Interstates stretched before us. My website inquiry had reported that Dennis and I had 632 miles to drive from our hotel in Dallas, TX to our front door in Collinsville, IL. Interstates – the fast lane for traveling – would get us from where we were to where we wanted to go in the shortest length of time. So, we departed Texas, entered Oklahoma, drove along the multi-lane highways, arrived into Missouri, and were headed for Illinois.
Along the freeway, we passed car after car, truck after truck, billboard after billboard, and exit after exit. While Dennis weaved and bobbed through traffic, my job was to read the signs. A few things caught our attention, like the endless buffet at the Choctaw Casino in Durant, OK or the world’s largest candy shop in Phillipsburg, MO. In both cases, discretion prevailed and we drove past those enticements. Most exits promised the same travelers’ amenities – hamburger havens, gas station necessities, and the chain restaurant regulars. In the distance, we could see the towns; but the interstate buzzed us on every cities’ outskirts as we continue on our quickest route to home.
While yet a little over 100 miles from St. Louis, I noticed a sign for a home-town malt shop on old Route 66, which led us to a discussion about that famous highway that got travelers from here to there before the days of interstates. “Should we take that detour?” I inquired. Since we were making good time, we decided that we would get off at the next exit and make our way over to the older and less used road.
A right turn off of the interstate onto exit whatever-it-was, a two block trip down the street that-I-don’t-recall, and then a left turn onto Route 66; and we were there. By there – I don’t mean at the malt shop; I mean we were on the slower road that showcased the less hurried side of life. There was a city square, a main street, a neighborhood grocery store, plus a kid on a bike. The speed limit went from 70 miles per hour to between 30 to 50. We were forced to stop at intersections. We could see the faces of the people in the oncoming cars. While Dennis still had to keep his eye of the flow of traffic, I stopped reading billboards and turned my attention to the style of the house we just passed or the roses that grew on a trellis in a front yard.
We rolled down our windows for a few miles to feel the fresh air. One local barbeque stand was smoking the day’s meat, and the charcoal smell wafted into our car. We were arrested by sights, sounds and smells not afforded us in our closed-up, air-conditioned car suited for interstate travel. Fun! These scenes were fun to see and smell. Joy! This route engendered smiles, relaxations, and pleasures.
After traveling twenty to thirty miles on Route 66 and going through several small towns nestled along the road, we returned to the interstate. Keeping the pace in the fast lane of interstate driving can heighten the stress level. Our deliberate detour had renewed and refreshed us for the last leg of our journey.
The slower road of life – what unexpected sights await us there! Route 66 is a metaphor for that life-route where we can relish the moment, embrace the now, and linger in the present. I don’t drive that road often enough. I can gulp down a meal and not savor the taste, see the sunset and not view its magnificence, read the headlines and miss the story – you know what I mean. An occasional trip in the slow lane can serve to remind me that life’s journey is not best traveled when I rush through it.
I awakened with an epiphany. Indeed, it was inspiration meets ideology compounded by incentive. The dream could become reality. The course of action from revelation to manifestation was just a few steps of creativity.
It was my daughter-in-law’s birthday, and I had been musing upon what I could get for her. Then the idea struck. She and my son have a pool in their back yard. I could buy small patio companion tables and aggrandize the table tops with ceramic tiles. The ceramic would come from broken pieces of china that belonged to my mother and my husband’s mother. Grandmothers’ china enshrined and encased for posterity and functionality – what a marvelous idea!
Finding the tables was easy. Collecting the family heirloom dishes was effortless. Deciding how to dismantle china plates into china pieces created a little more of an obstacle, but willpower and a hammer did the trick! Next came the assembly phase, which amounted to rebuilding each plate in a mosaic masterpiece while leaving room for the grout.
The final product did not exactly match the ideological dream. There was too much grout and not enough plate. Some elevations of the dish pieces were too high causing the surface top to be uneven and thus unstable to balance a plate or cup. It was neither pretty nor practical. What happened? Where did I err?
