A PRAYER FOR THE FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL

Both of the sprouts start their junior year today, the oldest in college, the youngest in high school. It seems appropriate to pray today.

Great and mighty Lord, let me start my prayer off with the big stuff. Please do not let there be any school shootings anywhere this year. If someone tries, let them be stopped long before innocent lives are cut short. Please let those in positions of leadership stop squabbling over such things as who uses what bathroom, and instead focus upon the stuff that really matters–like grammar, mathematics, science, and history. Still thinking about big stuff, Lord, I ask that teachers will earn their value–not just the lowest amount we can get by with–and I’m okay with taking some money away from athletes, movie stars, and corporate tycoons to do it. Oh, and while I’m at it, convict every school district in our nation that teachers should not have to buy the supplies for their classroom.

Now let me get to what might be thought of as smaller stuff. I pray for all of my children’s teachers to be the kind of teachers that inspire, motivate, and encourage. Please keep the ones that just show movies all day long away from my two daughters, and especially keep the ones that like to demean religious people (like that history teacher a couple of years ago) or argue politics or make my daughters cry by saying mean things, far far away from them. Let those kinds of tea9049675_orig[1]chers all decide to quit and do something else.

I also pray, Lord, that all the athletes will be safe for all their games and that no one will get hurt.  I ask that the coaches care more about the character development of the athletes than wins and loses, and so too will the fans. I pray that the chess clubs, debate clubs, science clubs, and fine art departments will be just as supported and funded as the athletic departments.

I pray that bullying not happen at all. I ask for Junior High to not be painful for anyone, especially those that feel different, odd, or out of place.

I pray that SAT and ACT scores go through the roof, that everyone graduates, and no one goes to school hungry. I pray for moms and dads to be very involved in every facet of their children’s learning.

I pray for parents who homeschool, and their children–that the unique challenges and wonderful opportunities afforded by that choice will be a blessing.

For universities, I ask that such silly things as trigger warnings be left behind, and that instead colleges be places where people’s values are challenged without their personhood or safety threatened. I pray for transformation of individuals in college–positive transformation into critical thinkers and leaders who will help us solve the problems around us, not slip into the morose of sameness that seems to be spreading so quickly.

One more thing Lord–I pray that money, or the lack thereof, never keep anyone from getting the quality education they need. I mean this at the district level in a way that every school district, no matter how rich or poor, gets ample resources. I also mean this at the college level–that no student will be forced to rack up insurmountable debt just to graduate.

There are so many things that could be better about the way we educate in our nation, but there are also many things that are right. Thank you for committed teachers, careful bus drivers, wise administrators, and dedicated school boards, who work so hard to make certain every child is loved and cared for. And I thank you for the gift of learning and discovery, which you have made to be part of the human experience.

In the name of Jesus I do pray. Amen.

 

 

 

FORGIVENESS

Today is a guest post by my buddy David Richardson.  David and I met when we were doing doctoral work together, and have kept up our friendship through the miracle of the interwebs.  I asked him to write us a blog post, and he wrote a very good one.  You should check out David’s blog at http://www.daviderichardson.blogspot.com.  You can also follow him on Twitter@davidrich70.


For a moment, I was an angry Dad.

Early on a Saturday morning, I was watching my six year old son play goalie in a YMCA soccer game.  Emerson was really doing well in defending his goal.  Finally, a kid from the other team managed to get a great kick past my son and score on him.  That did not bother me.  I knew that was eventually going to happen.  But what got to me was what happened next:  the kid who scored the goal stood there, pointed at my Emerson, and had a few “choice words” for him.  I could hear the trash talk on the sidelines where I was standing.  My son just stood there and said nothing back to the bully from the other team.

That’s what made me angry.

I did not like seeing my boy called out like that.  So I walked over behind the goal and stood there a few feet from my son as the game continued.  I kept saying “You’re doing good, boy!  I’m proud of you.  Keep it up.  Daddy’s right here with you.”  He couldn’t say anything back because the game was going on.  But he was nodding to let me know he heard me.

Finally, it was halftime.  I walked out onto the field and hugged my son. Then I asked him how he felt about what happened.  Emerson looked at me, smiled, and said, “It’s ok, Dad.  I already forgave that boy.”

I was not angry anymore.  Not at all.  Instead, I was inspired by that sacred moment on the YMCA soccer field in central Florida.

Forgiveness.  What a beautiful thing.  It’s not always easy.  But it is always right.

I’ve come to realize that when we forgive, we do two things:  (1) Refuse revenge.  (2) Bypass bitterness.  It does not mean what the other person did to us is “ok”.  But it does mean we choose not to pay them back or stew inside with bitterness.

I’ve forgiven folks before.  And I’ve needed folks to forgive me along the way too.  Every time it happens, I am reminded that few things are more beautiful and powerful than that.

That’s the Gospel.  God forgives us when we lie on a tax form, cheat on a business trip, gossip on the phone, or bully on the soccer field.  Then we are in turn asked to extend each other the same blessing.

Life’s too short to stay angry and lick our wounds as the victim.  There comes a point where we have to let it go and forgive.  And when we do, we heal enough to move on with the life God has laid out for us.

Emerson reminded me of an awesome truth that day.  Forgiveness is the way to go.  Always.

May God help us all forgive each other in the same way He has forgiven us.