Look for that pillow…

January 4, 2023

One of the many emails with inspirational quotes that I get each day contained this quote – “Let gratitude be the pillow upon which you kneel to say your nightly prayer.” (Maya Angelou)

I love the vision that Angelou is able to paint in that quote, but I question the timeline of it. I think one would do better to start each ay kneeling on that pillow of gratitude. After all, God just gave you another day. Being thankful for that gift to start your day will put you in the best frame of mind to make the most of the day.

The visualization of kneeling in prayer, whether you physically do it or not, establishes the proper attitude of thankfulness, contrition, and hope for the day ahead or to look back on the day just passed. Being first thankful for another day kicks off a series of thoughts about all of the things for which you should be grateful. You may surprise yourself with how long that list is, when you stop to think about it.

So. Whether you are stopping to pray in the morning or at the end of the day, search first for that pillow of gratitude. Express that gratitude and let the warm feeling that come with it wash over you and you will feel less disappointment, anger or hurt if things do not (or did not) turn out as you had hoped.

You made it to or through another day, and, with God’s help, you will get another chance tomorrow. Be grateful for that. Look for that pillow.


Listen to your inner voice…and let it happen

December 16, 2022

I’m not sure where I saved this quote from, but it appealed to me this morning – “The inner life of a human being is a vast and varied realm.” (Edward Hooper)

There’s probably a quote somewhere about the advice that we often hear being given to noisy and loud children to “use your inside voice”. Our inside (inner) voices are those that we use and listen to in our “inner life”; the vast and varied realm that happens inside our heads. You sometimes hear someone ask, “Did I just say that out loud?” They forgot to use their inner voice for the thoughts that they were having in their inner life and said them out loud.

Another quote that I saved, from the Jack’s Winning Words blog also seems to fit here – “Sometimes my feelings creep out of my eyes and roll down my cheeks.”  (Sent by Jackie Beach)

Those times are times when some portion of your inner world gets out in public. Emotions are very big in the inner world and most of the time we try very hard not to let them get out so that others can see. Stifling emotions like anger and rage are probably good things, but it is important to let out our emotions like love or regret or sadness. Stifling them in the name of stoicism can lead to a cold, lonely existence.

Sometimes the inner you and the “you” that the public sees are in sync, especially in times of great fear. When your inner voice is crying out in fear, to whom do you turn? During those times another post from the Jack’s Winning Words blog from December 13, 2022,  seems most appropriate –

“When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.”  (Psalm 56:3)  Some people scream or gasp when they’re frightened.  Some cross themselves.  Others reach out to hug someone.  A child will grab the hand of a parent.  Joan Baez sang, “Put your hand in the hand of the man who calmed the sea.”  By that, she meant what the psalmist meant…“When I’m scared, I put my trust in the Lord.”  During life’s scary times, God’s hand is reaching out for yours.  Take it! 

Our inner life is the place from which we most often converse with God and the place where he most often answers us. We read in the Bible – The Lord knows all man’s thoughts (1 Chronicles 28:9). It just makes sense that God can also enter those thoughts to provide answers to our questions or encouragement and support in our times of fear or remorse.  We just need to listen for God’s quiet inner voice (some call it our conscience) and put our faith in what He tells us. Of course, it helps if we surrender to that advice by saying with our inner or outer voice, “Not my will but thy will be done.” For many the ritualistic act of praying provides the quiet break that they need in order to hear the inner voice of God.

So, take some time each day to pray and listen for and to your inner voice. Take God’s hand during that time and then let it happen.


Make the choice yourself…

November 29, 2022

I got this graphic in a daily inspirational email…

One of the first thoughts that came to mind as I look at this is how many people decide to be victims. I’m sure that you know some people like that. These are the people whom “the world is out to get.” Their misfortunes are never their fault. They are just the victims of circumstances or of conspiracies against them. They are people for whom the mantra “Poor Me” was invented.

But, as Emerson pointed out, it was never pre-ordained that become victims…they willed that upon themselves. We all have choices in life, and we all make those choices. For some the easiest choice is just to decide that success was not to be for them. They settle into the comfort of being the victim. For others the choice to quit, to give up and give in is a non-starter. They chose to endure the pain of setbacks or failures in a never-ending pursuit of their goals.

It is hard to imagine that one can become satisfied in seeing themselves as a loser – a victim. Emerson tells us that the decision is ours to make.  Winners in life have decided not to be victims. They have decided to be a winner, no matter what. They may finish 2nd or third in the race and still feel good if they’ve achieved a personal best or at least know in their hearts that they gave it their best shot – for this time.  They will be back to compete again and again in pursuit of the goal of winning. For them, it is as much about the journey as it is about the destination.

