Tuesday, December 31, 2013

#1 Honor Your Heritage

Ten Tips for the New Year... and the Rest of Your Life

As the new year approaches, we often think back on the year we’re finishing, and at the same time, consider the year ahead. This mood of reflection started my thinking along those lines, but my thoughts went off on a tangent and I began to consider instead, how to best live this new year before me. It is my offering, such as it is, of advice for life. These are things I’ve figured out, even if I am still working on how to apply them to my own life.

Here's the first tip:


If you don’t know the traditions of your ancestors, perhaps this is the year you should research and discover them This might be the year you begin researching your family tree and see what you find out.

My son-in-law is Filipino, a group I had only limited exposure to until I met him. I have encouraged my daughter to make sure their sons learn about that culture as well as hers. From their Lola (grandma) they are learning many traditions. They attend weddings, feasts, and other events of a rich culture. They’re learning about the traditional foods, language, dances, and clothing.
Your heritage is a part of you. Some ignore this, seeking instead to blend into a melting pot of sameness. Perhaps you don’t have any reason to make it a part of your daily life, but if nothing else, it can be fun to discover traditions and holidays your ancestors followed.

Ten Tips for the New Year... and the Rest of Your Life

As the new year approaches, we often think back on the year we’re finishing, and at the same time, consider the year ahead. This mood of reflection started my thinking along those lines, but my thoughts went off on a tangent and I began to consider instead, how to best live this new year before me. It is my offering, such as it is, of advice for life. These are things I’ve figured out, even if I am still working on how to apply them to my own life.

If you don’t know the traditions of your ancestors, perhaps this is the year you should research and discover them This might be the year you begin researching your family tree and see what you find out. My son-in-law is Filipino, a group I had only limited exposure to until I met him. I have encouraged my daughter to make sure their sons learn about that culture as well as hers. From their Lola (grandma) they are learning many traditions. They attend weddings, feasts, and other events of a rich culture. They’re learning about the traditional foods, language, dances, and clothing. Your heritage is a part of you. Some ignore this, seeking instead to blend into a melting pot of sameness. Perhaps you don’t have any reason to make it a part of your daily life, but if nothing else, it can be fun to discover traditions and holidays your ancestors followed.

Without even realizing it, our past is a part of the future. These are the rocks your foundation is built upon. Take time to keep the parts that are important to you, that you feel is true. It is in this repetition of rituals that teaching the following generation takes place. As you participate, you take it in and you understand meanings and apply them to our own life. While I didn’t grasp the depth until I considered it, this was why I was so touched when I learned that my 4 year old grandson, Noah, would be a shepherd at Christmas. He had heard the Nativity Story, yet did not fully understand it. But like all of the prior generations of “shepherds” before him, he was now a part of the tradition, a tradition that had potential to become a source of richness and internal peace. It is a reassurance of sorts, that despite the craziness of the world and the new inventions, some things will continue to be important.

To most of us, our faith journey is a constant work in progress. But, without convictions of belief, what serves as the compass? Without some internal principle, we are left to twist in the wind. My faith in God gives me the assurance of constant presence, shown not only to those in history, but in my own life. Most importantly, there is the internal peace I can’t find elsewhere.

We mess up. Things don’t go the way we wish, sometimes due to our own negligence. Others make mistakes and disappoint us. Dwelling on these things can tear one apart and cause us to be frozen and unable to move past the situation. It can create a desperation in our own thought process and cause resentment and from others. Holding resentment and grudges for things others have done to us does nothing make us miserable. There is nothing we can do other than move forward. Hopefully, lessons were learned and mistakes won’t be repeated, but either way, we can’t go back and undo the past.

Yes, you do too have some! Perhaps you should make yourself a list of at least five things that you do well. No one said they had to be the best in the world, but be YOUR strengths. Once you do, who knows? Perhaps you’ll keep them in mind when considering how to best tackle tough situations in the future.

Surround yourself with the people that bring you up, not drag you down. Notice the pretty sunsets and admire the good job someone did on something. Be glad when something you want goes on sale… or at least, doesn’t increase in price. CHOOSE to be happy.

So it didn’t go as planned, or you didn’t compete the task you set out to do. Is your life over? No, so there’s still time. Perhaps you were approaching it in the wrong way. Maybe you needed more time. Could it be that only parts of the task can be accomplished at once? Analyze the situation. Consider the options available to you now and in the future. Make a plan. Prioritize the steps. Move forward. Accept the results, either temporarily or for good.

Barring something I don’t know about, it’s the only one you get here on earth. If your life is drowning in the mundane, don’t focus on that part. Instead, focus on the other parts – those quick moments outside the drudgery. Congratulate yourself on the small victories, whether it was cleaning up and organizing a closet, serving a nice meal, making the dog’s day by playing ball, or finding something you lost. Perhaps it is what you didn’t do that is worth celebrating. You did not complain to the person that made a mess of the sandwich you ordered, you didn’t do what you wanted to do, but helped someone else instead, or maybe it was driving past the doughnut shop without stopping.

#9  LIVE NOW. 
This is one I often struggle to follow, but am learning that it is necessary. In many ways, in terms of being productive and making a contribution, I think my best successes were in my past and I have less to offer now. But that time is gone and to dwell on it, makes the rest of my life meaningless. Sometimes we didn’t do things the best way in the past. Let it go. As an optimist, I generally feel that things will work out later. I’m always sure that somehow, things will be better than now. But to sit around and wait for the better days might prevent me from doing the very things that will make them this way. Above all, it robs me of today. The present is all we really have. Don’t waste time by dreaming of the past or future, but focusing on and enjoying today. Figure out what you have to offer now and make sure to do so.

I know, it won’t be all sweetness and roses… and if you’re diabetic and allergic to flowers, that’s a good thing. But it won’t be all bad either. Celebrate the good moments, treasure the memories of a lifetime, and get past the negatives as quickly as possible.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Continuing Jesus' Ministry? Or Not?

Greetings all,
No I haven't fallen off the face of the earth, but you wouldn't know it by my writing.  Things come to mind that I want to share, but when I get a chance, my brain is mush.  But this morning, I read something that really motivated me to write.