Any good engineering or manufacturing guru would have advised me to make a prototype. I should have taken worthless dishes and practiced various techniques of breakage. I should have mounted the try-out pieces on disposable cardboard. I could have even done an Internet search to study someone else’s modus operandi for the break-a-plate-to-make-a-mosaic-skill. Yeah, the ‘should have,’ ‘could have,’ and ‘wish I would have’ lament was at full measure.
God has given mankind the ability to take dreams and to create a world in which those dreams become reality. We all have creative skills, imaginative capabilities, and reconstructive potential. However, we do not have omniscience, which is a God-exclusive attribute to be all-knowing. He made the whole created order by immutable wisdom and then judged by saying, “it is good.” The knowledge we apply in our creations comes from postulating a theory that must be proven through systematic testing methods. What cannot be proven to be false can be validated to be true. We think and try, re-think and re-try, re-postulate and re-make. We work out our miscalculations on our prototypes. After multiple attempts, we can sometimes say “it is good.” If not, we say “I wish I had known then what I know now.”
Whether dealing in the arena of pool-side décor, rocket launches into outer space, advances in medicine, or gigantic government programs, the wisdom of building a prototype is non-negotiable for mankind. Only the arrogant, the ignorant, or the egotistical can boast that ideology meets reality without testing the postulations. All in all, the impact of my lack of foresight was minimal. However, some philosophical and economic experiments on culture may just destroy the heirlooms of our Constitution unless those who have the power to make socially-demolishing and culturally-restructuring decisions slow down long enough to prove the rhetoric through prototypes.
Our nation is again in a season of transition. November elections are looming and the pundits are prognosticating as to which party will gain, regain, or keep the majority of seats both in the Senate and in the House. Who will be the lawmakers in the days ahead? Then, there is the President’s nomination for the newly-opened seat on the Supreme Court. Will Judge Kavanaugh survive the confirmation process and be seated on our nation’s highest court? The same question looms before us: who will be the lawmakers? Laws – who makes them and who must keep them is one of the key components that can strengthen or weaken any nation.
Laws are standards of what is allowed and not allowed. All societies throughout all history have, through either written text or verbal tradition, established the rules by which the populace must comply. Law is imperative to the health of a people. Lawlessness is anarchy, which is a system void of established law-givers, law-enforcers, and laws. Anarchy breeds chaos, disorder, and mayhem because every man is a law unto himself until the guy (or group) with the biggest weapon temporarily subdues the contest.
Whether or not law should govern a people is not the question, nor has it ever been in dispute. The disagreement arises over who is empowered to make the law and over who must keep the law. Each system of government defines those with the power to set the standards. In a monarchy, a king, queen, or emperor sovereignly legislates. In an oligarchy, governing power is vested in a few persons or an elite group. Democracy is rule by the majority of the people, while a Republic is representational of the people but constitutionally designed to limit control from the governing elite and also from mob rule by an omnipotent majority.
The United States was founded as a republic but has functioned in the most recent decades as a democracy and may yet be in danger of morphing into a presidential and congressional oligarchy. Setting the laws of a land is the mandate and the responsibility of the rulers. Who is empowered to make the laws – the representatives, the masses, or the elite – is defined by the style of government a nation adopts.
The next important question is “Who must keep the law?” Is the standard of right and wrong only to be applied to those being governed or should it also apply to those decreeing the imperatives? For example, if an ordinary person is forbidden to kill a personal opponent, should the king likewise be forbidden? Apparently, the Bible story about King David taking the life of Uriah indicates that both king and commoner must obey the laws against murder (II Sam. 11).
What about theft? If law forbids a person to steal a neighbor’s goods, can a collective democracy steal private property, thus exempting themselves from the law they created for the individual? Can a few elite congresspersons pass legislation to which the general public must comply while yet excluding themselves from both the tenet and the penalty? Is the directive of ‘do as I say not as I do’ the basic rule of governing? Is such a legal precedent the intent of the law? Is it justice, fairness, or goodness?
