In the mountains of western Massachusetts the Lord has built a foundry out of which are cast all manner of instruments for His service. These hammers, these nails - these scalpels and swords were fashioned from metals made molten by the crucible of confrontation, study, independence, and community. This experience and environment is unlike any other and has provided its products a peculiar ethic and a wonderful worldview. Those of us tempered in this foundry are a league of useful soldiers and in the kingdom we are the Lenox Order of Saints.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Life and Times of the Laid Low

When I entered the hallowed hall of BICS I was far too eager to express my opinion on every point of contention.  I was ready to do Garry Friesen a favor and diagnose for him the nature of his spiritual cancer.  I floated effortlessly above the dim-witted debaters of Calvinism vs. Arminianism and, with a golden tongue, paved for everyone the high and middle way forward.  Of course, my crowning achievement and the surest evidence of my prodigious genius was the blueprint for denominational and worldwide revival that I first articulated during my three minute chapel presentation.  The days of wine and roses!  But I soon found that the motherly admonition in the Johnny Cash song was true - when one takes his gun to town he'll likely find for himself a fight.  And fight I did - rarely winning and always losing.  A little contentiousness is permissible I suppose - kind of like lion cubs tussling and tumbling in a training exercise for survival.  It was good to match wits if only to prove I had none and better get busy studying to find some.  But I find it interesting - I've never argued much after BICS.  Humility is hard to come by today with a world that's bent on building me up.  We can all praise the Lord for the doctors in Lenox willing to administer a daily dose of "get over yourself"!  

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Declaration of Dependence

Individuality is most important when one's goals are personal.  After all - the world has made it clear that true genius can know no collaboration and that authentic greatness means never sitting on another's shoulders.  The lionization of Steve Jobs would not be complete without the autopsies of a thousand dead friendships, right?  Each class of students that comes here to Lenox exhibits the awful symptoms of this cultural contagion.  We all came to BICS a little i am and were made to look up and consider the Great I AM.  We certainly didn't all get it right away - making silly where serious would have profited far more, flirting when courting would have been more productive, and talking when listening would have kept us from being discovered for the fools that we were.  But, for most of us, we eventually decided to spend our lives and devote our energies on goals that can only be met as a group.  We were taught what it means to be in the family of God and we took our places up front and behind; but always alongside.    

Monday, October 24, 2011

The Siren Song of Silliness

A shepherd can no more shepherd wolves than a pastor can disciple a flock of fools.  Those who may be discipled are the humble, the hungry, and those distrustful of their own understanding.  BICS has long stated as both its goal and reason for existing that it is in the business of discipleship.  Whether or not it is able to make good on that aspiration depends greatly on the type of young people that make up each class.  Everyone enrolled is a student but very few are disciples.  Looking back on our experience - was orientation the beginning of a lazy-river ride or was it the end of one?  Are we yet disciples?

Thursday, October 13, 2011

There Are No Good Ol' Days

In the seventh chapter of Ecclesiastes, Solomon has this word for the weary: "Do not say, 'Why is it that the former days were better than these?' For it is not from wisdom that you ask about this."  What makes this question unwise is that it is hardly a question at all; but is instead a declarative statement and a sad one at that.  There is a note of despair in this inquiry which is evidence of a cold or cowardly disinclination to fight.  Every age has its own struggles and challenges and we are responsible for today's.  Yesterday is gone forever and so are the men and women who led the charge for the Kingdom in those days.  We are not misplaced in history.  We have been called to this time and age - to fight to raise the banner of Christ over our quarter-inch of the timeline.  Make this your mindset and mine and perhaps a turn towards revival will be seen before our generation's sun has set.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Westminster Confession or Kennel Club for You?

With a modicum of skill a man may train his dog but he will never be able to disciple it.  Propriety by prompts is not victorious Christianity but rather the life of the well-heeled cocker spaniel.  Discipleship is aspiration over instinct, love over reward, meaning over function.  Like Pavlov's dimwitted dogs, do you still salivate when the world rings a bell?

