“In a world that is increasingly transient, there is a strong desire for roots.”
It’s fair to say I don’t have a favorite style of music. As a music teacher, I get asked the “favorite” question a lot, and I usually don’t know what to say. I like music of high quality, regardless of the style. There’s music to study by, to run by, to sing and play with others, to enjoy on a long trip, and some that only has true expression in a large concert hall. This translates to how I lead the choirs here at BCS, and also how I lead worship at my home church.
Let me tell you about a recent Sunday at my church. While we typically have very diverse music both in style and time frame, our leaders decided to take a Sunday to explore and enjoy an entire service of hymns. We had planned about ten hymns with their surrounding stories and Scripture. For our group of musicians, it was both challenging and a refreshing change and we enjoyed the preparation (sans our new in-ear system that was a bit fidgety on the first day). I knew I was going to enjoy the service, but I was surprised at how meaningful and transcendent it was for me. Can I use the word transcendent without sounding overly spiritual or hipster? (A friend confirmed its validity as a word choice as long as I was talking about a truly significant experience and not just a good meal at an over-priced cafe.) Amidst a room filled with voices, lifted hands, and tears of joy, I sensed this deepness: that God was in those moments in a strong and unique way.
The meaningful worship and palpable sense of community spilled into animated discussion that filled the car on the way home. Carrie (my wife and fellow worship leader) and I both felt energized and inspired by the service. As we talked, we realized that we could only attribute part of what we were feeling to the music itself. I do love and appreciate many hymns, but it’s admittedly not what fills my iTunes library. This was not really “my” music. So why were we having such a powerful response?
We recalled a few other times we have felt the same way, this deepness in worship. Carrie told the story of being in Bulgaria and she sat down to play the song “Shout to the Lord.” She was joined by another girl who did not speak English, but their spontaneous duet reminded Carrie of the connectedness we have with brothers and sisters around the globe. My mind went to a chapel in the mountains of Bulgaria (a separate trip) built in the 1000’s. The group I was traveling with stood in this small but beautiful chapel and sang a familiar song. I was overwhelmed by the fact that in the same place I was standing, people had worshipped God for nearly 1000 years. Our song joined countless others in a historical tapestry making much of the name of Jesus. Finally, we both recalled the first time we performed Love Came Down with the choirs of BCS and CCS. There was a moment in the performance where the music repeats, “Hallelujah, Hallelujah.” We were singing at Hopewell Mennonite Church in Reading and my mind was overcome with an image of millions of people from all places and times worshipping the King of Kings.
Clarity started to form. These experiences were all reminders and glimpses of how big and diverse and complex the Kingdom of God really is. The fact is, I think this Sunday at church was so powerful exactly because it wasn’t my music. Singing those hymns and hearing those stories made me connect to a bigger story - to the story of my parents and grandparents, and great-grandparents and to the stories of men and women of faith in other times and contexts. It forced me out of my 21st century western obsession - myself. The significance came because of a focus shift - and isn’t that what worship is really about?
I opened with a quote about roots. My pastor spoke this line in his introduction to the service and I had an immediate and visceral response. I quickly wrote it down and knew I needed to think about it more deeply. I reflected on two ways to look at roots - nostalgia and heritage. As far as the church goes, I’m convinced the first can get us into trouble. We shouldn’t celebrate roots (musically or otherwise) just for warm fuzzies about the past. But the second way is not only meaningful but critical. I realized the need to celebrate the heritage of my spiritual roots because it brings out a thankfulness and worship deeper than the well of my own existence. It digs a foundation more sturdy and secure than my own thirty-three years can muster. It plants and positions my experience away from the shallow soil of self.
You see, this isn’t really about music, it’s about remembering. The experience at church was about remembering God’s goodness and faithfulness - not just in my own life, but in the life of those before me. Ironically, this is why we also write new songs and tell new stories - so that our children and grandchildren will know of God’s faithfulness to us. We have a responsibility as parents and a school community. We must help our students know their roots and help them dig those deep wells from which they can draw the fullness of the goodness of God. We must tell them new stories and sing them new songs so that they can know God is still faithful to His people. And we must teach them old songs and tell them old stories so that they know beauty and of God’s plan of redemption for all of His people and help them find their place in it.
Friends, this is one of our distinctives. You won’t find this mandate in the state curriculum. But the roots of faith give history its context, give numbers its meaning, give literature its beauty, give science its wonder, and give music its song. If we are truly about holistic education, we must start with the roots. And if we are truly about discipleship, we certainly can’t start with ourselves. Let’s not lose sight of the big story while we go about telling our own.
What are your thoughts? How do we accomplish this in our classrooms? In our homes? In our churches?
