Category Archives: christian perfection

a teacher’s apology and thanks …

I’ve been thinking about them some … my last-yearers. It’s been odd seeing them so close-by yet realizing that they’re “hands off” – not mine, not this year. I’ve kept my professional distance, and they’ve kept theirs. A few of them have made their way to my door, even stepping into the classroom a time or two, surveying the surroundings to see what’s familiar and what’s different. They’ve been quick to notice the changes:

“We didn’t have that last year, Mrs. Olsen. That’s not fair.”

And my laughter regarding their assessment is quietly accompanied by the truth of their judgment. In the secret recesses of my heart and soul, I know that they are right. What my students had last year isn’t and won’t be what my students have this year, at least to a certain degree. The curriculum remains the same, but the teacher? Well, she’s changed a bit. I still answer to Mrs. Olsen, but I am a wiser version therein, seasoned and shaped by my previous year’s, hard obedience.

When asked six months ago about my returning to the classroom this year, I didn’t have a solid answer. The stress attached to returning to teaching (after a long hiatus) had taken its toll on me. I was overwhelmed by the many responsibilities, and I was unconvinced that another year of more-of-the-same would be good for my health and for my family. Still and yet, I had a feeling (really more of a willing response) that I owed it to myself and to the countless hours already invested into the teaching process to see if a second year might be kinder to me … an easier fit.

Eight days in, and I have my answer. This will be a better year for me and for my students, not because the crop of children is any “better” this year than it was last year, but rather because I am better. The difficult “yeses” of my last year – all those times when I yielded my hands, my heart, and my flesh to the sharp edge of the Farmer’s spade despite my gut reaction to flee – have cultivated for me and in me a seasoned understanding of what it means to be a teacher and what it is to be God’s servant therein. That’s a win for everyone concerned, and that’s the reason I can heartily agree with my former students’ assessment of the classroom.

“We didn’t have that last year, Mrs. Olsen. That’s not fair.”

And for that, I offer them an apology. I also offer them a word of thanks. Shaping seasons – those that change us for God’s better – require fallow soil and a willingness to receive the blade of the farmer’s plow. What grows there, in that difficult soil of obedience, is often the sweet harvest of holiness. It may not seem fair at the time, but in the end, it’s always better.

I’m better, and I have a sneaking suspicion that most of my last-yearers are better too. To God be all the glory, great things he has done. Great things he will continue to do. As always …

Peace for the journey,

when harvest comes …

Rough edges. I have some. They were readily exposed for me to clearly see this past year. The catalyst for that exposure?

Fifteen students hand-picked by God to move me on toward my perfection!

For the past several years, I’ve been incubated from such exposure; life and its many detours have allowed me some shade and protection along these lines. Certainly, there have been occasions when I’ve felt the soul-shaped sanding from others but not as intensely as I have experienced it in these past ten months.

Most days, I wanted to run away and hide, crawl back into the shell I had so carefully crafted for myself during my earlier season of isolation. Exposure was painful and bloody, with precious few moments of joy to temper the ache. But I hung in with Jesus … every single day. I called upon the name of the Lord more times than can be counted. Together, he and I walked the school year through, and as we rounded the corner toward the finish line, I was finally able to see the amazing work of grace.


I grew. They grew. And as we spoke our final good-byes, I held a little fruit in my hands – the same hands that (to date) had only held seeds, only sown seeds in hopes of one day having them grow into something more substantial.

This has been a fruit-bearing year for me. I couldn’t see the fruit in the beginning, and I certainly couldn’t feel it along the way and as we went. But I always believed in it, always trusted God for the greater work of grace that surfaces as a direct result of willing obedience to the call of Jesus Christ.

Sometimes we choose the mission field, friends; sometimes it chooses us. Either way, the responsibility is the same – to sow extravagantly the seeds of our faith. To break up the unplowed ground beneath our feet with the spade of God’s Word. To water it with the sweat of our brow and the tears of our surrender. To nurture the seed and soil with fervent prayers and gentle hands. To trust in the unseen work of the soil and to believe that every hour of intentional investment will yield a harvest of eternal proportion.

