Dear Graduates, chart your own course
Caps and gowns everywhere! Smiling faces. Proud parents. Adoring Grands and even congratulatory hugs from siblings. It’s a great occasion and we mark it with well-deserved fanfare. Pomp. and. circumstance.
So many graduates! I imagine each of them bouncing on their own personalized trampolines, springing giddily into the air, paying no heed to the creaking complaints of metal springs better suited to children’s play. These celebrants are ready to boing to their next appointment: be it career or college, military or volunteer service, or perhaps just promotion to the next grade or next level school.
Congratulations! Way to go! But, I pray, dear young people, that this day is more than lift-off for you. May it also be deflection point.
Because so much in your world to this point has demanded that you achieve maximum height: jump higher, score better, achieve more, set new records or perform the best aerial trick. Success on that life-trampoline rewards perfect landing and launching from the same spot. No deviation. Simply master the repetitive motion. That’s more tantrum than lift-off.
I pray that on this graduation day you may embrace a little deflection. Accept permission to stop jumping straight up-and-down.
On an Easter evening two millennia ago, the disciples of Jesus experienced a graduation ceremony of their own, but it was no cause for celebration. Jesus had been crucified, died and was buried. Up until then, when Jesus said, Jump; they said, How high? But now, without the one who was their teacher, leader, and counselor, they cowered in fear.
On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord. Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. ~ (John 20:19-22)
The disciples needed deflection. Following the leader was no longer an option. To stay the course, they needed to chart it themselves. In the peace that only Jesus can bring, their Lord sent them.
Dear Graduates, congratulations on your arrival at this day. From its precipice, look into your distance to notice what calls you, and listen for what draws you. Breathe that in. Let it inspire you. Let it energize you. Allow it to bring you peace. And then, let it deflect you toward a future that has been designed for you. Play that angle. Even the slightest deviation, multiplied by your landing force, will send you into new air space that you have not yet sampled.
Memorize that feeling; it’s called courage. You’re charting new territory. Take your momentum with you and spring for all your worth. Hey, bouncing up and down on your backyard trampoline never had much growth potential anyway. Let the deflection take you — to scary places, challenging places, and into untrod territory that desperately needs new minds to solve old problems.
Go and may the peace of Christ be with you.
I am the vine, and you …
The Writing is On the Wall
Does anyone here read cursive?
Apparently they’re not teaching it to most elementary school students these days. This has created quite a stir and not a small amount of dissension among ‘old-timers’ who don’t want this stalwart to go and ‘new-timers’ who say its time has passed. Recently, scientists have suggested that script hand-writing, with its flow of connecting the letters, may tap into our learning and creativity in ways that printing and typing cannot. Old world meet new.
Call me old-fashioned but I do write in cursive when I pen notes and letters to friends, colleagues and pen pals. It’s where I began as a writer. Often those notes seemed to say way more than I wrote in them to the one who received them. I think my brain region for cursive script might be very near the prayer center. Anyway, I do resort to printing when writing to the younger generation because I’m told they sometimes have a hard time deciphering cursive. Or maybe it’s just that my hand-writing is deteriorating.
This comes to mind as I read from Daniel 5, the story of a Babylonian king gone so wrong that a mystical hand appears at the banquet he hosts for a thousand of his nobles and begins writing a message on the plaster wall of the royal palace. Apparently it’s not good news and the king knows it; a guilty conscience has him shaking in his sandals. Give the king credit, he really wants to know what the message says, but there’s not a soul at the royal table who can read cursive (or perhaps Aramaic in this case).
“Bring the enchanters, the Chaldeans, the diviners! I’ll pay handsomely whomever can decipher this!” orders the King, as if this was invisible ink and a black light can enlighten the words and translate the secret code. As it turns out, this is difficult script; no translator can be found. Intrigue abounds and the plot thickens. The writing is on the wall…what could it mean?
Pause here: Now who doesn’t love a good mystery? The fingers of a human hand etching an unknown message. This is great theater. So much so that the phrase “the writing on the wall” has not limited itself to script or scripture, but found its way into the common lexicon. People who have never read the Bible may huddle in the face of dire times and lament, “Well, the writing is on the wall.” Urban dictionary translation: the jilt is up, what’s gonna be already is, and there’s nothing we can do about it.
But fortunately for King Belshazzar, terrified and pale, his queen comes to the rescue. “May the king live forever!” she says (ironically). “Don’t be alarmed! Don’t look so pale! There is a man in your kingdom who has the spirit of the holy gods in him. In the time of your father he was found to have insight and intelligence and wisdom like that of the gods… Daniel was found to have a keen mind and knowledge and understanding, and also the ability to interpret dreams, explain riddles and solve difficult problems. Call for Daniel, and he will tell you what the writing means.”
This Daniel, one of the old-timer exiles brought from Judah, could in fact read the script, having probably inscribed some cursive on scrolls of old. He, without new age divination or enchantment and without calling on the gods of silver and gold, of bronze, iron, wood and stone, called instead on the God he knew would send the Holy Spirit to interpret the words before the king.
This is what he read: mene, mene, tekel, parsin.
Without mincing words, Daniel informed the king that:
- Your days are numbered.
- You have been weighed and found wanting.
- A kingdom divided shall not stand.
If that’s not a sign of the times, then I don’t know what is. The writing is on the wall. Once we know what it says, we’d do well to acknowledge that we, God’s people and all God’s children in these days, have wandered in our own ways. We have a lot of mending to do.
Does anyone still read script?