To My Students: Please Remember

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I guess nothing is more terrifying for a teacher than the realization that 99% of what you say will be forgotten (but much of what you DO makes a deep impression, and mistakes you make — along with how you handle them and whether you’re willing to apologize and repair the relationship — make the deepest marks).

Here I raise my Ebenezer (my “stone of help,” the pile of rocks referred to in the OT as a reminder for something to be remembered).

I hope that, regardless of all the literature you forget and authors you ignore and grammar concepts you massacre in future papers, these ideas will stick:


A “good kid” is NOT the kid who stays out of trouble. A good kid is the one who DOES good. 

Christian schools easily breed Pharisees and hypocrisy and judgmentalism apart from the daily reminder of the Gospel. The kids who stay out of trouble but add nothing to the life of the community — these are not the “good kids.”  In my experience, it’s been the broken, screwed up kids who “get” the Gospel. They are the ones who learn that Grace always costs the giver, deeply. When you find yourself sitting back on your laurels and judging your fellow students for their stupidity, hypocrisy, sin, or failures…. remember that Goodness is active, not passive.  Avoiding trouble doesn’t earn you any medals in God’s economy.


Your job in this life is to leave this world better than how you found it, by the power of the Holy Spirit and the hope of the Gospel and for the sake of the Kingdom.

Want to find a career that’ll feed your soul more than your wallet? Find the intersection of your talents and some gigantic problem in the world. Then find a way to make it better. THAT will be a fulfilling, meaningful career. Anything less — especially a paycheck — will suck the life out of you.  Your life is wound into the Kingdom. Live it. Love it. Throw yourself into it with reckless abandon.


God didn’t screw up when He made you. So stop doubting your gifts, talents, interests, and abilities.

I can’t explain why God creates dyslexic hyperactive photographers, moody musicians, happy-go-lucky carpenters, generous poor people, intellectual poets, or pensive filmmakers. But I’ve taught all of those and more.  See the point above. Your gifts will lead you to your fulfillment. Trust that your heavenly Father isn’t a jerk.


Never be afraid to ask the Truth the really hard questions. If it’s really the Truth, it can stand up to any question you ask it.

I worked to make my classroom a haven for hard questions, difficult problems, the ideas that no one really wants to speak out loud. I know my students have faced failure, pain, suicide, depression, hatred, temptation, isolation, despair, rejection.  I know that some of you cry out to God in anger or hate or confusion because The Problem of Evil isn’t just a theological textbook exercise to you. You’ve lived it… or you’ve watched a friend live the paradox of a loving God and a world full of pain.

Jesus Christ IS the Truth. He is so big and gracious, He can handle the questions. Go read the Psalms. David beats down the door of heaven with his cries at times. Take your deepest, darkest problems to the Throne of Grace and shut up and listen….until you find answers.

And for the love of God (really), please don’t dump pat answers on the head of someone else when they’re hurting.


The only definition of Sin that matters is the biblical one.

Culture and Christianity both offer lists of taboo actions and thoughts. Those lists don’t matter unless they’re biblical. The South may say, “A good man doesn’t drink or chew, or run with those who do,” but that’s not actually a Scriptural definition of righteousness.  It’s not OK to put man’s laws in place of God’s, or add to God’s boundaries by redefining them more “safely,” or try to sanctify yourself by laying on a thick layer of rules.

You are the worst person you’ve ever met. If I lock you in a room by yourself, I’ve locked you in with the worst sinner you know.  Don’t you dare blame your actions on your friends or the bad kids who smoke behind the school building. You’re a sinner. You.

Parents, don’t play that game either.  A Christian school isn’t “safe.”  Stop making your school choice based on the people you’ll let your kid hang out with. Instead, make your family life centered on biblical definitions of sin and a love that’s so solid, it can handle the worst of people’s sin without falling apart or tearing those people to pieces with your judgments. Live before your children the love of Christ, and they’ll be a force for good, wherever they go to school.


Love God as hard as you can with everything you are all the time.  Love your neighbor like you love yourself. These are the great commandments, and they encompass everything else.

Want NCS to remain awesome? Love others. Want to deal with the kid who annoys the snot out of you? Love them. Got a problem with someone? No doubt the problem is with you. So get over it and start loving … because you are confident in God’s love for you.

We used to say that NCS ought to limit its rulebook to 50 rules. As soon someone comes up with a 51st, then one of the old ones needs to be thrown out.  Rules cannot replace the positive demands of God’s Great Commandments. You can’t wiggle out of them.  I don’t care who started it.


Stop imposing your ideas onto the text. Let the words speak for themselves. 

One last dictum for my English students.    It’s the biggest weakness of every student of literature — they jump to unfounded conclusions, they quickly form opinions that aren’t warranted, they skip the little details that make all the difference, they arrogantly run rough-shod over the authors WORDS.  Trust the WORDS.  Slow down.  Take time to think.  Don’t tell me what you think it says. Tell me what it says. 

That is the foundation for all interpretation.


Go forth, and LIVE. 

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