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Emphatic disclaimer: This is NOT my poem. It was written by Grace Noll Crowell (1877-1969), and it is beautiful. So beautiful — and so essentially needed right now by so many people — that I had to share it. If you are tired (and I suspect many of us are, burdened by health problems, family troubles, lack of clarity in life, political frustration and despair over the violence that besets us), here is my attempt at comfort. Please know that you are never alone.

Dear heart, God does not say today, “Be strong!”
He knows your strength is spent,
He knows how long
The road has been, how weary you have grown;
For He walked the earthly roads alone,
Each bogging lowland and each long, steep hill,
Can understand, and so He says, “Be still
And know that I am God.”
The hour is late
And you must rest awhile, and you must wait
Until life’s empty reservoirs fill up
As slow rain fills an empty, upturned cup.
Hold up your cup, dear child, for God to fill.
He only asks today that you be still.


Once, while I was at an infusion center getting treatment for my MS, I overheard a nurse asking another patient how she was doing. “It’s a little bit cold in here,” the lady replied. She had no hair and looked exhausted, clearly being treated for cancer. The nurse came back with a blanket and carefully covered her, since she was attached to an IV and couldn’t adjust it herself. I was so moved when that nurse literally tucked her in and patted her on the arm. Later, she stopped by and asked again how it was going.

That’s not even her patient, I thought, amazed. As busy as these nurses are. She’s not getting any extra pay for doing that. Nobody saw that interaction but me. I felt like I was looking through God’s viewfinder. I was so heartened by this moment that I wrote a letter of appreciation to the medical director, who shared it with the staff.

The next time I arrived for my infusion, well, you would’ve thought I was Queen of New Jersey. (Note: that should really be a thing. I would totally run for that office.) Nurses were nudging each other. I felt something in the energy of the place, and it seemed that everyone was smiling in my general direction. Then when I sat down for my infusion, a nurse asked if I needed a blanket. “I was the nurse in your letter,” she said. “I can’t tell you what it meant to me. To all the nurses. And the staff. Thank you for noticing!”

I didn’t film this kind act, so of course, it didn’t go viral. And of course, viral is never a good thing at a medical facility! Just one kind action. One note of encouragement. Positive energy can be contagious.

What if we find out Darth Vader was really just a nice guy, if a bit misunderstood? A man in Tennessee whose father was a Star Wars fan was saddled with the name of the dark lord and seems to have a sense of humor about it.

In other off-beat news, it won’t come as a big surprise that Kafka was a terrible boyfriend, would it? Reading his letters to his fiancée, it seemed he saw everything – even love – in a, well, Kafkaesque light.

I love light-hearted stories like these. But I really love reading stories that start out on the dark side and end up reaffirming my faith in humanity.

A distressed man on the autism spectrum who had attacked his elderly parents was admitted to a Chicago hospital. Instead of sedating or subduing him, the security officers sang to him, calming him down and defusing the situation.

When a teacher saw her 7-year-old student riding his bike on a busy highway, she found out his diabetic father had collapsed at home. When he couldn’t unlock his father’s phone to call 911, he got on his bike to ride five miles to his grandmother’s house. The teacher called for help, and the boy’s father recovered.

Every bad news story starts from a place of pain, doesn’t it? The person involved may be called by different names: gunman, perpetrator, criminal. But it all starts with a “dis.” Disrespect. Feeling disenfranchised. Dismissed. Pain is like a chain letter. Someone feels slighted. They take that pain with them and slight someone else and it spreads like a virus.

The antidote to the “dis” is to not react in kind, but to unpack the pain behind the anger. Will compassion put an end to the cycle of pain? We can only live in hope.

If you’ve never sung in a choir, you may not know what a cantata is.  A cantata combines readings and song and the ones we perform last about 20 minutes.

Our choir director generally gives us a rehearsal disk about 2 months before the performance.  Listen to the disk, sing along, learn your part.

Sounds easy?  And it really isn’t dreadful.  First you learn you part, then you rehearse with your section, then you rehearse with the full choir.

Then, and only then, do we take it into the sanctuary.

Our first run through in the sanctuary is always frighteningly bad.  No, really.  You’d think we’d never heard the music let alone practiced it.

Fortunately, Ellen, our choir director is an angel of hope.  “That was a little rough but you’ve been practicing.  You’ll have it in no time.”  And? She was right.  No matter that we missed almost every cue, forgot our parts, sang the wrong words and what was that?

In the light, you don’t need hope but it in the dark it pulls you forward, back toward the light.


This phrase in the Bible shows up more than once: “And it came to pass.”

I’ve always taken that tiny snippet of Scripture as inspiration.

Here’s why: it didn’t come to stay. It came to pass!

Whatever it is in your life that’s holding you back, getting you down, tearing you up. It came here for a reason. And it’s just for a season.   

Even though I reside on the sunny side of the street, we’ve all been down that dark alley. I’ve learned some things that have helped me stay in a positive frame of mind.

Tell but don’t dwell. Tell your story but don’t dwell on the pain of the past.

Follow but don’t wallow. Follow your heart and share what you’ve been through so others know they’re not alone, but don’t wallow in the negative emotions of it.

