Greetings Berks Christian School Community,
In our state of the school address last spring, I announced that we would be clarifying our discipline policy to enhance communication and clarify our procedures. After a period of six months of collaboration between faculty, board, and the administrative team, that process is complete.
First, if you have not already, watch my six-minute video explanation here.
Then, I encourage you as a family to review our policy together. (PDF format)
In brief, we have created what we call the 3CR discipline policy. It is designed to bring our discipline firmly in line with our goals of discipleship and mentoring and to make our system clear for all stakeholders. This new policy is for all students K-12, we no longer have a separate system for elementary and secondary students.
Finally, we have differentiated between regular discipline, which will follow the systems discussed above and procedural discipline. Procedural discipline includes regulations on cell phone use, dress code, technology use, tardiness, and homework.
Again, for all of the details, please watch my video and read the full policy. If you have any questions at all, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me.
I am thankful for all of the people that contributed to this project for the benefit of our student body. Discipline is not always a pleasant topic, but a necessary one. Our goal at BCS is not merely obedience, which of course we do desire, but flourishing. Flourishing is much more than only following the rules: it is experiencing the freedom we have as we mature in Christ.
GK Chesterton wrote, “The more I found that while Christianity had established a rule and order, the chief aim of that order was to give room for good things to run wild.” It is our heart’s desire that our students would do much more than obey to avoid punishment, but that they would find abundant and flourishing life as the obediently follow Christ.
Grace and Peace,
America needs a new story to tell. And no, while I could, this is not about politics.
At BCS, our first of three pillars is Biblically Integrated Curriculum. And while there is a lot of theory and development behind this idea, it could very accurately be reframed as “telling God’s story of redemption through all disciplines.”
So we learn and think about redemptive literature, redemptive science, redemptive economics.
We understand the grand story of history and our relationships with our peers as part of God’s big story of how we are made to be in communion with him and with others. We wrestle with sin’s effect on these relationships and discover how God’s people are called to be God’s instruments in repairing them.
Our culture is desperately seeking a story. Without God’s narrative, we are left to make up our own. And believe me, people are trying. Read this article: Is our World a Simulation? (and then talk about it with your students!) In the article, a proponent of the simulation theory (which states we are all living in a computer simulation, real world Matrix style) says “For decades it’s been a problem. Scientists have bent over backwards to eliminate the idea that we need a conscious observer. Maybe the real solution is you do need a conscious entity like a conscious player of a video game.”
Did you catch that? In a desperate need for a grand narrative, anything can get put in the place of God, even an advanced biological creature playing a game. Later, this proponent stated that this hypothesis is “beautiful and profound” because it “provides a scientific basis for some kind of afterlife or larger domain of reality above our world.”
Do you hear how this speaker is crying out for God and his story? But without the biblical narrative connected to his study of the world around him, he is left with fairy tales (or rather, science fiction.)
The point is, we were designed and created to live within a context of a grand narrative. If we don’t teach all subjects through God’s story, we are forced to make up another one, even if it is ridiculous - or worse, destructive to ourselves and our culture.
Biblically integrated teaching is much more than simply teaching the bible, it is equipping students to live out God’s intended story for his people in all domains of life.
I hope to see many of you at AXIS: Come Together on November 12 (Register here!). We’ll be spending a whole day talking about how we can work with our students to build a strong worldview and a platform where parents and students can have deep dialog on things that matter.
Grace and Peace,
P.S. Want a good bonus read? Seven Ideas to Teach Students Work Ethic (Tim Elmore) or check out my blog from last week on Helpful Homework Questions.
Greetings Berks Christian School Community!
Helping our students with their work at home is a big challenge for all parents. At Berks, we want to challenge our students to work hard, bringing glory to God through their effort - and that means some homework for everyone. While I am not a big fan of busy work (work for work’s sake) we do know that carefully guided practice (especially in reading and writing) are a key ingredient to your student’s academic success. I ran across this little helpful thought this week:
“Did you do your homework?”
or “Do you have any homework?”
Parents need to ask more questions than this one, teachers advise. How much should you help with homework? Monitor homework but remember it’s your child’s homework, not yours. You can help by asking questions that help guide your child to his own solutions. Some examples:
Remember, it’s ok (and even beneficial) for your student to fail.