The Situation
I have a friend, a 30ish year old single mother of three children.  The oldest child just turned 5, or will soon.  Being single is something  new to her. Being blind is not. Yes, she's a blind woman trying to deal with 3 kids, ages 1-5. No car. No family members near by.

In order to do laundry, she lugs it down several flights of steps of her apartment, kids in tow, only to discover that someone else has the washers and dryers full of clothes. Life can be overwhelming... but she doesn't give up. She keeps her faith and goes on for her children's sake. What choice does she have?

Many of us would understand not wanting to bother to go to the grocery. After all, it's tiring and a lot of trouble. But for me, and for the majority of my readers, it's a matter of getting in the car, going to the grocery without children, picking out what we want, then leaving.  We complain about the hassle.

But consider this: What if you have to catch a bus, with 3 children - more than one in each hand, using a cane to guide you, and lug home your purchase? Would you buy more than a loaf of bread? If there is a cab available, it'd be expensive and the meter would run the entire time she shopped. Or how about getting a ride? Simple? No... there is no one willing to take time our of their lives to take her. It could be a matter of lacking car seats. Ideally, two people would volunteer - one to watch the kids at home, and another to take her to the grocery, even helping her shop.  But that help isn't coming.

The Message
On facebook this morning she wrote: " Seriously, I have to go to the grocery today because there is nothing for my kids to eat for breakfast or lunch, but just the thought is overwhelming. I really should have done it yesterday, but I just couldn't. I don't feel like I can today either, but I have to."  

My heart went out to her. But when I read a comment from a friend, I gasped out loud! "I'd help but I'm off to the temple this morning. Pick you all up tomorrow for church? Take care."

Oh my.  This hit me on so many levels... thoughts of being too busy at church to notice and take care of people? Seriously????  Images of Jesus teaching that whatever you do for the least of these, you do for me filled my head to bursting. "Feed my sheep," He said.

I'm trying to be fair. I know that this fine Mormon woman is probably quite sincere in her beliefs. I know that going to temple  is very important. I believe it when Mormons say that they are Christians.... so not holding any of that against her.  It's just the "ignoring a real human need in order to go pray for guidance" part that is getting me. Am I guilty of this at times? Guidance? How about "feeding His sheep?"

At least, she responded. She may have some duty at Temple that she can't get out of. She is at least helping provide a ride tomorrow for them to get to church, and for that, I'm grateful.  

But I'm not really writing about that unknown woman. I'm writing about US. You and me.  What are we doing on a daily basis? Is it enough? Is it what we're told to do? Or do we get so hung up in our own daily stresses that we not only forget to be grateful for what we have, but neglect to help those that need it?

THAT is my challenge today, to you and, especially, to myself.  It is this mind-blowing, filled to the brim thought of someone struggling while others pass her by without a thought. It is the very essence of living what we believe. Do we? She needs food for her young children. She needs the support of humanity.  She is one of many people that struggle ... is there someone near you that needs something? Is God waiting for your part to be someone's solution?

I've been very worried about her... and she's been in my prayers for weeks. But what good are prayers if what she needs is physical help? I live several hours away, am sick, and have a car that's not sure it wants to leave town.  But I'm headed up to Ft. Thomas, in northern KY, if no one comes forward.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

An Unintended Inspiration

You've undoubtedly seen pictures that people posted of the recent "super-moon" when it was brighter and appeared closer than usual. Frankly, while it may have been amazing in person, when viewing the pictures, they pretty much look like typical shots of the full moon.

But there was an exception to the super-moon shots that not only caught my eye, but inspired me.  Robert Stephens is a photographer and I "liked" his Solitary Traveler Photography facebook page a while back. He posts wonderful pictures, saying, "If you like it, share it," so I am.  He posted this picture of Starr's Mill in Fayette County, GA - and it was taken at midnight! He wrote that he wanted to show the impact the full moon has on nature photography.

When I saw the photo posted on facebook, I commented that I liked it. But it was his reply to my comment that really made me think. He said, "I had no interest in yet another picture of the moon. I was more interested in how its light impacted the world around me than the actual moon itself."

Isn't this truly what life is about? Isn't our true purpose not only to exist, but to make an impact, a difference? It seems that our "worth" in life isn't measured by the time we spend on earth, but rather, the impact we make while here. As we reach out towards others, we welcome their hands raised towards us as well. This served not only as a moment of insight for me, but a reminder, and re-motivated me to share these insights.

For more information or art prints, go to Robert Stevens' website: 

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Support the Crusade!

While there are many good organizations in the world, in my opinion, there are few that are as worthwhile and deserve support as much as the Crusade for Children.

There are the well-known public reasons:
1. They provide services and equipment to help children with special needs.
2. 100% of the funds raised is used for the children - NONE of it goes toward other costs! (do you have any idea how rare this is?)
3. The money raised in the local area is used in that area.

These are all wonderful reasons, and alone, would be enough for me to support the Crusade. But then, there's the personal side of the story, the real reasons I support the Crusade for Children.

We moved to Louisville, Kentucky in mid-June, 1982; parents of a healthy 3 month old baby and plans to attend seminary then return to Tennessee to work in church. Nope, no connection to the then unheard of Crusade for Children at that point.  But fast forward one short year...

My first experience with the Crusade for Children was in 1983.  I kept hearing mention of it on the radio and TV but had no idea what they were talking about - why was this such a big deal? My mind was still reeling from the amazement at my first observation of the Derby Festival and realization that the Derby is more than a 2 minute horse race. When the firemen walked door to door in our neighborhood, I dug out a dollar and gave it to him, still not really sure what it was all about.

In my world, there were bigger concerns... in the first year in Kentucky, our lives were turned upside down. Not long after starting his seminary studies, Keith started experiencing vision problems. By October, he required emergency surgery to repair a detached retina. By January, he wasn't healing well and they decided he needed further surgery.  After surgery, they realized there was nothing to be done to prevent blindness. The same week, I discovered that "the flu" I couldn't seem to shake was morning sickness.

