Hope supplies the light…

January 5, 2022

I’ve has these two quotes in my saved file for a while and they just seem to go together –

“However vast the darkness, we must supply our own light.” (Stanley Kubrick)

“Hope is the feeling we have that the feeling we have is not permanent”.  (Mignon McLaughlin)

Kubrick’s quote points out that we must find our own way our of the darkness of sorrow or anger or despair – the things that plunge us into darkness.

I wrote a few years back about four candles – Peace, Love, Faith and Hope – and how one by one they were extinguished until only the candle of Hope remained burning (see https://normsmilfordblog.com/2014/01/27/where-there-is-hope-there-can-never-be-complete-darkness-2/).

Our lives can seem like the candles sometimes, especially when jarring events snuff out the candle of Peace or the unexpected loss of a loved one causes the candle of Love to flicker out. Sometimes it is all too easy to allow events to overcome us and so we lose sight of the candle of our Faith. In those times all we have is the candle of Hope to show us the way our of the darkness.

If we can get to the point that McLaughlin mentioned, where we realize that the darkness we are in is not permanent by holding out hope for a better tomorrow, we can start to reignite the other candles in our lives.

Recent events in the U.S. and around the world have provided vivid images of people who have lost everything or endured unimaginable hardships and yet still cling to hope. Out of that hope many have expressed their faith that things will get better, and that life will go on. Most often they express gratitude that they still have their loved ones and state that they will rebuild their lives and their homes. They know that the feelings of loss and despair that they may have at that moment will not last.

You do not have to suffer a disaster to be plunged into a dark place. For some, mental illness takes them to those places often. No matter how you got there, the candle of Hope is the way out. Keep Hope burning in your life and let its light show you the way out of the darkness. Peer into the darkness with the light of Hope and you will see God standing there with the candle of Faith ready to be reignited.

Faith is most often the first candle to be relit by Hope. Hope illuminates God as our guide out of our funk and allows us to ask God for His help.

Once you have the candle of Faith burning in your life again it becomes possible to relight the candle of Love and to once again allow the candle of Peace to guide your way through life.

Hold on to Hope…it supplies the light in the darkness.


What’s in you?

October 30, 2021

A daily quote that I get from somewhere (who knows how one gets on these email lists) struck a chord with me yesterday –

All the ill that is in us comes from fear, and all the good from love. (Eleanor Farjeon)

One needs to think a bit about the broad generalizations in Farjeon’s statement. There are lots of emotions or feelings that one can have about things in life, but they do all boil down to either fearing or loving whatever it is that has evoked those reactions. Even the strong negative (ill) emotion of anger is motivated deep down by fear.

It is a worthwhile exercise to explore and try to identify the root causes of regret, anger or anxiety in your life. Why? Because it forces you to confront those fears and allows you to overcome them. Cutting through the emotional layers of fear allows one to focus upon the thing that is driving the fear – the upcoming decision or event or, maybe, the person that we fear facing.

Then, instead of allowing your imagination to explore all of the possible negative outcomes (something that it is very good at), you can instead use your imagination to visualize the desired outcome. Professional golfers use that visualization technique all of the time to “see” the successful outcome of their next shot. You don’t imagine that they stand there “seeing” their next shot going in the water or into a trap. No. Instead they “see” their shoe landing softly on the green and rolling towards the cup. Why would you spend time visualizing failure rather than “seeing” yourself being successful in whatever challenges you are facing.

So, where is the love (the good) in all of this? Using the same logic as I espoused for analyzing the fears in your life, you can backtrack the love side to find its core, too. If you have been able to visualize your success in whatever is facing you, it is easy to take the step of loving what it is that you see yourself doing. From there it is a small, but important step to love yourself for having the courage to be successful. If you can love who you are and what you are about to do, you can then admit to yourself that you could not have done it alone and acknowledge and embrace the love of God that gave you that courage.

So, at the heart of the love in your life is God’s love for you and all the rest of the good (the love) radiates out from that core, like the ripples in a pool of water when you toss in a rock. For at the core of all fears is the fear of death and those who believe in God know that Jesus has saved us from death and promised eternal life. Allow me the latitude to paraphrase Romans 8:31 – “If God is with us, what is there left to fear?”

Love God, be fearless and life will be good. What’s in you?


Are you all-in?

