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A series of massive thunder storms had battered our area recently. Heavy rains, high winds, hail, and lots of lightening had caused flash flooding, knocked down tree limbs and even toppled trees. I had spent the afternoon picking up branches out of my yard and tossing them away. Then just before I was getting ready to take my dogs for their last walk of the day the warnings came on my television and over my phone that another of these storms was headed our way.

I quickly took my dogs outside. Huge, menacing clouds were rolling in while thunder boomed over the hills. I knew that the stars were shining and the man in the moon was smiling up there somewhere but I certainly couldnít see them. The darkness seemed darker and scarier than usual because I knew what was on the way. That was when I saw it. The tiniest blink of light, up high, at the far end of the meadow behind my house. I smiled. The first of the fireflies had appeared for the Summer at just the time I needed to see his light. Soon a few others were blinking their lights as well. It amazed me how far their light traveled in the darkness of the night and how they didnít seem bothered at all by the approaching storm. I spent an extra few minutes watching my lightening bug buddies and taking in their message of light before heading in to get ready for the storm. As I did, though, I noticed that the darkness no longer seemed so scary and that my fear had been replaced with joy.

Life does have its share of storms, some caused by nature and some caused by us. We canít go through life being scared of them, however. God put us here to shine our light. God put us here to share our love. God put us here to ride through the storms, clean up after them, and make this world a better place. Take a lesson from the fireflies then. Let your light shine. It may seem tiny but you will be amazed at how far it can be seen and how easily it can drive the dark away.-----


When I was a teenager I attended a six week summer learning program at a college. called Upward Bound and it helped disadvantaged kids get a taste of what college is like. We stayed in the dorms. In the morning we had college classes and the evenings were filled with fun activities. We did have a break in the afternoons, however. On one of these afternoons my friend, Claude and I found an old basketball and headed to an outdoor, hardtop, basketball court for a game of one on one.

I was gangly weighing only 140 pounds at the time but Claude was taller and even skinnier than me. He had the advantage in the game then and I fell behind fast. I was determined, though, so I drove hard to the basket but missed a lay up. The ball bounced off the rim and I jumped up to rebound it. Just as I was about to grab it I saw an elbow above my face. As Claude grabbed the ball his elbow came down hard, right into my eye. The skin below it was split, the bone was bruised, and it hurt like you wouldnít believe. Claude kept apologizing over and over while I found myself laughing through the pain. I spent the next few days walking around with a scar and a black eye, but it was worth it. For years afterwards I got a laugh whenever I told the story and gently teased Claude about his switch blade sharp, elbows of death.

In this life we all get an elbow to the eye from time to time. Our plans go awry. Things work against us. Our ups become downs and the twists and turns of life take us where they may. It is best when this happens to handle it with laughter, love, acceptance, and forgiveness. In this way you can turn your pain to joy, you can learn and grow, and you can make God smile. God has the most wonderful sense of humor. After all, He made US! Fill your days with laughter and love then. And keep a smile on your face even when thereís an elbow in your eye.-----


It was a warm, sunny, Spring morning. I had just finished driving my son to the sheltered workshop which had just reopened after being closed on and off for over a year due to the Covid 19 pandemic. I was rushing back home, zipping along the mountain roads that I know so well, with a thousand thoughts on my mind, with a ton of wishes and worries bouncing around my brain. I wouldnít say that I was speeding but I wasnít driving as safely as I normally do either. Suddenly, I saw a dark form in the road ahead. I stepped on the brakes and saw that it was a big, black dog standing right in the road. I stomped down on the brakes harder and came to a full stop. The dog just stood there looking at me in a strange sort of way. Then he shook his head disapprovingly and walked slowly off the asphalt and up into the woods.

I drove away slowly wondering about that dog. Then for the first time that day I noticed the sunshine glowing off the light green leaves of the trees. I noticed the thousands of buttercups blooming along the side of the road. I noticed the butterflies floating above them. I noticed the birds soaring in the sky. For the first time that day I felt the Love of our Creator and felt the happiness of Heaven while still here on Earth. I drove on with a clear mind and a warm heart thanking God for sending that Divine dog to slow me down and to wake me up.

Looking back now I see I needed that reminder. I was getting too lost in my own life again to notice the real LIFE all around me. I needed to see again that life is short and I shouldnít rush through it. I needed to see that life is precious and I should cherish every second of it. I needed to see that life is beautiful and I should welcome that beauty into my heart, mind, and soul. I needed to see that life is LOVE. Life is Godís LOVE expressed in a trillion different ways. May you enjoy every second of it and may you add your own love to it as well.----------


During the last few years of his life my Dad lived just up the road from me in a tiny home that used to belong to my Nana. He had been a widower for over 20 years by then losing my Mom when she was only 55 years old. His Mom, my Nana had recently passed away too. He was disabled and retired so he spent a lot of time alone.

Several times a week, though, I would take a walk up to his house. We would sit in the living room or on the front porch, sip tea and talk. It wasnít anything major. We talked sports, cars, gardening, weather, and occasionally enjoyed a laugh over old memories. It wasnít anything too deep. It was just a simple sharing, a connection between a father and a son, an hour spent just enjoying each otherís company. Those afternoons remain some of my happiest times spent with my Dad. It allowed us to gently heal any old wounds we had given each other when I was growing up. It allowed us to silently give each other the time and love we hadnít before. It allowed us to grow closer together before he left this world. And I thank God for that time.

I know too that when my own time in this world is done, when my own mission on Earth is finished I will get to spend another afternoon with Dad. We will sit, talk, catch up, and quietly enjoy each otherís company. We will share all the love and wisdom we didnít get to share while we were here. And we will make that afternoon last an eternity.

If there is one thing that I learned from those afternoons I spent with my Dad during the last years of his life, it is this: It is never too late to spent time with those you love. It is never too late to tell them that you love them. It is never too late to heal a relationship and mend a hurting heart. It doesnít matter if they are here or in Heaven. Because Love conquers even death. Begin today then! Spend an afternoon with those you love and those afternoons will become a lifetime.----------


When I was a boy I had the craziest bus ride to school everyday. First I had to get up early, wolf down my breakfast, and walk across the rickety, wooden, swinging bridge that spanned the river between our house and the main road. Then I stood and waited for the bus to arrive. When it got there I climbed in. I was always one of the first ones on the bus. Then even though the bus was only 4 miles from school I started a ride that lasted over 45 minutes.

First the bus went in the opposite direction for 6 miles, parked and waited for another bus to transfer kids onto it. Then it started back but instead of going straight to my school it started up a long, winding, one lane mountain road pausing at every house to pick up more kids. The road swirled around the mountain and back down the other side with the bus getting fuller, louder, and rowdier with each stop. Finally, it arrived at the high school to drop off the older kids before heading on to my grade school. But even then it didnít go straight there but instead headed down another rocky, dirt road full of potholes to pick up even more children. I usually got to the school stressed, tired, and just before the first class bell rang.

Thankfully, the ride home was different. During it the last kids picked up became the first kids dropped off and since my house was along the way I got dropped off after just 10 minutes or so. I remember I would literally run across that rickety, old bridge because I was so happy to be home again.

Looking back now I can see my whole life here has been one, long, crazy, bus ride. It has been full of stops, starts, twists, turns and lots of passengers some mean but most kind. Sometimes the scenery has been beautiful and sometimes not so much. Sometimes the road has been smooth and sometimes rocky. Through it all, though, I have taken comfort in knowing that one day I will be going Home again. I will be so happy to be there too. I will run into the arms of those who went before me, rejoice in the love I have shared, dance in the light, and be welcomed Home with our Heavenly Fatherís smile.

Do your best to enjoy the ride this life gives you. Take the trip with love in your heart and kindness in your soul. Make the journey better for those you meet along the way. And then when your time here is done you can get off the bus, walk into the light, and find yourself so Happy to be HOME again!---------------


If there is one thing I have missed the most during this last year of the Covid-19 pandemic, it has been seeing other peopleís smiles. When every face has a mask on it you may be safer in the health of your body but you start to feel sicker in the health of your soul. Over the months I have started to notice more the sparkle in the eyes, the lilt in the voice, and the gentle lifting of the mask when people smile at me. Still, it isnít quite the same.

I have always cherished every smile like a treasure. Growing up my Momís smile added joy to my days. And I am so happy that it lives on today in the faces of my children. My Nanaís smile always had a happy ďHello!Ē to go along with it. My Dadís smile was rarer but I always loved seeing it whenever he laughed.

Over the years I also learned a lot about smiles. I read once that ďWe donít smile because we are happy. We are happy because we smile.Ē I also read that ďI have never seen a smiling face that wasnít beautiful.Ē And I realized that both of these things were true. I remember most, though, something I once heard from a red headed, jovial, laughing, Irish priest whose smile was contagious. He said: ďIf God didnít want us to be happy then why does smiling feel so darned good and frowning feel so darned bad?Ē

It doesnít matter then if you are wearing a mask or not. It doesnít matter if your teeth are white or yellow, many or few, or missing altogether. Show them your smile. Smiles lift our spirits. Smiles share our love. Smiles spread our joy. Smiles shine our light. Smiles warm our hearts. Smiles calm our souls. Smiles make the world a better place. One of the greatest, kindest, most helpful, most giving, and most loving things you can do in this life is give another your smile. Keep smiling then. And know that God is smiling down on you.----------


When I was a boy we had a tiny 13" television set and an old antenna that brought in one channel clearly. I didnít have to worry about the remote because I only had one choice of what to watch. Still, I would be in my chair when my cartoons came on. The one I liked the best was the Jetsons. It was a cartoon set in a future that was full of fantastic machines that could do anything. I always smiled when I watched it and dreamed of a day when I would have machines like this to do all my work so I could just sit back and relax.

Now that it is 50 years in the future my life is full of machines like these but if anything I now seem to have more to do than ever. Just today I had to spend most of the morning downloading a new version of my word processing program so I can even write this now. When I first started out I wrote my stories on lined notebook paper and it took half the time. Last week I spent most of another morning trying to get my 4 month old new coffee maker to work right. For some reason it would only make 4 cups at a time no matter how much I reset the program in it. Finally in frustration I went out and bought the simplest coffee maker they make. The one that only has an on/off button and nothing else. I am also still waiting for that paperless society they keep talking about. I seem instead to be drowning in a sea of new forms, new rules, and new paperwork all brought about by over relying on computers.

Now donít get me wrong. Computers and machines have done a lot to help all of us. I just want us to be able to use them without them using us. We seem to be caught in an underbrush of busyness by spending all of our time on these devices. We are losing sight of the straight path we should be on. We are losing sight of what we are here for.

God loves us and God put us here to love each other. Anything that doesnít help us to do this isnít worth our time. Take charge of your time then. Take charge of your life. Spend your days giving love, doing good, helping others, sharing kindness, and spreading joy. Use your machines to help you do this. Stop looking for more and more to do and spend your precious moments finding more and more to love. Then every second of your time will be well spent. Then every moment of your life will be Heaven sent.---------------


I can remember once when I was just a little boy my Mom, Nana and I drove to my Nanaís sisterís house in the next town. It was a warm, Summer afternoon so I went outside to play in the yard while they all sat around the kitchen table to talk. After over an hour playing and exploring by myself I got bored and walked inside to see what they were doing. Laid out on the kitchen table was a large, homemade quilt that was still being sown together. Scraps of multicolored fabrics were scattered everywhere. I sat on a chair and watched as my great aunt painstakingly sewed a little piece onto the collage of color. I looked over at one edge of the quilt and saw a piece of thread sticking out. Without thinking I reached over to pull it.

ďNO!Ē It was my Nanaís voice. I jumped back. That was the first time I can ever remember her yelling at me. Seeing the startled look on my face she smiled and gently showed me why she had yelled. That single piece of thread wove in and out of the different pieces of fabric. Like a curvy mountain road it made its way from one end of the quilt to the other. If I had yanked on it I might have torn the entire quilt and ruined hours of work.

As I look back on that moment today I can see that each of our lives is a lot like that thread. We are all just a single string in Godís tapestry. We canít always see where we are going or what we are connected to but God, the master artist can. He is creating something so beautiful, so interconnected that it is beyond our ability to comprehend. All we can know is that we are an important part of His creation and if we pull ourselves out of it, we will leave a gaping hole.

Donít feel lost in the tapestry of life then. Embrace your place in it. You may only be a single piece of thread but your love and your life helps to hold the whole thing together. God loves you and has put you here for a purpose. Find it and live it each and every day of your life. -----


After over a decade of faithful service my old desktop computer finally died. It simply wouldnít start. With no computer repair places open my daughter talked me into purchasing a new laptop to replace it. What followed was two days of pure frustration. It was like going from driving an old Model T Ford to flying the Space Shuttle.

After my daughter set it up I looked for the old e-mail program I used to use only to find that it wasnít on this model. When I tried to download the older version again it wouldnít work. I spent the next day talking to 4 different technical assistance people to no avail. I also had a terrible time downloading my old word processing program again. Then there was the difficulties of transferring all of my old stories that I had saved on a jump drive. The laptop computerís fancy new programs were an icon minefield that I had to navigate. Each time I accidentally touched one of them it changed everything on my screen and I had to work hard to figure out how to change them back. In the end I had screwed up the settings so badly that I asked my daughter to do a reset so we could start over. Finally after two days I think we have set up the new computer to do the few simple things I need it to do so I can ignore the thousand other functions that I have no use for. I only hope it will work as long and faithfully as my old desktop did.

One thing I did learn from all of this is that when it comes to computers and life I want to keep things simple, simple, simple. I donít want to wake up in the morning and rush to my devices. Instead I want to pet my dogs, take them outside, and watch the sun slowly rise over the mountains here. I want to spend my time hugging my children, talking to my friends, and praying to God. I want to feel the heartbeat of nature and the Love of our Heavenly Father. I want to live my days slowly, deliberately, and sacredly. I want to spend my time and my talents making this world work better not faster.

Life is simple. Love is simple. It is we who make things complicated. Take some time today then to turn off your electronics and turn on your heart. Be a person not a program. Be yourself not your ďSelfieĒ. Fill your days with Purpose, your years with Happiness, and your life with Love.-----


I was walking our new rescue puppy, Sweetie this morning. After we finished we came back inside. As soon as we walked through the door Sweetie grabbed my daughterís new tennis shoe in her mouth and started prancing proudly down the hall with her new chew toy. I took a moment to laugh before snatching the shoe back and putting Sweetie in her crate with the four chew toys we had already bought her.

It is really amazing the change that has taken place in my puppy in the two and a half weeks since we adopted her. She has gone from a shaking, shivering little pile of bones to a chunky, confident dog. She has gone from whimpering and whining when she couldnít get up on my bed to leaping up on it with one bound, showering my face with kisses, then bouncing back off to play again. She has gone from a scared, little girl who threw up on the car ride home to a dog who eats like a horse and grows like a weed. She has gone from a puppy who cowered under her bed when the other dogs barked in the shelter to a girl who chases our sixty pound dog, Fluffy around the house, chews on him, sleeps on him, and steals his chew bone after she wears him out. All in all Sweetie has changed from a tiny, terrified thing to a lovable, self-assured, and somewhat ornery puppy who has captured the hearts of everyone in the house. And amazingly she did it all on just a little puppy food and a lot of love.

It doesnít matter if you are a dog or a human being, nothing changes you like love does. Love gives you confidence. Love drives away fear. Love allows you to grow. Love brings you back to life. Love helps you be who you were meant to be. Love makes you one with God. Never fear change then, if the change is love. Know that God loves you. Know that ďGod is Love!Ē And know that you can choose love each moment of your life.----------


ďI canít believe I got an F!Ē I had just checked on my first test from a new class I was taking in college and there it was: a huge, red ďFĒ. I had never gotten an F before. F meant failure and I had always been one of the smartest kids in school. Grades had never really been a problem for me. I had cruised through grade school, junior high and high school down a road of Aís. I thought college would be the same. I was frustrated, disappointed, and enraged. I stomped down the steps of the building with the test clenched in my fist. I saw a pop can on the sidewalk in front of me and angrily kicked it across the road. A few of my fellow students took one look at me and quickly stepped out of my way. I didnít care, though. I was so mad. I continued down the sidewalk stewing in a pot of my own negative thoughts. I finally stopped when a little dog that was walking happily up the sidewalk took one look at me and ran away in terror. Puzzled, I turned and saw my face mirrored in a store window. It had the nastiest look I had ever seen on it.

At that moment I remembered what my Mom used to say when I was pouting, scowling, or throwing a fit as a boy. ďYou keep that up and your face is gonna freeze that way.Ē Then she would give me her gentle smile. I looked in the window again. I certainly didnít want my face to freeze that way. I laughed at my own silliness and suddenly felt all of my anger melting away. I saw how stupid I was being and vowed to never again let my grades determine my worth. It was worth the ďFĒ to learn that lesson. And I have carried it with me to this day.

God loves us so much. It doesnít matter if we get good grades or bad. It doesnít matter if we are smart, stupid, silly, or sad. God loves us and God wants us to love as well. Remember the old saying then: ďThe world is your mirror.Ē Do your best to reflect your love, joy, and light. Fill your days with smiles and your soul with peace. Then if your face freezes, you wonít mind. ---------------


It was 11 A.M. on a Saturday morning and I was parked outside a local animal shelter waiting for it to open. It had been several months since my beloved Beagle Snoopy had passed away and I finally felt ready to bring a new dog into my home. On Friday afternoon my daughter had showed me a picture in the rescueís website of a new puppy that had just been dropped off there. Her markings and face reminded me so much of my very first dog, Dukey that I felt a little flutter in my heart. I decided then and there to try and rescue her if I could. Here I was then trying to be the first one there to take this little girl home.

A kind man arrived to open the doors and let me in. I asked about the puppy and he showed me the pen she was in. As soon as I opened the door all the dogs in the place started to bark at once. The noise frightened her and she tried to hide under a dog bed in her pen. I kneeled down and gently picked her up. I could feel her heart pounding from fear in her tiny, five pound body. I held her close and spoke gently to her while I petted her. I took her back to the office and sat on a bench while the kind man filled out the paperwork. After a minute I could feel her body stop shaking and her heartbeat slow down. Then I felt a tiny, wet tongue kiss my cheek. I smiled and let her snuggle into my neck. It felt so good saving a life. It felt so good sharing my love again with another of Godís creatures.

We took her home and the whole family both human and furry fell in love with her. Her personality was so sweet and gentle that her new name came naturally: Sweetie. Right now she is napping contentedly in her crate and I feel a tingle of joy just looking at her. I know she will be a wonderful part of our family for a long time to come.

Love is so sweet. It saves our lives. It conquers our fears. It fills us with joy. It is a gift from God that we should strive every day to share with as many people and creatures as we can. May you always choose sweet love then. May you share it, delight in it, and rejoice in it. May you make it your own gift to God today, tomorrow, and forever.---------------


ďWhy is everyone smiling at me?Ē It was a few years back when you could still see the lower half of peopleís faces without masks. It was the first day of Spring after a rather long and rugged Winter. The sun was shining. The breeze was warm. Birds were singing songs of love. The first flowers were popping up through the grass and even a few insects had unthawed and were lazily buzzing about. I spent some extra time walking outside just soaking it all in. I found myself giving thanks to God for a beautiful day, a beautiful world, and a beautiful life.

I was still in a great mood when I headed to the local grocery store to pick up a few odds and ends. As soon as I walked through the door a cashier greeted me with a huge smile and a ďGood morning!Ē that sounded more sung than spoken. As I walked through the aisles I wondered about this when I saw an old man pushing a cart towards me. He too looked at me and then broke into a glorious grin. He greeted me with such kindness in his voice and we chatted about the day and beautiful weather we were having. I picked up my last few items, rounded the corner, and ran right into another smile. This one was on the face of a young mother with her baby girl in her arms. Her baby joined in too with all 4 of her teeth. It was then that I wondered in my mind why everyone was smiling at me. I looked up, caught my reflection in a glass door, and saw why. My own face had been smiling too without me even realizing it.

In this life what you give out is what comes back to you. If you fill your face with smiles then smiles will come your way. If you fill your life with love then love will be your reward. If you fill your days with kindness, joy, giving, helping, faith, goodness, and God then you know what you will get back. Keep smiling then! Keep loving! Keep laughing! Keep giving! Keep living your life with such joy that you make Our Heavenly Father smile! ---------------


When I was a boy growing up I can not once ever remember either my Mom or my Nana wasting food. Anything we didnít eat at one meal was saved, stored, and served as leftovers later on. I can remember my Nana making a huge pot of brown beans with a large cake of cornbread. We would all eat until we were stuffed but there was always about half of the beans left over. A few days later Nana would take those beans out of the refrigerator, boil pasta, add parsley and mix them all together into her delicious Pasta Fasule. And I also remember when I watched my Mom fry bacon for us in the mornings she would always take the grease and carefully pour it into a container. Then she later would use it to flavor up so many other dishes. I was an adult before I realized that green beans didnít actually taste like bacon.

I learned their lessons well and after I grew up tried to never waste food myself. I always planned the weekís meals ahead of time and only bought what was on my shopping list so nothing went to waste. Every meal went into a tummy and any leftovers were later eaten by either myself, my boys, or my dogs. To me throwing food in the trash was just wrong. All the work it took to grow it, harvest it, and prepare it needed to be honored not wasted.

I learned something else over the years, however: When it comes to living there are no leftovers. Each moment that you donít live is lost forever. Life cannot be saved. Life cannot be stored. Life has to be lived, TODAY!

Live each moment of your life to the fullest then. Make every day a feast of love with no leftovers. Leo Buscaglia once said: ďEach day is a fresh beginning, a little life unto itself.Ē Donít let any of these little lives go to waste. They are a gift from God. Cherish them. Care for them. Chow down on them. Live your life with a full belly and a full heart.----------------


I am 54 years old now. Actually I should say my body is 54 years old now. On the inside I am still a bit confused about it all. Part of me is still that 5 year old boy running outside all day long playing with his dog and making silly faces in the mirror when he brushes his teeth before bed. Part of me is still that awkward teenager, looking at his gawky face in the mirror, hoping that his zits will clear up soon. Part of me is still that young man in his 20's combing his thick, wavy hair and trimming his moustache. Part of me is still that guy in his late 30's wondering why his hair is turning gray so soon and why it is getting so thin on top. Part of me is the guy I am today, looking in the mirror with his gray hair, deep wrinkles, and partially bald head, wondering why I look so old when I still feel so young.

Maybe our bodies arenít the best barometer for judging aging. I have known people in their 70's and 80's who are far younger than I am. I have known people in their 20's who are grumpy, old cranks compared to me. Maybe aging is a process. We start out young and innocent. We grow old and worried. Then we grow young and wise. Often it takes a long time to realize what life is all about. It takes time to give up our fears for love. It takes time to see just how much God loves us. It takes time to realize that ďThe coat of have can never cover the growing body of want.Ē It takes time to see that happiness comes from living and loving NOW not working for some perfect future that never arrives.

We need to see that aging isnít that person we see in the mirror. We need to see that aging is growing. Aging is growing better, kinder, more loving, and more one with God. We need to see that on the inside we are both ageless and forever young. Then we can freely love God, ourselves, and everyone else. Then we can truly live today and for all eternity. ---------------


There is a wonderful old story about a monastery that was built on an island out in the middle of a lake. Now this island had no source of fresh water so all the water the monks used had to be rowed across the lake to the island in boats and dumped into a huge barrel. Each day the monks would come to get a drink of this precious water that they couldnít afford to waste after working all day in the fields around the monastery.

One day a monk opened the lid to the water barrel and saw an ant swimming in the water. He grew angry and said, ďHow dare you be in my water!Ē Then he squished the ant. Later another monk came to the barrel and saw yet another ant swimming in the water. ďWellĒ, he said, ďThis is the coolest place on the island and you arenít hurting my water.Ē Then he scooped around the ant and drank. Finally, another monk came to the barrel after a long day of working in the hot sun. He opened the barrel and saw the ant still sitting there. He smiled, reached into his robe, pulled out a lump of sugar, and fed the ant.

In this life we all have our share of ants be they people, problems, or pains. But how we deal with them is up to us. We can react in anger like the first monk and try to squash them. We can react calmly like the second monk and work around them. Or we can react lovingly like the third monk did. The first way will fill our hearts with bitterness and hatred. The second way will fill our hearts with peace and detachment. But the third way will fill our hearts with Love and Joy. The choice is ours to make.

Donít let the ants in this life upset you then. Choose the way of Love. Choose the way of Goodness. Choose the way of God. Then your face will be full of Light. Your heart will be full of Heaven. And your life will be full of Joy.----------------


I can remember when I was in college I cut out two magazine pictures, one of a silver gray Mercedes and one of a Mansion. They were what I dreamed of driving and living in. I had spent most of my childhood growing up in my Nanaís old, ramshackle house with my Mom, Dad, and two brothers. I shared a room with my brother with barely enough space to walk between our two beds. We never had much money. I learned to drive in my Momís ancient, ailing Plymouth. And I had to catch lifts to school with my friends because I couldnít afford a car of my own. Now that I was in college I dreamed of being a businessman or a best selling author. Anything that would make me a boat load of money.

Remembering that time today I looked out my window at my tiny, twelve year old car. It was silver gray with a touch of rust and it was no Mercedes. I looked around my snug, little home as well. It was no Mansion. In fact, it was smaller than the home I grew up in. Yet, when I looked around it I felt richer than I ever had before. It had taken me a long time but I had learned a few things since those college days. I had learned that happiness canít be bought. I had learned that no matter how hard you hug your money, it canít hug you back. I had learned that cash, cars, and houses arenít the important things in this life. What is important, what is essential is the love we give, the kindness we create, and the joy we share. The real riches of life come from inside of us. And when we live in love and share that love with others the Kingdom of Heaven lives within us as well.

We can drive our cars and dwell in our houses, but if we want happiness we have to live in love. We have to spend each day here loving God, loving ourselves, and loving everyone else. Then each day will be filled with joy and those days will become a lifetime.-----------------


ďHow did this happen AGAIN?,Ē I said. I had been looking for a box of envelopes on the top shelf of my bedroom closet. Just as I opened the door, however, my cell phone rang. I reached into my pocket to pull it out but it slipped from my hand and bounced on the floor into my dark, tiny closet. I bent down to pick it up but couldnít find it in the mess of junk that was there.

I didnít know how this had happened. Only a few years back I had done an in depth house cleaning, throwing away anything I didnít use, need, or love. It had felt so good having all that stuff that was taking up space out of my closets and out of my life. Now it seemed like it had returned overnight. I reached down and started to take out the things as I looked for my phone. On my closet floor there were 4 boxes of books, an old set of childrenís encyclopedias, 2 pillows, an extra filter for my electric heater, an old suitcase, the window air conditioner unit that I had put up for the Winter, 2 broken television sets, a big box of old board games, an ancient, outdated computer, and a couple of pieces of a broken dog crate. I finally found my phone which had taken a weird bounce into a corner of the closet. And I vowed once Spring arrived to have another big cleaning and ditch the junk once again.

There is an old saying that goes, ďThe only things we can take with us are those which fit into a coffin.Ē This is true of the physical stuff in this world, but there is some spiritual stuff we can take with us when we go. We can take the love we shared, the good we did, the holy moments we created, the relationship with God we built, and the growth we gained. Take good care of your spiritual stuff then and let go of the physical stuff as much as you can. It will make your heart, home, and life a lot lighter. --------------


ďMOMMY!Ē It was a few years ago and I was shopping in a local grocery store looking for some Italian spices to make my Nanaís special sauce. That was when I heard the voice. It sounded so scared and so alone. I rounded the aisle and saw her. A little girl no more than 3 years old looking lost and confused. I walked slowly up to her and bent down to look her in the eyes. There were tears in them that touched my heart. I asked her what was wrong and she quickly said that she couldnít find her Mommy.

ďDonít worry,Ē I said. ďWe will find her.Ē She reached up and took my hand and we slowly walked down the aisle and up the next one. All at once the girl started to point and jump up and down. ďThere she is!,Ē she said. I watched as the girl ran at top speed down the rest of the aisle to a woman with her back turned. The woman was talking with friends and I could see she hadnít yet noticed that her little girl had wandered off.

The little girl grabbed her Momís coat and began to pull on it with all her might. Without missing a beat her Mom reached down, picked her up, and kissed her cheek. I smiled as I saw the little girlís eyes light up with joy and her arms wrap around her Momís neck. I decided there was nothing more I needed to do. The little girl was no longer alone. She was home and she was happy. I waved to the little girl who waved back and resumed my search for the missing spices.

In this life we all sometimes feel like that little girl. We feel alone, scared, lost, and confused. But the truth is you are never alone. God is with you always. God loved you into life. And God will never leave you. All you have to do is reach out with your heart and you will find Him there. He will love you and be with you all through this life until you are back Home in His loving arms, Forever! ---------------


It was a cold, gray, Winterís day. Two inches of freshly fallen snow had blanketed the ground. The night before had been so bitterly cold that I had to leave my water dripping to protect the pipes. Still, the roads had been plowed and I had several errands that needed doing. I scraped off the windows, climbed in the car and cranked up the heater. Then I drove out into the grim, gray day. I was determined, though, not to let the coldness and darkness of it all get to me.

I put a CD that I had burned years before into the stereo. It was full of songs about love, songs that made me smile, songs that brought happiness to my heart. Now I normally donít sing in public. My voice is weak, raspy, and croaky and I donít want others to suffer through it. But since I was in the car, I turned up the volume and let my voice join in. I may not have made a beautiful noise, but I did make a joyful one. Song after song I sang along. It felt so good to sing again. I smiled, I laughed, I sang, and I let the positivity and love flow from my heart, through my voice, and out into the world. After a while too I noticed something. The sun was starting to break through the clouds. Its light was shining brightly on the snow and make it sparkle with life. It was as if the Heavens had decided to join my song. I sang even louder and let my spirit soar. I felt at one with love, with life, and with God.

God loves us all so much but God doesnít guarantee us a lifetime of sunny days. Sometimes you just have to sing until the sun comes out. You have to sing until the sun comes out in the sky. You have to sing until the sun comes out of you. You have to create your own light and use it to brighten up the world. Donít let your music die inside of you then. Sing! Live! Love! Shine! Give your light to the world and your soul to God.-----------------


ďOw, ow, ow, ow, OW!Ē I had just woken up and when I sat up I could feel my whole body hurting. My ankles were aching. My knees were sore. My thighs and hamstrings hurt. My gluts were burning. My lower back was tight and in pain. My hands and wrists hurt too. I tried to stretch but it didnít help. It seemed like I was going to be aching for quite a while.

No, I wasnít sick. In fact, I knew exactly why I was in so much pain. The afternoon before my daughter had gotten a new metal bed frame delivered to her house. And, of course, there was ďSome Assembly Required.Ē I helped her move her heavy mattress into the hallway. Next I took apart her old, broken down bed frame underneath it and put it in her storage shed. Then I opened the box that carried her new one. It was full of long, heavy pieces, tiny screws, and that annoying L-shaped wrench to put it all together. I spent the next two hours on my knees holding the metal pieces together while I tried to get the dozens of tiny screws to fit in their holes.

It may have gone faster and I may have been in less pain today if only there had been better directions with the kit. They were full of confusing pictures and no explanations. More than once I put the metal pieces together in the wrong place and then had to unscrew my work and start again. By the end of the day my hands and wrists were sore from using the L-wrench. Then this morning all my over worked muscles were hurting as well.

I wonder how much better our lives would be if only they came with clear directions. We could give up so much pain and have so much more joy. Still, most of the time we have to learn from the pain. For most of us it takes a lifetime to get it right. We should, however, do our best to share what we have learned so others donít have to hurt quite as much.

Here then are a few simple directions I have learned over the years that I am sharing with you now: Never miss a chance to share a smile. Watch the sun come up in the morning and the stars at night. Give all the hugs you can. Listen to music and sing along. Read. Write. Create. Laugh often. Take good care of your body and better care of your soul. PRAY! Love God. Love yourself. And Love everyone else too. Learn something new each and every day. Say, ďI love you!Ē and mean it. And always remember what Leo Buscaglia once said: ďThe world is an incredible unfulfilled tapestry, and only you can fulfill that tiny space that is yours.Ē---------------


For the last three nights I hadnít slept too well. I would wake up over an hour earlier than normal and then be unable to get back to sleep. I was a bit tired then when I went into my bedroom to watch a little television this evening. The nightly news was its usual horror show of hatred, rancor, prejudice, and division. I turned it off and put on some music instead. I picked up a book and tried to read but could feel my eyelids getting heavier and heavier. Finally, I closed them and laid my book on my chest. A nap would be just what I needed.

After a while I felt something rousing me from my slumber. It was warm breath hitting me right in the face. I slowly opened my eyes and saw a long, sweet looking face covered in white and gold fur. Its pink nose was breathing on me and its big, brown eyes were looking at me with love. I smiled and said, ďHello FluffyĒ. Suddenly my face was covered in dog kisses while his curled tail wagged, joyfully banging against the night stand. I hugged his neck, petted his head, scratched his belly, and laughed as he continued to shower me with his love. I soaked it all in and thought to myself: ďIf only we humans could love each other as purely and unconditionally as our dogs love us, what a wonderful world this would be.Ē

God gave us dogs to be our best friends and greatest teachers of love. We should not ignore the lessons they teach. We should give our hearts freely, our love joyfully, and our kindness unconditionally. We should live our lives on the side of love. We should spend our days creating happiness and making this world a better place. We should see everyone no matter how they look or what they believe as our brothers and sisters. We should love ourselves and everyone else as God loves us. And we should say each day, ďThank you dear God for dogs.Ē ---------------


For the first time in ten days the clouds cleared, the blue sky appeared, and the sun came out this morning. It rose over the trees and kissed the world with its light. The snow and frost on the ground sparkled with delight. The birds started to sing like it was April instead of January. The ice on my windows began to melt and drip away. And I felt warm as I walked outside even though it was still below freezing.