Despite having a teaching certificate, none of the schools would hire me because I was temporary... we'd only be in the state for a few years. (obviously, there wasn't a teaching shortage then as there is now) When I tried to find work at daycare centers, they rejected me because I was over-qualified and would leave as soon as I was offered a teaching position. They refused to consider me even when I promised I'd stay. Keith lost his job as a delivery person the day of the first surgery. We were struggling, and a few times, didn't have money for food. So the dollar I dug out for the fireman was much more substantial than they could possibly imagine.

In July, 1983, our second child was born 6 weeks early and spent some time in the NICU.  I spent my days at home with our 16 month old son (as well as the two boys I babysat) and late at night, I went to the NICU to be with our newborn for a few hours. As I sat there in the low light, I noticed stickers on much of the specialized equipment that read, "This was provided by Crusade for Children funds." I recalled hearing something about it a month earlier, but didn't remember much.

That fall, I learned of a position working for the Jefferson County Public Schools.  A friend told me about it - they were trying something new, using brand new, still being tested, equipment. The plan was to type print materials into a computer and print it out into braille. The blind students in the district were able to get some braille textbooks  (unless they were brand new) but none of their teacher worksheets or tests, in braille. When interviewed, I was told that the position was funded by a grant and therefore wasn't guaranteed to be permanent.  Yes, I got the job and enjoyed creating the braille materials. My salary, as well as the computer and braille printer, were paid for by a grant the district got from the Crusade for Children. The program worked well and later, the district took it on as a permanent part of their program.

A few months later, I learned of a position at the Kentucky School for the Blind working in the Rec Dept. As a teenager, I'd had a desire to work with the blind, but never pursued it after that... indeed, it didn't even come across my radar again until this moment. They asked if I had certification in visual impairment? Since I didn't know such a thing existed, obviously, not.  I soon learned that there were only four schools in the country that offered this certification. One of them is in Louisville.

It was too late for the position I applied for, but soon, I was in the process of applying for admission to the University of Louisville Graduate School. My plan was to get my master's degree in special education, with a concentration in visual impairment. How on earth could I go from worrying about paying for meager groceries to going to Graduate School? Interesting you should ask... I applied for, and was granted, a scholarship from the Crusade for Children! They paid for ALL of my special education classes! This, along with the teaching certificate I already had, allowed me to teach special education.  By taking just one more class on  my own, I was able to turn this into a master's degree.  I continued worked for JCPS producing braille while I took classes at night.

Part of my coursework involved visiting many programs for children with special needs. I spent some time at a school for children with cerebral palsy. They had specialized walkers, wheelchairs, tables and even eating utensils! I saw equipment (and TOYS) modified so they operate the switches and use them. I went to Churchill Park, a school for extremely handicapped students - some were fed with feeding tubes, others couldn't seem to grasp the simplest things - yet their teachers were patiently working with them. There were therapists teaching children to hold a fork, or to speak, or to walk. I attended a program for preschool children with Down's Syndrome and learned the importance of early intervention and the difference it makes. I visited programs for students with severe behavior disorders. These and other places had something in common - you guessed it, used funds paid for by the Crusade for Children.

Once I graduated, I taught at the Kentucky School for the Blind.  There I learned of the many, many ways the Crusade touched lives as my students shared their stories. Many had been born prematurely, and of course used the same equipment my son used. Some of the buses that transported them to school had "Paid for with Crusade for Children funds" written on the back.

Thanks to the Crusade for Children, children born with special needs are not only provided with equipment that helps them survive, but given the materials and teaching they need to thrive. Thousands and thousands of adults are now working in careers and raising families, all because they received services from the Crusade for Children as they were growing up.  The Crusade for Children is celebrating it's 60th year - a milestone that speaks volumes when you consider the many, many lives touched.

Not speaking for others, but you can see the number of times my own life has been affected by the Crusade for Children. Can you imagine the bigger impact this has had on the children with disabilities? I taught at the School for the Blind for 15 years and saw many lives touched by the Crusade. When I later started teaching in public school, I saw even more examples of Crusade funds used for children with special needs - all funds used to help them be the absolute best they can be!

Please... give generously.  Last year, the Crusade awarded grants to almost 200 schools, hospitals, and programs for children with special needs.The goal is $6 million this year - will you help?  For more information about the Crusade for Children, including a link to donate, go to their website.
Crusade for Children

Sunday, May 12, 2013

A Reflection on Mother's Day

Each year, Americans celebrate their moms...and I admit it, it's one of my least favorite holidays.  Yes, I had a mom, a good one even. And yes, I AM a mom... so what's not to like? I'll tell you.

Personally, I spent the first 15-20 years of motherhood feeling bad on Mother's Day. The day began by getting all the kids up, dressed in reasonably decent fashion, and out the door to church. Keep in mind there's a time limit to this because we couldn't be late. All the images of sweetness and joy, with the mom humming and smiling as her precious children cooperated and hugged her are nothing more than imagination. It's more a matter of looking for missing favorite socks, discussions of why you can not wear that shirt, and a mad rush to the door. There may be tears, and I wouldn't rule out a few glares.

Then there's the church service.. Some pastors felt that was the time to lift up motherhood by giving us examples of fine women in the Bible. They were perfect of course and thinking of my day so far, and indeed, many days, I knew I'd never measure up. It wasn't until years later that it occurred to me that we only heard of the one incident usually, and the Bible didn't share what the rest of their year was like...it helped me to realize that.  Some churches gave prizes to the women with the most kids, the one with the kid that had traveled the longest to visit them, etc. It'd always be the same women every year and I felt that was grossly unfair - if there's a woman in your church with 9 kids, she's going to win every year. "And what difference does it make?" I'd ask myself. It didn't mean you were a better mom.

As time went on, and I grew to dread the day, I thought of how it must be for the non-moms in the congregation.  Were some of them childless by choice and saw that as a day to celebrate their freedoms? Rarely, if ever. More likely, they were reminded that they were childless and I always figured that wasn't their plan. I knew of women who would have given anything to have a child yet couldn't. This was a yearly reminder of their lack of children.  There were women that had lost their children - a grief worse than any other.  It's a day to not only be remembered if you are a mom, but to remember your own mother. For some, that brought bitterness if they had bad mothers. For many, it brought sadness as they missed their mothers. Others saw it as a day of burden, a day they had to go see mom even if they'd rather do something else.

