Principal's Blog


Champion-ship

posted Mar 7, 2011, 10:45 AM by Unknown user

I looked up the meaning of the word champion in the Webster's 1828 dictionary just now and I was happy to see it mean what I thought it would: A man who undertakes a combat in the place or cause of another (championess being the female equivalent). In the Old Testament, David was the champion of the Israelites that was sent out to combat the Philistine champion, Goliath.

Over the last two weeks, GGCA has sent out some champions and championesses to contest some basketball games against opponents from other schools. The young men won league and state title victories and they are to be commended along with their coaches for these accomplishments. The young ladies did not fare as well, but they represented our school with grace and dignity and have nothing to be ashamed of.

I think that there is a Finished Work perspective that we can derive from the old meaning of the word champion. Our student athletes are already champions the moment they put on their uniforms, because they are undertaking a combat or competition on behalf of all the rest of us here at the school. They don't have to come in first place to be champions (which is the modern denotation of the word) - they just have to take up the challenge on our behalf and go out and do their best, trusting God for the outcome. Sometimes (like last Saturday), we may look like David taking on Goliath before the game begins, but as "more than conquerors" we end up battling back from adversity and coming out on top. We thank God for when he blesses us with the first place finishes, but we are not diminished by a loss, because we were champions no matter what the outcome.

Thank you to everyone who made this season great - the athletes and coaches, the moms and dads, the teachers, the fans, and the bus drivers - all the ones who supported our young men and women who made us proud.

Wired Up?

posted Feb 17, 2011, 4:39 AM by Unknown user   [ updated Feb 18, 2011, 2:45 AM ]

I have been hoping for an opportunity to sit down and write about this topic I have had on my mind for a while now, and today the opportunity has arrived, because Stacey McCarter is in the office for the day to relieve some of the burden that has happily fallen upon us of responding to all the recent inquiries about our wonderful school. In his capacity as registrar, Nathan McFarland has been extremely busy responding to all these inquiries and Jen Lynch has a very busy job already, so Mrs. Lange and I have been doing a little front desk duty and some substituting for sick teachers as well as our usual "stuff" and my blog has been ignored. Today I plan to remedy this.

There has been a lot of buzz lately in and out of educational circles about the effect of digital technology on our young people. A recent issue of an educational periodical I subscribe to used the term 'screenagers' to describe adolescents who spend hours a day online, on their phones, on in front of a television, the boundaries between these technologies becoming increasingly blurred since you can now make phone calls from your computer (where you can also watch TV shows), you can watch TV and surf the Internet from your smartphone, and you can access Internet content from your television set. The most recent issue of TIME magazine says that on average, children from 8 to 18 spend 7 hours and 38 minutes per day using entertainment media, often multitasking by texting while watching TV or some other combination of technologies. The concern is for what all this screen time is doing to the brains of our young people: Is all of this technology/media use re-wiring the minds of our kids?

The article says that we have created a culture of distraction, where we do not focus on any one thing, but try to attend to many stimuli in our environments simultaneously. Biologically speaking, the center for focusing in our brains, the hippocampus, is not being exercised, so we are being programmed to focus less and we are losing the ability to apply abstract rules to new problems. Distracted multitaskers learn things as we learn habits, using the procedural memory part of the brain, which is only useful for repetitive tasks like tying your shoes, driving a car, or assembly line work. Do we want our children to be able to do sustained thinking, high level thinking, the thinking that leads to success in school and in good careers? I think we do. I think we want our kids to be able to focus and to be able to apply principles to new problems and situations that are not exactly like the one given as an example in the textbook or shown on the board by the teacher. 

The author of the TIME article said that his concern was that in a world where we can be connected 24/7, we are subject to all those competing for our attention unless we choose to disconnect. Some of us sleep with our phones beside our pillows and wake up to the buzz of an incoming text message which deprives us of much-needed sleep. We see students coming to school exhausted because they are talking on the phone, texting, playing video games, etc., when they should be sleeping at night. The double whammy of lack of sleep and a brain wired for distraction is a surefire recipe for trouble of some sort in school. I shudder when I think that people like this are driving on the highway with me - sleep deprived and easily distracted.

