Friday 16 February 2024


After spending a week being intentional about encountering Jesus, Pastor Karmyn Bokma told Smithville Christian students that even though Spiritual Emphasis Week is over, Jesus will be with them next week too. “All the things we’ve talked about this week will still be true,” she told students.

And while it might seem as if it requires effort on our part, the good news about Jesus is that the only thing we have to do to receive the freedom he offers is to remain – to stay with him, she said.

Bokma shared the story of the blind man from John 9, whose healing by Jesus baffled the religious leaders, the man’s neighbours, and even his parents. But the man simply said that he had had an encounter with Jesus.

“This man did not know all the right answers” Bokma said. “He didn’t have it all figured out. He didn’t even really know who Jesus was. All he knew is he hung out with Jesus and he was changed.”

Bokma showed students a cutting taken from a houseplant.

Does this plant look dead or alive? she asked.

Some students thought it was dead because it could not be sustained. Others said it was alive because it was still vibrant and healthy looking. Some thought it had potential if it could be planted and watered, and others said that it was dying.

Bokma said all the answers were somewhat correct. The plant might look like it was still healthy, but unless its circumstances change, it would surely die.

“This is a good analogy for each of us, and what can happen to our soul – the part of us that connects with God,” Bokma said. “We are called to nourish our souls.” And the way to do that is to remain in Jesus.

Bokma showed students what happens to us when we nourish our souls and what happens when we neglect to nourish them.

“Which side of the chart do you want to live in?” she asked. We can choose our state of being, and we vote on the chart every day. Like the plant cutting, we might look okay, but over time, the symptoms of soul neglect will show up in our lives.

In John 15 Jesus tells us that he is the vine and we are the branches. If we are grafted in him, we are alive and will produce beautiful fruit.

“Don’t stress about getting it all right. Just stay in Jesus,” she said. The promised fruit will come.

Student praise team Resonate led worship with Unstoppable God, Foundation, My Lighthouse, and I Thank God.

Senior students, in Grades 11 and 12, won today’s chapel scavenger hunt, and Spiritual Life Director Mr. Stu Bender will have prizes for them next week.

* * *
Small Group Discussion Questions
  1. Recap: What is one thing that has been significant for you?  (Is it a topic from Karmyn’s talks? Our worship times? Or extra times of prayer? Breakout Groups? Concert Yesterday?) How has the “Spiritual emphasis” been put into SEW for you?  

If you need a reminder, the themes each day were “Encounter, Trade, Identity, Freedom and Remain.”

  1. Talk about the idea of “remaining” in Jesus. What about that feels easy to do? What about it feels hard?

  1. Share with each other any ideas or things that you do to stay close to Jesus - this could be an encouragement to each other to hear how other people connect with Jesus.

  1. **If there’s time** Read together John 15:1-17 and just take a few minutes to let the passage sit with you.  If anything stands out, feel free to share.

  1. Close in prayer that as we wrap up SEW God would help us hold onto whatever He might want us to remember and learn from this week.  

Thursday 15 February 2024


When Karmyn Bokma’s son was three years old, he said he wanted to follow Jesus “but only for two days.”

To a pre-schooler, that seemed like the maximum amount of time he wanted to be away from his family, from familiarity.

“That’s the theology of a three-year-old,” Burlington pastor Bokma told students at the fourth chapel of Spiritual Emphasis Week at Smithville Christian High School. But we do the same thing, she said. We say we want to follow Jesus, but only at certain times, or in certain places, or with certain friends.

“We all do it, this is not a guilt trip,” Bokma said. “Jesus offers us the best possible outcome of how we could live, but what keeps us from fully living it?” In John 8:12, Jesus says: ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.’ “But what if I want to walk in darkness?” Bokma asked. “What if that feels like an easier way or a more fun way?”

Bokma said she wanted to talk about sin, and the ways in which our lives are not being lived to their fullest potential in Jesus. She said Jesus offers us a new heart, but our minds don’t make the switch. “It’s like the software update on your computer,” she said. When the notification arrives on her screen that her phone or computer update has arrived and she needs to click to install it, “I always pick ‘Later.’ I never want to do the update. I can function with my phone in the old software.”