After the church service, the annual "you're a bad mom because you fussed at your child to get out of bed and get moving this morning, and you'll never be as kind and patient as the featured example in the sermon" day, we went home. The majority of times it meant I had to cook, clean, and there would be little mention of my "special day." There were a few years that my husband and/or kids cooked, but not often, and I still had to plan it. We never went to restaurants because in addition to the Sunday crowds, there would be the "take mom out to lunch" crowds. All together, a pretty dumb day... truthfully, it'd generally be a good day any other week. But after lunch, people did their own thing and I thought to myself, "Well, this is dumb." I resented the normalness of the day in our household, knowing others were treated as royalty.

Truthfully, Mother's Day shouldn't just be about the actual mother in your life, but about all the women that nurture you. They love and support you, serving as a shoulder when needed and a giver of hugs. Perhaps you live near your mom and that doesn't seem necessary. But for many of us living away from home, or for those of us without a mom, that might not be the case. There were many women that were like moms to me at different stages of my life.  Many "moms" aren't the only mom in a person's life. There are women that nurture others - Sunday School teachers, neighbors, aunts, special teachers, and just friends.
On Mother's Day, I can now look back on the day and be grateful for the chance I had to be a mother. At the same time, I am reminded of my own mom and what a special woman she was. She died 13 years ago, after a long illness.There have been many times when I'd think how much she'd love seeing what our kids or grandkids are doing.

Today, please remember ALL the women that nurture you - the special people that altogether have made you the person that you are, if they are your mom or not. I think about the special people that made me a mother - my children, and pray for them as they handle life day to day. 

Thursday, May 2, 2013

National Day of Prayer

" Let us come together to pray for peace and goodwill today and in the days ahead as we work to meet the great challenges of our time."  Barack Obama

Today is the National Day of Prayer, a day not sponsored or owned by any group. It belongs to ALL Americans, regardless of their faith. Each year, the president signs a proclamation officially designating the day. Freedom of religion has been a part of our country from the beginning, and in 1952, it was established as an annual event by a joint resolution of Congress and signed into law by President Harry S. Truman.

 As Americans, we rejoice in this freedom, acknowledging that people of all faiths, have the same rights and freedoms to worship in accordance with their beliefs. We have the right to worship as we please, but can only speak for ourselves. Sadly, too many refuse to give others the same freedom they insist on for themselves. Our constitution forbids the government from endorsing one religion over another, or to insist on religion at all. There are more people that claim no religion than those actively practicing one. Days like today were designed to include everyone that wishes to participate.

A Proclamation
Americans have long turned to prayer both in times of joy and times of sorrow. On their voyage to the New World, the earliest settlers prayed that they would “rejoice together, mourn together, labor, and suffer together, always having before our eyes our commission and community in the work.” From that day forward, Americans have prayed as a means of uniting, guiding, and healing. In times of hardship and tragedy, and in periods of peace and prosperity, prayer has provided reassurance, sustenance, and affirmation of common purpose.

Prayer brings communities together and can be a wellspring of strength and support. In the aftermath of senseless acts of violence, the prayers of countless Americans signal to grieving families and a suffering community that they are not alone. Their pain is a shared pain, and their hope a shared hope. Regardless of religion or creed, Americans reflect on the sacredness of life and express their sympathy for the wounded, offering comfort and holding up a light in an hour of darkness.

All of us have the freedom to pray and exercise our faiths openly. Our laws protect these God-given liberties, and rightly so. Today and every day, prayers will be offered in houses of worship, at community gatherings, in our homes, and in neighborhoods all across our country. Let us give thanks for the freedom to practice our faith as we see fit, whether individually or in fellowship.

On this day, let us remember in our thoughts and prayers all those affected by recent events, such as the Boston Marathon bombings, the Newtown, Connecticut shootings, and the explosion in West, Texas. Let us pray for the police officers, firefighters, and other first responders who put themselves in harm’s way to protect their fellow Americans. Let us also pray for the safety of our brave men and women in uniform and their families who serve and sacrifice for our country. Let us come together to pray for peace and goodwill today and in the days ahead as we work to meet the great challenges of our time.

The Congress, by Public Law 100-307, as amended, has called on the President to issue each year a proclamation designating the first Thursday in May as a “National Day of Prayer.”

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim May 2, 2013, as a National Day of Prayer. I join the citizens of our Nation in giving thanks, in accordance with our own faiths and consciences, for our many freedoms and blessings, and in asking for God’s continued guidance, mercy, and protection.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this first day of May, in the year of our Lord two thousand thirteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-seventh.



Thursday, April 18, 2013

Calming the Storm of Life

In times of chaos, whether physical or emotional, our lives are like the wind. Things are blowing here and there, pushing us through life, perhaps towards places we neither desire nor understand.  An overloaded calendar may keep us so busy that we simply rush from one obligation to another, never really focusing on any one thing.

One may interact with those treasured the most, yet not take the time to get below the surface. Sure, we can say, "I took my daughter shopping for prom dresses." or "I rushed to my son's soccer game after work." and "On the way to the meet-and-greet with his co-workers, my husband and I discussed the menu for this weekend's cook-out with the neighbors." We think we've connected with loved ones, yet it is rushed, and almost has the air of a check-list of things to do.

While out on a boat with the Disciples, Jesus must have been really tired because He fell asleep. As Jesus slept, a sudden storm came up and the Disciples were terrified. "And he arose and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, "Peace, be still." And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. (Mark 4:39)

No, you can't just easily make your life less busy, but perhaps little small steps can help it be less stressful. Perhaps you have little control over the schedule. After all, each responsibility, often added over time, is just that - a responsibility. When you think about it, each individual may only have a few things going on. Yet, in the overall picture, as a household, there is much going on.

How did this scripture speak to me, reminding me of life when I was a too-busy working mom? That's not the usual application, is it? I've heard discussions about it, always focusing on the lack of faith of the disciples and how they learned otherwise. Yet, tonight it spoke to me differently, reminding me of a lesson learned years ago, and I felt led to share it with others that may benefit.

While the scripture might seem to be about obtaining calm out of the storm, it's about more than that. It is about faith, or confidence, in the power of God. It is about both taking control and trusting. And yes, it is about the power of God to provide peace.

