Shabbat ShalomJanuary 23, 2018“Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy, as the Lord your God commanded you.” Deuteronomy 5:12 Recently, I learned abou ...
“Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy, as the Lord your God commanded you.” Deuteronomy 5:12
Recently, I learned about the Jewish custom of a Shabbat meal from the book Blessings of a Skinned Knee by Wendy Mogel, Ph.D. Mogel is a clinical psychologist who shares many Jewish teachings, customs, and Old Testament biblical truths that give wonderful insight and wisdom in raising and blessing our children.
The Shabbat meal is one ritual to which her family remains committed on a weekly basis. Shabbat, or Sabbath, is the centerpiece of Jewish life that begins at sunset on Friday and continues for 24 hours. It is a day of rest and celebration, like our Sundays. She explains that each member of the family has a part in contributing to the preparation of the Shabbat meal. Whether helping prepare the food, setting the table, picking flowers from the yard for the table – it is a family affair. At the table blessings are given to those around the table and to God. The evening is not like other evenings. The children know that Friday nights are different and are reserved for the Shabbat meal. How special this time is for the Jewish family.
My son recently returned from Israel where he experienced a traditional Sabbat meal. Here is his reflection of that experience:
"Shabbat Shalom," we said as we entered the home of the Jewish family who kind enough to have our group join them for their traditional Shabbat meal. Shabbat Shalom is a common greeting in the Jewish community meaning “peace on your Sabbath.” When our group entered the Jewish household, we were given a warm welcome by the entire family and shown to our seats. The family explained the history behind the practices during the Shabbat meal and their significance in Judaism. The mother prayed in Hebrew over her daughter, blessing her and giving thanks to the Father for the gift of her daughter. Then the father prayed in Hebrew over his sons, blessing them and giving thanks for the gift they have been in their family. Then the father of the household sang a song of thanksgiving in Hebrew over his wife, thanking her for her patience, wisdom, love, and care for the family. Next, the mother sang a song of thanksgiving for the food in Hebrew.
Seeing these interactions in the family had a great impact on me. It showed the values being upheld every Friday as the family gathered, rekindling relationships within the family and building up a stronger family bond. Individually, each of us were asked to do a ceremonial hand washing before eating while the father and mother prayed over each of us in Hebrew. We then broke handmade bread and began our meal with bread and wine. Later we were served soup, fish, and then a dessert. It was a wonderful experience that was even more interesting when you consider that Jesus, our Savior, would participate in similar practices growing up.
Shabbat was an experience unlike anything in America. There are hardly any cars driving. All shops are closed, and it is hard to spot someone walking down the street. It's as if Jerusalem becomes an inoperable city for 24 hours. The Sabbath is well respected and honored among the Jewish community, and this practice made me think more about my personal practice of the Sabbath and God's command to keep it holy. It was so unique to experience this rich history in the Holy Land where Jesus fulfilled his ministry.
I think back to my childhood and how our Sunday lunches were somewhat like a Shabbat meal. We would almost always have a nice lunch together around the table after church. Our Sundays were different than the other days of the week. In today’s culture, traditions are not as valued as they once were. As I’m hearing from my son and looking back on my childhood, I realize those types of traditions leave an impression and can be a blessing.
I want to encourage all of us to make it a priority to gather together on the Lord’s Day as a family and break bread together. Bless your children and your spouse with words of encouragement and prayers. I’m certain that God will honor the time, families will build stronger bonds, and souls will be renewed.
Make 2018 the Year of BecomingJanuary 16, 2018At the start of a new year, many of us pause to reflect back on the year past. Did we achieve the many things we desired? Did we give ou ...
At the start of a new year, many of us pause to reflect back on the year past. Did we achieve the many things we desired? Did we give our time, energy, talents, and resources to the things that truly matter most? A large number of people have already started to lay out their plans for the coming year. Some may do this formally, putting their goals on paper, while others simply allow dreams and desires to grow. Regardless of the process, most agree it is beneficial to have an aim for the coming year, rather than dealing with life as it presents itself.
As we begin to consider our goals for the year, how can we be sure that we will achieve them? More to the point, how can we be sure we even have the correct goals in the first place?
Your options for goals are virtually endless. Nevertheless, let me suggest one category that often slips by us, yet may actually hold the ultimate key to our success. Typically, we focus on the many things we want to change, accomplish, or otherwise simply do. However, the most important thing is who we want to be. What we do outwardly has far less impact on our joy, significance, and security than who we are inwardly.
In 2018 will we be a people who strive to do and accomplish or will we be people who become something greater than we could ever imagine? God desires to work within us to change us. The question is, will we join him or will we be found striving after good things while missing the greatest? Hebrews 11:6 reminds us that without faith it is impossible to please God. Let us strive to make 2018 a year that we will walk by faith, a year that we will see God, a year of significance.
Yes, there are things you must do, but let us do so that we can be. Ask God what He wants you to BE in the coming year and join him in his plan. That plan is one that He will accomplish, one that will bring you life instead of guilt.
The Date That Shapes Her FutureJanuary 9, 2018People often say that I must have a great understanding of women. After all, I have a wife, all three of my kids are girls, and all thre ...
People often say that I must have a great understanding of women. After all, I have a wife, all three of my kids are girls, and all three of my siblings are sisters. But, I am also still a guy – so, what I’m telling you is that I am just like the rest of our unobservant species. I am still learning about how to understand what a woman needs most, and more specifically, how God created females distinctly different from males.
One thing I have learned is that girls look up to their daddies. I’ve seen this in my family growing up, and now in my own home. Even in cases where a dad is absent or otherwise uninvolved in the lives of his daughters, girls are watching their fathers. Dads have enormous influence on how their daughters will view men in their lives – from male bosses, to boyfriends, to future husbands. As fathers we set our daughters’ expectations; and good or bad, they look to their dads as the model of their future husbands. We all say we know this, but how often to do we think about acting on that truth? I know this disconnect to be true in my life. There are many distractions that keep us from using the opportunities right in front of us.
We just came out of the holiday season, and I have such great memories of Christmas with my family growing up. Now as a dad, I have taken on the task of creating special holiday memories with my kids. I want our children to look back at their childhood Christmases and remember them well. I try to play a big role in this by holding on to traditions – some more goofy than others. The idea is to be engaged in as much of the fun as possible. It can be easier to do this at special times like holidays.
Another easy way to consider being proactive in the lives of your daughters is spending quality time with them where they get to be the center of your attention. One such opportunity is the Father Daughter Dance at Perimeter School. When I only had one girl at the school, this event was a bit easier. Now I have three, and I have to split my time. I always try to take them out to a nice dinner – treat it like a real date. I have often thought of it as a way to show them what to expect (or demand) from a boy who will ask them out when that time comes later in life – small things I normally don’t do, like opening the car door for them, pulling out their chair at dinner – you know, the old fashioned stuff.
