What Can Be Done to Stop the Violence Among Teens?

In light of the recent shootings in the U.S., it has been interesting to read the headlines this past week showing the responses of various companies:

* “Walmart removing violent video game displays from stores and reviewing gun sale policies.” (USA Today)

” ‘The Hunt’ [movie release date] canceled by Universal following significant backlash.” (Fox News)

* “ESPN and ABC delay the airing of Apex Legends video game tournament following mass shootings.” (CNN)

With many districts returning to school around the U.S. this week–and with the growth of school shootings over the past 50 years (particularly ones perpetrated by young men in their teens and twenties)–many students and parents are calling out asking what can be done to stop the violence. As a matter of fact, a 2018 study by the American Psychological Association on the amount of stress experienced by Gen Z students found that 72% were fearful of school shootings.

The answers to the question of what causes school violence are numerous and complex. The following short excerpt from Chapter 7 of In Whose Image? focuses on one of the areas that many researchers and activists believe is controllable: the promotion and distribution of media violence that dehumanizes image-bearers of God and desensitizes teens to violence.

Excerpt from Chapter 7: How Should I Not View Others?

…To be clear, the American Academy of Pediatrics does not seek to lay total blame on media violence in any of their policy statements regarding “leading causes of any particular health concerns.” However, “epidemiologically speaking,” they note that media violence “may contribute 10 percent to 20 percent to any given problem…a considerable amount given that we potentially have more control over media than other risk factors (e.g. poverty, low IQ, mental illness).”

As the late Democratic Senator Paul Simon stated, “If even one-tenth of 1 percent are harmed, we are needlessly impressing 50,000 young people with this gratuitous electronic mayhem.” And to Senator Simon’s point, there are more than 3,500 research studies that speak to the impact of media violence on young people.

In 2000, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Medical Association, and American Psychological Association made a joint statement to Congress regarding the link between media and societal violence:

“Viewing entertainment violence can lead to increases in aggressive attitudes, values and behavior, particularly in children. Its effects are measurable and long-lasting. Moreover, prolonged viewing of media violence can lead to emotional desensitization toward violence in real life. Although less research has been done on the impact of violent interactive entertainment [such as video games] on young people, preliminary studies indicate that the negative impact may be significantly more severe than that wrought by television, movies, or music.”

Since this statement was made in the year 2000, an entire generation has grown up on more realistic, ultra-violent media content—whether it be films (Halloween– 2018, The Saw series), TV-shows (The Walking Dead, Dexter), or video games (especially the popular first-person shooter series such as Call of Duty and Grand Theft Auto). And the harmful effects teens emotional and spiritual well-being from this kind of media intake are substantial.

Consider these statistics from The Barna Group:

1. By the time an American child is 23 years old…he will have seen countless murders among the more than 30,000 acts of violence to which he is exposed through television, movies and video games.

2. By the age of 23, the average American will have viewed thousands of hours of pornographic images, which diminish the dignity and value of human life.

3. After nearly a quarter century on earth, the typical American will have listened to hundreds of hours of music that fosters anger, hatred, disrespect for authority, selfishness, and radical independence.

4. The average adolescent spends more than 40 hours each week digesting media, and the typical teenager in America absorbs almost 60 hours of media content each week. For better or worse, the messages received from the media represent a series of unfiltered, unchaperoned worldview lessons.

In 2011, brain researchers at the Indiana University School of Medicine study documented that 10 hours of video game violence in a week was enough to “indicate that violent video game play has a long-term effect on brain functioning… [and] may translate into behavioral changes over longer periods of game play.” Furthermore, in regard to video game violence, the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry noted in 2015 that “while some games have educational content, many of the most popular games emphasize negative themes and promote:

• The killing of people or animals
• The use and abuse of drugs and alcohol
• Criminal behavior, disrespect for authority and the law
• Sexual exploitation and violence toward women
• Racial, sexual, and gender stereotypes
• Foul language and obscene gestures

In view of the parameters around the pornography of sex, there seems to be a disconnect when it comes to the pornography of violence. Consider the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Association (2012) which stated that the First Amendment protects violent video games. In his dissent to the ruling, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer wrote,

“But what sense does it make to forbid selling to a 13-year-old boy a magazine with an image of a nude woman, while protecting a sale to that 13-year-old of an interactive video game in which he actively, but virtually, binds and gags the woman, then tortures and kills her?” 

Justice Breyer’s dissent becomes even more alarming when you consider why experts believe “the mechanical, interactive quality of ‘first-person shooter” games makes them potentially more dangerous than movie or television violence.”

Why? Because “the most violent of these games use operant conditioning to teach young people to kill.” These are the same type of video games that the military and law enforcement agencies use to train new recruits to shoot and kill.

Given what you have learned in this chapter, why do you think researchers and experts should be concerned about a generation growing up on realistic, ultra-violent first-person shooter video games?

In regard to how media violence impacts people differently, the American Psychological Association (APA) released a landmark study a number of years ago outlying the four major effects of media violence on real-life violence and aggression. In addition to copycat behavior, the study demonstrated that teens could also be negatively influenced through increased exaggerated fears, the removal of inhibitions and desensitization.

While students in America are no doubt highly fearful of the copycat behavior of a Parkland High School or Santa Fe High School shooter, the overwhelming impact the APA found in regard to a heavy diet of media violence by teens is desensitization.

The flippant use of vulgar language and unacceptable treatment of others has become commonplace in a nation where such behavior is repeatedly modeled (even commended) in video games. This desensitization process (losing the ability to feel or have compassion for an individual or groups of people) is both widespread and damaging…

“So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart,” — 2 Timothy 2:22, ESV

Today’s culture puts a high emphasis on our physical bodies (working out, eating organic food, smoke-free environments) but very little on our hearts and minds. Teens are growing up today unaware of the impact that the pornography of sex and violence is having on them and their peers as their generation’s media diet is unparalleled in history.

That is why we need to continue to educate ourselves and others on the main cause of our continued consumption of sexual/violent pornography—our sinful nature—and ours and the world’s desperate need for the Gospel to renew our hearts and minds–transforming us into redeemed image-bearers.

“Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth… Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming…[So you must] put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator… And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him,” —Colossians 3: 2, 5-6, 10, 17, ESV.

The Enchanted Hour

Screen Shot 2019-05-10 at 3.44.49 PMDo I Need To Renew My Mind, And If So How?

In her 2019 book, The Enchanted Hour, Wall Street Journal columnist Meghan Cox Gurdon shares the power of reading (particularly reading aloud) on our brain development vs. the hours spent on an iPad or iPhone which provides little to no brain stimulation—particularly on young children.

When it comes to “Understanding Our Vulnerability to Media,” (a topic I cover in Chapter 2 of In Whose Image?) Gurdon cites multiple studies that document the importance of reading vs. the negative impact screen time has on our brains—particularly in our formative years. As Gurdon states, “The evidence has become so overwhelming that social scientists now consider read-aloud time one of the most important indicators of a child’s prospects in life.”

Along these lines, Gurdon demonstrates how “too much screen time is a setup for atrophy, or underdevelopment of…higher order brain networks [such as language, imagination, and attention].”  As a matter of fact, she declares that “If what we know about brain plasticity is true, it will be harder for kids who grow up with underdeveloped networks to learn, to come up with their own ideas, to imagine what is going on in stories and connect it with their own lives, and they’ll be much more dependent on stuff being fed to them.”

Yikes!  So if a teen was not read to growing up, and he is now spending hours on screens every day, how does he renew his mind?

For starters, activate your teen’s iPhone “Screen Time” and limit their screen time to less than two hours a day.  As San Diego State Professor Jean Twenge discovered, “Teens who spent more time seeing their friends in person, exercising, playing sports, attending religious services [church, youth group, Bible study, and/or devotion/prayer time with God], reading or even doing homework were happier.”

While this may sound like common sense, I think your child/teen will be pleasantly surprised by the power of honoring God through the renewing of their mind—emotionally, academically, and spiritually—when they put down their devices, turn off the TV and computer, and engage the world around them—especially the Creator whose image they bear.

Gurdon does not spurn technology, but instead encouragers parents and educators to heed the warnings of groups such as The American Academy of Pediatrics, which provide healthy parameters around screen time—beginning with no screen time from the ages of 0-2 years old—to allow for proper brain development.

As Gurdon shares, “The Enchanted Hour is for anyone who loves books, stories, art, and language. It is for everyone who wants to give babies and toddlers the best possible start in life, everyone who cares about the tenderhearted middle-schooler and the vulnerable, inquisitive teenager…[T]his book is for everyone who has felt the dulling of emotional connection and the muddying of once-clear ideas and priorities in an era of noisy ephemera, technological enthrallment, and an overbearing news cycle.”

Pick up a copy of Gurdon’s The Enchanted Hour: The Miraculous Power of Reading Aloud in the Age of Distraction today!

A Clarion Call for Christian Schools

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Are middle and high school students being prepared to engage an increasingly diverse population and culture in the U.S.?

Given a few of the recent national headlines, it does not appear so.

  • USA Today’s front-page article giving U.S. schools an “F” for teaching slavery: “Schools sanitize it or shy away from it.”
  • A 2019 Pew Research Poll finding almost half of white Americans saying “the USA becoming a majority nonwhite nation would weaken American customs and values.”

In an attempt to better equip Gen Z students to engage their peers on challenging issues such as media discernment, faith, and race, the Imago Dei Leadership Forum commissioned The Barna Group to ask a series of questions to 979 diverse teens (ages 13-17) from around the country in November 2018. (This research will be featured in Part 3 of In Whose Image?)

The results were both insightful and telling.

First, when Gen Z teens were asked whether or not “There is a lot of anger and hostility between the different ethnic and racial groups in American today,” they overwhelmingly agreed—with African American students strongly agreeing by a 20-percentage point difference.

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However, when asked whether or not they agreed or disagreed that “Racism is mostly a problem of the past, not the present,” the disparities began to grow more—especially among African American and white Gen Z teens.

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The divide became even more apparent among Gen Z teens when asked whether they agreed or disagreed with the statement, “People of color are often put at a social disadvantage because of their race.”

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When it came to historical questions, the polls were equally telling—especially the variance in Gen Z teens’ beliefs on the cause of slavery in America and whether or not statues of Confederate soldiers should remain in place.

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The most disconcerting of all the polls, however, was how few Gen Z teens (particularly white students) could explain the hard lessons of U.S. history to someone not familiar with them—particularly the mistreatment of minority groups in America, whether it be Asian Americans, Native Americans, African Americans, or women.

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When I sat down to review the polling data, it confirmed what I had witnessed firsthand over the past five years teaching a racially diverse leadership group of Gen Z teens in St. Louis.

  • First, Gen Z teens are clearly aware of the growing hostility in America. Therefore, they should be encouraged to be in community and conversation with peers of different races, so they can better understand how racism is still alive and well in America today and the ways people of color continue to face disadvantages.  Students especially must be taught how to listen to one another—considering different views from their own and hearing the hearts and perspectives of others.
  • Second, if Gen Z teens are not in a diverse classroom setting, they will not understand why there are differing views on the cause of slavery in America and why statues of Confederate soldiers (particularly those erected during the Jim Crow era) are painful reminders of the evil institution of slavery and the discrimination and persecution African Americans faced for the next 100 years after the Civil War (leading up to the Civil Rights era). In addition, teachers in non-diverse settings must be equipped to show the differing worldviews to their students.
  • Third, if Gen Z teens are not educated with a balanced view of history—showing both the successes and sins of our nation—they will not have the proper perspective and empathy necessary to treat all people as equals and speak into our past and present injustices.

Given the above findings, if they haven’t already, schools have about five years to prepare their teachers for the current 2nd graders (the most-diverse class of students in U.S. history) to enter 8th grade. Studies show that 8th grade students are emotionally and intellectually prepared to learn and discuss the challenges in America (past and present) at a much deeper level.  More importantly, to do this effectively, schools must ensure that the proper approach and training is in place for teachers to lead these diverse classes of students well.

