Monday, November 18, 2013

Abundantly Beyond

Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory.  -  Eph. 3:20-21a

In a previous blog, I highligted the journey the school has made from nomadic borrowers to proud property owners.  Most of you are especially aware of the events over the past seven years, and in particular, the changes since last school year.  But, just in case,let me recap...

Seven years ago, HCA did not own a bulding of its own.  We did own a tract of land, but it was across town, and we ended up selling it for a loss, so let's go on the assumption that seven years ago, we owned nothing of value, other than desks, chairs, a few computers, and a bus.  Since then, in a seven year period, the school has obtained 15 acres of land and three large buildings, which comprise the campus you enjoy today.  The total value of these properties is over $7 Million, of which we only still owe about $1.2 Million. 

This remarkable statistic amazes me as I write this, even though I was there to see it all unfold.  I can remember several board meetings back in the day when we all sat around a table and discussed creative ways to make sure we would be able to pay our faculty that month.  At that moment in time (only about 10 years ago), our current campus was no more than a distant dream.  We certainly had more immediate survival needs to address. 

Now, here we sit on a beautiful piece of property in Northwest Hickory, enjoying space that belongs to us, and watching over 450 children receive a Classical Christian education.  I have to admit, there were times when I doubted it could ever happen, and even now, I am not sure exaclty how it did.  One thing I do know for certain is that God has chosen to shed grace on this place, which has truly been a joy to experience first-hand.  Ephesians 3:20 says that God provides for us more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us.  That power is obviously the Holy Spirit, but it is interesting to me that Paul points out that His power dwells within us

In other words, the Spirit of God is able to do amazing, incomprehensible things through His people.  Many times, we are on the search for a miracle to poof out of a cloud, when the answer actually lies within us: the power of God.  You see, God saves us for His glory (Isaiah 43:25), which means that He plans to use us in God-sized ways which would otherwise be beyond our normal ability level.  God is glorified when humans understand that apart from Him, they can do nothing (John 15:5) AND when they realize that they can do all things through Christ who gives them strength (Phil. 4:13). 

The latest example of this power of God working through people at HCA has unfolded before your eyes this fall.  Every day over the past month, as you round the hairpin turn at the end of the gravel lot, you have watched trees fall, dirt leveled, and a playground rise (navy, gold, and white by the way).  For 19 years, HCA students have played in parking lots all over Hickory.  We have endured asphalt burns, fire lane sign cuts, and curb ankle syndrome (the only documented cases have been HCA kids).  God recently laid it on the heart of a grandparent in the school to do something about this.  So, what you see now is a one-acre field (or at least it will be a field, once we get grass to grow) for kickball and cartwheels, behind a real-deal playground with custom colored big-time equipment for kids to be kids. 

For years, we have been concerned about the fact that our kids have had very little space to run and play, but we really did not have the resources to do anything about it.  The power of the Holy Spirit, working through a family member of HCA students took us beyond anything that we could have thought up on our own, just as the scripture says.  Isn't it reassuring that God is always right?  I am including a few before & after pictures below.  Enjoy the change, and please make sure your children know that we serve a Great Big God, who loves us so much that He even cares about the little details of our lives, and not only meets them, but exceeds them, time and time again. 

(By the way, allow me to express a special "thank you" to the men who came last Thursday to spread mulch until dark.  What a blessing!  Thanks guys.)

The back of the property before
The back of the property now

Playground Before
Playground After

Playground Before
Playground After

Thursday, September 26, 2013

The Narrow Path

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I-
I took the one less traveled by, 
And that has made all the difference.
                                                                                 by Robert Frost (from The Road Not Taken)

The big news on campus this week is the formation of new crosswalks in the parking lot.  When we began using classroom space across the way, we quickly realized that we had unwittingly created some chaos for our parents and other drivers by allowing large swaths of kids to cross at the closest distance between the two points.  While I don't know of any close calls, it did disturb me that moving vehicles and moving humans had the potential to come into contact with one another out there.  So, we decided to add designated paths.

