Tall Tales and How to Become One
Please enjoy the first Chapter to Legendary: Tall Tales and How to Become One.
Below you will find further information and where to purchase your own copy of the full book.
Legendary: Tall Tales and How to Become OnePart 1: Desiring Legends
i. the creature from the black lagoon
“The safest road to Hell is the gradual one-the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.” – C.S. Lewis
The hot Florida summer sun pierced through the long black limbs of the canopy like a thousand strong fingers crawling across the swampy ground and cypress knees. Cicadas and honeybees sang their vibrating songs in anthem. Squirrels danced and chased one another. Fluttering leaves, shuddering in the breeze, mimicked a green ocean wave standing upright along the riverbank.
Out of the black underbelly of the forest, came two silhouette figures, slowly trudging through the muddy slop. One carried a ten-foot piece of rebar across his shoulder; the other held a .22 rifle draped across his forearm. Their shoes sloshed in the mud, sinking ankle-deep into the muck as they approached the edge of the river. The older handsome brother stared at the stagnant black water. He jabbed the rebar at the end of the bank. It stuttered in his hands, hitting dry ground only a few inches below the mud.
He edged himself a few yards down the bank and stabbed at it again. It, too, hit solid ground below the mud. The two men quietly continued their way down the river, stopping to jab at it every few yards. Finally, the rod appeased the young man when it cut through the bank and sunk half its length into the ground.
Without a word, the young man stepped slowly into the black water, using the rebar to balance himself. The cold shocking river rose up around his belly and torso, stopping just above the chest. He bobbed in the water, positioning his pole about his waist. He made slow methodical jabs under the riverbank into the large cavern the pole had discovered.
Maneuvering about the edges and crooks of cypress roots and boulders, his pole hit the belly of a beast that came rushing out, straight at his legs, taking him off his feet. Out of the water came the head of a ten-foot alligator. The man and monster stared into one another’s eyes, challenging each to flinch.
“Shoot him, Roy,” the young man said flatly.
On the bank, Marvin Alderman’s younger brother Roy was holding his .22 rifle. He already had the gun up and aimed at the beast. He fired a single shot at the back of the alligator’s eye, only three feet from Marvin’s face.
The gator went berserk, flipping its body into a death roll, throwing waves and mud everywhere. Marvin was already under the water, diving away from the animal. He came up out of the water a few yards from the affair. He awkwardly laughed and moaned as he pulled himself out next to his brother.
Roy was still aiming at the water, slowly settling down. The two men waited patiently, their eyes fixed on the gator hole. After a few moments, a large yellow belly rose out of the water. The two laughed and jumped in the water, hauling in their bounty.
“That’s a new one for the stories.” Marvin exclaimed with a smile on his face, grabbing the massive tail and pulling with all his might.
“That’s a stupid one for our grandchildren,” Roy replied.
In their short lives, they had cleared dozens of gator holes in the same exact manner. But today, Marvin stared down the barrel of nature’s gun. Today, he looked face-to-face with what monsters’ eyes carry; and today he walked away the victor. There was no shame in him. There was no panic or fear. There were resolve and response. Today, the monster lost and bravery won.
“Monsters aren’t as scary if you start shining lights on them.” – Wyatt Cenac
As evening came, Jesus looked upon the water and said to his disciples, “Let’s cross to the other side of the lake.”1
When his disciples, of whom many were fishermen, entered their vessel, they nearly saw the other side of the Sea of Galilee, just over eight miles away. Undoubtedly, they read the sky above; they knew a storm was brewing. Nonetheless, they set out on the boat with Jesus, because He commanded them.
Soon as just they knew it would, a fierce storm came upon them. “Portside!” Peter screamed at James.
“—Brace yourselves!” Another wave came crashing over the side of the small ship.
With high waves breaking over the bow, the boat began to fill with water. It fought its way up the torrential waves and came raging down the other side. The greatest of fishermen feared for their lives; today was the day they would see death face-to-face and lose.
Peter held onto the side of the boat with whatever last muster of faith he had, believing they would get to the other side because the Master told them to go. John couldn’t take it any longer. He rushed to Jesus’ sleeping side.