A More Diverse Nation

While these statistics should be no surprise to most U.S. educators, the greatest clarion call is needed among non-diverse Protestant and Catholic schools.  It is important that these schools prepare for and/or seek racial diversity so they will remain relevant and prepare their students to thoughtfully engage the culture—especially as their admissions pools become more and more dependent upon justice-minded, Millennial parents who are seeking diverse, culturally engaging, Gospel-centered environments for their children.

With the continued polarization and racial divide in America, coupled with the coming of the 2020 Presidential election season, we need the biblical teaching that played a major role in righting wrongs throughout history to address the moral issues of our day—that we are all created in the imago Dei (the image of God).

Consider St. Paul’s challenge to the Church of Ephesus and the Church of Galatia: To Ephesus, “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.”  To Galatia, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

Followers of Jesus should be leading the charge when it comes to speaking into today’s issues—centered upon the idea of being an image-bearer of God.

For when students understand what it means to bear God’s image, they are free to view themselves not as the world defines them but as God created them—pursuing their place and purpose in society, all the while growing and solidifying their faith in Jesus and loving and treating others as equals.

As we approach the Easter season, I want to share an excerpt from U.S. Senate Chaplain Barry Black’s powerful keynote address at the 2017 National Prayer Breakfast. (Chaplain Black speaks to our Leadership Forum students each year in D.C.!) Discussing his mother’s challenge for him to memorize Scripture as a young boy, Chaplain Black shared about a verse that changed his life.

“One day I memorized 1 Peter 1:18-19.  I was only 10 years of age. It says, ‘We are redeemed not with corruptible things such as silver and gold but with the precious blood of Jesus Christ.’ Even at 10, I had sufficient analytical skills to know that the value of an object is based upon the price someone is willing to pay.  And when it dawned on me, a little guy in the inner city, that God sent what John 3 calls in the Greek the monogenesʹ—the only one of its kind—His only begotten Son to die for me, no one was ever able to make me feel inferior again.”

The power of the Gospel never ceases to amaze me.

As both a Christian educator and parent, my vision and prayer for my students (and my own four children!) has been for them to engage the diverse culture around them—particularly as they navigate issues of faith—while treating others with dignity and respect­. For by equipping them with an others-centered framework to see people as fellow image-bearers of God, they will better develop a genuine concern for the poor and disenfranchised—bringing a much-needed Gospel-centered message to today’s hyper-polarized culture.

John A. Murray is the President of Imago Dei Leadership Forum in St. Louis, MO, and author of the forthcoming e-book In Whose Image? Image-bearers of God vs. The Image-makers of Our Time

 

 

 

 

Black History Month and God’s Word

This past summer, our Leadership Forum students had the opportunity to tour the newly opened Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C.  One of the exhibits in “The Impact of the Bible in America” gallery included a book known as “The Slave Bible.”

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I had learned from a friend several years ago that many slaveowners would rip out certain sections of the Bible used by their slaves. Nevertheless, I had no idea that a deliberate publication had been produced that “omit all entries that express[ed] themes of freedom…[as a] part of an inhumane process to make slaves docile and subservient, to break their spirits.”

As the exhibit above notes, “This volume [of the Bible] is called ‘Holy’ but it is deeply manipulative”–and anything but holy.

Because this artifact “attracted greater attention than perhaps any other artifact on display” since the Museum of the Bible’s opening in November 2017, the Museum decided to “dig deeper into the mysteries surrounding this rare and disturbing book.”

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In cooperation with Fisk University and the Center for the Study of African American Religious Life at the National Museum of African American History and Culture, the Museum of the Bible created a new spotlight exhibition entitled, “The Slave Bible: Let the Story Be Told.”

This past December, while speaking at a Bible conference in D.C., I had the opportunity to visit this thought-provoking exhibit and take the accompanying pictures in this blog.

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As you can read above, The Slave Bible was first published in London in 1807 and again in 1808.

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The Slave Bible was published on behalf of the Society for the Conversion of Negro Slaves (SCNS)–deliberately omitting Scriptures that condemned slavery, promoted freedom, and more importantly, shared the hope of the Gospel for all.  One such omission was Galatians 3:28, which declares all humans as God’s image-bearers: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.” (King James Version)

Thus, as the exhibit notes, missionaries were allowed to “’save’ the souls of enslaved Africans even as they condemned their bodies to servitude.”

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The amount of Scripture left out of “The Slave Bible” was shocking.

As Dr. Jessie Carney Smith, Dean of the Library at Fisk University notes, “The Slave Bible is evidence of an attempt to keep the enslaved enslaved, to deny them access to the true biblical view of what freedom means to all people. Freedom was never designed solely for the privileged but for all humankind.”

Given the above exhibit and its implications, it is amazing that slaves would even consider the Christian faith.  That the LORD was able to use such brokenness to bring men and women to faith in Christ is a testimony to His faithfulness and sovereignty.

Along those lines, many of the truths from the stories and Scriptural passages omitted from the Slave Bible made their way to the slaves through “Negro Spirituals.” God’s Word prevailed despite men’s attempts to distort and remove certain truths.

As human beings made in God’s image, we respond to redemptive songs such as Negro spirituals–songs of former slaves that helped them endure harsh lives and conditions with the powerful, transforming hope of Jesus and eternal life.  In these horrific circumstances, they “rejoiced not because their circumstances were good, but because God is good!”

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On November 16, 1871, the Fisk Jubilee Singers—”all but two former slaves and many still in their teens — arrived at Oberlin College in Ohio to perform before a national convention of ministers. After a few standard ballads the chorus sang spirituals and other songs associated with slavery. It was one of the first public performances of the secret music African Americans sang in the fields and behind closed doors for generations.”

The Fisk Jubilee Singers came on to the scene at a time when the University was struggling financially to keep the doors open.  God’s faithfulness was evident, as the engagements that arose for the Singers around the country and world enabled them to raise over $20,000 for the University.

Watch this inspiring video to learn more about the Fisk Jubilee Singers and the faith, hope, and love they brought so many in the name of Jesus—demonstrating that we all are image-bearers of God.

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Resources for Further Study:

https://www.museumofthebible.org

http://fiskjubileesingers.org/the-music/

 

 

Treating Others as Image-Bearers

When I was recently asked by The Center for Spiritual and Ethical Engagement (CSEE) Executive Director Bob Mattingly to share the ways independent schools (religious and secular) can grow in their understanding and acceptance of conservative Christian parents present in their communities, I was both excited and nervous.

