Walking with Swager

The Mismatched Adventures of Living Life and Loving People


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Storyteller vs. Life-changer

Posted on September 15, 2014 at 4:50 PM Comments comments (0)

My dad always used to tell me these fantastically funny stories about life when he was a kid. Some were confusing to a young man in that awkward stage between child and young adult. Stories about how much harder he had it as a kid would make me smile. He would tell me about walking great distances to go to school or how he would brave the winter snow in subfreezing temps while lightly clothed so he wouldn’t get his clothes wet. He even shared with me that, often, his walks required him to go uphill both ways!


Now, I would never question my father’s integrity, but I think he occasionally stretched the truth in order to get his point across. Not to say he would exaggerate, but I recall some tales of fishing trips that seemed slightly embellished. I even remember him sharing many times that my first successful hunt had him completely confused! He couldn’t understand why the deer had chosen to run into my arrow.


My dad’s stories impacted me greatly as I was growing up and they have helped to make me into the man I am now. Through his picking, my dad would exhibit his pride in what I had accomplished. My grandfather was very similar. I come from a long line of storytellers who excelled in the art of “picking.”


Some of my favorite memories of times spent with them include a wry little grin as some great tale, slightly embellished, was retold for the tenth or the hundredth time. Those stories never grow old, though, with time, they have grown. Fish get larger, the size of the deer missed and ease of the shot are exaggerated while the tales of our successes become more comical each time told.


I don’t know if my dad or my grandfather understood the profound impact their storytelling had on my life, but it changed me in ways I only recently have come to realize. It set me on a course I never anticipated but am so thankful to be on. Those stories have changed my life and given me a hope that I too will be able change the lives of those around me through the stories we share!


I don’t want to be remembered as a storyteller, I want my story to inspire people to change the lives of those around them. As I look at the lives of my father and grandfather, that’s what I see, two men who loved to tell a story, but did so to change the lives of those listening. They shared their experiences, slightly embellished, all the while hoping to inspire you to go further than you thought possible. My grandfather wasn’t and my father isn’t just about the story. Both did all they could to change the lives of those around them by giving of themselves every day. That behavior changed me, it inspired me to write a story with my life that would be worth sharing.


Each of us has a story to tell. You are writing it now, even as you read. Does your story inspire hope in others? Are you a storyteller or a life-changer? You have it in you to make an incredible impact on this world! Your story can change people’s lives and inspire them to become more than they ever imagined, but you have to write it. Many great stories go unwritten because our fears keep us from living out the tale.


Regardless of your age, there are still pages left to be written! Fill them with stories that make a difference in the world around you. Take some risks, embellish from time to time, but use the time you’ve been given effect positive change in this world. Don’t let fear leave blank pages in your life’s tale. Let your story inspire others. Be assured, you will have trials in this life, those obstacles make your story unique. It’s how we live in the midst of those moments that make us life-changers.

Who's Watching You?

Posted on June 14, 2014 at 2:50 PM Comments comments (0)

How much better the world would be if we didn’t act based on who’s watching us? Why do we try so hard to win the approval of others? What if we just did what we do and lived how we live? What if we truly were who we are in every circumstance?


Because people might not like us, that’s why! Maybe we aren’t all that impressed with ourselves so we think in order for someone else to find us valuable we have to be something we aren’t.


It really isn’t a uniquely human trait. We share the tendency to show-out with many other species that inhabit our planet. Men seem especially prone to this behavior but it isn’t expressly a male trait. Women are equally guilty but they tend to be somewhat more subtle in the approach. I think that’s so they have deniability, but they would never admit it!


From gorillas to lizards, the animal kingdom is full of examples of individuals making a spectacle of themselves in order to grab a little attention. Humans are no exception! We like to think we’re more evolved and civilized, but let your gaze fall upon that special someone sitting in the crowd at a competition and we all tend to crank it up a notch. Similar to a gorilla trying to tempt a mate, we puff out our checks and beat our chest as if to say, “Look at me!” Usually something unexpected follows, typically something funny or embarrassing. Rarely does it work out the way we hope, but we do it time and again anyway!