But it’s not OK for them not to try.
What are your thoughts on homework? Leave a comment below. See you all at Homecoming on October 8!
Grace and Peace, Mr. Warner
Both are short reads and amazingly insightful.
I listen to a lot of podcasts. (I’ve caused a few students and staff to roll their eyes) I’ve tried to purposefully subscribe to a variety of voices, some I agree with, and some I don’t.
Humans are not at a loss for words. Estimates on the number of English speaking podcasts are around 150,000. And that’s just one platform.
Words surround us, a lot of them aren’t pleasant, and few reflect a Christian worldview. But do adding more words to the mix help? (Yes, the irony is not lost.)
The short answer is no. Here’s what I’ve learned from listening to podcasts: those in our culture who want to promote a non-Christian worldview have a stronger voice not because they use more words, but because they tell better stories. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve listened to a podcast, completely disagree with the premise, but I’m moved by the story.
We aren’t going to affect culture with more words. We’re going to affect our communities when we learn to tell our stories, and share our experiences of faith.
Why not start with our kids? Join other parents at an event on August 4: Cultivating Conversation. Follow the link to learn more.
P.S. If you’re looking for some good podcasts, contact me and I’ll send some curated selections your way!
This week, I’m bringing you three resources on talking effectively with your children, plus on book recommendation. I hope these will provide some insight and interesting reading. Next week, I’ll pick up with some of my own thoughts on reading. The first resource is simply a link to an interesting article from this past week:
#1: Article on Parenting
Why kids are out of shape, disrespectful, and in charge
This is a review of a new book on attitudes of authority in modern parenting. Worth a look.
#2: Ebook on Faith Formation
The 4 questions that destroy a kid’s faith in God … 4 answers that anchor a lifetime of belief
Jeff Myers and Summit ministries have created this resource to equip parents to have helpful conversations with their children.
#3: Movie Review and Parent Resource
The second resource is a reprint from a resource I have recommended before, the Axis newsletter, available here. They take current trends in media and give insightful and thoughtful commentary alongside valuable conversation starters with your children.
Here’s an example from this week’s material, a review of the movie Kung Fu Panda 3.
Kung Fu Panda 3 is a lighthearted adventure about discovering one's inherent spiritual powers. When the evil Kai returns from the spirit realm to steal everyone's chi, Po is encouraged to seek his true self in order to learn how to defeat him. Also woven throughout the plot are many worldview assumptions--mainly spiritualistic, like reincarnation and chi. (Also note how the pairing of Po's biological father and adopted father occasions many joyful references to Po's "two dads.") But the main premise of the story is that when we discover who we truly are, we will find both purpose and deep spiritual power. This idea and others in the film are deceptive if looked at from one perspective, yet true if looked at from another.
Very often, when we talk of "seeking our true selves," it is implied that the solutions to all our problems begin and end with us (i.e. "look within yourself," "do what feels right," or "follow your heart"). However, if we go back to the beginning, our truest of true selves is free from the power of sin and dysfunction because we live as we were made to: fulfilled solely by God Himself. But because we live in a time when sin does have power, the only way we can find our "true selves" is by asking God to help us die to ourselves (i.e. our flesh and how the curse distorts us) and make us more like Christ.
In Romans 3, Paul emphatically declares that without God, we do not have what it takes. But with God, like Jesus says here, we are empowered to live into our calling to be "the light of the world."
Kung Fu Panda 3 is endearing and enjoyable for people of all ages. But it's also an opportunity to help your kids see how two perspectives on one idea can yield two very different conclusions. Ideas have consequences, but after you've taught your kids the biblical perspective, those consequences can go from being harmful and false to being both legitimate and empowering.
Book Recommendation - The Jesus Storybook Bible
The Jesus Storybook Bible: Every story Whispers His Name is a staple in our home. I recommend it for pre-school and elementary age parents, although it is a wonderful biblical storybook to be enjoyed by all ages. It is a wonderful tool to use with your children to introduce them to the biblical narrative and the story of redemption throughout scripture. Plus, the wonderful illustrations capture the imagination. Because of this book, the story of Naaman is one of my son’s favorite in all scripture. I highly recommend reading it aloud with your young children.
