I am learning that when we add to our faith, goodness, we gain encouragement from The Word. WE can add Light to the Darkness.
As I studied some scripture this morning, I was moved by the truth in the book of 2 Peter…It has so many of life’s answers in just a few short verses:
“For this reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, LOVE.
For if you possess THESE qualities in INCREASING measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord, Jesus Christ. But if anyone does not have them, (s)he is nearsighted and blind, and has FORGOTTEN that (s)he has been cleansed from past sins.”
2 Peter 1:5-9
So, today, if you have are asking some difficult questions of LIFE, I hope you will consider these verses as part of the answer He may have for you.
I wonder how much brighter our world might be if we possessed the qualities mentioned in these verses? I believe we could bring LIGHT to our DARK world.
A few years ago, pre-covid, I experienced a dose of DARKNESS to LIGHT on a Saturday night at the 9th annual Atlanta Beltline Lantern Parade. As over 70,000 spectators looked on, hundreds of participants, from all walks of life, carried bright, creative, and colorful lanterns as they marched down the Beltline. These whimsical lights brought smiles, laughter, and community…darkness to light.
I want to share one of my favorite ways to read The Word often, if not daily.
I read a Proverbs of the day, depending on the day of the month. Today, for example, I read Proverbs 24 for September 24th. There are 31 chapters in Proverbs…one for each day of the month! When I read the chapter, I choose one or two verses to consider all day long. I may write them on a 3×5 index card or a post-it note to slip into my purse. I’ve even been known to write them on the palm of my hand to glance at throughout my day.
There is such wisdom and life application in the book of Proverbs.
Billy Graham once said:
” I read five Psalms a day and that teaches me how to get along with God.
I read a chapter of Proverbs a day because that teaches me how to get along with my fellow-man.”
Here is an example of the wisdom that is in today’s Proverbs!
Proverbs 24:32 really spoke to me this morning…”I applied my heart to what I observed and learned a lesson from what I saw.”
Did you know? The words silent and listen have the same six words in them. This verse reminds me to observe more than I talk and learn from what I see. After all, God gave us two ears and one mouth, so we would hopefully listen more than we would speak.
Our past sometimes gets in the way of our vision for the future, doesn’t it? If you and I allow ourselves to dwell on the areas where we’ve failed or on losses and disappointments that have hurt us, we might find it difficult to look forward to the future God has for us.
Just as David dreamed of building a magnificent temple, we can dare to dream of building a new life.
God has our unique layout already drawn up: we just need to follow it by faith. We may be afraid that we will start and fail, but in the words of David, “Be strong and courageous, and do the work.” As someone once said:
“Beginning is half done. In other words, take the first step, it’s the toughest.”
What dreams have we been quietly suppressing? What thoughts have been discouraging you? Keeping these to ourselves only makes life harder. Maybe you’ve been dreaming about building deep friendships or making an impact on your community. Don’t be frightened. When God begins a good work, He is faithful to complete it. If you have a specific prayer concern that you would like for me to join you in, email me at email@example.com or private message me on Facebook. I would be honored to stand with you as you defeat discouragement or chase your dreams.
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.”
Martin Luther King, Jr.
I hope this little time of devotion will encourage us in the days ahead.
P. S. One thing I know for sure is that a new born baby brings a magnificent amount of light into this dark world.
With the end of April 2020 upon us, I am sitting here counting my blessings, naming them one by one. Amidst all of the chaos our world has observed since mid-March, I’ve discovered that having a heart of gratitude is more important than ever before.
As a sixty-something woman, I am grateful for my reliable God, my family, my friends, just to mention three bounties here in my earthly life.
As I ponder this further, I realize that sometimes the basis for gratefulness in my day is because a “spot of sunshine” has come my way.
‘Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.” Alfred Lord Tennyson, British Poet (1809-1892) from his poem “In Memoriam A.H.H.”
Five years ago on November 11, 2013, my Daddy passed away and went to join my Mama. It was Veteran’s Day, which was appropriate since Daddy had served in the U.S. Army Medical Corps in the late 1940s. My five siblings and I came up with the following attributes in reference to our father:
God-inspired, man of character, compassionate, humble, man of stability, respectable, charming, hard worker, steadfast family man, musician, avid fisherman, and beloved physician.
