27 December 2016      

Good day, and welcome to the final issue of this year!  It's been a long and
very trying year for many of us, which means hopefully that we've been
building our character, making it stronger, so we have a new-found strength
to carry us into the new year and all that it has to offer!

 Love Given Is Love Received
John Marks Templeton

I Have a Dream (an excerpt)
Patti Digh

Ending Well
tom walsh

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You may be disappointed if you fail,
but you are doomed if you don't try.

Beverly Sills

Eternity is not something that
begins after you're dead.  It is going
on all the time.  We are in it now.

Charlotte Perkins Gilman

Faith is kept alive in us, and gathers
strength, more from practice
than from speculations.

Joseph Addison

  

Love Given Is Love Received
John Marks Templeton

There's a strange thing you can observe about love.  People search, run after, try to earn, get, grasp, and hold onto something that is as naturally theirs as the air they breathe!  And what mental and emotional rigors we put ourselves through in order to get it.  Many of us think it all depends on having the right person see us in just the right way, so that person will feel the right way and love us.  That raises the pressure of trying to be just what the person wants, trying to please, trying to be good enough to deserve their love.  Having to look just right, say the right things, do the right things.  Otherwise, we may not "get" the love we want or, if we have it, we might lose it.  Nothing makes people more emotionally crippled, dependent, self-pitying, bitter, and cynical than thinking they don't have love unless someone gives it to them.

Of course, whether we admit it or not, each of us intrinsically wants to experience love.  The reason it's considered the treasure of life is that love is the true nature of every soul.  It's the nature of your soul to live and create experiences of love, because love originates in the essence of your being.  The power, force, and energy of love reside self-existent within us as our very life's blood.  And it is so important to express that love!  The world-renowned opera singer Luciano Pavarotti said, "You never know what little bundle of encouragements artists carry around with them, what little pats on the backs from what hands, what newspaper clipping, what word of hope from what teacher.  I suppose that the so-called faith in ourselves is the foundation of our talent, but I am sure these encouragements are the mortar that hold it together."

An ancient story describes how the greatest gift of life was hidden.  When the gods were creating the human race, they wondered where to hide this most precious and powerful treasure so it would not be misused or mistreated by the universe.  "Shall we hide it atop the highest mountain?  Shall we bury it deep within the earth?  Shall we entomb it at the bottom of the deepest ocean?  Or, shall we conceal it in the heart of the thickest, darkest forest?"  After great pondering, they finally decided on the answer.  They would implant the gift within the human beings themselves, for surely they would not think to look there!  And just to make certain, the gods designed human eyes to look only outward, not inward.

Now the secret is yours.  You can look within to find the treasure and experience it in every area of your life.  A new way to experience love is to give love.  Giving love demonstrates to yourself that you have it, because you cannot give something you don't have, can you!  There is no one without love to give.  You need not search for the right people who will recognize and understand love the way you do.  Neither expect love to be given back to you by those to whom you gave it.  If someone does return your love, it may not be in the same way you gave it forth.

Love holds mind and body together.  It is an attractive force that draws our good to us according to the depths and strengths of our realization and understanding of love.  When we live in love, with a conscious choice to express and to experience love, we participate in a most powerful force that is active in our lives and world.  Dr. George Washington Carver was aware of the power of love when he said, "Anything will give up its secrets if you love it enough."

Start with whoever is around you:  men, women, girls, boys, old people, young people, yourself.  Giving love doesn't mean contrived sentimentality or flattery.  It is a natural attitude and demeanor of good will, kindliness, support, caring, and benevolence.  It is also a willingness to do what you can to be helpful, and make things a little better for someone.  Giving love consciously through thoughts, words, and deeds can help you to become your own force field of love.

Because you can feel the power and beauty of love within you so strongly, you may cease to differentiate between love given and love received.  You may eventually take little notice of whether it's attracted back to you.  The gift, the giving, and the receiving can be one harmonious flow of the most powerful force in the universe.

  
  

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I Have a Dream
an excerpt
Patti Digh

Several times lately, I've gotten messages from readers or Facebook "fans" advising me that speaking out about gay rights or Islamic tolerance isn't a good idea when I'm "putting myself out there trying to sell a book."  I admit to being rendered completely speechless by these messages.  "If I let selling a book stand in the way of voicing my opinion on things that matter to me," I responded to one woman on Facebook, "then I am surely lost."  Unfortunately she would never see that response, having de-friended me immediately after writing her message to me.

What do you care about?  What matters most to you?  On what topics is your voice invaluable, necessary, potent?  What must you say to the world, or you will die?  What do only you see in the way that you see it?  If you don't know, seek to find what that is.

On YouTube recently, I again saw footage of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "I have a dream" speech at the Lincoln Memorial.  I have found as I've made my way into adulthood in this life of mine that I share his dream.  And that I have dreams of my own.  Perhaps it is important to articulate our dreams, to know what matters most to us, to see how that changes over time, or doesn't.  Here's my dream.  You might not share my dream.  What's yours?