Reprint: [Host families still needed]Hosting Opportunity benefits BCS scholarship funds
BCS is hosting a group of 22 Chinese students on February 16-18. We are in need of 10 host families to host 2-3 students each for two nights on the 16th and 17th. Host families would need to provide dinner, sleeping accommodations, and breakfast. This program is a great cultural exchange for our students and families, gives us a chance to share the love of Christ with visiting students, and funds twelve scholarships for our BCS families next year. Please consider opening your home through this opportunity. For more information, or to volunteer, please contact Phil Warner: firstname.lastname@example.org or call the school office. We are hoping to assign the host families within the next two weeks. Thank you for considering!
[Reprint] Leadership Announcement As many of you are already aware, Pastor Dave Klase of Exeter Bible church offered his resignation to EBC at the beginning of the month. Pastor Dave has faithfully served the church and the school for the last twelve years. We ask that the school family be in prayer for EBC as they prayerfully move into the next season of the church and for Pastor Dave and his family as they transition to a new ministry.
For those of you who would have interest, I am linking the resignation letter and response from the church elders here: https://ebc.elvanto.net/posts/pastor-daves-resignation/
Last week, youtuber Thomas Frank had some interesting thoughts about why “finding your passion” is really poor career advice even though it is so common. His argument was that a lot of millennials are trying to find their path in life through introspection and waiting to be inspired. This, ultimately, leads nowhere. Instead, he suggests that you should find something that interests you and build as much skills and experience as you can. This opens up the door to “adjacent possible” in your life.
“Adjacent possible” is a term borrowed from scientific research. Essentially it means that most new discoveries are made right outside of the current knowledge, or the adjacent possible. Applied to our lives, I agree that most of our learning comes from the adjacent possible - right outside of what we know or experience. If we aren’t learning or experiencing new things, we won’t grow towards any new possibilities. So rather than waiting for a passionate life vision to come find us, we build one by going out there and working hard.
There’s a spiritual truth related to this. (and this is where I leave Mr. Frank behind.) As Christians, we aren’t called to follow our own dreams or passions anyway. (This is, I think, just a modern, Western idea.) Instead of our own dreams, we have been called to a collective mission. We are called to respond to God’s passion rather than create our own. And, as we follow Christ in loving and serving others, God develops in us unique gifts and talents and expands the possibilities in our lives and expands our hearts to include others more deeply. Over time, we find ourselves having a heart and particular passion for serving God in a unique way as we grow. One of his gifts to us is us finding meaning in a part of his larger story, in his larger vision.
It kind of takes the pressure off, doesn’t it? We can stop worrying so much about what we are passionate about. We don’t have to wait around for for inspiration to hit us. We can let go of the worry that we aren’t fulfilling our life calling. We can more simply find some people to serve, work hard at the work that is in front of us, and focus on following Jesus with every moment of our day. I needed to be reminded of that, maybe you did too.
Have a great day BCS community!
Grace and Peace,
Hosting Opportunity benefits BCS scholarship fundsBCS is hosting a group of 22 Chinese students on February 16-18. We are in need of 10 host families to host 2-3 students each for two nights on the 16th and 17th. Host families would need to provide dinner, sleeping accommodations, and breakfast. This program is a great cultural exchange for our students and families, gives us a chance to share the love of Christ with visiting students, and funds twelve scholarships for our BCS families next year. Please consider opening your home through this opportunity. For more information, or to volunteer, please contact Phil Warner: email@example.com or call the school office. We are hoping to assign the host families within the next two weeks. Thank you for considering!
My book recommendation for this blog is The Shallows: What the Internet is doing to our Brains by Nicholas Carr. Carr unpacks the history of the written word and how it has shaped our thinking. Critical and insightful analysis of brain research and social science creates a deep and important conversation on how we should carefully use our technological resources. This book is so important, we’ve added it to our high school curriculum! (More on that in my next post.)
As many of you are already aware, Pastor Dave Klase of Exeter Bible church offered his resignation to EBC at the beginning of the month. Pastor Dave has faithfully served the church and the school for the last twelve years. We ask that the school family be in prayer for EBC as they prayerfully move into the next season of the church and for Pastor Dave and his family as they transition to a new ministry.