At the age of 93, it was certainly evident to each one of us that he had lived a long and beautiful life. Even so, this has not changed the truth of how much we miss him and our Mama, too. When one loves completely, the “missing” may lessen, but it never goes away. I spoke at Daddy’s funeral and wanted to share with you my words to honor the memory of my beloved father:
Joan’s Eulogy for her Daddy
November 14, 2013
Our father slipped away quietly on Monday, a gorgeous, autumn afternoon. The kind of day that our mom would’ve loved. When author C.S. Lewis’ wife passed away, he was quoted as saying :
“Her absence is like the sky, spread over everything.” C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) quote from his book, A Grief Observed, written in 1960
I believe that is exactly how our Dad felt after our Mama’s brief illness and death in October 2006. In fact, some of us thought Dad may join her in that first year of his bereavement. Perhaps dying of a broken heart. But instead, our strong and courageous father rallied.Daddy continued to play his clarinet for his many grandchildren. He took take daily walks for fitness at nearby Dellinger Park. Dad also resumed his volunteer position of delivering Meals on Wheels to the homebound.
From the time I was a little girl, our big family drove to Savannah Beach every August for our annual family vacation. Often this trip landed on my birthday and I thought that was just part of the plan. A beach birthday trip for Joan and family!
These were always great times! It was wonderful to see Daddy relax and take a break from his busy OB-Gyn solo practice.
When I think about who I am today, and who I am becoming, I think of both my mother and my father. Some of the most important character traits instilled in myself, my brothers, and my sisters are compassion and a strong work ethic. We now observe these same traits and many more in their grandchildren. WE are all thankful for the role model given to us by our parents, and I hope all of us for generations to come will honor their memory with our own lives.
Another life lesson that my father taught me is to have equanimity, a mental or emotional stability or composure, especially under tension or strain; calmness. While I am definitely still learning to practice equanimity, I believe another way to think of this is in Psalm 46:10:
“Be still and know that I am God.”
In closing, I remember how special the fall season has been to our parents, their wedding was on October 21, 1948. Both Mom and Dad have now had their Homegoing in the fall.
I am reminded of one of Dad’s favorite musicians, Frank Sinatra, singing:
“Since you went away the days grow long,And soon I’ll hear old winter’s song.But I miss you, most of all my darling,When autumn leaves start to fall.”
I love you Mama and Daddy, so glad you’re finally back together!
“The Sandwich Technique” is a mindful, sensitive communication strategy which everyone (including sensitive people) can use to transform the relationships with their partner, friends, family, and co-workers.
This technique is not intended to be fake or simply to placate others. Being brutally direct can backfire and make people feel defensive and unable to hear your comments (no matter how useful they are).
When you use The Sandwich Technique, make requests not demands. Then, when you are communicating about a difficult issue, you sandwich the request between two positive statements. It’s a creative way of presenting challenging topics so that others can hear you. Let’s say you need more alone time. First you could say, “I appreciate all your support and I need your help with this.” Then place your request: “It would be great I can take more alone time to decompress. This will help me be even more present with you later.”
You empower your relationships by expressing your needs. Also, relationships thrive on both people feeling accepted. One patient told me, “My husband accepts me as I am. Through his acceptance I have learned to be true to myself.”
We all have issues to resolve in relationships no matter how good the match. To do this, we need to have loving, creative conversations.
The Sandwich Technique is a great way to have an important discussion with someone you care about.
When is the last time you were called to give difficult news to someone or have “that discussion” that you really don’t want to have?
I am very little inclined on any occasion to say anything unless I hope to produce some good by it.
― Abraham Lincoln, 16th President of the U.S.A. (1809-1865)
Our pastor, Dr. Dwight “Ike” Reighard calls it a courageous conversation.
It has also been identified as “the elephant in the room”.
