Friday, June 2, 2017

Commencement Speech

To the graduating Class of 2017, Congratulations! 

To the Hopefuls, I'd like to share these words from the New Testament, Philippians 4: 8. the Apostle Paul's advice and wisdom for his day, applicable to this day. 

Finally brethren, whatever is true...

Emotions, evident this week on faces of grief and shock at the tragic death of two young soccer coaches and two other young lives, to exhilaration and pride at graduation, to thankfulness and anticipation for the next years after retiring from a long and satisfactory career in teaching, swing from one side to the other. 

Life is measured in moments, some sad, some happy, some overwhelming, some celebratory, some unforgettable, some lodged in our memory forever. At 18 years of age, awareness of these very feelings may give us a tinge of fear and excitement for the future, anticipating more of life. In this day, this time, I take from Scripture these words from the Apostle Paul in Ephesians 4 as sound advice, goals to work towards. I  pray for you, faith in the journey. 

We feel, provide empathy, compassion, stand tall in pride, satisfaction and gratefulness. Our truth settles in. Some things are good, some things are not, some things are very hard, some things we just take for granted, some things fill us with hope and joy! The Apostle Paul tells us to dwell---to dream on the Truth, to seek it. Life is also fleeting, unpredictable. Try not to take anything for granted but live as if everything is a wonderful gift, even if it is only with you a short time. Be Truth among the false realities of so many. Rise above. 

Whatever is honorable...

Congratulations graduates of 2017. I hope you received your diploma with pride and I honor you for your achievement. My hope and prayer for you is that you use the rights and freedoms you possess as a citizen of this great country, in an honorable and respectful way in return. God gave us minds to think for ourselves, to seek truth and justice and to live by those very same principles in accord with one another, even those we may disagree with.  Honor those around you and respect others. Build relationships and in that, people will hopefully respect you for your own passions. In that, God enlarges your surroundings and places you in opportunities to make Him known. Learning to trust in God comes from taking those tiny faithful steps. Integrity is who you are when no one is looking. Keep the faith. 

Whatever is right...

Discernment--something I ask God for every day, to know which direction, which word, what is true, what is honorable, what is the right thing---and most importantly, what is not. God also gives us people in our lives to dialogue with, to help us discover the right way. God's Word is infallible and true. God is good and righteous. Everyone makes mistakes, chooses wrong, has regrets. Forgiveness is right, trying again is right. It brings us closer to God, the One who makes all things right. Keep trying and learning. Strive to be right. God covers all our wrongs. Be that same grace for others. Believe it for yourself. 

Whatever is pure...

Allow God to filter you. You will know what to leave behind, who to leave behind, who to add, what to add, how to grow. Start fresh, new every day with a grateful heart, and a prayer to be worthy of His love. He sees us as pure through the blood of Christ. If we live defeated by our problems and situations,  that does not reflect the Light within us. Plant your feet in one place, don't straddle, be double-minded. You won't please everyone, learn to see eternally. The enemy is real. Keep vigilant. Be in the the world as His follower but not of the world. Allow God to do your battling. Victorious now and forever, your belief brings you in the winner's circle. What is filtered out can now be used for His glory, your story. Fly above the crowd and seek the right sustenance. Purity is healthy living. Live Pure. 

Whatever is lovely...

Every day I am greeted by one of my special needs students, "Hi pretty!" Greeting all the girls, women on campus that way, I know how it makes me feel, that I am glad to be there, that she loves me and knows she is loved. Gardening, a passion of mine, I see the lovely in every new unfolding bud or swell of a fruit. It starts as a seed planted, and then nurtured to grow and give back. To be lovely is not about the external, but the internal, what our thoughts are, again, what we are dwelling on, dreaming of. Fill your mind with thoughts of love, of kindness, of service. To pray for  one another--that is a lovely thing. To pray for those against you, that is even more lovely. God smiles and nods, "My beloved, I adore you and promise to never leave you nor forsake you." Isn't that just lovely? 

What ever is of good repute...

What do you associate with, fill your mind with, hang out with?  There are a bunch of apps that will give opinions on things, Yelp for instance. Even our local community Facebook pages stream with experiences good and not so good, neighborhoods to watch out for, teams to pick for your kids and schools to attend, churches that are friendly. Maybe the high school experiences and choices left some notches, some scars, some things you think can't be erased. Good reputations and character are built over time. Choosing to follow God, He transforms more than just the heart, but can and does erase the past and make all things new. Be someone reputable. Encourage one another in that same goal. We are all a work in progress. 

Be excellent, worthy of praise...

Everyone wants to hear those words, "Good job!" God tells us to do our work as if we are working for the Lord, and actually we are. Everyone likes to be appreciated, thanked and given good feedback and comments. Constructive criticism, correction and positive suggestions all help us to grow. Be wise in listening and considering and then always pray and ask to be mentored, sponsored, taught, discipled. That is the way towards excellence. No one starts at the top. No one climbs up the mountain by themselves. Praise Your Maker and give thanks to those that walk beside you. Humbleness and gratefulness go together, an example of a leader and a difference maker is one who recognizes the importance of teamwork. Spend time in worship. Alone time with God finds excellence in the making. Prayer changes you. Worship anoints you and glorifies God. Draw near and He will draw near to you. (James 4:8).

Finally, in verse 9 of Philippians 4, the Apostle Paul tells us, "the things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things and the God of peace shall be with you." In that, I wish you peace, dear graduates, peace in your heart and to be a peacemaker in word and deed, for in that,  true success comes and multiplies out, one life at a time to a whole new generation of hopefuls.  

God Bless you,
Considerably, Coleene 

P.S. It took me a long time to learn all these things. I am stubborn. I pray you will trust earlier and gain perspective on the eternal prize from the get-go. 

Sidewalk Prophets
The Words I Would Say


  1. Coleene, this post is one of your best! I love how you take the verse (one of my favorites) and illustrate it. I read this to Gary and we both like the song you use to close this post. My step will be lighter today after reading this!

    1. Thank you Linda and Gary. I only wish I had this kind of advice...Oh, I did. I just wasn't mature enough to realize it, recognize it. I had to live to get it--live a life in and through God's grace. Only retrospect and then seeing everywhere God was with me, now makes me appreciate so much more, His Truth. I know, you know that as well.

  2. Lovely Coleene! (A favorite verse of mine also.) To put into practice what we learn is a discipline that takes time, a responsibility we each carry and a worthy life long project. I think you are ready to take the podium in 2018. :)