Many of you will be familiar with the term “the Christian bubble” when referring to Christian schooling. If I’m being honest, as a school administrator, I’m not a huge fan of the term. It implies a level or artificial protection that simply doesn’t exist here at a Christian school or in any church or home. I actually prefer the analogy of a net. While we can’t prevent our students from experiencing the world or the negative effects of sin from within and without, we can act as part of a loving community to catch them before (or as) they fall and point them back to the God who loves them, forgives them, gives them value, and shows much grace. We can help them filter life in this world through the truth of scripture and within the context of the body of Christ.
Rather than write about this more, I’m going to encourage you to read an article posted in a recent ACSI publication from a parent perspective. Notwithstanding the use of the bubble analogy, the article articulates much of what we strive after as a community. Below is the opening of the article. After reading, I invite your comments.
In Defense of Christian Private School Bubble
by Andrea Palpant Dilley
Last week I heard my four-year-old daughter Madeline sitting on the toilet singing "Holy, Holy, Holy" with an exaggerated vibrato. My first instinct was to laugh. My second response was an overwhelming sense of gratitude. My kid knows the words to a timeless hymn proclaiming the sacredness of God's triune nature. She knows the words—and will soon learn the attending theology—because of a hard decision that my husband and I made a year ago: to send her to a Christian private school.
To public school advocates, I'm one of those people destroying the educational infrastructure of America, complicit in wrecking the hard-earned egalitarianism of a public classroom where kids of all creeds and colors can meet together in unity to learn about everything from planets to caterpillars. (Slate writer Allison Benedikt was bold enough to write a manifesto to this effect, declaring in no uncertain terms that I'm a bad person for bailing on the public education system.)
I highly encourage you to continue reading here…
“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,
Greetings Berks Christian School Community!
I hope that each of your families had a special time celebrating Christmas and spending time together - and now today enjoying the extended snow holiday. Christmas at the Warner house was a bit more crazy than usual (two twin babies will do that!) but we had a wonderful time celebrating, relaxing, and enjoying the uncommon activities that adorn this holiday.
One of the unique presents this year was from my sister, a redesigned family coat of arms. (pictured) For a while she has been enamored by the historical motto of the Warner family, Non Nobis Tantum Nati - we are not born for ourselves alone. She then researched family coat of arms and crests and all of the symbolism and designed this specifically to represent our family. Each of us received a print of the original wood relief that she carefully carved. It is a special gift not only because of its quality, but for what it represents - our family legacy.
As I reflected during the New Year holiday, I thought a lot about the family coat of arms. So many of our goals (especially the ones we make around this time of year) are centered around ourselves: personal development, health, learning, etc. But as followers of Christ, our goals should be much more legacy based - what are we doing for others and what will we leave for the next generation? We will continue to be legacy-minded at BCS as we plan and labor for each chapter in our community’s collective history, and I challenge you to do the same for your own families.
A quick note for our community that will be a change at the start of the New Year. Mrs. Beth Heim has served as our K-8 music teacher since September. For personal reasons, she has decided to step down from her role as a teacher at BCS. I will be covering music classes until a new teacher is hired. I look forward to spending a week or two back in the music classroom and ask for your prayers that God will provide just the right person moving forward.
Happy New Year and welcome back to school! As always, please feel free to contact me with any question or concern.
Grace and Peace, Mr. Warner
Greetings Berks Christian Family,
Seven school days have been successfully completed, and the 13-14 school year is underway at BCS. It is a great joy to have students back in the classrooms, and to see the enthusiasm of our community come around our mission. I am personally excited to get to know our new families and to deepen connections with our returning ones. There are three things I would like to communicate today:
1. We had an excellent turn out at our Back to School night this year. Thank you for taking the time to attend and make sure we are all connected. If you weren't able to make it, please take the time to review the packet we sent home carefully and contact us with any questions you might have.
2. Pray for our school on a consistent basis. When we stay connected to our Father through prayer, we will be able to stay on course as a community. I'm thankful today for the partnerships in Tri-County Christian Schools. Yesterday, our three high schools came together for a wonderful day worshipping together and being challenged on the topic of leadership. Pray our high school students will carry this day with them.
