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Friday, November 11, 2016

The Power of a Memory

What memories do you have from going to school as a child?  I assume most of us have some wonderful memories of school, while at the same time having some negative memories that still linger in our minds.
I vividly remember a time in fifth grade when I did not bring my “current event” assignment to school.  On Friday’s we were to cut out a newspaper story and present it to our class.  I got to class and had that ‘uh oh’ moment...I forgot!  Luckily, my buddy, the over achiever, brought two newspaper articles to school that day.  He was kind enough to share one with me.  It worked perfectly and I got an A on the assignment.  

However, there was an issue.  My mom knew that it was current event day.  She knew I didn’t cut out an article.  So when I got home my mom asked, “So, how did your current event go?”  I didn't think about how "all-knowing" she is, so I responded, “Great, I got a 100!”  In her surprise she said, “How did that happen? I know you didn’t do it.”  I told her that I had used my buddies article and it worked out great.
What came next was the memory-making part of this story that sticks with me as an adult.  She said, “On Monday you will pull Mrs. Smith aside and you will tell her that you did not bring that article on your own, that you did not do your homework, and that you are sorry for deceiving her.”  I spent the rest of that weekend sick to my stomach about the conversation I would have to have with Mrs. Smith.  

Monday rolled around and I asked Mrs. Smith if we could talk in the hallway.  I hysterically cried my way through a pathetic apology, but I did it. I apologized to an adult and acknowledge that I tried to deceive her.  I learned an invaluable lesson that day that has formed a standard in my adult life.
It’s memories like this that can stick with us and may even drive our actions today.  It’s pretty amazing that something that happened so long ago can cultivate current thoughts, beliefs, and values for how we interact in our world.  Memories shape the soundtracks of our lives.
All through the Bible we see examples of the power of nostalgia.  In the Old Testament, Israel's national identity originated in their exodus from Egypt.  This event was so important that God instructed them to annually observe the Passover ceremony because He realized that a time would come when a generation would no longer remember the Exodus without a memory aide.  The Passover ceremony was important because it was a reminder of God's faithfulness.  

Practically, this created a great object lesson for parents to retell the story of God's faithfulness for generations.  Wrapped up in Passover is a memory that has the power to give hope.  What is interesting about nostalgia is that sometimes we are moved by the memories of others.  Our generation never experienced first hand what it must have been like to fight in World War II, and yet, we have a deep appreciation and honor for those that served in that world changing war.

Similarly, God’s people were instructed to raise an ebeneezer, a stone of remembrance, in important locations where God helped His people.  It was simply a physical marker to help them remember the important life-changing events.  Seeing these stones would remind them of God’s faithfulness, and help them make decisions with God’s faithfulness in mind.
I believe as educators, we are in the business of creating memories. In the conscious and unconscious, the intentional and unintentional, we are creating memories in our students that will last a lifetime.  I pray that as we parent and educate, we use every day circumstances to create memories that lead us to God and His Kingdom.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Use Your Gifts Now!

Each day I interact with the students of OCA I’m more and more convinced that God blesses each person with gifts early in life.  Some people’s gifts and talents are more obvious or apparent than others, but everyone is blessed with something they can share.

As I read through scripture I see children and teenagers changing the world with their talents. Sometimes it’s through God’s urging, sometimes it’s through the urging of an adult, and sometimes it’s with their own boldness.

In the Old Testament I read about a boy conquering a giant, and another young boy serving God as a prophet. In the New Testament we see the faith of Mary, a young girl, and we see Jesus’s disciples changing the world as teenage boys. There are so many other examples in scripture of young men and women doing great things with their God-given gifts.

Kendra Dean, author of Almost Christian argues, “Our teens are wasting some of the best years of their lives and never reaching their full God-Given potential.  They never attempt things that stretch, grow, and strengthen them.  They end up weak and unprepared for the amazing future that could have been.  They like the low expectations and freedom, but they are really being robbed…”

The faculty and staff at OCA are particularly aware of the importance of encouraging our students to use their gifts now, especially spiritual gifts. We point out these gifts by giving weekly and bi-weekly character awards. Today I want to highlight a few artists.

