"One ought, everyday at least, to hear a little song, read a good poem, see a fine picture and speak a few reasonable words." --Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The White Stocking

"Christmas means giving. The Father gave his Son, and his Son gave his life. Without giving there is no true Christmas, and without sacrifice there is no true worship."
 --Gordon B. Hinckley

The White Stocking
One of my family's most cherished Christmas traditions is the White Stocking. There are six people in my family, but every year we hang seven stockings. Six stockings are embroidered with each family member's name and decorated with the traditional symbols of the modern Christmas culture: Santa, reindeer, elves, and jingle bells all trimmed in red and green. 

But the seventh stocking is not like the others. 

It is plain white with white beading as its only embellishment. There is no name embroidered on the cuff, just some strings of hanging beads that lightly knock against each other when we open and close our front door or someone breezes by the mantel in the hustle and bustle of the season. 

This White Stocking belongs to Jesus. 

Every year on Christmas Eve the six of us gather together to read the Nativity story (Luke 2) and fill Jesus' stocking with gifts we think He would like most. We never put anything tangible in the stocking, just little slips of paper upon which we write specific goals/promises to make the world a better place by aligning our lives and hearts more diligently with His. The gifts are very personal, so we usually don't share them with each other. We fold the little slips up and address them like a gift, making sure to note the year.

We keep these little folded slips of paper in the stocking even after it has been taken down and stored away until the next year. We love to read our gifts from the last year and ponder on how well we gave the gift. We have several years of slips stored in the stocking and it is really interesting to read them year by year.  

Below is the article we read immediately before we filled Jesus' stocking with gifts this year. It was extremely moving. I'm not really a cryer, but I wept three times while I read it aloud to the family. This article will definitely become part of our yearly tradition. It just puts you in the right frame of mind to give gifts to the Savior. Enjoy!

Three Levels of Christmas
William B. Smart 

Christmas is a beautiful time of the year. We love the excitement, the giving spirit, the special awareness of and appreciation for family and friends, the feelings of love and brotherhood that bless our gatherings at Christmastime.

In all of the joyousness it is well to reflect that Christmas comes at three levels.

Let’s call the first the Santa Claus level. It’s the level of Christmas trees and holly, of whispered secrets and colorful packages, of candlelight and rich food and warm open houses. It’s carolers in the shopping malls, excited children, and weary but loving parents. It’s a lovely time of special warmth and caring and giving. It’s the level at which we eat too much and spend too much and do too much – and enjoy every minute of it. We love the Santa Claus level of Christmas.

But there’s a higher, more beautiful level. Let’s call it the Silent Night level. It’s the level of all our glorious Christmas carols, of that beloved, familiar story: “Now in those days there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus....” It’s the level of the crowded inn and the silent, holy moment in a dark stable when the Son of Man came to earth. It’s the shepherds on steep, bare hills near Bethlehem, angels with their glad tidings, the new star in the East, wise men traveling far in search of the Holy One. How beautiful and meaningful it is; how infinitely poorer we would be without this sacred second level of Christmas.

The trouble is, these two levels don’t last. They can’t.

Twelve days of Christmas, at the first level, is about all most of us can stand. It’s too intense, too extravagant. The tree dies out and needles fall. The candles burn down. The beautiful wrappings go out with the trash, the carolers are up on the ski slopes, the toys break, and the biggest day in the stores for the entire year is exchange day, December 26th. The feast is over and the dieting begins. But the lonely and the hungry are with us still, perhaps lonelier and hungrier than before.

Lovely and joyous as the first level of Christmas is, there will come day, very soon, when Mother will put away the decorations and vacuum the living room and think, “Thank goodness that is over for another year.”

Even the second level, the level of the Baby Jesus, can’t last. How many times this season can you sing, “Silent Night?” The angels and the star, and the shepherd, even the silent, sacred mystery of the holy night itself, can’t long satisfy humanity’s basic need. The man who keeps Christ in the manger will, in the end, be disappointed and empty.

