Sharing with you things that are on my mind...Maybe yours too. Come back to Wrights Lane for a visit anytime!

31 January, 2014

WHAT KIND OF A "FRIEND" ARE YOU ON FACEBOOK?

In real life I am a pretty easy-going guy. I take my relationships seriously. It is my nature to insert myself into the lives of the people I come to care about. I am interested in everyone I meet, on line or otherwise, and genuinely want to feel an instant kinship. I am a tease from away back...It is my way of being personable and putting myself and others at ease, as misguided and misunderstood as that may be at times. I tend to relate to new acquaintances as though I have known them all my life and often make the mistaken assumption that I can communicate with them like I have known them all my life. I have a history of assuming that everyone understands the dichotomy that is me -- mistake No 1.

I am open to the opinions of others and hope that they respect mine. When I have something positive to contribute in life, or a perceived nugget of inspiration that particularly moves me, I want to share it with others for what it is worth. Possibly mistake No.2.

I love God, kids and dogs, but I digress.

The forgoing is all by means of expressing certain disillusionment over participation in social media networks such as Facebook and the special interest group sites that have stemmed from it. The art of true conversation is completely lost in many on line exchanges. Words and expressions common in face-to-face exchanges between friends, are easily misunderstood when viewed on a computer monitor screen by someone who really does not know you beyond the digital realm.  We are self-protecting, far too easily offended and quick to judge when our insular sensitivities are penetrated.

"We've become accustomed to a new way of being 'alone together'…We have gotten used to the idea of being in a tribe of one, loyal to our own party," wrote professor and psychologist Sherry Turkle in the New York Times.

Regretfully, Facebook is changing the human race. People think, speak and live in status updates. We have become short spurts of witty commentary. It's becoming increasingly difficult to truly connect with a person, rather than just their online character. Generally, we are all becoming narcissists interested only in the number of "likes" we receive and complimentary comments to our timeline updates. Personally, I would rather hug my friends in person than "Poke" them. I prefer to laugh out loud than LOL. I am happier emailing someone directly or talking to them on the telephone instead of commenting on their timelines.

I actually withdrew from Facebook on two occasions due to frustration over verbal exchanges turned bitter and misunderstandings with certain "friends" that I had never met in person, nor would never have occasion to meet in my life time. All because I made the mistake of thinking that I was talking to a friend in the true sense of the word. The ultimate insult has been when, on several occasions, I have been "unfriended" by someone that I would not know if I bumped into them on the street.

I have found myself being stressed over some of my Facebook experiences and actually losing sleep because of it. It is a shame when a "social" network causes anti-social behaviour. In real life you simply do not lose friends with the all-too-easy click of a computer key. In real life, sensitivity is a two-way street. We value relationships, are conscious of the feelings of others and do not dismiss them over the slightest provocation.

Again, in real life I do not have a slew of friends. I have never been a conscious networker. Over the years friends have come into my life and then they have gone, the odd few hang on. I guess that you could call the hanger ons the ones who are my truest friends and I cherish them. Unlike so many, I do not actively solicit "friends" on Facebook but over the course of a seven-year period I have collected something in the neighbourhood of 140 friends (about average, according to Facebook statistics), some having requested my friendship while others I have selectively invited into my circle. In the past when I viewed people on Facebook with 500 or more friends, I felt kind of like an orphan but psychologists say that in reality you cannot have more than 150 friends and do justice to them.  So that makes me feel better.  I like to think that I am doing justice to my friends LOL.

Greek philosopher Aristotle said that there are three types of friends:

1) Friendship based on utility is friendship that is useful for each of the parties due to a special interest or involvement. There is nothing wrong with this kind of friendship, necessarily, as long as there is respect and mutuality, but it does not endure because the usefulness does not endure.

2) Friendship based on pleasure occurs when you enjoy the company of another person. Perhaps they are funny, interesting or enjoyable for some other reason. In such a relationship, when the pleasure ends, the friendship ends as well.

3) Friendship based on virtue is the highest form of friendship, according to Aristotle. Here, two people are morally virtuous individuals. Each loves what is good within them, and what is good in the other. In loving a friend one loves what is good for oneself, because these types of friends assist each other in living a virtuous life. They have a shared vision of a good and fulfilling human life, and help each other in their pursuit of such a life. Such a relationship requires time, familiarity, trust, mutual goodwill, and, of course, virtue. This kind of friendship is also pleasant and useful, but in the right way. So friendship based on virtue, "perfect friendship", as Aristotle calls it, encompasses the other two species, but in the right way. This kind of friendship endures, because goodness endures.

