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Prayer Day

On February 4th we held a Prayer Day at STCCS. It was a great success as many of our community members came to the school and prayed for us as we strive to provide quality Christian Education in St. Thomas. Prayer is foundational for the success of our school. Without God, human hands don't accomplish much. As we face new and challenging obstacles—intolerance towards Christian beliefs, a changing climate in education, growth in our school—it is essential that we, as a community of believers, continue to prioritize prayer and recognize the power that it holds. Please continue to keep St. Thomas Community Christian School in your prayers.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition,

with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

Philippians 4:6

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Living Out Our Faith… In the Little Things

In an attempt to stay fit and healthy, I try to work out a couple of times a week. I can't say I always enjoy it, especially since I almost always workout first thing in the morning and it can be awfully hard to get out of bed that early. However, every morning that I work out there is a guy at the gym who is always positive. And not the annoying, "how are you this happy and awake right now?" kind of positive; he is genuinely positive in a very likable way. He is friendly, knows everyone's name, makes sure to ask how you are doing and actually listens to your answers. From what I can see, he is extremely well-liked and respected. I know that he attends church and is a Christian, but when I see him"in action" so to speak, I believe he is truly living out his faith.

In Matthew’s gospel we read, "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven” (Mathew 5:16).  Sometimes, it can be challenging to identify how we let our "light shine.”  However, I think it is critically important to shine in the small things.  To be caring and generous in the day to day.

Yesterday, I was working in my office when the phone rang.  Our Office Administrator answered the call and, although I couldn’t hear both sides of the conversation, I could tell that it was a wrong number.  In that situation, I would have simply told the person on the line that they have the wrong number and hung up the phone.  Not our Office Administrator.  Not only was she kind and gracious with her response, she asked the person who they were trying to call, looked up the number and gave it to the person calling.  Just a little thing… a little thing that shines brightly.    

I know these examples may seem like very small things but they demonstrate how our words and actions can positively impact our community; they set us apart as light in our world.  As Christians, I believe we need to prioritize others by focusing on the way that we accomplish the little things in our daily living.

"You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven." Matthew 5:14-16

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Comfort... Even in Deep Space

I have always been fascinated by space, particularly deep space. There is something about its vastness that boggles my mind and makes me wonder. To me, space is both beautiful and terrifying. Did you know that there is no sound in space? That's creepy... Did you know that there are stars in our universe that absolutely dwarf our sun? Have you ever read about black holes? There are a lot of interesting and unbelievable things in our universe.

(Spoiler alert) 

Just this past weekend I watched a science fiction movie about exploring deep space. It was called "Europa Report." I enjoyed the movie; however, I enjoyed it because of the questions it raised and the way that it dealt with mortality. As would be expected in this type of movie, there are many moments of great tension. One such moment finds the crew challenged to make a tough life-or-death decision. They debate sending one of the explorers out onto Europa (one of Jupiter's stars) to get a core sample from the planet. The risk is high as it is extremely dangerous on the planet's surface. Several members of the crew believed that no one could survive outside of the space ship. On the other hand, the crew realizes that the potential for scientific advancement is huge. Regarding this decision, one of the characters says: "compared to the breadth of knowledge yet to be known, what does your life actually matter." In other words, in the grand scheme of things, we are pretty little and not extremely valuable. I thought this was an incredibly bold statement that challenges the value of our very lives. It is a statement that prioritizes knowledge and makes it a god. 

Interestingly enough, the movie also presents a view that is in stark contrast with the previous one. At one point during their travel to Jupiter, members of the crew have to repair some damage to the exterior of the ship. In order to do that they have to suit up in all their astronaut gear, leave the ship and enter outer space. Of course things go awry and one of the astronauts is unable to get back into the ship. As he floats away into the deep, empty darkness of deep space (super creepy...) he says, presumably to his son: "I thought I was trying to do something great for mankind, I always said it was worth the risk... forgive me." Basically, he was implying that he was wrong and he should have stayed home to be with his son. This character, as he faced certain death, re-evaluated his beliefs and found them lacking. The pursuit of knowledge is not the highest calling, he should have enjoyed a long life with his wife and son.   

Finally, as the situation on Europa turns for the worst, and the fate of the crew is clear: they are going to die on Europa, one of the astronauts says "pointless, it is all pointless." As he stares death in the face, he doesn't see any real value in knowledge, or find any comfort in science. I believe he experiences a profound emptiness at that moment. Faced with death, he discovers all that he believed to be valuable--the pursuit of knowledge, science, discovery--is pointless and has no meaning.