How does this apply to a busy modern life? What is the solution? Be purposeful. Pay attention to the individual tasks, appreciating them, or more importantly, the person involved. The last thing that makes sense would be to add more, right? But perhaps that is what is needed. 

Consider the second part of the scripture. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. Yes, it's important to keep all of the plates in the air as you juggle life. Yes, it's important to set aside time to focus on the family. But there is more.  

Despite what may seem like a packed schedule, somehow, you must squeeze out just a little more time.  Don't "do" anything during this time, just be. Be calm, Be quiet. Breathe deeply and relax.  Obviously, this isn't TV time, or "help with homework time." No, it is "be at peace" time. 

If you are so used to noise that the quiet is a distraction, then perhaps you could put on some quiet music. I prefer quiet, preferably by nature, either out away from things, or just by an open window. The twittering of the birds at dawn or the drone of the dragonflies by the river are my perfect background. Some like meditation, yoga, tai chi, or prayer - they are all examples of how you could start, but the primary task is to just be. Later, this may become your time when you focus on spiritual things, but first, you must cease the wind and allow the calm to cradle you.

Your soul craves this time. Even if it requires getting up a little early or staying up a little later, carving this time out will go a long way towards your rejuvenation, connecting to the "you" deep within. God will provide the calm you require just as surely as Jesus calmed the stormy sea.

Peace be until you.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Seeds Have Needs; Getting From Potential to Bearing Fruit

This was written by Don 'Buck P' Creacy, someone I don't even know in person, only through facebook. (And yes, his name is spelled cy, unlike my sy - quite a coincidence in names!) We're both members of Louisville Christian Writers and I enjoy his posts on the group's page. When I read this, I asked his permission to share it with you. I know you'll be as touched by it as I was.

"That old oak tree has presided over the funerals of my ancestors in that same hillside cemetery, as far back as when we settled in this country. And someday it will preside over my funeral too."

That's what he said and I believe it too. I can't help it, I admire both kinds of roots; family and arboreal. I worry that my own roots aren't quite that good.

Oak trees & fruit trees have something in common, they bear fruit. Not just acorns or peaches but shade, shelter and even sometimes furniture comes from their woody bodies and odd shaped limbs.

Thousands of acorns every year just litter the ground. Littering the ground, they aren't eaten and they don't grow. They just rot; eventually. Yet each tiny acorn has the "potential" to become a mighty oak tree. But there are not thousands of new oak saplings every year beneath these old limbs, I wonder why?

The tree these acorns came from has deep roots, but there's too much shade for acorns to grow. It's well watered, and healthy as every leaf testifies, season by season. Yet every year it is producing more acorns and I still beg the question. Why doesn't every acorn become a tree? Is there more to bearing fruit than just... what? Was there ever a time when every acorn lived up to its full potential? Where are all the oak trees?

Jesus had something to say about these questions. Matthew 13:3-9 (NKJV)
“Behold, a sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell by the wayside; and the birds came and devoured them. Some fell on stony places, where they did not have much earth; and they immediately sprang up because they had no depth of earth. But when the sun was up they were scorched, and because they had no root they withered away. And some fell among thorns, and the thorns sprang up and choked them. But others fell on good ground and yielded a crop: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. He who has ears to hear, let him hear!”

Seeds have needs...

Seeds have needs, just like me... just like you. We need a place for our roots to grow with good deep rich moist soil. We need water and sun and truthfully we need these storms to strengthen our branches and encourage deeper growth. And in these present storms; lose what should be cast off. Yes, we need these storms.

Did you know that trees grow until they die? But acorns only hold "potential" to grow. Potential is the "possible" as opposed to the "actual". This is the potential Paul was expressing when he said, "I can all things through Christ Jesus who strengthens me." The "all things" is our potential. Our actual strength comes from our roots being set deep in Jesus Christ, drawing everything from Him.

Yes every year there are SOME oak sprouts, some acorns DO make tiny trees, and some tiny saplings DO eventually make great big oak trees. All trees, oak, fruit or fir, face the elements, storms, cold, heat, drought and some pleasant good times. All the while they grow, as long as they live, and their roots keep digging deeper into the Source of Life. Actually, I know my little seed has sometimes laid on rocky soil, and except for the storms I would be there on that rocky ledge... with all my "potential".

Dear God, thank you for the storms that have washed me here to this place. This seems to be a good place to grow, I have so many needs; I do. A plot of soil for my roots and a place to bear fruit, please. I'd like to bear some fruit, that remains.

I want to grow till I die.

Please don't say to me... "Where are all the sapling trees?" Help me; help them.
Say instead; "Well done, good and faithful servant enter into the Joy of The Lord".

About the Author: 
Don ‘Buck P’ Creacy is the  Owner/Producer at A World of Storytelling Radio and Specialist at Toyota Motor Mfg. Kentucky  Studied Psychology and Education, Christian Ministry at Southwestern Assemblies of God University. Originally from Borger, Texas, now lives in Stamping Ground, Kentucky.

You can hear his storytelling on the radio. He said, "Here's where you can find me."  On my radio station www.Live365.com/stations/storytellingradio Broadcasting in 119 countries, We're #17 in Talk Radio and www.professionalstoryteller.ning.com  or www.buckpcreacy.com

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Spring Has Sprung.. Finally

This morning I realized that for all the griping about the weather we (humans) do, it's really our own fault.  Of course, I can only speak for myself, but apparently, others are guilty as well.  According to the calendar, it turned spring over two weeks ago. Our cold, dreary weather continued - we even had snow. This would be bad enough for spring, but we're a bit spoiled and in past years, we had teaser days in late winter that were above 50 degrees as well.

What did we do about it? We complained. We shared facebook posters about groundogs and complained some more. Did that help? Obviously not. Did ANYONE bother to send a calendar to Mother Nature this year? What about a "Welcome Spring!" card? Nothing? She had no clue. It's our own fault for not sharing the date with her.

Last week, the schools dismissed for Spring Break. What did Mother Nature do? She said, "Oh! It's spring? Dearie me, must get busy."

Suddenly, she drug the sun out from behind the winter cloud-screen. She polished it up so it'd shine brightly. The extra heat brought the tiny bright green leaves out to the edge of the branches.