Saturday, May 28, 2011

A Healthy Discontent

The practice of tithing seems to be going the way of the gray flannel suit, the top hat, and the diagrammed sentence - "nice and proper and all but. . ."  Why do you suppose the younger generations aren't signing up for a regimented program of giving that involves forking over a percentage of their pay?  Is it the ascendancy of the secular values of personal peace and affluency as Francis Schaeffer warned?  Is it the despairing of ever seeing any appreciable return on their investment?  is it a conscious or subconscious protest against the traditional institutions?  Have we just lost our nerve?

Whatever the causes - as the infrastructure of our church's income crumbles so will its actual brick and mortar construction begin to crumble as well.  When the herd is thinned over the next fifty years and most of the little steepled buildings have been sold and "repurposed" will our children find a home in the megachurches that alone remain standing?  I doubt it.  Where, then, will they meet?  How will they meet. Why will they meet at all?

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Permanent Fatal Errors

"Blindness separates us from things but deafness separates us from people." ~ Helen Keller

Our class of fourteen graduated on Saturday and their commencement address was delivered by Sue Thomas, a woman who has been deaf since she was eighteen months old.  She overcame her disability to lead a very successful and productive life - even working for the FBI for a time as a lip reader.  She shared with the class that what embittered her the most about being deaf was that it kept her from the thing she most loved and longed to have: meaningful relationships with people.  She wanted a friend.  What a wonderful thing it was to hear her tell of how she eventually found that friend.  The silence left her only to listen for the One whose voice is inaudible and whose fellowship unbreakable.  The silence she had despised became the sanctuary she adored as she came into a loving relationship with the Lord there.

Miss Thomas's remarks reminded me of an old Michael Knott song I used to listen to back in high school (Knott was in the band The Throes for all you alternative Christian music people out there).  The song's entitled Deaf and Dumb - it tries to explain why it would be desirable to no longer be able to hear or speak.  If the main delivery system for lies, deceptions, half-truths, and seduction is by what we listen to then wouldn't it be best to be deaf and if the vast majority of the utterances of my understandings only add to the sum total of all that is in error then wouldn't it be best that I be dumb?  You get the idea I think.  Obviously this is just the expression of the frustration we all feel with ourselves at times and not a viable plan of action - we'd never choose these disabilities for ourselves - not really.  The gifts of God are wonderful in the joys they provide and terrible in the accounting that must be given for how we've redeemed them.  I believe that BICS provides an opportunity for its students to be deaf and dumb for a year.  BICS can be a great place to be quiet and listen for the Word and its wisdom if one doesn't spit the bit, toss his rider, and gallop away.  Do you miss the silence?  

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Why They Might Frame Their Diploma

In the movie A Man for All Seasons Sir Thomas More takes his good friend and noble, the Duke of Norfolk, to task for his spiritual apathy.  He tells him that "the nobility of England would have snored through the sermon on the mount; but they'll labor like scholars over a bulldog's pedigree."  It was a difficult word but a well-driven one.  More, who would eventually have his head cut off by King Henry VIII for his unwillingness to forsake his private conscience for the sake of his public duty, loved his sleep-walking friend and cared more for the condition of Norfolk's soul than for his own life.

A BICS education is a lot of things - biblical studies in the deep end of the pool, personal finance out on the end of the limb, community living with the more simian quarters of the animal kingdom, and so on and so forth - but I wonder if the education we most appreciate now is the education we found most unnerving then.  I'm speaking of the education that came at us sideways while sitting across from PB in the corner office - those times when our self-examination was deemed insufficient for the job and the administration took over.  We were all taken to task at some point weren't we?  We were all loved and shown that discipleship was more important to Steve, Wes, Mike and the others than having the good opinion of a bunch of dudes and drama queens.  God bless them for it and, after sitting in on this year's exit interviews, may I say - they've still got it!

Friday, May 6, 2011

Our Fried Dough Friday Communion

Every family develops a culture all its own complete with a language, a calendar of high holy days, and a shorthand for the shared history of the family's ups, downs, and all arounds.  Now - in the BICS family life - is there a more beloved and hallowed bit of culture than that of Donut Day?  For the modern BICS student - the serving of fresh Dunkin Donuts bagels and doughnuts is an institution as fixed and routine as the morning manna for the wandering Israelite.  For those of us alumni who were here in more ancient times, we remember that the promise of a doughnut on Friday was much less sure.  But we've all known the peculiar pleasure of shuffling from class to the break room thick-headed from the morning lecture to find on the table boxes full of sweet fried dough topped with icing and sprinkles and powdered sugar!

