Last night we had the honor of celebrating the graduating class of 2019. This class is unlike many I've loved on over the years so when plans were being made for our attempt at honoring such a remarkable group of students, I began thinking of what I wanted to share about them-collectively because I could never tell all the stories about them as individuals. After my grandmother died and we celebrated her life I began thinking of what our lives are about. I remember looking around the cemetery, seeing dashes. Dashes between a birthdate and a praise the Lord I’m meeting Jesus for real date. They were the only things marking a life well lived, a dash. As I thought of each senior, I’m amazed by what is already happening in their dashes. I see students who have laid it all down to make Jesus famous, students who have used their passions of singing, drums, art, dance, basketball and soccer to show you how God gives us talents for His glory. I see students who overcome wicked obstacles with their health from abnormal pain to fighting diabetes who don’t allow those obstacles to be stumbling blocks but to be jumping blocks of faith. I see students who were challenged by family situations they had no control over, but persevered through it knowing they are part of a bigger family. I see students who every single week walk into this building to be a servant to someone younger than them-that may mean changing diapers or learning how to woah or laughing together over snapchat filters-but they are dedicated to serving. I see students who walk into children’s homes in Mexico spurred on by the hope they see in the faces of vulnerable children. I see students who stay up late during Walking Wisely to have the conversations that matter and last. I see students who have blobbed at camp and hours later bawled their hearts out for the Lord. I see them for who they are, but more importantly for WHO they belong to.
We recently read a book, Survival Guide for the Soul by Ken Shigematsu, who shared he wanted his children to be known for their faith and their desire to follow Christ more than for their success by human standards. He says, “what matters is that we know that God loves us and cares about who we are becoming far more than what we do or don’t do.” That is what every single adult wants for the young people in their lives. Knowing that you are living your dash for the Lord, being used by Him, seeking His will and loving like Him. As parents and leaders, it’s all we desire of you and pray for you. When Nathan and Brady were very young I asked their Godmother’s mother (does that make her a great Godmother or a GodGodmother?… either way, she’s amazing) how do we, as parents, choose between singing worship songs or learning the alphabet? As a former teacher I wanted them writing essays by three. She said, “Sweetie, sing worship songs, read Bible stories and everything else will fall into place.” She was saying, put God first and everything else will fall into place. I tell you that now, put God first and as Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
These seniors taught me so much about myself and how to authentically share my faith and how to live it fully. Beth Guckenberger, from Back2Back Ministries introduced me to the Hebrew word Hineni(הנני), which means “Here I am!” It's here I am, Lord, to do Your will. It's also God affirming His promises of what He will do for us. It's a conversation between us and God that is full of trust and promise, love, devotion, availability.
While our seniors are about to walk into a new way of life, I’m a bit envious of all that is available to them in this next season. Things are new and exciting for them. But the following words written for them, are for each of us. God never stops calling on us just because of the season we find ourselves. So I challenge you as I challenged them:
Be ready---be ready to ask God what He wants of you.
Be ready to live your dash fully. Be ready to lay everything down for His glory.
Be ready to choose joy. Be ready to do the right thing over the popular thing.
Be ready to be ruled by your faith, not fear.
Be ready to fail (ouch), but be ever ready to try again.
Be ready to lean on the people who know and love God and you.
Be ready to tell others about the amazing gift of a relationship with the Lord.
Be ready to hear Hineni.
Be ready to say Hineni.
Be the child of God He has created you to be by following the words in this verse.
Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him. Colossians 3:12-17