Over the weekend, flowering trees went from nothing to fully blooming works of art. The grass has turned green and spring flowers are bursting into color. Forsythia bushes exploded with bright yellow buds and the birds increased their songs. In the past week, they've been flitting around gathering twigs, preparing for new nests. The increased trills and birdsongs are the songs of spring. The roads are full of cyclists and more people are out walking. It's time to get out of hibernation.

Soon my favorite, the dogwoods, will be blooming, along with tulips and lilacs. I'm already looking forward to planting flowers in the window boxes and smelling the fresh cut grass in the next month.

Of course, there's a down-side to everything, and spring is no exception. Thunderstorms, occasionally armed with tornadoes and hail, make an appearance. If it snows, it tends to go away faster. The other bad side is that some people see spring flowers and glare at the "allergy monsters" as their sinuses clog up. But while the spring elements keep some people cooped up, even they are grateful for the bright sunshine, warmer air, and longer days.

It's time to be outside if you can.  Clear out the garden, prepare the grill, and go fly a kite! Before you know it, we'll be picking out a new Derby hat, planting summer gardens, and stocking up on sunscreen. Spring has sprung. Some of us say, "Ahhhh... spring!" while others say, "Ahhhhh-choo!" but we all say, "Welcome Spring. We missed you."

PS: I strongly suggest that since we neglected to send her a calendar, that we send Mother's Day cards to Mother Nature. We really need to keep her in a good mood!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Winners: Not Just the Ones with the Highest Score

In sports, as in life, there are winners. Sometimes, the winners are identified as "the one with the most points" but that's not all there is to winning.  Some winners are easily predicted, others are a surprise. But this post, while about some folks that happen to be athletes, is not about sports.

A prime example of a winner is the University of Louisville's Men's Basketball team - collectively, as in ONE team, not a dozen players - and I'm not talking about the number of games won, though I could be.

Last year's team was plagued with injuries most of the season. While they were hopeful, not everyone was even sure they'd be in the NCAA tournament until near the end of the season. But made it they did, and each game was a gift. No one, not even the team, thought they'd win more than a game or two. But win they did, one game at a time, until they found themselves in the Final Four!

Another state school, Kentucky, was also there. The difference is that Kentucky had the top players in the country and spent the entire year fully expecting to win the tournament. The Cardinals, thrilled to make the Final Four at all, felt every bit as much the winners since they over-came so many obstacles to achieve that point. It was impossible for both teams to go on because they played each other to get into the Final Game. If Louisville had won, it would have crushed the Wildcat fans and they'd feel cheated and bitter for decades, just as they are now towards Duke, because they lost to them in a close game 20 years ago. (I don't even think it was a final game!) Louisville fans and team would have enjoyed going on, but I didn't hear a single complaint when we lost that game. The Final Four was an amazing achievement for a team that had overcome so much.

How did this happen? There are some good players, the kind that arrive as freshmen and stay to improve each year. But it wasn't just that. The players have an internal drive to excel personally. But the thing that took all these individual drives to success is their TEAM mentality. Members of the team, as well as the coach, motivated each to do his part. Together, they won game by game in last year's tournament, all the way to their slot in the Final Four.

But that was last year - what next? One of the most dangerous risks of success is feeling you're the best around. Sometimes people don't develop the internal drive needed to excel, especially if each individual sees only his own place in the picture.  That hasn't been the case at Louisville at all this year.

All season long, the members of the UL team did a great job. But the most impressive thing to watch wasn't the win-loss record, but the attitude. The players seemed to enjoy playing the game. They took "sharing the ball" to new levels, as they passed it around over and over. Players set up plays for each other and blocked the way in order to allow the other one to perform. On and off the court, the players enjoyed each other. they laugh and smile as they play. It is heartening to watch.

The coach, Rick Pitino, says that every year they set a team goal and also create a theme, a mantra. The goal this year is to make it back to the Final Four, and each step was tackled one at a time. The word for this year's theme? Humility.  They reminded each other, "Don't think about last year's Final Four achievement. This is a whole new year." They used the goal and attitude as their mantra. That same humility was evident in the way they sacrificed when playing, knocking themselves out to get the ball and sharing it with teammates. As the year progressed, the attitude of the team was more and more apparent. My  facebook friends will recall that I've mentioned it many times - they play with heart and love the game.

In the last basketball game, the unthinkable happened. One of the players, Kevin Ware, was hurt - not just a twisted ankle, but a severe injury most often described as "gruesome." His leg, broken in two places, stuck out of the skin 6 inches. Other players were devastated seeing their fallen brother, many falling to their knees. Several started praying. Some broadcasters said they thought shots might have been fired when so many sank to the ground at once. It was the most emotional time I've ever witnessed during a game, with the coach and players all crying, many sobbing, and the gym silent.

Perhaps the award for the "Silliest Interview Questions" should go to the journalist that said,  “You just saw your beloved team mate snap his leg three feet away from you, and then you spent the following minutes sitting on the court sobbing and in tears. Tell us how seeing the injury affected you? What kind of emotional reaction did you have? Can you put into words how this made you feel?” Seriously???? What do YOU think the answer is?

The team captain, Luke Hancock, went and stayed by Kevin and said a prayer for him. Kevin reported that even though in horrible pain, he felt a moment of peace after the prayer. This gave him the strength to speak to his  team of brothers, encouraging them before he left on a stretcher.  This in turn helped the others pull themselves together and somehow manage to play and win the game they dedicated to him. Players held his jersey in the picture of the team with the winning trophy.

The picture shown is of Kevin Ware encouraging his teammates saying, "I'll be okay. You just win the game." He knew how they felt. He knew they were devastated for him and their hearts were not in the game. They are reaching out in support to him,  just as he is to them. It reminds me of a Norman Rockwell painting. It's the picture of real winners, the kind that succeed in life, long after basketball careers end. This is the kind of winning that can only be shown by example, not easily taught.
This same injury could have happened to any team in any game. Yet, I don't think the reaction would've been the same with other teams. The humility encouraged, mixed with the unusual bonding of the players, created just the right combination for the reactions to that injury. It became a human interest story that stretched way beyond the sports arena.  Broadcasters reported a quiet locker room at the half, all thoughts on their friend. After the game, after celebrating making it to the Final Four, players were still emotional and crying, focused on their teammate.