3. Our mission statement for BCS is "BCS partners with families to create a community of learning that educates the whole student and cultivates Christ centered lives." Some of you may wonder what it means to partner with a school. I have enjoyed exploring that topic and I would list four primary ways that we partner as families and schools:
Grace and Peace,
It has been a few months since I have written, and I apologize to my school family. Something interesting happened the last six months: grad school. All of my writing and reading time, which used to be at my personal disposal was now dictated by professors. It had been a while since I was in formal schooling, and it was quite the shock to my system. Anyway, I am glad for summer and some time to get back into my own routines of reading and writing. Before too long, fall will be here – back to grad school and the arrival of the twins. (My wife and I are in deep discussions on names, suggestions welcomed in the comments!) I can’t guarantee too much writing then, but I'll do my best!
At the end of May, I ran my first marathon, the Buffalo Marathon. It was the culmination of about a fifteen month journey of becoming a running junkie (addict?). Distance running has really become a source of joy and relaxation for me. I know, I know – most of you think I'm crazy. But for a few of you, this makes total sense. There is the peacefulness of finding a good pace that creates some space for reflection, worship, and even deep community when running with friends. And there is nothing like the good tired that comes after a long train run. And I've got to say, there is nothing like crossing the finish line on a landmark race. (more on that later.)
A quick word of warning for those of you thinking about becoming a distance runner, it's not cheap. I actually thought it would be – all you do is run right? But when you run through three pairs of running shoes in one year, pay for race registrations, get the right breathable clothing and running gear, it becomes a big investment! It's still cheaper than a lot of hobbies, but be warned!
There are many, many lessons learned from training and running a marathon. In fact, the Bible uses the metaphor of running a race, and many Christians have made, and wrote about, the spiritual connections and biblical applications of distance running. I'll spare you of recounting them all, I'll stick to just one.
My biggest lesson: you can’t run alone.
Well, actually, lots of people train and run alone. But I couldn't. I don't think I would have had the motivation, and I physically also needed the support. I train with the Moor Ponies, (pictured here with our support poster from the BCS students) our small collection of BCS alum and staff who enjoy running. (Anyone is welcome to join us!) I rely on my running friends to help me keep going, to get out of bed, and hit the trails or hit the road. I count on them to encourage me when I'm not feeling great, to keep pace, and help me reach my goals. They sharpen my skills with healthy competition, encouraging words, and smart council. We keep each other accountable, and it is the companionship that really makes running enjoyable, not the actual running.
It was a tough race for me, really pushing me to my limits. But mile 19 is where it all went downhill. (well not literally, it was actually a slight incline) I had been struggling for a few miles to keep up, but my teammates did not leave me. Every mile or so, we would take a few seconds of walking as a break before we started running again. I yelled ahead that I needed one of these breaks and started walking. I was mentally and physically exhausted and thought, “I don't think I can start running again.” And then, my legs just buckled. I stumbled and fell. Trying to get up, I realized two of my teammates were already by my side lifting me up. I had one arm around one teammates shoulder, and a duplicate on the other side. They asked me if I could walk, I could. We started moving forward. One teammate yelled if anyone had food. A fellow marathoner pulled up along side. “Here, eat this. It's homemade honey cookie. Chew the whole thing, you'll feel better soon. Keep going.” And she was off. My teammate yelled for water. A spectator ran into her house, and came back with water. She didn't need the cup back. My teammates carried me for about a half mile.
Miraculously, my strength returned and I was able to start running again. With much support from my team, and some help from some fellow running community members, I finished the race. Friends, this is the Christian life. Following Christ is difficult and many do not even get out on the race course because it is too hard. But the few of us who understand the payoff strain and strive and undertake the journey. God equips us to run well, and one of the key gifts he gives us is the family of God. We are blessed with a running team of brothers and sisters in Christ who are there beside us, running the same difficult path.
My BCS family, we can't run alone. We need each other. Sometimes it is just to tell each other to keep going, sometimes it is to help each other to keep pace, and sometimes it is just for the companionship on the journey. And sometimes, we literally need each other to pick us up after a fall and carry us. It is not enough to talk about community, we must do it! As we each go our own ways over the summer, I hope we will all be intentional about continuing to engage in Christian community. And as we regather in the fall, I hope that we will all be fully committed to running this race together. It is one of the key ways we train our children in discipleship and show the world the power of the gospel of Jesus.
