“For though the Lord is exalted, He regards the lowly”
Category: Short Story
Most of us have big dreams. Many of those dreams involve becoming rich and famous, winning the Powerball lottery, becoming a star athlete, or marrying a celebrity.
I hate to burst your bubble, but the odds of these types of dreams coming true for most of us are pretty much impossible.
One of my many secret dreams as a child was to become a member and sing with the Motown group, The Temptations. In my dreams, I had the dance moves down. I could sing all the parts and I wrote all of the music.
The reality was not so convincing when I would really take a look at my dance moves and listen to my singing ability in front of a mirror in my bedroom growing up.
It was not pretty.
None of it.
But the fact that I was white (that in of itself would have kept me from becoming a Temptation, even if I could dance and sing) and that I was a member of an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist church, proved that I had no rhythm and could not sing as good as I did in my dreams.
But, like many childhood fantasies, I still have those dreams every once in a while. I wake up the next morning feeling sad because I was only dreaming. But the sadness only lasts until the next dream emerges.
But there are dreams that are not tied to childhood fantasy. Dreams that God has placed in you. Dreams of what God can do within you.
As I pass people on the street, I can’t help but wonder about the dreams of the people I pass. Have their childhood fantasies been realized? Do their lives resemble anything close to those dreams, or have they taken on new aspirations?
We all dream, and the capacity for dreaming and pursuing those dreams is a gift God has given each of us.
These types of dreams come from deep inside, and they inspire us to do and be better.
They offer us significance, legacy, and a life well lived.
They put our mark on the world and prove that what we do matters.
Every person is born to pursue them; but, unlike the childhood dreams that are fantastical and out of reach, these dreams absolutely can come true.
We are on this earth for a purpose. What we do and how we live matters, not just to us but to those on the receiving end of our realized dreams.
And it matters to God.
The greatest discovery you can make is to learn what God has created you to accomplish. When you discover your purpose, pursue it with diligence, and see the effects and power of that pursuit, you experience the adventure of a lifetime!
So… follow your dreams… maybe one day you will find a place where your dreams and reality become one.
I don’t know about you but I find myself “waiting” in lines quite often.
I guess I have to find a better way to deal with it because in my 55 years I don’t deal with it very well. I just gotta to get used to it!
Lines are plentiful, whether we are in traffic, store checkout lines and waiting to get into a special event.
I’m not very good at choosing the right lines.
The “right lines” of course, are the quickest and smoothest lines.
It does not matter if I’m at the grocery store, Target, the line to get hot dogs at the game, or the line to get in or out of a parking lot; I pick the wrong line.
There is an art and a science to this.
The science of ‘line-oligy” has, to this point in my life, eluded me.
If I pick the shortest line and get in it, then immediately something happens. A guy wants to pay with a check but doesn’t have his ID. A woman wants to pay the entire $7.38 in coins, while talking on their cell phone and trying to find a coupon in her purse.
Or, it’s a shift change and the employee has to change out the cash drawer with the new checker and she is in the process of telling the replacement every single detail of her day.
I also get caught up in line checking. I look to see where the guy next to me is and base my progress on how fast his line is moving. It never fails, my line goes into ‘slo-mo’, as the longer line begins to zip along like they were on a moving sidewalk. Even if I use the reverse logic and get into one of the longer lines, then of course it remains the longest line.
So, a few weeks ago, my wife and I went to IKEA. We had wonderful lunch there and just walked peacefully through the store looking at all of the neat ideas and deals that one finds there.
We had no place to be. Just a relaxing day together. It was wonderful.
Then we get to the checkout.
For all of IKEA’s great ideas, they still have not mastered the checkout line.
My wife, who is used to my impatience when it comes to waiting in line, usually finds a way to distract me or will slip away for a few minutes so she doesn’t have to hear or see me start the breakdown of my sanity that happens when I wait in line.
She thinks I don’t know she slips away intentionally to let me deal with waiting in that line alone.
But I am aware of her tactics.
As my wife stealthily slipped away yesterday I immediately start to stress out.
Now mind you, only a mere a few minutes earlier I was slowly strolling through the store like I didn’t have a care in the world.
“Why would you choose this line??” I think to myself. “It’s the longest one.”