I spent some extra time looking up at the light blue sky that had been dark gray for so long. I let the weak, winter rays touch my face with their gentle warmth. I took a long, peaceful stroll and watched the light bounce off the frozen, snow covered ground with its wondrous beauty. I prayed and thanked God for a beautiful day, a beautiful world, and a beautiful life. I knew the clouds would be back before long and that the winter cold still had a long way to go. At that moment, though, it didnít matter. I was reveling in the light.

When I finally got back inside I saw my daughterís beagle napping in the sunbeam that shone through the living room window. I felt like joining her but knew I still had a lot to do today. I knew that it wasnít just enough to soak up the sun. It wasnít enough to let Godís light and love into my heart and soul. I had to share that love as well. I had to shine as well.

This life gives us ups and downs. It gives us sunny days and clouds. It is up to us, however, to make it a life worth living. It is up to us to make it a life worth loving. It is up to us to share Godís love and shine Godís light through all the fear and darkness in this world. Make sure you soak up the sun then, but make sure you shine as well. Be the being of light you were called to be. Be the Child of God you are. Help God to make this a brighter world even on the darkest days.---------------


It was an early Autumn afternoon several years ago. The air was warm and the sun was bright but I still felt cold and gloomy on the inside. I was visiting my Dad in the local nursing home. I found him asleep in his bed. It felt so strange. He never slept in the afternoon. His decline had been so fast. In the early Summer he had seemed so healthy and so strong. He had fought his way back from prostrate cancer and I had looked forward to sharing many more years with him. Then his behavior had started to change and become erratic. A trip to the VA Hospital had diagnosed Dementia. Spots were found on a brain scan. The cancer had spread.

In the months that followed Dad grew weaker and was depressed. He was so sad being so far away in a sterile hospital room. My brothers and I finally helped him to move closer to home by getting him a room in the local nursing home. I visited him as much as I could. As I watched him sleeping that day, though, I could sense him slipping away. He would die a few weeks later.

I decided to let Dad rest and walked down the hallways to the front door. My soul felt dark. My spirit felt like a two ton boulder was weighing down on it. As I walked outside I saw that the bright day had grown gray. Rain was starting to fall too. I saw one patient in a wheel chair outside slowly trying to wheel herself in. I quickly walked over and pushed her out of the rain. She smiled tenderly and thanked me for my help. I smiled back and walked to my car. I noticed something too: for the first time that day my spirit felt lighter and my soul brighter.

I think now that maybe it was because in that brief moment I had acted in the spirit of love. In the end love is all that matters. It is love that gives life meaning. It is love that brings us closer to God. May you always act in the spirit of love then. May you do so in the good times. And may you do so even when your soul feels crushed under the weight of the world.----------------


It was the Summer of my 16th year. I was 2000 miles away from home and my heart was aching. I had traveled from the mountains of West Virginia to the great plains of Iowa. I was with a group of boys touring a Seminary college. When the trip had first started I was filled with excitement. It was going to be a week of adventure, a week of travel, and the possibility of starting on a new path in my life. Now 5 days later I was filled with sadness. I missed my Mom. I missed my Dad. I missed my old, Italian Nana. I missed the mountains, the green trees, and the smell of the wild flowers in the Summertime. Here there was only brown and gray plains. And all I could smell in the air was a mixture of corn, mud, and hogs. I didnít think I could feel any more homesick.

I walked outside and sat down on a bench. I knew that I was at a crossroads and that the decision I was about to make would affect the rest of my life. This seminary school had sounded so good to me a few weeks ago. Now, however, I knew that I could never go to college here. I couldnít be so far away from my family for so long. I sighed a long sigh and looked up at the setting sun. The prairie sunset was spectacular. It filled the entire horizon and I felt its beauty and peace washing over me. I knew too that I was making the right choice and that God was guiding me. Like Robert Frostís poem I was taking the road less traveled and that was fine with me.

Since that day I have been at many crossroads in my life. Sometimes I have made the wrong choice and had to backtrack to make things right. More often than not, though, I have felt divinely inspired and made the choices that took me where I needed to go and helped me to become who I needed to be. Through it all I have felt my trust in God grow deeper and the love in my soul grow stronger. And that more than anything has kept me on the right road.

Life is a long and difficult journey but we all can take comfort in knowing that we are loved and watched over every step of the way. The next time you are at a Crossroads then keep your eyes looking to Heaven and your heart open to God. Let Love guide your steps and you will always take the road meant for you.---------------


The mountains where I live are full of turning, twisting, narrow, curvy roads. I was driving down one of those roads last Spring. Days of on and off rain had made the ground muddy and hillsides mushy. As I rounded a curve I saw that the weakened soil had released a tree on the hill by the road. It was now laying on the asphalt blocking my lane. I hit the brakes and slowly drove around it. Then I stopped. I knew it was only a matter of time before someone driving faster than I was would crash into that tree.

I got out of my car and tried to pull the tree into the ditch but it was much too big and heavy. I didnít know what to do but God in His wisdom and humor had other plans. Thirty seconds later a white pickup truck appeared and pulled over. Out stepped a bearded young man. ďYou need a chainsaw?Ē, he asked. I said, ďYes!Ē and he pulled one out of the back of his truck. For the next few minutes he cut the tree into movable chunks while I carried them across the road and dumped them over the guardrail on the other side. ďYou never know when you will need a chainsaw.Ē, I joked while my new found friend smiled and put his saw back in the truck. I waved goodbye and watched him drive off before heading back to my own car.

As I drove away I pondered how God had put us both in just the right spot at just the right time. I felt happy knowing that I was able to help prevent an accident and sent a joyful ďThank You!Ē to God as the rain finally stopped and the sun broke through the clouds.

In this life you never know when you will need a chainsaw. You do know, however, when you will need a kind and loving heart. And that is each and every day. God is always seeking our help to make this world a better, safer, and more loving place. It is up to us to answer the call. Open your heart then. Be ready, willing, and able. Fill your life with a million acts of kindness. Fill your days with countless moments of love. Help God to help this world today, tomorrow, and forever!-----------------


It was the day after Christmas 33 years ago. I was newly married and still in college. Only 10 days earlier my wife had gone into labor with our first child. It was a scary delivery that ended in an emergency C-section. We were so grateful to have Joseph John Mazzella II also known as JJ sleeping peacefully in the cradle next to our bed.

The day before we had been on the road showing off our little bundle of joy to all of the grandparents and great-grandparents. It had been a busy Christmas and hard on my wife who was still recovering from her surgery. Now we were back in our tiny trailer trying to get a few extra winks of sleep before starting the day.

Just then I heard JJ stirring in his cradle. I leaned over and picked him up before he started to cry and then carefully crept out into the living room so my wife could keep sleeping. I picked up a bottle and sat in our rocking chair with JJ in my arms. I rocked quietly and fed him in the semi-dark room while he looked up at me with his loving, innocent eyes. I spoke softly to him but also felt a little fear as I watched him. How was I going to take care of him? I was still in school and had no idea what the future held in store for us. I rocked and worried and worried and rocked.

After a few minutes I saw the sun slowly rising in the sky outside my window. The bright light was shining down from the heavens making the freshly fallen snow shine with a beauty that touched my soul. As I watched it my fear fled and I felt such a sense of peace, harmony, love, and joy. The Christmas spirit had snuck into my heart when I wasnít looking and I smiled. I knew then that whatever the future held, it would be alright as long as I kept love in my heart.

Christmas is such a blessed time. It is a time of Love. A Holy Childís Love. A Heavenly Fatherís Love. A Love that unites us all. A Love that forever conquers fear. Welcome that Love into your heart. Live it in your life. Make a home for it in your soul. Share it with everyone not only on Christmas day but every day. Embrace the blessing of Christmas by making Christmas a way of life.---------------


It was a cold, Winterís day many years ago. Christmas was just a few short days away and I was walking into a store to try and stretch the few dollars I had in my wallet into Christmas presents for my children. I looked through the aisles in the store hoping to find something they wanted that I could afford. I tried to remember the childhood Christmas presents that I liked the best when I was a boy but for the life of me couldnít think of a single one. What I did remember was me and my brothers sitting under the tree carefully looking for packages with our names on them. I remembered my Momís sweet smile as she watched us. I remembered Dadís loud laugh as we struggled to rip off the wrapping paper. I remembered my Nanaís happy, high-pitched ďHelloĒ as she walked over to join in the fun. What I remembered was being thought about and cared for. What I remembered was the love. I knew then that any gifts that I picked out would be good because I was giving them with all the love in my heart.

I realized something else too. In this life the gifts you give at Christmas arenít that important. It is the gifts you give every single day that are important. It is the smile you share when you see someone you love. It is the kind acts you do when you think no one is looking. It is the gentle words you say. It is the hugs you give. It is the encouragement you pass on. It is the prayers you offer up for another. Every day of our lives there are countless gifts we can give, limitless love we can share, and so much joy we can create. In truth, everyday can be Christmas day if we only choose to make it so.

God loves us so much. I think this life is Godís gift to us, and how we live it is our gift to God. Live it with love then. Make it the greatest gift in the world. And have a very Merry Christmas every single day of your life! ---------------


I was sitting at my kitchen table the other day with a pen, notebook, calculator, and a stack of bills. I was doing my monthly budget. There were bills for electric, water, rent, insurance, the car payment, the phone bill, and the cable bill. Plus money needed to be set aside for food, gas, clothes, and hopefully a little left over to save for those unexpected bills that always seemed to show up. When I was done I shook my head, closed my eyes, and thought of a time long ago when I would regularly get treasures.

When I was a boy we lived across the road from Camp Caesar. It held week long camps all through the Summer and my Grandma who I lovingly called, ďNannyĒ worked in its big kitchen. I remember sneaking in there getting a smile, a hug, a kiss, and a hot roll from Nanny. Then she would always dig deep in her pockets and pull out a treasure, a shiny quarter. She would give it to me and I would run down the hill to either get an ice cold can of coke from the pop machine or I would head to the campís swimming pool where I could buy a warm cup of cherry coke for 15 cents and a tiny 10 cent bag of chips from the concession stand. I took my time because it was always a big decision. It was nice too feeling so rich for a few minutes.

Looking back now I can see that the real treasure wasnít the quarter at all. It was the love with which Nanny gave it to me. I would have still visited her at work every day if I had never gotten a single quarter. It was her smile, hugs, and kisses that were priceless in my heart then and now.

The old saying is true, ďWith your work you can make a living, but it is with your love that you make a life.Ē May you always welcome Godís love into your heart, soul, and mind. And may you always share your love with others. It is the one treasure that lasts forever.----------------


It was evening time. The sky had already gone dark and my eyes were tired from reading my book. I put it down and turned on the television. As usual nothing interesting seemed to be on. I found myself clicking through the channels when I came across an interview show. The host was complimenting a smiling celebrity on how young he still looked at 50 years old. ďThere are no cracks in this face,Ē he said. I looked at him and wondered what kind of Hollywood skin care regimen he must be on to look so much younger than me.

I walked to a mirror and looked at my own face. It certainly had its share of wrinkly cracks. The deep ones above my nose spoke of many moments of pain, anger, fear, and frustration over the years. The ones on my forehead had become permanent. They came from a half-century of raising my eyebrows whenever I was curious or deep in thought. When I smiled, though, the most cracks appeared. They curved out around my eyes and lips and looked pretty nice to me. I remembered what Cynthia Ozick had once said: ďOur faces become our biographies.Ē I decided then that I kind of liked my cracks. They told a really good story.

It isnít just the cracks in our faces that we should embrace, however. It is the cracks in our lives as well. I have learned so much more from my cracks than from the smooth times. It was when my heart was cracked open that the light and love of God was most able to shine into it. It was when the cracks in my life appeared that I learned the most about kindness and compassion, empathy and caring, love and joy.

Learn to love your cracks then. Let the cracks in your face tell your story. Let the cracks in your heart be filled with Godís love and light. Let the cracks in your life help you to become You! And always remember to crack a smile wherever and whenever you can.---------------


It was an afternoon in August. I was just short of turning eighteen. I stood in front of a six story high, red brick building. It was to be my new home for the next several years. It was my first day of college and I was a bit scared and a bit excited at the same time. I had two suitcases and a duffel bag with me. In them were packed all of my clothes, towels, sheets, alarm clock and everything else I thought I would need. I carried them up the five flights of stairs to my dorm room and then tossed them on my bed. I looked around the room and wondered what life had in store for me.

It was another afternoon in August. I was just short of turning forty two. My daughter was eighteen and we were standing in front of the same building at the same college that I had gone to all of those years before. I smiled as I helped her carry her things up to her room but I also noticed that we were making more than one trip. All of the students not just my daughter seemed to have so much more stuff than I did all those years ago. Yet, it didnít seem to make things any better for them. In fact, they looked more stressed than I remembered being on my first day there. As I threw down another box of my daughterís stuff I wondered what life had in store for her and prayed it would be just what she needed.

Last night I had a dream that I have had many times before. I was back in that same dorm room with my belongings piled on my bed searching for my course book and wondering what classes I would take. I often wondered what this dream meant but when I woke up this morning it became crystal clear to me. We are sometimes teachers in this life, but we are always students in it. We are here taking the most important class ever, ďLearning to Love 101". We are here to learn to love God. We are here to learn to love ourselves. We are here to learn to love everyone as ourselves. And it takes a lifetime. The stuff we carry with us through this life doesnít matter at all either. It is the stuff we carry inside of us when we leave this life that counts.

Be the best student you can be then. Be the best teacher you can be. Learn to Live! Learn to Love! Graduate this life with honors and take your place in Godís loving arms in the next. ---------------


It was a hot, humid Summer day a few years ago. I had just pulled into the local gas station to fill my tank. After pumping the gas I started to walk inside to pay. That is when I noticed them. Two elderly women where standing back from their car. There was a mixture of shock, fear, and dread on their faces. I looked and saw what they saw. Five yellow jackets had started to build a nest around their gas cap. My eyes widened. I shared the ladiesí fear.

Yellow jackets had never been friends of mine. Several times these nasty tempered wasps had attacked me while I was mowing my lawn giving me multiple stings each time I ran over their ground nests. They are the reason I never mow my lawn in shorts anymore. The worst time, however, happened when I was a young boy. A friend of mine and me were running and playing in my backyard. I must have stepped on one of their hidden nests again because before I knew it both of us were being chased and stung over and over by the yellow jackets while we ran away screaming. I ran to my Mom with tears in my eyes. She immediately ran a cold bath and put us both in it to ease the pain and itching before giving us medicine to fight all the poison in our little bodies from the stings.

Still, I knew I couldnít let fear stop me now. I reached into my back pocket for a paper towel I had there, tore out the nest and stepped on it while the angry wasps buzzed around me. Both of the ladies thanked me and I said, ďYouíre welcome!Ē with a smile and a happy heart.

In this life you canít let the fear of being stung either physically or emotionally keep you from doing what is right. God wants all of us to love each other and to change the world for the better. And the only way you can do this is one loving act, one kind word, and one shared smile at a time. Donít let the yellow jackets in your life hold you back then. Live! Love! Do good today! ---------------


It was a cold, damp, dark, dreary, rainy morning. It was still Autumn but felt a lot more like Winter. The weather outside matched the weather in my heart. My oldest dog, Snoopy had died in her sleep the night before and now I was carrying her body up to the woods behind my house to bury.

It wasnít like it was a surprise that Snoopy had died. In dog years she would have been 98 years old. She had been battling several health problems for years. Every morning I gave her 3 different pills for her ailments and bought her special soft dog food because she had lost most of her teeth. For the past few days, though, she had refused to eat at all and I grew worried. Then when I woke up this morning she was gone with only a stiff, cold body on the floor by my bed. Part of me thought that maybe she had let go during the night so I wouldnít have to watch her die.

As I finished laying heavy stones across her grave I thought to myself: ďItís not fair. I have buried too many dogs in my life.Ē If length of life went on merit then Snoopy would have lived much longer than me. She loved so easily and unconditionally. She never complained about her sufferings. She always brought a smile to my face and a joy to my heart. As I laid the last rock across her grave my heart felt as heavy as the stone I carried.

On my way back to the house I talked to God. ďWhy is so much in this life unfair?Ē, I said. ďWhy do we lose the ones we love and have to go on alone?Ē I didnít get an answer. I guess some answers have to wait until we leave this life for the greater life to come. One thing I did know, however. I wouldnít give up on love. I wouldnít give up on life. I wouldnít give up on God. And I would one day adopt another dog. Because Love is always worth the pain. ---------------


Wisdom comes to us in millions of amazing ways in this world. Just today I was driving up to the local bankís drive through lane. A red pickup truck was in front of me. On the back of it was a bumper sticker that said: ďDear Lord, please help me to be the person that my dog already thinks I am.Ē I laughed and smiled at this. Then I thought to myself: ďThat is probably one of the best prayers I have ever heard.Ē

When I got back home I leaned down to pet my ancient, ailing, partially blind beagle. She felt my hand on her head and stretched her neck up to feel my fingers going over her head and back. Her whole body relaxed and felt at peace from just my touch. Then I took a plate of food over to my much younger golden retriever mix and he bounced his sixty pound body up and down like he was still a puppy. He devoured the plate of dog food like it was the most delicious feast in the world. Finally, I sat down at my desk but before I could get any work done my daughterís eight pound, furry, slurp machine jumped into my lap and started to kiss my chin. I put off my work for a few minutes longer while I petted her. And I thanked God once again for giving us dogs.

What is it about our furry friends that makes them love us so purely and unconditionally? I thought again about the bumper sticker I saw earlier and repeated the prayer. I realized too that if all of us in this world loved each other as freely and beautifully as our dogs loved us that all of this worldís conflicts and problems would rapidly disappear.

May we all one day become the people our dogs already think we are. May we all take the lessons they teach to heart. May we love each other freely and unconditionally. And may we always thank our Father in Heaven for our best friends on Earth.---------------


It was a cold, dark, November morning several years ago. My alarm clock had just gone off but I was having trouble getting out of bed. My Dad had died a few weeks before and I found myself just going through the motions of life. I felt weighed down by grief, sadness, and depression. I didnít feel ready to go on without him.

Short, stout, and strong my Dad had been my hero growing up. He had worked so hard all of his life to provide for us. He had a temper and would sometimes yell at me and my brothers, but he also had a kindness and gentle laugh that he would share with us as well. I always knew that he loved me. Still, he had been raised in an old fashioned way and raised us that way too. I couldnít remember, for instance, ever being hugged by him after I reached a certain age.

After first my Mom and then my Nana passed away my Dad moved into Nanaís home right up the road from where I lived. I was so happy to have him close by. I would often visit him in the afternoons and just talk with him about life. But we still rarely touched and never hugged. Finally his own health began to rapidly fail and within a few months brain cancer had taken him from us. It was a cold, frosty morning when we had his service but I was too cold and numb inside myself to feel it. I remember thinking what I wouldnít have given for just one last hug from him.

I sighed and got out my bed. I turned on the lights and walked into the hallway. I saw my son, JJ walking down the hall to meet me. Suddenly, he opened his arms and gave me a huge, heart-felt, hug. And just as he did I heard my Dadís voice deep inside of me say, ďJoey, this hug is from me!Ē I cried and smiled at the same time. In that moment, in the place where heart, mind, and spirit all meet I felt loved. I felt loved by Dad. I felt loved by God. And I knew that I couldnít give up on life. I still had a lot of things left to do and a lot of love left to share.

Life here can seem very long but in truth it is so very brief. Never miss an opportunity then to love. Never miss a chance to let God love through you. And always keep your heart and your arms open for a hug!------------------


I was a young boy growing up in an old, ramshackle house with my Mom, Dad, Nana, and two brothers. It was a cold, winterís evening and the bitter wind was seeping through the old houseís cracks. It was 7:30 P.M. but had already been pitch black outside for over an hour. I walked into the kitchen with slippers on my feet to keep them warm. I saw my Mom standing over the stove with a cast iron skillet in her hand. She placed it over the flame and quickly threw in a splash of oil and a dollop of butter. Then she took out some yellow popcorn and poured it into the pan as well. She put the cast iron lid on the skillet and waited. After a minute or two we heard the first pop. She quickly called me over and I helped her to keep the skillet moving over the flame so the popcorn wouldnít burn. With each shake of the skillet there was another explosion of popping. After a minute or so the popping finally stopped. We smiled at each other, poured the popcorn into a huge bowl and showered it with salt.

Then we carried the bowl into the living room where my Nana was sitting in her chair by the stove. Dad was in his recliner trying not to dose off after a hard dayís work. Mom and I sat on the couch with the steaming bowl of popcorn between us and slowly ate it while we watched TV. And as I snuggled in next to her the house didnít seem quite so cold anymore.

Since then I have made a lot of popcorn. I have used air poppers and microwave bags but none of it has tasted quite as good as the kind I made with Mom. Maybe it was because I felt so much love, happiness, and warmth when we sat down on that old couch to eat it.

We can fill our lives here with such moments of love and joy. In fact, that is exactly what God calls us to do. May all of your days be full of love then. May you bring it to everything you say and everything you do be it work, play, or even popping corn.----------------


The Fall leaves are really starting to change now. It looks like the very trees and mountains have become a canvas painted by Godís loving Hand. The bright, beautiful reds are shining in the sunlight. The out of this world oranges are appearing too. And the yellows are glittering like gold. Some trees have only a few leaves changed. Others are half-way there. But a few are already completely transformed. Some of the leaves are falling to the ground too turning it into a colorful, crunchy carpet that smells as good as it sounds. I am enjoying these days so much because I know that when Winter arrives all of the trees will be bare and all of the leaves will be down. It is always a little sad to see but I know it is the circle of life. Those dead leaves will become the soil that nourishes the trees and brings forth new life next Spring.

Today I saw a lovely little girl from our neighborhood picking up the fallen leaves from the ground. The brown and mildewy ones just wouldnít do. Only the prettiest reds, yellows, and oranges were picked up and held in her arms. Soon she had quite a pile there. She carefully carried them over to her Mom and then with a smile gave them to her like they were flowers. Her Mom accepted them with a loving-smile of her own and together they spread them out on their porch and stared at them like the priceless treasures they were.

I watched this scene from my living room window and had a smile on my face as well. I realized something then too. Our Heavenly Father in His wonderful wisdom has created a circle of love as well as a circle of life. And I am positive that the former like the latter will never end. It will continue on forever around and around all through this life and into the next. Take your place in the circle of love then. Give love. Receive love. Live every day of your life with love. And your soul will shine bright like the most beautiful tree in Autumn.---------------


I saw Jesus the other day. The funny thing was that He didnít look anything like the pictures. He or I should say She was dressed in a faded summer dress that had clearly been through a washing machine a hundred different times. Her shoes were the thick, black orthopaedic type. Her spine was bent from Osteoporosis. Her fingers were worn, calloused and had been battered by arthritis. Her gray hair was thin and wispy. Her glasses had frames much too large and slid down her tiny nose. She was eighty years old if she was a day. In truth, she looked like my Nana would have if Nana had only been 80 lbs lighter.

She was bending down in an aisle at the grocery store slowly trying to move a heavy bag of flour from the bottom shelf to her cart. I stopped pushing my own cart and bent down to help her. After I put the flour in her buggy she smiled at me with her slightly crooked, slightly stained teeth. I looked into her eyes and saw such light shining from them. It was as if all of Heaven was glowing through them.

We talked for awhile and I learned that she was stocking up on flour to bake homemade cookies for her children and grandchildren who were coming home to visit her. She didnít seem concerned at all about her age and failing health. All she was thinking about was sharing her love, her cookies, and her joy with those children and grandchildren who were on their way. She thanked me again for my little act of kindness with her light filled eyes and I smiled in return. As she walked away I could only think of the words: ďInasmuch as ye have done it unto the least of these brethren ye have done it unto me.Ē

Every act of kindness is powerful. Every act of kindness is precious. Every act of kindness is a gift to God. May we all fill our lives with such gifts. May we all love each other always.---------------


My oldest son, JJ is 32 years old right now. When he was born we named him Joseph John after me, a slight bit of egotism on my part. Now I feel, though, that I need to live up to his name rather than he has to live up to mine.

When he was just a little boy JJ was diagnosed with Autism and Mental Retardation. His speech was delayed, his learning was limited, and mentally he never truly grew up. Even now although he is quite a talker, he still speaks and acts like a young child. Spiritually, however, I think he may be on a far higher level than I will ever achieve. The Covid-19 pandemic has been hard on him because whenever he used to meet a friend or someone he knew he would always give them a heart-felt hug. He was so loved by everyone at the sheltered workshop where he worked too but now it is temporarily closed.

One of the people who used to work there is a neighbor of ours and JJ would always stop to talk to her, her husband, and her daughter when he walked his dog. Now they are moving to a new house miles away and we are all going to miss them. Without being asked JJ made them beaded key chains saying ďThanksĒ and ďGood luck.Ē He also drew them a picture and gave them his smile and his love, freely, happily, and unconditionally just like we are all called to do. I will spend the rest of my life trying to love as purely as my son already does, but I doubt I will ever quite reach his Heavenly level.

There is an old saying that goes: ďWhen God measures a man, He puts the tape around the heart instead of the head.Ē JJís measure must be enormous then. May we all follow his example. May we love freely, kindly, purely, and unconditionally. May we make this world a better place just by being in it. May we live a life that makes Our Heavenly Father proud.---------------


It is closing in on my 54th birthday as I write this and I am reminded of a wonderful quote by the writer, Colette: ďWhat a wonderful life Iíve had. I only wish Iíd realized it sooner.Ē I was so blessed to grow up the way I did. I was surrounded by a loving family. I seemed to have all of nature as my playground. I took walks in the woods, went swimming every day during the summer, had countless touch football games with my friends, and curled up with a good book by the stove on cold, Winterís days. I did well in school and formed friendships that I still have to this day. I was fortunate enough to go to college and learned so much there as well.

My life, of course, had its share of problems too. I married young and struggled financially for years to support my family. Two of my three children were diagnosed with Autism and Mental Retardation. And I realized that they would need to be looked after for the rest of their lives here. Yet, raising them brought so much learning, so much laughter, and so much love into my soul. In the end they became the greatest blessings in my life.

Still, it took me a long time to realize this. I spent years making the mistake so many of us here make. I constantly imagined what my life would be like if only my lifeís circumstances were different. In the end I wasted so many days looking for a future that never came and not enjoying the ďpresentĒ I had in front of me. It took me years to see that where you are is not as important as who you are and that simply living with love can bring you more joy than anything else in this life.

It is never too soon to realize how wonderful your life is. It is never too late to realize how wonderful your life is. And it is always time to live your life with love, laughter, and joy. Always remember this life is Godís gift to you. And how you live it is your gift to God. ---------------


I couldnít have been more than ten or eleven years old. It was a hot, Summer afternoon and I decided to cool off by taking a swim in the river that ran down the hill from our home. The water was cold and my dog jumped in to splash around with me. After a while I grabbed my towel and headed back up to the house. I knew that dinner would be ready soon.

I walked in through the enclosed back porch built right off the kitchen. When I peeked into it I saw my short, stout, sweaty Nana busy cooking. Two freshly baked loaves of Italian bread had just been pulled from the oven and were cooling on the counter. They smelled heavenly. A pot of water was slowly building to a boil and a batch of pasta was sitting next to it ready to go in. My Nana, however, was concentrating on her special sauce. It had been slowly simmering for hours. Potatoes, pieces of chicken, and meatballs had been quietly cooking in it as well. Nana took a wooden spoon, stirred the sauce and brought up a bit for a taste. She made a face and shook her head. Something wasnít quite right. She reached over to her spices. First she sprinkled in a pinch of salt. Then she shook in a little more garlic powder. She slowly stirred the sauce for a while longer humming to herself while I watched unnoticed behind her. Then she took another taste. This time her smile widened and she nodded her approval of her creation. I smiled too. I knew it was going to be another delicious dinner.

Looking back I think Nana was such a great cook because she not only seasoned her food with the right spices but also seasoned it with her love. She seasoned her whole life with that love and gave so much joy to others. She was a true chef when it came to cooking and truly wise when it came to living. I still miss her every single day and I am so thankful for all the lessons she taught me.

Life is so much better when you season it with love. Life is so much happier when you flavor it with kindness. Life is so much tastier when you prepare it with joy. Be the chef of your own life then. Create a Heavenly feast that God would be proud of. Then invite everyone you know to the table.----------------


I was 16 years old and on a week long trip to visit a Seminary college in Iowa. On the way our group had stopped in Chicago for a few days. We were staying in a building owned by the church on the south side of the city and had been warned not to go out alone. It wasnít long, though, before I was feeling cooped up and decided to sneak out for a short walk. I was going down a street when I saw other people making a wide berth around someone sitting on the sidewalk. His clothes were worn, torn, and threadbare. His skin was dirty and I could smell him from several feet away. I stopped in my tracks. I had never seen a homeless person before. Then my mind flashed back and I realized I had seen a homeless person once before: Me.

It was a Summer night in my 11th year when the home I grew up in caught fire in the middle of the night. I can still remember all of us standing outside while the fire destroyed everything we owned. My Dad was cursing. My Nana and Mom were crying. And my brothers and I were standing in shocked, scared, silence. Thankfully, friends took us in that night. Our small town community rallied around us. They showered us with love and care. They fed us, brought us clothes, and within a few days helped our Dad to rent a temporary house. A few months later our church helped us to finance a new home. I could remember feeling loved and blessed even after losing so much. The homeless man sitting in front of me, however, had no one to love and help him. I could see the sadness and despair in his eyes. I only had a few dollars left in my wallet but I didnít hesitate. I bent down and handed it to this fellow Child of God, talked with him, touched his hand, and wished him well before I left.

I have often wondered what happened to him over the years. Did he make it off the streets? Did he die there? I donít know. I do know that I was no better than he was, only more fortunate.

We are all equal in the eyes of Heaven. It doesnít matter the color of our skin, our gender, our education, or whether we live in a mansion or a card board box. We are all Children of God. We need to give our love freely then to everyone everywhere. We need to see all people as our brothers and sisters. We need to live as one family, in one world, and make our Heavenly Father smile.-----------------


My grown daughter, Beth comes over to my house every day to help me take care of her handicapped brothers, but she never comes alone. She always brings her furry ďchildrenĒ with her. Her four dogs added to my two makes for a noisy, barky, sometimes fun, sometimes chaotic household but one that is always full of laughter and love.

This morning during a quiet period when all of the dogs were napping I tried to get a little work done on my computer. Beth was sitting on the couch next to my desk with her little brother snuggled up next to her. Her smallest dog, Lexie lay snoozing across her shoulders. I was glancing at an e-mail when I saw the date on the bottom of my computer screen. It was getting close to my Momís birthday again. It had been 29 years ago since she died of Cancer. Still, the passage of the years didnít make me miss her any less. I looked up at her picture on the wall and felt an ache in my heart. What I wouldnít give to know she was alright. What I wouldnít give to have just one more hug and kiss from her. I felt my eyes start to moisten a bit. Then it happened. Quite unexpectedly Lexie opened her eyes and looked into mine. Then she bounded off Bethís shoulders and jumped into my lap. She put her paws on my shoulders and quickly began to lick my chin. I laughed, petted her, and smiled at this minor miracle. Somewhere deep in my heart I knew that my Mom had nudged Lexie awake and whispered in her ear that I needed a good kissing to remind me that she was fine and that I was loved and watched over from above.

This isnít the only time I have gotten kisses from Heaven either. We all get these little reminders every day that God loves us and is watching over us. From a sunset, to a butterfly, to a childís laugh, to a penny on the pavement, to a puppyís kiss they are always around us. Most of us, however, never open our hearts wide enough to recognize them. Donít ignore your own kisses from Heaven then. Let them widen your heart and life. Let them strengthen your faith and love. Add your own kindness, your own love and your own light to them as well. Use your days here to make many moments of joy because that is where Heaven and Earth meet. -----------------


I havenít been watching the news as much lately. The daily drumbeat of death, disease, and destruction has been starting to wear me down. Anytime I turned on the television it seemed like the whole world was ready to end. Thankfully, God doesnít just show us all the news that is bad but also gives us daily reminders of His Kindness, Caring, and Love.

I got one of these reminders just today. I was taking my son to the local thrift store so he could see if he could find some used CDís to add to his music collection. I parked the car and we both put on our mandatory masks. I had gotten so used to it that by now it had almost become second nature. We walked into the store and I strolled over to the book section to see if I could find something for myself. I looked around and was both surprised and delighted to see a very elderly lady pushing a baby stroller. I soon found out the baby was her great- granddaughter and looked down at the little girl in her tiny pink dress. She was sleeping peacefully and still had the fingerprints of God all over her. I looked down at her innocent face and remembered the old saying: ďA newborn is Godís blessing that humanity should go on.Ē Suddenly, she opened her eyes and looked up at me. For a second I thought she was going to cry at a stranger but then she seemed to see me smiling behind my mask and smiled back at me with all the love of Heaven behind her. As I left the store I thanked God for her and for all the daily reminders of His Love.

We are all created in Love! We are all created by Love! We are all created to Love! We all have the fingerprints of God all over us. And while this world may seem difficult, painful, and scary at times we will all in the end come back home again. May you live every day you have here in love then. May you help leave Godís fingerprints all over this world.----------------


When I was a young boy our whole family lived in my Nanaís old house right beside a set of railroad tracks. I can remember the whole house would shake when the trains rolled by. These trains hauling coal cars were few and far between, however, so I often spent my Summer afternoons walking down the tracks. I can remember the first time I tried to balance myself and walk on a single rail. The steel rails were very narrow and quite slippery so I didnít have much success. First I tried holding my arms out and watching my feet as I walked. This only led to me wobbling and falling off after a few steps. I decided to walk backwards once but quickly slipped off and skinned my ankle on the rail. It was only when I started looking ahead, down the length of the tracks that I was able to walk the rails. Keeping my eyes forward I put one foot in front of the other and was soon walking with ease.

Looking back on this time I now realize that it also gave me a wonderful lesson about living. You canít go through life watching and fretting about every step you take or choice you make. This only leads to second guessing yourself and you soon go off the rails. Looking behind you is even worse. With your eyes on the past you canít see the way ahead. You can only stand still and stay stuck in your regrets. It is only when you look ahead that you can really move forward. It his only when you look ahead that you can see the life you want to lead, the love you want to share, and the light you want to shine. Then each step you take and choice you make is filled with love and you will walk on with a light heart.

