I’m sorry I didn’t smile at you


“Come on, we’re late!” I yelled as I hurried my young son up the stairs to the doctor’s office.  Very late.  I thought I knew where the office was but I missed the turnoff and had to circle back around through the endless string of morning traffic.  I did not want to miss this appointment because it would mean having to take another day off from work and my busy schedule.  We walked in and I rushed up to the receptionist’s desk to fill out the paperwork, hoping I would blend into the waiting room area without anyone noticing how late I was.

I plopped down into a chair and began filling out the lengthy questionnaire.  Have you had a broken bone before? no.  Any other injuries? no.  And the list went on.  I was almost finished with page 3 when something made me stop.  I looked up from my paperwork and saw a woman sitting in the chair across from me with her three young children.  She was plain-looking, her clothes a little worn, and her disheveled hair was loosely tied back in a ponytail.  She was in her mid-30’s perhaps, but looked tired beyond her years.  She was looking at me.  That is what made me look up.

But I was annoyed.  I was late.  Traffic was horrible.  My mind went back to my work left undone in the office.  And the woman’s youngest child was throwing a tantrum on the floor which no one seemed to be paying attention to.  Why isn’t she attending to her child, I thought?  The child only wants a piece of paper to draw on.  The woman met my eyes for only one long second, but she looked afraid.

Still, I was annoyed, and her screaming kid didn’t help ease my tension.  It wasn’t until I turned my papers in to the front desk and sat back down that I noticed her husband standing nearby.  He was standing up, pacing back and forth, while he filled out paperwork. The woman was still sitting there, doing nothing, and the young girl crying with no one looking in her direction or acknowledging her.  The two older kids sat close to their mom in silence.  I secretly hoped this family was not ahead of me or I would be here all day.  Why didn’t the dad stay home with the other kids while mom brought the one to the doctor? Who brings their whole family with them?

About that time my son’s name was called.  Good, I thought.  I walked quickly past the woman and guided my son toward the door, but out of the corner of my eye I caught one more cautious glance up from the woman.  Her face was expressionless this time.  I didn’t smile.  It’s hard to smile when you are annoyed.

My son and I walked down the hallway to our assigned room and I quickly forgot about it. My thoughts were filled with other things.  What do I need to ask the doctor, how long will this take, how late will this put me into work and school?  The nurse came in and instructed my son to put on a gown for his x-rays, so I stepped out into the hallway.   That’s when I heard the noise from the room across the hall.

It was those kids.  Five people in one small room – mom, dad, three young kids.  The doctor walked in soon after.  I heard some banging around, scuffling on the floors, moving of chairs, just more annoying noise.  Then I saw the door open with a small crack and quickly slam shut again.  A doctor at the other end of the hallway started running down the hall toward the room where I was standing.  When he saw me standing there, he stopped and seemed to hesitate about whether he should open the door.  I said, “The doctor is in there.” “Good,” he replied and turned and walked back.

Now I began to understand more of what I was too busy to be bothered with earlier.  We were in a children’s orthopedist office, one that mends broken bones and other similar injuries.  They probably see their share of child abuse too.  This woman had all the signs of being in an abusive and controlling relationship.  She may have been frightened and felt all alone.  I may have been the one friendly face she was seeking for a glimmer of hope, to know that someone understood and cared.  But I had been too busy, too rushed.

I came home that day and prayed, “I’m sorry God I let you down on this one.  I’m sorry I thought I was too busy.”  Maybe there was not much I could have offered to the woman, but I always have a smile with me that I can pass along.  So I decided right then that I would never again leave the house so unprepared in my heart that I was too busy to care. I would never again let the insignificant things in life get in the way of the significant things. And for that, dear woman, I am sorry that I did not smile at you that day.

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Ski Angel


There have only been two times in my adult life that I have hit the proverbial “panic button”.  The first time was when my toddler son got lost in Toys ‘R Us.  I found him playing inside one of the plastic houses, but only after I had shut down the entire store in search for him.  The second time was when he was a little older, and we were on the ski slopes in Colorado.

