Newness

newness-4By Kyle Bryant, Heights Campus Director

Newness isn’t new. In fact, it’s the oldest concept in the universe. And in the end, it’s the longest lasting. In the opening lines of Genesis, we read that “God created the heavens and the earth,” a new creation. In the same way, at the end of Revelation Jesus proclaims, “behold, I am making all things new.” Newness is woven into every aspect of nature and every part of our lives. That’s what makes starting a new school year such a special—yet ordinary—endeavor.

In morning assembly this quarter, we are learning how God speaks to us through nature. Through our hymns and scripture, we are taught that “there is no speech, nor are there words, whose voice is not heard.” This, right after seeing that “the heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims His handiwork.” Nature is speaking to us about God, and it is speaking to us about the nature of newness all around us.

A fascinating thing about newness is that, when we think about it, newness almost always follows on the heels of a death of some sort. A new sunrise follows the previous day’s sunset. A new tree follows the death and resurrection of the previous tree’s seed. A new age in history follows the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. And a new heart—our new hearts—follow the symbolic death, burial, and resurrection of our baptism, into newness of life.

As Christ slowly makes all things new, we act out the liturgy of newness in small ways each day. We lay ourselves down to sleep in darkness, and arise to new mercies (and new sunrises!) in the morning light. We daily put to death our own sin and selfishness, and rise with new passion and vigor to love our God and our neighbors. The death-burial-resurrection-newness paradigm is all around us, if we just look for it. We can even think this way in the context of our children’s education.

Remember, newness isn’t new. When we are baptized as a new creation, we are baptized into a centuries old faith. When we begin the journey of a new classical Christian school, we are joining an old educational tradition. Although there is a newness in both our lives in Christ and our educational pursuits (especially for first-time co-teachers!), we do not enter into newness in isolation. Rather, we have friends, institutions, and—most importantly—God’s word to guide us along the way. I must admit there is great peace in knowing that generations of faithful people have gone before us, for the euphoria of newness (whether new life in Christ, new marriage, or new school year) eventually fades, and we are left to face many pitfalls and setbacks. Our passion for the things of God wanes, our friends try our patience, education becomes labor and toil. The cares of this world threaten to choke and stifle the new growth we see in all these areas. Embarking on something new is hard!

But this is exactly why the daily liturgies of newness are so important—and meaningful. Each morning when we wake up to a new sunrise, God’s mercies are new as well. His grace to sustain us in all things is fresh, and it is is given for that day alone. When we place our trust and our hope in Christ, these promises are ours. The daily rituals of newness remind us of these promises, and they invite us to incline our hearts to the one who makes (and will make) all things new.

As we reach our stride into the new school year, remember that the newness of the year will fade; pitfalls and obstacles will come. And they will threaten to undo us. But as Martin Luther once wrote, “we will not fear, for God hath willed His truth to triumph through us.” When we wake up each new morning to teach new lessons about God’s world to our children, we partake in that triumph of truth, by God’s grace. So while our school, our lessons, and our teachers may be new, we are telling an old, old story about how the Son of God came to make all things new along the way.

 

Let There Be Light

Trinity Classical School a private school in Houston Texas

I’m fascinated with light. Isn’t everyone? The embers of the summer campfire burn down and I can’t look away… neither can my kids. Our family hiked another section of the Appalachian Trail this summer. Amongst the dozens of ways the sun and moon throw light on the mountains, I wouldn’t be able to choose a favorite. Maybe the morning sun as it invades the pines at a slant, cuts through the fog making bright smoke beams. If you forced me, I’d choose that just barely over how the mountaintop sunset causes the distant mountains to change colors several times within the span of an hour.

