Author Archives: webbnf

About webbnf

Lutheran School teacher, born and raised in the great state of Idaho. I have traveled far and wide in ministry for my Lord. In addition, I am a husband, father, and sports fan of most teams Michigan.

A Firm Foundation

St. Paul Lutheran Church Frankenlust, MI

St. Paul Lutheran Church Frankenlust, MI

Little was said by the family gathered in the basement of the church. Built of stone and concrete, its exterior walls served as a foundation of the historic church. A few wise words were spoken. A prayer was said. The air was leaden with silence. Even the children, normally prone to making loud noises, looked in hushed bewilderment at those gathered. Few in the group had slept much over the past few days. Food did not have the taste it once did and thus few had eaten well. The group was tired, hungry, and numb. The task before them seemed impossible as the assembly was still attempting to understand the fog that was the past week.

Walking on legs that seemed foreign, it was an exercise in simplicity just putting one foot in front of the other as they made their way up the stairs and to the front of the sanctuary. Filing into the row designated for the survivors, the casket sat closed as a reminder of the separation. As the opening hymn began, their voices too tired and the air too heavy with emotion to create any semblance of melody, the congregation members behind them provided the volume needed to compensate. So began the first steps of change in the lives of the survivors.

I often think of the voices of the living saints of St. Paul Frankenlust, Michigan providing comfort for our grieving family at a time when singing was too difficult. I often think of standing in the silence of that stone basement. When I hear the phrase “a firm foundation,” those walls are what I visualize. I think of the stones and concrete, and the hands that assembled it more than a hundred years previous; hands of the church’s founders that are no longer with us.

“Upon this Rock” has been the theme for National Lutheran Schools Week this year. With this theme in mind, students took part in special activities all week. School-wide devotions, recreation, and a region-wide combined chapel brought to light the importance that Jesus is our firm foundation in good times and in bad. We were reminded how we are to be extensions of God’s love in our community and world so that we too can bring comfort and light into a world that desperately needs it.

As National Lutheran Schools Week comes to a close, I can’t help but remember that day huddled with family in that church basement. A foundation is quite simple. Immovable and firm, not much attention is paid to it, but when the storms come nothing is more important. Our Lutheran Schools are rooted in the firm foundation of Jesus. His lessons are taught in our classrooms. Like a foundation, those lessons are critical. It is upon this foundation that all else rests. May the lessons of Jesus hold firm in our students. When the storms inevitably come, may our students with the Psalmist faithfully say, “The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold” (Psalm 18:2 English Standard Version).

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Change

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“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven” (Ecclesiastes 3:1, English Standard Version).

It was early September 1993. The weather at 30,000 feet was predictably clear. I had been looking forward to that day for quite some time. The thought of leaving my hometown to start a new life in college was exciting. I was heading to Concordia University Wisconsin to study business and aviation, and all of my life up to that point had been in the small town of Emmett, Idaho. Leaving on an airplane by myself created a distinct beginning of this new chapter. The adventure of it all convinced me ahead of time that this was going to be an opportunity with such promise that I never once thought much about the reality that was about to take place. I was seated in a Boeing 737 from Boise, heading to Milwaukee through Chicago’s O’Hare and I remember thinking to myself that my new life had finally begun.

When we pulled up to the gate to deplane in Chicago I again checked my connection ticket for the flight number of the plane that I would look for on the information screen in the terminal. Entering the terminal I was amazed at all the people. Looking around, I became very aware that in the crowd of busy bustling people, I knew no one. It occurred to me that for the first time in my life, I was alone in a place where I knew no one. The reality that my life was going to change started to sink in. It was exciting yes, but if I was truly honest with myself, it was also quite scary.

This time of year always gets me thinking about change. The obvious change in the color of the leaves, reminds me that a transition is taking place. Whether I like it or not, the weather is going to change. The leaves are going to fall. And soon, snow will blanket the earth for a time as the horizon changes from green to white. We can do nothing to stop the cycle of change that is coming with the weather. Change comes, and we work to prepare for it.