It’s fun to watch people at the mall or in a park because, if you watch closely, you can usually tell who’s competing for whose affection. It’s our mating ritual of sorts! I’m still guilty of it and my wife and I have been married 20 years! Let her walk by the court while I’m playing racquetball and you better believe I’ll run a little faster, try a little more and hit the ball a lot harder just to impress her and prove that she choose wisely! I might as well be in the forest shaking trees and grunting like an animal!


Women do it too, though they tend to be a little more reserved in the effort. They’re more like runners getting ready to take off on an endurance race cross country. They push a little, poking with their elbows, jostling for the best spot to start the race. They play on the reaction of the males seeking their attention while playing off the efforts of the very one they are hoping to attract. IT’s a strange process, but it isn’t limited to male-female relationships!


From the schoolyard to sports teams to the workplace, even in church, people are always pushing for favor! We try to catch the eye of that one person, hoping they’ll see us in the middle of the moment doing just the right thing in just the right way to elicit a complement or validation of some kind. We’re addicted to it. We crave affirmation like a junky craves a fix. We play it off, but deep down inside, most of us crave it.


How much better would it be if we always gave everything? No matter the situation, no matter who’s looking, with no desire to impress, we perform at 100% just because it’s the right thing to do? The world would be a different place for sure! But it’s difficult to always go full out. We hold back ever so slightly so that we still have something left for what we really want to be doing. Maybe the real problem isn’t consistency in our character but the motivation with which we do what we do. No, I imagine until the end of it all, we will see young men making fools of themselves’ to win the attention of that young lady gently jostling her way to the best position for him to see her act like she’s uninterested. No wonder we’re so confused and relationships are so hard!

A Smile That Isn't

Posted on June 12, 2014 at 1:10 AM Comments comments (0)


No doubt about it! A smile livens up the room! There are so many kinds of smiles from cheesy to roguish. It says something about the person. In fact, we assume that the person wearing the smile feels like this: beaming, joyful, happiness, twinkle, elation.


We make a lot of assumptions based on a smile, even more when a smile is lacking. The problem with those assumptions is often the person who’s always smiling is doing it to hide a deeper pain. We use our smiles like women use makeup. We cover up our true selves in an effort to put forth something more attractive to the world around us.


Don’t get me wrong, smiles are great, but they are more than the way we hold our mouth. Smiles should be felt. They should rise up from a place deep inside. A smile should be the outward reflection of our inside condition. Regardless of how goofy it might look, then it’s a true testimony to the joy you feel.


Think about the last time you were so moved to laugh that you couldn’t stop. I mean side-splitting laughter. It happens a lot at my house and is typically preceded by one of the family making a ridiculous declaration or some embarrassing moment that I can’t discuss here. However, the result is truly amazing. You laugh so hard, you’re moved to tears. Your entire body is consumed in the moment of good humor. And what expression adorns the face in that moment? Most definitely, a genuine smile!


Have you ever tried to laugh without smiling? I don’t think it’s possible. In fact, it would be a little disconcerting. It certainly wouldn’t be jolly.


When I was in choir, my director had a favorite saying, “Fake it ‘til you make it.” Though when a smile is forced to hide the pain it loses the sparkle. We shouldn’t just assume that the smile we see is a sign that everything is well with the bearer. Look beyond the smile to see the real person. It may be a distress signal. It might be camouflage for the world around the person. It might be, deep inside, the person is fighting to make it in this life.


Go beyond the smile to see the real person underneath. Don’t make assumptions because of what you see. A person is more than what the exterior shows. It’s what’s on the inside that truly tells the story of the people we see everyday. Go deeper. Make an investment in the world around you! Smile more, but smile for the right reasons! There is so much in this life to smile about and a true smile comes from joy felt inside!


The Hope of the Prey

Posted on June 6, 2014 at 2:30 PM Comments comments (0)

The human capacity to do hurtful things is unimaginable. People take advantage of others in their most vulnerable state. It saddens me to know that no one is off limits, in fact, those who deserve a certain respect seem most often to be the target of societies predators.