I begin to glare at the cashier like I’m trying to force solve a calculus equation.
I act as if it is life or death and my blood pressure rises to the point that I start to see red and then my wife calmly comes back and reminds me that it really doesn’t matter and that I just need to relax.
The truth is… waiting in line is trivial. Most of the choices we make in life are trivial. Other choices are crucial to living the purpose for which we were created. There are monumental decisions like whom you will marry, where you will live and what you will pursue in life.
The choice of which line to check out of the store should not cause you heartache. But, I’ve noticed, that it’s the little decisions in life, like choosing the wrong line that most times cause the most stress.
So I came up with some things to ponder when I am in line to help relieve the stress and anxiety that I feel.
Five Things to Ponder While Waiting in Line.
1. Find something to be grateful for and think of ways to express it.
- Gratitude, when it’s genuine and expressed outwardly, changes perspective on most situations.
2. Look for someone you can encourage.
- There is no person who does not need encouragement. I need it often. Those who I think probably don’t need it, need it more than I realize.
3. Forgive someone.
- Is there someone I need to forgive? Are the “flagrant fouls” that people have contributed to me in life still there? Even if I’m not over the hurt, I can still attempt to keep my heart focused in the right direction. That direction is forgiveness.
4. Who do I need to say, “I love you” to?
- It reminds me to say, “I love you more often.” I don’t want people I care about to wonder if I love them. I don’t want people I love to have to try hard to remember the last time I told them.
5. What am I writing in today’s chapter of my story?
- Our life is a story. Our history has written a part of our story. What am I leaving behind on my journey? The decisions I make today of how I react to situations both write my present and future chapters of my story.
This is our one and only life. This one is the only one we get. What we do with our life matters. It matters to you, to those closest to you, and it matters to God.
So I ask myself, what decision do I need to make, to write the next chapter in my story? Is there a decision that will build my faith or my strength, and in doing so write a better life story?
I want to tell a better story of my future than the story of my past.
I may not ever eliminate my stress level when I choose the wrong line. But I am trying to focus on better things than my frustration.
How about you? Are you waiting in the same lines as me?
Let’s try to do better… let’s try to be better.
Something to ponder on… until next time.
Making sense of your life is like playing one of those connect-the-dots games.
You know the kind I’m talking about. On a sheet in front of you (sometimes in a child’s activity book) you see what looks like a meaningless jumble of numbered points.
By connecting the dots with a pencil in the correct sequence a picture slowly emerges: a clown, a car or some other familiar object.
The picture is in there, but you have to connect the dots to see it.
At one point or another we all want to connect the dots of our life.
We want life to make sense. And so we look back on how our life has unfolded up to this point and we connect the dots, usually by telling the story of our own lives.
We might tell it to our family. We might share it with a friend.
Or… you do what I have done for the past nine years.
You share it with everyone. The good, the bad and ugly.
I have continually written about things that happened in my life and symbolically placed dots down and anyone who reads what I have written over that period of time can connect the dots and see from where I came and how I got to where I am today.
Sometimes it isn’t pretty.
We connect the dots of our story with a sense of direction, an ending that explains everything that has happened by connecting the dots as the road that leads to here and now.
There’s just one problem. We can only connect the dots by looking backward. We live life forward. You cannot connect the dots in the future.
To do anything at all, to take the next step in life, we have to believe that all the dots we’re about to write will somehow be connected. You have to trust in something, and in someone to connect those dots.
Some people trust in their own ingenuity or intelligence. Others believe in karma or destiny or fate or luck.
None of these approaches to the future is properly called hope.
Hope is our trust in God’s promise to connect the dots of our lives through his Son Jesus Christ.
Some people seem to be always on be on track. They seem certain of exactly where they are going and never appear to give it a second thought. They have never been seriously off track and cannot imagine that the train they’re on could be derailed or be leading to some unexpected destination.
Their track leads straight to the picture of their desired destination, or at least that’s what they believe. They are counting on “dots” of the future that have not been set yet.
They have not had an off track experience yet.
They have not had to ask: Where am I? How did I get here? Where do I go from here?
I have had such experiences. I have had off track experiences that literally have defined where I am at today. Had I not allowed God to teach me and learn what I needed to learn from difficult events in my life, my life would be a mess. The dots that I laid down would not tell a story of redemption. The view would just be jumbled dots with no definable picture of grace and forgiveness.
