The Idea Chest

  “Write it down”, it’s the first thing we think to do when we hear something important.  If we are paying a bill, planning a trip, or on a business call.  Those are obvious, but what about all the things we let slip through our fingers? Today, I’d like to expand on something I’ve mentioned previously, the idea chest.

An idea chest is a great commodity to have.  I would like to share three reasons why.  Perhaps you aren’t a writer, blogger, or speaker, and you’re asking, “How does this help me?”  

First, it will make you aware of knowledge on another level. Any subject someone is interested in, gets greater attention. Whether it’s a favorite book, or tv show, fans remember things common watchers don’t.  If you collect knowledge your senses will become more keen to detail.

This improves brain function if you’re older, and develops research skills if you’re younger.  The greatest students do not learn facts, instead they learn how to uncover them.  A child who knows how to learn “how” can power rocket ships, cure diseases, and change their world.

Second, it will give you a resource to draw from.  Whether it’s a business conversation, a social setting, or penning an email, you’ll benefit from a well placed fact or quote.  Before the internet, John Maxwell used a filing cabinet to house things that he considered too important to forget, it’s served him well.  His books, and their success are a testimonial to it.

Thirdly, the act of recording information has never been easier. This goes beyond note taking, which itself has been revolutionized through tools such as Evernote and Notability.  Apps like Pinterest allow you to record visual cues, places, and objects that can be retrieved later at a moments notice.

If you a blogger, writer, or speaker, organize your idea chest to make retrieval even easier. I have an app to house quotes, boards that hold idea pictures, and three different note programs.  Each has a different function, but they all contribute to my personal life, Ministry, blog, and business career.

Resources are all around you. Whether it’s looking up and storing a Wikipedia selection, or a book from the library, we live in the Information Age.  You have the ability to accomplish anything you wish, and you don’t have to do it alone. 

Much like Captain Marvel, now known as Shazam, you can access the wisdom of the ages. The only difference is that you don’t have to wear a lightning bolt around on your shirt, unless you want to.  I know where you can get one, the address is in my idea chest.

We Are Americans

  He was a businessman, not a politician.  He wasn’t perfect, nor do I believe he claimed to be.  However this man of finance saved our country on two different occasions.  Once when he kept the entire U.S. Treasury from failing, with his own gold. The other was when he bought enough stock to secure Wall Street from collapse.

J.P. didn’t do this because it was good for his fortune, he did it because it was right for the country.  He loved our nation as much as Its leaders, and he offered his help where it would make a difference.  Morgan stepped up when his unique abilities were needed the most. 

Today I heard a story of a child whose Father’s sacrifice lead him to honor our military. This small boy stirred my passion for our nation.  Because this “Gold Star Kid”, as he proudly called himself, never got to meet his Father, he honored the soldier he saw at a restaurant.  It was his way of saying that the sacrifices made by those who walked ahead of him, are worth following after.

The banker and the boy weren’t soldiers, but they loved their country.  Is she perfect, no, but I don’t recall Lady Liberty ever making that claim. What I do recall is another credo that met immigrants longing for a new life.

“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free…”  What’s the point?  The broken became bankers, doctors, and lawyers.  Those who struggled to learn how to communicate in a new land went on to see their children thrive here. Presidents pointed to a heritage began in poverty.   

Some became soldiers who fought and bled for our right to worship, to speak freely, and to choose our leaders. Others may not have taken up the sword, but they took up the plough, the bond, or the mantle.  We don’t have to be Washington or Lincoln to make a difference here, but all of us can make an impact.  

Like the banker and the boy, we are Americans. We should be as passionate about this country’s future as we are its grand heritage.  No, you’re not a soldier, you may just be a businessman, or not even of age yet, but you are a citizen.  

Act today, in whatever way you can, to preserve what it means to be an American.  It’s future should be greater than its past, but we must make it so.  The baton we’ve been handed is more than a scrolled set of documents sealed in blood.  It’s an ideal, a virtue, and a gift from God.

The promise of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, but it must be pursued.  Just as any freedom, it must be fought for, maintained, and appreciated.  So let’s get to work this morning, making our land a better one in our own way.