For those of you who would have interest, I am linking the resignation letter and response from the church elders here: https://ebc.elvanto.net/posts/pastor-daves-resignation/
Did you see my update video for the week of 1/25/2016?
Hello BCS community! I thought I would share a story I initially shared with the teachers this Monday. One of the perennial topics God teaches me is the importance of the cycles of rest and work. I hope you will be encouraged by my story!
A story from my day this past Sunday (it looks long, but it will read fast!)
Our church has just launched a second parish in the city of Reading. Right now the core launch team is meeting at a restaurant, mi casa su casa (we are moving into a building the first week in December.) Carrie and I have been helping to lead worship there once a month, and the whole setup is temporary, of course. Well, it ended up being a real adventure... here's how it looked:
I struggle with change and when things don't go according to plan. I truly hate that. (No surprise to those of you who have worked with me or known me for any significant portion of time!) Ironically, the sermon series right now at our church is on anxiety (Luke 4:4-34) . Anxiety and rest and Sabbath are directly tied together.
Amid all the craziness yesterday, when things were not going right over and over again, I was actually laughing about it and not getting worked up or upset. Later in the day, I had to reflect on why. And I think this is the answer: I had made a firm decision that this day, my day of rest, was not going to be about work or accomplishing anything. And so, when things didn't go according to plan, I was able to accept them readily because I had to assume this is what God had intended because this day was about what He was doing, not what I was accomplishing.
Had I not had that mindset on the day, I fear what might have happened. Probably some speeding, some frustrated words with my wife, and some stressful, strained moments in a church service ending in a collapse of exhaustion and frustration.
And then of course, came the reminder from my Father, the obvious conclusions that we see when we pause long enough to listen: Phil, this is how I want you to live EVERY day.
"Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith! (Luke 12:27-28).
Nothing like a practical application of the sermon literally as it is happening.
We ended our worship set with the hymn My Faith Has found a Resting Place:
"I need no other argument, I need no other plea:
it is enough that Jesus died and that he died for me!"
Slowing down and resting allows us to live out what we believe: that no matter the circumstance, good or bad, minor or life-changing, our faith rests on the completed work of Jesus.
What about you? What does your life look like with and without rest? What are we teaching our students about rest and work by the patterns we are living out in front of them?
Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.
Have a great day BCS Community!
check out the BCS video update from November 10, 2015
Hello Berks Christian School Community,
A short blog today on something that has been challenging me and a few recommendations and reminders. All year, I’ve been challenged and helped by the writings of Tim Elmore (his website: http://growingleaders.com/) I’ve just read his book Generation iY. (iY= the second half of the millennial generation, those who grew up with the internet from birth) This book gives great insight in how our current generation of students think, work, and respond differently than previous generations. It’s specifically targeted at teachers and parents. I’m not exaggerating when I say that I think we all need to read this. Let me just give you a little piece that challenged me - about how we have lied to this generation of students.
Elmore say that “we have fed them lines to help them feel good about themselves or to bolster their confidence. At the time is seemed like a noble thing to do - or at least a harmless and useful falsehood.” He continues, “a constant stream of accolades, compliments, and predictions of greatness is par for the course for many iYers. Because of our lies, too many are reaching adulthood emotionally unstable and socially naive. Shame on us, not them. It’s now time for action - a new kind of action, one that’s not merely about inflating the self-esteem of iY kids, but equipping them to face an uncertain world. It’s about bolstering their confidence, but in a way that is based on reality.” He then discussed what he considers to be the most dangerous lies we have told this generation. I’ll just list them for you.
And one more random recommendation: a free e-book The Beckoning. This is a free download for Kindle readers only until Sunday. This is a book on apologetics written by an attorney. Since I just got it today, I can’t give it my full recommendation, but it came to me as a recommendation from AXIS ministries, which usually has very solid recommendations and materials. I’ll update you next time I write with my rec, but in the meantime grab the free material and keep reading!
Have a very happy Easter BCS community!
