Below is what I shared with the students of KCS this morning. It was great seeing them and reliving memories from 20 years ago!
“Thank you all for having me. I am a Keswick grad – class of 93 – and was a classmate of Mr. Stratis. And boy, do I have some stories for you! It’s an honor to be here and I wanted to direct my talk specifically to you Juniors and Seniors, and I hope the rest of you can glean something from it. I graduated nearly 20 years ago from KCS and, man, the time has gone quickly. Wouldn’t it be neat if I could write a letter now to myself back when I was 18? What would I say? What have I learned in 20 years that would have helped me back then? Well, a man named Zac Smith did just that. Let’s watch.”
“I know it’s a little heavy, but here is what I would write in a letter to my 18 year old self. And I hope it give you Juniors and Seniors something to think about.”
1. I would remember that not everyone in my class will make it to our 10 year reunion. (Ryan Williams was one. Missionary pilot. Would love for a scholarship to be named after him.)
James 4:14 “Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away.” Treat each other accordingly.
2. I would spend less time worrying about college and more time in wonder (acorn – stunning piece of engineering).*
Job 37:14 “Listen to this, O Job, Stand and consider the wonders of God.”
3. I would prepare more for marriage and less for dating. Pray for my future spouse. And always be a man of my word.
Numbers 30:2 “A man shall not violate his word; he shall do according to all that proceeds out of his mouth.” Guys, you want a lady? Just do what you say you will do.
4. I would save like a madman and realize how many doors it will open in the future. I don’t think you should come out of college in debt. Proverbs 22:7 – “The borrower becomes the lender’s slave.”
5. I would have no idea what to tell myself about Facebook and Twitter. You are on your own there. Just don’t be an idiot.
6. I would realize the greatest skill set in life is the ability to make and keep friends.
Proverbs 17:17 “A friend loves at all times, And a brother is born for adversity.”
7. I would force the trajectory of my life to intersect with those less fortunate.*
Matthew 25:40 “The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.” My life decisions would only make sense if there is a resurrection from the dead.
8. I would realize how quickly health can be taken from you. One phone call away.
Ecclesiastes 11:10 “Childhood and the prime of life are fleeting.”
9. I would love my kids before I have them and make decisions accordingly. Maybe 1% of people think like this.
Psalm 127:4 “Behold, children are a gift of the LORD.”
10. I would write my parents a thank you letter and give it to them before I graduated.
Ephesians 6:2-3 “Honor your father and mother (which is the first commandment with a promise), so that it may be well with you, and that you may live long on the earth.”
11. I would do something special for my favorite teacher before I graduated.
Proverbs 4:13 “Hold on to instruction, do not let it go; guard it well, for it is your life.” Special thank you to Mr. Strickland.
12. I would make sure I work in a field before I major in it. For example, 50% of teachers quit teaching within 5 years. How many teachers in here have been teaching over 5 years? Let’s give them a hand. You were born to do something you love. Relentlessly pursue it.
13. I would remember that worrying is really telling God He can’t handle it.
Luke 12:6-7 “Are not five sparrows sold for two cents? Yet not one of them is forgotten before God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows.”
14. I would remember that studies show the greatest regret of 80 year olds is not taking enough risks.
Ephesians 5:15-17 “Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil. 17 So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.” The will of the Lord is always risky. Does this make me really uncomfortable?
15. I would floss more.
I Corinthians 6:19-20 “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.” Care for your body when you are young so you, by God’s grace, can go hard for 60 years.
16. I would realize there is an inverse correlation between an open mouth and an open mind.
James 1:19 “This you know, my beloved brethren. But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger;” If only I had done this better, I would not have torched some relationships.
17. I would remind myself that hardships are my friend.
Start of the book of James, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.” You want them. They are a gift to you. With a big bow on top.
18. I would go as hard as I can after maximum joy – and that is only found in Jesus Christ.*
#2 Stunning Stuff About Your Body
A 100 Trillion is a lot when it started with one: Your body is made up of approximately 100 trillion cells. They all came from the division of one single cell. 300 million cells die every minute, but it’s really just a small fraction of the number we have. We produce 300 billion new cells every day and your body is constantly repairing and rebuilding. No wonder you are so tired!
Your brain is an amazing super-computer: The brain can hold five times as much information as the Encyclopedia Britannica. Nerve impulses travel at 170 miles per hour. The brain is comprised of 80% water. Oh, and it does all this on the same amount of power as a 10-watt light bulb.
