It's that time of year again...

High schools and colleges all over the country are graduating their senior classes and Columbus, Georgia is no different. Already I have been to two graduations, one last Sunday night and one this very evening.

Tonight's honored the students at Columbus High School, a magnet school with some of the brightest students in the state. I know several of the graduates, one of them being very special to me, Ciara Pauke.

I have known Ciara for almost two years now. Although she is a student at Columbus High, she is a regular at Shaw High's Young Life club. Ciara is one of the sweetest, funniest, brightest people I know. She has a heart for others, but more importantly, she has a heart for the Lord. Campaigners (our Young Life bible study) is richer with her presence. Her quiet words of wisdom, her smile and infectious laugh, her sincere and genuine loyalty to those whom she counts as friends all make Ciara stand out in a crowd.

As I watched her walk on to the stage at the Civic Center, I was reminded of a day much like this one in May of 2006 when I sat in that same auditorium with Ben and watched as Anna Beck and many of our friends walked across that same stage. My own graduation had occurred mere hours before and I was officially a college freshmen.

As the ceremony ended and I met Ciara outside, I couldn't help but cry a bit as I walked back to my car. Gone are the Monday nights at the trailer before Young Life. Gone are our Thursday night bible studies. Gone are the prom nights and text messages letting me know they are safely home from a night of dancing and fun. This chapter is over, but an exciting new one is at hand. There will be new nights of fun, new reasons for pictures, and definitely text messages warning them to be safe as they hang out with friends.

Tomorrow morning, Ciara and I will meet back at the Civic Center to watch as Mandy Mussatti (a young woman who easily fits the above description of Ciara), Logan Bourne and others graduate from Shaw High School. More Young Life friends who are moving on to bigger and better things. My prayer for them is that they would "Trust in the Lord with all their hearts and lean not on their own understanding. Acknowledge God in all their ways and He will direct their paths." (Proverbs 3:5-6)

Congrats to the class of 2009!