For this Monday

…..What a good reminder for an otherwise tired, mundane, unwelcome Monday.

….I belong to God because He is my creator. I am redeemed – created new in Christ – because of his good work of redemption on the cross and resurrection over death.

….Since he has called me to himself, I have a hope-filled purpose- not for sloth and slumber, but works. This is not a call to meaningless toil, but fruitful, productive, good works. These are good works that were prepared for me, and that I was created to do.

….So I look to Him for my work, for the endurance with joy they will require, and for the sure hope that my labor in the Lord is not in vain.

….What a welcome reminder for a renewed, hopeful, already-in-God’s-plan Monday. ❤️

To my Teacher Self: you are serving the Lord Christ

This week in my fifth grade class we are reading “This I Believe: Free Hearts and Minds at Work”, a radio talk by Jackie Robinson. This quote toward the end really stood out to me:

“And in the largest sense, I believe that what I did was done for me — that it was my faith in God that sustained me in my fight.” – Jackie Robinson, This I Believe: Free Hearts and Minds at Work

That got me thinking: How often do I think about what I have to do instead of what has been done for me by God? How often do I think about what God will do for me?

When my heart is focused on the work I have to do, expectations from myself and others, that student (or administrator) who seems to have it in for me, or the sleep I just can’t seem to get, my heart is overwhelmed and temped toward resentment, impatience, and worry.

As I was praying through today, the Lord brought this verse to me:

“Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.”  Colossians 3:23-24 ESV

So that got me thinking through practical implications of how to address frustrations. Some of these apply to me at the moment, some do not. However, they are all possible in the world of teaching. I don’t voice these frustrations because we should dwell on them, but to practice meeting real frustrations and temptations to sin with the truth of what Christ has done for those who hope in him alone for salvation. In other words, I hope to address what I have to do with what Christ is doing and has done for me, because I am serving the Lord Christ.

When I am planning my lessons with my weekends or late nights, I am serving the Lord Christ who loved me and gave himself for me. (Ephesians 5:2)

When I write my agendas on the board every morning, I am serving the Lord Christ who is my strength and song. (Psalm 118:14)

When I am dealing with a defiant – or even just annoyingly talkative- kiddo, I am serving the Lord Christ who has shown me mercy. (1 Peter 2:10)

When I’m faced with a conflict with co-workers or supervisors, I am serving the Lord Christ who multiplies grace and peace to me. (2 Peter 1:2)

When my planning (or lunch) is taken up with petty annoyances or more serious, seemingly impossible issues, I am serving the Lord Christ who awoke my heart from death and sin to salvation and life- a work impossible for me, but not for him. (Luke 18:27)

When I am grading papers, I am serving the Lord Christ who has promised to never leave me. (Hebrews 13:5)

When I am having an observation that may or may not be going according to plan, I am serving the Lord Christ who has already placed his favor on me. (Psalm 84:11)

When I seem to not be getting answers to work e-mails, I am serving the Lord Christ who hears my prayers and answers them. (Psalm 116:1)

When I’m buying more school supplies for my classroom out of my pocket, I am serving the Lord Christ who deals bountifully with me. (Psalm 116:7)

When I’m talking with or being harassed by an upset, unpleasant parent, I am serving the Lord Christ who enables me to do what is right. (Philippians 2:13)

So my prayer for myself today, as well as for us all, is that I set the Lord always before me so that my heart will not be shaken with resentment or worry.

“Praise be to the Lord, for he has heard my cry for mercy.

The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him.

The Lord is the strength of his people, a fortress of salvation for his anointed one.

Save your people and bless your inheritance; be their shepherd and carry them forever.” Psalm 28:6-9

And may God guard my heart and faith today against any lie that would tell a different story. May he increase my faith to believe in the good promises and hope of his word.

To love and good works

“Look Miss W. I put the encouragement up on the board so that everyone would know to do their best job today.” -G, 5th grade

I smiled at his sweet sincerity and helpfulness. I was also a little disconcerted. Had he known that Hebrews 19:24 was that morning’s “verse of the day” on my Bible app?

It got me to thinking. I had to ask myself about what stirs up my heart – especially as a teacher- to endure in loving others and doing good, even when I’m tired and discouraged. A couple things came to mind. Admittedly, it feels disjointed, but it is a beginning of the beautiful canvas of hope painted in Scripture. So, disjointed thoughts or not, I want to share in hopes that it can encourage us all to love and good works today.

The love of God

“God loves his people. If you are a believer in Christ Jesus, trusting only in His merits, God loves you as surely as He is God. There is no question about the matter. His divine love is yours as certainly as His power is displayed in creation. Set God’s lovingkindness before your eyes. Think of His faithfulness! God’s lovingkindness never pauses. It is as constant as the flight of time. Never a moment but there has been love for that moment. Never an hour but there has been that hour’s portion of lovingkindness.” C.H. Spurgeon

Since I am loved out of a never-ending abundance of pure, perfect love, I am free to pour out that love on my students and others, not worrying about keeping back for myself. May God use the conviction of His steadfast love to increase my patience and kindness- in short- my loving actions. May His love empower my mouth to speak gracious words that build up, my eyes to shine kindness, my posture and tone to show His patience. Out of the divine security of resting in his love, may my classroom hold security for the children who enter.

