In the Palm of Your Hand

“We are all faced with a series of great opportunities brilliantly disguised as impossible situations.”

Charles R. Swindoll(American Writer and Clergyman, b.1934)

If you only took the time to understand how much you can accomplish with a moment. A single choice, when added to and built upon another choice and another, effects such change in your life that it can only be outmatched by the changes that single choice first started in you, yourself. We are more than what we eat. We are also what we do and think and say and believe.

If your mind is full of walls and barriers and obstacles, your words will tend to highlight the things that make it difficult for you to succeed. Your actions mirror the things that you think and talk about. For all intents and purposes, you ARE the terrible things you think you are and are trapped by walls impossible to climb, break, or otherwise escape… but it doesn’t have to be this way.

“Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.” Thomas Alva Edison  (1847-1931)

The Underground Railroad, was a network of people who helped many slaves find their way to freedom. It was dangerous, frightening, and also illegal. Sometimes, in order for us to overcome hardship in our lives, there is a certain amount of struggle. The brave individuals which were able to escape and begin new lives believed that it was worth the risk, worth fighting for with their lives.

I have been reading about struggles of women and other vulnerable groups in other countries who have fought for the right to freely and safely walk the streets, speak in public, drive, hold a job, raise their children the way they deem best, and many other things those of us in the West take for granted. These things have been denied to them for a long time. The act of public protest and dissent is often like stepping in front of an oncoming train. There is a lot of suffering and pain, even to the point of death. These courageous individuals also believe that some things are worth a fight.

“I will prepare and some day my chance will come.” Abraham Lincoln (16th US President (1861-65), who brought about the emancipation of the slaves. 1809-1865)

Is there something standing before you like a wall, dark and forbidding, which you think you can never overcome? It may seem impossible, it may seem frightening, it may seem foolish to even hope. However, MUCH has been overcome in the past, MUCH is being overcome in the present, and MUCH will be overcome in the future. Do you realize that there is no difference between those who overcome and those who stay shackled in life (sometimes literally)? The only thing which changes the outcome is choice. You can make a choice. You can make a couple of choices. You can make many, many choices. After you do this, changes begin to happen, in your life and in yourself. You are only a few choices away from a different life if you so desire.

“Life is a gift, and it offers us the privilege, opportunity, and responsibility to give something back by becoming more” Anthony Robbins

You have a gift which you may not realize you have. You have, in the palm of your hand, the gift of free will. This is not the gift of someone else’s free will, but yours. This gift is more precious than most things you can name, and with it is a responsibility to choose what is right. Choosing between right and wrong is elementary, though many seem to choose wrong in spite of this.

The gift of choice also means we must choose what is right for us. If your dream is to do something that your friends and family have never done, something that shows your talents, then it is not only desirable but your responsibility to choose to do the thing which makes you happy. None of us are supposed to live our lives as drudges, stumbling around miserable and inept in someone else’s idea of “the perfect life”. I, for one, am not good at things I don’t enjoy, and even some of the things I DO enjoy are hard work for me. But I press through the difficulties (not always with a good attitude, I’ll admit), because of the glimpses I have seen of what awaits me on the other side.

“I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3 : 10-14

“The Way is Shut”

“Living is strife and torment, disappointment and love and sacrifice, golden sunsets and black storms. I said that some time ago, and today I do not think I would add one word.” Sir Laurence Olivier (English Actor, Producer and Film Director, 1907-1989)

What do we do when the road reaches a dead end? Where do we turn? How do we go on when disappointment after disappointment overshadows all our brightest hopes and dreams?

It can be so tempting to give up when we look failure in the face and see its empty eyes staring blankly. Sometimes we will fail, and that is the simple truth of it. Failure is as blind as justice, and just as impartial. Just as natural disasters strike people of all kinds and characters, failure, too, sits in all our paths eventually. Then our dreams seem so foolish. The pessimists seem to rule the day. Our hopes evaporate into the blank, still air. There we are, fallen on the pavement with our skinned hands and knees, bleeding, hurt, humiliated, and confused. What went wrong? How did this happen? Why can’t I win??

It is never a pleasant posture to be in when we find ourselves on our faces in the dirt, instead of soaring through the air like Icarus and Daedalus. Although, if you remember correctly, they had their own disappointments. They also found their faces in the dirt.

“Ones best success comes after their greatest disappointments.” Henry Ward Beecher (Liberal US Congregational minister, 1813-1887)

Sometimes, perhaps, it takes a failure to point us in the right direction. Every great inventor and innovator has dealt with numerous failures on the way to ultimate success. Maybe one reason for this is that every discovery lies somewhere outside the realm of the known. The direction is vague, if we have a direction at all. Sometimes, all we have is a fuzzy sense that there must be a better way, or better idea, or better life. When we fail, we are made aware of our limitations. If we know the problems, we can work to fix them, after all.

“We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.” Martin Luther King, Jr. (American Baptist Minister and Civil-Rights Leader. 1929-1968)

Many, if not all, of our world’s greatest and most inspiring figures have faced crippling failure and humiliating defeats on the way to ultimate victory. If we are able to look past the gravel embedded in our scraped hands and knees, we will see the powerful truth behind every failure we encounter. Failure should not send us running for cover. Every failure is a lesson. Experience may be a hard teacher, but it DOES teach us many things. Time spent on the ground can help us to clarify, for ourselves, if this goal is worth the fight. Every time we stand back up again, we grow stronger. Every time we stand back up again, we demonstrate our faith and perseverance. Some things, are simply worth the work.  