One last thing I will mention here in passing, but hope to address in the future, is the danger of your child being infected by pornography. Pornography is everywhere in the digital age and it is targeting children, trying to hook them when they are young and impressionable. It is easy to access and it is easy for pornographers to prey upon the minds of our children. Are you sure your child has not been exposed? Giving your child a device that can connect to the Internet can be like handing your child a loaded gun. That wi-fi connected iPod Touch with access to funny YouTube videos? It can also broadcast filth, things would would not allow your child to watch on the family television. I am asking you to be aware, to be vigilant, to protect your children so that are not victimized by the evil that is stalking them in this world.

I love technology. It is all I can do not to run out and buy myself an iPad today and a Kindle tonight. I have a personal computer and an iPod Touch, so I am not some Luddite who despises technology. What I am saying is that we need to be so very, very careful with what technology we allow our children to possess and the potential dangers that they and our families could face because Satan is going to use the technology to spread his message just as much as we are trying to use it to spread the Gospel. 

Roots

posted Jan 31, 2011, 6:59 AM by Unknown user

This past Friday I went to the office of Stanley J. Miller, M.D., P.A. for some Mohs micrographic surgery on my left temple where a basal cell carcinoma had been identified. Dr. Miller said that this kind of skin cancer was not the kind that could spread to other parts of my body, but that it did have roots that could grow down below the surface of my skin and do damage to the muscle and bone tissue below. He removed the affected area, checked it under a microscope, pronounced that he had gotten all of the roots, then sewed me up. I really didn't need another hole in my head.

I tried to imagine what these roots looked like. I have done my share of uprooting trees and other plants in my lifetime, so I know what those kinds of roots look like, and I know how difficult it can be to completely remove them. I remember pulling up the roots to some sort of weedy plant only to discover that the roots had spread all throughout the yard and were connected to other weedy plants that needed to be dug up. It seemed as though I would have to dig up the entire back yard if I wanted to remove every last one of the roots and that the weeds would come back in force if I left even one of the roots intact. I was glad it was not my yard, but not so glad that what had seemed like a simple chore now presented itself as hours of backbreaking labor in the hot sun. Then I remembered some of the plants that had very shallow roots which, as a boy, I would pluck up and hurl like grenades in our neighborhood wars along with acorns, dirt bombs, pricker-burrs, and milkweed pods which exploded into clouds of white fuzz upon impact. I don't think my roots were anything like either of these. Maybe my basal cell roots were more like a carrot or dandelion, a tap root with little tertiary root hairs branching off it. Maybe I should have asked to see my roots.

Pastor Schaller spoke about having our roots in the proper place this Sunday. Our flesh is rooted in fear, guilt, and shame, but our new nature is rooted in grace.. We grow in grace (2 Peter 3:18). Ephesians 3:17 says we are rooted and grounded in love, or, in other words, we are rooted and grounded in the character and nature of God, for God is love (1 John 4:8). Such roots! The deeper these roots go, the more we will grow up in Him, in Christ (Ephesians 4:15). Jesus calls himself the Root in Revelation 22. We are so very blessed as believers to have a Root that is eternal, a Root that nourishes us and causes us to flourish. As long as the Root is intact, the plant will grow, and there's no way our Root is going anywhere, so we have great security and stability in Him.

Another idea of roots is heritage. Roberta Martellucci sent me a copy of something Pastor Stevens wrote for one of the first (if not the first) yearbooks produced by our Christian school when it was just a seedling back in Scarborough, Maine in the mid-1970s. It was encouraging to read his philosophy of Christian education in a nutshell and to realize that our school's roots have not been moved. We still believe the same things we did thirty-five years ago. Such roots we have! Pastor Stevens is no longer with us, but the roots he helped establish are going strong. We are blessed people to have a school with roots deep in grace and truth. I suppose this makes me sort of a husbandman, a gentleman farmer, I hope, cultivating the soil alongside all of you, to produce fruit in the lives we touch in this ministry of Christian education.

Let's pray for green thumbs and deeper roots!

Care

posted Jan 12, 2011, 7:35 AM by Unknown user   [ updated Jan 13, 2011, 5:34 AM ]

Yesterday, I wrote about the necessity of being an active participant in a child's education. I have a few thoughts that I wish to add to this topic, now that I have had some time to converse a bit with teachers and parents on this topic.

