10 Things I Want Students to Know as they Start the New School Year

Today marks the beginning of the new school year for public school students in Hillsborough county. I live, work and play in this county and according to one of my favorite websites, Wikipedia, Hillsborough County Public Schools is the 9th largest public school district in the entire country. Crazy big!

On top of that, there are thousands of more private, charter, and homeschool students within our county borders, as well as thousands more college students who have already started back.

Pretty overwhelming, huh? Try driving on the roads around here when school lets out. ūüôā

Since I work with students, these stats and the reality of the new year got me thinking. So I decided to write a short letter to all those who already have or are starting school today. Here it is.

Dear Students,

It’s that time of year again.¬†Back. To. School. Some of you are indifferent, some of you are¬†excited and others of you are¬†disappointed. Regardless of your emotion, it’s here.

As I prayed for you this morning, it got me thinking:¬†“What would I have wanted someone to say to me if today, August 25, 2015, was my first day back to school?”¬†So I came up with a list of 10 things. Maybe one or more will stick out to you and challenge¬†you as you start the new year.

  1. You are blessed to be able to receive an education.¬†Millions of people all around the world do not have access to the schooling options you have¬†and would give anything to be in your shoes. You have the opportunity to develop your mind.¬†Your mind is incredibly powerful. Don’t see school as a necessary evil. Learn all you can. Don’t take it for granted.
  2. Do your best.¬†Not everyone is an “A” student. That’s okay. But everyone can give their best effort.
  3. You are NOT entitled to good grades or preferential treatment.¬†Life’s not fair. Others will get what they don’t deserve. That’s okay. Trust that hard work pays off and that there is more satisfaction in earning what you have. Don’t be lazy.
  4. Slow down and have fun!¬†Enjoy the moments. Don’t get caught up in comparing yourself to others or their achievements. Enjoy it. Laugh. Cry. Pause. Soak it all in. It will be gone before you know it.
  5. Figure out who you are.¬†This is a life-long, evolving process. If you’re in college, you should be further down the road with this than a middle school student. But start asking tough questions now.¬†What are your strengths? How has God gifted you?¬†Then take classes and pursue a career around¬†“WHO”¬†you are. And always remember, your character is something you decide and incredibly important. Don’t let others tell you who you are. Don’t downplay it.¬†While figuring out “who you were¬†created to be,” make sure “who you are” is someone of high character.
  6. Get to know people who are different from you.¬†Join a random club.¬†Sit with someone new at lunch. Talk to people who look, believe and think uniquely.¬†Learn to just “be” with people and enjoy them.
  7. Live passionately and love boldly.¬†Be different. Don’t settle for mediocrity or blending in with the crowd. Be set apart. Serve other people.¬†Say over and over again “life isn’t about me.” ¬†
  8. Find a small group of friends who accept you for who you are and encourage you in your convictions.¬†Where you end up can often be predicted by who you surround yourself with.¬†Choose your friends wisely. Don’t worry about being the most popular kid or having everyone like you. Pursue good relationships.
  9. Respect and honor your teachers.¬†They didn’t get into teaching to make the big bucks. They got into it because they care about teaching students. Don’t make them regret teaching. Make it their best year yet.
  10. It’s all about Jesus.¬†If you don’t know Jesus, realize that no amount of fun or achievement in this life can fulfill the deepest longing of your soul. All of life will only become less meaningful the older you get without Him. Anyone can begin a relationship with Him. Even you. If you do know Jesus, my challenge for you is to make Him famous in your school. Honor Jesus with the life that you live and don’t let the school year pass without making sure your friends know about Him. Don’t beat them over the head with Bibles or¬†become judgmental. But grow in your relationship with Jesus¬†so much that others can’t help but want what you have. Let Jesus be at the center of your life.

It’s¬†a new year. You future is not hindered by past failures¬†or guaranteed by past success. Today is a new day.

I Believe in you!

Matt

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Where I’ve Been…And Why I’m Back

Maybe you’ve noticed. Maybe you haven’t. But I’ve not published a blog post¬†since June 13th. And it’s killin’ me!

It’s¬†the longest gap between posts I’ve had since I started blogging. And for good reason: I’ve been busy.

Busy with job responsibilities. Busy with family. Busy with traveling. Busy with weddings.

But who isn’t busy, right?

We all are.

And though I’m still relatively young, I’ve realized that every time my birthday rolls around¬†I’m busier than I was the previous year. So I’ve got to figure this thing out now, because I’m not getting any younger.

I’m not saying I need to figure out how to avoid working hard. Although, we do often times allow ourselves to take on an unhealthy amount of work that becomes detrimental to our lives.

I’m not saying there won’t be “seasons” that are busier than others. There’s nothing wrong with that. You have to push through.

What I am saying is this: In the midst of life’s busyness, I (and maybe you too) have to figure out how to maintain balance and prioritize what’s most important.¬†

If you¬†don’t, you’ll one day realize it’s been…

…3 months since reading your Bible…

…2 years since going on a family vacation…

…6 weeks since calling your mom…

…1 year since exercising…

…2 weeks since getting home early enough to play with the kids…

…5 years since sharing your faith…

…2 months since blogging.

I don’t know what it is for you, but there is something you intended to do that has fallen short. The good news is you can start again. The bad¬†news is it’s not easy.

Intentions are never enough.

In fact, you’ve probably even heard the saying, “The road to Hell is paved with good intentions.”

You need a plan of action. Because busyness eats intentions for lunch every time. 

So how am I going to get back to blogging? By focusing on 2 things: self-discipline and self-development.

Without self-discipline, as life gets busier I’ll have longer and longer gaps between blog posts.

Without self-development, I won’t have anything to say.

This idea of developing ourselves¬†is a lost art in our culture today. We look to others to develop us¬†as if it’s someone else’s¬†responsibility.¬†This attitude permeates all of culture, but is unfortunately very often¬†found inside the church. Someone will make sure you know they are leaving your church because they are “just not getting fed,” which is ridiculous. Learn to feed yourself!

I once heard one of my favorite authors say this: “I’m not responsible for filling your cup, but I am responsible for emptying mine.”

I can’t pour out what I haven’t been poured in to. Going forward I must prioritize¬†making sure my cup is getting full. By doing so, I’ll write out of the overflow and others may be able to grab something that helps them fill their cup.

I hope this doesn’t come across¬†arrogantly, but I know there are a few¬†people who have benefitted from my blog posts. They’ve told me. And that doesn’t puff me up as much as it humbles me. It still amazes me that God would use me to help others. And I want to be used as long as He sees fit.

I also can’t explain it, but I have a burden to communicate through speaking and writing. It’s not something I want to do as much as something I feel like I have to do. When I do it, I have a sense of lower case “f” fulfillment.

So that’s why I’m back. I have this burden to communicate¬†and help others.

Until I feel like I’m no longer¬†helping people or blogging becomes an antiquated way of communicating with the world, I’ll keep it up. If I miss a week, or even two, give me some grace. Life gets busy. But if I’m ever gone again for this long…check on me.

Thanks for reading!