5/29/16 - Graduation Sunday - Kaci Lehman

The Bridge Life Connection    Sunday, May 29, 2016            Graduation Sunday

Speaker: Kaci Lehman, soon-to-be freshman at Messiah College

Our very own High School Senior and Bridge Intern, Kaci Lehman, brings a Graduation Sunday message about fear and new beginnings. We are so proud!

Introduction by Chip Hitz:

Well, it gives me great pride for the second time in this year, and I know that has to be a record, that we have a youth leading a life connection. Kaci, as I told you before, is a natural-born leader, but she's also a wonderful speaker. And you just see the seeds in her growing and really coming to fruition, and it's just, it's been amazing to work with her. She's going off to college this year at Messiah, and she's going to take some of the talents that she's learned here, and they're, that's a lucky school to have this young lady coming. And I know her family is very proud, and we here at The Bridge are just as proud of all of our seniors, and what a wonderful job. Please give it up for Kaci and her life connection.

[Applause]

Kaci Lehman:

Thank you, Chip. As he said, I'm Kaci. This is actually my last Sunday as an intern. I've been an intern the entire school year, so I think it's kind of cool I get to go out giving a life connection. If you've noticed the paper on your table, those are for you to write messages for any of the seniors you want, and then there's mason jars over with all the cupcakes, so you can go ahead drop them off when you grab a cupcake or whenever you'd like. I know there's only Sharpies on the table, so if you write with a Sharpie on the table, just be careful, or if you have a pen you use. So you can do that. And I know not all the tables have a ton of paper, so you can find a piece somewhere. Also, on your way in there was a table full of rocks, so if you didn't get a rock, I would like to make sure you get a rock for today's life connection. They're all different and cool, which is really awesome.

Like I said, I've been here the past year and since this is my last Sunday and I'm a senior, this means I'm about to graduate. When I think of graduation, there's the gowns, the caps, there's pictures. More and more selfie sticks each year. I'm hoping that there'll be sunshine, but with Pennsylvania and the rain, I don't think will be, but these are all things that come to my mind when I think of graduation. And when you think of graduation, there's the definition in the book and my definition. This is the definition that you can find online when you Google "graduation" and get it from a definition web site. The official graduation definition is: the receiving or conferring of academic degree or diploma. The action of dividing into degrees or other proportionate divisions on a graduated scale. So that's what graduation is. That definition is accurate, very true, we are graduating and moving on.

But my definition's different. Graduation for me is a time of nostalgia, fear of the future, and decision making. A time where I need...well, when one realizes they need to figure out their life. Besides figuring out what to do with your life, the part that sticks out to me the most would be the fear part. Fear of the future.

My first point today...I'll have three points and then five steps in there. I'll try and guide you the best I can. My first point is "Why do we fear change and the future?" Let's start with the basic: Change is to make or become different. We fear change because fear is, like, change is something we don't know. When we don't know what's going to happen, we're scared. It's quite simple. Fear focuses on the negative, however. Different, scary. Something's different, and we tend to fear it. A lot of different fears can happen.

I'm going to read a quote from Thich Nhat Hanh {Vietnamese Zen Monk} on fear. "Fear keeps us focused on the past or worried about the future. If we can acknowledge our fear, we can realize that right now, we are okay. Right now, today, we are okay and our bodies are working marvelously. Our eyes can still see the beautiful sky. Our ears can still hear the voices of our loved ones." We're all okay as it says. I like the part where it's like we're still alive, we can still see the sky, we can still hear. We put our trust in the wrong place. We trust in what we already know. We trust in the past, we trust in the future, and we don't worry enough about what's happening right now. Like I know me, I've been working two jobs all the time this summer to try and save for college, and sometimes I just think I need to slow down and just appreciate what I have now because right now I'm still home, I'm still around my friends, so I think that's a good point. Sometimes you have to stop and breathe and remember what you're doing right now instead of what's happened and what's going to happen in the future. Okay, so we fear change, we fear the future, now what do we do?

That brings me to my second point, which is "How do we let go of this fear?" And my simple answer is: you let go. Now, you might be like, "Kaci, I know this is only your second one, but you normally give a little bit better answer than 'You need to let go.' That's three words." So this is where the 5 steps come into place.

And the first step I have is: Name your fear.

In order to overcome your fear, you need to understand what the fear is. Fear is natural; fear is very human. Everyone fears something. Now it's time for you to actually name your fear; that's why you have the rocks. And the favorite part about this is that every fear is different, and every rock is very different, as I saw when I went over there. So we're going to take about 30 seconds and just on one side of the rock, go ahead and write your fear, one of your biggest fears, or the fear you think about most right now. During graduation, I know, failure. Some of the top tens are like loss of freedom, rejection, failure, the unknown, pain, judgment, and spiders for sure. It's gonna take time and write on your rock. There are Sharpies on the table, so if you need to pass it around, just take your time. Okay, you guys can continue to write quietly. You guys actually stayed pretty quiet compared to what I thought would happen. So you're just going to keep writing, and I'm going to keep going.