God’s Presence

God goes with me today and everyday. He has promised to never leave nor forsake His children. So I can go back to our classrooms and say “God is in this place” and know He is. He is just as much with me when I’m walking to pick up copies as He is when I am dealing with a student’s battle of the will, or talking with a parent, or writing (more) lesson plans, or trying to get 5th graders excited about writing a summary… again. The presence of God gives me joy that doesn’t depend on my circumstances. May that knowledge make me smile and laugh and take joy in the presence of God today. May my students get to share in that joy.

“Surely His goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life.” Ps. 23

That includes today. May the recurring refrain of my daily thoughts not be worry or resentment, but the thanksgiving of remembering:

God is so good, he cares for me, he loves me, he is with me.

For days to come

May the Holy Spirit always bring to my mind the words of the Bible so that I can get through each day strengthened (because of his power!) to bear good fruit and “work good work” as one of my students says. May I always delight to remember that in the faithfulness of God I have “strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow” (hymn Great is Thy Faithfulness)

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”

Galatians 6:9 NIV

Teacher Seeking Approval

It was the middle of a Tuesday and I found myself picking the date for an announced observation for the following week. We settled on December 12th at 8:45 am. That score will play a big part in determining my LOE score that will tell, at a quick, convenient glance, what kind of teacher I am. It’s hard not to absorb identity from that number. It feels like approval or disapproval. It feels like someone has pronounced judgement on my worth as a teacher.

Sometimes, in the midst of the hurry, the pressures, and worries of this time in the semester, I forget that those things are not the sum of my life, or even the sum of my present circumstances. I have to stop and remind myself that this person’s approval may be pressing, that activity may be urgent, this work may be threatening to consume my time, but that is not all of my reality. The tyranny of the urgent will always be there, but there is always more. Everything in life- the good, the bad, and the in-between (including scores and observations, and human approval, praise, and judgement… and life outside of teaching) – all those things shape me, but they have no say in who I am now and what I have for eternity. God has that say:

But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do… Eph. 2:4-10

According to Ephesians 2, because Jesus Christ, fully God and fully man, came and brought me salvation by dying for my sin and rising again, this is my reality: I am loved by God with great love. I am God’s own handiwork, so I belong to him. I am created in Christ for good works, so the work is his, not mine. My future is not uncertain because God has prepared it in advance. God desires to show me the incomparable riches of his grace. He shows me great kindness in Christ. He gave me true life when I was dead in my own works and my own heart of hatred and defiance against him. As Paul tells the Ephesians to remember, I also remember that I was once without hope and without God in this world. I almost can’t bring myself to say those terrible, soul-shaking words aloud: without God in this world.

I need to remember that, so that I can remember this: because of God’s great gift – one I did nothing to deserve- I have received approval by the One from whom it matters most. And I am no longer without God in this world… or in eternity to come.

So, whatever comes today or the tomorrows that follow, as believers I hope this will always be among the first of our thoughts: I am no longer without God in this world. And may we remember all that that truth entails.

Whatever is pressing or clamoring for attention, he always has been, and always will be more. His is the approval that matters most, so that we can live in true joy and seek to please him as we walk in all the good works – at school and elsewhere- he has planned for us to do.

Prayer:

“I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. Eph. 3:16-21

Using My Teacher Voice

“Wow, I was using my teacher voice. I actually missed that.”

I couldn’t believe that was a thought from my own brain. Yet, there is was. Even more shocking… it was true. I really had enjoyed using my teacher voice.

This teacher voice, however, was not the stereotypical one my students aren’t supposed to make me use.

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Oh, I have that one, too.

Then the realization dawned… I have more than one teacher voice.

And so do my teacher friends. I have heard many, many teacher voices coming from down the hall and in my own classroom.

There is the teacher voice that yells above a noisy classroom.

A teacher voice that quietly talks to a student about their struggles at the teacher desk.

The teacher voice that is raised in anger.

The teacher voice that is upbeat and cheerful.

A teacher voice that is firm in discipline.

The teacher voice dripping in sarcasm and bordering on disrespect.

A teacher voice that almost sounds like singing – lilting and lyrical.

A teacher voice that is smiling.

A teacher voice that is sad.

The teacher voice that is tired and discouraged.

I’ll admit it.  I’ve too often used the wrong teacher voice. My students got an exasperated voice when they needed a patient one. I taught about main idea and details (for the 500th time) with a tired voice when my students needed interest and energy.

Some days I may feel like Charlie Brown’s teacher projecting wordless, almost intonation-less mumbling in front of a classroom, but in actuality my students hear what I say.  Maybe more importantly, they hear how I say it.

School’s out for the summer, so I’m looking forward to the next year. One goal is to own my teacher voice (all of them) and make conscious efforts to use the one my students need… and leave behind the one they don’t. Do I think I will always succeed? No, but there is the grace of transparency and admitting when I’ve used the wrong voice. When I talk to my students about my voice, they understand their own.

Self-controlled. Lyrical. Firm. Smiling. Sad. Respectful. Laughing. Clear. Strict.

Patient.

Kind.

 

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