“Teacher,” he exclaimed. “Don’t you even care that we’re going to drown?”
Jesus, looking him in the eyes, smiled. He rose to his feet and rebuked the wind, “Silence! Be still!”
Suddenly the wind stopped, the waves dissolved, the stars shone, and there was a great calm.
The disciples looked about each other, awkwardly wondering what to say and do next.
“Why are you afraid?” Jesus looking at them, asked. “Do you still have no faith?”
On the other side of the Sea of Galilee sat a man, demon-possessed by countless spirits. He was a man that all of Decapolis knew well and feared, so powerful and manic in his demon-possession that he often chewed himself from his chains, attached to the mountainside.2
When Jesus approached him, the demons writhed in fear and torment, screaming for the man of God to let them be. At this, Jesus commanded the demons out of the man and freed his life forever. When the man came to his senses, he fell at Jesus’ feet and begged for the allowance to follow and serve Him. He bowed before the Man who saved his life and devoted his life to Him.
But Jesus did something peculiar.
Regularly, Jesus would accept the entreaty of people to follow; we frequently see Jesus accepting them.3 The only people that He didn’t, were those that chose to walk away after having received the revelation of it being such a hard life.4 Here, we see a man with nothing, ready to follow for the rest of his life, but Jesus refuses him, encouraging the man to return home and tell everyone of what happened to him.5 And then Jesus and His disciples return to their boat and cross back to the other side of the sea.
Part of me knows that Peter, James and John would have been dumbfounded, and a bit frustrated, for lack of a better term. These men risked their lives at the hand of a hurricane, dispirited by their so-called lack of faith, and all to only see one man tied up on the side of a cliff set free from demon-possession and then refused to join them. They witnessed countless demon-possessed men and women set free. Why was this man worth the effort of their lives?
But He was worth it to Jesus. And the fruit of the man’s changed life was invaluable.
We don’t know how long it took for Jesus and the disciples to return to Decapolis. It may have been a few weeks. It may have been months or a year. Regardless, upon Jesus’ return to this region6, a company of people eagerly awaited the Savior of the demoniac and what He had to bring them. In the Gospel of Mark, Chapter Eight we witness Him perform one of His greatest miracles, feeding four thousand men with only seven loaves of bread in His hands.7
When Jesus looks at a man or woman, chained to the cliff-side and run over by demonic forces, His heart moves with compassion, enough to cross a storm of Hell. We may not see the fruit of it for a long time to come. But when it comes, it comes with a flurry of people’s lives changed. That demoniac, set free, went home, and his notoriety gave him the ability to preach and proclaim the goodness of Jesus, so much so that well over 10,000 individualswere waiting for the day of Jesus’ return.
And it started with Jesus looking at a storm with the disciples, and saying, “Let’s cross to the other side of the lake.” And those men choosing to believe in Him, instead of their circumstances.
There are creatures that lurk in the dark shadows of this world; ones far more powerful than a ten-foot alligator. And often life calls us to climb into the water with nothing but a piece of rebar to draw them out. And many times, we find ourselves face-to-face with the monster when it chooses to come out. In those moments, we can choose to panic, run, or walk away from our faith. Or we can simply call out for our Savior, and He will calm the waves and get us to the other side. Or like my great-grandfather said to his brother, “Shoot him, Roy.”
On the other side of your greatest threat is your greatest fruit. But you must choose to get in the boat and cross to the other side of it. You must fight through fear of death and call upon the name of the Lord. And when it doesn’t seem like it was worth it at all, rest assured that the disciples felt that way often, only to be surprised by 4,000 families on the hillside, hungry and waiting.
iii. simply here
“People intoxicate themselves with work so they won’t see how they really are.” – Aldous Huxley
When I was eight years old, I stood at the edge of my street in Cocoa, Florida, listening to my father describe a new movie out that summer: Braveheart.8 Excitedly, he described the premise of the hero of Scotland, and that the action hero Mel Gibson was acting and directing it. My family always took our movie-watching experiences very seriously, and we anticipated this movie to be something of a truly great status.
