A Prayer for Hailey Rose

My niece, Hailey Rose Rowland, has started school.  She is in Kindergarten at Karns Elementary.  I want to say a prayer for her. Of course, I am praying for her safety and well-being as well as for my sister and brother-in-law as they continue to come to grips with their little girl going off to school. I know that she is going to do well in school because she shares her middle name with her Great-Aunt Connie, who is a very smart woman.

I am praying. . .

. . .that she gains an understanding of the world in which she lives, the good and the bad, which will serve her well through the course of her life.

. . .that she develops a sensitivity to the needs and experiences of other children, those with whom she shares a classroom and those from different parts of the world.

. . .that she learns to analyze problems in a way that leads to solutions that benefit everyone involved.

. . .that she is able to see that perception is not always reality, if it ever is.

. . .that she finds the ability to compromise when negotiation is needed and that she holds convictions about which she will not compromise.

. . .that she comes to understand what it means to seek the common good.

. . .that she learns what it is to be civil and how to have a conversation that reflects her appreciation for truth and integrity.

. . .that she discovers the importance of listening.

. . .that she looks at school not as something that she has to do, but as a gift that presents her with the opportunity to learn, grow and develop each day.

What I pray for my niece Hailey I pray for each of our students. I pray that wherever they go to school, whatever their learning environment that they learn everything that they can about the subjects they are studying and the world in which they will apply that knowledge. In seventeen short years, our kindergarteners will be out of college and finding their way in the life. May the journey they have just begun take them to a full and happy life.

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A Time to Learn, A Time to Teach

Another school year is starting. Where does the time go? A week or so ago we gave Bibles to our rising first graders. In what will seem like very little time we will be recognizing them again as they graduate from high school. Pray for them and all of our students as they begin another year of learning their lessons.

Lessons do not always come easy. That was true for me in math class. In seventh grade, Coach Johnson was my teacher; and then in eighth grade, Coach Baskin was my teacher. With Coaches for teachers, I had little choice but to learn since they told me that I had to.

Mr. Johnson was a pretty laid-back fellow most of the time. Mr. Baskin, on the other hand, was of a different sort. He carried pieces of a Korean grenade to school in his knee everyday, or so the legend was told. I was genuinely afraid not to do well in his class.

My freshman and sophomore years, two fine Baptist women, Azilee Lawhorn and Mildred Pemberton, did their very best to improve my mathematical skills. Seeing them at church every Sunday produced an especially painful sort of guilt that I was not doing better in their classrooms. Nonetheless, under their watchful eyes I met my high school math requirement.

History was a different story altogether. It was like discovering a whole new world. Rockwood, Tennessee, was a small town while I was going to school there, and it still is. History made the world a much larger place. Mrs. Layne and Mrs. Fulks taught me Tennessee and American History in junior high. Coach Eichelberger taught me United States History in high school. Each one of these teachers helped me see a different kind of future as they taught me about our past.

I have mentioned to you before the pictures that Coach Eichelberger put on the wall of his classroom during the time that he was teaching us about World War II. Those pictures told the story of the war and of the Holocaust in graphic detail. I have never forgotten those pictures. When I visited the U.S. Holocaust Museum in Washington, the pictures in Coach Eichelberger’s classroom were my point of reference.

As I think back to the time when I was sitting in his classroom, I cannot remember much of what he said about those pictures. I don’t recall his interpretation of those pictures. There was neither an ideology that he was trying to advance nor one that he was trying to suppress. He gave a matter-of-fact presentation of the pictures allowing our imaginations to finish the story. I certainly do not recall him trying to give any religious meaning to the Holocaust beyond the fact that six million Jews lost their lives in it. Yet, those pictures continue to have an impact on my understanding of God, the Christian life, and the absolute reality of evil in the world.

I wonder now how Coach Eichelberger decided to use those pictures to teach about World War II and the Holocaust. Did he realize their power and potential impact? What was he thinking? I am grateful that he did what he did the way that he did it. Let us give thanks for former teachers even as we pray God’s guidance and protection for new ones. They do the work of God.

Every day our children are learning in school and out of school. Sometimes the lessons they learn are the ones indicated by the lesson plans. At other times, the lessons are less intentional but no less significant. Pray that God will be with our children in all the ways and in all the places that they learn. Pray that the lessons that they learn will be informational as well formational, so that each day they know more of who they are and who God wants them to be.