Groaning Together

groaning prayer

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God (Romans 8:26-27).

I do find myself groaning more these days. Of course I groan like a sinner, whining about this and that. But I am also experiencing the groaning of the redeemed–good Christian groaning. Paul reminds us that, if all of this is working right, we should be experiencing the prayers of God coming through us. He says these prayers come in the form of groans because they contain sentiments that are difficult to translate into human words. Paul tells us that we are weak and don’t know how to pray… I concede.

In the rare moments when I am able to refrain from my embarrassing man-centered prayer-assault on the Godhead, attempting to fill Him on all the things He needs to know, I am finding something much sweeter. When I desist from the sort of narcissistic prayer that perpetuates the idea that my world is the only significant one, I find something that actually makes me feel whole. And when I just quit talking so much and believe the Spirit of the living God resides within me and is waiting to be acknowledged, I find something that lights me up with joy and passion.

Since Opening Night this year, I’ve been thinking much about the idea of living a life that matches its consummation–the heaven-oriented life. That’s why this prayer-groaning concept is on my heart. I’m inclined to believe that the type of prayer that Paul is referring to in Romans 8 is critical in connecting our earthly existence to our heavenly one.

If we will allow the Holy Spirit to regularly groan within us through our prayers, stirring longing for consummation and fulfillment, then we will think differently about our earthly pursuits. I think these are types of prayers that foster the Godward ache that we so need. This sort of prayer causes our pursuits to be put through the sift of heaven, and we are left with a life much different than what we would have otherwise pursued.  Paul alludes to the fact the the Spirit will override the flesh and cause us to long for what God longs for. The implications of this are a thousand-fold. It won’t just affect big life decisions. It will affect small everyday ones. It will affect attitudes and actions, word choice, emails sent or not sent, thoughts harbored or released, stress increased or deflated, days spent worshiping or despairing, and on and on.

Our little school is getting bigger. It’s also getting older–growing up, if you will. As we progress, there is nothing more important to me than that we would be an educational community who groan for the deepest things of God. I pray that the spirit groaning within us would steer us away from petty things, keep us from being duped by the world’s priorities, and give us courage to seek first the kingdom of God, trusting all else to be added.

This is a call to groan together. Christian, the Spirit of the living God resides within you! You don’t know how to pray, but He does. Let us groan together, seeking the life-giving priorities of Jesus.

Notes from a Teacher’s Journal

by Kate Weise, TCS Grammar School teacher

I have a dream. Actually, I have a lot of little dreams. Sixteen of them, sitting across from me every Monday and Wednesday. Sixteen small image-bearers with unique giftings and challenges. Sixteen pictures of the future.

I have a dream for our school and our city and these children. I dream that we will take to heart Christ’s command to love other people in whatever mundane or exciting way he wishes. That we will read the gospels and the letters as teaching to be obeyed. Jesus said the two greatest commandments are to love God and love other people. In education, we learn to love God with our minds, to discipline our brains to think Christianly, and to position ourselves to be used by God in the kingdom that’s already here—and yet still coming.

As a school, we are

  •         educating children to become lifelong learners.
  •         teaching them to try hard things.
  •         asking them to understand their context in history.
  •         giving them the tools to break down and build good arguments.
  •         helping them learn to communicate effectively both in public and through writing
  •         hiding God’s words in their hearts

Your children are privileged and positioned in a setting that—by the grace of God—when they grow up, allows them to have the power to do much good. Your children will have a quality education. They will have connections. They will have big ​goals​ and the capacity to carry them out because of their education.

​They also have an unprecedented opportunity to enrich our lives through interactions with people from all walks of life because we live in a globalized world in a big city in the 21st century.

Just imagine. You hear this all the time, but we live in one of the most diverse cities in America. We also live in one of the most economically segregated. But there are opportunities all across our city for our children to have their perspectives widened and their lives rounded by interacting with other cultures, other ethnicities, other socio-economic levels, other religions.

Sit a while and dream with me. Dream of a Houston you’d be proud to call your home. What does it look like? What are the characteristics of the people in the city? What does the church look like? What adjectives would you use to describe this Houston?

And then, think: how can we be a part of Christ’s work of reconciliation in our city?

I just want to remind all of us to consider this work of loving other people as a significant part of our work of educating these children.  In the classroom of our lives, their views of what’s important, who defines success, and how to relate to other people are being shaped.