No, for Christmas to last all year long, for it to grow in beauty and meaning and purpose, for it to have the power to change lives, we must celebrate it at the third level, that of the adult Christ. It is at this level—not as an infant—that our Savior brings his gifts of lasting joy, lasting peace, lasting hope. It was the adult Christ who reached out and touched the untouchable, who loved the unlovable, who so loved us all that even in his agony on the cross, he prayed forgiveness for his enemies. 

 This is Christ, creator of worlds without number, who wept because so many of us lack affection and hate each other – and then who willingly gave his life for all of us, including those for whom he wept. This is the Christ, the adult Christ, who gave us the perfect example, and asked us to follow him.

Accepting that invitation is the way - the only way – that all mankind can celebrate Christmas all year and all life long.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Fortune Cookie Friday - Facebook

The fortunes I will share today are a little slice of the relationship between my husband and I. Perhaps you will not find it funny, but like it or not, this is "us" and we thought it was hilarious!

My husband is anti-Facebook. Well, he doesn't discriminate; it's probably more accurate to say he is anti-Social Networking. He claims it is a "sign of the decline of Western Civilization" or some such nonsense. He scoffs at those of us who fall prey to the charms of the Social Network. Especially me. He teases me incessantly about it. But then...I also tease him about his cranky, anti-social ways.

Our most recent trip to our favorite Thai place turned up a couple of fortunes that we converted into jabs for and against Facebook. 

After finishing our lunch, I cracked this baby open and instantly went for the punch.  

"This is why I use Facebook," I said, handing him the little paper.

He smiled, handed his fortune to me and replied, "This is why I don't."

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Being "Wrong"

"Mistakes are a part of being human. Appreciate your mistakes for what they are: precious life lessons that can only be learned the hard way. Unless it's a fatal mistake, which, at least, others can learn from."
--Al Franken
"Oh, the Things I Know," 2002

It is election season and I am a Facebook user; therefore, I have been exposed to a lot ideas and opinions that conflict with my own in the past few months. This time around, I decided to keep my opinions to myself and observe my own reactions and assumptions when someone thinks differently than me. It has been extremely eye-opening! 

During my observations of myself, I have often reflected on the following fascinating TED Talk by author Kathryn Schulz. I watched it over a year ago and loved it so much I purchased and read the corresponding book, Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error. It is so interesting how very "right" she is about being wrong!  

What I learned about myself from simply paying attention to my thoughts and reactions with the "Series of Unfortunate Assumptions" in mind has helped me to be more tolerant and entertain different ideas without being offended by them. I have also learned to value the diversity of thought out there. It's incredible how we can all experience the same things and come away with as many different perspectives as there are stars in the sky! 

In the past, I have been guilty of making all three of the Unfortunate Assumptions (below). Have you? If so, have you ever wondered why? If you're brave enough to ask yourself the question, your answer will most likely shift your paradigm for the better, like it did mine. Enjoy!


Excerpt from TED Talk, "On Being Wrong," by Kathryn Schulz. 

(Video of Talk in its entirety below excerpt.)  


Think for a moment about what it means to feel right. It means that you think that your beliefs just perfectly reflect reality. And when you feel that way, you’ve got a problem to solve: How are you going to explain all of those people who disagree with you? It turns out most of us explain those people the same way -- by resorting to:

  1. The Ignorance Assumption: They must not have the same information as you. 
  2. The Idiocy Assumption: They have the same information, but are too moronic to put the pieces of the puzzle together properly.
  3. The Evil Assumption: They know the truth and they are deliberately distorting it for their own malevolent purposes.
This is a catastrophe! This attachment to our own rightness keeps us from preventing mistakes when we absolutely need to, and causes us to treat each other terribly. To me, what's most baffling and tragic about this is that it misses the whole point of being human. It's like we want to imagine that our minds are these perfectly translucent windows and we just kind of gaze out of them and describe the world as it unfolds. And we want everybody else to gaze out of the same window and see the exact same thing. That is not true! And if it were, the world would be incredibly boring!
The miracle of your mind isn’t that you can see the world as it is. It’s that you can see the world as it isn’t. We can remember the past, we can think about the future and we can imagine what it's like to be some other person, in some other place.

St. Augustine said, "Fallor ergo sum: I err, therefore I am." Augustine understood that our capacity to screw up - it's not some kind of embarrassing defect in the human system; something we can eradicate or overcome. It's totally fundamental to who we are.