The reasons for this decision are simple and obvious...
  • The physical safety of children is of utmost importance.  Why?  Because we love them enough to care about their well-being.    When walkers use the designated crossing areas, drivers know better where to look for potential people. 
  • The potential dents and scratches on cars caused by adolescent foot traffic is something we wish to avoid.  Why?  Because we want kids to learn to respect the property of others. 
  • Order is always preferred over chaos.  Why?  Because it results in efficiency, meaning you can get more accomplished.  
In Matthew 7:13-14, Scripture tells us to "Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it.  For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it."

The new path
The core reason that we added crosswalks to the parking lot is that we love the kids here at HCA, and we want what is best for them.  Put simply, we do not want them to get hurt.  Similarly, the reason that God asks us to stay on the narrow path is His great love for each of us.  Just as we didn't add crosswalks to punish the children, God does not place boundaries on our lives out of anger or hatred.  He wants what is best for us.  The life of a Christian essentially boils down to two questions:

  1. Is God really good?
  2. Is God's Word really true?

You see, if God is really good, AND if His Word is really true, then simple logic tells me that I would be a fool not to follow Him.  God can alter any and all portions of our lives.  This may frighten us at times, but if His Word is true AND if He is good, then I should welcome any interaction with God that I can get.  Why wouldn't I want a perfectly good and true being with unlimited power on my side?

Interestingly, if you look out the front window of the school, you will see students (and parents) who choose to walk outside of the boundaries of the crosswalk.  They know that it is a little more risky to do so, but think that the convenience of a shorter path is worth it.  People love convenience.  We love the things that make our lives easier.  If I can get by with ease, why would I choose work?  Unfortunately, scripture does not promise us that following this narrow path will be easy.  Most of the time, it is contrary to the desires of our flesh.

Sometimes, life can be inconvenient, or just downright hard.  But the narrow path still leads to "life", while the alternative leads to "destruction".  Of course, these verses do not say that you can see the end of the path, they just promise that the reward of life awaits those who choose the narrow way.  This is why it is so important to believe that God is good and true.  I don't know about you, but I will choose life over destruction any day, if I know for certain that those are my only choices. 

Really, this all leads us to the primary reasons HCA exists in the first place.  In a world full of gray areas, we still believe in absolute truth, and we believe that one of those absolutes is that God is good.  As my children grow up, isn't it most important that they would know the truth?  I mean, we don't want them to confuse truth and lies, do we?  We all know where that would lead.  As Jesus said, "What does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul?"  Or as Jim Elliott said in 1949, "He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose."

Jim Elliott's Actual Journal Entry

We all want to go to heaven, but we need to understand that there is a path to take there.  It doesn't just fall in our lap.  A loving God, who never fails to tell the truth has given us this narrow path to walk.  It will often be unpopular.  It will often be painful.  But the prize of life at the end is worth the effort.  After all Jesus is the reward.

Every day, I am so tempted to divert from the narrow way.  Every day, my flesh makes me wonder if it is all worth it.  Every day it seems a little more uphill.  But, also every day, I understand more and more that this path is not just a parking lot crosswalk that I can edge off without consequence.   This is a tightrope that rewards the brave and determined, but comes at great risk for the wobbly.  I am so glad that God provides the stability we need to cross, and loves us with His everlasting love each step of the way. 

"I am the way, and the truth, and the life;  No one comes to the Father, but through Me." - John 14:6

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

The Long Road To Independence

When Hickory Christian Academy was founded in 1995, it was founded as an Independent Christian School.  But, that word, "independent" really depends doesn't it?  The truth of the matter is that HCA has never really been completely independent.  While it is a fact that we have never been formally governed by a church, state, or other institution, we have always been in partnership with a local church in some form.  Let's take a look back...

From Fall, 1995 through Spring, 2001 the school operated under the roof of Highland Baptist Church.  These formative years were exciting and groundbreaking, as a brand new cute little school began in a handful of Sunday School classrooms, and eventually modular units outside.  During those first years, Highland blessed us with free rent and room to grow.  I became a parent at HCA in the Fall of 1999, and came to work at the school full time in April of 2001.  We saw so many miracles and blessings from God as the enrollment grew from 19 students to 185 in five years!