Are Facebook friends true friends? I guess it depends on what you mean by "friend". Clearly we can have friendships based on utility and pleasure via Facebook. But what about friendships based on virtue? I'm skeptical that we can, if Facebook is the only means by which we relate to another person. Given all that this highest form of friendship requires, it seems to me that some real (rather than merely virtual) contact is required. In this kind of friendship, the friends "do life" together, and this is tricky to accomplish via status updates.

I now feel comfortable with the friends that I do have on Facebook, however. I know what I can and cannot say to them (in some cases I have learned the hard way). I am still getting to know some of them, and they me...And there are a few who have come by way of utility and pleasure that I would actually like to meet in person some day and have a good old-fashioned conversation -- and really get to know them.

29 January, 2014

THAT EXPLAINS IT...WHAT A RELIEF TO KNOW IT'S THE HEAVY LOAD THAT MY BRAIN CARRIES, NOT AGE THAT'S PLAYING TRICKS WITH MY MEMORY

A new study from Germany has likened the memory abilities of older people to full hard drives: They don’t lose cognitive power over time; they just function slower because of an increasing amount of information.

"The human brain works slower in old age but only because we have stored more information over time," lead researcher Dr. Michael Ramscar said in a written statement.

The team of researchers from Tübingen University in Germany used computers to replicate different stages of an adult’s memory recall. The computer models were fed small amounts of information each day (much like young adults), but as the devices gathered more information, their performances mirrored those of older people, according to the study, which was published this month in the journal Topics in Cognitive Science.

"Forget about forgetting," study researcher Peter Hendrix told The Independent. "If I wanted to get the computer to look like an older adult, I had to keep all the words it learned in memory and let them compete for attention."

Researchers concluded the brains of senior citizens do not deteriorate over time due to aging, as traditionally thought to be the case, but they slow down because they hold more information.

They put their theory to the test by analyzing a previous linguistics test in which volunteers (young and old) were instructed to remember unrelated words like “necktie” and “cracker.” The results favored young people. The previous study suggested the reason older individuals struggled with the test was due to their declining memory; however, the folks at Tübingen University concluded that's actually not the case.

“The fact that older adults find nonsense pairs -- but not connected pairs -- harder to learn than young adults simply demonstrates older adults' much better understanding of language,” Harald Baayen, head of the Alexander von Humboldt Quantitative Linguistics research group where the study was carried out, said in a statement. “They have to make more of an effort to learn unrelated word pairs because, unlike the youngsters, they know a lot about which words don’t belong together.”

A separate poll conducted in 2013 showed that younger adults are actually more inclined to have lapses in memory than older people.

Glad to pass this information along,  Click the yellow links for more details.

23 January, 2014

IN THE BEGINNING, AS IN THE END, WE ARE ALL OF THE SAME RACE

Who are we? Where did we come from? Why are we here? The age-old question of our origin has been baffling mankind for centuries. For most of our history, it was widely accepted that man had been created by an omnipresent, omnipotent, God or Gods. Most ancient texts such as the Bible, Torah and The Sumerian tablets seem to all contain similar stories of such beginnings. Almost all religions are based on this God/creation premise in some form or another. It wasn’t until the mid 1800’s when Charles Darwin introduced his Theory of Evolution that the creation theory was even questioned, and the battle between religion and science began.

Darwin’s Theory, while scientifically sound, still leaves many questions unanswered:

1. Why the vast appearance and chromosomal differences between cro-magnon and homosapiens?

2. How did modern man seemingly just “appear” out of nowhere, wearing clothing and organizing societies (intelligent)?

3. What is the “missing link”?

4. Which is the truth? Science, religion or a combination of both?

The Bible does not explicitly give us the origin of the different “races” or skin colors in humanity. In actuality, there is only one race—the human race. Within the human race is diversity in skin color and other physical characteristics. Some speculate that when God confused the languages at the tower of Babel (Genesis 11:1-9), He also created racial diversity.

It is possible that God made genetic changes to humanity to better enable people to survive in different ecologies, such as the darker skin of Africans being better equipped genetically to survive the excessive heat in Africa, or the physical make up of the Eskimo more conducive to withstanding the extremes of the frozen north. According to this view, God confused the languages, causing humanity to segregate linguistically, and then created genetic racial differences based on where each racial group would eventually settle. While possible, there is no explicit biblical basis for this view. The races/skin colors of humanity are nowhere mentioned in connection with the tower of Babel.

(Some scholars believe that this marks the point in history where God divided the earth into separate continents. The biblical story of the Tower of Babel is believed by many to be the record of a real historical event that took place after the worldwide Flood, at a time when the earth’s population still lived together in one place.)

At the Tower of Babel, when the different languages came into existence, groups that spoke one language moved away with others of the same language. In doing so, the gene pool for a specific group shrank dramatically as the group no longer had the entire human population to mix with. Closer inbreeding took place, and in time certain features were emphasized in these different groups (all of which were present as a possibility in the genetic code). As further inbreeding occurred through the generations, the gene pool grew smaller and smaller, to the point that people of one language family all had the same or similar features.

