An open letter to the future-you(th):

We, the people of 2020, are making decisions right now that will affect the future-you(th). You might think we are supposed to have all of the answers. But we don’t.

Should we ask you to forgo authentic experiences, or not? Who should be the one to bear these burdens? How do we weigh that against the here-and-now? How can we ask you to take over the responsibilities of this world, without showing you that risk is a part of that? How can we make the right decisions for you when we struggle doing the same for ourselves?

How do we respond to all of this now, so the future-you(th) will know what it looks like to respond in the face of challenge…and indecision? With conviction…and with love?

What we choose to do now-

The burdens we choose to carry now-

The decisions we choose to make now-

We do for the future-you(th).

Not for the moment-us.

Not for the glamor-us.

Not for the glory-us.

But for the future-you(th) in all of us.

So we turn to the Word,

We close our eyes,

And we ask the Lord:

How should we respond?


The People of 2020

Stage Fright

I can belt out a song, toss my head around, throw my arms up and dance, and never worry about what I look like or sound like… when it’s in my car, in my shower, or in a large crowd at a concert. However, when I am singing in church for some reason, there are moments where I tend to be self conscious. When I feel this way, it’s as if I have this imaginary marque running through my mind telling me, “People around you will laugh at your singing. They will think you are a fake if you raise your arms and move in worship. They will smell your coffee breath.”

Haha! The things we worry about!…Or maybe it’s just me.

Remember those elementary school music programs? Those music programs where you stood on stage in your best outfit with all of your classmates? Standing on stage as your family and the entire school watched in anticipation?

I do.

And what I remember is this: I was that one, the one that “mouthed the words” or at the very least, whispered the words. I was that one, the one who hung my head down in embarrassment. I was that one, the one who stood frozen like a statue. I have done that at times in church too- Worried about how I look and how I sound.

Have you ever found yourself doing that, too?

A music program now seems unimportant to me compared to the singing I do in moments of prayer and worship. A music program has an audience of many who wish to enjoy and appreciate the music and their loved ones who are singing on stage.

When we sing in prayer and worship, however, we are singing for an audience of one. We are showing our honor and thanksgiving to the Lord… Not the music. Not for our performance. Even so, sometimes I put myself right back as a child on that stage in the music program.

When I find myself “mouthing the words” or pushing down my words into a whisper while in worship, I have to remind myself that Satan is just telling me lies. Telling me lies that my voice is not worthy enough for the Lord. Telling me lies that I am not worthy enough to express my joy and praise to the Lord. Telling me lies that I look like a fool by moving for the Lord. Telling me lies that my worship matters more to others than it matters to the Lord.

This is pride happening here- when I listen to those lies. I am worried about my performance rather than the praise I give to the Lord. I am worried more about what others think of me instead of what the Lord thinks. I am worried about what I look like… Or what I smell like! As crazy as that sounds.

But it is not a crazy sound to the Lord. He does not hear our off pitch or shaky voices. He does not see us as looking silly… Or smell our morning coffee or onion breath from the omelet we had from breakfast! He is just glad to see that we are honoring and praising Him. That is a truth we must put on the marque in our minds. The difference between singing on stage in a music program or being a fan at a concert is when we we sing in prayer and praise to our Lord, our singing and motions become worship. When we worship the Lord through song, we are praying to Him… praising and honoring Him.

It is easy to say that, but more difficult to do that… especially in the moment. We are human, and we get stage fright that’s for sure.

So what do we do when we find ourselves listening to the lies? We ask the Holy Spirit for help in that moment. We tell Satan, in that moment, that we have the same power that raised Jesus- inside of us. We put our focus on the Lord in that moment. We do not condemn ourselves for the type of praise we are giving the Lord, as long as we are giving Him praise and thanksgiving.

We are all on different journeys in our faith. I came to realize that condemning myself for mouthing or whispering the words or for standing like a statue is a lie too.

I am on my own journey, and this is what I have learned about myself in song: I can belt out a sound now and sway to the music, but if a song is not grabbing me, if I have a cold, or if a new song is introduced at church, I may feel even more self conscious. So I tell myself, “It’s okay to mouth the words. It’s okay to stand like a statue,” And I do not condemn myself for it.

When I mouth the words, I am reminded that I can still praise and honor the Lord in that moment. I am reminded that I have the power to ask the Lord to breathe life and song into my heart. I am reminded that I can ask the Lord to give me the confidence to sing out loud. I am reminded that the Lord gives me grace, even in my hesitation. I can be reminded that it isn’t about me. It’s about the Lord. I can be reminded that it’s okay to mouth or whisper the words and honor and praise the Lord in that.

What does that look like for me?

It looks like eyes wide open.

It looks like articulating every word,

Even in silence

Or in a whisper.

It looks like mouth stretched,

And moving at its utmost ability

Even when I am void of sound.

It looks like smiling in between

Each word.

It looks like love,

And prayer,

And praise to the Lord.