We all need to keep our eyes forward. We all need to look ahead with love. We all need to see with our hearts the life we want to live. We all need to take each otherís hands and walk the path of love together, knowing that God is by our side with each step we take.-----------------


I was sitting at a table eating a chicken salad sandwich. I wasnít really hungry but I was supposed to sit a bit and eat something to replenish my strength before heading home. I had left early to be first in line at a blood drive being held 15 miles away from my home. I knew that the changes due to Covid-19 would make the donation process even longer than it was before and I was right. I stood at the door with my face mask on and had my temperature checked even before going in the room. Once I was admitted it was checked a second time along with my pulse, blood pressure and iron levels. Then I had to answer a long list of questions making sure I had never been anywhere or done anything so I would be safe to donate.

Thankfully, it all went well and I was soon lying on a table with a needle in my arm and my blood quietly flowing into a pint sized bag. I chatted and joked with the lady drawing my blood and found out that they had traveled 2 hours compared to the 20 minutes I had driven. They were in for a 16 hour day too. Still, they had almost 50 people scheduled to donate that day and were happy to do it because each pint of blood could be saving a life.

I took another bite of my sandwich, sipped a bottle of water, and looked down at the paper lying next to my face mask. On it was a date 56 days from now. It was the first day I would be able to donate again. I smiled and thanked God that I didnít have to wait that long between other acts of kindness because this world needs all the kindness it can get.

With disease, violence, racism, and economic uncertainty plaguing us right now it seems easy to retreat in fear and withdraw into ourselves. This is the one thing God doesnít want us to do. God loves us and wants us to love each other even in the worst times. God wants us to defeat our fear with faith and thankfulness. God wants us to remember that every act of kindness counts.

Every pint of blood we donate can save a life. Every smile we share can uplift a heart. Every kind word we say can brighten a day. Every prayer we pray can save a soul. Every act of kindness we do can make this world a better place. Every bit of love we share can bring us closer to Heaven. Fill all your days with love then. Fill all your hours with kindness. Live your life the way God wants you to live it.---------------


It was a few years ago. A friend had sent me a restaurant gift card for Christmas and I had picked a pretty, sunny Sunday afternoon to use it. It felt good taking my two grown sons and daughter to a nice sit-down restaurant instead of the fast food places we usually ate at. The meal was delicious and we all had a good time just being together. When the waitress brought the check I looked down at it. The gift card covered almost all of it. I reached into my wallet to get enough cash to cover the rest. I saw two bills in the front of it. The first would cover the rest of the bill and give the waitress a nice tip. The second bill was much larger so I reached down to pick out the first one.

At that moment my mind flashed back to 30 years before. I was working as a busboy in a restaurant much like the one we were in now. It was long hours of hard work for low pay. I went home just barely making enough to feed my young family. I also remembered how more than once I saw the waitresses counting their meager tips while worrying about how they were going to pay the rent and buy their kids the things they needed. I remembered the pain in their eyes and saw the sadness in their faces at the end of the day.

I blinked and was back in the present again my fingers touching the smaller bill in my wallet. I smiled, pushed it back down, and picked out the much larger bill. I folded it around the gift card and covered both of them with the check. As we all got up from the table I handed them to the hard working waitress. ďYou keep the change.Ē, I said with a smile and a happy heart.

We are all one family in this world. We are all children of the same God. We live together, rejoice together, and suffer together. Do your best to be kind then. Do your best to be a good person and loving child of God. Do your best to replace the suffering with joy. ---------------


A dear friend sent me a letter and handmade card in the mail today. On the outside of the card was a cut out picture of a hummingbird in mid-flight. Its wings were a blur while its little needle shaped beak plunged deep into a flower. Below it was a quote by Fyodor Dostoyevsky: ďThe world will be saved by beauty.Ē I smiled when I saw it both with my face and my heart.

Looking at it reminded me of all the beauty of this world. I thought about the beautiful, green forested mountains of my home. I thought of the fields of Summer wild flowers blessing the world with their colors. I thought of the brilliant blue oceans that stretched from horizon to horizon. I thought of the sunsets in the desert with their deep, rich reds and glorious golds. I thought of the endless variety of animals from green hummingbirds, to white polar bears, to red cardinals, to gray wolves, to blinking lightening bugs. I thought of the silver moon smiling down from the sky surrounded by a sea of stars.

Yet, I knew that it wasnít the beauty of any of these things that would save the world. It was instead the beauty of human souls filled with light and love. It was these souls so full of love for God, for each other, and for this world that would save our planet. It was Godís love working through people like these that would in the end make this world the place it was truly meant to be.

My friend who sent me the card is one of these people. She, her husband and her family are going through so many struggles right now. Still, she continues to share her love and make this world a better place every single day. She continues to work to save our home by giving it the beauty of her soul. She continues to shine her light with her life making God smile and Heaven sing. May we all do the same.---------------

20 20

ďAAAHHH!Ē I awoke with a start in the middle of a scream. The dream I had been in had been full of drama, death, destruction, fear, fleeing, and seemed to have no escape. It got worse and worse and just as it seemed I might die my mind could take no more and woke me up. I sat up in the bed breathing hard. I could feel my heart pounding in my chest. My hands were shaking. I got out of bed and stumbled over my still snoring beagle on the floor near my door. I walked out of the bedroom trying to shake the nightmare out of my consciousness. Something seemed wrong, though. Everything still seemed scary. The hall light was nothing but a bright blur. Hazy images floated in front of my face. I couldnít make out anything clearly. Then I realized what was wrong. I hadnít put my glasses on.

I felt my way back into the bedroom, picked up my glasses and put them on my face. I looked down and gently stepped over Snoopy still snoring away in doggy dreamland. I walked out into the living room. The clock on the wall read 2:52 A.M. I walked down the hall and checked on my sonsí room. They were both still peacefully asleep and our other dog, Fluffy was looking at me from my sonís bed wondering why I was up so early. I headed back to my room again. The dream was finally fading from my consciousness. The dark night seemed peaceful and full of Godís love again. I took my glasses back off, thanked God for my life with both its blessings and bad dreams, and soon fell back asleep.

Sometimes this life can seem as scary as a nightmare, but when we put on our glasses of faith and truth our vision becomes 20 20 again. We can see that God loves us all so much. We can see that death is only a doorway. We can see that the fears of life can be overcome with the power of love. May you always see clearly then. May your heart and life be full of love.---------------


You can learn a lot sitting in a parking lot. The other day I was sitting in my car with my sons reading a book while my daughter finished grocery shopping. From time to time, though, I would look up and observe what was going on outside. One of those times I saw a huge, new, bright red, Cadillac SUV pull up in the parking spot beside me. Out of it stepped a well-dressed young woman in high heels. She seemed strangely out of place in the Walmart parking lot. Her face was tight and determined and her eyes hidden behind sunglasses. I watched her as she headed for the store and wondered about her life.

A moment later a 30 year old, beat up station wagon pulled up beside the SUV. It smelled of burning oil and probably didnít have many months of life left in its engine. Out of it stepped a young Mom with 4 little girls all under the age of 12. All were dressed in well worn clothes most likely purchased at the local thrift store. She gathered them together, carrying the youngest while her oldest daughter gave a piggy back ride to another of the girls. They headed to the store laughing and talking all the way.

A while later I saw the Cadillac lady coming out, pushing a cart filled with a new television set. She slid it in the back and pulled out quickly, her eyes still hidden, her face still frowning. Fifteen minutes after her the station wagon Mommy emerged with her little girls in tow. They had a weekís worth of groceries in their cart. After unloading it, the Mom took out a two pack of cookies, broke both in half, and gave each girl a half of a cookie. They smiled like it was the most priceless gift in the world. As they pulled out I thought about the two women. I clearly knew which one had the most money, but I wasnít sure which one really had the Most.

In this life there are many kinds of riches but the most valuable one of all is Love. The truth is that one who loves the most: learns the most, lives the most, gives the most, and grows the most in this life. And when we go to meet our Father in Heaven the only thing we will be carrying with us is the love we have shared. May you fill all of your days here with love then. It is the real riches of this life. And the more you share it, the more of it you will have to give away. ---------------


It was a dark, overcast night. Thick, dark, gray clouds had made sure that there was no starlight or moonlight to greet me as I walked out on my porch. Still, I kept the porch light off because I didnít want to be munched on by bugs and buzzed by moths on this sticky Summer evening. I stood there for awhile letting my eyes adjust to the lack of light. My dog stood beside me waiting patiently for me to start her walk. It was then, though, that I saw them. First one blink of light at the far end of the meadow followed by another and then another. I smiled. I recognized them at once as my firefly friends, my lightning bug buddies who always showed up this time of the year.

I got so much joy watching them first as a child and then as an adult. They never became dull or boring and they always filled me with delight. When I was little I used to sit in the grass and watch them slowly fly around blinking on and off. I never captured and put one in a jar as some kids did because I was afraid I might kill it and I never wanted to hurt these messengers of light. Their time on this earth was so brief as it was. I tried to enjoy them each night they were here. It always saddened me when they disappeared in the Fall and it always made my heart sing when they reappeared the next Summer.

I think I enjoy these little fireflies so much because I can see that we are like them in a lot of ways. Our time here on earth is brief. Often our light and love are more like on and off blinks rather than a steady shine. Still, we do our best to share it and take comfort in knowing that others will be shining their light long after we are gone.

We all come from the light and we all return to the light. We all are light. Letís share our love and light while we are here then. Letís spend our days giving Godís light to the world.--------------


It was a sweltering day in late Summer. I was a young dad working in a local lumber mill. It was dangerous, back-breaking work that paid very little. In the year I had worked there only four other people hadnít quit and been replaced with new faces. Those of us who stayed did so only because there was no other work to find to support our families.

On this day the fans werenít working and all of us were covered in sweat and sawdust. When I looked around every face I saw looked angry and frustrated. Suddenly, a voice called out: ďHey! Thereís a deer in here.Ē A lost little doe had wandered through the open loading bay doors and was now cowering in between the huge stacks of lumber. All of us stopped working and went looking for her as she ran about frantically looking for a way out.

Now most people where I live hunt deer for meat in the Fall but also treat them with great kindness the rest of the year. Many will even buy 50lb bags of corn to help feed them during the harsh Winter months. It was no surprise then that all of us were soon quickly working together to free this little doe. By blocking off all the other routes we were able to guide her frantic search back to the open bay doors. We watched as she bounded out the building and back into the woods. Then we walked back in to work. I noticed something, though. On every face there was a joyful smile. It was as if this one single act of kindness had energized us again and reminded us of what life is all about.

The Quaker author, Parker Palmer once wrote: ďCommitting acts of kindness shows us the power that we have-over ourselves and our choices, and over whether this world is a cruel or wondrous place to live.Ē I would add that they also bring us closer to love and closer to God. Fill your day and your life with acts of kindness then. Let them flow from your soul. Let them warm your heart. Let them light up your life. Let them lead you to love. Every kind act we do is a step towards Heaven. Every kind act we do helps us to become the people we were meant to be. From sharing a smile to rescuing a lost little deer, kindness can become a way of life for us all.---------------


It was a beautiful Summerís day yet I was pulling into a nearly empty elementary school parking lot. I was taking my children to the first day of Energy Express, a Summer reading program that gave college age kids a job working with elementary school children. Still, my young daughter didnít seem too enthused about it. She was moody and sullen and not too happy about spending part of her Summer vacation back at school. That changed by the end of the day, though. She came home happy with a joyous light in her eyes. She talked about all the fun activities, games, and crafts they had done that day and how much she liked her teacher. She showed me her new books with a smile and we reread them together.

It was another Summerís day and another elementary school parking lot. I was there to pick up my daughter after work. She was in college now and had taken a job as one of the teachers at Energy Express. I waited patiently while the laughing children ran out of the school to get on their buses to head home. My daughter walked out behind them smiling peacefully. Just then one of her students, a young boy with very curly brown hair turned and gave her a goodbye hug. I smiled when I saw it and we discussed her day on the drive home. I was so proud of her. She had taken all of the learning, laughter, and love that her Energy Express teachers had given her as a child and now passed it on to a new generation of children. I wondered whom they would pass it on to as well. One thing I was sure of, it would never end.

The truth is that if any one brings beauty, love, learning, or goodness to our world, it lives on. It lives on in our minds. It lives on in our souls. It lives on in our lives. It lives on in Heavenís heart and Godís smile. Share all the love you can then! Do all the good you can! Create all the wisdom and beauty you can! Because it will live on!--------------


It was the middle of the night and I was sitting in a chair thinking about all the blunders I had made in my life. I was working the overnight shift in a Special Needs group home for mentally handicapped adults. While everyone else was asleep I stayed awake in case of an emergency. Left alone with my thoughts I had gotten to brooding about those blunders I had already made in my short life. I was a young dad and recent college graduate. I had graduated with a degree in English Literature and it hadnít helped me get a single job. I was wishing now I had studied business or education where jobs were almost guaranteed. I had also stubbornly refused to move out of state in search for work, which had left me with even fewer job options. Thus, I was sitting here in the dark at 2 A.M. wondering where my life had gone wrong.

Little did I know that my life was just beginning and I was set to travel a long and winding road in which all of my blunders would be made right. It turned out working at that group home would help to prepare me for when my two sons were diagnosed with Autism and Mental Retardation and I began a lifetime of caring for them. That jobless English Literature degree too would turn out to be a benefit as I began to write about my life, what I had learned, and what God was teaching me each new day. Staying in my home state would also become a blessing as it helped me to spend time with my Mom, Nana, and Dad in their final years. It helped our relationships to grow deeper, better, and more loving. Looking back now to that time 30 years ago I see that I was where I need to be then in order to be where I am now.

There is a wonderful old saying that goes: ďGod makes our blunders wise.Ē I see now His kind hand guiding my entire life, leading me to ever greater wisdom, light, and love. May you do the same. May you allow God to lovingly use even your blunders for your benefit.------------


It was a late Winterís day. I was 25 years old and at the one place I never wanted to be. I was sitting in a hospital by my dying Momís bedside. For 4 long years she had bravely battled the cancer that slowly weakened and destroyed her body. She never gave up hope. She never stopped trying. And she never stopped loving. Through that time I felt myself grow closer to her than at anytime in my childhood. I prayed for more time but it was clear now that I wasnít going to get any. I leaned over, took her hand in mine, and talked to her while we waited for the rest of the family to arrive. I could feel her life slipping away and part of my heart was dying with her. Even though she was in horrible pain she held on until the rest of the family arrived so we could all say our goodbyes. As she took her last breaths my eyes filled with tears, my heart filled with pain, and I didnít know how I could go on without her.

After her death my own health broke. I developed double pneumonia after her funeral. It took a long time for my body to recover and even longer for my heart to start to heal. I think a part of me is still grieving and healing even today. One thing that kept me going was my children and knowing a new child was on his way.

It was nine months later and I was in the hospital again. My wife had just had a C-section and I was looking down at our new baby boy. The nurses had said it was a shame he hadnít been born a girl because his eyelashes were so long and his face so beautiful. While my wife rested I held him in my arms and gently rocked him. I stroked his little hand with my finger and felt a wave of joy wash over me when he grabbed it and held on tight. Part of me was sorry that he would never get to know his grandma, but I vowed that he would feel her love through me. I vowed to shower him with kind words, countless hugs, and all the love that my Mom had given me.

Lacordaire wrote: ďLove is the beginning, the middle, and the end of every-thing.Ē We should seize every second then to give it, receive it, and share it with everyone we can. We should shower our families, friends, and communities with our love. We should use it to help God build a better world for us all. We should carry it in our souls as we walk through this life and into the next. That is what my Mom did and that is what I am striving to do as well.----------------


After being closed for so long due to the Carona virus, I heard yesterday that the local thrift store will be opening again. I have always enjoyed shopping there not so much for the bargain prices on used clothes and books as for the unique experiences I have had there.

One such experience has a special place in my heart, mind, and soul. I was at the store browsing through the book shelves looking for something I hadnít read before while my son was doing the same with the CDs and DVDs. Suddenly, I noticed a tiny little voice. A small girl no more than four years old was sitting on the floor reading one of the childrenís books aloud. I watched her while she gazed intently at the book reading all the words she knew and sounding out the ones she wasnít sure of. It brought back a flood of memories of me teaching my own daughter to read and I smiled down at her. ďYou read really well,Ē I said. She looked up at me with a big, toothy grin and then bent her head back down to read some more. I turned back to the shelves, started checking for books again, and allowed her sweet voice to serenade me while I looked. When her Mother finally told her it was time to go, she put her book back neatly and smiled up at me again. Then she took a step forward, wrapped her arms around my waist, and gave me a heartfelt hug. I felt my eyes moisten, my heart warm, and my face smile. I patted her gently on her back and she skipped away to her Mom. It was just a moment. Yet, it will live in my soul forever.

What powerful things a kind word and a gentle hug can be. They can reach into a heart and change it forever. They can turn a life around. They can make God smile and all of Heaven sing. The power to give and share love is the greatest power in the whole world. Use yours every chance you get! Love God! Love yourself! And Love everyone else! ----------------


It was a spectacular Spring day. The temperatures were quickly climbing into the eighties. The sun had risen over the mountains and was bathing the earth in its golden glow. The clouds in the blue sky looked like fluffy, white pillows fit for an angelís head. Some of the trees were still blooming and some were full of light green leaves. A few of the birds were still singing but most of them were busy building nests in the trees and laying eggs in the bird houses. My front yard was covered in a sea of beautiful buttercups stretching their yellow faces towards the warming sun. Bumble bees were bouncing from flower to flower and heavenly butterflies were floating from the buttercups to the dandelions. The air too smelt fresh, sweet, and full of life. I let its gentle breeze caress my face while I walked my dogs in the yard. After a while I noticed them sitting in the grass and staring at me. I had lost track of time instead of rushing them back in like I had all winter long. I just wanted to stay outside for as long as I could. I could feel Godís love everywhere around me and inside me as well.

I guess one of the reasons it felt so good being out on a day like this was because it had been such a long, cold, dark, and gray Winter. The March cold had stretched into April and even the beginning of May. Days had been full of chilly rain and gloomy, overcast skies. Being out now felt like putting on a badly needed pair of glasses and finally seeing the world clearly again.

I knew in my heart that God and His love had been with me during those Winter months as well. I just hadnít been able to see it as clearly as I did today. Life is like that. On some days Godís love is as clear as a blue sky. At other times you have to put on your glasses, open your eyes wider, and open your heart deeper in order to feel it and share it with the world. Open your eyes then! Feel Godís Love everywhere! And add your love to it as well!---------------


I was in college and was sleeping deeply in my dorm room bed after a rough day of classes. Suddenly, I heard the door open and light from the hallway streamed in. My best friend and roommate was standing there unsteadily. His girlfriend had broken up with him earlier that day and he had spent the evening downtown in a bar trying to drown his sorrows with 13 whiskey sours. I got up and helped him to climb up into the bunk bed above me. He didnít look so good. His face was whiter than normal and he could barely walk.

After fending off some idiots on our floor who tried to get him to go back downtown for more drinking I finally got him to lay down. After a minute he said he was going to be sick. I managed to get him to the bathroom down the hall but he couldnít throw up. I walked him slowly back to bed and got him into the top bunk again. I was just about to drift back off to sleep when I heard it: retching followed by 13 whiskey sours splashing on his sheets. I got him off the bed again, stripped his sheets and helped him back up once more. I was wary of another splash down but soon I heard his gentle snoring. I couldnít really be mad at him, though. After all, he just wanted what we all wanted: ďTo be Loved.Ē

Over the decades that followed I started to realize a few things too. I learned that the best way to be loved was to be loving. And I learned that the best way to be loving was to realize that you were already loved. We are all loved completely and unconditionally by the most powerful Love in the universe. God loves us all and God wants us to bless this world with our love as well. Open your heart then and let His Love in. Open your life and let your love out. The greatest gift we can ever get is to be loved and the greatest gift we can ever give is to be loving. And the truth is, they are one and the same.---------------


It had been raining on and off for days. The gray, overcast clouds felt more like the gloom of Winter than the joy of Spring. The ground was saturated from the downpours. The grass in my backyard was swampy and large patches of mud had grown in the well trafficked areas where I walked my dogs. But on this morning I suddenly saw a break in the clouds. The beautiful, rising sun was sliding out from behind them and playing a delightful game of peek-a-boo with the earth. I longed to feel its warmth on my face again so I slipped on my shoes and headed outside. Just as I got there the sun slid behind another cloud. I frowned when I saw it but noticed that a few sunbeams were still shining through on the grass down the hill from me. I started to run towards them before they disappeared. That is when it happened.

Suddenly, I felt my feet go out from under me as I slipped on a muddy patch. Down I went into the brown slop. My jeans were filthy. My shirt was stained. My hands were covered with the goo. ďUgh!Ē, I said. I wiped my hands in the grass and shook my head. Just at the moment, however, the sun broke through again. I lay in the mud and looked up at its light. I smiled when I saw it shining on a determined little dandelion growing in the middle of the mud. Then I laughed and felt the light coming on within me too. It was certainly worth another shower and an extra load of laundry to see this sight.

Sometimes we need to slip in the mud in order to see the flowers. Sometimes we need to be flat on our backs in order to look up to Heaven. In this life God gives us both the sunshine and the rain. It is up to us, though, to bloom through the mud and to shine through the clouds. May your love always shine bright and may the flower of your life become a meadow. ---------------


I was a Sophomore in High School and I dreamed of being a football star. During my Freshman year I had been a skinny and scrawny boy who barely weighed 120 pounds. I had played some but spent most of my time on the bench. But over the Summer I had planned to change that. I had bought a set of free weights and found a special diet that body builders used to bulk up. Drinking a lot of whole milk and lifting weights every day had added an extra 25 pounds of muscle to my frame. By the time football season started I felt ready. I was soon disappointed, though, when I saw that I was still smaller, slower, and less athletic than most of the other boys. I found myself on the bench again.

That was to change during one of our first games of the season. We had built up a lead and the coach felt secure enough to send me in for a while to play halfback. I was so excited. I was so ready to prove myself. On the very first play I got the call. The center snapped the ball to the quarterback who handed off to me. Our offensive line opened a huge hole and I ran towards it. Dreams of scoring a touchdown and being a hero raced through my head. God had other plans, however. The hole quickly closed and I found myself being hit by two linebackers and a safety. They crashed me to the ground hard. I got up woozily and walked off the field and back to the bench.

Over the years I have lost count of how many times I have schemed, dreamed, and prayed for something in my life only to find out that God had other plans. For a long time I really resented this, but as the years went by I finally realized that maybe just maybe Godís plans for me were better than my plans for myself.

There is an old Yiddish Proverb that goes ďMan plans and God laughs.Ē Maybe it is time that we stop planning so much and join in the laughter. God loves us all so much. Shouldnít we all then seek to find out His plans for us instead of always forcing our plans on Him? Open your heart today to Godís love, Godís wisdom, and Godís plans for you. Let His light guide you as you go through each day and you will fill your life with love, kindness, and joy. What better plan could there be than that?---------------


I was lying in bed yesterday afternoon after a big dinner. The television had nothing on that interested me. The book I was trying to read seemed boring too. Finally I put the book on my chest, closed my eyes, and let myself drift off to sleep. Suddenly, I felt a huge, wet, tongue lick my chin, lips, and nose in one giant slurp. My eyes popped open and I saw our big, white dog, Fluffy standing there looking at me. His eyes seemed to be saying, ďWhy are you napping? There is so much we could be doing right now. There is so much fun we could be having. There is so much love we could be sharing.Ē

I smiled, petted his head, and scratched his belly while he grinned, wagged his tail, and panted happily. After a bit I got up, put on his leash, and we headed outside. The sun was breaking through the clouds and finally warming the cool air a bit. I laughed as I let him drag me around the backyard. He sniffed the grass, peed on the tree, and then took in the daily dog news with his nose when the breeze picked up. After we went back inside we played fetch in the hallway for awhile. Then he jumped up on my bed and decided to take a nap of his own. I sat beside him and petted his smooth coat while he serenely snoozed away. It seemed like even while he slept our beloved pooch never found life boring.

I think we all could learn a lot from that dog. In this life there is time for napping and time for playing. There is time for reading and time for doing. There is time for giving, laughing, and sharing. There is time to sing, to smile, to hug, and to dance. There is time to walk your dog and smell the flowers on the breeze. There is time to pray and thank God for all of your blessings. And there is always time to Love. But there is never time to be bored. God gives us only so many days in this precious life. Donít waste a second of them on boredom.----------------


I was about to shave this morning when I caught my reflection in the mirror. There was no doubt about it. My body was growing older. My formerly thick hair which used to be brown with a touch of gray was now gray with a touch of brown. It was hard to see on top too with so little of it left there. My forehead wrinkles had become permanent and when I smiled a hundred more curled up around my eyes and mouth. I thought about letting my beard grow for a second but didnít really want to look like Santa Claus. When I stepped back I could see I had gotten chunkier as well because while my metabolism had slowed my eating hadnít. My muscles also tended to be achier and my body creakier. And the file clerk in my mind seemed to be misplacing things a lot more often. I was even thinking of writing stuff down more so I could remember what I came into a room for. In spite of it all, though, when I looked in the mirror again I caught a sparkle in my eyes. I smiled and felt a joy in my heart. I knew that no matter what my reflection looked like, my soul was forever young.

The truth is while I have been steadily growing older on the outside I have for a while now been growing younger on the inside. I can remember how serious, stressed, and worried I was in my twenties and thirties. I often felt like the weight of the world was on my shoulders. Now at fifty three my heart feels lighter and my days look brighter. I feel like a true ďChildĒ of God free to laugh, to sing, to dance, to love, and to help others do the same. I worry less and smile more. I have a lot more faith and a lot less fear. I let my love lead me and face the pains and problems of this world with the loving-kindness of the next.

In the end all of our bodies will wear out and die, but WE wonít. Our young souls will go on forever. Spend your days growing younger then. Let the child within you live and love.---------------


I have been cooped up in the house a lot lately and it got me to thinking recently about another time I was house bound. I was only a small boy still living with my family in my Nanaís old home. It was the middle of Winter and a blizzard had hit canceling school. When I went outside to play, however, I was disappointed. The waist deep snow was too heavy to move around in and the bitter January cold cut into me like a knife. I quickly headed back inside, grabbed a book, and settled into my favorite spot, the chair right across from the stove. I got comfy with my dog at my feet and started to read. It was an adventure story full of danger, excitement, plot twists, ups and downs, and everything else. It sunk its hooks into my imagination and I read page after page until finally I reached the happy ending and closed the book with a smile.

As I grew up, started to live my life, and began to write myself, however, I realized that there really were no happy endings in life, at least not in the way that book said. There was no magic point in which after going through so many trials all of our problems disappear. In truth, each time we seem to solve one problem in our lives another pops up to take its place. Life is really one long series of things we have to face, learn from, and overcome.

Happiness I found wasnít something that we got as a reward after doing or achieving something. Happiness was something we created within ourselves, one day at a time. Happiness came from the love we shared, the good we did, and the lives we lived.

God loves us all so much and God wants us to be happy. We wonít get happiness from a problem free life, though. We will get it when we face every problem in life with love in our heart and faith in our soul. Give your love to the world then! Share your kindness and joy with everyone you meet! Then each day of your life will be your happy ending.-------------


I turned off the morning news after eating breakfast this morning. In spite of a few hopeful stories the tidal wave of bad news from the Caronavirus was drowning me in a sea of helplessness. Over and over I asked myself, ďWhat can I do?Ē but had no answer.

Instead I walked outside, stood on my back porch, and breathed in the clean April air. I heard dozens of different birdsongs blending together to welcome the rising sun while two Woodpeckers provided the drumbeat. I looked at the rapidly greening and growing grass and wondered how long before I would have to mow it. I saw the first flowers peeking out of the soil too. A bumble bee tumbled through the air by my face and a delicate butterfly followed behind it. I saw Robins building nests in the trees and the buds beginning to turn into green leaves on their branches. A rabbit hopped along the fence line, turned to look at me, and then bounced away without a care. All around me the Earth was coming alive while I was stuck in my fear. I walked out into the yard, felt the warmth of the rising sun on my face, and thanked God for the day. It was at that moment that an answer to my question came to me in a quiet corner of my soul. ďShare your Spring!Ē, it said.

If you are asking yourself what you can do during this difficult time my answer to you is to share the Spring within you. Every letter you write, text you send, phone call you make, e-mail you share, picture you post, or video you send out is a gift. Fill them all with your light. Fill them all with your love. Fill them all with your Spring. Use them to lift your spirits and the spirits of everyone you can.

The greatest gift God gives us is the gift of Love. No fear can stand against it. No problem can outlast it. Give your love freely then in every way you can. And always share your Spring!--------------


I was sitting at my kitchen table sipping my morning coffee while the news played on the television. Suddenly, a long series of commercials came on. Each one droned on the drumbeat of more, more, more. They urged us to buy more, to have more, and to do more. Finally I grabbed the remote and hit the mute button. I looked out the window and my thoughts drifted back to Little Frankie.

Little Frankie was my godfather. A first generation Italian immigrant, he was already in his late seventies when I was a boy. He was tiny and bent further by age and a lifetime of hard work. He lived on the hill above us in three rooms of a run down, crumbling house that was over a hundred years old. He had no electricity. His running water came from a mountain spring that ran next to the house. He cooked and heated his home with the same cast iron stove. He didnít bathe as much as we do now and would be considered ripe by todayís standards. In truth, he was living like it was 1870 even though it was the 1970's. Still, I didnít mind. I would go up and visit him for hours. We would sit and eat fried potatoes and talk. I always left him feeling happier. His eyes and face had a peace, serenity, and quiet joy that I rarely see in people anymore.

The consumer economy, the businesses, and the commercials will continue to urge us to buy more and more and more. I think I learned from Little Frankie, though, that Less is More. Spending our lives getting stuff doesnít bring us joy. Working, stressing, and running the rat race only makes rats of us all. Little Frankie taught me that it is far better to have less and to love more. He taught me that peace, joy, and oneness with God comes from a life well-lived not cash endlessly spent. He taught me the only thing you can truly keep is the love you give away. -------------


It was the first day of Spring here but it didnít feel like it. The Coronavirus Pandemic was sweeping the globe and everywhere there were feelings of uncertainty, fear, loneliness and even despair. ďSocial DistancingĒ had become the new norm. Here the schools had been closed, the restaurant dining rooms shut, and people had been told to work from home whenever they could. Even the sheltered workshop where my oldest son worked had been closed until further notice. People had made a run on the stores and large areas of the shelves were bare. On the news the numbers of sick and dead continued to rise. It felt like there was a weight on the souls of everyone in the world.

My own family was staying at home as much as possible and as I looked out my window I wondered how long this crisis would last. It was then, however, that I saw something that lifted that weight off of my soul, made my face smile, and made my heart feel happy again. On the street below my house there was an old friend of mine from high school who was a teacher there now. With him was my younger sonís former aide from the high school as well. They were delivering the school lunches door to door to the hungry children who were stuck at home. Watching them made me think of something everyoneís childhood television neighbor, Mr. Rogerís once said: ďIn the bad times. Always look for the helpers.Ē

I have no doubt this crisis will pass as all the crisis before it have. But it is our choice on whether it brings out the best in us or the worst in us. Let it bring out the best in you. Use it to strengthen your faith. Use it to free yourself from fear. Use it to grow kinder, more giving, and more loving. Become a helper to all those in need and you will be doing Godís work today and in all the days to come. --------------


I honestly donít know how I survived my childhood. I am pretty sure my guardian angel put in for early retirement after taking care of me all those years. I also think I might have been the reason why my Mom had to dye the gray out of her hair so often. Before I was ten years old I had already survived a wreck riding on the back of my older brotherís motorcycle, ruptured my groin when I fell off the ramp of the wooden, swinging bridge near our house, and had my skull split open when I hit a rock and flew over the handlebars of my bicycle. I had also been deathly ill with the Mumps and had to have an emergency surgery to have my infected tonsils cut out.

You would think that after going through all of this I would have been more careful but I was as reckless as ever. One day in the Fall I was exploring the woods near our home. I saw a huge tree with low hanging branches. The tree was surrounded on three sides by jagged rocks. Its leaves had all fallen near the front of it and lay there in a huge pile. It felt like a good tree to climb so I reached up and grabbed a branch. I slowly pulled myself up higher and higher. I decided to try for the top, reached up again, and slipped. I felt myself falling for a split second and then hit the leaves hard. If I had landed anywhere else I would have hit the rocks and died. I slowly stood up, dusted myself off, and decided it was best not to tell my Mom about it.

Looking back I am so thankful to God and my guardian angel for seeing me through so many close calls and near misses. I am still not sure how I survived my childhood, but I know why. I survived because God wanted me to.

Each day we wake up it is because God wants us to live another day. God wants us to love another day. God wants us to smile and laugh and sing and share our joy once more. God wants to give us another chance to help make this world a better place. Cherish each precious and priceless day you have here then. They are a gift from above.---------------


ďHa Ha Ha! Yes Yes Yes! Good girl! Way to go!Ē That was me yesterday evening. I donít usually laugh, cheer, and dance when a dog eats its food, but this was different. You see my oldest dog, Snoopy has been in bad health for several years now. She barely gets around, sleeps a lot, snores, and has bad gas. She takes 3 different pills every morning to help her keep going. Last week she caught a bad virus and would hardly eat at all. Not wanting her to get weak I tried feeding her lunch meat and canned chicken but she still barely picked at her food. I had seen this all before with other sick dogs I had owned. They would stop eating, stop drinking, and get weaker and weaker until they died. I had buried each one of them with tears in my eyes and cracks in my heart. I didnít want this to happen again. I knew Snoopy was old and ill but I was praying and hoping for at least a few more years with her. That is why when I finally saw her eating again my heart jumped with joy. I thanked God for this and leaned down to pet her while she ate.

Why do the dogs we love live such short lives? If the length of life went on merit then all of our dogs would outlive us. Maybe they leave us earlier because they already know what we struggle so often to learn here. Dogs know instinctively that we are here to Love. They know that life is meant to be lived in Joy. They know that Play should be a part of each day. They know that a good meal and a long nap are pleasures to be treasured. They know that cuddles and kisses are gifts to be given freely, each and every day.

