Archive for February, 2014


Posted: February 27, 2014 in World On The Edge

This is a repost from last July. I’m posting it again because I’ll be on vacation beneath this very same sunset until March 11, 2014. I will miss you, but stay tuned! And Happy Birthday to my daughter, Sheila! You are so Beautiful!

stacey's Destin sunsetWe rarely pay attention to the plain and simple things in our world. We notice the flamboyant, the extravagant. Who would not notice a sunset such as this? “Wow! How beautiful!” we might say.

Yet the smallest of particles are responsible for the stunning sunset. You might say they are responsible for its performance. These tiny molecules change the direction of light, causing it to scatter, resulting in the brilliant show of color. The value of the sunset, like the value of a person, is found within. But when we look at either of them, we don’t consider what’s ‘behind the scene.’

In fact, not many want to be ‘behind the scene.’ We are attracted to the flamboyant, to famous people who appear large on the stage of life, such as musicians and actors, and reality shows about so-called ‘real’ people. We fantasize about being like them, without considering a fleeting popularity.

I think this is because we have a very shallow understanding of our world and the crucial place each of us holds in it. We look into the lives of those we mistakenly see as more beautiful, and more important, to measure our own lives, which we may consider very small, and not beautiful at all.

Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, a Swiss psychiatrist and pioneer in near-death studies, said, “The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These people have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.”

The idea of beauty and importance dealt to us by ‘the big screen’ is misleading, and short-lived. The beautiful sunset lasts only a while–until the smallest of particles and molecules come together to bend the light and cause another momentary spectacle.

I’m taking another look at the sunset. I’m taking another look at all flamboyant and passing things, to consider the smaller, more permanent, performance behind the scene, by those not often noticed or admired.

file0001465805005How many people do you know who could be described as completely confident? Probably not many. We all have our hang-ups.

Even if we have great self-esteem, there are times when our confidence level drops. Someone says something to us that pricks an old memory, and the old memory hits us with thoughts like, “See? You’re not so good. In fact, you’re no good at all.”

Sadly, some constantly feel that way—they are no good. Why?

People aren’t  born confident. Somewhere along the way–very early on—another person is responsible for planting the seeds of self-worth.  This  beneficial  vision of himself through the eyes of another  stays with a child.  Of course, the opposite can be true as well.

How can a person re-instill self confidence that has been taken from them?

First of all, the Realization that God loved us enough to make us in His image and likeness , and that we are necessarily good because of it. And then, by reaching out to others, by helping other people, we see and understand their own valuable uniqueness. We receive appreciation from them, and may even see ourselves differently, too. And that is a great builder of self confidence.

When we treat others as we’d like to be treated, when we love them for who they are–our brothers and sisters in Christ–we are actually bolstering our own self-worth as well as theirs.

What’s Your Logo?

Posted: February 24, 2014 in World On The Edge

file000103780820A logo is a graphic  mark or emblem commonly used by commercial enterprises, organizations and even individuals to aid and promote instant public recognition. In the nearly twenty years I spent running an advertising agency, I created many logos for businesses. Some of those logos are still around, on billboards, trucks, and some television ads. That’s either because the business they represented is still around, too, or because the logo worked well for the business.

If you were interested in promoting yourself and what you stand for–what would your personal logo look like? Would it be bold and brazen, or sedate and sentimental? What would the colors be, the text style, the graphic if there was one? What is it about you that lets other people know who you are?

Logos is a Greek word which means rational thought or reason. In the Bible, it is translated to mean ‘word’ or another name for Jesus.  In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. ]He was in the beginning with God.  All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.–John 1:1-4

I would say the longest running logo, and most successful logo by far, is the Christian Cross.  Can you imagine how many times it has been inscribed into stone, or imprinted? How many pieces of jewelry have used it? How many books? How many T-shirts?

But a Christian does not need  to walk around in a T-shirt imprinted with a cross  in order for people to know who we are. Being  Christian  isn’t just a word that we apply to ourselves. Being a Christian requires actions, the actions that love promotes.

