“Daddy”, my 3 year old daughter said, as she stumbled out into the hallway half asleep, “School today?” “Yes hun and we need to hurry; you slept in and now we are running late.” “Daddy, will you pick me up from school?” “Yes I will hun.” She was stumbling as she walked and talked her way to the breakfast table, hair in a mess, and still in her mickey mouse pajamas. She was clearly not awake yet.
About 30 minutes before this, I crawled into her bed with her and gently tried to wake her. I was annoying her as she threw her head under her pillow to get away from the sound of my voice. I didn’t push her to get up, as I knew she would stumble out soon enough. One thing was certain though, she did not want me bothering her.
Fast forward back to the breakfast table. Before she climbed up on to her chair, she fell on my leg and wrapped her arms around my thigh. Then what she said next caught me off guard, “Daddy, I am sorry for being mad at you.” “Excuse me? I don’t understand, when were you mad at me?” “I did not want to get out of bed”, she replied. “Hey, its ok, and you know something, I still love you. Now let’s eat some Captain Crunch”.
What a picture of confession and how it brings us back into the loving realm of our Father. Hearing my daughter apologize made me so proud of her and the time at breakfast was that much better because of it. Confession is not some boring practice we do because we are told to, it has real purpose for us today. Maybe for my daughter, it was bothering her little heart that she was mad at me, and she could not release that bother until she apologized. I don’t quite understand her mind yet, but something moved her to hug me, trust me, and be honest with me; maybe she just knew that I would hug her back and tell her I loved her.
When Hebrews says we can approach boldly into the throne of grace, I picture what my daughter did, telling my Father that I am sorry for messing up. In return I always hear, “I still love you, now let’s eat some Captain Crunch (well something like that)”.
One more thing. If you are thinking , “I am tired of hearing illustrations about his daughter. I get it, she is your perfect little angel”, you are right, she is, and that may just be the way your Father in heaven views you.
On the side of highway five just about a hundred yards off the road sits an old red barn. Day after day, travelers don’t take a second look at this barn, as driving by this barn has become part of their daily routine.
But if this was your first time to drive highway five, in the rolling hills of Kentucky, you’d be sure to take a gander at this barn, as it represents the deep heritage of the Kentucky foot hills.
Today, the barn is riddled with bullet holes and the wooden planks that encase the barn are showing signs of being weathered after surviving decades of summer heat and winter frosts. The roof is hardly a roof anymore, and the red, that once so majestically cloaked the barn, has faded away.
This barn began to leave its impression on the Kentucky landscape 75 years ago as an old farmer took the utmost care to construct this barn with his bare hands.
With every swing of the hammer, and stroke of the paint brush, the beauty of his imagination came to life, and soon birthed his prized possession, his one and only red barn.
Throughout the years, this barn began to embed itself in the minds and the hearts of those traveling on highway five. The barn is not great in and of itself, but its unwavering consistency of being on the side of the highway day after day brings about a sense of normalcy to a fast paced life style.
This barn has many memories behind it, as it has done its share of work over the years. It has housed many bales of hay, a number of horses and cattle have resided within its protective shell, and on an occasion or two, it has even had the privilege of taking care of the people around it, who were seeking shelter in the midst of a storm.
But today, as you drive down highway five, the weathered red barn shows more signs of neglect than the tlc it once received in the hands of its maker. Its rough shape is a constant reminder to the locals that this barn has seen better days and will soon have to go.
And when it does, the skyline of this meandering highway will be changed forever. The travelers will recognize its lack of existence. Some will pay tribute by reminiscing over the memories they had with this barn throughout their childhood years. Some parents will share stories with their kids about how there used to be a barn just a stone throw off the highway, and what that barn meant to them. Others will keep on driving, without seeing a need to consider the red barn anymore, but if they are honest with themselves, they will miss seeing this landmark that has stamped the countryside and their minds forever.
For now, the red barn on highway five survives another day, reinforcing into the minds and the hearts of those who drive by it daily the beauty of the Kentucky countryside and one farmer’s determination to make his living off this land.
We are much like this red barn. We have been knit together by the careful hands of our Creator. Every part of us is designed with purpose in mind.
Yet as the years wear on, we become riddled with the pains and trials of this life. Our bodies show fatigue and our minds slowly fade away. Yet, we stand with purpose; leaving a legacy behind that can radically change the lives of those around us.
Many of us will live our lives quietly behind the scenes, having the chance to allow our relationship with Christ to ooze through the bullet holes of our wounds, while never knowing who is quietly watching our steadfastness during the storms. We may never know who chooses to draw near to us because they feel safe around us, not because of who we are, but because of the strength of Christ living through us. If you know Jesus Christ, then your bullet holes, your pain, your wounds in life have purpose in building the legacy of Christ through you. Without a relationship with Jesus Christ, the pain and trials you suffer daily have no purpose except to reveal your need for a Sovereign God who can put purpose in your wounds.
Yet, a day will come, when we will be adopted fully by the Father and leave nothing behind except the memory of who we were. If Christ lives in you, then you have a legacy that will withstand eternity because it is founded in a God who is eternal. If not, then your legacy is built upon your life and will die shortly after you die.
What will your legacy be?
Isaiah 40:6-8 A voice says, “Cry!” And I said, “What shall I cry?” All flesh is grass, and all its beauty is like the flower of the field. 7 The grass withers, the flower fades when the breath of the Lord blows on it; surely the people are grass. 8 The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.