Another explanation is that Adam and Eve possessed the genes to produce black, brown, and white offspring (and everything else in between). This would be similar to how a mixed-race couple sometimes has children that vary in color. 

Since God obviously desired humanity to be diverse in appearance, it makes sense that God would have given Adam and Eve the ability to produce children of different skin tones. Later, the only survivors of the Great Flood that preserved the Hebrew bloodline of Jesus Christ were Noah and his wife, Noah’s three sons and their wives—eight people in all (Genesis 7:13).

(The significance of Noah, according to Genesis, is that the population of the Earth was completely destroyed during The Flood because of the wickedness of the inhabitants, and Noah and his family were the sole eight survivors to continue and repopulate the human race. Thus the view of history in the Bible is that all humans on Earth are descended from Noah's family.)

Perhaps Noah’s daughters-in-law were of different races. It is also possible that Noah’s wife was of a different race than Noah. Maybe all eight of them were of mixed race, which would mean they possessed the genetics to produce children of different races.

As I say, it is all very mind-boggling.  Inquisitive minds will continue to seek answers to the origins of mankind while some of us will simply acquit ourselves to clinging to the faith of our fathers as a reason for our being. I have spent a lot of time and energy on this mysterious subject in the past and this is where I am content to leave it.

Whatever the explanation, the most important aspect of this question is that we are all the same race, all created by the same God, all created for the same purpose -- to glorify The Creator and to live as good a life as is humanly possible.  Amen?

17 January, 2014

AT LEAST I'M ON ROSANNE'S "LOVE LIST"...SO IS OUR DOG LUCY

My wife Rosanne "loves" everything, literally.  Countless times a day she "just loves" animals, babies, food, coffee, music, game shows and old movies -- you get the idea.

The other day as the television credits were rolling on a 1940 movie, "It's A Date", starring Winnipeg Sweetheart Deanna Durbin and Walter Pidgeon, she exclaimed with endearing emphasis "I just love Deanna Durbin...always have!"

"Is there anything you don't love?" I asked, hoping to get a rise out of her...And she did not disappoint.  "I've got a big heart and there's room to love a lot of things," she answered with conviction.   That was my opening.

With tongue-in-cheek, I asked: "Well, instead of loving dead actresses that you never met, why don't you show a little more of that love to someone a little closer to home (meaning me)?"

"I do," she said, "and you and Lucy (our dog) are at the top of the list!"

I was left with kind of a warm feeling, even though I shared top spot on the list with Lucy.  At my age, you take love when and where you can get it!


09 January, 2014

CHRISTIANITY TODAY: WE HAVE FAILED OUR YOUNGER GENERATIONS...BUT HOW MANY OF US REALLY CARE ABOUT WHAT THE FUTURE MAY HOLD?

I am tackling today a subject that has been on my mind for some time and for which I have no ready answers.  It has to do with the decline of religion in the 20th and 21st centuries and a growing nonchalant, take-it-or-leave-it attitude on the part of even those who profess to be "Christian", as arm's-length as that may be.

This has been driven home to me, especially when I have posted religious items on Wright Lane and subsequently on Facebook.  I get numerous comments and "Likes" on some of my less serious "puff" pieces, but virtually no feedback on more thought-provoking religious stories with bonafide messages, some of which take days to formulate and to compose.  It has been suggested by one authority, that people do not like to read, or comment on, subjects that they do not understand or do not have a personal interest in.  This may well be the case, I'm not sure.

I know for a fact that there are those who will say "What qualifies Dick Wright to speak/write on religious matters?  What does he know? I knew him when and he wasn't the brightest bulb on the tree...etc."  In other words, generally speaking, I am not necessarily always taken seriously or understood.  I liken it to when I was writing newspaper editorials for many years and I got the feeling that I was continually tossing handfuls of mothballs (thoughts, ideas, convictions) into the air and having them float aimlessly, never landing.  Feedback was generally in the form of an objection to something that I had written...So I am used to being ignored, but I keep exercising my compulsion in the hope that I can at least stimulated some thought and somehow, somewhere along the line, a few like-thinkers will be able to relate.

I have no reason to believe that what follows will be any better embraced but this too will be reality, as I see it.

Religion in Canada encompasses a wide range of groups and beliefs. The preamble to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms refers to "God", and the monarch carries the title of "Defender of the Faith". However, Canada has no official religion, and support for religious pluralism (Freedom of religion in Canada) is an important part of Canada's political culture. The 2011 Canadian census reported that 67 per cent of Canadians claim adherence to Christianity, followed by no religion at 24 per cent but rates of religious adherence have been steadily decreasing.