The next time you need to do this, try using the sandwich method. First, make a mental list of positive things you can share with the person you need to speak with and start with one of these. Next, consider how you will say, constructively, what needs to be stated. Finally, going back to your list of positives, end your conversation with one of these.
and voila, you have had the courageous conversation that surely needed to be had and all is well with this vital relationship. “The Sandwich” is a super great way to have that courageous conversation without hurting someone’s feelings.
I hope you will try this the next time you feel it is appropriate to say something that is on your mind.
While it is definitely difficult to choose a favorite month, I have finally decided that October is my best-loved month, for so many reasons. This year, especially, it feels like October has breezed in like an old friend, and boy, do I cherish my long-time friends. With our wedding day, our first-born’s, a sister’s and Dad Page’s birthdays, my parent’s anniversary, and ten years ago on the 24th, my Mama’s home going, October has earned the prize in my heart of hearts. Add the changing of the leaves, football games, fires with s’mores, pumpkins, and the cooler days, and there is even more reason to celebrate life during this Autumn Season!
Now, if someone would just remind the weather forecast that October has arrived!
Here are a few thoughts for you about this special month, an “Ode to October”:
O hushed October morning mild,
Thy leaves have ripened to the fall;
Tomorrow’s wind, if it be wild,
Should waste them all.
The crows above the forest call;
Tomorrow they may form and go.
O hushed October morning mild,
Begin the hours of this day slow.
Make the day seem to us less brief.
Hearts not averse to being beguiled,
Beguile us in the way you know.
Release one leaf at break of day;
At noon release another leaf;
One from our trees, one far away.
Retard the sun with gentle mist;
Enchant the land with amethyst.
For the grapes’ sake, if the were all,
Whose elaves already are burnt with frost,
Whose clustered fruit must else be lost–
For the grapes’ sake along the all.
“Just before the death of flowers,
And before they are buried in snow,
There comes a festival season
When nature is all aglow.”
– Author Unknown
“There is no season when such pleasant and sunny spots may be lighted on, and produce so pleasant an effect on
the feelings, as now in October.”
– Nathaniel Hawthorne
“The leaves fall patiently
Nothing remembers or grieves
The river takes to the sea
The yellow drift of leaves.”
– Sara Teasdale
What are some of your favorite things about this season of change!?!
“Sometimes when you don’t know the answer, live the question.”
Many tried to tell me how I might feel as a first-time grandmother. Most exclaimed that there were no words that could describe this new relationship. I agree. I do have occasional questions about these little ones’ future. Okay, the truth is that my thoughts surround Tripp, Elizabeth and their parents, constantly, lol. Our lives have changed forever since the births of our first two grands: Michael Scott Andrews, lll (Tripp) and Elizabeth Noel Page, respectively on 8/24/18 and 9/7/18. Our grand babies are pictured here during their nightly bath time.
Will they grow strong and will they be brave enough for this tough world we reside in? Will they truly know how much I love and cherish them? How will they face life challenges that are sure to come? What will they be? I find myself praying for Elizabeth and Tripp fervently each day. My Mama did the same for her children, her grands, and her great-grands.
In over six decades of living, I have come to realize many things. More than ever before, I have seen that sometimes the questions that we have in this life do not have answers that are easy to uncover…
WHY did someone have to die so soon?
WHY can’t _____ and _____ get along better?
WHY does this habit have such a strong hold on me?
WHY is this loved one living with a disability?
WHY was my husband unfaithful to me? OR
WHY did my husband die so young leaving me with the children?
FILL IN THE BLANK WITH SOME OF YOUR WHYS:_______________________________
As we journey through life, I think it is important to pray and talk to trustworthy friends, and perhaps even a counselor, about the issues in our lives.
Still, sometimes the answers just don’t come this side of heaven.
So what do we do?
WE LIVE THE QUESTION. We submit ourselves to the truth that we do not know the answer and we live the question, recognizing that the question may always be with us.
In the book CELEBRATION of DISCIPLINE, By, Richard Foster, the author speaks to this on page 111:
“I said that every discipline has its corresponding freedom. What freedom corresponds to submission? It is the ability to lay down the terrible burden of always needing to get our own way. The obsession to demand that things go the way we want them to go is one of the greatest bondages in human society today. People will spend weeks, months, even a lifetime, in a perpetual stew because something did not go as they wished. They will get mad about it. They will act as if their very life hangs on the issue. They may even get an ulcer, develop health problems over it.”