Life can be like that. There are lots of unexpected destinations (dots) in life: divorce, career setbacks, sickness, an unwelcome diagnosis. Some self-inflicted, some not.
The road ahead is unfamiliar. It’s not just that you have to figure out how to get to your initial destination. You’re not sure that there is a destination or what it will look like. It’s hard to say what makes for a step forward and what makes for a step back.
To return to our initial connect-the dots illustration, you can’t connect the dots yourself. That’s when you need hope to move at all. A trust that what you do next will be part of a movement forward.
Steve Jobs once spoke about the importance of connecting the dots.
This is what he said:
Again, you can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something – your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.
There’s just one problem. Steve Jobs, by all accounts, was not a man of faith. He was dogged in what you could call wishful thinking. And in fact, he did not really believe in an afterlife or any deity who was working on his behalf.
All that mattered for him was the strength of our belief in “whatever.” He was saying we should just go for it with all we have, because this life is all that we’ve got. Act as if what we’re about to do will work out.
Some of us may be able to motivate ourselves with what we know is nothing more than a lovely fiction: with wishful thinking. But none of us are Steve Jobs.
For that matter, we Christians insist that it is not the strength of our capacity to hope that matters. On the contrary, we recognize that it is the strength of what we place our hopes upon that really matters.
For example, if I am dangling from a rope at the edge of the cliff, I can be the strongest man in the world and will still fall if the rope is too flimsy to hold my weight.
God teaches us to move forward trusting in Him. He can bear our weight. He will connect the dots.
We may not always see exactly where we are headed or why this or that turn in the road will really take us somewhere we want to be.
Go forward anyway. Trust God.
We need to remember that all of these dots that we have placed in our past are able to be used to create a beautiful picture of the grace of God.
God can use all of these things we do to bring honor and glory to Him.
We just need to trust Him to connect the dots.
I woke up this morning at 4:00 AM.
I had a dream that was so real and it was a memory that I had buried and forgotten about.
In my dream, I am watching the events as they happen. It is like watching a movie that you know what is going to happen and you wish you could change the events that were about to take place. I cannot change it. The reason why the story doesn’t change is because it retells an actual event that happened in December of 1971.
Why am I waking up in a cold sweat remembering an event that took place over 45 years ago?
Here is the story…
When I was in fifth grade there was a new boy who came into our class. He was new to our school. He started about three weeks into the school year.
By that time in school everyone had divided themselves into their own social subgroups and friends. Everyone already found a place to fit in. You usually hung with two or three other buddies and for the most part everyone got along. We had all grown up together and most of us had the same teachers since we were in kindergarten.
Maybe if he had his picture in our class composite he may have been remembered by more people. He didn’t have his picture taken. He missed picture day and I probably would have forgotten all about him had I not had a life event that involved him.
Nobody played with Darrell. He was an outcast. He was alone.
He was shunned by the whole class, and you would be shunned too if you sat with him at lunch or joined him in his solitary games at the fringe of the playground during recess. It was bad enough to have him in the same classroom.
All you needed to know about Darrell was that he was filthy. Smelled and wore the same clothes almost every day of the week. Looked like he slept in them most of the time. He was loud and it seemed to my 10-year-old thinking he was trying to keep people away from him.
He was ignored and over-looked. The butt of cruel jokes and commentary that were so much of the conversations of other 5th grade boys.
I had never spoken to Darrell.
His family had moved into a run-down house just a few blocks from my own and I never once saw him riding his bike or even playing outside. As a matter of fact, I couldn’t tell you if he even had a bike.
Frankly, that’s all I knew about him. And I thought that there was nothing else to know about him.
As the Christmas holiday approached, we drew names to exchange gifts. I was happy I did not get Darrell’s name, I just wasn’t sure who drew my name.
I’m sitting in my 5th grade classroom on the last day of school before Christmas break. Mrs. Day is my teacher and I am waiting for our Christmas party to begin.
I waited anxiously and noticed that Darrell had given his tattered wrapped present to another student so I knew he did not draw my name. I saw that he received his present from another student and I waited… but no one brought me a present.