I think that every child wants to know that his parents (and the other significant adults in his or her life) care.

What does this mean in a practical sense? I think it means giving time and attention, asking questions and showing interest. It means persisting.

Do my dad and mom care about me? 
  • Does he come to see me play my games?
  • Does he look over my homework or ask about the book I am reading for school?
  • Does she check my grades on the computer and try to help my solve my problems?
  • Does he notice when I am not myself and sit and listen when I need to pour out my messy thoughts and emotions?
  • Does she stay on my case even when I tell her to leave me alone, because she knows that, left alone, I can't help myself and things will only get worse?
  • Do my parents pray with me and talk to me from a biblical point of view about stuff that can make me feel uncomfortable when we talk about it (like convictions about tithing, church attendance, music, movies, books, puberty, relationships, dating, and sex, to name a few)?
I know that it is different being a parent today than it was when I was growing up. I came home to find my mother waiting for me when I got off the bus, and she managed my play and homework time, had a snack waiting and dinner planned for when my father got home. Today, everyone is so much busier, going this way and that, doing many, many things and we all have the ability to entertain ourselves in our own little, separate worlds through the wonders of technology. One alarming statistic shows that, on average, parents and children spend 3.5 minutes per week in meaningful conversation while, on average, children 1680 minutes (28 hours) per week parked in front of a television. Wow.

I think parenting has never been an easy responsibility, but that it is harder today. Our culture has changed a lot, but the basic needs of our children haven't and our responsibility to train them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord has not either.

One particular young man in our school has his teachers concerned about him. They have noticed that something is bothering him, and they desire to help him. He has resisted several attempts to connect with him, but the teachers have persisted. Why? He isn't their son. But they love him. They care. He is sending all the signals that say, "Back off! I don't need you," but the teachers see something in his eyes that says, "Don't give up on me. I need to talk to somebody." Yesterday, there was a tiny break though, and the young man's guard was let down just enough for him to receive a bit of the help being offered to him. It was a small thing, but it was something, and that teacher rejoiced, because a connection had been made. Care was given and care was received through the few moments of communication.

I am forty-nine years old, but I still thank God that I have parents who care about me and, even more, a Savior who cares about me. We need to know that somebody cares about us, for our souls, and for who we are. 1 Peter 5:7 "Casting all your care upon Him, for he cares for you."

And we're back!

posted Jan 11, 2011, 4:19 AM by Unknown user

"And we're back!" That's what they say to hosts of live broadcasts to let them know that the commercials have they can be seen and heard by their viewers. The Christmas holiday break has ended and now we're back - back to the business of school, working to finish the second quarter, to bring the first half of the school year to a close. Tomorrow may be one of those, "We interrupt this broadcast" kind of events, better known here in Baltimore during the winter as a snow day. The forecasters are calling for a few inches of the frozen white stuff, so regularly scheduled programming may be preempted by sledding and other snow day activities.

I am preparing to teach a Bible college class called Essentials of Teaching. My first class is on Monday, and I am still waiting for the "Eureka!" moment of revelation when God tells me exactly what he expects me to teach that day and all the Mondays to follow. In my mind, I hope to give my students the most essential equipment they need to get started as a teacher. The trouble is, it is likely that most of my students do not see themselves teaching in the future, so they may not be eager to learn. But I think that most believers are called upon to be teachers eventually, since that is part of the Great Commission, and if my students plan to be parents (or already are parents), teaching is a huge part of being a parent. As our church revamps its youth ministries, there is the need for more teachers to serve in those ministries, If I can help prepare some folks to be these teachers, that will be awesome.

One thing that we are discussing in the school and the educational ministries as a whole is the vital importance of parental involvement. I notice that students of all ages need their parents to be involved in their education. Parents set the tone for education in their homes. Some parents set the tone that education is important and that they expect their children to do the very best they can to develop the minds that God gave them. They encourage their children to learn all they can, they provide what they can to help their children be the best students they can be. They are like good coaches who push their players to practice and stretch themselves to do more than they think they can do. A good coach believes in his or her players, gets them into the game, and lets them play. As a parent or a teacher, we want our students to succeed. We do our best to make them ready, to get them "into the game," and we we let them play - we don't play for them. Parent involvement doesn't mean doing a child's work. It means taking an active interest in what the child is doing in school, making sure he has time and a place to study, the resources she needs to do her work, and parental support - the belief and reasonable expectations that the work can and will be done well, to the glory of God.

