15 August 2017      

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Step off the Edge
John Marks Templeton

Kent Nerburn

tom walsh

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The world was not left to us by our parents;
it was lent to us by our children.

African Proverb

Our dilemma is that we hate change and love it at the same time; what we really want is for things to remain the same but get better.

Sydney J. Harris

Children are like wet cement.
Whatever falls on them
makes an impression.

Haim Ginott

Step off the Edge
John Marks Templeton

The eagles that live in the canyons of the state of Colorado in the United States use a special kind of stick with which to build their nests.  A female eagle can sometimes fly as many as two hundred miles in a single day in order to find a branch from an ironwood tree.  Not only are the ironwood sticks as strong as their name suggests, but they also have thorns that allow them to lock together so the nest can set securely on a ledge high up in the canyon.  After building the nest, the eagle pads it with layer upon layer of leaves, feathers, and grass to protect future offspring from the sharp thorns of the ironwood.

In her preparations, the female eagle goes to great lengths to promote the survival of the birds she will hatch.  This interest in their survival extends well beyond their birth, although the expression of that interest changes.  As the young eagles grow, they begin to fight for space in the nest.  The chicks' demands for food eventually become such that the mother eagle is unable to fulfill their needs.  She instinctively knows that in order to survive, her brood is going to have to leave its nest.

To encourage the young eagles to fend for themselves, the mother pulls the padding out of the nest so the thorns of the ironwood branches prick the young birds.

As their living conditions become more painful, they are forced to climb up on the edge of the nest.  The mother eagle then coaxes the young eagles off the edge.  As they begin to plummet to the bottom of the canyon, they wildly flap their wings to brake their fall, and end up doing what is the most natural thing in the world for an eagle--they fly!

As human beings, we may often find ourselves in a similar situation.  When our lives can no longer provide us with the growth we desire and change must take place, we may need to leave safety and familiarity behind and journey into unknown territory.  Just as the baby eagles are reluctant to leave the nest, we may also resist change.  Even though the conditions may not be pleasant, we sometimes make an effort to tolerate the increasing discomfort because we're afraid of the unknown.  But if your ship is tied up at the dock, it doesn't matter how you turn the rudder--the ship isn't going anywhere!

Many times unpleasant conditions in our lives tell us that we are ready to move on and experience new areas of our potential.  While our fear of the unknown might temporarily increase our tolerance of an uncomfortable situation, life's circumstances may likely get thorny enough that, like the growing eagles, we'll be coaxed into moving on.  We can trust life and move ahead into new experiences with confidence because, in a wonderful way, we live in a friendly universe--a universe designed to support us and our activities.  Dr. Irving Oyle recognized this when he commented, "The universe is not opposed to our best interest."

Have you ever said to yourself, "I've wanted to do something like this, but never quite had the courage"?  Take a look at the urge within your being that may be prompting you to step forward.  When the time comes to venture out and accept new challenges, remember that everyone has an innate ability not only to survive but to prosper.  We are designed, by God, with the possibility to achieve high levels of success and to enjoy fulfillment and satisfaction in life.  This means we do not have to settle for less than we're capable of, unless that is our choice. . . .

So often, we have within our grasp a whole new way of life and fail to explore it. Why?  Could one reason be that we may not be secure enough in who and what we are to release the pioneering spirit?  An interesting thing is that we do have our life to live over.  Every day life comes for us to live a new experience.  Over and over, around the calendar, twenty-four new hours present themselves to us.  Perhaps we could ask ourselves, regardless of our age, "Have I really lived all my years, or has each year been one day lived over and over again?"

Within each of us are resources that can be realized only when we climb to the edge of the nest, slip off into the air--and fly!


Worldwide Laws of Life is full of wisdom drawn from the major sacred Scriptures of the world and various schools of philosophical thought, as well as from scientists, artists, historians, and others. Its aim is to assist people of all ages to learn more about the universal truths of life that transcend modern times or particular cultures. This treasury of practical morality, personal inspiration, and daily guidance is perfect for people of all persuasions.


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Kent Nerburn

I can measure my life by the moments when art transformed me--standing in front of Michelangelo's Duomo pieta, listening to Dylan Thomas read his poetry, hearing Bach's cello suites for the first time.