I’m no less fascinated by manufactured light. I was at a friend’s ranch this summer and he had some really powerful flashlights. They sliced through the darkness for hundreds of yards. They felt like weapons. We went to a HIllsong United concert a few weeks back. They pulled off some new light maneuvers I hadn’t seen. At one point, the room was pitch black, and the entire stage was surrounded by large can lights, all white, facing straight up. It was like the band was in a jail cell of light, impenetrable. Also, the thing they do at stadium events these days when everyone turns on their cell phone light all at once. As much I have a love/ hate relationship with the cell phone–I’m a sucker for that move. It’s a powerful visual metaphor for a deeper reality.

In my intro at Opening Night last week (you can watch the whole event here), I confessed I’m still a little afraid of the dark. And, for the record, men, that was a bit of a rhetorical move, I don’t want you to be concerned. The darkness is real. But as much as the darkness continues to concern me (think of the look on Gandalf’s face in the scenes when he ponders the dangerous road ahead), the light mesmerizes me.

It was our creator’s very first move. The Spirit of God was hovering over the waters in the dark and at a distinct point in time, he said his first, “let there be.” It was light first. On a later day, he created light sources. He commissioned one of them to “run its course with joy” as a testament to us. There is a light source in the sky that supplies what we need to make it through the day–light and heat. It never takes a day off. We never, ever doubt it’s going to do its job. We can’t look directly at it or it would blind us. We know it’s there, we see it indirectly, and we reap its benefits in all sorts of ways that we take for granted.

It doesn’t take much light to undo the darkness. Plug in the little night light, and your boy can sleep in peace. Darkness is pervasive, but light is potent. John tells us the Light is the very life of men.

We have over 500 potential light-bearers at TCS this year. If they surrender to Jesus, the promise of the indwelt Spirit will produce the light and life that John speaks of in their very souls. We will pray and sow towards students who will bear the Light. Then, we will work to cut them loose on a dark world that the glory of God will shine, shine, shine among men.

Productive Rest

Relaxing on hammock in gardenby Tim Woods, Logic School Director and 9th G Humanities Teacher

Hello TCS families, friends, students and faculty! I hope you have been enjoying a restful summer. What a curious thing it is, to wish someone a restful summer? But it’s true, isn’t it? We build up the end of a school year and look forward to a rejuvenating period before ramping up in August. But in reality so often this time can be anything but restful. Why is this the case? What can be done about it? Here are a few thoughts on a Christian view of rest taking cues from Jesus through Scripture.

What first struck me when sitting down to think about rest is just how bad Americans are at it. When I was thinking about this blog post, I could recall many conversations between my wife and I where she would confess struggling to just sit down and not be doing something productive. And the reality is that she and many of us, Christians included, struggle with the need to always be efficient with our time. Now there’s nothing wrong with that. In fact, some of us ought to be challenged with being more productive with our time (but that’s a topic for another post). The struggle is not whether or not we can ever be productive, but how we see rest and regeneration as an efficient use of our time as well.

First, we should take a look at why we rest. When God created the heavens and the earth, he undertook a monumental task. Now we can assume that because no task is too great for God, that he didn’t need a lunch break to wipe his brow from all that effort. But all the same on the seventh day God rested: “So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation” (Gen. 2:3). Thus it is clear that God did not require rest and instead he gave this day to humanity as a blessing by making it holy (“set apart”) for the purpose of resting. Not only that, but he models the very respite he expects of us by exemplifying this rest in the creation narrative. This picture of a work week gives us both an exhortation and a challenge. This encourages us to step away from our work for a time because we are following our Father in Heaven by doing so. God challenges our perfection by demanding that we consider our work we accomplished on the other six days of the week good. Christ continues this encouragement and exhortation in his ministry to Mary and Martha.

At the end of the tenth chapter of Luke, Jesus has finished a period of instruction and case study with his apostles and disciples. Luke also includes a story of Jesus’ visit with the two sisters Mary and Martha in the town of Bethany. You probably know the rest of this story but in the end, Mary is praised for sitting at the feet of Jesus and Martha is challenged by the Lord, saying “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:41-42). Now again, notice that Jesus does not say that Martha completely give up her role as a caretaker of the house. His encouragement for her is that in her current context, she ought to temporarily put down her work and take a moment of rest.