As a math teacher, I saw so many students who did not give much, if any effort, to their studies, because one of the parents had said, "You got my math brains, so I don't expect you to do very well, because I didn't." The student now has the parent's blessing not to work hard to try and turn a weakness into a strength. I think we need to be very careful about the messages we send to our children. A home where there are no good books, where parents do not read, send the message that reading is not important, and so when the child is confronted with all the reading he must do in school, he avoids it as much as he can, because he sees no value in it - his parents don't do it, so why should he? A child who sees her parents live out their faith through daily prayer, Bible study, church attendance, tithing, evangelism, etc is more likely to become a disciple of Christ than one who has no parental role model of a Christian believer in her home. What is valued in the home, what is encouraged and discussed in the home is what the home teaches to the child.

As a Christian educator, I have a mission to carry out. I have the responsibility to teach children academic knowledge, skills, and attitudes that will enable them to become productive, thoughtful members of society. We take the teaching of math, reading , writing, speaking, science, social studies, physical education, computer, art, music, Bible, and other subjects very seriously at GGCA and we want our students to be as successful as they can be. I also have the responsibility to assist parents in the spiritual education of their children. The primary responsibility for the spiritual education of children lies with the parents - the church and the Christian school are there to assist and to complement the home's teaching, not take the place of it. 

I believe that as Christians, we are to do whatever our hands find to do with all of our might. We need to be the best teachers and the best students when we enter the classroom. I believe that loving the Lord my God with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength transfers into my studies, and that I honor and bring glory to God when I go after scholastic excellence with the same fervor that I love the Lord my God. I believe that this same fervency should manifest itself as I practice with my athletic team, as I work for my employer, as I soul-win on the streets of Baltimore. I should not be looking at my flesh and excusing my children because I was never strong or disciplined in a certain area of my life. That's just plain wrong. My limitations, my shortcomings should not be projected upon my children, my students. God can and does do anything He pleases. If he can make stones sing his praises, he can help me learn math. I may not be the next Einstein, but I can work hard and pass the class.

Okay. I am feeling a little too preachy right now, so I'm going to get of my high horse and go eat some lunch. 

We need to stay involved in our children's lives, even when they say they don't want or need us to be. We all need people who love and care enough about us to disciple us and help us be successful members of God's family.

Thanks for the Goodies

posted Dec 21, 2010, 10:27 AM by Unknown user

The days before Christmas, I feel like Hansel from the Grimm's fairy tale - everywhere there are cookies and cakes and candies. I am glad that the only ovens around are small microwave ovens and no old ladies with warts are hoping I will taste good with gravy. 

There is a little loaf of pumpkin bread, wrapped in cellophane and tied with a red ribbon resting just below the computer monitor as I write this. It is the traditional Christmas gift from the Hadley family, and I think that I may have to somehow get Hadley citizenship after Jack graduates in order to continue the tradition. Marie Hadley makes incredible pumpkin bread, and I have to restrain myself and ration it to make it last. What is the saying? Nothin' says lovin' like somethin' from the oven. 

I am blessed by the outpouring of love that parents and students express at this time of year. Teaching can be a very thankless job, so any blessings are appreciated. Thank you for the photo Christmas cards, the Starbucks cards, the wishes for a Merry Christmas.

 I John 4:11 ~ Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.

Whose Faith Follow

posted Dec 20, 2010, 5:20 AM by Unknown user

I watched an Israeli movie yesterday afternoon called "For My Father." It was the story of a young Arab man who straps on a bomb and walks into a market in Tel Aviv to blow up himself and kill many Israelis in the process, only the detonator malfunctions. He has the option of having his handlers detonate him by remote control or trying to fix the detonator on his own. He chooses the latter, and ends up having to spend time getting to know the different people he is sacrificing his life to kill. In the process, we also come to discover why he has chosen to become a suicide bomber. What was interesting and moving for me in watching this movie was how this young man, sort of an agnostic Muslim, prayed each time he prepared to blow himself up, and yet lived in such despair all the while believing that somehow his sacrifice would improve the lot of his family. All the people he connected with had such sad lives, and the religious Jews depicted in the film made people's lives miserable (and did not seem so happy themselves).

