Monday, July 14, 2014

BookPastor >> "Footprints" (Margaret Fishback Powers)

TITLE: Footprints: The True Story Behind the Poem That Inspired Millions
AUTHOR: Margaret Fishback Powers
PUBLISHER: Toronto: CAD: Harper Collins, 1993, (106 pages).

Many people have read the poem and have been inspired by it. In an age of the Internet, people have searched for it on Google, and many do not even know where it originated from. Who wrote it? What is the story behind it? The answer to it all is in this book. The story begins at the hospital bed where an excited nurse was sharing about the popular "Footprints" poem to a recovering patient in an intensive care ward. She wanted to encourage Paul and after reading it, she admitted that she don't know who the author was. Paul said he did. It was his wife. Paul was recovering from a heart attack and his daughter had just survived a drowning situation. The same poem that had been read to him had also blessed millions of people around the world. The problem is, not many people knew who was the author, including the same nurse.

Written in 1964, twenty years ago before this book was published, the former school teacher gives readers a flashback to her earlier years on how she had survived an electrical storm while in the classroom. She reflected on moments with her soon to be husband, how God had inexplicably been carrying them through their tough times. While the author survived the lightning, one of her students did not. The going was tough but she found assurance that the Bible declares death does not have the final say. God does. That begins her initial thoughts on writing the first few sentences of the world famous poem.

The Ingredients That Helped Form the Poem

Fishback-Powers's poem was one soaked in reflections over her life and her loved one, especially her husband, Paul who himself had a traumatic childhood. From Paul's life, she learns about the deep grace of God who rescued Paul from his doldrums, his unhappy childhood, and the loss of his mother. She remembers her near-death experience, avoiding an oncoming truck; a stinging punishment in school, and her encounter with a threatening bumblebee. Gradually she learns from her husband the meaning of: "Memories and mistakes should be guideposts, not hitching posts." Through the hard times, she hears the soft voice of God speaking to her. Then on an ordinary beachwalk with her husband, the words from Paul accelerates the writing of the poem.

"Margie, when the most troublesome times come, that neither one of us can handle, that's when the Lord will carry us both, as long as we maintain our faith and trust in Him." (42)

Absorbed in the thought of that one set of footprints, she allows her mind to dream and her writing to flow. In between her wedding plans and the hope of a beautiful marriage, she has an increasing awareness of the peace and comfort of God in the midst of tragedy and suffering. Yet, that one thought remains consistently clear. God had carried them in the past. God is carrying them in the present. God will be carrying them through the future.

Challenges in life may be different. The way to survive them all is to know that one is carried by God all through the day, all the way. The author also shares her struggle with copyright matters, establishing her authorship, especially when the poem had become famous. Even when she had won the right to have her book published by a prominent book publisher, she realized that enforcing it will be difficult. She ends the book with a poem of trust again: "Leave It There" with the Lord.

That is what faith is about. Not making big money or profits, but helping others to walk the way of life with Jesus carrying us. If you want to read about the controversy over Footprints' authorship, you can check out the article here.


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