Grace and Peace,
Just a few reminders:
I have asked the staff of BCS if any of them are interested in writing a guest post for this blog. A number of them have signed up, so I will post their work over the next few months. I'm glad you will have an opportunity to share in their hearts in this way. I'm especially honored to introduce our first guest blogger in this series, our middle school music teacher and my wonderful wife, Carrie Warner. I was encouraged and challenged by her words (I always am) and I'm sure you will be too. -- Mr. Warner
Seeing, by Carrie Warner
Disclaimer -- While I hope that perhaps God can use some of these thoughts to be helpful to others in some way, I must admit that I am mostly writing them out for my own sake. It seems like writing things out is one of the best ways for me to process thoughts and give my brain the space it needs to learn lessons of any kind. I have been thinking about this topic of “seeing” for quite a while, and I pray that as I write out the thoughts that have been mulling around in my mind, they will come together in a way that can be life changing. Here goes!
My 3-year-old son has a book he likes called “Pete the Cat and his Magic Sunglasses.” In the story, Pete wakes up one day feeling grumpy and is alarmed because this is a new experience for him. Thankfully, a friend gives him a pair of “cool, blue, magic sunglasses” that help him “see things in a whole new way”. Sure enough, he tries them out and lo and behold, the world turns bright again! He lets all of his friends try them and throughout the book, whenever someone tries them on, immediately their troubles seem to disappear and the world looks new. Toward the end of the book, he accidentally breaks his glasses and is devastated until a wise old owl tells him that he doesn’t need cool blue magic sunglasses - he just needs to see the good in every day. A cute story, and it even comes with a pair of cool, blue, magic sunglasses! Beyond it’s cuteness though, I like it because it has gotten me thinking about what I believe is a powerful real-life truth.
The truth is, in any given circumstance, the way I see things has a profoundly huge effect on the way I live. In fact, I cannot think of anything more life-altering than changing the way I see things. Some examples…
Situation one - the house is messy. How do I choose to see that? Do I see it as an overwhelming fact that makes me feel like I am a failure for allowing it to get this way? Or do I see the mess and choose to thank God for the evidences of life that it shows me - like realizing that dirty dishes mean that we have food to eat and people to share it with. Like remembering that toys on the floor remind me that I have been given three healthy and happy (mostly) :) children who are learning new things every day. I could also choose to see the messy house as a challenge, an opportunity to prove myself and overcome the mess by my own strength, thereby building up my own self-confidence by working hard. (Although there may be benefits to this view, it can also lead to a major crash, when perhaps I am not able to accomplish as much as I hoped to or do so as quickly as I thought I could.) Or, what if I see the messy house as a chance to ask God for strength and help, relying on His power to be made perfect in my weakness and trusting that He will enable to do what I need to do? All of this is part of one very common everyday situation, but I’m afraid that my view of this situation is very rarely one that glorifies God or helps me (or those around me) very much.
Situation two - I have a lot to do. (Actually when is this NOT true?) Always, I am facing a to-do list, whether on paper or in my mind. How do I view this never-ending list? How do I see the interruptions that keep me from accomplishing things on this list? Recently I heard about someone who makes it a habit each morning to thank God for the interruptions that will come about in the day. While it can still be difficult when these interruptions come, there is something powerful about having prayed over them ahead of time and realizing that God knew they were coming, and even has a purpose for them. So when they come, rather than seeing them as roadblocks to doing what God wants me to do, they become stepping stones that God has put in my day, opportunities to draw near to Him and glorify Him through them. I was challenged by this thought, because I know that in any given day, I find myself frustrated when things aren’t happening the way I thought they would (or should). How much better off would my worldview be if I let go of my own thoughts and expectations about how a day will go and trusted God more, even with the things that seem like they are slowing me down or getting in my way?
Wouldn’t my life be completely different if I could choose to see things differently in every situation? If somehow my eyes saw the good rather than feeling overwhelmed or burdened by the not-so-good? This realization that the way I see things makes such a huge difference in my life leads me to ask one very important question - how do I change the way I see things? Where are my cool, blue, magic sunglasses???
So now reality hits….
Cool, blue, magic sunglasses do not actually exist.
