"I'm kinda down...you could just pray for me." The words almost marked the exit of a student from my office yesterday. Another staff member gently closed the door, leaning against the wall, popping questions to the student to hear the story behind the emotions. It's a routine most students are accustomed to. 

Following the student's confidential share session my co-laborer and I asked if we could pray. The student had created a long list of things that were frustrating, and started feeling guilty in looking back at the list and forward to finals. Pain shouldn't have a rating of 1-to-10, especially when finals are clouding the finish line.

I'm sure David felt this way. The Psalms are rank with honest disappointment as David writes his feelings, seemingly hidden in crags on mountainsides. David's feelings are honest, sharing utter contempt and fear at the mounting challenges that maliciously wait for him. But, at the end of nearly each stanza, David resolves his attention to the Lord. Feelings aren't bad to David, but his feelings don't guide his actions.

God uses Hillcrest to build faith, develop intellect, and strengthen character. Finals week is a great progress checkpoint for many students. Routine chapel, spiritual formation times, and teachers integrating the Bible into the classroom have equipped students with tools to build their faith. Classroom resources are shaping and honing students' intellect. The heart and mind are united in the forging of character, which is refined often; this week, through the pressure of final exams. In it all the students are growing, building, developing, and strengthening their understanding and trust in Jesus Christ. 

The shaping happening at Hillcrest is ongoing. Our gauge in progress is not the final exam. While we are concerned with the hearts and minds of our 18 year old graduates, our ultimate goal is looking 10 years down the road. What kind of 28 year old does God produce through Hillcrest Academy. The conversations, tests, and accountability is driven to produce mature Christians whose character will withstand the challenges in following God's direction after high school, while training students to practice small habits in high school. 

The prayer session that came from a stress-filled vent in a ministry office at Hillcrest is a small sample of how students are driven to see the bigger picture and practice small habits of faith. It's one of the many things that leads us to say that students' time at Hillcrest is worth so much more than a diploma.

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