Although the questions asked and discovers made by the crew traveling to Europa are interesting and create an intense and enjoyable movie, I quickly realized that we, as Christians, have an important perspective on the topics of knowledge and mortality as well. Knowledge is good, but as we read in Proverbs "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding" (Proverbs 9:10).  Furthermore, Christianity does not prioritize knowledge over life.  God places such enormous value on life.  We know this because He was willing to send his only Son, Jesus, to earth to be crucified so that we could be saved. In fact, with each and every life on earth, eternity is at stake.  And here, in eternity, we see a stark difference between our two competing views of mortality and death. In the movie, the crew members believed death was the end.  We know that it is only the beginning.  As each crew-member confronted death they often felt hopeless and struggled to grasp the point of it all. We, as believers, have hope in death.  As Paul says: "for to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain." While we are most-likely not going to be travelling to Jupiter, or facing the challenges that the crew faced; I hope that when our lives face obstacles and even death, can find meaning and hope in our God and His Son our Lord and Saviour.     

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Grows and Builds Itself Up In Love

Recently, our school participated in parent/teacher interviews. These interviews are very important to us as they are key for maintaining a high level of communication between our parents and our teachers. As a school, we try to be available to our community. Whether that is through emails, phone calls, our Parent Partnership Evenings, or even brief conversations in the hallways at the end of a school day, we welcome the opportunity to work together to educate children. The question is why? Why is it so important that we develop a strong, working partnership with our parents? The answer is actually pretty simple. We do it because we believe very strongly that the school and parents need to work together. We need to be on the same page so that we can support our children in order that they reach their full potential. In Ephesians we read, "from him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work" (Ephesians 4:16). As a community, it is our goal to achieve this high calling.  

 

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I thought Jesus was always powerful?

Last night, after dinner, my daughter asked if she could pick a story from the Bible to read. I said "sure" and she proceeded to pick the story of the crucifixion of Jesus. As she handed me the children's bible, she said "Daddy, I thought Jesus was always powerful." She didn't understand how it was possible that Jesus could have been beaten, was too weak to carry the cross, and was killed. I tried to explain to her, in four-year-old's language, that Jesus choose to be weak and die for us to save us. I tried to start at the beginning by explaining that Jesus came into the world as a baby... That was as far as we got. She couldn't believe it. Jesus, the Son of God, a baby? That was too much for her. Our youngest was born in June and it is hard for my daughter to imagine that Jesus, the Son of God, was like her baby sister. Later that evening, I was thinking about that. I actually believe that my daughter has it right. Jesus, the Son of God, a baby? That is unbelievable! As we enter this Christmas season, I think it is important to join my daughter in wonder at the amazing gift of Christmas: Christ, the Son of God, born a baby in a manger in Bethlehem.
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Our Village

Everyone has heard the saying "it takes a village to raise a child.” But what does that actually look like? What does that mean for a school? Now, I should clarify, that I am not trying to limit or overlook the importance of family. STCCS has always worked hard to partner with parents in order to educate children. We believe fundamentally that raising children is family business. However, we do work extremely hard to partner with parents in the goal of raising educated Christians. So, back to the original questions. What does it look like to participate in a village that works together to "raise” a child? Well, let me describe our morning on November 5, 2014. In addition to the regular teaching that happens at our school, we had two adults (a support teacher and an occupational therapist) in one of our classrooms helping students for the morning. We had two adults reading and working with several of our students who struggle with literacy. We had a different adult (a retired teacher) working on Math with a handful of our students. One of our teachers was preparing for a class trip that parent helpers will join and help out with. A speech pathologist worked with a couple of our students. And, a volunteer was in this morning in order to run our grocery program in order to raise funds for our school. The crazy thing is, this is not an unusual day at our school! Our village is regularly helping us with our students. It is my belief that education should include an engaged community, which participates in the task of educating students at our school in appropriate ways, so that every child is cared for and has their needs met. It is an extremely lofty goal, and we aren’t 100% there yet, but I think we are getting close and that is so exciting!

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One in a Billion

Today we studied probability in grade three/four. It is actually a lot of fun and very interesting. First of all, it is amazing how much fun it is for grade three/four students to watch cars drive by, record their colours and create a graph that indicates what the probability of a red car driving by is. They were really engaged. If you have a chance, ask them about their results.