Step 2 of the 5 steps to overcome your fear would be: Learn about the real risk.

Now, while researching some statistics on this, I learned the Internet is for to find incredible things, but one thing, well, I'll get to the statistics part then. I love that word. Okay. Learning about how real a fear can be can help ease it if you learn about how likely it is it might happen. It can make you feel better if like, oh, well, there's like one in a million chance it might happen to me. I don't need to worry all day about it. I remember Justin {Douglas, pastor} was talking to me on Thursday about how when he flies in a plane, he gets super, super nervous and scared, but when he drives his car he doesn't worry, but the statistics show that when you're driving...say, like, I'm driving down the street to a grocery store real quick. The chances of me getting hit are more likely than flying in a plane. Which I think is kind of crazy, because planes are in the air, so I understand Justin's fear. I haven't been on a plane, but I think it's kind of weird to think about and I think it's an example, a good example also of how fears are irrational. We focus on "Oh my gosh, this plane is going to fall and crash," but we don't think about the fact, like, okay, but that's crazy…I don't need to worry about that. So learning about the real risks, so I say if you're scared of something, just learn more about it and continue to make yourself understand what the real fear is.

The next step is kind of what we're in the process of, which is the Power of visualization.

The power of visualization is taking place right now as I said. At this time, you're going to flip the rock over and then we're going to write something on the other side. There's tons of options, so you can either write a word like 'courage,' 'strength,' 'God,' something personal that helps you when you think of your fear. I also have three verses. I know the entire verse is not going to fit on that small rock obviously, so if you just want to write the name of the verse on the other side, you can. I'm going to go through each verse as slowly as you take time to write on your rock.

The first verse is my favorite actually: Isaiah 40:31. "But those who trust in the Lord will find His strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint."

The next verse is Joshua 1:9. "This is My command: Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or discouraged for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go."

And then the final verse is Matthew 6:34. "So don't worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today's trouble is enough for today." I think that one's kind of funny.

Anyway, so those verses are also in your program that you got on the way in. So if one of the first ones, you're like, oh, I want to put that one, then you can just look in your program and they're all listed. Or like I said, you can write whatever personally helps you because this is your rock, and your rock can be whatever you want your rock to be.

The next step in the 5 steps would be number 4: Take baby steps.

If you're living with a fear that can cause no more harm to you, then your best bet is the 6 small steps. If it's like something really major, then maybe you need to worry about it quicker, but the best way is to take baby steps. And one of the biggest examples for that is public speaking. Start with a group of people and work your way up. But I'm going to tell you right now it's a lot harder talking in front of 3 people than a whole room because I presented this to Justin, Chip, and Renee the other day. It's a whole lot scarier when you just have 3 people right in front of you. So you might want to think about public speaking a little bit differently than baby steps. But for example, taking small opportunities like this, if you would've asked me to do this in sixth grade, I would've given you a really crazy look or something. I've never been one to talk, but I've always done small things at The Bridge. Like when we've gone to Philly, I've come back and given, like I've answered questions Bryan {Hoke} had for me and I've given announcements now and then throughout my time here as a youth and now I've taken a baby step, another baby step, and now I'm up here giving a life connection, which kind of felt like a leap, but it was a baby step I think somehow. So the next step is to take baby steps. There's no rush to conquer your fear by tomorrow. Just, it's a continual process, and with God's strength, you can do that.

Which brings me to my final step, step number 5 which is: Use God to fight fear.

This is the one, this is obviously the most important one, which makes it the hardest for me to talk about. It's just crazy for me to try to put into words how amazing God is and how trustworthy He is and how He's always there. We’re never alone. We don't have to fight these fears alone. And even in the Isaiah verse I used, it says, "But there's enough trust in the world to find your strength. They will soar high, they will run, they won't grow weary, they will walk." It's a lot of wills and it's a lot of absolutes, which, for a time, for example graduation where there's a lot of things in the air like going into college in the fall. Absolutes can be very helpful in keeping you together. So I like to think of the absolute that God's always going to be there. And earlier the question they answered of 'What will faith do for you?' Faith, I think, keeps us together when you focus on it enough. And when you use God to fight the fear, it is a battle I guess you could say, but it's not a battle one-on-one, it's a battle two-on-one, and in the end you have a God that's worth way more than one person anyway obviously. So while you may be scared of something on natural instinct, it's natural, but you don't have to take all day long worrying about it. You don't have to take all your life. You have time to look to God, pray on God. Prayer is very powerful. Even this morning, it was stressful practicing and I was really nervous. I'm like, I was forgetting, I wasn't forgetting the notes but I was like, they're slipping from my hands. I don't think Billy understands what I meant. He was like, here, it's just… I'm like, no, it just means I'm nervous. I just took time to pray. I went to the back, and I was going to go over my life connection a lot and just keep repeating it, but then I was like, I just need to pray. And I think that helped a lot, even with my song. I still messed up, but I think prayer is very powerful and along with that, meditation. I think often enough I forget to do this. I don't take time to do this as much as I should, but meditation, just spending time alone with God every day. Just putting a half an hour to the side to spend alone with God can be hard to do, but it's very powerful and when you take the time to do it enough and work on it and take it seriously. Like I know some people take a walk, but you can get distracted, so whatever works for you. Meditation is very powerful, and overall God is very powerful.

