Thursday Thinks: It Made a Difference to That One

An old man had a habit of early morning walks on the beach. One day, after a storm, he saw a human figure in the distance moving like a dancer. As he came closer he saw that it was a young woman and she was not dancing but was reaching down to the sand, picking up a starfish and very gently throwing them into the ocean.

“Young lady,” he asked, “Why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?”

“The sun is up, and the tide is going out, and if I do not throw them in they will die.”

“But young lady, do you not realize that there are miles and miles of beach and starfish all along it? You cannot possibly make a difference.”

“You cannot possibly make a difference…” Have you ever felt that way before? I know I have. I have always had such high hopes for my life. I have dreams of changing the world and being remembered. I confess that one of my biggest fears in life is dying and not being remembered for anything worthwhile, save but by a few. I wanted to be read about in textbooks. To do something that would inspire people. Something that one day, people would tell my story and change their world. I dream big. I dream to make a difference.

I have a hard time accepting that I may never do these things. I may never do anything worthy of historical significance. I may not be remembered for much. I may be soon forgotten. It’s a struggle. I start out with big dreams and goals. I wanted to write a blog that touched thousands of lives, with lively discussions and people saying “Wow, you have GOT to read this!” and sharing it with others. I’m lucky if I get twenty views a day. I wanted to write awesome books. I can barely get a blog entry out sometimes. I wanted to be a motivational speaker and get to travel around to conferences and such and just encourage. I want so badly to DO. And yet, sometimes, I think, I focus too much on the DO, and not nearly enough on the DONE.

We all have those moments. We had a big plan. We put our everything into it. Finally the time comes. We’re all excited for it! And then…it’s here. And it’s nothing like our imaginations thought it would be. Not as many people participated as we thought. We tripped all over ourselves. We didn’t say all we wanted. It’s so easy, especially in our world today, to feel like a failure. And in our world today, if you’re really unfortunate, that failure ends up on youtube.

It can be so easy to look at the small things and think we failed. But there is a lesson that I am learning, the beauty in the ashes, that is making all the difference in the world. What I see, in the small picture, as a failure, in the larger picture might be anything but. When our plans don’t go like we thought, the fact remains that they still went. Which means someone saw. And while it might not seem like it to us, it might have made all the difference in the world to that one person. Then they will carry it to another person. And so on. We may never see the fruits of what we started, but we may never see the end of the ripples, either.

I may never change the world in the ways I dream. But the thing is, those dreams were mine. That doesn’t necessarily mean they’re God’s. The way I change the world might have nothing to do with me any longer. But it lives on through the lives I’ve touched. And because I made a difference in their lives, they will make differences in others’ lives, who will make differences in others’, and, before long, my influence on just one person, through countless different channels, may just one day change the world. So while the means weren’t the way I’d planned, the end result will be better than I ever could have imagined.

It only takes one. One person at one time, and the whole world is changed. You never know when that one time will be. It might just be when you feel you’ve had your biggest failure. So be encouraged, take heart, and keep on going, even when it feels like it’s all falling apart. You may not make a difference en masse, but even if it’s just one, it’s all the difference in the world. And you can inspire a generation just by inspiring one. And the world will change.

The young woman listened politely, paused and then bent down, picked up another starfish and threw it into the sea, past the breaking waves, saying,

“It made a difference for that one.”

The old man looked at the young woman inquisitively and thought about what she had done. Inspired, he joined her in throwing starfish back into the sea. Soon others joined, and all the starfish were saved.

Musical Monday: If I Had a Million Dollars – BNL

Because we all need to dream sometimes about hitting that Jackpot…

What would YOU do if you had a million dollars?

My top ten, in no particular order (except the first):

1) Spread some between my church and various other ministries and families that are close to my heart.

2) Pay off my car, give it to my sister, then get a new one.

3) Fly to Russia to see my best friend whom I haven’t seen in six and a half years.

4) Pay off my student loans.

5) Gather my closest friends and family together for a cruise.

6) Hike the Appalachian Trail with no financial concerns.

7) Get a masters in education.

8) Buy a house in Maine.

9) Go see Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand.

10) Have a big steak at Outback…because I could finally afford it!

What would the Barenaked Ladies do? Take a listen and find out! Suddenly your dreams will sound normal!

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So What Now?

As incredible as it seems to me, I have been keeping this blog consistently for almost a month and a half. That may not seem a huge deal to you, but it’s incredible for me. I know this blog is what God wants me to do. I feel He’s only just getting started with it.

However, I feel as though I’ve hit a wall. I don’t know what I should be writing about. I have all these ideas, but I don’t know what my readers enjoy. I don’t feel like I’m exactly fulfilling God’s intention for the blog.