Excited to share my experiences both as an independent school educator (8 years) and Head (17 years), as well as a parent (20 years), I nevertheless realized the formidable task.

Published in CSEE’s Winter Quarterly in December 2018, the below article will reach over  200+ CSEE independent schools (religious and secular) around the country.

Read more

A Life-Changing Journey

This summer, I had the opportunity to lead my fourth class of rising ninth graders—the Class of 2018—on an eight-day leadership trip to Gettysburg and Washington, D.C.  This racially diverse group of 24 students represented 7 different schools and 14 different churches here in St. Louis.

The amazing journey for our students was a culmination of what is now called the Imago Dei Leadership Forum (IDLF).  The class began meeting in February with 12 two-hour weekly sessions on what it means to be an image-bearer of God in how we view ourselves, others, and the world around us.

I would love to share with you our time in Gettysburg and D.C. in a diary format. I pray that you will be encouraged as I was by what the LORD did in the lives of these young people.

Day 1 (Saturday)

Bus

We spent 18 hours on the bus ride from St. Louis to Gettysburg, PA. It was a ideal time for the students to bond and get to know one another—as we did trivia with prizes every hour on the hour! As a matter of fact, we watched The Greatest Showman—which interestingly set the tone of what it means to value others different than ourselves—treating them as image-bearers of God.

Day 2 (Sunday)

We started the day with a worship service at Middle Creek Lodge (located 10 minutes from Gettysburg).   We enjoyed a time of singing, individual (private) prayers of confession, and Scripture study. We read from Acts 20:17-38, as we looked at Paul’s leadership and his charge to the elders in the church of Ephesus.  We observed how leadership discussions should always include the importance of character (v.19), courage (v.20), conviction (v.21), crucible (v.22-23), course (v.24), and a charge (v.25-28).  For application, we watched two scenes from the film 42, and had some great discussions on the ways Jackie Robinson, Branch Rickey, and Pee Wee Reese emulated the above traits.  These leadership traits served as a key reference point, as we reflected on them with the various leaders we learned about and met throughout the trip.

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Gettysburg Visitors Center

We began our tour of Gettysburg by spending time at the Visitors Center (http://www.gettysburgfoundation.org/10).  We watched A New Birth of Freedom (a film narrated by Morgan Freeman) before experiencing the Cyclorama, the nation’s largest oil painting. The students were amazed not only by the battlefield stories but by the painting itself. We then heard from a park ranger who spoke on what it was like to be a Civil War soldier and the challenges soldiers faced in this time period.  We finished up at the Civil War Museum—walking through the history of the Civil War—as we prepared for our time on the battlefields tomorrow.

Back at the Lodge

After dinner, we gathered for our first group session on the importance of leading with a biblical worldview.  We then watched Part 1 of the film Gettysburg to prepare for our Monday morning and afternoon tours. We focused on the leadership of four individuals—Generals James Longstreet and Robert E. Lee for the Confederate army and Colonels Joshua Chamberlain and John Buford for the Union Army.

Day 3 (Monday)

 

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The Battlefields of Gettysburg

We had another full morning and afternoon exploring Gettysburg.  Today was our “outside” day—exploring the battlefields representing Day 1, 2, and 3 (July 1-3, 1863) of the Battle of Gettysburg.  We envisioned what it was like to be a soldier in the exact surroundings, as we examined the strategies that helped the Union defeat the Confederates.  We especially spent time on Little Round Top, exploring the courage and amazing leadership of Col. Joshua Chamberlain, and walking “The Long Mile” of Pickett’s Charge.

Back at the Lodge

Similar to last night, after dinner we had another Group Session where we continued exploring how leadership often calls for courage in the face of adversity.  We studied Joshua’s commission by God (Joshua 1) and the challenges and encouragement the LORD gave him to lead His people into the Promised Land.  We applied this to the courage of Joshua Chamberlain, as well as a scene from The Blind Side showing the courage, character, and faith of Michael Oher and the Tuohy family.  The students were active participants in the discussion — as we compared these challenges to ones they will face in high school and the importance of having a firm foundation in Christ.

We ended our evening by watching Part 2 of the film Gettysburg, and the powerful scene of the Battle of Little Round Top—led by Col. Joshua Chamberlain.  The students were captivated by the fact they walked the same ground where the battle was fought (and filmed!).

Day 4 (Tuesday)

Cemetary

We had a meaningful day, which I hope the students will remember for a long, long time. After a devotional on the Apostle Peter and his courage and leadership, we viewed Part 3 of Gettysburg.  I was so encouraged by the students’ reaction to this film, especially how they were moved by the sacrifice that was made in this final day of battle—particularly the tragic Pickett’s Charge.  As an aside, Director Ron Maxwell did a great job developing the characters of the film so you care when they die.  He did not bombard viewers with blood and gore—which makes it not only more watchable, but moving too.  Furthermore, these movie scenes were filmed on the exact ground we walked yesterday.

Gettysburg National Cemetery

We then visited Gettysburg National Cemetery and read numerous tombstones of those who gave their lives. We were also impacted by the markers that showed other veterans who have died over the years up to the Vietnam War.  Lincoln’s idea of a nation “conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal” assumed a new meaning to the students as they stood in the Gettysburg Cemetery, surrounded by markers of hundreds of soldiers, and took turns reciting lines from Lincoln’s 272-word speech.   To this point, we had a great reflection time that evening and a number of students shared how they were inspired/impressed by our time here—especially how many soldiers were willing to give their lives so others could be free.

Arrival in DC

After leaving the Gettysburg Cemetery, it was time to head to D.C. to examine the powerful influences of media and government and the importance of moral leadership and Christian principles in these fields.  Arriving at the National Mall, our students were able to walk around and enjoy views of the Washington Monument, the WWII Memorial, the White House, the Capitol Building, and the Lincoln Memorial.

