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Sparklers

Lights of Grace

Houston Needs Our Prayers!

The courage of our country fills me with hope and pride as concerns about ‘stuff’, at this time, do not matter.  So many people are in need of rescuing in Texas from an event that no protest, no law, no political party and no individual could start or stop.  Yet, so many people throughout our country, all a mixture of races, genders, cultures, and beliefs are blinded to those things, now sparked into the perspective necessary to come together to rescue those trapped by Hurricane Harvey’s floodwaters.

Sound bites from the media:

“Let me go get what we got to do.” – rescuer with a boat.

“Lessons in survival on the first day of school.” – local news reporter

“I put 12 people in two pickup trucks, somehow. One was just a guy in his pickup, and I put four friends and two puppies in that one, and then I put a family in there — kids in the back — and then we added two older men to that.” –rescuer, making the impossible possible.

“We don’t wait for help. We’ve been there before. We do this because it’s what we’re supposed to do – we’re supposed to help our neighbors.”  Clyde Cain, a founding leader of the “Cajun Navy” from Louisiana.

 “Will keep going for as long as it takes.” Andre Barnes, newest member of the Cajun Navy.

Across our street, across our state, across our nation, we are banding together just figuring out what we can do to help our brothers and sisters.  Will we do it perfectly? Never have. But if we help one or thousands, we are not waiting and it is in the doing that makes all the difference.  Let’s not wait. We can all pray and God accepts all prayers as perfect.

Ryan Stevenson’s song offers inspiring words of hope and courage.  Courage is, after all, holding faith in one hand and fear in the other, clasping them together in prayer.   Houston needs our prayers.

 

What If History Doesn’t Repeat Itself?

Our nation is scaring me.  Why are we fighting each other? We all want the same thing.  Our nation’s history, which is young compared to the rest of the world, should  be preserved. We must face our wrongs and be proud of how we made them right.  We became a great nation not through hatred, but through forgiveness, courage and engagement.

Forgiveness

“We forgive by preserving the symbolic reminders of the victims of the past with our ability to change and to celebrate the elimination of those wrongs as we remain united.”  — Linda Breeden, Author

On June 6, 1944 over 100,000 soldiers were killed in an invasion on French soil on Normandy Beach, known as D-Day.  Many of us have grandfathers, fathers, brothers, uncles and friends who served in that war, of all races and beliefs – all heroes for their sacrifice.  Many of them remain there today, buried in war cemeteries which also include the graves of over 21,000 German soldiers – the very people they were fighting.

Many American WWII veterans say today that they feel no animosity to those German soldiers, seeing them as another segment of the victims of Hitler.  German visitors to these cemeteries are reminded of the memories of their grandparent’s war record, confused and, at the same time, ashamed of their confusion.

One British veteran, David Edwards, said it had taken years to feel at peace about the Germans who were killed there, saying, “These German boys never wanted to fight us, any more than I wanted to fight them.”

Many of the European children today have been raised in a unified world and they ask,“Why did people hate each other?”  They deserve to know about the reasons that fueled a war of opposing beliefs so they don’t let history repeat itself and in the doing, achieve peace through forgiveness of a time that’s hard for generations today to comprehend because they didn’t experience it.

Courage

“For in a democracy, every citizen, regardless of his interest in politics, ‘hold office’; everyone of us is in a position of responsibility; and, in the final analysis, the kind of government we get depends upon how we fulfill those responsibilities. We, the people, are the boss, and we will get the kind of political leadership, be it good or bad, that we demand and deserve.”   — President John Kennedy

In the 1950s,  Atlanta native Ivan Allen Jr.,  the grandson of a confederate soldier, ran for governor of Georgia on a  platform of pro-segregation.  He lost the election.

In 1961, as a businessman he brought together black leaders and white businessmen to discuss ending segregation occurring at a downtown lunch counter.  The agreement was reached.  Later, when he was elected Mayor he removed the “colored” and “white” signs from City Hall, he gave black policemen the power to arrest whites, appointed the first black firemen and ordered the desegregation of city parks.

