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Sermon For June 21, 2009

Be of Good Cheer
June 21, 2009

It’s been twenty-one years since my own High School Graduation. Twenty-one years ago, I (like most high school graduates) saw an unlimited future ahead of me. A new chapter was beginning. An old one was ending. I wasn’t completely sure of what was ahead of me but that really didn’t matter, for I had graduated. There were all sorts of opportunities ahead of me . . . too many, in fact, to imagine at the time.

Soon enough, our High School graduates will be off on their own adventure. And every adventure has anxiety. It wouldn’t be an adventure if you weren’t required you to get outside of your comfort zone. It would only be a vacation. Sot his morning, on the eve of this great adventure, I wanted to take some time to give you some survival tips – some proverbial advice -- some things I’ve learned along the way. This is not just for the grads. These are a few life lessons for all of us to ponder. My first piece of advice is to get a life.

Anna Quinlen, novelist and former NY Times writer, dishes out the some good advice in her book A Short Guide to a Happy Life. Anna writes:

“You cannot be really first-rate at your work if your work is all you are. So I suppose a piece of advice I could give anyone is pretty simple: get a life. A real life, not a manic pursuit of the next promotion, the bigger paycheck, the larger house. Do you think you’d care so very much about those things if you developed an aneurysm one afternoon, or found a lump in your breast while in the shower?

“Get a life in which you notice the smell of salt water pushing itself on a breeze over the dunes . . . Get a life in which you pay attention to the baby as she scowls with concentration when she tries to pick up a Cheerio with her thumb and first finger. Turn off your cell phone . . . Keep still. Be present. Get a life in which you are not alone. Find people you love, and who love you. And remember that love is not leisure, it is work. Each time I look at my diploma, I remember that I am still a student, still learning every day how to be human. Get a life in which you are generous. Look around at the azaleas making fuchsia star bursts in spring; look at a full moon hanging silver in a black sky on a cold night. And realize that life is glorious, and that you have no business taking it for granted. Care so deeply about its goodness that you want to spread it around.”

Here are a few things I’ve learned in the past 21 years since High School:
· I’ve learned that we are responsible for what we do, unless we are celebrities.
· I’ve learned that the people you care most about in life are taken from you too soon and all the less important ones just never go away.
· I’ve learned that the best classroom in the world is at the feet of an elderly person.
· I’ve learned that God does not propose to judge us until we die. So why should you?
· I’ve learned that time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana.
I’ve learned that that just one person saying to me, “You’ve made my day!” makes my day.
· I’ve learned that that being kind is more important than being right.
· I’ve learned that the only substitute for good manners is fast reflexes.
· I’ve learned that I can always pray for someone when I don’t have the strength to help him or her in some other way.
· I’ve learned that that no matter how serious your life requires you to be, everyone needs a friend to act goofy with.
· I’ve learned that sometimes all a person needs is a hand to hold and a heart to understand.
· I’ve learned that under everyone’s hard shell is someone who wants to be appreciated and loved.
· I’ve learned that the Lord didn’t do it all in one day. What makes me think I can?
· I’ve learned that when you plan to get even with someone, you are only letting that person continue to hurt you.
· Those who get too big for their britches will be exposed in the end.
· I’ve learned to quit griping about church. If it was perfect, we couldn’t belong.
· I’ve learned that brain cells come and brains cells go, but fat cells live forever.
· I’ve learned that you can’t have everything. Where would you put it?
· I’ve learned that 42.7 percent of all statistics are made up on the spot.
· I’ve learned that one careless match can start a forest fire, but it takes a whole box to start a campfire.
· I’ve learned that all generalizations are false, including this one.
· I’ve learned that life is tough, but I’m tougher.
· I’ve learned that opportunities are never lost; someone will take the ones you miss.
· I’ve learned that to never mess up an apology with an excuse.
· I’ve learned never to miss a good chance to shut up.
· I’ve learned that when you harbor bitterness, happiness will dock elsewhere.
· I’ve learned that I should keep my words both soft and tender, because tomorrow I may have to eat them.
· I’ve learned that that I can’t choose how I feel, but I can choose what I do about it.
· I’ve learned that everyone wants to live on top of the mountain, but all the happiness and growth occurs while climbing it.
· I’ve learned that to be nice to my kids. They’ll choose my nursing home.
· I’ve learned that a closed mouth gathers no foot.
· I’ve learned to borrow money from a pessimist. They don’t expect it back.
· I’ve learned that duct tape is like the force, it has a light side and a dark side and it holds the universe together.
· I’ve learned that the less time I have to work with, the more things I get done.
· I’ve learned that happiness is a journey, not a destination.
· I’ve learned that if you don’t pay your exorcist, you get repossessed.
· I’ve learned that he who laughs last thinks slowest.
· I’ve learned that money will buy a fine dog, but only kindness will make him wag his tail.
· I’ve learned that blessed are those who hunger and thirst, for they are sticking to their diets.
· I’ve learned that if you can remain calm, you just don’t have all the facts.
· I’ve learned that time may be a great healer, but it’s also a lousy beautician.
· I’ve learned that a clean desk is a sign of a cluttered desk drawer.
· I’ve learned never to do card tricks for the group you play poker with.
· I’ve learned that if you think nobody cares, try missing a couple of payments.
· I’ve learned that your worst humiliation will only be someone else’s momentary entertainment.
· I’ve learned that the noblest revenge is to forgive.
· I’ve learned that two people can look at the exact same thing and see something completely different.
· I’ve learned that God accepts you the way you are, but loves you too much to leave you that way.
· I’ve learned to be of good cheer

Do you ever wonder why people seem to take life so seriously? I once read an Associated Press story about how Americans are carrying more stress than ever, and we’re not carrying it very well. Some of the most common responses to stress are to work harder, sleep less, worry more, and deny ourselves the opportunities for recreation that would provide a measure of relief. The flip side of that is to mask our depression with a restless pursuit of entertainment and distraction. I recently heard this statistic: adults laugh, on average, 30 to 40 times a day, and children laugh 300 to 400 times a day.

I have met many people who believe it is their responsibility to be serious, when in fact what they are truly being called to be is careful or caring. Let me put it this way: in the dozens of funerals I have led or attended, I have never heard a eulogist say, “You know what I admired most about this person? His serious side!” I’ve never heard someone say, “If my mother was anything she was serious.” So my final advice is this: be of good cheer. Keep a smile on your face. Never lose your sense of humor.

Graduates- if you haven’t already figured it out- this church is proud of you! We love you and we want all the best for you. We give thanks for what God has already done in your life, and for all that God has planned for your future. We hope that you will always abide in the love of Christ, knowing that you are a beloved child of God. We, your church family, want you to know that you always have a home here always. But we also understand that it’s time to say, “Go, for we expect good things from you.” After you have experienced all the world has to offer, we know there will come a day when we will sit at your feet, listen to your advice, and learn about the ways of God.

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