I have a dream that we won't fool ourselves into thinking Dr. King's dream has been realized.  That one day we will stand in lines all night long to find solutions to child abuse and child hunger, just like we stand in line all night to buy iPads, and Harry Potter books, and tickets to the next Star Wars movie.  I have a dream that what happened to Matthew Shepard and James Byrd and Lawrence King will never happen to anyone else, that we will never see human beings as abstractions or "whats" but always as "whos," people who are as fully textured as we are, whether they are CEOs or are homeless.

I have a dream that we will wake up and realize the discrimination we impose on our lesbian, gay, transgender, queer, and intersex friends and neighbors is immoral, that we will be as ashamed of it in twenty years as we are of the behavior of our grandparents in the 1950s when they propagated discrimination against blacks.  I have a dream that no child will go hungry tonight, no child will be gang-raped in her lifetime, no child will be bullied into killing himself. . . .

I have a dream that we will choose to be optimistic in the face of despair, and naive rather than cynical.  That we will all spend a year getting to know someone who scares us, and that we will all recognize we are the storyteller and not just the listener. . . .

I have a dream that we will all sit quietly and very still for just ten minutes every day, that we will learn how to listen half as well as we judge, and that giving becomes our national pastime, not getting.

I have a dream that every lonely child will find a friend who loves her.

I have a dream that we can find commonality amid a glorious celebration of difference,  and that we will stop confusing noticing difference with making a judgment.  I have a dream that we will consider volunteering to help others less fortunate to be our birthright, not our punishment. . . .

What is your dream?  It will come to you, if you don't feel it already.  And when it comes, please feel it to your very core, so that when your new friend at college or at your new job asks, "Who are you?," the answer bubbles out of you irrepressibly, like when I watch the inexhaustible Gustavo Dudamel conduct a symphony, jumping to his feet, wild head of floppy black curls flinging back and forth and arms pumping, or when I watch poet-activist Andrea Gibson stand before a microphone, the sheer force of her voice and passion and conviction making her far taller than her petite self.  These are people with passion.  Yours will express itself in another, different way.  Find it.  Find it.

  
  

What advice do you wish you had heard—really heard—when you were graduating from high school or college? What words could you benefit from hearing again? When Patti Digh asked her readers this question as her own daughter was starting college, what flowed in was beautiful, thoughtful, poignant, and funny.

   

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If we pretend to be more enlightened than we really are, we will
miss an opportunity to heal ourselves.  Admitting our limitations
can make us feel vulnerable, yet it is very freeing.  We just have
to be ourselves as we are now, accepting the mixture of enlightened
awareness and human limitation that is in each of us.  Through this
self-acceptance, we find a deep peace and self-love.

Shakti Gawain

   

 

Ending Well

Right now I'm much less concerned about how I'm going to start the next year than I am about how I'm going to end this one.  Life and time keep rolling on, as we've all experienced, and it's very easy sometimes to get so focused on something that's coming up that we lose sight of what's going on right here and right now.  As of today, we still have five days left in this year--and that's plenty of time to get something really important or really cool done.  In five days I can write a slew of letters to people who are special to me, I can plan out the first few months of my upcoming classes, I can clean our home, I can read several good books that I've been meaning to read--the list of things that I can do is very long, indeed.

Are there some things from earlier in the year that have remained unfinished because you've run out of time?  Is there something that you've been meaning to do, but have put off?  Is there someone you've been meaning to talk to, but you just haven't had the chance?

Very often, getting something important accomplished is simply a result of committing ourselves to do it.  Once that commitment is made, it's much easier to actually follow through and do what needs to be done to accomplish the task at hand.  I find that if I want to take a specific vacation, for example, it's much easier to do so when I make the reservations months in advance, because then the vacation becomes a done deal in my mind, and I work my way towards it in a definite manner, not in a "perhaps maybe" way.

   

We have to understand that the world can
only be grasped by action, not by contemplation.

Jacob Bronowski

   
One of the most important things that I can do over these last few days of the year is to clean up/organize at home.  I'm not a compulsively neat person, so often things get piled up or scattered at home.  Sometimes that makes it more difficult for me to do other things because I get distracted or busy doing something that I hadn't planned on doing.  I want to make sure that I end this year doing something that's going to help me to start next year in very positive ways.

I also want to get rid of things.  I tend to be a collector, mostly because of my upbringing, but experience has taught me that I don't really need to be keeping most of what I keep.  So I fairly regularly need to get rid of the things that don't serve any purpose anymore, those things that I'm holding onto "just in case, someday maybe. . . ."  It's nice to have things in life, but we do need to be discriminating concerning those things that we actually "need" to keep.  Unnecessary things can keep us trapped in the past, focused on things gone by, and they can also diminish our enjoyment of the present when they clutter up our lives and hold us back from moving on.