I continue to hope for a few more years with my beloved Snoopy. And I continue to thank God for giving us dogs. They are some of our greatest teachers on how to live and how to love. May we all learn the lessons they teach.---------------


My dear grandmother passed away almost 18 years ago but I still miss her every single day. She was such an important part of my life. My Mom, Dad, brothers and I lived in her old house for most of my childhood. And when I close my eyes and open my heart that is how I remember her. I can still see her in her flower print, cotton dress with a flour dusted apron tied over it. I can see her smiling face with her wispy hair all askew and her big glasses sliding down her nose. I can hear her high pitched voice say, ďHELLOĒ as I opened the door after school while her arms opened to give me a big hug and kiss. I can even remember how she smelled. It was a curious combination of cold cream, Ben Gay, garlic, and tomato sauce. And when she hugged me I could feel the love and joy coming from her heart into mine.

I thought I knew everything about my ďNanaĒ but amazingly I am still learning more about her even today. Just yesterday an old family friend stopped to talk to me at the local post office. She told me of what happened once while she visited my Nana when I was still a little boy. They were sitting around the dining room table talking and our friend noticed the lovely earrings my Nana was wearing. She told Nana about how much she liked them and asked if possibly she could leave them to her in her will. Without a second thought my sweet Nana took them off and gave them to her on the spot.

After our friend left I stood there for a few minutes in amazement. I had never known this and as far as I could tell Nana never mentioned it to anyone. That was just like her. She may have been feisty and temperamental at times but she loved deeply and she gave freely.

I have decided then that I want to love like Nana loved. I want to give like Nana gave. I want to live like Nana lived. I want to care more about people and less about things. I want to let my heart rather than my fear guide me. I want to share my love freely and joyfully. I want to give and to live in such a way that Heaven sings and God smiles. May you do the same.------------


Growing up as a boy my family didnít have a lot compared to todayís standards. The paved driveway leading to our house was a rickety, old, wooden, swinging bridge. Our entertainment system was a 13" TV and I was the remote. I had to go outside to turn the antenna to get the second channel in too. Our central heating system was an old stove in the living room and my Dad, brothers, and I would have to cut and carry the wood in for it. Our new car hadnít been new for a decade or more. All of my fancy clothes had been previously worn by my brothers a few years earlier. My hefty allowance was an occasional quarter. My pure breed dog was a Heinz 57 mix. Our steak and potatoes dinners were usually missing the steak. Instead the potatoes would be dug up from our own garden, fried and served with a pot of brown beans and a pan of cornbread. Yet, to me it was a feast. I didnít even mind when my older brother would put ketchup on his beans as well as his potatoes. I never realized how poor we were because I felt so rich.

The truth is we may have been poor in the eyes of the world. But in the eyes of Heaven we were rich beyond measure. Yes we had our arguments, troubles, pains, and problems. We went through all the sufferings of life including illness and death. But through it all we had Love. It was Love that made my childhood feel so happy. It was Love that made that pot of beans feel like a feast fit for a king. It was Love that helped me to become who I am today.

I still donít have steak very often these days. I still may even be poor in the eyes of the world, but those arenít the eyes I am looking into. I am doing my best to share all the Love I have been given and all the Love that is within me. I am doing my best to live a life rich in Love, Joy, Kindness, Goodness, and God. And I hope you will as well.---------------


I was dog sitting for my daughter the other day while she got some work done in her house. When it was time to take them home I decided to walk her eight pound pack leader, Lexie home first. Even though she was the smallest of all my daughterís dogs she tended to boss and bark at the others during the walks across the road from my house to herís.

As soon as I opened the door and stepped out on my porch I saw my neighbor walking his own little dog down the road. All at once the fur on Lexieís back stood up in a Mohawk. She growled, lunged, barked, and pulled on her leash to get to my neighborís dog. I bent down, picked her up with one hand, and held her to my chest. She relaxed and started to lick my chin as if to reassure me that she loved me and would always be there to protect me from all the dangers of this world.

I couldnít help but feel a bit of envy at that tiny dogís fearlessness. All too often in my own life I have made a friend of fear instead of showing him the door. Like Mark Twain I have ďknown a great many troubles, but most of them never happened.Ē It was like my mind was driving down an old, dirt road and continually falling into the ruts of fear and worry. Often it took a lot of hard work to steer my thoughts back out again. Sadly, I have spent far too much of my life fumbling with fear when I should have been dancing with love.

God loves us all so much and God wants us to live our lives free from fear and full of love. Keep your thoughts on love then. Fill your heart with love. Live your life in love. It will make your face smile. It will make your heart sing. It will make your spirit soar. It will make your soul one with God. It is a far better companion than fear ever will be. Invite it in then for a seat and a glass of tea and show fear the door.--------------


I have a friend who writes to me from time to time. He has lived a long life and gone through many hardships and struggles. Now he is dealing with health issues that have left him tired and depressed. He ended his last letter to me with this question: ďDoes anything we do in this life really make a difference?Ē

When I read those words my mind suddenly flashed back to last summer. My youngest son had accidentally broken a window in our house and I had taken it to the only place I knew that replaced window panes. While the guy worked on getting the glass cut I walked across the street to a store for a snack. I walked back and stopped at the corner to check for traffic. Suddenly, I noticed a teenage boy walking with his head looking down at his cell phone. He was texting someone and heading right into the street. I reached out as he passed me, grabbed his arm, and pulled him back just as a car zoomed by us. He looked so shocked to see what had happened. He apologized and humbly thanked me. I smiled back and gently reminded him to keep his feet from walking while his thumbs were typing.

I didnít give that moment a second thought until I read my friendís letter. Then it occurred to me that if I hadnít reacted in that moment a lifetime of love might have been lost. I quickly wrote back to my friend and shared the story with him. Then I wrote this: ďEverything we do in this life makes a difference. Every back we pat, every act of kindness we preform, every encouraging word we say, and every listening ear we lend makes a profound impact in the lives of others. We are all far more powerful than we realize.Ē

God loves us all so much and God gives us this glorious life to live and to love. Use yours to make a difference today!---------------


It was a cold, Winter morning. I hadnít slept very well the night before so I was trying to catch a few extra winks before I got up. The rising sun had other ideas, however. A beam of it snuck through my drawn curtains and started poking my eyelids until they wearily opened. I groaned and sat up on the side of the bed. I put my feet on the floor careful not to step on my gassy, old, snoring beagle who was still lying there. I stood up and slowly stretched my sore back. It felt like I had just completed a full dayís work rather than I was just about to begin one. I certainly wasnít looking forward to another day of washing clothes, cooking meals, doing dishes, cleaning house, and all the other things that needed to be done.

I sighed, turned on the lights and pulled on my sweat pants, shirt, and heavy coat. I knew what would be waiting for me when I opened the bedroom door. I swung it open and there he was, Fluffy my sonís extra big, and extra fluffy white dog. I looked at him with his smiling face, energetic body, and wagging tail. I wondered how he got that way every morning without even a single cup of coffee. I leashed him up and opened the front door so he could take his morning walk and do his morning business. He dragged me towards our Maple tree with his nose sniffing all the way while the below freezing winds bit into my face.

Still, the air smelt fresh and clean so I breathed in deep. I looked up to the heavens and saw the morning sunrise blessing the sky with its beauty. Its pinks, purples, and yellows were a masterpiece painted by Godís own hand. I smiled when I saw it and thought maybe another day wouldnít be so bad, after all. I looked forward to another day of hugging my children, petting my dogs, talking with my friends, and writing my words. I looked forward to another day living in Godís love and sharing my own love as well.

What a glorious gift from God is another day here in this wonderful world. May you make yours a day of love, a day of laughter, a day of kindness, a day of goodness, and a day of joy. May you make each day you are given here a blessing that you share with God and with everyone you meet.--------------------


I live in the mountains of West Virginia. The curvy, winding roads and the vast woodlands often lead to near misses with the local deer. The other day I was driving my son to work at the sheltered workshop when we saw a deer in the road that hadnít been so lucky. The driver in front of me suddenly swerved to avoid hitting the corpse and I quickly followed him jerking the steering wheel to get back in the right lane before the next blind curve. I could see that the way the dead deer was lying between two blind curves we had an accident waiting to happen.

After dropping my son off I hurried back and saw the deer was still in the road. There was a wide spot on the side of the road. I thanked God for it and pulled over. I got out of my car and walked up to where the deer was. Looking both ways for cars I ran over to the body. It was laying in a pool of blood and excrement. I reached down and grabbed its broken hind leg. I backed up quickly dragging it behind me to the side of the road. I looked down at the majestic animal as I wiped off my hands in the wet snow by the guardrail. ďSo sorry my friend,Ē I said to him. I sadly walked back to my car knowing that the crows, buzzards, and other scavengers would soon take care of the remains.

I was still thinking of that beautiful deer later in the day when I turned on my computer. As it came on I smiled with surprise and delight. I had forgotten what my most recent screen saver was: a picture of a deer in a field of wild flowers staring at the sunrise. I wondered if that deerís spirit was in a heavenly meadow right now perhaps romping and playing with some of my own furry friends who had passed. I wondered too about the time I had left here. Would it be days, months, or many years? I shook my head, laughed and decided that it didnít matter just as long as I lived the time I had left with love, kindness, and joy. May you do the same.-----------------


I was lying on my back this morning doing a few light exercises hoping to coax a little more energy into my aging body to face another day. As I was doing them, however, my eyes and mind started to wander. I looked up at an old picture of me and my children back when they were only three, six, and eight years old. It must have been taken almost 25 years ago, yet it still seemed like yesterday. I noticed something too. Each of the smiling faces had the same pointed chin tilting slightly to the right and the same unique grin. I glanced over to the picture of my parents taken even longer ago. There was the same pointed, crooked chin on my Dad and the same unique smile on my Mom. It was amazing to see so much of the same face blended together in 3 generations of my family.

It made me think too of all the things that we pass on to future generations. It is so much more than just heredity and genetics. It is everything we say. It is everything we do. What we pass on can be so helpful or so destructive. It can make this world a better or a worse place for generations to come. No one can even imagine how important and vital a single life can be in this world. No one can even imagine our value here or in eternity.

Each day we are leaving a legacy for those who come after us. Every tree we plant and garden we grow brings a little more life into this world. Every dog we save or cat we adopt adds more love to it. Every smile we share, every person we help, every kind act we do, every bit of love we give to others makes this world a better place for all the generations to come. The truth is our lives here are Godís gift to us and how we live them is our gift to God.

What kind of legacy are you going to leave to this world? What is your gift to God going to be? I pray that you will always let it be LOVE!-------------


I have literally wasted years of my life. Oh, it didnít happen all at once. It was a few minutes here and a few minutes there, but in the end it has added up to years. I have wasted so much of my time on regrets. I have looked back on the negative things I have said, the mistakes I have made, and the people I have hurt. Instead of just asking God for forgiveness and moving on I have stayed there mulling over them in misery. I have wasted even more time in worrying about the future or wishing for things I didnít have but donít need. I have wasted so much of my life wanting money, security, and fame when all I needed was my daily bread. True it hasnít been all the time but it is incredible how those wasted minutes have added up into hours, days, and even years spent not living in the Now.

I was pondering on this the other day while using up even more of my time pushing a cart in a crowded grocery store. I was wondering how best to stop myself from wasting any more of my precious moments here. It was then that my special needs son who is far wiser than me gave me the answer I needed. He spotted a teacher that he hadnít seen since high school and called to her. Then he ran from my side to her and gave her one of the most heavenly, heartfelt hugs that I had ever seen. I smiled when I saw this and realized something too. This is how all of us should live each moment of our lives here.

Even the longest life here is too short for all of the love we can share, good we can do, and happiness we can spread. We all then need to embrace each moment we are given here. We need to fill each one of them with all of the love, joy, and light we can. We need to share smiles, give hugs, and touch hearts. We need to laugh, dance, and sing. We need to help others and help God to make this world the paradise it was always meant to be. ---------------


My two sons are all grown up now. They are 32 and 27 years old this year. Yet they both still have the minds of children. Autism has limited their intellectual growth over the years and they still need to be looked after 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. When I was a boy the term used for people like my sons was Mentally Retarded. By the time I was an adult the term had switched to Mentally Handicapped. Later this was changed again to Mentally Challenged. None of these terms truly defined them, however. They are so much more than these labels.

These days the newest term is people with Special Needs. I like this one better than the older ones, because it is not only kinder but more accurate. My sons do have Special Needs but they also have Special Gifts. My oldest boy may only be able to talk about certain things. Autism has limited his learning and interests. But when he greets people by name there is a contagious happiness in his mood and manner. He gives out love and hugs far more freely than I do. And he always leaves the people he meets feeling better. My youngest boy doesnít speak much at all. He is lost in his own world most of the time. Sometimes he even has fits where he will cry and hit himself. But he also has an ability for laughter and joy that is far beyond anything I possess. Often after he finishes crying his happiness will immediately return where I would be lost in a mood for hours. In truth my two Special Needs sons have taught me more about how to live and how to love than I could have ever learned on my own.

The fact is all of us in this life have Special Needs. All of us also have Special Gifts. It is up to us to share our Gifts. It is up to us to meet each otherís Needs. It is up to us to treat each other with kindness and love. Remember, we are all one family here. We are all Children of the same God. --------


It was a day in late December. The Christmas tree had been taken down. The lights and decorations had been boxed up and put in the closet until next year. And I was feeling a little blue. I sure wasnít looking forward to the long, cold, dark Winter to come. I had always been a light lover on the inside. I tried to take comfort in knowing that a few more minutes of daylight was being added each day, but I still felt tired and run down.

I was both surprised and delighted then when I looked out my window and saw that a Spring like day had suddenly arrived. The temperatures quickly soared into the sixties and the sun was shining down on the earth with a loving light. I could hear the neighborhood children outside playing in the warm air. I smiled when I saw them and my inner child longed to be out there riding bikes and playing games as well.

I leashed my dogs for their afternoon walk hoping to enjoy some of the sunshine myself. As I was about to head out the door, however, I decided to do something a little different. I reached down and pulled my shoes and socks off. I hadnít been barefoot outside since the Summer. I slowly stepped out on the cool, damp grass. It felt so alive under my feet. I laughed as I walked along. I remembered something I once read too: ďWalk as if you were kissing the earth with your feet.Ē And with each step I did so. My walk felt sacred and holy. I felt a oneness with the world and the love of Heaven all around me. With love in my heart I thanked God for the gift of this day and no longer dreaded the Winter to come.

All of us are walking through this life. But it is up to each of us how we do so. Are you going to stumble and stomp and complain with each step you take? Or are you going to kiss the earth with your feet and Heaven with your heart? The choice is yours.--------------


It was a cold morning in December. Frost was on the grass and the snow and ice from the last Winter storm still hadnít melted off my back porch. I had on my thick socks and sweater and was sipping coffee while reading a book. My son was holding the tv remote clicking through the channels looking for something good to watch and failing miserably. Finally he gave up and went back to his room. The channel that he had left it on was talking about a mansion built in Hawaii by a heiress many years ago. I glanced up from my book at it but wasnít envious at all. In spite of its tropical setting it looked lonely, vast, and cold. Its high ceilings and huge rooms certainly didnít feel like a home to me.

I put my book down and looked around at my own tiny home. Even in the midst of Winter it felt nice and cozy. It was cluttered but comfortable. Our little Christmas tree was brightly decorated in the corner. Next to it on an ancient record player sat my Nanaís old, Nativity scene. At my feet was my beagle lifting her head to be petted. Down the hall I could hear my sonís laughter and feel the joy in his voice. From the other side of the house I could hear my other son playing Christmas music and singing along. Outside the sun was still weak and the air still cold but in my heart I felt a love and a warmth that filled me completely.

In this life it isnít the size of our homes but the size of our hearts that matter. It isnít the things we accumulate but the things that we carry around inside of us that are important. In the end only love can warm our hearts and uplift our souls. In the end only love can bring us joy! God loves us all so much. And Godís greatest wish is for us to love too. Let your love warm your home then. Let your love turn Winter into Spring. Share your love with everyone you meet all through this life and into the next. ---------------


It was Christmas eve and I was crying while my Dad locked our front door. I couldnít have been more than four or five years old. We were an Italian-American family and were getting ready to head out to Midnight-Mass. In my young mind, though, I knew that fat, jolly, old Santa Claus wouldnít be able to fit down our tiny stove pipe while we were gone. With the front door locked I was afraid he would pass us by and not leave me any presents. My Mom bent down, looked me in the eye and promised that Dad would leave a note on the door so Santa would come back later.

My Mom, Dad, Nana, two brothers and I all climbed into our old Plymouth and drove the 12 miles to church. It looked so pretty with all of the candles burning in the darkness, but soon the late hour took its toll on my tiny body. I found myself dozing in the wooden pew and later again on the drive home. Worried I might fall my Mom lifted my drowsy body up and carried me across the rickety, wooden, swinging bridge that led across the river to my Nanaís house where we all lived. As she laid me down in my bed I asked if Santa had come yet. ďNot yetĒ, she said while she kissed my forehead, ďbut he will.Ē

The next morning I awoke and saw the presents from Santa along with the others from Mom and Dad. For the life of me, however, I canít remember a single one of them. What I remember were those moments when Mom comforted me, carried me and kissed me. What I remember was the love. It is those loving moments that make a happy childhood. It is those loving memories that help us to become the people we are today. Love is what Christmas is all about. Love is what life is all about. Love is what we are all about. Over 2000 years ago our Heavenly Father gave us the most loving gift of all, so that we all could love and live forever. Merry Christmas!----------------


It was late November. The trees that had been covered with lovely leaves just a few weeks earlier were now stark, skinny sticks trying to ride out the Winter to come. The sun had become scarce as the dark nights lengthened, but today it was totally gone. Gray, gloomy clouds covered the sky, a cold wind blew, and a chilly rain was falling steadily. I was driving slowly behind a tractor trailer that was throwing up huge waves of water on my windshield.

addition to this storm it seemed like my life was having a lot of bad weather as well. My clothes dryer had died the day before and ordering a new one had taken another nasty bite out of my savings. It was only the latest in a long line of things tearing up, wearing out, and needing replaced during the last two years. I always had just enough to keep going but not much more than that.

As I drove along, though, I wasnít crying or pouting or worrying. Instead I was singing along to one of my favorite songs on the radio. I was smiling into the grayness and thanking God for my family, my life, and all the blessings in it. I was using this latest problem to remind myself that my real riches werenít in my bank account but in my heart and soul. I was finally living the lesson that it had taken me most of my life to learn: ďIt doesnít matter what life gives to you. What matters is what you give to life.Ē

Life gives us all good weather and bad. Life gives us all sunshine and rain. Life gives us all joy and pain. It is up to us, though, to soak up the sun and let the rain wash away our tears. It is up to us to use this life to let our love grow deeper, our hearts grow kinder, and our souls grow stronger. It is up to us to share our love, to give our kindness, and to shine our light on fair days and foul. May you always do so. May you always help God to make earth more like Heaven.-----------------


It was the day after Thanksgiving and I was trying to work off ten pounds of turkey, potatoes, and pumpkin pie by raking up the leaves around my daughterís house. She had a matronly maple tree in her front yard and her back yard was surrounded by stately oak trees, so when I walked through them the leaves were ankle deep. I got the old wooden rake out of her shed and got to work. I could tell that I had waited too long to start because under the dry upper layer was moldy, slimy leaves that had already started to decompose.

I raked steadily on in the cold air. It was only in the 30's and I could feel the chill on my cheeks as I slowly raked the leaves into little piles. Next I raked those leaves into bigger piles and moved them towards the edge of the hill that dropped off behind the storage shed. By the time I was done I had two, huge, chest high piles of leaves on either side of the shed. I saw that a few branches from the oaks had broken off and were blocking my path so I pushed them until they slid down the hill and into a ravine. Then I turned to the leaves. The piles looked massive and immoveable and I was already tired from raking for almost an hour. Suddenly, however, the ten year old that still lives inside of me came out. With the rake held like a sword I charged. ďYEE HAW!Ē, I yelled as I plowed into the leaves pushing them over the hill with me sliding down behind them. I laughed as I climbed up the hill and then attacked the second pile with equal enthusiasm. I felt like a boy again jumping into a pile of leaves and it was so much fun after all that work. I walked happily back home with a big smile on my face.

This life is full of adult responsibilities but it is also full of childlike joys. We shouldnít give up the second just because we have to do the first. Remember, we are all Godís Children. We should do our best then to live our lives with a childís wonder, happiness, and love.------------


ďArrgghh!Ē My son yelled. I walked over to my desk to see what was the matter. He was hunched over the electronic tablet he uses to watch videos on Youtube. It wasnít working right and it was frustrating him. I leaned over his shoulder to see if I could help. Even though he was only 31 he was already going bald. Because of his Autism he still had the mind and heart of a child, though. I asked him to get up so I could see if I could fix it. I tried everything my computer challenged mind could think of but still couldnít get it to work. I quickly called my smart phone savvy daughter to see if she could help. After running it over to her house she had the tablet working fine again in a matter of minutes. It seemed like such a simple solution too but I had missed it. As I walked back across the road to my house I felt kind of old and a little foolish. It felt like I was falling further and further behind in this technological age. I remembered an old Italian Proverb that goes: ďWe get too soon old and too late smart?Ē

This morning I woke up feeling a lot better, however. I watched as the sun slowly rose in the sky while I walked my dogs and felt my spirits rise along with it. I realized that while my body might be middle aged and creaky and my mind might not be up on the latest technology, my soul was as young and vital as ever. I remembered too another saying from one of my favorite authors, Leo Buscaglia: ďEach day is a fresh beginning, a little life unto itself.Ē I joyously thanked God for this new day and walked back inside with a smile.

Life is meant to be lived one day at a time. Our bodies may get old and our minds may not be able to learn everything, but all of us can embrace what is essential in the time we have here. We are here to love! We are here to love God! We are here to love ourselves! We are here to love everyone else! We are here to make the most of each new day. May you always do so.---------------


It was Thanksgiving Day a few years ago. My daughter was sitting on the couch watching the parade. My dogs kept lifting their noses to sniff the turkey slowly cooking in the oven. And my sons and I were sneaking a piece of pumpkin pie with whipped cream to hold us until dinner was done. As we lifted our forks I said, ďLife is short! Eat dessert first!Ē Then I smiled as we devoured our pie with delight and gave the crusts to the dogs.

Later I decided to take my oldest dog, Snoopy out for a walk. As we slowly shuffled through the ankle deep leaves I let my mind wander to memories of Thanksgivings past. I could see my grown children as babies sitting in their high chairs covered in mashed potatoes. I remembered all of those years spent visiting their grandparents and all of the special foods they made. There was sausage stuffing, macaroni and cheese, and fried potatoes. There was turkey and delicious desserts made with love. And there was the three day nap you wanted to take after dinner.

Even more than the food were the memories of joy that stuck in my mind and stayed in my heart. There were the smiles and hugs, the shared stories and laughter, the love so freely given at this time of the year. I went back inside with all of them flowing through me. I felt both glad and sad at the same time. I was happy for all the blessed times we had shared over the years and sad that they had flown by so fast. Most of all, though, I felt at peace and thankful to God for this wonderful life we are given here.

The truth is the more you love, the more thankfulness fills your heart. The more you love, the more joy you create in your life. And the more you love, the more Heaven lives in your soul. Make the most of each day you are given here then. Thank God for the glorious gift of life. Be the blessing you were meant to be and make everyday, Thanksgiving Day.-------------


One of the strangest things about our modern society is that we seem to be obsessed with youth. It has gotten so bad that many people seemed horrified to look their age. Untold millions of dollars are spent every year on make-ups, wrinkle creams, Botox, and even surgery just so people can look younger than they really are.

Well, I never really bought into all of this so I do look every bit of my 53 years. I may even look older by todayís standards because everyone else is working so hard to look younger. My thinning hair is almost all silver now. The sun has left a few age spots on my face. My skin has thinned out. I have the beginnings of jowls around my chin. Most prominent of all, though, are my wrinkles. They have gotten so deep that they donít even disappear anymore when my face is relaxed. The ones on my forehead from all of those times I was deep in thought are there. I also have the ones between my eyebrows and on my nose from those times when I was angry or in pain. I am delighted to say that the deepest ones, however, are the curving ones around my eyes and on my cheeks. These are commonly called laugh lines and are the evidence of a million smiles. I donít mind seeing them at all. In fact, I think my eternally young soul shines forth the most when they are at their deepest.

The truth is no matter how hard we try to cover them, cream them, snip them, or lift them in the end our wrinkles will show us the life we have lived. Why not honor them and embrace them then? Instead of trying so hard to make them go away, why donít we try to deepen them in all the right places? I for one believe that God smiles when we smile. God laughs when we laugh. And God loves when we love. Why would anyone want to cover up evidence of that? Spend today making your wrinkles a little deeper and your heart a little lighter. You wonít regret it.---------------


Almost every morning for the last 25 years I have exercised my body. It is nothing too strenuous. It is just a light workout to maintain my health. I donít do it to look good or to compete in some sport. I just do it because I want to live longer and feel better. I am sure many of you do the same.

Our bodies arenít the only part of us that needs exercise, however. There is a far more important part of ourselves that we should exercise as well and that is our souls. It is so easy to do too. Here are just a few of the things you can do to exercise your soul.

Take a moment several times each day to think about just how much God loves you. Say a simple prayer. My own favorite is, ďThank You!Ē Listen to a song that lifts your spirit and sing along. Spend an afternoon listening to the rain fall on your roof while petting your dog. Share a smile with someone you pass on the street. Give your children a big hug and kiss and tell them you love them. Take a nice long walk outside to reconnect with Godís creation. Help out a local charity. Watch the sunrise. Watch the sunset. Watch the moon and stars at night. Send an encouraging note to a friend who could use it. Shut off all of your screens and spend some time reading an inspiring book. Hold the hand of someone you love. Do a kind act for another and donít let anyone else know about it. Give to your community. Give your time. Give your talents. Give your love. Treat everyone you meet like they wonít be here tomorrow. Free yourself from fear and open your heart to love. Love God. Love yourself. Love everyone like yourself. Love like today is your last one here because it just might be.

Never stop exercising your soul then. Never stop growing better, stronger, kinder, and closer to God. Keep yourself in great shape for this life and for the greater life to come.----------------


My youngest son will turn 27 soon, but he still has the mind of a child. He has a severe form of Autism that has left him mentally handicapped. He says only a few words but will often make loud vocalizations just to amuse himself. He stares off into space a lot but also has no sense of personal space and often stands too close or bumps into people. Sometimes he will become upset and cry loudly for no reason I can understand. When we go out in public together most strangers will stare at him for a second but then not wanting to be rude will look away and ignore us.

When we stopped at a convenience store the other day to get a snack, however, I was in for a surprise. After we had used the rest room and grabbed some chips, tea, and cheese we walked to the cashier. She smiled warmly at us both and looked at my son with such loving-kindness. She spoke to him just like he was her own child while he bounced up and down and giggled with glee. I watched happily as they shared this moment together. Then when she said goodbye to us I was amazed when my son smiled and said ďBye!Ē back.

It is people like this wonderful lady that give me so much hope for the future. During my lifetime I have so often seen love overcome fear, wisdom replace ignorance, kindness and compassion beat back anger and hatred, and tolerance triumph over prejudice. At one time slavery was an institution in this country but no more. At one time Jim Crow laws were in force but now they are gone. At one time people like my sweet son would be locked away in horrible institutions but now they can live at home, are mainstreamed in schools, and are accepted by the communities in which they live.

Yes, we still have a long way to go. Still, I have watched over the last half-century how we have step by step grown more and more like God who created us. That is why I still have hope for our future. In the end I believe we will all finally live as one family in this world. In the end we will finally love each other just as God loves us.---------------


I was on my way to the grocery store to buy some bananas today. An Autumn chill had finally arrived in the October mornings here in the mountains of my home. Still, I wasnít quite ready to trade in my shorts and Hawaiian shirts for jeans and a jacket just yet. I turned my car heater up and thought sadly that it was only weeks now until Winter.

When I arrived at the store I saw a fellow shorts wearer outside. It was a frustrated little boy pushing the change return over and over on the Pop Machine. He told me his Mom had given him fifty cents to buy his favorite drink, a can of Yoo Hoo, but the machine had taken his money and failed to give him his can. No matter how many times he pushed the change return too only one quarter came back out. He looked ready to kick the machine in his anger. I fished around in my pocket, found a quarter, and put it in the machine for him. This time the can fell down with a satisfying clunk. The boy looked up at me with a big smile of thanks and I winked back at him. He opened the can and started to sip his chocolate drink with delight. And I walked inside the store smiling with my body feeling warmer and my heart feeling lighter.

That little moment reminded me once again that even the tiniest act of kindness makes this world a better place. The smile I got from that little boy was worth a million quarters. It made me feel closer to love, closer to life, and closer to God. My little act of love made me feel more like who I was truly meant to be.

Mother Teresa once said: ďGod doesnít ask us to do great things, only small things with great love.Ē Pay attention to the small things in life then. Never pass up a chance to do a kindness. Never pass up a chance to share your love. Never miss a moment to make God smile. In the end it is those little moments that will make up your life. Live them well!---------------


The mountains of my home are in the middle of a drought right now. We havenít had any real rain in over a month. The September heat has cooked us like it was July. The grass has turned a burnt brown and crunches under my feet as I walk on it. The beautiful Autumn leaves have started to turn brown and die instead of turning to vibrant reds and yellows. The rivers have turned into trickles and the deer are frantically foraging for food.

That is why when it turned cloudy and colder today I didnít have my hopes up. When I went to walk my dogs this morning, however, I opened the door to find water falling from the sky. It wasnít a sprinkle. It wasnít even a drizzle. It was a downpour. Sheets of rain pounded the dry ground. I could almost see the grass and trees sigh with relief and joy. I picked up my dusty rain hat and walked outside into the deluge dragging my dogs along. Even my furry friends didnít seem to mind getting a cold shower. The air had a delicious sweetness to it as I breathed it in. I didnít mind that my shirt was soaked and my shoulders were chilled. I watched the little streams flowing down the side of the road and smiled. I stomped in the puddles like a seven year old and laughed. I didnít know if it was an end to the drought or not but I felt so good just being out in this blessed rain. And I thanked God for every drop of it.

Why do we so often have to be deprived of something to truly appreciate it? I had never been a fan of rainy days until I went weeks and weeks without one. That is why I am going to spend the rest of this morning giving thanks for rain and sunshine, food and water, shelter and warmth, family and friends, grass and trees, love and joy, light and life, and every blessing that our Heavenly Father has ever given us. May you all do the same. May every blessing God has given you find a home in your heart and flow through you to bless others as well. ---------------


It is my 53rd birthday as I write this. Yet, it feels a little off. My birthday has always been in early Fall but the Summer heat this year has lasted all the way through September. There was no cool breeze to greet me when I went out this morning and even the red, yellow, and orange Maple leaves that usually wave to me in that breeze on my birthday are late in changing this year. In addition to this while my body feels a little older than 53 on the inside I feel a lot younger. It is like a 20 year old is looking in the mirror and wondering what happened. At the same time that part of me that is both ageless and eternal is sitting back and laughing at the whole thing.

Over all of my birthdays I have enjoyed myself. I have ate countless slices of cake, enjoyed special dinners made by those who love me, smiled through silly songs and welcomed in many hugs. I have laughed and cried through all the well wishes given in love by my family and friends and cherished each and every present I have gotten.

Still one thing has always puzzled me. I have often been told to ďEnjoy your special day.Ē But as wonderful as my birthdays have been none of them has seemed to me to be more special than any other day in my life. Instead I find myself agreeing with what Mahatma Gandhi once said: ďEach night, when I go to sleep, I die. And the next morning, when I wake up, I am reborn.Ē

Each new day that we awake here is our birthday. Each new day is a special gift to us from God to cherish and enjoy. Make the most of them. Live them with a loving heart. Greet each one with a beautiful smile. Use them all to sing, laugh, dance, and have joy. Use them all to create, help others, and make this world a better place. Then at the end of your days when you look back on your life with God, He will say: ďWhat a wonderful gift you have given me!Ē---------------


When I was a young boy my Grandmother had to have surgery for a tumor on her brain. The only hospital equipped to do it was over 1 Ĺ hourís drive away. Still, after her surgery we all climbed into our old car to head down to see her. When we got to the hospital I learned that to visit the patients you had to be over 12 years old, which I wasnít. It was a safer time then so my Mom felt comfortable leaving me alone in the waiting room while the rest of them visited Nana.

After leafing through magazines for awhile I got bored and decided to walk down the hall and see what I could see. One of the first rooms I peeked in was a small chapel. At first I thought it was empty but when I looked closer I could see a lone figure in the corner on her knees praying. It was a young woman. Her shoulders were shaking. Tears were falling from her eyes. Her head was bent low. Her hands were clasped tightly together. Part of me felt like going over to comfort her and part of me felt like running away. Instead I just stood still and stared. After what seemed like a long time the woman wiped the tears from her face. She stood up straight and tall. Her face had the most peaceful smile on it. She looked like a completely different person. I snuck back out before she could see me and walked back to the waiting room puzzled by what I saw. It would be many years before I could fully understand its significance.

In the years since then I have prayed many prayers. Some have been answered and some have not. Usually I find that the unanswered ones have kept me from going down the wrong path or becoming someone I wasnít meant to be. Through all my prayers, though, I have grown stronger, wiser, kinder, more loving, and more at one with God. That is why thinking back on that moment in the hospital I am reminded that even though prayer doesnít always change the world around us, it always changes us.

Pray a little prayer today then. Open up any closed doors in your heart and let the light of Godís love shine in. You will find yourself better for the experience. You will find a peace and happiness you cannot find on your own. You will be moved to share your love and light as well. And isnít that what life is all about?----------------


Clankity Clank, Clankity Clank, Clankity-Clankity-Clankity Clank. It was a cold, December day. I had just pulled up to the department store in my old car. As soon as I got out the Winter wind bit into me. Yet, carried on this bitter wind was the sweet sound of a bell ringing. I looked towards the entrance of the store and saw a Salvation Army bell ringer in front of it. She was an older lady, clearly in her eighties, but she wore a Santa hat and a big smile as well.