It has been recently suggested that with Christianity on decline, having once been central and integral to Canadian culture and daily life; Canada has come to enter a post-Christian period in secular state, with irreligion in Canada on the rise. The practice of religion is now generally considered a private matter throughout society and within the state. Additionally a majority of Canadians consider religion to be unimportant, but still believe in God.

I am a lay minister and teaching elder in a small community church with an aging congregation that will have extreme difficulty sustaining itself financially in the coming year. Ninety per cent of the members are over 70 years of age and ministers find themselves "preaching to the choir" and holding the status quo. There are no young people in my home church (with the exception of two grade school youngsters who are being exposed to a church environment by their grandparents). Sadly, and in all honesty, the life-expectancy of this church is in the three to five-year range, if that. It has been suggested that churches like this, and there are several dozen in the Presbytery that I serve, have not sufficiently changed in an ever-changing society...It is understood that increased emphasis must be placed on community viability and outreach missions both at home and abroad.  For many aging churches with limited human and financial resources, however, this is a tall order.

The Catch 22 in all of this is that in order to be viable in any community, churches need youthful involvement and that is just not happening. For that I blame my permissive generation and the situation is virtually irrevocable. I fear that we have lost several generations in the process and the jury is out as to where this is going to lead in the end.

It would seem that we have a generation of people who actually challenge the things that their elders took as gospel. In my formative years in the 1940s, religion was taught with no room for question. At best "the Lord moves in mysterious ways" was the only answer one could expect to some youthful questions and that was accepted by us. We have arrived at a point where young people question the "authority" of religion and may even see it as a man made creation to satisfy questions that we ourselves have difficulty answering. By and large, the "faith" aspect of religion is no longer accepted and comprehended by young people and that's where we elders have fallen short. We have not made religion relative in the lives of our younger generations.

We are told by number-crunchers that one-fifth of North Americans today are religiously unaffiliated — higher than at any time in recent history — and those younger than 30 especially seem to be drifting from organized religion. A third of of them say they do not belong to any religion...and this includes my own children and grandchildren -- a sad admission, on my part.

To understand this phenomenon, a round table of six young people was recently organized — three young women and three young men — all struggling with the role of faith and religion in their lives.  The following is the reality of rather naive and disturbing views that reflect an overall lack of understanding of what it means to be a Christian.

Miriam Nissly, 29, was raised Jewish and considers herself Jewish with an "agnostic bent." She loves going to synagogue

"I realize maybe there's a disconnect there — why are you doing it if you don't necessarily have a belief in God? But I think there's a cultural aspect, there's a spiritual aspect, I suppose. I find the practice of sitting and being quiet and being alone with your thoughts to be helpful, but I don't think I need to answer that question [about God] in order to participate in the traditions I was brought up with."

Yusuf Ahmad, 33, raised Muslim, is now an atheist. His doubts set in as a child with sacred stories he just didn't believe

"Like the story of Abraham — his God tells him to sacrifice his son. Then he takes his son to sacrifice him, and he turns into a goat. I remember growing up, in like fifth [or] sixth grade I'd hear these stories and be like, 'That's crazy! Why would this guy do this? Just because he heard a voice in his head, he went to sacrifice his son and it turned into a goat?' There's no way that this happened. I wasn't buying it.

"Today if some guy told you that 'I need to sacrifice my son because God told me to do it,' he'd be locked up in a crazy institution."

Kyle Simpson, 27, raised Christian. He has a tattoo on the inside of his wrist that says "Salvation from the cross" in Latin

"It's a little troublesome now when people ask me. I tell them and they go, 'Oh, you're a Christian,' and I try to skirt the issue now. They go, 'What does that mean?' and it's like, "It's Latin for 'I made a mistake when I was 18.'

"When I first got the tattoo I remember thinking, 'Oh, this will be great because when I'm having troubles in my faith I will be able to look at it, and I can't run away from it.' And that is exactly what is happening.

"I don't [believe in God] but I really want to. That's the problem with questions like these is you don't have anything that clearly states, 'Yes, this is fact,' so I'm constantly struggling. But looking right at the facts — evolution and science — they're saying, no there is none. But what about love? What about the ideas of forgiveness? I like to believe they are true and they are meaningful.

"I think having a God would create a meaning for our lives, like we're working toward a purpose — and it's all worthwhile because at the end of the day we will maybe move on to another life where everything is beautiful. I love that idea."
Melissa Adelman, 30, raised Catholic

"Starting in middle school we got the lessons about why premarital sex was not OK, why active homosexuality was not OK, and growing up in American culture, kids automatically pushed back on those things, and so we had some of those conversations in school with our theology teachers. The thing for me — a large part of the reason I moved away from Catholicism was because without accepting a lot of these core beliefs, I just didn't think that I could still be part of that community.