Miraculously, the gym where he was injured is located close to a well known trauma center that specializes in severe cases. He had immediate surgery, and is even expected to recover. It will definitely impact the team as they continue because he is a valuable guard. But if the team doesn't win anymore games, it won't be due to lack of trying or making excuses.They made their original goal in style. Now, time for the next game! Go Cards!

Sunday, March 31, 2013

On Blogging...

A friend said, "I haven't seen anything from you lately. Have you quit writing posts in your blog?" I was confused for a bit, but as we talked, I realized she was only checking one blog... and I happen to have three of them. True, I haven't written there as often as I probably should, but have written in other blogs.

There are three blogs. Yes, three. Many people live happy lives without reading blog posts. Most even somehow manage to survive without considering creating a blog of their own and writing.  But then there are people like me... people that express themselves by wring about life.

Unlike those that can tweet their lives in short little soundbites, or even within the 234 word limit on facebook posts, it takes me longer.  Just knowing that there's a limit, and even worse, knowing what that limit is, shows that brevity of language is not one of my strengths.  Though rather than considering the need for more space to write as a weakness, I prefer to think of it as a good thing. It is something I can do, something not everyone else even considers.

My original blog, A Moment with Morning Glory is my "Sharing my thoughts" blog.  I created another one for Lent because after writing a few messages realized it's not all the same, so created the separate blog about my Lenten Journey. THAT is where most of my posts have been recently, as that is what has been on my mind.  I'm actually going to miss that blog... it's my favorite one.  (I'd like to think the posts would be relevant after Lent as well.)

Not too long ago, I created a blog for considering random thoughts. In some ways, it's a little edgier, but there are sometimes things on my mind that fit there best. My primary idea is that I'd like to be able to have more "give and take" with readers, not just write and have them read it. It's called, Consider This. I tried something different with that, by creating a facebook page of the same name and encouraging discussion there. The problem is that while it is a great discussion page, there aren't many followers. The facebook setup requires people to "like" pages in order to see them and they most likely don't even know it exists.  So, it might not work... who knows? I encourage you to share it with friends - I certainly don't need to know each person there and welcome a diverse conversation with people.

How do I know which blog a post goes in? Why are some blogs more active than others? These are answered in the same way. Whatever happens to pop into my head, I write about it. Then, I decide which one suits that topic best and put it there. Occasionally, I start writing and as I do, realize it belongs on a different blog, so move it.

You are strongly encouraged to at least "like" the Consider This facebook page - you might not be interested in every topic, but there surely will be some you have opinions about! You're also welcome to start your own topics on the page. Not every topic will have a blog post. Sometimes I simply post questions, or even links to stories in the news, asking for opinions.  Click Here to "like" the page.

Each blog has the links to the other blogs, located above the post on each one. I've purposely kept the formats the same on all of them.  While I'm at it, I should also tell you about my Morning Glory facebook page! This is a public facebook page dealing with books and writing, as opposed to my personal facebook page. Click here to "like" this page. As always, your thoughts are encouraged and welcomed anywhere and everywhere..

Click the titles to visit the various blogs:
My Lenten Journey    A Moment with Morning Glory, the original blog   Consider This

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

UK Radio Team: Get Off Your High-Horse!

My Rant About the UK Radio Team

After a surprisingly lackluster season, the UK Wildcats are headed to the NIT, where they are favored to win it. While they rarely played to their potential, I expected them to get an at-large NCAA bid up until the end. My prediction was that they'd get a #12 or #13 seed in the west. But I was wrong.

The first game of the NIT is tonight so since I was in the car, I listened to some of the pre-game show on the radio. My UK fans will have to forgive me that I never remember their names... Oscar Something and I can't think of the other guy, but it doesn't matter.

First, they made fun of the stadium... True, it's not Rupp, but it's the game that counts. Having a small gym doesn't mean you're a small-hearted team. I assume the floor is the same size. If it's smaller, the team will be well rested, but it's probably the same. (Being an announcer from a huge gym and making fun of the small gym might mean the radio guys are either small-hearted, small-minded, or both.)

The point of this post is to say that I think these play-by-play guys owe the team an apology.  One asked,"So what do we do with the winning banner? Surely we wouldn't hang it!" The other one said, "You accept it graciously then hide it in a bedroom drawer."  Then they both laughed. That's insulting. It is insulting to the NIT and most importantly, it's insulting to the team. I hope none of them heard it.

No, winning the NIT is not as prestigious as winning the NCAA. The team hasn't even started the first game yet and they are already putting down winning the entire tournament.  Winning a tournament is still going out there and playing well game after game. So the competition isn't as tough as some you've played this season. That might be good - after all, they didn't always do well against those other teams. Now they can beat everyone!

In the past, some teams refused to play in the NIT, acting as if it was an insult. To the fans that enjoy watching the team, and to the players that enjoy playing, a game is a game. Maybe it's not as exciting as what you thought you'd see, but you can still enjoy the game!  Now, the coaches must decide at the beginning of the season if they'd accept a bid if offered one. Accepting a bid for the NIT means you weren't invited to the NCAA. Back when he agreed to play if asked, John Calipari probably laughed and said, "Sure, we'll play" and didn't think twice. After all, they were the defending national champions, had great players coming in, and were ranked #5 in the country! The NIT form was just a formality.

But as often happens in life, things didn't go according to plan. The Wildcats failed to get an NCAA invitation, but were offered an invitation to the NIT.  Hopefully, their fans will be classier than the radio commentators, men who supposedly are big UK fans.  When your own supporters are against you, what does this do to the guys that are playing? You don't think they're disappointed? Stop it with the attitude. Win the tournament and when you do, hang the banner proudly.  Don't belittle their achievement by hiding it.

I've never called in to the UK sports talk show, even though I've listened to it many times. Tonight almost convinced me to do so. The only reason I didn't is that frankly, I didn't want to hear the show as I waited because I was already too disgusted. If you're a UK fan, I encourage YOU to support your team better than these so-called-fans that call the game on the radio. Maybe someone will point out the error of their attitude and they'll apologize.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Senior Day in the Big East... A Statisticians Joy!

