Different

The pandemic highlighted something that I’ve struggled with for years. Significant hearing loss.

I’ve had a ringing in my ears for a while. But with all the masks covering people’s mouths over the past year, I realized that my hearing is worse than I thought. I went to a specialist in Memphis and my thoughts were confirmed. I needed hearing aids.

Call it pride, but it was hard to put the hearing aids on that first day. The worst fear was realized in a meeting last week. We were in a large room with an echo and I was struggling to adjust my hearing aids to a new setting. When I asked someone to please repeat themselves, they loudly responded with “you need to crank up the volume on those hearing aids, man!”

And at that very moment- I felt imperfect, different and ashamed.

Fortunately, I was studying 1 John this week and got a great reminder: God calls us to be different. And as a child of God we never have to be ashamed.

Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world- the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions- is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever. 1 John 2:15-17

Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when He appears we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him as He is. 1 John 3:2

God uses “imperfect” people throughout history to carry out His will. Abraham. Moses. Paul. Rahab. David. Jonah. Naomi.

And you know what? My hearing aids have also provided me with an opportunity to interact with others. Students have approached me to talk about my devices and shared their stories about hearing loss with me. Another person asked if he could take a photo of my hearing aids to share with his father- a fellow that needs to get them but is hesitant to wear them.

We can’t judge perfection through the world’s eyes, but through God’s eyes. We are created in His image. We are made whole through a life with Jesus.

I’ve had two new revelations. First, I can hear so much better! I’m so glad I got them as my quality of life has improved. Second, I realized that probably won’t need these things in Heaven.

Let’s celebrate differences this week. We have completeness in Jesus Christ.

Please let me know how I may specifically pray for you this week.

God bless you.

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An open letter to graduates…

This week marks one of my favorite times of year on our campus: commencement. It’s a time to celebrate the accomplishments of our students and congratulate them on successfully navigating four (or more) tough years of college. Countless hours of studying, writing papers and preparing oral presentations have culminated in this one moment.

And this year, graduates worldwide have navigated an even tougher set of circumstances. The coronavirus has created many new obstacles for all of us- especially our students. Through it all, they just kept pushing.

And I’ve got a short message for this week’s graduates….wherever you are.

Dear graduate:

You’ve made it. Take a moment and breathe it all in. No…really. These past four years have been tough, but the past 13 months have been really difficult. You’ve reached an important milestone in life and you need to stop and celebrate!

Let me leave you with three quick pieces of advice as you move forward.

  1. You are tough. Over the past year you have faced every type of obstacle that is humanly imaginable. You’ve experienced remote learning, the threat of physical illness, and an uncertain economic outlook. Through it all, you’ve kept pushing. Learning. Surviving. Succeeding. Don’t think about what you didn’t get to do this past year. Instead, think about the new ways you have learned to cope with challenges and overcome them with creativity, grit and determination. Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. James 1:2-4
  2. Always give people the benefit of the doubt. It’s been a tough year. Most of us are carrying around a load of burdens and concerns. In a time when we need to come together and listen to each other, we’ve been isolated and alone. When you encounter someone who seems irritated, frustrated or withdrawn…remember that they may be experiencing a tough time and have a heavy heart. Give them grace and offer a smile. You never know what a kind word or nice gesture can do for a weary spirit. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. Galatians 6:2
  3. Say “I love you” daily. As the world opens back up and you prepare for a new career and life adventures, you’ll be busier than you’ve ever been. Some of will be getting your first jobs. Others are starting graduate school or moving across the country. You’ll have countless new people to meet and new roles to learn. Through it all, don’t forget your family and friends. They’ve been there for you so far…and want to remain your support system as you move forward. Keep in touch with those special people in your life. Call them. Send them a quick note or text. Shoot them pictures of your new adventures. But most of all- tell someone you love them everyday. It’ll bring a smile to their face and the communication will brighten your day, too. Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing. 1 Thessalonians 5:11

I wish you the best as you transition to the next phase of life. You can do anything and be anything. Don’t ever stop believing in yourself…or loving others.

All the best,

me

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