Life is not all about winning races or achieving goals. Oft times it is about how you play the game, how you live your life. At the end of each day, ask yourself if you are happy about how you lived that day, the decisions that you made and the trajectory that you are on. If you are not happy, then remember Emerson’s advice and decide to make changes that will get you back onto the path that you want for your life.

Make your life what you want it to be. It really is up to you. I often use this line in my prayers – “help me make good decisions today”. I find that combining that with the prayer, “Not my will but thy will be done”, puts me in the frame of mind to accept the responsibility for my life and puts me back in control of who I want to become. Try it, maybe you’ll find that it helps you, too.

Become the person that you want to be.


Who lost sight of who?

October 13, 2022

A September post to the Jack’s Winning Words blog used this quote-

“Thank you, Lord for seeing me.  It’s so easy to get lost these days in the shuffle and the noise.”    (George Beverly Shea song)

My immediate thought was, who really got lost? It wasn’t God who lost track of you; it was you who let the noises of the day distract you away from God. Thankfully God never loses track of us and is always there when we need Him.

This morning as I was scrolling through the daily news feed that shows up on my computer, I noticed a story about God being in our DNA, or at least the concept of God being inherent in humans. It went into a deep scientific explanation of the very universal human tendency to come to a conclusion that God exists. One has only to Google the question, “Does God exist” to see the vast library of articles and scientific papers that have been written on the topic.

Of course, the faster way to answer that question is to get down on your knees and ask God directly. Once you empty your mind of all other thoughts and block out the noise of the world, the whisper in the back of your mind that is God’s way of communicating with you becomes clear.

So, take some time each day to just stop the shuffle and block out the noise of the world and just talk to God. Let down your shields, turn off your ego, drop the pretense of being in charge of things and say the little prayer, “Not my will but thy will be done”. God sees you. God hears you. Listen and you will also hear Him.

Have a great day. You’re in good hands and it’s not Allstate.


What now?

September 7, 2022

Today’s quote is from author Ann Patchett’s self-inspired essay “What Now?” — the work in which these reaffirming words appear – Just because things hadn’t gone the way I had planned didn’t necessarily mean they had gone wrong.

Many people spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about or planning things that are to come, as if they really have control over what is to happen. They don’t. At best, they have control over how they react to things that are yet to come. So, considering alternative course of action, based upon plausible scenarios is not a complete waste of time, maybe just not the best use of your time.

Some also waste time looking back on things that have just occurred and regretting decisions that have already been made and cannot be undone. Regret is a terrible waste of time. Better that one should spend time trying to learn from past mistakes, so they do not make them again.

Perhaps you can make the most of your time by starting each day with the little prayer, “Not my will but thy will be done”. That little prayer takes the burden of the events of the day off your shoulders by admitting to yourself that you are not in control of them and surrendering them to God’s will.

Next, take back ownership of the only thing that you do control by praying, “Lord, help me make good decisions today.” It is how you decide to react to the event of your day and the decisions that you make when things occur that will make the day a good thing or not.

If you start each day that way, you’ll be ready for “What Now”.  Try it.


Take the first step…

October 28, 2021

It is interesting that the graphic with the quote from J.P. Morgan seems to be showing a way out of a dark place. Many people find themselves in a dark place. It really doesn’t matter how they got there; what matters is how they can get out of that place and go on with life. The other interesting thing is that Morgan’s quote is that it places the responsibility for getting out of that place squarely on the shoulders of the person themselves – they have to decide that they don’t want to be there anymore. That may seem like a no-brainer decision; however, some people actually like being miserable, or so it seems.

So, if you have grown tired of being miserable or depressed and decided to get out of whatever dark place you have been in, how do you do that? For one, make sure that you don’t keep repeating the same mistakes that have kept you there for this long. There is a saying that equates that repetition with an expectation of a different outcome to insanity and you aren’t insane – just frustrated and perhaps out of options that you can think of to resolve your dilemma.

Here’s the first secret to finding your way out – it’s not your fault. In fact, it’s not your responsibility to solve whatever conundrum is confronting you. Your responsibility is to find the best way to live through that conundrum. Not being able to resolve or control all of the problems that life throws at you does not constitute failure. The failure that leads to those dark places is not being able to deal with that truth and move on.

Now, here’s the other secret to finding your way out – you are not alone. The feeling of being alone in that dark place and having no one to turn to is frightening. But you have never been alone, and you are not alone now. God has been with you all the time, standing right behind you and waiting for you to ask for his help. There is a line in the confessions of faith that we use every week in my church that says, “There is nowhere that you can go that God cannot find you.” No matter how far down you have fallen and how dark the pit seems to you, God will find you there if you but ask.