Allow me to speak what I had envisioned. I envisioned a place where people could come and learn, be challenged, and enjoy. A place to make them laugh and think. A place where they could find community and acceptance. A place where they would see Jesus as He is, not as so many think and believe Him to be. I wanted to write things people would WANT to read.

My eventual hope was to get a variety of people to contribute. The reasons for this were varied, but these are the main: 1) More viewpoints could be explored, 2) Readership would expand, 3) An avenue for others to express themselves, and 4) To take the burden off of me to have to write every night. I am very grateful for the contributions my friend Dan Jackson has been giving. I love reading what Dan has to say. My hope was to turn this into an almost forum-like setting. And maybe, just maybe, by some God-ordained miracle, to make a stand and do something to change the world.

Lofty goals, I know. But that’s what I dream. And I don’t really know if I’m accomplishing any of them.

This is where you come in. I need your feedback. Any writer will tell you it’s extremely frustrating to write and never really know how or even if your message is being perceived. I am blessed to know that there are a few of you out there that read faithfully and tell me verbally your comments. I value that greatly! But I need to know from the majority.

There have been thirty-eight posts made thus far covering a variety of subjects. There have been two contributors: myself and Dan. So tell us…what do you enjoy? What are you not enjoying? What’s some things you’d like to see more/less of? What kind of posts would you be more apt to share with your friends (there are a variety of share options at the end of each post!)? Does the posting time (6am) work?

I am in need of your feedback. Please. I’m not going to lie; it gets exhausting writing night after night, not really knowing if the time you’re taking is really making a difference. A little help would go a long ways. You don’t have to be a member of anything to comment below.

Thank you for sticking with me! I look forward to what you all are going to offer.

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My Labor of Thanks

Happy Labor Day!!

According to the US Dept of Labor, the reason we celebrate this day is as follows:

“Labor Day, the first Monday in September, is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.”

We live in a unique country. There aren’t many other places in the world where someone could go from the pits to the penthouse in a lifetime. The idea of the “American dream” seized the world, as it would seem, and make people want to risk everything in the pursuit of it. Not bad for a country who, when it celebrated its first Labor Day in 1882, was only 107 years old and 17 years removed from a war that almost destroyed it.

What makes America so desirable, even now? What makes people still want to risk their lives fleeing to this country? Much of it has to do with what this day celebrates: our freedom to work. Not just to work, but to work the jobs we WANT to work and fulfill the dreams we WANT to fulfill. In the American dream, one can go from having nothing to having all with hard work and dedication. Those that have not, have not because they want to work not. At least, that’s the way it was.

It seems nowadays the American dream has become the American nightmare. Americans in the truest sense of the word are still hard-working, creative, and proud. They love their country and will do what it takes to support it. But it seems their country cares not to honor them any longer. This country was built and still stands on the legs of public servants, small business, and mom-and-pop storefronts in towns and cities all across this great land. But no one cares for them any longer. The days of their honor seem to have gone astray, and the only use those in leadership of our country now have for them is what they can get out of them. These are just my observations, but I know many that would agree.

But herein lies a choice for us. Just because our country seems to be going one way doesn’t mean we have to follow. Another one of the incredible freedoms we have in this great USA is the freedom to CHOOSE. We don’t have to be forced one way or the other. And so, on this Labor Day, here is MY choice: to say thank you and give what honor I can give to those who spend their lives working hard, making every dollar count, and giving their time, talents, hopes, and dreams a life, and a chance to try to make the communities in which they live better for them being there.

It’s not much, it’s not grand, and it will probably only be seen by a few, but it’s all I’ve got to give. From the bottom of my heart to you: small business America…those who work to keep us safe…those who educate us and help us grow to be as great as we can be…those hearts that still hold fast to the American dream…those who are established and the weary just starting…to all who have, are, and will continue to make this country great in honor and deed…

THANK YOU!!

“Well if you ask me where I come from
Here’s what I tell everyone
I was born by God’s dear grace
In an extraordinary place
Where the stars and stripes and the eagle fly

It’s a big ‘ol land with countless dreams
Happiness ain’t out of reach
Hard work pays off the way it should
Yeah, I’ve seen enough to know that we’ve got it good
Where the stars and stripes and the eagle fly”

**interesting sidenote about this video…it was shot in New York City a few weeks after 9/11. There was a group from my college there, and they are in the video! From 3:05 to a few seconds later, you’ll see a large group standing, and it focuses on a few. That’s them!**

CHALLENGE OF THE DAY: Do you know someone who could use a thank you today? Perhaps a small business owner or a public service worker or a teacher? If you do, make it a point today to say thank you to them. This is a day to celebrate those that labor to make our country the great nation that it is. So enjoy the break, stay safe, and celebrate the American dream!

Broken Down…And I like it.