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Bob Woodson

Our next stop was the Woodson Center.  Founder and President Bob Woodson—a MacArthur Genius Fellowship and Presidential Citizens Medal recipientmet with our students for over an hour! (http://woodsoncenter.org)  Mr. Woodson is a man of great faith in Christ.  He exudes humility even though he has advised various U.S. Presidents and currently advises Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan. The students had a wonderful dialogue with Mr. Woodson and did a great job engaging him and asking thoughtful questions!  He is doing amazing work in some of the most difficult schools and communities across the country that many view as hopeless.

We wrapped up our day at a Food Network’s own Bobby Flay’s Burger Palace, and then debriefed about our time at the Gettysburg National Cemetery and with Bob Woodson.

Day 5 (Wednesday)

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Capitol Hill

Our day began early on Capitol Hill, as we met with Congressman Robert Aderholt from Alabama.  Robert took us down to the House floor (!) and allowed us to sit in the seats typically occupied by congressmen while voting or listening to the State of the Union Address. It was amazing!  When our students arrived on the floor, they were surprised to see the national motto “In God We Trust” in gold letters above the Speaker’s chair (not something you see during the State of the Union Address). Furthermore, they viewed a marble relief of Moses hanging directly opposite the Speaker’s chair—the only full-face portrait of historical lawgivers found on the walls of the House chamber. Finally, our students learned that the House and Senate have chaplains—both of whom open each session in prayer.

Members of Congressman Aderholt’s staff then led us on a tour of the Rotunda, Statuary Hall and some other parts of the Capitol afterward before it was open to the public.  It was here that our students encountered six magnificent paintings—three of which captured significant religious events—the prayer service following Columbus landing in the West, the baptism of Pocahontas at Jamestown, and the Pilgrims (with an open Bible) praying before their departure from Holland to America.

Blunt

We then moved to the Russell Senate Office Building to participate in “Missouri Mornings” with Senator Roy Blunt. In addition to meeting the senator, we spoke at length with several of his interns.  One of the interns took us on the underground Senate subway to the Capitol Visitor’s Center, where we viewed beautiful statues of famous Americans—from the early 1700s to the present.  One of the highlights of this tour was watching Congress in action—debating current events of the day

Chaplain

After a wonderful lunch at the Capitol, we joined our next speaker—U.S. Senate Chaplain Barry Black.  He was a highlight for many of the students, for he was engaging, funny, deep, concise, and relevant.  Chaplain Black shared his amazing personal testimony of being born in the poorest neighborhood in Baltimore to rising to his current position today.  He is a man of great wisdom and very motivational.  Attributing his Christian education to changing his life and preparing him for his future roles in the Navy and D.C., he encouraged all of us to grow in wisdom, pray for the Holy Spirit’s power and presence, and be willing to go the extra mile.

Cal Thomas and the Newseum

Our final speaker of the day was Cal Thomas—a syndicated columnist who appears in hundreds of newspapers, Fox News, and other media outlets regularly.  Cal was an engaging, humorous, and insightful, speaker.  When asked what makes a good journalist, he emphasized the importance of reading good writers, knowing history, pursuing wisdom through reading the Scriptures, and getting advice from older people.

After our time with Cal, we toured the Newseum. It is such a fascinating venue!  We spent time at the 9/11 exhibit, the Berlin Wall exhibit, the Broadcast Journalism Arena, the Civil Rights area, and much much more.

In the evening, we processed the day’s conversations with the leaders and how they are seeking to honor God with their gifts and talents.

Day 6 (Thursday)

USC

Our morning began at Starbucks(!) at the historic Union Station.  After filling up on caffeine and pastries, we walked to the U.S. Supreme Court—where we had a wonderful behind the scenes tour with Eric Tung—a clerk for Justice Neil Gorsuch.  Eric—a brilliant lawyer in his own right—gave a fascinating explanation of the clerks’ work and support for the Justices they work with.  We visited his office and met several of his colleagues—one who graduated first in his class from Harvard Law School.  We discussed the philosophical difference between viewing the Constitution from an “originalist” perspective vs. a “living document.”   We also reflected on numerous important decisions that had just been released the week before we arrived—particularly landmark cases on religious liberty.  Speaking of Courts, one of the major highlights of Eric’s tour was getting to play on the basketball gym located directly above the Court chamber—known as the “Highest Court in the Land!”

National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC)

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It was a huge answer to prayer that we were able to get tickets to this incredibly moving museum!  A big thank you goes out to our parents who got up at 5:30am St. Louis time to go online and help us get the 28 tickets we needed!  Words don’t express the powerful story and history that is captured here—a number of students (boys and girls) were in tears.  (As a matter of fact, it was the D.C. place many of them selected as the most meaningful in their trip reflections!)  We had a interesting debriefing that night about our time with evening speaker, Dede Winkfield, who made what they experienced at the NMAAHC very real and personal.

Dede

Dede Winkfield

Dede, a teacher at the National Presbyterian School in D.C. worked with me for 6 years at Fourth Presbyterian School in Potomac, MD.  Dede’s family was very close to Dr. Martin Luther King’s family, for her mom was Dr. King’s assistant and oversaw his press relations for a number of years.  (As an aside, her uncle was a Tuskegee Airman!)  Dede spoke for over an hour about growing up during the Civil Rights Movement–being the first African American to integrate her private Catholic school in Albany, GA–and reflected on her personal memories of Uncle Martin and Aunt Coretta.  Our time with her was invaluable, and we were so grateful for her honesty and vulnerability.

Day 7 (Friday)

MLK

After breakfast at the Starbucks near American University, we headed to the MLK, Jr. Memorial to kick-off our last day in D.C.  Sadly, when the students visited the site honoring the great civil rights leader, they discovered no mention of his faith.  In fact, none of the 14 quotations of Dr. King referenced God (see my August 14, 2013 USA Today article entitled, “Where’s God in Celebration of MLK?” for more details).  Nevertheless, we focused on the importance of Dr. King’s work and the milestone that he is the only non-President to have a national monument built for him in D.C.

We then traveled to the Heritage Foundation, a D.C. think tank that works to promote traditional values.  Focus on the Family’s Tim Goeglein (another student favorite!) spoke with our students.   Tim, the chief lobbyist for Focus on the Family, wonderfully engaged them on how to live as a Christian in today’s tough political climate and the importance of godly character—which we demonstrated from stories of Abraham Lincoln’s Presidency.