Iíd always tried to drop a dollar in the kettle when I walked by these bell ringers. The Salvation Army did wonderful work all over the world helping those in the most need. When I glanced in my wallet this time, however, I didnít have anything smaller than a five. I fished around my pockets, pulled out around fifty cents in change and walked up to the lady. I apologized to her for not giving more. ďThatís ok, SweetieĒ, she said. ďEvery little bit, helps.Ē When I looked in her eyes at that moment I saw the love of Christ shining in them and when I saw her happy smile I could feel my soul grow lighter. I reached back into my wallet, pulled out the five dollar bill, and dropped it in the kettle. I walked in the store knowing too that the gift she had just given me was worth far more than any amount of money I could ever donate.

As the years have passed since then I have cherished that gift and used it often. It has warmed my heart during the cold times and helped me to warm others as well. That gift was the simple truth: ďEvery little bit, helps.Ē Every smile we share, helps. Every caring word we say, helps. Every act of kindness we do, helps. Every bit of love we give, helps.

Robert Fulghum wrote: ďThe world as it is needs those who will love it enough to change it, with what they have, where they are.Ē Be one of those people. Help God to change this world with your love. And always remember ďEvery little bit, Helps!Ē---------------


I woke up in a bad mood this morning. Iíd had a fitful nightís sleep and my bad back was sorer and tighter than ever. My shoulder was starting to feel just as sore too. I tried to stretch them out to no avail and stumbled into the bathroom. I looked in the mirror and saw the pain on my face. I certainly wasnít looking any younger either. My hair was now mostly gray and mostly gone on top. I was getting more and more age spots on my face. My wrinkles were deeper than ever. The enamel was worn out on my teeth. Iíd recently had to get a stronger pair of glasses. My skin was thinner. My toenails were thicker. My prostrate was bigger. And to top it all off my hemorrhoids were hurting. I griped to God about it all. ďWhy do our bodies start to wear out just when we finally learn how to live?Ē, I asked.

God in His infinite patience and unconditional love answered me quite quickly. Suddenly, I felt this thought drop into my mind, ďThe car you drive isnít as important as the person behind the wheel!Ē I smiled at that because Iíd had so many old, used cars in my life. They all had ďpersonalityĒ. They all had quirks, troubles, and problems. They all required patience and repair. But they always got me where I was going.

Now that my body was starting to wear down, rattle, and backfire God was reminding me that I wasnít that body. I was the driver inside of it. I was the bright, shining soul within. I was the spirit that was both ageless and eternal. And while my car wasnít going to last forever, the driver was.

Take good care of this body you drive around then. Nurture it. Keep it in good repair. Make it last as long as you can. But always remember it isnít you. You are the person behind the wheel. You are the loving soul within. You are the Child of God destined for eternal life.-----------------


Websterís Dictionary defines a dream as a ďSeries of thoughts or visions during sleep.Ē Biologists say dreams are our brains way of organizing, storing, and remembering what we have seen the day before. Psychologists say dreams sometimes help us work out our issues and emotional problems. Most people, however, think dreams are unimportant and do their best to ignore and forget them.

Lately, my own dreams have had a lot of visitors. While my brain has been remembering what happened the day before and my heart has been working out my issues and problems, I keep seeing my Dad, Mom, Nana, and friend Kai. The funny thing is all of them are deceased. None of them have been a part of my daily life for years now. While I remember them all with love, I have no issues or problems to work out with any of them. Why then do they visit my dreams night after night?

When I see my Dad, Mom, Nana, and Kai they all seem younger and healthier than they were when they died. They have no pain in their faces and their smiles share only love and joy. They seem to be there only to comfort me, to reassure me, and to give me strength to face life and to live it with love. Each time I awake after one of these dreams I feel at peace again and thank God for their visit.

Maybe there is more to dreams than just what the dictionary and scientists say. Maybe our dreams have a way of letting us see out of this world and into the next. Maybe our loved ones come to us in our dreams to let us know that they still love us, they still are watching over us, and they are waiting to see us once again when our days on this earth are done. Maybe time like death is just an illusion and only love is real. I wish you all sweet dreams.--------------


A local grocery store here is remodeling and not a single one of the changes is good for those of us who shop there. The grocery aisles have been rearranged with some going in one direction and others going in another. The aisles have been pushed closer together too making it harder to get through them. All of the items have been moved from their usual spots as well. It seems like all of these changes have been for the purpose of slowing the shoppers down so they will make more impulse buys and give the store bigger profits. As I walked through the store today no one was smiling and everyone was unhappy about it.

The change that bothered me the most, however, was in the check-out aisles. Only a few cashiers were left working with huge sections being converted into self-scanning check-outs. It saddened me to see this. I knew that people were probably going to lose their jobs because of this change. I got in a cashier aisle and patiently waited while I saw some other people struggling to figure out how the self scan machines worked. I vowed at that moment never to use one myself even if I had to wait longer every time I shopped there.

When I finally arrived at the front of the aisle I saw the cashier was someone I knew. I smiled and asked her how her family was doing. She smiled back with a warmth and kindness that touched my soul. We chatted happily while she scanned and bagged up my groceries. I felt a friendship and a connection with her that warmed my heart. I wished her well before I left and said a little prayer to God for her and all the other hard working cashiers there.

Machines can do a lot for us, but there are many things they canít do. They canít smile. They canít love. They canít touch a heart. Only we can do that. Only we can make life worth living. It is time we realize that profits arenít more important than people and machines arenít more important than us. It is time we see that we are here not to conquer the world but to be a part of it. It is time we learn that Loving God, each other, and this world is what life is all about.--------


It was a cloudy, gray morning. I was sitting at my kitchen table eating my oatmeal and sipping my coffee. From the living room I could hear the television news droning on about the latest millionaire to be arrested for financial fraud. I glanced in and saw pictures of his lavish mansion and luxury cars. It made me look around for a moment at my own little home, battered and beaten by rough housing boys, energetic dogs, and my own poor attempts at home repair. I thought too about my tiny, ten year old car sitting in the driveway and lack of any real savings.

I found myself frowning at these thoughts until I heard, ďI love you, Daddy!Ē I turned around and saw my 31 year old son looking at me. Autism had left both him and his brother mentally handicapped, yet his spirit was far wiser and more loving than my own. He leaned his balding head down and I kissed it and told him I loved him too. I heard his brother laughing down the hall and thought what a blessing they had both been to me. I felt a brush against my leg and saw my aged, partially blind dog gazing up at me. I smiled, leaned down, and scratched her ears. When I stood up again I glanced out the window and saw my beloved daughter in front of her home, walking her dogs as well. I could feel my spirits rising and they soared even higher when the sun suddenly broke through the clouds and a single butterfly floated by the window. I laughed and realized that I truly was the richest person in the world.

Perhaps it is time for our society to redefine what real wealth is. It isnít fancy cars, money, or mansions. It is the love within us. It is the love we choose, the love we share, and the love we get from Heaven above. God loves us all and God asks us to share that love with the world. What life could be richer than that? The next time you wonder who the richest person in the world is then, just look in the mirror. Because if you are living in love, you are.---------------


I was 10 years old and I was going on an adventure. It was Summer break and my family had traveled south to Tennessee to visit my Uncle Richard and Aunt Charlotte. But, while my older brothers had been allowed to go all over the place I had been stuck in the house for most of the visit. Now, however, my Mom had decided to let me go alone to a corner grocery store at the end of the block. She had given me money to pick up a loaf of bread and extra change to get myself a popsicle. I felt so grown up as I made the journey, bought the food, and headed back.

When I was about half way back to the house, though, I found my path blocked. A large, black dog was looking at me and growling. I had never had a dog look angry at me before and my heart started to pound faster and faster in my chest. I didnít know what to do. Should I run? Should I scream? Suddenly, I felt a calmness come over me. It felt like it was coming from outside of me and within me at the same time. I knew what to do too. I stood up as tall and straight as I could, looked at the dog, and said firmly but kindly, ďGo home, boy!Ē The dog stared back at me for a moment then turned and trotted off.

I walked on feeling very brave and very scared at the same time. I saw my Mom and Aunt Charlotte sitting together on her front porch. I skipped up the steps and sat down in between them. My Mom gave me a sip of her soda while I shared what had happened with her. I relaxed in her arms feeling adventurous but also safe, secure, and loved.

Looking back on that moment reminds me that life itself is an adventure and only the bravest of us fully live it. It is full of fear and love. It is full of lessons and learning. It is full of pain and joy. Yet, through it all we are watched over and loved. God is everywhere and in everything, including us. Embrace all the adventures life gives you then be they big or small. Face them without fear. Use them to become the person you were meant to be. Let your entire life here be an adventure of love. And always let Godís love live through you.---------------


An unusually hot and wet Spring this year was followed by an extremely hot and wet Summer. Sunny skies were constantly giving way to heavy showers only to be replaced with more sun and heat. This combination has made for a few changes from our regular Summer here in the mountains of my home. The limbs on the trees are growing twice as fast as usual and their leaves are huge. The Queen Anneís Lace, Daisies and Black Eyed Susanís are growing waist high in the meadows and on the sides of the roads. The bush in my front yard is shooting up as fast as a Sunflower. The grass in my yards is thicker and taller than ever. Butterflies and Bumble Bees are everywhere as are the Yellow Jackets and Hornets. Mama Deer and their babies can be seen coming out of the woods to feast on the abundance of crab apples on the ground. Squirrels with acorns are scurrying up the trees and baby birds are flying out of their nests. Everywhere I look there is an explosion of growth and life. It is incredible to see.

We humans are a little different than the rest of nature, however. Yes, our bodies do grow best in optimal conditions. We grow healthy and strong when we have good food, clean water, fresh air, and plenty of exercise. On the inside, though, it is often during the hardest times that we grow the most. During the times of death, loss, and suffering is when our souls grow stronger and closer to God. During the bleakest Wintertime is when our hearts grow more loving. During the worst times of our lives is when we help each other the most.

is it that we grow kinder, stronger, and wiser during the tough times as well as the good ones? Why is it that the worst in this world often brings out the best in us? No one knows for sure, but I am happy with the mystery. Live well then. Love much. Grow strong. Be the person God meant for you to be during the Winter nights as well as the Summer days.-------------


ďMr. Mazzella, what is the difference between a period and a comma?Ē I was a young substitute teacher in a Middle School English class. The regular teacher had called in sick and left a lesson plan going over the rules of grammar. I hated these rules and barely understood them myself, even though I was a writer. The English language is one of the most complex in the world and as I glanced down at the textbook I knew that even if I told this student all the different rules about commas that he wouldnít remember them.

I was also in no mood for a long lesson. My Mom had died just a few short weeks ago and I was still in a haze. I missed her so much. I wandered around feeling half dead inside. All I wanted to do was stay in bed, but my young family was struggling to get by and I knew I had to take every day of work I could. I glanced down at the book again but couldnít read it because my eyes were so watery. All at once, however, I remembered the rule of thumb I used whenever I was writing something. ďA period is the end of a sentence or a thought,Ē I said. ďA comma on the other hand is just a brief pause before the sentence continues on.Ē When I finished saying this my heart suddenly felt lighter. I smiled and thought of my Mom continuing on in a place much brighter and happier than the one I was in now.

That little moment of light helped me as I continued to grieve and miss my Mom over the months and years to come. Recently I remembered it once again when I saw this quote in a book I was reading: ďDeath is not a period, only a comma.Ē

Our lives are a sentence and a story that goes on forever. Our time here is only a part of it. Our death here is only a comma. Embrace your story then. Write it with love. And make God your co-writer today, tomorrow, and always.---------------


ďDad! Thereís a dog in the back yard.Ē It was a few years ago during a sweltering Summer day. It hadnít rained in weeks and the grass had started to turn brown and die. I was sitting in front of my window air conditioner trying to cool down a bit when my son called to me. I walked over to the back door and looked outside. There sniffing around our back yard was the dog. He didnít look in very good shape either. He was a mixed breed with hound dog ears but was horribly underweight. I could see the skin stretched tight over his ribs. He looked like he hadnít eaten in weeks.

I quickly grabbed two bowls and filled one with dog food and the other with water. I walked out my door and called to the poor pooch. He wagged his bony tail and walked over to me. I sat down the two bowls and watched him devour the food and then drink the water with equal gusto. I stretched my hand out and gently petted him on the head for a minute. Then I realized that I had made a foolish mistake: in my rush to bring him some food I had forgotten to bring out a leash. I walked quickly back inside and got one, but by the time I went back outside the dog was gone. I called and looked for him but without success. All I could do was say a little prayer that this guy would find his way back home again.

I never saw that dog again but I still think about him from time to time. He reminds me of similar mistakes I have made in my own life. Often I have gone to God with a hungry heart and starving soul and been fed by His Love. Then as soon as I felt full and strong again I would wander off and away from Him, only to end up in worse shape than when I started.

God loves us all so much. But He wonít put a leash on us. If we want to live in His Love it will have to be by our own choice. And if we choose to wander off He will let us go until we want to come back home again. Donít make my mistakes then. Donít wait until your soul is starving and your life is miserable before coming home again. Welcome Godís love into your heart today! Make your home with Him Now! And carry that home within you wherever you journey in this life.----------------


Isnít it incredible how the longer we live on this Earth the more the passage of time between the world outside us and the world within us seems out of sync? I attended my 35th high school reunion recently. It was held at the 4-H camp that I grew up next to as a child. When I got there the very first thing I noticed was the little Oak trees that I used to climb up as a boy now seemed as tall as Redwoods. How had that happened?

I had arrived early so I volunteered to help get things set up. I placed some chairs around the tables and then got drafted to blow up the party balloons. For some reason my aging lungs couldnít seem to get my balloons quite as large as my friendís, who was helping me out. Then later when we all gathered together at the buffet table I had to remind myself not to put too much food on my plate lest I be up all night again with indigestion. I glanced through an old year book that was there and saw my teenage self again. I wondered where that guy with the thick, brown hair and cast iron stomach had gone.

As I started to talk to my old high school friends I noticed something else too. We all looked a little different. There was some with gray hair. There was some with no hair. And we all seemed to have a few extra pounds and a few extra wrinkles. Yet, the moment we started to talk and catch up the years melted away and our young souls shined through. On the outside we all seemed a little wiser and more mature, but on the inside every single one of us was bright, beautiful, and vibrant. On the inside every single one of us was still young. 35 years may have aged our bodies a bit, but it hadnít had any effect whatsoever on our souls.

Our souls are created in Love. Our souls live through Love. And Love never ages. Love is both immortal and forever young. And so are we. May you live all of your days here from your young soul then. May you coax your aging body along so it can share all the love you possibly can in this life. And then after 35 or 135 years when you meet Our Father in Heaven may you rejoice in your eternal life and dwell forever in His Love, Joy, and Light.---------------


I was 17 years old. Along with a dozen other boys I had made a long trip to Iowa in order to see a college that I was thinking of attending. While the trip had been fun for the most part, now that I was there I was feeling depressed, alone, and isolated. I was missing my family and was realizing that I wouldnít be seeing them very much if I went to school here. I was also missing the Appalachian mountains of my home. I loved walking in their forests of Maple, Oak, Beech, Birch, and Hickory trees. I loved how the leaves turned a thousand shades of green in the Spring and then became an sea of red, gold, and orange in the Fall. I loved the smell of the Clover and countless wild flowers that grew in our meadows. These things were a part of me.

Here in Iowa everything was flat. The grass looked burnt and brown. All that I could smell was a mixture of corn, mud, and pigs. I walked outside the dormitory of the college and sat on an old stump. I closed my eyes and dreamed of being back home again. When I finally opened them, however, I saw something that touched my soul. It was a Prairie Sunset. It seemed to fill the sky from horizon to horizon. Gold, red, purple and pink clouds all flowed together in a picture painted by Heavenís own hand. It was so huge that it took my breath away. It made our mountain sunsets seem tiny by comparison. I was filled with wonder and felt a special Oneness with God. I realized too that I had been foolish and judgmental. This place too had its own special beauty. This place too was a part of Godís Creation.

Over the years to come I learned something else. Each of us has a special beauty as well. Each of us has our own unique talents and abilities. Each of us has a beautiful, powerful love that only we can share. And God wants us to share it. May you always do so then. May your life always shine bright. And may your love glow from your soul like a sunset on the Prairie.---------------


It was a dark night in June. Thunderstorms had rolled though our area earlier in the afternoon and drenched the woods around our home. Now it was calm but still overcast. I was getting ready to take my dogs for their last walk of the day. I started by leashing up our biggest dog, Fluffy. I unlocked the backdoor, turned the knob, and moved my hand over to turn on the porch light. Before I could, however, Fluffy in his excitement dragged me out the door and off the porch. Without the porch light it looked even darker outside. Not a single star was visible in the sky. Even the light of the moon was being blocked out by the heavy clouds. It made everything look and feel gloomy.

Suddenly, I saw something in the woods at the far end of our yard. For a brief second the faintest light had blinked on and off again. I realized at once that it was the first firefly of the year. I smiled and scanned the woods and meadow for more of them. It wasnít long before I saw them blinking on and off in their own little symphony of light. It warmed my heart to see my lightening bug buddies once again. The night didnít seem quite so dark with them there, sharing the miracle of their light with me. I keep Fluffy outside for longer than usual while I enjoyed the light show. Then I went back inside feeling a little closer to nature, to love, to light, and to God.

Isnít it incredible how even the faintest light can make this world a brighter place? Isnít it wonderful how the littlest act of love can light a fire in a personís soul? Isnít it glorious how God gives us all the love and light we need, to share and to shine? We may at times feel like we are only tiny fireflies floating around in the dark. But in truth each of us is a beacon of light and love that God needs to help illuminate this world. Live well then! Love well! Shine bright!---------------


It was a sweltering Spring day. The temperatures felt more like July than May. A thunderstorm had passed over earlier but now the clouds were clearing and the sun had returned. Steam was coming off the wet sidewalk as I parked my car next to the meter and tossed a quarter into it. I headed into the local thrift store to buy my son a shirt. The air conditioning in there was a welcome relief from the heat outside.

After I made my purchase I walked back out into the heat. I got in my car but had to wait to pull out because of all the cars lined up at the red stop light. I looked out of my car window and saw something on the pavement. A single butterfly was frantically fluttering its wings but not getting off the ground. It was right in front of a truckís tire too. Without thinking I got out of my car, held my hand up so the truck driver wouldnít move forward, and bent down to look at the butterfly. One of its legs was stuck in what looked like spilt soda. I reached down and gently as I could cupped the butterfly in my hands. I lifted its leg up and suddenly it was free. I opened my hands and up it flew towards the shining sun. My own eyes shined brighter and my own heart felt lighter as I watched it.

Now a lot of people might wonder why I would step out into traffic like that to rescue a single butterfly. All I can say is that my heart was guiding me at that moment. And when I was done I felt more like my true self than I had all day.

The truth is the closer you are to the Earth, the closer you come to Heaven. The more love that you share on this Earth, the more love you take with you to Heaven. And when you are one with Godís creation, your are one with the One who created it. Fill your days with grace, goodness, oneness, and love then. And your heart will feel as light as a butterfly.---------------


I donít remember exactly what grade I was in when it happened. All I remember is that suddenly Math was no longer fun. Since the first grade I had always loved Math. I was a wiz at adding and subtracting. I got 100 percent on almost every paper I did. All at once, though, we were doing something called multiplication and I was no good at it. I struggled on my first few worksheets until the teacher gave us each a card. On it were written the multiplication tables. I stared at them and smiled. Here were all the answers I needed. I read them over and over until they became stuck in my head. On our next test I did great again. I continued to love Math until I reached high school and encountered something horrible called Algebra.

I also began to notice how multiplication flowed through Godís Creation. I saw how a tiny handful of seeds could produce a garden full of food. I saw how having two rabbits could soon give you twenty. I saw how tossing a little pebble into a pond could produce ripples that seemed to go on forever. I also saw how a single prayer could sooth my soulís troubles. I saw how a few caring words could heal a hurting heart. And I saw how a single act of loving-kindness could travel from person to person, heart to heart, and soul to soul until it circled the world.

The truth is we are all multipliers in this life. The only question is what are we going to multiply. Are we going to multiply the fear, anger, and distrust that exists in this world? Or are we going to multiply the love, kindness, and forgiveness that God so freely gives us? I for one choose the latter and I hope you will do the same.

Be a multiplier then. Help God make this world a better place. Spend your days sowing smiles. Spend your days planting kindness. Spend your days sharing love. You will be amazed at how much and how rapidly it multiplies. You will be amazed at the harvest you will reap. ----------------


I finally got my lawn mowed today. For almost two weeks here thunderstorms had been hitting us on and off. Iíd watched out my window as the wet grass grew thicker and taller and wondered if my little push mower would be able to handle our huge lawns without choking up. Iíd thought that I was going to be able to mow it yesterday but I was wrong.

Yesterday the sun had been shining since dawn and slowly drying out the grass. By the afternoon I was ready and put on my old mowing jeans and shoes. As I went out the door, however, I heard ďrumble, rumble, rumbleĒ in the sky. The sun had disappeared and been replaced with dark, gray clouds. The weather forecast had called for thunderstorms to the south of us but we were supposed to be fine. I walked over to my daughterís house and pulled out our push mower. ďRumble, Rumble, Rumble!Ē went the sky again. Now I was worried a bit but rationalized that I could still probably get it all done before anything really dangerous rolled in. I poured gas into the mowerís tank, screwed the cap on, and reached down to start it up. CRACK!! BOOM!! A flash of lightening streaked across the sky above me while the thunder deafened my ears. ďOK!Ē I shouted as I put the mower back up and ran to my house. I looked out my kitchen window as the lightening, thunder, wind, and rain rolled in minutes later. I was little embarrassed too. Usually God doesnít have to yell at me to get my attention.

God speaks to us in so many ways. He speaks to us in books. He speaks to us in music. He speaks to us in nature. He speaks to us in our memories and in our experiences. He speaks to us through other people. He speaks to us through animals. He speaks to us through the inner voices of our own thoughts and feelings. Learn to listen for His voice then. Learn to accept His loving guidance. And whatever you do, donít make God have to yell at you.-----------------


I woke up with drool on my pillow this morning. I wouldnít have minded except it wasnít mine. The alarm clock rang, I reached over to turn it off, and then as I laid my face back down on the pillow I felt the wet, slimy drool on my pillow case. I opened my eyes and saw a smiling, panting, furry face gazing down at me. I tried to get up but she was too fast. My face was suddenly covered in kisses with one slurp going straight up my nostril and another right in my ear. I laughed, reached out, picked up the 8 pound love machine and held her away from my dripping face. It was just another morning in a life with dogs.

Why do we welcome these guys into our homes and into our hearts? We know going in that we are most likely going to outlive them and have our hearts broke when they age quickly and pass away after ten to fifteen years. We know going in that there will be vet bills, flea baths, and enough shed fur to make a vacuum cleaner cry. We know going in that our ears will ring from the barking, that we will be picking up poop every single day, and that we will never get to finish a full sandwich again.

Yet, we also know going in that when we are feeling down or blue there will always be a furry head on our lap needing to be petted. We also know that when we get home after a long dayís work there will be a happy face at the door waiting for us. We also know that our lives will be full of balls to throw, bellies to scratch, antics to laugh at, and a love and loyalty that will warm our hearts and uplift our souls for all of our days here.

For thousands of years now dogs have been our best friends. They remain one of the greatest gifts God has ever given to us. And even if they canít love us for the rest of our lives, they will always love us for all of theirs. Thank you dear God for dogs.---------------


I love sunrises and sunsets. I take the time to go outside and watch them whenever I can. Gazing upon them fills me with peace. Watching them calms my soul. They remind me of just how beautiful and wonderful this world is. And they leave me feeling connected with life, with love, and with God.

I donít just watch them outside, however. I also collect pictures of them to hang on my walls throughout my house to look at during the day. I have two hanging side by side in my living room right now. The first is one that I cut out of an old wall calendar. It is of a beautiful sunset on a dock. The sky is full of golden light, the clouds streaking the sky are pink and purple, and the lake below is reflecting the sky like a perfect mirror. There is even an old Chinese Proverb written on the top corner of it: ďOne joy scatters a hundred griefs.Ē The second is a gift my daughter gave me. It is of an ocean sunrise. It is much darker. Predawn black clouds are still filling the sky. The beach too is dark and you can barely see the people standing on the shore. On the horizon, though, you can see three streaks of heavenly sunshine breaking through the clouds and heralding the coming day.

I think that often we want our lives to be like the first picture with love and light everywhere, but more often than not they are like the second picture with the darkness fighting against the light before finally fading way. That is because in this life there are problems, pains, poverty, anger, hatred, fear, separation, sickness, suffering, questioning, sadness, death, and even at times despair. Yet, in spite of it all when we open our hearts, the love still breaks through. The light still shines through. And when the light appears the darkness flees.

God loves us all. And God asks us always to embrace the light, to see the light, and to be the light. Donít dwell in the darkness then. Let yourself reflect Godís light in this world. Let the light of love shine through you. Be the sun that breaks through the clouds today and always.---------------


I had a very strange and very wonderful dream last night. I dreamed that I was sleeping and that I woke up in the bed I had as a boy. I still had my present day mind but I had miraculously traveled back in time to my childhood. I looked down and saw my dog and best friend, Dukey laying curled up by my side. I petted him on the head and smiled. Then I hoped out of bed, pulled on my clothes and walked into the living room. Both of my brothers were there sitting on the couch watching Captain Kangaroo on television. I walked past them and into the dining room. My Nana was sitting at the table and held her arms out to give me a hug. My Mom walked in with my morning bowl of Rice Krispies and gently tousled my hair when I sat down to eat. My Dad was there too looking at me kindly and sipping his morning coffee. I smiled at them all realizing that this must be a dream but that I didnít want to wake up from it.

It was a simple morning like thousands of others Iíd had growing up. Yet, this time I was truly appreciating every moment of it. In my present day mind I was seeing just how precious each second was there. I felt the love that was there too. I felt the love my Mom, Dad, Nana, brothers, and dog had for me. And I felt Godís love too, watching over me each day that I was growing up. I woke up feeling so at peace. I thanked God for that wonderful dream that let me relive that morning again and see it for what it truly was.

Our Heavenly Father loves us all so much. Each day we are given here is His gift to us. Wake up each morning then with a smile on your face and a ďThank YouĒ on your lips. Live each day to the fullest. Share all the love, kindness, joy, and light you possibly can. Do everything you can to make this Earth a little more like Heaven. Then when you have fully lived the day God has given you, curl up in your bed and have sweet and wonderful dreams.-----------


When I was a boy I dreamed of my future. I was going to be a cowboy. I loved all the old westerns on television. Then I dreamed of being a sailor and a soldier and fighting epic battles. After that I dreamed of being a fire fighter and rescuing people from burning buildings. I just couldnít wait to grow up and be an adult. Then I went to college and those dreams changed. I thought I would be a psychologist, then I switched to being a teacher, and I also wanted to be a best selling author. When I married and had children my dreams of the future changed again. Now it wasnít so much a certain career that I dreamed of but a time when I could be settled and secure and my family and I would finally be problem free.

That dream, of course, didnít happen. In fact, none of those dreams ever came to life. It took me many years as well to realize that living in a dream future was living in an illusion and that each moment I spent there was taking a moment away from the precious Now. I saw that there could be no perfect, problem free future because problems are a part of life. And I realized that I was wasting my days wishing for some dream to come true when I could be fully living and loving each day God gives me.

It is only in the Now that we can truly live. It is only in the Now that we can truly love. Our dreams for the future are just that: dreams. Whether they come true or not isnít as important as how we live each day God gives us here. A hug shared today can never be replaced. An act of kindness not given now is lost forever. A moment of love missed can never be made up again. Each second of the Now is precious and priceless. Donít waste a one of them. Embrace them. Live them. Love them all. Always live in the Now with a heart full of love, a soul full of joy, and a life full of kindness.---------------


My oldest dog, Snoopy has been in declining health for several years now. She is partially blind. Her hearing is fading too. Even her sense of smell isnít what it used to be. She has lost several teeth and can only eat soft dog food now. She snores and has bad breath. She can barely walk and spends most of her time napping during the day. Several times a week I have to clean the waxy build-up in her ears. Each morning too I need to give her three different medications: one for a skin condition, one to help her bladder, and one to help with her arthritis pain. When her joint pain was especially bad recently I even had to carry her outside and help her stand up so she could pee and poop.

Now the more cynical people out there might ask, ďWhy would you spend so much time and work so hard to care for a dog in such poor health?Ē Well, this morning I was exercising while Snoopy napped on the floor nearby. When I laid down to do some sit-ups I noticed a stirring in the corner of my eye. Slowly Snoopy struggled to stand up. Then she stumbled over to where I was and held her head above mine. She nuzzled my hand with her nose and I smiled as I gently petted her head over and over. Then she leaned down and gave my forehead a single kiss before shakily walking off to lay back down. In that second my heart filled with love, my eyes filled with tears, and I knew why.

Love is why we care. Love is why we are kind. Love is why we are good. Love is why we work so hard to help another who canít help herself. Love is its own reward. Love is who we are, who we are becoming, and who we were meant to be. Love is why we live. And when we love, God lives within us. May you always love with all your heart then. May love always be your reason why.----------------


When I was a boy our extended, immigrant family would sometimes gather together at my Great Auntís tiny house over the summer. Relatives from all over the country would come in to visit. The adults would crowd together in the living room, around the kitchen table, and on the front porch to talk and catch up on each otherís lives. All of us kids would be sent out into the front yard to play while dinner would slowly cook for all of us.

Those were the days before video games, smart phones, and motorized toys, so we often ended up playing a good old-fashioned game of tag. I remember one of those times especially. I was the youngest and smallest of all the kids there so I got caught first and couldnít catch anyone else. As hard as I chased after my brothers and cousins they were all too fast for me. I grew more and more frustrated. I finally lunged at one of my brothers and fell face first into the dirt. I got up with tears forming in my eyes. Then I saw one of my female cousins standing there. She started to run but was going much slower than before. I easily caught up and tagged her. Then she turned to me, smiled, and said, ďIím it! Youíd better run!Ē I ran off laughing with glee while she turned and started to chase one of my older brothers.

I see now how her act of kindness that day saved me from sadness and returned me to joy. It didnít matter that we hardly ever saw each other. We were family and she loved me.

In her wonderful book: BOX OF BUTTERFLIES, the ďTouched by an AngelĒ actress Roma Downey writes, ďWe are all one, we all belong to each other, we are one big, beautiful family of God.Ē Perhaps it is time that we all started to treat each other that way. Perhaps it is time that we shared our love, our kindness, our laugher, and our joy with everyone without fear. Perhaps it is time to finally and forever bring this world together in one, big, family reunion.----------------


I live in a poor part of the country. Most people around here canít afford a new car and struggle to keep their old cars running. The worn, mountain roads too pile up potholes faster than people can patch them. It isnít unusual then to see someone hitchhiking along the side of the road. I try to stop and pick them up whenever I can. It is the least I can do to help out my neighbors, and I would rather live my life in love than fear.

I saw another one of them the other day. I had just dropped my son off at the sheltered workshop where he works and was driving back home. There on the side of the road was an old man with his thumb out. I pulled over and let him in. He was heavyset and took his time squeezing into my tiny car. He wore bib overalls, a torn t-shirt, and worn work boots. His face and hands were streaked with dirt and grease. His gray hair was a tangled mess and his bushy beard was snowy white and fell to his chest. He looked like a cross between my late father-in- law and a soot covered Santa. For the next fifteen minutes we chatted while I drove. We talked about the weather, our work, and our families. His eyes especially sparkled when he laughed about the antics of his grandchildren. It felt so good getting to know him and help him out. It felt so good being able to share a simple act of kindness. When we finally reached his destination I pulled over to let him out. He climbed slowly out of the car and then bent back down, looked me in the eye, and said, ďGod bless you, son!Ē As I drove off I thought to myself, ďYes, He certainly has.Ē

God loves us all so much. And God gives us a heart capable of so much love and kindness as well. It is when we share this love and kindness with others that we feel truly blessed. Share your love and kindness today then. Make your own life a blessing to the world.----------------


When my daughter was in grade school one day she brought home 4 tiny twigs. They were trees given to the students by the school to plant. None of them looked very hardy but with a hope for the future I got a spade and planted them in our backyard. Over the years an accident with the lawnmower and poor soil brought an end to three of them. All that was left was a single evergreen.

It grew crooked and very slowly. It never got very tall and tilted to one side. In the end it looked more like a fat bush than a tree. I noticed a few years ago too that it was starting to die. The lower branches were becoming bare. The needles on the branches a little further up had turned brown. Only the top third of the tree was still green. Last summer I did my best to save it by feeding it a lot of fertilizer but to no avail.

This morning I went out and looked at it again. I was deciding on whether it would be better to just cut it down. It sure would make mowing the lawn easier and I would no longer have to watch it slowly decay. As I walked over to take a closer look at it, however, I noticed something moving within the needles. It was a robin patiently building a nest in the topmost branches. I smiled when I looked at it and decided that maybe this old tree had some life and usefulness left in it yet. It may not be healthy or pretty but it was still giving a bird a home and oxygen to this world.

This tree reminded me of something too. All of our lives have purpose. All of our lives have meaning. It doesnít matter if we are young and strong or old and sickly. Until our last breath God has things for us to do, love for use to give, and joy for us to share. Until our last moment here we can help to make this world a better and more beautiful place.---------------


I was in the 3rd grade at the time but I remember it like it was yesterday. My classmates and I were running down a hill in the rain heading towards a small classroom building built off from the main school. We were laughing, splashing in the wet grass, and stomping in the mud puddles. We didnít care that we were getting wet because we were going to music class, the best class of the day.

Music was taught by Ms. Lee English. She was also a family friend and the music director of our Church. I always looked forward to her class. It was a wonderful break from the reading, writing, and arithmetic the rest of the day brought. It was also far more fun. Whether we were strumming dulcimers, singing songs, or just listening to music I always enjoyed being there.