**This is a guest post from a good friend of mine, Dan Jackson. Dan will be contributing to the blog on a regular basis. Dan is a great young man with a heart for God and a message to spread. I pray his words touch your heart and, wherever you find yourself, give you a chance for reflection, thankfulness, and, if necessary, strength to change. To be all God wants you to be.**

This is my first entry, and as such I feel like what I’m about to ramble on about would be rather pointless if I didn’t do some sort of introduction. My name is Daniel Jackson, and I’ve been a blogger over at www.ceolmahrgael.blogspot.com for around six years. Over the past few years, I’ve been trying, at times almost too hard, to discern God’s call on my life. I graduated from college in May of 2010, and immediately began trying to figure out what my next step was. When I wasn’t sure, I figured more school was in order. I spent a year in education classes—that was a bust. Teaching isn’t my thing. I have the utmost respect for those who are called to the profession, but that isn’t me. I also had the opportunity to go on a short term mission trip to the Dominican Republic in 2010. While there, I began to get some kind of sense that ministry was where I needed to go.

Since then, I’ve spent all of my time and energy focusing on going to Seminary. That was the be-all, end-all that needed to happen. I can’t serve the Lord outside of the Church or working on professional ministry, right? I returned to the Dominican Republic this past February, where I felt my call not only affirmed, but almost fine tuned. I felt called to a life of missions. As such, I planned my seminary education accordingly. Over the past few months, however, various things in my home church life coupled with what I’ve experienced while serving God abroad have really left me in quite a predicament. I felt this immense pressure to always do what I was “supposed” to do. I was living under that burden so much that I completely lost sight of the Son and grew deaf to His voice. I realized that I was deaf to Him in a moment that seemed like it was too late: while working at a Christian camp. It terrified me. What was I doing? What was I doing wrong? I didn’t know. I had no idea what God wanted me to do, or how He could use someone like me to effectively minister. I tried my hardest to shrug it off, while at the same time becoming so engrossed in things that I felt like I couldn’t live without: relationships, religion, saying the right things, looking the part, and leading worship. It slowly started killing me.

In what I assumed to be a headlong pursuit of God and His will in my life, I also allowed the expectations of this world and those in it to run my life. I’m quickly approaching my twenty-fourth birthday, and it hit me for the first time ever: I didn’t know how to live life the way I wanted. Not even that—I didn’t know how to follow what God wanted. Chaos ensued in my heart. Earlier this year, I was let go from my position of youth director at my church. I don’t believe it was handled well, and as such I was left angry, hurt, and bitter. I didn’t want to be those things, but I couldn’t help but wonder “if they’ll do this to one of their own, no wonder people don’t want to come to Church.” Cynicism reigned supreme in my life. Mixing cynicism, expectations of others, and not knowing where I was going was a definite recipe for disaster.

I was supposed to actually move down to Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary this coming Sunday. As of this morning, I’m not going. So many things have led to that decision. Last night, when I realized that the money situation wasn’t feasible, I finally allowed myself to let go of it. After the initial let-go, things started coming to my attention. I’m in no way ready for Seminary right now—and it took God slamming the door in my face to realize it. This isn’t the first time in my life that I’ve had this happen. There is so much in my life that I’ve allowed to have dominion over my heart that the term “out of fellowship” doesn’t even begin to cover it. I was living a lie. The smiling, pastor in training, seminary-bound worship leader Dan was a farce. I’d become the very thing I claimed to despise—a Christian Atheist; a follower of a set of religious rules and guidelines. I’d become something I vowed never to be: a label. The inside was governed by jealousy, rage, lust, self-hatred, mistrust of God…the list could go on. Those few things alone shame me. There wasn’t any love—certainly not the love I should have for the Christ who saved me. I figured that all of the negativity I’d allowed to cloud my view of the Church would evaporate when I went to seminary. Truth is…it would have made it worse. My heart was set on a destructive path. I was going to fully transform into what Jesus tells us not to: a whitewashed tomb. I look great on the outside, but the inside is rotten.

During my breakdown last night, I cried out with what little energy I had left to Jesus. I’m not really one for dramatics, but I had no hope left. Thankfully, He heard my cry (okay, sobs).  I felt the presence of our Lord for the first time in months. What does that feel like, you ask? Peace. Love. Calm in spite of chaotic circumstances. The past was just that—the past. The aforementioned sins were counted as no more. I’m looking at this divine intervention in my life as a second chance. Well, maybe not a second chance; more like a five-thousandth chance. I lose count. The point is that our God is true to His promises. One of those promises is that He’ll never leave us nor forsake us, no matter the circumstance. I was convinced with all of my heart that I was on the right path, and regardless of how I felt inside, I was going to serve God and others. My spiritual health wasn’t a concern to me, when it clearly should have been.