When our journey of faith and worship through song lands at a place where we feel the urge to belt out a song, toss our heads around, throw our arms up and dance, even around other people (even with coffee breath;), we will feel the presence of the Lord in a much deeper way. When we can get to that place, all of us… together…that is the kind of gift of joy and celebration that we will share and receive. It’s the kind of gift we all can give back to the Lord.

And the Lord will gladly accept our gift of joy and celebration, too…

Every Moment Of Every Day.

-Em O. Ed

Zach Williams concert (Nov. 2019)
We usually don’t have a problem shouting out songs and raising our arms with a crowd of strangers at a concert, so why do we get stage fright to do the same thing with our friends in church?

You are a trophy

It is my mission to leave these written messages in different locations to inspire others beyond the walls of my classroom.

I sat in a circle on the floor with my class, as I held up a little plastic trophy-

And I announced:

“A medal for finishing a 5K-

The end of chemo treatments-

A cup of coffee over a warm conversation-

A win-

A triumph-

A moment to be held in high regard.

All are trophies friends of mine might place on our shelf if they were sitting here with us.”

I made this proclamation, as I set the little plastic trophy in the center of the circle as a symbolic gesture on behalf of my friends.

“What trophy will you place on the shelf today?” Be sure to Invite a Friend to do the same.

“What trophy will you place on our shelf today?” I asked.

I pointed to the little plastic trophy that I had placed on our imaginary shelf in the middle of the circle. I invited each of my fourth-grade “friends” to:

Take it-

Proclaim it

Place it on our shelf-

And Invite a friend in the circle to do the same.

Many proclamations were made that day. Medals and trophies from musical performances and athletic events, belts and badges from martial arts and scouts; And several declarations of special memories with family, applause for a job well-done, and faith in Jesus Christ.

It was at that moment in our conversation that I knew my class understood the true power of trophies. And it was at that moment I resolved to set free the notion: “Not Everyone Gets a Trophy”

Because everyone does.

Because everyone already has a trophy.

We just have to help them find out what it is.

“And the beauty of having a shared trophy on an imaginary shelf,” I told my class, “there are no names or inscriptions on it. We share in the glory of our trophy. And so we can change what it represents to us… Every moment of every day.

We just have to:

Take it

Proclaim it

Place it

Invite a friend

“What trophy do you want to place on the shelf today?”

Friend, I invite you to do the same…

Every Moment Of Every Day.

-Em O. Ed

You are a stick

There are many different kinds of sticks. Which stick speaks to you?

A lowly stick found on the ground, a hockey stick, a yardstick, a popsicle stick, a walking stick… Choose a stick that speaks to you.

“How would you compare yourself to that stick?”

My class shared their thoughts about this concept in many amazing ways.

“My life is better than a stick because a stick is boring and just sits there.”

“I am like this popsicle stick because when the popsicle finally melts away you can actually get to know me. The popsicle part hides and protects me until I really get to know you and feel comfortable letting you know who I really am.”

“A stick can be in the form of a boomerang. Every decision that I make leads back to where I was before. I consider what choices I make based on the experiences I had.”

“Not all sticks are the same. Just like people are not all the same.”

“I’m different than a stick. God gave me life and a stick has no choice in their life.”

“There are different uses for a stick it has many adventures. You never know where it will end up. It could end up in a nest, a picture frame, or maybe even saw dust. I wonder what my adventures will be?”

“A stick may not even be just a stick after all; it may have roots and grow into a tree. It gets smarter. It grows taller. It gets better just like us over time.”

“A stick may be pulled away from a tree. Just like someone may be pulled away from the family. It can represent pain.”

“My life is like small sticks and big sticks. Small sticks are like small moments in my life that are only here for a short time. Big sticks are like big moments in my life that last longer.”

Now that school is out for the summer, I have had a little time to reflect on the very question I had asked my class.

I will be turning 50 this month, and through my life experiences, I am a stick that has been whittled and carved by God. I may have some gashes and imperfections, but I’m God’s own handicraft.

And that, to me, is pretty extraordinary.

You, my friend, are a stick being carved into an extraordinary person too…

Every Moment Of Every Day!

-Em O. Ed

You are your tomorrow

Your tomorrow can be your next day,
or it can be your future.

“What does your tomorrow taste like?” That is the question I posed to my class on the day before the last day of school. Several students naturally replied with such words as: “FREEDOM!” and “SUMMER!”

I explained…”Your tomorrow can be your next day or it can be your future. Take a pause in your life at this moment and reflect on your tomorrow.”

In response, our conversation took a turn toward career goals: “My tomorrow tastes like SCHOOL SUPPLIES, because I want to be a teacher.” and “It tastes like VICTORY to me, because my goal is to work for my country in the armed forces.”

As the conversation progressed, my class continued to express their “tomorrows” in other unique ways, such as: “My tomorrow tastes like the EARTH, because I want to protect the earth from pollution.” and “It tastes like SOUR PATCH CANDY. It’s sour because tomorrow is the last day of school, and we will be leaving our friends, but it is also sweet because it’s summer time!”

