On September 4, 2020, Durand Rice, Landmark alumni and current Dean of Middle School Students, delivered the Convocation message for the Class of 2021.
As Dr. Mike Bedosky, Landmark high school principal, declared by way of Rice’s introduction, “To many, he is known as a good man, to those who know him well, he is a great man.” Coach Rice embodies what it means to be a Landmark War Eagle through servant leadership. He relates to students through a posture of humility and compassion; he empowers by way of encouragement and accountability. He demonstrates respect by being respectable and respectful of each student.
It is easy to think we can shape the circumstances around us, but we come to know Jesus uses circumstances to shape us.
The convocation service began with our 2021 graduating class standing on the field and turning to applaud their parents that were seated in Thorn Stadium. An acknowledgment that time flies and will continue to. The challenge is ours to slow down and listen - to lean not on our understanding. God is always there, with us, guiding and directing us. The choice is ours as to whether we will reach out to Him and accept His direction in our lives.
We are grateful for our families and the Landmark family. According to Coach Rice, "family" means "always having people in your corner."
The day Coach Rice was asked to give the Convocation message, he got stuck in a traffic jam in Douglasville. "Thankfully, I didn't have to pull out a map or stop at a gas station to ask for directions. I flipped on my GPS and chose the ‘quick option’ - it started directing, and I started listening."
Coach Rice obeyed - as he U-turned, he flashed his lights to the people behind him. “Follow me, let's get out of this jam!’ GPS ordered, and he trusted the voice...for a minute. "Make a U-turn, Left, Left, Left, Right." And he ended up right where he had started, except 15 cars further back.
"So I switched off the GPS, determined I knew what was best - I would find my way out of this mess." He took a right turn, right turn, left turn, lost. He continues, "And then, out of nowhere, I hear 'Route Guidance' will begin."
He ended up on a gravel road. It did not make any sense, but he decided to trust the voice. The road was dark, long, and bumpy. In the middle of all this, he said, "I have no idea where I am headed." Coach Rice trusted the voice of GPS nevertheless.
He was reminded of the voice of God. "On that quiet, dirt road, I started telling God I was sorry for all the times I dismissed Him, like the GPS in my life. I was sorry that the only time I turn Him on is when I need Him," he said. In life, we default to comfort and self-assuredness - a tendency to lean on our understanding. That is human. Coach Rice continues, "but when frustration creeps in, there is God, to remind me – things aren't so bad, I'm not lost. Even when I thought I flipped off the switch and decided to go my way, God was still there, ready and listening – ready to step in. All it took was an admittance that I was lost."
In life, we often feel as though we are alone at the wheel - stuck in traffic. These can feel like lonely times, but we are never alone. God never leaves us. The temptation to defer to auto-pilot, and fall asleep to God's will and movement in our lives is ever-present. We stop listening and turning to Him. We stop following His will for our lives.
He loves us anyway. God already has plans to prosper us and not to harm us. God is always available and ready for his "route guidance" to begin. All that we need is a willingness to let Him take the wheel.
"It is never too late to follow God. He meets us exactly where we are in life. It doesn't matter if you are a fisherman, doctor, tax-collector, athlete, lawyer, teacher, actor, you are good enough, just as you are, to follow him. You always have what it takes. God never leaves us; we stop following Him. He already has plans to prosper us and not to harm us. God is always available and ready for guidance to begin." (Coach Rice)
A Challenge to the 2021 Graduating Class:
"What we are living right now, will most likely take center stage of history and become lessons for future generations. We can't change what has happened over these past several months; we can choose how 2020 ends.” Coach Rice continues, “Choose Love. We cannot always control what happens to us, but we can forever control how we respond. While hate divides us, Love unites.”
God is Love, and Love never fails. As you prepare this year, to go out into the world, if you are ready to Love – then you are prepared to impact the world for Jesus Christ.