So, today, take a few moments to consider what “questions” have been gnawing at you, and make the choice to simply breathe and live out your days with an understanding that some of the “answers” are not for us to know just now.
“Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.” Dr. Seuss
“You can’t help getting older, but you don’t have to get old.” George Burns
As a now 60-year-old girl, my life these days is full of musings. I am sure this has a lot to do with more than six decades of living gone by, with a variety of sweet memories and sad remembrances. A musing is defined as a period of reflection and thought.
“October is the one month when temperatures moderate in the daytime and invigorate us in the evening. This month and change in the weather is conducive to reflective thought, exhilarating exercise, outdoor labor, charitable endeavor, courtships and pleasant romps with babies and small children.” ~Russell Baker, NYTimes, Ode to October~
Just sitting still for a few minutes on this beautiful October day, my mind wanders back to when our children were small and there was little time to be still and dream. Life was all a whirlwind, active and full.
Our life today, though definitely different, is just as much fun, but only if my husband and I make a conscious effort for it to be so. As true empty nesters, we prepare light evening meals to share followed by a 40 minute walk in our neighborhood or at nearby Kennesaw Mountain. We both enjoy the football season, time with friends, frequent visits to nearby Blue Ridge Lake, and we’re now planning more visits than ever to St. Louis. This weekend we will join our long-time friends, Kelly and Paul Read, along with many others to participate in the 4th Annual “Rails To River” Taylor Read Memorial Bike Ride. Riding eight miles from the trailhead in Abingdon, VA, we will end up at Taylor’s Shelter from the Storms of Life. A shelter, designed by Taylor’s sis, Megan, that is like no other. We always love celebrating Taylor’s life well lived in early October.
With this new season, we are grateful to have one grandchild nearby, Tripp Andrews (now nearly a six-week-old) and Elizabeth Page, who lives with her parents in Missouri (now nearly one month old).
With this new season upon us, we are reminded once again how swiftly the seasons go by.
Both our daughter and our son married high school best friends in 2014, and now both families have grown to include a tiny baby. While our son, Walker and his bride live more than 500 miles away, our daughter, Leah and her husband are nearby. We will celebrate Leah’s 30th birthday this Monday, October 8th! Life is Good. Just as we started our lives as a young family more than 36 years ago, the four of them are beginning theirs.
I have always loved to write. Writing as an adult has helped me and continues to help me face unimaginable fears. Fear stops people from writing. My mind has habitually been an inquisitive one…”why this?” and “why that?”
Writing helps me to seek (and sometimes even find) answers to the big questions of living in this world…questions that most who have a beating heart have, too. Viktor Frankl was one of those who struggled with the big questions as he was in captivity in Auschwitz and Dachau. He penned some of his questions and answers in the beloved book Man’s Search for Meaning. Frankl is known for the quote: “He who has a why to live for can bear with almost any how.”
I have written in my personal journal for the past twenty-five years, since 1989. It is intriguing to go back many years and read documented details of days in the life of our family. If you have never kept a journal, it’s not too late! You may want to consider starting one in 2019. There is no pressure in keeping your own personal account. You can pen a few sentences or a paragraph every three to four days and that will be enough to bring times that have passed back into your memory bank.
“Down here at the sea, early this morning while my family still sleeps. I just read Chapter Five, Oyster Bed, from Lindbergh’s Gift from the Sea. Love her reminders about Middle Age and amazed they are still so applicable today….p. 85 a quote from author Virginia Woolf who meets middle age admitting: ‘Things have dropped for me. I have outlived certain desires…I am not so gifted as at one time seemed likely. Certain things lie beyond my scope. I shall never understand the harder problems of philosophy.” (tho I’m quite sure Walker Page WILL!) DP just finished “When Crickets Cry” by Charles Martin, and really enjoyed it. It was recommended to him by our good friends, Jane Ellen and Sandy, in addition to myself. I hope to do a quick reread of it since it has been 2-3 years since I read it. I really want to discuss it with DP. I’ve also been rereading Gordon Macdonald’s “Ordering your Private World.” Even though it was written in 1984, the message to me here is more important than ever: p.8 “I have discovered that to bring organization to the private world where Christ chooses to live is BOTH a lifelong and a daily matter.”
an excerpt from my journal dated 8/5/11
I write because when I do, I literally lose myself for the time period in which I am writing. I believe that to be a good thing. We can all benefit from a recreational activity that we’re passionate about. Writing is that for me.
