list 3Recently I was on the campus of a school where I teach as an adjunct professor. I was walking through the student center and saw this – a massive list of that university’s graduates for this year.

It was really gratifying to see the names of people I recognized.  To a random stranger these were just 470 some-odd names on a really big page. To me they were much more.

The List wasn’t able to capture the sleepless hours, the frustrations and insecurities, and the enormous energy invested.  And that’s just the professors! (Just kidding.)

It couldn’t detail the hours of work, the sacrifices and support of families, or the poignant life stories behind each of those names. Behind every name is a story worth telling and a future worth finding. (That, friends, is why they call it “commencement” when people graduate.)

My joy was in knowing I had planted some things in some of those students and they had nourished it to a point of fruitfulness.  And what was I doing when they were celebrating this big accomplishment?

Planting some more in a future crop of leaders. And grateful for the privilege.

There are lessons in The List. For you. For me…

The Lesson of Perseverance

Some of the names on that list didn’t just endure a few years of classes, papers, and projects. Some waited for years to even get the privilege of showing up. Some went back to school at the same time their own kids were in school.  The very act of signing up for a class or program was a victory in itself of perseverance.

Oh… then came the first assignments. You want me to what?

“In due season you will reap,” Paul said, “if you don’t give up.” They didn’t. And I have a feeling you may need to be reminded of that yourself, either now or in the future.

I wish I could make perseverance sexy, or even spiritual. It’s neither. Nor is it mystical, cool, or delightful.  Perseverance is the proving ground for people who intend to be mature and live in a world of grownups. And the satisfaction it produces can’t be duplicated by Facebook likes or retweets.

Wherever it is you’re hanging in there, keep hanging. It. Will. Be. Worth. It… in unspeakable ways.

The Lesson of the Reasons

Another thing you can never capture on The List are the reasons. The reasons people showed up.  The reasons they saw it through. But make no mistake about it – the reasons are why they stayed the course.

Maybe it was a sense of calling. Maybe a sense of unfinished business. Maybe a sense of desperation in a time of changing economic realities.  Whatever the reasons were, they carry powerful influence.

So what are yours? What gets you out of bed, pushes you forward, keeps you from making stupid choices, or calls you to stay in when everybody else is going out? One thing’s for sure – if you never have a strong “why,” you’ll never finish the “what.”

The Lesson of Investing

You know that verse we quote all the time about reaping what you sow? Turns out that’s not all bad news. Just as the work I had invested in those graduates came to a place of fruition, it’s important that you know that your labor is not in vain as well.

You may be reading this having spent years dedicating your life to a service, a cause, or a set of relationships for which you have seen no results or even received a “thank you.”  But just because you haven’t seen fruit doesn’t mean you won’t.  As Paul told the Corinthians, God gives the increase. And I would add, God keeps score.

The Lesson of Discovery

The List is filled with the names of people who learned more about themselves than they ever did about theories or best practices. They confronted their weaknesses and were forced to stare deeply into the face of their undeniable strengths.  They discovered, or soon will, that their years in the furnace have refined them and left them with greater possibilities, and greater accountability, than ever before.

In other words, the discoveries made by the people on The List have left them in a place of no turning back.

How about you? When have you pressed in to address your own calling, strength, passion, or possibilities? What are you discovering these days about God, life, the universe, yourself, your destiny, or your relationships?  How tragic that people could spend years living in a world of concealed treasures that they never discover because they’re too lost in Neverland to find it.

The Lesson of Execution

At some point the people whose names are on The List had to actually open a book, submit a paper, respond to feedback, and get something done.  They didn’t make The List because they were entitled. They didn’t make it because they were better than somebody else.

In short, they made The List because when it came time to stand and deliver (or click and submit), they stood and delivered.

Some of them had very busy lives. Some had horrific backgrounds. Some spoke English as a second (or third) language.  None of them had any excuses.

Your turn.  Shut up about your disadvantages and quit whining about whatever it is that looks so hard for you. Quit puking victimhood and looking baffled while a remnant of people around you add up how many lives they get and decide to do something about it.

You stand.

You deliver.

You execute.

Need help? Fine. Ask for it. But do it with your hands on the wheel, your foot on the gas, and your transmission in Drive.


I don’t know what your list should look like and who should join you on it. But if you’ve read this far, there’s a reason.  Let me tell you about somebody I know who’s persevering, investing, and executing her way toward a list of her own.

She’s 65 years old. A church administrator. Also a District Missionary to about 22 churches which she visits at least once a year, 15 of which are in South Africa. She’s an active grandmother who just took several of her grandchildren through 19 different states. Oh, and a wife… to a 98-year-old pastor.

She has a doctorate in Law and a BA in Business Adminstration. Self-employed most of her life, she now runs tax offices in California, Colorado and Washington. She writes music, teaches Sunday School and teaches a Tuesday night Bible class.

And how do I know her? She’s pursuing a Master’s in Biblical Studies.  And she’s pursuing The List. And I get to sow into her life to help her get there.

Tell me again… what was your excuse?

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Deb Cook April 24, 2016 at 9:52 pm

Thank you for sowing into my life. It was a privilege to attend Regent and take your class. God is now bringing forth the fruit.


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