What Do You Hold In Your Hand?

When I consider the question, I often look at what I hold physically in that moment in time. Perhaps it is the wooden spoon I am using to stir batter. Perhaps it is the iron as I press a shirt. Perhaps it is my camera, my journal, my Bible, or a favorite book.

 For Moses, it was a staff that was used to demonstrate the power of God to Pharaoh. For David, it was a sling and a smooth stone, which felled Goliath. In both these biblical examples, the things were commonplace to the men who used them and yet God used the commonplace to do something extraordinary.

 The more serious question I then ponder is what do I consider commonplace or ordinary, why do I view these things in that way, and what might they become when submitted to God?

 Gutzon Borglum looked at a mountainside in the Black Hills of South Dakota and envisioned his sculptor’s hands creating what we know as Mt. Rushmore. He used tools that were common to him along with a vision of what they could create even though it had never been done before. He saw something no one else did and created it so we could all see the wonder.

 Theodore Roosevelt in an address at Carnegie Hall in 1912 said, “We, here in America, hold in our hands the hope of the world, the fate of the coming years; and shame and disgrace will be ours if in our eyes the light of high resolve is dimmed, if we trail in the dust the golden hopes of men.” He saw something, believed something that was and also was yet to come with both the potential and the responsibility to act wisely with what had been placed in our hands as a nation.

These realities give me pause. What do I hold in my hand that could become extraordinary? What do I see that others may not see and how can I give them a glimpse of it?

 I can only answer that when I risk discovering what it is for me. Then, I must believe in what I see as Moses, David, Gutzon Borglum, Theodore Roosevelt, and countless others did, but I must also gain courage to act on it and discover in that process what God saw all along.





Mondays: A Means to Character

Mondays! They can be the best day, but routinely they are often not welcomed by many of us. We actually start to dread them on Sunday as we peek ahead into the day and try to hang onto the last remnant of the weekend and the freedom we feel when we are released from the workweek demands.

 Mondays represent a return to work or school or whatever duties are our lot in life. They represent routine, which often seems like drudgery. There are piles of one thing or another to do, whether papers, assigned reading, gardening, laundry, or other projects of one sort or another.

 Even though we have an awareness there is a need for the routine and somewhere have heard there is a value in it beyond the paycheck, the grade, or the satisfaction of stacks of clean, folded clothes or manicured lawns, we still tend to not look forward to such things. It can all feel so confining and limiting to us! It prevents us from going off in other directions more to our liking whether an exciting adventure or simply a leisurely morning in bed.

 Mondays get an unfair judgment from many of us, but we miss their value. The routine and the drudgery that pulls us away from sleep, play, and adventure are tools to mold and shape our character, helping us grow. On any given Monday we do not see growth. We do not see how the demands of Mondays and other workdays develop self-discipline, one aspect of solid character. Growth is seen after many Mondays!

 We need to recognize that Mondays shape our character and that helps us persevere in the midst of difficulty, endure in the midst of dry seasons, and stand in the midst of suffering. Character gives us the long view of things and the ability to not give up!

Character produces hope!



Extraordinary Snapshots from Ordinary Days

Thanks to cell phones and other mobile devices most all of us are capturing special moments, snapshots, to record events. I use them as well, but prefer my digital camera and my great lens to capture something that tells a story all by itself.

 I cannot recall when I got my first camera and began snapping photos. I am certain it goes back to the days of being a Brownie or Girl Scout, but when I worked as a “stringer” for a local newspaper, I began to look through the camera lens differently. I knew I could snap a picture, but could I take a photo that told (or helped tell) a story? It was then that I started to look through my camera lens differently and that quest has remained to the present.

 Our photos on whatever device we use catch moments in time because those moments are special to us and because we want to remember. I am not sure as I look at some of these in my own albums if they really help me recall or give me only a glimpse that cannot really fully bring back the memory.

 The truth is that I have discovered the most extraordinary “snapshots” take place on seemingly very ordinary days and most of them were never shot through the lens of a camera. These “snapshots” are recalled vividly and were often captured by the lens in my mind and heart when there was no camera in my hand. These seem to be recorded indelibly and are not one or two dimensional, but truly full of meaning and emotion.

 One of those “snapshots” is of my dad when I was a child as I watched him walk through a field on the farm where I grew up. I can see him clearly walk along with his straw hat and fiddle seeder. I have captured his pace and speed as well and when that “photo” comes to mind, it never fails to warm my heart because it gives me a special glimpse of him. Even if a camera had been in my hand, it could not have captured what I see through the lens within me.

 Another such “snapshot” causes relief and joy to bubble up within me as no photograph can. It is one of my 24-year-old U.S. Marine Captain walking off a plane at 6AM on an Easter Sunday morning after being separated by a war half a world away for 14 months. I see his familiar walk, his deep tan, and how thin he is, but the lens within captures something beyond that and even 48 years later brings a similar set of feelings to my heart.

 Our memories tend to be recorded almost like a kaleidoscope and sorted randomly, sometimes inaccurately. I think that is why we use our cameras so often.

 I now routinely carry some sort of camera with me most every day, but as I go through a typical day when there is no special event to capture I now pause to glimpse through the lens within. In those moments, I see things differently, better, and perhaps more clearly. Those are the very best “snapshots” and they are mine alone.



Gray Dots and Gold Stars

Max Lucado tells a powerful story about wooden people who spend their time putting stickers on each other and the impact that has on them. Those who are not performing at their best or are not so lovely get gray dots, but those who are able to do great things or appear perfect are given gold stars.

 Gray dots and gold stars. We are so often plagued by what other people say about us or think about us. The words or lack of them, the actions or lack of them, all seem to burrow down inside of our souls and leave us unsure of whether we are lovable or valuable. The pesky gray dots are not unlike termites gnawing away under the surface destroying as they go.

 As in the story, our solution to the problem propels us to try to do something amazing, to do things “just right”, to lose weight, get a new hairdo, buy a more current outfit, or learn to play tennis. We hope that in the process we will get gold stars that will somehow cover the gray dots so we will be seen as more lovable and worthwhile, gold stars that will also help us believe in ourselves more than we do.

 We care so much about what others think of us! Some of us say we do not, but I wonder how much truth there is in such a statement. At our core, we all want to feel lovable, appreciated, accepted, and desired. We spend time trying to earn or attain that from others and to help us cancel our own negative self-perceptions.

 Sadly, none of the efforts are very effective and even if they seem to help for the moment, they do not last. We continue to be haunted by whispers of doubt we carry inside. The whispers come from words carelessly spoken to us or about us from childhood onward as well as from the enemy whose skill at creating doubt was first demonstrated in Eden.

 There is only One who knows us completely and loves us perfectly. There is only One who offers grace, forgiveness, and forgetfulness for every failure. Yet, we seldom ask Him what He sees or believes about us and His Word on the subject too often stays in the chair where we read it that morning rather than being etched in our hearts.

 When He reminds me that He loves me everlastingly, I am awed and humbled.! How could He? He knows everything about me! Yet, somehow, when I listen to Him more than those who are eager to hand out gray dots or gold stars, I gain an inner knowing that I am loved, valuable, and precious by the One who created me.