The Sea Horse: Hyperbole 

  “Framework which waits for a picture to frame: What of the leafage, what of the flower?”  The figure quoted as he spoke to the guards in the diamond exchange.  They would have lunged at him, had they not been temporarily frozen. The gas he had pumped in left them aware, but unable to move.

They studied this ridiculous looking figure closely, committing to memory what they saw. He wore a black silk vest, tuxedo trousers, French cuffed shirt, and blue ascot tie.  The short, bald man was in a mask that appeared to be made out of Opera glasses. Finally the odd intruder had a brilliant red mustache and goatee.  

His weapon of choice was as odd as he was.  He threw three marbles into the room which emitted the paralyzing spray. He also had a staff shaped to resemble a fountain pen.  It was slightly taller than his four foot seven stature.  The still nameless stranger appeared to cut through the glass and metal cases with nothing but his dress gloves.

“Ladies and gentlemen I bid you adieu.  I thank you for being such a, ha, attentive crowd.  My next performance will be at the Oceania Opera Hall. Lastly, since it is unkind of a performer to leave the stage without an introduction, I leave you with that. My friends, Hyperbole thanks you for your contribution to his pursuits.”

The figure bowed, and the guards blacked out. When they came to, they could move, but the entire place had been wiped out.  Oceania had another new face, and it was one that they would not soon forget.

The Umbrella


 Matthew 10:22
And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved.

An umbrella or parasol is a canopy designed to protect against rain or sunlight. A parasol is designed to protect from the sun. An umbrella is more suited to protect from rain. Often the difference is the material; some parasols are not waterproof.

That last sentence makes all the difference in whether you’ll come out of your downpour unscathed or not.  To state the obvious, an umbrella is superior to a parasol, facing sun and rain.   What does that have to do with this verse?

Everything, because the word endureth comes from the Greek hypomeno.  The first definition is to stay under (behind), i. e. remain.  Jesus was saying that as long as you stay under my canopy, you’ll be safe.  

As I said, an umbrella is only as good as the material it’s made from.  The question has been asked, can the Church endure in this modern age?  The answer is a resounding Yes, not through ourselves, it’s because of Him. 

If you’re struggling today, let me recap His qualifications.  Stepping out on nothing, He created the worlds. Taking on everything, He later stepped into the world to save it from sin. Christ has fought everything from sin to satan and overcame.

Every century has asked His followers if their God could carry them through, and we continue to stand.  We are covered by a God greater than dynasty and dictator. Philosophy doesn’t shake Him, and problems don’t trouble Him.  

So when that doubting voice whispers in your mind today, “Will you make it?”  You can answer without fear, knowing the material your canopy is made from.  Before Kevlar, there was Christ!  No matter what you will face, or have fought, Jesus is still strong enough to carry you through.  

Whether you’re facing a scorching drought, or traveling through the storm, He will bring you safely, and securely home!  Jesus knew what they would face, that’s why He warned us.  It’s also why, in the warning, He gave us hope. The Lord said, “I have seen the end, and you can make it, as long as you hold my hand.” His umbrella is big enough to cover us, and powerful enough to keep us!  

The Unsigned Painting

       I love to paint. It’s not necessarily the final product that is the most enjoyable, it’s the process. The act of putting paint on canvas, and the improving of technique.  The same is true in life, it’s the act of living that brings enjoyment.

My point is this, yes your life is a production, but every breath is a part of the final product.  If that’s the case, you are not finished. There is room for correcting mistakes, learning a new skill, and yes, changing one’s life. It’s the unsigned painting that brings the artist the most joy, the most improvement, and the greatest opportunity.  

The final act of a painting is not even the signature, it’s the varnish.  Art dealers prize the long dead signature of a few hundred year old artists as the prize.  Art lovers appreciate the brush strokes.  In short, the painter loved painting, and fans admire how they accomplished it.  Once it’s signed, then it’s coated to endure the ages.

So many times today, we as a culture are so wrapped up in what we produce, that we fail to appreciate the process.  The fact of the matter is, people who manufacture goods earn their wages in the production of goods. The skills they develop are in the act of producing, and the finished product benefits from this.  