I teach second graders. They are already forming ideas of success and the good life and how the world works. These are the future citizens of Houston. These little men and women will form the backbone of our society. They will shape the culture of our city whether they mean to or not.

And I dare to dream that they will resist the siren calls of the world because I know this to be true: the Kingdom of Heaven is breaking through the torn fabric of this world, and they’ve been invited by the King to join his ranks. But it won’t be an easy fight. They’ll be members of a resistance movement that those in power don’t like. They’ll be following the Servant King, not the Dominating King. Winning everything will look like losing everything.  Life will look like death. True Sanity will look like utter craziness. Will they play a role in being instruments of love and mercy and justice and wisdom and beauty in our city? I pray so. I hope so.

May God give these children a vision for being culture makers in our city–at whatever personal cost to themselves. God give them a vision for following Christ, who though he was equal with God, did not consider equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing. Why? Why? For love.

When graduation day comes, and the last chapter closes on Rhetoric school, I pray that their hearts would be consumed by the love Christ has for them, so consumed that they would count their classical education as valuable only so far as they can use it to lay their lives down to love people as he did.

Combating Privileged Elitism at TCS

Stack of One Hundred Dollar Bills U.S.by Neil Anderson, Head of School

Last year at Closing Assembly, I felt a deep conviction to steadily and publicly acknowledge that any success we’ve had at TCS comes from God. I firmly believe this school is not a man-made endeavor. Any good that exists in us personally or institutionally comes from our Heavenly Father. The task at hand for all of us is this–in all our ways acknowledge Him.

I have been contemplating our school culture and asking if there are areas which might be hindrances to some of our ultimate goals and I have found my prayer life steadily drawn towards the issue of our wealth.

There are two things that I think we need to get on the table from the outset. I’m hoping for a high level of agreement on these: 1) We are rich; 2) As rich people, our children are spoiled. The spirit of this talk is not one of judgement, but rather humble self-reflection. Listen first to the words of Paul:

As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life.–1 Timothy 6:17-19 (ESV)

For me, there is no room for debate—I think we are among “rich in the present age.” I don’t think I need to read you the statistics, as most of you have heard them. The American culture in general, and all the more the specific culture at TCS, is one of wealth and abundance. Since we are wealthy, I think most of you will agree with me that being spoiled is somewhat inescapable. We are inherently spoiled because of the culture in which we live. What do we do with this?

In regards to our wealth, I am concerned about stagnation and spoil. I’m concerned about the natural way that things ought to flow—in and out. The very nature of the word spoil has to do with goods unused. When we have an abundance that does not get used, that which is left over spoils. When our children are invested into and there is no outlet for that investment, they spoil. In our lives, where is the potential for spoil and stagnation? Where do life-giving streams become cesspools and sweet aromes become putrid smells? Input without outflow is grounds for spoiling.

The two issues of being rich and spoiled are significant hurdles in at least two of our four goals in the portrait of a TCS graduate. Our administrative team spent some time over the summer reflecting on our end goals. We summarize them this way:

By the grace of God, our graduates will…

  • be able to identify truth, goodness, and beauty and recognize Christ as the source
  • be able to skillfully apply the tools of learning (grammar, logic, rhetoric) to everyday life
  • be wise and virtuous
  • use their education selflessly to further Christ’s Kingdom.

Regarding the last two points, wealth is the major assailant. Wealth is the enemy of virtue in the Scriptures because wealth urges our attention and affection toward the kingdom of the world. So as we ponder this portrait of a TCS graduate, we must consider the effects of wealth and abundance. The biblical charge from Paul in 1 Timothy 6 is this: “Rich people, take heed. Since you are rich, you are admonished to:

  • Know and preach the uncertainty of riches (v. 17a).
  • Constantly point to God as the supplier and enjoy your wealth (v. 17b).
  • Work towards a kingdom “savings.” Store up good works (v. 18a).
  • Give from your abundance of wealth. Avoid stagnant pools (v. 18b).
  • Take hold of what is truly life (v. 19).”

The message that needs to emanate from us is that our abundance of food, clothes, toys, and material possessions is fleeting. Preach the uncertainty of your wealth. Tell your kids not to presume the same abundance will be available tomorrow. All of history is a testimony to this. We are to enjoy what we have, but do so in a way that is cognizant of the fact that God is the supplier. Our focus should be on increasing our wealth in the ways of heaven. Being rich in good works is being rich in heavenly ways (verse 18).  Let’s not neglect our eternal savings account.

