listen to snatches of their conversations.
Lord, protect us if this man is not sent from you. Grant us wisdom to teach him Your Perfect Way. Move in his heart. Touch our tongues and lips. You promised your Spirit’s aide.
I could not hear much from the men, but I know the Lord hears every syllable of my fervent prayers.
A faint odor of tanning hides greets us when Aquila swings open the door to our home. It is nearly impossible to keep the stench away when our trade requires us to handle cured hides and skins every day.
The men sit on the couches in the center court of our small shop. My feet glide soundlessly across the mosaic and into the storage room. I fetch a skin of new wine and three cups. I place some bread and olive spread onto a large platter beside the cups, and carry all of it to the men.
I pour wine for both men, meeting Aquila’s eyes when I hand him his drink, ducking my head when I pass a cup to our guest.
Aquila swallows before asking, “What do you know of John’s baptism?”
Apollos sips his beverage, reclines on the pillow-covered arm of his couch. “His immersion of believers in water prepared men and women to become part of something greater.”
They discuss this subject. I swallow a mouthful of drink, but the knot in my stomach won’t allow more than that. I continue to pray until I feel a nudge from the Spirit.
“What of Christ?” I say.
Both men turn to stare at me. My husband’s eyes widen. Apollos holds my gaze, sipping from his cup before setting it on his thigh.
“Has Messiah come?” The dark man’s eyebrows press together, creasing his wide forehead.
I keep my eyes pinned on our guest, but I still see the slight shake of Aquila’s head. The witness of Christ within me prods me to ignore the wordless warning from my spouse.
“Jesus of Nazareth was the Christ. He called an assembly from the body of those baptized by John. We were baptized by Paul the Apostle in Corinth a few years past.”
“I heard rumors about this Jesus. Why do you say he was the Christ?”
Aquila and I take turns quoting prophecies of old which Jesus of Nazareth fulfilled. Prophecies everyone agrees spoke of the coming Messiah.
Aquila asks questions and nods at our explanations. His attendance on my words sends a flush to my cheeks. This man is a powerful orator. If he follows the Way, many people will turn from the path leading to eternal destruction.
Light fades. I bring a lamp from an inner room and light the wicks floating in pots encircling the terrace. A sense of peace envelopes me, a blanket of assurance as real as the curtain of darkness falling around us.
Today I have discovered another way Aquila and I can serve the Lord together. A young man will be saved from destruction. In turn, his persuasive speaking will convert many more to the Way.
Thank you, Lord.

You can still join the LIVE study in my Facebook Group by clicking here. That’s where you can download a FREE copy of the book and interact with others who are interesting in finding their God-given focus for life.

***This excerpt was first published in 2016 in the first edition of FINDING FOCUS THROUGH THE LENS OF GOD’S WORD, copyright belongs to Sharon Hughson

A Glimpse Inside What I’m Writing Now

The cover for the second book in the REFLECTIONS series will be unveiled soon.

A Laboring Hand is the story of Jesus told by Martha of Bethany. And it’s a story that’s had a profound effect on the author writing it.

I’ve always teased my sister about being bossy, but Martha has taken flak from preachers for a couple thousand years about her tendency to be bossy. We’re familiar with this scripture from Luke 10, right?

38 Now it came to pass, as they went, that he entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house.
39 And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus’ feet, and heard his word.
40 But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me.
41 And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things:
42 But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.

But what did it look like in Martha’s life?

Here’s a glimpse from A LABORING HAND, chapter four.

I washed my hands and began to chop the handfuls of pungent herbs I would add to the beans. The pestle in my hand smashed the beans with rhythmic efficiency. Mary pressed together more flour, salt and olive oil, intent on baking more bread.

“The stone was hot.” The words had barely left my mouth when Lazarus limped in followed by a boy carrying a jug on his head.

“Leave it in the shade outside,” I waved a hand to the boy. “We’ll draw out into my pitchers half-filled with water. That will make it last.”

Laz nodded to the boy, gesturing to a place further along the house, away from the cooking fire and the chimney. I heard the jingle of coins.

