Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Good Words

The end of the school year is coming and there are just a lot of things we need to discuss. In fact, I have two blogs for you today.

If you are graduating: In return for your oath that you won’t do anything stupid like getting drunk the night of the prom I am giving you my special “How to Write a Thank You Note” kit. The great thing about this kit is that you can use it for wedding and baby showers. You can use it for thank you notes and for invitations. You can even use it for Christmas cards.

In this package you will receive instructions on how to create your own personalized note cards and a fool-proof template for writing thank you notes.

Here’s the link to my other blog called Really Cool Stuff. The complete set of instructions are there. You don’t need to go there right now you can do it later.

If you are graduating from high school this month, you will draw a line in the timeline of your life and divide it into the Before and the After sections. It’s called Commencement because the theory is that you are commencing a new phase of your life. No longer preparing for life, you are sent out to get yourself to class on time and pay your own bills. You enter the Real World.

So advice abounds. Everyone from your class valedictorian and commencement speaker down to old ladies like me want to tell you “The Secret to Life.”

The secret is that it’s complicated. Except it’s also simple. And that’s what makes it complicated.

The “secret” can’t be imparted in one set of words and you will spend the rest of your life figuring it out. You’ll have to keep your eyes and ears open, sifting through the words you want to listen to and the ones you avoid.

“Come on, we’ll never get caught” is a good example of the kind of words you will want to avoid.

So, here is my first advice: You will always get caught. Always. And if not by authorities, then by your own conscience.

In the meantime, here are a few sets of good words to remember and take with you as you make your own journey.

One set of words I’ve grown to like more and more every year are from Rachel Naomi Remen, the author of Kitchen Table Wisdom. Try these words on for size:


Perhaps the secret of living well is not in having all the answers but in pursuing unanswerable questions in good company.
So that’s one bit of simple advice: Find good company to keep.  People who will ask the unanswerable questions with you.  And wait with you for answers.  Choose your friends wisely. Choose friends who will lead you to think more deeply and who won’t get you arrested. Find a community of faith where you feel comfortable. Listen to what they say.

Your very first community of faith might have been on television. It might have been Mr. Rogers or Barney. What did they teach you? You are my friend. I love you. You love me. We’re a happy fam-i-lee.

Here’s something you never heard Mr Rogers say on his show but he often wrote it in letters to his friends.:
“I feel very strongly that deep and simple is far more essential than shallow and complex”

Now that’s a set of words you can keep somewhere important and revisit over and over for the next 90 years or so. Gnaw on it like a dog gnaws on a juicy bone then hides it somewhere and goes back to it later on.

Our church has a grand piano we got when some old lady died.. It is a great piano and we had a concert to show it off after we polished it up and had it tuned. Our organist at that time was Carol Taylor, a really accomplished pianist. The first song played in that concert, played on the piano, was the most stupendous arrangement of Jesus Loves Me I’ve ever heard. Wasn’t it the first church song you learned as a child? Don’t we always go back to the basics? And, in this case, it was musical notes instead of words.

The arrangement started out child-like, slow and simple, then worked its way up to eloquent and amazing. By the end we were all in awe of Carol’s skill at the piano and also with how such a simple tune can be stretched into a majestic marvel of music. Faith is like that.

No matter how fancy you make it, at its core, the message is still simple. No more. No less. Jesus Loves Me.

I would like to share some of my favorite benedictions with you. Benediction comes from Latin and means” to speak well.” I like to call it “Good Words.”

I sifted through a file I keep called Great Quotes. There are the standards in there like Desiderata and the prayer of St Francis of Assisi. If you don’t know them, you should look them up on Google.  My space here is limited and  I can’t do everything for you, you know.

One of my favorite benedictions came from Rev. Mona Bailey. She delivered this on her last Sunday at Corinth Presbyterian Church in Parker, Texas. I was fortunate to be there that day and brought home a copy of her words. Good words to take with you to college:

Remain in awe of mystery.
If you come to your senses and notice that you are in a far country hanging out with swine, get up and go home.
If your cupped hands are full of blame, drop the blame and hold out your empty hands to receive a blessing.
Live life fully, trusting God to weave wonders from whatever mistakes you make.
Don’t squander your life being too cautious.
If you think you’ve got it made, you don’t.
If you think it’s hopeless, it isn’t.
Jesus welcomed and ate with sinners.



Here's a benediction from William Sloan Coffin:

May God give you the grace never to sell yourself short; grace to risk something big for something good; grace to remember that the world is too dangerous now for anything but truth, and to small for anything but love. And my God take your hearts and set them on fire.



 My hope for today’s graduates is that they will risk something big for something good.  Just remember to think before you risk.  Make sure the cause you risk your self for is worth it. If you do get arrested for your principles, try to make it something that will be really easy to explain when you run for political office.

And here’s one little gem you've probably never seen because I can’t even remember where I found it.

Is life too short to be taking shit?
Or is life too short to mind it?
     --Violet Weingarten

And one of my  favorites from Patrick Overton:

When you have come to the edge of all light that you know
And are about to drop off into the darkness of the unknown,
Faith is knowing one of two things will happen:
There will be something solid to stand on
or You will be taught to fly


To everyone moving to the next phase of their life this spring:  May you learn to fly.

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