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The Tongue is a Fire.

September 28th, 2008 by stephanie

There are some people in your life that don’t really surface until there is some juicy form of gossip to either be learned or shared. They aren’t a part of your social life or your day to day life. They don’t know what you’re up to or even how you’ve been doing. And they don’t really care if truth be told. However, suddenly, on occasion, they will appear. When they do, you can pretty much know that they have not “popped” in to simply say hello.

Usually, the rumor mill can be a perk. It’s during the divulging of that hidden information that you generally learn about what is going on behind the scenes. And too, it can, at times, be a blessing by simply proving that the people who think they are in the know, usually aren’t.

Rumors can be very dangerous. And it is a wonder why they are such a draw to us humans. But if you think about it, the whole thing makes some very sad sense. If knowledge is power, and it is, then those who gather a bit of knowledge suddenly feel, well, powerful. And they enjoy wielding that power. Unfortunately, it’s not a power that lasts and it’s usually not power properly used.

There is a book in the New Testament called James. The third chapter in that book discusses the power of the tongue likening it to a flame with potential for a terrible forest fire. Yes, the tongue can do great harm. May we strive to use our tongues today for great good and healing, rather than hurt. Now, wouldn’t that be something to talk about.

S.

Loving Kindness, Good Humor and Self-Awareness

September 23rd, 2008 by stephanie

“…These are the things to which we aspire in all areas of our lives”. Such were the words that the yoga instructor chose to close out our class for the morning. As I attempted to release my ankle from my thigh, rotate my shoulders back to their normal position and successfully re-locate my feet, once fully unraveled, I regained my physical composure and began to work toward re-entry into the real world. Those final words really struck a chord with me though and rang heavy in my ears.

“Hmmm.” I muttered to myself while exiting the torture chamber, er, studio. What a concept those few words posed. As I trapsed past the water dispenser I could imagine the various scenarios that take place, and how differently they might play out if that simple phrase became action. For example, when that annoying individual enters our office or space, instead of looking up with that “make it good and make it fast” glance that we shoot, what if we truly stopped and thought loving kindness, good humor and self-awareness as they crossed the threshhold into our domain? The outcome of that momentary meeting could be drastically different to be sure.

As I made my way past the treadmills and towards the door, I was embarrassed to think back on the many times I have showed my annoyance or arrogance in situations. How difficult would it truly have been in those moments to simply muster a light smile, offer a heart-felt laugh or realize that how I come across during that interaction is what they will remember most when they depart.

Interestingly, if truth be told, we do tend to think a bit higher of ourselves than we ought on most days. It’s not something we like to admit. But it’s true none the less. It then struck me that the self-awareness part is what wraps up the entire little phrase. “Maybe that being self-aware part should really be placed at the beginning to get our attention,” I mused. If we started there, think of how differently our day could have gone. Or, if it’s not too late, still can.

Best,

S.

Just the Facts, Ma’am.

September 21st, 2008 by stephanie

Many readers may not remember the famous intro to the television show Dragnet. Two detectives knock on a door in attempt to discover the truth. In order to break the case, they question the unsuspecting friend or witness. Such is the stuff of what I will share with you today.

The weather had been beautiful. It was the perfect night to be out and the evening found me in a lovely part of town cruising Whole Foods. (A very therapeutic event for me, if I dare say.) While exiting the idyllic neighborhood, I suddenly noticed that the gas station I was pulling into was out of gas. That was bizarre, I thought to myself. Things like that don’t happen in this part of town.

Multiple gas stations and 40 minutes later, I finally found fuel at the opposite end of the city. Naturally I topped off. Little did I know, what transpired that night was just the beginning of what was to become a stampede to the gas pumps. Within 24 hours three-fourths of the stations in my town would run dry. And the situation was to last about four days. People flocked to fill up their tanks, and as they say in the South, “Their ugly came out.” Reporters throughout the city were on the scene commenting on how selfish people had become and were stunned by the behaviors they encountered while filming their stories.

