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What I learned from "Our Town"

October 17, 2018
By Shelli Cammenga, CCHS English Teacher

Two costumes ripped that I had to fix. An actress was sick on the day of the preview I had to replace. A name was misspelled in the program I had to apologize for. I had to find a sound technician the day of the dress rehearsal.  I had to locate an affordable pocket watch the day of the performance. I had to make a million decisions as opening night approached.

But more than that, I had to slow down. 

In the rush of a million thoughts about who knew their lines and who didn't, whose costume didn't fit right, who forgot to get a gift for whom, the grading I hadn't touched yet, and a myriad of personal griefs that had built up over the last few months, I walked out of the Heritage Center one practice and saw the sunset, vibrant pink and orange flung across the sky. 

Finally my mind went quiet. Just for a moment. 

It was like that moment at the end of Act 1 where Emily is finished with her homework, sitting quietly on the ladder, listening to the crickets and smelling the flowers from the neighbor's garden on the evening breeze. Her father's concern is that she has troubles distracting her, but no, she replies - she's just being still.  

God asks us to do a lot of things. At a small school, everyone is involved in something, usually several somethings, but what we aren't always involved in is reflecting on the gift of those moments. In the rush to get ready, perform, and tear down, we fail to do exactly what "Our Town" reminds us we so desperately need: to just look at each other. Many of the characters who are so full of life and opinions and dreams in Acts 1 and 2, are sitting on their graves in Act 3, realizing how temporary all of it was. How many moments have passed us by without seeing how much we have to be thankful for: the bright pink of the sunset, the way the cast sings Frank Sinatra while putting on makeup, how my TA's not only fold the programs, but tie them up in a bow for me, the aunt who finds the pocket watch you needed at the eleventh hour, the friend who steps in to run sound right when you need them. 

My dad once told me to live your life as if you had just come back in a time machine, from a future where maybe you didn't get to see these people or places anymore and suddenly they were new and special to you again. As the cast and I talked through each line of the play, what timeless trope they represent, what universal joy, pain, or situation they are portraying, the idea kept coming up again and again.

It is only for a few years that you get to see your classmates every day. You only get to live at home with your family for a small percentage of your life. You have a top of the line performing arts center to use to perform this powerful play that you won't have in the future. This time is special. Enjoy it.

Next year, many of these students will have graduated and left Calvin, this chapter of their life over. The audience will be different -  perhaps some people who clapped for my actors this year will not even be on earth the next. God's plans are a mystery to us, and our role is to walk in his ways in the moment with eternity in our hearts.

It may be a strange assignment to tell your students to go home and enjoy themselves, but I like to think they will be doing so in a different way having been a part of this production. As Emily asks the Stage Manager, "Do people ever realize life as they live it? Every, every minute?"

He replies, "The saints and poets, maybe. They do some."

And I'd like to think that now my students do too.

The Toughest Question about Christian Education

September 27, 2018
By Repost from Leah Zuidema

This fall I celebrated my 40th first day of school. Those 40 first days include 4 first days as a public high school teacher, 9 as a state university graduate student (including 4 as a graduate assistant), 6 as a public university adjunct instructor, 13 as a student at K-12 Christian schools (across 4 different schools), 1 as a community college enrollee, 4 more as a student at Christian colleges (2 of those), 5 as a professor at a Christian college, and this year, my 7th first day as a Christian college academic administrator.

Did you do the math? If you tallied the numbers and got to more than 40, you were right, because for many years, I was both a student and an educator.

Long story-problem short: I’ve done school a lot of different ways and in a lot of different places. Some things have changed a lot. Some haven’t. One of the constants has been a question that I’ve encountered again and again across these different settings. IT’S A TOUGH QUESTION, HARDER THAN MOST STORY PROBLEMS I’VE WORKED THROUGH.It’s a tough question, harder than most story problems I’ve worked through.