John F. Kennedy asserted in his book, Profiles In Courage, that the duty of elected officials is to “lead, inform, correct and sometimes even ignore constituent opinion” – if it serves the nation’s best interest. He called upon Mayor Ivan Allen Jr. to testify before Congress in support of the civil right legislation he wanted enacted.  Mayor Allen consulted with local civil rights leaders about agreeing to the President’s request.  They opposed his testimony saying he was, “too valuable to sacrifice”.

Putting aside his political jeopardy, Mayor Allen testified in support of the bill because he felt it was in the best interest of the country.  The media attacked, calling him “Benedict Arnold”.  A year after his testimony and eight months after President Kennedy’s assassination, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 passed.  Mayor Allen was also reelected by majorities from both the black and white voters of Atlanta.

Mayor Allen is known as a “human bridge”, his courageous actions enabling Atlanta to become “the city too busy to hate.”

Engagement

“Confrontation doesn’t change minds. Engagement does.”  Andrew Young, Civil Rights Icon and Mayor of Atlanta, Georgia

The United States of America was built by a unified resilient work ethic, a unified dedication to the pursuit of freedom and equality, and  a unified faith, hope and belief in our nation’s identity.  It is sad that the definition of any of these three are often defined today by emotional outrage of “what the other side says”.

Today, symbols seem to be fueling this outrage.  Free speech rights have become a battlefield where there is no engagement – divisions often resulting in injuries and death.  Public shaming has further divided our nation as evidenced by the reassignment of an ESPN sports announcer because of his name, Robert Lee.  Mr. Lee is a young, Asian-American man doing what he does best – sports announcing.  Outrage to ESPN’s action highlighted the lunacy that is dividing us further and breeding fear that this can happen to any one of us, regardless of our beliefs.

One of the most contentious symbols remains the Stone Mountain Confederate Memorial.  In 1915 a member of the Daughters of the Confederacy commissioned a sculpture of three confederate leaders to be carved on the side of the mountain.  The project had starts and stops and it took about 57 years to achieve, with the final work resuming, oddly enough, in 1964 with completion in 1972.

In a recent interview by NPR with civil rights icon and former Atlanta mayor, Andrew Young, he provided the same leveling that Mayor Allen did back in the 1960s.  Mayor Young opposes the fight to tear down confederate memorials, calling them a distraction to how far our nation has come.

When asked about the Stone Mountain carving, he responded with a voice of reason based on his many sacrifices over the years, “I think it’s too costly to re-fight the Civil War.  We have paid too great a price in trying to bring people together.  I would only consider addition to it – a freedom bell; because Martin Luther King, in his speech said, “let freedom ring from Stone Mountain in Georgia.”

What a celebration the ringing of that bell would be as we view rather than wage war over these symbols of the mistakes of our past so we don’t repeat them.

 

 

Sources:  Time World Magazine DDay, Profiles In Courage, NPR interview with Andrew Young.

 

 

 

 

 

The Beach

It’s been almost three years since I vacationed at the Emerald Coast Gulf Beaches in Florida.  How did I let this happen?

I’ve been here every year for the past thirty years.  Even in my depths of despair, pressured by work requirements, or tempted to go to Europe, I came, searching for and finding that big dose of peace.  beach

I had forgotten what those first few moments of reconnecting with sand and surf could do for my soul.  It is in this time when the sounds of the ocean’s waves lulls my spirit to calmness — a letting go…a release.

Soon the beach is filled with people.  A father and son throw a football to each other while they attempt to navigate the waves of the ocean. The ball spirals one to the other as the son shouts to the father, “You’re no Jalen Hurts!”  The father responds, “You’re no Peyton Manning!”  Eventually the ball is intercepted by crashing waves that giggle as it claims the ball and runs for shore.

Gentle puffs of  clouds rise over the horizon stirring my dormant inspiration, teasing with the promise of an afternoon rest.  My eyes grow heavy as the sounds of children drift to my serene state.  Little girls squealing as only little girls can, high pitched and excited as they shout, “Daddy, Daddy, Daddy!”