We are free in Jesus, “but we want to live in an old software update.”

Bokma invited a student up to help make her point, handing him a rock, then another, then another. With only one rock in his hand, Asher could still do most of his daily activities. Same with two rocks, or three. But as Bokma piled on the rocks, and then loaded up a backpack with more, Asher finally gave up and said he couldn’t carry any more.

Bokma said we carry our rocks around with us because we think we don’t dare to be free, or that we deserve to be free. In Matthew 11:28, Jesus says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Believe it, Bokma said. “Don’t walk out of the door holding on to a stupid rock anymore.

“I have said a bunch of words,” Bokma said, “but hear the words of Jesus: You matter. Jesus has a purpose for your life. The trade is always available.”

Today's worship time was led by Juno-Award winning singer-songwriter Elias Dummer and friends, who performed a private concert. 



Wednesday 14 February 2024


Jesus said he came to give us “life to the full,” said Karmyn Bokma at the start of the third chapel during Spiritual Emphasis Week. “So why are there so many days when we don’t feel like that? So many days I wake up and I ask, ‘is that even true?’ ”

Bokma, a pastor and speaker from Burlington, said we often put labels on ourselves that shape our identities. Being a good student, or being a good athlete, or having a lot of friends. But we can also label ourselves with our mistakes, our feelings of failure, our shortcomings.

Bokma said when she was a student, she had a summer job with Athletes in Action. During a particularly challenging training exercise her team had to complete a series of relay challenges with each team member carrying a heavy rock during their part of the challenge.

“The challenges weren’t that hard, but when it was my turn, I just kept thinking how much it sucked to have to carry the rock,” Bokma recalled. “It was so hard, and it would have been so much easier if I didn’t have to carry that rock.”

Bokma said some of the labels we carry are very good things. Being a good student. Having lots of friends. Being a good athlete. But when being a good athlete is our identity, and we have a bad game or have a bad shift, it shakes our sense of self-worth. If we don’t get invited to the party or we don’t get enough likes, we question our value. Our label gets in the way and it’s like we are carrying a rock.

The full life that is promised to us in Jesus can’t be ours when we let other labels get in the way or drag us down, she said. “How many times have I let these labels dictate how I feel about myself or how I live my life,” she said.

In the story of the burning bush in Exodus chapters 3 and 4, Moses has an encounter with God. God is present, he gives Moses a promise, he says there will be miracles, and he says that Moses cannot fail. Yet Moses still lets his identity – “I am not a good speaker” – shape his response to God. The “God of the universe” is talking to Moses, but Moses still pushes back, Bokma said.

“Someone in his past told him he was not good enough and Moses was about to let a label prevent him from participating in the story of redemption, the biggest moment in history.”

In the same verse in the gospel of John (John 10:10) where Jesus promises life to the full, he also says a thief comes to kill and destroy. That thief is what distracts you from your identity as a beloved child of God, she said.

Bokma said she was adopted as an infant into a loving family, but on her 18th birthday, her adoptive family gave her details about her birth, and a letter from her birth mother. In the letter, her mother explained that she had given her baby up for adoption because she was single and wanted her child to have two parents. When Bokma reunited with her birth mother several years later, she learned that her mother had only known her father for a few hours and then never saw him again.

“I learned that I am here because of a rape,” Bokma said. “But in that moment, God reminded me that I am a beloved child, and that he had planned and purposed my life.” Bokma said despite the pain of that beginning, she will forever be grateful for her mother’s courage and bravery, “and participation in the plan God had for my life.

“God says the exact same thing to you,” Bokma told students. “ ‘ I made you the way you are on purpose, and you are my child. There is work that Jesus wants you to do.’

“God wants you to know that you are his. You are enough. You are loved.”

Chapel host Joel started the day with a hula hoop contest, and a student praise team led in worship with Child of Love, Cornerstone, No Longer Slaves, and Days of Elijah.

Questions for Discussion

1.      Just for fun: share if you have any other names you go by.  Any nicknames? Family names?

2.      Talk about the ideal of “labels” as a group.  How relevant do you feel that this is for students?  What are some ways we can struggle with labels?  What is a positive outcome for there being different labels that we wear (this isn’t a trick question!), and one negative outcome for there being different labels.

