I hear the question, “Why?” a few dozen times a day. With my 4-year-old, it’s almost reflexive. Jesus also asked a lot of questions. Unlike my 4-year-old, His questions were rarely for information or explanation , but a means to foster an existential crisis. He wanted to provide an opportunity for a person to evaluate his or her conscious or unconscious assumptions about God, life, purpose, and worship. His questions were often perplexing, sometimes unsettling and always revealing.
- Who do you say that I am? (Matt. 16:15). Jesus, from at least the age of 12, knew who He was and why He was here, but the same could not be said of the people who interacted with Him. Even those disciples closest to Him, weren’t entirely sure. This existential question drew out Peter’s response, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” If Jesus is the Christ, what does that mean for Peter and for all of us who allow this declaration to guide our life choices?
- What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? (Matt. 16:26). Peter goes from making a supernatural deduction about Christ’s true nature to rebuking Jesus for revealing to them His true purpose – to be betrayed, killed and raised to life 3 days later. Jesus hears in Peter’s rebuke the very words of Satan in the desert, “All this I will give you (insert dramatic revealing of the kingdoms of the world), if you will bow down to me.” Peter and Satan were suggesting Jesus take the world without pain and suffering. What if receiving the nations without suffering is to gain the whole world yet forfeit not just one soul, but all souls everywhere? In what areas am I trading something of infinite value for a temporary trinket?
- Do you want to be healed? (John 5:6) This question strikes a certain chord in me entirely because of the number 38. Jesus encounters a man who was crippled for as long as I have been alive – 38 years. His question challenged this man’s identity as invalid and whereas the answer to such a question seems obvious, Jesus was striking a nerve we all feel at times. What if following Jesus replaces my identity as the victim, as the depressed person, as the fragile personality with something less comfortable? This question also incited another identity crisis in the Jewish leaders because Jesus did this work of healing on the Sabbath, which was forbidden. What do I do if God ask me to go against my traditions and social norms to follow Him?
Jesus was the master of causing people to question their assumed foundations for being. He forced existential crisis wherever He went. At Upton Lake we believe one of the goals of Christian education is to do this very thing. I will not pretend that this kind of struggle is easy but it is necessary and good. The human condition is to want to be left alone with illusion that everything is fine. To have our often wobbly foundations kicked and shaken, even by those who have our best interest at heart, fills us with that gut wrenching feeling of uncertainty and fear of falling with no one to catch us. The reality is, not everyone Jesus questioned was willing to leave her or his wobbly pedestals and follow Him. In Christian education there are no guaranteed results. But the most loving thing we can do is to test the foundation of what each of us are building our lives on. Jesus said himself, sand may be easier and more convenient to build on but when the storms of life come, it will fall with a great crash. What better time or place than to discover a foundation of sand in our lives then when we are young and surrounded by people who love and care for us? Only then can we scrap our self-made identity heap and allow our existential crises to guide us to the rock of Jesus. For us at Upton Lake, fostering a passion for Christ often begins with standing with our students through their existential crisis.
I could have easily titled this post, “How to Create Turmoil at Dinner.” I am not a very idealistic person, but I had this vision of my family gathered around the dinner table. Everyone satisfied and content after a home cooked meal. I clear my throat, open the Bible and every eye turns to me and my kids listen intently as I read from God’s word. We then have an age appropriate discussion applying the text to our hearts, followed by heartfelt prayers and a singing of Kumbaya. The kids politely ask to be dismissed from the table and get ready for bed in a spirit of quiet reflection. End scene.
What really happens is as soon as I reach for the Bible every child becomes one of three things – a clown with the antics (and voice) to draw a crowd in the middle of Time Square on New Year’s Eve, a condemned criminal crying out for freedom on her way to the gallows, or a sufferer of chronic fatigue syndrome that …can’t seem …to …keep…his head…off…the table…from…sheer…exhaustion. My warm family scene has turned into what I can only assume, is an average day in an institution for the criminally insane. Maybe this just reflects bad parenting, but if this scene looks anything like anything seen at your house, I believe there is hope.
