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Friday, February 10, 2017

Four Things All Boys Need to Learn Early On

What do you want your kids to be when they are 30 years old?  More importantly, WHO do you want your kids to be when they are 30?

This was the question Dr. Knowles asked last week during the first session of our third-annual OCA Family Institute.  (You should have seen various emails from Dr. Knowles inviting you to participate in this 5-week parenting series hosted on Wednesday evenings.)  This is the question that she asked us to ponder.

Have you ever thought about it?

I wrote down four attributes that I want to see in my son.  I stole these from a book called Raising a Modern Day Knight by Robert Lewis, but they are attributes that I think every parent should be intentionally instilling in their sons.

  1. I want my son to Lead Courageously.
  2. I want my son to learn to Accept Responsibility.
  3. I want my son to Reject Passivity.
  4. I want my son to Expect a Greater Reward.

These four attributes may seem simple to some or bizarre to others, but I think they represent the characteristics of a godly man.  

In September I took a group of OCA dad’s to Wheeler Peak in New Mexico and we summited two of the tallest mountains in New Mexico.  On this trip I created cards for each dad with these attributes on them and handed them out one evening on the mountain.  We discussed the value of each of these items and the challenges we face on a daily basis trying to impart these qualities.  (If you want to go on a similar trip next year let me know. I plan on this being an annual trip, September 1-4.)

Since our trip, two of the fathers have taken their children on a summit of their own.  One of the dad’s took his kids to a different mountain range in New Mexico and they went on a treasure hunt.  There's an old legend of a plane crash on one of the New Mexico mountain ranges.  They went with maps, treasure hunting tools, and clues to find the hidden treasure!  I thought it was a great and creative way to take his elementary children on a trip they will always remember.  The kids thought the trip was about a hidden treasure, but this dad had far greater intentions for the trip.

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Surprising, I know, they did not find the treasure.  But dad had something else in store.  He brought his kids together and said, “I know you’re disappointed that we didn’t find the treasure, but I want you to know that we don’t need that treasure.  Yes, it would have been cool to find it and fun to have, but we really don’t need it.  There is a treasure that we do need though, and I brought it for you.  The treasure that we need is found in God’s word and I want you to have this.”  At this point he handed them each their first “big kid” leather-bound bible.  “This is the most important treasure you will ever have.”

Wow!  What an awesome way to create an experience for his kids that was meaningful and intentionally driven by the qualities he wants to see in his children.  One of the many joys of my job is the opportunity I have to witness firsthand examples of fatherhood like this.

Many of you are beginning to start planning your summer.  I want to encourage you to take time and reflect on how you can be intentional this summer with your family.  What things do you need to begin or continue teaching, and how can you create opportunities to foster these things?

Here are four questions I have created to help me self-reflect on whether or not I’m doing my part instilling those four traits in my son:

  1. Am I setting an example to my son of what a courageous leader looks like?
  2. Am I letting my son fail, and do I view these failures as a necessary part of his development?
  3. Am I guiding him to do hard things?
  4. Am I a godly influence on my son and can he see that I believe in a higher power through my words and actions? Can he see that my trust is not in man but in God?

Parenting can often seem like a very long survival course, just making it through from one day to the next.  But adding this kind of intentionality to your relationship with your child will bring a depth that they will notice, and it will help you recognize just how important your role is.  We’re not just survival guides for life.  We’re here to lead our children through a tough world.  It’s a much less difficult job to do when you’ve chosen specific tools and mapped out your route.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Home Depot Employee of the Year

Did you know the best Home Depot employee in the country lives in Edmond, Oklahoma? More on that in a second...

Our faculty and staff begin every spring semester at OCA with an in-service day.  This provides us a chance to finish up loose ends from the previous semester and creates an opportunity for us to get together and kick-off the new year with excitement and positive motivation.  This year I opened up our inservice by highlighting a recent shopping experience I had at Home Depot.

It was the day before Christmas Eve, the store was packed, and everyone was busy.  Let me be totally honest, I begrudge retail shopping during the Christmas season.  It seems there is a direct correlation between how grouchy a retail employee is and how close it is to Christmas. I’ve shopped at Home Depot a lot over the years and have had many pleasant experiences, but this trip to get paint turned out to be quite special.

My two year old son was with me to pick up our paint.  Taking a two-year old to the store can make for a hazardous shopping experience.  I often end up forgetting something I need because I'm so focused on not losing him or keeping him from breaking something.  As we approached the paint department, it was immediately evident that this day would be different.  


First, the store employee drew a smiley face on a piece of blue painters tape and handed it to my son. He then said, "would you like to see how paint is made?"  Sawyer was immediately engaged, so we walked around to watch.  The employee then said, "Could you be a helper and help me make the paint?" Sawyer responded immediately, "Sure!" From this point forward, Sawyer got to scan the paint code, hit the enter button on the computer to start the mixing, helped hammer down the lid, assisted in walking the paint over to the shaking machine, then pressed the power button, and finalized the project by checking the color.