I went from that movie to church and heard Pastor Scibelli preach about following the Star, and my heart was so burdened for the Jews and the Muslims of the world who are following the wrong stars. (It is interesting to me that both the Israeli and the flags of many Muslim countries feature stars, and yet they do not recognize the Bright and Morning Star of Christ as God the Son and the Son of God.) I remember being in Israel almost thirty years ago now, and spending time with both Israelis and Arabs living in the country, and their virtual atheism while cloaking themselves in their religions. To them, their religion was an outer identity, a set of rites and rules to adhere to or to flout, a plan of things for men to do to get to heaven (if one believes in heaven) - It was not a source of life.

I sometimes am afraid that our country has headed in the same direction, where we say that we are a Christian nation and yet live like agnostics and atheists in our daily lives. We reduce Christianity to a recipe to follow to get what we want from God. We have our own rites and rules to practice or ignore, depending on whether or not we are "good Christians." That is not what I want for my own life or for the lives of our children. I don't want them growing up believing they are Christians because they grow up in a "Christian" country and a Christian family, because they go to church and to a Christian school. I don't want our children to be just good, moral people who know how to act like Christians, but don't know Christ. 

I find myself praying over and over that God will reveal himself at this time of year to Jews and Muslims as the Christ, the Son of God, the Wonderful Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, and the Prince of Peace. Perhaps I should be praying that Christians in our country will receive the same revelation, and come to know the living, loving, Savior in a personal way.

I want our children to follow Christ. Following Christ is sometimes a scary thought for me. Follow Christ? Even if I don't know where he is going? You can only do that when you have a faith that is motivated by love for the Shepherd, by love from the Shepherd. The ones in the Gospels who heard Christ say, "Follow me," must have recognized the love of Christ in those words for them to leave their nets and their other occupations and go after the Lord. 

Lord, may our children know You and trust You and have the faith to follow after You. And may they see the same faith in our own lives and decide to follow Jesus because of who we live and how we love.

Snow

posted Dec 16, 2010, 11:17 AM by Unknown user   [ updated Dec 16, 2010, 3:28 PM ]

The first snowfall of the year of any consequence and the nearness of Christmas have set children's hearts aflutter. Concentration was something they did last night during the play when they had to remember lines of dialogue, song lyrics, and where to stand (or crawl) on the stage. It is amazing what a little frozen precipitation floating down from the sky can do to the brains of people attending (and, if I am to be honest, working in) schools. I wonder if there is the same phenomenon in places like Alaska or Siberia where snow is as commonplace as sun and sand in the Sahara. Are Alaskan and Siberian school children driven to distraction by snowflakes?

I was besieged by sixth, seventh, and eighth graders petitioning me to close the school and send them home, or, barring that, to declare that school be closed tomorrow, no matter what the City and County schools decide to do. The beseeching eyes, the hands clasped in prayerful supplication - I felt like I was back in Southeast Asia where the children are sent out to beg alms from the tourists - all our students needed were some rags to wear...

Being a Maine boy myself, I have a special affinity for snow. I love to see it, though I hate to shovel it, and there's something about the possibility of a snow day that twitterpates my 49-year-old heart still and makes me feel more like I'm 9-years-old. I wake up early, ostensibly to check the weather so I can responsibly inform the school population as to whether our doors will be opening on-time, late, or not at all - but I am secretly hoping for one of those Chance-card-like pronouncements: "Snow falls on Baltimore. Advance to Go and collect one day off from school."

Last year's snow days were a bit much; back home in Maine the buses would have strapped on the snow chains and followed the plows to my house to haul me off to school. I suppose the motto here in Baltimore is "Better Safe than Sorry" or maybe "We don't have enough plows or places to put our snow." Whatever the case, too many consecutive snow days gets boring. Knowing the night before that tomorrow will be yet another day off from school helps you know not to set your alarm, but the joy of the unexpected, yet hoped-for day off is absent.