It was Ms. English who made it so great. She was one of the best teachers I ever had. Her gentle voice, kind heart, and encouraging manner made each of us kids feel special. When the whole class would sing together we didnít always make a beautiful noise, but thanks to Ms. English we always made a joyful one. She awakened in me a lifelong love of music too. She taught me just how uplifting a simple song can be. Even today when I sing or hear certain songs I think of her. She truly made a difference in my life and the lives of so many others. And she taught me that I can make a difference as well.

God loves us all and God blesses each of us with a tremendous power to make a difference in this world. In fact, every single thing we do makes a difference. Every smile we share, every kind act we do, every helping hand we offer, and every song we sing can help to heal a heart or change a life. Embrace the difference you can make then. Embrace the awesome power God gives you. Make your life a song of love that everyone can hear.---------------


It was the first day of April, but Mother Nature hadnít gotten the message. Like some bad April Foolís Day joke the ground was hard and frozen when I walked outside. The grass and few daffodils that had bloomed were covered in frost. The single dandelion that had popped its head through the ground had closed up again in the below freezing cold. I watched the sun peeking over the trees and wondered if Spring was ever going to arrive.

As the day wore on, however, the sun began to warm the cold air. The frost slowly receded on my car windows and the grass turned wet as the temperatures crept above freezing. By the afternoon I was even able to slip my jacket off and for the first time in many weeks walk around outside in just my shirt sleeves.

I decided then to take my dogs out for a nice long walk in the sunshine. It felt so good just being outside. It didnít matter that there was still a chill in the air. I had hope that warmer days would soon arrive. It was at that moment that I saw a tiny, single, white butterfly fluttering around. I remembered how much my Mom had loved butterflies when she was here on earth and how many times she had sent them to me to help me carry on after she went to Heaven. I knelt down and smiled at the little guy. I spoke to him gently while he flew in circles around my head and waved goodbye when he flew off back towards the heavens. It was a magical moment and even though it was still quite cold for April, it was Springtime in my soul.

I know that this was only a moment in my life. But life happens in the moment. Our lives are nothing more than a million moments, one after another. Each moment we use to love, to laugh, to uplift ourselves, and to help others makes life better for everyone. Embrace all of your moments then. Use them well. Live them with love. Each one of them is a gift from God.---------------


It was Saturday morning. I had been dealing with a dicey stomach bug that had me going in and out of the bathroom for two days. Still, my cupboards were bare, my refrigerator was empty, and I needed to go to the grocery store to buy another weekís worth of food. Finally, my belly started to feel a little better so my family and I headed out. We had a quick meal at a fast food place and then hit the store. It was packed with people. It took a long time but we finally found everything we needed. With my trunk full of food then we started driving home. I made one final stop at a convenience store to fill up my carís gas tank. As soon as I stepped out of the car, though, the greasy chicken Iíd had for lunch kicked my stomach bug back into overdrive. I swayed back and forth while I waited in line to pay for my gasoline. I was just wishing everyone would hurry up so I could get home fast.

When I finally got to second in line the lady in front of me ended up forty cents short and couldnít find the change she needed. At that moment my best self woke up. It pushed my selfish self aside, ignored my nauseous stomach, reached into my pocket and placed fifty cents on the counter. The warm smile and kind thanks I received in return were worth far more than a couple of quarters. They were priceless. I went home with a happy heart. I may have had an unsettled stomach but I had a smiling soul thanks to being my best self.

The advice we are all given the most in this life is: ďBe yourself!Ē I would change that to ďBe your best self!Ē Your best self always asks ďHow can I help?Ē instead of ďWhatís in it for me?Ē Your best self always seeks to share love, give joy, and spread sunshine. Your best self always strives to do Godís will each and every moment. Be yourself then with everyone you meet in this life, but always make it your best self. ---------------


My Mom died 27 years ago but I still miss her every single day. She was only 55 years old when she left us. She had fought a heroic 4 year battle against cancer and had cherished each day she had during those years. I was only 25 years old when she passed. I was still a young man who had so much more growing and maturing to do. Sadly, I would have to do it without her gentle guidance and love.

Today I was missing her even more than usual. I watched the sunrise over the trees behind my house and wished she was there to share it with me. I wished she could see what a kind and loving young woman her granddaughter had become. I wished she could see how my two sons, in spite of their Autism and mental handicaps had become a source of joy and love to everyone who knew them. I wished she could see who I had become and who I was still striving to be.

I came back inside and made breakfast for my oldest son while he finished his morning shower. When he came out and sat down at the table I looked at his face. He was 31 years old now and slowly going bald like his father. Yet, he still had his grandmotherís face and smile. When he smiled at me I smiled too and saw her reflection staring back at me. I bent down and kissed him on his forehead and at that very moment felt the gentle pressure of a kiss on my own. I looked up quickly but no one was there. Still, I knew where the kiss had come from.

I knew in that second that my Mom was still watching over me. She may not be here. I may not be able to hug her and tell her how much I love her. But she is gazing down on me and loving me from above. She is guiding me too in my thoughts and in my heart. When you are missing those who have died before you know then that they are watching over you and loving you. And know that one day you will join them in Godís never ending love, joy, and light.--------------


I tend to go slowly when I drive in the mountains of my home. I am never in much of a hurry. The forest scenery is beautiful no matter what the season. And it is easier to miss the potholes which spring up like dandelions this time of the year. This morning I was driving even slower than usual because an early March snow had turned the roads slick and slippery. Going up a mountain road I had slowed down to under 20 miles per hour. I slowed even further as I rounded a sharp, snowy curve. That is when I saw him. He was a majestic buck deer standing in the middle of the road. I braked even more and came to a full stop. For a few seconds we just stared at each other. His eyes seemed wise and his bearing regal. He had obviously been on this world a lot of years and I didnít want to end his time now. Finally, he nodded his head at me. I nodded in return and motioned with my hand for him to go on. Seeing he had nothing to fear he leapt across the road, up the hill, and back into the woods. I drove on smiling at the magic of this moment and thanked God that I had been going slowly enough not to hit this beautiful creature.

Most of us rush through this life not knowing what we are missing. We wolf down our breakfast, hurry off to work, miss lunch, fly back home, and throw ourselves into even more activities when we get there. We rarely if ever get to enjoy what each day brings us.

Wouldnít it be better to go slowly through our days here? Life is meant to be savored. Moments are meant to be cherished. Days are meant to be lived in love and joy not flown through at a breakneck speed.

The next time you find yourself going too fast then, slow down. Take the time to enjoy your breakfast. Take the time to watch the sun rise over the horizon and fill the world with light. Take the time to look your children in their eyes, hug them, and tell them that you love them. Take the time to pray and stay connected to your Heavenly Father who loves you so very much. Take the time to smile, laugh, and sing. Take the time to read, lounge, and relax. Take the time to talk to, write, or visit a friend. Take the time to live your life with love and delight in all the miracles each day brings you. If you do your life will be so much better and more beautiful. And you might even end up not hitting a deer on your way home.---------------


The first time I saw Kai she was sitting in my front yard, hugging my dog, Harley. She and her husband Sean had just moved into a tiny home down the hill from us. I think she was drawn to Harleyís friendly personality just as he was drawn to hers. From the second I talked to her I knew Kai would be a cherished friend. Her smile and good cheer made me feel better just being around her. Her high voice was always full of happiness. Before I knew it she was inviting me and my children into her house for homemade cake.

It didnít take long before Kai was beloved by everyone in our neighborhood. Children and adults alike visited her home often. Although she already had four cats she adopted a stray beagle that had been hurt by a bear and nursed it back to health. When we visited her she would kindly listen to all of our troubles and then say something so wise and uplifting that we would leave her home with our mouths smiling and our hearts singing. Sometimes I would read her my stories while one of her cats would nap on my lap and she would always encourage me to keep writing and sharing with the world.

Kai wasnít Hawaiian but loved the Hawaiian culture and spirit of family it cherished. She was even a hula dancer in her younger days. She gave me a Hawaiian shirt that I loved so much that soon I bought several others to go with it and today they are the only kind of shirt I wear. Each time I see them hanging in my closet I think of her.

Kai was a true giver. She didnít have much to share materially but what she gave to others spiritually was truly priceless. She gave everything she could, to everyone she could, every chance she could. I think all of Heaven must have been smiling as they watched her live a life of such unconditional love.

All of this time, though, Kai was slowly dying from a terrible combination of Cancer and C.O.P.D. She had told me the first time we talked that she was terminal. Yet, she lived each day with such vitality that I often forgot just how ill she was. In time her health did wane and she spent more and more time resting and sleeping. I still visited her but only on her few ďgoodĒ days. She died on a cold, Winterís day with heavy snow falling down like teardrops from Heaven.

In spite of the short time we had together I learned so much from Kai about how to truly live all the days we are given here. Lessons on kindness, generosity, hope, and good cheer seemed to flow freely from her daily life. I think most of all she taught me that joy like love is quite contagious and that I should always strive to be a carrier of them both. May the same be said for all of us. Thanks Kai. --------------


Ring! Ring! Ring! It was early in the morning and I knew who was calling as I dejectedly reached for the telephone. I was a new substitute teacher struggling to earn enough to support my young family. Each morning I waited for a call that would take me to a different classroom that day. The last three of them had all been determined to test the teacher and see just how much bad behavior they could get away with. I had responded by being critical and angry with the students. I didnít really want to go to work that morning then, especially since it was my birthday.

Still, I answered the phone and took the job. My family needed the money and I couldnít afford to be picky. As I was driving to work, however, I decided that I was going to begin again to be the best teacher I could be. As school started the students once again were set to see what they could get away with. This time, though, I was firm but fair with them. I did my best to make the lessons fun. I shared smiles, complemented their hard work, and encouraged them in their efforts. The effect was amazing. My unruly classroom was soon transformed. Students were laughing and learning and I finally felt like I was doing my job right. I went home happy in my heart and enjoyed the rest of my birthday with my family.

In THE BOOK OF JOY Archbishop Desmond Tutu and the Dalai Lama wrote: ďEvery day is a new opportunity to begin again. Every day is your birthday.Ē Isnít it wonderful that God loves us all so much that He gives us a new beginning, a fresh opportunity, and a new birthday each day of our lives? Every day we are given another chance to get things right, to live our lives with love and joy, and to make this world a better place. Donít waste a single day then. Every morning arise and begin once again to be the best you, you can be.---------------


I recently read that the most expensive house in the world was sold for 149 million dollars. This got me thinking about the house I grew up in as a boy. It was built across a river from the main road and we needed to cross a rickety, old, wooden, swinging bridge to get to it. It was over sixty years old and had been built from two shanty cars with other rooms added on as the years passed by. Over the years it housed me, my Mom, Dad, Nana, two brothers, several mongrel dogs and the occasional stray cat. I shared a bedroom with one of my brothers that was the width of a hallway. Our older brotherís bedroom was a lean-to built next to the front porch. The whole house was heated by an old stove fueled by coal and wood my brothers carried in from a shed outside. It had an ancient wringer washing machine that I once caught my fingers in and a rusty dryer that we only used when it was too cold to hang the clothes outside. It had a 13 inch television set that got one channel clearly but only if I went outside to turn the antenna when the wind blew it out of place. It was surrounded by 4 gardens that we planted and harvested every year and had a root cellar where we put the vegetables we canned for the Winter. It also was a fire hazard and one night it burned to the ground when I was only 11 years old.

Still, there was something that made that house priceless to me. Love dwelled there. The love we all shared between its walls enriched our lives more than any amount of money ever could. We didnít need a ton of stuff because we already had the most valuable thing anyone could ever want.

The most valuable house in the world will always be a home where love lives. Fill your home with love then. Build it with joy. Make your cottage into a mansion by filling it with light, laughter, kindness, goodness and God.--------------


My daughter and her little dog Lexie have a special bond. I can still remember the day we rescued her from the animal shelter. Lexie squirmed in my arms when I held her but the second I handed this eight pound pup to my daughter she settled down and snuggled in. My daughter cried tears of joy holding her on the way home and Lexie happily licked them away. Since then she and my daughter have been inseparable. They huddle under blankets on the couch and watch TV together. When my daughter climbs into bed, Lexie will carry her toys on top of the covers to join her. Lexieís favorite spot is right in my daughterís arms. If she could spend every second of the day there she would.

The other day I was watching Lexie while my daughter, who lives right up the road from me, did some housework. When it was time to go home I could see Lexieís excitement as I leashed her up. I opened the back door and let her out, but when I turned to close it I felt the leash snap from my fingers. Lexie was sprinting away as fast as her four, furry legs could carry her. I called her name, but it was no use. She had spotted my daughter on her porch and was running home as hard as she could. My daughter leaned down to pick her up and Lexie leapt into her arms and joyfully licked her face. I smiled seeing she was back where she belonged.

In this life a lot of us are running too. Yet, seldom do we have such a wonderful destination in mind. Often we are just running away from things we donít like and headed where we do not know. Wouldnít it be better if we knew where we were going? Wouldnít it be better if we knew we were headed home? As you travel through this life always keep love in your heart and your destination in your mind. Heaven is our home. And this life is just a long journey back there. Take each step with joy then and know that Godís loving arms await you at the end.---------------


I grew up the ďbabyĒ of my family. I was the youngest of three sons. My brothers were five and seven years older than me and handled most of the chores that my Mom and Dad needed done around the house. I spent most of my time then riding my bike, shooting basketball, walking in the woods, or reading books by our stove in the Winter. To say I was a bit spoiled would be an understatement. I spent my childhood with all the fun and none of the responsibility.

By the time I entered my early teens, however, both of my brothers had moved out of our home. My Dad had injured his back and become disabled. We had moved to a mountain top house heated by a wood stove with only sulfur well water to drink. I soon found myself then doing more work than I had ever done before. I weeded our garden in the Spring and mowed our lawn in the Summer. In the Fall I carried and stacked wood to keep us warm in the Winter months to come. And all year round I hauled heavy five gallon containers of water from a mountain spring back to our house so we could have water to drink and cook with.

At first I grumbled and complained to myself. After a while, though, I began to find joy in helping my parents that I loved so much. I sang to myself while I stacked wood and smiled while I carried water. I even found myself helping my Mom with the dinner dishes and cleaning. I started to realize something that I would carry with me the rest of my life too: When your work is done in love, it isnít work.

Let all of your work be done in love then. Let all that you do be done in love. Let all of your life be lived with love. God loves us all and God has given us this wonderful gift of life. The least we can do is work to make it the best, most beautiful, and most loving life we can. ---------------


It was a morning in January. The jet stream had dipped down causing the arctic cold to reach the mountains of my home. It was only 2 degrees outside but the wind chill made it feel like it was 15 below zero. Still, I was kneeling in the snow along side of my house trying to open a tiny door so I could get underneath it. I had forgotten to leave my water dripping the night before and now my water pipes were frozen and my faucets were dry.

The wind cut into me like a knife while I struggled to get two electric space heaters in place around the section of frozen pipe. The waterlines were buried except for a small piece that connected up to my house. I put a space heater on each side of it, ran the extension cords into my house and plugged them in. Both heaters roared to life and started blowing hot air on the frozen water pipe. My fingers had already started to go numb so I stayed inside to wait. I could only hope that this bit of warmth could get my water flowing again.

Finally, after twenty minutes the water started flowing through my faucets again. I went back outside into the bitter cold and gathered my heaters up. I looked at the weak January sun shining on the frozen snow and smiled. Then I sent a joy filled ďthank youĒ heavenward and went back inside to make myself a hot breakfast.

Sometimes the coldness of this life can get to us as well. It can make our hearts feel icy and frozen. It can keep our kindness and love from flowing out to others. At times like these, though, all we need is a bit of warmth to get us going again. It can be a simple smile, a kind word, a heart-felt hug, a morning sunrise, a birdís song, or any gentle reminder of just how much God loves us. Let us all be grateful for those bits of warmth that get us going again. And let us all try to be that bit of warmth for others every chance we get. --------------


My family doesnít own a camera anymore. My daughter takes all of our pictures with her smart phone. Knowing that her Dad is still ďold schoolĒ she will from time to time run off prints of these pictures and let my son put them in an old fashioned photo album. They made me one just the other day. As I was looking through it, however, I noticed something. Far outnumbering the pictures of me, my daughter, my sons, and our extended family were the pictures of our dogs. It seemed like almost every page was full of happy, furry faces. It made my heart smile as I flipped through them. It made me glad to know that I have lived most of my life in the company of dogs.

What is it about dogs? We allow them on our couches and even in our beds. We clean up after them when we take them for walks. We vacuum up their fur. We wipe off their drool. We tolerate their bad breath. We pay vet bills and buy new shoes when they chew up our old ones. We enjoy their slurps and snuggles. We feed them our food when they donít want to eat theirs. We talk to them and hug them and confide in them. We welcome them into our homes and into our hearts. Why do we love them so?

Maybe it is because they love us so. Their love and loyalty are unconditional. They accept us as we are and want to spend all of their days with us. They cry and howl when we leave home and jump for joy when we return. They shower us with love, attention, and affection whether we deserve it or not. They make us want to be the people they already think we are. They are and forever will be a glorious gift from our Heavenly Father. May we always cherish them and embrace the lessons they teach. May we all learn to love as freely and unconditionally. May we all make our lives a gift of joy just as they do.-----------------


Miracles come in moments. Sometimes they save our lives. Sometimes they change our lives. Sometimes they offer us insight. And sometimes they give us a gentle reminder and the strength to go on. The scene of this minor miracle takes place in the living room of my house under an old, broken ceiling fan with a little glass angel hanging from its pull string.

My youngest son has a severe form of Autism. Even though he is in his twenties now he still has the mind of a small child. He speaks only a few words. He is lost in his own world most of the time. Things I find silly delight him and little changes that wouldnít bother me at all bother him greatly. Most of the time he is happy but there are also times when he can be terribly upset. He will tear things up and cry for no reason that I can see. He will even hit himself. It always hurts me to see him suffer this way especially when there is little I can do to help. This morning was particularly trying for him. He ripped up a new shirt Iíd bought him and cried on and off for an hour. Finally he calmed down again. I was still feeling stressed, however, and wearily sat down at my computer to see if I could get a little work done.

As I was turning it on, though, I heard my son laugh for the first time all day. I turned my head and saw him standing directly under the glass angel hanging from our ceiling fan. The light from our house lamps seemed to shine and sparkle all around him like a halo. His eyes sparkled too as the little angel swung gently above his head. He laughed again and smiled at me. In that moment my heart opened. I could see that God was reminding me that my son was more than his Autism. I instead saw the shining soul within. I saw the love and light of his spirit and knew he was here for a purpose. I could see too that angels were watching over him today and always. My eyes watered and I thanked God for this minor miracle and gentle reminder of His love for all of us.

Miracles and angels are all around us, but we canít always see them with our eyes. We often have to see them with our hearts. Keep your heart open to them then. Let Godís love speak to you in your own life. Let Heaven guide you through your own days. And let yourself be the miracle you were meant to be! ---------------


I sat down at my kitchen table and looked down dejectedly at my broken glasses frames. I was a young dad and our family was just getting by financially. There was no money for a new pair of glasses. I bent down over my frames then and put a drop of Super glue where the hing was busted, being as careful as I could not to get any on the lenses. The fumes from it made my eyes burn and water. I laid the frames down gently on the table to dry and looked sadly around the room.

Now to say my eyesight was bad would be an understatement. I was so nearsighted that I couldnít see clearly beyond a few inches from my face. Without my glasses everything was a blur. Lights, colors, and shapes all blended together in a hazy mishmash. The world looked alien and scary and I didnít know what I was going to do if the glue didnít work. After a few minutes, though, the glue was dry. I picked my glasses up gently and placed them on my face. It was like putting on a pair of new eyes. Everything looked clear, bright, and beautiful again. I smiled and gazed at the world like it was the very first time. It felt like Godís world full of joy, peace, love and endless possibilities I laughed and said a little prayer of thanks. I also vowed not to take for granted this lovely world we live in anymore.

Over the years my eyesight has improved. Oh, I still need my glasses, but now I tend to see things more through my heart and less through my head. I try each day to see things through the eyes of love and to release any visions of fear I might have. I remember too that God loves us all so much and He created this glorious world for us to live in. Donít be afraid to see things with new eyes then. Let yourself see the love, light, and life that is all around you. Let yourself see how much you can love too. Life is beautiful! Donít miss it!---------------


Whoosh! A snowball zoomed past my head. I bent over a snowdrift and packed one myself to throw back as quickly as I could. I stood up and took aim. Wham! Another snowball crashed into my skull sending me stumbling into the snowdrift. I could feel my feet slipping on the ice beneath them and suddenly found myself buried face first in the wet, heavy snow.

It was a mid-winterís day. My Mom had ordered me and my two brothers outside so she could get a little housework done. My brothers were seven and five years older than me and much bigger as well. Still, it was I who decided to start the snowball fight. I hit one of them when they werenít looking and soon we were all making and throwing snowballs as fast as we could. It was every boy for himself. Being little helped me avoid the first dozen or so snowballs that came my way until the one that caught me in the back of the head and sent me sliding into the two foot deep snowdrift. I felt two hands grasp my shoulders as my oldest brother lifted me out safely. I laughed as I dusted the snow off. Later Mom called us back inside for a lunch of hot, chicken soup. I sipped it slowly and then sat near the old, wood stove in our living room and let the warmth quickly dry my damp socks and jeans. It felt so nice. I couldnít describe the feeling back then but I know now that it was pure happiness.

In those innocent days of childhood there was no regret for the past or worry for the future. Each moment could be enjoyed just the way God intended. Each day could be filled with fun, laughter, and love. I think that we all need to recapture that feeling in our lives. We need to live with childlike joy while keeping our adult wisdom. We need to throw a few snowballs and sip a few bowls of soup afterwards. We need to trust in our Heavenly Fatherís love for us and share our love with others as well. Life here is too brief not to enjoy all of its precious moments.---------------


I was making dinner the other day while my boys were watching television in the living room. I was putting on a pot of water to boil when suddenly a song floated through the air, into my ear, and up to my brain. It was a song from a commercial that had already played a hundred times but this time it made its way through my thoughts and into my mind. The lyrics were ďI wish that I knew what I know now, when I was young.Ē For some reason that stuck with me. Perhaps it is because that is a desire I have often had as well. I have often wished I knew what I know now, when I was young. It would have made those younger years so much happier. It would have eased my stress, erased my worry, and given me a lot more peace back then.

I found myself singing along to the song from the commercial when suddenly I realized something: ďI am still young.Ē Sure this body has been on this world for more than half a century now. Sure my hair is silver and my face crinkles and wrinkles when I smile. Sure my body is more achy than energetic these days. Yet, on the inside I am still young. On the inside we are all forever young. Perhaps that is why the passage of years on this globe feels so confusing to us at times. We remember our childhoods like it was yesterday. We blink and the baby we once held in our arms is now as tall as we are. We look in the mirror and suddenly there is an old person staring back at us while we still feel like a twenty year old on the inside.

I decided then to enjoy what I know now and to stop regretting the years that have already passed. I still have a lot of time ahead of me to share love, to choose joy, to help others, and to make this world a better place. I still have an eternity of youth ahead of me to do Godís will and to grow into the soul I was meant to be. May you too realize that you are still young were it counts. May you too rejoice in the wisdom life brings and love each day you are given here.---------------


Beep! Beep! Beep! I rolled over and turned off my alarm clock. It was still dark outside so I felt my way to the wall switch and turned on the light. I got dressed quickly because I knew both of my dogs would be eager to get outside for their morning walk. I reached over to grab a coat and stopped. It was technically still Fall but the weather here in the Appalachian mountains of my home didnít follow a calendar. It had been cold and snowy two days ago and warm and rainy yesterday. I had forgotten to check the weather report for today, however, so I wasnít sure if I needed my light jacket or my heavy coat.

I decided on my light jacket, pulled it on, and leashed up my bigger dog, Fluffy to walk first. I opened the door and stepped outside. Instantly I knew I had made the wrong choice. Each breath I exhaled was a frozen mist. The wind chill was bitter cold. The grass was covered in frost and I tied to keep my balance while Fluffy dragged me along behind him.

I shivered and grumbled for a bit but finally I turned my head up to the heavens. I looked up at the pre-dawn sky and saw it was full of twinkling stars. The man in the moon was smiling down on me too. It was so beautiful and so peaceful. Suddenly, I felt a warmth inside of me and stopped shivering. While my dog sniffed the ground I opened my heart to the wonder of Godís creation. In all of its sweet seasons it had never failed to touch my soul. It had heated my heart on the coldest days and lighted my spirit on the darkest nights. I stood there awhile in natureís cathedral. Then I thanked God for the love that created the moon, the stars, and me.

Our lives here are full of sweet seasons as well. From the innocence and youth of Spring to the wisdom and wrinkles of Winter we are all called to live, to give, to grow and to love. Enjoy all your sweet seasons then. Make each day of them a creation of your love.--------------


It was the week before Christmas many years ago. I had finished my Christmas shopping early but found myself back in the store to pick up some thick socks to keep my feet warm for the coming Winter. Too much morning coffee had finally caught up with me, however, so I found myself at the menís restroom in the back of the store. The restroom was right next to the layaway station and as I came back out of it I saw her. She was wearing a tattered overcoat that had seen better days. Her face was worn, weathered, and wrinkled. Her hair was iron gray and scraggly. But she had the kindest smile I had ever seen.

She was purchasing two new overcoats that were much too small for her. I thought at first that she was getting them for her grandchildren but then I saw the angel tree tags. These are tags put up for poor families who need help getting Christmas gifts for their children. I watched as this beautiful soul fished around in her purse and pulled out old, crumbled bills to pay for the coats. When she was done paying for them she had only one dollar left. She put it back in her purse and gathered up the coats with a smile. As she walked off I found myself smiling too.

Later I saw her again at the entrance of the store. She was chatting happily with the Salvation Army bell ringer. Then to my amazement she reached in her purse and pulled out her last dollar to drop in the bucket. As she walked off I remember thinking to myself: ďIf I ever make it to Heaven I am sure I will see her there.Ē

Henry Van Dyke in his book, The Story of the Other Wise Man wrote ďWho seeks heaven alone to save his soul. May keep the path, but will not reach the goal; While he who walks in love may wander far, Yet God will bring him where the blessed are.Ē May you forever walk in love then at Christmastime and always.--------------


It was the day after Thanksgiving. I wanted to take it easy and nap off the extra turkey I had eaten the day before, but my son wanted to put up the Christmas tree. To him the day after Thanksgiving always meant the beginning of Christmas. He had struggled with Autism all of his life and having a set schedule always made him feel more comfortable. I agreed then to get our tree and decorations out while he put on some of my Momís old Christmas records.

While the music played on our old record player I set up the tree and started to hang the ornaments on it. I hummed along to the songs as well but didnít sing too loudly. I have always loved to sing but I donít really have the voice for it. My singing always comes out soft, scratchy, raspy, and croaky so I am a bit afraid to sing around others. I usually limit my singing to when I am alone in the shower or driving in my car. When ďJoy to the WorldĒ started to play, however, I couldnít help myself. I joined in at full volume. I felt the power, beauty, love, and joy in that song and added my own voice to it the best I could. Suddenly, I could hear another voice joining in as well. It was my son singing along with the most peaceful and beautiful smile on his face. In that moment I felt the true spirit of Christmas flowing through the room. It was unbridled joy, unconditional love, and wonderful oneness with the Divine. I felt so happy that I made a vow then and there to never again be afraid to sing.

In this world our life is our song and we should never be afraid to sing. We should never be afraid to give our love. We should never be afraid to share our joy. We should never be afraid to live each day like it was Christmas. May the beauty of your soul always shine through your song then. May the love of your spirit always live through your life. May all of your days here be a gift of joy to God and to everyone you meet.---------------


It was a hot, Spring day. I was 25 years old and babysitting my two children while my wife was out. My son was 4 years old. He had been diagnosed with Autism a year earlier and had no real sense of danger. His sister was 2 years old and followed him around the apartment wherever he went. We lived on the second story of an old concrete building with high ceilings and long, narrow windows. The inside of the apartment wasnít well insulated. I felt sweaty and miserable from the heat. I finally opened one of the windows a crack and went into the kitchen to pour myself a glass of iced tea.

When I walked back into the living room I looked for my children but they were nowhere to be seen. I turned my head frantically and then saw them sitting on the narrow ledge, outside of the window, 20 feet above the concrete sidewalk below. My heart started racing and I opened my mouth to scream, but all at once I felt a calmness seize me and hold me still. It kept me from yelling and rushing to the window. Instead I felt like I was outside my body. I watched myself as I walked over to the window and gently called to my children to come back inside. First my daughter and then my son climbed through the open window and back into my arms. I set them down and closed the window just as a pounding on the front door pulled me back into myself. A person seeing them on the ledge had raced up the steps to warn me. I thanked him and assured him we were alright. Then I closed the door, sat down, and trembled with fear. My heart was pounding and my arms were shaking. All of the calm that had been given to me was gone and I held my two babies in my arms and cried.

When I finally calmed down again I thanked God for sparing me the worst pain any parent could go through. I felt so blessed and so happy that my children were safe. I didnít even mind when my Dad, who had found out what had happened, called me and chewed me out for my stupidity and carelessness.

This wasnít the last time that God pulled me and my family off the ledge either. We went on to face so many challenges and struggles, yet through our worst times I always felt a certain calmness within. I knew that Our Heavenly Father was watching over us with love.

God loves us all so much. His love and caring are beyond our comprehension. He is always there to help us off the ledge and on to level ground. Accept this love from above then. Share your own love as well. Let Godís love live through you each and every day of your life.---------------


I had the strangest dream last night. I was walking down a dirt road with snowy woods on either side of me. I was all alone. The road seemed to go on forever. I couldnít see another person anywhere. All at once, however, I saw someone walking towards me in the distance. As this person got closer and closer I realized that it was me. It was me from many years ago, fresh faced and young. I could see in his mind all the dreams and hopes that he had too. They had, after all, once been my own.

I was overjoyed. I had so many things I wanted to say to this younger me. I wanted to spare him the trials I had gone through, the pain I had suffered, and the mistakes I had made. I wanted to share with him all that I had learned over the long years of my life. I wanted to show him how his life would turn out so much differently than what he had thought and hoped it would, but that it would be so much better and happier than the path he was now on. I wanted him not to waste so many years on the things his ego thought were so vital but instead to realize that love was the most important thing in this life.

I opened my mouth to say all of these things but couldnít. I realized at that moment that even if I told him he wouldnít believe me. He would have to walk the road I had walked, learn the things I had learned, and go through all I had gone through. He would have to find God in his own way and in his own time. I let him walk on by and watched as he disappeared in the distance. Then I turned to continue on my own way and woke up.

In this life there are no shortcuts. We all have to walk the road. We all have to travel through sorrow as well as joy. We all have to learn to love. We all have to grow into who we were meant to be. It takes our whole lives. Yet, it is a journey worth making. ---------------


It had been cloudy, chilly, rainy and gray for three days. It was November. The colorful Autumn leaves had reached their peak and were now falling fast. The hillsides were dotted with the skinny skeletons of bare trees. I pulled my jacket tighter around me as I walked through the gusty winds and saw the leaves swirling to the ground. I tried to smile but couldnít. In spite of delightful intentions the dark, dreary days were dragging me down.

I walked on through the wet leaves while my shoes slowly got soaked. My cold toes didnít bother me as much as my damp spirits. My body was tired. My energy was low. And my soul seemed weary as well. Suddenly, though, I felt something warm. A break in the clouds had appeared and sunbeams were streaking through it down to the earth once again. I closed my eyes and turned my face to the sweet sunshine. Itís warmth washed over me. It was like getting a kiss from Heaven. I looked around and saw the remaining leaves on the trees sparkling in the sunlight. It made their colors even more bright and beautiful. I felt my spirits rising again as well. I smiled and thanked God for this everyday miracle. Those few minutes of light had filled me with joy. I felt renewed, ready to bring light and love to the world myself once again. I walked back home grateful to God and amazed at what a little break in the clouds can do.

In our lives here we all are faced with times when the world seems cold, dark, and gray. It is in these times when God calls on us to break through the clouds ourselves and share our light with the world. It doesnít take much either. A simple hug, a kind word, a caring note can warm and uplift anotherís spirits. A helping hand, a shared smile, a tiny act of love can shine light into anotherís heart. When the gray days come then donít just sit in the dark. Break through the clouds! Share your love! Let Godís light shine through you!---------------


It was 28 years ago. I was a young dad with two babies under three. My Mom and Dad had invited us to their home for Thanksgiving dinner. Their tiny house was packed. There was my wife, myself, and our babies. My two brothers were also there with their families as well. The kitchen table was full and people were eating on TV trays and with plates in their laps. We eased around each other so as not to spill our overflowing plates and full glasses. Tummies were being filled with turkey, gravy, potatoes, stuffing, buttered rolls, and pumpkin pie. Old memories were being shared with laughter and love. A dozen different conversations were going on at once.

I sat off to the side, silently sipping my sweet tea and taking it all in. I saw my baby girl in her high chair with her face covered in mashed potatoes. My little boy was still eating while gravy dripped down his shirt. My Mom was cutting up the pumpkin pie for dessert with a smile on her face. My wife and sisters-in-law were talking in one corner while my Dad and two brothers were laughing and teasing each other in the living room. As I watched it all, suddenly I had a feeling in the center of my chest. It was a curious mixture of peace, contentment, love, and joy. It made me feel full to overflowing in my heart as well as my stomach. I realized then what I was feeling: a moment of pure thankfulness on Thanksgiving Day.

So many years have gone by since then. Still, that moment lives on in my heart like it was yesterday. It wasnít the food that made it so special. It was the coming together as a family in love. My Mom and Dad have passed on to Heaven now and my brothers and I donít see each other as much as I would like. Yet, I can still feel their love for me. I carry it always in my heart and soul.

