April 18, 2019
Dear PCA Friends and Families,
On the week we particularly remember the trial, crucifixion, and resurrection of Jesus and what it means for us, both individually and for our world, I want to tell you a little of my story. In short, I grew up an agnostic, and through God’s work over many seasons, I follow Him today. May you be encouraged.
First and foremost, I identify as a Christian, a follower of Jesus and the God of the Bible. I have not always been so. Today, half a century on this earth, I am very much still on a faith journey. Over the next few weeks, I would like to share with you my testimony in four parts.
Christian Testimony I: Early years, Faith, and learning discipleship
I grew up in an agnostic home. We were an Army family and moved frequently. In my formative years, I never remember my parents talking about God or attending church. Morals were reinforced, and my family was loving. Yet God was absent. Then, in two short years (between age 9-11), I witnessed my younger sister, then my mother, and finally my father each profess a faith in Jesus as God. More importantly, I saw them change—especially my father. We began attending church, where I heard the gospel, understood it, but did not accept it.
Then, life happened. At age 13, while living in South Korea, I had a very difficult 7th grade experience. Thankfully, my parents walked with me through that time with faithfulness, patience, and kindness. In the summer between my 7th and 8th grade year—alone in bed one night, staring at the dark ceiling—I professed to God that I believed He was Lord and Savior. At first, I told no one, but at the end of the summer, I told my mother. I remember her great joy—her response was deeply affirming.
Through my teenage years, my faith grew largely through focused Bible studies. At each military chapel, young adults took us beyond youth group to study the Bible more deeply. I began to read what it said, and I came to understand that being a Christian meant not only believing in Jesus but following Him. Luke 9:23 stood out: Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow me.
In college, at West Point, several upper-classmen reached out to me and invited me to a campus ministry called the Navigators, an interdenominational group focused on discipling Christians to faithfully and genuinely live out their faith and help others do the same. Through that group, I met and fell in love with Christy Cassidy, a cadet classmate and sister in Christ. We were married just a few days after graduation. We were both committed to knowing Christ and making Him known—the Navigator’s mission and a key element of the great commission in Matthew 28.
As a young couple, Christy and I worshipped and found fellowship in Army chapels and with a ministry called Officer Christian Fellowship. The ministry’s combination of pastors, priests, and lay people as a faithful group of people committed to each other both greatly encouraged and helped us as a young married couple as well as young Army officers finding our footing in a new and challenging profession. We really saw the “body of Christ” at work in “real life” on our own, apart from our families or the “bubble” of the collegiate environment. It was also at this point that Christy’s commitment to the church—a strong part of her story—really shaped my thinking and attitudes that had never really formed in my years in transient Army chapels.
Next week: Christian Testimony II—Foreign Countries, Education, and War
April 11, 2019
Dear PCA Friends and Families,
I want to reinforce Dr. Engstrom’s thanks and support for our volunteers.
Community strength often becomes visible in crisis. Think of citizens’ responses to the storms that recently ravaged our country: Harvey in Texas (2017), Maria in Puerto Rico (2017), and Michael in the Carolinas (2018). Locally, nationally, and globally we saw not only governments respond (as expected) but we also witnessed people make great acts of sacrifice and commitment to voluntarily help others both locally and from hundreds of miles away. Why did they do this? One reason has become increasingly clear: a great number of these men, women, and kids who moved into the crisis were Christians who were volunteering their time, talent, and treasure to help. The picture below and the associated podcast here powerfully captures this.
Yet we also know that people respond in crisis the ways they have prepared their minds, hearts, and hands outside of crises, in the everyday. The sacrificial volunteerism we see in in the aftermath of storms and destruction is borne from a pattern of volunteerism that begins at home, in the rhythms of church, town, and school life. Such volunteerism is absolutely essential to the vitality of health of every community. That point is also true of PCA. For years I have heard of PCA’s volunteers: hundreds of men and women–whose lives are already full and committed–who give even more to PCA. They enable classrooms to run more effectively by helping busy teachers; they shuttle kids to and from school, sports, and key events to keep our teams on the fields and our artists performing; they help with theater and art productions behind the scenes painting and pulling together costumes; they come out on weekends to repair and beautify the campus. The truth is, we could never replace our volunteers, and we need them every day, every week, every month. Their spirits of joyful service lift the staff; their strong hands lighten the load; their quiet faithfulness encourages and inspires all.
