Sunday, December 30, 2018

Another Year in the Dash


A New Year Sparkles
I’m living the dash and so are you, but I doubt that you think about it much more than I do. Days come, days go and we basically do whatever needs to be done. But let me tell you of a life well-lived.

At a memorial for a ninety-two-year-old lady known as Pearl, her brother remarked that when we die our date of birth and death are formally listed with a dash in between. I pondered this phrase: What that dash represents is up to us.

Dash  has several meanings, but the first that comes to mind is a short race. Time is just a small part of eternity; life on earth varies for all of us.

Pearl’s race was longer than some, but she ran it with faith all the way. Pearl means a pure heart. Onscreen a scripture was shared that described her: Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God (from The Beatitudes, Matthew 5).

Living the Dash
Pearl’s dash included plenty of challenges. She was left alone as a newlywed when her husband was called to the military. He not only served but was a POW for several years.

Later, as a minister’s wife she faced challenges in moving to churches of various-sized congregations in several states. She was an active wife, mother and ministry helpmate.

Dash  can also mean a little something added. We who knew her would call that her sense of humor. Pearl could always be counted on for a joke or humorous anecdote. It was part of her zest for living.

I have mentioned some positive dashes, but there is also a negative one.

Have you ever had someone dash your hopes or enthusiasm? Not Pearl! She made it a point to keep her dashes on the positive side.

You could hear her “amen” loud and clear during the Sunday sermon. Even her handshake was encouraging as she gave you a firm grip, looked you in the eye and gave a welcoming smile.

Pearl was not a game player in relationships. She lived her life true to her own self, loving God with all her heart and shaping her decisions around His Word.

Having observed her way of dealing with physical challenges in her last few years, I must say that when I think Pearl, I think positive.

Now it's another year in MY dash. People are greeting one another with three little words: Happy New Year!

New Year -- New Options
New! Such a hopeful word. It suggests a fresh start, a chance to avoid making the same old mistakes. 

I’ve written down my resolutions many times, but not this year.

I have learned to approach the challenges of each new day with this affirmation: The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is His faithfulness; His mercies begin afresh each morning . . . therefore, I will hope in Him (Lamentations 3:22-24 NLT).

Happy NEW Year . . . another year in the dash. What is your approach to it?

Sunday, December 23, 2018

4 Tips for a Merry Christmas


In the last few weeks, I doubt you’ve heard anyone say, “It’s Christmas, time to get personal.” But personal perspective is what creates a merry Christmas. 

These four little things could make a big difference:

Release Expectations
Have people expected you to help fulfill their Christmas plans this year? How much time have you spent on your own personal goals?

Expectations are triangular. On one side they can be positive, filled with anticipation of satisfying events. But on two sides they can be filled with assumptions and requirements. 

Christmas is Personal
Sometimes they appear as traditions: We’ve always done it this way. There’s nothing wrong with that, but growth comes with change. Christmas, in all its colors, sights and sounds, should not be allowed to become routine.

This year escape the triangle in two ways: First, allow others to fulfill their expectations. Second, plan time to fulfill your own.

Expand Your View

Ask yourself, “What makes a merry Christmas for me?”

I’ve answered that question in many ways.
Community Christmas is Fun

In childhood it was the receiving of gifts. But as a young adult it wasn’t Christmas until I had baked and made candy treats to share outside our home.

Years later, my Christmas was merry as I attended a variety of community events.

There’s no single approach to Christmas. It’s up to you to make it personal.

Pursue the Positive

Don't Be a Loner 
Are you tempted to say, “Bah, Humbug!” in the face of someone else’s cheer? Are you the grouch that pooh-poohs the Christmas efforts of people around you?

Decide to be positive. Let others follow through on their Christmas goals and dreams. Then focus on your own, small though they may be. Not all changes need to be major.

Being positive includes respect for others. Civility is never out of style; it sets you free from a judgmental attitude. Negative energy can then be put toward productive personal goals.