October 7, 2021

A couple of quotes that I picked up from the Jack’s Winning Words blog just seem to fit together this morning –

“Love is, or it ain’t.  Thin love ain’t love at all.  (Tori Morrison)

“Ya either got faith or ya got unbelief and there ain’t no neutral ground.” (Bob Dylan)

Jack used the first quote today and commented on recalling “thin soup” from his life during The Great Depression, which extra water was added to soup pots to thin out the soup and make it go farther. Thin love, or watered-down love, he opined is as unsatisfying as thin soup. The Dylan quote he used some time ago in another post and he commented on the inability to have partial faith in God.

It is not possible to say that you believe in and love God only some of the time. However, what sometimes happens those who believe, is that they get distracted and wander away from God from time to time. Jesus told a parable about sheep that occasionally wandered away from the flock and how the good shepherd searched for those sheep to bring them back into the flock.

The events of life can distract us and cause us to wander away from our faith. We may become too focused on success in our work life and begin to ignore both our family and our faith. Perhaps we get so wrapped up in the secular events of our family, like sports practices and games, that we abandon our churches and temporarily lose sight of our faith. In some cases of the loss of a loved one, we may become overwhelmed by grief or remorse or even anger and turn away from God. That is the “How could God let this happen” reaction to a personal tragedy.

But the words of Morrison and Dylan provide the answer to our questions and the relief of our pain. If you love God and believe in him, but have wandered off; let the good shepherd, Jesus, find you and lead you back to the flock. Just like in a poker game, you must play the hand that you’ve been dealt in life, so either fold (not a good option at all) or go all-in with your faith. There is no thin love for, or partial belief in, God; you either got it or you ain’t. If you got it, let Jesus find you through all of life’s challenges and lead you back to the flock.

Are you all-in?


Free yourself…

August 21, 2021

I saw this quote recently in a daily email of inspirational quotes that I somehow got on the mailing list to receive.  

“Forgiveness is just another name for freedom.” – (Byron Katie}

One may be excused for not immediately associating freedom with forgiveness. However, if you think about it for a while, the inability to forgive, whether it be forgiving someone who has wronged us in some way or forgiving ourselves for our own mistakes, holds us captive to the bitterness and pain from which we cannot free ourselves.

If, or once, we find it in our hearts to forgive, we are free to go on with life, unencumbered by the baggage of past transgressions, whether by us or against us.

We can find the advice to forgive others in the Lord’s Prayer, where we are admonished to forgive the transgressions (sins or trespasses are terms also used)  of others as God forgives our transgressions. It is in accepting that God forgives us that we also find the reason to forgive ourselves and free ourselves to move on in life.

Forgiving others is sometimes not easy, especially if it is still close in time to whatever the incident was that needs to be forgiven. Sometimes there is an initial reaction of shock to some slight, rejection or wrong that we perceive has been done to us. That is usually quickly replaced by anger. We get mad at someone or maybe at ourselves. We seek someone to blame for what has happened. Hopefully those reactions dissipate quickly, and we can start to think rationally.

There is no way forward along the paths of hate or disappointment that does not lead to further hate or even to depression.  The only way forward that leads to a better life is to forgive. The forgiveness path replaces hate with love. Forgiving does not equate to forgetting, it just means putting the incident in proper perspective and making the choice not to continue down the paths of hate or disappointment. If God can forgive you for your mistakes, surely you can forgive others for theirs or yourself for those same mistakes. If you can reach that point, it is a short journey down that path to get to love for those same people or for yourself.

I know of no greater example of this than the forgiveness that the survivors of the racial massacre of nine worshipers at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C. in 2015. After the initial shock of the heinous act by Dylann Roof wore off, the survivors found it in their hearts to forgive him and even to pray for him. They freed themselves from the fears and hate of that incident and found a way to share God’s love.

Let us hope that none of us are involved in anything so horrific. Let us also strive to put whatever smaller incidents have taken place in our lives into perspective and move as quickly as we can to forgiveness, so that we, too, can be free.

Forgive…Free yourself.


Don’t blow air kisses…

August 3, 2021

Pastor Freed used a quote in his blog, Jack’s Winning Words, that made me think this morning – “Love is, or it ain’t.  Thin love ain’t love at all.”  (Toni Morrison) 

Actually, his daily quotes always make me think and I suspect that this is what Jack has in mind when he posts them. Freed used the example of thinning out soup by adding more water during the Great Depression and talked about spreading one’s love to thin or over too many people.

