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  • Writer's pictureDr. Jackie Minor

MAINTAIN A HEART OF THANKFULNESS: Practical Advice for Every Educator

I’m always so busy during the holidays just trying to keep my head above water. The time between Halloween and Christmas is often a blur.” Sound familiar? This statement was made during a recent conversation I had with a teacher as she contemplated the school’s upcoming calendar. Being an educator during the holiday season is both invigorating and exhausting. There is so much fun centered on decorations, activities, and special events. However, everyone still has to teach. That is a recipe for exhaustion!


Unfortunately, the holiday season doesn’t always bring out the best in people. Some have legitimate negative emotions that are associated with the holidays. Others buckle under the added pressure of balancing work, family, and extra responsibilities. I’m just talking about the adults right now. What about the kids? Another level of stress many teachers deal with is the knowledge that some students won’t have food at home, won’t have heat, and may even be alone. The thought of this is unbearable. It’s not unusual to feel a heightened sense of emotional anxiety during the holidays. How can we as Christian educators maintain a heart of thankfulness during this season? How can our words and actions demonstrate an overflow of gratitude instead of angst and frenzy?


Before sharing my answer to these questions, I have to state the obvious. If we are going to truly maintain a heart of thankfulness, we have to work at it. It is so easy to get sidetracked by all of the festivities. There are places to go, people to see, and much to do in a short amount of time! Maintaining a heart of thankfulness will slip by us if we aren't purposeful. Specifically, we need to remember, react, and rejoice.


REMEMBER


As I age, I am shocked at how much I can’t remember. Memories are such an important part of our lives and make us who we are. However, without preserving memories, even the most important moments can fade over time. This was true for the Israelites as they approached the Promised Land with Joshua. Do you remember the story?


It had been over 40 years of wandering, and the time had finally come for the people to cross over into the Promised Land. Once again, water stood in their way. The Jordan River was at flood stage, and the entrance to Canaan was blocked. What now? Remembering God’s faithfulness before, the priests took a step of faith into the river, and God stopped the flow of water as the people crossed on high ground (Joshua 3:4-17). This event was so important, God did not want them to forget it. He instructed Joshua to create a monument (stones of remembrance) as a permanent reminder and memorial to future generations (Joshua 4:1-8).


It is impossible to be thankful for something we have forgotten There is value in remembering God’s works, especially in times of hardship. What do you need to remember today? What stones of remembrance do you need to erect to maintain a heart of thankfulness? Maybe a few of mine will help get you started.


  • God sent a fellow Christian educator into my life to encourage and support me at just the right time. I was confused about what God was doing, and her guidance was compassionate and instrumental in my walk with Christ.

  • At a time when all seemed well in my professional life, God closed a door and moved my family to a new community and new work lives. It was the best thing that could have happened for all of us. I just didn’t know it at the time.

  • The sudden loss of my father will always remind me of God’s extreme comfort when nothing makes sense.

  • My salvation. Since that day so many years ago, God has been working. He continues to shape me, convict me, and change me. I have a long way to go, but I never want to forget how far I have come.

Remembering God’s presence in our past not only gives us the courage to take steps of faith in the future but also opens the floodgate of gratitude.


How can we maintain a heart of thankfulness? Take time to remember.


Remember the things I have done in the past. For I alone am God! I am God, and there is none like me. Isaiah 46:9


REACT


Actions speak louder than words. I suspect we would all agree with this; however, reactions may be just as important. In a recent sermon series, Andy Stanley rephrased this common saying to the following: Reactions speak louder than words. I’m sure all of us can think back to times in our careers when our reactions to students, parents, colleagues, or supervisors were a little less than ideal.


Sometimes we are mistreated by others, and by the world’s standards, we have every right to respond. In these instances, how can our words and actions demonstrate an overflow of gratitude instead of angst and frenzy? This may seem like an odd question when talking about reacting to mistreatment, but reactions are often a reflection of our hearts. Are we thankful for the grace and patience God has shown us, and are we willing to show that same grace and patience to others?


If we are not careful, we can slip into the world’s way of thinking. We can feel anger and justified for setting the record straight. It’s easy to be vindictive, but God calls us to a higher standard. Christlikeness produces kindness and blessing in the face of evil opposition. Peter says of Jesus, “When they hurled their insults at Him, He did not retaliate; when He suffered, He made no threats. Instead, He entrusted Himself to Him who judges justly” (1 Peter 2:23).


I think the most important part of this verse is the last sentence: He entrusted Himself to Him who judges justly. Jesus knew God had a plan. He knew God was in control and left the outcome up to Him. As educators, our days are full of interactions and reactions. God orchestrates it all. Each and every reaction can be an opportunity to demonstrate our gratitude to the One who holds it all together (Colossians 1:17). Are our words and actions demonstrating an overflow of gratitude instead of angst and frenzy?


And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Colossians 3:17


3. REJOICE


To rejoice means to be very happy about something to the point of jumping for joy! I can’t remember the last time I jumped for joy, can you? I’m not saying we should all be running around acting silly, but I do believe that when we are rejoicing in the Lord, our countenance and speech will be pleasant and upbeat. Would you believe the Bible tells us to rejoice over 3600 times? Why? Because as a believer in Jesus Christ there is much to celebrate!


· We rejoice because of Jesus who made a way for us to become children of God (John 1:12).

· We rejoice because our sins are forgiven (1 John 1:9).

· We rejoice because nothing can separate us from God’s love (Romans 8:38).

· We rejoice because God’s promises are true (2 Corinthians 1:20).

· We rejoice because the Lord is our strength (Nehemiah 8:10).

· We rejoice because God works all things together for good to those who love him (Romans 8:28).

· We rejoice because one day we will see the Lord face to face in eternity (Revelation 22:1-5).


“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4)


How can we as Christian educators maintain a heart of thankfulness during this season? How can our words and actions demonstrate an overflow of gratitude? We can share and rejoice in what the Lord has done, continues to do, and will do in the future.


Holidays are such a special time of year. Make this year extra special. Remember God’s faithfulness in your own life, react to others with kindness, and rejoice in the Lord!


Happy Holidays!


Note: Andy Stanley’s sermon series, “Reactions Speak Louder Than Words” can be accessed on YouTube.

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