Blazing a Trail for our Children

Have you ever walked on a trail that was not marked?  It may have been an adventure, but you also might have gotten lost.  Our kids are venturing out into a complicated, scary world, making it vitally important that we blaze the trail by leaving clear markers for them to follow.

This is the premise of an inspiring blog written by Larry Taylor, President of the Association of Christian Schools International.  Taylor advises we base our markers on biblical truth, through which God intends to guide all of our lives.  Three perspectives can help us as we blaze the trail:

Patience – We can’t microwave our children into mature Christians.  Spiritual growth is a long, slow process that stretches over a lifetime.  Therefore, we choose to be longsuffering with them, not only correcting them, but also bathing them in grace.  We listen carefully and welcome hard questions.

Congruency – As much as we seek to guide for our children at home, the world around them gains greater influence as they get older.  We must think about whom we allow to be influencers in their lives.  The more those people believe and behave according to the same truths we hold dear, the more our students will recognize the pattern and follow accordingly.  This highlights the importance of attending a good church and enrolling students in a like-minded school.

Resolve – Though it is hard, we must allow our children to go through trials, from which they will build strength and learn wisdom.  Through such experiences, God will teach them the self-discipline and grit needed to succeed.

We can help our children go where we purposefully direct them, or we can leave them to wander aimlessly.  Let’s think carefully about the markers we establish, making sure we are always pointing them toward Christ.

Snow Closings Revisited

As you know, I apologized a few weeks ago when we did not cancel school as a snowstorm with lake effect impacted the Milwaukee area.  Afterward, I heard from a lot of families and then blogged about their gracious responses.  This week we had another storm that hit some of our families harder than others.  Why did we have school that day?  What other factors came into play?

While there were similarities between that previous storm and the one we had Tuesday morning, the lake effect snow from this storm did not press as far west.  However, roads were very bad close to the lakefront.

After waking before 5:00 AM on Tuesday, watching local news reports, noting which school districts were calling off school, and following radar, I made the call that we would have school, knowing that most families could make it in, while others would choose not to have their children attend.  In the end, the vast majority of our students arrived, though some were tardy and excused.

I hope that this is my last communication regarding snow closings this year, but for those buried by the storm, please keep in mind we fully support you if you decide it is not safe to bring your students to school for any reason.  We will seek to have school when it works for the majority of our families, especially as we consider that some have parents find it very difficult to provide care for their children when school is not in session.

Thank you for your understanding as we continue to seek the best ways to analyze situations like this, making the best call with the needs of everyone in mind.  We cherish every day we can have our students with us face-to-face!

The Unseen Comes Before the Big Reveal

He had been one of the most famous people in the world, but that was 40 years ago.  With fame and glory faded, it seemed he would retire someday as an unknown shepherd.  He couldn’t see it, and neither did others who knew him, but God was doing a great work in him.  Emerging from the shadows, Moses was now ready to lead – and the rest is history!

More often than not, we can’t see what God is doing.  Whether He is building character in one of his children or making a way for his kingdom to advance, we see only a small piece of the picture, from which we cannot draw proper conclusions.

So let me divert the spotlight from a few places where God is working.  I’ll hint at what is going on, but it would be unwise for me to tell you everything I know.  Please don’t think because I’m not telling you, that nothing is happening.

Unbeknownst to many, we have launched the silent portion of a campaign that we believe will make a huge difference in the future of Heritage.  A team of lead donors is collaborating with the administration to raise funds, not only to build a new MSHS gym, but also to make big investments in other key areas, such as the elementary school and our fine arts program.

On another front, a committee has been scouring dozens of applications for the MSHS Principal position next year.  Interviews are taking place, and in the coming weeks we hope to know who will take on this role.

Of course, the biggest unseen work is taking place in our students.

Please stay tuned and keep praying – we will give you the heads up on things when these reveals are ready!

Be a Hero – Find Your Mentor

Parenting is a struggle.  Never in history has the task of raising children been more difficult than it is right now.  COVID-19 is leading them to isolation, social media is stirring their anxiety, and the media is dividing them.  They are in trouble, and your children desperately need you to be their hero.

Don’t let this challenge overwhelm you.  Heroes are far from perfect – they have glaring weaknesses, haunting insecurities, and trouble finding their way.  Heroes live in the real world, but they become aware of something that is not right.  Often the hero will deny their call to action when the size of the task overwhelms them.  That’s when the mentor steps in.