Steps

The Lincoln Memorial

Speaking of Lincoln, we transitioned to the Lincoln Memorial after our time at Heritage–standing in the footsteps where Dr. King gave his “I Have a Dream Speech.” To me, this was the most meaningful and moving part of the trip, as we brought racially diverse students and chaperones together to read Dr. King’s speech.  Our vision for Imago Dei Leadership Forum is to train up a generation that treats one another as image-bearers of God—fulfilling Dr. King’s dream and God’s command to love others as we love ourselves.  My favorite reader was Carla Bailey.  She passionately read the conclusion of Dr. King’s speech—bringing many of us to tears and drawing applause from many of the tourists who listened to our presentation.

Clay

Congressman Lacy Clay

Afterwards, we made our way to Congressman Lacy Clay’s office who represents several areas of the St. Louis region. He was warm and candid, and we were grateful for his hospitality.  He was very open and passionate about his beliefs, presenting a very different perspective from many of us in the room.  He discussed the toxic political environment in D.C. and the importance of being able to treat others respectfully and trying to find common ground with those who share different political views.  As an aside, he let one of our students sit in his desk chair and was excited to learn he knew several of our students’ parents!

Gallery

The National Gallery

The next stop of the day was the National Gallery, the art museum which is part of the Smithsonian network.  My friend Susan Scola (a former docent at the Gallery and superb history teacher at Christ Episcopal School) gave us a thought-provoking Race & History Tour—concluding with the Shaw Memorial, which memorializes the 54th Massachusetts (the all-black regiment featured in the movie Glory!)  We were all encouraged at how engaged and interested the students were!

Fox News

Fox News

Our last stop of the trip was Fox News Studios.  Our students were able to get a private tour, as well as read from the teleprompter and see themselves on TV.  More importantly, they were able to hear from anchor Shannon Bream, who discussed the powerful influence of media.  She helped explain the difference between shows that do hard news vs. those who center around the opinion of the host.  As a hard news anchor, Shannon shared the importance of her show’s role to try and present a balanced view of the news and provide voices for both sides of an issue when applicable.  She is a very godly, talented woman—using her gifts and talents to be a great witness to Christ to hundreds of thousands of nightly viewers.

Day 8 (Saturday)

We boarded the bus and made the long journey home to St. Louis a fully bonded group.  What a blessing to see our students come together so well! I pray that the Class of 2018 will long remember the deep faith, courage, and leadership they witnessed—both past and present—on this journey.  My prayer is that God will continue to use the moments and revelations from this trip—reinforcing St. Paul’s challenge to the church of Galatia, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” For as they apply this truth as image-bearers of God, they will be equipped to engage their generation for Jesus Christ.

Memorial

Longing for a Savior

This Advent season, I have greatly enjoyed reading Pastor Timothy Keller’s book Hidden Christmas, which is based upon his Christmas sermons at the various churches he has led during his ministry.

While I have taught on the subject of how fantasy stories and heroes/heroines point to the one true Savior over the years in Sunday school, Central Leadership Forum, and most recently our December Christmas chapel at Central Christian School, I love how Keller portrays the Christmas story and our longing and need for Jesus.

I decided to expand on my chapel talk and Keller’s thoughts for an op-ed that ran in today’s USA Today:

https://usat.ly/2C1bBdn

I hope it will be a blessing to you.  Merry Christmas!

 

A Tribute to My Daddy

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My Daddy went home to be with the LORD on Sunday, November 26 at age 90.  We celebrated his life today at Southwood Presbyterian Church in Huntsville, AL.  I have included my Eulogy below.

A number of years ago, when we were living in Raleigh, my wife Barbara saw the movie Sweet Home Alabama with three of her closest friends. She knew it was a pretty authentic representation of Alabama, when Reese Witherspoon’s character referred to her Father as “my Daddy” (pronounced “Deddy”).

I would like to take a few moments to share a snapshot of “my Deddy’s” life and the godly legacy he left for our family, as well as some family remembrances along the way.

Daddy was born in Springville, AL, in 1927. He grew up dirt poor during the Great Depression years. Nevertheless, his parents were good people and always looked out for others. Their little home was located near the railroad tracks, and they never turned a hobo or homeless person away who asked for food. Like the film Kitt Kittredge, there must have been a hobo marking near their home—alerting people that they were generous, kind folk—because many came to their door for help.

He had one pair of jeans that his Momma washed every night before the next day of school. And like most in this era, he truly walked a number of miles to and from school and to and from church (years before Governor Big Jim Folsom paved the roads of rural Alabama!). Reminiscent of a Flannery O’Connor short story, my Daddy was baptized in a lake in Springville, AL, at age 14 and joined Springville Baptist Church. He had a strong, private faith in Jesus all his life, which I will discuss later. Another fun fact during these years was that many considered him to be the best dancer in Springville—not your typical Baptist!

Daddy attended Howard College (now Samford University). But after his freshman year, he was drafted into the Army for a one year commitment and stationed in New York City. One of his favorite off-duty past times was attending the major league baseball games in the City. The military received free passes back then, and he took full advantage of watching some of the all-time great players from the Brooklyn Dodgers, New York Giants, and New York Yankees—men such as Joe DiMaggio, Yogi Berra, Duke Snider, Pee Wee Reese, and Jackie Robinson. I one time asked him if he ever wanted to go to a major league game with me when we lived in Atlanta, and he said he wasn’t interested—that he had already seen all the greatest baseball players. It wasn’t until we moved to St. Louis that I learned that the Cardinals were Daddy’s favorite team growing up, as he was able to listen to them on the national radio station KMOX—winning World Series in 1934, 1942, 1944, and 1946 w/ the likes of Dizzy Dean & Stan “the man” Musial.

In the 1950s, Daddy joined the Alabama National Guard—retiring as a Lieutenant Colonel in the Army Reserves in 1980. While he never served in combat, he was called up for a number of duties stateside throughout his career. He had a great love for our country and the men and women who fought to sustain our freedom. Some of his proudest moments were to watch my brother Tommy advance through the military ranks in the National Guard and Army Reserves—from boot camp, to graduation from the Army War College, to tours in Iraq and Saudi Arabia, to achieving the rank of Brigadier General today and his current service in S. Korea.