Share Yourself

In a major big-box store last night, I was amazed at all the people checking out with baskets full of toys and gifts. They certainly shared themselves by expending personal energy. Some were still checking their lists.

Christmas Includes Variety
We can share by giving our time and/or our money. But we also share ourselves by putting aside personal prejudices and expectations in order to help others succeed.

Create a spirit of freedom for yourself and share it with others. A freeing thought is everything does NOT have to be done my way.  

But why be merry only at Christmas?

Giving produces joy. God’s gift of giving is celebrated when we sing Joy to the World. But God’s giving was not limited to one day, and neither is ours.

Be Merry All Year
John Greenleaf Whittier, American author and poet, put it this way: Somehow, not only for Christmas, but all the long year through, the joy that you give to others, is the joy that comes back to you.

You now have four tips for a merry Christmas. But don’t stop there!

They can also create a happy new year!

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Your Words Have Power


Help Comes In Many Ways
I've been thinking of seven little words spoken by a real estate agent nearly twenty years ago. He was not a big talker but he did his job well.

We didn't need all the space in the large home we had been renting, so we were looking to buy a small condo.

The housing market was tight, but we finally found a 2BD/2BA unit in a former apartment complex with older construction. This meant no sound barriers between unit walls or floors. 

Hopes Can Burst Like Balloons
We had moved to the area with high hopes. But my husband's employment opportunity had not turned out as expected and I was working temporary jobs, which I hated.

I guess my frustration must have been noticeable. We signed the papers, but not with joy. 

As the agent was leaving he simply said, "Things have a way of getting better." That was it . . . seven little words spoken quietly and calmly from a man we did not see again.

Words are interesting things. Even short and simple ones have inherent power.

Perhaps you remember chanting as a child, "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me." You didn't have to live very long to know that, though it was fun to say, in reality it was a lie.

Sticks and stones may break bones and we'll recover, but hurtful words can abide inside us forever.

I've worked with both children and adults who were timid and using less than half their awesome potential because someone in their past had said, "You're stupid. You can't do anything right. Get out of the way. You don't know what you're doing!"

Words With Negative Power
Negative words entered through their ears into their mind and spirit, playing like a cassette tape with automatic lifetime rewind.

Don't underestimate the power of your words. It's not just what you say, but also how you say it.

"You fat little baby," can sound harmless when said in a soft cooing way by a mother with smiling eyes. But the same words hold a different power when said harshly by a caregiver who is glaring at a little one in need of a diaper change.

Proverbs 16:24 in the Amplified Bible says, "Pleasant words are as a honeycomb, sweet to the mind and healing to the body." 

Words, like bees, have the power to both sting and make honey. 

Bees Can Sting and Make Honey
Honeycombs are six-sided cumulative structures, built and filled cell by cell. From birth we are like honeycombs, holding on to what we hear from people around us. 

As adults we like to think that words can no longer hurt us, but let's be honest, they do.

Whether we are on the giving or receiving end, words have staying power. Sometimes we have the first word, sometimes the last.

The question is, "Will it be a sharp sting or sweet honey?" 

*This story is from my book REFLECTIONS: Inspirational Stories from Everyday Life--original title: Word Power; available from

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Pack Up Your Happy


Bags Don't Pack Themselves
Lots of people have heard the phrase *pack up your troubles in your old kit-bag and smile, smile, smile. It was written way before my time, but in spite of that I’m familiar with it.

A version of it came to mind this week in a Christmas note from old friends.

They have made several moves since they retired. First, they left Arizona to be near family in another state. Then they moved into a retirement center there, and another one after that.

This year, now in their nineties, they wrote that they had moved into an assisted living center. But the phrase that stood out to me was this: “We always take our happy with us.”

Be Positive - Be Healthy
I loved reading that because my memories of this couple match the comment. I think of their sense of humor, twinkling eyes and ready smiles.

Proverbs 15:30 describes the writer of this Christmas letter: Light in a messenger’s eyes brings joy to the heart, and good news gives health to the bones.

