Tag Archives: learning

Why I teach Students, not English or Anything Else

I was recently at a conference and was asked a really important question:


Do you care about students, or do you care for students?


I’ll admit my mouth dropped open a little as I soaked in that thought. Don’t let any one ever tell you words are not important, because that one preposition shift changes everything.

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Humans are everywhere, but they don’t always live with a purpose. In fact, I’d argue that a large majority of people are lost. Spoon-fed on social media and misinformation and wandering the planet without focus or direction. They’re working for a dollar sign or in the case of students, grades. Both arbitrary uses of symbols that represent far less than what we should be working toward as a human race.

They don’t know why it matters.

Too often, they don’t even care.

It is up to those of us who DO have purpose and direction to TEACH these humans how to learn. Not just give them information, but actually TEACH them how to invest their time, energy and passion into something they TRULY care about.

But teaching people to care is about as fruitful as bathing suit shopping in January and as obnoxious as Christmas decorations in October. It isn’t something that will ever have meaning for people unless you first learn yourself how to care FOR those under your charge. And the burden shouldn’t fall on parents, teachers, preachers, and youth leaders alone.

I care about a lot of things:

  • Global warming
  • Politics
  • Reading
  • Writing
  • Activities
  • Music
  • Health

I can care about a lot of these things, but I don’t care for them. I don’t nurture them. I don’t invest in them to the point that I am overwhelmed with emotion, needing to fix every little thing that’s wrong with them. I read a book. I cry, scream, or shout for joy–but then I put the book on the shelf and move on. I can care about them all day long, but until I actually invest my energy into them, I will never care FOR them.


Humans are the same. I can care about them, but until I invest something in them–a part of myself–I will never care for them.


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And they will never see the relevance in anything I say.

Especially kids–or young adults. They can smell irrelevance and in-authenticity from miles and miles away.

I teach maybe one or two kids who actually care about English as something that will impact their future. Maybe. On a good day. “I hate English,” one student tells me daily. Fair enough. I hate math. Not everyone will love the same things because no one is the same. And that’s OK–great even!

“I hate English,” he says, but then adds, “But I like you so I do it anyway.”

Wow. I’m not tooting my own horn or even trying to say I’m the greatest teacher. Hell, if I were trying to be a popular teacher the kid probably wouldn’t ‘hate English’. What I am saying is that even though this kid doesn’t like the subject matter, he knows that I care–not just about him, but for him. So during lunch, he slinks into my room, and we chat. Sometimes about school work, but more often about life.

Yet he hates English.

Knowing that someone cares for you is more motivating than any assignment I could ever give them.


Kids need adults who care for them. Not adults who listen for a moment, pat them on the head, then put them on the shelf and move on. They need adults to teach and mentor them them. They need authentic guidance.


The movement to hide kids away and shush them as though they were distractions like cell phones is damaging our society and silencing the voices that aren’t just the future, but the here and now. And ANYTIME you SILENCE someone’s voice, they’ll find it someplace else.

In drugs.

In alcohol,

In sex.

In violence.

We complain about what is wrong with society. We blame it on the media. We blame it on movies and TV shows. We spend so much time blaming the problems in our society on whatever scapegoat is most easily accessible at the time, we never stop to realize that individually we are ALL a part of the problem If we want to see real change in our society, a change in the future…If we want to make the world great, the answer will never be found in the government. It will be when, as a society, we learn to care FOR–not just about–each other and more importantly OUR STUDENTS, OUR KIDS, OUR NEXT GENERATION.

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Wacked in the Head

I used to think I did not like change. To me, it was a 4 letter word not to be embraced, said or envisioned.

Then I realized I NEED change.

I need change because it gives me purpose and helps me set meaningful goals. What I don’t like is unexpected change. I need it, but I want it to be on my terms.

But life isn’t like that.

And God doesn’t work on my terms.

I do exactly what Lysa Terkeurst says in the book Uninvited:

“I’m forever making suggestions and predictions. It’s as if I’m saying to God, ‘Here’s the plan, and, trust me: it’s really good, God. So if you could just bless all this…don’t mess with all this…just bless it and we’ll be good.'” (53)

But the thing is, when I do that I’m putting a limit on God. I’m suggesting that I know better than he does how to run the world. Or at least my world.

And I don’t want to run the world. I’m not a supervillain. It reminds me of the 90s TV show, “Pinky and the Brain”. Every episode Pinky asks the same question: “What are we going to do today?” And Brain responds: “What we do everyday; try to take over the world.”

As if two tiny mice could actually accomplish this goal, let alone doe the job well.

Ridiculous!

But aren’t I doing the same? I think I’m the “Brain”. Every day I try to take control from God and run things my way as if I could be more successful than He!

Ridiculous!