“It’s already watered.”

“What proportion?” My brain estimated the amount of drink a dozen thirsty men would need.

“Fifty percent.” Lazarus slouched against the wall. Weariness etched his features, but I knew he wouldn’t rest. He was more eager for the visitors than any of us.

“We can safely add another twenty percent. Will you see to it?”

“I’ll need to draw more water.” Mary’s hands hesitated over the dough. “They’ll need what I drew for washing.”

“They aren’t zealots.” I returned to my chopping. “They won’t care about washing before they eat. Could you reach me the bowl of olives?” I gestured to the line of pottery on the wall overhead.

Mary shoved Abba’s weaving stool into place and stepped up to grasp the bowl. “I intend to wash their feet.”

I froze. Why would she insist on doing that? It was a servant’s job, and since we didn’t have servants, none of our guests ever expected this service.

“They’ll just get dirty again when he leaves on Sunday.”

“But they’ll be clean for Sabbath.”

Like that really mattered in a small synagogue like ours.

“There isn’t enough water.” That would solve it.

“I’ll draw more.”

“The bread needs baking. And the floor should be swept and the cushions beaten. Plus, we’ll need to get out all the extra rugs.”

Lazarus sighed and pushed away from the wall. “I’ll get started on the cushions.”

I shook my head. With only one arm, it took him much longer to clean them. “I’ll do it. Draw out the wine.”

Laz blinked at me, sharing a look with Mary. It was an apologetic look. He’d tried to aid her plan, but the bossy big sister nixed it. Something gnawed at my heart, but I ignored it. There was work to be done.

Soon enough, the laughter and banter of a crowd of dusty men filled the room. I welcomed them with a small bowl of water and a clean linen cloth. Well, it was clean for the first man or two.

Yeshua reclined at the head of the table on the largest cushion. My parents had often shared it. John bar Zebedee, one of the Boanerges, sat on it with the master while the others filed onto other cushions, some choosing to lean against the wall on the rugs Lazarus had pulled from his room and ours. The dirt floor could hardly be seen once all of them sprawled around the room.

Mary and I circulated with pitchers of wine. Once we finished, I began to distribute the bowls of spiced beans and packets of bread, still warm from their place on the hearth. I turned to ask Mary to assist me, but she’d folded herself cross-legged at Yeshua’s feet, staring up as he started to talk.

I blinked hard. What on earth was she thinking? Was this her rebellion since I hadn’t let her get water for foot washing? She was certainly positioned in a way she could wash his feet if she had the supplies.

I continued to serve. His authoritative voice, usually so soothing, fueled the ire inside me. He could make her help me. I glanced at Laz, but my brother was watching the master and scribbling on a piece of parchment. Mary never once looked my way, even when I nudged her with my ankle as I passed to refill John’s cup.

With a careful eye, I glanced at every cup and bowl. They would need continual watching. Matthew raised his cup in my direction, and I sidled through the sprawled bodies to fill it, nearly tripping on another man’s filthy feet.

They weren’t drawn out of the way, so I turned and topped off his cup. He stared through me, as if I were invisible. I was used to that from working in the Pharisee’s home, but usually Yeshua’s friends were more gracious.

The unrest stirred inside me as I shuffled around, refilling cups and then fetching more bread to replenish the diminishing stacks. Soon, I would need to bake some more.

And that’s when it was too much. I strode toward Yeshua with my pitcher and jabbed my sister with a meaningful kick. She blinked.

As I filled his cup, I said, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to serve alone?”

A hush descended in the room. I heard the wine trickle against what was in his cup. Our eyes met.

“Bid her to help me.” Couldn’t he see how much work I was doing? Why should she just be sitting there?

“Martha.” His voice was quieter than it had been, almost gentle.

At the sound of my name from his lips, the turmoil loosened inside me. Why had I waited so long to ask for his assistance? His dark eyes filled with understanding and concern. He would help me because he cared about me.
“Martha, you’re anxious and worried about many things.”

The comfort turned to a prickle of conviction. Worry was sin. My father had told me so.

“But one thing is needful.”