Mothers ensure their toddlers are covered in long sleeve t-shirts and hats, protecting their young skin from the dangers of the ultra-violet rays of the sun.  Yet they bask in those same risky rays clad only in bikinis, confident the sun will be kind to them now — and in the future. Didn’t we all, I think.

Two preteen boys walk by, deep in conversation.  “Are there sharks in the water?” one asked.

“Nah, there’s a blue flag flying today which means there’s no marine life sighted,” his friend responds.

“What about flesh eating bacteria?” the first one persists.

“That’s only in polluted rivers,” his friend responds.

Their audience, the seagulls weigh in as they dive toward the water, protesting over this sad state of understanding.  The boys continue down the beach.  No worries.

A solitary plane flies low, the droning of its engine capturing enough attention to pull the eye upward to the banner that flies behind it: “Floyd’s 50 cent Oysters.”  My taste buds tease me with the desire for those cool morsels covered in spicy horse radish sauce.  I quickly Google Floyd’s to see what time I need to get there before they run out of those fifty cent oysters.

The puffy clouds are closer now, expanding higher in the sky, their edges jagged as the grayness begins to seep across the sky. The waves are stronger as they slap the shore, leaving remnants of seaweed, a reminder of turbulence within the coming storm.

The young mother next to begins to gather her son’s toys, “Time to go Charlie,” she says.  Charlie is holding a fish net as he runs toward the water, a purpose to be fulfilled.  She catches him as he rushes by, “But mommy I got to…” he protests.

“You got to get these toys up,” she says.

But why?” he persists.  She points toward the darkening clouds rolling toward us as a steak of lightening sends a warning.

“Because that,” she said, pointing in the direction of the rolling clouds,” will soon be here,” she finishes, pointing toward the sand beneath their feet.  “Understand son?”

Dropping his chin to chest, he mumbles, “Un..der..stand.”

Since Mother Nature likes to keep us guessing, the storm  waited until 10:45 p.m.  It began with a hint of thunder in the distance.  Then heat lightening lit up the entire horizon which soon included jagged spears of lightening, illuminating the skies like a fourth of July fireworks show.  The thunder alternated from angry growls to booms of excitement as rain pelted the windows.

Oddly enough, my dog, Teddie, slept through this storm that normally would have caused him to shiver uncontrollably.  If he’s not worried, I’m not worried.

This is a good place to be on my first day at the beach.  How good is that?

 

 

 

Sometimes a pencil…sometimes an eraser

Source: Sometimes a pencil…sometimes an eraser

Sometimes a pencil…sometimes an eraser

 

Happiness means that sometimes you’re a pencil…and sometimes you’re an eraser…

The opposite of happy is not unhappy, it is just sadness. Saying you’re unhappy is diluting and hiding from the actual emotion of sadness that both our physical body and our spirit must recognize and process in order to release it. This allows us to once again feel happy, because happiness is not exclusive of sadness.  The expression that ‘Life happens’ is just a way to hide from this. Life begins and ultimately ends with various pauses in between that make up life’s journey. Understanding this is to help us better appreciate the nuances and depth of each person’s journey.

music

I recently asked my Facebook friends a question:  If you are not happy, but you are not UNhappy, what are you?  Interesting responses include:

Complacent

Contented

 Numb

Bored

Indifferent

Medicated

Somewhat happy

Even keeled

Possibly accepting hopelessness

Happy and content with Jesus

Preoccupied and can’t think long enough to decide

Serene

Regardless of the variety of responses, each comes from our own individual perspective.  If each person were to expand on their response we could all learn more about when to be the pencil and when to be the eraser – either way, we would all feel happy in the doing. All of us are searching for happiness, but we need to know what makes us happy because often it is the NOT knowing that brings us sadness.

Don’t let sadness win!  Acknowledge it, feel it, then let it go however long that takes or in whatever form your individual circumstance requires. Expect the sun to come up each day, expect to love and to be loved; expect to forgive and to be forgiven; expect to be happy and to make others happy, if it is only to smile, to pray, to be kind, or maybe to share a “God Wink” such as this one from my good friend, Karen, by permission.