There is a monetary cost for a TCS education. Our wealth affords the opportunity to get rich in the first two stages of the trivium—knowledge and understanding. Our wealth provides an opportunity to gain knowledge and understanding at TCS, but it does not buy wisdom. The rhetoric stage, where the outflow begins to surge, is a bit of a litmus. What are we doing with the outflow? Is there even an outflow? There is so much flowing into our children—do they have healthy habits of outflow which began in their grammar school years and continue throughout upper school?

Since we live in abundance, we need to take extra care to make sure there is an outlet for worship, giving, self-sacrifice, and self-denial for our children. We will be working to foster this on a corporate level and we encourage you to be working on it in your homes, to help them find outlets of worship. They can be investing and serving their siblings (older siblings even teaching younger ones some). They can use the arts to find creative ways to bless others. Don’t just teach them how to write a letter, teach them how to write a letter and fill it with content meant to bring joy and hope into someone else’s life. Basically, begin to work with your students on how they can be generous with their education.

I want  to loop this back to the talk at the beginning of the year about the hope of heaven. See verse 19: “Thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life.” Paul is not saying to flee wealth. He is saying, “Figure out how to be rich in this present age.” Our children need to know material need. They need to know dependence. They need to know they don’t always get what they ask for. The point is not to be insecure or worried about our wealth, nor is it to hesitate in providing abundantly for our children. But we do need to stay awake to the biblical warnings that material wealth is often destructive. We need to equip our children to be ready to cling to Jesus, no matter the circumstances.

Eternity has already begun—do we really believe that life in him is real and everlasting? Are we harnessing what is truly life? My hope is that we, who are materially wealthy, will be rich in heart and rich in the ways of heaven. Take hold NOW of that which is truly life, this eternal, priceless life thread initiated in you by the Holy Spirit.

Forget Not His Benefits

mountainby Neil Anderson, Head of School

[adapted from personal remarks at Closing Assembly May 2014]

I began this year with an admonition about climbing the mountain of truth, goodness, and beauty towards a further revelation of the Godhead. The encouragement was to engage in the process of seeing, identifying, and enjoying the glory of God in the streams that flow from the Fountainhead. Even the murkiest stream contains waters traceable to that glorious Source.

At the end of another year of this process, we rejoice. But we DO NOT BOAST. Now is not the time to point to the tower we have built, acknowledging the glories of what we have accomplished. It is a time for lowliness. It is a time for the acknowledgement of undeserved grace.

What have we achieved that He has not granted us? What have we sown that He has not given us the passion and patience to sow? What have we learned that has not been revealed to us by Him? What good can be perceived in this community that should not be directly attributed to a God who gives what is not deserved?

What will be our ruin but to fail to give credit where credit is due? To run away healed, forgetting to offer thanks to the healer. To be freed from slavery, only to grumble in the wilderness.

Psalm 103 (ESV) states:

Bless the LORD, O my soul,

and all that is within me,

bless his holy name!

Bless the LORD, O my soul,

and forget not all his benefits,

who forgives all our iniquity,

who heals all our diseases,

who redeems our lives from the pit,

who crowns us with steadfast love and mercy,

who satisfies us with good

so that our youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

The LORD works righteousness

and justice for all who are oppressed.

He made known his ways to Moses,

his acts to the people of Israel.

The LORD is merciful and gracious,

slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.

He will not always chide,

nor will he keep his anger forever.

He does not deal with us according to our sins,

nor repay us according to our iniquities.

For as high as the heavens are above the earth,

so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;

as far as the east is from the west,

so far does he remove our transgressions from us.

As a father shows compassion to his children,

so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear him.

For he knows our frame;

he remembers that we are dust.

As for man, his days are like grass;

he flourishes like a flower of the field;

for the wind passes over it, and it is gone,

and its place knows it no more.

But the steadfast love of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him,

and his righteousness to children’s children,

to those who keep his covenant

and remember to do his commandments.

The LORD has established his throne in the heavens,

and his kingdom rules over all.

Bless the LORD, O you his angels,

you mighty ones who do his word,

obeying the voice of his word!

Bless the LORD, all his hosts,

his ministers, who do his will!

Bless the LORD, all his works,

in all places of his dominion.

Bless the LORD, O my soul!

We shall not forget our great Benefactor.

