Thursday, August 11, 2016

Icons for a New School Year

Some community members gathered at the front door to the high school in Turpin one Wednesday evening. It was hot. The sun was beating down out of the still bright, western sky. Shade was not in abundance as we stood in the parking lot. But the discomfort we all experienced was with purpose. We gathered to pray for the school and community.

The prayer walk was to take us through the entire community in teams. But it began with a walk around the school property. Prayer would be lifted over the boundaries of the property to make this new school year something new in the name of the Lord.

We were instructed on the practicals of how to go about the prayer walk, but left to our own method of prayer as we journeyed. My method was to allow God to inspire the prayers. To drop from my mind the things I wanted, and allow God to feedback into my spirit what God wanted prayed.

As I began the journey, one thing after another popped into my imagination. It took an entire trip around the school to realize that God was showing me icons around the school – images that led me into deeper prayer, reflection, and meditation upon God. An image captures 1,000 words, or something like that, but an icon leads us into the infinite.

Here are the icons I discovered and prayed through for a new school year:

Classrooms where minds are expanded – May God open the minds of students and teachers to the greater mind of Christ. The world is the creation of God and all that is within it is God’s own possession. As we live and move through this world, as we live and move as God’s own, let our minds be expanded to see the world differently, to think of others as Christ would, to pursue thoughts worthy of the kingdom of God that the earth may become the kingdom God intended. Science and history, English and math are ways to approach the world and how it works. But the creator God approaches that which is in the world in order to be revealed to others.

Cafeteria – May God pass along to all those within the hunger and thirst for righteousness. Do not allow them to be satisfied with the junk food of appearing righteous. Do not allow them to gorge themselves upon the fat of judging others as unrighteous. Do not allow them to starve because of distractions that tempt. Let that hunger and thirst drive them to the table of righteous life, hosted by the living Christ.

Pre-K and Kindergarten – May God birth into the community of faith new babes in Christ. Let faith begin to flourish among children – young and old – that there will be an increase in the blessing of God’s people. May they begin to grow and be strong in grace, truth, and faith. May their excitement bring others to see the faith as a life of joy and hope.

Locked doors – May God protect the children and the vulnerable from the predators of this world. There are devourers who prey upon the innocence, the vulnerability, of little ones. It is sad that doors must be locked to keep our children safe at school. But may God also protect them in their homes, where some of the devourers live. May God watch over them and protect them from harm in body, mind, heart, and soul.

Water tower – May the Living Water pour out of the lives of all believers in that school. May the youth and adults be fountains, springs, lakes and rivers, oceans of the grace that Christ brings forth in our own lives. May they pour themselves out in service and love to one another – friend and family, neighbor and stranger, frenemy and enemy. Do not allow shame or embarrassment, guilt or peer pressure prevent the witnesses of God’s mercy from testifying in word and deed the great flowing love of God.

Bus barn and workshop – May God guide the hands that keep the school running. May those who serve others be honored. May their works be appreciated. May their tasks be completed with purpose. May they find that the humble hand that serves surpasses the apparent glory of honored people.

Buses – May God guide the journeys of the lives of all within that school. From the first day of their school life to those who see this as their retirement year, let this journey be one of meaning and purpose. May your lives be filled with hope for what the next day, the next turn, the next rest will bring. As you set out on the new year and seek to find what is at the end, remember that along the journey, God will guide you. God will also stop you, when needed, to show you something glorious. God will slow you down when you try to outpace yourself. God will speed you up when you drag along. God will help you find the places of shelter and rest. God will also allow you to experience ups and downs along the way. Rejoice in the journey!

Athletic fields – You who choose to fight for the glory and honor of your school on the fields of “battle”, choose to be warriors of Christ. Do not mistake being a warrior for Christ for yours is not to battle others. You are not sent out into war against enemies or forces – the battle belongs to the Lord. Instead be warriors of Christ, seeking to take his name, his honor as your own. Seek to serve as he served, willing to lay down his life for the sake of others. Seek to follow the will of God instead of lead God into places from which you must be rescued. Seek the peace that Christ brings.

Running track – You who set yourself to this life, run a race worthy of Christ. Run for the glory of God, not to accumulate cheers and awards. Be recognized not for your speed but for your testimony. Stand in front of others with humility, for even Christ gave up the glory of heaven to run the race with us.

Playground – May God allow children to discover the gift of holy play. To find refreshing times in the midst of their day. To experience and hear laughter as a healing bond. May games be played for the benefit of all. May harsh words, shaming, and bullying be squashed in the heart before they can take root and produce destructive fruit. May the games build community. May the players be friends beyond competition. May their times of play reinvigorate them for times of work.

Old buildings – God provides when the time is right. May those buildings that are falling into disrepair remind us that providence doesn’t mean we get what we want when we want it.  Sometimes we must wait upon the Lord’s provision. Sometimes we must get something out of the way before the Lord can provide. And sometimes, we have to do a little work – tilling, planting, tending, harvesting – to enjoy the Lord’s provision.

A damaged driver’s education car – School is not brought into the lives of students in the places they live. Students are brought to a place to learn and grow. And sometimes accidents happen. Sometimes harm is intentional. Sometimes lives get bumped and dented. And sometimes lives are wrecked. God stay by the side of all those in the school, that their lives may be protected as they travel to and from school. May those who drive be alert and aware of children walking, immature drivers, and those rushing without always looking. May those who drive be intentional to put down phones, turn down radios, quiet the passengers, and focus on being as safe as possible.

Artwork – May the creativity and imagination God put within all bloom and flourish. May the school be filled with the gifts of artwork that spring forth from God’s inspiration. May there be a culture where art and science, imagination and logic work hand in hand to produce individuals of talent and craft.

Weight room – As school begins, we recognize that children, teachers, and staff are all under burdens that weigh down their lives. Some are so burdened they cannot lift their head to look into the eyes of another. Some are barely standing under the weight of loss, shame, guilt, pain. Some are so weighted down that every step to finish the bare minimums of daily living are sometimes overwhelming. May they find the Lord’s yoke that is light. May they experience his lifting of their burden. But may they also find that there are shoulders around them to help carry the load. Let them encounter others who will help them with their burden, who can help them carry forward. And if those who come alongside cannot carry the burden, then help them to carry the one carrying it.

Dumpster – Remember the cast-offs, the throwaways, the forgotten, and the overlooked. And those who feel they are. God looks to those that society has pushed to the edges and walked away from. And God calls the people who follow Christ to remember them. They are “Blessed be’s” of the sermon on the mountain. They are the recipients of Jesus Christ’s fulfillment of prophecy. Let us seek those at the edges, who are so close to being cast-off, thrown away, forgotten, and overlooked. Remember them and bring them close.

Swimming pool – May God bring many to faith, that they may know of life and experience new life through baptism. May they seek the kingdom through the water that brings to new life. May the die to self and old ways of living, that rising out of the water there will be a refreshed soul. May the find a home among a people baptized in one Lord by one Spirit into one God.

Musical instruments – Let songs of praise and worship usher forth from the mouths and hearts of the faithful. In this school year, let words of joy and peace be sung over one another. Let the discord and noise of hate be silenced. Let the anthems of God’s great love be heard in the word and deed of the faithful who fill the halls of the school. Even in the quiet times, let those be rests before the great music of the kingdom is taken up again.