When it arrives, it’s going to be unwrapped anyway.  People don’t admire a banana moon pie, yes a personal favorite, they eat them.  The wrapper gets tossed in the trash, the dessert gets enjoyed.  If your life has some bitter areas, there is still time to sweeten the final product.  

I understand that it’s easy to write “change your situation”, but it’s much harder to live.  The good news is that change is a process, it’s a bridge to cross.  You don’t have to paint like Monet, just paint.  Will you make mistakes? Yes, but they’re fixable, the only thing that isn’t is a blank canvas.  

Artists will tell you, whether you paint or write, your enemy is the blank page.  As long as you’re not trying, you’re not getting better.  If you accidentally blacken your river, apply more blue.  If you get the face to light or dark, adjust, and correct.  Only by beginning can we improve.

What are you hoping to accomplish today, what do you need to fix?  Wherever you find yourself in life, you’re still breathing. Get up, and begin from where you are. The painter Grandma Moses started at the age of 78, and lived to be 101 by the way.  Her new course added life and adventure to her days.

That voice that whispers you can’t is only true if you don’t try.  If you try and stumble, get up again. If you’re too tired to walk, crawl until you can walk again.  Don’t allow anything to talk you out of living.  Fear, regret, and fatigue want you to give up and stop trying, but that’s the only way they can win!  If you lay down the brush, your painting will never be signed.

God will walk with us through the process, provided we pick up the brush. In this life, we’ll make mistakes, but as long as we’re pursuing, there is hope. He’s had experience in picking up the pieces and helping turn them into a masterpiece.  

Never allow years of mistakes to trick you into believing there isn’t hope.  Past failures are only determining factors if your idle in your present. Your life isn’t over as long as your heart is beating.  Your future is in the unsigned painting, so add a new road to your picture.

If it isn’t signed, it can’t be varnished. The coating that preserves a painting is waiting for the artist’s signature.  He will carry us through to the end, just as long as we don’t give up.  It’s a new morning, drink some coffee, and get started. You’ve got an unsigned painting to work on! 

The Sea Horse: Why Yellow And Blue

  “Why yellow and blue?”  Elizabeth asked Aaron, it seemed to take him by surprise.  “Why?  I thought it was pretty obvious.  Blue is the color of the sea, yellow is the color that represents light. Oceania’s hero needs to send the message that there is strength and hope in our city.”

“Why a sea horse?  Why not a whale, or a dolphin, or something.”  Henry walked in with the cast matierial to wrap Aaron’s broken leg.  He answered for him.  “That’s the easiest of all, it was his Mother’s code name as Ambassador.  Nicolai gave her that because of her home town and her first ambassadorship to Ireland.  It was also the name of his Dad’s boat that he was born on.”

Elizabeth looked around the Sea Cove. “How did you get the technology to build this?”  The Judge spoke up.  “Henry supplied the funds, but your Aaron and his step brother Webb are the brains.  Aaron’s recovery wasn’t wasted, he earned as many degrees as he could.”

She started to ask another question when Aaron raised his hand to stop her.  “You stopped me the other night from telling you how this all started with your Grandmother.  Let Henry tell you now.”  “I don’t know if I’m ready to hear, I loved her so much.”

Henry scratched his head.  “I think you have the wrong idea.  Your Grandmother was a hero.”  “But my Dad …”  Nicolai took up the story.  “Your Dad was connected to your Grandmother, as an agent. He was planted in the criminal organization to get information.  He was the first “British Rose”, and Rook’s first assignment as team leader. He took that codename to protect his family, so there would be no trace back to you and your Mother.”

She swallowed hard. “Where were you?” “Saving the life of a young man half way across the world.” “It cost me a limp, but he got me to safety.” The Judge responded.  Henry took up the conversation again.  “For us, it started in Oceania, your Grandmother needed a doctor to go with the Ambassador and her family. She was expecting a child, and wanted a doctor to travel with them on a off the books mission.”

“Wanda introduced me to her representative, Carla Lyman.  Carla worked for the CIA, your Grandmother’s bureau.  Nicolai had recommended his team because your Grandmother felt her team had been compromised.  She was right, only they didn’t stop with silencing her, they kept up ‘the accidents’, including Norm Silva.”