I have seen a number of things through the opportunities I have been given that make me incredibly proud to call myself a part of this human race. I have also seen things that bring me a great deal of pause. I question the morality of those who would take advantage of a child or the elderly amidst tragic moments in life. Not just the morality, but their humanity.


I feel we all have a moral responsibility to watch out for the weak among us but some, who live by a different code than I do, see them as opportunity for personal gain. I feel a sense of outrage when I hear of an elderly widow taken advantage of by a group of people who meant nothing but harm through their own personal gain. That people would take advantage of others in the midst of disaster or personal loss and tragedy is sickening.


I ask this question, “How would they feel if it were their mom, dad or child being mistreated?” The sad answer is, they probably wouldn’t care or their outrage wouldn’t move them to action, only remorse that they hadn’t acted quicker on their own behalf.


The elder population should be cherished for their experience and wisdom, not targeted to make an easy dollar. Our children are our hope for the future and they shouldn’t be exploited, they should be encouraged to become something greater than even the child could dream!


Unfortunately, throughout history, there have been those who lacked the moral fortitude to stand on principle. None of us are perfect, but most have an imprint deep inside them that guides their conduct. Be it a conscious or a moral absolute, we all have deeply ingrained ideals for what is societally acceptable. Some of us chose to ignore the leading of that still small voice, but it still exists.


Whether it be a natural disaster or the loss of a loved one, there are those moments in the lives of those around when they need us to be morally strong. They need us to make the right decisions in moments when they are weakened by circumstance. Those moments bring out the best in most people and the worst in others.


I’ve seen it countless times while serving as a pastor. Some people only care about what they can get out of those around them. I pray for them because that’s a sad way to view the wonderful people we encounter each day. Better that we think of what we can do to serve those around us. Let their experience mold us as we mold those who look to us for answers. Not to be cheesy, but a circle of life kind of thing. Not for us to prey on each other, but to pray for the best in the lives of those who cross our path.


There is a hope for the future! It’s you and I, standing in the midst of human depravity and bringing a message of encouragement to that person who has been steamrolled by life. Instead of sitting back and questioning, “What can I do, I’m weak or poor or whatever,” charge forward, arms outstretched and stand alongside those who have no one. Be that one! We can make a difference if we determine in our hearts to not stand back and hold what’s most important to us close and forget about the world around us.


Imagine if each one made a moral stand when they saw those society calls weak being preyed upon. I saw the result in Pensacola! It was beautiful and hope was given to people who had none. Ultimately, isn’t that what we are called to do? It’s doesn’t require that you be financially secure or the strongest or the wisest, it requires your willingness to be a servant to the world around you. You are the hope of the prey.

Crash the Machine

Posted on April 19, 2014 at 8:25 PM Comments comments (0)

Sometimes I wish life came with a reset switch. Kind of like the Staples Easy Button, but better. When I’ve made a stupid decision, just flip the switch and we’re back to the moment before the poor choice but with the added knowledge time provides. Like system restore on a computer, it would definitely have it’s advantages.


I’m not sure if it’s just a product of my generation or if most people have wished for a do-over. Video games only seem to encourage the idea. If I’m losing, it’s so easy to start over. Some games even have the ability to rewind in the midst of play to a point prior to the moment you want erased. How convenient is that! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve wished that I could find that box Mario found that gave him unbeatable strength or even an extra life. It’s never happened, but I hoped for it nonetheless.


In all honesty, sometimes I get so overwhelmed, I just want to unplug the machine. Don’t take me wrong, this isn’t about giving up; it’s about escaping the things that push me to the brink. It would be far easier to unplug the machine before it crashes then deal with the situations life sometimes puts in our path. It’s in that moment I want to hide from life’s trials and reboot the system.


It would be advantageous. I would never be fearful of stepping out of my comfort zone because I could always go back to that moment before I took a risk. Think of the chances you would take! Some good, some not so good. Come to think of it, life without consequence might seem appealing, anarchy often does, but some choices shouldn’t be made.


The disadvantages of a life lived with no thought given to cause and effect far outweighs any foreseen benefits. It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t take risks, but they need to calculated. We need to be wise and make decisions fully aware of possible consequences.