There are many ways we attempt to evaluate our success at TCS as an educational community. I can’t think of one more vital than this: that we are a people of gratitude, aware of undeserved graces, aware of the privileged place in which we stand, singing the refrain “all glory and honor and praise to you forevermore.”

If this higher education we seek does not make us low, it is an unworthy pursuit. As we ascend this mountain I spoke of, tracing the streams, the great irony should be that the higher we climb—the more clearly we see truth, goodness, and beauty—there is an opposite and internal mountain being descended. He must increase, we must decrease.

Five years is a laughable landmark for academic institutions, even for some of those right around us. But it is significant for us. Some of you have five-year-old children… significant right?  At the end of the 2013-2014 school year and at the end of our first significant landmark of five years, let us build a monument in our hearts, marking all progress made as the Lord’s. If He is so gracious as to pave the way towards the 50-year monument, the inscription will read the same: “To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.”

With Gratitude for Our Founders

I thank my God in all my remembrance of you,always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.  And I am sure of this, that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.  It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace… And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ,filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.–Philippians 1:3-11

Each July, we become bold and patriotic in unison, celebrating the United States of America’s vast history. We even get teary considering the cost our founders paid while viewing parades displaying aged men in uniform proudly remembering their past accomplishments. We know we wouldn’t be where we are without the sacrifice of a few strong leaders who knew what had to be done and were willing to move forward no matter the challenges ahead of them.

Fast forward a couple of hundred years from that initial founding of the USA to our own school’s inauguration. It was late in 2008 when a friend, who knew I’d been homeschooling my boys, asked if we would be interested in joining a new school. I replied “Yes!” before she could explain to me very much. Exhausted and bewildered, this momma knew there had to be a better way than the path I was trudging. There were information meetings held in our homes, pencils made with a potential school name, and friends were recruited to join in. I really didn’t have any expectations of what it was to become but only knew I was ready to find someone else to lead in the curriculum and lesson plan department.

This idea came to realization and they amazingly began to hold classes in the fall of 2009, less than a year from the initial idea. You can read its history here. Now, we have planned and readied ourselves to begin our sixth year as Trinity Classical School in the fall of 2014. We expect 400 students to count themselves as TCS Owls with many more waiting for a spot to open that they too can fill. We are here now due to the dedication of a few.

It took a handful of Christian parents committed to the cause and forging ahead with research, plans, and action to build a school unlike any other. Their determination brought forth an organization that thrives on pouring into students and parents classical education and encouragement in the faith. They kept a focus, akin to that of a Pre-K student at snack time, on the goal of securing the best teachers and staff to do the right jobs.

If I named the stalwarts, it would embarrass them and they would just point to each other, taking the focus off themselves. These families sacrificed many a home-cooked dinner with their children to meet with each other or potential families/staff/facilities. They have spent long hours at the computer with emails, financial statements, and contracts. They pressed on with great conviction, no matter the circumstances in their own lives, to build a place for their own children’s education—and invite the rest of us to join them in the ride.

My own family’s life is richer with a depth of learning in my children than I could have ever achieved on my own. The redemption in education I have received is a great miracle in that I now know details of history, literature, and science that never entered my brain during grammar and middle school years (my verbal abilities could talk me into passing grades). The home days are relaxed, comparatively, to that of other school children. Our TCS friendships are like-minded, with discipline of children’s hearts at the forefront.

Thank you, TCS founders, board members and our dear Head of School. We are grateful for you and for these last five years. Your sacrifices haven’t been for naught. I’m a little teary now remembering the personal costs and admiring the accomplishments. Now to plan a really big parade.

Role Modeling for Our Role Models

A reflection by Dr. Christi Williams, Logic School Humanities teacher

For this blog post, I would like to simply share an experience I had this past year that was one of the countless examples to me of what a Christian classical education can and should be. I was reminded of the role parents and teachers have in motivating their children and students to pursue wisdom for the right reasons, in the right way, with the right kind of hearts, and how it is crucial that our children have role-models – older human beings who are daily striving in humility and passion to truly embody all that we teach, in whom love of Christ is central, and who can help us take on this arduous and delightful task of raising and educating our children.

This past year I taught the oldest students currently at Trinity, the seventh graders. Early this spring, the head of our school – a man all the students deeply love and respect (he reads aloud to them at lunch, knows and prays for them all, doesn’t hesitate to express compassion for them individually) – came into my homeroom and sat down to have a short chat with the students. He told them, with warmth, conviction, and earnestness, that he prays for them regularly by name, that as the oldest kids at the school, they have a great privilege and responsibility to be models of Christ. God has implicitly given them the beautiful task, he said, of becoming the kind of human beings all the other students can look up to.

