by Sylvia Dicksongirls with plant

There is a certain beauty to the winter landscape: stark silhouettes of bare branches brushing against a gray sky, empty fields bathed in crisp, winter sunlight, nippy mornings coated with glittering frost. However, what we truly long for, after waking in the early dark of winter, is to throw open our windows and feel warm spring breezes brushing away the sleep from our eyes.

Spring is a time of renewal. Daffodils spring from brown turf, trees dress up in spring green, the urge to fly a kite or plant a garden takes hold. We long to freshen up and fix up. Out with the old and in with the new.

daffodilsAnd so it goes, year after year. Our souls, bodies, and all of creation long for renewal. So many years of frustration and futility! How long will it last?

At French Camp Academy we see firsthand the ravages of sin and the bondage to decay. Students come to us from families fractured or destroyed by sin. They come to us looking for a place of renewal.

Why Renewal?boys and wisteria

In God’s Word, we see that even though Adam’s stomach was full, his purpose in life defined, his success certain, he wanted more.

When Adam and Eve broke the only commandment their Creator had given, they received a horrible shock. No longer could life be lived free from fear, pain, and destruction. A new law went into effect with the immediate verdict, “Guilty. Condemned to Die.”

The Beginning of Renewala-another-boy-in-church

Redemption and renewal are themes that guide French Camp Academy. We live out lives renewed in Christ before our young people, showing them “… there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1).

We tell them that even though mother ora-boy-painting father may have deserted them, God will not. We tell them that Jesus Christ came to free them from sin and give them new life: “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord” (Acts 3: 19).

The Work of Renewal

House parents and Historic area personnel work with students to reveal God’s plan for renewal. Teachers, coaches, work directors, radio personnel, all work at chipping away the chains of sin.a-girl-with-horse-web

In the afternoons and on Saturdays, you can see students and staff working on different projects. Horses must be fed, the bed and breakfast freshened for visitors, and the conference center readied for the next group. WFCA trains students in broadcasting. At Rainwater Observatory, students learn how to work telescopes and help with astronomy programs.tennis-player

Every aspect of FCA contributes to the accomplishment of our mission of being a Christ-centered home and school, serving young people and families for the glory of God.

Effects of Renewal

Lives built on the certainty of God’s redemptive work become stable, fruitful, and fulfilled. Hope takes root and enlivens minds and hearts. “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come” (I Cor. 5: 17).katy-octavious-farida

The cords of sin and evil that so easily entangled thoughts and emotions are slowly unraveled and tossed into the flames. The stagnant water of sorrow is drained and lives are refilled with fresh water. Grins replace groans, direction replaces destruction, clear minds replace cloudy thinking.

Sometimes the renewal takes place quickly, sometimes slowly. But all around us we see God renewing lives at French Camp Academy.

Know My Anxious Thoughts

charlotte-angelby Sylvia Dickson

Many of our students were involved in a Christmas play at the church. It illustrated how God changes hearts and how important looking beyond the surface is.

Nobody performed perfectly. Mistakes were made, lines dropped, and scenes disrupted. But everyone applauded, and thanked the actors for their performances. arista-with-baby

In this play about love and forgiveness, we ALL were living it out in our relationships with each other that night. Some of the students were upset about forgetting a line or two. Others came on stage at the wrong time—or forgot to enter. It was organized chaos at times.

I, being the director, tried to keep a close eye on things, but I couldn’t keep up with it all. (Fortunately, I had 3 assistants who were also keeping up). Corralling 22 youngsters helped me refocus on how dependent I am on God’s attention to my life.

God doesn’t have to keep up. Every day is written by Him and executed perfectly: brettAll the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be (Psalm 139:16). God knows when I sit and when I rise (v. 2). He knows my thoughts before I think them. When I make a mistake, He’s there to show how even that works according to His plan.

Our play, The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, by Barbara Robinson, was a hit. Family members and friends smothered their favorite actors with hugs and accolades of praise. To cap things off, parents decorated and hosted the cast party, where more kudos were handed out.

It was all great fun and the slathering on of love smoothed over any mistakes made. In my nighttime prayer, I thanked God for His unbelievable love and forgiveness that He made possible through Jesus, His Son. I also prayed, aristaSearch me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting (vs. 23,24).

Our young people learned a lot about themselves and others and about God as we went through the process of putting on a play. Being faithful to the lives where God has placed us, loving each other, and forgiving one another are some of the important lessons this group was exposed to. Now we just hope that they will transfer those lessons to real life.

I believe they will!


From Fear to Delight

125By F. Stewart Edwards, President of French Camp Academy

A number of years back, you may have read about my (then) two-year old daughter, Dabney’s, fear of thunderstorms.  At night, it was a common thing for her to run into our bedroom, jump in between Rebecca and me, and pull the covers over her head.  After a few minutes had passed and the thunder had settled, the room’s darkness became apparent to Dabney.  She asked me in her warm little voice, “Daddy, are you looking at me?”  There was some sense within her that gave her comfort and peace in the midst of fear that she had the gaze of her father.  Even though Dabney could not see me, she knew that her father’s gaze was on her and that he would not allow any harm to come her way.  After I confirmed that I was watching her, she was then able to go back to sleep.

Let’s fast forward to another time to a beautiful Saturday morning.  Dabney was six, her older brother, Holman, seven.  When I first saw them outside that day, they were in our front yard crouched behind an oak tree, positioning themselves to deliver a small golden BB to any unsuspecting bird that flew into their radar.  Holman is the hunter and Dabney his able assistant (and General most of the time).  Unbeknownst to them, as I watched them from fifty yards away, a certain pleasure came over me.  It was a warm feeling, one that caught me off guard and demanded that I take a moment out of my Saturday punch list of “TO DO’s” and find pleasure in simply gazing at my children.

You know God has given life many pleasures, but very few times do those pleasures grip you at the heart and mind at the same time.  These experiences are ones that usually cannot be planned or paid for; they simply show up as unexpected gifts.  This was one of those special times, when all you have to do is “take it in.”

As I reflected on that thought, it also occurred to me that my Heavenly Father takes great joy in His children.  His gaze is always on us.  That means he watches what we do with keen interest.  He looks out for our best at all times.  He protects us from things he knows would harm us. Even when we make poor choices that do not please him, he is always there and ready to pick us up, dust us off and receive us when we turn from my wrong and ask Him for forgiveness through the blood of His Son, the Lord Jesus. 

The Scripture teaches that God actually “delights in me.”  Psalm 147:11 says, “the LORD delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love.”  When I trust God to lead my life and to take care of me, my trust in Him grows too.  When children play the “let me jump–you catch me game” the first time is pretty scary for them (and sometimes for me, tooJ). But after the first and certainly the second time, their trust grows and the next day there is hardly a second thought when leaving their perch.

Faith in God is somewhat like this…the more we trust Him and let go, we find He is worthy of our trust.  If the child never jumps, there is no way for them to know if Dad will catch them.  As you think about your life, where do you find yourself?  Is it hard to believe that God really does delight in you?  Have you made poor choices and decided that you can go it alone?  How is that working for you?

These lessons are ones we teach each and every day at French Camp.  Some lessons need to be re-learned at any age. However, God is gracious to us and we can find hope and be renewed by His gaze, because it is filled with His unfailing love.