Regarding his civilian work, in 1951, Daddy entered a four-year machinist training school at the Anniston Army Ordnance Depot (AAOD). For those not familiar with the AAOD, in 1952, “the Army assigned the depot the mission of overhauling and rebuilding its fleet of combat vehicles and tanks, as well as artillery and anti-aircraft artillery. In addition, the depot was tasked to modify equipment and weapon systems to further extend their usefulness to the Army.”

While living in Springville, Daddy commuted daily in a carpool to the Anniston Army Ordnance Depot. Also in the carpool was the beautiful Maid of Cotton of Springville. She was well aware of his dancing reputation and asked him to be her escort for the big event that would crown the Maid of Cotton for all of St. Clair County. This date was with his future wife Bettie Jane Allgood, whom he married in 1952. They celebrated their 66th anniversary in May of this year. As an aside, I grew up watching the way he loved my momma and the faithful husband he was to her.

He transferred to Huntsville in 1955 as a machinist for the Army Ballistic Command. Over time, he switched to administrative work–ending his career as a contract specialist in the Hawk Project Office of the U.S. Army Missile Command, where he retired at age 63 (my freshman year at Vanderbilt). Being a lover of Tom Clancy films, I was always asking Daddy about the top secret work he did for the government and the many times he was taken to undisclosed places to serve his country. He would never tell me though—always reminding me it was classified.

When I think about the passions he passed on to Robin, Tommy, and me, I think of clean cars, his love for the military, and his love for sports—particularly Alabama football (Roll Tide!).

In regard to cars, Daddy built his first car in high school with a friend using scraps from a junkyard his friend’s family owned. That is probably why my Momma sweetly let him use his National Guard money to buy his sports cars when he got older—my favorite being a Corvette stingray. He loved to work on cars with Robin and Tommy—helping Robin rebuild a classic 55 Chevy and giving my brother his white Camaro. Somehow, I got the short end of the stick, as he sold his Corvette and bought a VW bug when I was old enough to drive. Not wanting to be seen in a Bug, I used to make him drop me off a block before getting to school (my girls have continued to carry on this tradition today!). I remember when my brother Robin graduated from North American Van Lines Truck Driving School in Ft. Wayne, Indiana, and came home with his brand new 18-wheeler. He was so proud of Robin, and always loved to hear about his adventures around the country. He would call each of us most Sunday nights, and he loved to hear about the places Robin had been and the companies he was working with—always sharing with me when I asked how Robin was doing.

In regard to sports, Daddy was also quite the athlete–playing basketball for Springville High School (they were too small to have a football or baseball team). He pitched for a semi-pro baseball team in his 20s and could throw a mean knuckleball! When I asked him about his team, he told me of a pitcher who eventually played in the majors who was ambidextrous (or as they say at Auburn—amphibious!). They would use him for doubleheaders—pitching the first game with his right arm and the second with his left! Anyway…Daddy would later serve as a baseball coach for my brothers (Robin andTommy) and me—spanning 20 years at the International Little League at Mayfair Park, including a 14-0 season with my brother Tommy (who hit the longest home run he saw in 20 years!) that was featured in The Huntsville Times. If you looked at his desk today, you would see his love of sports and support for his sons—from the aforementioned picture, to a picture of my brother Robin in The Huntsville Times winning the city basketball tournament in junior high, to my brother Tommy playing football for Huntsville High, to my senior picture as the Huntsville High Quarterback.

One the amazing things about our Daddy was that he never missed a game or a practice. At one point in high school, Tommy told him not to come to practice, but he still found a way to sneak on the field and hide under the bleachers to watch him. He was not a helicopter parent—he just enjoyed watching his sons use their God-given gifts and talents. My senior year, he would bring my sweet Momma an hour and a half early to our games to watch me warm up. As a matter of fact, when I was a graduate assistant coach at Dartmouth, he told my wife Barbara that they needed to get to the stadium an hour and half before the game. She tried to explain to him this was Ivy League football and that no one would be there…he still got there an hour and half before the game!

Whether it was YMCA football, my freshmen team, JV or Varsity football, I always knew where to look in the stands when I made a big play or scored a touchdown! It was a lot of pressure playing “Friday Night Lights” football in Alabama—with every game written up on the front page of the sports section the next morning. When we played rival city teams like Grissom, our games averaged 8,000 people—especially the night we got the ball with a 1:50 left to play and mounted a 60-yard drive and a last second field goal to win. When we played small towns like Albertville, it was like a scene from Remember the Titans, riding the bus to the stadium and seeing all the store windows painted with “Go Albertville!” or “Beat Huntsville!” My senior year, 1985, my Daddy, Auburn Head coach Pat Dye, and thousands of Albertville fans watched us crush their home team and star quarterback recruit on their Homecoming Night that was broadcast live on Huntsville’s WAAY Radio! Go Panthers!

Back then, we only got trophies when we won! Daddy was not afraid to tell us what we did wrong and what we could do better, but more importantly, he encouraged us all when we did well. It was Daddy’s love and encouragement, along with the LORD’s strength, that gave me the ability and courage to go out each week and enjoy Friday nights. As an aside, when he met my father-in-law Frank, Daddy sat him down and showed him the videos of my top two games from my senior year. Frank told him he was thankful we didn’t make the playoffs, otherwise they might be there all week! When I think about his love for Alabama football (Roll Tide!), it was one of the few times I had a hard time being in the room with him—especially if Alabama was losing. My son Andrew learned the hard way not to change the channel when Daddy Charles was watching Alabama play. If I’m honest, I always worried that he would have a heart attack watching a close Alabama game. But if it was his time to go, I am thankful that the LORD was gracious and allowed Daddy to pass away with the Auburn-Alabama game tied 7-7.

After retirement, Daddy took up tennis and became a competitive doubles player in the USTA Super Senior division. He developed many life-long friends during this time. One of his greatest joys during our visits in the summers was to take me over to Huntsville Athletic Club to play tennis, meet his friends, and have coffee or lemonade while we watched his friends play. As a matter of fact, he played the game of tennis until he had to stop due to health reasons at the age of 88. And he was a competitor to the end. Whenever we would have our Sunday calls on the phone, he was always quick to tell me of a win over his friends—especially if they were younger!