Two other sources prompted this blog, the story from Joshua 4 and my book recommendation for this blog - Walking His Trail, by Steve and Ginny Saint. (see my more detailed book rec here.)
Grace and Peace to you my friends!
Greetings Berks Christian Family!
I hope you are all enjoying summer. We are busy here at the school getting ready for a new school year while still taking some time to relax. A few weeks ago I took my family to the beach, it was fun to watch my young children discover the joys of a new part of God’s creation.
Our major focus continues to be our ongoing work in curriculum and accreditation to ensure that the education provided here at BCS is excellent and constantly improving. I want to publically thank my teachers and our school board for the focused work they continue to invest in this project. We often talk about the phrase “educating the whole child.” This concept of ensuring our education reaches mind, body, and soul is a helpful paradigm for Christian education. Recently, one our staff members suggested that an even more helpful version of this concept might be “providing the child with a whole education.” This is the heart of Christian education and what drives us as a school. We strive to give our students a complete view of truth, understanding of God’s world and word, and their place in His story and His kingdom.
Let me also express an overdue thank you. This past spring, I celebrated the end of my tenth year at Berks Christian School. The school community provided a gracious gift, and the students a basket full of cards. I was surprised and honored. I can not express what a privilege it is to serve this community. Thank you for consistently demonstrating the love of Christ to me and to each other. It is by this the world will know and see the truth of Christ.
I often try and leave some recommendations for reading, and today I’ll leave you with two.
The first is a book, Crazy Busy by Kevin DeYoung. This is a short little book useful to any of you looking on a Christian perspective on business. Mr. DeYong’s approach to the topic is practical and pastoral, and you will leave the book challenged and with practical information. Highly self-reflective and worth the read.
The second is an online article. Providing Direction to Young Men: 5 steps to take. by Tim Elmore. I recommend this article to anyone who has a young man in their house or under their influence. Tim Elmore is a leading expert on engaging millennials in the workplace, in education, and in the home. If you like this article, I recommend subscribing to this blog - it is always worth the read.
As always, our team is here to support you. If you have any questions about the start of the new school year, please just give us a call or send an email.
Grace and Peace,
II - Answering your questions.
Greetings BCS family. I’m going to take a few minutes this week to finish answering the questions that came in at the end of last year from a few of our parents for the town hall meeting. If you have other questions, I would love to answer them, simply leave them in the comments section of the blog. If you missed Part I of answering parent questions, please visit my previous post here.
What is this school's approach to student discipline and safety?
Let me discuss student discipline first. As with all aspects of the school, the approach to student discipline flows from our mission and vision. As a school, we desire to partner with families to create an environment of learning that educates the whole student and cultivates a Christ-centered life. This means that our primary goals are all related to discipleship - molding disciples of Christ. It is no coincidence that the word disciple and discipline are nearly the same word.
This mission of discipleship leads us to a relational model for discipline. Our goal is not simply obedience, but rather sanctification. Our desire is that discipline leads to a changed heart. This means that we deal with each student individually and relationally with each instance of discipline. Admittedly, not having a hard and fast system is more messy, and sometimes can appear on the surface level to be unfair. But it is the best way to partner with what is going on at home and give each student what is truly needed for deepening their discipleship.
I would encourage you to go back and read carefully the parent-student handbook on pages 19-21 for a more detailed look at our discipline philosophy and policy.
Student safety incorporates many things: physical, emotional, and social. Our physical safety includes training such as First Aid and CPR for our staff and emergency training drills. It also includes policies like sign in and sign out, door policies, medication procedures, and safety rules for students. These policies are constantly being reviewed and updated to create a continually safer environment for our students. Our mentoring program, Bible classes, discipleship programs, Bible studies, and intentional interactions between students and teachers help build opportunities and relationships for students to grow in their emotional and social lives. Our administration also has an open door to our families so that we can partner in the overall health of our children. I would again refer you to our handbook for more details on many of our safety guidelines.
What are the guidelines for what to expect when I log on to Renweb?
We get a lot of questions about Renweb, especially about assignments and homework. Primarily, Renweb is our database software, we use it to track all of the important information about our school and your student such as grades, homework, attendance, medical records, and contact information. Additionally, the ParentWeb feature gives parents and students the ability to login and see their own information. Ideally, we should see Renweb as an enhancement to communication, not a replacement. Here’s a few things to keep in mind when using the service:
1) Teachers make every effort to keep the homework assignments posted accurate and up to date. However, the primary responsibility falls to the student to write down the assignments each day and track them on their own. In elementary this happens through the Steno; in the secondary students should develop their own system. Renweb should be used as a backup when there is confusion or something has been forgotten, but it should not be the primary method.
2) Renweb can also be a checks and balances system. Teachers input many grades every day. There are sometimes errors or oversights. Renweb gives parents and students the ability to check in and notice if something seems incorrect. A quick communication with the teacher or office can quickly remedy small errors.