Asking God for his help does not have to involve long elaborate prayers. I’ve mentioned the line from many sports situations that goes, “A little help here.” That works when earnestly said to God. I also have posted here several times the little prayer that works for me, “Not my will but thy will be done.” That’s works, too. The real secret is asking and then embracing God’s help in your life. Use either one in an earnest appeal to God for help and see if the weight isn’t lifted from your shoulders.

You may ask, “Is it really that simple? I ask God for help and then my problems go away?” The answer is that it is really that simple and then you start dealing with your problems. They don’t go away you just move through them and past them and go on with life.

So, like the graphic above says, decide that you don’t want to be in that dark place anymore and take the first step – ask for God’s help. You will see the light and the way out.

A little help here.


Are you ready for chance?

July 24, 2021

Today’s quote come from a post of quotes that I saw recently on the Internet. I’m not sure what you will think about when you read it, but I immediately thought of pilot Sully Sullenberger being prepared when his plane lost both engines shortly after takeoff.

“Chance favors only the prepared mind.” – Louis Pasteur

During interviews following the incident, Sullenberger said that he had been preparing all of his life for just such a chance occurrence and that this mental preparation just kicked in when it happened. I wonder how many other airline pilots spend much time thinking about what they would do if their plane was suddenly disabled? I suspect that quite a few have thought about that scenario since Sully landed his plane in the Hudson River.

I have posted here before about being ready to deal with the unexpected things that can happen in life. A major part of that preparedness is having the ability to not panic, to give yourself time to think, to analyze the situation and to formulate a proper response. That sounds like a lot to do in a split-second situation, but the prepared human mind is capable of amazing things.

We are told that a natural response to a threat is “fight or flight” to lash out in defensive response or to duck or run. Perhaps the better way to phrase the response choices is “react and then think” or “think and then react”. If you can train yourself to have the latter response to chance you will make better decisions and fair better when the unknow happens to you.

Chance happenings don’t always involve unexpected bad things. Sometimes chance puts us in a position for good things to happen and we must be ready to take advantage of those things, too. There are those who believe that good things happen to those who go through life in a positive frame of mind. There is probably something to that, but it may be because those people were already looking for the chance to have good things happen. They actually take some of the chance out of the picture by moving towards the good things.

So, how does one prepare their mind for the randomness of chance? It begins by having confidence in yourself and developing a pattern or system for dealing with problems in life. Some may call it their coping mechanism. For many that coping mechanism is based upon their faith. Faith may also provide a solid foundation for self-confidence. Faith provides a moral foundation for making quick decisions that can guide our reactions to various situations – the right and wrong of that decision making.

Faith may also allow us to make the quick call on whether the situation at hand is even one that we can actually  try to handle or whether it is “in God’s hands”.  We can waste a lot of time and energy trying to fix or react to something that is beyond our control or our ability to control.  The sooner that we come that decision the quicker we can refocus upon the only things that we can control – our reaction to the event.

Maybe before you start out each day (your take-off, so to speak), you can ask God to help you be ready for the chance occurrences of the day, to think before you react and to give you the wisdom and courage to deal with whatever occurs. Maybe just asking Him to be with you during the day will put you in the right frame of mind to deal with chance in your day.  Remember what we have been told – “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” – Philippians 4:13

Chance really cannot stand against those who have prepared their minds through prayer. They can say with confidence, “Bring it on, I’m prepared for you.”

Are you ready for chance?


Never stop dreaming – Never stop flying

July 21, 2021

I happened upon today’s quote while searching for something else recently.

1936 photo by Carl Van Vechten

Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.
 “Dreams”
by Lanston Huges

[From Wikipedia] James Mercer Langston Hughes (February 1, 1901 – May 22, 1967) was an American poet, social activist, novelist, playwright, and columnist from Joplin, Missouri. One of the earliest innovators of the literary art form called jazz poetry, Hughes is best known as a leader of the Harlem Renaissance.

It is hard to imagine what it must be like for a bird that cannot fly, because of a broken wing. When flight comes as natural to you as breathing, to have that suddenly taken away must be a frightening and confusing thing. The bird is still alive, but not really “alive” because it cannot fly.

If we cannot dream of a better tomorrow, we become like that bird. Perhaps we lose all hope because we cannot see that better tomorrow in our dreams. People suffering from depression experience that feeling because they can see no way out of the situation that they find themselves in. They sink into despair because they have lost the ability to dream of a better time. They cannot fly on the wings of their imagination.

Most of us don’t sink into despair, but we may occasionally get so wrapped up in our day-to-day lives that we don’t take time to dream – we lose sight of our hopes for a better day tomorrow. I saved this quote from a cartoon character and it seems to fit –

 “Learn from yesterday, live for today, look to tomorrow, rest this afternoon.”