“Contentment is saying I’m okay with what I have and where I’m at.  I think contentment is a deeper level of happiness. Happiness (the ‘oh boy’ feeling of joy) is fleeting, but contentment is like a bed of hot coals. There are not flames, sparks or excitement, but there is constant steady warmth that warms your soul and still cooks your food.”

                                                                                                       – Karen Reed Woodcock

2017 Sparkles

Fog has been thick on this first day of 2017 here in Georgia.  As I type I look out, my view softened by the gray shroud worn by the trees as they share it’s caress with the mountain on this cold a…

Source: 2017 Sparkles

2017 Sparkles

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Fog has been thick on this first day of 2017 here in Georgia.  As I type I look out, my view softened by the gray shroud worn by the trees as they share it’s caress with the mountain on this cold and rainy day.  Yet I can close my eyes and see my beloved woods and mountains with the majesty of spring, inhaling the sparkle of newness before giving way to the laziness of a southern summer.  Or, I can choose to see the majesty as the sun touches each tree and bush bringing forth blazing colors, peaking in their beauty prior to the last phase of their yearly life cycle as winter descends, now stark with waiting.

I was cleaning my closet as is my tradition – if you are interested, it was a previous blog on De-cluttering the Soul, January 2016.  Today I paused in mid-toss, submitting to my worrisome thoughts on this New Year’s Day.   I knew I could not put them in that bag of “get around to it”  and that no amount of de-cluttering was helping because these thoughts were not in that closet.

Grasping my favorite gel writing pen and one of the numerous spiral bound notebooks that I keep handy, I flipped through my book of scribbles until I came to a clean page. With great enthusiasm I cleverly  wrote 2017 across the top, underlining it for emphasis.  Then I just stared,frozen into stillness.  I kept staring, waiting.  And waiting some more, eyes locked on the page until finally an amazing thought popped into my head, it’s a blank page!img_20170101_093238813_hdr

No applause needed.

I love a blank page because, well it’s a blank page.  One can write anything on a blank page. So, I began to write about the thoughts that were demanding to be written!

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Priorities

Pleasing/helping others

  1. Accepting what I cannot change
  2. Having only two speeds

I love to write and I love to write the way I want life to be – not how it actually is. I do this because I want to offer a sparkle of light, ever so bright, that meets a need of someone going through a dark time. I forget that what I think may not be what they needed after all, and just accept what I can’t change.

I’ve been told, far too many times, that I have two speeds: full speed ahead or off.  This is true and not without a cost.  I’m searching for that speed somewhere in the middle.

My Blessings

  1. My children
  2. Friends and family
  3. My health

My children have grown up to be what every mother wants – decent human beings. I am honored to share them with the world. Please know that my dog Teddie and my grand-dog Roxie are included in this classification; picture below and I am shameless yes…

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Friends are often family and family are often friends. ‘Nuff said?

I’m blessed with good health, but with anything worth having, it’s worth maintaining which gets harder with every birthday but I keep giving it a ‘go!

Things I’m sure of

  1. God’s unconditional love
  2. Teddie’s (my dog) unconditional love
  3. My own imperfections

Teddie’s love taught me about unconditional love and that in spite of my imperfections,  he loves me just for me alone.  It took me a long time to understand what God’s unconditional love meant and even longer to accept it, but I finally did — with no strings attached.  God loves us as individuals, as His child that He created. God, Father, Abba, Jehovah – it makes no difference in His unconditional love for us whether it’s for woman or man, child or adult, with light or dark skin  – one is the same as the other under His love. Might our own love given without labels get us closer to sharing that same kind of love?

Things I can do

  1. Prioritize
  2. Exercise/eat well
  3. Be a better person

Things I will do

  1. Find a true speed
  2. Find peace through accepting unconditional love
  3. Find joy and meaning in my life by living in an intentional way

I experienced quite a spark of awareness after I wrote on my blank page the things I can do followed by the things I will do. Honesty with self can be liberating!