Whether you have been to this event many times, or this is your very first one, I can only say that it is definitely worth the effort and time you will invest. We need to be reminded to make this night special. There are few opportunities where the table is set to treat them like the jewels that they are. Remember that we are showing them what they should expect as they grow up and begin looking for the right man with whom to spend their lives. This night is about them more than us. It’s about teaching them what it means to be a woman and what it looks like for a godly man to pursue them as He intended. Let that give you motivation to empty yourself completely to your daughters for at least one evening!
Christmas in EgyptDecember 19, 2017( Years ago in my search for a good Christmas card, I came across one with a painting of a beautiful work of art entitled, “Flight ...
Years ago in my search for a good Christmas card, I came across one with a painting of a beautiful work of art entitled, “Flight into Egypt” (Elsheimer). The work moved me deeply to think of this young couple, already emotionally exhausted with the miraculous birth of an infant, inundated by strange visitors from the sky, fields, and palaces, now having to run away to a foreign land “for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.” (Matthew 2:13). In our school community, we, like Mary and Joseph, also value our children. And if we were told to flee to Egypt in order to save our child’s life, there is not one of us who would hesitate to do it. We all believe and know that the life of every conceived child is precious, and we believe that all measures should be taken to protect his right to life. There was a little more riding on the protection of this child’s life, at least at that point. Though not fully clear to them yet, Mary and Joseph were beginning to grasp that this was a very special newborn, and somehow He was caught up, not only in His destiny, but the destiny of all mankind. Yet, the angel who spoke to Joseph in Matthew 2:13 did not say he was sending an army with him to protect that son of his; instead he just said: “. . . take the child and escape.” In Joseph’s mind, it was his responsibility. Now many great artists have painted scenes of the “Flight to Egypt” including Rembrandt and Rubens; some call them the “Rest” or the “Repose” on the Flight. Somehow I don’t think there was much of either on that trip, especially for Joseph. They spent their first Christmas in Egypt, far from home. Some say they stayed for two years until he got the new message, “those who were trying to take the child’s life are dead” (Matthew 13:20). Anxiety and fear had to rule the minds and hearts of these parents. Perhaps even the horrible account of the massacre of babies in Palestine had reached their ears, heightening their worry.
So why did God put those parents through that? The God of the universe can’t squash a pitiful man like Herod to keep His Son from having to be road-tripped as an infant? Well, of course He can, but He did not. When God said in Hosea 11:1, “out of Egypt I called My Son,” then it is going to happen in spite of inconvenience to Mary and Joseph. He will do what He chooses with the Son He loves. As tears hit this page, this is the story of my covenant children and yours. The whole of Hosea 11:1 is: “When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt, I called my Son.” But God, I don’t want my child to go to Egypt! I don’t want to have to fear for his life. And even if the Egypt trip turns out okay, I really don’t want him to go to a cross! If that is going to happen, it hurts too much! Maybe I wish You had never let him be born! Would Joseph and Mary have ever said that about their son? Would we ever say that about ours?
At Christmas, we celebrate the glorious birth of a Child born to die. Yet God had a purpose for His Son, and He has one for our covenant children as well. Let’s don’t waste our joyous holiday with fear and anxiety over the future. We may have to flee to Egypt. God lives there, too. And after the cross . . . a glory unable to imagine!
O Christmas TreeDecember 12, 2017O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree, How Lovely Are Your Branches? Be honest, are you an ornament re-arranger, like me? I’ve den ...
O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree, How Lovely Are Your Branches?
Be honest, are you an ornament re-arranger, like me? I’ve denied it for years, but the truth is, when the little ones leave the room I practically trip over myself making a beeline for the tree. My eager decorator-fingers itch to break up that bundle of 22 ornaments which the children have so carefully arranged on one single evergreen bough.
I tell myself I do it for the tree. I mean, Jesus cared for the sparrows, right? I am caring for the Christmas trees of this world — one tree at a time. Seems almost spiritual. Seems like something Jesus would do … or so I tell myself.
We’ve been doing Christmas trees with kids for over 20 years in our house. Multiply the years and the five kids and that’s a lot of tree decorating. It’s also a lot of ornaments. Let me be more specific: A lot of handmade ornaments: A lot of droopy tinfoil-halos and glitter-crumbling stars and paper-plate angels and faded red stockings.
And each Christmas our tree grows heavier and heavier with all of this stuff. Years ago, we even started adding a second tree. But even with two trees, our branches were easily becoming more laden than lovely.
It’s easy to fill it up. It’s easy always to add more. It’s what we do.
Because in life, like in tree-decorating, we typically don’t see it as too much until we begin to bend and break.
And sometimes, even when we are telling ourselves that it all looks well-balanced and perfectly shiny, we find out that it isn’t.
A few years ago, we purchased the biggest tree in the history of our family. On the way home from the lot, the kids enthusiastically dubbed him “Fat Sam.” He was 14 feet of glorious greenery and, that evening, we decorated him to the very hilt. I’m pretty sure there was no ornament in our attic left behind. By the time we deemed him complete, there was hardly a trace of green to be seen behind all of those ornaments. He was covered. Consumed. The children were ecstatic. Rick and I were exhausted. Our work here was done.
But that night, about 3 am, I woke to my young, almost-teenage son shaking me. “Mom, Mom, MOM. Wake up. The Christmas tree has fallen over. And it’s bad.”
In my middle-of-the-night stupor, we raced down the stairs and found that, yes, indeed, our beast of a tree, our beloved Fat Sam, had collapsed across the entire family room. The coffee table and part of one sofa had all but disappeared, and it was, indeed, very bad. Shattered glass and water everywhere. Did I mention it was 3 am? It was a Christmas tree catastrophe. A holiday gone wrong. An evergreen Armageddon.
No one likes to have their Christmas tree come crashing down in the middle of the night … (or ever, for that matter). But, what did we expect? We could have decorated an entire Noble Fir forest with the amount of ornaments we had piled on good old Fat Sam. As capable and stalwart as he seemed, it was simply too much.
That year, we learned our lesson with Christmas trees. But have we learned this same lesson with our lives?
It makes me consider how we fill our time, our days, and our families. We are blessed with so many special, sparkly and shiny fun things — but even all of that goodness can cause us to lose sight of the life behind it all. Our fine intentions in making something wonderful come crashing down under the weight of all we are doing.
In the past few years, as the kids have gotten older, we have learned to put less on our trees. We are making choices and leaving more things in the boxes. Partly because of our experience with our friend, Fat Sam, and partly because we realize it was just too much anyway.
Dear families, this Christmas season, the opportunities to fill your days might be many and merry. But — from a woman who has lived to tell the story of Fat Sam (Christmas and otherwise) — let me encourage you to treasure the beauty of less and enjoy the gift of keeping things simple.
