May 30, 2019
Dear PCA Friends and Families,
First, a hearty congratulations to the cast and crew of Mary Poppins—I listened to your interview on the Mike Pomp radio show, followed you on social media, and heard about your performances. Well done! Bravo! And to our sports teams–the Lady Eagle track runners who prevailed in the 4×800, and the softball and baseball teams on their way to the state tourney: Well done, all! Go Eagles!
As you conclude the 18-19 school year and reflect back on what God has done in your lives and in the lives of those around you, my hope and prayer is that you will see His goodness, faithfulness, presence, and loving hand. Yes, there are many, many achievements of excellence to celebrate—and we do, and we give God glory in all of them. I am also convinced that the integration of a living, active Christian faith that intersects excellent performance and guides it, both individually and as a community, is what marks PCA as distinctive. I have seen faith-excellence integration in my visits with you this year, and I look forward to leading PCA and walking with you in a similar way in the near future.
Lord willing, I will be present at graduation on June 7, celebrating with you and offering God’s blessing on the graduating seniors and their families. I will join the teachers and staff on June 10 to close out our end-of-year workshop, and on June 11, Dr. Engstrom and I will change seats: I will be in the “left seat” driving, and he will assume the “right seat,” providing counsel, encouragement, and context. The PCA staff and many of you will shift gears and immediately begin our summer programs as well as work to prepare for next year, from on-campus maintenance to curriculum and chapel preparation. By early July, my family will be joining me, and together we will be moving into the house at the top of the Seaborne Drive. We look forward to becoming part of the PCA community full-time.
Again, congratulations to you all for a race well run this school year, and I thank God for being with each and all of us in this last year. Reading God’s word in this season greatly encourages me as I reflect on what has just recently become the past and as I turn to look into the mists of what is our future. My confidence is strengthened by hearing and reading your testimonies, a confidence that our Great God is already at work in our coming summer and even into next year. So, with such confidence, let us rest, rejoice, and celebrate in this season of completion and graduation. Glory be to our God!
If the academic year is like a marathon, then you are already in the stadium for your final laps. And behold, the race official just rang the bell —you are all on the last lap! I exhort you, keep pressing! Dig deep! Shout encouragement to your fellow runners to your left and right. Find that next emotional, spiritual, and intellectual gear, and power through the tape at the end—it is there! You have worked so hard—finish well! We who are watching are proud of you!
I know—you might be saying to yourself, “Who IS this guy? Runey doesn’t even live here yet! What does he know about our race?” Well, at one level you are right. At another level I have just been part of completing a couple of “life” races of my own. Our oldest son, Peter, just graduated from Summit Christian Academy last week. We watched and encouraged him through his “last laps” and are so proud of how he finished so well. The second was my retirement ceremony from the Army—commemorating a long but good race over many seasons on many tracks and courses. I received a lot of encouragement and affirmation not only as we finished our Army race, but also begin a new leg of the PCA race with you.
The power of these last two weeks, when we have been really tired and ready to simply “get through,” was the encouragement and affirmation of the Holy Spirit and others. It is real, it is powerful, and it helps us even when we are exhausted, hurting, and sometimes even hobbling to find that “deep, powerful gear” that enables us to cross the finish line with momentum, satisfaction, and joy.
The power to finish well has two key components. First, run with God. He has already gone before us, and He is with us. He is our true source of strength and power. All other sources are illusory and ultimately unsatisfying fakes. Continue to read His word, pray, and fellowship with God in these hectic “last laps.” Second, purposefully reach out. This is tough because when we are busy and hurting and focusing, we tend to tunnel our vision; resist this, and see and engage left and right. See a straggler who is limping and come alongside; if you are limping or simply slowed to a walk, lift your eyes and engage with someone alongside. Slow and offer assistance as needed or be open to receiving it. Affirm each other for having arrived at this point in the race—so tough, so long! Running alone and long and pressing through by yourself is lonely and hard. Running life’s races are best run together, even when all we hear are the foot slaps and rhythmic breathing of those around us.
Know that I and many others are praying for you individually and collectively, as families—parents and students—and as faculty. Know that I am so proud of you, for standing and walking in the Lord through all seasons this year—the really tough days and weeks as well as the good ones. Know that I am thankful for your humble, practical love for each other as an overflow of your love for God, evident in all you do.
Finish well! Know that the satisfaction and fulfillment and rest are just across that finish line. Don’t slow, don’t stop. Keep pressing! Lord willing, I will be at graduation on 7 June. May we be able to each say, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” (II Timothy 4:7) because of Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith who endured the cross (Hebrews 12:2). Special congratulations to our graduating seniors—see you at the race celebration!
Thanks to the dedicated volunteers who came on campus last Saturday! What a privilege to work alongside you– the campus looks wonderful. More importantly, I really enjoyed getting to know some of our families better.
Last week, in the second segment of my testimony, I described how Christy and I welcomed our first child and moved to Germany, then went to Penn State, and ended back at West Point, where I served in the History Department. Then, 9/11 happened, and all of our worlds changed. For us, it meant going to war not once but twice. This week, we return from war and begin a new chapter.
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.
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