Thanksgiving isnít just a holiday that we celebrate once a year. It is a way of life. When we fill our hearts with thankfulness we open them to even more blessings from our Heavenly Father. When we fill our hearts with love we become the people we were always meant to be. And when we share that love with others we make this world what it was meant to be as well. May all of your days be full of Thanksgiving then. May all of your moments be full of Love!---------------


In the summer of my eleventh year the home I had grown up in burned to the ground in the middle of the night. Thankfully, my Mom, Dad, Nana, brothers, and I escaped along with our dogs. Yet, we had nothing but the night clothes we were sleeping in. I spent the rest of that night with friends of our family trying unsuccessfully to sleep in a bed in their attic. I was too scared to doze off, though. I didnít know what lay ahead for us. And even though I had little faith at the time I said a prayer asking God to watch over and help my family.

The next day my Mom brought me a few t-shirts and pairs of jeans given to her by another friend. One pair of them was too short and the other pair too long but I didnít care. At least I had some clothes again. Meanwhile my Dad had returned to blackened wreckage of our home to see what he could find. The only thing he could save was my Momís wedding rings. The plastic case she had put them in that night had melted around them and shielded them from the flames.

As the summer days wore on my Dad was able to rent us a dusty old house by the side of the road near where our old house had been. As we moved in I watched as family, friends, our church, and our community continued to donate all they could to help us get back on our feet. There was more clothes, furniture, food, money, and even some books for me to read. It took me a while but I finally realized that God had answered my prayer. He had watched over and helped my family through the loving hearts of those around us.

Looking back now I am grateful for all we went through that Summer because it taught me so much about life, love, and people. It showed me that when you have nothing left but love, for the first time you see that love is enough. May you always have ďEnoughĒ then for all the days of your life here.--------------------


KA CLANG! KA CLANG! KA CLANG! The old bell was ringing calling us to breakfast at 4-H camp. Several of us, however, werenít paying attention. It was the last day of camp and we were engaging in a tradition passed down for years. We were supposed to have stripped the sheets off of our beds in our cabins, stuff them into our pillow cases, and return them to the office before breakfast. Pillow cases filled with heavy sheets, though, were far better than pillows for an end of the week pillow fight. A dozen or more of us then were going at it when the bell started to ring. We were knocking each other over the beds and swinging our loaded down pillow cases with all of our might. A hit to the head stung like crazy but we didnít mind. We were having a rough housing good time.

Soon the pillow fight spilled out into the hallway of the second story of our cabin. A friend of mine and I were getting the worst of it. Several of the other boys had decided to gang up against us. I swung at one of them and missed and then saw another pillow case coming straight at my head. I ducked and it caught my friend full in the chest. Unfortunately, he was standing at the edge of the narrow stairway that led to the second floor. I looked around and saw that he was airborne, going backwards down the steps. He seemed about to crack his head wide open on the wooden steps when someone stripping their sheets on the first floor let their mattress fall on the bottom of the steps. My friend landed on the mattress and rolled safely off of it. The pillow fight stopped cold as we all gazed in amazement. ďWhoa!,Ē someone said. ďWhat a lucky break!Ē

Looking back on that moment now I know that it wasnít just a lucky break. I am reminded again of what Albert Einstein once said: ďCoincidence is Godís way of remaining anonymous.Ē So many of us these days focus on the times when something bad happens to us. We fail to see all of the times when something bad could have happened to us and miraculously didnít.

Without Godís loving protection I doubt I would have survived my childhood. Without my guardian angels I would have been dead a dozen times over. That is why I know that there are no coincidences in this life. We are all watched over. We are all guided. We are all loved by Heaven above. Use your ďlucky breaksĒ here well then. Donít waste a second of this precious time you are given. Live! Learn! Love! This life here is Godís gift to you. Make how you live it your gift to God.----------------


ďWell, what are you going to do?, ď I asked myself as I looked in the bathroom mirror. I was a young Dad with 3 small kids. My substitute teaching work had dried up and I was forced to take a job at a local lumber mill. It paid very little and the work was hours of lifting and carrying heavy lumber. That morning I had pulled a muscle in my back there and had driven home for lunch in pain. Every time I moved it seemed to hurt worse.

Slowly I walked into the bathroom to clean the morningís grime off of my hands. That is when I saw myself looking sadly back at me from the mirror. I wondered again how I had gotten here. I hated this job with every fiber of my being. I wanted nothing more than to quit it but I knew I couldnít afford to. After asking the question I just stood there looking at my tired face while I washed my hands. I stumbled out to the kitchen and quietly ate the sandwich my wife had made me. I looked out the window and saw my kids playing joyfully in the backyard. I watched them for a long while. Then I smiled, swallowed four aspirin, and went back to work.

I think all of us have those times in our lives when we are struggling and hurting. We wonder why life is so hard. We wonder how we can go on. We wonder why God is letting us go through this. It is then that we have to ask ourselves: ďWhat are you going to do?Ē I think the answer is that we just have to keep trying. We have to keep living. We have to keep loving. We have to keep doing our best and let God take care of the rest.

God loves us all and God is with us all through the good times and the bad. And while our greatest joy may come from the good times, our greatest learning comes from the bad. Embrace all of your days here then. Learn much. Love more. Live well. Do all you can to become the person you were meant to be and help God make this world a better place for us all.--------------------


Autumn is running late this year in the mountains of my home. It is the second week of October and the temperatures are still in the eighties with humidity making it feel even hotter. My rake is resting in my shed while I am still mowing the lawn. The trees here are only now getting the first splashes of color to them. Usually by this time of the year cooler temperatures would have arrived. There would be a crispness to the air. The Maple trees would be full of rich, radiant reds; bright, brilliant yellows; and awesome, outrageous oranges. These would be followed by the Oaks changing to earthy browns and ripe burgundies. Then the yards around our homes would become multi-colored, crunchy carpets to walk, jump, and dance in. The smell of them too would be so wonderful that just breathing in would make you feel a little closer to Heaven.

Before the first snows of Winter the hills here would become a vivid painting created by Godís own hand. The squirrels and deer would be sneaking into our backyards on the cool mornings to feast on the fallen acorns. The sound of honking geese flying south would fill the air. I would spend extra time outside each day just soaking it all in and storing it in my heart. And I would say over and over again, ďThank you God for this wonderful world.Ē

Many people see Autumn as a time of death, a harbinger of the cold, dark Winter to come. I, however, see it as the time when this world reaches its greatest beauty and brings us the most joy. As I near the Autumn of my own life I realize that this is what I wish to strive for as well. I want to make my Autumn years my best years. I want to shine my light, share my love, and help to make this world a more blessed and beautiful place. May you all do the same. May you all live your lives in love and joy come Winter, Spring, Summer, or Fall. ----------------


It was several years ago. A leg had broken off one of our dining room chairs and couldnít be fixed. I carried it into my bedroom to shove in my closet until I could throw it away later, but it wouldnít fit. Every square inch of my closet was stuffed with stuff. My childrenís closets were just as full. The walls around our bedrooms too were lined with boxes and storage containers. It was then that I realized that I had become a mini-hoarder. The old saying kept coming to my mind: ďThe more things you own, the more your things own you.Ē I made the decision then to begin what would later be known as The Great House Cleaning.

I decided that if I didnít need something in my everyday life or if it didnít hold memories of love and joy for me that it had to go. First my children and I filled several garbage bags full of broken furniture, torn clothes, non-working appliances, and trashed toys. These were hauled to the local landfill. Next we gathered up the good stuff that we no longer needed. There were piles of clothes, boxes of books, toys, nicknacks, and assorted electronics. We loaded up our car and donated them all to local charities. When we were done I suddenly felt like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders and at the same time I felt a wonderful joy filling my heart.

Since The Great House Cleaning I have done my best to live simply and not collect too much stuff. I continue to donate everything I donít need to help out others who do need it. It never fails to bring me a feeling of happiness and oneness with God when I do.

Mother Teresa said: ďThe less we have, the more we give. Seems absurd, but itís the logic of love.Ē Live logically then. Live lovingly. Trade your junk for joy. Trade your stuff for simplicity. Give, live, and love. Remember Godís love is all you need in this life and the love you share is all you can take with you into the next.----------------


I was a freshman in college at home for the weekend. I didnít own a car and didnít want to make my parents drive me back to school, so I asked my friend for a ride back. It was a long drive and we decided to take a short cut. There was an old, one-lane, gravel road used mainly by coal trucks that connected up to the main road we needed to get to. We were zooming along at a good pace talking about school and girls. Suddenly, as we rounded a curve we saw a coal truck barreling down on us. We were moments away from a head-on collision. I could feel my heart in my throat. My friend jerked the steering wheel but I could see we werenít going to make it. There just wasnít enough room. Then miraculously, we were past the truck. It was as if an invisible hand had pushed the truck aside just enough to miss us. We looked at each other and laughed with relief. Then being 18 years old we drove on without giving it another thought.

As I got older and wiser, though, I did think of that moment again. I realized that if that truck had hit us my wonderful, loving children would never have been born and would never have blessed so many with their lives. If that truck had hit us every thing I had ever written, every kind word I had ever spoken, every good thing I had ever done, and every bit of love I had ever shared since then would have been lost to this world.

Remembering this helped me to see that this life isnít just some random collection of events but that it has purpose and meaning. I saw too that there is an invisible hand protecting us all in this life. There is an invisible love guiding us to complete our missions here. There is a Father in Heaven quietly helping us here on Earth.

Remember that life isnít just what you see. Life is what you feel in your heart and know in your soul. Trust in Godís invisible hand then. Let His love guide you through all your days here----------------


When I was a boy growing up there was a mountain spring near my home. I used to hike up a mountainside through a forest to reach it. I would grab an old fallen tree branch and use it for my walking stick. I would make my way through the waist high weeds and thorn bushes until I finally reached the moss covered rocks that lined the spring. Then wiping the sweat from my forehead I would kneel down, cup my hand, and drink the crystal clear water. It tasted so pure and so sweet. Drinking it filled me with energy and joy. It was like I had my own personal fountain of youth hidden away from the world.

These days I rarely hike anymore. My youthful body has gown older and more wrinkled. My thick, brown hair has thinned and turned silver. The spring in my step isnít quite what it was. In fact, I am now more creaky and achy than bouncy and springy. Still, I do have a fountain of youth that I go to whenever I am feeling old and worn down. And this fountain of youth is deep down inside of me.

This fountain is Love. Love brings energy to your body. Love brings wisdom to your mind. Love brings peace to your heart. When you love you feel not only young, but eternal. It doesnít matter if you are eight, eighteen, or eighty. When you love you become the ageless Child of God that you were meant to be.

Drink deep from the fountain of youth then. Drink deep from the fountain of love. Let its Heavenly waters heal you from the inside out. Let its pure, sweet taste nourish your heart and soul. Take this gift from God and fill your glass full to overflowing. Then go out and fill the glasses of others as well. Like a mountain spring its waters are meant to be shared. Like a stream from heaven it is meant to be a blessing to all.---------------


I was eleven years old standing outside in just my underwear while I watched the house that I grew up in rapidly burn to the ground. A few minutes earlier I had been sound asleep in my nice, warm bed when a scream woke me up. My Nanaís bedroom was just next to mine and my brotherís. A fire had broken out there and awakened her. Hearing her my older brother had sprung into action. While I stumbled around in the smoke and darkness he ran from room to room quickly waking everyone in the house. The house, however, was over 50 years old and made of wood. Before we could do anything the fire consumed it. We all barely made it outside before the flames engulfed every room.

I stood there shivering while the fire destroyed my books, clothes, and toys. I watched helplessly while my Mom cried and my Dad swore. I wandered what was going to happen to us now that we had lost all of our things. As I looked around, though, I realized something for the first time: The things that matter, arenít things. I saw my older brother running across the swinging bridge by our house to get help. I saw my oldest brother who was on crutches from an earlier accident standing unsteadily on one leg. I saw my Nana and Dad huddled together and my Mom holding our little dog in her arms. I realized at that moment that we were all alive. Everything that was essential had survived the fire. Our lives would continue. We would survive without the ďstuffĒ that was burning. We would all be around to love each other for many years to come. And that was all that mattered.

I still think of that fire in the night that helped me to become who I am today. It showed me for the very first time what is truly essential in this life. It helped me to see Godís love and protection for us in this often difficult world. It helped me to learn that the love we share is far more important than the things we possess.

Live your life then for the things that matter, not for the things you own. Love others. Help everyone. Let the fire inside of you make this world a warmer place. Let your soul shine so bright that Heaven sings and God smiles.-----------------


It was the first week of September but felt like the middle of July. The hot sun and humid air, however, did little to warm my mood. I looked at the wall calender and saw that it was almost September 8th. That was my Momís birthday. She would have been 82 this year if she had lived, but Cancer had stolen her from us when she was only 55. I still missed talking to her and hearing her gentle laugh. She had given me so much love, kindness, wisdom, and guidance when I was a boy. Most of our talks took place out on the porch where she fed the cardinals in the Winter and watched the butterflies feasting on her flowers in the Summer. She had a special affection for them both. Even when I was a young Dad raising my own children I would still call her almost every day to ask her advice or just to hear the love in her voice.

For some reason this year I found myself missing her more than ever. I wished I could let her know how much she meant to me and tell her ďI love youĒ one more time. I got up and walked out into the sweltering sunshine. A few of the Maple leaves had already changed colors and dropped to the ground but it still didnít feel like Fall. I bent down and picked up a red leaf when suddenly a white butterfly appeared. It flew around my head three times then stopped and hovered in front of my face. I looked at my little visitor with delight and all at once I knew who had sent him. I looked up to the heavens as my heart filled with joy. Blinking back the water in my eyes I smiled and said, ďI love you, Mom!Ē

We are all watched over in this life. We are all loved by a love beyond our comprehension. We donít have to understand it, though. We just have to welcome it into our hearts and souls and let it guide our lives. May you always feel Godís love all around you and may you always know that Heaven is watching over you.--------------


I realized something this morning. I have been writing now for 34 years. It all started when I was just 18 years old. As a boy growing up I had read literally hundreds of books. I had read mysteries, histories, Science Fiction, thrillers, text books, and the Bible. I had read on every subject I could. I had a thirst for knowledge that seemingly could never be quenched. Then suddenly I found that I too had something that I wanted to write and share. I wanted to share something positive, encouraging, and uplifting. I wanted to share something that would be full of goodness, love, joy, and happiness. I tried to ignore it, but as any writer will tell you once the ideas awaken inside of you they wonít leave you alone until you write them down. I didnít have a computer, word processor, or even a typewriter. Still, I grabbed a pen and lined notebook paper and wrote everything that was burning inside of me.

When I was done I didnít know how to share it. There was no internet back then, no smart phones, and no social media. I sought out the editor of my local county newspaper and asked him to please print what I had written. He was a good man full of both wisdom and kindness. He not only printed my first story but agreed to publish anything else I was willing to write. After that, of course, there was no stopping me. I continued to write new articles each week and shared them first with other local papers and later online as well. Years later at the urging of my readers I even self-published two collections of my stories in book form.

Through my writing too I slowly became more than I was. In my writings I encountered my highest self. In my writings I discovered the goodness and light that lies in us all. In my writings I continued to grow closer and closer to God and discovered the endless Love that He has for us all. In my writings I found great love and joy and encouraged others to choose love and joy as well. I also found that we all are writers whether we put pen to paper or not. With every choice we make, with every thought we think, and with every thing we do we are writing our own life story.

Lance Wubbels once wrote: ďI hope you realize your life is truly your life. It belongs to you. It is your story to write with love. Day by day, line by line, write it well.Ē---------------


ďHere Dukey! Here Dukey!Ē I was a young boy walking down the railroad tracks near my home calling for my little dog to come home. In those days nobody had their dog ďfixedĒ so every time a lady dog in heat would wander by my 20 pound dog, Duke would chase after her hoping to sire the next generation of puppy royalty. He would forget eating, fight with bigger dogs, and run after her for miles. Sometimes he would be gone for days, but he always came back. This time, however, it had been a week and Dukey still hadnít come home. I was so worried. I kept walking and calling for him until it started to pour down a bone chilling rain. I walked back home with the rain drops hiding my tears.

The next day I wasnít feeling well. My Mom thought I had caught a cold looking for Dukey in the rain. The truth was much worse. I had the Mumps. My Mom tucked me in my bed while my face slowly swelled up. I lay there feeling miserable and missing my dog more than ever.

As I lay there, though, old Duke was finally making his way home. He wandered out of the woods and collapsed at the front door, starving and exhausted from his wayward journey. My Dad found him there, picked him up, and fed him a good meal. Then he carried him into my room and placed him on my bed. I smiled with my swollen cheeks and laughed with joy. I petted his bony body while he happily licked my chin. Sick as I was at the time I still remember this as one of the happiest moments of my life.

God is just as happy to see us when we return home to His love. Like Dukey we often wander far away guided only by our own desires. Our wayward journeys leave our hearts and souls starved until we too finally return to our Heavenly Fatherís open arms. May you never wander too far then but always return home to walk with God and live with love. -----------------


ďStocking up for Winter?Ē, said the cashier with a smile. She was looking at my shopping cart which was full of toaster pastries and big boxes of cereal. I knew that question was coming. A little earlier I had stopped into the local food pantry to see if there was any small thing that I might contribute. The shelves held canned vegetables, canned tuna fish, boxes of macaroni and cheese, and many other things. They were short of breakfast foods, though, so I thought I would give what I could. I walked into a local store and started to fill my cart with Pop Tarts and boxes of Cherrios, and Corn Flakes. I remembered loving them all for breakfast when I was a hungry, little boy growing up and I hoped what I bought might feed a few hungry, little bellies today.

I smiled back at the cashier and said, ďItís for the food pantry.Ē I usually tried to get out of the store without mentioning it, because an anonymous act of kindness is the best kind. I didnít want any recognition or praise for what I did. I had needed to use the food pantries myself when I was an unemployed and struggling young father with a family to feed. And it felt so right to complete this circle of love and give back to others in need. I knew too that I was doing what God wanted me to do and that is the only reward any of us ever needs.

Godís love fills the universe. It is in every human heart. It is in every act of kindness no matter how small. It is a glorious tapestry of which we all are a part. It is so big that it is beyond comprehension. Still, God wants us all to take our place in that tapestry. God wants all of us to step into the circle of love that never ends. God wants us all to give, to care, and to share.

Take your place in the tapestry then. Be kind. Be loving. Help others every chance you can. Become part of something big while doing something small. And know too that God is watching over you, helping you, and loving you every step of the way. --------------


ďPlease God let my son be normal!Ē I was a young Father. My first born son had been diagnosed with Autism two years earlier. His speech wasnít developing right. He had many repetitive behaviors. Often he would cry for a long time for no reason. My daughter who had been born two years after him was developing normally, out-pacing her brother. My wife had been content with just the two of them but Iíd wanted another son. I wanted a normal son. My ego wanted a son who would be just like me and carry on the family name. The doctors at the time had assured us that the chances were one in ten thousand that we would have another child with Autism. Still, a part of me was afraid. When we discovered then that my wife was pregnant with a boy again, I remember saying this prayer, over and over and over.

As my third born child grew up, however, it soon became clear that the doctors had been wrong. It soon became clear that he had an even more extreme form of Autism than his older brother had. While his brother had eventually learned to talk, read, and learn my youngest son could say only a few words. His Autistic behaviors were much more severe. He had many crying fits and would hit himself. He tore things up and broke things. He had trouble relating to us and was mainly lost in his own world. God had said, ďNoĒ to my prayer.

The journey that followed has been a long and difficult one for my sons, my daughter, their mother, and myself. It still goes on today. It has been full of stress and pain but also learning and growth. It forced all of us down a path we didnít want to go, but it was a path that led us all to greater love, faith, and kindness. In the end my two boys became my greatest teachers on how to live and how to love. My oldest son now is a fountain of kindness who gives out hugs easily and happily. His younger brother still doesnít speak much but has a laughter and innate joy that brightens my soul each and every day of my life. I often think that if I could one day learn my oldest sonís love and my youngest sonís joy that I would know how the angels feel.

I am no longer mad at God either for saying, ĎNoĒ to my prayer. If He had said ďYesĒ I would never have become the person I am today. I wouldnít be writing this right now. I wouldnít be trying so hard to remind my readers of just how much God loves them.

Sometimes God says ĎNoĒ to something we ask for in order to give us something much better. Sometimes we donít know why some of our prayers are answered while others arenít. All I know is that God loves us all. God has a plan for us all. And sometimes we just have to trust even if we donít know the answers.

Live your life with love then. Trust in God to lead you down the path you are meant to go. Let Him guide you through this life and into the next.---------------


It was a Fall morning many years ago. I woke up shivering under my sheets. The air in the house was chilly and when I put my bare feet down I found out that the floor was freezing too. I quickly pulled on my socks, jeans, sweat shirt and shoes. I walked out of my bedroom into the living room and found my Dad kneeling by the wood stove that heated our home. He was filling it with kindling and sheets of old newspaper. He smiled up at me, struck a match and lighted the fire. Then he carefully started to add bigger pieces of wood to it.

After eating a cold bowl of cereal at the dining room table I hurried back into the living room. It had already grown warmer and I held my hands above the heat radiating from our old stove. I smiled as I felt that warmth go through my hands and down my body. Then I grabbed an old book and settled into my favorite chair that was closest to the stove. My little dog wandered over too and curled up at my feet. I started to read but soon sat the book on my lap and just soaked up the warmth. It felt so nice, so peaceful, and so right. I smiled in contentment and enjoyed our first fire of the Fall.

These days my heat is electric and barring a power outage I donít wake up shivering any more. Still, a part of me misses those days by our old wood stove. It was not only a place of warmth but also a place of comfort. It was where we could all gather around on those days when the world seemed a cold and bitter place.

I know, however, that there is one fire that we all still have to tend. It is the fire within us. The fire of our love needs to be started and built fresh every single day. God asks us all to burn bright and share our love and light with everyone. God asks us all to give our warmth to others when the world seems a cold and bitter place. God asks us all to comfort each other be it Winter, Spring, Summer, or Fall. Light your fire today then. Let it burn bright. Build it with joy. Tend it with love. Let it add its warmth and light to a world that needs it so much.---------------


It had been a rough day at Kindergarten. I was the youngest and smallest boy in my class, but usually I made up for it by being outgoing and leading the other boys in games at recess. I had a vivid imagination and most of the time the other boys enjoyed letting me lead the way. Today, however, for some reason they decided they didnít want me around. They ran off to play elsewhere leaving me feeling alone, abandoned, and miserable. Slowly, I walked back to the empty classroom, sat down, and cried.

Later, when I got in my Momís car to go home I was still sad, silent, and sulky. I didnít want to talk about anything. My Mom seemed to sense what was wrong without me saying a word. She just sat with me and stroked my hair while all of the other cars pulled out. Soon we were the only car left in the parking lot but my Mom still didnít turn on the engine. She just looked at me, held me, and smiled softly until my spirits lifted and I smiled back. Then she finally started the car and pulled on to the road. I reached up and held her free hand while she drove us home. I didnít know why then, but I was happy again.

That moment was 46 years ago but I still remember it like it was yesterday. My Mom left this world when I was only 25 years old and I still miss her everyday. I would give anything to live that moment one more time, to feel her hand gently stroking my hair, to feel the warmth of her smile touching my soul, and to hold her hand while she drove me home.

One thing my Mom taught me is that these lives we live here are only a series of moments, one after another. The best way to live then is to fill these moments with love. The best way to live is to make each moment matter. God only gives us so many moments in this world. I am going to follow my Momís example and cherish them all. Thanks Mom! I Love You!----------------


I was picking up some refills for my sonsí prescriptions the other day. The pharmacy I use is on a one way street and the only way to turn around is to drive up a hill, turn right, and drive past the county courthouse. I was doing just that when I saw something that hit me right in my heart. A police officer was walking with and guarding the latest casualty of the opioid addiction crisis that has damaged and destroyed so many lives in my state. <

This casualty was wearing an orange jump suit and obviously had just come from jail. She was a young woman who looked both shaken and ashamed. Her head was down and her eyes looked only at the sidewalk in front of her. I could feel the sadness of her spirit and knew that a very difficult road lay ahead of her. When she finally lifted her head for a second then, I gave her what I could. I looked her in the eyes and I smiled at her with all of the kindness and compassion that I had in my heart. For the briefest second I saw her own smile return. Then she walked into the courthouse and was gone.

I drove on and said a prayer for that lost soul. I asked God to watch over and walk with her on that difficult road ahead. I prayed too that even for a moment I had been able to remind her that she was a human being deserving of respect and a fellow Child of God worthy of love. I had done only a little thing, but I hoped that it had made a difference.

Mother Teresa once said: ďGod does not command that we do great things, only little things with great love.Ē Let God guide you then. Never pass up a chance to do a little thing. Never pass up a chance to share a great love. Every thing you do, every smile you smile, and every hug you give has the power to make a difference in this world. Every moment of love and kindness you share has the power to change anotherís life. ---------------


I donít like to dust and only do so when it is absolutely necessary. Yet, with the summer fans blowing and the dogs shedding I found myself working my duster the other day wiping dog hair and dust off the pictures hanging on my wall. I was going as quickly as possible trying to get it over with. In my haste, however, I knocked one the pictures down. I managed to catch it before it hit the floor. Carefully, I started to hang it back on the wall when I saw him. He had thick, wavy, brown hair that was parted in the middle. His cheeks were full and his face unlined. He seemed to be staring off in the distance with his brown eyes and had a serious expression on his face. It was a picture of me at twenty. I finished hanging him back up and wondered vaguely where he had gone.

That evening when I was brushing my teeth and looking in the mirror I wondered again where that guy was. The hair was thin and mostly silver now. The cheekbones had lost their fat and the face was full of wrinkles. The brown eyes were now staring through a pair of bifocals. But when I looked deeper I could see that he was still there. In fact, I think he may have grown a bit younger on the inside. His serious expression and worries for the future had been replaced by a smile and a trust in Godís love. His body wasnít as strong and fit as it once was but his soul was stronger and in better shape than ever. His life on this Earth might be closer to its end but his life in Heaven was closer to its beginning.

The truth is these bodies are just the temporary vehicles that carry around our essential and eternal souls. We should take good care of them but not identify with them. The real us is forever young. The real us is Godís love personified. The real us is the shining spirit within. Live from the real you then. Let your soul lead and your body will follow.---------------


My car was dying. This I knew. It was a big, brown, ugly sedan that was over 20 years old. Its gas mileage was getting worse and worse. I could smell it burning oil at times. The tires were bald and the engine was beginning to backfire more and more. Even my Dad who was a mechanic couldnít do much with its rotting hoses, frayed belts, and choking engine. It didnít have much time left that is for sure. Still, I was a young, struggling, substitute teacher with a baby and a pregnant wife at home. I couldnít afford another car, so I just prayed that this one would last a little longer.

One day when I was driving home from work in my sputtering vehicle I saw her. It was a young mother standing by a car even older and more beat up than mine. Her hood was up and she was looking hopelessly at the engine. Her two young kids were sitting restlessly in the backseat. I pulled over to offer my help. Her car had died and wouldnít start at all. I guessed that it was either a bad battery or a bad alternator. I eased my Goliath of a sedan next to her little hatchback and found my old jumper cables in the trunk. After connecting our batteries and letting them charge for a bit I had her start her car. It roared to life in a way that made my car sound sickly in comparison. I followed her down the road until she pulled into her driveway then waved goodbye and headed home. I looked at my old clunker and patted its steering wheel affectionately. ďMaybe you have a few more months left in you yet!Ē, I said. I drove home with a smile on my face and a song in my heart. It felt so good being able to help another person. I could sense too Godís loving smile warming the inside of my soul.

Isaac Asimov once wrote: ďThe best way of loving oneís self is to love everyone else, too.Ē God gives us countless opportunities to love each other in this life. The choice is ours, however, on whether we use them. Take every chance you can then to help others. Take every opportunity to love them. Fill your days with kindness and goodwill. Do your best to make this world a better place with your life and your love. Then you wonít need any cables to make your own heart jump for joy. ---------------


It was the end of the longest day of the year. I had worked hard all day long and was now just looking forward to a good nightís sleep. The sky was just beginning to get dark, the clouds had cleared, and the moon was hanging like a sliver sickle in the sky. I leashed up my dog for his last walk of the day and opened my back door. He bounded out and dragged me behind him and then suddenly, he stopped cold. I stepped off the deck and saw what had caught his attention. The fireflies also known as lightening bugs had returned to my backyard. Hundreds of them were blinking their lights on and off and the meadow behind my home was alive with their light. I stood mesmerized by this yearly miracle. It was such a glorious sight. Their light filled me with energy and made my own smile shine. They reminded me again of just how wonderful this world is. They reminded me again of just how much God must love us all to give us such beauty to delight in. I walked around in peaceful contentment until my dog finally finished his business and dragged me back to my home.

I think that sometimes we all must feel like a lone firefly shining our light and hoping that it is making the Earth a tiny bit brighter. What we forget is that when we add our little light to the light of others we can illuminate this entire world. God wants us to love. God wants us to shine. God wants us to be His light in this world. It is up to us, though, to make our souls and lives sparkle with light and love.

Put your light on then, every chance you get. Every smile you share, every kind act you do, every encouraging word you say, every laugh you laugh and song you sing adds a little more light to this world. Every moment of joy that you share with others makes this world shine more like Heaven. Every bit of love that you give brightens your soul and Godís smile.---------------


The last few months have given me a lot of trouble with my transportation. First my old car finally became so rusted out that I had to trade it in and buy a much younger used one. Then my other car that I had hoped to keep for several more years needed multiple repairs. This caused my hard earned savings to shrink closer and closer to zero. I found myself stewing about it some. I was angry at life and its many problems. I was tired of having to deal with one thing after another. I was upset that no matter how simply I lived my savings never seemed to last for long in this world. All of this anger too was distancing me not only from my own love and joy but from God as well.

Today I was praying quietly hoping for a bit of peace. I started to say the Lordís prayer. When I reached the part about ďGive us this day our daily breadĒ I stopped. I felt an aching in my heart and a moistness in my eyes. I realized at that moment that Our Heavenly Father had always given me my daily bread. He had always given me just what I needed to survive and to thrive in this world. He had taken care of my material needs so I could be free to focus on loving others. Yet, in my stupidity and selfishness I had forgotten this recently. I had been so intent on being mad at past problems and wishing for future riches that I had forgotten to live and to love today.

Thankfully, God loves us all and forgives us when our minds and egos get in the way. He gently reminds us again and again of His love for us until we return to love ourselves. He gives us each day our daily bread so that we can share with others our daily love. Give thanks to God today then. Offer up your problems to Him and trust that He will guide you to the right answers. Allow His love to live through your life today and tomorrow will take care of itself.--------------


Beep! Beep! Beep! My arm swung over to my dresser and grabbed the alarm clock that had awakened me. I shut it off and pulled it to my face to see the hands pointing to 6 Oíclock. Slowly I reached over and put it back down. I threw my covers off and swung my legs out of bed. I stepped over my still snoring beagle and stumbled into the bathroom. Then after I was done I walked back into the bedroom and started to get dressed. Something seemed off, though. Things didnít look quite right. Everything seemed fuzzy and out of focus. The world around me looked both blurry and scary. I rubbed my eyes thinking something was wrong with them. Then I realized what it was. I hadnít put my glasses on yet.

I wish I could say that this was the first time this has happened, but it isnít. Too often in this life I have rushed through my day, deprived myself of sleep at night, and woke up the next morning with a drowsy mind that wasnít working quite right. Still, I can laugh at times like this and use my forgotten glasses as a reminder to take better care of myself.

There is another set of glasses, however, that I try never to forget. I try to remember them no matter how tired my mind and body are. These are the glasses of love. They help my heart and soul to see things clearly. They help me to see just how much God loves me. They help me to see how much I can love as well. They help me to see just how beautiful this world can be when we all love each other. They help me to live as I was meant to live. They help me to make this world a better place. And they help me to become the person God wants me to be.

Without love this world can look fuzzy and out of focus. It can seem blurry and scary. It can look alien and threatening. Yet, when you see through the eyes of love the world becomes warm and friendly. It is Godís world. It is a world in which everyone is your brother or sister. Put on those badly needed glasses of love then. Let yourself see things clearly. Let yourself live a life of love, vision, and joy today, tomorrow and forever.---------------


When I was a boy growing up, after church on Sundays, we would always have a delicious Italian dinner. My Nanaís slow cooked sauce was the key. In it were cooked potatoes, chicken, steak, and meatballs. Mounds of spaghetti would also be boiled and dropped into the red sauce. We also had loaves of homemade Italian bread covered in butter. Every now and then there were also big chunks of Provolone cheese. We would all eat, talk, and laugh until both our bellies and hearts were full. After Mom and Nana passed away my Dad would still make the sauce from time to time and invite me and my brothers over to his little home for a dinner full of fine food and happy memories.

When my Dad died he passed the family recipe on to me and my daughter. We often made the sauce for dinner but for some reason it never tasted quite right. At first I thought we had gotten the recipe wrong but one day I realized what was missing. On that day right before dinner I closed my eyes, opened my heart, and imagined my Dad, Mom, and Nana all sitting at the table around me with smiling faces. Then I placed the pasta on my fork and slowly slid it into my mouth. It tasted perfect just as it always had when I was a boy growing up. The secret ingredient was, of course, what it had always been: Love!

Love is the secret ingredient that makes all of life taste better. Love is the meal that God wants all of us to feast upon. In the book of Proverbs it says: ďBetter a dish of herbs when love is there than a fattened ox and hatred to go with it.Ē

Make all of your meals with love. Fill all of your days with love. Live all of your life with love. Share your love with everyone you meet. Then you will be truly ready for the reunion dinner that awaits you in Heaven. --------------


I was driving home on a day in late May. It seemed as if Spring had skipped this year and we had gone straight into Summer. The heat was bad and the humidity worse. The mountains had all turned green but at the moment they were shaded by huge, gray, ominous looking clouds. It looked like a storm could hit at any minute. As I rounded a curve, however, something wonderful happened: a crack appeared in the clouds and sun shone through. The dark green leaves of the mountains were now shining in a glorious, golden light. The road too seemed to shimmer in the sunshine. And I felt my own mood brighten as well. I turned on the car radio and John Denver was singing, ďSunshine on my shoulders makes me happy.Ē I laughed at that minor miracle and thanked God for it. My own smile sparkled as I started to sing along.

