Category Archives: Classical Conversations

To everything there is a season…

UntitledSeptember brings what I call “learning season.”  Yes, of course, learning is year-round, but the Autumn brings a new crop of students.  This semester I have 15 high school-aged students that I tutor in Classical Conversations (, and 6 new seminary students who are learning to share their faith in a Jewish context.  Additionally, I have had opportunity to write for a new book coming out by Concordia Publishing House called The Christian Difference, and work with LCMS Witness and Outreach on their new missions curriculum Every One His Witness.

All of this stuff, in addition to the mission society and the congregation, keeps me pretty busy.  But it all serves the mission of the Church, so I am happy to do the work.  But, nothing brings instant gratification!  Everything in missions takes time and perseverance.  The book isn’t coming out until 2019 and I rarely hear from the students that I work with.  So it was with great joy that I received the following e-mail:

“Hi there–remember me?  My husband and I are in SC now.  We started a church here 12 years ago.  We have about 40 members now.  I have become friends with a really interesting Jewish lady who makes me think of you and times I spent with your church.   She came to our Christmas eve service in 2016.  We have had several discussions and she is now willing to take classes with Keith to become baptized and join our church.  Thought you might be interested in hearing about her.  Her parents escaped the Holocaust and came to New York City.”

This dear Jewish lady, Carol, is 77 years old and was baptized in August.  What a blessing!  The pastor and his wife were involved with our ministry while he was a student at Concordia over 17 years ago.

Back in the ’50’s, Pete Seeger wrote “Turn! Turn! Turn!,” (Judy Collins sings it here) an almost verbatim rendition of Ecc. 3:1-8.  We have a Hebrew lithograph of that text on the wall of our sanctuary.  I look at that on occasion and have to remind myself that God’s timing is always perfect, so I just have to wait.  And occasionally, He blesses me with a glimpse.  He did that through that e-mail!  Keep Keith, Judy and Carol in your prayers, as they walk together in Y’shua, especially during this High Holy Season. Now Carol’s name is truly written in the Lamb’s Book of Life!  Shalom, Peace.


Memorial Day for whom?

00000563This morning I had the opportunity to sit in on a Lincoln-Douglas Debate.  Their debate prompt was “Resolved:  Rescuing great cultural and artistic achievements from theft or destruction is worth risking one’s life.”  I’m sure part of what prompted this prompt was the destruction and theft of cultural artifacts in Iraq, Syria and Libya by ISIS.  The concern on the part of the students is the fact that with such destruction comes the loss, change or intentional rewriting of history that accompanies it.  Certainly, in the Middle East, ISIS is attempting to eradicate any evidence of the Church’s history in those areas.  But are we in America any better?

Ironically, the Lincoln-Douglas Debate format is based on the 7 debates that Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas held between August 21 and October 15, 1858.  Of course, the coming Civil War was the forefront of those debates.  And here we are today, with the debate still raging as communities attempt to rewrite our history by removing Confederate monuments.  Our new mayor in St. Louis is intent upon removing a Confederate monument in Forest Park because “it’s an emotionally charged issue…that is hurtful to so many people.”  Perhaps we should remove Douglas from the tableau at Lincoln Douglas Square in Alton, IL?  That’s probably coming.

What a ridiculous concept that if we have “hurt feelings” because of history, then we should just rewrite or eradicate that history, rather than learn from it.  This is the same logic that Holocaust deniers and historical revisionists use because there are people who are uncomfortable with the truth.  And where does it end?  Memorial Day emerged from competing Union and Confederate observances eventually becoming Memorial Day by 1882.  Shall we now make distinctions between those Americans who lost their lives in service to our country, but only those Americans who fought for ideals that we agree with?  Vietnam?  The Gulf wars?

Churchill once said that “History is written by the victors.”  But history is rewritten by the those with “hurt feelings.”  Progressive culture really wants to rewrite the Church, who, it seems, from their perspective, is oppressive.  Individuals and our feelings have become our idols.  And I am still awed by the fact that He, who knew no sin, became sin for us, and as Y’shua endured that pain, He was not a victim, but victor who cried out to His Father, “Forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

To Know God, and to Make Him Known

imagesIt is no secret that I have been moonlighting as a tutor for a Classical Conversations community.  Last year I had 9 8th grade-aged students.  During this last month, I have also been involved in speaking at the St. Louis area Parent Practicums.  These are free events for parents who are interested in home schooling their children in a classical method that integrates the Christian faith throughout.  Each community gets together for a day during the week and discusses the things that they are learning throughout the week at home.

I have many motives for getting involved with this group.  My daughter, who has been involved in Classical Conversations for a number of years, beginning with the education of my granddaughter Johnna, is now charged with hiring the tutors for communities in the St. Louis area.  Last year, one of her communities needed a tutor for Challenge B (roughly 8th grade), and I said yes.

This September marks my 25th anniversary in church work with the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod.  I started my ministry in a K-8 Lutheran day school in Denver as a teacher 25 years ago, and I have really missed teaching kids since then.  So to get a chance to help these kids in CC was a joy.  But more than that, CC has such a strong program of faith integration.  One of my frustrations as a teacher (and new believer) was that the school was primarily a modern educational institution with a religion class added.  There was little faith integration then throughout the subjects that the kids were being taught.  CC helps the families learn how to center all the education in the home around God.  The motto of Classical Conversations is “To Know God and to Make Him Known.”  The integration of Christian faith through the classical disciplines helps the students truly know God, and by the time they leave the home school for college, they truly know how to make God known!  Having an opportunity to help train these young evangelists has been a wonderful extension of my ministry, and I have been able to add a little Jewish flavor to their educations as they get involved in our Passover Seders, Chanukkah parties and other opportunities, in addition to the weekly gatherings where so many good questions get discussed.