3) Generally speaking, our teachers input grades in a two week window. Often large tests or projects will not show up right away.
4) The system does have some bugs and limitations. We monitor the system carefully, but it does contain thousands of pieces of information for each student. With that much data, there are bound to be some flaws. They key is to remember that Renweb is a tool, but does not replace the relationships and community that we share at BCS. Our communication together should be enhanced by Renweb, but not replaced by it.
If you are ever having technical difficulty with the service, please don’t hesitate to call the office. One of our administrative team members will gladly assist you with resetting your password or troubleshooting a question about Renweb. We encourage all parents and secondary students to check in often.
How strong are we as an entity - enrollment, finances, future. Can you share anything as a directive for increased prayer and support?
This is a timely and challenging question. Quite honestly, I could probably write a book in response to this! I’ll do my best to give some details and prayer requests in the three areas mentioned.
Enrollment: Our enrollment is lower this year, however we did meet our projected goal. While we had a number of families choose to leave the school, we also had our largest enrollment of new families in many years. What that means is that God has provided a fresh group of families to work together at BCS. We do need to now grow again as we look to next year. Please pray for new families to join us and for our scholarship programs to grow. You can support enrollment by volunteering on the development team (contact Beth Bromwell) and by talking to other people about the value of Christian Education. Nothing helps the school grow more than a referral from someone who sees the importance in what we do. You will all be receiving more details about our referral program within the coming weeks. Imagine the impact on our community if each family referred one additional family to our school.
Finances: As is no surprise to no one, our finances are tight and we are working hard to be responsible with our limited resources in a challenging economy. However, “limited” and “challenging” do not apply to God. It has been a pure joy to see God provide exactly what we needed for this year. We met our budgetary goals without losing programming in a very challenging year. We should not sugar coat where we currently stand, but we can stand in awe and thankfulness for God’s provision. As we move forward please pray for growth of scholarship funds, increased giving from alumni, and continued provision from God. You can support our finances by talking to business leaders about EITC and OSTC. This is the biggest source of funding we can grow and also allows us to give more financial aid and scholarship to let more families join our community. Join us in prayer by continuing to pray for God’s provision in many different ways.
Future: Our future is strong because God is making us strong. Our focus is on growth because
our mission demands it. And so we plan and push ahead looking for every avenue to fulfill our mission better. We could point to some of our programs as indicators of our future such as ACSI accreditation, new classes in the high school, etc., but we can put our hope in these things. The only thing we can hope in is God’s hand of blessing. Our organization will continue to strengthen as we humbly follow the voice of our Great Shepherd.
Pray for our leadership, our board, administrative team, our teachers. Pray for students to be impacted by the gospel, and to grow deeply in their discipleship. Pray for the reflective nature of BCS, that we would shine God’s love brightly in our community. And pray for each other; we are a community and we must be committed not to the school, but to each other.
Grace and Peace,
Family pic before the wedding
The big news in my family is that my little sister got married on Friday. It was a picturesque weekend filled with all of the wonderful and usual things that accompany a wedding: flowers, fancy clothing, food, friends and family. (please enjoy the gratuitous pictures, who doesn’t love a baby in a suit?) It was a special moment, a significant moment. A moment worth pausing to enjoy. A moment worth pausing to ponder.
While there are many moments that I will remember from the weekend, there is one thing stood out that I wanted to share with my school family. The pastor at the wedding took some extra time during the giving of the bride. Rather than just asking the typical question (who gives this bride to be married?) and moving on, he reflected on the significance of the sacrifice the families made in raising the bride and groom and on the sacrifice of the bride and groom sacrificing their own lives to enter into marriage. In the course of the pastor’s reflection, he made a pretty interesting comment, “Most of the significant moments in life involve sacrifice.” Typically, when we are just going about our business, looking out for ourselves, days pass in a fairly average way. But when we put ourselves on the line, when we decide to give our energy, resources, and very life - in these moments we find significance.
The question arises: do we give enough space to sacrifice? Are we missing significance in our day to day lives because we aren’t giving enough of ourselves away?
My little sis coming down the isle with Dad
I see a lot of truth in this in my own life. Beyond my own wedding day, I can think of various examples of significant moments. The birth of my son was probably the biggest in my life. It was a time when me and my wife decided to dedicate our lives to raising another. This, I am learning daily, involves a tremendous amount of sacrifice. One example from school life was our choir tour two years ago, Behold the Lamb. It was one of the most significant moments of worship I’ve ever experienced as we celebrated Jesus and raised funds for Bulgaria. It was only made possible by a lot of people sacrificing a lot of time.