Last but not least, regarding his relationship with Jesus, he was ordained as a Deacon at Springville Baptist Church. After he moved to Huntsville, he was a longtime member of Hillsboro Heights Baptist Church and for the last decade, Southwood Presbyterian Church. He served the church in many ways—but most notably as a greeter. This fit his personality of service and encouragement—using the firm handshake and smile he taught me at a young age. As I shared earlier, Daddy was private about his faith, but he read his Bible daily and modeled godly living and how a man of God should live and treat others. As I reflect on his life and legacy, I see many amazing godly qualities that are much needed in our generation today—humility, hard work, joy without materialism, faithful marriage, godly treatment of his wife, devotion to his children, their spouses, and grandchildren, and a sincere faith in Jesus.

As I drove the seven hours from St. Louis to Huntsville on Sunday, I listened to a leadership series from my brother-in-law Tucker’s ministry in Atlanta. It was on the character and godly leadership of Nehemiah, who oversaw the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem. In the last talk on Nehemiah, the speaker asked the audience “How do you want to be remembered when you die?” The better question, he pointed out was Nehemiah’s: “Who do you want to remember you?” In the last book of Nehemiah, he asked the LORD to remember him four different times—“Remember me…my God, and show mercy to me according to your great love.” (Nehemiah 13:22)

That is the truth my Daddy based his life on—the mercy of God. The good news is that none of us can earn our way to heaven. It is a gift through believing in Jesus—who died in our place to take away our sins and make us right with God—so we can be with him forever.

Let me close with this passage of Daddy’s eternal hope from the Book of Revelation: “Then I saw ‘a new heaven and a new earth,’ for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.  He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.’  He who was seated on the throne said, ‘I am making everything new!’ Then he said, ‘Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.’  He said to me: ‘It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life. Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children.’” (Rev. 21:1-7)

Like Daddy’s, may each of our lives count for God for an eternity.   Amen

Veterans Day

How do you define peace?

That was the question I asked our 3K -6th grade students in our Veterans Day Chapel this Friday.

Calm…Patience…Loving…Kindness…were just some of the many answers I received. While these words may not accurately define peace, I noted how treating others calmly, patiently, lovingly, and kindly as God’s image-bearers would definitely lead to peace.

Noah Webster’s 1828 dictionary defines peace as, “freedom from war…from fear, terror, anger, anxiety.”  The context sentence Webster used for the definition was straight from Scripture (a common practice in his original dictionary)—“Great peace have they that love thy law.”—Psalm 119:165

Reflecting on Veterans Day and the desire for peace in our world reminded me of attending my older brother’s graduation from the Army War College in Carlisle, PA.  The college was founded in 1901 and has produced distinguished alums such as Generals John J. Pershing (1905), Dwight D. Eisenhower (1927), and Omar Bradley (1934).

What I found most intriguing was that the college was conceived, “Not to promote war but to preserve peace by intelligent and adequate preparation to repel aggression.”

After asking for a show of hands from students, faculty, and parents whose family members had served or are currently serving in the military, I affirmed how our troops need our prayers—not only to keep the peace in the many volatile areas they are stationed—but for peace in their souls as well.

A Barna Poll on the U.S. military recently reported the number one reason why our troops turn to Scripture: “Service men and women who read the Bible…say they might read the Bible for many reasons, but the most common is for comfort (37%), and understandably so, given the peace or security its pages may bring to those taking great risks for their fellow Americans.”

I shared with my students how I had never before associated peace with training at a war college.  But the Army War College’s mission statement gave me a renewed outlook on the important role our military has played over the years in seeking to keep peace around the world in places like Europe, the Middle East, and Southeast Asia.

Along these lines, my brother—now a Brigadier General in the Army Reserves—serves as the Director of Operations for all “U.S. Forces Korea during wartime actions to support the Commander by analyzing complex situations, assisting in making and implementing decisions, controlling operational direction for ground, naval, air, and special operations forces assigned to, or under the operational control of Commander.”

His Commander—General Vincent Brooks–is the Commander of the United Nations Command, the Combined Forces Command, and the U.S. Forces Korea. A graduate of West Point, General Brooks was the “First Captain of the U.S. Corps of Cadets–the top military leadership position a cadet at West Point can hold.  He is the first African American to be selected for this position in West Point’s history.”

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Having led a brilliant and distinguished career over his 36 years as a commissioned officer, General Brooks is now commanding one of the hottest spots in the world—the border between North and South Korea.

The preparation of men such as General Brooks and my brother was a good segue to challenge our students on how they can be prepared for the spiritual battles they face each day from not only the evil one–the devil–but our own brokenness and sin as well.

The Apostle Paul used the imagery of a Roman soldier when he challenged the Church of Ephesus on how to stand up to sin and the devil by equipping ourselves with the armor of God.

Put on the full armor of God…so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.  Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.  Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.  And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.”

Having God’s Word, we can know truth from falsehood, be right with God, and experience the peace that the Gospel of Christ brings.  And with our faith in Christ, we can block the devil’s temptations and snares, resting assured in our salvation—praying at all times and being on the alert.

For when we clothe ourselves in the spiritual armor of God, we can resist the anxiety and fear that can so easily overwhelm us and claim “His peace that passes all understanding.” (Philippians 4:6-8)

That is my prayer for all of us—but particularly our soldiers on this Veterans Day.

Tips for Talking to Students About Tragedy and Loss

While our country continues to pray and mourn for the grieving families and their unspeakable loss in the Las Vegas shooting, I encourage you to consider how best to share this tragedy with your children (if age appropriate). Numerous resources are available online that discuss ways to help your child cope with tragedy—from the National Association of School Psychologists to the American Psychological Association:

Your child may also have questions about why God would allow something like this to happen. I highly recommend the blog post below which contains excerpts from Pastors Tim Keller and John Piper’s responses to the 9/11 tragedy.

While we face evil in this world, we can take comfort that absolutely nothing can separate us from the love of Christ. I pray our Central students — and students around the country — will take this promise to heart as we prepare them to be lights in their world—pointing to the One True Light:

“The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.”  Isaiah 9:2