We had just finished a hearty breakfast that morning in the ski lodge dining room, and we were planning our day on the slopes.  John had progressed well in his skiing over the last few years and was anxious to try out some harder slopes.  We had always skied together in the past, but he was beginning to surpass me in both skills and stamina, and I knew we would have to find another way for us to ski.  As we looked over the trail map, we decided we would start off skiing together and then split off at a certain point on the trail.  He would ski the harder path and I would take the easier run, and we would meet back where the trails re-joined further down the mountain.  We both knew from looking at the map that if he did not take the turn back to the joined trail, he would be headed for some very steep trails further down.  But the map seemed clear and we had our plan.

We headed off and soon split into different directions.  I whispered a little prayer for him as I skied away.  Surely, I thought to myself, I am just being silly.  He is a much better skier than I am.  So I skied down to the meeting spot and waited.  And waited.

John did not show.  I trekked back up and down the mountain looking for him, with my ski boots aching more with every step I took.  I called into the vast, snow-covered forest, but my calls were left unheard.  Panic began setting in, and all I could think to do now was ski down to the bottom of the mountain and see if he was waiting for me there, though I knew that was not what my son would normally do.  As I neared the bottom, I saw my husband standing there waiting for us.  When he saw me skiing alone, he just shook his head.  He knew too.

My husband immediately took out his cell phone and called our son.  I had given my phone to John to use.  There was no answer and there were no missed calls.  I dropped my ski gear and started running to the nearest ski patrol office.  I desperately wanted to take off my ski boots at this point, but the 25 degree weather outside made that impossible. Panic ensued even more as I was asked to describe what my son was wearing and the direction of where I last saw him.  A few seconds later, ski patrol took off in the ski mobile up the mountain.  They acted like they had done this a few times before, but this time it was for me.

A few minutes later, we received a call that our son had been found.  Although he was a little cold, he was alright and they were bringing him down.  This might have been the end of the happy story, but it wasn’t over.  After we gave ski patrol a very grateful thank-you, we put on some warm clothes and spent the next hour exchanging stories over hot cocoa. We began discussing where we might have missed each other on the trail when John said something I did not expect.

“The woman told me where to go.”

I paused. “Oh, you must mean when ski patrol came to pick you up?”

“No,” he replied, “I couldn’t find the trail marker to turn on the trail.  A woman appeared below me on the mountain and said, ‘Your mom wants you to go this way’, and then points to the trail.  I turned onto the trail and then looked back for her, but she was gone.”

I asked him again, “Was she wearing one of the ski patrol or ski instructor jackets?” I thought maybe one of the workers had noticed him and stopped to help.

“No,” he said, “She wasn’t skiing, she was just standing there.”

He began to explain how the trail marker had been covered up from the previous night’s heavy snowfall.  We both knew what that meant – if he had not found the trail, the only other way down the mountain was through the steep, black diamond trails that lay below.

Perhaps my whispered prayer had not been so silly after all.

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Keeper of the Stories

open book

I first became aware of the phrase, “Keeper of the Stories” when I began to research lighthouses and their keepers.  These men and sometimes women of yesteryear, also referred to as “Guardians of the Light”, were considered people of honor and respect though their work was very hard and lonely at times.  They were in charge of saving ships in distress, sending out warning signals, and keeping the lights polished and in pristine working order, always ready for an approaching storm.

An important part of the lighthouse keepers job was to keep the log books.  Daily journals recorded the weather and the number and type of ships passing through their waters.  But it also contained much more.  The keepers detailed the stories of daily life at the lighthouse, important events of the time, wrecks and rescues, visitors, and any other local happenings.  The logbooks became a history of that particular life and time, and they were passed down to the next lighthouse keeper.  These men and women became Keepers of the Stories.

November 13, 1880: The sunset is behind a bank of dark clouds, yet it is not gloomy for the poets, and our good sense teaches us there is a Silver Lining beyond. – Calumet Harbor Lighthouse logbook, Lake Michigan.