William Wallace was a legend that none of us knew about. But we knew that if he was a legend, he was worth talking about. It was promised that he sliced kings in half, fought for the weak, and said amazing quotes about all men dying but only a few really living. That fiery passion of heroism, justice and desire for change made him a man worth following, dying for, and telling his story.
Something has always been inside of God’s children, whether or not we bury it away with age and regret. It is birthed there with us when the heavens first breathed life into our lungs. It is formed inside of us while we were yet in our mother’s wombs. Our Sunday school classes inspire it as we learn about the heroes of our past.
Every boy and girl wants to be like David when he fought a lion with his bare hands. We hope to make a boat so grand that all the animals of the earth could fit upon it, and sail away like Noah. We hope, like Samson did, to tear down the walls of the Philistine’s temple with the push of our hands; to save an entire race like Esther; to sleep with lions like Daniel; chosen to carry the Savior of the world like Mary.
These are the stories our Sunday School teachers give us, not necessarily because they are the most important stories for young children to learn, but because our teachers learned long ago, that these are the stories children want to hear.
It’s only after we grow up and let failure determine our desire, that we become like Zacchaeus, the rich, famous, small and suffering. It’s in our old age that men desire to be handsome, tall and rich like the selfish and insecure King Saul. But at our beginning, in the innocent and free imagination of a child and his or her ambition, is the birth of a desire to be something like the man swallowed by a fish that lived to tell the tale, though nothing else was ever said about him.
Human beings know deep down inside that there is something greater than the success of a business deal or paycheck. We don’t want to be successful in life. We want to be legends of life, with a thousand men and women telling our story millennia from now.
But that hunger for a legendary life slowly dissolves with age. It leaves us with great regret when we discover we are not very special. In fact, someone else has already done it, and someone else has already seen it.
Today is nothing more than our day to make it through. Not to change the status quo or see the salvation of a thousand orphans. No, today is a day where men and women are asked in the supermarket, by the lady across the counter, “How are you doing?” and they reply: “I’m here.”
When my great-grandfather Marvin Alderman would scout through the woods of Central Florida, he oftentimes carried nothing more than a .22 pistol, shooting snakes and potentially dangerous pests he came across. The .22 has always been small, but accurate. Not very powerful, but deadly with the right marksman. Marvin was a force to be reckoned with, though he was not easily agitated or excitable.
In the early 1900s, somewhere in the woods of DeSota County, Florida, Marvin searched for sign of game and wildlife. He crunched his way through the thickets and brambles, looking at every footprint and scratch, discovering where the game was moving. He could be out hunting deer, hog, alligator, snake, squirrel, or anything else worth a pelt or meal.
He turned round a bend and stumbled upon a large adult black bear, not 30 feet from him. The animal was immediately disturbed. Marvin dug his feet into the ground, pulling his sidearm. The piddly .22 was not much against a full-grown 500-pound animal, but he pointed his minuscule weapon at him, nonetheless. When the bear charged, Marvin started firing.
The .22 bullet is not powerful enough to penetrate the skull of a bear. Thankfully, there are nine bullets in a .22 revolver. It took all nine at the center of the bear’s skull to put the animal down. Every shot hit its mark; each cracking a little more into the skull of the animal. It fell with a powerful thud at his feet.
“I’m here.” Marvin exhaled slowly, shaken, but not stirred.
But this here was not an earthly place; this here was full of purpose and action. This day was one that would be told around fireplaces and car rides for decades to come. The day that Marvin killed a full-grown black bear with nothing more than a .22 pistol. The day that a man wouldn’t run from death, but stood his ground and conquered it.
iv. your matter
“If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.” – C.S. Lewis
“Don’t be ridiculous!” King Saul shouted at the boy, arrogant enough to believe he could take on the giant and save the Israelites. For more than forty days, the nine-and-a-half foot Philistine walked out, brandishing his sword and challenging the small and insignificant Israelites. His armor alone weighed more than the boy David.