Make sure it’s useful and truthful. It’s not helpful – to you or those around you – to talk trash about your ex or go into gory detail about the ways life hasn’t been fair to you. It is helpful to be human about it. Here’s something I’ve been through. Maybe it’s happened to you, too. Let’s share what we’ve learned from it, and if it’s still in our life, how to deal with it.

Bask in the positive. You learned from it, lived through it, found a way to rise above.

Be in the present. The past is a springboard. It may have refined you, but it doesn’t define you.

Moving forward with optimism is the antidote to a painful past. No matter what your life may have been like before, every new day is a chance to start again.

What do you wish you had done differently?  If you are anything like me, you can look back over a day, a week, a month, or a year and wish that you had made different choices somewhere.  Some of them will be big choices.  Some of them will be small.  And some of them will, if we let them, weigh us down.

Personally, this is where it can really benefit you to realize that people simply are not perfect.  Perfection?  It belongs to God.

Us? We aren’t going to pull it off.  It doesn’t matter how well we plan or how hard we try.  Human beings are not perfect.

For some people, that thought can act like a weight.  No matter how hard they try, they will be imperfect.

Not me.  For me it is one of those messages of hope.  I should try to do my best, but things will go wrong.  The universe is a flawed place and I am a part of that universe.

I do carry a spark of God’s light and with it I can light my weaving, stony, imperfect path.  And the best part?  He will walk it beside me.


We live not far from a park with the perfect sledding hill.  Not the one in front.  Everyone learns the hard way that that particular hill empties into a narrow shallow creek.  It is a long walk home with wet snow pants.

But the hills in back?  Long and varied.  There are shallow slopes for the unsure, steep slopes for the brave, and everything in between.

Every time he had a snow day, my son begged to sled.  Often I ended up there with one other mom and a herd of kids.  Some snows were excellent for sledding and others just bogged the sled down.  But every time in snowed, even when it was below zero, we had to try.

That’s why I paired this photo with this quote.  Sledding didn’t work out every time, but every time it snowed, we had to try.  Hope shaped our plans to a much greater extent than failure.

May God help us to find this faith as we head into Christmas, close out the year, and turn the page of a new calendar!


Tonight is our last major rehearsal for the Christmas cantata at church.  I wish I could say that I’m looking forward to it.

We rehearse with parts CDs.  The sopranos, the altos, the baritones.  We each get to rehearse to our own part.  It’s a great way to learn something fairly quickly.

But the first time we rehearse to the performance CD is a disaster.  As you would expect, that CD has no one singing.  It is just the orchestration.  And that’s great.  But for some unknown reason the tempo is always different from the rehearsal CD.  Different tempo, slows down, speeds up in different places.

Do I need to say it?  The first rehearsal with just the orchestration is a disaster.

We always catch on the next time but that first one?  It is not encouraging.

But our choir director is truly one of God’s own.  She’s upbeat and positively chirpy.  “That was a little rough but you are so ready for this.”  Even when we don’t feel it ourselves, she knows that after two more times through it we will be ready.

We are hearing our mistakes.  Her? She is looking to the Dawn.


As much as I love Christmas, I’m not a huge fan of the busy-ness.  I suspect this is an introvert thing and Christmas requires shopping. I’ve finally come to the realization that I don’t mind finding things I need.  It’s the lights and the crowds and the noise.  This morning I ran out of tape and am contemplating how I can use painter’s tape just so I don’t have to leave the house.

I just want to sit on the sofa in the dark and stare at Christmas lights while sipping a cup of coffee.  Eventually I’ll light the candles on my Advent wreath and meditate.  Quiet time with God gives me the Light and Hope I need to venture back into the hustle and bustle.

That said, quiet time can be tough to find at this time of year.  But make sure you get a few minutes here and there.  It is, after all, the balm needed by a soul stretched thin in spots from doing too much.  Good things.  Fun things. Family things.  It doesn’t matter.  Too much is too much.

It is okay to need some quiet time with your own thoughts and with Him.



Every year one of my writing buddies picks a “word for the year.”  Instead of a group of resolutions, things she will try to do or stop doing, she looks to this word.  For me, this word choice is fairly simple.

Hope and change.  Hope for change to come.

As always, this will be anchored in prayer. Why? Because prayer anchors me when I feel adrift.  It turns me toward God.  Facing into His Light, Love and Grace it is so much easier to have hope.

In our study of Ephesians, we came across an interesting passage in the lesson.  When we pray, we acknowledge what we can do and what only God can do.  The example that the author gave was praying to lose weight.  We don’t do this if we know all we have to do is eat right and exercise.  What would be the point?  The solution is on our hands?  But, if the issue is addiction or depression or something that keeps us from moving forward?  Then it makes sense to pray for the guidance and help we need to move forward.

This has me thinking about how I pray.  Do I hear NO when I should be hearing GET GOING ON IT?  Am I not seeing what is holding me back when I mysteriously don’t make progress?

Lord, Open my eyes.  Help me to see things as they are and not as I believe them to be.  Help me to create positive change in this world, change that will help people to see the Love and the Hope that you make possible.  Amen


Have a Mary Little Christmas

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