Monday, June 12, 2017

Advice for Hard Times

Last weekend I was invited to give a speech at a graduate luncheon. When I sat down to write the speech, I couldn't help but think about my own graduation. I was sooo idealistic that when I started to struggle, I struggled hard.

Fortunately, God is steadfast and unmovable. And, He never goes back on His word. 

So here's the speech I gave to the grads....

Congratulations! Your hard work, perseverance, and determination is the reason you are here today...

You worked hard studying, attending classes, completing tests. Finally you've reached that moment where you can put on that cap and gown, that doctor's coat, that uniform and walk across the stage.

I hope you are proud of what you have done because as the Bible says there is nothing better than to feel satisfaction in your work.

Now that you've gotten up on that stage, you've shaken the dean's hand and grabbed hold of that diploma, certificate or degree you've paid so much for, it's time to walk forward onto the other side.

What's it like on the other side of that stage? Is it easy? smooth sailing?  Is it an upper-ward moving elevator or staircase?

I can tell you from personal experience that it's not easy or smooth sailing.

If I had to compare the future after graduation to stairs I would say it's like the stairs in the parking lot. You know, the ones where you go up, stop, turn, walk, climb, stop, turn, walk, and climb some more. Then you realize you're on the wrong floor and you have to stop, turn around and climb up more stairs. Or, you may have to go back down.

Some of you are already on those stairs. You have jobs, college acceptance letters and graduate programs lined up.

But if you're like me,  you may still be on the ground floor wondering where you parked your car!

When I graduated, I had nothing lined up. I spent a month looking for a job and found two -- one as a freelance writer making 10 cents a word and the other as a health educator. Finally I was on the staircase. But the climb wasn't easy.

At one freelance gig, I remember someone introducing me to a Washington Post reporter. I got excited thinking this could be my big break... That woman took one look at me and said, you're no reporter.

I had hit my first landing -- the plateau part of the stairwell where you faced with two things... a wall and a turn. Hit a wall or make a turn and keep climbing.

I was struggling to figure out how to make that turn.

I felt stuck with those two jobs. One was paying the bills, but the other was my passion. And of course, the paying job was getting in the way of my passion.

In college, a friend of mine who was also taking journalism classes recommended a woman I should talk to. She worked at our college but before that, she was a successful black female reporter at the Washington Post. Maybe she could be a mentor to you, my friend said.

So when I hit my plateau, I turned to her. Right away I could tell something wasn't right. She said I need more clippings of articles I had written, and recommended enrolling in grad school. I had heard from several journalists that grad school was a waste of time and money ... If you want to be a reporter all you have to do is start writing. So right away I knew she wasn't really interested in helping me... She just wanted to get me out of her office. Maybe she felt she had more important things to do.

 But I thought I could win her over with my initiative.

So I kept sending her my clips.

One day I invited her out to lunch. I actually saved up money to pay for her meal. During the visit, I asked her about my clips and you know what? She said she never read them.

Next I turned to my education. I re-read my school notes and even went back over my textbooks in the hopes of bettering my situation. That didn't changed my much.

Finally I began praying about my situation. I also began searching the scriptures. Slowly things began to change.

Prayer was the right turn I needed to keep climbing.

I wish could say the climb was easy after that.

The truth is even now there are still more landings, still more turns and pivots to be made, and still more stairs.

In John 16:33 Jesus said "In this world you will have troubles ..."

Trouble is a certainty in this life -- even for those in Christ.

Even more, in John 15:18  Jesus warned that as Christians we would be hated by the world just as Jesus was hated for no reason. Why?  Because we are are not of this world.

So why turn to Christ, you may ask?

Because we have a promise the world does not have. The rest of  John 16:33 says "... take heart, I have overcomed the world" implied in there is you and I will overcome because of Christ.

Christ gives us the power to, 1. take heart - to be courageous and to 2. overcome -- to push through tough circumstances -- two things you will need to do as you climb the stairs to success on the job and in life.

So remember as you leave here, the climb is not easy.

There are plenty of stairs leading up, but there are also several walls that will force you to change course. But with every twist and turn, turn to Jesus. Accept him as your savior. If you are already a Christian, rededicate yourself to prayer and reading God's word.

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