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Cleaning Up the Clutter of Conflict

Fair warning. Here is “cynical me” speaking. Two things are sure at our private Christian school: tuition payments and squabbles. (Maybe I’m just speaking from my inner Ben Franklin – you know, death and taxes). Well, there is not much I can do about the tuition payments. We have to pay our teachers and keep the lights on. However, there is something we can do about the squabbles. Conflicts are inevitable among any group of people, but God, by His abundant grace in Christ, enables us to live in peace as a community of peacemakers.

If you drop 50 things on the living room floor but do nothing to pick them up, by the end of the day the room will be a complete mess. But if you drop 50 things on the floor and pick each up immediately after it hits the floor, the room will be clean at the end of the day. Likewise, we may have any number of conflicts along the way, but if we’re careful to clean up each one, at the end of the day we will have a healthy relationship. But if we let the conflicts hit and leave them there, we end up with messy relationships cluttered with anger and resentment and bitterness.

One of the best resources out there for learning how to live together in peace is the work of Ken Sande and Peacemakers. His little book Resolving Everyday Conflict is a treasure of biblical wisdom and insight. Below are a number of selections from the first chapter, “The Nature of Conflict: What It Is and Where It Comes From.” Let’s learn together the grace and skill of peacemaking so that we can glorify God together in our school community.

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In the Bible, God gives us a powerful way to respond to conflict. Our natural approach to conflict is to focus on what an opponent did to us. Yet if we try to resolve conflict by focusing only on what someone else did wrong, we never reach a real solution. God’s approach begins with us understanding the gospel?everything Jesus Christ accomplished for us on the cross. Through the gospel, God treats us with extraordinary, unearned kindness. And his gracious response to us gives us power to respond to others in an entirely new way. Once we understand how the good news of Jesus empowers real reconciliation, we can begin to learn and apply God’s practical steps to peacemaking.

Peacemaking comes naturally to no one. It always goes against our normal human impulses. But the more we draw on God’s power, and the more we wrestle with and obey what God teaches, the more effectively we can work out disagreements with others.

As Christians we can’t escape conflict. Maybe you have picked up the idea that being a good person will help you steer clear of major clashes. If you try hard to do right, then people won’t disrespect or mistreat you. Or perhaps you have been taught that if you do clash with others, turning to God for help will effortlessly make everything better. Life as a Christian doesn’t work that way.

While many conflicts bring disastrous results, conflict isn’t always bad. Even the most mature of Christians experience conflict and can come out better for it.

The Bible teaches that some conflicts come from God-given diversity. Many of our differences aren’t about right or wrong; they are simply the result of these God-designed personal preferences. What God desires is unity, not uniformity.

Other conflicts result from simple misunderstandings. There isn’t a person on earth who communicates perfectly, whether speaking or listening.

Although much conflict is the natural result of God-given diversity and simple misunderstandings, many conflicts are the result of sinful attitudes and desires that lead to sinful words and actions.

The sinful root of conflict is really idolatry. As Christians, we know we should want what God wants, but when we allow an idol to control our hearts, we only want what we want. The one cure for idolatry is to look to God himself, returning him to his rightful first place in our lives and deciding we want his will for us above any other desire.

The good news is that conflict doesn’t need to ruin our lives. The grand theme of the Bible is reconciliation. We only have to read about four pages into the Bible?approximately five hundred words?before we see mankind leap into sin and experience separation from God and each other. Yet the whole of the rest of Scripture discloses God’s incredible plan to bring back to himself a human race that willfully walked away from him.

Unresolved conflict brings tragic results. When people lock horns at home or work, with friends, or in a courtroom, relationships are often severely damaged. Conflict robs us of time, energy, money, and opportunities. When we pause and realize the destructive nature of conflict, we discover how desirable peace really is.

Peace is worth our greatest effort. The Bible tells us that we should “make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3). The Greek word in this verse that is translated “make every effort” means to strive eagerly . . . earnestly . . . diligently. It’s a word that a trainer of gladiators might have used when he sent men to fight to the death in the Coliseum: “Make every effort to stay alive today!” Peace is worth that life-and-death effort. If we want to enter into all the peace God has for us, we have to give it our all.