With the rapid growth of the school, we were forced to look at other options in the Fall of 2001.  We were blessed to rent extra space at First Baptist Church, which housed our 4th - 8th grades that year, while the Pre - 3rd stayed at Highland.  While the space was a blessing, the logistics of two campuses under one administrator were overwhelming, and we quickly realized that it was tougher than expected to pay rent when we were still tight on cash and used to free space.  The following year saw the only decrease in student population in the school's history, and need to regroup back at Highland. 

From Fall, 2002 through Spring 2004, the entire school was at Highland, continuing to add grades, and trying to find our way in the world of fledgling private schools.  Enrollment began to increase again, which led to a second try for extra space in the fall of 2004.  This time, New Hope Baptist Church graciously gave us four rooms to house our Preschool, TK, and Kindergarten classes, again at no cost.  This allowed us to stretch out a little at Highland, where we had agreed to begin to pay a nominal rent for the large amount of space we occupied.  It was about this time when construction on our current school facility began, after a generous space-sharing agreement with the Hickory Community Chapel became reality. 

As construction projects often are, the facility was started and stopped several times over the next year while we prepared for our exit from Highland Baptist Church after 11 years.  Fittingly, we held our very first high school graduation ceremony in Highland's sanctuary as our final farewell.  What a huge day of completion that was!  Needless to say, Highland was essential to the formation of this school, and invested much space and money to help get us started.  We couldn't have done it without their help.

When the construction of the new building was not completed by the beginning of school in 2006, we went back to First Baptist Church and New Hope to borrow space one last time.  They both allowed us to use their facilities until Thanksgiving Break, when were were finally able to make the big move to our current campus.  While we did not spend as much time at FBC and NHBC as other places, they were hugely instrumental in bridging the gap between Highland's and Harvest's campuses.  It was great to see the Body of Christ corporately minister to us through so many different organizations. 

The seven years in which we have partnered with Harvest Bible Chapel (formerly Hickory Community Chapel) have been amazing.  I have been so blessed by the generosity and grace shown us by this body of believers, and I am eternally grateful for the lessons they have taught me on humility, kindness, and grace over the years.  During this partnership, our enrollment has grown from 278 students to 451, a 62% increase.  We have graduated seven classes in this building, and learned to manage our own building and budget...but not completely.  You see, Harvest has contributed significantly to our utility and maintenance costs over the years as we have shared space and property.

As you know, Harvest held its final Sunday morning worship service on this campus on the first day of September.  Beginning today, Hickory Christian Academy truly becomes an independent school for the first time.  We no longer have to worry about double-scheduling, or who owns what, but we also are taking on all of our own expenses and responsibilities.  There is no backup plan now.  We are finally becoming what we have always claimed to be, an Independent Christian School.   In some ways this is a little intimidating, but make no mistake, it is consistent with the original vision from 1995.  The time has come.

As I mentioned in my last blog, we recently sent our oldest daughter off to college.  For the past 18 years, as she got older and more responsible, we noticed that she could handle things on her own.  On the day that she actually left for school, I knew she was ready, but every day since I continue to watch her progress, because she is really not independent until she does independence, not simply when we believe it.  HCA is getting ready to do independence.  We will no longer be mistaken as Harvest Christian School or Highland Baptist Academy.  Are we ready?  The proof is coming in the next few months, and it really does not depend on our own hard work and organization, as much as it depends on the grace of Christ working through us.

Just like my daughter is beginning to learn, independence in human terms is the opposite of independence in spiritual terms.  To be totally free spiritually, you must be a servant to Christ.  Paul tells us, "Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance.  It is the Lord Christ whom you serve." - Col. 3:23-24.  Freedom, in its purest form is found through serving Jesus.  As we embark on this new era in the history of Hickory Christian Academy, we recommit our service to the Lord, and ask Him to grant us true spiritual freedom as a result. 

When Joshua led the people of Israel to the edge of the promised land, God spoke to him these words: "Be strong and courageous, for you shall give this people possession of the land which I swore to their fathers to give them.  Only be strong and very courageous; be careful to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, so that you may have success wherever you go."  I don't know about you, but I want success.  Therefore, let's not turn to the right or the left as we follow Christ into the promised land.  Since His Word is truth, isn't that ultimately what we should be learning in school anyway...the truth? 