And from my experience, seeing the good in every day is a whole lot harder than simply making a choice to see the good in every day. While I do not believe it is impossible to attain this goal of seeing things differently, I do believe as I reach for this goal, I must realize that I will need a lot of help. I must remember that even when I mess up or lose my sight again, God gives grace and enables me to put my “sunglasses” back on to reclaim the vision I need.
How do I get the vision? Here are the best ways I know of, based on my life experience and what I believe God teaches us in the Bible:
Spend time with God.
God is the source of everything good, and spending time in His presence changes me. I see this truth in the following passages of Scripture:
2 Corinthians 3:18 -- And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.
Psalm 16:11 -- You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.
Psalm 84:10 -- Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere; I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked.
Sometimes my struggle with this concept is that I feel like I need my time with to happen when and how I want it to happen. On the one hand, I realize it is important to make time with God a priority. But as a mom of young kids, so much of a typical day seems to be out of my control. What do I do if I can’t sit still in God’s presence first thing in the morning because one of my kids woke up early crying? Does that mean my day is a goner because I didn’t have that time? Or could it be that this is another case in which I need to surrender to God and trust that He will provide the time with Him that I need when I need it? And what if I think to myself, I just need the kids to all nap at the same time so I can be still with God. But then they don’t. Again, is it a lost cause? I pray that it’s not. I wonder if sometimes I am more concerned than God is about having my time with Him be just when and how I think it needs to be. Maybe He knows when I need to be still with Him and I just need to ask Him to guide me and open my eyes to see and recognize the opportunities to spend time with Him throughout each day. Yes, I also want to make time to have some dedicated personal retreats and times to really get alone with God. But I want to learn to embrace the moments in daily living when I can spend time with God as I go through my daily routine.
Spending time with God is of course very connected to prayer. But in this case, I am thinking of praying for something specific. In the book of James, we read, “You do not have, because you do not ask.” (James 4:2b) What if a big part of learning to see things differently is praying that God will help me to see things differently? I wonder what would happen if I began to regularly ask God, please give me new eyes. Help me to see the good in each day, in each circumstance. James 5:16b: “The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.”
So many Scriptures talk about thankfulness. “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18) “In everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” (Philippians 4:6b) I have heard it said before that a person cannot fully engage two emotions at one time. So if I am feeling overwhelmed by a negative emotion or oppressing circumstance, one way out of that is to begin giving thanks. When I give thanks, it has a way of changing my perspective. The challenge is, in a situation where I am not seeing the good, the last thing I feel like doing is giving thanks. But if I could somehow remember that giving thanks is actually a path that leads to peace and joy no matter what, perhaps I wouldn’t spend so much time getting stuck in my own misery. I can remember a few times when I was feeling exhausted while taking care of my three-year-old, and I just began to say out loud, “thank You Lord for ________” (whatever I could think of). Thank You Lord for our home. Thank You Lord for the sunshine outside. Thank You Lord for our family. Thank You Lord for words we can say. I remember being amazed at how such a simple thing did seem to renew my spirit and helped to create a sense of peace. Oh that I would grow in my ability to give thanks in ALL circumstances!
Empty the bad, fill up with the good.
I think people are a little bit like buckets. As a bucket gets filled to overflowing, whatever is in there the most comes out. Most times I don’t even think I am aware of what I am filled up with until I start to see what is coming out (or what wants to come out). Then I kind of panic because I don’t like what I’m seeing and sometimes in stressing out about that, I end up filling up with panic, which also doesn’t come out as anything very pretty. I have two thoughts about how to deal with this. One - I need to pour out my heart to God, often. He is the only One who truly knows and understands the good and the bad inside me, and as I confess my sins to Him and talk (or journal) honestly about my struggles, He can lead me to the truth and change me. I can’t think of a better way to “empty out the trash” than to go to Him with it. Two - I need to fill my heart with things that will bring life. I know that for me, listening to music that is centered on God and making music to God myself are really good ways to fill up my heart. Deep conversations with people who share my love for God also fill me up. Reading books, doing something creative, even just being outside or getting some kind of exercise… all of these things are life-giving for me. I hope and pray that I can continue to learn about ways to fill up with good. Because I’m afraid if I just go by default, the bad will just pile up and take over.