3.       Have a few people read out loud these passages:

-        Zephaniah 3:17, Jeremiah 31:3, 1 John 3:1, Ephesians 2:10

-        What stands out to you as you hear them?

-        Take a minute to just sit and let God remind you of how loved you are.

4.      If it feels safe, share with your group a label or identity that you hold on to.  (And if someone in the group shares, the rest of the group’s job is to listen with respect and thank them for sharing!) If it feels too awkward to share, spend time praying together that we would fully and wholly experience God’s love today and feel like we don’t need to hang on to labels. 



Tuesday 13 February 2024

Trading for Freedom

If I had the power to offer a trade on any aspect of your life that you wanted to change or improve, what would it be? asked Karmyn Bokma, the Spiritual Emphasis Week speaker at Smithville Christian High School.

Student Cohen volunteered to demonstrate Bokma’s point with a series of gift bags. Cohen could choose to keep the bag of candy that he had been given, or he could trade his gift for another bag. Cohen took the trade – twice – and ended up with a powder blue fuzzy bunny hat.

Jesus offers us a trade too, Bokma said in the second chapel of Spiritual Emphasis Week. In fact, the whole theme of the Gospel is that what God has for us is a trade – the ultimate trade.

As it says in Romans 5:1: “So just as sin ruled over all people and brought them to death, now God’s wonderful grace rules instead, giving us right standing with God.”

“God has the best trade we could ever hope to have, taking sin and replacing it with the life God has for you,” Bokma said.

Bokma told the story of Nicodemus, found in John 3:1-2, a religious leader with all the answers, who comes to Jesus at night because he has a longing for something more than right answers. At first, Nicodemus is confused and doesn’t understand what Jesus means when he talks about rebirth, but then “Jesus goes on to talk about the ultimate trade, that HE is the trade.”

And when we give up our old for the new life that Jesus can give, God promises us new life.

“When anyone is in Christ, they are a new creation, the old has gone, the new has come,” Bokma said, quoting 2 Corinthians 5:17. “The truth I want you to hear is this one,” Bokma said. God DOES make all things new for us.

We don’t always feel it, we don’t always do it, she said. We still get stuck in the old ways, and Nicodemus himself didn’t instantly change, Bokma said. But God is not a giver of gold stars, God is not someone who wants us to earn our freedom. It is a new gift given every day.

* * *

A student praise team led in worship with My Testimony, So Will I, and Lead Me to the Cross. Students danced during the closing song, Praise.

* * *

Small Group Discussion Questions

1.      If you could have one talent or skill that you don’t have now? What would it be?  Can you think of anyone you would trade with?  (I, for one, would love to trade my ability to shoot 3 pointers with Steph Curry, for example!)

2.      Read 2nd Corinthians 5:17. If the words of 2 Cor 5:17 are true (and they are!), how can this change how we see ourselves?  What do you think it means that the old can be gone? 

3.      Read together John 8:12 and also vs, 34-35. What do you think the connection is between these verses? In your own words, discuss what Jesus means in vs 34-35.

4.      Discuss what stops us from feeling totally free, the way Jesus describes. 

Chapel is held every morning at 9 a.m. Guests are welcome. 

Monday 12 February 2024

Encountering Jesus

If anything transformative happens to you this week, it will be because of Jesus, students at Smithville Christian High School were told at the start of the first chapel of Spiritual Emphasis Week.

Burlington pastor and speaker Karmyn Bokma used the story of the woman at the well, found in John 1:1-30, to demonstrate what happens when we have a conversation with Jesus.

There are ways to deliberately encounter Jesus, Bokma told students. We pray, we worship, we read the Bible. But there are also ways to avoid Jesus, and the woman who went to draw water in the heat of the day was definitely trying to avoid contact with other people. In fact, her first reaction to Jesus is to tell him that her religious and cultural identity meant that he should not be talking to her. 

