Someone once told me that there are three ways to tell if what you are doing is what you are supposed to be doing with your life. The first one was that it was something that made you happy. In other words it was something you couldn’t dream of ever NOT doing it. The second one was by an unmistakable stroke of providence the opportunity just fell into your lap, greatly improving your quality of life. And the third way was the one that I have focused on to help me grind through the years of doing things that I did not want to do in order to provide for my family. The third way was simply a lack of options. You see sometimes we have to travel the rough path in order to learn something that God wants us to know. Sometimes it is those thorns we have to wade through to continue on that whittles away the rough edges and prepares us for greater events a few more turns down the path. It is never a pleasant thing to realize, and if we had been given the choice (knowing what it was going to be like) I doubt that any of us would choose to go down that path. So if you are experiencing the thorns, or stumbling along the road think about the reason you are there. If it is because of one of your own choices, perhaps you need to rethink that decision. If it is because of a lack of options, this too shall pass. Endure and learn. It will prove useful a little farther down the road.
There is a secret that most anthropologists use in their study of different customs and cultures. That secret is the fact that regardless of how much you try to lessen the impact of your presence on your environment, you still change things just by being there. People will react differently around you. Animals will behave different than they normally would because you are there. Even if you try to hide your presence you are still affecting things around you. Wind has to change course because you are there displacing air. Even light reflects differently because you are there. You can’t change that. What you CAN change is HOW you affect things. You have two options. You can either make a positive or a negative impact. Just by keeping a positive attitude or making an improvement in the surroundings generate waves of the same type of energy all around you. Being negative will do the same, just with the opposite effect. Now some people do not care how their actions change their surroundings, because they make their changes and move on, never having to deal with the results. Some people do not realize they are changing things, and some wear blinders to how much change they cause (and a lot of times it does no good to try to explain it). I figure if I am going to make an impact on my surroundings, I want it to be a positive one. As long as we do that, life can get better for everyone. This is what Jesus was teaching with the Golden Rule. Do unto others as you would have done unto you. When you do this, you improve not only your life, but everyone and everything around you. So why not make a positive impact?
Has anybody ever seen the movie “The Langoliers”? It was based off of Stephen King’s story. It was about these people in an airplane that slip sideways in time to yesterday, only to find out that yesterday was being ‘erased’ by these creatures. The premise of the story was that there is no yesterday, no tomorrow, there is only today. Time was just ‘now’ and all that happened in the past and all that was yet to happen didn’t exist. I don’t agree with the story on that point, but I do try to live like that. The Bible clearly states that we are not promised tomorrow (Proverbs 27-and to clarify the verse refers to tomorrow in these earthly mortal frames that we inhabit). Life is a fleeting thing, and we need to do all the good that we can while we are here. There is more than enough evil and sorrow in this fallen world, we need to stand fast and be bold in helping our neighbors. Tomorrow we may be gone and it may be our neighbors who are left to save those of our loved ones that come along after us. Just one act of kindness could mean the difference between a strong, joyful life and one lived in darkness and despair. It is never a bad thing to do good.