So, remember the next time you find yourself choking on dust and picking rocks out of your wounded pride, remember that this fight is not over yet! You are still here! You may not be standing yet, but you will stand at the last, no matter what.

 It is God who arms me with strength
    and keeps my way secure.
 He makes my feet like the feet of a deer;
    he causes me to stand on the heights.
 He trains my hands for battle;
    my arms can bend a bow of bronze.
 You make your saving help my shield,
    and your right hand sustains me;
    your help has made me great.
 You provide a broad path for my feet,
    so that my ankles do not give way. Psalm 18 : 32-36

The Chosen Road

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear,
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I marked the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost (American poet, 1874-1963)

That is a poem I memorized and took to heart when I was a junior in high school. For all the many varied and diverse roads I have traveled since then, I think I would have to agree with Mr. Frost in some regards. There are many thing you could have done that you chose not to do, and those things, taken together with the things you chose to do have shaped you to be the person you are today.

Some roads we find in life are straight and sure, free from debris and any visible threat or danger. They stretch on and on with little change or drama. Many people travel these roads, for mile upon uniform mile. These roads can seem tedious, and surreal, like you’re not actually going anywhere at all. After one hour, two, five, ten, the distance seems as distant as it did before. It seems you’ve made no progress at all. You sometimes think this MUST be the wrong way. You should have gotten somewhere by now, right? Eventually, though, you find that it was the right road after all; and thank goodness you stayed on track all the time it took! These roads seem to take up the majority of the journey.

Other roads are full of bends and sharp corners and shrubs in the middle of the path. There can be downed trees, or rock slides, or animals in the road! There are cave-ins, pitfalls, potholes, and brambles to fight our way out of and through. This road can be exciting, but it is never safe to let down your guard completely. It’s enough to make your hair turn grey! So much to see along the sides of the road, but you dare not take your eyes from in front of you! This is white-knuckle-way, Baby! You’d better fasten your seat belts here! Thankfully, these roads don’t last as long as they seem they will .

Still other roads we take are much slower, over roads that meander from side to side, and up and down over hillocks and through meadows. It’s so easy to get lost on these roads, and no trouble at all once it’s happened. These kinds of roads are full of change and surprise, but rounding a corner brings something delightful and new, some new perspective to consider. On these roads we encounter sunny glens, foamy river rapids, mountain peaks, the scent of orange blossoms, and enchanted forests we want to get lost in and never come out of again! Traveling down this road is never a trial or, unfortunately, very long.

“In the name of the best within you, do not sacrifice this world to those who are its worst. In the name of the values that keep you alive, do not let your vision of man be distorted by the ugly, the cowardly, the mindless in those who have never achieved his title. Do not lose your knowledge that man’s proper estate is an upright posture, an intransigent mind and a step that travels unlimited roads. Do not let your fire go out, spark by irreplaceable spark, in the hopeless swamps of the approximate, the not-quite, the not-yet, the not-at-all. Do not let the hero in your soul perish, in lonely frustration for the life you deserved, but have never been able to reach. Check your road and the nature of your battle. The world you desired can be won, it exists, it is real, it is possible, it’s yours.” Ayn Rand (Russian born American Writer and Novelist, 1905-1982)

The path you are traveling leads to a place you have never been before, the future, that unknown, strange, and mysterious thing. Don’t think that the ways you have been down up until now are the ONLY ways. That would be as silly as saying the people you have known up until now are the ONLY people. It  may seem, at times, as though you were fenced in, prohibited from choosing  any other road but the ones you have already traveled. Just keep in mind, that sometimes to get somewhere new, you have to hop a fence, or swim a river, or climb a mountain. There is a lot of work in making new roads. Think of new sights, smells, flavors, feelings, loves that you will never know until you build those roads.
“When all’s said and done, all roads lead to the same end. So it’s not so much which road you take, as how you take it.” Charles de Lint (Celtic folk musician and story teller, b.1951)
No matter what road you have had the fortune, or misfortune, to travel, always there has been someone who walked the same road or a more difficult road. You are not in this world alone. No matter what the catastrophes and terrors and tragedy, there are many who have overcome these obstacles and lived triumphant afterward. Your road can be as new as your very next step. This life is full of another chance, and another, and another. The road you finally travel, is the road you CHOOSE to travel, and none of us has to walk alone.

“In the time of my favor I will answer you, and in the day of salvation I will help you; I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people, to restore the land and to reassign its desolate inheritances, to say to the captives, ‘Come out,’and to those in darkness, ‘Be free!’ “They will feed beside the roads and find pasture on every barren hill. They will neither hunger nor thirst, nor will the desert heat or the sun beat down on them. He who has compassion on them will guide them and lead them beside springs of water. I will turn all my mountains into roads, and my highways will be raised up. See, they will come from afar —some from the north, some from the west, some from the region of Aswan.” Shout for joy, you heavens; rejoice, you earth; burst into song, you mountains! For the Lord comforts his people and will have compassion on his afflicted ones. But Zion said, “The Lord has forsaken me, the Lord has forgotten me.” “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are ever before me. Your children hasten back, and those who laid you waste depart from you.”  Isaiah 49: 8-17