Sometimes this question has been asked with kindness or genuine curiosity, other times with a rough edge. Each time, the essence is the same: “Why do you want to be involved in Christian schools?”

My answer has developed over time (as you would hope, given all the years I’ve spent in school!). It’s matured as I’ve taught with joy in public schools, been educated by some outstanding (and caring) state university professors, and served in a national educational association on behalf of K-16 teachers in every type of school imaginable. My answer has grown stronger as I’ve experienced school through my role as a parent, and it has become more nuanced through my two years as a host mom for international high school exchange students. My answer has gained some depth and grounding, too, especially because of my daily work as an administrator in Christ-centered higher education, which often gives me the chance to say aloud why Christian education is so important.

Here’s how the conversation typically goes these days.

“Do staff and families in Christian schools think they are better than other people?” No. Christ-centered schools exist because a community of people admits that we are a mess. We have a daily need for the kind of help that only God can give. We look to Jesus Christ for saving grace. We want to learn about God, his word, and his world so that we can serve him better. We want to learn to love our neighbors. These things are difficult to learn and to take to heart. They call for formation and transformation daily, in everything we are learning and doing. When Christ-centered schools are at their best, they challenge us and hold us accountable for serving God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength.

“Do you think Christian schools are safer for your children or for you as an employee?” No. Christ-centered schools equip students to be the kind of people who run toward trouble—to see the hurts of the world and try to heal, to see chaos and try to bring order, to see violence and try to bring peace. This kind of learning is vital, but I wouldn’t call it “safe.” Christian Schools International describes Christ-centered schools in this way: “In our schools, faith and learning are woven together as an inseparable web. We have no fear of questions, inquiry, and challenges to what we believe. Instead, our schools invite the tough questions and the challenges, as iron sharpens iron, because God is our rock and his Word is our guide.”

“So what are Christian schools for, then?” Thanks for asking. Christ-centered schools depend on a community of believers working deliberately together to educate young people to learn and grow in the Lord. But they are also for you and for me—they are meant to serve the common good. That’s the mission statement of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU): “Advancing faith and intellect for the common good.” The Association of Christian Schools International puts it like this: “Ultimately, a Christian education is for others—the common good of the communities in which we and our students live and serve.”

This idea about the common good isn’t just a trendy saying. In The Case for Christian Higher Education, the CCCU estimates that its institutions are responsible for contributing $60 billion in total economic output annually (through institutional expenditures, alumni employment, and institutional wages and taxes). Students at CCCU colleges and universities are more likely than those from other private institutions to be first-generation students and from lower-income families, and as graduates they are more likely to be employed in socially oriented fields such as human services, education, and business. CCCU institutions engage in their communities, too: 84% open their arts and cultural facilities to the public, 71% invest in neighborhood schools, 67% open their athletic facilities to the public, and 38% invest in neighborhood real estate projects.

Why do Christian schools, colleges, and universities care about the common good? The desire to advance the common good is a theme from the Bible. In Proverbs 11:10-11, for example, we read about a city that benefits from upstanding citizens and leaders: “When the righteous prosper, the city rejoices; when the wicked perish, there are shouts of joy. Through the blessing of the upright a city is exalted, but by the mouth of the wicked it is destroyed.” No one wants a corrupt government! In Jeremiah 29, the prophet tells the followers of God to “seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.”


For Christ-centered schools, the desire to promote the common good is a way to make daily life better for everyone. It is also a way to share some good news. In the Old Testament, we read about the people of Israel setting up stones to tell the story of God’s faithfulness “so that all the peoples of the earth might know that the hand of the LORD is powerful and so that you might always fear the LORD your God” (Joshua 4). It’s a theme that is echoed many times in Scripture, including in Solomon’s prayer as he dedicated the newly built temple (I Kings 8), in the Psalms (67, 145), and in the great commission that Jesus gave to his disciples and all who follow him (Matthew 28:16-20).