The apostles during Jesus’ time were also Keepers of the Stories.
While Jesus walked the Earth, He commissioned His apostles to go and tell others about His story.  The apostles told a personal and powerful story of Jesus’ love for humankind.

With great power, the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus.  Acts 4:33

The first women at the scene of Christ’s resurrection were Keepers of the Stories.

After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb. There was a violent earthquake, for the angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men. The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples.  Matthew 28:1-8

Jesus often told parables to the people of His time.
Science has since proven that stories stimulate the part of the brain where our memories are stored.  We remember them almost as if they happened to us.  Our brains are wired to pull meaning from stories.  Facts which are not attached to meaning are quickly forgotten.

We are Keepers of the Stories.
We all have stories to tell – stories that heal, stories that help, stories of hope, and stories of faith.  You have your own unique story.  Continue the Story!
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The Keepers of the Light

We are the keepers of that steadfast light
That guides a people’s course and destiny;
Not ours the skill directing over the sea
The mighty beams that blaze the path aright:
Ours but the hands that, serving, keep it bright.
The bringers of the oil, the workers we
Who day long, without pause and faithfully,
Toil that its radiance may pierce the night.
Above us are the wills that guide and turn:
It is not ours to watch nor question these:
Ours but to see each wick is trimmed and fit.
Lest on a night of storm it fails to burn
And a Great Ship goes down in awful seas.
O, Keepers of the light, keep faith with it!

Theodosia Garrison, poet

Conversation on the exit ramp

car trouble

Have you ever met someone, perhaps a stranger in passing, who seemed a little out of character?  It is most striking to me when I see someone who does not respond to a situation in the usual way we expect human nature to respond – whether it is by fear or surprise or curiosity.  There will be something a little different about the person; something you can’t quite put your finger on, yet there is also a certain attractiveness to them.  I imagine when Jesus walked on the earth, people had a similar reaction to him.  Crowds followed him everywhere; people yearned to be close to him.  You can’t fake that type of thing.  I also believe that the most convincing evidence we have for God and His loving nature can be found in those out-of-character situations or little miracles that cannot be explained away, and where things seem to happen contrary to our human nature.

This is one of those stories.  Looking back on it now, I realize it was during a time in my life when I was most vulnerable – young, alone, and new to the big city.  I was twenty-two and just out of college without much money to my name.  Yet I know now, that even in those most vulnerable times of my life, God had my back.

It was late on a Sunday night as I drove through the dark and nearly-empty streets of the interstate on my way home.  My piece of junk car, as I liked to call it, had just blown a tire on the interstate.  With the car thumping and wobbling on its back rim, I pulled over to the side of the road and wondered what I was to do next.

It was completely dark outside, no streetlights, and I didn’t even have a flash light.  The exit ramp was about a quarter-mile up the road, so I decided I would walk to the top of the exit and go for help.  In the back of my mind, I knew there was no gas station at the top of this road, but in those days before cell phones, I did not see any other choice.

I walked as far into the grass and out of the sight of car headlights as I possibly could.  As I began to stomp through the tall grass, I became more aware of the dire situation I was in – a young female with a broken down car, late at night, in an area of town that was not the safest to be in.  I couldn’t go back to my car but the nearest late-night gas station was very far away too.  So I began to pray, “Please God, keep me safe me until I can reach a safe place.”

A few seconds later, a car came slowly driving up the exit ramp.  I kept my head down while I continued walking, and hoped the car would pass by without seeing me.  But instead, the car pulled over to the side of the road, right beside me and stopped.  The passenger window rolled down, and an elderly woman leaned out.

“I see you’re having some car trouble,” she said.

My first instinct was to deny it, but I realized it was useless, knowing she could clearly see my situation.  “Yes,” I tried to say confidently, “but I’m just walking up to the top of the exit to the gas station for help,” and hoped she was not aware there was no gas station in sight.

“Nonsense,” she replied, “You can use our car phone.”