In our Lutheran Schools teachers strive to give students the tools needed to meet the changes that quickly happen in our world while anchored to a firm foundation rooted in the teachings of Jesus. Whether God sees it fitting as they turn into adults to plant them down the road or on the other side of the globe, our prayer is that the lessons of Jesus taught in these halls go with them.

I often think of that September day in the terminal of O’Hare in 1993, and how I did not know at the time how it all was going to turn out. Looking back, I see how Jesus is always there for us in those times of change. No one knows what tomorrow may bring, may we find comfort in knowing that our Heavenly Father will be there.

Neil F. Webb

October 2016

Strong in the Lord

IMG_0982A new academic year has begun at Christ Lutheran School (CLS). Every year, the first day of school brings a smile to my face as I see some students and families that I haven’t seen for a while. Kids with their growth spurts, always surprise me with how much they have grown over the past two months. Some students return a few inches taller than they were when they left back in June; some adults in the building return maybe a little grayer. Reflecting on all of this, I am reminded that things are always changing. Life is a series of hellos and goodbyes, and yet there is one that does not change, our Heavenly Father.

A lot of things have changed at CLS in preparation for this year. The many volunteers of the board of properties have done much to improve what this ministry can provide for the community. Under the guidance of Chris Alles and Ron Vandermeer, many have worked to bring the building into compliance with the state of Michigan for our After School Care Program. If you walk around the building, you will notice new speakers as they have worked tirelessly to improve the safety of the building with a new public announcement system. This is just to name a few things in addition to the work that the teachers have done over the summer to change and improve what they do in their classrooms.

Some things have changed, but one aspect of CLS remains the same, it is strong in the Lord. The theme for the 2016-2017 school year comes from Ephesians 6:10 which says, “Be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might”. In opening chapel, Pastor Measel shared with us how the strength expressed in this passage is not the same as the world would define it. Our strength is not in muscles, money, or earthly power. Our strength is found in a man that suffered the shame of the cross on our behalf and won a prize more valuable than anything on earth.

 

A Legacy of Truth

JN18.33Over the course of the past year I have been working with the Christ Lutheran School’s Board of Christian Education to make the community more aware of the fine jewel we have that is Christ Lutheran School (CLS). In particular, this past month I have been working with a subcommittee of the board to come up with a radio advertisement for CLS. This effort has taken a good amount of discussion and deliberation to hone down the important facts that we want to get out into the community. Also of importance has been the fact that CLS is a mission of Christ Lutheran Church, one that generations have dedicated time, talent, and treasure to support.

In an attempt to create a commercial that reflects CLS’s mission, we spent a lot of time considering the things that make Christ a school that serves the needs of the community. One aspect of Christ that stood out is its adherence to truth that has been passed down through the generations. This truth of course is rooted in God’s word that members both past and present hold as vital for everyone. This truth has served students well as they take it with them in their high school, college endeavors, and beyond.

All of this brings us back to why Christ Lutheran School is here. It is here to offer so much more than just a private school education. In addition to the excellent instruction of math, English, science, etc., CLS is here to pass on the truths of the master teacher, Jesus. It is here to enrich the lives of its students and families with time tested truths as a guide during a time in their lives when the secular world attempts to offer increasingly contrary and detrimental dogma.

A Lasting Impression

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CLS Class of 2016

One of the attractions to education for teachers is the potential to make a positive impact on kids in particular as well as on society in general. This is at the heart of what teachers do. Through their dedicated service, teachers daily make decisions of what is best for their students today and tomorrow. It is the hope of every good teacher that they have made a lasting positive impression on their students, an impression that will serve them the rest of their lives.

Great teachers leave a lasting impression. Ask anyone to describe the best teacher they ever had and you will likely hear about how he or she made a difference in their lives. Ask the question “why was that teacher so impactful?” and the answer will likely not be a lesson that the teacher gave, but something that is a sum of the lessons learned in their classroom. This speaks to the influence that teachers have on their students and why Christian education is so important.