When we begin to examine the biblical narrative, we see this pattern of sacrifice-significance from beginning to end, but we see it most dramatically in the life of Jesus. Human history hinges on the sacrifice of Jesus - the most significant moment of all. Ultimate sacrifice, ultimate significance. We can spend a lifetime studying the impact and implication of Jesus’ act, and we will still find more to discover and celebrate. There is no end to profoundness of this event. It is here we find our meaning, and here we find our example.
In Matthew 16, Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?” This same command was repeated in two of the other gospel accounts as well.
Paul picks up this idea in his letter to the church at Rome. “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” Paul is inviting them to a life of significance, a life lived in response to the sacrifice of Jesus. It is this act that we celebrate, and this act that we need to replicate.
In light of Christ’s example and command, where do you personally need to invest in more sacrifice? As a school community, where do we need to invest more in the practice and teaching of sacrifice? It is on the road of sacrifice that Jesus showed us that we will find the most significant moments and meaning of life.
Grace and Peace, (and congratulations Jen and Brian!)
P.S. - I used the word “significant” seven times in this post. And you know what? I think I misspelled it almost every time. It’s a challenging word, and apparently my brain is very stubborn learning it correctly. I’m thankful for spell check! Also, anyone read any good books lately?
The unopened gift: ignoring God's peace
Today's blogs is one of those times when something else was planned (I was going to write about grammar believe it or not, we'll save that for next week) and the Spirit just takes things in another direction. I was personally challenged with a particular verse of scripture over the weekend, and the Spirit encouraged me to share it with my school family.
On Saturday, I was reading John 14 as part of my preparation for the coming week of teaching in Bible class. I stopped on verse 14:27. I felt compelled to read it over and over. Jesus is talking about sending the Holy Spirit, and then he says these words: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”
As I was reading this, a picture developed in my mind. I was standing there with Jesus, and he put a gift at my feet. Instead of opening it, I simply look down and cross my arms. A gentle voice asks, "Phil, why won't you open my gift?"
It's a hard question. And one I didn't like. I certainly know about God's peace, I accept it as a truth. I know he is sovereign over all: in control and with a plan. I can even teach about it, and quote other verses about it. But why do I struggle to accept it into my own life on a daily basis? Perhaps it is because I deceive myself into believing I don't deserve it or that I need to earn it. Or perhaps on some level I don't believe it is sufficient.
How dangerous this is! How desperately each of us needs this peace Jesus offers. How quickly we arrive at despair, depression, and doubt. What a stubborn people we can be - foolishly ignoring the good gifts God has for us as his children. He leaves His peace for us, He gives it to us. Why? He desires for us to be free from a troubled heart and a mind gripped with fear. And, He knows we need this freedom for another purpose.
Genesis teaches us that we as humans were made in the image of God, imago dei. Imprinted on each of our lives is the image of the Creator. And I believe that at the root of this imago dei is love. As humans, we are all loving creatures - we all direct our love to something. As Christians, we believe our love should be directed back to our Heavenly Father and his Kingdom.
Fear and lack of peace put our love off aim. The imago dei becomes warped. We're motivated by self-preservation and self-worship. We can't see beyond ourselves. Our love is blinded by fear. And so now we see the deep transformational power of the Peace of God - to allow us to see beyond ourselves. And as we see beyond ourselves we are free to have a restored love - one directed at our Father and his Kingdom.
It has been my challenge the last few days to humbly reach down and open this gift and that Jesus offers his followers. I've been challenged to see what decisions and actions I've selfishly made because I was too afraid to love in the way I should. I've forced myself to look at those areas of my life I insist on painfully trying to accomplish on my own strength. And I've been reminded that the Spirit is there to gently help me again come back to God's peace.
BCS Family, I challenge you. Open God's peace in your lives. To do so requires humility, recognizing that we can not do it on our own, and that we have not earned it. But what transformation awaits us when we do embrace peace through Jesus - the one who has accomplished it all! It frees us to be the people of God. We accept His forgiveness, and then we accept His peace.
Don't just keep reading this post. Stop and reflect. What situation or condition is causing your life to be without peace right now? Take a moment to envision stooping down, picking up the gift of Christ, and opening it for this particular situation.
An outgrowth of this challenge takes us back to community. I really don't think it's possible to embrace God's peace in our lives on a consistent basis without the help of fellow Christians. So along with my challenge comes four smaller challenges.
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:4-7
What would Berks Christian school look like if we all helped each other to daily accept God's peace into our lives and into our school? What if we were all freed to love each other fully and shine forth God's image to each other and those around us? Friends, that is the start of revival and of BCS reshaping our community.
Grace and Peace (Christ's peace, open and embraced in all of its transformational
New book recommendations for 9/17/2012: (see links above
Philip S. Warner, administrator of Berks Christian School.