"It is the sweet, simple things of life which are the real ones after all.” ~ Laura Ingalls Wilder
The Power of the One ThingDecember 5, 2017In today's culture we are choosing between a deluge of options and opportunities. We live in a fast-paced world that is fast paced i ...
In today's culture we are choosing between a deluge of options and opportunities. We live in a fast-paced world that is fast paced in part because the quality choices that present themselves are so numerous. Yet we are keenly aware that we are not satisfied – not entirely happy. We hear the ache inside that tells us there is room for more in our lives.
Why are we not full in a world that provides so many good things? A nice meal with those we love is a treat that seem as if it should satisfy. The idea of shopping for, giving, and receiving gifts seems exciting. Being invited to be a part of something bigger than ourselves makes us feel important and wanted. However, even with all of these things, the emptiness still remains; and so the search continues.
The choice between the power of options or the power of singularity presents a quandary that can certainly lead us into great satisfaction or great despair. We approach our lives truly trying to make the best choices. We weigh out the options and then choose the one that offers the best solution to the perceived problem, need, or want. But often all those available options, however good they may be, won’t fill our deepest needs. A new outfit will not make us into a better friend, and a new car will not make us more successful. Our choices, like a slice of pizza, will only satisfy us for a moment.
It is as if we are asked to choose whether we will live our lives equipped with a thimble or a strainer. If we buy into the idea that we must experience all the world tries to sell us, then we will by nature pick the strainer approach. We will pour all of life through it, seeking to find something to bring life and joy. We are really good at persistently chasing after life and sifting through the options left in our strainer. Yet soon we will be empty once again.
The problem is that we are searching for the elusive treasure floating in the water. What if it isn’t the treasure that is most valuable, but actually the water itself? If the water is most valuable, then the strainer is perfectly designed for failure. What is most valuable slips away while we are distracted by what is left behind. Would it not be better to have a thimble-full of what is truly satisfying than a large strainer full of all the trash and rubbish that was caught up in the water?
Once you find the one thing that is truly worth dying for, then you have also found the one thing worth living for. This singular thing will inform and clarify every choice. This one thing will provide direction, energy, and real hope. While pursuing it may necessitate saying no to other things, this one thing – if it is really the true one thing – will provide a purposeful, satisfying, secure life. It will do so because it will connect us to Christ and, thereby, to real life. This is the power of singularity to simplify the real world and satisfy our souls.
Contentment: What's the Secret?November 28, 2017“Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am in to be content.” ...“Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am in to be content.”Philippians 4:11“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”Philippians 4: 13Contentment: a state of happiness and satisfaction; freedom from worry or restlessness; a peaceful state of mind.Are you content? Do you consistently live in a state of satisfaction, free from worry? Do you enjoy a peaceful state of mind on most days? I confess that I struggle with contentment. I’m often discontent with God’s provision, my life circumstances, and the state of some of my relationships with people I care about and love. Let’s be honest, I am not the only one struggling with contentment. We live in a culture of mass discontentment where we count on pills, people, purchases, and pleasures to numb our restless hearts. We’ve all tried at least some of these things in our search for contentment, and we’ve learned that they won't give us the peace and satisfaction we desire. So, what is the secret to lasting, authentic contentment? Is contentment even possible on this side of heaven?The apostle Paul had every right to be discontent, depressed, and despairing, but from a dark and dirty prison cell he said, "I have learned in whatever situation I am in to be content." He learned the secret -- this means that I wasn’t born knowing how. The natural state of my heart is to be discontent, so I must learn to be content. And learning requires work and discipline. Paul implies that I must learn from and lean on the Master Teacher, Jesus. He says, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” So, the secret is Jesus. Isn’t He the answer for everything? It’s so easy for me to forget this and struggle in my own strength. John Piper says that the “secret to being content is hidden in plain sight all through scripture." Consider these passages: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart” (Proverbs 3:5). I must learn to trust Jesus – his promises, his ways, his provision. “And my God will supply every need” (Philippians 4:19). I must also learn to be thankful for his provision and the circumstances he brings into my life each day because “...for those who love God all things work together for good” (Romans 8:28).But it’s more than that. In the very same chapter Paul shares that he has learned the secret of contentment. He writes, “...whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” (Philippians 4:8). So, my thoughts and the power of Christ produce contentment in me.What about you? Are you struggling with discontentment and its first cousin, depression? Are you struggling to trust the Lord and be thankful for his provision and the circumstances in your life? Romans 12:2 says, “Let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.” One of the most powerful and life-transforming books I ever read is Telling Yourself the Truth by Backus and Chapian. Though I read it many years ago, it still sits by my bed when I need a tune up to reshape distorted thinking. The authors share that what you are thinking about right now can change your biochemistry and the glandular, muscular, and neural behavior of your entire body. Wow! Evidence-based research has led some doctors to believe that up to 98% of all diseases, both physical and emotional, originate in our thoughts. For example, studies show that stress, anger, anxiety, and depression can cause inflammation that leads to heart disease. (Psychology Today, May 6, 2014) Our thoughts determine a significant portion of our emotions, our words, our behavior, and the overall state of our minds and bodies. But, of course, wise King Solomon knew this thousands of years ago when he wrote, “For as a man has thoughts in his soul, so is he” (Proverbs 23:7).
What are you thinking about? Could your thoughts be the source of your discontentment or other physical and emotional illnesses with which you struggle? There is a discipline required in thinking on whatever is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, excellent, and worthy of praise. Part of the discipline in learning to be content is having an awareness of negative thoughts. I’ve learned to bounce them and turn them into prayers of gratitude for what God has done for me:“I hate my old couch – I want a new one!” to “Lord, thank you for your abundant provision and a warm and safe home."“When will the persistent pain in my foot go away?” to “Lord, thank you for my healthy body that allows me to walk and work.”“My college kids never call me. I work so hard for them. Do they even care?” to “Lord, thank you that my children are becoming independent and responsible adults.”And so it goes in my mind all day long, and like Paul I am learning through the power of Christ to be content. I’m learning that I can’t control many of my life circumstances, but I can control how I think about them. Of course, I’m still working on my PhD in contentment – joy in all circumstances!So, here we are. The Christmas season is upon us and the world will shout in every way possible, “If you want to be happy, buy more stuff! Do more Instagram and Pinterest worthy things!” Oh my, the lies we believe! Stuff isn’t bad and experiences shared with family and friends are good; but let’s tell ourselves the truth this Christmas. Things and people will never be the source our contentment. Only loving and trusting Jesus, God’s perfect Christmas gift of grace for us, will grant our hearts the peace and contentment we long for this Christmas and throughout the new year. Only as we live for His glory, think on and share the truth of the Gospel, live generously, and give thanks in all circumstances will we, like Paul, truly discover the secret of being content in all circumstances“Thanks be to God who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing!”Ephesians 1:3
A Model SchoolNovember 14, 2017Occasionally we hear a comment made in regard to our school that we either are or need to be a model of some type of education. The comm ...