"I remember a theology test in eighth grade where there was a question about homosexuality, and the right answer was that if you are homosexual, then that is not a sin because that's how God made you, but acting upon it would be a sin. That's what I put down as the answer, but I vividly remember thinking to myself that that was not the right answer."

Rigoberto Perez, 30, raised as Seventh-day Adventist

"It was a fairly important part of our lives. It was something we did every Saturday morning. We celebrate the Sabbath on Saturday. It was pretty hard growing up in a lot of ways. We didn't have a lot of money, the household wasn't very stable a lot of the time, so when something bad would happen, say a prayer, go to church. When my mom got cancer the first time, it was something that was useful at the time for me as a coping mechanism.

"While I was younger, my father drank a lot. There was abuse in the home. My brother committed suicide in 2001. So at some point you start to say, 'Why does all this stuff happen to people?' And if I pray and nothing good happens, is that supposed to be I'm being tried? I find that almost kind of cruel in some ways. It's like burning ants with a magnifying glass. Eventually that gets just too hard to believe anymore."

Lizz Reeves, 23, raised by a Jewish mother and a Christian father. She lost a brother to cancer.

"I wanted so badly to believe in God and in heaven, and that's where my brother was going. I wanted to have some sort of purpose and meaning associated with his passing. And ultimately the more time I spent thinking about it, I realized the purpose and meaning of his life had nothing to do with heaven, but it had to do with how I could make choices in my life that give his life meaning. And that had a lot more weight with me than any kind of faith in anything else."

These very honest responses make my heart bleed and my soul cry.  Without exception there is a very real need for young people to believe in something and to find truth in life, but Christianity as presented to them (or as they perceive it) is not cutting it for them today.  They are not getting the right answers to their questions.  Neither are they being listened to and therein lies a big difference between the days of my youth and today.  Kids in the 21st century want to be heard, whereas I was taught to be seen and not heard.  Adults today can learn a lot if they are open to "listening" to their kids with understanding and sensitivity in a today perspective.

Then again, could it be that our young people are just too smart for their own good (or think they are)? Maybe so!   But that does not let my generation off the hook  In many respects we have failed in providing moral fibre by not passing on the "faith of our fathers"..And speaking for my parents in particular, they would be ashamed of me for letting that happen in my own life.

As stated earlier, society tends to reject Christianity or to relegate it to the private sphere: That is to say, a detachment from God as the origin and meaning of life, and therefore of experience.  It is as if God responded to "piety" and not to the demands of life. Therefore, unconsciously, we accept the role that society has decided to reserve for Christians, and that is to be the religious supplement, the soul for the fulfilment of one's own plans, instead of using our judgment and so sharing in the common aspiration of humanity for happiness.

The difficulties that young people have with Christianity today are a dramatic interrogative for the parents and spiritual leaders who may, or may not, have influenced them. Therefore we should ask ourselves, like T.S. Eliot in Choruses from the Rock, "Has the Church failed mankind, or has mankind failed the Church?"

I pray that it is not too late to turn things around for the up-and-coming generation.  Would that Dick Wright -- the "not-too-bright", often out-spoken, long-in-the-tooth sinner -- had the necessary answers.  

What we need in all of this is a Saviour to rescue us...Come to think of it -- He already has!  All we have to do is to continue following Him in the hope that enough Godliness has rubbed off on some young people today to enable them to follow the Christian path in keeping trust and love alive for generations to come.

God help society otherwise!

06 January, 2014

SEVEN SIMPLE PRIORITIES COULD MAKE A BIG DIFFERENCE IN 2014

The holidays are over, family and friends have returned home, the trappings of Christmas have been put away for another year (unless you are married to a child of the Ukraine like me) and now its time to go back to work and school.  In a way, that is kind of depressing, isn't it.

And even more depressing than that are the new year’s resolutions we make and then so quickly break. We make a lot of resolutions and promises to ourselves at this time of year, right?  And then we promptly go about breaking every one of them in a matter of mere days.

An old Irish New Year’s toast goes like this, “May all your troubles in the coming year be as short as your New Year’s resolutions.”  I would really like to think more positively than that however.

God offers us more hope than that. In 2 Cor. 5:17, the Apostle Paul wrote, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!”

A new calendar tells us that we have been given a fresh gift to build and change our lives. Every new year and every new day is an opportunity make it better than the day before and the year before.  We would do well to make a commitment to focus more on spiritual things in this new year.

I do not hesitate to say that our focus and priorities should no longer be centered in the things of this earth, but on the things of God. This, of course, is a very real challenge, because we still have to live in the real world, with all of its stresses and struggles.