Are you comfortable with the possible result of the decisions you’ve made today? Are there things you should have done and didn’t because you were afraid to fail? Are there things you wish you could take back?


The sooner we realize that we won’t hit it out of the park every time we step to the plate the better off we will be. It’s better to stand in the batter’s box and face the day swinging than sit on the bench because you’re afraid of the ball. Just because you’re at the plate doesn’t mean you should try to crush it over the fences. Some situations call for a bunt.


You have to be in the moment to know what the situation calls for, and you can’t be in the moment when you’re afraid to try or too overwhelmed to get involved. Chances are if we want to push the reset button our choices put us in that position and yes, not choosing to act is a choice. Rare is the time that we find ourselves in a predicament that’s completely out of our control. If we look back along the timeline of our lives we can probably find the exact moment that led us to the circumstance that’s got us frustrated and ready to blow.


So before you hit the reset, take a moment and look at where you’re at. Once you’ve come to grips with the idea that somewhere along the path your choices, however round about, brought you to this place, accept it. OWN IT! Make the most of it. Figure out what one thing you could change right now to make it better and do it.


Change comes from within, not without, and it takes a great deal of determination to achieve. Don’t make wholesale changes and set unreasonable expectations on your day! That’s what leads us to frustration. Find joy in the moments where you are truly doing what you’ve been called to do, it will help to temper the times when you’re carrying someone else’s ball. And when you’ve done all you can do, as Paul stated so wisely, stand. You have choices to make today! Choose wisely!

Iron Out the Wrinkles

Posted on March 11, 2014 at 1:50 AM Comments comments (0)

There is something relaxing about ironing. Now I’m sure the professional ironer might disagree, but I find it soothing. You take this wrinkled piece of fabric and with little effort you make it smooth, even crisp if you add starch.


I know some of you may think I’ve lost my mind, but I haven’t. It’s a peaceful process. Sometimes I wish life were as easy as ironing the wrinkles from a pair of slacks or a nice shirt. Unfortunately, life’s wrinkles are more complex. At least I wouldn’t advise trying to iron them away… not in the conventional sense. You might burn yourself! Still, wouldn’t it be awesome to simply press the steam button to smooth out those stubborn, wrinkly moments?


I used to laugh at people who spent so much time ironing. I do a lot of physical activity and I wear a lot of t-shirts. It never made sense to me to iron out the wrinkles. I thought it was a waste of time! Forget about ironing my jeans, gheesh! My wife would look at what I’d put on and say things like, “That could really use ironing,” but I’d just laugh. It didn’t matter to me! If a shirt was really bad, I’d throw it in the dryer with a damp towel for 10 minutes. Sort of a cheater’s way to loosen the wrinkles, but they were still there, just not as noticeable.


It really was quite silly that I would go to such extremes to avoid ironing. I have even thrown clothes that were clean back in the wash because they were too wrinkled to deal with! I realize how absurd this must sound, but it was as though I thought ironing made me a little less tough. Like the wrinkles in my clothes were the mark of hard work and determination when really, I just looked sloppy.


It may seem like a strange comparison, ironing a t-shirt and struggles in life, but really, they are quite similar. It was my pride that kept me from ironing the wrinkles in my clothes but it translated to a lack of concern for my appearance to those around me. We often hide our struggles in much the same way. Because of our pride, we put on the appearance that all is well. We wear a false smile and resist asking people for the very thing that’s needed, good ironing.


Iron sharpens iron but our pride keeps us dull. We need to iron out the wrinkles! Instead of holding onto our struggles for fear someone will discover our weaknesses (which is another, very destructive form of pride), we need to find someone we can trust to help us through the process. Then, we need to return the favor. Accountability isn’t supposed to be hard and uncomfortable! We all need people around us who can help keep us sharp. We need to be able to accept their help without being offended by what they say to us.


Love often requires the difficult situations to be addressed head on, but we often avoid them for comfort’s sake. It would be like a bride or groom dressing in sweats and a wrinkled t-shirt because they couldn’t be bothered to present their best on the wedding day! I’m sure it’s happened, but what does it really say? I love you, but I don’t want to be uncomfortable, so I didn’t try.


