I was talking to a friend this week and I caught myself complaining about the coming school year. It occurred to me that my kids were within earshot and my attitude will most definitely trickle down to them. It may have influenced my friend’s mood about the situation and I was feeling all pouty and negative. It occurred to me that our attitude toward the coming year is so important. No matter how your kids are going back to school or even if you have kids, we have people in our influence that need our encouragement. So, here are a few ways to bee…
When I was teaching high school, I taught this one arts elective that tended to be mostly underclassmen. However, there were always one or two seniors who needed an art credit and were signed up. They were either excited about it or really not. Just being a senior gave them influence over the freshmen even if they weren’t particularly popular. I would pull them aside and basically beg them to be positive. Because if they weren’t on board, no one was. The freshmen may have been interested in impressing me, but they were more interested in impressing this student they probably didn’t even know before entering the classroom on the first day. I believe we are the same way. We are a part of certain circles where we have influence for some reason. Maybe it’s arbitrary (like my random senior) and maybe it’s because the circle is your family. Either way, our attitude will affect the group. And we can choose to be positive (a more fun way to be anyway) or negative and pull everyone into our pity party.
The Bible says, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” (Ephesians 4:29) Sometimes, we only associate the verse with profanity or gossip. Of course it means that, but it also means complaining and negativity. Neither of those things build others up or benefit the listener.
The start of the school year comes with all kinds of traditions. Getting the kids all dressed up and pretty for those first day of school pictures by the door may not be the same if they’re not actually going out the door for school. My kids are supposed to be going to school two days a week, but as I’m writing this, I don’t know which days that will be. The planner in me is freaking out a little. I like to know what to expect. I like things to be familiar. I like things the way I like things. But it’s like a bridge. Bridges are designed to have some flexibility so that they don’t snap in high winds or during an earthquake. We’re the same way. If we aren’t flexible, we’ll snap when things threaten our comfort.
Colossians 3:1-2 says, “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.” These “things” we stress about aren’t all that important in the long-run. So we have traditions that won’t be the same this year. Oh well. There are more important things on the earth (like safety) and beyond this earth (like everything) that we can focus on. And when we focus on those things, we won’t get so bent out of shape about the things that are happening here. In other words, we can be flexible.
Weird times like this give us some pretty amazing opportunities to be the hands and feet of Jesus. Maybe you’re not able to work right now. Isn’t that an opportunity to help a friend who has to go to work and can’t be with her kids? The Bible is chock full of verses about helping others. We know it’s a command, but I love this one: “And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.” (Hebrews 13:16) It’s pretty straightforward, but I love that is says, “And do not forget”. We probably have good intentions, but when things get rolling, we get preoccupied with our own stuff and we kind of just forget to help others.
Think back on a time when you had some kind of a need. You remember who came through for you in that time. I know I do. These people who reached out when I needed them most left an impression on my heart that I won’t forget. We reach out not so people will say, “She’s the best!” We do it to please God. So, what do you have to give? Time? Money? Expertise? Find someone who needs those things and get to work being helpful.
The beginning of the school year should always be marked with lots of prayer, but this year calls for even more prayer. One of my favorite verses is 1Thessalonians 5:16-18 (which is technically 3 verses, but they all go together.) “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” This should be our heart as we enter the school year. Rejoice always. This verse doesn’t have an asterisk that says, *unless you have to teach your own kids for an indeterminate amount of time because of a global pandemic. Nope. We’re supposed to rejoice always. Paul was often in prison and he still wrote these words, so no excuses. We’re also to pray continually. That’s humbling.
And what should we pray about? Well, I think we should be praying for teachers, principles, and superintendents. I don’t envy them for having to make the kind of decisions that will never please everyone. If we’re serious about being in prayer for these people, we won’t be quick to criticize them. We will start to extend them grace. That’s just how it works when you invest time in prayer for someone.
The last part of these three verses is to give thanks. Let’s be in the habit of being thankful. In our house, we talk a lot about having an attitude of gratitude. There are a lot of days when I need to take my own advice. Thank your kids’ teacher when he or she reaches out. Thank the neighbors and friends who give advice. Thank God each and every day that He’s faithful and has a plan even in the midst of all this. An attitude of gratitude doesn’t just make us more pleasant to be around, it changes our perspective so we can see the good around us. And there’s so much good.
I know the four bees are cheesy. But I hope they’ll stick with you long after you read this. Maybe when things are getting frustrating and you feel like losing your temper, you’ll hear a little buzz saying, “Bee positive or bee prayerful. Bee flexible or bee helpful.” If enough of us do that, we can change the atmosphere in our neighborhoods, schools, and homes. I truly believe that.