This entire experience reminded me what it takes to be a great employee within any profession or field. Great employees are selfless and are concerned with creating experiences for the customer. Customers return when they have had an awesome experience.  

FISH, a book written in 2000 by Lundin, Paul, & Christensen, highlights multiple qualities of great employees by taking a look at the world famous Pike Place Fish Market in Seattle.

  1. Employees can CHOOSE their attitudes everyday.  Fortunately, Home Depot has an employee that chose an attitude of kindness and selflessness.
  2. Great employees are looking to MAKE YOUR DAY.  How great would work be if you could go home every day knowing you made someone's day?
  3. Great employees are PRESENT.  They don’t have their cell phone tucked behind the register and they aren’t checking email while talking to you.  They are present in the moment.  Let this be a reminder to all of us.  Put down what you are doing and be present in the moment because people matter more than the task at hand.

So, what kind of employee will you be this year?  This was the central question I proposed to my teachers during in-service when I shared my Home Depot experience, and I believe it’s an important question for each of us to ask ourselves.  Whether you are in retail or not, each of your interactions with another human being is an opportunity to make someone’s day, and we do that by choosing a positive attitude and being present in the moment. These guidelines apply to parents as we serve our children, to teachers as we lead by example for our students, and for anyone else who interacts with people.

Too many people use social media to promote negativity. Share this post and help me spread something positive to start the new year!

Monday, December 12, 2016

Teach Them to Read

One of my nightly dad duties is bath and bedtime.  I enjoy this time.  It allows me to turn the busyness of life off and pay full attention to Sawyer.  Each night before bed we do the same routine of reading stories and singing a song.  

As of late, Sawyer wants to always sing Jesus Loves Me, or as he calls it, Jesus Bible.  The books he has been most interested in for the past couple months are related to the alphabet.  You remember what these books are like, every page has a letter on it and that letter is connected to a word.  “A” is for apple.  It’s pretty amazing to see his knowledge grow in regards to identifying letters and make their corresponding sound.  At some point he will learn to take this basic knowledge and will begin reading these books to me.

Reading is one of the most important, fundamental skills our children learn in their early education.  Once a child learns to read, their capacity for learning is almost limitless.  They can teach themselves almost anything they want to learn.  Because of this, I’m convinced the most important thing we do at Oklahoma Christian Academy is teaching students to read.

Dr. Chris King, president of a Christian school in Texas, is a close friend of mine.  This summer we discussed this topic and the fact that literacy is the beginning of all knowledge.  I will take this a step further and argue that in Christian education we teach our students to read something far greater than words. We teach our students to read culture and faith.  

Being intentional about this is more important now than ever.

Here’s why:

Speed, accumulation, instant gratification, and technology are just a few words that sum up the American culture in which our children are being raised.  None of these things are inherently bad, but we must remember that it’s our job to not let the hearts of our children be taken by the things of this world.

Country music group Lady Antebellum sings a song called Compass (2013) which highlights a interesting perspective of our culture.

“So let your heart sweetheart be your compass when you're lost
And you should follow it wherever it may go.
When it's all said and done you can walk instead of run
'Cause no matter what you'll never be alone”

The most significant deception our culture tells our children is to let their heart be their compass for life.

Whether we want to admit it or not, at a foundational level we are all driven by our emotions, feelings, and desires.  This is why many of us continue to do things we know we shouldn’t do.  I know I should never eat the Chicka Chicka Boom Boom from Chuy’s Tex Mex because I KNOW it is bad for me, but I love it too much!  We all have these things we know we ought not do but we do them anyways. Right? At a basic level this is okay, but if not kept in check it can create devastating consequences.

We know two things: (1) We know our emotions, feelings, and desires play a pivotal role in our actions. (2) We know we live in a culture that encourages our children to be led by their hearts.  So, instead of resisting this let’s use this to our advantage in helping our children read culture and faith.  Let’s provide our children with experiences that continue to mold who they are.

In last month’s blog I wrote about the value of experience creation in the lives of our children.  This is why I wrote that we as parents and educators are in the business of creating memories.  Our experiences form internal desires and creates a piggy bank of memories that we draw upon when making current decisions.  Through the experiences of life we can help form and shape the actions of tomorrow.  Let’s continue to work together to form and shape the hearts of our children into the likeness of Christ.

As educators, parents, grandparents, and friends we can raise children whose hearts do not fall in love with things of our culture, but rather use their hearts to navigate this culture through the lens of their faith. Can I get an AMEN?

I look forward to the day when Sawyer will be able to read a book to me at night, but I long for the day that Sawyer uses his heart as as compass to align his actions with those of Jesus.

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.