It was like a scene out of a movie: Last Saturday, I was washing my hands in the ladies' room when I overheard a woman exclaim to a gaggle of her friends, "Oh my, that doctor speaker! Usually I hate sitting through graduation ceremonies, but . . ."
My ears perked up. I held my breath to hear what she would say next. ". . . that was the best speech I've ever heard!"
"Thank you!" I said. "That was my husband!" I could not have been more proud. Matthew had just given the commencement address at Hood Seminary, an African Methodist Episcopal Zion school based in Salisbury, North Carolina. During Hood's graduation ceremonies, Matthew was also honored with a doctorate degree.
At Hood Seminary's commencement, Matthew compared the lessons he learned as an emergency room physician with the challenges that these graduating church leaders will face in the coming years. His simple, gospel-driven advice applies to all of us:
Keep the faith
When you're having a tough week, think of Jesus in the exam room before beginning his ministry. He really was tested by the devil. And the reaction to his first week of ministry? They took him to the cliff and tried to throw him off! Beginnings and transition are almost always difficult, but Christ helps us persevere.
God loves a cheerful giver. Buy the pizza, leave change in the soda machine, maybe even send a gift to the alma mater ("other mother") that helped raise you.
Invest in friends
Friends are like trees: the best time to plant is fifty years ago; the next best time to plant one is today. In an increasingly "connected" world, true friendship is becoming rarer and rarer.
Let the Bible teach you
So many of us want to instruct God instead of letting him teach us. God left us a book to believe in. Believe in it!
Keep a gratitude journal and list all the things that make your day better: dental floss, hugs, shoes, literacy, sunshine. These seem like little things, but writing them down helps us appreciate bigger things, like God's love for us, friendship, the Bible, and the forgiveness of sins.
Remember the Sabbath
Sabbath-keeping is not a condition of getting into heaven; it just happens to be the condition of heaven when you get in. Taking our hands off the steering wheel one day a week reminds us that God is ultimately in control.
When we work, we work; when we pray, God works. Pray unceasingly for "Thy will to be done, on earth as it is in heaven."
As we approach Memorial Day weekend and the "commencement" of summer, this is our prayer for you:
May the Lord bless you and keep you.
May the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious unto you.
May the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and grant you peace.
Nancy Sleeth is co-founder and managing director of Blessed Earth, a nonprofit that "inspires and equips people of faith to become better stewards of the earth." She is the author of Almost Amish: One Woman's Quest for a Slower, Simpler, More Sustainable Life and Go Green, Save Green.