Tuesday, May 13, 2014

It’s Time to Say Goodbye

It’s that time of year again. In just a week, 51 seniors will cross the stage and receive their high school diplomas. This past week, during Senior Awards Night, we learned that:
  • 6 of the 51 have been accepted into various Honors Programs or Honors Colleges
  • 100% of this year’s senior class received at least one scholarship offer
  • The total scholarships awarded so far exceed $2.8 million
  • There were 6 Eminent Scholars (29 or above on ACT)
  • The top 25% have an ACT average of 28.9
  • Over 37% already have at least 6 hours of college credit
This group of seniors also excelled athletically. Did you know that:

  • The football seniors played for two state championships
  • The softball girls finished in the final four in the State AAA Softball tournament the last 4 years with two state runner-ups and two third place finishes
  • The boys’ basketball team played for two state championships, winning the State AAA D-2 this past year
  • Baseball seniors finished 104-11 winning three consecutive State AAA D-2 Championships, with the 2013 squad finishing 37-0 and ranked 8th nationally.

Let's not forget community service. Did you know that seniors held leadership positions in clubs such as the Interact Club, the National Honor Society, and FCA where they helped raise money and collect over 1000 pounds of food for HOPE Ministries, helped with community clean-up days, assisted the Parents' Club with Harvest Fun Fest and Senatobia Main Street with the 5 Star Fest, and filled more than 100 shoe boxes for Samaritan's Purse?

As you can see, they have excelled academically and athletically, but yet also have a servant's heart. Their future is bright and the legacy they leave will challenge the classes yet to come.

As I always do each Senior Awards Night, I had the opportunity to issue a challenge to this year’s senior class. The following is their challenge:

As I do each year, it is now my honor to issue my challenge to the Class of 2014.
At Andrew’s memorial I mentioned the hash tag “not a school but a family,” and as I was preparing for tonight, I was reminded that is exactly what we are – a family. We argue, fuss, and fight, but don’t dare let an outsider pick on one of us. And when tragedy strikes, as it did just a few weeks ago, it takes "family" to get us through it.

Recently, I was listening to the radio and an old song by Journey came on, "Don’t Stop Believing." As I thought about the title, I could not help but reflect on your senior year. It may have crept by ever so slowly to you, but to your parents and me it has raced by. In just a few short days you will all walk across the stage and receive your high school diplomas. From that point on you will begin your life's journey into adulthood.

"Don’t Stop Believing" led me to think of those things in which you should continue to believe.

First - "Don’t Stop Believing" in your friends. The friends you have made here at Magnolia Heights School will always hold a special place in your heart. Look around you tonight. In a few short weeks you will part ways and may not see each other again for years. I know it sounds crazy, but I assure you it’s true. The friendships and special memories will always be in your heart and will forever bind you and them to MHS. It’s so easy to believe in everyone at this time. There will be times in the future, however, when your friends will need you. They will need you to believe in them the same way you did when you counted on each other to complete a project, run a play in football or basketball, or even when they counted on you to help them with difficult life decisions. You were there then and I encourage you to be there in the future.

Second – "Don’t Stop Believing" in your family. Family – we could talk on and on about their influence on you. But tonight I want you to think about believing in them. They do have your best interests at heart. There will be times when you disagree, but remember to listen to their life experiences. They don’t want you to touch the hot stove, go to fast in your car, or make terrible decisions that alter your life's path. Yes they believe in you – but you need to remember to believe in them as well.

Third – "Don’t Stop Believing" in yourself.  Scripture says each of you  is fearfully and wonderfully made. Each has unlimited potential – unlimited possibilities. Tonight you can be anything or do anything you want. But that comes with tremendous responsibility and ultimately costs. There will be times that you will find it hard to believe in yourself – especially when you make terrible decisions that have devastating consequences. But remember, the first time you attempted to ride a bike or roller blade, you probably fell down. However, if you wanted to learn badly enough, you got back up and eventually conquered the tasks. Life is that way as well. You will have victories and you will have defeats. How you handle each of those will determine much in your life.

Fourth – "Don't Stop Believing in God." Your faith is so important. God’s will for your life and your doing His will is paramount.  Read His word and pray daily. The old adage is true – there’s nothing that’s going to happen today that you and God can’t handle. God does have a plan for each of you. Jeremiah 29:11 says "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." Seek God’s will and His purpose for your life. Again, as I closed the memorial service, #becausehelives.

Finally – I want to read you a short story about the wooden bowl. It puts into perspective what I've tried to communicate to you this evening

I guarantee you will remember the tale of THE WOODEN BOWL tomorrow, a week from now, a month from now, a year from now.   A frail old man went to live with his son, daughter-in-law, and four-year-old grandson.  The old man's hands trembled, his eyesight was blurred, and his step faltered.  The family ate together at the table.  But the elderly grandfather's shaky hands and failing sight made eating difficult. Peas rolled off his spoon onto the floor.  When he grasped the glass, milk spilled on the tablecloth. The son and daughter-in-law became irritated with the mess.  "We must do something about Grandfather," said the son. "I've had enough of his spilled milk, noisy eating, and food on the floor."  So the husband and wife set a small table in the corner.  There, Grandfather ate alone while the rest of the family enjoyed dinner.  Since Grandfather had broken a dish or two, his food was served in a wooden bowl.  When the family glanced in Grandfather's direction, sometime he had a tear in his eye as he sat alone.  Still, the only words the couple had for him were sharp admonitions when he dropped a fork or spilled food.  The four-year-old watched it all in silence.  
One evening before supper, the father noticed his son playing with wood scraps on the floor.  He asked the child sweetly, "What are you making?" Just as sweetly, the boy responded, "Oh, I am making a little bowl for you and Mama to eat your food in when I grow up."  The four-year-old smiled and went back to work.  The words so struck the parents that they were speechless.  Then tears started to stream down their cheeks.  Though no word was spoken, both knew what must be done.  
That evening the husband took Grandfather's hand and gently led him back to the family table. For the remainder of his days he ate every meal with the family. And for some reason, neither husband nor wife seemed to care any longer when a fork was dropped, milk spilled, or the tablecloth soiled.  

On a positive note, I've learned that, no matter what happens, how bad it seems today, life does go on, and it will be better tomorrow. I've learned that you can tell a lot about a person by the way he/she handles three things: a rainy day, lost luggage, and tangled Christmas tree lights.  I've learned that, regardless of your relationship with your parents, you'll miss them when they're gone from your life.  I've learned that making a "living" is not the same thing as making a "life." I've learned that life sometimes gives you a second chance. I've learned that you shouldn't go through life with a catcher's mitt on both hands.  You need to be able to throw something back.  I've learned that if you pursue happiness, it will elude you.  But, if you focus on your family, your friends, the needs of others, your work and doing the very best you can, happiness will find you.  I've learned that whenever I decide something with an open heart, I usually make the right decision.  I've learned that even when I have pains, I don't have to be one.  I've learned that every day, you should reach out and touch someone. People love that human touch -- holding hands, a warm hug, or just a friendly pat on the back.  I've learned that I still have a lot to learn. Class of 2014 – Believe in your friends, your family, yourself, and God. It will serve you well."

Class of 2014 – God Bless you. It is my hope that "the Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; and the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.”  Numbers 24-26