 “I haven’t previously heard or thought much about Christian education and the common good.” I hope that every Christ-centered school does a great job of educating students as Christ followers who live passionately, effectively, and visibly for the common good. I hope, too, that what I’ve been sharing rings true with what you see from our students, faculty, and communities. But I’m sure there are ways that we could do better. I hope you’ll be willing to talk with administrators from Christian schools, colleges, and universities, sharing what you notice so that we can try to improve the impact that we have locally, regionally, and globally. Most importantly, I hope you know that you are welcome to join us in the mission. If you are interested in learning more about how you can be part of a Christ-centered school, you can search for K-12 schools through the CSI or ACSI websites, and for colleges and universities through the CCCU site.


The Toughest Question about Christian Education is an article that we are shareing from , posted on September 10, 2018, and was written by Dr. Leah Zuidema. 

Dr. Leah Zuidema serves at Dordt College as Associate Provost and Dean for Curriculum and Instruction.

Called to Love

September 14, 2018
By Dr. Jeff Pratt

Our theme for the 2018-2019 School Year is “Called to Love” and the primary text from Scripture for this theme is 1 John 4:7-21.  This is an extraordinary passage of Scripture that we are challenging our whole CCS community (from kids to grandparents) to memorize over the school year.

There are many important truths in these 15 verses which are thus packed into the meaning behind our “theme” for this school year.  .

Here are some thoughts for you to ponder as you begin pouring over these verses.

1. The kind of love we are “called” to receive and to experience is sourced in God; not in people (1 John 4:7,10, 17, 19)

2. If people have not received this love which comes only from God, they will not be able love others the way God intends (1 John 4:8, 20, 21).

3. The TriUne God’s true and perfect love is revealed to us by God the Father in His Son Jesus Christ (who is God the Son a member of the Trinity).  This revelation of God’s love took place when Jesus entered our world (Christmas), and also through His sacrifice to remove our sin (Easter). Our sin precludes us from receiving and experiencing God’s love (1 John 4:9-10, 14)

4. God’s “Call to Love” is an invitation to receive Jesus and become a “new creation” in Him, so that “…it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal 2:20b; see also 1 John 4:16-17).

There are actually several very helpful Scripture memory Apps for your phone which will help you practice and review these 15 verses over and over, as God’s Living Word enters your mind, your heart and soul.  Let’s memorize this material together!

Here are some great app's to check out that will help you with scripture memorization!

Remember Me
Bible Memory Verses
Sripture Memory Bible

Equipped, Equipment, and Equipping

August 29, 2018
By Dirk Jasperse, former CCHS Science Teacher

REPOST: This blog post was originally shared during a High School chapel by Dirk Jasperse, former CCHS Science teacher. Mr. Jasperse is now teaching at Rosslyn Academy, a private Christian school, in Nairobi, Kenya. 


I have a great classroom, but with the lab counters taking up floor space, the desks are pretty close together.  You fill those up with students, with legs sticking out, and giant backpacks in the aisles and it is a pretty crowded situation.  With the coming of Chromebooks and access to electronic textbooks this year, I was really looking forward to having no need for all these huge backpacks.  Nice for you, I thought, less to lug around.  Nice for me, no backpacks clogging the aisles.  Wrong!  Now you have your Chromebooks PLUS your enormous backpacks.  You carry a lot of equipment around with you.   It always amazes me how a student can carry around so much stuff, and sometimes still not have a pencil when you need one, or a calculator, or a periodic table.  Lots of equipment, but not always equipped.

Calvin Christian School exists to equip students.  Not equipped with notebooks and pens and calculators, but to equip students with God’s truth.  Stop and think about that for a moment. This school exists for you.  Our prime piece of property, all our buildings and fields, soon to be a new $4.7 M building, teachers who have spent 20, 30, or 40 years of their lives here - everything we have and everything we are . . . is for YOU.  This is all here because parents, your teachers, and the Christian community that has supported this school since its inception, feel very strongly about Christian education.  Because we want you to be equipped for a life and an eternity with God.  Doesn’t that make you feel important and valuable, that this is all for you? And maybe humble and thankful that someone would do this all for you?