Last Friday at chapel, PCA leaders honored many of those who volunteered at PCA to enable our mission this year. I wish I could have been with you. But please know that I am thanking your from afar, specifically for modeling quiet, joyful, faithful, sacrificial service to our kids, our teachers, our support staff as you carry the load. The picture above is titled “Christians in the Aftermath.” A picture of the PCA volunteers might read: “Christians in Daily, Faithful Service.” (Of course, your t-shirts would be maroon or gold, too). A key take away for all of us: we don’t get the responders to crises without having the responders to daily needs already firmly established. We thank the Lord for you, individually, and collectively.
You live out Ephesians 6:10: So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.
Well done, PCA Volunteers! Thank you for serving, and for modeling our Lord’s call to follow Him each day.
April 4, 2019
Dear PCA Families and Friends,
Few things build cohesion and community more than a shared endeavor. Sports teams and certain athletic events (such as a group of people running a race together for a cause) typically serve these functions in our society. They forge individual character while building our sense of belonging and contribution to a greater whole. As PCA’s spring teams take the field next week in their first games, we cheer them on and are incredibly thankful to the coaches, parents, and athletic support team that make these opportunities possible.
I also highlight other forms of shared endeavors that mark PCA as distinctive. Just recently, PCA’s Mathematics team won the New Hampshire State Championship, guided by Nathan Snyder, the Head of our Math Department. Long study, detailed preparation, and a willingness to risk losing as a combined team were all prerequisites to compete. There were no guarantees when they went forward to the championship round. Yet they competed and, with hard work and the Lord’s blessing, they carried the day and won the championship—well done to each individually and all collectively! Similarly, PCA’s Quiz Bowl team is getting ready for their State championship later this month, having qualified as one of the top eight teams in the State over the winter. And our Theater Arts program is full-on preparing for the “Mary Poppins” musical in May.
Sports teams, academic teams, and play casts and crews are all ways our students share in common endeavors. They enable each of us to bring our time, talents, and interests together with others to work hard, prepare diligently, and take the risk of the test: the game, the match, or the performance. What makes these crucible experiences different for a Christian school is that we see victory, championships, and rave reviews as not ends unto themselves, but as part of a much larger path and process of sanctification, preparation, and community that God both calls us to and uses. I am so thankful that PCA not only offers these opportunities and prepares our students, athletes, and artists to compete and prevail, but PCA also provides the Biblical context as to why we do this: to bring God glory and love others.
A key verse we continue in our shared PCA endeavors: “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” Colossians 3:23-24 (NIV)
Go Eagles! Soli Deo gloria!
March 28, 2019
PCA Friends and Families,
Tuesday I was again able to be on our PCA campus. An unanticipated calendar shift enabled me to travel north and meet with Dr. Engstrom, the Board of Directors, and the staff as we begin to prepare for next school year. The visit made clear to me that as we look to the future, the long winter has not yet yielded its grip to spring. The sometimes lonely and painful 18 mile-mark of the marathon that is the academic year has us wondering how we are going to finish well. This week I write to simply encourage you that our Lord is with us where we are right now. He is walking – and in some cases running – ahead, behind, and alongside. His words are helpful to me, and I hope they encourage you:
“For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. Therefore, lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed.” Hebrews 12:11-12
“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.” 2 Timothy 4:7-8
I read these verses and find solace in the acknowledgement of the struggles we each bear. I also find hope and encouragement in the healing, new strength, and continuing that is to all who ‘loved his appearing.’ As you and your families keep going, with hope of spring and the confidence that the steady, deliberate pace will carry you to the finish line of early June, know as well that the “scouts are out” preparing for next year—prayerfully, deliberately, and with great hope and joy. I look forward to updating you as we go forward. Until then, let us take the next steps with joy and confidence in our Lord and to the race he has called us, our families, and our school to run in this season.
Joyfully and hopefully,
Head of School – Select | Portsmouth Christian Academy at Dover
Honoring God joyfully by inspiring students to maximize their God-given potential—for nearly 40 years