What’s Right In the World—Part Two


LAST WEEK I TALKED ABOUT MAKING the right choices, staying positive and avoiding the naysayers that bombard us everywhere we turn, plus I talked about some of the things you can do to help others. This time, I’ll list some easy ways to decide which organisations are the best when you choose to donate your hard-earned cash for less fortunate individuals … and some delightful and simple things you can do.

Whichever charity you choose, make sure you’ve done your research—with organisations like Charity Navigator (rates the different charities). Some of the most popular charities are not necessarily spreading much the wealth received to those in need—administrative fees eat up most of the donations … or the funds are mismanaged in other ways. Look at their financial page to see how they divide the money up—does most of it go to administrative fees or does a good share go to the actual reason they’re in business?

Here are some other things that I’ve found … ways I can help others in my walk through life—and if you choose, in yours:

  • Spending time with friends—or even strangers (like I have on many occasions). Be engaged. Stay off your phone. It says volumes.
  • Take a moment to give of yourself. Whether time or financially, giving—especially during this time of the year—it’s a wonderful thing. You not only help another person, but it should make you feel good. Giving warms the heart and soul. There is always someone out there that is not as well of as you. Always. If you are saying, “no way—I can hardly make ends meet as it is …” then let me ask you this: you are reading this online—you certainly seem to be able to afford your internet connection … which does not come cheap. Do you grab a daily cuppa at Starbucks or your favourite coffee shop? That’s kinda pricey, too. Or watch Netflix, satellite/cable tv … or whatever? Well, hopefully you are getting my point. You’ve got it pretty darn good compared to quite a few out there. Perhaps, when you do your grocery shopping, you could buy a few extra non-parishable groceries to give to a local church (most have a food collection for locals in need) or a local food bank like Second Harvest. Safeway makes it easy during this season—you can donate ten dollars towards groceries that are given to an organisation (sorry—having brain-fade … cannot remember the name).
  • So, maybe you don’t have the spare change to donate to any organisation or an individual. Surely you can find some spare time, or donate some gently worn clothes or toys. What do you do with your spare time? Could you allocate a couple hours a week … or month … to help out somewhere? There are Big Brother/Sister programs like Big Brothers in Blue. In California, there is a program connected with kids in the foster care system called CASA Kids—CASA is the acronym Court Appointed Special Advocates—for those interested in helping kids have a more normal life.

And … by all means, let your kids see what your are doing—don’t make a big deal of it, but let them see what you see as valuable. Giving. Caring. Sharing. Helping others.

All I’m trying to do it to remind you that there is so many opportunities to do good—to counter all the craziness that permeates our society. And this—actually any time, but especially now—is the perfect time to begin.

May your day … and the weeks ahead be joyful, filled with peace and giving.

What’s Right In the World-Part One

SO OFTEN, YOU HEAR ALL THE naysayers and doomsday “promoters” spouting off about what’s wrong in our world today or that the end will surely happen soon. I’m not sure about you but I, for one, am so tired of hearing negatives—especially in the political arena. Whether it’s about the candidates … or about our president-elect, our environment or simply about the people around us. I am tired of it. All of it.

Shutting out all that noise is difficult when it is at everywhere—on the radio, television, plastered across all of the different social media … even as you walk down the street and in coffee shops as you try to sip your beverage of choice in peace. Conversations bleed over into your personal space, into your mind. It seems there is no escaping it.

But, I find that I do have a choice—even with the negatives constantly bombarding me at every turn. I choose to close my mind to it. I do not let it take up residence in my thoughts. I find ways to replace those thought and images with something—anything—more positive.

I’ve got some amazing friends that put me to shame in the “making right choices” department. One young man—a local—I “friended” on Facebook is a perfect example that few of us could mange to emulate. But, that said, he makes sure that there are opportunities for those with less energy to help out. Todd has an non-profit—Change A Heart Foundation—that he created for various projects he has going—mini-homes for the homeless in the states, trips to Tijuana to build homes for the destitute, digging wells for those with non-potable water in Africa … and he is always looking for funds or willing souls to help out—people wanting to take some time away from their busy schedules or money to help those less fortunate.

I have friends that donate their time to deliver Meals-On-Wheels meals, library books, or simply to check on those that are home-bound. Our church has a really cool and easy way to help others—it’s our benevolence fund … singles (one-dollar bills) collected each week in the offering tray go towards helping others in need—to pay bills, buy groceries, pay for much needed repairs. It adds up fast and we’ve been able to help so many in such a simple way. For me, it’s so easy to tuck away those dollar bills I get back as change from breaking a larger bill. It may be just one … or four at a time, but in time, it adds up and honestly, I don’t notice them. Perhaps a dollar is too much for you (or your kids). Pennies—or change of any sort—can be handled in the same way. Put a jar where it’s easily seen … and at the end of the day, empty your pockets or purse of any and all change into the jar. You will be pleasantly surprised at how much has accumulated at the end of a month (but don’t hoard it, share it—take it to your nearby church and ask it be used for a benevolence fund, or to a homeless shelter, or to a battered women’s shelter—the choices (unfortunately) are endless … which one you decide to contribute to is your choice.