You can’t do this on your own.  Not only do you not know enough, but you also need support.  Mentors have already been down your path.  They made mistakes, but learned from them.  They tell you the truth, encouraging you when discouraged and challenging you to go the distance.

Church might be a great place for you to find a mentor.  Just as Yoda seemed to be an improbable mentor for Luke Skywalker, even so an older person at church may seem an unlikely candidate.  Regardless, whether pastor or parishioner, your mentor may be there.

There are also mentors here at Heritage.  We have an amazing faculty and staff filled with wise people.  And while COVID-19 makes gathering more difficult, you might find a mentor among the other parents in our school.

Ultimately, Heritage is here to assist you in any way we can, not just to educate your child, but to help them grow up to be all that God made them to be.  Take the challenge and be your child’s hero – we will be here cheering you on!

Our Gracious Heritage Community

Sometimes God pulls back the curtain to show me something He sees all the time.  I beheld a beautiful picture of grace on Tuesday in the aftermath of the heavy blanket of snow that fell on Milwaukee early on Tuesday morning.

I thought I saw the big picture when I woke up that day.  The weather people said New Berlin would get about three inches of snow overnight, and when I cleared my driveway at 5:30, that was about right.  When I arrived at school, I was aghast to have a messages waiting for me saying how difficult it had been for some families to get to school.  Six inches or more greeted many of our families.

As you probably know, I sent an email to all of our families apologizing for not getting the call right regarding whether we should have had a snow day.  The responses I received to that letter made me greatly admire our school families.

I received dozens of emails, and all of them were kind and understanding.  So many shared how much it meant to them that we have kept the school open for in-person teaching this year.  They also praised our compassionate teachers.

One mom got stuck trying to drive down her street.  After finally arriving back home, her daughter insisted she still wanted to go to school.  So friends with a 4×4 came to Milwaukee, picked her up, and took her to school.  The mom said, “This morning God showed me the disposition of her heart toward Heritage… I hope my student gets to school every day.”

Every day your child comes to school, it is our honor to serve them.  Thanks to all who gave me grace.  The world sees we are Christians by this kind of love!

Let’s Talk

Do you talk too much?  I admit I am guilty of that sin.  I too easily interrupt conversations trying to share my opinions.  It’s a bad habit, so I have to work hard to be a good listener.

I believe there is something worse – talking too little.  Relationships are often broken because we aren’t talking at all, or we are not talking enough about the right things.

A few weeks ago, I blogged about the importance of telling your kids that you love them.  If you do love them, you will not just tell them that you love them, but you will also have meaningful conversations.  When we talk and listen, the roots of our relationships grow deeper.

Let’s turn our focus to another important relationship – that of home and school.  We need to have a strong relationship with each other!  But just like other relationships, that requires communication – both talking and listening.  Silence from either side can become a wall that divides parents and the school, with the students suffering as a result.

Fortunately, Heritage is offering several timely ways to communicate.  On Thursday, January 28, you can attend the Town Hall Meeting taking place on Zoom (see details below).  I’ll be sharing important information about the school, while also answering questions from parents.  Parent/Teacher Conferences are coming on February 22, which is always a great opportunity to connect with the faculty.  Recently, we have been seeking your responses to the ACSI Flourishing School Culture Instrument (please see the link sent in a recent email).  And always, our offices, phones, and emails are open to you!

Let’s work together to be a school community that does an outstanding job of connecting and communicating.  We’ll strive to listen and not talk too much!

It’s Time to Go Back

COVID-19 has probably changed your life.  Maybe you work from home, family routines have changed, and normal activities have ceased.  In your new world, you might not interact with coworkers like you used to, and your children may be bored most of the time.  Possibly church attendance has slipped, as it is easy to sleep late on Sundays and miss the online service.  Even if services have started up in-person, it may seem too risky to go.

It’s possible something strange could be happening to you and your family!  You might be slipping into isolation, with relationships outside of the home fading and God seeming more distant.  If that is true, I’m guessing none of this feels right in your soul.  Maybe you are hoping it will all be over someday and everything will go back to normal.

If this is you, then let me suggest that it is time to commit to going back to church.  I’m talking about the inclination of the heart more than the location of your body.  God designed the church, not as a building or a set of programs, but rather as the union of people who have placed their faith in Christ.  We need each other, just as each part of your body needs the rest of the body to live.  Your church needs you, and you need them!