Don’t own what isn’t ours to own. We are responsible to instruct our kids. Deut. 6:7 says, “Impress them (God’s ways) on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” We are called to create an environment that encourages spirituality but we cannot make them spiritually minded. We are commanded to teach, but we can’t make them learn. We are called to love the Lord our God with all our hearts and to do so openly, but we can’t force belief. As parents, we have a tendency to take too much credit for our kids failures and successes. Let’s remember we aren’t the Holy Spirit. It’s His job to open eyes and awaken souls.
Have Realistic Goals. Christian school kids have a unique scenario that many of us may not realize: they are surrounded by God talk all day long. As a parent and the Bible teacher at Upton Lake, I am grateful for the privilege of Bible class every day, chapel every week and Scripture memory tests every quarter, but let’s not forget our kids may experience it differently. So 9 out of 10 devotionals may not have the desired impact but there may be that 1 which sparks a conversation. Tons of verses will go right over their heads, but there will be that one verse which you will have opportunity to provide some clarification on (for example, after reading part of Luke 2 I was able to explain that Jesus wasn’t the constellation of Israel but the consolation of Israel and why that matters.) At the very least, it models and reveals our hearts for the Lord before our children.
Practical suggestions. The following are some suggestions I have seen and heard work. Experiment with what works for you and your family.
1. Keep it short. By the end of the day, most of our attention spans have been long exhausted. If something sparks conversation, great but there is no need to run anything into the ground. It isn’t the one 60 minute conversation that deeply impacts, it’s the 60 1 minute conversations that deeply impact. There is always tomorrow.
2. Bribery is my friend. Usually we don’t do dessert until after our devotional. If said clown, criminal and chronic fatigue sufferer can’t stay focused then his or her dessert will be waiting for them tomorrow.
3. Vary up the format. We rotate between devotional ideas. I recommend Keys for Kids. It’s an easy to use app with fresh devotionals every day. There is a suggested Scripture to read, a brief story, a key verse and a take away idea. Other days we read sections out of the Gospels and listen to the word of God, uncommented and unexpanded. Some days we use a yearly family devotional and just go off the date we happen to be on. God varied up His approach to instructing His people, we can too.
Keep at it. How many years did it take for Samson to call on the name of the Lord in humility? How many months did it take for David to repent of his sin with Bathsheba? How many steps on the road to Emmaus did it take for the disciples to understand the Messiah “had to suffer these things and then enter into his glory?” God is patient with us, let’s be patient with those we love the most. Here at Upton Lake we are seeking to join you in teaching to transform lives. Most of the lasting transformative moments happen outside of the classroom. The dinner table is a good place to start.
We are pleased to announce our "Online Giving " link. This will enable our supporters to give in a couple different ways electronically. Stay tuned for more information.
For a second year in a row, the ULCS Soccer Team finished the 2019 season in 1st place in the Mid-Hudson Christian Athletic League. They played against, Faith Christian, Tabernacle Christian and Harmony Christian. Our schedule was busy as we also had matches with Torrington Christian and Mid-State Christian School. The team finished 1st in the MHCAL Tournament, with Emma Gabor being named MVP and Caleb Colclough receiving the Christian Character Award.
Our dedicated coaches, Jess and Dan Ecker fielded the team with forwards: Christian Hafford, Jen Puhalski and Sam Knapp halfbacks: Andrew Knapp, Tom Mollo, Rocky Santo, Ethan Karaman, Noah Knapp defense: Justin Puhalski, Emma Gabor, and Matt Moore, and goalie: Dennis Karaman
When Coach Jess Ecker was asked, "what made the team such a success?" She responded, "We trained them hard and expected each player to rise to the high standards of excellence and giving their personal best everyday- 'To do everything as unto the Lord and not unto men' (Colossians 3:23) So it was only natural that on game days they showed up, played the game we all loved and did it all with excellence for the glory of the Lord! I guess that means, for dad and myself- the 'success' was never measured with a 'win' or 'loss' it was measured by the excellence of character each player exuded on the field. And in that regard, we were hugely blessed with a team where every single heartbeat was to do all to the glory of Christ."
