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April 24, 2021

Inspired and encouraged! Those are two words to describe how I felt on Saturday at our Be the Salt Day. A little after 10 am as people were all gathering and chatting in the parking lot I looked up and 'happened' to see a Bald Eagle flying low in a beautiful blue sky! It was so clear to me it was God's way of saying, "Well done good and faithful servants." When I pointed it out, Judah (from Mr. Jordan's class) said, "And that's our mascot!" From that moment to us all gathering for prayer to walking around and seeing all of our students and families working together to socializing over pizza I was isnpired and encouraged. Inspired by how much good there is in our Upton Lake Community and encouraged by a little bit of normalcy in this covid world we have been stuck in.

I watched little pre-k students painting birdhouses for senior homes, 1/2 graders making 60 cards of love and encouragement, 3/4 graders cleaning every chair in our gym, 5/6 graders gathering over 40 bags of leaves at the cemetary down the street, 7/8 graders organizing and delivering canned goods, 9/10 graders scrubbing every inch of our kitchen and 11/12 graders (I didn't see this only heard) beautifying the front of a Crisis Pregnancy Center building. Kindergarten will be packing bags for essential workers this week. It was a beautiful day from the weather to the people!

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Our small community is blessed to be able to respond quickly, personally, and wisely. Thank you to the families who are so graciously adapting to the changes required in these times.

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The Direction and Limits of Human Strength

July 28, 2021
By Zach Justice

The Bible lays out two realities about human strength – we each have been given different strengths and abilities to use in this world and our strengths and abilities are limited and dwindling.  As a kid, I couldn’t wait for the day when I was faster than my dad because, in this arena, I was as capable as he was and that much closer to manhood, whatever that meant.  That day came somewhere during high school while trying to catch one of our runaway dogs.  I surpassed my dad in running and it felt like quite the accomplishment.  Unrealized to me, two things were happening simultaneously – I was strengthening and coming into my own and he was aging and slowing down.  School age children are a constant reminder of this reality.  We help our kids with counting, and then, one day we look and there are more letters than numbers in the problem and we are at a loss.  We help them spell their name and then one day we are asked what an elliptical clause does; and we, no idea.  (By the way, that last sentence ended with an elliptical clause.)  Psalm 118 reveals how we naturally respond to limitations and provides us helpful direction in living with our strengths and weaknesses in a God-honoring way.

Our limitations incite us to fear people (vs.6).  In response to a cry of anguish, the psalmist ask the rhetorical question, “what can man do to me?” Why?  Limitations are often revealed when we come up against people and this can shake our identity.  A cheetah can reveal that I am slow, but that isn’t as hard to accept as knowing one day my youngest child will easily outrun me. Many children aren’t afraid of people until they encounter a bigger, stronger and scarier bully who is quick to capitalize on the limitations that the child wasn’t even aware she or he had.  What is true on the playground is true throughout life – there will always be a stronger, prettier, smarter, funnier and more valuable co-worker than me.  This instills fear and anxiety as we constantly evaluate our worth by comparing and contrasting ourselves with those around us.  The Psalmist provides a silver bullet to undo the power of fear– “The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid.”  This means in the only area of comparison that matters, I have nothing to stand on and yet, in spite of my weakness, I am fully known and wanted by the most powerful being in the universe.  If this is true, what can man do to me?  Indeed.

Our limitations tempt us to find security in people (vs.8-9).  Verse 8 is the middle verse in the entire Bible, which is a somewhat arbitrary fact, but does highlight the two primary ways to approach life – seeking security from something on the earth below or seeking security from heaven above.  When our limitations are revealed there is the temptation to want to connect our wagons to that stronger person who revealed our weakness in the first place.  Once I realize I am not as popular or as smart as I thought, there is a temptation to at least be friends with the popular and smart kids because then I am at least popular and smart by proxy.  The psalmist felt this internal draw and preaches to himself and to us, “It is better to take refuge in the Lord.”    Jesus, the most powerful of all people, links His life to ours and calls us to take up His yoke and He will work alongside us.

Finally, our limitations move us to allow God’s strength to flow through us (vs. 12).  The psalmist experienced attacks that seem to overwhelm him.  Strength is never developed without some form of opposition and while Jesus’ yoke is easy and His burden light, we are called to plow with Him.  To get stronger there must be opposition in the form of weights, to get better at any game we need to play people who are better than us, and to grow in faith requires opportunities to experience God’s strength.  The psalmist says he is surrounded by enemies that are compared to a swarm of bees.  Few things are more persistent or scarier than bees.  They hurt, they attack unexpected and they don’t stop coming… but with each attack, the hive’s strength dwindles because each sting costs the bee her life.  In hindsight many of our struggles weren’t as infinite in duration as it seemed at the time.  It’s just bees, right?  But tell that to the guy on a ladder being swarmed.  The opposition will come again and again throughout life, but God intervenes, and what was once a painful attack are almost immediately reduced to ashes.  If we expect the bees of adversity to come but remember that in their coming, we have an opportunity to experience God’s strength, then we will see the promises of God begin to work themselves out in our lives.  

There may be time when our students will be the strongest, smartest and most able in a setting and we want them to thrive in those times with humble faith.  However, they are guaranteed to find themselves facing their own limitations.  Here at Upton Lake, we are trusting that Christ’s words to Paul will be true for our alumni in those times, “my grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”  What an overwhelming promise.


 

"One perk of being a small school is that we are not only a school community but a family. This family has never failed to encourage each other in bad times, laugh with each other in the good times, and push each other to become better... Yes, this school has brought me great memories, amazing friends, academic knowledge, life lessons, and much much more, but the most important thing is how it aided me in making my faith my own."
~ Jennifer Puhalski, Salutatorian, ULCS '20