And he said that, more than anything else he could want for them at Trinity, he wants them to experience learning as an act of worship to God – not for self, grades, achievement, temporal recognition, or as a stair-step to “success.” All these things, he added, will actually become great temptations, if they are not already. And he humbly admitted that he struggles with these things, even though he loves learning, loves the Lord, and wants to be in school his whole life.

He told them that if education is not done as an act of worship and for Christ, with purity of heart, it is meaningless (and could even do great harm). Then he prayed for them. And they hung on every word.

This, I believe, is the kind of spirit that can light fires in our children’s and students’ hearts, set them journeying in their pursuit of wisdom, especially and only insofar as it is bathed in humility, supported by prayer, delighted in with genuine joy, and consecrated to Christ, for His glory.

The Donation of Constantine: Why Academics Matter

forgeryby Dr. Lindsey Scholl, Logic School Academic Coordinator

Sometimes those involved in Christian education feel the temptation to simply give it all up and go preach the Gospel in the simplest terms possible. Why are we teaching our kids Latin, algebra, pre-modern history, and formal grammar when all that is truly needed is to love the Lord our God with all of our hearts, souls, and minds?

I have no idea what heaven’s educational scene will look like, but down here, proper and rigorous education can save us a great deal of grief. I’m not simply talking about scientific and technological breakthroughs, although those are fabulous. Today I want to give you an example of what might be considered an “obscure breakthrough,” but one that changed the face of Christianity’s relationship to secular powers such as kings, dukes, etc.

For centuries, the medieval papacy believed it had two particular prerogatives. The first was a right to appoint or depose secular rulers. You can see why this would give the medieval popes a great deal of power: if you feel that you can appoint King A and get rid of King B, then you are going to use that power (and perhaps for good reason). Yet King B might object, which can cause a tension and even violence.  The second was the right to own lands in Italy, specifically Rome and surrounding areas. Again, more power and more tension, because the papacy becomes a government all on its own that could collect taxes, wages wars, and behave like a secular government.

The papacy believed it had both of these powers partly because of a document called “The Donation of Constantine.” This “donation” was supposedly given by Constantine the Great in the 300s to the pope at the time. In this act, Constantine gave the pope jurisdiction over “the city of Rome and all the provinces, districts and cities of Italy or of the western regions” (http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/donatconst.asp). If such a document were authentic, imagine how remarkable it would be! It would be as if the President of the United States said, “Church, I give you all the power you want over the state of Texas. You can own it, govern it, tax it, and even go to war with it.”

The trouble was, “The Donation of Constantine” was a forgery. Constantine never wrote such a document—nor, as a savvy politician, would he. It was forged in the 700s, four hundred years after Constantine’s rule. It was not the papacy’s fault that this forgery had crept in, but it was a forgery nonetheless.

Now to the point of this little essay: someone had to discover that it was a forgery. In doing so, that person released the secular rulers from certain obligations to an over-powerful papacy. It also released the papacy itself from feeling like it had to rule the world in a governmental sense.

Although some had already suspected the document’s authenticity, the person who proved and broadcasted it as a forgery was Lorenzo Valla, who wrote in the mid-1400s. Valla was a highly educated man who knew Latin better than the back of his hand, as well as other classical texts, theories, and trends. When he applied his considerable learning to “The Donation of Constantine,” he found that the Latin in the document was not the sort of Latin Constantine would have used. It was the sort of Latin that writers in the 700s would have used. Thus, it was a forgery.

In the history of forgeries, “The Donation of Constantine” is neither the most troubling nor significant. Nevertheless, it was a falsehood that had crept into the Church and provided support for a false way of thinking. It took an individual of great education to discover and correct it (after all, who on the medieval street could tell the difference between 4th century and 8th century Latin?). Without someone applying a certain degree of learning to the document, the forgery could have persisted even to the present day.

As we wrap up another school year, we have no idea how God is going to use our students’ education. Undoubtedly there are still more forgeries to uncover and more truths to reveal. Perhaps their studies in ancient history in 1st grade or physics in 7th will contribute to ridding the world of significant, detrimental misconceptions? I’m thinking on a grand scale here, but as summer approaches, anything seems possible.