Sunday, December 31, 2017

The Lighthouse Principle


Lighthouses have always fascinated me. For one thing, they are always located by large bodies of water. It doesn’t matter if it’s the ocean, river, lake or bay, I’m a fan of water views.

When traveling I always look at postcard racks to familiarize myself with the area. I have never forgotten an oversize postcard that had pictures of lighthouses in Michigan.

It was fascinating because, though all held the same importance, no two were alike in shapes or colors.

Why Bother With Light?

Lighthouses were needed to guide ships safely into port through rocky harbors. Situated in lonely places, they were built to withstand the toughest of weather conditions.

Views from the top were spectacular, but lighthouse keepers did not climb the challenging steps for the view. Their part in the mighty shipping industry was simply to make their light shine. They had no control over who would use the beams or how.

Light Still Needed

We are entering into a New Year. I’m looking forward to it, though I did not make any resolutions for it. If you’re wondering why not, I have a simple answer.

My individual resolutions have a tendency to fall by the wayside after a few weeks. But that doesn’t mean I don’t want to become a better person in the new year.

That’s why the famous prayer of St. Francis of Assisi caught my attention once again. Here is the part I love:

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace:
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
And where there is sadness, joy.

Each line of that prayer is a worthwhile goal. But I like that St. Francis called upon God to help him achieve them. I need that same power if I’m going to be a peacemaker or sow love. And what about forgiveness? Is that something I can easily offer on my own?

The Lighthouse Principle

It’s easy to see a world full of darkness rather than goodness and light. That’s why I want to follow the lighthouse principle this year. It may seem like a lonely business, but just as each lighthouse made a difference to ships in its area, each of us make a difference to the people around us.

Jesus spoke of his followers as light in the world (Matthew 5:13-16). His instructions were to light your lamp and put it on a stand to give light to others. Sounds like a lighthouse principle to me.

St. Francis’ prayer has more good things in it. But our light will shine brightly even with the first few lines.                                                                         

Sunday, December 24, 2017

A Circle of Inspiration


Whenever I’m in a hospital lobby, I check out the gift shop. They seem to have items I don’t find elsewhere.

During my “bear collecting” phase, I found a cute figurine of a bear settled in an overstuffed armchair. He has a book in his lap and one leg crossed over the other. I enjoy this bear because he is smiling. It confirms my belief that reading is a pleasure.

I was waiting in a hospital lobby a few weeks ago. Reading to fill the time, I decided a walk would do me good. I hadn’t gone far when I noticed the gift shop. I wandered in to look around.

What caught my eye was a display of Raku Medallions by artist Jeremy Diller. Each clay circle was three inches in diameter. I picked one up and was surprised by a simple message stamped into the back: I Am Grateful.

Trial by Fire

The artist had included an informative plaque with his display: Each handcrafted Raku Medallion is fired in an outdoor kiln, and left to smolder in a pit with wood shavings. Not everyone survives their trial by fire. The ones that do cultivate strength and beauty. My silent prayer was, “Lord, help me to be one of those people.”

I had not planned to buy anything, so I left the shop and finished my walk. Back in the lobby I read for a while, but I kept thinking of the “trial by fire” message. I went back to the gift shop to read it again.

One medallion caught my eye. It was a white heart in the center of white lines which radiated out to form a cross. I turned it over and found the grateful heart message stamped into the back. I thought that makes sense. To survive my trial by fire I will need a grateful heart. I had my wallet this time, so I bought it.

Thankful or Grateful . . . 

To be grateful is to be appreciative or thankful. Thankfulness inspires a warm feeling toward someone for something good that has happened. On the other hand, to be thankless is to be ungrateful and self-centered. It can even be prideful if we think the good thing that happened was simply what we deserved.

Colossians 3:15 says, “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts” and “be thankful.” Thankfulness opens our heart to God’s peace. We can’t be thankful and discontented at the same time.

The Message puts it this way: Cultivate thankfulness. I like that. There is nothing automatic about being grateful.

I came home, hung the medallion by my desk and took out my journal. The Amplified Bible says, “Be thankful (appreciative), giving praise to God (always).”

In a matter of seconds, I had listed eight things for which I was thankful. It was very uplifting.

How About You?

Have you been going through your own trial by fire? Imagine a circle of inspiration stamped I Am Grateful. Thankfulness is a personal thing, so give it some thought. 

Sunday, December 17, 2017

The Life of a Lie


Do you associate the word Arabia with a desert in southwest Asia? That’s what I did until I read a book called Treasure in a Cornfield by Greg Hawley.

I was amazed by many things in this adventurous autobiography.  The book’s subtitle is The Discovery and Excavation of the Steamboat Arabia.   

Flat-bottomed paddle-wheelers, propelled by giant boiler engines, carried tons of cargo and hundreds of passengers before establishment of railroads. The mighty Mississippi and the muddy Missouri rivers were major travel sites.

How could a steamboat end up in a cornfield? In 1856, the Arabia was snagged by an underwater tree and sank in the Missouri River. As years rolled by, the river eroded and changed its course leaving the Arabia under a Kansas cornfield.

