Fortress of Solitude

As much as I’d like to believe the contrary, I’m not a superhero. I mean, I’d like to be. Sometimes I see myself as one, I can see the suit, right down to the tights and stylish cape. I imagine myself moving from one scenario to the next, tirelessly handling all that comes my way.

But in reality, sometimes I find myself drained, physically and emotionally. I feel bogged down with all that needs be done. My perception is distorted and I become overwhelmed by the smallest of things. In those moments, questions begin to form in my mind. Ridiculous notions that, deep down, I realize aren’t true, but in my moment of weakness, I entertain them anyway. My emotions run wild through fields of imagination and if I allow myself to stay in that place, they convince me of inconceivable twists and turns in the plot of my life.

Oh to be superhuman, to never have the moments of melancholy that can overcome us if we let them! Surely there must be some way we can move beyond the overwhelming grip of our emotions without becoming so unfeeling we resemble the latest robotic character from a Star Trek episode. I mean, Superman would never have an emotional breakdown, would he?

In fact, the heroes that intrigue us (the top 3 domestic grossing films from 2012-2013 are The Avengers, The Dark Knight Rises and Iron Man 3) are often plagued by the same doubts, fears and emotional turmoil we encounter in every day life. So how do they handle it? How do they deal with the overwhelming stress that being hunted day in and day out by the newest, most ruthless villains ever conceived without curling up into the fetal position and sucking their super thumbs?

One way is through accountability. Inevitably, some well meaning relative or loved one comes through at just the right moment with a valuable piece of wisdom. When down in the dumps, ready to hang up their tights, the superhero is often reminded by the meekest around them of the unspoken responsibility that comes from the gift of power they’ve been given. We’ve all got a similar responsibility to make a difference, however possible, in the lives of those we meet each day. We need to surround ourselves with people who can nudge us forward or who will reach in to pull us from the murky depths of despair when needed. After all, Batman had his Alfred.

Another necessity is rest and introspection. We need to take a moment to reflect on where we’ve been and to dream about where we’re headed. We need to learn from the past but not let it dictate our future. We need to plan for the wondrous possibilities tomorrow holds and then we need to rest so that we are ready when the moment comes that we need to spring into action. Even Superman had his Fortress of Solitude. He went there to clear his head and to gain perspective through the wisdom of the past. Anyone who thinks they can skip this step is on dangerous ground. Rest and reflection are fundamental building blocks of success. Besides, God rested on the seventh day and in so doing, He reflected on all His creation. If the Creator of all sees fit to take a break from time to time, then we should follow that pattern too!

There is one other thing that I believe is essential when dealing with the stresses of life. It is probably the simplest to do but requires a great deal of motivation. It’s changing the status quo. Change your state of mind. Decide to do something, then do it. We are forever making plans that never come to pass. Great plans that could benefit a world in need but, for lack of motivation or the determination necessary to see it through, they stay ideas unborn. For the fear of what failure could bring, we sit back and wait for the right moment, not realizing that the moment is often upon us. It’s waiting for us to get up and knock on the door or to seek and find the answers that might solve the problems plaguing our society. We need to put into action the faith we claim to hold dear. Only then will we see past our present situation and catch a glimpse of what’s to come. And that scenery change is often the catalyst to greatness.

You can’t do it alone. You will need people around you who challenge you. All of these things together can help us to achieve more than we ever dreamed possible, but it takes a humble spirit, a willingness to sacrifice and love for those around us. Only love can overcome the fear that leads to apathy. Love is the difference maker. Love is our super power. Through the lens of love you can accomplish the inconceivable. You can be a superhero to one in need. Choose to love, there is no greater power in the universe!

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Cherish Every Moment

In just 5 days my first born turns 15 years old. Though the thought is bittersweet (she will always be my little girl), I don’t feel sadness or disbelief that the years have gone by so quickly. My lack of remorse led me to question whether I had a heart that was, like the Grinch, three sizes too small. Don’t get me wrong, I have those moments where I wonder what has happened to the time. Moments when I think just yesterday she was so small and helpless and now she has become a young lady.

 

That’s when I begin to think back about the times that have passed. I remember all the adventures we’ve shared together. I think of the family trips, church outings, the times we’ve sat and talked, the dreams she has shared with me… so many memories, moments I cherish. I am so proud of the young woman she has become. I know the time I have spent with has played a key part in her growth to this point. All the time spent investing in her young life has brought me to one conclusion: sadness comes when we wish we’d done more.