The point of this long-winded introduction is to show that there is nobody too far gone, too screwed up, too “wrong” or deemed “less than” for God and His love to reach. People may look at me and say “you don’t know me; you don’t know what I’ve done.” To that, I say I’m no different. God’s love isn’t exclusive. There is more love and grace in His little finger than all that this world could offer. And for that, I am SO thankful. Tony Campolo once said “I’m not who I was, I’m not yet who I’m supposed to be—but I’m on my way.” It’s just that. Forgiveness and salvation in Christ isn’t just a magic pill or spell that we say to be transformed. It is a daily renewal; sometimes hourly. His mercies are new every morning. His love never ceases, never fades, never wanes.

The only label we should be concerned with is the one that says “Child of God.” That label covers everything that we think will remove us from His presence. Over the coming months as I reevaluate where God wants me to be, I’ll daily be striving to live in, not up to, that label. A child of the King. Will you?

Counting Ounces

Small things add up.

When I was preparing to hike the Appalachian Trail, I heard of hikers who, in an attempt to save every POSSIBLE ounce imaginable, would cut the corners off their maps, the tags off their clothes, even the handle off their toothbrush, to shave off ounces. Some would use the pages from their guidebooks as they were past those sections for toilet paper, just to save on the weight of carrying a roll! It was a general rule on the trail that, unless an item had at least two different uses, it was unnecessary. I thought this was all craziness. I thought I would never get caught up in something so insane as to cut corners off my maps. I mean, how much could a corner possibly weigh?

I was wrong. So very wrong.

It’s one thing reading stories of people going to these extremes while sitting at your kitchen table eating cheetos and rolling your eyes. It’s another thing to be lugging a thirty-eight pound pack up and down mountains when you’re already dealing with an overweight body and much higher altitude. I began dreaming of things I could send home, cut up, or burn while dancing around the flames chanting a victory cry over saved ounces! An ounce doesn’t seem like a lot (especially when you’re dieting and having to weigh your food!). But, you get sixteen of those ounces together, whether it’s the tag on a shirt, the cap on a bottle of toothpaste, a strand of rope, or the packaging a serving of Lipton Rice comes in – which, by the way, those packages are heavy…thank God for ziploc baggies! – and they equal a pound. And a pound is heavy. It’s not like we could get rid of our bigger items that weighed more, like tents, sleeping bags, and food. We needed those. So we took the little things away to add up to bigger weight savings.

Small things add up. This is true on the trail, and this is also true in regards to our dreams. So many of us have these huge dreams of changing the world, being recognized, and using our gifts and abilities in amazing ways. The problem is, we get so lost in the big dreams that we get discouraged, because they look so far out of reach. When they’re so far out of reach, we don’t know how to start accomplishing them. And when we don’t know how to start accomplishing them, we give up, feeling frustrated, let down, and lost.

If you know how this feels (and I know you do…if you don’t, you’re lying to yourself!), then I have something for you. It’s called a SOLUTION! *insert some Billy Mays-ish voice here* Yes, you CAN get out of this depressing dream cycle and start living the life you want! It’s very simple, and can be summed up in two one-syllable words: START SMALL!

A house of cards is built one card at a time. The Great Wall of China, which, by the way, can be seen from OUTER SPACE, was built one lonely little brick at a time. Our goals, our dreams, can be accomplished one step at a time. Do not…I repeat, DO NOT…dismiss the value of baby steps. John Maxwell once said, “We overestimate what we can do in the long-term, and we underestimate what we can do in the short-term.” We long to fulfill those big dreams, yet neglect what we can be doing day-by-day to reach them. For example, do you want to be a nicer person? Don’t just roll out of bed, say, “I’m going to be a nice person from now on!” and feel like you failed miserably when you get cut off in the fast lane and smack your steering wheel (if you happen to be on the nicer side of road rage…I wish I could say I’m with you). Start small. Maybe it’s a smile to someone you’re walking past. A hello to a co-worker you normally ignore. Choose one thing to practice (smile more, more eye contact, better communication, etc) and do it until it’s habit. Then choose something else. After a few months, you’ll see the changes, and the dream is that much closer. Set small goals that will lead up to the ultimate one. And celebrate each victory every step of the way, that way you’re well-practiced for when it’s time to celebrate reaching the ultimate dream!

Do we all have dreams? Yes. Otherwise, what’s the point of living this life? Are we all going to accomplish every single one of our dreams? Unfortunately, no. But wouldn’t you rather go out knowing you at least tried, instead of reflecting and wondering if you really could have done it? Sometimes it’s not easy. Sometimes it’s not even popular. But it’s YOUR life and YOUR dream. Live your passion, and you won’t regret it. But start small. Because small things add up.

CHALLENGE OF THE DAY: What’s one thing you can  begin doing TODAY that will start you on your path to accomplishing your dream? Identify it, and then start it! If you fail, just pick up and do it again and again and again!

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