Friday, April 29, 2011

On Risers and Rims

I'm about to leave the office with PB to go and pick up the older of the two BICS vans from the shop.  The class heads out this afternoon for Aroostook County on a ministry team tour of northern Maine.  There will, of course, be little done that will meet the definition of "ministry".  So often the Holy Spirit's presence is invoked into a room where neither the officiants nor the congregants are really prepared for the moment.  And so there are performances and wistful, sentimental reflections, the symbol has to suffice for the substance, and we hope that the Lord will somehow redeem the hour.  Thankfully, he almost always does. I'm so very grateful for these tours - I remember several times a crystal clear reception beating out the static and the hum and getting a sense of what it means to minister.  Skits and songs and times of testimony can be a drenched altar for sure; but how much more amazing the flame when it is lit!  Do you remember those times of fellowship with the Lord in ministry?  Did it frighten or inspire you?  Did it cause you to pursue a life of opportunities to know it over and over?  I'm sure it seems like a lifetime ago for a lot of us - how do you remember those times today?  Pray for the students as they travel and minister this weekend - may they know and redeem the fellowship of the Lord more completely than we have.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Your Yellow Wood Walks of Yesteryear

For many of us, our decision to attend BICS seems more improbable now that the demands of life have made us more practical.  What exactly were we thinking back then?  Were we idealistic or just out of options?  Were we aspiring or settling?  Were we hammers or nails?

Our tales are all so different but our experiences here in Lenox much the same.  How do you now view this quiet little harbor where you docked your life's ship?  Have you fared better or worse on the high seas for your time being discipled at the institute?  It's a question worth asking.  Perhaps your year here is like a forgotten savings bond purchased years ago and discovered in an old strongbox.  Maybe there are needs in your life that call on you to redeem that bond today and renew the call the Lord placed on you way back when.  Do the sepia-toned memories of your days in the Berkshires have that patina of providence?  Just wondering myself.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Are We Career Apprentices?

G. K. Chesterton once remarked that it is a sure sign of sickness to be obsessed with matters of health.  When a bunch of teens get together you never hear them talking about the value of a colonoscopy, the favorability of one doctor over another, or the best diet to ward off diverticulitis.  That's the kind of fare you might hear around the folding tables at the church potluck dinner.  No - the healthy discuss what they're doing - not what they only wish they were.  It seems like so much of the conversation in the church today has to do with what it means to be healthy.  If you were to walk the aisles of your local christian bookstore you'd find among the stuffed animals, tee-shirts, and pen sets a myriad of books having to do with renewing and finding our purpose.  What some interpret as a revival of purpose - I see as a death rattle.  A church that busies itself with arriving at a mission statement has despaired of actually accomplishing anything.  As Alfred Adler once said: "It's far easier to fight for one's principles than to live them."

Wednesday, March 2, 2011


Our hope is that this little site would be and become several different things.  Principally, we'd like for it to be an encouragement for those of us who have been discipled at BICS to have that process continue.  We may be able to sharpen one another through the publication of articles, ideas, essays, questions, concerns, and the comments they inspire.  We may be able to challenge and be challenged to apply to our corners of the kingdom those things we learned here in the Berkshires and since.  We may be able to share opportunities for ministry and ideas for how we can do more as a group than we can as individuals.

We'd also like to have this be our alumni magazine or something akin to that.  We'd like to include updates on the happenings in the lives of those who've been discipled here and their families.  There will be reporting on the current goings on here at the school and insights into what the Lord is doing in and through the ministry here.  

Finally, only those who have attended BICS can appreciate the unique pleasures and pressures that our students experience every year.  Who would have a softer heart for those students who need help?  We all teetered on the razor's edge while we were here only to see the Lord provide in some unforeseen way.  We want to make current opportunities available to you for prayer and support and to be that blessing!

God bless you - the Lenox Order of Saints.  Let me know what you think and I'll be in touch!

~ John Tate (Class of 1994)