1 John 3:16-20, “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth. This then is how we know that we belong to the truth, and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence whenever our hearts condemn us. For God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.”

We can apply many other emblems to ourselves because we are unique and there are many words that might describe us as individuals. But together we are one. We are Christians. And Love is our logo.

A Mama’s Heart

Posted: February 21, 2014 in World On The Edge

emily and xemenia 251DEAR MAMAS,
You are the wives
You are the mothers
You are the nannies
You are the teachers
You are the cooks–no the gourmets!
You are the washerwomen and the scrubbers
You are the taxi drivers
You are the gardeners
You are the counselors
You are the peace-makers
You are the judges
You are the juries
You are the nesters
You are the consolers
You are the planners
You are the confessors
You are the dream-makers
You are the caterers
You are the celebrators
You are the lovers
You are the listeners





Dance of Love: A Work of Art

Posted: February 19, 2014 in World On The Edge

file0001960731775The definition of work of art is something that is considered to have aesthetic value, something that is beautiful, intriguing, interesting, creative or extremely well done.

Love is a work of art. Not a piece stuck on a shelf though, an inter-active work of art–like dancing. Love is a dance.

So how is the dance begun?

Love, as a dance, requires a partner of course. It requires a desire to be in the partner’s arms. It requires a certain timing. It requires a creative rhythm And above all, Love as a dance, requires the aesthetic of gracefulness.

What is necessary for the grace performed in a dance of love?

Grace, in the dance, first necessitates watching a teacher, or a role-model, how he or she moves. Try to copy that.

And of course, be skillful. Know the steps of the dance well, so you’ll be able to concentrate more on being grace-filled.

To be grace-filled, a dancer must be aware of the rhythm of his or her own heart, as well as the heart of his partner.

Grace, in the dance, necessitates practice–every day.

A dancer must allow for mistakes. He or she must forgive stepping on toes. Changing moods. Exhaustion. Even tears.

He/she should validate a partner’s significance.

Together, each partner should encourage the other to reach for perfection with a continuous supply of passionate praise.

And then? Turn on the music.

Take the floor.

Enjoy the dance in each other’s arms.

Enjoy Love .

Control Freak?

Posted: February 17, 2014 in World On The Edge

file000739321417Are you a control freak? Do you like to be in charge of processes, endings, and outcomes? Well, I do.

As young children, we don’t have much control of what happens to us. Decisions are made by our parents, and we go along, or else. Of course, we’re likely to throw tantrums–because even young children like to have their own ‘dog’ in the fight.

And when we grow up, some of us leash that dog and yank him along with us. We become control freaks.

I’ve always had the suspicion that I might be this sort of person, but until I began editing my short story collection with the wonderful Joshua Hren of Wiseblood Books, I didn’t know the extent of my malady.

I like happy endings. I like things ‘tied up with a neat little bow.’ I can handle the problems, the sufferings, the excruciating decisions of my characters, but in the end I want all of those happenings to work out—and work out happily.

So am I hopeless, or what? When I write about life, between the lines is the presence of God. And God is goodness. So, why can’t my characters not only experience that goodness, but in the end, also find it themselves? In fact, why can’t every person find their happy ending on earth. Could it be because life on earth is not our true ending at all, but only a path or journey to genuine fullness?

Even as I write, I realize I’m being a ‘Pollyanna.’ Realistically, life doesn’t always proceed like that, and since I write about life, I have to accept the fact that no one has the ability to understand the marvelous, infinite mind of God or His intricate plan for each of us. God’s plan is one that takes into consideration far more than our earthly existence here. And when I try to control every little thing, when I put a choke-hold on the worst in an attempt to keep it from happening, or line my path with glitter from a man-made can, there is something very un-genuine occurring. I’m trying to control, instead of trusting God to control.

A few years ago, there was a popular saying: Let Go and Let God. In other words, take your hands off the wheel and let God drive. What this requires is Trust. And why not trust in God? After all, no one loves us more than He does.