But more than that, it is amazing to start thinking about our world and how improbable it actually is. For example, it is amazing that God created all human beings unique. There is somewhere in the neighbourhood of seven billion people currently living in our world right now. You are one in seven billion. Do you know what the probability of that is? But even crazier than that, you are unique in all of the history of humankind. There has never been a human being like you. According to some estimates, that means you are actually one in twenty billion, give or take a few. The odds of you are inconceivable. But, as if that wasn't crazy enough, statistically, we aren't even close to the most impressive unthinkable possibility. Here is something to spend time thinking about: every snowflake is different. Every. Single. One. I have no idea how many snowflakes have fallen, but it is an unimaginable number. Researchers estimate that about twenty trillion snowflakes might fall in one snow storm alone. And, not one of them is the same. Hard to believe. 

Our God is truly amazing. I marvel at the way that he created such a unique and diverse world. A world filled with so many improbabilities. Just a little aside- did you know that we can't explain how bees can fly? It is actually improbable. Research it sometime; it is amazing.

I know that a lot of people think our world is "lucky" to be in existence... that we our lucky to be the right distance from the sun, lucky to have had the right combination of ingredients for life to "happen." I don’t think we are lucky at all. I believe we were intended. I think the delicate balance that is life was created by the Creator who has all things (even the twenty trillion different snowflakes) in His hands.  

 

Psalm 95: 1-5

1 Oh come, let us sing to the Lord;

Let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!

2 Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving;

let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!

3 For the Lord is a great God,

and a great King above all gods.

4 In his hand are the depths of the earth;

the heights of the mountains are his also.

5 The sea is his, for he made it,

and his hands formed the dry land.

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The Best of Times

In Charles Dickens' classic novel, A Tale of Two Cities, the opening lines are simple, yet memorable: "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times." And for some reason, these lines popped into my head when I was reflecting on what it means to live in community with each other as Christians. Last year one of our families was devastated by a terrible house fire. Although no one was injured in the fire, that was a "worst" of times. However, it was amazing to watch our community come together and support a family in need. It was a moment where we definitely acted as a community.

In some ways, it is easier to act as a community when people are clearly in need. But how do we act as a community during the "best" 0f times? How do we support and care for each other when there isn't a crisis? Unfortunately, during the "best" of times, we find reasons to be pessimistic. Yet, there is a lot to be positive about right now. This is a great school and a wonderful community. It is a choice to be pessimistic. It is also a choice to be thankful. The Bible is clear about what a Christian community should look like. In Hebrews, we read: "And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near." Furthermore, life can be hard. Raising children is very challenging—a challenge I daily experience myself.  And sadly, what appears to be the "best" of times for some families, can occasionally be "the worst" of times. We just never know. It is my hope that this year we continue to grow as a community of believers who care about each other and support each other. A community that loves to laugh together. A community that cries together, grows together and is positive with each other. STCCS is a special community; let’s continue to work together to be a light that shines brightly for our Lord. 

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Opportunity in a Secular World

Last weekend, thanks to the financial support of the Ontario Alliance of Christian Schools, I was able to attend the Christian Schools Canada Leadership Conference. It was an excellent conference that inspired me, as a Christian leader, to continue to work hard to serve God in my role at STCCS.  The keynote speaker, James Smith, had some particularly powerful and challenging points to share with us.  I would like to share my thoughts on what he had to say about living in a secular world.    

The first point that he made about the secular world is that it is not the same as an atheist world.  There is actually a very large and critical difference between the two; however, we often think they are the same.  An atheist does not believe in God or any type of supreme being.  That is very different than a secularist.  In fact, it is pretty rare that, when talking with non-believers, you will hear people deny flat out the possibility of God.  In fact, most people will say that they believe in "something," a supreme being, fate, a creator... something.  Quotes about spirituality are written on Starbucks coffee cups; Eat, Pray, Love (a book about spirituality) is a New York Times best seller, and Oprah Winfrey seemed to be preaching about spirituality just as often as she was interviewing people, much to the delight of her audiences.  Spirituality is very alive and prevalent in our world.

There is a wonderful opportunity here.  We are not, as many perceive, at war with our society.  In fact, we are really dealing with a huge number of fence-sitters: not willing to completely commit to God; but, also not completely willing to abandon Him.  Most people actually want to believe in something bigger than themselves, but haven't been convinced yet about the truth.  If we are patient (this was one of my favourite points that Jamie Smith made), very, very patient, and paying attention, we will find ourselves in conversations with non-believers about God, about the meaning and purpose of life.  About death and eternity, justice, good and evil.  There is opportunity to talk about hard things and who is in control of it all.  And, every once in awhile, through the workings of the Holy Spirit, our words will seep into the souls of the people we are talking with and doubt will creep in.