But hopefully this will help you get the point that that being equipped is really important.

In the late 1890’s gold was discovered in the Klondike River in the Yukon.  Thousands of prospectors swarmed to the Yukon, many arriving by ship in Skagway, Alaska, hiking the 33-mile trail up and over the Chilkoot pass, and then rafting the rest of the way to the Klondike.  The Canadian government knew that gold fever had such an allure that many would rush in unprepared for the rigors of the harsh life they would find there.  To prevent theft, violence, devastation of the land, and mass starvation, the Canadian government required everyone crossing the border from Alaska into the Yukon to have 1 TON of supplies.  That, they judged, was enough to keep a prospector outfitted for one year.  At the top of the Chilkoot pass, at the border between Alaska and Canada, the Canadian Mounties had scales set up and no prospector was allowed into Canada unless he had with him 2000 lbs of supplies.  Carrying a 50 lb pack, that’s 40 trips up the trail.  They say there were so many people going up the Chilkoot Trail that if you stepped out of line to tie your boots, you might have to wait 3 hours to squeeze yourself back in the line.  I imagine that the stampeders thought long and hard about what to include in their 2000 lbs of equipment.  They had to be well equipped.  Not only their access to the gold fields depended on it, their lives depended on it.

Look at Matthew 25 and think about what Jesus is saying about equipping:

“At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise. The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. The wise ones, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep.  “At midnight the cry rang out: ‘Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’  “Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.’ “‘No,’ they replied, ‘there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.’  “But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut.  “Later the others also came. ‘Lord, Lord,’ they said, ‘open the door for us!’  “But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I don’t know you.’  “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.”  

Now the teaching of this parable is not just to plan ahead and be prepared. Jesus is saying that those who seek the coming of the kingdom of God are wise. Calvin Christian is trying to equip you with that kind of wisdom.

Equipment must match purpose.  No use having a backpack and hiking boots if you are going to run a cross country race.  No need to have your calculator and periodic table if you are going to English class.  What equipment do you need? What is our purpose in this Christian school and how are we equipping you?

Here are some of the ways:

We want to widen your awareness of God in the world.  Many people can “see” God when they look at the Grand Canyon or a sunset over the Pacific Ocean or a miraculous healing.  I hope you can too.  But we are equipping you to also see God in cells and atoms and Newton’s Laws and the logic of math and in the patterns of history and in the intricacies of language and in a musical phrase and in developing athletic skill.  We are equipping you to widen your awareness of God.

We want you to be able to engage culture in a Christian way.  Literature, politics, sports, media, the arts, technology.  None of these are neutral.  We want you to know how to bring your Christian values to bear on all aspects of culture.  Not to separate yourself from culture but to enjoy culture, to participate in it in a God-pleasing way, and influence it, helping to transform it for Christ.  That’s why we study Newton and Einstein, and even Darwin.  That’s why we read the Bible and CS Lewis and John Calvin, but we also read Steinbeck and Orwell and F. Scott Fitzgerald.  We are equipping you to participate discerningly in culture as a citizen of the kingdom of God.

Here are some verses from the New Testament about equipping and what it is for:

Works of service.  So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up. 
Ephesians 4:11-13

Good works.  All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. 
2 Timothy 3:11-17

God to work in us what is pleasing to him.  Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen. 
Hebrews 13:20-22

One final story about being equipped, or in this case, not equipped: You live only 5 hours (280 miles) from the highest point in the continental US - Mt Whitney.  (It is also remarkable that the highest point in the lower 48 states - Mt. Whitney - and the lowest point - Badwater in Death Valley -- are less than 100 miles apart.)  A number of years ago, I was part of a group that was going to climb Mt. Whitney.  It is a very challenging hike:  11 miles one way, 22 miles round trip, all in one day.  It is steep and tough.  You never really see much of the first few miles of the trail because you start out in the dark in the early hours of the morning and you end in the dark later that night.  