The reality is that a healthy life of rest requires intentionality and faithfulness. Here are some options to think about when considering your life of rest:

  • “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy”

I always admired my brother because he would work extra hard at school on Friday and Saturday so that he could enjoy Sunday as a day of rest with a clear conscience. (I confess that I have never lived in such a way to keep my Sundays completely free from work).

  • 24-Hour System

And if Sundays are not convenient, consider a 24-hour period from Saturday-Sunday afternoon that would be your family’s period of rest. I personally enjoy this system as it gives intentionality to my weekend to spend with my family but I also have the liberty to prepare for the work week after dinner on Sunday evening.

  • Daily Bread System

If neither of those options work, then I would think about setting an hour in the evening, after the dishes are away and before the family goes to sleep, a few times a week when the phones go away, the TV/entertainment device turns off, and the family can simply recharge together. My wife and I have taken to reading through the Bible together and I confess that it gets me excited to do the dishes when I get to look forward to that intentional time with her.

I hope this has at least given you some things to think about. A healthy work/rest balance has been a struggle for me as well (and it does not get easier the older you get). It’s my prayer that the better God’s people are at resting, the more enriched and vibrant our work for him will be.

Heart Check-Up

o-HEART-DISEASE check upBy Primer Teacher, Janice Stolle

In this month’s blog post, Primer teacher Janice Stolle—who is also mom to a teenager—sums up key points from Age of Opportunity, by Paul David Tripp

 

At Trinity Classical School we have students ranging in age from age 4 to age 16. As our student population is maturing and the oldest among us are approaching adulthood, some families may be struggling with what you might call “the dreaded teen years!” Our society often characterizes the teenage years as a time of drama, emotion, and broken communication between parent and child. Parents can be made to feel like the adolescent time period is something we must endure or survive. But according to author Paul David Tripp, it doesn’t have to be that way. Let us first take a look at the strife in our home and see our own role in the unfolding drama. We must check our own hearts and be sure they are aligned with God before we expect our teens to do the same.

As parents, we struggle with our teens because they often bring out the worst in us. They expose our self-righteousness, our impatience, our unforgiving spirit, our lack of faith, lack of a servant’s love, and our craving for comfort. Unlike a younger child, a teen can better recognize our sin and we can quickly become hypocrites in their eyes. We adults may have idols in our hearts, and when these idols are threatened, anger may rule our reactions to our teens. Some of these idols are:

  1. Idol of comfort It’s not always convenient to deal with our teen’s need when we are in the middle of a task, tired, or we’re looking forward to relaxing. A trip to the store at 8:00pm for an item for school may provoke an attitude of grumbling or complaining on our part. But our heart must reflect that of our Savior. In the gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke we read of how after a day of ministering, Jesus comes to Peter’s home, heals Peter’s mother-in-law and then the sick from whole the city gathered at the door to be healed after sunset. Jesus definitely deserved a siesta, but instead the Bible says he healed many.
  2. Idol of appreciation Parenting in general, is an exercise in thankless giving. But teens very often neglect to express gratitude. A “Gee, Mom, you’re the best!” every once in a  while would be great. But our motive should be to impress God only. “But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, that your charitable deed may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly” (Matthew 6:3-4).
  3. Idol of success This idol rears its head when we just happen to casually mention how our teen prodigy pitched a no-hitter, earned a black belt, or achieved his aviator’s license. By the way, those are actual accomplishments of my Facebook friends’ kids! But when we look at our teen as an extension of ourselves and see them as responsible for our feeling of pride at their successes or of disappointment for their lack of achievement, we have placed the idol of success before the love of our children. We all know how our God feels about pride. He hates it! (Proverbs 16:5, 16:18)
  4. Idol of control: Oh, this is a biggie! It seemed that when my teen was a wee child in the single digits, he was so much easier to control. He was compliant and obedient… but he was three feet tall! Now my son is bigger than me and well, he looks like a man! As my teenage son is maturing and striving to become independent, he regularly voices his own, often differing opinion. It is natural that he seeks to have more control over his choices such as friends, activities, entertainment, etc. One Scriptural truth we parents love to cling to is Proverb 22:16: “Train a child up in the way that he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” Well, the “old” part doesn’t just happen one day. It is a process that begins even before the teen years and continues through adulthood. You see, we should desire that our teen move beyond simply obeying us and transition to making decisions based on wisdom and doing what is right.