Real love doesn’t avoid uncomfortable situations because it is understood that the discomfort only lasts for a short time. After the discomfort of being sharpened, we are stronger than before and ready to cut through the trials that come! That’s hard to do when we aren’t sharp because we refuse to let the wrinkles be ironed out in favor of comfort. In fact, it’s impossible.


Have you found someone to help you smooth out the wrinkles in your life? If you haven’t, you really need to! Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable and trust someone with your struggles. You might discover that they needed someone to help them iron things out too!


Stuck On Repeat

Posted on February 22, 2014 at 12:40 AM Comments comments (0)

Sometimes I think my children are intentionally trying to drive me crazy. I mean it! Some of the things they do lack reason... there is little logic in their thinking! They remember movie plots, song lyrics and the books they read but they can’t remember to do their chores. And regardless of the school test results, I think they may be hard of hearing.


Unless it’s something they want to hear. It amazes me the minute details they recall from trivial conversations and yet, they can’t remember what you asked them to do an hour ago. Let someone reveal an embarrassing story from mom or dad’s past and it’s sure to be remembered forever the first time they hear it. Tell them to put their shoes away while standing right next to them 3 times in 30 minutes and chances are they won’t remember if they hear you at all.


Sometimes I think it would be easier if there were cameras everywhere recording every moment of our interaction. If something is forgotten, simply go back to that moment and retrieve the information. Sure, it would be awkward at first but not nearly as awkward as repeating everything you ask them to do 52 times and still they forget.


I remember when I was a child. It seems like yesterday (don’t even say it). I know how easy it is to get distracted and I had my share of forgetful moments. I would sit down to watch a few minutes of TV and before I knew it, my parents were pulling into the neighborhood and I hadn’t done anything I was supposed to do before they got home. There I was, setting world records and personal best times in events like synchronized sweeping and dusting or the dirty clothes stuff. I could clean house in 30 minutes flat, quicker if I was under pressure of losing some privilege I enjoyed.


No matter how good I got at the speed clean, I always ended up forgetting something and it apparently was the one thing that really mattered because none of the other things I had done were mentioned. Only what I had forgotten or didn’t hear that I was to do. If they had only told me that switching the clothes around was more important than straightening the living room, sweeping, dusting and dishes, I’d have done that and left the other stuff for another time.


I guess my kids come by it naturally. My wife would probably tell you that I still tend to forget things on occasion, but, in my defense, she does tend to ask when I’m half asleep. Bottom line, you just have to accept that you’re gonna be doing some repeating in this life and that’s okay. Yes, it’s irritating and can make your right eye start twitching ever so slightly, but think back to all the things that had to be repeated before you got the message. It’s part of the human condition and it always will be.


I know that, in my life, I’m thankful for those who have had the patience to repeat themselves to me. I wouldn’t be who I am today without their investment. I’m also thankful for a loving Savior who, though He’s already told me all I need to know, will take me aside and lovingly repeat himself until I get it. He’s had to repeat Himself a lot.


You know, He’s probably laughing when I look at my kids and say things like, “I told you that already! Don’t you ever listen?” or “We’ve been over this a hundred times! Pay attention!” Remember that the next time you’re ready to pull out your hair because your kids are getting on your last nerve. Somewhere in your past, someone repeated themselves over and over again before you got it. Listen to yourself from time to time and ask yourself, “Does this need repeating?” Sometimes it’s what we repeat that’s the problem. I’m thankful all those people who have repeatedly told me they love me and those who have prayed for me time and time again. It’s taken some time, but I’m getting it! Thanks!


Posted on February 18, 2014 at 9:40 AM Comments comments (0)

Ever feel burnt out? Like the torch at the end of an episode of Survivor, your flame has been snuffed. Only, you don’t get to leave the island. The game isn’t over and you don’t feel like going on, but you have no choice.


