MacGyvering

I’ve always been impressed by resourceful people. When things look bleak, these amazing pioneers show imagination and gumption. They don’t let the negativity of the situation determine their attitude or the eventual outcome. Sometimes I worry this skill set may be disappearing.

 

Take my childhood, for example. When my sisters and I got bored in the grocery store or in the line at the bank, we would entertain ourselves. We didn’t have mom’s phone to play games or watch videos. Instead, we would make up activities.

 

We would take turns pretending that we were blind so that the “sighted” sister could guide us around the clothes racks. (“Oops, sorry” was an oft-repeated phrase from the “sighted” sister as the “blind” sister ran into mirrored columns and walls.)

 

Another favorite pastime during the hours of errand-running boredom was to tie a string into a circle and play string games like “Cat’s Cradle” and “Soldier’s Bed.” When there wasn’t a string nearby, we would pull the elastic from the waistband of our underwear to make one. Now that’s resourceful. (Our mom might have preferred we had less saggy underwear instead of bugging her while she shopped at Castner-Knott. Actually, it was probably a toss-up.)

 

Back in the 1990’s there was a show called MacGyver. In every episode, MacGyver would get into a pickle—often bound and gagged in a locked room—and he had to keep his wits to get out of it. At some point, everything looked hopeless: the timer on the bomb counted backwards to zero or MacGyver heard heavy footsteps of the armed and angry villains just a few feet away.

 

MacGyver had to ignore the desperateness of his circumstances. He had to still his fear long enough to take stock of what he had available to him.

 

Wrists and ankles tied up? No problem. He can melt the plastic zip ties with a wire coat hanger and space heater. Giant missile about to explode and destroy a Russian orphanage? Don’t sweat it. He can diffuse a missile with a paper clip and a wad of chewed gum.

 

The show has been satirized for its unrealistic ridiculousness, but you still have to appreciate this guy’s abilities. For me, even more than his knowledge of lock-picking, safe-cracking, and bomb-diffusing, I’m impressed by his unrelenting optimism.

 

There are times when I can get pretty low. The news tells me that we live under a constant threat of danger for our lives and our way of life, and it’s only getting worse. It tells me to fear everyone and everything around me.

 

But what if I take a page from MacGyver’s life? What if I look around at what’s available to me and then I act? I don’t sit in a corner and give up in despair. And I don’t waste time casting blame on others. Instead, I look for ways to make things better. I don’t run away from problems, but I stay and save others from harm. Let’s use our resourcefulness to make this world a better place.

Hilltop Friends

Moses was tired. He was old. His belly was full of his breakfast—wafers of manna and the water that poured from a rock. As he climbed to the top of a steep hill, he reflected on his life. In his mind, Moses saw mistakes and wrong turns. But he also saw miracles—a vast sea parting in two, a brilliant light high on a mountain.

 

Now Moses sat on the top of the hill, flanked by his brother Aaron and his friend Hur. Below him, a battle raged, the Israelites and their attackers, the Amalekites.

 

Throughout the long battle, Moses came to realize that if he kept his arms raised—the staff of God firmly grasped in his hands—the Israelites would succeed. But as soon as his arms became too weak to hold his staff in the air, the favor would turn to the Amalekites.

 

The pressure to remain strong was depleting Moses. His arms shook. He closed his eyes, tears and sweat trickling down his cheeks. Aaron and Hur saw their friend’s exhaustion. They saw him gritting his teeth, trying to be strong. They moved to help. They held up Moses’ arms, one on each side. They kept him going until sunset, until the battle was over and the Israelites won.

 

If you have ever been the recipient of this kind of support, you can appreciate the value of friends like Aaron and Hur. To have people willing to stand with you, lifting you up when you know it would be impossible to find the strength on your own.

 

Moses could’ve shrugged off their help. He could’ve told Aaron and Hur to leave him alone. He could’ve said he was capable of doing it by himself. Instead, Moses allowed their strength to fill in the gaps and crevices created by his weakness. Moses let his friends pour into him.

 

At times, I have been on a hill overlooking an intimidating battle. No Amalekites are clashing swords in a skirmish in the valley below, but the overwhelming trials still sometimes feel like I’m waging a war.

 

So, a few nights ago, when life handed me a moment of “It’s-just-too-much”-ness, a group of women surrounded me. They supported me and lifted me up. They held my hands and stroked my hair. They prayed for me and gave me tissues.

 

We don’t always have to have it all together and there is no shame in needing support. This need is only the evidence of our universal human frailty and a testament to the blessing of true friends. I don’t enjoy the crumbly feeling of falling apart but I will be forever grateful for my own personal “hilltop friends.”

Dream Big!

It’s after lunch and I’m in a high school algebra class. Chin propped on hand, trying to stay awake, I’m staring at a poster stapled to the center of a square bulletin board. There is a photograph of a soaring eagle in the middle of the poster framed on all sides by a thick, black border. Printed at the top are two words in bold: “Dream Big.” Below the picture is a quote from businessman/motivational speaker Zig Ziglar, “Your attitude, not your aptitude, will determine your altitude.” If only that applied to solving complex algebraic equations.

 

More than twenty years later, I consider the validity of Zig’s argument. How far can attitude get you? How far can dreaming big take you? And when is dreaming not enough?

 

When I think of someone with big dreams who followed through with those dreams, I think of my friend Staci. Years ago, Staci literally had a dream. One night, she dreamt of a woman—possibly in Africa—carrying a child, struggling to survive. Staci woke with a feeling of urgency and concern for the child and mother. The dream shook her and wouldn’t let go. It pierced her in a way that was almost painful. She felt called to act.

 

Then, like déjà vu, Staci’s dream materialized before her when she learned of a plan by a missionary supported by our church to build an orphanage in Tanzania. This orphanage would be called Neema House.

 

At this point, many people would give money to the orphanage. Some might just think, “Huh? That was kind of like my dream. Weird,” and stop right there. But Staci dreams big and she decided to act.

 

She called together like-minded friends and family and cleared a space on her dining room table. Staci laid out plans for a Thanksgiving Day race to benefit the orphanage.

 

There were hurdles to jump—permits from the city, t-shirt designs, port-a-potty placement—but she and her team continued. She had never planned a race before, but this would not deter her. Her dreams were bigger than the list of reasons it looked too difficult or even impossible.

 

By 8:00 a.m. on Thanksgiving morning 2010, more than 1,600 runners had registered to compete in Borodash. The directors of Neema House would be shocked by the donation they would receive before Christmas that year.

 

In the years since that first race, Borodash has grown and flourished and continues to bless the children living at the orphanage. The success of the race has exceeded anything even Staci could’ve imagined. She is quick to call the success a result of divine intervention.

 

Last year, Staci traveled all the way to Tanzania to visit the Neema House. She finally saw the culmination of her dream fully realized. She rocked the babies who now had a home. She played with the children who were safe and loved. She learned what happens when you dream big and act. And what happens when God blesses your dreams.