One thing? I wanted to jerk my hand around at the crowd of hungry men who needed food, drink and places to sleep. There were many things that needed to be taken care of. I knew he could see that.

Yeshua sighed. His fingers rested on the handle of the pitcher beside mine. They were square and scuffed. Working man’s hands.

“And Mary hath chosen that good part.” His voice rose slightly, but not with anger or impatience, and his hand dropped to his cup. “And that won’t be taken away from her.”

Everything warred within me as I struggled to comprehend his words. Mary was sitting there while our guests needed things. How was that better than helping me meet their needs?

“A certain man,” his gaze scanned the rest of the room.

I recognized the beginning of a parable. Usually I loved his stories, they always carried so much spiritual significance. I couldn’t listen though because his words stung my heart.

I filled cups, my eyes lowered. Tears burned at the back of my eyelids whenever I blinked, but I widened my eyes, pulling my shawl which had dropped to my shoulders, up to cover most of my face.

Mary sat at his feet doing nothing, but Yeshua said she’d chosen the good part. The words kept echoing all evening.

Even now, as I’m writing all this, they sting me somewhere deep in my soul. Was there something wrong with my desire to make the men comfortable? Did Yeshua not want a meal and refreshment while he was talking?

What do you think? How had you imagined Martha in this moment that gets so much negative attention? Should women be more like Mary?

If you’re excited to learn more about the REFLECTIONS series, make sure you’re a member of my newsletter. I’ll be running special (including FREE audiobooks of A PONDERING HEART) to my subscribers FIRST!
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Not Seventh Grade Again!

I have repeated seventh grade nearly a dozen times. So when I got a text while substituting in a seven grade life science class to work in a seventh grade math/engineering classroom the next day, this was my first thought.

Two days of seventh grade?!?

If you follow my posts, you know I prefer teaching in high school English or literature classes. My truest nightmare was an advanced math class at high school with non-existent lesson plans.

As far as middle school goes, the only job I won’t take is PE. Well, I turned it down at my favorite high school when they asked me to take a PE/health position for two days.

The truth is, I completed the seventh and eighth grade curricula every year I worked at St. Helens Middle School as a special education instructional assistant. Well, I may as well have. I was expected to be able to tutor or teach my SPED students in any class they struggled.

But science and math on back-to-back days? Was someone trying to kill me?

Or maybe change my short hair to baldness?

Welcome to Life Science

I’m minding my own business on a quiet Monday night. Reading a book and trying to recover my equilibrium after wrestling with two uncooperative romance manuscripts all day.

I need to pick up two subbing jobs each week. I really need to do this now that I’ve purchased a $600 airplane ticket to New York City and my brother is telling me I’ll need $1000 in spending money for the four days I’m there.
A click on the Safari app on my iPad takes me to the Frontline employee absence website. The last three times I checked, there was nothing. This time:

Full Day Science at Scappoose Middle School.

I decide to let it ride. Because…science.

A minute later the phone rings. Yep. The absence system offers me the job.

I feared a movie. Instead, it was six 50-minute sessions reading the same two articles to seventh-grade students.
These are the same ones who played hide-and-seek under the lab counters.

I wish I was kidding.

Everyone Needs Math in Their Life

I’m slightly more than half-way through this science fest when my phone rumbles with an incoming text.
A teacher I worked with at St. Helens Middle School is sick. Could I cover his classes the next day?

Ugh. Math?

But I see getting my second day of work outside the house done in short order. Won’t that help me focus on those stories better?

They’ve just started a unit on finding area in one-dimensional shapes. I could do this in my sleep.

Except trying to get them to sit still and listen to the instructions is like herding cats…across a flooding river…in a blizzard.

Don’t Forget to Engineer It

It boggles my mind that there is even time for an elective in a five period school day. They have to take math, science, PE and health, and humanities (a combination of language arts and social studies). I guess that does leave ONE class period open. Most students have band, choir or art. I guess there has to be a place for everyone else.
So engineering.

Enter thirty seven graders who would rather be bending pipe cleaners and straws into some sort of structure. Sit them at a desk.