Focusing on spiritual things does not remove the stress and struggle altogether, but it certainly makes a huge difference in our ability to both survive and thrive.  In trying to live a more spiritually focused life in the new year, I emphasize seven practical priorities for serious consideration. I'd call them "resolutions", but then we might not keep them.

Priority #1 - Forget About Yesterday
The Apostle Paul wrote, “But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 3:13-14).  It should be understood that Paul was a man who had some things from his past that could haunt him if he let them. He had made some terrible mistakes that brought great suffering to others.

There is not one of us who doesn’t have something negative in our past that could immobilize us.  Failures, hurts, disappointments happen to all of us.  But God does not want us dwelling on them, rather He would have us come to Him for forgiveness and healing of the pain and regret of yesterday.

It is God’s gift to us that we can walk in newness of life, that we can forget those things in the past and live in the present.  So that’s a good place for us to start the new year, to forget about yesterday.

Priority #2 -- Don't worry about tomorrow
I know that forgetting about tomorrow is easier said than done.  Tomorrow can be so overwhelming with the potential for pain and insufficiency.

Jesus gave us this prescription, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?  Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you, by worrying, can add a single hour to his life?...So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.  But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Those words were taken from Matthew 6.

I’m not trying to pretend that any of this is easy, but I am certain that there is no better way.  Corrie Ten Boom, who had suffered greatly in her life said, “Worry does not empty tomorrow of sorrows; it empties today of strength.”

Whatever we face in this new year, we will be better off if we make it a priority to forget the past, and not worry about the future.

Priority #3 - Make Today Count
The famous funny man, Groucho Marx, said, “Yesterday is gone - tomorrow isn’t here yet. I have just one day - today - and I can choose how I shall be! And I choose to be happy!!”  The only day we have and literally the only moment we have is now.  We are not promised tomorrow, nor even the rest of today!

Psalm 118:24 says, “This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.”  As we try to take life one day at a time, and make each day count, we can free ourselves from the burden of the past, and the worry of the future.

The following four priorities are really ways to make each day count.

Priority #4 - Help Every Person You Can
When we focus all our attention on ourselves, we get lost in our struggles, but when we turn our attention outward, we realize the tremendous blessing of helping others.  Every person we encounter is facing some kind of challenge, or is carrying some kind of heartache.  Our own personal struggles or heartaches may be bigger or smaller than theirs, but it makes no difference.

If we seek to be a blessing to everyone we meet, then both of us will be blessed.  Paul again wrote in Galatians 6:10, “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.”   In the chapter before that one, Paul beautifully summarized the Christian life with these words, “The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.”

Isn’t that good?  What a great year and great life we can live if we focus on others and attempt to help every person we can!  Come on now...How difficult can that be?

Priority #5 - Keep Your Heart Pure
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.”   Any mechanic ill tell you that a clean engine runs better and delivers more power than a dirty one. The same is true of a pure heart.  We make a terrible mistake when we collect and retain all kinds of garbage in our hearts.

Think of things like evil desires, resentments, jealousy, hatred and thoughts of revenge.  These things eat away at us like a cancer. They poison our hearts and block our ability to see God and experience a vibrant spiritual life.

It was also Paul who wrote, “Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.”

Again, I’m not trying to say that any of this is easy.  In Romans 7, Paul talked about his very real struggle to do what he knew was right. I can testify to how difficult it is for me to keep my heart and life pure, but this must be our ongoing priority. If we give into temptation and evil, and allow it to take up residence in our hearts, then our entire lives will be harmed and hindered.

But just as Paul concluded, I believe that God will give us the relief and the resources we need to develop a pure heart and life. Thank God there is hope for us.

Priority #6 - Renew Your Strength Daily
One of my favorite passages is Isaiah 40:28-31, “Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom.  He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”

I don’t know about you, but I need some of that!  Just as our bodies require daily nourishment from food and water, so does our spirit.  We need daily nourishment for our souls.

Priority #7 - Act on God’s Promises and Commands

In Philippians 4:9, Paul summarized his instructions to the Philippine Christians, saying, “Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me – put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.”  There is no substitute for faith and obedience.

As we move into this new year, let’s make it a priority to claim God’s promises and in so doing walk by faith.  The old Nike commercial, “Just Do It,” is a good recipe when it comes to acting on the forgoing Seven Priorities in the next 12 months.

Be the best you can be, dear reader...and have the best year of your life while you are at it!

Acknowledgments:  David Garrett and David Owens

04 January, 2014

ARIELLE FORD: THE ALCHEMY OF TRAGEDY

By Arielle Ford
I have often referred to, and quoted from, the work of Arielle Ford who has impressed me as an author, speaker, relationship expert and genuine person.  Arielle has invited me to re-produce a year-end piece she wrote for the Huffington Post in recent days and I have been so touched by it that I gladly herewith oblige. In "The Alchemy of Tragedy" Arielle refers to 2013 as arguably the worst year of her life, yet one that actually brought many unexpected and surprising life-changing gifts for her. I know that you will be as moved as I have been. 

