Finding Footprints and More

(S.O.S. Challenge #4)

All alone on a deserted beach;

no shells, no people…

Just sand and waves,

and then something catches my eye:


the remains of a lonely starfish washed up on the shore.

starfish and foam

I’ve walked countless beaches around the world and have only seen starfish in the Philippines; so what a special thrill it was to see this ocean treasure!

But what if I were shipwrecked?  What would I rejoice to see as I scanned the coastline?


Signs of life.

Some friends and I went to the beach this year full of expectation; though hoping for beautiful weather, seashells, and a glimpse of a few dolphins or maybe even a whale, deep down we were looking for something more:  fellowship, encouragement, rest, direction, hope, truth, insight…

starfish tracing

I have long been familiar with the life and writings of Paul, but I feel as though I have just discovered him.  In previous “studies” of this extra-ordinary man, I believe I have misjudged him, putting him on a pedestal, over analyzing and criticizing.   I see him now, as an ordinary man who never got over grace.  He was broken and restored, shipwrecked and rescued, and it changed him forever.

He knew grace and lived grace, and extended grace to others.  More than a “Bible Character”, he has become my very dear mentor, my friend and brother in the faith.

I’ve found his footprints in the scripture, so to speak.  The further I follow the tracks he left behind, the more I want to continue the pursuit of understanding who he was and his motivation.

  • The more I know him, the more I see Christ in Him.
  • The more impressed I am, the more humble I find him to be and the greater my Savior appears.
  • The more I come to love and appreciate him, and the more I love my Jesus and marvel at the sovereignty and infinite grace of the Father.


In the Words of Paul –

  • “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.” (1 Cor. 11:1)
  • “Brethren, join in following my example, and observe those who walk according to the pattern you have in us.” (Phil. 3:17)
  • “Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me–put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.”  (Phil. 4:9)
  • “You became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you welcomed the message in the midst of severe suffering with the joy given by the Holy Spirit.”  (1 Thes. 1:6)

footprints 2 sets

So, walk with me.  Let’s follow the footprints of Paul: a man following Christ, who was shipwrecked, rescued, and never could forget the One who saved Him.

In his darkest hours (literally), he found new hope as the Holy Spirit helped him see the path of salvation through the Old Testament that led to the cross.  Paul began following the steps of his Savior to where he would be “crucified with Christ” (Gal. 2:20), and the life that he lived by faith in Christ Jesus has been an encouragement for this “forlorn and shipwrecked brother” (- Psalm of Life).  And seeing, I have taken heart again.


Challenge #3

Print or artistically copy the poem “A Psalm of Life”.

Read it.  Ponder it.  Then, place it in your S.O.S. “survival bag”.

If you are at all familiar with Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, you know that this man had a love affair with the sea, lighthouses, ship, and the shore.  I hope as we set sail on this adventure you will begin to see how this, my favorite poem, relates to life of Paul .

(public domain) Illustration by H. Winthrop Peirce for "The Psalm of Life" by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
(public domain) Illustration by H. Winthrop Peirce for “The Psalm of Life” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow



    TELL me not, in mournful numbers,
        Life is but an empty dream ! —
    For the soul is dead that slumbers,
        And things are not what they seem.

    Life is real!   Life is earnest!
        And the grave is not its goal;
    Dust thou art, to dust returnest,
        Was not spoken of the soul.

    Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,
        Is our destined end or way;
    But to act, that each to-morrow
        Find us farther than to-day.

    Art is long, and Time is fleeting,
        And our hearts, though stout and brave,
    Still, like muffled drums, are beating
        Funeral marches to the grave.

    In the world’s broad field of battle,
        In the bivouac of Life,
    Be not like dumb, driven cattle!
        Be a hero in the strife!

    Trust no Future, howe’er pleasant!
        Let the dead Past bury its dead!
    Act,— act in the living Present!
        Heart within, and God o’erhead!

    Lives of great men all remind us
        We can make our lives sublime,
    And, departing, leave behind us
        Footprints on the sands of time;

    Footprints, that perhaps another,
        Sailing o’er life’s solemn main,
    A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
        Seeing, shall take heart again.

    Let us, then, be up and doing,
        With a heart for any fate;
    Still achieving, still pursuing,
        Learn to labor and to wait.  

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