“There’s no way you can fight this Philistine and possibly win!” the King rebuked David. “You’re only a boy, and he’s been a man of war since his youth!”
But David persisted. “I have been taking care of my father’s sheep and goats. When a lion or a bear comes to steal a lamb from the flock, I go after it with a club and rescue the lamb from its mouth. If the animal turns on me, I catch it by the jaw and club it to death. I have done this to both lions and bears, and I’ll do it to this pagan Philistine, too, for he has defied the armies of the living God! The Lord who rescued me from the claws of the lion and the bear will rescue me from the Philistine!”
David knew in his heart, something that no Israelite was willing to understand. He understood who God was and what He was capable of. God had not given him a spirit of fear, but a spirit that belonged to God’s power.9
God’s children weren’t created to bow to temptation, fear, or conflict. We were designed to thrive in those moments. Why then, are we so surprised when they come into our lives?
If our focus is like David’s, no problem or conflict is too great for us. Instead, we are irritated when others are too slow to act upon them. Our fights and conflicts should be natural parts of our lives. It’s in the mundane that we should be wary of where our hearts have wandered. In the mundane are Bathsheba’s10 and Uriah’s11. In the conflict, lies the opportunity for God to do something great.
What’s interesting to note is that David credits the Lord for rescuing him from the claws of the lion and the bear, yet we know that David had another reasonable “rescue”. In fact, David never had to fight and put his life in danger, to begin with.
It’s only in the process of saving his sheep that his life entered peril. On the hillside, while watching the lion approach, he could have fled at any moment. The lion and bear were never there for David; they were there for the sheep. David’s character of bravery and action forced him to intervene.
Even still, David credits that the lion and bear were after his life, and he needed saving. In his mind, when the sheep were in danger, he was a victor, whose duty it was to rescue the sheep. He would not let danger and fear overcome his purpose. They were in danger, and it was his duty to save them.
Once, he is incapable of doing it alone, and within the jaws of the bear, he realizes the bear is after his life. David walked in two states of mind, constantly; that he was fully capable and fully incapable to do anything heroic. He was brave and aware that his bravery rested in God’s power.
When walking through our lives, we may come upon 500-pound bears that we never would have found unless we were walking out and searching. It would be tempting to blame the presence of our bears on our “desire for discovery”. We say things like, “I should have known better than to try…”
But the bear is the problem, not our wanderlust.
If we blame the presence of our conflict on our determination to discover and grow, we will stop growing altogether. We must understand that bears just come and go in the woods. You were designed in your life to meet conflict and face it head on. You were made to fight it, no matter what, and when the bear has its mouth around your neck, to know that God will rescue you, just as He rescued David on the hillside.
With this perspective, we are apter running toward conflict, approaching it with the knowledge that God has given us power, love and a sound mind; able to stand, move with compassion, and think clearly. If, and when, we know that God is for us, nothing can be against us12, and that we are victorious13, regardless of the outcome, we will stand our ground, firing as many shots as it takes to bring down the charging beast.
But this perspective is lost when we think our purpose on earth is nothing more than to make it through it. I see the everyday Christian believing one of two things regarding their purpose here on earth. Either they stand on a borderline-narcissistic ideal that they will be God’s chosen vessel to reach the entire world and stand as heaven’s celebrity, or believe that life is really not about them and won’t amount to much at all. Both are rooted in the godly characteristics of bravery and humility. But both become dangerously out of sorts when perspective is lost.
Let’s look at the exaggerated stereotypes of each characteristic, to avoid the inadvertent jabs you and I may feel otherwise. The brave hero of today longs for immediate satisfaction, ready to be lifted on the shoulders of a nation like David was. Yet he refuses to conquer his small fights on a daily basis. He dreams big about slaying giants and conquering entire countries, but refuses to do any daily work on the hillside where no one is watching.
In reality, David became king on the hillside, not on the battlefield. His victory of the bear determined his victory of the giant. Real legends are written by your character, not by your fame.