– Greg Harris
A story is told about Fiorello LaGuardia, who, when he was mayor of New York City during the worst days of the Great Depression and all of WWII, was called by adoring New Yorkers ‘the Little Flower’ because he was only five foot four and always wore a carnation in his lapel. He was a colorful character who used to ride the New York City fire trucks, take entire orphanages to baseball games, and whenever the New York newspapers were on strike, he would go on the radio and read the Sunday funnies to the kids. One bitterly cold night in January of 1935, the mayor turned up at a night court that served the poorest ward of the city. LaGuardia dismissed the judge for the evening and took over the bench himself.
Within a few minutes, a tattered old woman was brought before him, charged with stealing a loaf of bread. She told LaGuardia that her daughter’s husband had deserted her, her daughter was sick, and her two grandchildren were starving. But the shopkeeper, from whom the bread was stolen, refused to drop the charges. “It’s a real bad neighborhood, your Honor.” the man told the mayor. “She’s got to be punished to teach other people around here a lesson.” LaGuardia sighed. He turned to the woman and said “I’ve got to punish you. The law makes no exceptions–ten dollars or ten days in jail.” But even as he pronounced sentence, the mayor was already reaching into his pocket. He extracted a bill and tossed it into his famous sombrero saying: “Here is the ten dollar fine which I now remit; and furthermore I am going to fine everyone in this courtroom fifty cents for living in a town where a person has to steal bread so that her grandchildren can eat. Mr. Baliff, collect the fines and give them to the defendant.” So the following day the New York City newspapers reported that $47.50 was turned over to a bewildered old lady who had stolen a loaf of bread to feed her starving grandchildren, fifty cents of that amount being contributed by the red-faced grocery store owner, while some seventy petty criminals, people with traffic violations, and New York City policemen, each of whom had just paid fifty cents for the privilege of doing so, gave the mayor a standing ovation.
Twenty years ago, I drove a cab for a living. It was a cowboy’s life, a life for someone who wanted no boss. What I didn’t realize was that it was also a ministry. Because I drove the night shift, my cab became a moving confessional. Passengers climbed in, sat behind me in total anonymity, and told me about their lives. I encountered people whose lives amazed me, ennobled me, made me laugh and weep.
But none touched me more than a woman I picked up late one August night.
I was responding to a call from a small brick fourplex in a quiet part of town. I assumed I was being sent to pick up some partiers, or someone who had just had a fight with a lover, or a worker heading to an early shift at some factory for the industrial part of town.
When I arrived at 2:30 a.m., the building was dark except for a single light in a ground floor window. Under these circumstances, many drivers would just honk once or twice, wait a minute, then drive away. But I had seen too many impoverished people who depended on taxis as their only means of transportation. Unless a situation smelled of danger, I always went to the door. This passenger might be someone who needs my assistance, I reasoned to myself. So I walked to the door and knocked.
“Just a minute,” answered a frail, elderly voice. I could hear something being dragged across the floor. After a long pause, the door opened. A small woman in her 80s stood before me. She was wearing a print dress and a pillbox hat with a veil pinned on it, like somebody out of a 1940s movie. By her side was a small nylon suitcase. The apartment looked as if no one had lived in it for years. All the furniture was covered with sheets. There were no clocks on the walls, no knickknacks or utensils on the counters. In the corner was a cardboard box filled with photos and glassware.
“Would you carry my bag out to the car?” she said. I took the suitcase to the cab, then returned to assist the woman. She took my arm and we walked slowly toward the curb. She kept thanking me for my kindness. “It’s nothing”, I told her. “I just try to treat my passengers the way I would want my mother treated”. “Oh, you’re such a good boy”, she said. When we got in the cab, she gave me and address, then asked, “Could you drive through downtown?” “It’s not the shortest way,” I answered quickly. “Oh, I don’t mind,” she said. “I’m in no hurry. I’m on my way to a hospice”.
I looked in the rearview mirror. Her eyes were glistening. “I don’t have any family left,” she continued. “The doctor says I don’t have very long.”
I quietly reached over and shut off the meter. “What route would you like me to take?” I asked.
For the next two hours, we drove through the city. She showed me the building where she had once worked as an elevator operator. We drove through the neighborhood where she and her husband had lived when they were newlyweds. She had me pull up in front of a furniture warehouse that had once been a ballroom where she had gone dancing as a girl. Sometimes she’d ask me to slow in front of a particular building or corner and would sit staring into the darkness, saying nothing.
As the first hint of sun was creasing the horizon, she suddenly said, “I’m tired. Let’s go now.”
We drove in silence to the address she had given me. It was a low building, like a small convalescent home, with a driveway that passed under a portico. Two orderlies came out to the cab as soon as we pulled up. They were solicitous and intent, watching her every move. They must have been expecting her.
I opened the trunk and took the small suitcase to the door. The woman was already seated in a wheelchair. “How much do I owe you?” she asked, reaching into her purse. “Nothing,” I said. “You have to make a living,” she answered. “There are other passengers,” I responded. Almost without thinking, I bent and gave her a hug. She held onto me tightly. “You gave an old woman a little moment of joy,” she said. “Thank you.” I squeezed her hand, then walked into the dim morning light. Behind me, a door shut. It was the sound of the closing of a life.
I didn’t pick up any more passengers that shift. I drove aimlessly, lost in thought. For the rest of that day, I could hardly talk. What if that woman had gotten an angry driver, or one who was impatient to end his shift? What if I had refused to take the run, or had honked once, then driven away? On a quick review, I don’t think that I have done anything more important in my life. We’re conditioned to think that our lives revolve around great moments. But great moments often catch us unaware–beautifully wrapped in what others may consider a small one.
by Kent Nerburn