Writing involves some time researching whatever I’m choosing to write about. Come what may, I’m interested in researching the whats, the whys, the hows, the whens, and the wheres surrounding a variety of circumstances in life.
I love, love, love reading. Reading is an important and essential part of the writing process. Just ask my husband how many books arrive in our snail mail in a month’s time! I also hang out regularly at our local library. Books fill our shelves and they fill my heart too.
One of my favorite things to write would have to be notes and letters.
I mean U.S. Postal Service letters! (receiving them is nice, too!) My sister, Laura Lea and I frequently mail our thoughts back and forth even though our homes are only 45 miles apart. My friend, Marie, whom I have known for over 3 decades, lives only an hour from my home but we have become regular pen pals over the years and I cherish her newsy notes to me. I definitely got this, like many things, from my dear Mama.
At her funeral in 2006, her pastor asked how many folks in the congregation had ever received a note, card, or letter from Polly…nearly every one of the more than 200 raised their hands. I love to write because the right words can touch a heart and soul.
One can be so encouraged after receiving some hand-written correspondence. If you have a college student in your family, aging parents, or even a young couple who lives out-of-town, consider writing them a personal letter now and then.
“Letters are among the most significant memorial a person can leave behind them.”
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, German playwright, poet, novelist, dramatist (1749-1832)
“There must be millions of people all over the world who never get any love letters…I could be their leader.”
The day was a sunny Sunday morning, March 15, 2015. I walked and walked in the beautiful city of San Diego, California, while my husband, Donny, attended a conference. As I moved along, I hummed a favorite song, seeing the lyrics in my mind: Brave, by Sara Bareilles. Carrying my Bible close to my heart, my plans were to find a Presbyterian Church about one mile from our hotel and worship there at the 11:00 service. I soon discovered that instead, my day would be spent in “a church” on the streets of San Diego and not inside the walls of a building. Heavy-hearted, with my husband’s dear Dad on my mind with his recent hospitalization in the CCU with pneumonia, paired with grief over the very recent passing of the son of our precious friends the Reads, I sat on a bench to rest right outside The Old Spaghetti Factory, at the corner of 5th and K in the Gaslamp District. Weeping quietly, I took this picture of my Bible, my cup of hot coffee, and a San Diego map.
Just after taking this picture, as I glanced to my right, I saw this woman standing alone right next to my bench. Homelessness is a concern in every big city across our great big world, and sunny San Diego is no exception. In fact, locals this past weekend told us countless times that the reason for their multitude of homeless folks is because of their year-round pleasant climate.
I am not my mistakes. I am not my old habits. I am not my PAST. I am a beautiful reflection of God. I am forgiven. I am loved. I am free.
Shanel Cooper Sykes
To help minimize panhandling on every corner, the local San Diego community installed meters like this one to collect pocket change to aid those without a home. I thought this was a good idea to share with folks at MUST Ministries back in Georgia who work tirelessly to help the down and out in our hometown community. Many humans have similar thoughts regarding the homeless population, wondering how they got there, are they alcoholics or addicts, is mental illness a part of their day, and isn’t it “their fault” that they are in this situation? Raised by such compassionate parents, my heart has always been tender towards these souls in need. In fact, back in 2002, when Leah was in 8th grade, I taught her class all I knew about this subject, using Phil Collins’ Another Day in Paradise as a springboard. And after recently reading Yankoski’s story in the book Under the Overpass, my heart has become even softer towards these folks in need, believing “every heartbeat has a story.”
I am like a pencil in God's hand. He does the thinking. He does the writing. The pencil has only to be allowed to be used.