Occasionally we hear a comment made in regard to our school that we either are or need to be a model of some type of education. The comments vary:
- A model of covenant school education
- A model of parental support
- A model of Charlotte Mason philosophy
- A model of compassion and support for hurting families
- A model of serving the community
- A model of lay ministry through the policy board (SMT)
- A model of sharing education between parents and teachers
- A model of genuine faculty focused on the heart as well as the head
Whoa! Those are lofty statements - certainly humbling if true in any way and convicting because we fall so short of being a true model of any of these.
At our Investigating Perimeter School seminars, it is typical for folks to want to observe what we do by visiting classrooms to see if what I have described is being modeled in our classrooms on a daily basis. I always cringe a bit even while encouraging them to come, wondering if my idealism will be embarrassingly exposed. But then I remember - the best thing that Perimeter School actually models is covenant family living.
What does that mean? First off, it is nothing about which we should be embarrassed. In fact we should rejoice in what God has given us. Our model is usually gladly embraced or strongly rejected. We try to model quality and superior education, but the qualities that make it so are vastly different from the values of current contemporary and classical education. We want students who not only know things, but can discern which things are true and which are not. We want families who are passionate about the growth and nurture of their neighbor’s children, as well as their own. We want teachers who see students, not only in terms of how they perform on assessments, but also in how their minds and hearts and behaviors are engaged in probing, questioning, and discerning the truth.
This kind of approach is messy. It is not a squeaky clean approach to life. At times people get mad, are misunderstood, have to seek forgiveness, and have to rebuke their brothers and sisters. It is a model that is hard to market because it is not measured in test scores, gold stars, or character awards. In some cases it is not even appreciated until the fruit is harvested years later.
So whether we are a model school really is irrelevant. Our focus must be: are we continually learning to serve Christ better by serving each other? As Paul said, “. . . not that I have obtained it yet, I press on towards the upward call. . .” May God help us to be mostly a model of joy, repentance, compassion, and a messy pursuit of truth. By His grace, let’s covenant together to model Jesus to our students, our families, and our community.
Pruning Our WordsNovember 7, 2017In studying Ephesians for my Bible study this week, I found a verse highlighted that I often use when disciplining students: “Do n ...
In studying Ephesians for my Bible study this week, I found a verse highlighted that I often use when disciplining students: “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” Ephesians 4:29
This verse is sandwiched in with other verses that Paul is teaching the Gentiles about “putting off” the old self and “putting on” the new self. When I am talking with a student about this verse, it is usually to help them see that the words he or she spoke toward another student were unkind and did not build up the friend. It is a great time to teach them about how words and tone do hurt others and how God wants us to show love and encouragement to our neighbors.
Just like when I explain to a student the meaning of this verse, I was once again convicted as Ephesians 4:29 marinated on my heart. Today we live in such a negative society, and it is very easy to fall into the contagious trap of complaining, grumbling, gossiping, and giving bad reports. This corrosive conduct not only wounds others but it grieves the Holy Spirit because He lives in us.
Instead of going down the road of negativity and unwholesome talk, Paul tells us that we are to “put on” the speech of building up others and benefiting those who listen. We are to be imitators of Christ, a fragrant aroma of His love because of his sacrifice for us.
As a covenant family, let us confess our unwholesome talk and ask God to grant us the discipline and strength to “put on” words that build up the body of Christ and unite, not tear it down. Let us look to find the positives in life and focus on what glorifies our Father in heaven.
Finding Perspective on Our PurposeOctober 31, 2017“By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be one of my disciples.” John 15 ...“By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be one of my disciples.”John 15:8
Over the past few weeks I have noticed that I am driven by many things, and most of them serve to distract me from what is most important. I have wondered many times how to identify those things that operate within the deeper recesses of my soul, the drive behind the drive, the whisper within. I am going to spend a few weeks digging through different drivers that operate within our souls and where the Gospel meets us to bring freedom and joy.
In John 14:6 Jesus claimed to be the way. What did he mean by that? The word “way” in the Greek (ὁδός) means a path, a road, a means to arrive somewhere. Just prior to verse 6 Jesus was telling his disciples that he was going to prepare a place for them so that they could join him where he was going. He then told them they knew the way. At this point Thomas spoke up. I view Thomas as the practical, detailed one. I have a great respect for him. He basically said, "We don't even know where you are going, so how do we know the way to get there?" I can sense his astonishment. I would have been trying to figure out what I missed in the conversation. Thomas was most concerned with making sure he could join Jesus where he was going.
We fill our time with the way to achieve our purposes – the means to reach our desired end. For many of us as full-time parents a job or education either inside or outside the home is “a way.” Neither of these are an end in and of themselves. An education is, at the least, a means for growing and developing as a person, and a job is, at a minimum, a means to provide for your family. We look at education and a job as a means to arrive somewhere or achieve something. They are a means to an end. The problem is that we have broken ideas of what is a meaningful and worthy end. And sometimes we become fixated on the way, losing sight of the purpose altogether. I was asked once who was to be pitied most, the one who gave his whole life to attain something but never attained it or the one who gave his life to attain something only to realize it was not worth attaining.
We are often driven by many different purposes. Some are driven by a cause that means something to them while others are driven by a sense of accomplishment. Some are driven simply to surround themselves with pleasure, beauty, and ease. The scary thing is that the enemy can take a very good purpose and separate it from faith, and then it becomes sinful and broken. Romans 14:23 reminds us that anything that does not proceed from faith is sin.
God, reveal to us our hearts’ actual driving purpose. Show us your calling, promises, and yourself, so that we can redefine our purposes based on your will and faith in your promises. God, do this so that we may abide in you, walking with you and doing the work we see you doing, and so find the joy that is overflowing in your presence.
All Hands on DeckOctober 24, 2017Every November Uncle Sam drafts our little school into service. Many of you have attended one or more of our Veterans Day programs and h ...
Every November Uncle Sam drafts our little school into service. Many of you have attended one or more of our Veterans Day programs and have seen the hard work and preparation, but few know how many soldiers are involved. In the same way it takes a population the size of a small city to operate an aircraft carrier; it takes a sizable population to make our program what it is. Each grade level is mustered into service to ensure smooth sailing and make our VIPs feel welcomed and appreciated. Our school is pressed into service in the following ways:
- The Siegfried Line — First & second graders preform joint operations welcoming our guests at all entry ways into Camp Perimeter.
- Support from the Home Front — Third graders write personal letters of thanks and encouragement to veterans for their past service. Fourth & fifth graders often have to be drafted into service for this mission since guests outnumber our third-grade personnel 4 to 1.
