October 10

What can we learn from “The Great Gatsby”–F. Scott Fitzgerald?

From Google

Rockefeller was once asked when he would be wealthy enough and he said, “After one more dollar.” When Rockefeller died, he was worth the equivalent of 340 billion dollars. Why was he not satisfied? In the Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, the author explores the unattainable in the book. We meet Gatsby at the beginning of the book as an enigma, a mystery that everyone is trying to crack. According to everyone else, he is perfect, but the narrator is not so sure about that. As the reader continues to read, we know that Gatsby wants the unattainable, but we watch as Gatsby slowly self-destructs himself. I found myself asking at the end of the book, why was he not satisfied? While reading this book, I came up with three things that we can learn from this classic.

First, we can learn about not dwelling in the past.How many people have said, “In the good old days” or “life was so much better when…?” I find myself saying this more and more frequently as I grow older. Many times we see the past as beautiful and magical and very different then what actually happened. F. Scott Fitzgerald shows what happens to a character that only wants to live in the past. From the very beginning, Gatsby is not present. His friends are those that he can use, even the narrator is used by the end of the story. Even the story is written past tense rather than in the present. Gatsby tries to grasp what was in the past, but doesn’t realize that it is unattainable. Even if he got the girl, he would still have a daughter to take care of.

Many times we look to the past wishing to change something, but not wanting to realize that whatever happened in the past cannot be changed. Being a history graduate student, it is my job to know what happened in the past. However, knowing what happened in the past and dwelling in the past is two very different things. The Lord wants us to learn from past mistakes and move on once we have asked for forgiveness. We cannot simply turn the clock back and ask for a repeat.

Second, we can learn that we affect those around us. Daisy, Tom, and Gatsby struggled with being satisfied with what they had been given in life. They had everything, but they wanted more. At the end of the story, the main characters had wrecked havoc on the lesser character’s lives. For instance, Mr. and Mrs. Watson die because of the lust of Tom. Gatsby dies because of Daisy and the narrator moves away because of Gatsby.

Whatever a person does, does affect the lives around them. Sometimes we are tempted to believe that whatever we do, does not affect those around us. Being the eldest of four, I knew that whatever I did or didn’t do would be observed by my younger siblings. Whatever I did outside the home would be observed by the younger generation that knew me. I once had friends that I looked up too that I watched. We affect many people around us that we do not even realize. Just the other day someone knew me because they had seen me with my sister. Scary…

Third, we learn about being satisfied with what the Lord has given us. None of the characters in the book were satisfied with what they had. The author portrays them as bored, wealthy brats, I mean aristocrats. It reminds me of Ariel in The Little Mermaid. I hated that movie because Ariel wanted more and more and more. The main characters in the story wanted more. Tom wanted to have a mistress, but still wanted to have his wife. Gatsby wanted Daisy even though she was married. The narrator wanted a different life even though he had enough out west. Each character was not satisfied, even though they were considered the luckiest people alive.

Sometimes I feel like I am not satisfied with what I have. Sometimes I think that I would be happier with a better GPA, a higher-paying job, a different degree and so on. However, I need to learn to appreciate what the Lord has given me. Having the privilege of traveling to foreign countries has allowed me to see the poverty of other people. I have helped children that have no shoes, children that did not have a roof over their head (seriously!), and children without parents or parents that could no longer take care of them. I can still remember the first time that I saw poverty and I hope that the image seared in my brain would never go away.


October 1

Is Self-Esteem Important?

Image from Google

Is self-esteem really that important? Does not the Bible call for people to be humble? Lately I found that self-esteem is important because we are hindered to do what the Lord wants us to do when we doubt our abilities. The Lord calls people to be humble, but not to degrade themselves–there is a difference. Someone that is giving a performance must show self-esteem to convince the audience that they are confident in their ability. A leader must show self-esteem when they have to make decisions, even when they secretly do not know if that is the right decision. As soon as you start second-guessing yourself, others start second-guessing your abilities.

It reminds me when Deborah, the prophetess, had to do a man’s job because Barak refused to go down and fight like he was supposed to (Judges 4). Girls jump up and down when they realize that Deborah was stronger than Barak, but I want to know why Barak refused to go down and fight unless Deborah went with him? Did he suffer from low self-esteem?

How about Moses? God tells him verse after verse that he will be with Moses, but Moses hesitates. God ends up rebuking Moses for not having faith and following him. Moses suffered from low self-esteem (Exodus 3-4).