My Funny Valentine

Posted: February 14, 2014 in World On The Edge

Happy Valentine's Day4Saint Valentine’s Day is a wonderful opportunity for us to show how much we care about those we love.

Children especially enjoy the holiday–cut out hearts, candy, school parties.

I remember when my mother was a “home room mother,” and she presented a word game for our class: How many other words can you make out of the letters in VALENTINE? The prize was a big chocolate heart wrapped in red cellophane paper–to me, it was beautiful and I wanted it–bad! I wanted to give it to my Daddy.

So I crunched down in my desk with pencil in hand. I made fifteen words from those letters, just one more than Ed, another seven year old. But when my mother saw that I had the most words, she whispered in my ear. “Sugar, Will you let Ed win?”

Ed was a quiet, skinny child being raised by his very old grandmother, whom he loved very much. She was the only family he had. No one knew where Ed’s parents were. He and his grandmother lived–as they said back then, on the ‘other side of the tracks.’ And they didn’t have much. He wore the same pair of pants everyday and only an occasional change of his shirt. Still, he was by far the smartest child in the class, almost always 100’s on his papers.

But give up the heart for Ed? Oh, what a decision! And my mother knew I didn’t want to make it. Then, my mother whispered, “He wants it for his grandmother, sugar.” Okay. Well, I wanted it for my daddy.  “And I do have another heart just like it at home, and it will be yours.” The deal-clincher.

So I watched Ed light up like a Fourth of July sparkler when it was announced that he won the prize. On the way home from school, my mother smiled at me and said I’d done just what Saint Valentine would have wanted me to do. Of course, I was out nothing, really–another heart waited for me at home. That night, after I gave the beautiful red cellophane wrapped gift to my Daddy, I pictured Ed and his old grandmother eating the other chocolate heart, the heart I’d won. And I thought a little bit about what loving someone really means.

Here’s a little history on St. Valentine.

We really don’t know how many St. Valentines there were. One opinion is that he was a Roman martyred for refusing to give up his Christian faith. Other historians hold that St. Valentine was a temple priest jailed for defiance during the reign of Claudius. Whoever he was, Valentine really existed because archaeologists have unearthed a Roman catacomb and an ancient church dedicated to Saint Valentine. In 496 AD Pope Gelasius marked February 14th as a celebration in honor of his martyrdom. (Catholic Online)

Although the mid-February holiday celebrating love and lovers remains wildly popular, the confusion over its origins led the Catholic Church, in 1969, to drop St. Valentine’s Day from the Roman calendar of official, worldwide Catholic feasts. (Those highly sought-after days are reserved for saints with more clear historical record. After all, the saints are real individuals for us to imitate.) Some parishes, however, observe the feast of St. Valentine. (

Happy Valentine to all those I love–especially, Pat, my son-in-law , whose birthday is today. And to  ‘Ed,’ who grew up to be a fine Jazz musician.

The Gavel of Smugness

Posted: February 13, 2014 in World On The Edge

file6251297827365Smugness- – — exhibiting or feeling great or offensive satisfaction with oneself or with one’s situation; self-righteously complacent

How do each of us personally stand up beside this definition?  Aren’t we all,  at one time or another, smug? I know I have been, and I’m not proud of it.

More important, in what ways do we bring our gavel of smugness on others?

Well, when we consistently and pompously think we’re right and they’re wrong–we’re bringing down the gavel of smugness.

When we look at another person as being below us in intelligence, talent, beauty, etc.–we’re bringing down the gavel of smugness.

When we don’t understand why others don’t do things our way, and don’t bother  to understand their way—we’re bringing down the gavel of smugness.

When we are overly critical, pig-headed, stubborn, and complacent.  (And we might be  hypocrites,  too, because as individuals, we are often critical, pig-headed, stubborn, and complacent, as well)—yet still, we bring down that old gavel of smugness.

Smugness can be found in religion, too.

“The operation of the church is entirely set up for the sake of the sinner, which creates much misunderstanding among the smug.”– Flannery O’Connor

For the sake of the sinner, Jesus Christ died, rose, and offers eternal life. Yet we often point to sin in others (the sinners) and are too arrogant to see it in ourselves–because we are–what?  The sin-less?