The other person sits on his hands with his face pointed at the ground, acting as though he never dreamed a dream of worth and power. He has convinced himself that he must live a humble and meaningless life if he is to do God’s work. The very thought of fighting real battles terrifies him because he has never looked at himself as a fighter. He knows that he is a victor because that’s what God told him. But that’s different from being a fighter. In fact, he knows that people aren’t meant to make a powerful difference anymore. That’s just what we tell our children. Legends have become fairy-tales.
Faith and action bring victory. And victory brings unwavering faith and action. It was David’s history of victory that made him arrogant in his faith—the arrogance to stand before a king and declare that he would be more than able to defeat a ten-foot swordsman. That arrogance was earned, and rooted in the knowledge of the power of God. It doesn’t come until you have purposed in your heart to defeat the little battles before the big ones. And likewise, you are meant to defeat the little battles before the big ones, but that doesn’t mean you aren’t meant to still accomplish the big ones.
The truth is that we find ourselves constantly walking in and out of those two extremes, scared of our own pride and irritated by our own lack of ambition. It’s in the understanding that our pride must be rooted in God’s power and our ambition must be rooted in Jesus’ love that we find our purpose and the divine tension we are meant to tread upon. It’s here we find our meaning.
In order to get to the place of mattering, our first understanding must be that we do, in fact, matter. We cannot do something worthwhile unless we realize, again, that we are meant to do something worthwhile. When I hear sixty-year-old men and women say they are embarrassed to ask a thirty-year-old couple for advice, my heart breaks. Not because they have missed their opportunity or purpose, but because they have missed God’s heart toward them.
Your status on planet earth may be determined by your age or your experience, but your status in Heaven is determined by your heart and action. Start dreaming again and then start chasing the dream.
We were made to make legends. It is put in us. And each of our lives are meant to be recounted by the children beyond us, around fireplaces and park benches, in order to inspire them to dream again and express the majesty of who God is. We cannot simply be “here” on earth. We must be Heaven here on earth. And in that redirection of our focus and purpose, we will be legends worth telling.
v. the two pennies
“The boundaries which divide Life from Death are at best shadowy and vague. Who shall say where the one ends, and the other begins?” – Edgar Allan Poe
Tuesday afternoon, word got round to Reverend Marvin that Sister Margaret was at death’s doorstop and the family needed prayer. He rolled up his white cuffed sleeves and rushed to her home, speeding down the long dirt road, a plume of dust and smoke behind him. The sun blazed, the birds chirped, and the street was silent as he stepped out of his truck. He knew before he rapped the door she was already gone.
Brother Justus opened the door with dried tears on his cheeks.
“Come on in, Reverend,” he welcomed him miserably.
Marvin looked about the room without a word as he took into account. There, in the front room, in the middle of the floor, lay Margaret. She had pennies on her eyelids, so the rigor mortis wouldn’t force her eyes open. Her three children sat on the floor next to her, staring, crying and confused.
Justus started recanting what had happened to his bride, her sickness growing worse to worst in moments. Marvin listened half-heartedly as he stared frustrated and heartbroken at the three children and this man who was held together by sticks in front of him. The man couldn’t take it any longer, he broke down and grabbed hold of Marvin crying.
“This isn’t right,” Marvin said under his breath. “God…this isn’t right.”
Marvin taught at his church a fiery kind of faith about God. They believed that acting unholy or with unholy people could damage your righteousness; if you died while backslidden you could lose salvation and go to Hell.Death was a normal part of life and rarely was disease looked at like an attack from the Enemy. It’s not that he believed God sent death to people. But more death just came at any moment, and “you best hurry up and get straight with God before you meet Him”.
Regardless of all that, righteous indignation came over Marvin at that moment. He looked at this man and his three kids and knew that God didn’t kill this woman. He knew that her destiny was to live longer and raise these children.
At that moment, he pushed Justus off his shoulder and walked over to the corpse on the living room floor.
“This isn’t right,” he shouted at the woman. “Lady, get up! In the name of Jesus, get up!”