James Costello was one of the victims of the Boston Marathon bombing earlier this year. He was seriously injured and he now claims that while this was the worst moment of his life, he wouldn't trade it for anything because it became the best thing that ever happened to him.  Why?

Because it led to him meeting his future bride, Krista D'Agostino, a nurse at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital where he was transferred after undergoing multiple surgeries over two weeks at Massachusetts General Hospital. The two began a relationship that culminated in a wedding proposal in France during a recent 10-day trip.

I love this story because it so clearly demonstrates that while we are quick to judge something as bad or wrong, awful or terrible, the reality is this: sometimes the best comes out of the worst.

After all, where do you think all these maxims come from?

-- There is always a silver lining.
-- Make lemonade out of lemons.
-- There's a pony in here somewhere (when the room you are in is full of manure).
-- Cross over to the sunny side of the street.
-- Have an attitude of gratitude.
-- When one door closes, another opens.
-- This is a blessing in disguise.

I wasn't born an optimist. In fact, quite the opposite. I was a moody, sullen, often seriously depressed child and young adult.

One night, at age 26, I decided that I was going to find the secret of happiness. I was at a party in Coconut Grove, Florida, at the waterfront home of a millionaire, surrounded by people seemingly having a great time. I felt like such an outsider amidst the laughing, smiling party-goers. I had never felt so alone.  I wanted to have a great time, I just didn't know how. I thought it was something that just "happened" to lucky people.

In that moment, as I stood on the dock overlooking beautiful Biscayne Bay, I promised myself that I would do whatever it took to discover the secret to happiness.

During next several years I went to therapy, read a lot of books, attended workshops and discovered that most of the time happiness is a choice. Even when really bad stuff is happening!

I found out that I am an HSP -- a highly sensitive person and essentially very shy. I had to break through my fear of people and really make an effort to learn how to connect, make small talk, and allow myself to "be seen."

It wasn't easy but on a deep intuitive level I knew that in order to live, I had to be willing to do what the amazing Dr. Susan Jeffers advised "feel the fear and do it anyway."

And eventually I radically evolved into a happy, outgoing, optimist. On a soul level, I discovered that I could source my own happiness, in spite of the circumstances. I now believe that I live in a friendly universe.

This past year I really had to dig deep to recoup my core happiness. After the loss of my sister, Debbie Ford, I wasn't sure I would ever find joy again. Yes, I had been in the grieving process before having lost grandparents, my Dad, my step-Dad, a beloved Aunt...but this was bigger, deeper and massively unacceptable.

Part of my recovery was allowing myself all the time I needed to be sad, depressed and miserable. I didn't restrict myself to mine, or anyone else's, timetable of how the grieving process should go. I gave myself permission to say no to everyone and everything that I didn't have the energy for (which was nearly everyone and everything).

Even though I had been brought up to believe that it's selfish to think of yourself first, it became clear to me that my survival depended on my ability to give myself a new and deep level of love and self-care.

And then, slowly, I began to notice, moments of joy popping up.

-- I found the ability to smile and laugh again.
-- I discovered I was having more moments of ok'ness than not.
-- And, I made major changes in the way I "do" life.

I stated working much less and resting much more and this how now become my new lifestyle. Not only am I happy again, I am physically restored, and the Universe sends me near-daily signs that I am on the right track. My creative projects are flowing, money comes from unexpected sources, ideas appear like gifts from the heavens.

The day I heard James Costello's story I had just been thinking about the paradox of how this past year had gone. While I could say this was the worst year of my life, in many unexpected ways it has also been the best year of my life. How is this possible?

Because the positive lifestyle changes that I've made, which I feel were completely guided by my sister from the other side, will impact the rest of my life and most likely wouldn't have happened without the loss of losing her.

The ancient Japanese aesthetic of Wabi Sabi honors all things imperfect and impermanent and seeks to uncover perfection in imperfection. That is what 2013 has been for me -- a process of filling in the deep wounds in my life with 24-karat gold -- not to forget what has happened but as a way to find beauty in the midst of tragedy.

My sister created an amazing body of work known as The Shadow Process where she led people to find "the gold in their own darkness." This year she helped me find "gold" during my dark night of the soul.

Where have you found "gold" in a bad situation? How has a "negative" experience helped you discover a part of you that you now wouldn't give up?

Thank you for this Arielle...As always, I totally relate!