Fortunately, we have a couple of OCA students that decided to not wait to use their gifts, and they have made the vulnerable step of sharing with the world, even at a young age.

Jesse Garner is a senior at OCA who has found comfort behind his guitar. He has taken his musical talent to the next level by writing and producing his first song, which you can find on iTunes, called “Dancin’ Slow”. He hopes to create a platform around his musical talent so he can highlight God and the gifts he has been given.

“I’ve always enjoyed writing and have been working on writing a song for a few years,” Jesse said.  “I definitely feel like God has given me a gift and it’s important that I use these gifts to honor Him.”  

Sanjana Bathini is a ninth grader who has also started her musical career early.  This summer she wrote and produced a song called "You Will Never Leave Me" . You can purchase this song on iTunes by clicking here.

"I wrote this song because I wanted to use my talents to honor and glorify the Lord," Sanjana said.
"This song is supposed to give a reassurance to all of the broken hearts that God is our refuge and he will never leave us. He is always there for us."

You can hear Sanjana next at a gospel show with a group of musicians from India called “Happy Melody” on October 30.  She will also be singing at the CMSA Hall of Fame in December, and she was invited to sing at the Thunder Blue game on December 2nd.

I recommend that you download these songs and let your children listen to them.  Talk to them about the gifts and talents that God has given them and encourage them to use those gifts NOW! Let’s not wait to do amazing things with the gifts and talents with which God has equipped us.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Knowing Your Why

In 2009, Simon Sinek gave what I think to be one of the best TED talks. The title of his talk was, “How Great Leaders Inspire Action.” His point is that people and companies must know “their why.”  According to Simon here is how it works:

Most companies start with the WHAT and move you to the WHY. For example, in many of their advertisements you will notice that Dell Computers will tell you WHAT their computers are and then that is supposed to lead us to WHY we should buy their products. Watch for yourself:

In this commercial we learn that they are selling a Dell product, it’s the 13.7 series, it's a 2 in 1 device, it has a flip hinge, on and on they go telling us WHAT they are selling. I am not sure about you but this commercial does not motivate me to buy this product.

It is fascinating, however, that some companies flip that upside down. They focus on the WHY and it moves you to the WHAT.

Apple is wonderful at this and I believe it is one reason why they are tremendously successful. They start with the WHY and move you to the WHAT. Watch for yourself.

So, why OCA? Why did you choose OCA? I asked several parents and got some wonderful responses.

Why did you choose OCA to educate your child?

“Delaina and I chose OCA for our children because we want consistency for our children. The values and goals we hold in our family are the same values and goals shared by the teachers and administrators at OCA. What our children see and hear at home, they see and hear in the classroom. We believe that God has created the world and that through Jesus Christ he is redeeming the world. OCA gives us the comfort in knowing we have a partner in helping our children understand God's will for their lives as they grow to be part of his redemptive purpose in their lives and in the world. It's that consistency that continually draws us to the ministry of OCA.” -Jeremie Beller

Why are the fine arts at OCA important to your family?

“The arts are important to our family because there are so many valuable lessons to learn. Being on stage, even from a young age leading a song, prayer or flag salute in chapel teaches you public speaking skills and helps with confidence. As kids grow and find their creative side, being in a stage production or singing in a class choir teaches teamwork in a way that is easy for even the youngest to appreciate.  We're incredibly blessed at OCA to have the arts as part of our weekly curriculum. In a world where arts funding is being cut in so many schools, we have found teachers who share their love to sing, paint, sketch, and bring productions to the stage for every age of our students.” -Christy Lentz

Why are athletics at OCA important to your family?

“Besides the obvious physical benefits of athletics and sports, we feel strongly that athletics at OCA help shape the character and faith of students. The young men and women learn valuable lessons in teamwork, submitting to authority, how to deal with adversity, how to handle success, and so much more. Athletics can be a very effective vehicle through which God shapes lives.” -Randy Roper

So, why?