My name had been drawn by another student that was absent that day. I didn’t get a gift. And everybody else noticed. The teacher said, “Oh, that’s okay. We’ll make sure you’ll get it when we get back from Christmas.”
Bullies and time had already taught me all too well that you don’t cry in public. Stuff like that wasn’t supposed to matter. I strained to make myself look unfazed, but I remember how hot my face was and that my throat was so tight that I could barely speak.
I felt like I had just gotten a big fat rejection notice.
All the other kids started playing some game. I stood off to the side trying not to vomit.
Out of the corner of my left eye I saw some movement. I turned to see Darrell holding something out to me. It was a book-shaped box containing several rolls of Lifesaver candies. A common Christmas gift in that day. The sort of thing you grab at checkout stand when you don’t really want to think too much about the gift. That’s what someone had given him.
He put it in my hand and said, “I want you to have this.”
I just stood there. I didn’t know what to say and couldn’t have said it even if I had known. My throat was so tight I could barely breathe. Finally, I croaked, “But it’s yours.”
Darrell said, “And I’ve already gotten it. Now it’s yours. Everybody should get something at Christmas.”
I just stared at him. Not because I was at a loss for words or was afraid I would cry.
For the first time, I noticed how nice and kind Darrell was.
I tried to give it back to him. He refused and walked away and retreated to the same corner of the room where he would carry on conversations with himself and play his solitary games.
In shame that I carry to this very day, I was too afraid to say anything to anyone. I didn’t even say thank you to him. I hid the gift in my desk and tried to assimilate back into my group of friends. All the while knowing that there was a boy playing by himself in the corner that was a much better person than I was.
Now I wish I could tell you more about Darrell. I wish I could say that we had become fast friends and that maybe I had even helped all the other kids discover what a good person we had in our midst.
But that isn’t the truth. I have not one single memory of Darrell after that. I learned that his family moved away over the Christmas break. Something I am sure was something he was used to.
In time, the house that he lived in would remain empty and eventually torn down.
I returned from that Christmas break, just as concerned to finding my own place in my little world of Oak Harbor, Ohio and to avoid being the outcast and rejected.
In my own eyes, I was not enough. Sometimes I was blinded by the effort to be accepted. Envy and intimidation blinded me at other times. There were times, I was condescending or competitive or too preoccupied with my own fears and wounds and grievances.
Blindness becomes a habit.
We learn early in life to see only certain kinds of people. The ones who we think matter.
And we learn to look past or look through other kinds of people.
Those who we think don’t matter.
I suspect we fear the stretching and growth we would experience if we would see people as God sees them.
Darrell may have continued to be the ostracized loner, maybe he moved to Argentina, or been abducted by aliens. Maybe he is the homeless man I pass along the way. He may even be my neighbor that I don’t know that currently lives a few doors down from me.
He may be a doctor or surgeon that has saved many lives. He may have been a solider that selflessly fought bravely for the freedoms I enjoy.
He may have become a teacher that changed lives. He may be the guy that works at the local factory. Maybe he is the mechanic that works on my car.
He may have become a great husband and father that raised good kids. Kids that accept others who may be different from them.
I have no idea. I’d like to think that many of these options are a possibility.
What I do know is that a young boy that spent a few months in Oak Harbor, Ohio in the early 1970’s was a better human being than I was.
So why the dream?
I am coming to the conclusion that even after all these years, I still have a lot to learn about acceptance. I have more to learn about loving people where they are in life.
I still have time to become a better person. I still have a chance to get it right.
How about you?
In A Farewell to Arms, Ernest Hemingway used this sentence to declare the strength that can be found in the process of healing and mending. He said, “The world breaks everyone, and afterward, some are strong in the broken places.” He was referring to the healing and mending that takes place when people recover from the hurt and the pain that this life can give.
I have written about this very issue in reference to my mother, but there are others. I know many people who are stronger today than they were just a few years ago.
They allowed God to do His work and put in the effort to make this recovery.
This past week I was scrolling on Facebook to come across one of those “Suggested Pages” that so often appear on our feeds. I always keep on scrolling… I do not think I have clicked on more than one in the past year. But I came across one that was talking about the Japanese art form Kintsugi.
Kintsugi is the art of repairing broken pottery. Artisans mend the chips and cracks of bowls and saucers, pitchers and jars using lacquer mixed with gold dust.