“What accidents?”  “That night on the boat, one of your Grandmother Wanda’s team followed her to the boat.  He tried to kill her, I had to operate to save her, she recovered, but the injuries were career ending for her.  That’s why your Father became an agent, to continue his Mother’s work.”

“Another operation happened that night, Elaine and her husband gave birth to a son.  We thought the worse days were behind us, until a few years later.  Rook’s point man, and Nicolai’s old partner, was the captain of the ship that night.  He had since retired and started a family, changing his name in the process.”

Aaron took over the last leg of the story.  “He thought he had covered his tracks, but still kept one eye open. He even settled near Henry and Carla to watch after me.  Since Dad’s boating accident, Mom spent most of her time in Washington.  Until the car wreck when I was five, and Henry and Carla adopted me.  I learned later that neither was ‘an accident’.”

Elizabeth hugged him as he continued. “Between them, they kept my life quiet, until I was 18.  These people don’t like loose ends, which is what they viewed the Judge, and his young part time assistant as.  We were trying to fight in our own way.  I stayed late one night to help the Judge, not knowing about the explosion until it happened.” 

“According to the news, four people were lost in the fire, I thought three had.  Until I found the Judge, that is.  I spent time recovering, Henry repaired my face, Webb taught me, and Nicolai trained me. Before I could start my campaign, they got rid of the last person they were afraid of.”

“You mean Norm Silva.” He agreed. “Norm was Nicolai’s old partner, now a fisherman in what is now the suburbs of Oceania.  He tried to stop them from amalgamating this town through corruption and greed.  They responded by silencing him.”

“The night before the attack, he came to see me.  I was angry, he said I couldn’t let that anger destroy me.  He said that I was like this city, and that we both were too important to be a cesspool.  Like the ocean, we were full of possibilities, and that we had to maintain hope, to stand for the light.  To uphold right, and dispel the darkness.”

“That’s why I guess I really chose yellow and blue.  For my parents, for your family, for Norm Silva, and for Oceania.  They need to know that there is hope, and together we’re going to help them find it.”

Beauty In The Struggle

No one likes to struggle, whether its financial, physical, or mental, it’s not something we plan to do. The danger though is, if we’re not careful, we can miss the beauty in the struggle.  The greatest lessons I’ve ever been taught, the  strongest examples in my life, were from people in the midst of a battle.

The pain was not pretty, the hurt, the tears, none of that held any joy, please don’t misunderstand.  The anguish isn’t what is so glorious, but the endurance and the victory are.  In articles like this, our minds gravitate towards life altering battles we’ve witnessed, and those are so powerful.

However, this morning, let’s look at the smaller ones.  The Parents that struggle to make the budget match the bills.  The Pastors who patch up their vehicles to keep them running because the Church has a need.  The school teacher who could make more in almost any other industry, but chooses to teach anyway.

How many kids get a full meal because their parents limited their own dinner each night? What about that Mother who buys her children clothes, maybe not from the best store, but sees they have a new outfit for Easter? In our pursuit of the brass ring, do we forget to be grateful for the metal rings that hold what we already have together?

Again, don’t misunderstand, I think anyone who betters themselves should be applauded and rewarded.  What I am saying, is because I am human, it’s sometimes too easy to forget the reward in the resistance.  Muscles are grown under pressure, character is forged in trials.

We appreciate the carefully cut diamonds in rings, but it’s the beaten or melted, and formed gold that holds them in place.  President’s in history were proud to be sharecropper’s sons.  They’re position was a direct result of the path their parents walked.

In your struggle today, who’s watching you?  What child, or grandchild will overcome life jarring situations because of your everyday victories? It’s easy to see yourself as being all alone in the sea, but you’re not.  You’re not drowning, you’re teaching someone else how to swim.  

To all of you today who are overworked, underpaid, and exhausted, thank you.   Thank you for your everyday sacrifice.  Thank you for not being selfish, and for putting our needs above your own.  You may think those calluses and blisters are not attractive, but to those of us who are the recipients of your struggle, they are the among the most beautiful sights we’ve ever seen!