Tag Archives: Graduation

Back home

IMG_2003Over the weekend, we traveled through six states.  We followed what had been a rare southern winter storm, seeing as much as 10 inches of snow outside of Padukah, Kentucky and finding that Florida really can be cold, too.  What a treat it can be to step away from a daily routine, but coming back home is also a treat.

The hours and hours in the car can be exhausting, but also productive.  Getting home, the routine quickly kicks in and yet there is new energy to do those daily chores that seem so tedious.

The traffic can be overwhelming and leaves one a sense of claustrophobia, yet the traffic teaches us the power of patience and forgiveness, too.  And then, coming home the traffic seems to be no problem at all.

The speed of the trip did not allow for sightseeing, but seeing the many miles of road shows many interesting things.  For instance, we were very impressed by the fences that line the highways of Florida.  Very little roadkill was visible and the idea seems so logical, especially when crossing back into Missouri we can hardly travel a mile without roadkill.

The miles that we traveled were also tree-lined.  So much of the highway system along these states were literally lined with trees, especially pine trees.  I also was surprised how many miles of the interstate also had a barrier of trees between the two separate lanes–whether east and west or north and south.  The tree-lined highway makes the insanity of traffic less stressful–at least for me as a passenger this time.  Back home, the interstate system really is not tree-lined.  Of course that is environmentally natural, but I certainly appreciate the miles that are cedar-lined or Ozark oak-lined.

The hospitality of the South is also evident.  The clerks and the servers that greeted us as we made refueling and food stops is refreshing.  Only once did we run into a questionable situation and that was in our home state as we departed.  The host seated us, but we never were served.  We literally had to get up and leave.  Fortunately, we did not ever have to do that again.  In fact, the service we had at the stops after that were delightful.

The food.  Maybe there really is nothing more to say, other than one goal we make on our trips is to avoid the typical chain restaurants that exist around our home, and to really get a taste of the region.  We had two meal stops, on the way home, that were outstanding.  One in Tallahassee at Wahoo Seafood and a second in Marion, Illinois at 17th Street Barbecue.  There is no way to explain the exceptional taste of those stops except I would plan a trip back just to enjoy those flavors again.  Back home, for instance, I tied to make homemade mac and cheese to match the one in Tallahassee.  Close, but not quite.

The point of the trip was a graduation ceremony.  In today’s world of on-line education, all too often the students do not opt to join in a graduation ceremony.  But we made the decision to invest in the ceremony and I am glad we did–despite the long hours in the car.

Celebrating life events has a value that cannot be explained logically, but psychologically it is wise.  I was so impressed by the Walden University’s skill at putting on a ceremony that pulled together hundreds (I have no idea of the final count) of graduates–bachelors, masters, specialists and doctorates–to celebrate with family and friends.

The graduation speaker was Soledad O’Brien.  What a treat for me.  Soledad has been a journalist I enjoyed and had lost track of her.  Seeing her name as the speaker, I looked forward to listening to her.  She was real, honest, personable, and professional.  No boredom at all and great words to mull over in the days, weeks, months ahead.

Thank you, Walden.  You made the experience personal and impressive from the check-in to the following reception.  You have let us return home with memories.

But today, I am back home and have finished catching up the laundry.  Today the goal is to return to the ‘work’ routine that I need to re-establish.  The trip provided new experiences and a winter-time break, but now back to daily life–mac & cheese, puppy love, laundry and all.  What a treat the weekend road trip was, but back home looks pretty good, too.

 

 

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Graduating in Faith

sermon given on Trinity Sunday, May 22, 2016

Scripture Connection: Romans 5: 1-5, NLT

12 “There is so much more I want to tell you, but you can’t bear it now. 13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own but will tell you what he has heard. He will tell you about the future. 14 He will bring me glory by telling you whatever he receives from me. 15 All that belongs to the Father is mine; this is why I said, ‘The Spirit will tell you whatever he receives from me.’

Reflection

Certainly you have noticed that it is graduation time around our communities. The stores remind us with the displays of graduation gifts, decorations, and cards. Snippets from graduation speakers are shared in the news. And school is out, so kids are sleeping in before heading out to enjoy summer vacation.

Graduation signals transitions from one level of education to the next. For some, graduation closes the door of school but opens the door to the work world. In truth, though, graduation does not signal the end of learning, just a change in settings.

The book of Proverbs is filled with advice. In the eighth chapter, Solomon introduces wisdom much like one introduces a guest speaker at graduation. Graduation speakers are selected because of their experiences, contributions, or relationships with the goal of providing the graduates insights into life’s continuing journey:

12 “I, Wisdom, live together with good judgment.
I know where to discover knowledge and discernment.
13 All who fear the Lord will hate evil.
Therefore, I hate pride and arrogance,
corruption and perverse speech.
14 Common sense and success belong to me.
Insight and strength are mine.
15 Because of me, kings reign,
and rulers make just decrees.
16 Rulers lead with my help,
and nobles make righteous judgments.[a]

These words were written almost a thousand years before Jesus was even born. This year’s graduates will hear words of wisdom that often reflect Biblical truths shared over the millenniums.