We had a visiting preacher where I attended church at this last Sunday. His name was David Marshall. He preached on heaven and it was a huge dose of encouragement for me. One that I badly needed. Too much has transpired recently that seemed to be conspiring to steal my joy. Anyway, as I listened to him preach, something he said shot my mind off on a tangent (a writers mind has a tendency to do that(a lot of times without warning or provocation)). He was talking about an oyster making a pearl. It was that reference in context with heaven that answered a question for me that my mother had asked me years ago. She asked me why God made this world and all of us people if He knew how bad we were going to mess it up. I don’t pretend to know God’s mind. He gives us examples of what He is like in the Bible. I know the things He does for me and my family, but I know that (as a mortal) I can’t possibly understand the workings of His mind. That being said I have come up with a theory of ‘why’. People say that science and religion are mutually exclusive, but I don’t believe that is true. I think one walks hand in hand with the other. They compliment each other and one is proof of the other. That is a whole different blog post though. I mention the science to give the example of the oyster, which I believe is a perfect example of why. The why is to create a pearl. In order to create something as beautiful as a pearl a process has to be started. The inside of an oyster is extremely sensitive. So when a grain of sand or some other particle gets in there and irritates that lining, a process is started to ‘fix’ that irritation. The oyster starts building around the irritant a crystalline coating called nacre. Over time the oyster completely encases this irritant in this beautiful coating. The result is this beautiful gem that is coveted by most of the human race. I thought about that and I realized that that is exactly what we are to God, a beautiful gem, precious to Him. So I asked myself, what makes us so? What qualities is it that He loves? He names them all in the Bible at one point or another. To make a pearl, you need to start with an irritant. God did the same thing. To make us into gems, He had to place us in a unique environment, an environment where all the things that He loved would be an irritant. We either become the gems that He wanted us to be, or we turn away from Him add to the environment, which in turns makes others turn into the gems. All this was a flash of insight that God granted me during Brother Marshall’s message Sunday. I’m sure that there are problems with my comparison. If there are, it is the fault of this simple wordsmith’s inept attempt to explain something that is beyond Him. I kind of like thinking that He is turning us into something so beautiful.
I have tried to instill in my children a sense of ‘family’. What is that?” you ask. It means different things to different people. Sometimes it depends on the situation. To me it means ‘safety net’. All my children are very independent. They have shouldered their responsibilities and tried to do it all on their own. They haven’t always succeeded, but that is all part of life. If you’ve never failed at anything, then you’ve never attempted anything. I don’t look at as failure as much as learning a way ‘not to do something.’ But family is my fall back. Regardless of what happens, I know I can always come back to family. That includes extended family, adopted family, friends who share a bond deeper than words can convey. I find it sad that there are people out there that the word family means absolutely nothing. Any endeavor you undergo requires a solid place to launch from. I have worked hard to make sure that the word family means that my kids will have that launching point. Just as my parents did for me. All that I have and have accomplished is thanks to God for placing me with a loving and caring family who support me in all that I do, and are always there to catch me should I fall. Can you make it in this world without family? Yes, but I don’t envy the person who attempts it. If you don’t have a family, maybe you need to start building one of your own. It doesn’t require being married, or having children. All it requires is unconditional love and being there for the people you choose to make up your family. Life is soo much easier when you share it with family.
I heard a story once about a monkey jar trap. The basic gist of the story was that a jar was secured to the ground with a banana or some other bait inside. The mouth of the jar was just big enough for a monkey to put his hand in. When the monkey puts his hand in the jar, grasping the bait he finds that he cannot get his hand back out of the jar. All he has to do is let go of the bait and his hand would be free, but the monkey usually lacks the sense to do that and remains trapped. Sometimes I think I’m that monkey, holding onto something so hard that it keeps me trapped, unable to move forward, and unable to enjoy the ‘treasure’ that I am holding onto. Things come an go in this life. This physical realm has a lot of desirable ‘bait’ for you, but if you can’t let it go, you won’t be able to enjoy having it either. It remains stuck in the jar, held in your hand, but out of your reach. Sometimes it’s better just to let go. It’s not always the easiest thing to do, but sometimes it’s the best thing you can do.
I was discussing artwork with my family the other day (and if you know me then you know my ‘other day’ could mean any day that wasn’t yesterday), and I was trying to get some ideas for a new project. Anyway, my wife said I should do a picture of what I think the Devil would look like. That got me to thinking about it (but I haven’t done that project, I think it would be beyond my artistic abilities) and I’ve realized that I don’t think of the Devil the way most people do. Yes I believe he is evil, and yes I believe his motives are selfish and destructive, but his appearance is a completely different matter altogether. The Bible said that he was one of the chief angels, and that he was called the Morningstar. That leads me to believe he was fair to look at. Probably very handsome. I think he probably had a soothing presence about him, and an easy going manner. All of these things combined make him very deadly for the world of today. What do I think the Devil looks like? I think he has a multitude of faces, and most of them are not menacing at all. That’s what makes him scary. True evil rarely shows its real face until it is too late for its prey to escape. I try to keep that in mind as I travel through this fallen world. It reminds me that it’s a dangerous place and appearances can be deceiving.