(All photos are of the final choir concert that took place yesterday. I can’t adequately express to you how much joy and reward this group of 57 students has given me. I’ve been blessed to teach them, coach them and experience them…)
I’m frustrated! There are just four days left before grad and, as usual, I feel that I’ve been gypped! The past few weeks have flown by at record speed, with deadline after deadline forcing a sort of manic drive out of teachers and students, and now that it’s nearly over, I find myself with the usual uncertainty: have I been purposeful in leaving a legacy and what will it be? That concern is all the more pressing this year, as I prepare to leave BFA for a while.
“Miss Phiphi’s Rules for Living” have made recurrent appearances in graduation weeks of past years, and they’re pasted below this time too! But there are four extra rules this year—forgettably called the Four Phoenix Foundations. You see, in my yearning to leave something of substanceless substance behind, I decided to end the year in choir by giving the students four of the most important lessons this life has taught me. Granted, they’re far from a comprehensive list of wisdom to live by, but they’re a start…and with the insanity of BFA’s spring term, a “start” is really all one can hope for! Here, then, is my final “sermon” of the year!
FOUR PHOENIX FOUNDATIONS
1. If your circumstances are tough and you can do something to change them, don’t give up trying, with persistence and sensitivity, until you’ve exhausted all options.
2. If your circumstances are tough and there’s nothing you can do to change them, don’t waste precious emotional energy on wishing things were different. Instead, invest it in finding ways to live through your challenges with dignity and hope.
3. Don’t hold grudges. As long as you hold a grudge, it holds you captive. You’ll find that those who harm you will seldom apologize or accept blame. Don’t let that defeat you! If you’ve done what you can to “fix” a wrong and it hasn’t helped, do whatever it takes to live above what has been said or done to you, leaving your anger and resentment at God’s feet. Trust Him to do the convicting and punishing in a way you never could. “He does not leave the guilty unpunished.” (Num. 14:18)
4. Practice gratitude. The bad stuff will be easy to notice, but the good stuff? It will take determination and repetition to make of gratitude a new habit. Look for the small silver linings in each day: the coincidences, the tastes, sights and sounds that remind you that there is beauty all around you. My suggestion? Write down three things every day for which you can be thankful. Force yourself to identify them, as tiny as they may be—you’ll be thankful you did.
And now for the rest of the Phoenix Rules for Living–some meaningful and some just me!
- When someone shows you their true colors, believe them.
- Reserve your trust for those who have earned it.
- Toilet brush–’nuff said.
- Everything you do at home should not necessarily be done in public.
- Always, always, always seek reasons to be grateful.
- Life is a masquerade–take time to look beneath the masks.
- Say “please,” “thank you,” and “how may I help you?” as often as humanly possible.
- When in doubt, wash your hands. Seriously!
- The hardest choice is usually the right choice.
- Treat yourself as you would want your child treated.
- Part of guarding your heart is keeping it at a safe distance from anything that might harm it…don’t venture into unsafe territory and gamble that you’ll be able to resist the undertow.
- Head & Shoulders, Speed Stick, Dr. Scholl’s Foot Deodorant. Really.
- Don’t blame God.
- Nobody else is going to guess or meet your needs–pursue wholeness yourself.
- Friendship is a gift to be valued, not an exercise to be judged.
- Jealousy is possibly the most destructive of emotions—it destroys relationships and it ultimately destroys you. Don’t let it take hold!
- Whatever you might be plotting, take a moment to consider the effect it will have on others, then decide whether it’s worth doing or not.
- Don’t let honesty be a weapon you wield. Let it be the carefully spoken evidence that you care.
- Accept the mystery of God.
- Dust bunnies are not lethal. And they make cheap pets. Pick your battles.
- The only person you can change is yourself.
- Kindness, genuineness, selflessness and loyalty? Me likey.
- Expect little from others. Demand much from yourself.
- “Freckles aren’t flaws, freckles aren’t flaws, freckles aren’t flaws…” Sigh.
- In general, people aren’t weird or dumb or stupid. They’re just different than you. And that’s okay.
- Dieting is of the devil. Sadly, so are multiple chins.
- French Fries, however, are a gift from God.
- You start each day with a limited amount of energy available to you. Use it wisely.
- Exercising can cause heart attacks. But it’s safe to eat cheesecake.
- “’tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.”
- Love. Love those who deserve it and those who don’t. Love the lovable and the unlovable. Love when you feel like it and when you don’t. Love friends and love strangers. Love yourself. Love your enemies. Love life. Love God.
- Cling to hope with all your might.
- Most importantly: If you feel that God is hurting you, ignoring you, rejecting you, or neglecting you, question your conclusions—not Him.
Students of BFA’s 2009-1010 school year, you have inspired me in indescribably ways. You have galvanized, moved and challenged me… I’ve loved this year with you more than I can possibly express and I thank you for allowing my life to brush yours for these few months. May God be your deepest and greatest certainty as you leave in a few days and face whatever lies ahead.
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