Your heart works its heart out for you: The human heart creates enough pressure to squirt blood 30 feet. Such pressure is needed to pump blood through 60,000 miles of veins and capillaries. The heart pumps 6 quarts of blood, circulating three times every minute. In one day, your blood travels a total of 12,000 miles.
Your skin is the ultimate touch screen: Each square inch of your skin includes four yards of nerve fibers, 600 pain sensors, 1300 nerve cells, 9000 nerve endings, 36 heat sensors, 75 pressure sensors, 100 sweat glands, 3 million cells, and 3 yards of blood vessels.
Take a deep breath: Your lungs have a surface area the size of a tennis court. That’s a lot of hot air as I am demonstrating!
From George Will, one of my favorite columnists: Jon Will, the eldest of my four children, turns 21 this week and on this birthday, as on every other workday, he will commute by subway to his job delivering mail and being useful in other ways at the National Institutes of Health.
The fact that Jon is striding into a productive adulthood with a spring in his step and Baltimore’s Orioles on his mind is a consummation that could not have been confidently predicted when he was born. Then a doctor told his parents that their first decision must be whether or not to take Jon home.
Jon has Down Syndrome, a chromosomal defect involving varying degrees of mental retardation and physical abnormalities. Jon lost, at the instant he was conceived, but he also won: His physical abnormalities do not impede his vitality and his retardation is not so severe that it interferes with life’s essential joys–receiving love, returning it, and reading baseball box scores.
One must mind one’s language when speaking of people like Jon. He does not “suffer from” Down Syndrome. It is an affliction, but he is happy — as happy as the Orioles’ stumbling season will permit. You may well say that being happy is easy now that ESPN exists. Jon would agree. But happiness is a species of talent, for which some people have superior aptitudes.
Jon was born the year before abortion became legal and just as prenatal genetic tests were becoming routine. Almost all mothers abort babies who have Down Syndrome. Because of advancing science and declining morals, there are fewer people like Jon than there should be. And just in Jon’s generation much has been learned about unlocking the hitherto unimagined potential of the retarded. This begins with early intervention in the form of infant stimulation. Jon began going off to school when he was three months old.
Because Down Syndrome is determined at conception and leaves its imprint in every cell of the person’s body, it raises what philosophers call ontological questions. It seems mistaken to say that Jon is less than he would be without Down Syndrome. When a child suffers a mentally limiting injury after birth we wonder sadly about what might have been. But a Down person’s life never had any other trajectory. Jon was Jon from conception on. He has seen a brother two years younger surpass him in size, get a driver’s license and leave for college, and although Jon would be forgiven for shaking his fist at the universe, he has been equable. I believe his serenity is grounded in his sense that he is a complete Jon and that is that.
Because of Jon’s problems of articulation, I marvel at his casual everyday courage in coping with a world that often is uncomprehending. He is intensely interested in major league baseball umpires, and is a friend of a few of them. I think he is fascinated by their ability to make themselves understood, by vigorous gestures, all the way to the back row of the bleachers. From his season-ticket seat behind the Orioles’ dugout, Jon relishes rhubarbs, but I have never seen him really angry. The closest he comes is exasperation leavened by resignation. It is an interesting commentary on the human condition that one aspect of Jon’s abnormality — a facet of his disability — is the fact that he is gentleness straight through. But must we ascribe a sweet soul to a defective chromosome?
Like many handicapped people, Jon frequently depends on the kindness of strangers. He almost invariably receives it, partly because Americans are, by and large, nice, and because Jon is, too. He was born on his father’s birthday, a gift that keeps on giving.
“There is no other way to the happiness for which we were made. Good things as well as bad, you know, are caught by kind of infection. If you want to get warm you must stand near the fire: if you want to be wet you must get into the water. If you want joy, power, peace, eternal life, you must get close to, or even into, the thing that has made them…they are great fountain of energy and beauty spurting up at the very center of reality. If you are close to it, the spray will wet you: if you are not, you will remain dry. Once a man is united to God, how could he not live forever? Once a man is separated from God, what can he do but wither and die?” – C.S. Lewis
“It is the secret signature of each soul, the incommunicable and unappeasable want, the thing we desire before we met our wives or made our friends or chose our work, and which we still desire on our deathbeds, when the mind no longer knows wife or friend or work. All your life an unattainable ecstasy has hovered just beyond the grasp of your consciousness. The day is coming when you will wake to find, beyond all hope, that you have attained it.” – C.S. Lewis
Closing – that is why we are here – so you can find what you were made for – maximum joy in Jesus Christ. Only what is done for Christ last’s forever. John 15:11 “These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.”