The Lord had promised us an Independent Christian School.  Today, He has fulfilled that promise.  I am so excited to see what blessings He provides next.  God bless each of you as we begin this new adventure together. 

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Where has the time gone?

On Saturday, our oldest daugter left home for college.  She is going to be 5 1/2 hours away from us this year.  Although we know that it is in her (and our) best interest to leave the nest and gain independence, it just feels wrong.  All of a sudden, I am having constant visions of the day we carried her home from the hospital, followed by other milestones of her life along the way.  These are emotions that I have not dealt with before.  I know that this is the normal progression of life, but I can't help but to feel weird about it all.  With that said, I am 100% confident that she is ready.  She is solid in her faith, more responsible than I am in completing tasks on time, and mature beyond her years.  Its all good...but it still feels wrong.

This culminates the busiest summer of my life.  Allow me to recap.  On May 31, the same daughter graduated high school.  Our past year has been a series of "finals".  Her final volleyball game, her final basketball game, her final prom, etc.  It is the perfect blend of excitement and depression as we watch her grow up.  Amazingly, our next child is a senior this year, so we are beginning that process all over again.  A week after graduation, my wife and I took both girls to New York City for a senior/graduation celebration.  It was a great trip, filled with great memories, including watching a window washer dangling from a 50 story building after his scaffolding broke.  It was like a scene from Spiderman!  Fortunately, he was rescued unscathed. 
My girls in Little Italy

While we were away, construction began on the new middle school building at HCA.  Behind the scenes of all these summer events was the work being done on this facility.  As you know, building something is both exciting and time-consuming.  There are many details in a project like this, but we are so blessed to have this space at our disposal this year. 

Soon after returning from our trip, Gayle and I started talking about how the summer might unfold.  Some of our six children are very energetic, and need things to do so that they don't drive their parents crazy           (can I get an 'amen'?).  After some discussion with the boys, we decided to take on the challenge of building our own boat.  While I dabble with woodworking on the side, I have never built anything waterproof before, so this was certainly a new challenge.  After about a month of weekend work, we launched the "3 PALS" (in honor of the boys in the family who worked on it).  She has proven to be a seaworthy (or at least, lakeworthy) vessel, and has even been used for fishing.  Fun times. 
The first fish

At the end of June, we spent two days in Georgia at college orientation.  This is when it started to become real, and we knew that our time was growing short.  But, make no mistake about it, God miracuously provided our needs, and gave us a way to afford college when we truly believed it to be impossible.

Around the 4th of July, we had the opportunity to take a long weekend with both Grandmothers in the mountains.  This was a very relaxing time, and valuable time for our kids to appreciate their grandparents' investment in their lives. Of course, it rained every day, but that really didn't matter in the big scheme of things.  Until the next week, of course, when the school flooded during one of our many deluges this summer (see previous blog).

Our full quiver
The 'filler' weeks contained volleyball camp, softball tournaments, art camp, etc., until our final vacation opportunity at the beach.  My kids absolutely love the beach.  We had the most relaxing time with our family, and really did very little other than just hang out together.  And, amazingly, it did not rain a drop in the entire week we were there. 

This year's HCA Student Council
Upon returning, I took the HCA Student Council to the mountains for our annual school-planning retreat during the first weekend in August.  The next weekend was our first HCA Alumni Associational Cookout.  It was great to see the faces of our former students, and to hear about how God has blessed their lives since high school graduation.  We plan to formalize this group, and to stay in touch with these students who meant so much to the school in the past.  Last Saturday, we were able to welcome the many new families to HCA at our New Family Picnic.  Over 100 folks joined us for a brief orientation to the school, and some great burgers and dogs on the grill. 

Of course, the past week has been spent with our awesome faculty and staff.  I am so amazed at their love for Christ and for our children.  Please do not take for granted how great this staff of people are.  They are the best!  This leads to orientation tonight, and the first day of school in 48 hours (with a trip to take more stuff to college in between). 

