Back-to-School Prayer

Today was Backpack Blessing Sunday at our church. The youngest kids brought their new backpacks with them for the children’s message, and then our pastor prayed a special blessing over them before they head off to school this week.

I remember the old Staples commercial playing the song lyrics, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year . . .” as Mom and Dad gleefully pushed their shopping cart down the aisles, tossing in pencils and notebooks as they went. The kids shuffled along miserably behind them, clearly not sharing their parents’ enthusiasm. All kidding aside, children, parents and teachers all have mixed feelings about the start of the school year. The free-spirited, spontaneous days of summer will quickly be replaced by a new bedtime, wake-up time and daily routine.

Thankfully, those days are behind me now, but I will always remember what a special time of year it was as we purchased school supplies, packed their backpacks, and visited their new classrooms. There were lunches to prepare, forms to be signed, schedules to be memorized, and locker combinations to be learned.

In addition to the classroom learning, there was a steady flow of homework, tests and projects . . . not to mention the many extracurricular activities! My children didn’t have their own computers until college, or their own cell phones until high school. (Those were still the days of flip phones!) Tablets and ipads had not been invented yet, and Promethean boards were just being introduced into our high schools.

Many young children today have their own laptops and smart phones, creating distractions and dangers that my kids never faced. Parents have to be extra vigilant in an age of growing dangers, including online predators, human trafficking, drug abuse, and viral “challenges” that tempt kids to accept and record various dares, all in an attempt to have it go viral. And it hurts my heart to add to this list — school shootings and suicide.

Oh, we have so much to pray for!

Come, my children, listen to me;
I will teach you the fear of the LORD.
Whoever of you loves life
and desires to see many good days,
keep your tongue from evil
and your lips from telling lies.
Turn from evil and do good;
seek peace and pursue it.
Psalm 34:11-14

With all this in mind, here is my Back-to-School Prayer:

Lord, I pray that you will lovingly watch over each child, and that they will . . .

  • be protected and feel safe in their learning environments
  • be filled with a desire to learn new things each day
  • be open to ideas, opinions and cultures that sometimes differ from their own
  • be a friend to the friendless and those who are bullied
  • be free to explore their creative ideas and express them in a meaningful way
  • be able to resist peer pressure that might cause them to act in ways that are harmful to themselves or others
  • be respectful, courteous, and helpful to their teachers and school staff
  • be proactive and seek wise counsel if  they, or one of their peers, ever feels anxious, depressed or confused

I invite you to use this list as a starting point for your Back-to-School prayers this week, and add to it throughout the year. Ask your children what you might add to this list, and encourage them to pray with you.

Rest assured, the Lord is listening, and He loves all His children unconditionally and guards them safely throughout their day. Have a wonderful school year!

Traveling Light

We’ve been home from Israel for a week now. I think I’m pretty much over the jet lag, and all the laundry is washed and put away. I added up all my Fitbit miles and realized I logged over 55 miles in 12 days. (I think at least 5 of those miles were logged walking through Frankfurt airport!)

My suitcase looks lonely though. I hate the thought of storing it away because it will probably be years before my next international adventure. Then again, I’d rather leave it behind and shed the impulse to bring every possible creature comfort from home.

I had a detailed packing list for our trip, but it grew considerably until I filled every last inch of my suitcase. Somehow I managed to stay under the checked baggage weight limit, even though I kept adding things up until the last moment. And it never occurred to me that I might want to leave space for gifts or souvenirs we might accumulate during our time in Israel.

Fast forward to Tiberias. After living out of my suitcase (and carry-on bag) for the first three days, I realized I probably didn’t need to pack that second bathing suit and extra sun dress. And I definitely didn’t need the fleece jacket or the Costco sized SPF 50 sunblock. Sure, I loved having clean clothing each morning, but I could have easily washed some things in the sink. By the end of our trip, I was envying those who packed a single carry-on bag or a trekking backpack. They looked so carefree as they navigated the busy hotel lobbies and crowded airport terminals. Why couldn’t travel light? Why do I feel the impulse to pack so many things I might want, rather than only those things I will truly need?

Hmmmmm.

Perhaps the way we travel is a metaphor for life. Personally speaking, I do tend to carry a lot of excess baggage around with me. The stresses of daily life can sometimes feel like we’re dragging a heavy suitcase up a flight of stairs. It weighs us down and slows our pace. Why is it so difficult to let go of the things we are convinced we need, even when they have little real value in life?

But, oh, there is hope . . .

“Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens.”
‭‭Psalm‬ ‭68:19‬

Amen! I say it’s time to lay those excess burdens down!

Going forward, I think a better approach to life — and travel — is to carry only what we need for the journey. 🙂