Her eyes popped open and her spirit returned, sucking the air out of the room. The children stared in disbelief, as the two pennies fell from their mother’s eyes and rolled under the living room couch. Margaret stood up and immediately began preparing dinner for their guest.
vi. what makes a legend worth telling
“Jump, and you will find out how to unfold your wings as you fall.” – Ray Bradbury
The man hurriedly pushed and shoved his way through the crowd of people. Sweat ran down his face in exhaustion and desperation. His entourage followed quickly behind, their master running away in a panic.
The man finally made his way through the crowd to the Teacher. “Please, please!” He desperately cried as he fell down to the ground. “My daughter. She is sick and dying. You must see her.”
“Jairus!”14 A man from the back of the crowd hollered at him.
Jairus turned his attention from the Messiah and looked at his servant, not more than 50 meters from him. “Jairus,” the servant hollered again. “Your daughter is dead!” Jairus’ face fell sullen and defeated.
The servant closed the gap between the two men. He put his hand on his master’s shoulder, saying, “She’s dead, Jairus. There’s no use bothering the Teacher now.”
Jesus had just returned from Decapolis, on the other side of the Sea of Galilee where He had met a man chained to the rock and set him free from a legion of demons. He was tired and smelled of fish. He, too, put his hand on Jairus’ collar, turning him toward Himself again. “Don’t be afraid,” He said, “just have faith.”
Fear is the embodiment of a spirit coming to hinder, hurt or distract you. Being afraid is the manifested response to that hindering distraction. The difference between having fear and being afraid is: one is out of our control; the other is our response and furthermore acquisition of that fear.
I use the term “have fear” only because it is the phrase we most commonly understand. But it’s not my intent to paint the picture that we have this Spirit, in the same manner, we obtain or own something. Instead, it would be better to imagine you have the spirit of fear, in the same manner, you have a bird sitting on your head. It’s true that it is on your person, but by no means do you desire it or would allow it to perch much more than the amount of time it took you to realize it was sitting atop your noggin. Being afraid is the manifestation of having fear. It’s the act of letting the bird make a nest and call your head home.
You can have fear because it comes and attacks you, causing your fear. But you never have to be afraid. That is the choice or allowance of that fear in your heart. Instead, when you have fear, you must do what Jesus demanded Jairus do: Look at him and just have faith, therefore letting yourself become faithful.
Jairus’ desperation yielded his fear to the faith in the Messiah. Jairus was a leader of the local synagogue; therefore, this was something he was not keen to do. In fact, the synagogue would look down on him for having turned to Jesus for help at all. He could lose his title, or worse, imprisoned or stoned for this act of heresy. Yet, because he had nowhere left to turn, he quickly let go of the fear of what the synagogue, men, or Jerusalem may do or think of him, and instead only focused on his daughter’s life. He had faith in turning to Jesus in order to save his daughter. Faith far outweighed any fear in or of his life. Upon their first meeting, Jesus saw this faith in him.
But the fear would not let up on Jairus. The almost immediate news of his daughter already being dead was reported to him. Now, like a rushing wind, the feelings of desperation are replaced by despondency. Fear comes with an electric jolt, agitating our hearts, but grief comes with a knife in the ribcage, up into the lungs where it’s hard to breathe. Jairus was speechless and afraid.
But Jesus knew he had faith inside of him. And He wouldn’t let Jairus’ pain diminish his power. He stops Jairus from speaking and tells him to remember that he believes.
When Jesus arrived at Jairus’ home with him, the place was a circus. People gathered inside, weeping and wailing for the death of the master’s daughter. But few gathered in honor, rather in the obligatory mourning of an official’s loss.
“Why are you all weeping?” Jesus addresses their parade. “The girl is not dead. She is only sleeping.”
In an instant, the tension breaks in the crowd of sycophants, as they laugh and jeer at the fool before them. “Who is this man?” They mock. “He doesn’t know what he speaks of. He must be drunk.”
Jesus turns to Jairus again. “Put everyone out.” He says. “Only come inside with me, your wife, and my three disciples.”
When Jesus stood before the little girl, he smiled, knowing this was not God’s plan. I can imagine him looking at Jairus and encouraging his faith that this was not right and needed to change.
“Little girl,” He demands. “Get up!”
