September 2003

The railroad came to the central Texas town of Brownwood in 1885. The train brought people, cotton, supplies, and vitality to this pioneer town. The proud Santa Fe Depot stood as a symbol of the strength of the community until the automobile and airplane caused it to close its doors in the summer of 1968. With various failed attempts to bring it to life, it decayed and was lost in a neighborhood of neglect. Through the efforts of concerned citizens in 1998, the once neglected depot was renovated as a community center and it became the catalyst for restoration of the historic downtown area. No one wanted the Depot to deteriorate, but lack of purpose, a plan and regular maintenance allowed it to quietly slip into disrepair. It doesn’t take much neglect to undo a lot of excellent work. The sooner the decline is stopped, the sooner the restoration can begin.

It takes the same qualities to stay in healthy balance in our personal lives. There are many things that can derail our progress to a healthy life.

  • Change in Schedule: new job, baby, illness, house guests, vacations
  • Emotional Challenges: depression, celebration, fatigue, discouragement
  • Neglecting our commitments: “Live-It” plan, exercise, personal Bible study and prayer, group accountability

Let the Restoration Begin

  • Purpose: Sometimes the lowest motivation is what gets us going. The thought of going to the pool with children after a winter of personal neglect, a family reunion and seeing that bluntly honest cousin, or perhaps a bit more noble stimulus like a report from the family physician that says “lose weight or die” may be things that cause us to rethink our life-styles. Any excuse will do to do the right thing. The easiest thing is to accept defeat but the results are devastating. For too many of us it takes the Prodigal Son, eating leftover slop in a pigpen before we remember how good it could be. Past success, instead of being a source of guilt and accusation, can be proof positive that we did it before and we can do it again.
  • Plan: Finding a blueprint to success is key. First Place provides a plan for a totally balanced healthy life. There is no need to be creative. Every area of life can be brought under the Lordship of Christ by working the First Place program. When we address our spiritual, physical, emotional and mental needs, the results are pleasing to God, others and to ourselves.
  • Regular maintenance: The old Santa Fe did not get lost in overgrowth and decay overnight and the restoration at times seemed painfully slow. We may need to begin with an easy victory and move to the more challenging goals.

Let Success Become Contagious

  • If reading a two-minute devotional seems achievable every morning, begin there. Your hunger for the Word will grow.
  • If it takes grocery shopping with a “First Place” friend for a trip or two to make wise purchases, then make the call.
  • If it takes only walking one block and back, then put on the walking shoes. The second block is always easier after you conquer the first.

Small victories can defeat defeat. The Prodigal Son came home one-step at a time but he had to tire of the pigpen, open the gate and head for home.

The Depot is restored to a place of civic pride. It triggered a renaissance. Who knows how God will use your restoration!

Dr. Bill Heston
University Chaplain,
Howard Payne University
Brownwood, Texas

Dr. William Heston was minister of pastoral care at Houston’s First Baptist Church; clinical member of the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, and a marriage therapist licensed by the state of Texas. He has also led seminars at First Place Conferences.