It is my mission to leave these written messages in different locations to inspire others beyond the walls of my classroom.

More responses were thrown out into the circle. All of them were inspiring and thought-provoking. My students gave such great insight beyond what I ever could have imagined.

I began to think about my own response. I guess my tomorrows could be summed up tasting like “SALTY TEARS” because they will be filled with tears of joy and tears of sorrow; Life makes it certain of that.

What does your tomorrow taste like?

I hope my students’ reflections have fueled you to think deeply and reflect on your tomorrow. They inspire and amaze me with their deep thinking…

Every Moment Of Every Day!

-Em O. Ed

You are beautiful

It is my mission to leave these written messages in different locations to inspire others beyond the walls of my classroom.

I asked my fourth-grade class a question: “What do you need to be reminded of today?” I showed them the “You are beautiful” sticker that I have stuck to the back of my phone.

I told them I need to be reminded-

The sticker on the back of my phone is not perfect. And neither am I. But I need to be reminded- God says, “You are beautiful”…
Every moment of every day.

I am beautiful…

Every moment of every day.

Even when I feel ugly on the outside- with no make-up on, or if my hair is frizzy that day.

I need to be reminded-

I am beautiful.

Even when I feel ugly on the inside- with a sometimes grumpy disposition, or if I am in a defeated state of mind.

I need to be reminded-

I am beautiful…

Every moment of every day.

And maybe you need to be reminded too…

Every Moment Of Every Day.

-Em O. Ed

It’s Transactional- This Conversation

I am an extrovert and have no problem talking to complete strangers. Lately, it has been my self-challenge to randomly ask strangers thought provoking questions. When I am passing by and passing bills or exchanging glances and exchanging currency throughout my day I might ask such questions as: “What is your passion?” and “What brings you joy?” Usually it comes with the typical response of either: “Family, Friends, or Pets.” So I have to dig deep into the pockets of their thinking and prompt them even more. When I do that, it’s transactional- this conversation that I have with them.

Conversations seem like an easy exchange among family and friends, but how much emotional currency are we willing to give up to total strangers and at what cost?

I find when I talk to strangers, they hand over more to me than I expect. I come to them, this stranger, as if saying, “This is a personal stick-up! Give me a bit of yourself. Let me pry open the strongbox in you.” I do it in a nonthreatening way of course, but I am rummaging in their personal heartspace for a brief moment of time.

Alas, there is no thievery going on here, rather, I am putting an item up for auction: a conversation. Sometimes this conversation turns out to be worth a great deal, sometimes it falls flat, but other times the treasure comes later that I do not see- That’s when the stranger walks away with it, shines it up a bit, and shares it with someone else.

Maybe these strangers will tell others, “Today, this stranger asked me ‘What brings you joy?’ And I said (such and such).” Then they will ask someone else in turn, “So, what brings you joy?” It reminds me of the dollar bill I used to sign my name on in middle school. I thought it would be magical, knowing my name could travel anywhere. It could go across the country, or even in a pocket across the world.

A question or a conversation will take you even further. You never know what the value of a conversation will have on a person.

These strangers that I converse with are free to put in their bid if they so choose. Surprisingly, some of them never ask me questions in return. Nonetheless, I offer them a little bit of information about me. If I want to learn a bit of information from them, I need to throw in a few soundbites about me as well. Because it’s transactional- this conversation.

When I keep the bids going up in our conversation by asking prompting questions, I get to the heart-answers. These are the responses that make people’s eyes sparkle. THIS is the exchange in our conversation. Up until this point, our conversation has low currency and little value. I love to see their eyes light up when I know I have hit on the right responses. This is when I hear the answers that come directly from inside their hearts, not just from the top of their heads.

I gain SO much from the conversations that I have randomly started with total strangers simply by asking a question. Not how-are-you type of questions. Not what-do-you-think-of-this-weather type of questions, but powerful, life-giving and heart-breathing questions; questions that I hope will carry them through the rest of their day or at least for a time. The type of question like “What brings you joy?” becomes valuable currency.

So what brings me joy?

I receive joy in knowing and seeing that I brought joy to peoples’ lives, if just for a moment, in their mundane day; something unexpected, a surprise, a gift for the day, wrapped up in a small little moment of time- my time, that I have taken out of my day to ask a total stranger, “What brings you joy?”

My hope is that I’m giving people something that has intrinsic value; something more valuable than money or material items, more than a passing glance or a smile, or a kind exchange. More than that- I hope I am giving them something greater that will bring about a thought in their mind to ponder, an idea to marinate in, or a burst of happiness that fills their heart; something that sustains them for the rest of their day, or leads to them having conversations with their family and friends.

To me, all that makes a few minutes of my time worth more than any amount of money. It’s the kind of light that shines brighter than any block of gold.

Would it be worth it to you to ask one question to a total stranger, in a moment of your day? Make an investment in a conversation with a stranger, and I bet it will grow exponentially.

Because it’s transactional- this conversation…

Every Moment Of Every Day.

-Em O. Ed