But not only there.

Sitting at a table in a smoky club listening to Muddy Waters and Little Walter talk back and forth to each other through their instruments; listening to a tiny Japanese girl play a violin sonata at a youth symphony concert; standing in a clapboard gift shop on the edge of Hudson Bay staring at a crudely carved Inuit image of a bear turning into a man.

It can happen anywhere, anytime.  You do not have to be in some setting hallowed by greatness, or in the presence of an artist honored around the world.  Art can work its magic any time you are in the presence of a work created by someone who has gone inside the act of creation to become what they are creating.  When this takes place time stands still and if our hearts are open to the experience, our spirits soar and our imaginations fly unfettered.

You need these moments if you are ever to have a life that is more than the sum of the daily moments of humdrum affairs.

If you can create these moments--if you are a painter or a poet or a musician or an actor--you carry within you a prize of great worth.  If you cannot create them, you must learn to love one of the arts in a way that allows the power of another's creation to come alive within you.

Once you love an art enough that you can be taken up in it, you are able to experience an echo of the great creative act that mysteriously has given life to us all.

It may be the closest we can get to God.

At once spiritual and practical, Letters to My Son has been beloved by readers from all walks of life, including single mothers seeking guidance in raising a son, fathers looking to share a voice of clarity about life’s most important issues, and young men wanting an intelligent, sensitive, and streetwise companion on the journey toward a worthy manhood. Unique in its profound simplicity and timeless insight, Letters to My Son is a book to savor and a gift to give to anyone looking for clear and gentle guidance on the big issues in life.


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Our very first problem is to accept our present circumstances
as they are, ourselves as we are, and the people about us as
they are.  This is to adopt a realistic humility without which no
genuine advance can even begin. . . . Provided we strenuously
avoid turning these realistic surveys of the facts of life into
unrealistic alibis for apathy or defeatism, they can be the sure
foundation upon which increased emotional health
and therefore spiritual progress can be built.

As Bill Sees It


Words of Discouragement

I've been in the classroom with many, many students over the years.  Some of them I remember quite well; others I don't remember at all.  That's just the way it is--some students burn their ways into my memory, others do their best to remain anonymous and not call any attention to themselves.  I tend to remember the high school students better than the college students, as they were generally in my classes every day for an entire year, while at college I tend to be able to work with students two or three times a week for fifteen weeks.

I remember some students because of the problems they caused, but I remember others because of their effort or their skill or simply their personalities.  There are some, of course, that I remember because of some specific incident, and Antoinette was one of those.

She was one of the college students with whom I actually got to work with for two semesters in a row.  She was in my Composition 101 course, and then took the 102 course with me in the spring.  It's not something that's unheard of, of course, but just something that doesn't happen with everyone.  I like it when I can work with students a second semester because I know that my references to what we covered in the first semester make sense to them, and because I get to know them quite a bit better--and I've met very few students who aren't worth the time and effort to get to know better.

The moment that I most remember with Antoinette happened during office hours during the second semester.  Over the course of six months she had become an extremely good writer--she was able to develop her ideas clearly and concisely, leaving her reader with no doubts at all about her message or her credibility.  Her papers were extremely well organized and her paragraphs were very strongly developed.  Her voice was friendly but respectful, and her tone was always appropriate.  In short, her papers were a joy to read.

At that meeting, though, she told me something that surprised me and angered me.  She was looking at the final draft of her persuasive essay, and she said, "I wish I could go back and tell one of my high school English teachers what you just told me."

"Why's that?" I asked, curious.

"Because he told me that I would never be a good writer."

In short, this high school teacher of hers had told her, when she was merely fifteen or sixteen years old, that while she may someday be a decent writer, she never would be a very good writer.  I couldn't even imagine what kind of message that was to a young person of her age--and what an incredibly short-sighted and flat-out wrong thing to tell her.

Was he trying to make her a better writer by getting her angry?  Was he simply an uncompassionate person who was frustrated at his own lack of success, and who felt the need to belittle his students in order to make himself feel better (and trust me--there are far more people like this in our schools than you want to believe)?  No matter what he was or what his problems were, I was really proud of Antoinette at that moment, for she hadn't let his negative message of impossibility keep her from becoming an extremely good writer, and I was very glad of her success.