02 January, 2014

WAYS TO BE PROACTIVE IN FIGHTING CANCER

AFTER YEARS OF TELLING PEOPLE CHEMOTHERAPY IS THE ONLY WAY TO TRY AND ELIMINATE CANCER,  WORLD-FAMOUS JOHNS HOPKINS UNIVERSITY IN BALTIMORE IS FINALLY STARTING TO TELL US THERE IS AN ALTERNATIVE METHOD.

Here is what we now learn:

1. Every person has cancer cells in the body. These cancer cells do not show up in the standard tests until they have multiplied to a few billion. When doctors tell cancer patients that there are no more cancer cells in their bodies after treatment, it just means the tests are unable to detect the cancer cells because they have not reached the detectable size.

2. Cancer cells occur between six to more than 10 times in a person’s lifetime.

3. When the person’s immune system is strong the cancer cells will be destroyed and prevented from multiplying and forming tumors.

4. When a person has cancer it indicates the person has multiple nutritional deficiencies. These could be due to genetic, environmental, food and lifestyle factors.

5. To overcome the multiple nutritional deficiencies, changing diet and including supplements will strengthen the immune system.

6. Chemotherapy involves poisoning the rapidly-growing cancer cells and also destroys rapidly-growing healthy cells in the bone marrow, gastro-intestinal tract etc, and can cause organ damage, like liver, kidneys, heart, lungs etc.

7. Radiation while destroying cancer cells also burns, scars and damages healthy cells, tissues and organs.

8. Initial treatment with chemotherapy and radiation will often reduce tumor size. However prolonged use of chemotherapy and radiation do not result in more tumor destruction.

9. When the body has too much toxic burden from chemotherapy and radiation the immune system is either compromised or destroyed, hence the person can succumb to various kinds of infections and complications.

10. Chemotherapy and radiation can cause cancer cells to mutate and become resistant and difficult to destroy. Surgery can also cause cancer cells to spread to other sites.

11. An effective way to battle cancer is to STARVE the cancer cells by not feeding it with foods it needs to multiple.  What cancer cells feed on:

a. Sugar is a cancer-feeder. By cutting off sugar it cuts off one important food supply to the cancer cells. Note: Sugar substitutes like NutraSweet, Equal, Spoonful, etc are made with Aspartame and it is harmful. A better natural substitute would be Manuka honey or molasses but only in very small amounts. Table salt has a chemical added to make it white in colour. Better alternative is Bragg’s aminos or sea salt.

b. Milk causes the body to produce mucus, especially in the gastro-intestinal tract. Cancer feeds on mucus. By cutting off milk and substituting with unsweetened soy milk, cancer cells will starved.

c. Cancer cells thrive in an acid environment. A meat-based diet is acidic and it is best to eat fish, and a little chicken rather than beef or pork. Meat also contains livestock antibiotics, growth hormones and parasites, which are all harmful, especially to people with cancer.

d. A diet made of 80% fresh vegetables and juice, whole grains, seeds, nuts and a little fruits help put the body into an alkaline environment. About 20% can be from cooked food including beans. Fresh vegetable juices provide live enzymes that are easily absorbed and reach down to cellular levels within 15 minutes t o nourish and enhance growth of healthy cells. To obtain live enzymes for building healthy cells try to drink fresh vegetable juice (most vegetables including bean sprouts) and eat some raw vegetables two or three times a day. Enzymes are destroyed at temperatures of 104 degrees F (40 degrees C).

e. Avoid coffee, tea, and chocolate, which have high caffeine (easier said than done, I know). Green tea is a better alternative and has cancer-fighting properties. Best to drink purified water, or filtered, to avoid known toxins and heavy metals in tap water. Distilled water is acidic, avoid it.

12. Meat protein is difficult to digest and requires a lot of digestive enzymes. Undigested meat remaining in the intestines will become putrified and leads to more toxic buildup.

13. Cancer cell walls have a tough protein covering. By refraining from or eating less meat it frees more enzymes to attack the protein walls of cancer cells and allows the body’s killer cells to destroy the cancer cells.

14. Some supplements build up the immune system (IP6, Flor-ssence, Essiac, anti-oxidants, vitamins, minerals, EFAs etc.) to enable the body’s own killer cells to destroy cancer cells. Other supplements like vitamin E are known to cause apoptosis, or programmed cell death, the body’s normal method of disposing of damaged, unwanted, or unneeded cells.

15. Cancer is a disease of the mind, body, and spirit. A proactive and positive spirit will help the cancer warrior be a survivor.  Anger, unforgiveness and bitterness put the body into a stressful and acidic environment. Learn to have a loving and forgiving spirit. Learn to relax and enjoy life.

16. Cancer cells cannot thrive in an oxygenated environment. Exercising daily, and deep breathing help to get more oxygen down to the cellular level. Oxygen therapy is another means employed to destroy cancer cells.