An article emerged from CNN online during this time that noted the panic and reported that people were waiting in line for up to an hour to fill their tanks. Drivers were even following gas trucks that entered the city to see where they were headed. Some gas station lines were a mile long.

Interestingly, CNN did some due diligence and determined that fuel had continued to flow into the city during this time, barges were coming in, and pipelines were working. However, when a million cars decide they suddenly need gas in a 24-hour period, the schedules for delivery to replenish aren’t prepared for the instant change.

The moral of the story might be this: Some one, some where, said some thing that kicked off an assumption. The rumor was not correct and no one appeared to be interested in searching for the facts. The initial thought of the populace was to take care of themselves first by trusting their “source” without question. Due to this reaction, in a matter of hours, an entire city was crippled. If you ask me, there is something we need to learn from this event.

When we are the recipient of information, what type of research do we honestly do before acting upon it? Do we earnestly try to first locate the source, then dig for the truth? I would venture to admit, we do not.

Sadly, as we are also seeing in this election cycle, we are too quick to take our news first hand, without truly getting to the truth before we make a decision or act. May we strive to be better citizens in this respect. Should we do so, I suspect our lives would reap the benefits of a much more “thoughtful” world.

Just my thoughts.

S.

Putting Out Fires.

September 17th, 2008 by stephanie

In some jobs, you get the feeling that most of your day is spent putting out fires. And, that is a noble cause to be sure. As we all know, someone has to do it. It might as well be you.

I was struck by a blurb I caught on the radio recently as I was trying to pass some time while sitting in traffic. The voice was telling the legend of The Great Fire of Nantucket in 1846. Apparently, if the story is correct, the firemen that arrived on the scene were from two different areas. Long story short, they ended up having a bit of a turf war. During the tiff, the town burned.

I got to thinking, how many of our daily rants and raves are, in reality, the result of some type of fight over territory. Who crossed what lines and shouldn’t have. Who should have been doing more on their own side, and didn’t. Meanwhile, the town is burning down around us.

Perhaps, in the heat of the moment, we need to just step back and ask the question: what is best for the overall picture here? Sure. That sounds naive. Yes. You might have to give up some ground. But when you consider the final damage, will avoiding the inquisition be worth it?

I understand that it’s all relative, but we all know, turf wars can simply backfire. Just something chew on as we zoom toward that weekend!

S.

Sabbath’s Rest.

September 15th, 2008 by stephanie

Wash on Monday. Iron on Tuesday. Mend on Wednesday. Churn on Thursday. Clean on Friday. Bake on Saturday.

If you are not familiar with these daily chores of the week, you can do a little research at a site that references “a week in the life of” Laura Ingalls Wilder and her pioneer lifestyle. (http://hoover.archives.gov/LIW/pioneering/pioneering_pepin-chores.html)

When I was a young girl, I attempted to embroider these sayings onto a set of tea towels. If my memory serves me correctly, I don’t believe I completed the task. I do still have one or two in my possession however. In case this little task is not familiar to you, it actually was once an Americana-style tradition. You may have seen examples of these dish towels in antique stores. They were rather common years ago, especially in the 1800s and 1900s.

Anyway, my grandmother has shared with me on a number of occasions how strictly her parents heeded the Rest On Sunday part of the week. They literally did nothing. Except worship and eat of course. They went to services, returned home, ate the food that had been prepared the day prior, and then literally rested. No chores. No radio. I don’t even know if they were allowed to read. (Although I do think they were allowed to read the Bible.) And too, it was pure family time.

As I was enjoying my Sunday afternoon this past weekend, it dawned on me that I could not blame my great grand mother for holding firm to that resting part of the traditional Sunday. If you think about it, she must have been completely worn out and exhausted by Saturday night. Sundays were her only holiday to be sure. She just didn’t have the luxury of time to rest during the week. Vacations were not really an option to her working class level in that era. And if people think women back then had time to grab a cup of coffee and sit on the deck for a little quiet time, I highly doubt that was a feasible daily experience. (Hopefully, they were able to squeeze some in, but we don’t really know.)