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Of Eyes: Puppy-Dog and Otherwise

Recently I read this social media post: “Today marks a year since I paid nearly $200 to be told my dog was faking struggling to breathe in order to be carried.” The flop-eared pup in the accompanying picture is really cute. Isn’t it amazing how easily we can be misled and manipulated? If our dogs, cute as they are, can fool us into carrying them, just think what our children are capable of!

Yes, it’s true, and any wise parent will tell you: your children will fake you out, mislead you, and manipulate you. They’ll be cute while they do it, too. It wasn’t their fault. Someone else did it first. They can’t break away from screen time to do the chore because they have an urgent homework assignment to work on. They don’t feel good. Their puppy-dog eyes would rival those of the dog with breathing problems.

Scripture teaches us that our children are a blessing from the Lord; they are evidence of His favor and kindness. But Scripture also teaches that our children are born with a fallen sinful nature, and that they need a Savior. Parents must learn from God’s Word and seek His wisdom in order to be able to train up their children to love and serve God and to be men and women of integrity. Also, parents must be honest about their children and be ready to see their children’s attitudes and behavior for what they are, especially when it involves misleading or manipulating.

In my years of observing students and families in a school setting, I’ve seen more times than I can count when children pulled the wool over their parents’ eyes or led them around on a string. Maybe the child wasn’t even aware she was doing it, or maybe the parents were aware and were so dazzled by how cute she was that they just accepted it. Or maybe the parents enabled the child to do it and now it’s just easier to keep accepting it.

So in the spirit of encouragement to you as a parent (and also speaking as a dad who has been faked out by his own children!), I offer these bits of advice.

Don’t accept excuses from your children. Accepting excuses from your children is like throwing gasoline on a fire – it flares up into more and more creative and manipulative excuses for not doing the right thing, the hard thing, or the uncomfortable thing. Sometimes our children need us simple to say, “I’m sorry but I love you too much to accept that. You can do it, you will do it, and you’ll do it right away. So get busy!”

Don’t do it for them if they can do it for themselves. This is probably especially applicable to moms, but dads can be guilty here also. As your children grow, they should be given more and more responsibility and higher and higher expectations. We’re not raising children; we’re raising adults. Children who get used to someone else doing for them what they should be doing for themselves become lazy, irresponsible, excuse-driven adults.

Don’t believe everything your child says. Follow the Cold War dictum of Ronald Reagan: Trust but verify. Don’t assume everything your child tells you about the school day is the way it really was. Assume you’re hearing one side of it – a side that might be right but that just might also be flat wrong. We shouldn’t assume our children are liars, but we should realize that they are born with self-justifying lies in their hearts ready to come out.

Your children will learn to mislead and manipulate by watching you. In fact, our children learn from everything we do – and don’t do. So there is a high premium on us refusing to give excuses, accepting responsibility, and walking in integrity. It’s our job to teach our children virtue by showing them what virtue looks like when it is lived out.

So the next time your child gives you the ol’ puppy-dog eyes and needs to be carried because their legs hurt, look them in those big brown eyes, smile, and say, “Not today, dear. You’re walking!”

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A Little Conversation That Turned Ugly

Paul David Tripp, in his weekly devotional Wednesday’s Word, recently wrote about “A Little Conversation That Turned Ugly,” and his words are quite helpful guidance for dealing with conflict. In fact, his counsel applies to all of us, pointing us toward how to deal first with our own sin, whether that sin involves words or actions or attitudes. I encourage us all to hear Mr. Tripp and, for the sake of honoring the Lord and living in peace, take his words to heart.

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It was one of those conversations you want to take back. It was one of those conversations when you go where your desires and emotions are leading you. It was one of those conversations when you know you should stop or walk away but feel you can’t.

It was one of those conversations when afterward you are confronted with the sin that still lives inside you. Can you relate?

It wasn’t a big deal in one way. Just a small conversation that had turned a bit ugly. It wasn’t a dramatic life-altering moment. It was in the privacy of my home with one of my family members.