I peered into the passenger window and saw another elderly woman in the driver’s seat.  Both women were very well-dressed and sitting in a big, luxurious Cadillac.  “That’s ok,” I said, “It’s a short walk from here.”  But the woman insisted, and stated they were on their way home from a golf trip.  Surveying the situation around me, it seemed like the best option I had, and besides, they looked rather harmless and did not appear like they needed to rob me.

The year was 1987, and car phones were just coming out on the market.  They were the predecessor to cell phones and could only be used in the car, but were still mainly reserved for the wealthy.  I climbed in the back seat of their Cadillac as they handed me their phone.  After calling a wrecker service, I thanked them for the use of their phone and said that I could go wait in my car now and they could go on ahead.

“No, we’ll wait.”  they replied.

The two women didn’t say much as I sat in the back seat, waiting.  In fact, they didn’t ask anything.  They didn’t ask any of the usual questions a person would normally ask when a stranger is sitting in the back of their car.  Questions such as… what is your name, do you live around here, what do you do?  I also noticed they never once looked back over their shoulders at me or glanced in the rear view mirror to check on me.  They talked a little among themselves, though I couldn’t hear what they were saying, but mostly they just sat there looking straight ahead.  It almost seemed like they were my chauffeur.  I began to think that if I were them, I would be more afraid of me sitting behind them, than I was of them.

Finally the wrecker came, so I told them I would get out now and work with the mechanic and they could go on.

“No, we’ll wait,” they replied again.

I stood next to the mechanic while he changed the tire in the dark.  Then I discovered my car battery was dead too!  After about an hour, everything was finally fixed, and as I handed the man a check, he asked, “Who is in that car up ahead?”

“Oh, they’re waiting for me,” I tried to say in a casual tone.
“Hmm,” the man replied.

I went back to my car and pulled onto the exit ramp to make sure my battery was still good.  At the same time, the Cadillac in front of me pulled out too.  I never really saw where it went after that, but I turned and headed home, still very shaken by it all.

In my apartment that night, I thought about it some more and wished I’d had a chance to thank the two elderly women one more time for helping me.  But as I sat and thanked God that night for keeping me safe, I somehow think the two women were aware of it as well.

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Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.  Philippians 4:6-7


Breakfast Cooking on the Beach

They had been out all night and caught nothing.  They were hungry, tired, and smelled of ocean. The early morning chill still hung in the air. The cold could be added to their list of grievances too, but mostly they were hungry.

As they pulled their boat up on the shore, their muscles sore and aching, they could smell the faint aroma of fresh fish cooking.  They looked around, and as the fog began to clear, they saw in the distance a glowing fire with several fish laying on top.  They could faintly hear the crackling of the fire in the morning stillness, perhaps with a little olive oil drizzled on top as the sweet aroma drifted their way. They looked at each other, quickly dropped their fishing gear, and ran toward the site.  There was freshly baked bread too, warming next to the fire.  Who would leave this here?  Who prepared such a thing?

And then they saw him, leaning over the fire stirring the coals.  He smiled at them, and said, “Come, eat!”  It was their Lord.  The disciples: Peter, James, and John, were still a little confused and shocked over the recent events of the previous days: Jesus’ trial, crucifixion, and then raised back to life three days later.  Their world had been torn upside down.

They sat down on the beach and ate the fish and bread until they were full.  After having been warmed by the fire, they got up and went for a walk. Peter and Jesus went on ahead, John lagged behind a little. Jesus had some very specific words for Peter as they talked, as well as telling him how he would eventually die. “What about him?” Peter asked frantically as he pointed back toward John, Jesus’ beloved disciple.  “That is not your concern,” Jesus answered…

I cannot imagine a better scene on earth than having a morning meal of fresh fish and baked bread sitting with Jesus on the beach, in the quiet dawn of the day as the sun begins to rise. What a great mental picture of Jesus. This story comes from the last chapter of the Gospel of John, as recorded by John, the one who was lagging behind on the beach.  The full story is in John chapter 21.  Below is an excerpt of the specific words that Jesus had for Peter that morning.

When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”

“Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, Feed my lambs.”

Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”

He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, Take care of my sheep.”

The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”

Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, Feed my sheep.”

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