If only life were like a game. You play until your flame goes out then you go and relax until the game starts up again. Real life doesn’t work like that though. Often times you simply need to push through, but how can you when your flame is barely an ember? In those moments when we feel like everything is coming down around us and we can’t possibly go on, we often are a step away from a breakthrough.


We fight against so many things in life and, honestly, many of the battles aren’t ours to begin with. We take the weight of the world (not literally, but it can seem so heavy) and wonder why we never seem to achieve what we set out to accomplish. We spin our wheels because we can’t get the necessary traction. We spread ourselves so thin. We try to solve the problems of everyone we feel responsible for, all the while, forgetting to take responsibility for ourselves. In that moment, we loose our passion and drive. Our flame begins to diminish.


How great would it be to have the passion you once had before life began to wear away at you? No, it’s easier to not try than to experience the hurt of never realizing our passions. The stress of achievement might just be to great. Maybe you can’t take another disappointment. Besides, you have to many people counting on you to solve all their problems, they need you to be strong for them. Your passion will have to wait.


Did you know that one technique for fighting fires, especially forest fires, is to light smaller fires in the path of the oncoming blaze to consume the fuel the larger fire would need to continue. Through controlled burns, they create a firebreak to stop the fire or make it more manageable. In dire cases, they will use backfiring to consume entire areas in an attempt to redirect the flames. Dynamite can even be used to cause a massive loss of oxygen at the source of the burn in a hope to extinguish the fire.


Sounds like life to me. Often times when my passion is strong, it’s not failure that extinguishes my flame, but the wildfires I’m forced to deal with that take the energy and fuel that would have kept me burning. Many times things blow up that are beyond my control. Those explosions take resources that I had planned to use down the road. They eat up the tinder that would have kept my fire burning.


It’s not the fault of the fires. How ridiculous would it be for me to get mad at the flames, and what good would it do? You have to know what needs your immediate attention in the moment, deal with it and then move on to the next, all the while remembering that your flame is your responsibility and you need to protect it. Do all you can to keep an ember burning. Sometimes, you’ll have to let someone else handle all those other fires. They might have been set to distract you from the things that need your attention most.


Instead, we often try to fight all fires, ours and those of others in an attempt to protect those we love. We take on their stress and add it to our own. Eventually, we buckle under the strain. We try to deal with everyone's adversity but often find ourselves personally crumbling because we haven’t done what was necessary in our own lives. We haven’t tended our own flame so we burnout. The adversity that was meant to make us stronger destroys us because our fuel was burnt up before we ever began the fight.


Parents, we can be guilty of this in the lives of our kids. We want to save them from a lesson we learned. We put so much effort into protecting them from adversity, we forget what the trial did for us. We fight their fires for them but our job is to teach them to fight on their own.


Adversity isn’t bad. Adversity helps us grow. When our faith is tested and we stand firm, perseverance is our reward. When we see that we can make it when all hope seemed lost, our faith becomes even stronger. When we tend to our faith, we keep life in our flame! What a great lesson to teach our kids and what a wonderful gift to show the world!


When all seems to be falling down around you and you’ve done all you can do, stand firm! Finish your race! Not my words, but Paul knew what life could do to those without faith. He understood the necessity of passion to drive us when the fight was raging. It was true then and it’s true today. Hold onto your faith and tend to your flame.

Go For Gold

Posted on February 6, 2014 at 10:35 PM Comments comments (0)

As the Olympics begin, in all the pomp and circumstance from the Opening Ceremonies until the last medal is awarded, dreams will be realized and records broken. If you were to ask most athletes in the games, you would hear stories of heartbreak and sacrifice, dedication and discipline sure to inspire admiration and a good many tears. Each has overcome their own obstacles en route to achieving their Olympic dreams.


With an impressive field of over 3000 competitors representing 88 countries (both Winter Olympics records), this year’s Olympiad looks to be one of the most competitive in history. With a reported total of 98 gold medals up for grabs, that means the athletes have an approximate 3% chance of winning their individual event. For most of the athletes though, it is something far greater than a chance to win a medal. Many compete without any preconceived notion of a medal in their event. They represent their nation, their people, something greater than themselves.