  • Christ-centered education
  • Positive relationships between teacher and student
  • Biblical worldview
  • Shaping my child’s life into Christ
  • Partnership between home and school
  • Cultivating character traits that last a lifetime

I wasn’t surprised when these phrases showed up in our parent’s responses to our WHY questions, because these are the the same reasons that many of us chose to be part of this community.  

These are our WHYs.  

Parents and teachers alike desire many of the same things for our children. So what do we do from here?

The direction of this school community and the choices we make for it are based on these same phrases that were pulled out of our parent’s quotes.  And that’s how our WHAT was formed.

“The mission of Oklahoma Christian Academy is to assist the family and the Church in providing God-centered, Christian education for our students, so as to equip them to exercise Christian leadership in our world.”

It is so important that we remember our WHY, not only as a school but also as parents. And it’s even more important that we allow out WHY to determine the actions we take.  Celebrate your children for the reason they make choices, not just for making the right choice.  Encourage them to look more deeply into the WHY.

When we understand our why we are much more prepared to achieve the WHAT, the mission of our school.  I hope you will join me, and our faculty and staff in achieving our mission.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Perspective is Everything

Welcome back to OCA!  I hope you had a great summer.  We’re ready to have your children back on campus and walking our hallways.  This year I thought it would be wise to start the year expressing my sincere hopes and dreams for OCA.

Since taking the position of president of OCA the concept of perspective has interested me more and more.  Often, the reality we live in comes from the perspective we have.  Knowing this has helped me learn many useful lessons.  

My father-in-law and brother-in-law recently helped me build a deck in my backyard.  On the far right side of the deck we built a large section in the shape of an octagon, and for everything to line up correctly we needed everything to be perfectly symmetrical.  From where I was standing everything was perfectly symmetrical as you can see.


To my surprise, my father-in-law began to disagree with me.  He was saying that we were way off and needed to make some adjustments.  After we talked about it for a little bit he asked me to come look at it from his perspective.  


What do you know… he was right!  My perspective changed everything.  You have the perspective of OCA as a parent, teacher, grandparent, guardian, alumni, or friend of the school.  I have a different perspective as the school’s leader.

I think this blog provides me a great opportunity to share my perspective on OCA and allow me to be vulnerable with you.

Here is my perspective… I want OCA to be committed to loving students and loving God.

Loving students means:
  • We will strive to be student-centered in our classrooms.
  • We will strive to focus on student achievement.
  • We will provide a safe environment for our students.
  • We will discipline our students because we love them.

Loving God means:
  • We will teach every subject filtered through a biblical worldview.
  • We will provide faith-formative experiences.
  • We will hold students to an expectation of honoring God in everything they do.
  • We will honor God with our best in everything we do.  

As the President of OCA I want to have the best academic experience possible for your child.  I want to offer the best fine-arts department, the best athletic department, and in everything else we do I want us to be our best. I do not want to be the best for prideful reasons, however, I want to be the best because God calls us to be our best.

I know as a school we are not perfect but our heart is in the right place.  As we go into a new school year I ask that you keep OCA in your prayers!

Please pray for our:

That God will protect their hearts and minds.

Faculty and Staff:
That they continue to allow God to work through them and they call upon him daily.

Parents and Guardians:
That they will raise their children up in Godly ways and that they continue to work closely with the school.  That they will live out the callings of Deuteronomy 6.

Lastly, I ask for prayers on my behalf.  That I will continue to lead OCA in a Christ-centered way and that I prayerfully make decisions that impact so many people for His kingdom.

Again, welcome back to the school year.  We’re excited to live life with you and your children this year.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Don't Get Comfortable

The title for this blog post is stolen from a good friend of mine, Ken Parker. Ken is a co-founder and CEO of NextThought a company focused on connecting learners everywhere, building engaging communities, and creating collaborative content. Ken recently gave the commencement address at Oklahoma Christian University's 2016 Graduation and he titled his address, ‘Don’t Get Comfortable’. You can also check out his TED talk here.