My thoughts turned to people who blow air kisses your way when they meet you or exchange those faux kisses to both cheeks. They are going through the motions of expressing love, but that is all that it is – just going through the motions. Don’t blow air kisses…

Many people blow air-kisses our way, but it is thin love that they are expressing, meaningless love at best. I think that is the important distinction. One can, in fact spread real love around to many people, but it is critical that it is real, heartfelt love and not just air kisses. I believe God gives us an infinite amount of that kind of love to share, just as He shares His infinite love for us. However, we will not have that feeling about everyone that we encounter. Why is that? Don’t blow air kisses…

Maybe the answer lies in thinking about love as an unconditional sharing of ourselves with others. The things that keep us from sharing our love unconditionally are our fears, pre-conceived notions, and prejudices. We allow these things build barriers around us that prevent our love from being shared. We blow air kisses to those people for whom we cannot seem to feel real love. Sometimes that may make us feel uncomfortable, but far too often we feel self-righteous about not sharing ourselves with “those people”.  Don’t blow air kisses…

We may rationalize our inability to share our love with certain people s a defensive mechanism to keep us safe. In fact, it is not so much keeping us safe from them as it is keeping us from sharing ourselves with them and experiencing the love that they have to share in return. We may feel safer for having withdrawn from them, but we are also poorer for having missed the experience of sharing love with them. Don’t blow air kisses…

Perhaps we can make a better effort to overcome our fears and prejudices by asking God to take away those fears and allow us to experience with others the unconditional love that He shares with us. We may never get to that level of unfettered love with all other people, but our lives will be so much richer if we can get a few more of those prejudices out of the way and allow ourselves to experience the sharing of love with more people. Don’t worry, you won’t run out of love the more you share it. God has lots more for you where that came from. Just remember – Don’t blow air kisses…


You decide…

June 18, 2021

“One day, or Day One?  You decide!”  (Paulo Coelho) 

That was Pastor Freed’s quote of the day in his blog, Jack’s Winning Words, today. He used it to discuss pursuing one’s goals and dreams for tomorrow. To me it seemed to pair well with another quote that I found and saved recently –

“No matter what troubles have befallen you or what difficulties you have caused yourself or others, with love for yourself you can change, grow, make amends, and learn… Real love does not encourage you to ignore your problems or deny your mistakes and imperfections. You see them clearly and still opt to love.” — Sharon Salzberg

I have posted here a few times about love for oneself being critical in life. I have also opined that love for oneself begins by accepting the forgiveness and love of God.

Most of us spend way too much time beating ourselves up for mistakes that we make. We second guess and agonize about what might have been. We find it hard to let go of the past and accept its influence on the present and our future.

We are told in the Bible that if we accept Christ into our lives – “This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!” – (2 Corinthians 5:17)

None of us is perfect. We all make mistakes, some more serious than others; however, all of us are given another chance to repent and return to God. If we turn to God, ask for His forgiveness and then ACCEPT that forgiveness, we can once again love ourselves and make this Day One of our new lives, instead of just another day of regret and sadness.

When that happens in your life, it is Day One of the new you, that is a you that God loves and a new you that you can love. If you can get there, you can begin loving others, too.

So, is this just another day in a life that is not what you hoped it would be or not something that you are proud of or is this Day One of a new life that you can feel good about. Ask God to make this your Day One.

You decide.


Choose love instead…

May 10, 2021

In his blog, Jack’s Winning Words, today, Pastor Freed used this quote – “Love is the big booming beat which covers up the noise of hate.”  (Margaret Cho)  Cho is an Asian-American comedian, who may joke about the current anti-Asian hate campaign, but who knows that it is no laughing matter.

Posted on my side lawn is a sign with a quote from Martin Luther King Jr. – “I chose love because hate is too big a burden to bear.”

Jesus said that we should love one another as he loved us and he didn’t specify race, ethnicity or any other criteria for sharing that love.

Ignorance and gullibility provide the fertile ground in which hate grows. No intelligent person could listen to the messages of hate and accept them as reasonable.

There was a show on TV recently that delved into the rise of Hitler in Germany. One of the points made during the telecast was that in any other setting Hitler would have been recognized as the crazy maniac that he was and would have been put into an asylum. Instead, the show pointed out, the German people of that day were hungry for any message of hope, even one based upon hate and discrimination against the Jews; so, instead, they allowed Hitler to turn Germany into an asylum that he ruled.

