Sand Castles and Vapor

Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. (James 4:14 NASB)

Have you ever built a sand castle on the beach? It’s a lot of fun and work to make all the walls and towers; you stand back to admire your toil…and the tide rolled in to wash it all away. Lately, I’ve contemplated the verse from James 4:14, realizing just how futile all my efforts will truly be in the end. So I ask myself, what am I building? When my life is over, what will be left of my life that people can point to and remember? Will it be a positive legacy or will I have left negativity and pain in my wake? I am just a vapor, but I ask myself what kind of impact will this vapor have on others. In the end, the only thing that truly lives forever is your influence and impact on people. Not how much money you made, or what kind of car you drove, or the size house you lived in, but how you influenced the people that crossed your path.

Though I know I’ve made many mistakes in my life, I pray that when I arrive at the pearly gates (hopefully a long time from now) that my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, welcomes me in with: “Well done, My good and faithful servant.” (Matthew 25:21 NASB)

REJECTED

He sat staring at the computer screen; the most recent email was pulled up and glaring back at him. He’d read the same line over and over again: “Thank you for the opportunity to read your [story]. Unfortunately, your story isn’t quite what we’re looking for right now.” Those soul crushing words that quantified all of his hard work and creativity into a couple of sentences. He slumped back in his chair; his mind transitioning from one despairing thought to another. Maybe the desire to become an author was just another misguided dream. He looked up and as if in answer to the question whispered in his mind, he shook his head defiantly.

He reached for the keyboard and punched up the next publisher on his list, unwilling to be deterred. Maybe this is what separated authors from everyone else: the willingness to keep seeking a “Yes” in spite of all the “No’s”.

Got my first rejection letter this past week for one of my short stories, but I’m not letting it dash my hopes. Pressing on for the prize. For those of you who are looking for the continuation of Rad the Pawn, I’m sorry but I’m having to push it off for now. I will get back to it so please keep visiting my blog.

I Can Still See

About a month ago I got a corneal abrasion on my right eye. As an update, I’ve just recently been diagnosed with Recurrent Erosion Syndrome due to the original injury. Just last week I had another re-occurrence which caused more pain than the first time. Some of the most debilitating pain I’ve ever experienced. I actually missed a few days work because I could not open my eyes. Thankfully I was able to get in for an appointment with my ophthalmologist and after a week of putting ointment in my eye, the pain has subsided and my vision is returning. Though I no longer have 20/20 vision and must now purchase glasses, I thank God that He is healing my eye and that my injury was not any worse. In my humble opinion, there is nothing quite like the fear of losing one’s ability to see. Yet in spite of all that has happened, I count my blessing and know that my God is watching over me. Even if I am to lose my vision entirely, He is still in control and will sustain me through it all.

Change: How to cope with it.

Some days I feel like I’m on a ship on a calm ocean day; the water is placid and the ship cruises along with barely a ripple in the water. Life seems like a dream and nothing is wrong in the world.

Other days I feel like I’m in a lifeboat in the midst of a storm. The waves pitch and turn my little boat every which way until I am completely lost and bewildered.

As each morning dawns, I thank God that I live in a free country where the people’s voice can be heard and change can occur. I know that there are people out there right now who disagree with some of the changes, myself included, yet we as a people cannot lose faith in our God or in our nation. What many people forget is that our nation has gone through periods of apathy towards God and even turned away at times from His law and His will. Yet He remains faithful in the midst of the storm and has never forsaken us. Even when our leaders chart a course out of God’s will or even the majority of our people express disinterest in Him, God remains faithful.

Faith is what helps me through difficult times of change; faith in the one person who has remained steadfast in the midst of a turbulent history. God was there in the midst of famine and drought. God was there during the worst battles in history. God was there when governments fell to tyrants. God is ALWAYS there. Even when we can’t see Him or understand why things happen the way they do, God remains in control.

“…The Most High is ruler over the realm of mankind,

And bestows it on whom He wishes

And sets over it the lowliest of men.” (Daniel 4:17b NASB)

Christianity has survived two thousand years of tyrants, false religions, anti-Christs who have misled the faithful, and many other trials that are too numerous to document here. Why? Because God is greater than all and faith in His Son, Jesus, will survive to the end of days…even if the United States is conquered or tyrants overthrow our republic, our hope and faith remains in Jesus.

This is not a call to apathy. We still should voice our opinions and take part in our democratic government, yet even when Christians find themselves in the minority just remember that our hope should be in God, not our country. Remember the Great Commision (Matthew 28:19-20): “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

(P.S. I know I said I was taking a break, but when inspiration strikes you must take advantage of it. Don’t worry. The short story will still be published here over the next several weeks!)

Is it really worth it?

The most precious commodity given to us on this earth is time. Fairly often, I stop and consider all my efforts and try to gauge what the final outcome of those efforts. For example: how much am I contributing at my job and am I compensated enough for my time and effort. Am I investing enough in my family, my friends, my church? I think about all these things quite often, but there are things that can be even more significant that I frequently overlook. Things like: have I forgiven someone for what they did, or am I still hanging on to hurt feelings? What have I done to encourage reconciliation? Are there people in my life for whom I’ve failed to pray?