Sometimes we have the privilege of holding that resulting fruit; sometimes we can only believe in it. Either way, our responsibility remains.

Keep sowing God’s seed in this season of your life. Whether uncomfortably exposed or intentionally hidden, you have a choice to make regarding the faith seeds that are stored in your heart. In releasing them for the greater work of the kingdom, you are making a choice for growth – for yourself and for others. Don’t be surprised when the spade digs deeply and (sometimes) harshly. Expect it, believing all the while in the unseen work of the soil and in the eventual harvest to come.

What cannot be seen or held is seen and held by God. He is superintending the process, and the outcome is not in question. But don’t take my word on it, take his …

“This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. … You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit – fruit that will last.” –John 15:8,16

In season and out, sow generously and sow believing that He who began a good work in you is faithful to see it through to completion. As always …

Peace for the journey,

stretched, wrecked, and waiting …


It’s the heart stuff that concerns me most … both theirs and mine.

Growing pains.

A soul stretch.

A sacred wrecking … reckoning.

We’re in this together, and (at this point in the journey) we’re standing at a crossroads. Either we’re going deeper into this holy cleansing or we’re going to settle for a duct tape finish—a patching and pasting to hold us together for a good enough ending that will send us on our separate ways at the end of May … unaffected and unchanged … hearts hardened by the process instead of hearts beautifully shaped because of it.

I know what I want, but I cannot make that choice for them. They will have to decide if our temporary union is worth it … worth the pain, the stretching, the wrecking, and the reckoning.

And there’s the rub.

Nine weeks in, and we’re standing at a crossroads. I can feel it in my spirit, and I suppose that’s why I’ve spent the last hour gathering my tears into my lap. I think a couple of my students have already made up their minds about “us” – choosing less instead of best.

So I beat my heart up a little tonight, wondering how I can change their minds … how I can persuade them to stay with me on the path a while longer until the stretching and the wrecking reckons into beauty—a touchable, tangible splendor that affirms and validates the hard work of relationship.

Isn’t that what we all need? Want? Affirmation that our hearts are growing rather than shrinking? Don’t we want to get past duct tape and good enough so that we might take hold of healing and holiness?

To be fair, when I was their age, I didn’t know I wanted to be holy. I suppose I spent the first three decades of my life settling for duct tape finishes. But then God offered me something better, something lasting—a relationship that went beyond holding me together to a relationship that grew me up on the inside … that made me a better me … that changed my way of thinking and my way of doing. And this was and is the beautiful splendor that speaks strength to my soul each day. It keeps me coming to the table of grace and offering my fifteen students a choice for a similar portion.

If only they could understand what’s at stake—what’s to be loss and all that’s to be gained from their being genuinely loved by this grace-veteran who boasts enough battle scars to give me some street-cred. If only they would take my word on it … that we’re worth it and that, by the end of May, we’re going to be better versions of ourselves because of the time we’ve given to one another.

But they might not see things my way. They may choose a lesser path.

And so, on this night when I have more questions than answers, less control rather than more, I will allow my tears to soften the hardness that’s creeping in to my heart, and I will pray for my fifteen and their deliberations as they stand with me at this crossroads. Come tomorrow morning, I’ll lean in a little closer to the wrecking that’s taking place near our hearts, and I’ll offer them the choice to join me on the holiness road.

God will be with us, and he will be faithful to complete in us that which we cannot yet see in us.

A glorious reckoning. A splendor of his making.

This I believe in.

This I will fight for.

All the way through ‘til May.

PS: Sarah is the winner of Laura’s book, Playdates with God. Congrats! It will be coming to you via Amazon.

the kingdom classroom

I don’t know why God trusts me with so much . . . why he would allow me the privilege of sacred participation, this giving and extending of his kingdom to others. So very often, I feel ill-equipped and under- qualified—rough around the edges, frayed ends, frazzled thoughts. This is who I am most days, a tangled mess but for the beautiful grace of Jesus who lovingly and willingly applies himself to my untangling until the knots are free.