I, too, at that moment would have loved to have some words with that teacher.

That moment was very important to me because it reinforced many of my feelings about teaching and about relating to young people.  I never want to be the teacher who tries to use discouragement as either a motivational tool or a damaging tool.  I don't want to be the teacher who tells students what they can't do or what they won't be able to do--because I really have no idea what those things may be.  I see such a small part of who the students are and what they're able to do that I simply can't make general statements about what they'll be able and unable to do in their futures--all I can do is respond to what I see in front of me and tell them how that rates as far as the requirements of our particular course are concerned.

I absolutely do believe that it's important to be honest rather than always kind and encouraging--telling a mediocre high school basketball player that he can become a professional player if she wants to can be cruel rather than kind or helpful.  But if there's a modicum of doubt, if there's no real way of knowing what will happen in the future, then it's important that we be encouraging to our young people rather than discouraging.  Encouraging them to become the best player they can, even if they never reach a professional level, can be much more productive and helpful and can show them that you care enough not just to encourage, but to be honest with them.

There's at least one high school teacher out there (if he's still alive) who completely misread the evidence before him and because of that gave a student an extremely unjustified message of discouragement and impossibility.  Fortunately, she didn't let his message keep her from doing exactly that which he said she couldn't do, and she felt a great deal of pride and accomplishment in doing so.  But I couldn't help but notice the hurt that was within her, even as she acknowledged what she had accomplished.  Her response was not to celebrate and feel good about what she had done--her response was to begin the healing process of the hurt that he had caused her.

I never want to be that kind of person, nor that kind of teacher.  We never know how much harm our discouraging words can do, and that meeting with Antoinette taught me that I don't want to be a person doing harm, no matter what my intentions may be.

More on achievement.



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If you limit your actions in life to things
that nobody can possibly find fault
with, you will not do much.

Charles Lutwidge Dodgson

A Prayer for the World's Children
Ina Hughs

We pray for children
who sneak popsicles before supper,
who erase holes in math workbooks,
who can never find their shoes.

And we pray for those
who stare at photographers from behind barbed wire,
who can't bound down the street in a new pair of sneakers,
who never "counted potatoes,"
who are born in places where we wouldn't be caught dead,
who never go to the circus,
who live in an X-rated world.

We pray for children
who bring us sticky kisses and fistfuls of dandelions,
who hug us in a hurry and forget their lunch money.

And we pray for those
who never get dessert,
who have no safe blanket to drag behind them,
who watch their parents watch them die,
who can't find any bread to steal,
who don't have any rooms to clean up,
whose pictures aren't on anyone's dresser,
whose monsters are real.

We pray for children
who spend all  their allowances before Tuesday,
who throw tantrums in the grocery store and pick at their food,
who like ghost stories,
who shove dirty clothes under the bed and never rinse out the tub,
who get visits from the tooth fairy,
who don't like to be kissed in front of the carpool,
who squirm in church or temple and scream in the phone,
whose tears we sometimes laugh at and whose smiles can make us cry.

And we pray for those
whose nightmares come in the daytime,
who will eat anything,
who have never seen a dentist,
who aren't spoiled by anyone,
who go to bed hungry and cry themselves to sleep,
who live and move, but have no being.

We pray for the children who want to be carried and for those who must,
for those who never give up and for those who don't get a second chance, for those we smother. . . and for those who will grab the hand of anyone kind enough to offer it.



People often become what they believe themselves to be.  If
I believe I cannot do something, it makes me incapable of
doing it.  But when I believe I can, then I acquire the
ability to do it even if I didn't have it in the beginning.

Mohandas Gandhi




A new way of reading has been here for a while now.  And while we still love our books, if you're like many people, you get tired of lugging around the books that sometimes weigh more than anything else we carry.  Imagine carrying hundreds of books--novels, self-help, history, travel, you name it--and reading them comfortably on a no-glare screen, setting things like text size to your own preferences.  It's a great experience, and it's available to us now for less than the cost of ten books.  And there are plenty of free books to download, especially timeless classics--you can easily get enough free books to pay for the Kindle.  Give yourself the gift of wonderful literature that you can easily bring with you, wherever you go!

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