Initially you might assume that the artists are trying to disguise the damage to a piece of pottery by covering it with gold leaf. But these artists aren’t trying to hide anything. They realize that the gold-infused lacquer will effectively draw the eye to the very places where the object has been cracked.
They intend to highlight the broken places. Beauty emerges from the distinctive broken places of each individual object.
In our culture today we’ve received and accepted the notion of beauty and perfection.
We prize flawless harmony and proportion.
There is the belief that flaws diminish the value of a work of art.
Not so for the Japanese.
The wear, cracks and breaks tell the story of each unique thing’s life. Beauty is not found in something’s original, pristine condition.
An object’s value lies in the life it has lived. Scars, cracks and all.
And living always comes with some wear and no small amount of damage.
Rather than hide the broken places from us, the Japanese artists want us to recognize that we are looking at a broken object that has been mended.
Mending a fragile thing reveals the deep love that its owner has for the object. It is held too dear to discard, no matter how much damage it has endured.
This is how God looks at us. He looks and see the scars. He sees the damage that we’ve done to ourselves or that has been done to us by this thing called life.
God sees… us as a work of art.
A beautiful thing.
Instead of gold dust… God uses grace to cover the cracks and to fill in the holes in our life.
In the end, grace mends broken things.
Grace abides and covers our broken pieces.
God never intended for the fragile things of this world to retain the pristine condition of a newborn. The living God meant for us to live. And living inevitably brings with it wear and breakage.
And so grace reaches its purpose by mending fragile, beloved broken things.
Christ mends the wounds inflicted on us by strangers and lovers, by family and friends, even the blunt force trauma we’ve managed to give ourselves.
None of this is magic. The really big mending projects take a lot of time and a large amount of cooperation by us.
And if the truth be told, most of the mending will take place when we pass from this life to the next.
And so, in the meantime, Jesus would very much like it if we could give ourselves and each other a break.
We are all terribly fragile and already more than a little damaged.
God loves each of us too much to even think about discarding us.
We see that God eventually mends broken things like you and me.
And the end result is… breathtakingly beautiful.
A number of years ago, I had the opportunity to go sailing with a good friend of mine.
One beautiful Spring day when we both had some time and he called and asked me to go sailing with him. I was thrilled to join him. I had sailed before and looked forward to the experience once again.
We met at the lake and got on the boat to get underway. Slowly we motored out of the inlet into the lake and then put up the sails. It was a great experience! I loved the sounds of the wind in the sails, the waves on the boat and the experience of sailing by wind power alone.
If you are familiar with Lake Erie, it’s a large lake and a great place to sail. The problem with sailing on Lake Erie is that for such a large lake is relatively shallow. On the western basin of the lake, it averages only around 25-30 ft deep. Being so shallow, if there is any real wind, it can cause the waves to swell and it can make a trip on the lake a rough one.
But not this day. We had a great time and a wonderful day on the lake.
Then it happened.
Suddenly, and really without warning, a storm came up.
It was a big one. 50-60 mile per hour winds and gusts, 5-6 foot waves, black clouds moving overhead.
Quickly the lake cleared of other boats. Within minutes we alone and we were in the middle of the storm.
Our boat was leaning with the storm winds at 50 degrees or more. The waves were washing over the deck. The skies were black. The rain was intense.
I WAS AFRAID!
But then I turned around and looked at my friend as he steered the boat across the lake. HE WAS SMILING! I couldn’t believe it. Didn’t he see what I saw? Didn’t he know this was bad?
In my amazement I yelled through the storm, “How can you smile in this storm? Don’t you see the wind and the waves?”
I heard the fear in my own voice as I said, “Don’t you care that we might drown?”
My friend smiled back and said, “You don’t understand. I know my boat. It has a 9,000 pound keel. This boat was built for the oceans. This storm is nothing! We are fine! Relax, enjoy the ride.”
Suddenly, my fear subsided.
I had looked at the captain’s face. He knew things about our boat that I didn’t.
He knew we were fine.
Within a few moments my fear turned to calm.
Because I trusted the captain I began to enjoy the ride.
Nothing had changed… the wind still blew, the rains still came, the waves still washed over the deck, but something was different… I had seen the captain’s face.