The above are only suggestions. Hopefully they will trigger some ideas for you. If not, next week I’ll finish off with some specific ways you can use your time and/or money to help others.

Until then, look around you. What do you see? Shut out the negatives and look for the positives—little things you can do to make a difference. May your day and the weeks ahead be filled with joy … and insight.

{Sorry … as my month ramps up, I must do a little promo for my books and art/photography—if you’re in town, please stop by and say hi!}

Thursday-Friday 10-11 November 10am-4pm
Watsonville Hospital Craft Fair, Conference Rms, 75 Neilson St, Watsonville (Joyce will be there with our books on Friday, but I’ll be leaving early to go set up at the Elks Craft Fair—see below—with my art and our books)

Friday-Sunday 11-13 November 1pm-7pm
Watsonville Elks Craft Fair, 121 Martinelli St, Watsonville

Saturday-Sunday 19-20 November 10am-5pm
Aromas Hills Artisans Holiday Faire, Aromas Grange, Aromas

Friday-Sunday 25-27 November 9am-5pm
Gilroy Elks Holiday Craft Fair, 2765 Hecker Pass Hwy, Gilroy

That’s all, folks … hopefully I’ll be able to get enough words written between all this craziness to reach my 50,000 word goal in my NaNoWriMo endeavor. Cheers. Have a blessed week.


 

It Is Christmastime. Really?

HMMM…THINK I MENTIONED being a bit bah-humbugish earlier this month.  Oh, yes.  Usually, as Thanksgiving is creeping up upon us all, I’m counting the days to the day after so I can start pulling out all of my Christmas decorations.  When December 1st rolls around, I find myself craving the music of the season, but this year, it took me much longer to warm up to the idea of decorating…and even for the music.

Very slowly, I started–with Christmas music whispering in the background.  One ornament or decoration at a time…now the living room is finally looking a little more festive.  Because I have back problems, I found it so much easier to just leave the Christmas lights up all year (they are very unobtrusive, so they cannot be seen that well during the ‘off-season’).  All I have to do is go plug them in.  Ta-da!   And I’ve resorted to the same idea for my little four-foot Charlie Brown tree.  I love the smell of fresh pine, but must resort to a fake tree due to allergies, so I’ve tried to make up for that fact by finding one that looks as real as possible: real redwood trunk with fake branches and needles, decorated with lights, ornaments and an angel atop.

Dragging the tree out of the garage and lugging it into the living room was the hardest part.  Then, simply remove the protective plastic bags (keeping dust and mice at bay), set it up on the table and plug it in.  Part of the reason for the little tree is space is limited in my home and I have a cat that has proven to be a Christmas tree attacker.  He plays with ornaments, so through trial and error, the only ones on the tree are non-breakable or non-valuable ones.  My cherished ornaments languish in the box, hidden for yet another year.  Also, a little tree is something I can place out of tail-wagging reach of our golden retriever/lab mix, who sometimes has bouts of going berserk, running through the house chasing the cat.

So, the tree is up, the little ceramic village laid out at its base (forgoing the lights inside each house this year), most of the decorations are up around the living room, and outside is appropriately lit with festive little twinkles of coloured light.  Christmas music is slowly increasing in frequency on the radio station I listen to, intermixed with occasional iPod blasts of 100% Christmas music.

Yet, with only a few days left till Christmas, I am still having some issues with getting “into the Spirit of the Season” — at least the commercial aspects.   I have completely resisted shopping, choosing instead to give gifts of ‘promissory notes’ & persimmon puddings to those close to me.  I have fallen into a very bad ‘tradition’ of getting my Christmas cards out after the new year has been celebrated — each year, I promise to improve the delivery time, yet it seldom happens.

Perhaps this lack of Spirit is because this is only the second year I will be spending half of the traditional holiday alone.  It’s not a ‘poor girl’ kind of thing.  It’s just different.  Adjusting usually takes me some time–in this case, several years, I guess.  I need to find new traditions since the old ones were for a family of three that is no more.  For a family that visited grandparents that are no longer living.  New traditions for a single person with a grown, married ‘child’ — sorry — daughter.  I know my daughter and son-in-law are trying to figure out and establish their own traditions for Thanksgiving and Christmas.  So must I.