So I just want to go back and restate my 5 steps. My 5 steps are:

1.     Understand your fear.

2.     Learn about the real risk.

3.     The power of visualization.

4.     Take baby steps.

5.     Use God to fight fear.

Using God to fight fear is definitely the most important. So once you name it, you learn about why you fear it, you visualize it, you take steps to get better, and then you use God to fight fear. And I almost think that should be the first one because you should do that the whole time. So I just thought I'd put that out there real quick.

So that brings me back. Those are my 5 steps and back to my third point I made is: What do we do once that fear is gone? To me, this is the most exciting part. When your fear is gone, you're done, you're set free. You don't have to fear. I think I'm, I don't want to say I'm exactly over my fear of spiders, but I don't jump as much anymore. I just kind of leave the room. So maybe that's still a baby step, but once your fear is gone, once you've worked on it, I think it's hard to say exactly when a fear is gone. I'm not sure. I'm only 18, so I'm not sure if I'm exactly over a fear per se, but once you're done, you're set free and you can take the next step. You can turn the page. Most importantly, you can thank God. You can turn to Him and be like thank You for being by my side. It's an important time. I think it's important to thank Him as much as we ask from Him and just continue to thank Him from all we ask for Him and then we can continue to fight other fears and continue to grow. It is through His strength His strength we can do wonderful things like overcome a fear.

I'm going to end with a quote. It's by Franklin D. Roosevelt: "The only thing you have to fear is fear itself." I think that's a great quote to end with because you don't have to fear what you fear, you just have to fear the fear. And once you get over the fear {laughs}, you'll be okay. I hope that made sense! I think I said a lot of 'fears."

But anyway, I'm just going to end in a prayer so if you don't mind praying with me real quick…Dear Lord, this is really crazy being up here. Thank You for bringing every single person in this room here today. I pray that we all come to You with our fears. I pray that we all find our strength through You to overcome those fears. I pray that we understand it's okay to have fears, too. It's nothing wrong, it's normal, but I pray that we understand it's important to overcome those to get closer to You. I pray for all the seniors, I pray for all the kids moving up, I pray for all the kids about to enter a year where they’re about move up. For example, any juniors we have that are about to experience senior year. There's no way to describe it until you experience it yourself. I pray that in the fall everyone finds a new home in their college and continues to grow in their faith. You've blessed us with a lot of amazing youth here, and I'm really honored to be on this stage in a church with other seniors. I've had some great memories with them. Going back to the song I sang earlier, Just Be Held, "So when you're on your knees and answers seem so far away," just remind us that when we're at our lowest, that You're still there, You're still holding us, which I think is an important thing to remember. When we're leaving for college, we're leaving what we know. We don't have the same sense of a home we used to. We don't have mom and dad to turn to every time or that best friend who's going to be a couple miles away now from us. We don't have that anymore, but we still have You. So, continue to hold us, and I pray that everyone in this room takes away from the message that I gave today. I pray that we all connect to it somehow because even though it's graduation Sunday, we all have a fear and while the graduates are fearing the next step in our chapter, we all have a new chapter starting, we all have a new day, we all have something new in our life that we can relate to having fear for. So I just pray for everyone in this room, and I pray that, pray that we all take something with us. In Your name, amen.

I just want to say real quick {emotional/tearful} thank you guys for {applause}…I've really been trying to hold back this entire time. Thank you for giving me a home the 10 years I've been here, and this internship has provided me with a lot. Thank you Stef {Solis}, and I've grown close to so many people this year, so I'm just really thankful that you all could be here. And I'm glad…I'm not going anywhere, I'll still be here this summer, don't worry {chuckles}. But I'm really glad that The Bridge was my home, especially during my senior year. So thank you. Next we're going to do Taking Chances, and this is Leanne's song. And like she said, she's been here for about a year and I know we all love her voice, so take it all in.

Thank you.

{Applause]