Here’s the plan for the day: Watch a video about the Mayan engineering feats and write down twenty-five facts. Turn them in at the end of class.

Or if you get them done beforehand, get up and turn them in. Or ignore the film and chat with your friends. If the sub calls out a fact (to help you out because I’m nice that way) be sure to ask “What?”

It was the longest 43-minute class period of my day.

My Saving Grace

You heard me right. Each class lasted 43 minutes.

That was the saving grace for the day. Sure those seventh grade bottles of hormones squirreled around and talked when they should have listened. Yes, they asked me a dozen questions I had already answered during their unauthorized chatting time.

But, the final bell sounded at 1:30, a full two hours earlier than normal.

Which means, after standing outside with the same squirrels until they boarded their buses, I was free to leave two full hours before the end of the normal school day.


AND…wait for it…

I still got paid for eight hours. Because in the sub teaching world, there are half-day jobs and full-day jobs. Anything more than four hours is considered a full day.

Score!

In reality, I don’t mind a little seventh-grade math and science. At least I can speak intelligently about the lessons. You know, since I’m a repeat attender.

What was your favorite subject in school? What grade in school horrifies you the most?

A Test by any other Name

Assessments. I’m not sure we had these back when I was a kid. I mean, we had them but everyone called them tests.

Don’t get me wrong, I feel the new name (in use in the education system for a couple decades now) more accurately reflects the purpose of these “tests.” As an English major, concise and clear language appeals to me.

However, I suspect that was NOT the reasoning behind the change.

There’s this black hole called test anxiety. Therefore, if we don’t mention tests, the anxiety will be alleviated.

I’ve seen this hungry beast (test anxiety) in action. People forget everything they studied. Draw a blank after reading every question. Nervous fingers click the pen: out, in, out, in, out. Fingernails, erasers, collars become fodder for repetitive chewing.

It’s crazy. Once you finish your education, how often do you face tests? Okay, that will depend on your profession, but those with test phobias aren’t likely to even go there.

As an educator, assessments can be a valuable tool. They assess (thus the name) what a student knows before a unit of study and what they learned after one. Provided they don’t suffer from the dread of examinations.

Because, let’s face it, the name change isn’t fooling teenagers. Maybe the younger kids can be trained away from test anxiety with an array of assessments levied rather than sitting for tests.

Many secondary schools have begun basing grades exclusively on assessment scores. While I understand the mentality behind this ( they shouldn’t pass Algebra if they haven’t learned 60 percent of the objectives), it invites teenagers to fail.

Teenagers are generally opportunists, seeking the easiest way to get where they’re going. Why do you think all the video games have cheat guides and cheat codes? This isn’t a claim that teenagers cheat on test—I mean assessments—but that they will shirk the assignments leading to the assessment because “they don’t count toward the grade.”

Yes, I’ve actually had students tell me they weren’t doing the work I assigned because it wasn’t going to be graded.


“But it prepares you for the assessment, which is your grade.” I’m using a reasonable tone of voice as I say this.

Shrugs. “I know how to do it.”

“Then why not do it. Practice makes perfect. It can only help.”

Sometimes an argument ensues. Other times, the response is another shrug.

As a substitute teacher, what can I do?

“The expectation is that you’ll spend class time working on this.” Yes, I admit, the teacher voice is starting to leak out by this point.
Because the majority of teenagers don’t care about an absent teacher’s expectations. Even if they know you’re going to let the teacher know that they didn’t work on the assignment.

Nine chances out of ten, the student wouldn’t be any more productive for the regular teacher.

Which makes me wonder: what are they learning about following guidelines? Will they have a better work ethic for an employer since they’re working for a paycheck?

Is there a better way to encourage students to apply themselves to the assigned tasks? Many aren’t even concerned about their grades.

All of this came to mind today while a classroom full of freshmen took an assessment in their English/language arts class.
What are your thoughts on tests versus assessments? What should “count” toward high school grades? (Maybe we should do away with them altogether, but then colleges will have to change their admission standards.) What’s your brilliant idea for encouraging students to learn?