The Message puts it this way: A twinkle in the eye means joy in the heart, and good news makes you feel fit as a fiddle.

It’s not that they didn’t have any troubles to pack up. The same note said, "We’ve had some health issues.” At the end it said, “Please excuse my shaky printing.” Gladly, I thought, at least you’re still reaching out to people.

Happiness is an inside job . . . a choice . . . a personal decision.

No one can make you happy!

You may think so when you receive the desire of your heart or a wish comes true, but those are outside you. Your happy response is still an inside job.

The best-known words to the old marching song are in the chorus:

A Soldier Always Has Challenges
*Pack up your troubles in your old kit-bag,
And smile, smile, smile.
Don’t let your laughter hit the snag,
Smile boys, that’s the style
What’s the use of worrying?
It never was worthwhile, so
Pack up your troubles in your old kit-bag,
And smile, smile, smile.

The thing about packing up is that you have to handle each item and decide where it goes. So, packing up your troubles is not just ignoring them. It means you acknowledge they exist but you choose not to make them your main focus.

Life is full of daily challenges. Even Jesus said, in his lesson on the futility of worry, “Each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matthew 6:25-34).

It would be nice if we could live life in a trouble-free zone. But since that’s not possible, we must make a choice: How will we handle our troubles?

One good option is to face reality, then pack up your happy and keep it with you.

*Pack Up Your Troubles in Your Old Kit-Bag and Smile, Smile, Smile was written by a Welshman, George Henry Powell under the pseudonym George Asaf, and set to music by his brother, Felix Powell. It was published in London in 1915 and became well known through theatrical productions.

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Fascinating First Lines: Part Three


Part Three

Mission Accomplished! This week completes my Fascinating First Lines trilogy. If you missed parts one and two, they are archived in New Day by Darlis.

Prickly Porcupine
Who wants to pet a porcupine? Not me. I reach for soft, silky, fluffy things. They are relaxing to my fingers . . . promising to my feelings and comforting to my frustrations. That's why you never see Linus without his blanket. He's smart enough to create his own comfort zone. When I was fighting cancer, I had a small blanket. A friend made it out of soft pink flannel with fringed edges. I touched it and felt cozy. Chemo lost its hold on me. I rested, feeling safe and secure.

Pens Capture Creativity
My pen is my partner. If I wrote mystery novels like Jessica B. Fletcher, it would be my partner in crime. But non-fiction is my game, so my pen is a sword of truth. With pen in hand I write fearlessly into the sunset. Words fly here and there. Truth, as I see it, emerges. Whether others see it as truth is up to them. My pen and I simply work to create an offering.

Thoughts and Actions are Partners
You'll find your way if you push yourself beyond what you think. Life gives new challenges every day. In fact, some days you say, "Enough already," but nothing changes . . . your challenges remain. You stare them in the face and think I've tried everything. But have you? The Bible says "having done all to stand" (Ephesians 6:13). Standing seems like NOT doing anything. But are you willing to tell God He's wrong? That, in your opinion, action is the only way to accomplish victory? Pushing yourself beyond what you think, consider this: Solomon said, "There's a time for everything" (Ecclesiastes 3:1). That could mean a time to work at solving problems, and a time to rethink them. After standing at rest, you may be surprised to see them in a new light.  

Waterfront Beauty
It's hard to see the future through staggering personal problems. I used to marvel at the homeless sleeping down by the harbor in San Diego. That was before the city took a harder stance and cleared downtown for the booming tourist trade. Walking by the bay, I often wondered what was the breaking point for these men? But that was before life became harder and I staggered through some personal problems myself. It seemed like one step forward and two steps back, but I kept walking. Financial debt made the future hard to see. I tried budgeting to get me through. It worked, but felt very confining. Day to day seemed hard enough. Who cared about the future? Looking back on it, I did.  

I have been looking for more fascinating first lines, but they’re hard to come by. Try it yourself sometime.

Meanwhile, let your mind wander over a favorite line here this week.