The scriptures define the government of God, which is called a Theocracy. God tells all humanity the canon of His laws. Yet, the God who is above and beyond all that He has created does not exempt Himself from His standards. His law is just and He personifies justice. Only an unjust ruler excuses himself from the requirements of rectitude. Who must keep the law? The answer – everyone!
I received the initial phone call in the fall of last year. The idea of a ministry tour throughout the state of Illinois was the topic of the conversation. A minister from Alabama was suggesting that a team from his network and a team from my network cooperate to put together a series of meetings throughout the state. As we looked at our calendars and our commitments, we projected ourselves ten months into the following summer and tentatively put a hold on a block of two weeks.
As the months unfolded, we set our itinerary. We would travel from the southernmost part of the state at Cairo to the northernmost part at Zion. We would not just go straight up from the bottom to the top, but we would zig-zag our way in order for us to touch the eastern border at Mt. Carmel and the western border at Peoria. Just in case our 2800-mile caravan would not be strenuous enough, we decided to add a meeting each day at noon and another each evening; and these two-a-day gatherings would be in different locations. So the twenty-four cities in twelve-days tour was conceived and constructed.
July arrived and our tour began. Our team consisted of no less than 12 members at all times and as many as 15 at other times. We caravanned in five vehicles because we carried our sound equipment and instruments with us. Some meetings were conducted in parks; others gatherings were in churches. Because of our prior advertising, folks were awaiting our arrival. Each meeting was unique and each meeting contained a special touch from the Lord. In spite of a rigorous schedule, the expectations of God’s people and the presence of the Spirit at each location kept us refreshed and revitalized.
Then – there was the driving. We covered interstates, state routes, and country back roads. We traveled along river roads and big city skylines. Although our journey never left Illinois - the state in which I was born and have lived all my life - I saw sights that that I had never before seen and viewed scenes before unknown to me. Illinois is a land rich with heritage, plentiful in character, and excellent in beauty.
Undoubtedly, the most reoccurring attraction of the state was the fertile farm lands In mid-July, one can see corn “as high as an elephant’s eye”, to quote the musical Oklahoma. Spreading out into the horizon were straight rows of tall green corn stalks boasting of the strength they received from the prolific soil and the warm summer sun. From north to south, the fields were full and fruitful with the agricultural commodities of corn, and soybeans, and hay. Grain silos stretched heavenward. Cattle grazed in fields. Tractors were parked near the barns waiting the time of harvest. Day after day, the farm land sights celebrated the abundance and prosperity of Illinois.
Many routes directed us through small town, USA. Main streets were lined with local, family owned stores. A few locales looked like they had been created to be the back lot of a movie set. Rural, quaint, home-style, and reminiscent of days-gone-by, I almost believed that Sherriff Andy, Opie and Aunt Bee still lived on in our Illinois version of Mayberry. Several times we stopped for a home-cooked lunch at the town’s diner – sweet tea and all.
Then there was Chicago. What an amazingly lovely town displaying the shores of Lake Michigan as its grand border and parading the Chicago River that runs through the center of the town as one of its cultural charms. With both the attractions and the trappings of big city and suburbs, Chicago fascinates the heart of the visitor. Of course, the Chicago-style pizza bid our appetites to stop and dine.
By the end of the tour, I forgot the fact that Illinois has no oceans or mountains. I was awe-struck by the natural and man-made wonders that give our state beauty, dignity, value, and distinction. Illinois, the Land of Lincoln, will soon celebrate her 200th year. I intend to commemorate that anniversary on December 3rd, but I have even more to celebrate now that I have taken my twenty-four cities in twelve-days tour.