Try free-form writing on your own 2017 blank page and please share them on this page and watch the sparks fly!

Gifts and Adventures

All who know me also know that my dog, Teddie, consisting of 97% poodle and 3% foxhound, is a perfect dog. This unique hybrid is sometimes called a Foxhoodle (better than PooHound I guess). They are affectionate, gentle and loving at home. They are also brave and intense warriors in the hunt and are known to take off after interesting scents if presented with the opportunity. Also known for their elegance, brains and energy, they have superior agility and hunting instincts (this last item I did not expect). Teddie’s abilities also include not only surviving a tenuous start in life, but in the doing, helped me heal through a difficult part of my life – each rescuing the other.

There was the time he inspired a five-year old selective mute to speak again; and of course going from being the neighborhood greeter to being the Mayor is old news. But, today I want to share a new aspect of this most perfect creature. Yes, this Teddie:

Life Is Better With Teddie

As the primary duty of his mayoral job in our neighborhood, Teddie must not only greet but to also allow everyone to pet and adore him. His most amazing skill is his ability to influence most people in about five seconds on proper mayoral etiquette. Today, I allowed him out of the gate long enough for him to greet the neighbor for five seconds, remember, I didn’t know about his intense 3% hunting gene.

Just as Kay was bending down to perform her proper mayoral acknowledgement, a rabbit ran through her soon-to-be fenced backyard. In that instance Teddie ran in pursuit of this creature he had longed observed from within his fenced yard or from the end of his lease.

I called him to come back, but he abandoned his mayoral duties, succumbing to his God given instincts with the absolute knowing that he must follow this creature. Teddie became nothing more than a white fluffy streak as he ran across the yard, down the dirt path leading to a dense thicket of pine trees, honeysuckle vines and blackberry bushes. When he entered the thicket, I, dressed in shorts, t-shirt and flip-flops ran after him, entering the same thicket with no thought of danger, only of Teddie’s safety.

I pursued him, calling in all the pack-leader voices I possess – sweet, cajoling, firm, mean, frightened – and still he ran. In sync with my glimpses of just a bit of the white fluff that was Teddie, my voice grew louder, echoing back from the hills surrounding this peaceful community. I ran harder, assuming that Teddie had indeed lost his hearing. He continued his pursuit of the rabbit and I continued my pursuit of Teddie, knowing that the deeper we ran, the thicker the undergrowth would become and the greater likelihood I would lose sight of him as he runs much faster than I can.

Finally, as he descended the bank toward the creek, he stopped suddenly and hunkered down. I will never know the reason he stopped, perhaps a snake or a coyote; best I don’t know. I scooped him up and knew we needed to get out of there. It was this ‘getting out of there’ that presented a new problem. In my rush to keep sight of him, I had been oblivious to the bold tree branches, the briars of the blackberry bushes and the rocky surface of the ground. Plus now I had this squirming twelve pound animal in my arms who continued to look back over my shoulder, straining and hoping for another chance at the rabbit.

My quiet community had gathered, hearing my screams, confident that I was in mortal danger. As Teddie and I emerged from the pine thicket, cheers went up and Kay punched the end button on her 911 call. The cheers stopped as we grew closer – my face, arms and legs were scratched and bloody.  Teddie had bright red spots of blood on his white fur and I was grateful to discover that it was mine. This story has a happy ending, but it is also a reminder of how life can change in a second and that each of us must make our seconds count by doing what we were created to do, just as Teddie did in spite of the danger of the unknown.

“Teddie, Teddie, Teddie,” I whispered, holding him tight. “My love, my heart, my gift from God.” This story demonstrates the importance of being thankful and of doing good things with and for the gifts God gives us. I kissed the top of Teddie’s tiny head, giving God all the glory for his safety.

But the worst thing about this story?

This Teddie wasn’t even sorry!

Teddie in Sunshine

 

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variables, neither shadow of turning.” —James 1:17

Words

Bill says of himself, “Just a God loving country boy.”

Source: Words

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