But, I think the biggest reason is because I have shifted my focus from the ‘gimme’ of Christmas to what it’s truly about.  The beginning of the sacrificial giving of a child so that we may claim kinship with the mighty Lord.  Adopted into His family as sons and daughters — Princes and Princesses of the King.  What a delightful and cherished gift to receive.

As a parent, I understand the emotions behind giving up a child — though, not the heart-wrenching loss He must have felt, knowing full-well what His son would soon go through.  Giving.  Without receiving anything in return, except adopted, unruly children that mostly do not realize what a magnificent gift they have received, He handed over His only son to the World.

I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.  Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.”  Luke 2:10-11

May your Christmases now and forever be blessed; filled to overflowing with the true meaning of this season.

Have a Blessed and Merry Christmas.  I know I will.

Giving

THE OTHER DAY, AS PART OF THEIR CHRISTMAS season reporting, one of our local news stations told of wealthy man, giving out cash in a Goodwill Store (or was it Salvation Army?) to people he felt looked deserving.   He was supposed to remain anonymous, but I was disappointed with the station’s ability to hide his face.  At first, they did well, but as the report continued, they failed miserably.  That kept me from fully enjoying the report, since I was so focused on the quality of respecting his wishes…that is, until they interviewed many of the individuals receiving the money.  My attention shifted to a wonderful, feel-good warm glow, knowing that this man most definitely made quite a few people very grateful that day.

Most recipients tearfully said they were tremendously grateful for their windfall and, when asked, said they would spend it on food, paying down a debt or other necessities. But one said she would frame it. Hang it where she could see it, to remind her of his generosity.

Definitely honest.  But it surprised me.  And it left me with a bitter taste in my mouth.  The man was trying to improve their current situation, even if only temporarily, and all this woman wanted to do was to frame it.  I was appalled.  What a waste.

I continued whatever I was doing, mulling this woman’s decision over in my head.  The absolute first thing that came to mind was one of Jesus’ parables (Matthew 25:14-30) about talents (money)–a master gives three servants money and tells them to take care of it–to “put it to work”–in his absence.  When he returned, he found that two had invested it and each had great returns on their original sum.  Their master rewarded them.  The third had buried it in the field, to keep it safe.  The master was greatly disappointed and called him a fool.

This woman, in my mind, was like that third servant.  But, I do love how God works in my head.

The more I thought about it, I realized (through God’s prodding), above all, I was not supposed to be judging this woman — or her decision.  And she was not like the servant.  True, the money would not be put to use, to physically better her life or those around her.  No food on the table, no gifts under the tree, no paying down of a debt.

Perhaps, though, that framed bill would remind her again and again over the years of the graciousness of another, which might help her to remember that, even in her plight, there are good people out there willing to help.  Perhaps, that gift would prompt her do better in her life, helping others, or even, help to lift herself out of her present situation.

Like the poor woman in another parable that gave all that she had (a meager two coins) for an offering, while those around her scoffed at her petty offering as they threw in a much larger amount of money (though, percentage-wise, her offering exceeded theirs), perhaps this will be the beginning of giving from the heart for this woman.

And lastly, a wonderful reminder to us all that we cannot always understand why others do what they do, just that God knows their hearts–and ours–and will act accordingly.

12.12.12 12:12.12

THESE DATES GREATLY AMUSE ME for some reason.

I have one friend in the UK that is completely fascinated by them, posting on Facebook their arrival (though, this time, I was the one that posted the part about the association of time) whenever they pop up.  And she has plenty of friends (including me) that inevitably comment on it.   Is it just the numbers?  Is it some mystical thing?  Are there meanings behind these digits?

Who knows.  I’m not even going to open that can of worms.  I’ll leave that for you to sort out.   I just think it’s neat to see the repetitive numbers.  She and I will be sad that, with the coming of the new year, we will not have the fun of these runs of numbers…unless we start looking at 11/12/13 or some such combination.  It just doesn’t seem quite the same.  But, I guess it will have to do until we turn over to the next century.

Um, I don’t think I’ll be here for that — I’d be a very ripe ol’, doddering 1051 before the next one rolls around — I don’t think even biblical people lived that long, but I’m sure there will be others out there to announce the changes…if we can manage to keep this planet livable that long.

But, then, who’s to say we won’t be able to to this up in heaven??

I look forward to that day when I finally arrive there, but that doesn’t mean I am not enjoying my earthly life here.  There’s way too much yet to be done before that day.  I have more growing to do (even at 62), more to give others, much, much more to learn before I leave.  But I do not — nor does anyone —  know what day will be the last, so I’m trying to make each one the best that I can.

This upcoming Mayan doomsday thing does not bother me one bit.  Like I said — no one knows when the end will happen.  Could be before I finish this post, could be a thousand years from now.  There’s only one that knows, so do not fall prey to all the naysayers.