Today, Christians suffer from low self-esteem. They say to themselves that they cannot witness, they cannot use the gifts that the Lord has given them, and they say that the Lord will use someone else. I catch myself saying, “That person is SO much better than me, the Lord will use them.” I look at others with jealousy and say, “Why can’t I be like them.”

It is true that my GPA might not match my goals or that someone is ten times smarter than me, but the secret is that the Lord knows my weaknesses because he made me who I am. I am good at several things that I take for granted.

The fact of the matter is, when we say that we are not good-enough for something, we are telling the Lord that he made a mistake in making us who we are. We, in essence, are calling the Lord a liar.

Why are you holding back? I want to hear the Lord tell me when I get to heaven, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well.” (Psalm 119:34).

September 1

Airplane Ride

“Excuse me. Is that seat taken?”

I look up and find an average man standing in the aisle of the plane. It was not going to be a full flight. Why did this particular person have to sit next to me? I moved into the aisle way and allow the man to get into his seat.

“Names Micah.” He stuck out his hand to shake mine. I shook it without responding. His eyebrows rose slightly, but he didn’t ask any questions.

I pulled out my headphones and blasted my music. Ten minutes later he tapped my shoulder.

“Ma’am, did you want anything?” I look up to see the stewardess tapping her fingers against her clipboard.

“Ginger ale, please.”

She imputed the data on her clipboard without a word and passed to the next aisle. I sighed as I started to place my headphones back on my ears.

“What are you doing?” Micah asked before I could put my headphones back on.

“Reading.” I move the headphones back towards my ears.

“Oh, I love to read. Have you read the Lord of the Rings series?”

I tried not to role my eyes. Every time some said they enjoyed reading, they picked a series that had been made into a movie. It made them smarter than they really were.


He smiled.

“I like to read all sorts of things.” He continued talking. “I like to read fiction, non-fiction, atlases, and obituaries.”

The last word spiked my interest. I looked closer at him. He was slightly older than my twenty-five years and he wore an expensive suit and watch.

“Obituaries? Why?”

He smiled.

“My work kind of requires it.”

It was my turn to raise my eyebrows and him to ignore my hidden question.

He looked familiar. Was he the man that was on that newscast story that I saw just before checking out of my hotel? My heartbeat began to pulse. I tried to remain calm as he began talking to me again.

“My whole family is in the business. It is kind of an ugly business, but it pays real good.”

He flashed his smile at me and I felt like I was going to puke. He was the murderer.

“Oh.” I tried to keep my breathing calm.

“I’m actually on my way to a job now. Los Angeles is a great city. Don’t you agree?”

I was beyond stunned. He seemed to take my silence to mean that I agreed.

“It was where I grew up and I wish I hadn’t needed to move away from there, but it is so expensive to live in LA.”

I pulled my seat buckle off and got up.

“Excuse me. I need to go to the restroom.”

I walked quickly to the lavatory and looked for the stewardess. I looked back towards my seat to see that Micah was looking at me.

I walked into the lavatory and closed the door. I breathed in and out. I was just imagining things. He wasn’t the man on the TV. He couldn’t be. How would he have made it through security without someone spotting him?

The stewardess was standing by the restroom when I got out.

“Ma’am, is something wrong?”

“Yes, I mean. Well, the man sitting next to me. I think he might be a suspect.”


“Yes, him.” I look down the aisle to see that Micah was still looking at me.

“He told me that he reads the obituaries and…Who reads the obituaries?”

“Ma’am, I think that maybe you should go back to your seat. I’m sure that you are just imagining it.”

She didn’t believe me. I moved back towards my seat.

“Is everything all right?”

“Yeah, just not feeling good.”

“Okay.” He flashed his grin at me again and I felt my stomach lurch. Did he smile at that woman before he killed her too?

“What did you say you do?”

I tried to keep the tremor out of my voice.

“I didn’t say.”

“Oh, then what do you do?”

He narrowed his eyes slightly, but then relaxed.

“Oh, I buy up the property of people that have died and have no heirs then I sell it.”

I breathed a sigh of relief and stilled my tremors. He wasn’t what I thought he was.

A loud noise sounded and I woke up to see an average man asking if the seat next to me was taken.

It was going to be a long flight.



August 16

A Chance at Love

I stood over the coffin of my Aunt Helen. Memories flashed through me of the last time Aunt Helen talked to me.

“John, you need to find a nice girl and settle down.”

I rolled my eyes before turning to respond to my eighty-year old aunt that sat in the sagging armchair in her apartment. Every week I came over to mow the lawn and work on the mechanical issues around the apartment, every week she told me to settle down.