The other day, Rachel and I took a day trip to the beach. We were really excited, but woefully unprepared. Despite our intentions and plans, we quickly realized if we didn’t have a little shade, we would both be fried by the time we went home.

So I bought an umbrella thinking this would solve all our problems.

We had plans. First we tried with our own strength to get the pole down in the sand.

Negative.

So we dug a hole.

Negative.

Then we piled sand around the pole.

Negative.

Then…nothing we planned worked and we were at a loss. What a waste!

Until a kind stranger came to the rescue. He had the tools to drill a hole for us. And the kindness to help show us the error of our ways and point us in a more successful direction.

If only we’d asked for this direction first, then we might have saved ourselves a konk or two on the head.

When the stranger drilled a hole, it worked. Despite all our plans and tries, we wouldn’t know the outcome but someone who knows more than us did.

God’s a little like that.

When we try to work things out all on our own and in our own way we get wacked in the head with an umbrella and strangely we often don’t realize that our efforts are, well, ridiculous.

The definition of insanity is trying to do the same thing over and expecting a different result.

So maybe it is time to stop the insanity and give up the “Pinky and the Brian” mentality. Maybe it’s time to let God drill the hole for us and well…

Be God.

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Changing Desires: Psalm 37

Delight yourself in the Lord and HE will give you the desires of your heart. Psalm 37:4 http---www.pixteller.com-pdata-t-l-485577

I’ve heard, read, and taken a lot of hope from these verses over the years, but this summer is the first time I really started to understand what it would look like to truly RECEIVE the desires of my heart. Especially if the desires of my heart weren’t…exactly…what I thought…the desires of my heart….were.

God knows what I truly want even more than I do.

God knows me better than I know myself.

That’s hard to admit.

I want to believe I know myself. I want to believe I am in control of myself. I want to believe that at 31 I am the kind of person who is fully comfortable in her own skin, and then I stop to think…do I really know myself?

I say something like “I would never  do that, say that, be that.” And then this thing called life happens. Emotion happens. And I do that. I say that. I am that. And I wonder…what got into me? How could I have done those things when I thought I would never, ever do it? What got into me? But it wasn’t necessarily what got into me, but something that was already there just waiting to come out under the right circumstance. A ‘me’ that I didn’t know at all.

Because even though I think I know myself, I don’t. So what I think I want, what I think is best for me, really may not be in my best interest at all. God knows what I truly desire even before I understand it and what will make me soul happy. Really, truly deep down soul happy. But until I truly start communing with God on a regular basis and developing our relationship so that I am SICK in love with HIM our two understandings will not match up. WHEN THEY DO, that’s when he will give me the desires of my heart—because the desires of my heart will BE in LINE with WHO HE IS.

This hit me like a two by four falling from the sky while I was having my much needed alone introvert refreshes in Slovakia.

I was outside watching the Slovak and Americans play Ultimate Frisbee and they were laughing and high fiving and calling out to each other in English and Slovak, communicating in ways that overcame language barriers and reached down into a deeper connection. That connection that people make when they realize that eternity can’t separate the because they are bonded by an agape love that surpasses anything we can comprehend here on Earth. I was sitting on a bench, watching this unfold and God showed me that my heart desires had changed on a soul level. What I though I always wanted, wasn’t what I wanted any longer.

His desires for me became my desires for me.

Now these are my heart desires, so as much as I love ya’ll I’m not going into detail on this blog, but this moment was powerful. I knew that God was showing me something important, but also that timing wasn’t quite right yet, because the rest of the psalm is clear too–

Desires are not granted like wishes from a genie. You must WAIT, BE STILL, and TRUST in the Lord.

Because delighting ourselves in the Lord, interestingly, becomes one of the desires of our heart the longer we do it! And we fulfill this promise just by obeying his commands. And to me…well, that’s pretty cool.

Get Naked: Psalm 32-33

In America we thrive on choice.

We have the right to choose what clothes to wear, where to go to school, who to date, who not to date, and even what laundry detergent to use. But when it comes down to making the choice to live life intentionally and without secrets. To live a full and abundant life. To live the way we were actually created to live, we tend to make some pretty terrible choices.

Living in darkness seems easier.

I’ve been watching Netflix for three hours. The sun has gone down. It’s easier to sit in the dark than to walk less than three feet to the light.

But it’s this darkness that enslaves us. We hide out, burying hurts, sins, and shames in the dark places of our hearts.

Because it seems easier.

But is it?

Our God, our father, Abba, Love itself, knows what we’ve done already, so what do we really gain by trying to hide out? Let’s go back to the garden of Eden for a minute–that first sin; Eve and Adam were told what not to do, so of course being rebellious humans they did exactly that. But instead of confessing to one another and to God what they had done was wrong, they tried to hide it. Genesis 3:8 says that they heard the sound of God walking in the garden in the cool of the day so they hid among the trees. Of course this was after they’d tried to hide themselves with fig leaves in Genesis 3:7. Which is exactly how we try to hide and cover things up. We start with the surface. We paste a wooden smile on our face and when someone asks ‘how are you’? Our first response is always the same.