We need to step out of that tiny, terrified space of "rightness" and look around at each other. And look out at the vastness and complexity and mystery of the universe. And be able to say, "Wow...I don't know...maybe I'm wrong."  

--Kathryn Schulz
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Got Glue?

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

On Profanity

“Al Gore took a Viagra and grew two feet.” 
--Larry the Cable Guy

Anyone who knows me knows that I don’t use profanity. I’m not a total prude about it; it’s just a personal preference not to use words outside of their defined meanings. I also like to be a little different than the rest of the herd, and let’s face it, swearing is definitely not unique. On occasion, I have been known to use a curse word when quoting someone else, or when I believe the word will enhance a point; mostly for comedic purposes. But I’m not really that funny, so that’s decidedly rare.

But I love the word bastard.

Where the other, crasser curse words don’t tempt me, bastard does. It’s so little used and has such a funny sound, it appeals to my sense of humor and love of the uncommon. However, I can’t really find an appropriate way to use it in line with its definition, so I never get to say it.

But I have found an old, similar sounding word that isn’t considered profane and can be used according to its definition. At first I thought I made it up because I had never heard it used as a noun. But I looked it up in the dictionary, and there it was; a real word:

Dastard: n. A person who acts treacherously or underhandedly. Cowardly. Sneaking. Malicious.

It’s uncommon. It’s got that same funny sound that feels alive and bouncy in my mouth. It can be easily used in line with its definition. It’s a little shocking. It’s perfect!

I used the Larry the Cable Guy quote above for this post because I thought it would be funny to play a little passive aggressive fill in the blank. Just take out the Al Gore and replace it with your favorite dastard. Don't forget to post it in the comments!

"                                           took a Viagra and grew two feet."

Friday, July 20, 2012

God and the Universe

{Edmond Dantès}: I don't believe in God.
{Priest}: It does not matter. He believes in you.
--The Count of Monte Cristo, Alexandre Dumas 

I have a quote I’d like to share (below). I like almost everything about this quote, but one thing bothers me and I need to address it before I share.

I don’t know what the deal is lately, but I have noticed a new-age fascination with the term “the Universe” when referring to spiritual things. Is it just because people view God as inaccessible to our modern sensibilities? Or is it because “the Universe” can integrate many differing beliefs into one broad term?

Well, whether it’s for accessibility or unification - or even some completely different reason - it bugs me.

I believe in God and I personally believe “the Universe” diminishes him. He created the Universe; He is bigger than the Universe. And I refuse to reduce His infinite value by perpetuating the term “the Universe” in relation to Him and/or His works. Therefore, wherever the Universe is mentioned in the following quote, I have changed the wording back to what it should be: God. I still resent the brackets, but at least now the principle can ring through without all the distracting noise from "the Universe." ;)

“If you say to [God], 'Gimme, gimme, gimme,' then [God] gives you back what you offered out. You get more 'gimme, gimme, gimme.' “Gimme” means you don’t have enough. You have a shortage. [God] just keeps giving you more shortage because of what you’re thinking and saying.
“If, on the other hand, you say to [God] again and again, 'How may I serve? How may I serve? How may I serve?' and you live a life of constancy reflecting that principle, [God] will respond back, 'How may I serve you?'”

--Wayne Dyer

Sunday, June 24, 2012

What is Love?

"The words of Jesus, “Love one another as I have loved you,” must be not only a light for us but a flame that consumes the self in us. Love, in order to survive, must be nourished by sacrifices, especially the sacrifice of self. Love, to be real, must cost—it must hurt—it must empty us of self."
--Mother Theresa 

“I love you, mother,” said little John;
Then, forgetting his work, his cap went on,
And he was off to the garden swing,
Leaving his mother the wood to bring.

“I love you, mother,” said rosy Nell;
“I love you better than tongue can tell;”
Then she teased and pouted full half the day,
Till her mother rejoiced when she went to play.

“I love you, mother,” said little Fan;
“To-day I’ll help you all I can;
How glad I am that school doesn’t keep!”
So she rocked the babe till it fell asleep.

Then, stepping softly, she fetched the broom,
And swept the floor, and dusted the room;
Busy and happy all day was she,
Helpful and happy as a child could be.