“We’ve been over this a million times. There are not any good girls out there.”

“Hmm…you are not trying hard enough, young man. I’ll get you settled down yet.”

Now she was gone and she hadn’t managed to settle me down. A mixture of grief and relief warred inside of me. I knew that I would miss the banter. I turned away from the coffin.

“Mr. Bliss”

I turned at the sound of my name being called. An old man stood by the coffin. His suit was decades old and he kept pushing up his glasses to peer at me. His eyes looked magnified. If I wasn’t grieving, I would have probably laughed at the image.


“I’m your aunt’s lawyer and would like you to join us for the reading of her will.”

“Me? I didn’t know her that well.”

“Well, it is my business to know who is in her will and you are in it.”

Dazed, I walked into the room that the lawyer indicated. I stopped short and stared at the girl that had lived across the street from Aunt Helen for ages. I swallowed slowly.

“Hello John.”


I sat down and tried to ignore the jasmine perfume that wafted to my nostrils. Maggie and had been friends, more than friends until one day she broke my heart by breaking up with me. Since then, I had not seen her or had any desire to see her. She was as beautiful as I remembered her. I sat rigidly, trying hard not to stare at her. She seemed to enjoy my discomfort.

The lawyer cleared his throat and looked at me.

“Your Aunt Helen was very insistent that you would find a wife.”

My face burned as Maggie let out a bark of laughter.

“What does this have to do with the will?”

“She says that you cannot have her inheritance if you do not get married within a year of her death.”


The lawyer cleared his throat again.

“She has over three million dollars in her bank account, not including the properties that she owned.”

“What happens if I don’t get married?”

“The money goes to Maggie.”

Maggie sat up straight in the chair and frowned. I turned and looked at her accusingly.

“Of course.” I spat, turned around, and left.

“Wait!” I turned around to see Maggie running after me. “I’m sorry John.”

“I didn’t want her money. I never did what I did for her money.” I pulled my hand through my hair and breathed a sigh.

“She knew that. She just wanted you to be happy.” Maggie touched my arm and I jerked it from her grasp.

“Happy?” I laughed. It sounded desperate in my own ears. “She had weird way of showing it.”

I turned around to leave.

“You know that I regret breaking up with you.”

“Yeah, join the club.”

I walked away from her and headed towards my car. I sat down in my car as my emotions tumbled over each other. Why did she leave the money to me under a condition? Why did Maggie have to walk back into my life?

I leaned against the wheel of the car and closed my eyes. I grieved that such a great woman passed away. I grieved that my life was so different then what I had imagined it to be.

I heard a knock on the window. I rolled down the window to see Maggie staring at me.

“John, I didn’t put Aunt Helen up to this.”

“I know. She always thought we would get married.”

She pushed her hair back from her face. She always did this when she was nervous.

“I know it was my fault that it didn’t work out between us.”

“You left me at the alter.”

She flinched at my accusing voice.

“I know. I was young and stupid.”

“I called you and you never responded to my calls.”

“I know. I was scared.”

I breathed in deeply trying to get control of my emotions.

“I loved you and would have never hurt you.”

She was crying. I felt horrible about making her cry.

“I left you at the alter because I needed time to process. We were so young.”

“You crushed me.” I remembered those dark days like they were yesterday. Aunt Helen was the only one that knew of that dark time. Since then she had tried to get me to find happiness. I stared at the woman that I  knew that I still loved. Maybe Aunt Helen knew that I never stopped loving her and found a way to make her come back into my life.

She breathed deeply.

“You don’t know what had happened the weeks before the wedding. I had been diagnosed with cancer. I was scared and you were so distant coming up to the wedding. My mom encouraged me to not get married. I didn’t know if I would survive the year.” She was hiccuping and crying at the same time. I felt like a cad.

“Maggie, I would have supported you. We could have made it.”

She turned glaring eyes at me.

“You say that now, but we might have been torn apart. We might not have made it.”

“Isn’t love about chance? We need to take the chance to see if we would be happy together.”

I got out of my car and gave her a hug.

“I didn’t want to take the chance.” She pushed my arms away and turned away. “I didn’t want to ruin your dreams.”

I turned her towards me and made her look into my face.

“With God’s help we would have made it. My dreams were not more important than you.”

She sniffed and started to laugh.

“When I found out that you were in the will, I told myself that I would not make a fool of myself with you.” She pulled away. “When you walked into that room I could not help remembering all the reasons why I loved you.”

