A speech given to high school chapel at King’s Ridge Christian School 12/6/18 @ 9:45am.
This time of year is busy. Too busy. Crazy busy for some you. Between all the family commitments and concerts and other events...it seems like we spend all of our time waiting...waiting for “this thing to be over with” or waiting for the next thing to begin. And sometimes we get so caught up in where we going that we forget to be where we are. The truth is we’re not very good and living in the NOW. Makes me think of Kung Fu Panda. My favorite is that wise old turtle...Oogway...you know the one… “Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery. But today is a gift. That’s why it’s called the present.”
Living in THE NOW is a very hard thing to do. Especially if we’re waiting. I remember when I was in Middle School a long time ago...in the BC days...you know, BC...Before Computers...and I hated it. I mean, I was this nerdy little dude with glasses...and I had all this hair...believe it or not...and gravity had no effect...it just stood straight up all the time in every direction. There was so much of it, in fact, they called me “wolf-man” in the locker room. Middle school was the worst. So the whole time I was there, I couldn’t WAIT for high school. “If I can just get to high school,” I thought, “everything will be better.” Well, I finally got to high school, and...NOPE...same thing...I couldn’t WAIT to get to college. Everybody called me “Biscuit” for some reason, and I was great at school...but you know how it is...if you’re great at school and always make 100s on everything, people give you a hard time about it...and when you do make a tiny mistake, everybody lets you know about it! So here I am again, “If I can just get to college,” I thought, “everything will be better.” I couldn’t WAIT. Well, you see where I’m going with this...I got to college, and then I couldn’t WAIT to get my first job, and then I got my first job...and I couldn’t WAIT to get the next one.
You see...what I wasn’t doing...I wasn’t living in the NOW. I lived my life waiting for the next phase, and it robbed me of the PRESENT. So that’s my challenge for you: learn how to live in the present, in “the NOW”, wherever you are. I’m challenging you to do something that I couldn’t...I never figured it out while I was in school, but I believe it’s possible. You just have to catch yourself when something steals you away from the NOW.
“Mr. Bishop,” you might say, “aren’t we always in the now?” Well, yes, you might physically be present in the here and now, but it’s possible to be here but not really be “PRESENT.” Have you ever tried talking to your parents when they’re answering an email? Or have you ever tried to talk to you friend while they’re playing a game on their computer? It’s possible to be right next to people but not really be present. The thing is, it’s easy to see when someone else does it, but it’s harder to recognize it when you do it. So, the next time you catch your friend not paying attention, not being present in the moment, you might say, “Hey, get in THE NOW!” Better yet, catch yourself when your mind starts to wander away, and tell yourself, “Hey, get in THE NOW.”
Think about this...you post the pic or the video...and you wait for the likes...nothing wrong with that, but if you obsess over it, it’s stolen you away from the NOW. You’ve sent the text, and now you’re waiting for the response...nothing wrong with that, but if you obsess over it, it’s stolen you away from the NOW. If all you can think about is the reply you haven’t gotten, you’re no longer living in the NOW. The past or the future have stolen you. If the future steals you away, that’s called worry. You start thinking about all the things that could go wrong, all the possibilities that might happen…, and you get worried. (I remember when I was in college I went water-skiing with my roommate, and he left his phone in the apartment...he didn’t take it on the boat with us. We were gone maybe 3 hours...and when got back...he had 12 voicemails from his girlfriend...12 voicemails! It was the days before text messages, so she had called him and left messages. They started out nice enough… “Hey, what’s going on, just checking on you. Give me a call back.” But then they started to get more and more angry. “Where are you?!!? Why the heck won’t you call me back!?!” Finally, by the last message, she was yelling into the phone: “You jerk! I knew it...you’re with HER aren’t you?!? You’re cheating on me!!!” ...you may not have a gone that far when it comes to waiting and worrying, but haven’t we all started to freak out when we have to wait? The point is, when you worry about what might go wrong, what might happen in the future, then the future can steal you from the NOW.) If the past steals you away, that’s called regret...and you start thinking about what’s happened before, and suddenly you’re locked into that frame of mind: THE WAY IT’S ALWAYS BEEN IS THE WAY IT ALWAYS WILL BE. And it steals you from the NOW.
So what do we do to stay in the NOW? How do we WAIT well and not let ourselves get stolen by the past or the future? I think the church gives us two good answers, and it has to do with this time of year. This past Sunday was the first Sunday of Advent, the story of Christ coming to earth, the divine becoming human to see through our eyes and feel what we feel. Last Sunday was HOPE and next Sunday is PEACE. And I think that’s the answer to living in the NOW and learning to wait well: hope and peace.