There was a teacher once that made a lasting impression on his students. His lessons impacted many in a very positive way. While teaching, he never traveled more than 50 miles from his home and yet, his lessons have influenced people all around the world. His impression on his students was so great that it changed human history. Of course, the teacher of which I write is Jesus. He is the master teacher.

Jesus, the master teacher is at the center of what we do at Christ Lutheran School (CLS). His lessons extend into math, science, English, and all the courses that are taught. In addition to imparting facts and knowledge, Lutheran teachers impart wisdom from the creator of the universe. This is unmistakably different from a secular education. Our teachers have a lasting impression, one that goes on into eternity. As we look at the CLS graduating class of 2016, it is the desire of all of us that the lasting impression these students take with them is that of the master teacher, Jesus.

StandFirm

“So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter” (2 Thessalonians 2:15 New International Version).

This is my confirmation verse. While taking part in confirmation last week at Christ Lutheran with my daughter, these words of Paul stand out more in my mind. As the students went through their confirmation examination, I found myself trying hard to recite with them their answers to the pastors’ questions. Sometimes I was able to recite quietly to myself word for word, but often I could not. All of this got me thinking about how we never really stop learning.

“Lifelong learning” and “constant improvement” are common themes in education. As a student without an eidetic or photographic memory (or anything close), lifelong learning is sometimes replaced with “re-learning”. And yet, as with almost anything, the more one takes part in the activity the easier it is to remember. Which brings me to the point I want to make; how does one ensure that they “stand firm” as Paul states in 2 Thessalonians? By constantly being in God’s word and gathering with fellow believers.

This is another reason why our Lutheran schools are vital today. In addition to learning from well trained and dedicated teachers on things like math, science, English, history, and the like, our students spend time in God’s word. Their teachers are followers of Jesus, dedicated to bringing the best out of the students in their classroom, ensuring that each child meets their God-given potential. As the end of another academic year draws near, we as a staff encourage our students with the words of Paul “May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word” (2 Thessalonians 2:16 New International Version).

Condolences

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CLS Student cards outside of 97.5FM Studio

At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:1-4 English Standard Version).

As an adult, I often struggle with the right words to say, especially in situations of grieving. I don’t know how many funerals I have attended where the only words that seem to come out of my mouth are jumbled, awkward, and wrong. Knowing this about myself, I observed something interesting about how kids deal with such situations.

A few weeks ago, in an attempt to promote a fundraiser and Christ Lutheran, our PTL set up radio interviews with some of our local radio stations. Over the course of three days, some students, a teacher, and I were to meet with different radio personnel at the radio station. As the dates for the interviews drew closer, a local tragedy occurred. If you follow the news in the St. Joseph/Benton Harbor area, you may know that one of our local radio station personalities was killed last week. Understandably, the radio station was shaken and working to retain some kind of normalcy in the middle of their grieving. Through some changes in scheduling, the interviews were still able to take place, but with the tragedy at the forefront of everyone’s mind, things were different. Adding to the sorrow and confusion, many television news cameras were on site at the radio station on the morning of our first interview.

In an attempt to express our condolences, some students at Christ created sympathy cards for the workers at the radio station. I am often surprised by the things that kids share at times of suffering. Sometimes I worry about whether they will say something that may be considered unsympathetic. In this case, as in most like it that I have experienced, kids surprise me with the heartfelt sympathy that they give. In this case, the students created cards that expressed sympathy far better than I ever could have. One radio personality, Brenda Layne at WSJM 94.9FM said, “I read every card, and there was such wonderful wisdom in some of them, some cards even had full bible verses, others just had maybe a comment or two here or there, but all such wonderful words from such little children.”

This all brings me back to the common theme I have written about, that our Lutheran schools do more than just academics. Our schools, led by well trained and faithful teachers, instruct students to be good stewards of their time, talents, and treasures in honor to God. They are instructed to love the Lord and their neighbor as themselves. With this as a foundation our students make a difference in the community and world sharing the love of Christ, even in something as simple as condolence cards for grieving people.