Even as I am writing this blog, I am overwhelmed with the fact that there are people who have hurt me and people that I have hurt with whom I have never tried to reconcile. Sometimes it just seems easier to hold on to the hurt feelings, but is it really worth it?

Check out what Jesus says in Matthew 5:23-24, “Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering.

Jesus commands us to forgive and be reconciled with each other even before we worship Him. Why? Check out what He says in the next chapter (Matthew 6:14-15): “For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.” We are commanded to forgive; pure and simple. If we fail to forgive others, then we are disobeying God (i.e. sinning against Him). Do you ever feel distant from God, but you’ve confessed all your sins? Maybe the problem is that you still haven’t forgiven someone, or maybe you haven’t tried to reconcile with someone you’ve wronged.

Okay, I didn’t mean for this to become a sermon or Sunday School lesson, but I am burdened by this topic. I hope that if you are reading this blog, it has made you consider any lack of forgiveness and reconciliation in your own life. I truly hope you ask yourself: “Is it really worth it?”

(Next week I am taking a break, but stay tuned because I am working on a short story that will be published here over the next several weeks!)

Waiting for a Particular Moment

I sat there at my desk, the anticipation building in my young mind. The moment was quickly approaching; it was only one minute away. I stared at the clock as the teacher continued to talk despite the class’s limited attention to anything she said. None of it mattered as I watched the second hand steadily making its way around the clock face. Fifteen seconds…I had waited all morning, listening to the teacher go on and on about books and numbers until my brain literally ached from it. Ten seconds…it always seemed the closer it got, the longer it seemed to take the clock to tick off each second. Five seconds…every muscle in my body began to tense up, like a cat ready to pounce on its unsuspecting prey. The teacher seemed unconcerned as I silently counted off the remaining seconds. Three…two…one…just when I thought I could not endure one more factoid of information, the clock struck noon and the lunch bell rang. The magnificent melodious sound of the lunch bell, which signaled my release from state mandated incarceration and release to the food and fun of the cafeteria…and the glories of the playground.

Waiting for a particular moment sometimes seems like an eternity; as if time itself has been stretched to an unbearable length, turning hours into years. No one likes to wait, but some things are harder to wait for than others. One of the hardest things to wait on is God. So many times we pray for people, or events, or needs and yet God seems to remain silent. People extend well meant platitudes, yet it often brings little comfort for the person waiting. The only solace you can find when waiting is to learn to trust. The Bible says, in Psalms 27:14, “Wait for the Lord; Be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the Lord.” (NASB) It is a constant struggle to wait on God, as our human nature tells us that we should do things our way; that our timing is best and the God is constantly late. I just have to keep reminding myself that God is all knowing and as Jeremiah 29:11 states, “For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.” As hard as it is to wait, I’d rather walk with the Lord, than try to get out in front of Him. I’m not trying to be preachy, but rather to encourage all who read this of God’s grace and His love for you. Even when it seems He’s ignoring you or forgotten you, just remember His promises and His love. “Wait for the Lord; Be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the Lord.” God’s moments are perfectly planned, and worth the wait.

The Beginning…

The blank page, the most exciting and equally the most frightening thing to a new author. To this aspiring author, it was more the latter. He sat before the computer screen, the blank page staring menacingly back at him. This was it, his first blog entry as an aspiring author. His fingers poised over the keyboard…waiting for inspiration to come. The seconds passed. His fingers remained stationary, hovering just above the keys. He cleared his throat and shifted his position in the chair, and still nothing. He retracted his hands and stared determinedly at the screen. He rested his right hand on the desk and began tapping his fingers softly, feeling the gradual onset of anxiety. This was his first blog post, and he wanted it to be profound and to demonstrate his knowledge and ability as a writer. Why was this so hard? Now several minutes had passed and still the page was blank. He closed his eyes and shook his head slowly from side to side. No ideas came to mind. What kind of an author can’t even write a simple blog entry? Another thought came to him: would anyone even read this blog once he did figure out what to write? He stood up and paced back and forth across the room. Perhaps inspiration would come if he moved around a bit. He made several laps across the room, but inspiration remained elusive. He paused and looked towards his desk. A baseball sat on the corner nearest him. He picked up the ball and turned it over in his hand. The logo read The Captains, a minor league that used to play in Shreveport Louisiana; his first baseball game. A smile spread across his face as the memory of the game came back to him. He tossed the ball up in the air and caught it. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath. No, he didn’t want this to be a sports blog. He replaced the ball and continued to pace. His mind reviewed all the websites that he’d perused over the past several weeks; many of them were specifically about how to write a blog. So many suggestions, but none of them seemed right for his first blog. He sat back down at the keyboard and tapped lightly on the keys. The blank page was still there, mocking his frustration. He wanted so badly to be a published author. To be stymied by something as simple as a blog entry was disheartening. He took another deep breath and looked at screen. His fingers again poised above the keys. He pushed one, then another. Before long he’d formed an entire word on the screen. He hit the spacebar, and continued typing. When he finally stopped typing and looked over what’d he’d written he realized that writing a blog was just like writing a short story or novel. It starts with typing one word at a time. As daunting as an eight hundred page novel is at the beginning, you start by typing the first word. Now…what would he write about next week?