Ken focused on three points with the OC Graduates:

  • Comfort is almost always bad.
  • To reach your furthest potential you must be uncomfortable.
  • Get started! It is never too late.

We tend to look at this word very positively in our culture. In fact, until recently I am not sure a negative thought ever crossed my mind when I heard this word. Comfortable. When I hear it I think of my bed, my recliner, chicken fried steak, ice cream, you get the point.

When it comes to growing, however, being comfortable doesn’t get me there. In fact, the only thing that grows when you're comfortable is your waistline… Comfortable, does not help me become more mature, more knowledgeable, more healthy, or more Christ-like. You get the point.

This leads me to OCA’s graduation evening on Friday, May 20th. I am sitting on stage about to hand our 2016 seniors their diplomas (a great group I may add).  I have Ken Parker's commencement address in the back of my mind and one of our valedictorians, William Lin, gets to the podium to give his speech and I am awed at his wisdom. With his permission, here is the transcript of that speech.

Do you remember those times when you got a little tired and then took a break? When you fell asleep comfortably and on time?

Or do you remember when you continued work long after you were exhausted? When you stayed up all night studying?

Most of my memories don’t come from doing what I wanted to do. Even my fondest memories don’t come from my wants. The things I cherish the most now are the things I disliked back then. I never wanted to participate in all of Mrs. Campbell’s academic events. I never wanted to join an orchestra. I never wanted to get a job teaching children how to swim. But now I look back and see that those are the best parts of life. I never even wanted to give a valedictorian speech… well actually I still don’t. So, obviously, there have been some instances where I haven’t grown to love something that I hate, but that’s all part of the experience. You do what you hate to find out what you love.

Now class, good job on making it this far, but from here, we still only have as much chance as anyone else. We’re not prestigious. We’re not the number one seed. We ARE different, but then again, everyone else is told the same thing. Don’t kid yourself by seeking only what you love and thinking you’ll be happy. There will always be disappointments, so instead of avoiding them,  indulge in them, because it’s the difficulties and unexpected that’s memorable. What truly defines you.

So I’d like to thank those who forced me to do what I hated, who kept my life imperfect. You know who you are and I don’t want to read off a list of people, so… yeah.

So, just let me leave you with one piece of advice: Don’t just do what you love. You’ll find the experience to be much better.

I couldn’t articulate that message better myself! As usual in this blog, let’s talk about some practical ideas in the comfortability arena.

First, check out these interesting facts.

  • In the year 1800 young people of both sexes would be considered adults as soon as puberty made an outwardly appearance.
  • Boys could join the Army as an officer cadet at 15 years old.
  • The school leaving age moved to 14 years old in the 19th century
  • In 1900, 1 out of 10 American young people between 14-17 years old attended high school.
  • So around 1900 a cascade of labor and school reform laws were passed in an attempt to protect kids from the harsh conditions in factories.

What has this caused?
  • Teens who once established a role of contributor and key producer to society came to an end and suddenly their role was almost exclusively CONSUMER
  • Entire industries have taken off: music, movies, fashion, technology…
  • Most young Americans are pushing back adulthood until their late twenties or early thirties.
  • The “teen” years are viewed as some sort of VACATION and expectations for teenagers have lowered over time.

Here are two healthy ways to make you children uncomfortable.

  1. Make your child get a job over the summer!
Some children have “job like experiences” in the summer like competitive sports, fine arts, or programs like 4H. If these programs, however, are not teaching hard work, responsibility, and perseverance than maybe you need to be looking for something else. If your children do not have anything this summer teaching these traits, be looking for programs that offer this. Or if they are old enough, help them find a job. I know several of our OCA high school boys have started lawn mowing companies!
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2. Ask them to apologize face-to-face with someone when they make a mistake.
Has your child ever done something to hurt someone else’s feelings? Sometimes this happens intentionally but many times we can hurt feelings unintentionally. Regardless, make them apologize not only to the other child but have them apologize to that child’s parents!  That is uncomfortable but something your child will never forget!