Today is Senior Day for UL, always an emotional day. I am absolutely NOT looking forward to saying good-bye to Peyton Siva or Gorgui Dieng - it's so fun watching them play. You can tell they love it and the drive comes from within. Both are known for fast breaks, great shots, and a determination to get within the action. They're fearless... They aren't alone, and are joined by Russ Smith, the street-smart kid from New York. It's been a good run.
Amidst all the hoopla, there will be a game to play. Winning means at least a share of the Big East Championship. A share you say? The Big East is a league full of great basketball, and the toughest teams they play are each other.  Georgetown, Louisville, and Marquette are in a three-way tie for first place.Georgetown and Louisville have each lost only one non-conference game, while Marquette lost 3. Pittsburgh, Syracuse, and Notre Dame are in a three-way tie for second place. Oh yes, it's a tangled web And it gets even more complicated...

Syracuse (11-6) is at Georgetown (13-4) noon today, and St. John's (8-9) plays Marquette (13-4) at 2:00, so Louisville would certainly appreciate it if Syracuse would beat Georgetown for us and St. John's beats Marquette.  THIS way, if Louisville (13-4) beats Notre Dame (11-6) at 4:00, the Cards will win the Big East Championship outright. But, Georgetown isn't going to roll over and let Syracuse win on their Senior Day. The only thing I'd bet on (if I bet, which I don't) would be that I expect Marquette to beat St. John's.

Louisville cannot just plan to beat Notre Dame, not by a long shot. And it just might take more than a few long shots to pull it off! Being Senior Day, UL players may be more emotional and Siva has been known to have bad shooting days at times. Remember a few weeks ago when Louisville lost by a few points in a FIVE Overtime game? That was against Notre Dame.

So, by the end of the day, Louisville could win the Big East Season Championship. But they could be  in third place in the conference if Georgetown and Marquette both win today. They'll share the title with 14-4 records.  Or Louisville could share the conference with either of them if we win and only one of them wins. They could all win and thus, keep the 3-way tie for first. I guess at that point it matters who beat who during the season. Any of  the top 3 could be the clear champ.  All three could end the day in 1st, 2nd, or 3rd place or a tie for first or second. How would YOU like to be the one trying to figure out the Big East Champ ahead of time? Can't be done.

Is your head spinning yet? All of this and it's "just" the season championship we're addressing. NEXT week, they take the whole show on the road when the Big East Tournament gets underway at Madison Square Gardens.  At that point, it's like starting this weekend all over again. After playing each other all season, the Big East teams are ready to tackle anyone in the NCAA Tournament! Play Ball... and GO CARDS!!!!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Aren't Signs Supposed to Mean Something?

As we begin March, there are all kinds of signs that are supposed to mean something: 

  1. The basketball teams are playing away, usually doing their best of the season, anticipating tournaments to come. Folks are making all kinds of predictions about who will play and how they'll do... it's all just fun at this point.
  2. When I was teaching,  this is the month I used to put away the snowflakes and hearts that decorated my classroom and replace them with shamrocks and kites.
  3. This afternoon, I got an e-mail about gardening from one of the local home improvement stores, one of many I've received from similar places lately. I joined their "Garden Club" at some point a few years ago. Their selling point when convincing me to share my e-mail address was that I'd get occasional coupons. They more than covered the meager discounts offered by showing me dozens of pictures of gardens and planting projects. 
  4. It's Lent. If I didn't know it by the abundance of devotionals on facebook, I'd know it because of the fish specials on Fridays. 
  5. I saw green leaves from jonquils-to-be poking out of the ground this morning.. even though unfortunately, poking through the snow. 
  6. Daylight savings time begins soon. We "spring forward" our clocks Sunday, losing an hour.  I'll try not to complain about that as I recall feeling especially appreciative when I got the extra hour last fall.

So... all kinds of signs. What do they mean? It is SUPPOSED to mean that spring is almost here! Generally, we have been enjoying warm sunny days for weeks and have packed away winter coats by now. Even the rainy days are fairly mild! When these things come together, the basketball, shamrocks, planting diagrams, fish, jonquils, and clocks - we have SPRING!

 It really seems hard to believe that it's time to be thinking about seed starting supplies when it's freezing cold outside. But despite the snow on the ground as recently as today, the weather forecast is temperatures in the 60s by the weekend. I have no idea what follows that - I haven't had the nerve to dare wonder. But one thing I do know is that after a few warm days, we will definitely be ready for spring.

If basketball season has to wind down, the least that should happen is warm weather! All of the "leading indicators," to borrow a media term, suggests spring is here.... I sure wish someone would tell Mother Nature. She's falling down on the job!

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Looking Up, Through the Gray

The morning is quiet and hushed as the sun rises. It's not one of those "bright glorious sunrise" days, but a gray one. The skies went from dark to light as if gradually turning up the brightness button on a grayscale photo. The silvery sky is covered by blotchy clouds. As the large trees stand firm, the smaller ones are rustling, nervously awaiting whatever the day will bring. The wind chimes are clanging, as if sending out a warning.

The weather forecast isn't pretty, promising a chilly day with periods of drizzle, a wintery mix, and gusts. It's a typical late winter day, not a favorite forecast, but certainly not the worst.

Despite the gloom outside, as I watched the sky lighten, revealing the familiar once again, I felt a sense of protection, and of being blessed. There have been dark moments in my life, when sadness and worry overtook my soul, ignoring the brightness surrounding me Thinking of that as I watched the sky, I was reminded, "Though I walk through the valley of death, I will fear no evil..." and thought of the many, many times when I have been protected and comforted by God.

Yes, we have gray days, in "real life" and in our minds. But they are not permanent, and even serve a purpose. As the rain nourishes our gardens, allowing the ground to soak up needed moisture in order to send up colorful plants, the quiet times of reflection, when we draw closer to God, nourish our souls, calming and soothing us... it reminds us to keep going in order to see the good that is coming.

"The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”  Deuteronomy 31:8  These words were spoken by Moses, speaking to Joshua. We need the reminder at times, just as the Hebrew people did. Yes, God is with us, even on gray days.