No, we are all sinners. How can we think that we are so far above others that we can judge them? Only God can weigh an individual’s sin. Because only God knows the absolute truth about any of us.

So, let’s strip away our smugness. Let’s not be so serious about ourselves, loosen up, and laugh a little.

Let’s remember that we are created in the image and likeness of God. But we are not God.  And God, alone, knows what’s beneath that coat of smugness we sometimes wear.

IMG_7695When we are very young, we are easily bored. We like different  experiences, and we like them frequently.  When we are adults, we tone down a bit. We learn which experiences are better suited to us, and our personalities.  And as we get older, we like comfort and continuity.

Still, whether young or old, most of us go through periods when we want a change.  We want something fresh and new.  We’ve grown weary of the same old stuff, or maybe, we’ve even grown weary of  the same people.

There’s a lot to be said for the ‘tried and true.’ But there’s a lot to be said, too, for change.

And we don’t have to throw the baby out with the bath water.

Part of being creative is looking for a new slant on an old thing–even if the old thing is comfortable, continuous, and—well, brilliant.   If we continue day after day, doing, hearing, and seeing, exactly the same thing,  it can become stale, flat, and close to unbearable.

If a relationship with a family member or a friend is getting too predictable and bland, we  look for ways to revive it–anything that freshens up the scene–a new place to go together, a new project both are interested in, a different way to converse or even to disagree.

Another  example might be a piece antique furniture, say a Victorian chair—still comfortable, still beautiful. Except you’ve changed everything else in the room. You don’t want to throw out the chair, but in your eyes, it is becoming stodgy. You might look for a new slant— in a throw, a different place in the room, or even re-upholstery, so you keep the old, but freshen it up.

Freshening up to re-issue is done frequently with pieces of art:  painting, sculpture, music,  dance, and of course, with old movies.

One more concrete example: Everyone who’s been to a wedding has probably heard Pachelbel’s Cannon in D more times than they’d care to.  But you’ve probably never heard it like the following video presents it.

The Cannon is there in all its brilliance, because there is value in the ‘tried and true,’ but a little something new can give it a whole new life.

What do you think of the change? I love it!

The Potter

Posted: February 11, 2014 in World On The Edge

file6541254930080We all know something about creating, whether it be a meal, a flower garden, a painting, a book, or a ceramic vase. When we begin our creation of these things, they never appear as they will when they are finished.

The meal is at first just a bunch of ingredients on the countertop. The flower garden begins as a patch of grass or weeds that we must dig up in order to plant. The painting starts off as a canvas without color. The book is only an idea. The vase, a lump of clay.

We go through a lot of work putting these things into the form that we want them to be. We use our minds, our hearts, our hands–and it can be a struggle. But if we’re committed, we don’t give up. We keep our eyes on the end results, the beauty of our finished creation.

The is the way God works, too. We begin as a thought in the mind of God. He brings us into being, and tends us, never separating from us—though we can, and often do, separate from Him. He molds us by His hand, through the joyful and sorrowful events of our lives, into the loving people we are meant to be.

The word which came to Jeremiah from the Lord saying, “Arise and go down to the potter’s house, and there I will announce My words to you.” Then I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was, making something on the wheel. But the vessel that he was making of clay was spoiled in the hand of the potter; so he remade it into another vessel, as it pleased the potter to make.

Then the word of the Lord came to me saying, “Can I not, O house of Israel, deal with you as this potter does?” declares the Lord. “Behold, like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in My hand…Jeremiah 18:1-6

At times in our lives, the hands of God do not seem gentle, and we are in mental or physical pain–i.e we are suffering. And we don’t want to suffer–who does? But God does allow suffering. He doesn’t cause it, but He allows it to be used for some purpose in our life. Some purpose we may know nothing about at the time.

One way to get through painful times is to picture ourselves, as Jeremiah did, as clay in the hands of the potter. And, just as we do when we create something ourselves, to keep our thoughts on the end results.