For today, tomorrow and every day…peace within us, peace among us.
“Unity is strength, division is weakness.” – Swahili Proverb
We need more light now, light to see clearly, light to lift our spirits, and light to find our way to unity.
Much in the news has been dark. The good news is that we have a great deal of light within us. We also have reverence, compassion, hope, and love. These gifts and others were factory-installed. Even if they have been covered with layers of fear, hate, and blame, these powerful qualities are a part of our essence. They can be reached. Within compassion there is the kindness we all need to be giving and receiving. Respect is a part of the gift of reverence. We know what hope is and why we need it. Love has healing power, and don’t we need healing?
Today is a great day for reaching inside and bringing respect, kindness, hope, and love into the world; using these gifts everywhere we go; and applying them generously in every way we can.
If we do this day-by-day, one-by-one we can warm the cold “fear/hate/blame” climate that has settled over our land. We can melt the hard divisiveness that has been fostered. We can restore the sense of togetherness and unity we need to be strong and free.
Yes. It will take a lot of one-by-ones. True. But it’s possible. It’s do-able. And there’s much to gain if we do, and much at stake if we don’t. For inspiration, please consider these quotes:
“Together we can face any challenges as deep as the ocean and as high as the sky.” – Sonia Gandhi.
“No doubt, unity is something to be desired, to be striven for, but it cannot be willed by mere declarations.” – Theodore Bikel
“Together we can change the world, just one random act of kindness at a time.” – Ron Hall
Are you in? I am.
“The tenth gift is wisdom. Wisdom will lead you through knowledge to understanding. May you hear its soft voice.” ~ from The Twelve Gifts of Birth
When I came across this image, I immediately thought of this wisdom quote in The Twelve Gifts of Birth. For me, the book morphing into nature represents knowledge transforming into deep understanding in a beautiful way. Also, whenever I am in mountains and forests, by the sea, or in any natural setting, many of The Twelve Gifts are stirred in me, among them: wisdom. Strength, beauty, compassion, hope, joy, imagination, love, reverence, and faith are usually stirred and nourished too.
If you can, spend some time in nature today. Everyday. We all need regular doses of vitamin N. Regular reflection is good for us too. There are many ways to reflect. Here’s one way:
Please clear your mind as best you can. Take several deep breaths. Place your dominant hand over your heart and your other hand over your belly. Intend to open your heart and engage with your gut feelings. Tune in.
Now look at the photo. What are you thinking? Feeling? Knowing?
Reread the quote. Consider each sentence. Notice what you are thinking, feeling, and knowing.
Now recall a time when you experienced wisdom resonating, or activating, or growing, or awakening in you. Was it like an ah-ha? Was it an intuitive knowing? What was it like? Have you ever heard or felt an inner “Yes” or “No” or other instruction?
We all have valuable wisdom stories. Perhaps just one or a few seem significant to you. Maybe many do. If you feel inclined to share one, please do. I’d love to hear from you.
With love and appreciation,
~ Mother Teresa
Mother Teresa often spoke of herself as a little pencil, so there are variations of this quote, including one that says we are all little pencils in the hand of God. I love the image and symbolism of us being instruments of the Creator.
This pencil metaphor came up recently while I was replying to a touchstone friend. Suddenly I pictured a fountain pen and felt a rush of joy. I remembered how much I loved using a fountain pen in the upper grades of elementary school. It could be messy. I often had ink stains on my hands. But oh how pretty the writing looked when I used peacock blue ink. So, for me, the pencil metaphor becomes stronger when I think of us as fountain pens. The ink flowing through the pen is an apt symbol for Love flowing through us and out to the world. The messiness works for me too. I mess up. We all do. But we’re all so beautiful too. Inside we’re brighter than peacock blue.
Perhaps you would prefer to think of yourself as a ball point pen or a crayon or not a writing implement at all. Maybe you’d rather be likened to a paint brush, or a carving chisel, or a drum, a harp, a horn, or a bell. The possibilities are nearly endless. If you know the instrument that works best for you, please let me know. In the meantime, let’s aim, like St. Francis, to be instruments of peace, love, and understanding.