Parents, these idols that rule our hearts are a stumbling block, preventing us from viewing the teenage years as a hopeful season filled with opportunities to teach God’s truth to our teens. Instead we may be at odds with our teen. In our attempt to shepherd our teen’s heart to be oriented toward Christ and for him to have a right focus in behavior and when making decisions, we must be a model of selfless giving, humble confession, gracious acceptance, and forgiveness. Tripp reminds us that within the context of family, God’s primary learning community, we must first check, and then align our hearts toward Christ to effectively shepherd our teen to have a heart for God.

 

Heroes

Superhero-paint

by Dr. John Scholl, Academic Dean and Rhetoric Director

This year, the TCS ninth graders are engaged in a four part study of the ancient world—Israel, Greece, Rome, and early Christianity—and at each stop along our journey we have analyzed heroes, men and women who were idolized by these cultures. Thus far, we have compiled a long list of men and women, including Abraham and Jacob from Israel, Achilles and Odysseus from Greece, and Mucius and Lucretia from Rome. These people are windows into the cultures they represent and are worthy of study because they show us what kind of people these cultures considered great and admirable.

I also find this study rewarding on a personal level. As a kid, I often thought about heroes, of course the superheroes who lived on TV, but even more so, historical American heroes: George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, and my favorite, Davy Crockett. I wanted to emulate them, so I dressed as Davy Crockett for Halloween and read several books about him. My heart thrilled with excitement as I learned his story: his rise from obscurity to the halls of Congress (he even considered running for President!), his journey to Texas, and his death at the Alamo, as he sacrificed himself for the liberty of his new home. It seemed like a marvelous story. It inspired me and shaped my vision of greatness.

Crockett would have fit easily among the ranks of Roman heroes. In the third quarter, the 9th graders read Books 1 and 2 of Livy’s History of Rome and there encountered many of Rome’s most cherished legends. The story of Mucius is a great example. Mucius became a hero when he attempted to assassinate a king who was marching against Rome. The assassination went awry, but rather than accepting execution meekly, Mucius stood before the king, jabbed his right hand in a fire, and casually burned it off, to display the courage and determination of the Roman people. His message was simple: Romans would sacrifice everything rather than accept the loss of liberty. Shocked by Mucius’ act, the king gave up his invasion. Livy argues that Rome’s greatness and glory were established by men and women like Mucius, lovers of liberty, models of courage, patriotism, and self-sacrifice.

Then Julius Caesar arrived on the scene (to oversimply the story just a bit). Caesar was certainly courageous but not terribly interested in self-sacrifice or liberty. He sought glory and was as much a Greek hero, in the model of Achilles or Alexander the Great, as a Roman one. His accession to power was a watershed moment for Rome. In accepting him as dictator for life, the Romans created a new heroic ideal, by which men became idols (in fact, many were deified) partly by wooing the people with gifts: food—ultimately free grain for a city of more than 500,000 people—and entertainment. This new type of hero, almost a complete opposite to the heroes of the past, was the standard for Caesar’s successors, the emperors who created Imperial Rome.

Why study this? Or what should we learn from this? I always struggle to answer those questions for my students. Applying the lessons of history can be a difficult task, one that is done poorly, in my opinion, more often than well. That said, I will offer briefly one lesson that I hope the 9th graders will learn from our study.