I don’t know if you’ve thought about this, but most of the Bible is a story of waiting - either God waiting for people to do the right thing, or people waiting for God to show up. You get some interesting stories about God waiting on people...think Moses...he leads the Israelites out of slavery...that’s a pretty big deal...you’d think they would follow God and start doing the right thing...NOPE! They get halfway into the dessert and suddenly start doing the wrong thing, worshipping other gods and forgetting all about what God had done for them. God waited on them for a long time. But people also had to wait on God, and that’s where Advent comes in...you see, there was this promise in Isaiah of “Immanuel” - Hebrew for “God with us.” And that’s where Jesus comes in. The problem is that it took about 700 years for that prophecy to come true...700 years! Can you imagine waiting that long? Isaiah’s grandchildren were probably like...ok, “let’s get this Immanuel show on the road, come on God! Show up already!” By the time Jesus shows up, many people had already given up on God. Sometimes I think the same thing might be true today.
It takes a lot of courage, and a lot of guts to wait for a long time. And that’s where hope comes in. When things don’t go your way for a long time, it’s easy to give up. It’s easy to look at the way it’s always been...and to think that that’s the way it always will be. But hope is different. Hope is choosing to see something better, refusing to accept that the way things have been is the way they will always be.
Are there any high school seniors in the room? You know something about waiting, right? I mean, isn’t this the longest school-year of your life? Some days probably seem to take forever. Not to mention waiting on your college acceptance letters, right? The whole process is gruelling, and it brings up the past whether you’ve moved on or not...you’re looking at your transcript and you start to think, “Man, I wish I’d turned in that 9th grade research paper on time!” (Underclassmen, I hope you’re taking notes on this…) While you’re waiting on those acceptance letters, it’s easy to start to worry, but then, you get that first one and you breathe a sigh of relief. But sometimes it seems like your #1 choice takes forever to get back to you. It takes courage to stay hopeful in all of that. It’s easier just to try to forget about it. And God forbid if your #1 choice says no. Holding on to hope is a hard thing to do. Especially when you get the results and it’s not what you wanted. It’s then that HOPE says, “Maybe God has something in store for me that’s even better than my plans.” But that’s not an easy thing to say. Still, hope is a way to keep yourself rooted in the NOW, and keep your mind focused on the present rather than worrying about the future.
For me, hope was kinda easy. It’s peace that was the problem. You see, I’m a perfectionist, which means that I’m always over-analyzing everything. Anybody with me? Anybody out there overanalyze stuff? All my life I would do something or say something, and I’d think about it over and over again in my mind. Especially if it was a stupid thing that I did or said. I didn’t have a label for it when I was your age, but today I think we’d call it anxiety. I’d worry myself to death over something that was in the past! And the past is the one thing that you cannot change no matter how hard you try. So if you’re like me, the past can haunt you just as much as the future, especially if you’re not even aware of it. And that steals you from the NOW, it takes you away from the present. Peace is the answer to that, but like hope, it’s not easy. Peace is the opposite of war, and what we don’t realize is that sometimes we’re at war with ourselves or the past. And just like in a war, you have to make a peace agreement with yourself...almost like you’re looking in the mirror, saying, “Ok, SELF, I know you messed up. But that’s in the past. It’s part of who I am now, but I won’t let the past haunt me…” Easy for me to say, but much harder to live.
So how do you do that? It’s so easy regret to flood you with emotion and totally take over and you lose control. So what do you do? It sounds simple. It sounds too good to be true, but the easiest thing you can do is learn to breathe. That’s it. Just breathe. Science shows that a few deep breaths can calm you and lower your blood pressure. So, try it. The next time you get yourself worried sick with embarrassment because that video is going around of you doing that stupid thing...just breathe.
So that’s it. All of us are waiting for something...waiting for something to start, waiting for something to be over. And it’s easy to lose grip on “the NOW.” But Jesus us did not call us to lives of worry or regret. Jesus said that he came that we might have life, and have it more abundantly. Claim that promise. Claim that hope and peace even in the midst of this busy season, and take comfort knowing what Bible says about Jesus, “In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” Whoever you are, whatever you’re going through, there is hope and peace for you, here, NOW. You just have to learn to see it.
At my church we have a benediction, which is really just a “Good Word,” like “Go in Peace” or something. So here is my benediction, my blessing for you.
Let us go from this place
Believing with hope that there is a light that shines in the darkness
Which the darkness shall not overcome
And may the love of the Creator
The joy of the Spirit And the peace of the Christ-child
Be with you this Christmas, and evermore
Amen. Go in peace.