Update on Compassion International
THANK YOU to all of our families who come together to support our friends around the globe through Compassion International. Our last dress down day brought in $524.21 which included a gift from one of our alumni. This covers all of our summer expenses and will give us a strong start for next year. It is a simple but powerful example of what we can accomplish when we choose to run together as the family of God. To learn more about our compassion International program http://berkschristian.weebly.com/compassion-international.html
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,
And now for something a little bit different. For this blog post, I’ll be answering a few of the questions that were submitted by parents for last week’s town hall meeting. It is my strong desire to keep parents updated and connected to the school, our mission, and our program. I’m glad to engage in some of these questions today and will answer a few more next blog post. If you have more questions, feel free to leave them in the comments!
Can accreditation be explained, and where are we exactly in that process. What are the positives of accreditation, and the negatives for not yet being accredited?
Accreditation can be explained, and I will be more than glad to do so. Accreditation is a tool that challenges us toward self-improvement and creates internal and external accountability so that we fulfill our ministries with excellence. In our case, we are pursuing accreditation with ACSI and Middle States. Of course, even without accreditation, we are constantly self-evaluating and improving our programs. However, accreditation, developed by experienced professionals outside of our organization, serves as a fixed reference point helping us to better facilitate effective self-evaluation.
The ACSI program is a three year program that we began in October with our formal application. We have met with our regional director to outline a plan and a strategy. After a few pieces of preparatory work, we will begin the two year self-study this Spring. The self-study leads us through evaluating and improving 92 indicators of school excellence. After the self-study is complete, an accreditation team visits the school to do a final evaluation.
I will keep the school family updated on the process as we go. The bottom line is this - this significant investment will help to improve our school in a systematically proven way from top to bottom. We appreciate your prayer as we enter into this rigorous program.
The positive points of accreditation are primarily that we have a formalized program for school improvement, have comparison benchmarks outside of our school, and have stronger marketing with broader approval through a recognized organization. It essentially ensures the quality of our program. The major negative of being thus far unaccredited is that some of our credits are not recognized by out of state Boards of Education for transferring students. (They are recognized everywhere in PA.) Once we are accredited, our credits will be recognized everywhere in the US. This only affects students transferring to other high schools, not to colleges..
How does the new model for class selection work for high school students? I would like to know how that can be done more effectively so when students are given options of what they want to take that they are able to then take those classes.
I understand the concern of this parent regarding our new class selection model for the high school. Historically, we did not offer many choices for our high school students. If you were in 10th grade, the schedule was set and all of your classmates took the same classes as you. As we have expanded our options, we have focused on adding both diversity in class offerings and honors level courses.
With more options, students sometimes will need to choose. Certain classes have to be offered at the same time and so students may not be able to take both and will have to decide between two appealing options. We create the schedule carefully so that each student gets the classes they need and has as many options as possible. In many cases, if a class is not available, a student can take the same course in a future year.
Can you provide a curriculum update?
Curriculum is on all of our minds right now as a staff - because it is the first item that we have to tackle on our road to accreditation. Right now, all of our curriculum is being updated and evaluated on all levels and in all subject areas to prepare for the accreditation self-study. (See more on accreditation in the first question.) This directly benefits the classroom as we evaluate the tools and processes we use in each class. Time is also spent on reviewing biblical integration, assessment tools, and instructional materials. This process ensures we are using current resources and the best educational techniques. Once this process is complete, we will enter a cycle where a few curriculums will be evaluated every year so that each area is assessed on a 5 year rotation. Curriculum essentially works as an evaluative tool for teachers in a few areas. It helps us create unit plans, select appropriate textbooks and materials, and provide benchmarks of success for each subject area.
How does this school encourage and monitor students' progress toward meeting grade-level standards?
