Making an Indelible Mark (Encouragement for Creators)

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We all have hopes and ambitions in life — dreams of achieving great things. But sometimes the road to fulfilling our fondest dreams takes us to unexpected places. These places may be momentary detours or side stops on the way to our final destination; but occasionally the “side stop” ends up actually being the end of the journey, the place where we’ll make our mark in the world. We can’t always be sure if and when this is the case. We can, however, make sure that we take advantage of every opportunity that comes our way, even if it’s not the perfect fulfillment of the dream, or the best use of our gifts and talents.

Many of us have “day jobs” which pay the bills while we wait for our “big break” in life. But will we recognize that one great opportunity when we see it? Not always. So it’s important to be open to the “detours” and “side stops” we encounter; to use our time and talents wisely, but also to be willing to use them in less than ideal situations which, at first glance, may seem far short of where we want to be.

This means allowing God to use us when and where He needs us. And that means making ourselves available — always faithful and humble, especially with respect to our God-given abilities. It also means being a servant. Above all, it means approaching every job, no matter how insignificant it may seem, with energy and enthusiasm, always doing our best, always giving 100%!

Israel Schnapt understood these principles well. He was an 18-year-old Jewish graphic designer and engraver who emigrated from Austria to the United States in 1910. After arriving in New York, he simplified his name to Ira Schnapp and started looking for work. Schnapp held a variety of jobs, including designing and engraving U.S. postage stamps, and lettering the filmed title cards for silent movies.

Schnapp was also a highly skilled stonecutter, and in 1911 the City of New York hired him to design and hand-carve the lettering above the main branch of its library: MDCCCXCV • THE NEW YORK PUBLIC LIBRARY • MDCCCCII. Three years later, Schnapp designed and carved this famous phrase above the entrance to New York’s James Farley General Post Office: “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.” Due to the historic significance of these facades, Schnapp’s contributions to Americana are impressive, but his greatest contributions to pop culture were yet to come.

In 1938, Ira Schnapp was offered a job at DC Comics designing title logos for its magazines. The great American comic book was still in its infancy, and working on so-called “funny books” wasn’t exactly something to brag about. Schnapp could have easily and understandably rejected the offer. He’d already left some impressive and enduring marks on U.S. history, so to create the mastheads for what the general public considered lowbrow and “disposable” entertainment, was a huge step DOWN! But Schnapp was open to any legitimate venture that allowed him to use his talents. He decided to give the new opportunity a shot, and see what he could create in the new arena of comics.

Apparently, Schnapp soon discovered he actually enjoyed working for DC (—at the time, the company was called National Publications). He stayed with the publisher for 30 years, until he retired, lettering covers and creating dozens of inspired logos for comics, including such mainstays as Action Comics, The Flash, and Justice League of America. Along the way, Schnapp created the most recognizable logo in the world: the stunning title for Superman comics.

Ira Schnapp left indelible marks on both the New York Public Library and comic book history. All because he was humble and open to new opportunities; because he made himself available; because he saw a need for his special gifts and talents and decided to fill that need. Because he knew the importance of making the most of every circumstance and situation.

Few of us can be certain when or where we’ll make our big mark in life. Will that mark be left on newsprint or canvas, on TV or in the movies, in a boardroom or at a soup kitchen, on a military installation or in the mission field — or in the stone blocks fronting some public edifice? We won’t know, really, until we reach the end of our journey and look back. So don’t take chances; be open to all of those little detours and side stops you encounter along the way. And wherever you find yourself, always remember to bloom where you’re planted.

“The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord: and He delights in his way.” (Psalm 37:23 New King James)

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Beneath the Crust (Angel in the Kitchen)

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It’s obviously a matter of personal taste and preference: we love a loaf of crusty French bread — crispy on the outside, soft on the inside — and one of us (The better half?) absolutely adores the end slices from a loaf of bread! The extra crusty end piece from a loaf is known as the “heel.” (And, no, in this case, “You are NOT what you eat!”) But apparently, there are those among us who don’t particularly care for the crust, the more chewy part of a daily baked essential.

We may like our bread crust, but we can still sympathize with those who don’t. We can also remember a time from childhood when we mostly ate around the crust, leaving a pathetic-looking brown ring of over-cooked dough on our plates. Sometimes, however, we’d prevail upon our parents to neatly trim away the crust on our jelly sandwiches, creating a nearly perfect square of tender, strawberry or grape flavored goodness!

Spoiled? No doubt. But for most kids, downing the crust from a sandwich is almost as daunting as swallowing multivitamins the size of horse pills! But it’s not just kids who like having the crust cut off their sandwiches. Many adults do, too! Which is why several companies market “crust removers.” (Sounds euphemistic for a mafia hitman.) Most of these gadgets look like big square cookie cutters, and come with names like “The De-Cruster” or “The Krustbuster.”

Removing the crust from a sandwich results in an almost magical transformation: a cheese sandwich with the crust ON is a … well, a sandwich; something suitable for a picnic in the park, or a snack while watching TV. Cut away the tough crust, though, and suddenly your cheese sandwich is respectable enough to mingle with the guests at a wedding reception or other dressy occasion. A sandwich with the crust removed is transformed into a … canopay … uh, canopy … canopoly…. Sigh! A fancy little finger food fit for VIPs!

Sara Lee must recognize this truth: the company began marketing their “Crustless Bread” in 2009. (So now, you can have your cake and eat it, too; which never really made sense to us, because who in the world buys cake unless they intend to eat it?) And chefs continue to devise recipes that call for the crust that people are cutting off their cana— their sandwiches. Our favorite one is for bread pudding, so feel free to mail us your excised crust.

All this crusty commentary is to make a point: some people want this dry, chewy exterior removed. It’s not a matter of being finicky; it’s a matter of preference.

God likes the crust removed, and no one in their right mind should question the Creator of the Universe concerning good taste! God makes sandwiches? Not that we know of, but He does make people. And then He trims away the crust.

In baking, the exterior of the dough comes in contact with more heat, and hence forms a thick crust that’s dryer, harder and tougher. In life, people take the heat of failures and rejection, mistakes and disappointments, pain and grief. People generally form a thick crust of fear and mistrust, selfishness and self-sufficiency, and often just plain grumpy unsociability! This protective crust is spiritually dry — not to mention tough and hardened. It insulates people from the world at large. It can prevent us from ever reaching the soft hearts buried within!

Ever meet someone with a crusty personality? “Crusty” is synonymous with irritable, cantankerous, bad-tempered, grouchy, snappish, and downright ornery. Or, to sum up crusty in a single word: uncivil. God created humans as relational beings. We were designed to enjoy the company of others, and to benefit from a close personal relationship with our Creator. So, the last thing God wants is for us to be crusted over by bad habits and attitudes, or just plain stinking thinking.

God transforms us by trimming away the crust. We slowly change (both naturally and supernaturally) from being an ordinary sandwich filled with sin and error … to an extraordinary canapé that’s tender and easy for others to partake! (Ha! Yeah, we actually can spell it.)

Next time you sense that God is cutting away some of the more crusty parts of your life, relax and rejoice — He’s preparing you for an exclusive gathering in His Kingdom!

“Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts … during the time of testing in the wilderness…. But encourage one another daily … so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.” (Hebrews 3:7-8, 11 NIV)

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