But maybe that’s the point.

Perhaps it’s very important because that’s where I live every day. You see, you and I don’t live in a series of big, dramatic moments. We don’t careen from big decision to big decision. We all live in an endless series of mundane moments and little conversations.

So I knew I couldn’t back away from this little conversation that turned ugly. I knew I had to own my sin. But the minute I thought this, an inner struggle began.

“I wasn’t the only one at fault. If he hadn’t said what he said, I wouldn’t have become angry. I was actually pretty patient for much of the conversation.” These were some of the arguments I was giving myself.

Rather than appealing to the mercy of the Lord in the face of my sin, what I actually do instead is function as my own defense lawyer and present a list of arguments for my own righteousness.

The theology behind the defense is that my greatest problem is outside me, not inside me. In so arguing, I’m telling myself that I don’t really need to be rescued by the Lord’s mercy. Instead, I’m telling myself that what I need to be rescued from is that sinner in the conversation who caused me to respond as I did.

Here’s the point. Before you can ever make a clean and unamended confession of your sin, you have to first begin by confessing your righteousness.

It’s not just your sin that separates you from God; your righteousness does as well. Because when you are convinced you are righteous, you don’t seek the forgiving, rescuing, and restoring mercy that can be found only in Jesus Christ.

So the next time you have a little conversation that turns ugly, don’t argue for your righteousness, shift the blame, or run away. Instead, appeal to the one thing in your life that’s sure and will never fail.

Leave the courtroom of your own defense, come out of hiding, and admit whom you are. But do so unafraid, because you’ve been personally and eternally blessed. Because of what Jesus did, God looks on you with mercy.

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“The Parent’s Attitude Toward Education”

A few years ago WORLD magazine’s WORLD on Campus website published excerpts from a speech by former education secretary William Bennett at Patrick Henry College. His remarks are quite incisive:

How can American education improve? Education gets better locally. The single most important adult in a child’s life is the parent. The single most important thing about the education of the child needs to be the parent, and the parent’s attitude toward education: Not how much he or she knows, but attitude. The parent can be illiterate, not able to do any of the homework with the kid, but still saying, “This is important. You turn off the TV [or today he would say, “Get off your phone!” – DB]. You do your work. You listen to the teacher.”

And does that teacher need to be good? The research on this is fascinating: There’s a ton. It’s not class size. It’s certainly not facilities. It’s not technology. It’s the quality of the adult in front of the classroom. The research is clear: You are much better off in a bad school with a good teacher than a supposedly really good school with a bad teacher. If you take kids from the 50th percentile in the third grade, and you give them a teacher everyone regards as excellent, in two years they’ll be at the 85 percentile. You give them a teacher everyone regards as not very good, in two years they’ll be in the 35th percentile. What more do you need to know about evaluating teachers and rewarding excellence?

Mr. Bennett is affirming two truths that are central to a classical Christian education.

First, it is parents who have the primary responsibility to educate their children. It is not the state, not the county, not the Department of Education, but parents who are instructed by the Lord God to educate their children for Him. Deuteronomy 6:6-9 and Ephesians 6:4 are quite clear in this regard. It is parents who are the essential component of a quality education, and to be faithful to God parents must seek out the best and most God-centered education possible for their children. Do you embrace this responsibility? Do you embrace it with more than a tuition check but with daily conversation with your child about what she is learning? Do you read with and to your children? Do you engage with them and challenge them and encourage them? God has placed you in this crucial role and loves your children through you as you care for them.

Second, Mr. Bennett affirms that skilled teachers are the essential piece of the education puzzle. Our Lord taught us that “A disciple [or student] is not above his teacher, but everyone who is perfectly trained will be like his teacher” (Luke 6:40). Teachers model, inspire, train, encourage, correct, and embody the traits and knowledge they are striving to inculcate in their students. Please pray for your children’s teachers and ask the Lord to give them strength, courage, and consistency in this high calling. I am always so heartened when a parent speaks of his or her faithful prayers for our teachers. And then I am even more encouraged to see parents getting to know and lifting up teachers. What a blessing Regents parents are to our school’s teachers, as they strive to bless our students daily.

