Scottish or American Graduation?

There are few places where the contrast between Scotland and America is more pronounced than High School graduations.

My American friends will be appalled to hear that when I finished High School, the bell went and I simply walked home never to return. No speeches, no farewells, no party, no banquet, no graduation ceremony, no diploma, no nothing. Teachers said nothing. Principal said nothing. Even my parents said nothing. It was just like any other day at school – except you didn’t go back again.

I remember the great joy of taking my school uniform off for the last time. But that was about the limit of the “celebration.” I think the feeling was, “You’ve finished High School? So what! You’ve done nothing yet. Now you start to prove yourself.” You wouldn’t dare call it a “graduation.” That was reserved for finishing university.

Shocked Scots
My Scottish friends will probably be appalled to hear the American contrast. Two of my sons just “graduated,” one from a Christian school, and one from an online school.

The one who finished High School seems to have been graduating for weeks. There was a one-week trip to Washington D.C., a banquet, a school awards ceremony, a public graduation ceremony, a limo trip to a graduation meal (yes, another meal), a graduates’ day at an adventure camp, and then the uniquely American “Open House.” (More of that in a moment).

The graduation ceremony was quite a grand occasion: full gowns and caps, diplomas, stage presentation, three gifts, a choir, a commencement speech, a valedictorian speech, and numerous other speeches too.

Graduation 1

Open House
I’d never heard of an “Open House” before coming to America. For the benefit of my Scottish readers here’s a summary. Basically, you open your house for a specified 2-3 hours and invite all your school friends, family friends, neighbors, and anyone who’s special to you. (In our case, it was on Saturday and probably about 250 people turned up between 4-7pm).

The family puts together a couple of presentation boards with lots of pictures of the graduate from earliest years up to the present. Guests have a good laugh at the evident changes in both the kids and the parents! There’s a box for cards and gifts, which often produces a welcome cache of dollars for upcoming college tuition and expenses. Guests are then fed, watered, and cream-caked, and hang around chatting for anywhere from 15 minutes to a couple of hours.

Life photos

We were blessed with a beautiful day and used a marquee to provide a bit of shelter in the 80 degree heat. It’s quite an operation; Shona’s probably been preparing for it for two solid weeks. Don’t know where I’ll get the energy for my last son’s graduation in 17 years time!

Open House

Proud Kids?
At this point, my Scottish friends have probably stopped breathing. Some will be shaking their heads: “They’re mad. Murray’s turned his back on Scottish common sense. He’s betrayed his culture. Celebrating High School graduation? With all that razzmatazz? Kids will think they actually achieved something. It will go to their heads…”

Honestly, I would have said that myself a few years ago. And yes, there are excesses; although Dutch Reformed people keep it pretty sane and sensible compared to some Americans.

However, I’m now a convert (or apostate, depending on your accent). I’ve been to a good number of “Open Houses” over the last few years: friends’ kids, kids in my congregation, etc., and I love them. There’s a wonderful community spirit as the church family gets together to rejoice in another child getting to a significant milestone in their lives, to encourage them to remember the Lord in their youth, and to serve Him with the rest of their lives.

Can it inflate their egos? Make them proud? Tempt them to think they’re something when they’ve still got a lot to prove? Yes, yes, and yes. But given the choice between being overly cynical or overly celebratory, being too Scottish or too American, I’m going to spend the rest of my days risking too much happiness.

Family Photo

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Marriage Boom in The UK

Despite the homosexual/transgender/poly-everything juggernaut, The Daily Telegraph reports some good news for real marriage that probably won’t get a lot of media attention. In Marriage Boom As Britain Experiences The Feelgood Factor we read:

The number of weddings in England and Wales jumped by 5.3 per cent in 2012 to more than 262,000 – the highest level for a decade and one of the biggest single increases since the early 1970s, according to the Office for National Statistics.

But analysis by the Marriage Foundation think-tank concludes that the true increase could be as much as 11 per cent when estimates for the number of couples flying abroad to get married are taken into account.

In percentage terms that would be the biggest rise since the surge in weddings when British servicemen returned from war in 1945.

Coupled with the biggest year-on-year jump in the number of church weddings for more than 30 years, family lawyers said it pointed to a revival of support for a “traditional” image of marriage.

Now, isn’t that something to celebrate? No, it’s not perfect, and yes, it’s a long way back, but let’s try to break out of the depressing cycle of constant criticism of moral trends and rejoice in any indication of God’s continuing grace to our world.

The report suggests a number of reasons for this “boom,” including an improved economy and even the “William and Kate” effect.

Ultimately though, it’s God, isn’t it. So, let’s not despair, let’s not give up, let’s not retreat, let’s not stop praying, let’s not stop advocating and lobbying.

Above all, let’s keep marrying (once each), multiplying (as many as you can manage), and modeling family life. If we do, the contrast between happy “traditional” families with the disintegrating and dismal alternatives will be increasingly shocking and stark and will be the most powerful argument in the world.

This report makes me hope that before too long people will yet come to their senses and will look back on these last 10 years of “redefinition” and wonder, “What were we thinking?”

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Don’t quite know why, but this made me cry.

Good News For Bad Kids

It’s that time of year I used to dread as a child (maybe even more as a parent), the time for end-of-year school reports when teachers issue reports on the progress of their students in various subjects.

The last couple of days we’ve been looking at Jesus’ report card in Luke 2 verses 40-52. There, we find the heavenly Father’s assessment of His Son in the most important subjects of life. No, not Algebra, English, History, etc., but obedience, teachability, and love.

Maybe, like some others, you felt convicted and condemned by such a profile. “I wasn’t a godly child….I’m not even a godly adult….I still fail in all these areas.”

Or perhaps your parents gave you the articles to read and you said, “Right, I’m going to try much harder today. I’m going to obey perfectly, learn perfectly, and even love my brother.”

Hmm, how’s that working out for you? Didn’t last long, did it? You probably feel more ungodly than ever don’t you?

I have a bit of good news for you. Four bits, to be precise.

Christ’s life for us: I used to dream that maybe one day the teachers would get mixed up and mistakenly send me home with the class genius’s report card. With Christ’s coming, that dream has come true and is even better than I could have imagined. Jesus lived the perfect childhood, the perfect life, that we did not, are not, and cannot. He then puts our name on the top and says, “Take it to Father.” And that’s not a mistake.

Christ’s death for us: But what about all my tardies, demerits, suspensions, lines, expulsions, etc? You can’t just kid on they never happened, can you. No, Jesus doesn’t whitewash our sins; He bloodwashes them. He died a death that covers our failed attempts to be godly children.

Christ’s sympathy for us: “No one understands me. …No one listens to me…Mom and Dad just don’t get it…” Well, whether Mom and Dad remember what it’s like to be a teenager in a world full of temptations, Jesus does. Yes, God, knows what it is like to be a child – a baby, a toddler, an infant, a teenager, etc. He remembers perfectly, understands perfectly, and sympathizes perfectly. He gets it.

Christ’s life in us: And what about going forward? The exams, trials, tests, and temptations never stop. Wouldn’t it be amazing if we could rent a really big brain now and again? But we can have even better, because Christ promises to live permanently inside us if we build our whole lives on His life, His death, and His sympathy.

Obedience, teachability, and love don’t look so scary now, do they?

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