“Bow down or die!” Little boys are fond of playing games of war and fighting imaginary battles. They envision themselves as combatants who fight the foe and overcome the enemy. They are conquerors who experience the thrill of victory, stand tall at the end of the fray, and are proclaimed by all to be the hero of the hour. Youngsters in our day visualize this. Little guys in Bible times played the same way.
Daniel’s childhood must have been similar. “The Babylonians are coming,” shouted his friend Hananiah. “Come on Mishael and Azariah,” Daniel called, “Grab your weapons and let’s show these enemies that God is on our side.” Hours of imaginary sword fighting always yielded peace and safety. Nighttime would come, and they would lay their heads down on their own beds in their own homes knowing that they had done all that was necessary to secure the victory. Until, one day when the four young men were in their teens, the Babylonians came.
The war was anything but imaginary. Real battles were fought. Family and friends died. Houses were burned; the wall of Jerusalem was torn down; and most devastating of all, the temple was utterly demolished. “Bow down or die,” were undoubtedly the words that Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah heard as they were bound and taken captive into the land of the enemy. In one horrendous event, the life of imagination fell along with all the security they had ever known.
Their captor, King Nebuchadnezzar was shrewd. He selected the sons of the nobles of Israel to be trained in Babylonian knowledge and customs in order that they might serve him in the king’s court. In the battle of knowledge, the conflict of traditions, the skirmish of cultures, or the fray of lifestyles, the young men were made to bow down. Even their identity was confiscated. Daniel was renamed Belteshazzar. Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah were given names of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, respectively.
Bowing down became a lifestyle. They would bow their backs to serve the king in obeisance, but they would only bow their knees before the God of their youth. “Prayer time is coming,” shouted Shadrach. Daniel called, “Grab your spiritual weapons and let’s show these captors that God is on our side.” Their outside environment may have been compromised, but these heroes still envisioned themselves as conquerors and victors.
The day arrived when the king raised up a golden statue to honor himself and commanded everyone to bow down to the image. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refused. “Bow down or die,” the king demanded in fury. The battle line was drawn. Had every bowed knee and every prayer been just an exercise in imagination like the war games of their youth? Their spiritual combatant skills were being tested. This time, would the outcome be different?
A fiery furnace was prepared and stoked extra hot. The young men were bound and cast inside the incinerator. When the king looked inside, he saw the men alive, unbound, and accompanied by a Heavenly Being. Nebuchadnezzar recognized that the God of the Israelites had won the battle for spiritual dominance. He released his prisoners. For the rest of the days of their captivity, Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego stood tall as the heroes of the Lord.
The early morning rays of the sun have begun to beam through the small windows on the right side of the airplane. Its bright light has arrested my attention. My flight departed San Jose in Costa Rica, Central America just after sunrise. I am scheduled to land in Fort Lauderdale, Florida where I will change planes and begin my last leg to the St. Louis airport.
After eight days abroad, I’m glad to be going home. I have greatly missed my family, my church, my own bed, and central air-conditioning. (Everyday comforts seem to be those things that we take for granted when we have them and sorely miss them when we don’t.) Strangely though, the thoughts running through my mind on this bright new morning are balanced equally on what lies ahead and on what lies behind. The past days have provided so many diverse opportunities that I am sure I will be months sorting through both memories and emotions.
My mind keeps rehearsing the vastness and infinity of God and how His people reflect that diversity. So much of what I have encountered in Costa Rica was new, different, and unknown to me. Customs, language, food preferences, buildings, and types of businesses beckoned to me constantly, as though to persuade me that they had a story to tell unlike anything that I had ever heard. They were testifying accurately and I was listening attentively. My hosts graciously answered my countless questions as they transported me from their small town into major cities, along country roads and one-lane bridges to the capital city with its seat of government, past centuries’ old structures into new and modern malls. I inquired of them continually; they informed me patiently.