All ponderings aside, I love Sundays. Like my great grandmother, I can’t wait for my special day of rest. I take it seriously. And I relish in it. It’s just something I have made a part of my life. I go to worship, I eat lunch with friends, I head home to nap, then walk the dog and catch up on my phone calls for the week. It’s just a lovely day all around.

I realize a lot of people today do not have the luxury of that type of Sunday, and I am very humbled that I am fortunate enough to claim that kind of day. So I do. If you can make Sundays a bit more “restful”, may I highly suggest it. Remember, even on the seventh day, God rested.

Stephanie

First People, Then Money, Then Things.

September 14th, 2008 by stephanie

As I sat pondering the next words I would pen while pouring over the book I have been working on for the past two years, Suze Orman could be heard from my TV offering up her wisdom to those in need of financial advice.

I had just switched channels. Only moments before, my black lab lay on his back, all fours to the ceiling while absorbing the classical music that had been wafting in the background for the past five hours. I needed a mental break, so Ms. Orman had won the remote war. Needless to say, it was almost midnight when the switch transpired, so my dog headed off down the hall to his rug near my bed. As far as he was concerned, bedtime had been hours prior and he was ready to call it a night. His finances not needing attention I imagined.

As I closed out my files and logged off, I started to make the mental adjustment to the female money guru that chatted away on the screen before me. But she fully caught my attention when these words passed from her lips. “As I tell you every Saturday night: People first. Then money. Then things.” Interestingly, I had just been working on a grid I use to determine my priorities for any given day, or week for that matter.  (It will appear in my upcoming book by the way. If I ever finish!) Her words were like cold water in the face. I immediately grabbed my grid and took a good hard look. Was I truly putting people first? Or, had I scheduled my own selfish needs and desires first today. Or this past week for that matter?

Sometimes, you just need someone to gently point out that the to-do list that sits on your table or desk isn’t really as pertinent as your mother, or your sister, or that quality friend or volunteer opportunity. I have to admit, Suze made me stop and think. Maybe I could tweak my list just a bit more this week. And perhaps, prioritize just a bit better.

May the challenge to you this day be: where can you best invest your time, your energy and your resources this coming week? They are yours to give. Be sure you give them to a worthy and credible force in your life.

Hugs,

S.

Give an inch, they’ll take a yard.

September 11th, 2008 by stephanie

C.S. Lewis, in his book Mere Christianity, touched on the fact that Good and Evil both increase like compound interest. He explained that the little decisions we make every day are of utmost importance. The smallest good act today can produce great victories down the road. It goes the same for evil. Lewis put it like this, “An apparently trivial indulgence in lust or anger today is the loss of a ridge or railway line or bridgehead from which the enemy may launch an attack otherwise impossible.”

I am not an expert and would not pretend to understand what ground gave way that led to 9/11, however, this I do know. We do know that our enemy invested in their anger until it resulted in a horrid blow. Our response to that event will determine our future. If we let anger and pain rule us, we will be investing in those emotions. And those emotions will affect the decisions we make.

If, on the other hand, we invest in victory and in fighting for what is right and good, we will reap those rewards in due time. The point is, we may have been overtaken on that beautiful sunny day in September, but we certainly were not overcome.
On this day as we remember, may we move on from this moment, not investing our minds and hearts in anger or despair, but rather in what is good and right.

March on!

Stephanie

Oriental Wisdom for a Western World.

September 9th, 2008 by stephanie

If I have this right, there is an old Chinese proverb that goes like this: Care about people’s approval and you will be their prisoner. (Tao Te Ching, ancient Chinese Philosophy).

I think we would be shocked if we really took a good hard look and noted how much of our day or week is spent in trying to please some one or some thing. It’s eye opening when you take a moment to realize that perhaps alot of our time, energy, and resources might be going into or being invested in people, organizations, or things that really won’t matter down the road. Sometimes, alot of unnecessary frustration is born out of this very basic scenario.

