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Coincidences and Stamina

“Coincidence is the word we use when we can’t see the levers and pulleys.” –Emma Bull

Have you ever been stopped in your tracks by noticing a coincidence? Perhaps you think about a friend from long ago one day, and the next day you bump into the same person. One morning this summer, I chanced upon a friend on an early morning bike ride who I had just dreamed about. Since I rarely see that person, I was so shocked I couldn’t speak for a few moments. The other day a friend of mine switched on the radio in the car and happened to hear an interview with an obscure author he’d only recently begun reading for the first time.

Coincidences make me smile. They make me wonder what the Creator is up to. Perhaps reality is being tweaked just enough to give us pause and remind us of a design in the world that is more mysterious than our own thoughts. Was this “meant to be”? Am I being spoken to in some big way?

When I was wondering this week what to write about for my blog, I kept returning to a series of coincidences that have been happening lately, all related.

I start my mornings with a cup of coffee and a devotional reading of the Bible. For the last almost two years, I’ve been going through a series of meditations from a book called Solo: An Uncommon Devotional.  I read to listen for a “Word to live by” for the day. A “Word” (capital W) is different from words. It is something you hear that gives guidance and feels sacred.  I am amazed at how often I read something from scripture that is just what I needed to hear. It may be comforting or it may be a nudge that is uncomfortable but true.

A Word has been coming to me more than once lately and the weird thing is that it’s very much like something I’ve been teaching to my students.

I’m trying something new in my class this year, and that is a teaching method called “The Daily Five”. It’s simply a way of organizing the daily teaching of reading, writing and word study. One of the themes I keep talking to the kids about is that we are all building our stamina in these areas. Reading for 30 minutes at a time doesn’t just happen for a 7 or 8 year old – we build up the minutes day by day. If students get off track, we talk about why we practice our reading in the first place (the joys of reading). This coming Monday, our class will be at 27 minutes and I think they’re doing pretty well.

I have loved talking with my students about stamina because it’s the exact word that has been coming to me in my morning quiet time. The difficulty of the learning curve I wrote about in last week’s blog often tempts me to want the easier way in life. But God has been a determined teacher lately and has given me a series of scriptures that have all said otherwise. They’ve all been talking about stamina.

Here’s a sampling of verses that have come to me. It’s like God meets me in my temptation for the easy road and says stuff like this to me:

  • “Through the Word we are put together and shaped up for the tasks God has for us.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17 Message Bible)
  • “Purse a righteous life – a life of wonder, faith, love, steadiness, courtesy.” (1 Timothy 6:11 Message) (The word steadiness really caught my eye that morning.)
  • “Run hard and fast in the faith.” (1 Timothy 6:12)
  • And then of course was the verse I wrote about last week, “God will surprise you with gifts of unending help and confidence.” (2 Thessalonians 2:17, Message translation)

What I hear God saying to me through these verses is: “Lydie, I will help you but you also must decide to accept my help. Your will and My will come together to rise above the temptation to go soft.”

Paul Patterson (Watershed’s pastor) once gave me a Word to live by. He noticed my tendency to get angry in reaction to life’s difficulties, and he told me I was a bit like a crab, tough on the outside but soft on the inside. In other words, I was reacting to life but

had little stamina or character.  In contrast, he encouraged me to be the opposite, become softer or kinder on the outside and tougher on the inside. His words have been coming back to me often this fall. It’s like running a race, reaching within for God’s help when the going gets tough, holding on to hope like a lifeline.

A student brought me a huge smile this week. It was the annual Terry Fox walk at not just our school but schools around the world. I love teaching about this Canadian hero. Maybe it’s because my own sister lost her battle with cancer, but telling the kids about heroes who rise above their circumstances and don’t let go of hope inspire me.

One of my lovely grade 2 girls came to me after watching a short film about Terry Fox in the library. “Mrs. Penner,” she said with a bright smile, “I was listening to the Terry Fox story and guess what word we heard? Terry Fox had stamina. Can you believe it?!”

I grinned with her, knowing that the string of coincidences just increased for both of us. Maybe the Creator is speaking all the time to all of us, reminding us constantly of lessons that’ll take us through and increase hope and faith in the world.

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