My heart picked up a little bit.

“Are you willing to take a chance?”

She smiled.

“I learned my lesson the hard way. Living without you was the worst decision of my life.”








June 7

The Crime

Image result for newspaper and coffee

The morning paper had the same old news. I flipped through the paper looking for anything that would catch my eye. My stomach dropped when I flipped to a page with this headline: “Wanted for the Murder of Tina Golden.” Underneath the headline my name showed up in bold print with a grainy photo taken of me. I squinted at the photo of me as my heartbeat kicked up a notch.

Is this some kind of sick joke?

The door of my condo shook as someone knocked on my door. The paper shook in my hand.

“Open up. This is the police.”

I felt myself go numb.

Who is Tina Golden?

We know you are in there Mr. Jones. Open up the door and let’s talk.”

Panic coursed through me as I headed to the door. I tightened the tie around my neck and straightened my suit jacket.

The police stood with their pistols drawn when I opened the doors. I warily raised my hands and gestured for them to come in.

A woman with beautiful blond hair stood on the threshold with her goons. “I didn’t think you would open the door, Mr. Jones.” She smiled sweetly at me like I just had asked her out on a date, rather than what she was actually doing, invading my space. She peered around my living room taking stock of the empty pizza box sitting on the coffee table and the empty glasses strewn around the room. She rounded on me with her blue eyes zeroing in on her suspect. “So, how long have you known Tina Golden?”

“Who? I don’t know who she is.”

“Come on Caleb. I can call you Caleb, right?” She didn’t wait for my acknowledgment before pushing on. “You were seen at the scene of the crime running away.”

“I tell you, I don’t know who this person is and I certainly would not kill anyone.”

“That is what they all say.”

She rolled her eyes and pointed to my bedroom.

“We have a search warrant to search your house. Smith and Jacobs will search the place for any incriminating evidence.” She motioned for the other men to start searching the house. “As for you, you have the right to remain silent…” She continued her speech, the speech that no citizen ever plans to hear in their lifetime.

“You got this wrong! I didn’t do anything.” I tried pulling away, desperate for her to understand, to believe me. Her eyes just got harder and she yanked me towards the door.

“Don’t make this harder on yourself, Caleb.”

I wanted to kick her and run away, but I had to trust the system. I had to trust that they would give me a fair trial. Anyone with any sense would know that I didn’t do this, I couldn’t have done something so wrong.

Several hours later I sat at a metal desk. The cold metal reminded me about my new reality. My voice was raw from trying to convince everyone that I had not done it. I drooped my head as I heard the door scrape open again. The click clack of heels let me know it was a woman. She smelled like floral. I looked up as she threw a folder on the desk.

“You have no criminal record to speak of, Mr. Jones. Nothing. Zip. Nadda.” She sighed heavily. “However, you were at the scene of the crime with blood all over you. Yet you say you’ve never seen this girl in your life.”

She held up a picture of a beautiful girl of about seventeen with dark hair and startling green eyes. I stared at the photo, but could not recollect ever seeing her before in my life.

“She is a beautiful girl. Young. Vibrant. Full of life. What would possess someone like you to take her life away from her?”

I shook my head. I didn’t feel lead to say anything. I prayed that I would wake up from this nightmare eventually, but I hadn’t yet and I might never.

She leaned forward and looked me straight in the eyes.

“Was it a lover spat? Were you jealous of her? Did she have something that you wanted?”

I remained silent. My once pristine shirt was dirty and limp from sitting at the metal desk. My hair had lost the little gel that I had in it from my constant rubbing of my hands through my hair. The metal cuffs on my wrists shafted against the skin, a constant reminder that I was no longer a free man. I had only been here for eight or ten hours tops and they had already broken me. I had no will to refute for the twentieth time today that I had never met Tina Golden.

The woman sat back in her chair and tapped the metal desk in front of her. The silence stretched for so long that I looked up to see her studying me.

“I’m Christine Ender. I’m here to get you out.”

I looked at her in surprise before suspicion took over.

“Yeah, right.”

I sat back in my chair.

“Why would you want to help me?”

“You didn’t do it.”

“I didn’t, but how do you know?”

“Because I set you up.”

I blinked before I tried to lunge only to be hindered by the metal around my leg.

“Why would you do that?”

She blinked and smiled.

“Because you have certain skills that we need.”

She pushed the folder towards me and flipped through the content.

“We both know that although you do not have a criminal record, you have obtained some skills.”

She smiled too brightly for me.

“We want those skills.”