— Charlie Brown, from “Peanuts,” on pacing

Maybe Charlie Brown could have added something about taking time to dream while you are resting.

Rest is certainly important, so that we don’t burn out physically; however, taking time to dream, to have hopes for tomorrow, is also important so that we don’t burn out mentally.

Taking time to pray each day can provide a great setting in which to take that break from the stresses of your day-to-day life and set aside a moment for yourself to dream of a better tomorrow. Then you can ask God for the perseverance to never lose sight of those dreams and continue to pursue them. Perhaps that prayer will be the only step you take today towards realizing those dreams, but it is a step in the right direction and it keeps the dream alive.

So, don’t allow yourself to become like a broken winged bird. You can still dream. Keep your dreams alive. Keep your hopes alive. Keep your faith alive.

Take some time to pray and dream today. Someday soon you will fly again.


We need more dance numbers…

July 20, 2021

I appreciate the wisdom often found in the comics. The cartoonists often find ways to say things that I might have thought about but not found the words to express. Such is today’s quote.

Calvin: They say the world is a stage. But obviously the play is unrehearsed and everybody is ad-libbing his lines.

Hobbes: Maybe that’s why it’s hard to tell if we’re living in a tragedy or a farce.

Calvin: We need more special effects and dance numbers.

— Calvin and Hobbes, from “Calvin & Hobbes,” on the tragicomedy of life

Yes, life is unrehearsed, and we are all ad-libbing as we go along. Most of us aren’t living in either a tragedy or a farce; although, if one pays attention there is much in life that one can find amusing, even farcical.

Life seldom swings to the extremes of tragedy or farce and it can seem a little tame or boring at times. Nature often supplies the special effects these days, usually with tragic results. What we really need are more dance numbers – things that make us happy and inclined to dance.

I have opined here a few times on letting go of the things that trouble us by taking them to God in prayer. I recommend adding to your prayers the simple little line, “not my will but thy will be done.” Why? Because that simple thought frees us from the self-imposed burden of solving every problem or concern that besets us. It allows us to accept what may have already happened and face what is yet to be with a confident sense of God’s presence in our lives. We are not alone. We do not have to try to solve every problem by ourselves. God is with us.

Once you have lifted that burden off your shoulders, you can cue the band and enjoy a dance number. God does not want you to be unhappy. Instead, He wants you to celebrate life and be happy. We read in Ecclesiastes 2:26 – “To the person who pleases Him, God gives wisdom, knowledge and happiness…”

OK, so it doesn’t say anything about dance numbers. You be happy your way and I’ll continue to happily dance away. Life needs more of that.

Thanks be to God.


Are you facing the wrong direction?

July 17, 2021

Many of the cartoons that we read in the newspapers or elsewhere carry more than just entertainment value with them. Cartoonists can be philosophers in their own right and many use their cartoons to deliver great life messages and advice. I recently stumbled upon a site with quotes derived from cartoons and saved a few of them for this blog. One that focused upon attitude from the cartoon “Ziggy” caught my attention –

“Just remember… if things look hopeless, maybe you’re facing the wrong direction!”— Ziggy

How true is that! Hopelessness means that you have turned away from your dreams and ambitions and are staring in the direction of despair. Hopelessness is a sense of abandonment, which means that even God is not there with you. But how can that be? In Matthew 28:20 Jesus said, “I will be with you always, to the end of the age.” If you cannot see Jesus there with you, maybe you are facing the wrong direction.

So, if Jesus is with us, how can we be hopeless? Perhaps we have turned away from Jesus and looked for solutions to our problems within ourselves. When the problems that we face are too large for us to resolve, what are we to do? Maybe you are facing the wrong direction.

The truth is that things are going to happen in life that we have no control over. What we do have control over is how we react to those things. Do we let the situations of life overcome us or do we find a way to go on with life? Maybe we are facing the wrong direction.

We do not have to understand why things happen nor is it up to us to find solutions for every problem that we face. Sometimes the only “solution” is to accept that something happened that you cannot control and move on. Maybe you are facing the wrong direction.

What are we to do about all these things? We can find the answer in the Bible – “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 4:6-7

Is the peace that surpasses all understanding the answer or solution to all of life’s problems? No. But, it is the answer to how we react to those problems. That peace allows us to accept and deal with whatever life throws at us. If you find that you cannot be at peace and deal with life, perhaps you are facing the wrong direction.

Do not stare into the abyss of hopelessness and despair. Turn back to God in prayer and turn your life around. You’ve just been facing the wrong direction.