We each have a life story, penned without ink, read by the people around us. Who's writing your story?

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Yes, You Can!

"Chug, chug, chug. Puff, puff, puff. Ding-dong, ding-dong. The little train rumbled over the tracks." Before bedtime this past weekend, our little grandson asked me to read The Little Engine That Could! Written by Watty Piper in 1930, it's a delightful story with a positive timeless message that somehow appeals to the kid in all of us. 

An engine breaks down pulling a train loaded with dolls, toys, and good food for all the boys and girls on the other side of the mountain The little toy clown flags down passing engines to ask for help. The new passenger engine insists he's too important. The strong freight engine can't be bothered to help such a little train. The old rusty engine sighs, "I must rest my weary wheels." 

Finally, a perky little blue engine rolls up, and although she's never been over the mountain, she's eager to help and give it a try. As she slowly begins to tug the toy-laden train up the mountain, she chants the famous lines, "I think I can. I think I can. I think I can." She finally crests the top and coasts down the other side with a smile. "I thought I could. I thought I could. I thought I could."

Makes you feel like maybe you, too, can conquer mountains for the benefit of others, even when you feel small and inadequate.

Piper's tale reminds me of the story of The Good Samaritan in Luke 10. When several religious leaders encounter a man who's been robbed and beaten on the roadside, they pass on by without a second look. The most unlikely candidate takes the risk and makes the effort. He doesn't think about all the reasons he can't help: race, time, inconvenience, fear, financial sacrifice, etc. His "I think I can" attitude brings hope and healing - and makes all the difference in the story.

It's all about attitude. When we think we can't, it affects our performance negatively. When we think we can, we often accomplish far more than expected. We may even find ourselves encouraging others over their mountains of difficulty and distress. I want to be like the little engine that could, don't you? Positive, kind, helpful, hardworking, willing to take a risk. A first century writer put it this way, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me . . ." (Philippians 4:13).

Yes, you can!

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Reflections From a Button Box

Last week, my dad noticed one of his shirt buttons missing, one belonging to his button-down collar. "I dug around and found Mom's button jar," he told me. "And I think I found two that match pretty well."

Dear Dad. Nine months ago now, Mom slipped into a better world, leaving behind her husband of over 56 years. She'd be proud of him. When I go over to the house, I notice that he's kept up their cleaning routine along with all the other housekeeping chores they did together. He's learning to cook a little, and he even irons his shirts. Thus, the missing button discovery.

The next day, when he came for dinner, he brought his shirt and two buttons. My button box did not reveal anything better, but as I threaded a needle my mind flooded with memories.

"Do you know where this tin box came from?" I asked Dad. The next few minutes found us chatting about our next door neighbor, a dear sweet lady who always spoke a kind word. She'd given my sister and I Peanut Butter Puffs for Christmas one year - and I kept the tin. A perfect place to collect buttons. Then I shared this story:

During sixth grade
when the bus stopped at the corner for the first time
and locker-lined hallways stretched on like railroad tracks
and first period swimming lessons became mandatory . . .

During sixth grade
when boys and girls found themselves caught between
sunny days of kickball and clouded contests of relationship and SATs,
when girls went back and forth between sneakers and high heels . . .
Mr. Heaton taught science.

It seemed a day like any other
except he tore a piece of paper into square bits
and sprinkled them like white confetti on the floor.
"So the cleaning lady has something to do."

As my eyes followed the last of the fluttering cascade,
I thought of the only cleaning lady I knew, the lady who lived next door.
With snowy hair, too-thick glasses, and a smile
that warmed you like hot cocoa on a chilly day,
she walked to the neighborhood elementary school every afternoon.
Mom said she worked hard.

During sixth grade, 
a shadow fell.
I took off my sneakers. 

"I'll never forget that day," I told my dad. "I guess part of growing up is realizing that people don't always live up to our expectations. Even people who are supposed to be role models."

I finished the sewing job, then added, "Every time I get out my button box, I think of Mrs. B. and that day in my sixth grade science class."

Expectations. They're tricky, I think. Shouldn't we have some expectations, especially of people in responsible positions? Yet, we're all human . . . very human. We often find ourselves disappointed in each other - and even in ourselves. Would you agree?

Perhaps the writer of Psalm 62 grappled with expectations when he wrote, "My soul, wait only upon God . . . for my hope and expectation are from Him. He only is my Rock and my Salvation; He is my Defense and my Fortress, I shall not be moved" (verses 5, 6, The Amplified Bible).  

Reflections from a button box . . . What comes to your mind when you think of expectations?

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Peace in the Midst of Brokenness

Every once in a while I run into something that not only catches my attention, but I find myself going back to - to reread, to think about, to try to remember. Last week, a wonderful friend emailed me a post I've returned to multiple times (below). She and her husband have faced some serious health challenges lately. It has not been easy for them. Yet I sense a peaceful spirit in her correspondence. It blesses me.

Peace. Isn't this something we long for?

The following post by Scotty Smith is a prayer about peace based on Isaiah 26:3, 4. "You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord God is an everlasting rock." 

A Prayer for Peace in the Midst of Broken Stuff

"Most kind and trustworthy Father, you haven’t promised us a storm-less, hassle-free, disappointment-empty life. You offer us no formulas for decreasing the probability of sad things happening around us, or disruptive things happening to us. But you have promised something that transcends the predictable uncertainty of life—your peace." READ MORE.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

When It's Okay to be Different

How do you feel about being different?

We can get by with being a little different, but anything too extreme is . . . well, different. Different infers a minority. And the majority usually wins. Or so it seems. In Beth Moore's words, we derive "a strange sense of security from sameness."*

This past week I read about a man who had "a different spirit in him." Why? Because he rose above the fears of the majority.

The man's name? Caleb. His assignment? To spy out enemy territory. He and eleven others spent forty days on a secret mission. Hiding. Watching. Listening. When they crept back to their base camp, people gathered around, curious to hear what they had to say about this "land flowing with milk and honey."

The majority of the spies, ten of them, focused on the large fortified cities they saw. They told of "a land that devours its inhabitants" and how they felt "like grasshoppers" because of the "men of great stature." Their report stirred up an uprising. Fear gripped the people. They cried and complained. They schemed to find a leader to take them back to the land of slavery.

Caleb and his friend, Joshua, brought a different point of view. They spoke of this "exceedingly good land" with confidence that the Lord would be with them and bring them into it. "Do not fear," they begged the people. But the voice of the minority remained unheeded. 

This story, found in Numbers 13 and 14, brings to light a lot about attitude, don't you think? All twelve of the spies witnessed the same thing. But their perspectives couldn't have been more opposite.

One of our daughters teases me about being "sunny," one who sees the positive side of things. Actually, I wish it was true more of the time. Sometimes we all feel overwhelmed by giant circumstances and walled cities of insurmountable odds. Putting our fears in perspective and placing our confidence in  the Lord's presence may seem a little different, a minority viewpoint perhaps, or even "sunny." Yet He promises to help in time of need and give us peace. 

*Whispers of Hope: 10 Weeks of Devotional Prayer, page 5.