- The Marine Corp Choir — All fourth grade plebes spend two months in Sargent Langston’s boot camp preparing to sing the Armed Service Medley like they mean it!
- CyOps — Fifth grade special operations are involved in covert activity specifically designed to undermine and expose enemy activity — also known as praying. Months of preparation are constantly being presented to the Commander-in-Chief for His blessing on our mission.
- Base Camp — Our program is a lot for an old soldier to take in, so a little R&R is in order (Refreshments & Reminiscing with old comrades). This vital task is assigned to the sixth-grade cadets. They can be seen performing a number of duties: decorating the mess hall, distributing c-rations (cookies), and providing a comfortable place to rest one's boots. This task may seem menial, but sixth-grade cadets are in training for greater roles in later years.
- Medal of Honor Ceremony — Some of our guests have gone beyond the call of duty, which requires special recognition. The seventh-grade corps oversee this task. They target veterans of noteworthy service for VIP treatment following the main program. These receptions are exciting for both veterans and civilians alike and often extend late into the day’s activities, living up to the Marine motto: “first in and last out.”
- USO — What would service in the military be like without a little entertainment? This task is assigned to our eighth-grade, soon-to-be “West Point” graduates. We have invested a lot of money in these cadets and want to see them in action before the caissons go rolling out. Assignments range from playing instruments, singing songs, preforming skits, providing artwork, and ushering.
- Baby Seals — All pre-first and kindergarten class platoons attend the program each year. They are too young to perform any duties, but all good seals in training start with mental preparation and vision in order to stoke them for future service.
Every military operation has an objective, and our's is no different. Our mission has three:
- Honor — to make our guest veterans feel appreciated for their service. The Scriptures say, “Do not withhold good from those who deserve it, especially when you have the power to act” (Proverbs 3:27).
- Outreach — to bring glory to God’s name and make Him known among the lost. Although this is a Veterans Day celebration, we want to make the most of every opportunity (Ephesians 5:16) and be vessels for the Good News.
- Legacy — Raising the next generation requires teaching our children the traditions of honor and duty toward God and country (Matthew 28:20).
So this November when Uncle Sam calls your little soldier into service, remind them of these things.
In His Service,
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
The Truth About Half-Day SchoolOctober 17, 2017Is It the Charlotte Mason Way? A Bit of School History In 1986, Valerie and I left our K4-12 school in Virginia to come to Atlanta ...
Is It the Charlotte Mason Way?
A Bit of School History
In 1986, Valerie and I left our K4-12 school in Virginia to come to Atlanta and be a part of the covenant school at Perimeter. The school had been established in 1983 with one teacher and 6 students. From the beginning, the structure was designed to give the students only the necessary academic hours at school because the parents were eager to be involved in their child’s education as much as possible. The trust of the critical morning hours to a qualified teacher was appealing, as was time at home in the afternoon. We have continued to offer this unique and precious gift to families with only slight adjustments over the 34 years of Perimeter School.
The Emergence of Charlotte Mason
In 1984, a year after the school began, Susan Schaeffer Macaulay published her book, For the Children’s Sake, which in effect introduced the philosophy of Charlotte Mason to the U.S. It is still the initial “bible” of the philosophy. In it Mason is quoted as saying that the education of children up until age nine should focus on the morning hours as the critical ones for a school or home education. Independently both the SMT at that time and I read Susan’s book. This belief of Mason’s served to validate what the school had begun in 1983, in light of the question that had begun to emerge: “Can a school really educate young children in three hours a day?”
Over the next 7 years, we began to adopt many critical components of the educational philosophy of Mason, though some were already a part of the school’s curriculum and practice. For example, the focus on “the child is a person” was already demonstrated in the school’s passion for the student to see himself or herself as an image-bearer of Christ. The emphasis on the best of literature was already in practice at our school, though we did adopt the terminology of Living Books. We had already begun our focus on the great artists' works in each grade, though in the early days we did not call them Picture Studies. Today we have embraced much, but not all, of Mason's practices as we have deemed appropriate for our covenant school. Just due to the history, we are not really a Charlotte Mason school, as those schools existed only in Great Britain and were called PNEU (Parents National Education Union) schools. No schools are remaining under that name today.
What Is a ChildLight School?
In the early 1990’s, after helping establish 4 other covenant schools in the Atlanta area, we began the Perimeter School Association (PSA) for mutual growth and training of teachers. We kept our covenant school identity as our main foundation, but over time we grew in our knowledge of Mason principles in the areas of curriculum and methodology. Other schools sought us out, and in 1993 we began the ChildLight School Association, taking the title with permission from Susan Macaulay. Keeping our original five schools, we also added 10 additional ones throughout the Southeast. All are Christian, some are covenant, and each is committed to the ChildLight philosophy of education adapted from the principles of Charlotte Mason.
So What About Our K-2 Half-Day School?
We expect always to be committed to providing a half-day option for K - 2, and we are likewise committed to the practice of devoting morning hours to academics. With the cultural and economic changes that present the need for full day school to some families, we will continue to offer an afternoon Adventure program of play, fun, and creativity to students that does not contain academic pursuits (though we know that children learn great skills by playing). Though some may misunderstand, the half-day option with afternoon activities is not a violation of Mason philosophy. In fact, all her PNEU schools were full school days with afternoon play activities. We are excited to be able to offer options that honor our history and still meet the needs of families and what is best for children.
The Work of ChildhoodOctober 3, 2017"Play is the work of childhood." - Mr. Rogers Last week I had the privilege of working alongside fellow educator ...
"Play is the work of childhood." - Mr. Rogers
Last week I had the privilege of working alongside fellow educators from our school to present to Moms Connect, a group of young moms with children up to age five. Our topic was setting a strong foundation in the developmental years. We began the presentation by teaching these young moms the importance of a strong developmental foundation for their children, which will then lead to a more well-built academic house. It was invigorating to teach these moms that cultivating auditory, visual, motor, and language skills is easily done in everyday life with everyday items in their home. If we just helped a handful of moms by introducing them to play-based learning, we accomplished much and invested our time well.
As Cheryl Kaywood, Wendy Williams, Karen Dills, and I prepared for the presentation, I was reminded of a few things that set us apart as a school:
- Perimeter School is blessed with a faculty that possesses a wealth of knowledge and experience. I was inspired by listening to these three educators share their passion and expertise in the area of early childhood education.
- Perimeter School gives our students in lower elementary a wonderful gift of half-day school, which even includes recess. Because of our half days, our kindergarten through second graders have the opportunity to spend much of the afternoon learning through playing. Of course, the type of playing that I am referring to is imaginative, outside, or unorganized play. To this day I do not regret giving my sons these few years of extra afternoon play. The value of those days is immeasurable.