What do you represent? When you think about it, we can represent many things we through our lives, some beneficial and some not so much. Selflessness is one of the more difficult things we try to do as human beings. It’s far easier to represent our own self-interest than that of the hurting and the lost. Yet, we see examples daily where people have risen above self with pure motivation to reach out and lend a hand to those in need.


It’s like the athlete representing the country who isn’t given a chance of placing but still they compete because of all those people back home who take so much pride in knowing, though they can’t be there themselves, their flag will be raised. What motivates that individual to stand on the world’s stage against overwhelming odds? The possibility of what might be. Today could be the day they take home the gold. So they awake each day to train and push themselves knowing that every day is a new chance to take home the prize.


Whether they take home a medal, knowing what they have represented in the effort is often much more valuable. I think if we all found more value in the effort, many more of us would reach the goals we set out to achieve.  We focus on the prize when really, the reward is often the journey. If we start each day looking for a chance to make a difference, to represent something more than just what’s good for ourselves, we might find the gold we seek each day.



Posted on January 28, 2014 at 12:25 AM Comments comments (0)

On a flight this week from Atlanta, Georgia to Norfolk, Virginia, I enjoyed the window seat. The plane arrived late so we were delayed and due to a gate change, even after we boarded, we sat at the terminal for about 30 minutes while the baggage was loaded. The delays allowed for our flight to depart at dusk and as we ascended, I was amazed at the thousands of lights visible from the plane. Even after we reached our cruising altitude of 30,000 feet, the lights could be seen when there was a break in the cloud cover.


As I sat looking out the window, I began to think about each light and the people who depended on the them to illuminate the night. I wondered how many of them were happy and how many were sad. I thought about those who’s lives were in turmoil in that moment as I passed by, high overhead, oblivious to their circumstance.


As the Delta flight made it’s way along the eastern seaboard, we soared past families being torn apart by divorce and parents grieving the death of a child. I thought of people battling addictions and depression, unemployment and financial ruin, even preteens and teenagers struggling with self-esteem, some of them being bullied, some doing the bullying.


As disheartening as that may seem, I couldn’t help but feel hope as I looked at all the lights. Some were dim, others were bright, but each one was breaking the monotonous darkness. It only takes a small amount of light to pierce the gloom, no matter how dark the night may seem.


Each one of us has it within to bring that hope to someone who is hurting. In the darkness of their storm, we can be that light to pierce the darkness. Unfortunately, we get so caught up with our own lives and our circumstances that we tend to soar right over those who need us when they desperately need what we have to give. We get tunnel vision. We walk right past them as though we were wearing blinders because we don’t have time or we don’t know where to begin.


Many of us want to help, but life is moving so fast, it’s like being on a flight at night. We can see the darkness (or the need) but we feel powerless to do anything to light it or even afraid we will do the wrong thing. We see others lighting the night but we feel inadequate and incapable, or unworthy.


Honestly, those we see as shining so brightly were once dim. They probably even had a time where they had a hard time thinking they had anything of value to offer. Chances are those you admire have struggled with or are struggling with the same things you struggle with. They are looking for an opportunity to share the hope they have with you so that their light can help pierce your darkness. In turn, you take that hope and share it with someone else.


You see, you don’t have to be perfect to make a difference in this world, you just have to be willing to try. It’s that effort that starts to bring a light of hope into the darkness of those we pass each day. That effort generates a spark that can illuminate the darkest of situations. We have to be intentional and slow down long enough to recognize the needs of those around us. Then, we need to offer what we can. For some, it will be a kind word and a smile of encouragement. Some might be able to be a blessing financially or with a needed item like food or a coat. Whatever you do unconditionally for those who are hurting or in need will return a greater investment than you might think.


Yes, it will cost you something. It might be your comfort or your desires, but whatever the cost, the reward is far greater. It comes down to a choice. You can soar past the hurting and pretend they don’t exist or that their lives don’t have any impact on your own...or you can choose to see the value in that person, slow down and take a moment to shine a little light in their darkness. Each time you step out of your comfort zone and take a chance, putting the needs of others before your own, your light will grow a little brighter and bolder.