The night before our hike, I stowed my gear in a bear box and went to sleep in my van in the campground near the trailhead.  I was awakened in the middle of the night by some crunching, munching noises just outside the van.  I sat up and looked outside.  There was food and food wrappers and all kinds of stuff strewn all over the ground, and there was a large bear chomping noisily away at the jackpot of food he had found.  Someone had come in off the trail and had not properly latched the bear box.  I got out of the van shooed away the bear.  I looked in the bear box and in all the debri on the ground, searching for my backpack and all my supplies for the hike.  All my stuff was gone.  It was one o’clock in the morning.  

I searched deeper into the woods, in the direction that the bear had gone, thinking that maybe the bear had dragged my pack away and maybe I could find it lying on the ground somewhere in the woods.  So I’m wandering around in the woods, in the dark, in the middle of the night, by myself, with the bear probably just behind the next tree or rock.  Nothing.  My backpack was gone, my food was gone, my water bottles, my hat, my jacket, even the legs to my zip-off pants -- everything gone.  

How could I possibly make this very difficult hike without all my very carefully chosen equipment?  I was still determined to go on the hike.  I began to think about how I could do it with no equipment.  I had a duffle bag in the car, a cheap Padres giveaway.  I slung that over my shoulder and that became my backpack.  I went into the campground bathroom and found some empty water bottles in the trash can.  (I was not going to let that bear get the best me!)  I washed them out in the bathroom sink, filled them with water.  Someone in our group gave me some green grapes, so now I had food and water.  There was no way I could expose my bald head to the midsummer rays coming down through thin mountain air.  I had an long-sleeved T-shirt in my van, also a Padres’ giveaway, so I tied that like turban around my head.  By now it was 2:00 in the morning and I knew I wasn’t going to be able to get back to sleep so I just started up the trail.  

Well, . . . I made it to the top, and I made it back down.  But an already difficult climb was made much more difficult by my lack of equipment.  As I went up the trail, I kept seeing other hikers with their fancy equipment - $200 backpacks, camelbak hydration systems, telescoping walking sticks, trail mix and protein bars, $50 hats from REI or LL Bean.  Here I was with my used water bottles, a few slightly brown green grapes, a Padres giveaway duffle bag, and a T-shirt tied around my head!  

My point:  Being equipped is important.  The right equipment can go a long way toward making life easier, better, more productive, and more fulfilling, more honoring to God. CCHS is here to equip you - for now, for life, for eternity.

For right now.  You are not just in training for something in your future.  You are already on life’s journey.  You need equipping for decisions, attitudes, serving, and understanding -- right now, whatever your age or situation.

For life.  You have many years ahead of you.  The equipment you are gathering now can serve you, God, and others, well for many years to come.

For eternity.  You will live forever on the new earth that will come into being with Christ’s return.  Being equipped for life with God here and now is shaping you for life with him forever.

What do you have to do?  Simply be aware of what we are trying to do for you.  We are not here to pile work on you and to make your life difficult.  We are here to equip you.  So, accept it. Appreciate it.  Embrace it.  Value it.  Don’t wish you were somewhere else.  Use what we have to offer you.  Let yourself be shaped.  Be equipped.

We don’t want you to go through life looking like a goof with a T-shirt tied around your head and drinking out of used water bottles.  We want you to be fully equipped for good works, for service, and for God’s work in your life.

Recent Posts

10/17/18 - By Shelli Cammenga, CCHS English Teacher
9/27/18 - By Repost from Leah Zuidema
9/14/18 - By Dr. Jeff Pratt
8/29/18 - By Dirk Jasperse, former CCHS Science Teacher
5/21/18 - By CCS Parent

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