- All of us at Perimeter School need to share and explain openly what we know to be best for the child with others who are searching for education for their children. If they are thinking about preschools, encourage them to look for ones that are focused on developmental play rather than driven by academics. Perimeter School believes that there is much more to learning than paper, pencils, and text books -- especially in the early years.
What I shared with these young moms, I would like to share with you. God has created each of us in His image, and we are created persons. Children are not blank slates, but persons who yearn to be taught spiritually, physically, emotionally, and intellectually. This teaching all begins when the child is born, and God equips us for the task. As parents we will make mistakes, and we will not do it perfectly. However, by calling on the Holy Spirit daily to give us wisdom, guidance, and creativity, we can do our best and encourage others on the same journey.
Learning to ServeSeptember 26, 2017"In all that he does, he prospers." Psalm 1:3 What is the aim of my reach? I often feel that I am running and doing, yet I ...
"In all that he does, he prospers." Psalm 1:3
What is the aim of my reach? I often feel that I am running and doing, yet I see much that I am not accomplishing. . .
We want our children to learn to serve others, but how do they do this -- for that matter, how do we? This is a question that parents have asked through the generations. There are certainly some things we can do to provide opportunities. We set aside time so the children can experience acts of service. We talk about the needs of others. However, the heart of service is not developed in a single day, but rather over time with constant reminders and focus.
Our country has faced a great deal of hardship in recent days. We see images of people in homes surrounded by water. We see neighborhoods leveled and homes scattered across the land. What do we do with this reality as Christian families and as a Christian school? Last week Kirk Stephens wrote an astonishing article on developing roots called "Storms." The roots we develop are the foundation for serving.
Believing that we are called to serve others, we can easily fall in to the trap of becoming focused solely on meeting their needs. However, we must consider how we serve. If a friend has a need, we meet the need. Yet, we don't stop there. We bring them love and encouragement as well, thus ministering to the whole person. Shouldn't we seek to serve others as we would serve our friends?
We are so busy. How can we minister to so many needs so deeply? Are we not stretched too thin? I often feel that I am withering in the face of so many needs. I seldom feel like a great tree. What am I to do?
If we look at Psalm 1, we see the picture of a tree planted by streams of water. It yields fruit, and its leaf does not wither. Verse 3 states, "In all that he does, he prospers." We love that last verse, but we do not examine why he prospers. Consider Matthew 13:31-32. Jesus compares the Kingdom of Heaven to a mustard seed. It is not a large seed like the Oak or the great California Redwoods, yet, it was the seed he chose to to use in his comparison. Jesus illustrates that the tiniest of seeds grows into a tree so large that birds of the air come and make nests in its branches. In Daniel 4 God compares the king to a great tree that provides shelter to the beasts of the field and fruit to all around.
How do we root deeply so that we can provide for others as God has called us to do? If our roots are placed in this world, we will be bound to the things of the world. We will wither in the face of the momentous task of serving others. If our roots are found in God, his Word, and the souls of people, then we will find great freedom to serve others. If we abide in Jesus, our roots will receive nourishment to grow strong branches that can provide shelter for others. We will have more to give, will be sensitive to the times He is calling us to serve, and will see others through the eyes of Christ, helping us to sift through things that don't matter in light of eternity and focus on those things that have eternal value. If our children grow roots in Christ, then they will find their hearts less withered as they seek to serve others deeply.
Let's not wait until the end of our lives to discover that this world is empty and that a life planted in this world will lead to withered hearts and fruitlessness for our children. Set your hearts on things above. Be captivated by God's opinion of you rather than those around you. Life is not found in the abundance of one's possessions but only in the presence of God.
Come with me, and let us reach with our roots so that He may reach others through our branches. Prospering occurs below the surface. Thank you, Kirk Stephens, for challenging me to reach with my roots.
StormsSeptember 19, 2017Over the last couple of weeks, we have witnessed how destructive hurricanes can be. For the first time ever, Atlanta was under a tropica ...
Over the last couple of weeks, we have witnessed how destructive hurricanes can be. For the first time ever, Atlanta was under a tropical storm warning. We have seen pictures of the effects of hurricanes Irma and Harvey. It seems that the largest problem caused by Irma's high winds in Atlanta was downed trees, resulting in widespread power outages. Typically, when you see entire trees that have fallen to the ground, you will notice that their root system is pretty shallow. The trees that have stronger root systems are better prepared to weather storms . . . even hurricanes. There is a lesson in this destructive force . . . and it was brought to my attention by my wife.
How strong is your root system -- your foundation? In what or whom do you find your strength in stormy times? What do you cling to when everything seems to be crashing down around you? You see, from the first day a seed is planted, its root system begins to form. For its roots to grow strong, it must be nurtured, cared for, and tended to on a daily basis. It must grow in rich soil to be strong. The stronger the roots, the better chance the plant has to thrive. It is no different for us, and God gives us an amazing lesson in the midst of widespread destruction. For us to weather storms, our root system must be strong and founded in the One who gives us strength, lest we experience a power outage.
Our family has been battling through the storm of stage 4 cancer for the last 10+ months. The winds have blown, the rain has poured, and we have been afraid at times. I know for certain that we could never have endured to this point without the foundation of the rich theology and truth of God's word. His promises have seen us through the worst gusts of this storm to date. In times of fear and trepidation, we have leaned on the truth that we serve a completely sovereign God who loves us more than we can fathom and is in complete control of the storm. We have leaned on the hope offered through the cross of Christ. It is the source of power given to us through the Holy Spirit -- and it is the only source of true hope in a world that seeks to distract us with its temporary satisfaction.
This points me to a story in the Bible with which we are probably all familiar. In Matthew 14, after Jesus feeds the 5,000, he tells his disciples to get in the boat and go before Him to the other side of the sea. As they are traveling on the sea, the waves begin to beat and toss the boat. During the evening Jesus "came to them, walking on the sea" (v.25). When they saw this, they were terrified. Jesus calms them and tells them not to be afraid, because His is with them. Peter then says to Jesus, "Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water" (v.28). Jesus does so, and Peter begins to walk on the water to Jesus, through the power of Jesus. "But when he [Peter] saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out 'Lord save me''" (v. 30). What happened here? Peter was doing just fine when he was focusing on Jesus. When he took his focus off of Jesus and turned it to the storm, he began to sink.
Peter's roots were growing and being nurtured as Jesus discipled him, but it didn't mean he could weather a storm on his own. Jesus was the soil Peter's roots needed to grow strong. He needed Jesus to save him in the midst of the storm because he was incapable of placing his full focus on Jesus, and Jesus knew it. See, I am guilty of focusing too much on the fact that I have cancer and not focusing solely on Jesus. When my focus is not on Him, I can feel myself sinking into despair, fear, etc. Many times, I have found myself asking Jesus if He was even there. But, He always reaches out His hand to let me know that He is with me in the storm and that He alone has the power to calm the storm. He has never failed to lift me lovingly out of the raging waters of despair.