Yet as I sit here, I am reminded that God is also unified and consistent; and His people reflect that unity. I experienced numerous circumstances that were familiar and well-known to me. Having been invited to Costa Rica to minister at a pastors’ conference, I had the honor of meeting and praying with many servants of God who tend to and love their congregations just as we do in the states. My accommodations were in the home of a local resident. Night after night, I sat at the dinner table with a family whose patterns of relating, tales of daily adventures, and dreams of future aspirations paralleled those expressed at my family’s nightly meal. I laughed with their children, admired photographs that encapsulated their family history, and joked with their neighbor who dropped by for fellowship.
Warm tears of affection flow down my face as I pen these words. Scripture tells me that God’s creation constantly tells the story of His power and His character. Mountains and oceans, sun and stars, or plants and animals continually testify to the wonder and wisdom of the One who fashioned them and gave order and meaning to their existence. But this morning, I hear my Creator’s story through His most grand creation – the people of the earth. English-speaking North Americans and Spanish-speaking Central Americans communicate God’s diversity and consistency, His variety and congruity, His novelty and harmony. This morning my heart and mind are reveling in the tale of God’s glory as told by the wonderfully-created, marvelously-fashioned, and remarkably-made people that I have had the honor to meet and know. Thank you, Lord, for this awesome trip to Costa Rica. Thank you also for home.
Conversation has a way of revealing the innermost workings of our hearts. I don’t mean short-term greetings, the ‘how-are-you-doing’ as two people rush past one another, or the thirty-second blurb left on a voice message. Most of us can project the image by which we wish others to view us in those ‘quickie’ communiqués. However, when a conversation delves into how we feel, think, dream, or long, then the true heart shows up.
I remember a day when I was talking with a young, well-dressed, handsomely-groomed woman who was lamenting certain aspects of her life. Her external image was almost flawless. As she spoke, she revealed that she was unhappy with her material and social status. She consistently compared her possessions to those of several of her friends. In her estimation, she had not gotten her fair share. A myriad of questions filled her thoughts and words. I was aware that she was not rehearsing the questions for the first time, because she promptly followed each question with her interpretation and answer, indicating that she had previously invested a great deal of time considering her opinions.
After I departed from her, I re-thought our conversation. I also reflected upon dialogs with other persons in which I had noted a similar vein. The discourse of comparison is a common malady of life. It flows from a heart that longs for something yet not granted or gained. It believes that someone else has the lion’s share of the luck. Sister ‘so-and-so’ has more time and money than anyone needs. Brother ‘born-with-a-golden-spoon-in-his-mouth’ never had to rough it like the other guys. Neighbor ‘man with a Midas touch’ has money to burn. These musings and others like them reveal a heart condition.
Whereas longings may be legitimate, comparisons can be dangerous. All of us dream and desire. Everyone longs to be loved unconditionally, treated with dignity, and rewarded with prosperity. However, our portion is never enhanced because another’s portion has been diminished. We are not made legitimate by viewing another as illegitimate. We cannot build our reputation from the ruined foundation of our neighbor’s good name.
To engage in the discourse of comparison reveals an unsatisfied longing that has been fueled by erroneous assumptions. Perhaps the mind has entertained a measure of jealousy or has feasted upon covetousness. Maybe a wounded self-image seeks to extrapolate assurance that it can win some competition even if only within the mind. Whatever the cause, comparison is filled with pitfalls.
Scripture teaches that the issues of life flow out of our heart. If our heart is filled with some form of ill will, these issues or characteristics not only flow out, but they also damage our heart’s container. Comparison is counter-productive. It has no power to produce a change in our status, but it is detrimental to our emotional and spiritual health.
Therefore, scripture also instructs us to diligently guard our heart. Rejoicing for the good favor of our neighbor, hoping for the prosperity of a friend, and even praying for blessings for others are sure ways to fill the heart with life-giving attributes while, at the same time, avoiding the pitfalls of comparison.
The skies had been darkening. The dark gray clouds had accumulated and their appearance was ominous. The wind was picking up momentum causing the trees to bow with each gusting force. A storm was brewing. Every visual indicator was in place. We were in for an evening of Midwest thunder storms.
