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How hard is it to take something for granted?  Actually, it’s about as easy as it gets!  It’s no trouble whatsoever for us to begin viewing an incredible gift or abundant blessing as some sort of entitlement or guarantee.  All we have to do is possess it for a while, and it soon becomes a “given” in our minds and attitudes, a presumptuous expectation that it will always be there.  However, life’s unpredictable circumstances frequently serve as a system of “checks and balances” to jerk us back into a greater sense of reality and to rekindle a proper appreciation for the blessings in our lives.

My most recent “Took That for Granted, Now Didn’t You, Tim?” lesson was provided by a lack of air conditioning in my car.  For the most part, I’ve lived in an air-conditioned world, with the exception of the house where I lived in Liberia for two years as a boy and my apartment in Australia as a young adult.  Actually, the apartment where Kim and I lived for three years in Hawaii wasn’t air conditioned either, but who cares?  It was in Hawaii!  Other than those brief stints, my life has been blessed with an abundance of artificially cool air.

In the fall of 2010, the A/C went out in my car.  I planned to use my tax refund the next spring to get it fixed before the summer of 2011 arrived.  However, on Hannah’s first trip home from college after the weather warmed up, she told me that her car’s air conditioning wasn’t working.  So, I did the fatherly thing and used the money I had set aside to have her system repaired.  That’s just what we parents do for our kids, right?  I stuck it out through the heat of the summer of 2011…. and 2012 …. and 2013.  Don’t feel too sorry for me.  It only got up to 114 degrees those first two summers.  Oh, and did I mention the black leather interior?  That helped a lot!

On the hottest days the last three summers, I overcame the temptation to complain by reminding myself that I was extremely blessed to have a car at all, and one that, mechanically speaking, worked quite well.  It faithfully and regularly got me from Point A to Point B, which is what it was designed to do.  I was doubly blessed by the luxury of owing two vehicles.  I lived in an air-conditioned home, worked in an air-conditioned office, and shopped in air-conditioned stores.  I had more than enough food to eat.  I had clothes on my back (my stuck-to-the-car-seat, sweaty back!).  What right did I have to complain?

I got my car’s air conditioning repaired this week.  I can’t believe how cold the air is.  Yet, it probably won’t be very long before I just turn it on and ride in comfort without a passing thought of thankfulness.

Don’t let that happen with the greatest blessings in your life: your relationship with Jesus, your spouse, your children, your parents, your friends, your church family, your job, your co-workers, and all the physical blessings you enjoy.

Let the important people in your life know how much you love, appreciate, and treasure them.  Start with the Lord and work your way down the list!

“A graduation ceremony is an event where the commencement speaker tells thousands of students dressed in identical caps and gowns that ‘individuality’ is the key to success.” (Robert Orben)

I’m grateful that the Pyles household has two graduates this spring who are truly unique individuals.

Hannah recently received her Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree from Oklahoma Christian University.  She will take the NCLEX later this month and begin her career as a registered nurse.  She has a full-time position waiting for her at the hospital in Oklahoma City where she has worked as an advanced nurse tech for the last nine months while completing her degree.  It would be impossible for me to fully express how proud we are of the young woman Hannah has become, the level of hard work, tenacity, and responsibility that she has exhibited in balancing school and work, and the path that she has chosen for her life.

Coleman is “aging out” of the special education program at Union High School this year and will officially be graduating next week.  While we chose not to put him through the rigors, stress, and crowds of the graduation ceremony, we were thrilled that he was included in Senior Honor Night activities at our home church last Sunday evening.  I think he sensed the significance of the occasion, and he seemed to genuinely enjoy the inclusion and interaction with others.  We remain immensely blessed by a large village of friends and church family who love, accept, and embrace Coleman for who he is.

We typically view graduation as an “end,” the closing of a significant chapter in our lives.  Graduation ceremonies serve as an exclamation point to years of academic effort and hard work and sort of tie a bow on a package that has now been completely wrapped up.  But, graduation ceremonies are also referred to as “commencement exercises.”  By definition, commencement is “a beginning, start, opening, launch, onset, initiation, inception, or origin.”  So, graduation is truly a transition, one of life’s segues from “what has been” to “what will be.”

That’s what makes graduation such a joyful time.  It’s so much more than, “It’s finally over!”  It’s about moving on with excitement and expectation into “what’s next.”  This anticipation is also accompanied by a bit of anxiety and uncertainty because it’s a road we have not yet traveled or experienced, and we’re not exactly sure what it’s going to be like.

In celebrating Easter a couple of weeks ago, we were reminded that, because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ and the victory that He was granted by the Father over the grave, our attitude toward death has been totally reoriented and recalibrated.  Jesus “rendered powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and freed those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives,” (Hebrews 2:14-15).

The fear is gone.  Death isn’t terminal.  Death doesn’t win.  Death is not the end!

Death is the ultimate graduation.  It marks the end of one phase of our existence and serves as a transition to another.  Death is the “commencement” of something better; far better; infinitely and eternally better!

Understandably, there is a level of anxiety about death simply because we haven’t passed that way before, and we have some questions about the particulars of our eternal state. But, there is no fear; only joyful expectation.

Keep living in preparation for your last, greatest graduation.

The class reunion is going to be incredible!

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