Where has the time gone?  While I have been busier than normal, and busier than I would prefer, it really has been a blessed summer break, with much accomplished along the way.  God has shown Himself faithful to our family once again, has provided every need we have, and reminded us that He is truly all we need.  Now, I am ready to remind your kids of the same thing.  Are you ready for school? 

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

What is the opposite of "drought"?

Well, this surely has been an eventful summer.  I was going to write a blog about all the events I have experienced, but it was interrupted today by mother nature's own event. 

One of the main questions I get in June and July is "What do you do during the summer?"  The common thought is that when there are no students at school, I must be leaned back in my chair with my feet propped up, reading the paper.  Unfortunately, I have yet to read a paper this summer. 

Typically, the summer is loaded with potential employee interviews, curriculum orders, new furniture orders, prospective family interviews, general building maintenance, policy review, and meetings about how to improve our school for the upcoming year.  Believe it or not, it really does stay pretty busy. 

However, on occasion, we have something happen which puts everything else on hold.  Such an event occurred last night.  If you have looked out the window this year, you know that we have received all-time record rainfall through the first half of the 2013.  The ground is pretty saturated to say the least.  With that being true, we received one of the hardest rainfalls I have ever seen last night.  At my house (which is close to the school), we got several inches of rain in a couple hours.  Animals started lining up in pairs in the back yard, just in case. 

When we got to school this morning, we had a mess.  I am attaching some pictures I took so that you can see what we saw.  Once we get this cleaned up, I will send some updates on "real" school questions you may have.  Thanks to Chris Bunton for coming on short notice to help us suck up water, and dry things out!

By the time I am writing this, most of the mess has been cleaned up.  Whomever has been praying for rain, you can stop now!

I hope everyone is having a great summer.  I look forward to seeing you again in a month or so...

The washout behind the school.  Notice the depth of the water line on the outside of the building. 
About 8 - 9 inches deep!

About 1/2" of water on the cafeteria floor.

 Fortunately, the cheerleaders were here to help clean up!


 Computer Lab


Mud in the kitchen


Monday, April 8, 2013


Welcome back!  I hope that each of you had a wonderful Resurrection Day celebration, followed by peaceful, quality family time.  The Robinsons got some yard work done, planted a garden, visited both sets of grandparents, built a dog house, bought a new refrigerator, filled out college forms, went hiking in the mountains, and watched multiple college basketball games.  Sam won the family NCAA Tournament bracket contest, so I owe him lunch at the place of his choosing.  Virtually all of our activities took place around here, so it was great to have a lazy week to spend with the family (as lazy as a family of eight can be).  It seems like it has been a long time since we have been able to do that. 

We were also able to watch a video that I would like to recommend to you.  Two weeks ago, I had an opportunity to attend a missions conference in Lubbock, Texas.  I was one of a few representatives from New Vision Ministries (our Haiti ministry) at the conference, which  raised money for ministry in Haiti and Iraq.  It happened that Kirk Cameron (Growing Pains, Fireproof, Left Behind, etc.) was the speaker at this conference, and we were able to talk with him for a while.  He described a project that he had been working on, which traced the roots of liberty in America.  Being a history addict, I was interested, and bought the video. 

If you haven't already, you should watch the video "Monumental".  It discusses the founding of this country, and the desires and intentions of the founders.  In particular, it focuses on the Pilgrims, beginning with their persecution in England under Queen Elizabeth I and King James, their flight to Holland, and their eventual trip to the new world, establishing the foundations of a society based on religious (and political) liberty.  It is much more in depth than any discussion on the Pilgrims that I have ever seen before.  The video is certainly Christian in its approach, but not overly political in nature.  However, it definitely makes you consider the direction of the United States of America today in comparison to the intent of not only the Puritans, but also the framers of the Constitution.  I found it fascinating.  Check it out when you get a chance. 

You also probably know about the school's planned purchase of the Harvest facilities this week.  I will send more details on this after the fact, and we will plan to hold a school-wide meeting to discuss the implications this will have on the future of HCA before school dismisses for summer break.  In the meantime, can you believe we only have 8 weeks of school left?  Time flies when you are having fun!  I will send more updates soon.  God Bless.