Then, the lighting flashed and the thunder resounded with such a roar that the window panes reverberated. I have to admit that I jumped just a little because of the suddenness of the cracking boom. The thunder came so swiftly that it startled me, even if the awareness that thunder would follow a lightning flash was completely expected. After all, Midwest and thunder storms are familiar to those of us who are native to the region.
My son, his wife and their children lived in Southern California for twelve years. Dallas and Meg were born and raised in Illinois. Lex and Artie were born in the LA area. Since returning home, baby number three, Arrow, has joined the family. Although the parents grew up familiar with how the thunder rolls, the two California-born boys never experienced the phenomena on the West Coast. But now – these boys are Midwesterners.
During their first summer of storms, the kids were fear-filled. The magnitude of the forces of nature, the lightning-strikes bolting across the skies, the rumbling sounds of rolling thunder, the pounding rains assailing the house: these were threatening to little guys’ ears. However, after several summers and numerous storms, their little souls have been acclimated. During this last storm, the boys and their parents were at my house and together we enjoyed the thunder as its portentous sound rolled across the skies.
Arrow has celebrated his first birthday, learned to walk, and is mastering the art of owning his world. He only uses a few real words but his babbling, finger-pointing, and numerous other forms of baby body language have well-trained all of the adults in his life to move when he summons. The night of the storm, Arrow wanted to see what was happening outside of the house. As obedient grandparents, we opened the front door. Three generations of us stood together under the shelter of our home while the thunder rolled.
An onlooker would have thought that we were watching fireworks. We would “ooh” and “ahh” at the lightening, count between the flash and the clap, and then thrill at the thunder. The little guys squealed and giggled and the older of us enjoyed the joyful exuberance of the children as they faced the threatening storm with the confidence that they were secure.
I remember being very young – only 3 to 4 years old – when my father was in a very serious automobile accident, which unleashed a terrible storm in our lives. Ominous reports of his injuries, darkening skies of the threat to his life, torrential rains of problems plummeted every spot in our worlds. But our home gave us shelter. When I say home, I mean grandparents, aunts, cousins, church family, friends, or persons who could give us a roof over our heads and a word of peace to our hearts. These were present to show us what true shelter means and to give us a proper perspective of the thunder storms of lives.
Our family weathered the storm. Dad recovered; the sound of the thunder roll was silenced; and the sunny days of life returned. Oh – life has brought other storms. From childhood to adulthood, from mom’s house to my house, from being a child to having a child – the storms of life continue to assail; but my shelter holds. As a young child, I learned that I could have peace in a storm. My grandchildren have learned that same lesson. My prayer is that you can also trust in a shelter that will provide peace when the thunder rolls. “O God; let your ears be open to my prayer. From the end of the earth will I send up my cry to you, when my heart is overcome: take me to the rock which is over-high for me. For you have been my secret place, and my high tower from those who made war on me. I will make your tent my resting-place forever: I will keep myself under the cover of your wings.” Psalms 61:1-4 (BBE)
Her soul bore scars from relationships gone bad. Who she had become was a result of what she had endured. There seemed to be no escape from her past. There appeared to be no happier moments in the present. There promised to be no better days in the future. Her existence was what it was. She had spent too much of her life ingesting acrid waters until her own wellsprings had become bitter.
That day was like so many others. She had filled her morning tending to the bare necessities. There were no children around who needed her nurturing. No spouse was there who extracted covenantal love. The man who was present had self-serving motives and a distant heart. So, her tasks were mere motions of a passionless life.
She needed to walk to the center of town to draw water from the well, but she waited until most of the other women had finished that job. She did not want to again be the object of either scorn or insincere pleasantries. “If one is going to be alone in the midst of a crowd;” she surmised, “one might just as well be alone.” She gathered her pitcher and walked to Jacob’s Well.