The Christmas Art Show and Pageant
The Upton Lake Christian School community was blessed by our annual Christmas Pageant and Art Show on Friday evening, December 7, 2018. The evening began with a time to view artwork done by students from all grades.
Mrs. Germano, our new art teacher, presented students work in drawing, painting, and sculpture. She has been an incredible asset to the art program this year and her passion to work with the students clearly shines through the joy she brings to her classroom each week.
The pageant, conducted by our music teacher, Mrs. Marrine, was a simple yet powerful reminder that the story of Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem IS the reason we have such hope. The Roger Emerson and John Jacobson pageant, “On Our Way To Bethlehem”, was filled with joyful music and adorable animals all sharing of the story at the manger. All of the students from the elementary school participated, singing songs with featured solos by select students. The pageant also featured the high school worship team consisting of 7th-12th graders growing in their gifts to lead worship through song. It was a wonderful way to share in the praise of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
ACSI Leadership Conference
Six ULCS students traveled to Washington, D. C. to attend the re:Purpose, the ACSI Leadership Conference, November 24-26. Over 835 students from Christian schools around the east coast were in attendance. This group of young leaders was hand selected based on academics, community involvement and enthusiastic desire to make the world a better place.
The conference speakers addressed topics such as: spiritual well-being, putting our God-given gifts into action, being "all in for God". The students were encouraged to glorify God with their lives. Speaker and student discussions allowed for self-reflection and a chance to use what they learned to impact their school and community.
While in Washington D.C. the students toured the Smithsonian and Holocaust Museum. The general consensus from the team was that the trip was educational, impactful and a great chance to see our nation's capital.
Basketball Celebration: The JV, Varsity Girls and Boys teams were recognized this past Thursday evening. Each had a great season, winning first and second place in the league and in their tournaments. Our most valuable player and Christian Character awards were given for each team. JV boys MVP: Jonny Selander CC: Josh Finley, Varsity Girls: MVP: Sarah Cole, CC: Nadya Krueger, Varsity Boys: MVP: Dennis Karaman, CC: Tommy Mollo. It was fun to watch the all school mixed tournament. Our athletes love to play and enjoy the challenge of playing with everyone in the program, young and old. This was great fun for spectators! Thanks to April Knapp for organizing the teams and Tom Barton and Dennis Karaman Sr. for reffing!
Feed The Need
This year, our school hosted a very special event called Feed the Need. This was a school wide fundraiser that will help raise needed funds for Upton Lake Christian School - but that’s not all! A portion
of the funds (35%) we raise will go toward providing healthy meals for hungry children in poverty. The fundraiser culminated in a one-day Packing Party event.
Our students personally make a difference as they pack, seal and box over 10,000 meals that will be containerized, shipped and distributed to food banks in our local area and in Harlan County, Kentucky, one of the poorest counties in the US. 1000 meals were also sent to the Northeast Community Center in Millerton, where food is desperately needed as well. This was a meaningful, hands on event that provided our students the opportunity to serve those in need. We want to extend a huge thank you to all who supported this event, parents, grandparents, family and friends!! Thanks also to our corporate sponsors: Ben and Gracie's Thrift Stores, Millbrook Cabinetry, New York Imaging Services, Morgan Motors of New England and Morgan Spares Ltd, ProPrinters, Big Rock Farm Store, Paula Redmond Realty, Millbrook Painting/Sartorini Construction, and Millbrook Bank. We were so grateful to the way God's hand covered this event, all went smoothly to create an awesome experience in so many ways!