Bokma encouraged students to look for Jesus this week, both in the expected places and in the places we don’t expect. “Jesus is already in all the places you will walk and talk today,” Bokma told students. Jesus is in places we don’t expect, or where we might even by trying to exclude him. We can try to offer distractions, or focus on legalities or societal barriers, but God sees you and knows you, just as Jesus saw and knew the woman at the well.

He knew the woman’s story and what she needed, and Jesus sees and knows you the same way, she said.

We can compartmentalize our lives, or carefully curate our social media or public identities, but our deep desire as humans – because God made us this way – is to be fully known and accepted for who we are, Bokma said.

In his conversation with the woman, Jesus goes from the ordinary (a drink of water) to the eternal, offering her living water. We can sometimes see God as someone who is an angry judge, or distant from us, or transactional, or someone we need to please, or simply someone we don’t believe in or understand.

But God is none of those things, Bokma said. When we are walking in the light, which is this year’s school theme, we are able to recognize and receive the blessings of God’s love.

  • God offers us freedom. Always
  • We get to hear from God.
  • There is unconditional love.
  • There is no condemnation.
  • God is present and knows you.

Just as Jesus went out of his way to travel into Samaria, where he met with the woman, Jesus is going out of his way to meet with you.

A student praise team led in worship with House of the Lord, Reckless Love, Graves into Gardens, and Glorious Day.

Students then met with small groups to discuss questions about Karmyn Bokma’s talk. The small groups were led by senior students.

Questions for Discussion

1. What is one way that you connect best with God?  Is it through the Bible? Nature? Praying? Music? What else?

2. Brainstorm together some of the things that get in the way of us encountering God.  What are the biggest distractions or confusions that make following Jesus hard?

3. Read the story of the Samaritan woman together (John 4:1-29)

  • What part is most interesting to you?
  • Place yourself in the story for a minute.  How do you think the woman felt before, during and after her encounter with Jesus?
  • Think to yourself: If you were to have an encounter with Jesus like that during this Spiritual Emphasis Week, what would it be like? What kinds of things would Jesus be saying to you? 
  • If anyone feels up to it, share some of these thoughts with your group.

Spiritual Emphasis Week continues all week, with chapel every morning at 9. Guests are always welcome.


Wednesday 7 September 2022

Welcome to a school that is transformative

Students and teachers at Smithville Christian High School started the new school year by praising God in our opening chapel, and hearing that how we learn is as important as what we learn.

Being part of a Christian learning community doesn’t just mean that we start the day with devotions, and end the day with a closing prayer, or pray before lunch, said principal Ted Harris. We do all those things, but that isn’t what makes us Christian.

Instead, we are invited, through our learning, to “a better story,” Harris told students, quoting James K. A. Smith from his book, “Desiring the Kingdom.”

“The primary goal of Christian Education is the formation of a peculiar people – a people who desire the kingdom of God and thus undertake their life’s expression of that desire,” Smith wrote.

But how do we guide students to make their lives an expression of the kingdom of God?

Teachers at Smithville Christian spent most of last week learning how to connect our school’s core purpose and values (see below) to that deep hope of God’s kingdom.

Joining teachers from Woodland Christian High School in Breslau (near Kitchener-Waterloo) and Quinte Christian High School in Belleville, Smithville Christian teachers were enrolled in the first lessons of “Teaching for Transformation” – a way of making the requirements of the Ontario Ministry of Education come alive by connecting the requirements to each teacher’s deep hope for their students, and culminating in formative learning experiences: often with real-world impact.

The logo for Teaching for Transformation, which was developed by Christian educators at the Prairie Centre for Christian Education, includes a boat, journeying towards a destination but having a ripple effect on the water around it. Teachers and students at Smithville Christian are in that boat together, Harris said, travelling towards something that is part of that better story of God’s love for creation and God’s plan, in Jesus, to redeem us and make us transformative partners in that kingdom.

It won’t happen in all classes and it won’t happen all at once, but students and parents should expect to see evidence of this transformation – how God is making all things new -- throughout the school year, Harris said.

“I hope the story of your year is a very beautiful one,” Harris told the students. “I hope you make the most of your high school experience, because not only are you hanging out with some cool peers, I think you have the best crew of teachers anywhere.”


First day also featured new MacBooks for the Class of 2026. Almost as fun as Christmas!