|Posted by Springhill's School of Hope on June 24, 2018 at 11:35 PM||comments (1)|
On June 14, 2018, students, parents, staff, and friends gathered to celebrate the conclusion of the school's 11th year. Achievements were acknowledged, awards received, and the two more seniors bid farewell to the school. Brother Leonard delivered the charge to the seniors, focusing on the character traits God blesses. Here is a transcript of the commencent address:
As I stand before you, I consider many things to say. There are movie lines, inspirational quotes, and great sayings from centuries of literature. And maybe for other graduates, those would be inspiring and appropriate. However, I’ve been blessed to know both of you for many years… I met Bridgette during my time at Neelyville elementary some 10+ years ago, and Zack and I have been in each other’s lives for seven. In that time, you’ve both shown that you’re smart, a little (or a lot) skeptical, and that beneath cool exteriors you have good hearts and will go to almost any length for your friends or people in need. I also know that while you both tell good stories, you want to know the truth of the way things are – frank and honest.
So, here’s my honesty.
You’re heading into a world that’s ripping itself apart. No one is sure where the chips will fall or even if civilization as we know it can hold itself together. People are divided, angry, and often aggressive. At times, you will feel overwhelmed by the negativity of it all. Yet I’ve seen you both exhibit grace under pressure and the ability to rise above the moment. Zack, I saw you once carry a sick child to his car without question or hesitation. Bridgette, I know that at your work you’ve become one of the go-to people thanks to a work ethic that drives you on. These traits are good. In fact, they’re blessed by God. Let me encourage you, as you go out into the world, to consider the things that Providence lends His blessing to.
In Jeremiah the 9th chapter, the prophet of Israel wrote the following: “God says, “Do not boast, oh wise man, in your wisdom. Do not boast, you strong man, in your strength. Do not boast, you rich man, in your riches.”” You’re going into a world filled with “smart” people, physically impressive people, and people with great wealth. The world says you need these things but very often these things become gods unto themselves, and they lead those so blessed into destruction. Don’t focus on knowledge or wisdom as an end of its own. Wisdom without proper application is worth nothing. Physical strength is always one accident, illness, or age away from vanishing – don’t place your focus there. And wealth is wonderful, but it can disappear overnight. Money is good, but when the love of it overwhelms people, they do the most despicable things.
In that same passage, God relates what He’s looking for. He says, “Let the one who boasts, boast in understanding and knowing me…. specifically that I am the LORD who practices unwavering love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. THESE are the things in which I delight.”
Zack, Bridgette – go out and practice unwavering love. Be the one that children can look up to. Not because they think you’re perfect, (you’re not, I’m not, no one is) but because they know they can count on you to be there for them not matter what. Be the one that your bosses, no matter how crazy they may be, know that you will go above and beyond to make the next customer happy. Practice it with yourself: take care of the things, the body, the heart, and the mind that God has given you. Guard them as the precious gifts they are. Love when it hurts, when it’s not convenient, and even when it may cost you everything. It will astound people. We live in a time that has horribly ruined the word and idea of love. When you live it, you will bring light into the darkest places. And you will share the Heavenly with those who need it most.
Practice justice. Don’t be swayed by the winds of emotion, society, or politics. Sometimes you’ll be on one side, sometimes on the other, and sometimes you’ll be all by yourself. Be people of integrity. Let your word be true. When you say “it”, make people know that that they can take it to the bank. Jesus was a friend of the homeless, poor, and the rejected. Be that. Fight for the underdog, With a humble spirit, balance the good of society with the need of the one who lives next door.
Finally, seek righteousness. Contrary to popular belief, calling something “wrong” – isn’t. It’s okay to walk away from things; it’s okay to reject things; it’s okay to stand alone because you want more and better. There IS a better way than the destructive path the world finds itself on. There IS a better way than following the crowd. I guarantee that if you will take the stand for right things, you will inspire someone else to do the same. People you don’t expect are looking for reasons to do the right thing… Give them that reason. Give back the $5 bill to the cashier who was supposed to give you a $1. Own up to your mistakes and make it right to the best of your ability. Forgive, even when you really don’t want to. Teach your children to do the same, and then let them see you do it. Make righteousness a daily practice – because you will have to practice it. Our very nature as humans struggles with it, and we can fall out of practice if we allow ourselves to. Rise above. Rely on strength from above.