God doesn’t walk away mid-process. He’s a finisher. He keeps stretching me, moving me, challenging me, and changing me from the inside out. I offer him my consent, because I know there’s work to be done and because, without the Lord’s prod, there’s no soul gain; just stagnation, just plowing up that same old piece of ground and patch of soil that’s been tread upon again and again by my stubborn inability to fix myself.

Will we ever get to the end of this, Lord, this hard work of grace?

I can no longer pretend that it’s not hard. Grace is free and comes swiftly to our aid, but grace is also a meddler. Grace won’t leave us alone; it requires a response—a holy, sacred “Yes” to previously spoken “Nos”.

Full grace equals full change; full conversion; fully and willingly broken open and spilled out so that God has the opportunity to pour into our earthen vessels his holiness, his revisions, and his version of who we are. We are kingdom carriers and kingdom dispensers. To carry less and to give less is to betray our King.

Oh to wake up to our privilege and to our responsibility therein!

The hard work of grace. The good work of grace. My allegiance is fixed to the cross, and my heart is pledged to the kingdom road. Accordingly, I’ll keep moving forward, tethered to the expectation that what I currently cannot see growing in me has already been seen by God.

Indeed, I don’t know why God trusts me with so much; I only believe this to be true . . . that he does, in fact, trust me with the story of grace. And even when his “much” has seemed too much for me, his grace has always been sufficient to move me beyond my limitations in order to allow me a moment or two of kingdom influence. I don’t need to know the results of those moments; I just need to stay obedient to his call.

May the God who created the kingdom, the Christ who brought the kingdom to earth, and the Holy Spirit who sustains the kingdom in each one of us, strengthen you, straighten you, and empower you to spend your kingdom inheritance on those who’ve yet to take hold of their royal privilege. Amen.


moving the Kingdom forward in the next sixty minutes . . .

Movement wins. If you’ve been a regular reader at my blog in the past year, then you know that I chose this phrase to serve as my “anchor word” for 2012. Forward movement is a worthy pursuit, whether in the physical or spiritual realm of advancement. When we make the deliberate decision to move forward in faith, then it’s a win, not just for us but for the kingdom of God as well.

Along these lines, I’d like to offer you a challenge today—a single way that you can move your faith forward, thereby advancing God’s kingdom. It may sound simple, but I imagine it might be harder in practice. That’s what we’re going to do . . . practice our faith in a practical way. Practice is often the conduit for transformation. Great teaching will only take us so far, but great teaching applied in earnest unlocks the sacred potential in all of us to move forward in our perfection. So if you’re willing, let’s apply this one change to the way we spend our next hour (whenever this hour arrives for you).

Two steps are required. First, listen to the Word. Second, do the Word. Ready? Then listen up:

“So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer.” –2 Corinthians 5:16

Now, do this one thing: No longer regard anyone from a worldly point of view.

Translation? Stop looking at the people in front of you from a worldly perspective. Stop viewing them as flesh and blood. Instead, view them as soul and spirit. See them not as temporal beings but, rather, as the eternal children of God. Look deeply into the faces of those around you, those who’ll cross your path in the next sixty minutes, and find the face of God. Notice Jesus and his pulse as he hovers around them. Recognize a single human life for what it is—a created being fashioned and formed in the image of God, a life worthy of Calvary’s investment. Grace’s investment.

With the Holy Spirit’s help, you can do this, friends. We can do this. In doing so, we move the kingdom of God forward. We may not be privy to the results of our investment or feel the earth move beneath our feet, but we can be certain that the heavens are marking our paces and turning the pages of the kingdom calendar in great anticipation of the arrival of its King.

This is not the time for weak faith and shoddy investments. This is the season for bold faith and Jesus investments. No, God doesn’t need us to move his kingdom forward, but because of his great love for us, he offers us the privilege of sacred participation. He gives us the opportunity and the occasion to see his people, all of his people, from his vantage point.

No longer regard anyone from a worldly point of view. The souls in front of us cannot afford our negligence. So get busy; the clock’s ticking. Fifty-seven minutes and counting. Make them count. As always . . .

Peace for the journey,

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