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Go Mess Up Someone’s Computer, iPhone, iPad…….Pong game, etc.

May 2, 2012

Tis’ the season for graduation speakers.  If we’re at a big name school, we might get somebody famous or cool (the Prez, Stephen Colbert, etc.) or really important (high-profile politician or media person) or famous alumnus (celebrity). If we’re at a not-so-well known school, it will be somebody unknown who will probably be boring and hopefully short-winded. The worst case scenario comes when the school blows a bundle to get a big hitter and gets a surprise.  A local well-respected art school invited Gordon Parks – renaissance man of the arts (photography, film, music, writing) to speak. Parks didn’t seem to be comfortable with all the fawning and hoopla he received; he was a man whose creativity restlessly needed to fly but he did not need it to be talked about. He stood up and concluded in his gravelly voice, “All I know is that there’s a lot of work out there to do. And we need to get out there and do it.” He sat down after three minutes. Three minutes!  The school honchos all went stone faced. All that expense for three minutes. The students gave him a standing ovation. Let’s hand out the diplomas and pork out, snarfing down hummus out of huge crystal clam shells. Good times.

As of now, I still have many open dates to be a commencement speaker. A lot of other people, like Charles Wheelan, aren’t getting asked but still chip in. Swap out time spent with your campus Christian group instead of the frat house basement and I’m with him stride for stride.   But in case nothing materializes for me, what I might say is this. Go on after graduation to mess up someone’s computer, iPhone, iPad, Wii or even their Pong game (If that Pong game is in good, or even mint, condition, hang onto it. It will  be worth a nice chunk of our student loan debt.), Before anyone accuses me of advocating social media vandalism, let me explain.

In the years ahead, the alumni association will contact us to see what we’ve been up to. And, trust me, they will find us even if we’re selling camel tacos at an open air market in Turkmenistan. And when they do, they will want to know what we’re up to. It might not be easy to let them, and our former friends and classmates, know. “I’ve lived off cheese doodles in my parents’ basement for the last eleven years. I’ve watched the entire Lord of the Rings Trilogy 1125 times.” One alumnus of my school let all his friends know that they could check in on him by checking out all the talk radio stations in his city where he had become renown as the cranky, eccentric who phoned in every night. The more prestigious our school is, this can become a traumatic measure of our sense of worth as a person. What makes for success?

One man packed up his family (and two bachelor’s degree, a masters and a doctorate – all from the same university) after graduation and moved to an obscure corner of Colombia to serve a missions agency. One day, a small airplane circled his jungle home dropping a small parachute with his mail among other things. In it, he found a pamphlet from the alumni association (I told you they’d find you.) taking a survey of all alumni. The man started with Question #1. “Do you own your own home?’ He thought back to the days when he and his friends built this two-room house out of the jungle for $100. So he checked “yes”. Question #2. “Do you own two homes?” He started to check “no” but remembered that Jesus said, “I go to prepare a place for you…” and checked “yes”. Question #3. “Do you own a boat?” He looked down to the river and saw the forty-foot canoe they’d hollowed from a log and checked “yes”. Question #4 “Do you plan to travel abroad this year?” He called to his wife,” Doris? Are we going home for furlough this year?” She said, “Yes” so he answered affirmatively. Finally it asked, “What is your annual salary?” He looked at the suggested figures which started at a minimum of $250,000. Drawing a line beneath all these, he pencilled in his very low salary as a missionary. He told a friend,”When I get back, I’ll be visiting my alma mater. I can’t wait to get back there to see what I did to their computers!”

Take that diploma and run bold and hard. Following Jesus is hardwired to pedal fast. All those things like peace, joy, the fullness of God’s Spirit, purpose and calling – it all bleeds out when we slow down to half speed, to what everyone else besides Jesus will settle for. So I say to you, class of 2012, mess up the world’s computers, blow up all the prescribed formulas, smash the preconceived ideas of what Christians both should be and should be allowed to be. Others may be confused or befuddled or angry at us. Their problem. But we will go through life with a smile in the deepest places of who Jesus is making us that will be more precious than gold. And the only smile bigger than ours will be Jesus’ – a temple trasher and computer smasher par excellence. Let’s cut to the hummus. Good times!

The missionary story above can be found in “Declare His Glory”, an Urbana compilation published by InterVarsity Press. Pages 35-36.

Please return your seat to the upright position and give your infrared night vision goggles to the attendant as you exit to the rear. See you next time at

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