Live your life the best you can, helping others — this season is a wonderful place to start if you haven’t already.   Share what treasures you have.  Give of your time, your money — even what you might consider too small an amount is more than what some have — and, your talents.  Talents you may not even know you have.  Explore.  Find out what God has given to you so that you might share it with others.

My friends, I hope you have many years of life to live doing just that.  Helping others.  Loving others.  Sharing.

Have a blessed Christmas and a prosperous New Year.  What treasures does 2013 hold for you?

Bah Humbug…?

I HAVE BEEN A CURMUDGEON this last month.  Yes, I know, euphoric as I worked on (and achieved) my word count for NaNoWriMo, but a curmudgeon none the less…

I’ll even go as far as to say, a “Bah-Humbuger”.  From me, that is saying an awful lot.  Me. The ever-cheerful, always optimistic individual…to be down, anti-holiday, anti-social, well…let’s just say, where the heck is the real me hiding??

Okay.  I have to admit, aside from the NaNo project, there hasn’t been a lot of positive things going on in my life — that I could focus on.  There are always positives in our lives to focus on, if we try.  But I didn’t want to try.  That would require effort and I simply had no energy to try.  Pity party, anyone?

I desperately needed an attitude adjustment, and today was the perfect day to begin.  I started my day, as usual — greatly needing coffee, doing the things that are required of me first thing, then went back upstairs to dress.  My bed beckoned me, so without even a second thought, I acquiesced…no, that’s the wrong word — there was no reluctance.  I fully supported the idea, so on the bed I flopped.  My cat joined me, trying to snuggle in as I pulled covers over my head.  Go away.  He did.

Then, for some unknown reason, I decided to do something I haven’t done for almost a month.  I did a few of my “bed exercises” — micro exercises, really.  My version of situps…simply engaging the muscle because of back issues.  Then, since that felt so good, I stretched out my legs.

It’s funny how the simple act of moving can engage the brain.

I was then up, wandering into my “exercise room” and opened up my DOAC (that’s short for Dinosaur of a Computer) and cued up my Christmas music.  With the music blaring, I found myself even more energized & began a short stint on my archaic Aerobic Rider, and then sat on my exercise ball for a bit, to engage the back muscles with micro movements.

As I exercised, I bemoaned that fact that I have not, over the last four or five years (…or more), been able to find one story that I use to read to my daughter every year at Christmastime.  There were many stories, but this one, though fictional, has settled firmly and is planted itself deeply into my mind.  Some day, I will find the book and rejoice.  Until then, I can only think about the ideas presented in the story.  A creature from Santa’s Village, thought to be a bumbling fellow, somehow was given the responsibility of bringing back to the Village the beautiful rainbow that represented God’s Promise.  There were many adventures as he went to retrieve it and he succeeded in finding it, but when he was almost home with it, in his excitement, he dropped it and it broke into millions of pieces.

Crying, everyone admonished him for destroying God’s Promise.  But wise, old Santa was overjoyed with an idea.  He instructed everyone to pick up all the pieces and to put them on the Village Christmas tree.  The beautiful blues, reds, yellows, oranges and purples adorn the tree magnificently.  God’s Promise, sparking for all to see.  This is the story of how we acquired the lights for our trees to herald the season.

So, every time I see those little glitters of light in the night on rooftops, in windows and on trees, it awakens something deep inside me, reminding me of God and his gift to us.  Yes, that particular Promise, in the form of the rainbow, was a promise to never destroy the world again, but because of that, we are now able to enjoy the most magnificent of all gifts that He has ever presented us.

A gift that is with us today, and forever.  Through the giving up of His only son to us, He gave us the gifts of Grace and Forgiveness, so that we could forever be part of His family.   Princes and Princesses, Children of God.  Such a blessed gift that no one should take lightly.

But to receive these gifts, we must ask.  He will  give them freely, but you cannot expect to be given them without first asking.  And that asking requires a mustard seed of faith in Him (but that’s another blog entirely).

This is the season of giving.  Stop for a moment.  Be at peace.  Why are you frantically scurrying around to find the “perfect gift” for your child or spouse or loved ones?  Isn’t there a better way?

YES.  For both family and friends, the very best gift is the gift of giving.  Why not give a gift of time or money to charitable organizations in the name of your friends and family.  There are so many wonderful organizations that are begging for help so they may help others in need.  Make your life less crazy so you can enjoy the season, and put a light into the life of someone else.  Compassion International, Samaritan’s Purse, Salvation Army, Goodwill, Second Harvest, any of the soup kitchens in your area, ordinary families asking for assistance through local churches and organizations — believe me, they are there!  Simply open your eyes, ask around, Google your favorite cause.

Remember the reason for the season and give.

May this Christmas and those ahead of you be a blessed, peaceful time for you and your family.

Peace and Joy to you all.