Do we acknowledge that developing our Christian beliefs is much like developing academic knowledge? Do we acknowledge that our faith education is a developmental process? Do we ever graduate in our faith?

Solomon’s introduction of wisdom along with the words of Paul in Romans and Jesus’ words in the gospel of John creates a graduation speech for Christians who are developing wisdom in faith. Christians develop a lifetime relationship with God without any formal, published, or prescribed curriculum.

Christian knowledge develops in a very-customized curriculum based on formal and informal learning experiences. Graduating in faith cannot be packaged and prescribed. Faith education is God-driven and no one can predict when graduation will occur.

Even if one graduates in faith, learning does not stop because life’s journey does not stop. And consider this, once the Christian students accepts Jesus in their lives, they accept the gift of life-everlasting even when death ends earthly life. Graduating in faith leads to eternal life.

Education begins at birth and continues throughout our life. I cannot imagine living without faith in God. I see faith as a developmental process that never ends. I was fortunate to be born into a Christian home in which my education began with the love of parents who wanted me to develop the faith that would sustain me throughout life’s journey.

The beginning of faith often depends on the examples of those in our lives. Faith that there is a God, that God is with us despite what life delivers us, and that God experiences the same pains and joys we must experience provides another critical component in our Christian education: Hope.

Hope in necessary. With hope we wake up each morning to begin a new day. What happened yesterday is over, and a new day means new opportunities. Hope is key to continuing our Christian education. Hope becomes a fuel that pushes us to do more and to do it better and to share what we believe with others. Hope is phase two in our Christian education.

Each Christian discovers that even on the worst of days, faith in God provides us hope that even in death there is life. Hope keeps us alive in the moment and pushes us to share the excitement of living with others. Graduating in faith means we continue growing with hope.

Jesus provides hope. Historically, Christian education teaches us that when hope fails, life fails. God saw that the evil in the world was destroying his creation and when no other means was available, he stepped in personally in the form of his son, Jesus Christ. Faith alone needed a tangible example to follow.

Jesus exemplifies hope. The knowledge base provided in the historical teaching and the literature of the Jewish people needed a real-life example of how faith worked. Jesus’ teaching, healing, and modeling of faith provided clear evidence that hope makes living a faith-filled life possible even through persecution as vicious as his own crucifixion. Graduating in faith leads to hope. Hope develops the ultimate degree of faith: Love.

Love is God in action. Love becomes the final product of a faith-filled life. Love is hope-fueled faith doing all that can be done for all who may need it and in as many different formats as possible. Love is good triumphing over evil. Love is personal and can be demonstrated in every facet of one’s life.

God provided each of us the model of living a faith-filled life in the form of his son, Jesus Christ, but even more he provides us the Holy Spirit to live within each one of his faithful servants. The Holy Spirit makes it possible to manage all the trials and tribulations that life hands any one of us. The Holy Spirit transforms wishes into love-based actions.

The words from “Diamonds” remind graduates in faith that God is never done teaching us how to graduate in faith, how to maintain hope, and how to love one another. The lyrics explain how God works in our lives:

Here and now I’m in the fire, in above my head
Being held under the pressure, don’t know what will be left
But it’s here in the ashes
I’m finding treasure

He’s making diamonds
Making diamonds
He’s making diamonds out of dust
He is refining
And in his timing
He’s making diamonds out of us

 

Graduate in your faith. The process will take us from being lumps of coal into precious diamonds.

Graduate in your faith knowing hope makes life manageable. Hope polishes us into the diamonds carefully cut and polished into gems.

Graduate in your faith, fueled with hope, and live God’s love in action. The lumps of coal pulled out of the earth, cut and polished with hope reveal the sparkles created by life’s challenges.

Love given is the greatest gift of all. God loved us so much that he gave us life. God loved us so much that he gave us the greatest teacher to provide us hope. God loved us so much that he now trusts us, graduates in faith, to love one another. Graduating in faith means we are diamonds sparkling here in God’s light. Nothing can destroy the diamonds, not even death because as graduates in faith we continue on with life eternal.

Closing prayer

Dear Master Teacher,

We lift up the graduates from our schools.

So many are still lumps of coal

Not understanding how faith works in our lives.

 

We lift up the souls struggling to find hope

Managing lives without faith

Crumbling under life’s pressures all alone.

 

We lift up your faithful

Continuing to learn how faith and hope

Transforms into love sparkling like diamonds.

 

Thank you for the gifts you give us

As faith provides hope

Leading us to share love with one another.

 

Thank you for the wisdom shared in scripture.

Thank you for the wisest teacher, your Son.

Thank you for the power of the Holy Spirit.

 

May we graduate in our own faith

Teaching others how hope sustains

Creating love-filled gifts for others.

 

In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,

Amen.

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