Our ministry is hosting Vocatio tonight.  Vocatio is, according to Concordia Seminary’s website, “a fun opportunity for high school students entering grades nine through 12 to participate in Bible study, worship, and discussion about vocation.”  As these young people explore God’s calling in their lives, tonight they will enjoy a Hebrew Vespers service, a good meal, and prayerfully find a heart for God’s first children.  It is much the same in one night, that I get a whole year to do with Classical Conversations.  Please pray for all these young people, as we need so many more missionaries who can make God known!

“How can God know?”–Ps. 73:11

12871472_776424932490172_5789234763924058942_nThe outreach season is in high gear as the weather starts to warm up.  Starting with our annual St. Patrick’s Day outreach, we have begun our regular outreach opportunities at the University City Loop, and I am so grateful for the help that our new outreach minister is giving me.

I have already introduced him to you through the newsletter, but I’ll repeat myself now…Rev. Brian Earl was a student of mine many years ago and worked as a volunteer with our ministry under our then evangelist, Rev. Brad Aldrich.  He served a parish for six years, and now has moved back to St. Louis and is serving as a chaplain with the Veterans Administration.  He has transferred to our congregation, and we have voted to call him as our Associate Pastor and Outreach Minister for our local branch here in St. Louis.  He serves, as all of us do, bi-vocationally, raising his support through his work at the V.A.  He has a wonderful wife, Christa, and they are a true blessing to our ministry.  He has already made the connections necessary with our regular volunteers and has had many substantive conversations about Jesus with people that he meets here in Dogtown and up in U. City.  Toward the end of this month we will have a booth in Forest Park for St. Louis’ Earth Day celebration.  Perhaps you’d be interested in volunteering?

Along with the connections that Brian is making, the rest of us keep doing what we do.  Because St. Patrick’s Day was a Thursday, Brian couldn’t be here, but we had 20 volunteers helping us out that day, one of whom was the pastor of a church in Illinois, Our Redeemer Lutheran Church, that I met doing a Passover Seder in his congregation.  He, his son, and two of his elders came over on St. Pat’s and worked the day with us.  It is really important to have volunteers, especially on St. Pat’s, because I have to work my “civic duties” as I help pipe the parade that day.  But the place was in good hands, and one of the stories from that day will be in our next newsletter.  But I had an interesting conversation with a man who is just starting to warm up to the name of Jesus and the Christian faith.  He has begun to read his bible, and of course, that reading has lead to many questions that he continues to come to me with.  The most recent of his questions was “Where did Cain get his wife?”

A common objection by people who refuse to believe the creation account in Scripture, Bill is not asking to deny the faith, but legitimately wonders and needed an answer.  What was so fun about this particular question is that I had addressed this with my home-school students, because of the movie “Inherit the Wind” where the question was posed, and we (24 of us, including students, friends, parents and siblings) all schlepped out to Cincinnati for an overnight field trip to the Creation Museum.  They just happened to have a little booklet entitled “Where did Cain get his wife?”  I picked some of them up, and had one for Bill, as well as for others.  We had a great conversation.  I just love it when God anticipates my needs like that!  He is so good.

(By the way, I am taking applications now for next year so if you would like more information about home-schooling or Classical Conversations, give me a call–(314) 645-4456.)

“It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.”–Aristotle

imagesThis month starts a new ministry for us as the congregation becomes a licensed site for Classical Conversations, a classical Christian community supporting home-school families.

We’ve been involved for several years as we have been a host facility for many Classical Conversation events, and two of our families are Classical Conversation families, one of whom is my daughter’s.  Johnna has been in Classical Conversations for four years, and has truly shined as she enjoys the classical Christian education the community affords.  What is different now, is that I have been asked to direct one of the programs, Challenge B, for eighth-grade aged students.  I’ve said “Yes,” and this month I start tutoring students in Latin, Logic, Algebra, Literature, Debate and Science.

Why, oh why would I do this on top of everything else that we are doing?  I have to confess that part of it is personal.  Having come into ministry from teaching and administering in a Lutheran Elementary School, the joy of my ministry then was working with kids.  As their principal and teacher, I was able to help these kids not only learn, but to grow spiritually in an environment that did not leave God out of the education box.  We were free to talk about God, and especially Jesus, with the students there, and just as I came to faith through my daughter’s witness at that school, I’m sure many others have too, as their kids shared their newfound faith with parents and friends.

For the last twenty years, I haven’t had much ministry to children other than ours.  We haven’t done VBS, or other outreaches geared toward children, as many churches do, because we open ourselves up to the charge of “stealing children’s souls” by the Jewish community, a charge that anti-missionaries have leveled at  the Church when they “target” their children.  I’ve missed working with kids.   But, more than that, Classical Conversations gives me an opportunity to not only work with kids, but to develop them into future active missionaries.  Classical Conversations believes that the “purpose of education is to know God and to make Him known.”  Every subject is taught in the context of God’s gifts to us.  To quote the catalog, “In every subject, God has hidden His truth and beauty.  It is our pleasure as students and teachers to discover Him as we learn.  Our studies should also prepare us to reason clearly, speak eloquently, calculate accurately, and write persuasively so that we have the ability to make God known to others.”  What a joy to be a part of this community that is intentional about learning how to witness to others, and then doing it!  In a world where Christians are so often thought of as ignorant and backward, these classically-trained young people are going to turn the world right-side up, and I am excited about being a part of that.  Pray for me, I’ve gotten so old!