God is indeed blessing the work of Regents Academy, and He is doing it through people, who are among God’s greatest gifts. Let’s keep trusting Him to do His work through us. And let’s keep trusting one another and getting to know one another better as we, together, seek to fulfill our great mission at Regents.

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Answering the Big Question

Fritz Hinrichs, in his article “Why Classical Education?”, does a great job of simply yet eloquently answering this question.

We live in the continuum of western history. In order to evaluate this stream of which we are part, we must step back from it and discern the ideas that have shaped it. To attempt to ignore the ideas that have shaped our cultural history is to guarantee ourselves not only cultural irrelevance but also entrenchment in the Christian ghetto. This position will not only lead to our own intellectual poverty but will also disgrace the Sovereign God who needs not be mocked by the cowardice of His children. The King’s children do not hide in the alleys but walk confidently knowing that the sun that shines belongs to their Father.

I would submit that this is a powerful answer to the question of why our school exists and why you and I and so many other parents are sacrificing to send their children to schools like Regents Academy. Our children are the King’s children, and we aim for them to walk confidently and purposefully, to His glory.

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Students Shine at 4-H Roundup

The Texas State 4-H Roundup, held in early June at Texas A&M University, features many competitions and more than 2,500 competitors. In order to be invited to compete at the state level, students must have placed either 1st or 2nd at the district competition, each of which comprises several counties. Skeeter Gilbreath, Kaden Harman, Jake Hill, and Jess Hill, who all placed 1st at district, were invited to the state competition and competed, representing Regents Academy’s club for the first time.

We are so proud of these four Regents students, who all won awards at this year’s competition:

  • Kaden Harman: Solo Instrumental, 3rd Place
  • Skeeter Gilbreath and Jess Hill: Dramedy, 4th place
  • Jake Hill: Public Speaking, 5th place

Also, thank you to Mrs. Jeni Gilbreath, who served as chaperone for the competition.

Congratulations, students!

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Welcome Aboard, Mrs. Mary Austin

We are very happy to welcome Mrs. Mary Austin as our school’s sixth grade teacher for 2018-19. While she is certainly no stranger to our school family, we have known Mrs. Austin as a Regents mom for several years. Now we will have the pleasure of getting to know her as our sixth grade teacher. Mary and her husband Bobby are the parents of three children: Emma, Lucy, and Reed.

Welcome aboard, Mrs. Austin!

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Congratulations, Mr. Roy Bradley

Our school has been blessed to have Mr. Roy Bradley in our Logic/Rhetoric School classroom for 8 years now teaching such diverse courses as Omnibus, Logic, Algebra, Geometry, Apologetics, and Rhetoric (he’s quite the Renaissance man!).

We are very happy to announce that beginning in 2018-19 Mr. Bradley will have a new title and responsibility — Logic/Rhetoric School Principal. As principal, Mr. Bradley will oversee the academic program and culture of the School of Logic and Rhetoric, and serve teachers and parents by insuring that the school’s mission and vision is fulfilled in grades 7-12.

We are excited that Mr. Bradley will be able to put his gifts and leadership to work in this important and much-needed role.

Congratulations, Mr. Bradley, and we are thankful for you!

 

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Welcome Aboard, Ms. DeKerlegand

We are very happy to welcome Ms. Kendall DeKerlegand to the Regents faculty in 2018-19. Ms. DeKerlegand will team-teach the second grade with returning second grade teacher Mrs. Lisa Porter until the second semester, when she will take primary responsibility for the class. Mrs. Porter plans to move toward retirement once Ms. DeKerlegand takes leadership of the class.

Ms. DeKerlegand is a 2014 graduate of Regents Academy. She plans to graduate from SFA in December with a B.A. in Education. Until then, we plan for her to spend as much time as possible in the Regents classroom getting necessary experience and preparing for her future full-time role.

Welcome aboard, Ms. DeKerlegand!

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