“Human greatness does not lie in wealth or power, but in character and goodness. People are just people, and all people have faults and shortcomings, but all of us are born with a basic goodness.” – Anne Frank
The story below demonstrates that “people are just people.” It’s also an example of basic human goodness and dignity. The gifts of reverence, compassion, and hope too. As Alan Cohen said, “Scared and sacred are spelled with the same letters… Every negative experience holds the seed of transformation.”
My friend, Kathy, and I had just began an early morning beach walk before class at the University of Santa Monica. She and I were graduate students there. We hadn’t walked far when Kathy stopped and held her stomach. “I think I’m going to be sick,” she said. She looked like she might faint too. I knew she had just started taking a bunch of vitamins and had taken them on an empty stomach that morning. With her leaning on me, we slowly made our way toward the shade under the Santa Monica Pier.
There was a man under the pier. I had noticed him as we approached. He looked like he had spent the night there, actually many nights. I avoided making eye contact.
Once there, sure enough, Kathy was sick. Neither of us had water or a tissue.
Tenuously, the homeless man approached us. “I don’t have any water but you’re welcome to what I have,” he said, holding up a bag wrapped around a bottle of amber liquid.
He was sincere and kind, gentlemanly and generous.
In an instant, that man, and the whole situation of Kathy sick under the pier, went from ugly to beautiful and from scared to sacred. There was nothing “other” about him. Nothing offensive. Nothing frightening. There was nothing to judge. He was one of us, three people with basic goodness who happened to be under the pier at the same time.
With love, gratitude, and joy,
“You weren’t an accident. You weren’t mass produced. You aren’t an assembly-line product. You were deliberately planned, specifically gifted, and lovingly positioned on Earth by the Master Craftsman.”
– Max Lucado
You are a gift to the world. Please believe this. If that seems hard, stretch toward this. Make room for the possibility. Aim to believe and feel the truth of this as best you can. Value yourself. Your gifts and talents. Your unique appearance. Your personality. Your dreams. Your life experiences. Your lessons learned and lessons yet to be learned. All that makes you YOU.
Today, let’s say “Thank you!” to the Master Craftsman for the gift of our beauty-full beings.
PS – Even worse than thinking one is an “accident,” is being told, “You were a mistake.” Some children actually hear that. No wonder they feel unworthy. Let’s send waves of love around the world. Imagine every hurting child washed by those waves.
“The sixth gift is Joy. May it keep your heart open and filled with light.” – from The Twelve Gifts of Birth
I find that sincere gratitude always opens my heart to the joy that is naturally there. The blossom of joy that follows gratitude may or may not bloom into happiness. Happiness, of course, follows more readily when our hearts are not covered with a protective layer due to deep hurt, sadness, fear, grief or worry. In such times, we may feel as if we will never feel happy again.
But even at the dark and heavy times in my life, when I allowed authentic gratefulness for something–anything–to bubble up from my heart, some joy seeped through with it and gave me a small yet pleasant uplift.
Sometimes joy is like the Rose Bowl Parade of floral floats and marching bands. Other times joy is like a gentle, fragrant breeze on a summer night, barely there, so subtle one might not even notice it. Ahh. But when we do, that little petal of joy is soothing and sweet.
I am recalling times when I was seriously ill or heartbroken. I found that if I sat still, slowed and deepened my breath, and stayed in the present moment, some appreciation always emerged. It might have been for the color of my bedroom walls, or that my digestive system had worked easily, or that my back felt comfortably supported by the pillows behind me. Or, I noticed beauty in something in the room or in nature, outside the window. Or… the possibilities are endless.
I am offering this because I know that among us, always, there are people we know or friends we haven’t yet met who are experiencing one of those dark and heavy times. In particular, a comment to a post on one of my Facebook pages prompted this writing at this time. I think we’ve all known times when inspirational messages and encouraging suggestions might seem like well-meaning but empty platitudes.
I suspect we’ve also experienced at least one time when the energy of someone’s robust joy felt painful upon our fragile state of being. Bright light joy upon a hurting heart can be like driving into the late afternoon sun in Arizona. It’s so blinding that you have to shut your eyes, look away, or turn to another direction. Have you ever felt like that?
At fragile times, I believe that loving acceptance, along with compassionate kindness and reverent listening to understand, is the most wise and caring thing we can offer to one another. Although, I admit that sometimes I have offered advice instead of giving the gift of simply being there. But we live and we learn, yes?