At that, the little girl breathed heavily, sucking the air out of the room. Jairus and his wife grabbed their daughter, crying in joyful disbelief.
The heart of the Messiah is for His children to know the Father, and that the Father loves them. Our faith activates the miraculous, whether or not we fully understand it. And it was Jairus’ desperate faith that pushed him beyond fear, to ask for Jesus’ help. It was Jesus’ faithful command that pulled Jairus beyond the fear of his daughter’s reported death into the faith of the miraculous. And all of that faith led to the redemption of the little girl.
“Give her something to eat,” Jesus says.
Inside the bland and dry Tuesday afternoons of our lives, God is willing to move. And He is not looking for perfect beings to move upon. My great-grandfather’s view of God was not perfect, nor was his understanding of healing sound. But on the afternoon he raised Margaret from the dead, the Spirit of God’s anger toward death moved his heart. And it only took him acting upon that movement, that he was able to witness an incredible miracle.
Your limited understanding of the Word of God only limits your ability to believe Him for what it says. It does not limit Him. Oftentimes in their ignorance, “new” Christians see more miracles than those with Masters of Theology, simply because they refuse to doubt. Our experience tells us that miracles can’t happen; the Word of God tells us something different.
No matter what life looks like, I cannot let experience determine my faith but must push my experiences to meet my faith. God designed us to believe for His will. And any time our experiences don’t meet that mark, we need to live in the awkward and terrible tension of pushing our experiences up to a higher standard. When we die believing for something impossible, is when we die at God’s best.
And in that pushing and believing is where we find our purpose. It is not to leave a legacy of fame and fortune, but stories of inspiration that radically and intimately changed the history of someone else’s eternity forever.
Eternity is where my legacy is birthed. Everything before that, trying to push, pull, bite and fight to survive is foolhardy. Because I wasn’t meant to survive; I was meant to let go. Legends never die. But the people behind them do. So in that understanding, hopefully, we can put aside the childish ideal that life is about us, and understand that the greatest legacy we will have, is the one that is told after we are dead.
You weren’t meant to change history. You were meant to create it. Not for your gain, but for the gain of God’s children. And nothing can deter that choice of creating legends except you. Your knowledge, upbringing or season don’t determine your story. Only what you choose to do with them, right now, does.
In the choice and desire to be a legend, we will face monsters, dig them out from the holes they hide in, stand our ground against the Enemy, and rescue the dead from death. And our children’s children will be the ones passing our stories along, to inspire and create history again.
That’s what makes a legend worth telling.
vii. going one more time
“It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog.” – Mark Twain
God doesn’t call the special. He calls the crazy.
Growing up, I fantasized that the men Jesus chose to disciple and walk with were his childhood friends; men that He knew well for His entire life. We only see a few glimpses into how He asked these men to walk with Him, and most are nothing more than the account that these men suddenly started walking with Him. We read a few words here and there about Jesus requesting others to “come follow [Him]” and see their acceptance, but we don’t read much more about it.
The more I learn how Jesus chooses those He’s going to do ministry with, the more I realize He’s not looking for a specific individual; He’s looking for a specific type. There are precisely unremarkable tales of men saying yes to following Jesus, because these men were precisely unremarkable. Hence, we see little of the story itself and even less of their lives beforehand. This implies that there must have been plenty of other unremarkable people whom Jesus asked as well, who denied His invitation (think of the young rich ruler, for example).
It wasn’t the person whom Jesus desired; it was the personality that He craved. Now, don’t misinterpret my meaning to think that Jesus isn’t going to let everyone follow Him. In fact, His invitation was often and eager, and many followed Him by calling Him Messiah and Lord. But only a few men were the ones crazy enough to follow under the wildest circumstances, and thus, were the ones that became legends.
When I refer to Jesus desiring a specific type of person, I am only referring to His will to create powerful testimonies and stories in history with those people. He desires every human as his children and followers, and just as much for everyone to have this personality, whether or not they have it today. But it is our limitations we put on ourselves that will determine or diminish the stories we have passed down behind us. Thereby, many will remain ordinary, though that doesn’t mean God loves them less. The disciples, indeed, were the ones that left everything and followed Jesus immediately.