The Christian life is much like this little adventure of mine. We are often caught in the storms of life and fear for our lives, our finances, our health.
This life is often overcome by a storm when we least expect it.
I can imagine what the disciples experienced on the sea of Galilee when they woke Jesus during a raging storm and declared, “Don’t you care that we are drowning?”
I finally understood the fear they experienced.
Fears overwhelm us.
Death feels close.
Panic is in our voices.
But then, with fear growing, we look at Jesus and discover that He is there.
He is there with a look of comfort on His face and with no fear.
How can He be so calm in this storm? Doesn’t he know we are about to go down?
And Jesus replies, “You don’t understand. I know this boat. I know what I have planned for you. You are fine. I’ll bring you safely home. Enjoy the ride.”
- I am convinced that as I go through this life, that sometimes God calms the storm… sometimes He doesn’t. Sometimes He lets the storm rage and calms His child.
It’s funny how a glance at the face of our captain, Jesus, can change a fearful storm into an exciting adventure.
A look to the captain’s face can make all the difference in the world.
Before you think that posting my stat numbers is bragging… I promise you, it’s not.
I am humbled by the fact that I have been able to keep it going this long. So many blogs have come and gone over the years since I started writing.
During the 8-plus years of writing this blog, I’ve seen my reader numbers rise and fall. Sometimes dramatically. I have learned to not let statistics drive my writing. I am tenacious. Stubborn. Determined. If I think a post is good — I’ll keep putting it out there until it gets its due.
I’ve been watching “Footprint’s of a Legacy Left Behind” numbers climb.
Despite hearing repeatedly how “blogging is dying.”
I’ve seen my statistics continue to remain steady. Just about the time I think it is over and it is time to quit, I get a wave of new people reading my site.
I have always wondered what makes some sites “popular,” while others die off without so much a bang.
Most just fade away.
Sometimes, it’s because the blogger loses interest, gets busy with work or whatever else. Other times, there’s a sense of mental exhaustion. Good ideas popping when the blog began fade and there’s nothing new. It isn’t easy to write day after day.
It is one of the hardest things I have ever done in my life.
It isn’t exactly automatic, these days I don’t always have the words to say.
I always look for inspiration.
I always look for a reason to write.
Lately, most days… I can’t find a reason.
I struggle to be creative. I struggle with keeping it fresh. I struggle with writing about things I have written about before.
I find myself using titles that I used in the past. I always have to check my database to ensure that I don’t use one from the past.
Before blogging, my best writing was done with pen and paper on long writing pads. Collectively those writings were by far my best. I was a blogger before there was such a thing.
A young mind that was full of fresh ideas, stories and perspectives.
They are now gone… buried, forever lost and inaccessible.
When blogging arrived, I instantly realized I was late to the party. Like many things in my life, I came to the party and left before it started and by the time I made my way back the party was over.
Over the years writing, “Footprint’s of a Legacy Left Behind”, I have learned that I like writing. I’ve always liked it, since the first time I posted my first article.
People now read what I write. I am still not sure how I feel about that.
I have been amazed — and still am — by all of you who have dropped by.
I started this blog over 8 years ago, by myself, from nothing.
I now have accumulated over a half million visitors!
I know I’m small potatoes compared to many other sites. I know bloggers who have millions of hits and tens of thousands of followers.
For me, this is fine.
When it works… when I am inspired, it’s fun. I get to write whatever I want, when I want … or not.
No one tells me what to say or in how many words in which to say it.
Thank you for finding “Footprint’s of a Legacy Left Behind” interesting enough to visit every now and then, especially when there is so much else going on in the world.
What are my chances of making it to a million?
Only time will tell.
In the meantime, I’ll just keep writing.
This day, the disciples grieved.
They had thought Jesus was the Messiah… the Savior.
But now He was dead.
Their heads spun.
Tears overwhelmed them.
Grief was more than they could bear.
Fear hung in the air.
Jesus was dead.
Were they wrong?
But what about the miracles?
What about this Jesus who told the wind to be still and it did?
Few words were spoken.
What do we do now?
This is Saturday, the day after the crucifixion.
But just wait a few hours.
Because when the sun rises tomorrow
EVERYTHING will change.
Because when the Son rises the world would never be the same.