The rise of Caesar, and in him the creation of a new Roman ideal, is a great reminder that we need to choose our heroes carefully. Livy wrote his history to point out the dangers of the new imperial ideal and to call his fellow Romans back to the past, to the greater, higher heroism of men like Mucius. In a similar vein, one might call Americans back to our past heroes—surely a fitting pursuit in an election year. However, I want to take the lesson in a different direction. As a youth, I could love Davy Crockett only because I was ignorant of his faults. He was courageous and patriotic, yes, but also neglectful of his family and of God. He was in many ways, then, a great American—patriotic, courageous, passionate about liberty—but not a great Christian. American Christians can easily fall into the trap that captured me, lionizing American heroes while ignoring their pursuit of Christ. Sadly, many great Americans have not been great Christians. We must, therefore, be wary of following them too closely and look elsewhere for our heroes. That is what my students are considering as they study early Christianity in the fourth quarter.

 

The Heavens Declare

heavens declare

by Kate Patrick, Rhetoric School Math/Science

The heavens declare the glory of God,

and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.

Day to day pours out speech,

and night to night reveals knowledge.

There is no speech, nor are there words,

whose voice is not heard…

The law of the Lord is perfect,

reviving the soul;

the testimony of the Lord is sure,

making wise the simple;

the precepts of the Lord are right,

rejoicing the heart;

the commandment of the Lord is pure,

enlightening the eyes;

Psalm 19: 1-3, 7-8

Take a few moments and transport your mind back to the Renaissance. You’re Tycho Brahe, spending your nights gazing at the stars from the attic of your home, taking notes and doing math, charting the regularity of God’s creation. During the day, you join your family and your community at mass, hearing, in Latin, the words of the 19th psalm. King David, speaking to you from across the centuries, communicating the rhythmic regularity and beauty of the created world. You think, “How did David know? Had he charted the course of the stars? How could he have this depth of knowledge of God’s perfection without the physical evidence I am faced with night after night?”

Tycho Brahe, believing wholeheartedly in the perfection of God’s created order, correctly predicted several major astronomical events in his lifetime. He then passed down his charts and computations to Johannes Kepler, who would in turn, gave them structure and codified them in to scientific law. These men, scientists to their core, physicists before the science had unified in to one field, relied on the Word of God’s promise of perfection to explore His Created world. One could argue that this was the reality of scientific exploration through the majority of its history – men (and later women) of faith, seeking to define what God had already perfectly balanced and enumerated.

When Sir Isaac Newton published his magnum opus, 1687’s Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematice, he used the work of Brahe and Kepler to expand the natural laws that God had set forth to include the concept of gravity and suddenly, our solar system came into view. Our Heavens sung the song of perfect creation and we could describe natural phenomena, wondrous creation that had captured the imagination of generations. Science’s faith in God’s perfection in creation even lead to a 200 year-long chase to capture the “missing” 43 arc-seconds per century in the perihelion of Mercury. Many scientists tried and failed to find the cause of the shift in Mercury’s orbit, something that would cause the planet to seem to defy the order of the Laws of Creation. Finally resolved by Einstein in his description of relativity, the chase was over, and the perfection of God’s creation left scientists in awe once again. Einstein himself said, “There is no logical way to the discovery of elemental laws. There is only the way of intuition, which is helped by a feeling for the order lying behind the appearance.”

This brings our trek through the history of science and scientific thought to today. No longer taught to seek out God’s perfection seeing everywhere the “order lying behind the appearance”, scientists are currently being educated in the art of the fudge-factor. If chaos births chaos and created order is not to be expected from our world, then there is no reason to pursue an answer to a question. Science is compromised in the substitution of interpretation for facts, in perspective for the truth. If there is no Creator and no created order, then there is no reason to believe that perfection can be found, so the pursuit is dropped wholesale. As Believers, we know that this is not true, that we can see the Hand of God working in our natural world and that His creation is ours to discover.

