I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Philippians 4:13 (NKJV)
Even though I love being a historian, it is not all glamorous. Sometimes my job involves the tedious tasks of pushing paper or supervising employees. Other times, I am pleading the cause of historic preservation before a group of politicians. Occasionally, my work leads me to once in a lifetime opportunities. The latest was the chance to ride in a real steam engine. I almost missed the train, as a meeting about termites in a historic building lasted too long. I arrived at our local railroad museum to find them holding the train for me. After racing to the outdoor railroad car, I climbed aboard. Steam billowed from underneath the engine and white sulphur smelling clouds drifted my way as the coalman shoveled chunks of black coal into the firebox. A mist of steam wet my face as it filled the air around me. Black soot poured from the smokestack at the front of the 1913 engine. The engine seemed to breathe aloud; then, I heard the soothing chuga chuga sounds that all children learn to make while at play. The train slowly pulled away down the tracks. The ear splitting shriek of the steam whistle echoed the excitement I felt within. What a delightful feeling it was to glide along the tracks. As the engine pulled us past woods, citrus groves and farmland, I could almost imagine life at the turn of the century. What must it have been like to sit on those hard wooden benches for days on end wondering what awaited you at the next station? To fear storms or Indian attack? To look out upon the frontier anticipating a new home and the hard work it would take to make it reality? Were the passengers hungry? What did they eat? Were they cold? How did they stay dry? Were they grateful for this new modern transportation that moved them faster towards their destination than the old covered wagons or sailboats? For a time, I left behind termites, paperwork and computer to linger in the twilight of a different age. When my turn came to ride inside the steam engine, I saw how hard it was to keep the engine going at the right speed in order to stay on the tracks. It took cooperation between the coalman and the engineer to accomplish that task. I remembered the picture that hung in my children’s room when they were young. It was of the little engine that could and said, “I think I can, I know I can.” In my life, sometimes, it seems that the only thing I push is paper, but like the little engine that could, each day takes willpower and determination to get through it. It also needs teamwork. Just like the coalman and the engineer, in partnership with God, my life will be lived successfully and completely. No matter what life brings as I roll down the tracks, God will give me the strength to do what He calls me to accomplish.
Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. Hebrews 12:2-3 (NIV)
Our little Lucy puppy is almost five months old now. She is all legs, but her ears stand up proudly and she is going to be a gorgeous girl. She is a smart as a whip when it comes to learning obedience commands and how we expect her to behave, but sometimes she is a real airhead. I think she is ADHD (attention deficient hyperactive Doberman). The differences in her personality can best be seen when she is outside “hunting” cats. As soon as she is released from the house, she races outdoors to try to find them. She has a good nose and will run the exact zig zag pattern set by one of the kitties some time before. Nose to the ground, she lopes along, sometimes stopping to get a better sniff. As long as she keeps her eyes and nose down, she is completely focused on her prey. But, if she picks her head up and lets her eyes wander, distractions lure her off track. A cardinal swoops up into a pine tree; the woodpecker makes a lovely tapping sound on a dead branch of mulberry bush. In vain, she tries to catch one, but they flit away before she has a chance. The horses graze peacefully until she decides to bark furiously at them. As large as they are, they could easily squash her. Instead, they start to run and kick. She manages to stay just out of reach and enjoys the feeling of power it gives to make such a large animal run away. Then, there is the pond, where Lucy loves to drink. She stops to pull a few nasturtiums out of the ground, before moving on to dig a ditch in the middle of my rose garden. From there, she heads to the front fence to greet a bicyclist, makes a loop around the house to drag a plastic pot under the porch and finally catches another whiff of kitty scent so sets off once again to find her forgotten prey. She and I really are a lot alike. I set goals and make a plan how to achieve them, but get off course so easily. I decide to lose weight, then, the next thing I know am at a party wolfing down cake. I plan to stay in touch with a friend only to realize months later I have not talked to them in weeks. I want to be closer to God, yet when was the last time I stopped to listen instead of babbling off a few requests as I dash off after something new? The only way I can stick to my goals is to keep my focus locked on whatever I am determined to accomplish and ask God to help me stay on track. Don’t be like Lucy and spend your time dragging pots under the porch when you have kitties to catch instead. Stay focused and alert to distractions and refuse to get off course.