HAMMER AND NAILS

“This one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forth unto those things which are before us.”

Philippians 3:13

The echo of sirens and the howling of my dog shattered a restful sleep. I fumbled for the light and rubbed my eyes. It was after midnight. The sirens got louder and an instant later flashing lights were dancing through the curtains.

“Quiet, Lady, quiet,” I said to the dog as I reached for my glasses.

I could feel my heart pounding faster now as I looked out the window at a street full of fire engines, their crews moving quickly to position hoses and ready ladders. The house across the street was fully engulfed in flames. Neighbors were charging out of their houses, pulling on jackets and robes as they moved. I quickly dressed, put a leash on the dog, and joined the group in front of my house. Word got around: Everyone was out of the burning house and safe. The firefighters worked on through the night.

The next day, traffic picked up on Warren Avenue. The burned house, which was now half a shell, became a minor tourist attraction. The smell of smoke still lingered around the rubble.

“They ought to bulldoze the rest of it,” my neighbor commented as we studied the remains from the street.

For the next few days, the sightseers kept up their pace. Then things calmed down. The burned-out shell stood lonely and abandoned as people passed on their way to work and school.

One afternoon, as I returned from work, the Summer sounds of kids yelling, dogs barking, and lawn mowers humming were joined by another group of sounds. The buzzing of saws and the pounding of nails rang out loud and clear. The burned out house was now a beehive of activity. Ladders, lumber, shingles, paint – everything needed to rebuild was being unloaded.

Over the next several weeks, an amazing transformation took place. The burned out shell of a house, considered by many a total loss, took on a new life. Before long, the last coat of paint was applied and, as if to affirm a new beginning, flowers bloomed in the yard. The house that had risen from ashes to become one of the best looking in the neighborhood, once again became a tourist attraction. This time to admirers. To me, it became something else.

From then on, whenever I faced disappointment, I stepped out onto my front porch. From there I looked across the street to the house that was once rubble but became new again. It said to me, “You can start over. You can rebuild bigger, better, and stronger. As long as you have a good foundation, you can become new again.

You just have to believe.

And for a strong foundation and blueprints for rebuilding, look to the master carpenter.

Look to Jesus.

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THREE MONTHS AGO THIS SOUNDED LIKE A GOOD IDEA

“It’s very hard in the beginning to understand that the whole idea is not to beat the other runners. Eventually you learn that the competition is against the little voice inside you that wants you to quit.”

Dr. George Sheehan, runner and author

 I celebrated my 65th birthday – and a week later lined up in the early morning darkness with thousands of people on a street in Columbus, Ohio. We were there to take part in a marathon. Fireworks, music and the roar of spectators started the 26.2 mile race at 7:30 AM. 

 Running with a pace group, our goal was to finish the course in 4 hours and 30 minutes. The weather was ideal and the long hours and many miles of preparation had me glowing with confidence. The estimated crowd of 150,000 strung out along the route were about to see a senior citizen glide his way to the finish line with the grace of a ballet dancer.

 And for 14 miles the people watching me, I’m sure, were more than pleased with my performance.

 For months leading up to my birthday, I had been telling everyone within the range of my voice how I was going to celebrate by running in this race. Sounding like Muhammad Ali, I boasted…

 

“I am going to shock the world.”

 “I’m going to run ten minutes faster than the world record.”

 “The army is going to name a bullet after me.”

 “They are going to paint my picture on the next rocket to mars.

 “And they are even going to dig up Ed Sullivan just so I can be on his show.”

 

Apparently my left foot and ankle, which had given me trouble in the past, didn’t recall any of my promises. They decided I had run far enough. And if I was going to finish this race, it would be without their cooperation.

 Now my goal for the remaining 12 miles and 365 yards to the finish line would be to win the battle between the voice in my head and the pain shooting up my body. One voice was cheering me on and the other was urging me to hail a taxi.

 I gimped my way to the next mile and then the next mile…looking back now and then to see if anyone was behind me.

 What I needed I found at mile 18. Someone had posted a sign.

 

THREE MONTHS AGO THIS SOUNDED LIKE A GOOD IDEA

 Suddenly, my face remembered how to smile. And now I was back in the race. At least from the neck up.

 After all, marathons are designed to test our mettle.  

 Recalling some sage advice I had heard long ago from Dr. Norman Vincent Peale, author of The Power of Positive Thinking, “It’s always too soon to quit.” I gimped on.

6 hours, 11 minutes and 4 seconds after the starting gun – I crossed the finish line.

 Just wait till next year.

 

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