My friends and former students…. practice the things that God Himself does. Not because they are easy, but because they are needed now more than ever. To you both, may God richly bless your lives. Go in His peace.
|Posted by Springhill's School of Hope on June 16, 2017 at 11:40 PM||comments (2)|
On June 15, 2017, students, parents, staff, and friends gathered to celebrate the conclusion of the first decade of the school's existence. Brother Leonard delivered the charge to the seniors, challenging them to live for God in the epic story of which they are a part. Here is a transcript of the commencent address:
In one of my favorite movie and literary scenes, two of the heroes are trapped and lost in a series of endless caverns, chased by an enemy that hides in the shadows and facing stronger, unknown foes in front of them. They are on an impossible quest to a place in which no one can survive and in which evil destroys all that is good. There is a monster behind and an even bigger one ahead. Frodo, a small hobbit from an insignificant corner of the world, turns to his friend and mentor, Gandalf and says:
“Frodo: I wish the Ring had never come to me. I wish none of this had happened.
Gandalf: So do all who live to see such times, but that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.”
I love this story and others like it, in part, because they are epic. Humans love epic stories. We like clashes between forces of good and evil involving “normal” people doing extraordinary things. Why are we drawn to the big? To the epic?
Because that is the world into which God has brought you. And you, ladies, are taking your next step into the epic. You are not here by random chance. In the book of Jeremiah, God tells His prophet, “I knew you, had a plan for you, and had set you aside even before you were conceived.” Sometimes we read words like that and think maybe they were meant solely for the person to whom they were spoken, but throughout the Bible, we are assured that eternity itself has been waiting for each of us to take our places. Phrases such as, “before the foundation of the world,” and “in the fullness of time,” give us the promise that we are NOT left to the random dealings of chance and cruel fate; rather it assures us that we are part of something much larger, and that our role in the drama of eternity has meaning.
So, how does our role in something universal and eternal play out?
It begins with the acknowledgement that it’s not all about us. Proverbs 16:3 says, “Commit whatever you do to the Lord, and we will establish your thoughts.” Storms are going to come; things are going to go wrong; you will have bad days. You will face disaster. Sometimes you’ll wonder if everything’s gonna fall on your head. Finding your every day, every moment foundation in God and His eternal promise gives you the base that you need when things get crazy. When we look around we see a world desperately in need of love, peace, and service. When we place our faith in the Creator and focus on the eternal, it allows us to see beyond the seconds, minutes, and hours that make up our days.
Next, participation in the epic works out through little things done to the best we can. This seems almost a paradox, but all big things are made up of smaller pieces. Sometimes in the years ahead, you will look at a day and think, “Man, I’m just spinning my wheels,” or “I’m so bored doing this AGAIN.” In the book of Ecclesiastes, King Solomon tells us to enjoy our lives, to enjoy one another, and to do everything to the best of our ability, to do “with all our might.” This is the process used for the “big things.” It is in the successful doing of everyday things, that we’re being molded to the bigger works ahead. In Matthew 25, Jesus relates the parable of how to attain success – be faithful in the little things. It’s been 33 years since I sat where you are, and I can tell you that we seldom wake up and say, “I’m going to do something huge, and world-changing today!” However, waking up and committing to “I’m going to do everything awesomely today!” gets you prepped for the call-up to the "big" times.
Finally, we look for and take every opportunity to serve others. Don’t just give to a charity; go work at the charity. Don’t talk about feeding the poor, feed them. Give them your sandwich. James chapter 2, verses 15 and 16 reads, “Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you tells him, “Go in peace; stay warm and well fed,” but does not provide for his physical needs, what good is that?” BE the source of good in a world filled with bad. If you cut hair, do nails, play music, sell art, build houses….whatever it is that you do, be sure that you do at least some of it for those who cannot for themselves. George Mueller, the great philanthropist and man of faith, started orphanages in England during the 1800’s died almost penniless after more than two million dollars passed through his hands during his lifetime. Where did all that money go? To house more than 10,000 orphans and to start 117 schools that would ensure 120,000 students would learn to read, write, and hear the Word of God. By earthly standards, George Mueller’s decisions seem….nice…quaint….but….maybe not so realistic in today’s world. But Mr. Mueller was following a higher calling. And I would encourage both of you to do the same.
To live well in the epic story that IS your life, remember:
Put God first
Do the small things well
Serve others at every opportunity
In this, you will find true success.
Your friends, family, and staff of the school and church gathered here tonight support you. We pray that God surrounds you with His love and people who continually point you towards Him.
It has been an honor to know and work with both of you.