As we go through our daily lives, are our actions and responses to storms teaching our kids that our foundation is rooted in the person of Jesus and the absolute truth of Scripture? Or, are we teaching them to lean on the things of this world, that only provide temporary solace? These might include our career, our savings account, our homes, our success, our kids' behavior, medicine and doctors (in our case), etc. What is the first thing you run to for comfort in a storm? Are you focused on self-preservation, or do you surrender the storm to the Creator? Is your root system founded in the soil of the perfect person of Jesus Christ? These are scary questions.
Here is the cool part: even when we turn from Jesus, and look for safety in the things of this world, He still reaches His hand out to pull us from the storm. That's where I want my, and my family's, roots to grow -- in the soil of the never-failing Savior!
Setting a Table of GraceSeptember 11, 2017Recently I had two occasions to lead believing groups in receiving the bread and wine of the Lord's Table. Christians vary in how mu ...
Recently I had two occasions to lead believing groups in receiving the bread and wine of the Lord's Table. Christians vary in how much importance they give to this sacrament, from viewing it as a mere remembrance to almost starving for its perceived necessity for eternal rest. Presbyterians are kind of in the middle... believing it is a means of receiving grace worth pursuing, but not desperate that salvation is increasingly assured by its reception.
Though seldom pursued, a "pre-game ritual," an examination and preparation of the heart prior to the Table, can yield a benefit in nurturing the soul -- especially if approached with humility. While we will not serve the Lord's Table at Chapel this Wednesday, there will be an offering of spiritual food, prayer, and worship that has the same potential grace to nurture the souls of all our covenant children. Perhaps a few or many will be drawn by the Spirit to surrender their heart and fully abide in Jesus for the first time.
I encourage you, as parents and first-responders to your child's spiritual needs, to have a pre-game before Wednesday. Even if you are absolutely sure your child's heart is surrendered to Christ, this chapel could be a vital time for renewal. It could be the opportunity for your child to see his or her need for pruning and purging some unhealthy attitudes and habits that are causing anxiety and lack of gratitude. Or maybe your child's relationships need attention. We will talk about what it means to lay down your life for a friend and our call to love those who are unloved by everyone else.
Perhaps you could begin a conversation with these questions: Why does the school have a chapel program? What do you want to get out of it? If you do not have the opportunity to begin a conversation around John 15, please at least pray for the Spirit to create a hunger in the soul of all our covenant kids to feast on the grace available during that hour. May it be more than just a memorable event, but a satisfying buffet where all are filled at the point of their greatest need.
A Powerful New Beginning for Your FamilySeptember 5, 2017The 2017-2018 school year is off and running. For those of us who are in education, have children in school, or are involved i ...
The 2017-2018 school year is off and running. For those of us who are in education, have children in school, or are involved in discipleship or other church ministry, August and September are months of new beginnings. We have two times a year to make "New Year's resolutions" -- or as I like to think of it, two times for contemplation and expectation. We contemplate and ask God some questions: What do you want me to do this ministry and school year? What changes are you prodding me to make? What challenges might I face? After pondering, contemplating, and planning, we are able to look forward with excitement and expectation as the new year unfolds.
As I was in this process over the summer, I was reading and studying John 15. God began and continues to whisper in my ear, "ABIDE." This five-letter word is now firmly planted on my mind and heart. Jesus repeats this little word 10 times in the first 10 verses. Obviously it conveys an important concept. So, I've been contemplating what it means truly to abide in Jesus. The biblical definition of the word helps us better understand this idea Jesus chose to emphasize. The Greek meaning of "abide" is to remain or stay. When we continually stay connected to Jesus and remain or dwell in the Word, we grow in our understanding of the depth of His love for us and how to trust Him more. This understanding brings tremendous joy. God has given me this word "abide" to meditate and ponder continuously this year.
Hopefully all of us have been in this contemplation stage these last few weeks and are finding time to be still and quiet and listen to the sweet whispers of God's voice. If not, it is never too late to start. Together as a covenant school, we are on a journey of learning to abide with Jesus in a deeper and more profound way. I want to encourage you as you talk to God to ask Him specifically for one word or scripture to pray for each of your children this school year. He will be faithful to give you that word or scripture, and you can look forward with expectation to what God will do as you continually pray for your child in this particular way over the next several months.
Today the crayons and pencils are still sharp and new, and excitement is still in the air. But we know crayons and pencils become dull, and the excitement of the year will wane. As routines begin to set in and time moves on, let us not forget to ABIDE in Him daily, for He is our life support and our everlasting joy. By residing in Jesus, each of us will be able to follow His will, walk through the challenges, and look to see Him more clearly in each new day!
Taste and SeeAugust 29, 2017Psalm 19:1 "The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork." The Bible tells us many stori ...
Psalm 19:1 "The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork."
The Bible tells us many stories of God stepping into the world in majesty and power -- stories of a flood, a day the sun stood still during a battle, a time the rains did not come because a man prayed, blind men who were given sight, dead who were raised to life, and so many more. However, we do not experience such miraculous deeds often in today's world. This is not inconsistent with Scripture, as there were times in the Bible when supernatural miracles were abundant and other times when God seemed silent. There were also times when God's people were looking for one thing, but He did something altogether different. Nevertheless, throughout the ages we can see God consistently in two places: His Word and His world. Often we misunderstand both, but the Scriptures are clear and help us to interpret what we see in the world around us.
Last Monday I, along with many students and parents, witnessed a small instance of God's creation glorifying its creator. This experience was an amazing gift. Indeed, the heavens declare the glory of God! Since then I have watched many videos of the event, and in each one onlookers display an authentic excitement and childlike amazement. There was a moment in each video when people were so caught up in the experience that they forgot to be cool or hip. When people ask me what it was like to watch the eclipse in person, I realize that I am completely unable to explain. I searched for a picture that accurately captures what I saw but finally gave up in frustration. The best pictures cameras can produce seem like crude watercolor paintings when compared to what the sky was like that day. How can I describe my emotions when, despite all my preparations for and research of the event, I experienced something I was absolutely not expecting? I felt like a young child giddy with excitement. The collision of beauty, design, splendor, and layer upon layer of mystery caused me to have a deep realization of the power required to create something so magnificent.
To see pictures of the eclipse is like stepping into a kitchen and becoming aware of the aroma of incredible food. The smell is one layer of experience. But when you actually taste something so fantastic that ordinary food does not seem like real food anymore, the experience takes on a new depth. Prior to Monday, I studied eclipses and what would occur. Science taught me many great things about distance and size, heat and cold, light and waves. All of this was interesting, and it still is. However, if I had to choose between learning everything about it or experiencing it first-hand, there would be no competition! I would want the experience.