“I love you, mother,” again they said—
Three little children going to bed;
How do you think that mother guessed
Which of them really loved her best?

--Joy Allison, “Which Loved Best?” 
(McGuffey’s Third Eclectic Reader, 1879, 146–47)  

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Turn off the TV and Get a Life!*

"I must say I find television very educational. The minute somebody turns it on, I go read a good book."
--Groucho Marx 

Start Living in Prime Time
by Denis Waitley

Prime time is that period between 6 and 10 p.m. during which most of the general public watches television. Commercials in prime time are the most expensive, approaching a million dollars per minute. Your real success in life will take a quantum leap when you stop watching other people making money in their professions performing in prime time, and start living your own dreams and goals in prime time.

Time is the ultimate equal opportunity employer. Time never stops to rest, never hesitates, never looks forward or backward. Life's raw material spends itself in the now, this moment, which is why how you spend your time is far more important than all the material possessions you may own or positions you may obtain. Positions change, possessions come and go, you can earn more money. You can renew your supply of many things, but like good health, that other most precious resource, time spent is gone forever.

Each yesterday, and all of them together, are beyond your control. Literally all the money in the world can't undo or redo a single act you performed. You cannot erase a single word you said. You can't add an "I love you," "I'm sorry", or "I forgive you", not even a "thank you" you forgot to say. Each human being in every hemisphere and time zone has precisely 168 hours a week to spend. And some of the most precious hours occur in prime time.

Consider this: most of your daytime hours are spent helping other people solve their problems. The little time you have in the evenings and on weekends is all you have to spend on yourself, on your own dreams and goals, and personal development. Some thoughts to ponder:
  1. Have supper with your loved ones at least two to three times per week. It's the best time for casual conversation to listen to what those close to you feel is important in their lives. Mealtime is a time to dialogue. 
  2. A television set is an appliance. It should be used, at most, for two hours at a time. It should be off, unless specific programs of interest are selected. It should not be used as a one-eyed baby sitter. For the most part, TV exposes us to negative role models. 
  3. Instead of watching television why not read a good fiction or non-fiction book, write a letter, engage in a hobby or craft, call a friend or someone in need of encouragement on the phone, network on your computer, go out to an ethnic restaurant, a home show, an entrepreneurial show, a musical recital, a play, a fitness class, or cultural event. Take an art or photography class. Use prime time to live the kind of life others put on layaway.
Action Idea: If you and your family/friends watch TV, try not turning it on for one week. When you do watch TV, reduce by 50% the amount of time you spend watching it. Concentrate your evenings and free time engaged in hands on, real life experiences, you can touch, feel, smell and engage all your senses in. Instead of virtual reality, insist on the real thing.
*Thanks to John Bytheway for sharing the article used for this blog post in his excellent talk on CD entitled, Turn Off the TV and Get a Life! 

Friday, February 10, 2012


"My mother drew a distinction between achievement and success. She said that achievement is the knowledge that you have studied and worked hard and done the best that is within you. Success is being praised by others. That is nice but not as important or satisfying. Always aim for achievement and forget about success." 
-- Helen Hayes

Sunday, January 15, 2012

C.S. Lewis Sunday - Progress

"Would you think I was joking if I said that you can put a clock back, and that if the clock is wrong it is often a very sensible thing to do? ... We all want progress. But progress means getting nearer to the place where you want to be. And if you have taken a wrong turning, then to go forward does not get you any nearer. If you are on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; and in that case the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive man. We have all seen this when doing arithmetic. When I have started a sum the wrong way, the sooner I admit this and go back and start again, the faster I shall get on. There is nothing progressive about being pig headed and refusing to admit a mistake. And I think if you look at the present state of the world, it is pretty plain that humanity has been making some big mistake. We are on the wrong road. And if that is so, we must go back. Going back is the quickest way on."
--C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

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Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Wiseguy Wednesday: Resolution

I don’t believe this (at all), nor do I advocate any such philosophy, but I thought it was funny, so…

"Now there are more overweight people in America than average-weight people. So overweight people are now average… which means, you have met your New Year's resolution."
--Jay Leno