One might question if America is today allowing social media to influence our decisions and actions in divisive and hateful ways. That is a question that was explored on the TV show 60-Minutes on Sunday. The show set up two of its producers with fake Facebook accounts, one with an obvious liberal bent and one characterized as having an obviously conservative tone. The two were allowed to start following 1-2 other conservative Facebook influencers as a “seed” to see what might happen. Within days the posts in both Facebook accounts had diverged to the right and left extremes and hate was being spewed forth from posts made by both sides. The point that they were trying to prove (and did) was the overbearing influence that social media can have on us all through the biases and hate that it promotes.

 You don’t have to be on Facebook or Twitter for very long to see the hate coming from both sides of the political spectrum. You might even be intelligent enough to recognize it for what it is and unfriend or stop following those who promote hate and conspiracy theories. However, many are not able to discern what they see and read as false and hateful, so they repost or reinforce those posts out of ignorance and their own hate.

What are we to do? We are to love one another as Jesus loved us. One of the things I have learned in life is not to rise to the bait of hate. Hate needs others to hate along with it. Hate encourages others to follow and reinforce it; otherwise, it dies the ignominious death that it deserves. Nothing turns hate away faster that to return love instead of more hate. Countering hate with love allows an opening for reason to creep back into the conversation and nothing dissolves hate faster than reason.

So, take Martin Luther King Jr’s advice and chose love instead of hate. A position taken on matters out of love is a much easier place from which to defend one’s words and actions – it is the high ground. It’s not so much that love covers up hate. It is much more like love is the Tums or Zantac of life that neutralizes hate. Do let hate become the cause of heartburn in your life. Chose love instead and be heartburn free.

Have a great, loving week ahead.


Be fearless today…

February 6, 2021

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment.” (John 4:18)

The love referred to is this passage I believe is that mutual love between God and man. Those who love God receive God’s love in return and that love drives fear from our lives.

While the passage from John uses the word “punishment”, it is really the fear of death that the love of God drives out of our lives, because we know that Jesus overcome death for all of those who believe in Him. Once one conquers the fear of death, everything else that we might fear is put into perspective and we can become fearless. Once you trust in God to overcome death, how can you not believe in Him to help you with any of your other fears?

This is not to say that believing in God means that those things in your life that you might fear won’t happen; rather, that God will also be there with you as you face those fears. If you believe in Him, He will give you the strength to persevere and overcome those fears.

Being fearless due to your faith does not mean being reckless or stupid about what you do. One doesn’t jump off a tall building and say on the way down, “God will protect me.” A part of being fearless is making good decisions; decisions that are not based solely upon fear. Perhaps one should add to their morning prayers this request: “God help me make good decisions today by taking fear out of my life and replacing it with trust in You.”

In many of the computer games that are so popular there are things in the game that one may find to recharge or restore an injured character. These are sometimes called Golden Apples. In the games you can see the character’s strength restored, sometimes with a little on-screen strength meter. In our regular lives, touching base with God is our Golden Apple.

So, start today and each day by touching base with God and re-charging your faith. You’ll see your fearlessness meter go up when you do and you’ll be ready to face whatever the day throws at you.  

Love God and remember, “There is no fear in love.”

Be fearless today!


What would you save?

July 25, 2020

A recent post to the Jack’s Winning Words blog used this quote – “We live in a perpetually burning building, and what we must save from it all the time is love.”  (Tennessee Williams)

Williams’ comparison of life to a burning building may be a bit dramatic; but, it serves the purpose of asking the question, “what is important to you…what would you save?”

When people who have faced a disaster like a fire or a flood  are interviewed on TV they are often asked what they took with them from their homes. Aside from pets, the answers most often given concern family pictures or other memorabilia that related to family, such as a family Bible. Those are objects that relate to the history of the family. As the interview goes deeper and looks to the future the love that was salvaged from the disaster is most often mentioned – loved ones who were spared and the love of the town or area in which they reside. It is hard for some to understand why someone who has been flooded out multiple time continues to want to rebuild and go on living in that same location. Simply put, they love it there.

The perpetually burning building that we find ourselves in today is fueled by the Corona Virus Pandemic. Everything has changed, yet all is still physically the same. The flames of this disaster have signed our lifestyles and destroyed most of the patterns and traditions that we enjoyed. Having stripped away almost everything else that we used to do, the flames of this virus now lick away at our relationships, hoping to also interfere with them. It is most important that we not let that happen; that we remain strong in our love and support for one another, even in cases where we cannot be together.

