Graduation Day

It’s Commencement for North Central University, where I teach as an adjunct. This class represents a significant number of students I have known their entire college career. Among them are students I have had the privilege of mentoring one on one for a couple of years, those we have had over to our house at various times, those who have come to me seeking counsel over the years, and those who have made my church their home while they were students.

They are set to go out. They are set to launch into new fields, new opportunities, and areas where they will live scared to death because they have no idea how to navigate a new world that is not as regimented for them.

It’s a new day.

Families will be here. Parents who are my friends (and we’ve gone to school together “back in the day”) will be here. Parents who I get to meet for the first time. And the last.

I am excited for graduates. I am scared for graduates. I am prayerful as they walk that line today.

This is the height of a generation that has been fed the line: “You can do ANYTHING.”

They are in the middle of realizing… no… they cannot.

Here is the truth: What you can do, do it with fullness of life. Do it with passion. Do it in the grace of God. 

Do THAT.

Most of all, I pray they know Christ. 

14 For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom every family[a] in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ,19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. (Eph. 3:14-21, NIV)

And Amen.

Zig Ziglar

Zig Ziglar passed away today. I loved listening to this man when I was at seminars in the past. I was able to see him about 18 months ago. His health was slipping and everyone could tell. The session was more a tribute to him and it was wonderful.

His energy was contagious. Zig is now at the top… for real.

 

Passion and Facts: Invisible Children

My youngest son is involved in the group “Invisible Children.” A lot of kids in his high school are incredibly passionate about this project.

One of the exciting things I see in this generation is passion for great causes. They raise thousands and thousands of dollars for projects like “Invisible Children” and Project Rescue, which gets kids out of sexual slavery.

One of the hottest viral videos on Facebook right now is “Kony2012”. I just don’t do viral videos, so I’ve held back wondering what this is all about. It involves the leader of this LRA group in Uganda that is pulling all these kids into armed conflict. This is the group targeted by “Invisible Children.”

A couple of great pieces I found this morning kind of cover the issue well for me. THIS ONE is an interview with the head of “Invisible Children.” THIS ONE is a more in-depth commentary in Foreign Policy.

BOTH make good points.

We need passion. We need to have our dulled, calloused lives crushed by the reality of this world and the issues that face millions of people we just don’t see. There needs to be something rising up in us that causes us to get from our couches and get into action in some way.

On that point, I see what the head of “Invisible Children” is doing. He keeps the message simple. He stirs the passion. Get upset! Get involved! Do something!

But we need knowledge as well.

I fear these viral videos are this generation’s email chain letters. They might spin things in a way that stir quick emotion and little else. And, worse, they can be just plain wrong and we react to something that isn’t even factual.

We need to find out more about the issues as well. But we need to ACT when action is called for.

The point in the Foreign Policy article is well-taken: the children in Uganda can still be invisible once we’ve given our money or wear a bracelet. We need more involvement. Africa’s issues are deeper than a video and a bracelet.

What would be insanely great is if a handful of people would take this incredible passion and turn it into a lifelong solution.

Give yourself to true, deep, systemic change. Give yourself to something that you are so deeply committed to you keep at it when the video isn’t viral and when no one else is looking.

What if a group out of this generation became the new David Livingstone’s and gave themselves in a new way to Africa?

What if another group out of this generation rose up and gave themselves to Asia, like a William Carey?

Something deep, long lasting, and life changing for an entire generation could occur.

It’s one thing to get a video set up and then send it from the comfort of your American home. I know of groups that do bike rides across America to raise money for causes all over the world.

But we need the group that will GO to these areas and stay there. The Mother Teresa’s and Mark Buntain’s of Calcutta. The David Livingstone’s of Africa.

I have one friend who has dreamed of going to the hardest place on the face of the earth I know. He has dreamed of it for about 15 years. He now has the opportunity to go there… with his young family. I can’t even imagine the incredible risk this man is willing to take, and his family is fully passionate and committed to this task.

THIS is a man (and family) I will support with all I can over his lifetime. He’s not going to make a video and then get out. He’s not riding his bike across America to raise money (about 1/3 of which might actually get to the place of designation). He is laying it on the line. He is passionate and he is fully aware. Knowledge on fire.

These are the David Livingstone’s we need.

In the Company of Books

David Brooks is easily one of my favorite columnists. This column on the power of books is tremendous. It emphasizes the need to read. Real books help. (We can have the debate of ebooks vs. hard copies as well.) The point is: READ.

We already knew, from research in 27 countries, that kids who grow up in a home with 500 books stay in school longer and do better. This new study suggests that introducing books into homes that may not have them also produces significant educational gains.

I wish I could say that 100 percent true, but it’s not. Our home has easily 1000 volumes and it hasn’t seem to have made a difference in my own boys. I grew up in a home where we didn’t have many books at all, and consumed them voraciously through school and public libraries.

But there was one interesting observation made by a philanthropist who gives books to disadvantaged kids. It’s not the physical presence of the books that produces the biggest impact, she suggested. It’s the change in the way the students see themselves as they build a home library. They see themselves as readers, as members of a different group.

When we finally get the nerve up to pick up a book and read, we truly enter a different world. It’s different than the internet experience. It’s different than videos. It’s different than gaming. It’s a world of imagination. And it’s far more imagination than just watching someone else do a phenomenal job with video in a movie.

We’ve come to a point where the child’s imagination just doesn’t come into play anymore. I work part time at Sears and just get aggravated that there is a video game of Legos! Really? We can’t just put Legos together anymore and imagine a battle scene? No! We need to put the Lego figure into a video and make it do cool stuff!

Reading steps us into a place where our brains must be engaged. The more we read, the higher we climb. As Brooks points out, it takes years. The beautiful thing about reading is there is always time to grow. I can move from a “beach read” book to a deep theological work in my progression. I can pace myself. I can quicken my pace. I can force myself to pick up my vocabulary rate.

You can’t do that in video. You have to wait for the next generation of gaming to come out. You depend on someone else to invent the newest and greatest thing. You have to wait for Steve Jobs and his geniuses to bring out the next big i-invention.

Not so in reading. Great books await. They have been written. They are still being written. The climbing rate is up to us.

But, that is too hard. It is far easier to whine about a stupid video game and yell at the company for making an “inferior” product. We can yell at the movie screen because the video effects are so lame. (But did WE go learn how to do it better? NO. It’s much easier to sit and just whine.)

Grab some books. Read. Take in the amazing world around you. Take in the amazing history that brought you to this point. Pick up and read.

Loser

I put this in because I am wrapping up a semester of teaching and have had it with my generation trying to protect the next generation from “hardships.” As a result I am watching students struggle and fade because of the smallest adversities. Then, they expect favors to help avoid the pain.

We need losses in our lives. It teaches us. Failure is an instructor. I love wins. I learn from failure.