This difference of experience instead of head knowledge is something we long to help our children discover. Teaching and instruction are vital and set the stage for deep awe and wonder, much like collecting wood prepares for a bonfire. However, pictures, books, seminars, projects, and the like will not compare with the glory and joy of actually walking by faith with God and seeing Him show up faithfully in love and splendor according to His promises. Throngs of people devoted much time and effort to seeing a shadow of the glory of God in the eclipse. Having experienced it myself, I now understand why. But it makes me wonder what would happen if we truly experienced the one who made the eclipse. What would that kind of devotion look like in our hearts, and what would it produce in our lives? I think that fruit would change the world!
Cultural and Educational Rebirth: A Covenant ResponseAugust 21, 2017During my career as an educator, I have watched with sadness as the effects of existentialism have pervaded our culture.& ...
During my career as an educator, I have watched with sadness as the effects of existentialism have pervaded our culture. Existentialism purports the belief that truth is experiential and contingent upon human reason, performance, and experience. This belief, in turn, gives birth to a culture and educational system void of truth and filled with hopelessness, despair, and striving.
For the last 11 years, I have experienced firsthand the effects of existential thought and human moralism directed towards the lives of our future posterity. As an assistant principal in Norcross, I have watched as hopelessness, despair, and striving became the anthem of my students' lives. Approximately 80 percent of the population came from fatherless and single-parent homes, leading to an unchecked, unsupervised, totally depraved populace of middle school students. For the majority of these students, school was the only hope of refuge and escape from the cycle of poverty, addiction, and turmoil; however, it only served to reinforce the intrinsic values of a culture lost. Public school, a Petri dish of secular and naturalistic philosophy, sees the child through the lens of individual performance and societal contributions. Students are no longer valued as "image bearers." No, they are measured by what they can contribute to the prominence of the school -- thus, precipitating the hopeless struggle of the seeker.
The question for us remains: Is hope lost? The simple answer: No! For the believer hope remains. Colossians 1:27 says, "To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory." Our hope and the hope for those soaking in the pool of futility is Christ alone! I believe Tim Keller best explains this hope when he states, "I am more sinful and flawed than I ever dared believe. I am more accepted and loved than I ever dared hope."
I would like to share a final story that I hope will serve to inspire and encourage all of us in our covenant mission and display the all-surpassing power of our sovereign King. I remember a young 12-year-old girl who showed up in my office last year in utter desolation. Her story -- an all too familiar story -- resulted in an endless swath of persecution on social media. Without sharing too many details, the young lady unfortunately was solicited by an unknown source on Facebook who promised her a bright modeling career. When she at last refused to provide further images, the unknown source blasted her social media contacts with unscrupulous information and inappropriate pictures. Subsequently, the incident resulted in the most heinous and venomous attacks by her so-called friends. The persecution from her friends -- her one source of refuge -- hurled this young lady towards a hopeless and final resolution. Praise be to God that this was not the final outcome for her. The Lord, rich in mercy, allowed me the opportunity to share the hope of glory. After a few minutes of sharing the love of Christ with her, she shared details with me of something that no person, especially a 12-year-old little girl should ever endure. Nonetheless, at that moment, the Lord brought freedom and deliverance to her. I do not know what became of the young lady, but my continued prayer for her is that the seeds of the Gospel will blossom and that she will find solace and lasting hope in the loving arms of the Father.
This incident reminds me that amidst this young lady's turmoil and our temporal struggles, there is "love and peace that surpasses all understanding." Therefore, how can we as a community humbly and faithfully continue to provide a place of refuge and hope for our students and parents who are desperately striving and hopelessly in need of support? The answer is that we have already built a foundation that depends on and appropriates the power of our God. We are a reformed covenant community that supports and sustains our members through truth, mercy, and justice. Thus, we are unified in our mission and dedicated to raising up a generation that will impact cultural change and expand the kingdom of God.
As a community of believers, we are so blessed. Ephesians 2:1-11 tells us, "As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. 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, so 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 Gods handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do."
Therefore, my prayer for our covenant community is that the Lord would use all of us to shepherd and equip the hearts of our future generations. That He would speak through us and in spite of us, and that we could enjoy the fruitful blessings of His unmerited favor.
Greater Love Has No One Than This...August 15, 2017This summer in my study of the words of Jesus in John 15, I ran across this story from a pastor named Chris Jordan from California: & ...
This summer in my study of the words of Jesus in John 15, I ran across this story from a pastor named Chris Jordan from California:
"Many years ago, when I worked as a volunteer at Stanford Hospital, I got to know a little girl named Liza who was suffering from a rare and serious disease. Her only chance of recovery appeared to be a blood transfusion from her five-year-old brother, who had miraculously survived the same disease and had developed the antibodies needed to combat the illness. The doctor explained the situation to her little brother, and asked the boy if he would be willing to give his blood to his sister. I saw him hesitate for only a moment before taking a deep breath and saying, 'Yes, I'll do it if it will save Liza.' As the transfusion progressed, he lay in a bed next to his sister and smiled, as we all did, seeing the color returning to her cheeks. Then his face grew pale and his smile faded. He looked up at the doctor and asked with a trembling voice, 'Will I start to die right away?" Being young, the boy had misunderstood the doctor; he thought he was going to have to give her all of his blood." (Originally taken from Chicken Soup for the Soul.)
Wow. What better illustration of the words of Jesus that we must humble ourselves a a little child? What I love about this, as well, is the concrete thinking of the five-year-old boy. He thought, "If I help her live, I must die. But I love my sister, and I will do it."
That kind of love on a practical basis is what we desire inside these school walls and beyond this year. It is the type that causes us to be willing to die to ourselves in order truly to love another. It might not involve a blood transfusion, but according to Jesus, it is lame unless it involves loving the unlovely and people who don't really care for us (Luke 6:32).
Perhaps you have a child who is starting this year excited for a new beginning, but dreading his or her interaction with the "cool kids." Or maybe as a parent you live in fear of the judgment of others who think you don't measure up. Or you are still judging your own worth based on the "perfection" of your children.
Oh, how I have longed to do what Charlotte Mason said about dying to self: "it does not mean you think less of yourself, but rather you don't think about yourself at all." How in the heck is that possible?
Well, that is in John 15 also. It is called abiding in the love of Christ. And it is something we do together. If we all covenant together this year to abide in Jesus and soak up His word, then amazing greater love can grow among us. But it will take some pruning and obedience.
Forget our own ability to love well - it doesn't exist. We are naturally busted up... broken. And so are our kids. But we have a Savior who calls us friends, not slaves, and He is the source of all the fruit we can bear. Can our "ask whatever we wish" this year be greater love for one another? Let's give it a shot.