Fine.

No matter how NOT fine you are. You’re fine.

Maybe your best friend has just betrayed you. Maybe your dog is sick and you worry about her. Maybe your family is falling apart.

And still, you’re fine.

Because you’ve covered yourself with fig leaves.

I am the worst at this. For some reason when people ask me how I am I want to immediately say fine, even when I am far from fine. Partly to hide. Partly because I hate being the center of attention and partly because I feel so incredibly weak when I admit that I can’t handle things on my own. Right now, I’m dealing with about 5 different stressful situations all coming from different directions: work, family, personal, financial, etc. Some days I really am fine. Some days I’m not. But when anyone asks, I don’t really want to talk to them. It feels like a burden to share these things with people. But I’ve learned, especially in the past few weeks that sharing things with people, communicating, is really the only way to make it through certain situations. Because when you don’t have someone to weather the storm with, you get beat to a pulp. And getting struck by lightening is just really not great. I’ve got the split ends to prove it.

No one wants to be naked in front of others. There is a vulnerability that comes from that kind of exposure.

And so, you’re fine.

But most of us won’t just stop with surface hiding. We go deeper. We hide among the trees, especially if something in our life is not quite up to what our community might deem as ‘right’ or ‘good’. So when a friend comes walking toward us, in the cool of the day when we are supposed to be relaxing, maybe with a glass of wine on the back porch. Instead of listening to the cicadas, we recoil and hide. We miss opportunities to connect with people and feel love because we are hiding.

Our sin, our shame grows heavy. Our isolation may grow familiar, but it chokes us. It saps our strength. “When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer,” Psalm 32:3-4 laments. And if you’ve spent even five minutes in South Carolina during the summer…you know how quickly your strength can be sapped in the humid heat of summer. And we CHOOSE to live our life in this depleted state, all because we are too proud to admit that we need help.

That we need people.

That we need God.

Because unfortunately our lives have deadlines. So we can live in this eternal state of isolation and pain or we can set ourselves free as the Psalm suggests in 35:6: “Therefore let everyone who is godly pray to you while you may be found; surely when might waters rise they will not reach him.” Being with others, being with God offers protection and provides a place to hide and rest–: “for YOU are my hiding place!”

Darkness seems easier, but it’s exhausting. When things come into the light, that’s where true healing comes from. We choose God, but he also chooses us. And there is really no better choice to make than that.


“Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD, the people he chose for his inheritance,” Psalm 33:12.


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Strongholds: Psalm 27-28; 30-31 (My journey through Psalms)

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Many of us struggle with different strongholds in our lives–sometimes we don’t even realize they’ve become a stronghold until something rather significant knocks us on our rear-end and we’re left staring up at the sky wondering what happened. When all along, it wasn’t what happened at that moment, but what had been festering inside us all along, growing stronger. Something we simply chose not to deal with, or thought we could ignore, or believed wasn’t a big deal. Or worse, thought we could handle on our own.

But strongholds are, in fact, strongholds because we CAN’T handle them on our own and until we hand them over to Jesus and make him the ONLY stronghold in our life (Psalm 27:1), we’ll continue to lay on our backside staring at the sky and wondering.

So why do we hold on to strongholds like bitterness, pride, fear, anger, lust, all these things that bring so much pain?

I think it’s because despite the pain, it has become comfortable. Letting go is scary. It’s like in an action-adventure movie where the hero and heroine are hanging off of some kind of cliff or something and swinging back and forth. You can tell at any moment the hero is going to lose his grip and drop the woman into the pit, but then he says ‘do you trust me’? and the woman is sitting there, hanging over that pit thinking ‘dude, I just met you, why on Earth do you think I would trust you?’ But she really doesn’t have any choice. And in that moment she knows he is going to let her go and she has to decide if she trusts him enough to let go or if she wants to hang on–in pain, but where she still feels the comfort of being held.

Inevitably, when the hero lets her go, she falls to some safe little nook. Like it was made just for her in this time of crisis, but if she had held on she might have fallen straight into the pit.

Our strongholds are the same way. We want to hang on because it seems like that is safe. It’s what we know, but if we keep holding on we’re going to fall into the pit. If we let go and let God drop us into a nook of grace, that’s where true grace begins to change and envelop us.

That is not to say that Christians don’t struggle with strongholds. Believe me, they do. And sometimes they’re holding on just as tight as the next guy. BUT the difference is the ultimate STRONGHOLD is there to BREAK the defenses of these other things (Psalm 28:1). And even if we do fall into the pit, he is there to pull us back out again. Because he is always willing to redeem us. It’s all a part of his infinite mercy and grace.

So, do you trust him? Then LET GO!