So today, as I continue on this journey of learning how to see things in a whole new way, I wonder if anyone reading this will take some steps along with me. Here is what I want to do:
We’re all guilty of it: the drive-by verbal assault. You know what I’m talking about, right? The facebook rant, the youtube comment war, the snappy text, or the email bomb. Unkind, unthoughtful words propelled toward another human mediated by a screen. We think we are defending our position or advancing a cause or stirring a call to action. We think our elegant rhetoric or our pointed discourse will bring the other party understanding. We may even think we are protecting the faith. But really, with the protection and relative anonymity, (even if we sign our name) we’re just throwing mud at each other.
You see, if we’re not really careful, we’re all Yankees fans. The humorous clip below is from the Jimmy Fallon show. I’ll warn my readers that there are some beeped out profanities on this clip. While I am not approving the language used, no video could better illustrate my point. Watch how quickly a person’s speech changes when confronted with a real person.
The video is both funny and pointed. What we see played out on the street in New York happens countless times every day online as we post and send emails and texts to each other. What we would never say to each other face to face we type without as much as pausing to consider our words. Why? Because screens reduce all of us to cardboard cutouts, they remove our humanity. But as soon as we are face to face, something deep in our souls reminds us that each of us carry the image of God - something to be treasured and respected.
Let’s go on a brief journey through Proverbs and James together.
Through the blessing of the upright a city is exalted,
but by the mouth of the wicked it is destroyed. Proverbs 11:11
The power of words is obvious in this verse. And I believe the city the writer was referring to works as a fine example for our school community.
If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. James 1:26
James reminds us that our words are at the heart of our faith, something we need to take seriously.
Gracious words are like a honeycomb,
sweetness to the soul and health to the body. Proverbs 16:24
Our words don’t have to be destructive, in fact they can bring health.
Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak,
slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.
In this way, we model the loving communication of our Heavenly father (see Psalm 103:8)
Finally, consider Proverbs 10. From this chapter, we read that the words of the wicked and the fool conceals violence and hatred, invites ruin and punishment, spreads slander, is of little value, and invites ruin and death. In contrast, the words of the righteous is wise, spreads knowledge, finds favor, is like choice silver, provides nourishment, and a fountain of life. James and Proverbs strongly reminds us of the centrality of taming our tongue, but many of us have not applied this to our modern context and tamed our fingers as they type.
For the BCS community, this is a missional issue. Here’s our mission statement again: Berks Christian School partners with families to create a community of learning that educates the whole student and cultivates Christ-centered lives. Family partnership and a community of learning create the foundation that all of our teaching and discipling is built. Healthy words build up and grow this foundation, unhealthy words tear it down. How we use our words with each other plays a central part in the success of our mission.
So Berks Christian Community, can I encourage us to enter into an agreement? For the sake of our students, and for the Glory of our Father, let’s work towards healthy words with each other both in type and speech. Let’s agree to always acknowledge the image of God in each other every time we communicate. Let’s agree to have the hard conversations face to face (or at least voice to voice) rather than screen to screen. Let’s agree to pause and be slow to respond in anger or frustration, and quick to listen to each other - especially when we are typing.
I have to admit, this is a hard thing to do. I have many times sent an email out of anger, even to some of you reading this. For that I ask for forgiveness and grace. I have sent words of complaining to a colleague or forwarded a communication that should really be qualified as gossip. So when I am asking to agree not to type our complaints, our gossip, or anger or frustration, I am the first that will need to work hard on this commitment.
To further illustrate, we need to consider in what contexts typed communication (especially email) functions best.
Goals in which email is a good tool to utilize:
Goals in which email is a poor tool to utilize:
Next time I have the urge to post a facebook rant, a youtube comment, a snappy text, or an angry email, I’m going to first stop, pray and wait. Then I’m going to set up a time to meet or talk to that person directly. Will you join me?
Next post, I’m going to explore two more implications of this concept: how it affects what we teach our kids and how it contributes to bullying.
Grace and Peace to you and friends! (thanks for hanging with me on the really long post)
I look forward to continuing to build our community face to face.
And now here are some of my recommendations for new reading and viewing.
(see more recommendations for teachers, parents, and students on my rec reading pages.)
Here are three new recommendations:
Philip S. Warner, administrator of Berks Christian School.