As we steward the next generation of scientists, let’s remind them (and ourselves) not just of the beauty of the world around us, but of the order and the regularity of God’s design. Who knows what wonders can be unlocked if our science begins, once again, to acknowledge that we are not describing a chaotic system of uncontrolled chain reactions beginning with a butterfly flapping its wings in Africa, but that we are observing and defining an intricately designed machine that was built specifically with us in mind and in heart?

The Greatest Commandment in Education

appleheart

by Michelle Duncan, Second Grade teacher

I believe the most critical element of successful education is love. Not only sincerely loving the person you are educating, but also communicating that love consistently and effectively. As a teacher, whether in the classroom or at home, if we have not love then we are only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.

We are all familiar with the saying, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” This definitely applies to our students. They don’t want to learn from us unless they know that we love them. Really, truly, deeply love them. Even if we are able to “force them” to pay attention through discipline and routines — the information they acquire will not transform their hearts, minds, souls like true education should. One educator says it this way: “Knowledge cannot be passed, like some material substance, from one person to another. Thoughts are not things which may be held and handled. They are the unseen and silent acts of the invisible mind.”¹ Furthermore, “The vigor of mental action, like that of muscular action, is proportioned to the feeling which inspires it. The powers of the intellect do not come forth in their full strength at the mere command of a teacher, nor on the call of some cold sense of duty. Nor can the mind exert its full force upon themes which but lightly touch the feelings.”  If we don’t make education personal — then the person learning won’t care.

In my experience I have seen this most clearly on difficult days. At the end of a hectic and trying day I often realize that I was teaching without intentionally looking at my students in their eyes or without smiling at them. It is far too easy to get wrapped up in completing the lesson well and in a timely manner; so much so that I can forget that the most eloquently spoken and efficiently taught lesson is worthless if in the end it is nothing more than a box to check off. We must guard against becoming so task oriented that we forget to smile. We must intentionally remember and choose to delight in what we are teaching and, more importantly, to actively love whom we are teaching.

But what about when teaching is simply hard to enjoy?  How should we respond when a child continually derails the day? What do you do with the kid who won’t cooperate even when you’re trying to make it fun? What about the fact that we do need to check things off and accomplish tasks?

Our default is often to discipline. And this isn’t necessarily wrong! Children need discipline and it is an essential part of any healthy parent/child relationship as well as student/teacher relationship. However, what God has been coaching me on lately is that even on the toughest days, perhaps especially on the toughest days, the most beneficial response is a little extra loving-kindness. As counterintuitive as this feels when my plans are being interrupted and my day complicated by a child’s bad behavior—isn’t this response the heart of the gospel? “While we were yet sinners Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).  It is the kindness of the Lord that leads to repentance. Before administering the well-earned discipline to the child—have I offered unmerited favor and lavish love like Christ offers to me? Have I invited them into repentance with an embrace? Or do I always require the students to earn their rewards?

Sometimes the roughest days are when they most need a treat. And to not always have to earn it? This is amazing grace. Of course we ought to use discernment in each circumstance. It is a disservice to the child to spoil them. There is a time for loving discipline. The only way to know which response is most appropriate is discernment through the Holy Spirit. And, the only way we will have love to give (as well as know how to express it in the moment) is by knowing Love himself.  If we are not walking in love, living by his spirit, and filled with His spirit then we are helpless to love our children effectively and therefore helpless to educate them fully in what matters most. There is a reason that the greatest commandment is to love God and the second is to love your neighbor. What Love looks like, acts like, speaks like in the toughest moments is the most important education we can impart to the children. Love expressed as kindness and grace cannot be left out of the equation.

¹ John Milton Gregory, The Seven Laws of Teaching, (Moscow, Idaho: Reprinted from the first edition text (1886), unabridged, by Canon Press), 41, 42.