If I spoke to the graduating class…

On Friday, I will finally be walking across the stage to receive my long awaited Master of Divinity diploma. I am finally about to start a ‘new’ chapter in my life. What is on that next page I haven’t a clue, but I am eager to turn it. On that end, I was thinking about what I would say to my graduating class if given the chance. So I thought, maybe I would share it with you instead. 

To the graduating class of 2013, congratulations! You have finally made it! Take a deep breath, you deserve it.
Let us take this moment though to thank those who have helped us through this journey. Our professors who have spent so many hours offering us wisdom and praying for us, to the supporting staff that helped us make sure we stayed on track with our credits as well as dealt with the headache of loans. To our parents, spouses and families, who have sacrificed their time, their money, as well as putting their dreams on hold so that we can complete our schooling. To our churches, who have prayed over us, helped us perhaps financially, but also offered many chances for serving. These are the people who have helped us become who we are now. God has given us these people to guide us and sharpen us on our spiritual path. Remember to thank them for their presence in our lives. God has blessed us with these people and has used them to make us grow.
We have been forced to go through tests, trials, perhaps even a bit of tribulation to get to this point. We do not know what is truly awaiting us as we leave this school. There are the plans and dreams we have to change the world or at least our little part of it, but we do not know the grand plan of God. We have our ideas, but ultimately where will we land?
We might feel like we fail if we do not find the job of our dreams right out the door of school. Or we feel ashamed that we are only working ‘a simple service job’ when in fact that is a good job to have at that time. Just because we leave these halls with pieces of paper that says we are Bachelors and Masters does not mean that we earn the right to be given the perfect job out of the gates. We must sweat more, bled a little and shed some more tears before we can take our places among those with experience. We got the book knowledge now it is time that we gain the wisdom of experience.
We will learn by actively doing and we will be putting into use that which we know the theory of. We will learn humbleness by failing at what we think we are  experts of, we will learn trust by relying on our fellow laborers to complete their jobs. We will learn respect by working under demanding employers who don’t give us free passes because we’re Christians. We will learn the strength of our faith when we work alongside nonbelievers and we will hopefully learn to love God more.
Life is not easy. We do not have all the answers. There is only one person, one divine person who has all the answers. God does not just give us just the questions but the answers too. Every answer is in the Scriptures. We must study, learn and keep the answers deep in our hearts. God is in control of our lives. he might lead us to certain difficulties so that we can grow into the child that he knows we are.
We will fail. We will break. Some of us will stand back up and try harder, others of us will stay broken and become angry at God, as if he is to blame for what we are going through. He is not. We are sinners who cause more harm to ourselves than any other person. Sometimes we will fail to pay attention to God’s guiding, other times we will outright refuse to do what God wants much like Jonah did. But just as in Jonah’s story, God will work through us despite ourselves.
So I encourage you fellow graduates, life will be hard but it is worth it. Give it your all, because God will use you where ever you land. What might seem the wrong time and the wrong place for you might just be the right time and place for a miracle of God. You are a tool in God’s toolbox, make sure you are sharp at all times so that you can be used for his glory.
It isn’t about what I can do, or what you can do. It isn’t about how smart we are, how talented, how daring, but rather about what God is doing through us. It is all about him. We just have the blessing of being part of his plan. This should be a freeing knowledge. It is not under our own power that we will accomplish anything. We will get our strength, our determination, and our faith from God.
We cannot truly fail if we allow God to lead us.
Romans 8:28 & 30- 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… And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.
So, on this day of celebration, remember to give thanks for the work God has done in you. Give thanks for those he has put in your life, because they are the ones who sharpen you. Give thanks for the trials that will make us grow and for those things that will strengthen our faith.
We are about to walk into a new journey, it will be scary and it will be awesome. My prayer for us as we go forward is that we are ready, that we make ourselves available for God to use us to our fullest potential. It will be a wild ride and it will be worth it. Are you ready? 

The Beauty of God’s Scriptures

This year I am attempting to be more intentional about being in the Scriptures. Ironically enough, here I am in Seminary and one of the first things to stop when my to-do list is filled is reading the Bible. I tend to read it during the week for homework rather than spiritual growth. It was something I was warned about starting Bible College six years ago, and is something I’m still struggling with this last year of classes in Seminary. While there is nothing wrong about reading the Bible for homework, it does stop one from allowing the Scriptures to speak into your life creating radical transformation. It becomes a fill-in-the blank mentality.

So this year, I decided to start small but with great focus. Since I’m taking a class in Proverbs, I thought what better place to start? I have always loved Proverbs (it’s a book of quotes! I adore quotes, let’s just be honest!) and I love the book of Psalms (they’re songs, another thing I can’t live without- may not be able to sing but I sure do love music!). So each day I read a chapter of Psalms and a chapter of Proverbs. I chose these two books because I’ve always loved reading them and I wouldn’t feel guilty if I forgot a day, or reread a chapter- I’m doing it so I can grow spiritually.

I have nothing against reading plans to get through the Bible in a year. My church is participating in a chronological reading of the whole Bible in a year, which is great! My parents are doing it and they are learning a lot. But, personally, this spiritual discipline doesn’t work for me. I struggle with guilt. I feel like I’m letting God down when I don’t do what I set out to do. That’s not what God is about. God isn’t about causing you to feel guilty- he wants you to grow and expand your knowledge of him. He wants you to fall in love with him and stay in love with him. He wants to show you the beauty that can be found in following him.

So. This year I have chosen to be more intentional about reading my Bible. I have chosen to spend time daily in Psalms and Proverbs– this doesn’t mean that I won’t read other Scripture, but that this is where I start. I made this promise to myself. No one else.

The beauty of it is, that I am reading other Scriptures. I am finding myself reading the Genesis account of Creation because one of David‘s Psalms made me think about what Eden must have looked like. I find myself reading Jonah because he echoes one of the prayerful Psalms (Jonah 2 & Psalm 69). I find myself reading Proverbs and seeing where else they might be quoted in the Bible. Because I am being intentional- God is reminding me of things I have learned for the last six years that I haven’t thought about.

Proverbs is this beautiful book that takes these hard to grasp ideas of theology and gives it to you in an everyday format. Proverbs takes away the mystery that theologians have been so busy perpetrating- it is in the language of everyday man. There is a reason why many of those proverbs are the most often quoted Bible verses in the world. They are understandable and they teach life lessons.

That is the beauty of God’s Scriptures- they teach us about life. They teach us about God’s world. They show us his love. They are worth us reading- not because someone tells us to, but because we want a deeper relationship with God. You won’t want to spend the extra time in the Bible until you desire that deeper relationship. Don’t feel guilty about it, it’s just the facts of life. We don’t want to be shown our sins- the Bible is the light that shines on those hidden facets of our lives.

So this year, I have decided to be intentional. I am praying that God opens up the beautiful world that is in the Bible for me and shows me the wonder that can be found in him.

Proverbs 1:7~~ The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline. 

Proverbs 2:9 -12~~ Then you will understand what is right and just and fair–every good path. For wisdom will enter your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul. Discretion will protect you, and understanding will guard you.  Wisdom will save you from the ways of wicked men, from men whose words are perverse…