The summer is a fantastic time for adventure and the expanding of life experiences. Don’t let the summer slip by without making sure your kids learn these very important lessons. Learning how to do the hard things early in life will only benefit them more later in life.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Preparing For the Storm: Lessons From the Wilderness

WARNING: if Chris Gee (OCA parent) asks you to go backpacking in the wilderness.... just say NO!

“It will be fun” he said.To the contrary, my friend.

We hiked 22 miles in 30 hours with 15 of the hours full of rain, hail, flooded rivers, lightning, thunder, tornado watches, and no cell phone service except for on the top of one of the ridgelines.  When we got to the ridgeline and checked the weather, this is what we found.

We were surrounded by six tornado watches!

I spent weeks getting prepared for our trek.  I bought the right stuff, borrowed some tools, and even lost almost 30 pounds to get ready for this voyage through the Ouachita National Forest.  I did not, however, prepare for the weather that we faced unexpectedly. We knew that weather would be moving into this area, but it came faster than anticipated.

We treked 12 miles away from our car to a river crossing, but could not cross the river because it was up 10 feet due to the flooding.  This meant we had to turn back and go 12 miles backwards just to get back to where we began.  On the trip back we ran into another flooded river, but we had to cross it to get home.  So I became the guinea pig and forged across the river with a rope so we could use it to guide everyone across.

As I was hiking out trying to get back to our cars and to civilization, I had several thoughts running through my mind, but one that I think is worth mentioning here.

Since my time as President of OCA I have seen students, teachers, families, and friends go through some tough “wilderness” experiences themselves.  Unfortunately for some, to even categorize it as a “wilderness” experience is trivial compared to the reality some have faced. Often life seems unfair and unpredictable.  

At this very moment, I assume some of our families are going through the wilderness now.

  • Financial hardships
  • Medical diagnosis
  • Struggling with priorities
  • Losing a loved one
  • Marital issues
  • This list could go on and on...

So, on that mountain I pondered, what tools do kids need to make it through life’s wilderness experiences?  What should we (school and families) be doing/teaching our students to prepare them for the ‘wilderness moments’ of life?

Here are five practical thoughts:

1. Teach them that God is with them in the wilderness. (Biblical example: Mark 4--Jesus was in the boat during the storm.)  On my trip God was present.  I didn’t expect him to part the waters of the flooded river for me to cross, but I did depend on him to help me make good decisions when we reached difficult intersections.  Our kids need to learn from us that God is our first life-line when the storms are raging.

2. Allow them to learn to deal with "low level" adversity moments when they’re young and don’t pretend that life is fair.  Few things prepare young people for adult life more than working through adversity.  Learning how to solve a problem, especially when it’s difficult, is an invaluable skill.  So train your kids now in adverse moments.  Walk them through problem-solving steps and help them learn how to do that themselves.

3. Surround your children with a village of people that love your kids and your family and lean on them during wilderness moments.  A church family is a wonderful thing to have!  I had never been on this trail before, and my outdoor experience was somewhat limited compared to others.  So I depended on the people around me to help me make good decisions.  Our kids need to know who they can depend on, and they need to feel safe going to those people for support.

4. Don’t let pride or anything else keep you from using a professional to guide you through the wilderness.  This one is very important.  Our kids need to know that professional help is available when they want it or need it.  We need to provide professional guides to our kids when the rivers in their lives are flooding.

5. Find ways to create “grit” in your children.  Duckworth, Peterson, Matthews, and Kelly (2007) explain, “The gritty individual approaches achievement as a marathon; his or her advantage is stamina. Whereas disappointment or boredom signals to others that it is time to change trajectory and cut losses, the gritty individual stays the course” (p. 1088). Are your kids gritty?  When the weather is blowing and there are miles to go, do they understand that hard work is the key?  

This adventure is one that I’ll never forget.  It was exciting, scary, and exhausting.  But looking back, I’m proud of the hard work it took and all of the preparation I did to get ready.  But it’s especially important to remember that we can’t prepare for all of life’s storms.  They will appear out of nowhere.  We need to be teaching our kids these lessons during the calm times so they are ready when the rivers seem impassable.