What’s your experience? Both on the giving and the receiving side? And with joy itself?
“I hope you never lose your sense of wonder…”
~ Lee Ann Womack
Me too, Lee Ann. I wish that wonder would be protected and nourished in every child and adult.
I believe we can’t actually lose the wonderment we were born with, just as we can’t lose our innate gifts of hope, joy, courage, compassion, love or any of the qualities that are a part of our essence. But we can lose our sense of them. It seems to me that we all sometimes lose our sensing of the beauty that’s built into our being. If we ignore them, we can get out of touch with all of our inner gifts.
That’s why I write “touchstones” and share them freely each day. They feed my gifts. They feed my soul. And sharing them doesn’t diminish them one bit. In fact, the more they’re shared, the more their nutritional power grows like yeasted dough.
I’m resolving to deepen my awareness of and appreciation for the gifts of life in the New Year. Care to join me in this intention for 2018? That’s all we need to begin: the intention. We’ll be guided further.
Already I’m feeling a surge of increased enthusiasm for messages that uplift and encourage us. And not only for the touchstones I compose. I’ll be watching for inspiration in books, films, music, news and all forms of expression and communication. If you don’t already receive Today’s Touchstone via email, perhaps you’ll subscribe now, using the form on this website.
Before closing, I’d like to add a few more lines from the well-known song recorded by Lee Ann Womack:
“I hope you still feel small when you stand beside the ocean
Whenever one door closes I hope one more opens
Promise me that you’ll give faith a fighting chance
And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance
I hope you dance
I hope you dance”
“I’d gone though my life believing in the strength and competence of others; never my own. Now, dazzled, I discovered that my capacities were real. It was like finding a fortune in the lining of an old coat.” ~ Joan Mills
We’ve probably all known the delight of finding money when it was needed. I can recall college days and newlywed times of finding a few dollar bills in a purse or a handful of change between sofa pillows. I wouldn’t say I was dazzled, but I was elated. I might have even jumped for joy.
Did you know that about $2 billion in lottery prizes go unclaimed every year? And there’s an estimated $850 million lying unclaimed in lost and forgotten bank accounts.
What is the undiscovered and untapped wealth within us worth? Far more than any amount of money.
If we only knew how to readily claim and develop our inner resources of love, talent, courage, hope, imagination, compassion, faith – all our gifts – we could achieve a rare way of living life, being fully ourselves.
With faith and enthusiasm, let’s look within ourselves every day for discoveries of our gifts. Let’s also do something, however small, to cultivate and grow them everyday. One way to grow our gifts is to use them everyday.
“How do I do that?” you might ask. There are many ways. I will offer two here.
At least once each day stretch beyond blah feelings, angry feelings, hurtful feelings and choose to act kindly, caringly. In other words, decide to use the gift of love even if you don’t feel like it.
To symbolize and strengthen your intention to grow your inner wealth, start with a clear jar similar to the one in the photo. Every time you notice a demonstration of any one of the gifts – either within yourself or another person – add a coin to the jar, even if it’s just a penny. Every seemingly little penny will contribute to the growth of actual money in the jar just as every seemingly little act of courage or statement of hope will be growing your conscious awareness and appreciation of your inner wealth.
Watch for examples of all the forms of strength in your personal life, in the world, in books, films, everywhere. Look for the word “strength” on billboards, on TV ads, everywhere. Become more aware of strength, especially in yourself. Do this with each of The Twelve Gifts: strength, beauty, courage, compassion, hope, joy, talent, imagination, reverence, wisdom, love and faith. If you do this, whether or not you use the money jar, you will be growing your gifts. But the visible symbol and action of adding coins to the jar will help anchor your intention and commitment. It will also be fun.
You are likely to collect some interesting stories about each gift too. If you feel inclined to add any here, please do! We will all benefit. Send your story the contact box or enter it in the comment area. If you wish to know of some true story examples of others growing their gifts, you can find a collection of them in TOUCHSTONES: STORIES FOR LIVING THE TWELVE GIFTS. This book is available both as a paperback and as an e-book. You can also access stories about each of the gifts right here, on this home page, to the right of this blog.