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.