The Tell-Tale Mule 

This book was filled with amazing stories, but the life of a lie caught my interest. In 1988, the Hawley excavation team came upon the remains of a mule. The skeleton was fully bridled and saddled, laying on its right side.

An article in a St. Joseph’s newspaper, at the time of the disaster, reported that the owner had tried his best to get the mule off the Arabia but the mule was too stubborn (page 71). Mr. Hawley said this story “was unlikely” because one hundred and thirty-two years later the reins were still tied to a piece of sawmill equipment.

Why Lie? 

People are untruthful for many reasons. Self-preservation is a big one. The mule’s owner remains anonymous. He may have fabricated a lie because he was ashamed of not rescuing his mule. In the aftermath of such a major disaster who would question the story of a stubborn mule?

There’s truth in the old adage, “A lie has no legs; it has to be supported by other lies.”

I wonder how the owner felt, every time he told his lie. Knowing the truth, did he try to avoid talking about the incident? Did he think about the suffering of his mule? Or did he tell his story as a bald-faced brazen lie?

Good Reasons for Truth 

There are a couple of reasons to tell the truth: 1) It simplifies our life; we don’t have to remember what we said to keep the lie going, and 2) people know they can trust us; they don’t have to struggle to find the truth.

Did you know that Numbers 23:19 says lying is a human trait? God does not lie; therefore, He is trustworthy. Wondering what to do about a problem? Rest assured, God helps those who trust in Him (Nahum 1:7). Ask Him for wisdom. Lying is an unnecessary option.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Ring Those Bells


It’s December and I’m hearing bells. Are you? Some of them are ringing in front of my favorite stores. They’re not loud. Just a soft reminder to be aware of others needs while I meet my own.

I heard another bell today. My husband and I have a friend who opened a thrift store to raise funds for charitable works.

A bells rings briefly each time someone enters the store. To me it was another soft and satisfying sound. I enjoyed seeing the looks on faces when told the entire store was having a half-price sale. Most of them were as surprised as I was.

Bargains for a Cause

Once a month, our friend hosts a Meet the Author day. When invited to choose a December date, I unknowingly chose the last day of a week-long sale. Everything was half price. I was delighted to find nearly a dozen books by my favorite fiction author. At twenty-five cents a book I couldn’t go wrong, no matter how long it takes me to read them.

From the author’s table I always looked up when I heard the bell ring. I enjoy people-watching, but it was fun to talk with them, too.

One lady who spent the most time shopping was laughing as she said, “I’ll have to take these into the house a few at a time. My husband will think I spent a lot of money.” A man standing nearby said, “Just tell him you bought something for him. He’ll be OK.”

No Seasonal Limit 

The bell rings on the door of this store all year long. Charitable works are always in progress and a spirit of peace and love prevails.

Our friend considers all of her hard work an act of faith. When I observed her commitment in action today I thought of James 2:17. That verse reminds us that faith is good, but we show our faith by our actions.

Another verse rings a bell with me. 1 John 3:18 says, “Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.” Saying we love is easy. Showing it is not. It generally means expending energy and moving out of our comfort zone to help someone.

Bells at Christmas remind us to put faith and love into action. Why not try to ring those bells all year long?

Sunday, December 3, 2017

How to Be Wise


Nobody wants to be thought a fool, but sometimes a person's actions label him that way. A wise person thinks before he acts, but wise actions are motivated by wise words.

I never expected to find words of wisdom on the walls of a pizza place, but there they were. My husband and I had stopped for the night at Wheeler Ridge, California. In the mood for pizza, we walked into Pieology.

We placed our order and sat down to wait. I enjoyed reading quotes off their wall decor and made notes of a few I wanted to remember. For example:

(1) C.S. Lewis, famous author of Mere Christianity, was credited with saying, "You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream." That was encouraging.

(2) Malcom Forbes, considered wise in the business world, said, "Failure is success if we learn from it." That reminded me of telling my piano students, "Unless you know you've made a mistake, you can't improve."

(3) Henry J. Kaiser said, "Problems are only opportunities in work clothes." He ought to know. He founded over one hundred companies in his lifetime, including Kaiser Aluminum and Kaiser Steel.

How Wise Are You?

You've probably heard someone say, "A word to the wise is sufficient." That's true for those who want to be wise and know they have more to learn. 

Wisdom is not just acquiring knowledge. Wisdom is using what you know to make good decisions. Henry Ford, father of the automobile industry, provides a good example.

He said, "Any customer can have a car painted any color that he wants as long as it is black." Why? Early finishing techniques were a carryover from the carriage industry. Paint needed curing times of up to four weeks.

Ford changed to a faster-drying product available only in black. Why? To avoid warehousing cars just to let the paint dry. He filtered through knowledge to find what best applied to his need.

Sometimes We Need Help

I try to do that, too, but I don't always know what to do. Proverbs 13:10 says, "Wisdom is found in those who take advice." It's OK to ask for help, but be selective. 

Once in a while, I've asked someone for help only to have them respond in a disinterested or condescending manner.

That's why I love the promise in James 1:5 (NIV). It says, "If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given you."

Do you want to know how to be wise? Learn what you can, then go right to the top and ask for wisdom on how to apply what you've learned.

After all, you have an open invitation. And who could be wiser than God?