As she drew up the water, she heard the voice of a stranger ask her for a drink. Startled out of her introversion, she noted that a Jewish man was addressing her, a Samaritan woman. Barely would her own people speak to her. She could scarcely comprehend that a Jew, known to be prejudice against her people, would be requesting a drink from her. She asked him how this could be.
He responded, “If you knew me, you would ask me for water.” She had long ago stopped trying to know anyone. Who was this stranger? How could he give her anything?
“You have no pitcher, no way to draw water,” she replied.
“Then I will give you life-giving waters to quench the deepest longings of your heart,” he cryptically responded. “My water will satisfy you now and forevermore.”
Something about the way he spoke to her, the words he used, the manner of his person struck her deepest thirst, which she had long ago tried to squelch. She thought she would never again drink in the promises of another. Yet, before she could stop herself, she cried, “Sir, give me this water!”
Stepping outside of her own self-imposed isolationism, she began a discourse that drew from his reservoir. He had knowledge of her past, understanding of her beliefs, and wisdom of God’s purposes. She drank in his words. She swallowed a rhetoric that was not toxic or poison, but sweet to the taste and satisfying to the soul.
His waters not only satisfied, they refreshed, they healed, they restored. She had come to the well to draw and surely she had drawn. She left her pitcher and ran into the town to pour out the waters she had received.
“Come meet this man,” she gushed to her neighbors. “He told me all he knew of my personal past yet promised me a future free of yesterday’s bitter taste,” she spouted. She wetted their appetite and they followed her to the well where they also drew living water from the Christ, the Son of the Living God. (This story is taken from the fourth chapter of the Gospel of John.)
An up and coming family event has required me to collect photographs from days gone by. I have been hunting. My digital files only contained pictures from the last decade or so. I had to go back in time and back in technology. I had to find the photos from the days when negatives had to be developed into the pictures. Photography the way it used to be.
I’ve spent hours reviewing pictures that I had displayed in albums, images stored away in the cedar chest, and snapshots stowed in boxes in the basement. My responses have swept the spectrum of emotions. Tears have fallen as I gazed on the faces of loved ones who are no longer alive, while laughter has erupted at the sight of the children caught on film in the midst of an unexpected moment. What a joy this search has been.
As I sat in the floor of my closet and pulled a film-processing jacket from the custody of Grandma’s cedar chest, my eyes fell on the words “handle with care” printed on the envelope. These words struck my attention. I know the manufacturer was alerting the buyer to attentiveness for the prints themselves, but my contemplation proceeded to the watchfulness that must be applied to the lives of those whose images are inscribed upon the paper.
A picture is a testimony that life has occurred. It is a memorial to a real-time, real-people, real-happening, real-life event. It is a freeze frame, a millisecond captured from the past, an instant encapsulated for reflection. Life happens before, in the midst of, and after the camera flashes. Looking at the still photos caused many moving moments to flood across the screen of my memory. I replayed vacations, birthdays, holidays. I tracked each child’s growth by the school photos – kindergarten through graduation. I rekindled the warmth of friendships from former days. I rejoiced at the birth of the grandbabies. I thrilled again at milestones achieved by those I love. While each picture might have been a moment frozen in time, the memories attached were living and active.
Between the Kodak moments, life happens. And, I think that the best of life occurs when loved ones and friends are handled with care. Loyalty, faithfulness, and devotion have to be demonstrated. Effort, attentiveness, dedication, and commitment must be exerted. Plans and dreams, hopes and prayers, faith and fidelity need to be constantly reaffirmed. These are the things of which great photos are made. The quality of the shot is probably not as significant as the memory being captured. The perfection of the camera angle and lighting may not be as consequential as the personal story being commemorated. Especially for family pictures, the merit lies in shared lives more than great technical achievements.
In order to insure good photos in the days ahead, I would do well to heed the Manufacture’s admonition and view the subjects of my pictures as precious images that I must continue to “handle with care.”