So when this woman showed up next to me, my response was not a surprise to me. And when she shared her name, Pamela, I smiled through my tears, understanding intuitively that her being there was no accident. Pamela is my niece’s name, the sister of my late nephew Brad (Brad’s story is here: 525,600 Minutes, Remembering Brad Today, Celebrate Me Home). Though Pam, all alone in this big city, did not approach me, I invited her to have a seat as I moved myself and my things over. Note: I am not looking for accolades with my story, I simply followed my heart like I do in most every circumstance I find myself in these days. Pam was not the only one who was in need, I was in need, as well, and I believe that was the reason she was placed in my path that day. (See two recent past posts to understand this better: Choose Not To Be Blue and Choose Not To Be Blue: Part Two.)
First things first, I figured she was hungry. She nodded. Waiting for our table at a quaint sidewalk cafe, I was moved by the irony of this pleasant young woman who would soon escort us to our table, quietly folding napkins for the many guests who would be by for a meal on this Sunday.
As we sat across from each other, Pam told me her story. She was stranded in San Diego and needed to get back to Austin, Texas, she had no money to her name, and there was a safe home for her in Texas with her boyfriend and his mother. Though I did not tell her this, and I certainly wasn’t sure how the day would play out, I knew by the time we finished our omelets that my husband and I would be her ticket back to Austin.
With a full stomach and a good break in the cafe’s clean restaurant bathroom, Pamela and I hit the sidewalk, first purchasing her a big backpack and then heading to nearby Macy’s. We went through several different departments, finding her new lingerie, t-shirts, jeans, and socks. Each time we made a purchase, the employee would snip off the tags, and Pam would slip back into the dressing room to change into her new things, coming out with an appreciative, humble smile on her face. Later, when Pastor Ike called me from Georgia, and I burst into tears telling him all about our friends who had lost their son and Donny’s Daddy, Pamela was the one who was consoling me, putting her arm around me and whispering how sorry she was for my sadness. I shared with Pastor Ike about who was standing next to me and he said, “Joan, that is exactly what I spoke about in my message this morning.” (Click Here to hear Pastor Ike Reighard’s message Passion For Compassion.)
We packed her backpack full, including her old, used, soiled things which went into a plastic bag until Pam would be able to find a way to wash them. An affordable ticket was purchased at a nearby Greyhound Bus Terminal and I left Pamela to wait until the 10:45 p.m departure. Just before 10:30 p.m., Donny and I were strolling around downtown with some friends from Georgia when I realized we were only a few minutes from the terminal. We said good night to our friends, and walked a few more minutes arriving in time for Donny to meet Pamela and for us to bid her farewell. Pamela’s trip would take 36 hours arriving mid-morning on Tuesday, March 17, 2015, and Pamela would call me to let me know she had arrived safely.
Once again, I am reminded of The Boy and The Starfish Story, (click here to read it). It was an indisputable fact that my husband and I could not solve the huge problem of homelessness in San Diego, California, but we made a difference for that one beating heart—which at the same time made an even bigger difference for our own hurting hearts.
Yes, weeping may endure for the night, but JOY does come with the morning.
Psalm 30:5 came true on the following day as the sun rose on Monday, March 16, 2015, starting with a long phone visit with my grieving friend in Virginia, Kelly, as I walked along the water, stopping in the loveliest places for a moment of quiet reflection and prayer.
Later, I was thankful to see pictures of my precious Tennessee Tech sisters loving our friends The Reads, as they represented our group at Taylor’s Celebration Service which I was able to watch on livestream.
That afternoon, though his wife, Annie had to work, our nephew, Evan, and their 14 month old son, Noah, was able to drive a short distance to meet us at the beautiful Torrie Pines Reserve. Again I was struck by irony: grieving with our friends over the loss of their son…while watching this beautiful boy’s journey begin.
As we continue to pray for healing for our Dad, Don, and peace for our friends The Reads, our faith reminds us to be brave.
How is your journey calling for bravery today?
Is it a health decision, a relationship that needs mending,
a courageous conversation that would be difficult, but beneficial for all?