A friend and I were discussing this dilemna of sorts, and she quickly put it into easy-to-grasp terms for me. She was expounding on how when a problem arose in her life that just didn’t sit quite right, she would stop and ask this question: “Will I still be attached to this situation, or know this person 5 years from now. And if I don’t, will it matter?” I thought that was a great way to stop and evaluate any given moment where we feel a bit out of control. Basically, in five years, will that organization, or person, or job be in your life? And if not, will it matter?” Talk about some fast perspective. So I decided to stop and take stock of how much of my life I was pouring into things that might not even be there in the future. And too, if I was mostly involved in them for approval sake.

You have to be very careful with this one, but if you take it realistically, and honestly, (and in proper moderation) it’s some good brain work. Try it, and the next time you find that you are really upset or frustrated about something, ask the “5-year” question. It might bring some much needed, immediate relief. See what you think.

S.

ARE YOU AWAKE?

September 7th, 2008 by stephanie

An email came through recently where a concerned mother that is very dear to me was sharing about some odd things happening to her daughter of late. Apparently, the daughter, who is married with children, had been having trouble sleeping. The youngest child too was having trouble. Even more strange, the daughter had been experiencing bizarre things happening in the home. Mostly during the night. The baby of the family being affected by them as well. Though both were in separate rooms.

So, the email simply asked that I pray. I didn’t get the email, however until after returning to the house from a late evening with friends. I cranked up the laptop and and began going through the inbox at around 1:00 am. My time of praying for this daughter didn’t start until between the 1:30am to 2:00am slot when I was finally getting ready for bed.

The next morning, naturally I checked in to see how the night had gone in regards to this situation. I let the requesting party know that I had indeed prayed and I told her what time I had been praying. Here was her response:
“Funny, we were praying at the same time. I woke up at 1:30 praying also. That’s something, isn’t it? I thought it was time go get up, and was wide awake so I went into the kitchen to start to make coffee then looked at the clock. I saw it was 1:30 in the morning, went back to bed, but started praying. Kinda neat both of us were praying.”

Not only “kinda neat” kind of amazing if you ask me. But then, when God is involved, should we really be so surprised?

On a side note, it’s nice to know that God was awake too. Hearing our prayers. Yet, thinking about us at the same time. If you have a moment, you might revisit chapter 139 of the book of Psalms. You can focus on verses 17 and 18, but the entire section is well worth the read.

Sleep well. And if you find that you are awake, say a prayer. He’s up and He’s listening.

Stephanie

Political Prowess

September 6th, 2008 by stephanie

I was cruising the usual blogs and articles when I came across some interesting data. Got to Googling as one does, and came up with some nifty info I couldn’t help but share. It being an election year and all, I can’t help but imagine politics not being a topic that I touch on from time to time.

So I came across an article from April of this year on CNN.com. Their story’s highlights read like this:
– Single women make up more than a quarter of the electorate, according to survey
– They could play same role for Dems that evangelicals did for Republicans in 2004
– Single women less likely to vote than married women
– Unmarried women tend to be Democrats, according to survey.

I then saw where a well known political pundit stated that the swing vote in this election will be single moms. Remember the soccer moms phenomenon of 1996 and then the proclaimed security moms in 2004? Well, now it appears to be the unmarried women, mostly with children, who will supposedly determine the outcome of the upcoming election. Hmmmmmm.

One commentator was explaining that the current president, (Bush #43) has been unable to crack the solidly Democratic voting habits of African-Americans and single women. He also noted that more than half of John Kerry’s vote (2004) came from three groups that make up about one-third of the population: blacks, Hispanics and unmarried white women.

To bring perspective, Bush carried married women by 54 percent to 45 percent but apparently lost single women, get this, 36% to 63%. Wow!

According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s Facts and Features, 36% of the voters in the 2004 election were single. That is more than one-thrid! It will be interesting to see that number once the data comes in this fall.

So, one thing is for sure, if the stats above give you an idea of the power of the single woman’s vote, then all I can say is: Are you registered?

Girl power to ya’. See you at the polls!
S.

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