The most important issue in monitoring student achievement is quality and consistent assessment by the classroom teachers. There is a two-pronged approach to this issue. The first is to ensure that we have the highest quality curriculum in place being taught by qualified and expert teachers. These two items are guided by curriculum review processes and our teacher professional growth and development plans. The second is to carefully assess each student against our curriculum, in a consistent manner, with informal and formal assessments. This gives us the data we need to track each student.
We also use standardized testing scores as an outside source to aid in tracking student progress. BCS gives the Terra-Nova standardized test to most of our grade levels and also uses PSAT and SAT scores as benchmarks for our older students.
The last time I wrote to all of you I had just attended a wedding, a significant moment we share in community that reminds us of sacrifice and love. And now I have just attended a funeral, a significant moment that reminds us of grace and legacy.
About two weeks ago, my grandfather passed away after complications with heart surgery. He was a man who cared about his family, and desired relationship, but did not follow Jesus in his life. This created many difficult chapters for my Grandfather. I am thankful that in recent years my family has been able to reestablish healthy relationships with him, and we have some hope that he responded to the gospel at the end of his life.
At the funeral, the pastor, who didn't know my grandfather, commented that two things that stuck out to him in the various eulogies by family members were the legacy of a man, and the thread of the gospel. Even though there were many rocky times in my family, in the room were all the lives my grandfather influenced – his legacy. And, by God's grace, many of those people in the room have experienced the joy of accepting the gospel message. Many stories of joy and difficulty, fun times and difficult times revealed a thread of God's redemptive work in our family.
My grandfather's funeral ended up being the same weekend as my big fall race I had been training for. Against some common sense, and the advice of my doctor, I am a bit of a hard-core runner. I gladly exchange some tight muscles and sore knees to that feeling of sailing along, heart pounding, and the thrill of finishing a good run. God often teaches me simple lessons on my runs, and the length gives me time to reflect and deepen my understanding. It has been natural for me to reflect about my Grandfather and about legacy on recent runs.
I've been enjoying the colors of autumn and noticing again the majesty of trees. I feel like I don't really notice trees during the summer, they are just there. But then, suddenly, they burst forth in color – screaming at our eyes, “look at me!” I just ran a race on Saturday, and honestly it was not my best run even though it was a PR (personal record) for that particular distance. Actually, it was probably my worst run ever in competition. It was really cold, my muscles were sore, and I never hit a good stride. The entire journey felt labored and challenging. I was glad to finish, but frustrated with my overall performance.
The first lesson I have been learning from running lately is that what place we finish pales in comparison to the way that the race is run. I think I've heard this analogy many times in my life, but it means so much more now that I am actually a runner. (side note: experience makes lessons come alive) Even though I had my best time ever, I felt terrible after the race because I had not done well throughout. How often we focus on how we compare to others at the finish line rather than making each moment a quality response of praise to our creator.
The second lesson I have been learning is a more simple and reflective truth: God is always creating beauty and redemption. Even though the leaves are dying and the trees are doing dormant, beauty emerges – it shouts at us. It's been a gentle reminder that all of God's works are redemptive. He is making all things new and beautiful. No matter what we are facing, or fear we will face in the future, it is all for His glory and the good of His children.
Sitting there at the funeral, I was reminded that our success in life is not measured in all the results of our work, but rather the legacy we leave with those we love. We all reach the finish line, either quickly or slowly, but what matters is how we run the race. As I sat there listening to my Uncle describe his love for his brother even though they had fought for many years, I was reminded that God brings redemption and healing, even through death.
Brian Simmons, president of ACSI, often reminds us that we should have the 10 and 10,000 year goal in mind for ourselves and our students. Do we know what God is calling us to work toward in the short term, are we focusing on our pace, our muscles, our stride? And are we confident we will be sharing in eternity with our Heavenly Father 10,000 years from now – sharing that experience with those we have shared Christ with in this life?
BCS family, I challenge you: Are we leading our students to a finish line with a the thread of the gospel woven throughout their whole race? Are we helping our students measure success in the right way: by Kingdom building not treasure building? I challenge you to teach our students to measure success by lives impacted for Christ, not high grade percentages, promotions, popularity, or politics. I challenge you to develop the 10 and 10,000 year view for your life and in the lives of those you impact.
Run well my friends.
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?
Philip S. Warner, administrator of Berks Christian School.