 

We want more time. One more chance with that loved one to do all the things we regret not doing. I am so thankful for the time I’ve had to spend with each of my daughters. Though I’d love to do more, I have done all I can to make the most of the time we have had. I realize tomorrow isn’t promised and I want to leave this life certain that they know I love them. I know they will be okay. I am confident that if something were to happen to me tomorrow, a positive pattern has been established in them that will last throughout their lives.

 

I think we overlook the value of the moment. We undervalue ourselves. We try to wow our kids with presents, parties and trips because we don’t think we have anything to offer them, like we are a plain brown wrapper that’s needs to be dressed up. What they really want is our time. Like when you give a child a gift for Christmas only to discover they are just as satisfied with the box, our children are just as happy spending time with us here at home as they are at an amusement park or on a fancy trip. We are the box that holds the time they so desperately need, the trips are just the packaging.

 

Take the time to invest in those you love today. It works with kids and adults alike. Quantity doesn’t matter. Quality is what makes the difference. In the end, it’s about what you did with the moments you had together. No length of time or pricy packaging can take your place in the lives of your loved ones. Play a game together, eat a meal together, go for a walk together, talk together, BE TOGETHER! It’s more important than all the possessions this world has to offer. The most valuable thing you can give is your time.

Empty Homes, Broken Dreams

Seeing the empty houses In Plaquemines Parish, LA this past brought a little sadness to my heart. Not because I felt the work we did in relief of Hurricane Isaac was in vain, but because of the lives those homes represent. Driving through one of the subdivisions we served in was like driving through a ghost town. Homes were overgrown with weeds. Yards were so tall, theyweren’t mowable. Homes sat empty, shells of their former glory. Empty shells, broken dreams.

I wondered about the people I had met, some who had never experienced such loss and others who had just recovered from the wrath of Katrina, only to lose everything to the devastation of Isaac. Their grief was palpable. The emotion overwhelming. The lack of hope, unimaginable. They wanted answers. It impacted all, regardless of race, creed, religious belief and social standing. In the midst of the grief, some clung loosely to their faith while others blamed everyone from God to the government for their situation.

I have served in the wake of numerous natural disasters and in each instance I have met similar people. Each seeking answers, clinging desperately to what little hope a few recovered personal items could muster. In all the other instances, I had never come across a place where hope could not rebuild the homes the storms had taken. When I saw these formerly beautiful homes, empty, overgrown, missing the very essence that makes a house a home, I began to cry. You see those building represented the lives of the families who had occupied them for a time. In that moment, it dawned on me that the stick and stone might make a structure but it’s the family that makes the house a home.

I began to think of the people we pass each day who, like those homes, are empty. They go through the motions, dissatisfied with their existence, devoid of hope. They struggle to see their value and question why they were even born. They long to feel connected to something greater. That they have a place in this world and people who need them. In the midst of their despair, we pass them by, unintentionally adding to their hopeless state.

Empty houses, empty lives. Those homes brought images to my mind of the hurting and lost. Those without hope, those with no where to turn and no one to turn too. In that moment, I wanted answers. I wondered where those people had gone too? Had they simply moved to another part of town or had they moved to another city, another state. Had they recovered emotionally and spiritually from the grief they had encountered? I realize that I’ll probably never know the answers to those questions. However, I can be certain there are people in my own community in whose lives I can make a lasting impact.

You don’t have to look very hard. People need what you have to give. It might be finances or a meal. You might have the ability to repair a car or fix a damaged roof in the home of someone who hasn’t got the means. You might not have the financial ability to do those things, that doesn’t mean you have nothing to give! For those in need, those with no hope, you can give something more valuable than money. You can give love to those in need and in that simple act, you begin to rebuild the hope they thought had been lost forever. You have the power to change a life regardless of your bank account. You can give yourself. Your time is a valuable commodity, make an investment in someone who needs hope.

Imagine a world where we all looked for opportunities to foster hope by giving to people out of love. A wonderful place where the empty among us find a new source of strength. Your act might restore that one life, renewing their faith. I can’t think of anything greater than to give such a simple gift. Give love to rebuild hope and restore faith. You have more to offer than you realize and though it might cost you, you’ll receive so much more than you gave.