God warns us not to get in the habit of missing church (Hebrews 10:25), and He doesn’t specify whether that is live or online.  I encourage you to join (or rejoin) a small group or class if you can.  Engage with others in meaningful conversations.  Be a leader and difference maker for your family.  Please don’t let your faith grow cold waiting for the pandemic to pass!

Seeing the Bigger Picture

You are watching your son or daughter performing in a game, the score is close, and the referee is obviously making bad calls.  You love your child, want the team to win, and demand justice!  Emotions boil over and anger spills out.

In contrast, let’s consider the biblical story of Joseph.  As a teenager, his brothers sell him into slavery.  In response, he works hard, lives with integrity, becomes the manager of a large estate, is accused of a crime he did not commit, and lands in jail.  We see no signs of Joseph throwing a fit.  Though wronged multiple times – he takes it.

Did Joseph need his parents to argue on his behalf?  Did Joseph have the right to get angry, bitter, and resentful?  Would these things have been helpful?

We know how the story ends.  God’s plan was for Joseph to go through these trials so he could rise to become one of the most powerful leaders in Egypt.  God would deliver Israel from starvation one day because Joseph learned to do what was good and right, regardless of the choices of others.

Think about the kind of character it takes to suffer injustice, yet refusing to bow to lesser emotions.  We see this clearly demonstrated in the life of Jesus Christ, who being God, laid down his life for our sakes.  He didn’t need anyone to heckle Pilate.

As Christian moms and dads, I hope we can find a way to suffer minor wrongs while teaching our children to do the same.  If we follow Jesus, we will face much greater opposition than this.  By choosing controlled and loving responses to trials, we will shout a message that will make a bigger difference than the final score of a game.

Transforming a Separated Christmas

We love to celebrate Christmas every year, but what we do has little resemblance to the event we seek to commemorate.  Maybe God is blessing us with a pandemic so that we can think deeply about what the first Christmas was really like.

Many of us will not be with loved ones as normal, which may leave us feeling lonely.  Mary and Joseph were all alone on a long journey.  Arriving at Bethlehem, there was no room for them – they were outcasts.  Their loneliness was intense!

God sees us living solitary lives, just as He watched Mary and Joseph travelling those desolate roads.  From the beginning, he declared that it is not good for man to be alone, so He not only gave us families, but He also made a plan to bring us back into relationship with Him.

The biggest problem we all face is separation from God – that is the ultimate loneliness.  No human interactions can fill that void.  Long before Jesus was born, prophets called Him Immanuel, meaning God with us.  Through the life, death, and resurrection of Christ, we have an open door to have God with us always.  We can seek the forgiveness of sin that separates us, and come into full communion with our Creator.

What is Christmas all about?  It is not presents, Christmas trees, lights, or eggnog.  It is about ending the loneliness of the soul, finding relationship with God and fellowship with all those who join us as His sons and daughters.

The ending of the Christmas story is not in Bethlehem, but in a new heaven and new earth where we will never be lonely again!  Let us reflect on these things, taking solace and joy from the sure hope Christmas brings!

Dad – Tell Them That You Love Them

A few weeks ago, a good friend asked what mattered most to me.  While giving him my list, I tried to tell him how much I loved my children, but got choked up.  He asked me why I was so emotional when talking about Woody and Dwight.  Here’s my answer.

In my sons I find the intersection of everything about which I really care.  I love God more than anyone or anything else, and one of the things I want most is that my sons have a real and intimate relationship with God.  It’s one of the deepest wells within my soul.

Maybe this deep well comes from the relationship I had with my dad.  Part of the silent generation, my dad was the finest man I ever knew.  He loved God, worked very hard, and I believe he really loved me, though he rarely ever said it.  I desperately wanted his approval and blessing, but when he unexpectedly died of a heart attack when I was 19, I had what seemed like an unfillable hole in my soul.

Later, as a father, I found myself falling into similar patterns – feeling love and pride in my sons without properly conveying those emotions.  I found myself focusing more on my work than I was on them.  Eventually God grabbed my attention, and I decided to start telling them how I felt.

While I have made some progress, the conversation with my friend stirred me to write a heartfelt letter to both of my sons, telling them as best I could how much I loved them and rejoiced in who they were becoming as young men.

Fathers, please express your feelings.  Bless your children by communicating your deep love for them.