Along the Sea of Galilee, early in the morning, Jesus walked with a group of people who were eagerly waiting to hear from Him. The party was so large that he needed to steal a boat and set out into the water to speak clearly for all to hear.
I live in a fishing community where nearly everyone has fished at some point in their lives, but few have fished all night. And even fewer have fished all night for their occupation. And even fewer still have fished all night for their occupation and caught nothing. The men I know that fish all night are a certain sort of person. They are gruff, rough and pissed when they set to work for no reason. Regardless, rarely do they experience an evening of nothing.
I recall a time that Peter Deeks, a camera operator serving on our church production team, blessed me with a day fishing trip with his son in Sebastian Inlet, Florida. Peter Deeks Jr. took my father, friend Neil, and myself out on a trip that normally would have cost a few hundred dollars just for an hour of fishing with him. When we set out on the boat, early in the morning, I understood that we would catch some good fish, but had no idea how talented Peter really was.
Not fifteen minutes into our trip, Peter stopped the boat and encouraged me to cast my rod to an area of the water only ten yards from us. In less than ten seconds, I was reeling in a 31-inch gator trout. Peter wasn’t a professional; he was a god. It is rare that he ever experiences a day without a trophy fish; it is even rarer that he would experience a day of no fish.
But this was Peter’s (the disciple) dilemma. He was a man that needed a certain amount of fish in order to survive—not just for himself, but for the community. And he spent the entire night, toiling and struggling to get just one fish worth taking in.
As he crouched at the bank of the Sea of Galilee, cleaning his nets, exhausted and ready to go home and rest, he looked up to see the Man Jesus getting in his boat and setting out to speak to a crowd of people. I can only imagine it frustrated him, as it would me.
When Jesus finished speaking, he addressed Peter, “Now go out where it is deeper, and let down your nets to catch some fish.” This was the defining moment for Peter and his walk with Jesus. Amidst exhaustion, frustration, anger and shame, he obeyed Jesus, if not, at the least, a little reluctantly. “Master,” Simon replied, “We worked hard all last night and didn’t catch a thing. But if you say so, I’ll let the net down again.”
They set out the boat. Paddle after paddle, stroke after stroke, they took the boat into the deep. With all left in them, they threw the net into the sea. Their splintered and calloused hands gripped the ropes and pulled. But this time their net was so full of fish it tore.
When they pulled into shore, Peter fell to Jesus’ feet. “Oh, Lord,” he said, “please leave me. I’m such a sinful man.” His doubt and stubborn acquiesce filled his heart with shame. How could he ever have second-guessed the Son of Man?
But this was the exact character Jesus was searching for. He didn’t need the talented, brave or intelligent. He needed the foolish, stubborn and penitent. Because behind that foolishness rests a natural inclination to go out one more time upon the water, on the other side of failure after failure, and let down the nets again. Not because he necessarily believed it, but because Jesus commanded him. And his penitence matched his lack of belief.
The character that Jesus craves and knows will change the world is brash and crazy. Of course, it gets tired. Of course, it gets frustrated. But above all else, it obeys and goes out one more time. Jesus isn’t looking for “Christians” to change the world. He’s looking for those crazy enough to go one more time and send down the nets. God doesn’t call the special. He calls the crazy.
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WHAT MAKES A LEGEND?
We all know there’s something deep inside of us craving to leave a story worth looking back on, to follow long after we’ve passed. Our legends tell us of people who walked on water, fell asleep in the lion’s den, defeated giants, healed the sick and raised the dead.
God has designed each of us to work extraordinary things. We merely must decide if we’ll walk in the wholeness of that calling. We can aim for sheer survival and success, or we can take the Legendary life that the Word of God invites us to. Discover the attributes of a Legend, as Keith Alderman recounts the tall tales of his great-grandfather Marvin Daniel Alderman interwoven with scriptural wisdom and truth. Now is the time we carry out God’s true capabilities in our lives.
You weren’t meant to change history. You were meant to create it.