Doubt is actually the cornerstone of a secular age.  Secularism tries to convince us that everything is under suspicion.  And, to be honest, it has been successful.  We live in a world of doubt.  Christians, from time to time, in our humanness, doubt the existence of God and eternity.  On the other hand, the flip-side is that secular people often doubt their own beliefs and wonder "what if there is a God and eternity."  Secular doubt is, ironically, the beginnings of faith.  And it is in these moments of doubt that we need to be ready and willing to join in the conversation and share our faith.   
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Food for Thought

I thought I would try something different on my blog today. I am going to list some links to several articles and two TED Talks about education that I have found interesting. I wouldn’t say that I agree with everything in the articles or the talks, but they do make you think and they will often challenge some of our assumptions about education. I hope you enjoy reading or watching them and I would be interested in hearing any feedback you might have. 

https://www.catapultmagazine.com/schools-as-communities/feature/schools-as-communities-of-grace

http://www.stuff.co.nz/ national/education/9650581/ School-ditches-rules-and- loses-bullies

http://www.ted.com/talks/sir_ken_robinson_bring_on_the_revolution.html

http://new.ted.com/talks/geoffrey_canada_our_failing_schools_enough_is_enough

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The Real Value of Sports

As many of you know Basketball season is upon us. And, although it is a relatively short season, it is a very valuable experience for our students. In fact, when done properly, playing on a sports team often teaches us very important skills for life off of the court.  That may sound a little bit cliché, but it is very true. Here, in my opinion, are the three key things that playing on a sports team can teach us.  First, playing on a team teaches us how to work together.  Even Michael Jordan, the greatest basketball player of all time, had to learn how to trust and work with his teammates before he was able to win all of his championships. Unfortunately, I don't think we have anyone as good as Jordan on our basketball team, but it doesn't mean that we can't learn the same lessons that he did. So while we practice and play games, we are going to have to learn to work together as a team and trust each other as players in order to be successful.  What a great life-lesson to learn. Second, sports can teach us about hard work. I have never seen a good athlete or a good team that doesn't work hard. During my time in BC when I was coaching in the provincial basketball program, I remember talking to players about the 10 000 rule.  That rule basically states that in order to be an "expert" at anything, sports included, it takes 10 000 hours of practice. That is a lot of practice and a lot of hard work. We won't get 10 000 hours of practice in during this basketball season, but I do think we can inspire our players to see the value of hard work and the affect it can have on our ability. Third, sports can teach us to work through adversity. Sports create a challenge for its players. How a player responds, often shows how they will handle adversity.  When we learn to play through tough periods in a sporting event, we are actually developing the necessary resilience to work through tough times in our lives. Sports give us an opportunity to be challenged by adversity, grow under its pressure and become stronger people through the experience. Sports have always been a huge part of my life and, although sports is just one means of many, it has helped me grow as a person. 
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Giving from the Heart... and Piggy Banks

"If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth." (1 John 3: 17-18)

A couple of weeks ago, one of our families lost almost everything in a house fire. It was devastating. I can remember getting a phone call late on that Sunday night. The caller told me that she saw a house-fire on Facebook and she thinks that the house belonged to one of our families. I was shocked and concerned. I prayed. I called around, while my wife tracked the story on the internet. Eventually, after finding out that the family was safe and had a place to stay, I went to bed.

The next day, one of our staff members suggested that we open up the school to collect donations for the family. So, we put a message on our Facebook page that said we were collecting donations and we found a big box and put it in the hallway. What happened next surprised all of us. Our school community, and the community of St. Thomas at large, demonstrated their care for this family through hundreds of donations. It was unbelievable. The box we set up in the hallway wasn't big enough. Our stage wasn't even big enough. We have collected enough furniture to refurnish the home the family will be staying in. We have collected lots of clothing, food (gift cards and non-perishable items), and necessities. All of this has been overwhelming and I know that the family is extremely grateful for everything that has been done.

But this is only half of the story. Obviously, our school focuses on providing an outstanding education for our students. We spend a lot of time and effort on preparing quality lesson plans, strong educational programs and valuable assessments. However, I believe that we teach our students more with our actions than our words. By caring for a community member in need, we have demonstrated to our students how to show God's love to our community. Let's just say our students were watching our actions and learning. It started one morning when one of our parents gave me a "small," cash donation towards the cause. She explained that when her children heard all that had happened, they wanted to give all of the money that they had in their piggy banks. These young students sparked a flame in many of our students. Soon, we had several more donations from other students who wanted to give to the cause. It made me proud to see our students being such good neighbours.
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