I can also do something that I haven't done in a very long time--I can bake something.  I used to like to bake a lot, but recently I haven't had the time I've "needed" to do so, and I put "needed" in quotation marks because the time really has been there--I've just chosen to use it on different things.

I could also take some simple quiet time for myself.  I can do that at home, or if not there, then in a nice cafe somewhere.  I may need to take some headphones if the place tends to have a lot of noise, but either way, I can take some time to myself and read and relax or write a letter to a friend or do something else that's enjoyable to me.
   

Accept that all of us can be hurt, that all of us can--and surely will
at times--fail.  Other vulnerabilities, like being embarrassed or
risking love, can be terrifying, too.  I think we should follow
a simple rule:  if we can take the worst, take the risk.

Joyce Brothers

    
And what about a road trip?  It doesn't have to be a long one and the destination doesn't have to be anywhere exotic--you might just drive a few hundred miles southward to find some warmer weather for a couple of days, or drive up into the mountains to find some snow.  You don't need to ski to enjoy the snow, just as you don't need to swim to enjoy the beach.  You don't even need warm weather to enjoy the beach--some of my nicest times on the beach have been on dreary grey days when the beach has been deserted.  Some of my most interesting days have happened because of day trips to nearby places--sometimes places that I've already visited several times, but I learned more about them or found a different aspect of them that I hadn't known before.

One thing that I plan to do differently during the last few days of this year is to send out New Year's cards to friends and family.  They just got Christmas cards from me, but I want to let them know that I wish them all the best in the coming year.  This is a very small contribution to their lives, but it's a contribution nonetheless, one that costs me very little in the way of time, money, or effort.

I also want to take an hour or two and write down things that I've learned this past year--things about myself, about other people, about life, about the world we live in.  I don't need to share it with anyone, I don't need to post it on Facebook (though I may--who knows?), and it doesn't need to be particularly good writing.  But time spent reflecting is always valuable time, for it allows us to move forward having processed what we've learned and having made the lessons real to ourselves.
   

Some people have ideas.  A few carry them into the world of
action and make them happen.  These are the innovators.

Andrew Mercer

   
And what about love?  How can you go about spreading love during these last few days of the year?  Read John Marks Templeton's article above--love truly is something that we have plenty of, plenty that we can share with others through kindness, encouragement, helpfulness, support.  It's worth sharing, for that's really the only way that we're going to make important marks on the world.

I could go on and on with ideas, and each new idea would also probably spark another idea or three in my mind.  What would really fascinate me would be to see someone else's ideas, because I know that they would be completely different but just as valuable--that's one of the things that's so wonderful about being a human being.  What kinds of things can you do during the last five days of this year to ensure that you end it well?  What kind of service can you perform, for someone else or for yourself, that will be a great thing to do?  Sometimes we wait to take action, putting it off until a "better time," but there really is no better time than now to do anything we want to do.  Just think of something special to do at the end of this year, and then do it.  Don't have expectations of results or other people's reactions, for those truly aren't important.  What is important is the action itself and the process of reaching the point at which you act.  End this year in a very positive way, and then think about beginning the next year in a way that's just as positive!  It's your life, so you get to decide what you do and how you do it!

   
More on action.

   

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The finest gift you can give
anyone is encouragement.  Yet,
almost no one gets the
encouragement they need to
grow to their full potential.
If everyone received the
encouragement they need to
grow, the genius in most
everyone would blossom and
the world would produce
abundance beyond the
wildest dreams.  We would have
more than one Einstein, Edison, Schweitzer, Mother Theresa,
Dr. Salk and other great
minds in a century.

Sidney Madwed

  

Love is easily one of God's greatest gifts to us--as Diane Warren says in her song "You Were Loved":  "You'll hold this world's most priceless thing / The greatest gift this life can bring / If you can look back and know / You were loved."  But we tend to forget that in order to be loved, we must love.  We must learn to love unconditionally, and the gift of love includes so many other elements that it's impossible to list them all:  tolerance, forgiveness, gratitude, acceptance, giving, taking.

In his book The Art of Loving, Erich Fromm calls love an art, and as with any art, he says that it must be cultivated, cared for, learned.  It doesn't come naturally to us--we must develop our capacity to love.  It's not that squishy feeling inside that makes us so nervous when we meet that "special someone"--that feeling wears off eventually, leaving us wondering "what happened?"

How often do we have to hear wise people tell us that love is more than something that we "fall" into?  Can we read Paul's words about love in Corinthians (see first Love page) and actually live out those ideas, making them a part of how we act and how we treat others?  I hope so.  I have to admit, I'm not all that good at it yet, but I'm working at it.  I hope that someday I have some wise words of my own to add to the subject. . .

tom walsh

   
  

Nature is another important aspect of nourishing the soul.  After
a hike in the mountains where we live, for instance, I feel a
remarkable sense of gratitude and awe.  My mind quiets down
and allows me to see more clearly the beauty of creation.  And
through that gratitude, the beauty of the universe is reflected
back to the creator.


Joan Borysenko

    

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