There is probably not a more poignant scenario than a spouse having  to say goodbye outside a hospital emergency entrance and watching their loved one be wheeled into the building, not knowing if they will ever see them alive again. At that moment, all they have left from the  burning building is their love.

 For most of us, life does not come to that; however, it is important to think about what is important to you and what you would take with you. If you come to any other conclusion than your love for those who are important in your life – parents, siblings, spouses and your children ,friends – I would encourage you to rethink your priorities in life. All of the wealth, possessions or power in the world is not worth losing the love of someone important in your life. Hold on tightly to that most precious possession during this current conflagration.

There is no greater example of love when faced with a life or death choice than God’s decision to let his only son die on a cross, so that we might be saved. If God  loved us so much that he would do that, how can we not heed his commandment to love one another and care for one another? How can we not share that love? We have so many simple ways to show and share that love, like wearing a mask to protect others, practicing good hygiene and social distancing so that we do not spread the virus. The building is on fire. Let’s save and share God’s love.

Let us also not forget that love when those who refuse to take the recommended measures to protect others confront us. They, perhaps more than anyone in a mask, need to see God’s love in action. Turn the other cheek and offer them a mask. If they refuse that, tell them that you will pray for them. If they scoff at that, tell them that you see that you will have to pray harder and wish them well.

The building is burning. What will you save?


Don’t mess with your selfie…

April 3, 2020

In a recent post to his blog, Jack’s Winning Words,  pastor Jack freed used this quote – “The easiest thing in the world to be is you.  The most difficult thing to be is what other people want you to be.  Don’t let them put you into that position.”  (Leo Buscaglia)

So, why is so hard for some  to just be yourself? I suspect that it is because we don’t necessarily like what we see when we look at ourselves. We take a mental “selfie” and immediately break out our copy of a virtual Photoshop to try to alter the picture.

For some it is their physical appearance with which they are uncomfortable. That may lead to all sorts of different and sometimes unusual steps to change that appearance. It may involve dying one’s hair bright orange or perhaps just wearing unusual clothes. Maybe it means getting a noose ring or a tattoo. It may even lead to plastic surgery to correct a perceived imperfection.

For others the desire to “fit in” may force dramatic changes in their behavior or lifestyle. If putting on the “uniform” of the group to which one wishes to belong isn’t enough, they change things like their vocabulary and speech patterns or maybe adopt a different lifestyle.

The rationale for making any of these changes is based upon trying to make yourself into something that you are not, to be something that you think other people want you to be. That rationale starts with your own dissatisfaction with what you see when you take that mental selfie. If you cannot love yourself and what you see in that selfie, it is natural to try to find others to emulate, in the mistaken belief that you will be happier being them than you are being you.

Life seldom works out that way. It is not until much later in life that most discover and appreciate the words of Meryl Streep – “What makes you different or weird, that’s your strength.” 

Maybe what you see in your mental selfie looks weird to you, or at least different. Start by embracing that and saying it is OK – it is your strength. In fact, maybe you should find ways to enhance and bring out those differences that make you unique. After all, they are your strength. Instead of being just another clone dressed in the cookie-cutter “uniform” of the crowd, you will stand out as someone with the confidence and strength of character to go their own way in fashion as in life. You might be surprised how attractive that can be.

How do you start to go your own way? Well, it starts with loving yourself and who you are. I’ve posted here about accepting and loving yourself first several times. Rather than spending your time seeking the approval of others, seek first approval of yourself. You must come to the conclusion that I am who I am, I like who I am and I’m not going to change who I am to suit others. The more comfortable you are with yourself, the more comfortable you will be around others. In that comfort within your own skin you will find courage and confidence that will radiate from you and make you the type of person that others enjoy being around.

For some, loving yourself may start with accepting the fact that God loves you just the way yo are. God does not ask or expect you to change. He just loves you and accepts for who you are. After all, He made you what you are and how can you not love that. So, if you can accept the love of God, you should be able to love yourself and then you can go on to love others and be loved by others.

So, it is alright to look in the mirror in the morning and take that mental selfie. The goal should not be to makes changes to be like someone else; but, rather, to be the best you that you can be that day. Embrace the things that make you different. They are your strength. They empower you. Loving yourself will allow others to love you, too.

Today, start by taking that mental selfie and saying – “Hello world. Get a load of this. It’s me. Don’t you just love it? I do.”  The world will be a happier place because you let the real you shine through.