Maybe we will have a delay or a cancellation tomorrow. These are rare December occurrences in Baltimore, so I am not expecting either one. But I will take whatever God gives and bless him for it! 

I Laughed, I Cried

posted Dec 15, 2010, 7:53 PM by Unknown user

The GGCA Christmas musical was just brilliant. I laughed. I cried. Literally. The menagerie of children being herded in costume across the stage - especially that camel - had me grinning from ear to ear and laughing along with the proud parents of the pride of lions trailing the shepherds toward Bethlehem. The beautiful songs, so sweetly sung, so full of truth, brought tears to my eyes. The Spirit of God was palpably present in the chapel, and those children ushered in such a powerful anointing... The entire service that followed was blessed by what happened in that play. I am still basking in the glow of the simple joy and beauty of the play. Thank you, Lord. 

Tempus fugit

posted Dec 15, 2010, 7:28 AM by Unknown user   [ updated Dec 16, 2010, 11:16 AM ]

Time flies. It has been eleven days since my last posting, and I feel a little guilty for not writing sooner. That almost sounds like a confessional, doesn't it? "Forgive me, Reader, for I have sinned. It has been eleven days since my last blog entry." 

Hmmm... What shall my penance be? 

How about no needhams candies until I get to Maine next week? Nah. There's no penance in that. There are no needhams around here for me to eat anyway. "What are needhams?" you ask. Needhams are kind of like Mounds bars, only better, because they originated in Portland, Maine and they have a secret ingredient near and dear to a true Mainer's heart - mashed potatoes. Yes, mashed potatoes and flaked coconut and dark chocolate - so, so good! There will probably be some homemade needhams in my parents' refrigerator from a lady in the church...

But I digress. 

Penance. I suppose I could abstain from eating molasses donuts for the next week.That would be almost cruel and unusual punishment, except for the fact that the only place I know to get molasses donuts is at Tony's Donut Shop on Congress Street in Portland, Maine, and I won't be there for at least seven days. I wish I could give each of you one of these circular delicacies, so that you could understand how deprived I am, living here in Baltimore, separated by 500 miles from them. I wonder if Tony's will be open when my plane touches down on the tarmac next Wednesday evening?

Still I digress.

Penance. Maybe I should look that word up. Maybe I am going at this the wrong way. I wasn't raised Catholic, so I could be confused.

Okay. According to the Merriam Webster online dictionary, penance is "an act of self-abasement, mortification, or devotion performed to show sorrow or repentance for sin." Mortification? Let's look that word up too. "Mort" is the root of the words mortician and mortuary and mortality and they all have something to do with death. It sounds like maybe I should be killing myself, and I don't think I am up for that. 

Okay. Mortification: "the subjection and denial of bodily passions and appetites by abstinence or self-inflicted pain or discomfort." Phew! I can go on living, but it sounds like I have the options of abstinence from something I like (which is what I thought penance was before) or self-inflicted pain/discomfort. Ugh!

So, self-inflicted pain or discomfort. Hmmm. That would be like forcing myself to eat liver or fish or lamb, or wearing those shoes that hurt my feet, right? Why would I want to do that? Mortification is just not for me, I guess. Self-abasement? Putting myself down? I don't think that is biblical, so I will skip that one too. How about an act of devotion? If I understand this idea correctly, it means that I would do something above and beyond the usual things I "do for God" as payment for my sin. 

Wait a second! Me? Paying for my own sin? Isn't that a joke? Nailing myself to the cross to make everything right? BIG problem. I'm a sinner and my righteousness is filthy rags at best, so my greatest devotion and my lowest groveling and harshest self-punishment mean absolutely nothing.

What does all this mean for my situation? It means I need to receive the grace of God and go on. I confessed my sin and He is faithful and just to forgive my sin because he paid for every one of my sins, past, present, and future. I don't have to give up needhams or donuts, unless I want to be healthier. I put my faith in the Finished Work of Jesus Christ and write my blog entry without guilt for not writing in eleven days. I just sit down and type the words "Tempus fugit" because time flies and there isn't enough time to waste it doing something Christ has already done perfectly, once and for all.

I am so glad Jesus came from heaven, aren't you? That baby whose birth we celebrate this month has made all the difference in the world.

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