Then just as quickly as it opened the crack in the clouds closed and the world went gray again. I didnít go with it, though. That brief moment in the sun had connected me again with the greater light of Godís love. I felt at one with Earth, Heaven, and everyone everywhere. I felt my own love and joy shining through my soul. I kept singing as the clouds grew dark and sang even louder as the rain began to fall. It felt like all the angels in Heaven were joining in.

In this life we are all called upon to love. We are all called upon to shine. We are all called upon to share Godís light in this world. It is easy to do so on sunny days when lifeís pains and problems seem so far away. It is harder to do so on days when the shade of this world seems to darken everything. Yet, God wants us to do so in the sunshine and in the shade.

Let your soul shine bright then. Let your love flow freely. Let your light help others to find their own way out of the shade. Let each day of your life add to the light of this world until you reach the never ending light of the next. ---------------


It had been raining on and off for several days and the weather forecast called for even more rainy days ahead. The only break seemed to be for several hours this morning so I knew that I would have to cut the grass now. I had several large lawns to do so I quickly pulled out my old push mower and hoped that the wet grass wouldnít choke it up too much. I got to work cutting 20 inch swaths over and over in the thick grass. I took my time and did my best to mow around the patches of buttercups and dandelions so the butterflies and bumblebees could still have something to snack on.

As I worked I let my mind wander. Bits of songs bounced around my brain and I let myself sing along with them. Old memories made me smile and I let myself delight in them. Plots from old books and television shows popped up too and I allowed myself to enjoy them. As I grew tired from cutting the large lawns, however, my thoughts grew more serious and turned to the questions that I often mull over.

One in particular stuck in my mind today. ďWhy am I here?Ē I knew that I wasnít just here to mow lawns, do laundry, and wash dishes. I knew that I wasnít just here to write my stories and share them with the world. I even knew that I wasnít just here to care for my two mentally handicapped sons. In a sense I was here for all of these things but I was also here for something more. As I was finishing cutting down the last of the grass I felt a warmth come into my heart and a Divine answer enter my mind. It was the same answer I always get but often forget. It said, ďYou are here to Love!Ē

We are all here to love! We are here to love God! We are here to love ourselves! We are here to love everyone as ourselves! Live your life in love then. Bring your love to everything you do. Let your love flow when you work at your job. Let your love flow when you hug your family. Let your love flow when you laugh with your friends. Let your love flow when you share a smile with a stranger. Let your love flow from your every thought and prayer. Let your love flow from your heart right up to Heaven. And donít forget to let your love flow even when you mow the lawn. ---------------


I was ten years old riding my bicycle at break-neck speed down a hill near my home. This was long before bike helmets were used and I am sure I was making my poor, old, gray-haired guardian angel work overtime again. Only a month before I had hit a rock in the road, flown over my handlebars and smashed open my skull. I had walked home bleeding, terrified my Mom, and gotten a trip to the hospital to have my skull stitched shut again. The memory of a boy is brief, however, so here I was back on my bike, flying fearlessly down a hill again.

I was picking up speed as I neared a curve in the road. I started to hit my brakes when I saw it: a pothole in the road. Not wanting to go flying over my handlebars again I twisted my wheel and stomped on my foot brakes as hard as I could. I could hear the tires skidding as I flew off the bike. Thankfully, this time I landed on my back and in the soft grass of the field along the side of the road. I got up and laughed. I was happy to be alive and ready for one more ride before heading home. I doubt that my guardian angel felt the same way.

These days I am fifty one years old and my bike riding days are far behind me. I try not to stress my guardian angel too much these days either. I am sure I made him work hard enough when I was a boy. These days my adventures involve hugging my boys and petting my dogs. Still, each day when I wake up in the morning I am happy to be alive. Each day when I open my eyes I am ready for one more ride through this life before heading home. I am not sure how many days, months, or years I have left but I am determined to live them all in laughter, love and joy.

Life is a glorious adventure. Its most exciting parts, though, arenít when you risk your neck. They are when you share your heart. May you give your love freely then to God, to yourself, and to everyone else. May you make your ride through this life a joyous one for everyone you can.----------------


It was just before dawn when my beeping alarm clock woke me up. I stumbled drowsily out of bed and slowly pulled my clothes on. I was already thinking about my morning cup of coffee when I opened my bedroom door. There waiting on me was my sonís big, white dog, Fluffy. I looked down at his smiling, furry face and knew my morning coffee would have to wait. Fluffy needed no caffeine to jump around happily while I put his leash on. Then as soon as I opened the door he dragged me outside.

The sky was mostly cloudy and the sun hadnít yet come over the horizon. The Maple and Oak trees were still budding and held no leaves as yet. Still, my ears told me it was Spring. The forest surrounding my home was alive with birdsong. I could hear at least a hundred birds singing at once. Dozens of species were making their own unique music and it all blended together perfectly in a chorus of joy. I breathed in the cool, morning air and smiled. I let the sweet songs of my feathered friends flow through my ears and down to my heart. Their music awakened me more than any coffee ever could. It felt so good to hear it. It felt so good to be alive in Godís world. I kept Fluffy out for a while longer while I enjoyed this symphony. I knew not to take it for granted for by Summer most of these birds would be parents too busy to sing.

Thankfully, we human beings have an advantage over our feathered friends. We are guided by choice rather than instinct. We can sing in the Winter as well as the Spring. We can sing each and everyday of our lives. We can sing when we are busy. We can sing when we are stressed. We can sing no matter what happens to us in this world. We can sing from our lips, our hearts, and our souls. We can sing songs of love and joy to each other and to God. Keep singing then. Let your song live through your life. Let all of Earth and Heaven hear you sing.---------------


When I was a boy I was the remote. Not only did I get up to change the television channel, I also walked outside to turn the antenna to pick up the other network. My i-tunes were a stack of vinyl records under our plastic record player. My Google was a pile of books in the corner of the living room. My e-mail was a sheet of paper, a pen, and an envelop. My video games were played in my mind while I romped outside in the sunshine.

Today, however, we live in a sea of information. There are dozens of social media sites. There are hundreds of cable television channels. There are e-mails and text messages that make our computers and smart phones beep constantly. There are video games that eat up our time. There are news shows that only feed our anger and prejudices. There is so much information that we rarely have time to think about it, let alone reflect on our lives here.

What can we do in such a sea? How can we navigate it? How can we sail it to find the truth about our world and ourselves? I think the key comes in asking ourselves a few important questions. When the waves of information come at you then ask yourself these things. Is this information uplifting my heart? Is it inspiring my soul? Is it educating my mind. Is it making me feel happier about my life here? Is it making me kinder and more loving? Is it urging me to help make the world a better place? Is it bringing me closer to God? If the answer is no then turn it off, disregard it, and dismiss it from your life.

Our lives here are too brief to be awash in a sea of negativity. God loves us and put us here to love each other and to make this Earth more like Heaven. If the information around you isnít helping you do this then it is wasting your time and your life. Your life is what you allow into your heart and soul and also what you share from your heart and soul. May it always be love.-----------------------


I was selfish as a teenager. This I freely admit. I usually spent my time thinking about myself and taking care of my own needs. I let my older brother do most of the chores around the house until he left for college. I let my Mom and Dad worry about our bills and problems while I read books, played, and lost myself in my own imagination. This didnít change even when I went to college either. I studied hard but only to make my own life better. Even when I started to explore my faith and spirituality, it was only to increase my own happiness.

I married while still in school and decided to start a family. Of course, I had no idea what hard knocks reality had in store for my selfish soul. Soon I found myself unemployed, deeply in debt, and with a new baby on the way. I found out that modern life has little sympathy for spoiled, pampered people. In fact, all of the struggles I was going through were beating the selfishness slowly out of me one problem at a time.

Still, I didnít give up on happiness. I knew that there must be a way to find it. I finally realized, however, that it had to include more than just my own needs, wants, and desires. The answer began to make itself clear one night shortly after my baby boy was born. My wife was asleep in the middle of the night when I heard him stir in his cradle. I got a bottle and held him in my arms. As I was feeding him I looked down and saw his big, innocent, trusting eyes staring up at me. I smiled and talked soothingly to him. Then he smiled and I could feel my heart growing, expanding with love. I felt such peace and joy. In that moment I had a hint of the truth: it is by growing our hearts with love that we find our happiness. It is by sharing our love with others that we create joy, serve God, and make this world a better place.

Carolyn Arends wrote: ďThe more people you let into your heart, the bigger your heart gets. The more love you give, the more love you have to give. It just keeps growing.Ē Keep loving then. Keep living. Keep laughing. Keep caring. Keep sharing. Keep helping our Heavenly Father to heal this world. Keep growing your heart today, tomorrow, and always.----------------


The frame of my 23 year old car had finally become so rusted that it was unsafe. Sadly, I decided it was time to trade it in for a less old one. I found myself then at a local used car lot looking at a 12 year old sedan. There was no way I could afford a new car, but this one seemed in fine shape. I made the deal and drove it home.

It wasnít long, however, before I noticed a squealing when I turned the steering wheel too tightly. I made an appointment at a local garage and drove there on a bright Spring day. While I was driving I unfortunately fell back into old habits of fear, fret, and worry. The heat of the day made me turn on the air conditioner but no cold air came out of it. This only made me worry more. I wondered if I had made a big mistake buying this car.

When I arrived at the garage the mechanics took the car in while I sat in the waiting room. The warmth and beauty of the day, though, was too good to ignore. I walked outside and felt the refreshing breeze on my face. It had been a late Spring after a long Winter and the 70 degree day felt like a blessing from above. I strolled contentedly around the parked cars and noticed a small patch of dandelions growing out of a crack in the concrete. As I looked down at them a single white butterfly floated down and landed on them. Butterflies had for years held a special place in my heart. They remind me always of my late mother and her love for me. I smiled when I saw this one and felt in my heart a peace and joy that I hadnít felt in a long time. I realized then that while the mechanics were preforming a few minor repairs on my car, God was preforming a few minor repairs on my soul.

Life is too short to allow fear, fret, and worry to rule our days. God put us here to love each other and God reminds us of this in countless ways everyday. My ďnewĒ car is running fine now and I am doing my best to keep my soul doing the same. May you always keep your own soul open to whatever minor repairs God sends your way. ---------------


Today I awoke to the sound of my heater kicking on, warming my home on this cold Spring morning. Today when I bent down to put a lease on my dog for his walk he nuzzled his head up against my leg to be petted. Today when I walked outside I saw the sun rising above the trees and bathing the world in its golden light. Today my oldest son walked up to me with a cheerful ďGood morning, Dad!Ē and gave me a hug. Today my youngest son started his day as he usually does with a big smile and a bigger laugh. Today my breakfast of warm oatmeal and hot coffee made my belly feel full and my insides feel toasty. Today as I was doing my morning exercises I realized that I hadnít thanked God for any of these things that had happened this morning. I quickly remedied that situation and suddenly felt the powerful love of God filling my heart and expanding my soul. I thanked God again for His glorious love and promised to love too with all of my heart.

The truth is that I have spent far too much of my life here focused on the wrong list. I am talking about my wish list. It is the list I wanted to achieve for my life to be the way I wanted it to be. It led to anger, frustration, jealousy, and guilt. It made me constantly compare my life to some ideal and not enjoy the life I had been given. These days I am trying more and more to live from the right list, the thankfulness list. I am accepting life as it is and seeing the countless, loving, blessings that our Heavenly Father gives us each day. It is leading me to more joy, peace, kindness, and love than I have ever known. It is helping me live the life I was meant to live.

It is fine to work to achieve your wishes in this life, but donít forget to count and cherish your blessings as well. God loves us so much and He wants us to be happy and grateful in our lives here. May we all turn our lives into one big Thank-You then. May we all live with love and joy.----------------


Epiphanies often come to us at the strangest times and wisdom often awakens in us in the most unusual places. It was a late Friday afternoon and my family and I were at the grocery store. We usually shop on Saturdays but the early Spring weather forecast had predicted a Winter snowstorm. Thus, here we were grabbing groceries in time to beat the storm. Unfortunately everyone else in town had the same idea. The store was both crazy and crowded. Everywhere I turned shopping carts were blocking my path. The more I tried to maneuver the less progress I seemed to make. We were stuck and stressed and it looked like we werenít getting out of the store anytime soon.

It was at this point that somewhere deep in my heart I heard a voice speaking to me. ďWhy are you rushing?Ē, it said. ďRelax and enjoy this moment. Look around and see who you are with.Ē Thankfully, I listened to it. I opened my eyes, cleared my mind, and relaxed my heart. I let go of my stress and smiled. It was then that I saw something very beautiful: my family. I wasnít just seeing my own children either. Everyone in the store was my family. The old lady pushing her cart was my sister. The little girl grabbing for her favorite cereal was my daughter. The big guy with the bushy beard was my brother. I didnít know the names of any of them but at that moment we were all one. We were Children of God on a wonderful journey of learning and love. I wasnít at the store. I was at the family reunion. I slowed to a stroll then and spent my time sharing smiles, kind words, and friendly laughter with my family.

Our Heavenly Father loves us so much. He created us to love each other as well. He created us to be one family here on Earth. May we always live then as brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, fathers and mothers. May we always live as one. ----------------


After I graduated college I struggled to find work. I applied everywhere but no one was interested in hiring me. Finally I was able to find a job in a group home for mentally disabled adults. It wasnít easy work. We were responsible for the feeding, dressing, hygiene, and safety of our clients. We had to keep them on a schedule, take them to their supported jobs, and help them to control their behaviors when they acted out. It was a difficult job emotionally and I really wasnít ready for it. The truth be told I didnít look forward to going to work each day.

One of our clients in particular was a young man who couldnít talk and would often act out when frustrated. He did enjoy walking outside, however, so the other workers would often have me take him for a stroll up the road to calm him down. One day when we were out walking I suddenly felt something touch my fingers. The young man was trying to hold my hand. Instead of pushing it away I took his hand in mine and we walked along together in the sunshine. Then as we turned to head back to the home I saw it. There was a light shining in his eyes. It was full of love. It was full of joy. It was full of goodness. In that moment I saw past his troubling behaviors and his handicapped mind. In that moment I saw the angelic spirit that lay within him. In that moment I saw who he really was.

Little did I know that God would use that experience to help prepare me for my own two sonís Autism. It would help me to see the light that lay within them as well. It would help me to learn that caring for them was not a duty but an honor. It would help me to realize that they were to be my greatest teachers in how to live and how to love.

The handicapped can teach us so much in this life. They can show us the divinity that lies within each of us. They can show us that the only way to make sure that laughter, love, and joy live on our planet is to put them there ourselves. They can show us that light, love, and kindness are the essential parts of our being. Donít ignore the lessons they teach. Embrace them with love. And always remember that every child of God is precious and holy.---------------


When I was a young boy my favorite toy was a BB gun. It was shaped like an old fashioned Winchester lever action rifle. When I had it in my hands I suddenly became all the heros of the Western movies that I watched. I was John Wayne riding to the rescue, fighting off train robbers along the empty train tracks that ran next to our yard. Occasionally I would shoot BBís for target practice but most of the time I just pretended to be a cowboy with it.

One day I walked into the house carrying my gun in my hand. I was imitating a John Wayne movie where he swung the rifle by its lever and shot it with one hand. As I did so, however, I heard a pop. I hadnít totally cleaned the BBís out of the gun when I was shooting it the day before. I watched in terror as the BB parted the hair of my Dad who was snoozing on the couch. A half an inch lower and it would have shot him in the head. My Dad woke up instantly and saw what happened. With a lot of anger and cursing he grabbed my BB gun, walked out to the railroad tracks and smashed it on the rails. I wouldnít have another BB gun for a long time after that and when I did I refused to put BBís in it.

What bothered me the most, though, was seeing the anger in my Dadís eyes. I hid in my room for the rest of the day not wanting to face him. I was afraid he didnít love me anymore. At dinnertime he finally walked into the room and put his hand on my head. ďItís ok, JoeyĒ, he said. ďI forgive you. Now come and eat.Ē I felt so relieved and joyful at that moment. I felt safe, happy, and loved once again.

In the years that followed I would disappoint my Dad more than once. I would also disappoint my Heavenly Father time and time again. I was a slow learner and suffered the consequences of my own actions. I hurt myself and others. I cried and struggled and grieved. Yet, through it all I always felt loved. No matter how many times I messed up I knew that God loved me and forgave me. I knew too that He was helping me to become better, kinder, and more loving. I just had to do my part.

God loves us all so much. His love is unconditional. He forgives our mistakes, failures, and bad choices. He guides us along the path of love and helps us to become the people we were meant to be. He helps us to find the light and love that lies deep within our own souls. Whatever you go through in this life then remember, you are loved! Remember, you can love! Remember, YOU ARE LOVE! -----------------


On a cold, snowy day in March my cat, Dixie died. I walked into the bathroom to find her lying motionless. I stroked her head, and gently held her in my arms. Then I carried her to the woods behind my house to bury her. I tried not to cry as I walked. She had lived sixteen years, after all. I knew her health was fading too. Always a skinny cat she had been eating less and less lately until I could feel her bones through her gray fur when I petted her. Still, the tears fell.

Dixie like most cats was quite a personality. She enjoyed napping in the sunshine on top of my desk by the window and after I would make dinner I would often find her sneaking a snooze on the still warm kitchen stove. She loved attention but only on her own terms. She didnít like to be picked up but would climb on my chest when I was in bed, curl into a ball, and fall asleep. She would walk off if I tried to pet her but would later curl into the crook of my arm and purr while I read in the evenings. She would never meow unless she could get food out of it and sometimes she would sneak in like a panther on the prowl and steal the food right off our plates. She disliked our house full of dogs and spent her time either irritating them or hiding from them. Yet, she will always have her own special place in my heart and I know I am going to miss her.

I have lost so many dogs and cats in my half-century of living. It is one of lifeís cruel ironies that we get to live so many years and they get to live so few. In spite of the loss, hurt, heart-break and tears, however, I couldnít imagine myself living without them. They have taught me again and again that you have to live this life with an open heart. You have to love and keep loving even when it hurts and even when you lose the ones you love. You have to know that the love and joy are worth the pain. That may be one of the greatest lessons that God has for us to learn here. I am just glad He gave us dogs and cats to help us learn it. Keep loving then, always!---------------


It was a beautiful morning. I was still asleep in my bed when the rising sun sneaked through my curtains and tapped me on my eyelids. I quickly woke up and walked into my living room. My cat was sitting on top of my desk soaking in the sun that shone through the widow. I smiled at her as I leashed up my dogs and headed outside. I took my time walking them too. It was cold and frost was on the grass, but I didnít mind. After weeks of overcast skies I delighted in the light. I watched as the pink and purple clouds slowly turned a brilliant gold. Then I smiled up at the sky and thanked God for the beautiful morning and for another day here on Earth.

Later in the day I was grabbing a few odds and ends at the local grocery store. I was exchanging pleasantries with the cashier when I heard a giggle behind me. I turned and saw a little girl holding her Momís hand. She looked up at me and said: ďYou sing when you talk.Ē Her Mom looked embarrassed and apologized, but I just smiled at the little girl and laughed along with her. It was only then that I realized that I had been feeling so fine on this glorious day that my voice had even changed. It had become so light and airy that my ďGood morningĒ, ďThank youĒ, and ďHave a great dayĒ had taken on a song like quality. Instead of feeling embarrassed by it, though, I felt even better. It was so wonderful knowing that I had been singing when I talked and that I had made that little girl giggle with joy.

Henry Ward Beecher once wrote: ďThe sun does not shine for a few trees or flowers, but for the wide worldís joy.Ē May the same be true for all of us. May we all share our love not just with those around us but with everyone we meet. May we all shine our light not just in our own homes but for the whole, wide world. May we all give our joy to God, ourselves, and everyone else. And if a bit of song should sneak into our voices when we do then all the better.---------------


I got a lovely gift in the mail last week. It was a pair of framed pictures. Both were high resolution photographs of birds. They were so beautiful. One in particular caught my eye. It was of a hummingbird frozen in mid-flight. It was flying upside down with its tail feathers held up to hold it steady while its little wings beat. Its long, needle nose was reaching deep into a drooping flower to feast on its sweet nectar. It looked so small, yet so full of life.

I have always loved hummingbirds ever since I was a little boy. I would eagerly wait for Spring and Summer to arrive so I could watch them. I was amazed by their aerial acrobatics. I would gaze at them for hours as they zoomed in and out of flowers and fought for places at the bird feeders we would set out for them. They seemed to defy the laws of nature with how fast their wings would beat, how they could hover in midair around a blossom, how they could fly sideways, backwards, and even upside down. They were a true miracle to behold and every time I looked at them I would smile. They were a wonderful reminder of the complexity of Godís creation and the power of Godís love.

Albert Einstein once said that ďThere are only two ways to live your life, as though nothing is a miracle or as though everything is a miracle.Ē I will always choose the latter. I will always see the miracle that is life: be it the rising sun, the roar of the ocean, the cry of a newborn baby, or the sight of a hummingbird in flight.

Always remember that life is a miracle and always remember that you can be a miracle too. You can be a miracle of love. You can be a miracle of kindness. You can be a miracle in the life of another. You can be Godís miracle in this world. Be the miracle then. Let your soul fly through this life and into the next.--------------


I have a little clock on the bottom right hand side of my computer screen that always tells me what time it is. I also have a clock hanging on my wall. I have two alarm clocks in my bedroom. I have a clock in my car. Every time I look at my cell phone or house phone too, there is the time looking up at me. But the older I get the less I find myself paying attention to any of them. I stopped wearing a watch years ago and donít miss it at all. These days I try to live my life as timelessly as possible; which isnít easy in our modern society. Yet, it has made such a major difference for me. It has allowed me to embrace each moment as it comes. I know too that whatever it says on that clock on the wall, it is always Now.

It took me a long time to realize this and I still forget it from time to time. Now that I have passed the half century mark in my own life, however, I have started to cherish each day and every second that God gives me on this Earth. I know that I will never have time to do all that I want to do but at least I can live today in love. Today I can spend my morning in prayer. Today I can look at the sun shining in the sky and feel its warmth on my face. Today I can give my sons and daughter a hug. Today I can play fetch with my dog and revel in his delight. Today I can laugh at a good joke and share a warm smile. Today I can quietly commit an unseen act of kindness. Today I can write a few words that will touch a few hearts.

There is an old Hindu saying that goes: ďYesterday is but a dream and tomorrow only a vision; but today well lived makes every yesterday a dream of happiness, and every tomorrow a vision of hope.Ē Make sure your today is well lived then. Make sure your Now is filled with love and joy. If you do this your past will be beautiful, your future will be wonderful, and your eternity will be spent in Godís loving arms. ---------------


It had been a long winter. Bitter cold, snowy days had hit us again and again. On the warmer days there had been little sunshine only cold, icy rain. The sun had become such a rare sight that I had taken to looking at a picture of it on my wall calendar to remember what it looked like. The grass had remained brown and dormant in the meadows. The deer had come out of the woods and started digging through the fallen leaves in our yards looking for what acorns they could find. My own backyard had turned into a muddy mess that tried to steal the shoes right off my feet as I walked on it. My heart ached and longed for Spring and my own good cheer had trouble rising up against the continuous, cold, gray days.

The rain poured down on me as I walked my dogs, holding their leashes in my icy fingers. I looked up at the sky hoping to see the sun smiling down with its warm, golden face. But it was no use. The sky was as overcast as ever and Spring still seemed an eternity away. It was then, however, that I saw it. It wasnít the smiling face of the sun in the sky but a little, yellow face peeking through the mud. It was a dandelion, the first of the year and it filled my heart with hope and joy. I smiled and thanked God for this little sign that Winter would soon be over and that Spring would arrive bringing life to this world once again. I felt my good cheer rising up at last and I promised God that I would share it with everyone I could.

One day that tiny dandelionís seeds will fill the meadow with little, yellow faces smiling up from the ground. Its work will make this world a better and more beautiful place. May we all do the same. May we all shine our light and share our love even on the coldest and grayest days. May we all help God to share a bit of Spring in the midst of Winter. May we all work to make this world better and brighter even when it is at its darkest.---------------


When I was young I was great at math. I had started playing cards with my Mom, Dad, Nana, and brothers when I was only four years old. All of those pleasant evenings at the kitchen table playing ďKnockĒ and ďRummyĒ had made me very good at addition and subtraction. It gave me a head start over the other first graders. I was soon at the top of my math class and I stayed there until high school when a thing known as Algebra both kicked my butt and befuddled my mind.

After I was grown up, however, I was introduced to an even more complicated form of math: ďGodís MathĒ. It was quite different from any math I had ever known and I had a terrible time learning it. It was based on the truth that ďIt is in giving that we receive.Ē

I am sorry to say that I fought learning this for a long time. I hoarded my money and spent it only on my family and myself. I never gave a dime to charity and ended up feeling poor, miserable, isolated and alone. This finally changed one day at the local grocery store. There was a box there for donations to the local food pantry. I had already bought my familyís weekly groceries and was about to check out when something stirred in me. I picked up another big bag of rice and put it in my cart. As I was walking out the door I quietly dropped it in the food pantry box. I left the store feeling like the richest person in the world. I felt joyous, connected, at one with God and everyone else. My wallet was a little lighter but my heart so much fuller. It was the beginning of a wonderful journey of learning about love and giving that goes on to this day.

If you want to truly live your life here you have to do Godís math. You canít live just for yourself. You have to give of yourself. You canít just love yourself. You have to love others as yourself. Give from your heart then. Give your goods. Give your talents. Live your life with love. If you do then you will receive so much more from life and from God.---------------


It was Groundhog Day and the furry rodent had just predicted 6 more weeks of Winter. A winter storm had hit overnight too. I tried to open my backdoor only to find six inches of wet, heavy snow piled up against it. I knew I had quite a job of shoveling out ahead of me, so I reached over to grab my snow shovel. It looked a lot more ready to work than I did. I sighed and pulled on my boots, gloves, and heavy coat.

The wind chill was below zero and cut into my face as I slowly shoveled off my deck. After that I started my way over to my daughterís house shoveling the path as I walked. It took awhile to get her driveway clear and I knew I still had a lot to do. Next came the paths down the hill to my own cars covered in snow. I had grabbed the broom to sweep them off as well. I winced when the breeze blew the swept snow back into my face. Then I started to shovel out my driveways. My back was aching as I worked. I wished I could be building a snowman instead of shoveling. Winter sure had seemed a lot more fun when I was a boy.

When I was done I examined my work. It didnít look half bad. I smiled and looked at the woods covered in white. They were such a special sight. I leaned on my shovel and took it all in. Then I thanked God for the beauty of the day and started up the hill with the snow shovel in one hand and the broom in the other. Suddenly, an urge came over me and I dropped them both. I spread my arms, fell back into the blanket of white and happily moved my arms and legs to make an angel in the snow.

As you go through the seasons of this life take joy in your work. Take joy in your play. Take joy in your life. Remember that the course of your days rests in your own hands. And always know in your heart that God loves you through the snowstorms as well as in the sunshine.---------------


Aside from socks and underwear at Christmas and an occasional new pair of sneakers, I never got any new clothes as a child. What I got were hand-me-downs. My coats, jackets, shirts, sweaters, pants, and even belts were all clothes that my older brothers had out grown and then been given to me. My clothes were often torn, sewed, and patched. They were never ďin style.Ē I didnít resent having to wear them, though. We werenít rich and new clothes were a luxury not a necessity. That is just the way it was. Most of my friends in school were dressed in hand-me- downs as well.

Even today I often shop at thrift stores and rarely buy new what I can find used. It is just who I am. I happily reject the march of materialism that so many others follow and find my true treasures not in money but in people, not in stuff but in ideas, not in things from the stores but in feelings from the heart.

Looking back too I realize that clothes werenít the only thing my Mom, Dad, and Nana handed down to me. They also handed down a deep compassion for other people and a desire to help them. They handed down a respect for this world and a delight in all living things be they flowers, plants, birds, or bugs. They handed down a sense of justice and fair play. They handed down a sense of pride in hard work and a job well done. They handed down a thirst for knowledge and wisdom. They handed down their kindness, good cheer, and happiness in doing good for others. They handed down a faith in God, awe for His creation, and joy in His love for us. Most of all they handed down their love. They loved me and instilled in me a love for God, myself, others, and life. They also instilled in me a desire to share all of these things with my own children and with everyone else.

What are you going to hand down in this life? What are you going to pass on to others? What are you going to share with the world? Whatever your hand-me-downs are give them with love. Make them gifts from the heart that touch the hearts of those around you. Make them treasures from your soul that others will treasure as well.----------------


I had abruptly run out of printer ink just when I needed it, so I found myself making the long drive to the only store around here that sells it. It was the worst possible time to shop. The store was packed with people and the wait at the checkout counter was long. I could see the stress and frustration on the faces of the people around me. It was no better in the parking lot and I found myself in the middle of a long line of cars waiting to pull out on the highway.

As my car was inching forward I saw her. She was a young, thin woman with black skin and a tattered coat. She was holding up a cardboard sign that read: ďHomeless. Please Help!Ē I watched as car after car drove past her while their drivers averted their eyes. As I came closer my better angels whispered in my ear and I quickly grabbed my wallet and pulled out the little cash I had left. I stopped next to her, rolled down my window, and quickly put it in her hand. She looked at me with a small, sad smile and whispered ďThank YouĒ before the honking of the car behind me forced me to drive on.

I drove away saying a prayer for her and hoping that I had helped her even a little. Did my small act of kindness make a difference for her? I donít know. Did it change the opinion of the driver behind me? Probably not. Was it important in the eyes of Heaven? Definitely So! In this life we all want to make great changes and do great things, but sometimes a small kindness is all God asks of us. Sometimes a small kindness is all we can do. Sometimes a small kindness is enough.

Robert Fulghum once wrote: ďMaybe being a bleeding heart is always better than having no heart at all.Ē Let your heart guide you then. Fill your days with small kindnesses. Fill your life with love. And know there is always a home waiting for you: in Heaven.-----------------


It was a cold, dark Winterís night during my freshman year of college. I was at the local pub drinking steadily with my friends. My body was starting to feel it too. My brain was numb and fuzzy. My vision was getting a bit blurry. My fingers were tingling and my stomach was churning. I felt like I could throw up at any second. Not wanting to embarrass myself in front of my friends I said I was heading back to the dorm and walked out of the bar.

I stumbled my way across the road and took a side street through town to the intersection. The worst part of my journey lay ahead, though. Our campus was in the mountains of West Virginia and the dorm I lived in was built at the top of a long, steep hill. I looked up warily at it and started to walk up the sidewalk. Suddenly, I was face down in the snow. The sidewalk was covered in ice. I had caught myself with my hands, spraining both wrists but keeping my head from cracking into the concrete. I got up again took two more steps and was down again. This time my knee took the worst of it and started bleeding through my blue jeans. I could see some students near the top of the hill laughing at me as they watched me fall again and again. The steepest part of the hill was still ahead too and I didnít know how I was going to get up it without seriously hurting myself. Then, all at once, my steps seemed to get steadier. The ice was still underfoot and I was still terribly drunk, but I was no longer falling. Slowly, step by step I made it to the top of the hill safely. I decided to give up drinking soon after that and have never missed it since.

It is only now, however, that I see that I must have had some unseen help to make it up that icy sidewalk on that cold, Winterís night. Even though I didnít ask for it, God and His angels kept me safe that night just as they have kept me safe many times since then.

I know this life can often seem like a long, icy hill that we must climb and stumble our way up. Yet, it is good to know that we donít walk it alone. God loves us and is with us every step of the way whether we realize it or not. Why not reach out and take His hand? Why not walk with Him with love in your heart and joy in your step? Why not bend down and help up a few others who have fallen along the way? If you do you might find the hill isnít quite so steep. If you do you might even find yourself dancing instead of slipping.--------------


Enlightenment is a curious thing. It comes in unexpected moments. It comes in all shapes and sizes. I received a moment of enlightenment just recently from the mouth of a babe. I was heading into the local post office to mail out a few checks to pay a few bills. I saw a young woman who had gone to school with my oldest son. On her hip was her little daughter who was no more than three years old. After talking for a few minutes she shared a story of her high school days with my son and we both smiled. Just then her little girl pointed up to the heavy folds of wrinkles around my eyes. ďWhat are those?Ē, she asked. I smiled again and said they were laugh lines. She looked at me for a second and then said, ďYou must laugh a lot!Ē

On my way home that funny, enlightening moment stayed in my mind. ďYesĒ, I thought to myself. ďI have laughed a lot over the years. I have smiled a lot too. I have been blessed. I have been happy more often than not. And if my heavy wrinkles are a sign of that, then it is a sign I am pleased to share with everyone I meet.Ē

Our laughter, love, and smiles donít just produce wrinkles in our skin either. They also help our hearts. They also line up our lives. They also carve out the shape of our souls. Every act of kindness, every act of sharing, every act of caring ripples out to touch the lives of countless others. Every moment that we love each other here on earth shines so brightly that it is seen in Heaven. Every smile we share makes God smile as well.

Learn to love your laugh lines then. Learn to embrace your wrinkles with joy. The next time you look in the mirror: touch, smile and admire them. They are a sign that you have laughed a lot. They are a sign that you have loved a lot. They are a sign that you have lived a lot. They are a sign that you are being the person God meant for you to be.------------


When I was a boy growing up I never looked forward to January. It was a time of short, gray days and long, dark nights. The bitter wind here in the mountains made waiting outside for the school bus very painful. The windows were covered in frost, the sidewalks were slick with ice and the water pipes to the house would freeze at times. Even the floors were cold when I got up in the morning. The Christmas decorations had long since been taken down and the tree thrown away. The holidays were over and now it was just Winter.

Over the years, though, I began to find that Winter had its own unique set of joys. Snow days off from school were a pure pleasure with sled riding, making snowmen, and snowball fights with my brothers. The winter sunrise was a sight to behold. Its beauty made my heart warm on the coldest days. The woods seemed to take on a special beauty when they were covered in snow. They sparkled like crystal on the quiet mornings. Thick socks and warm sweaters were a delight. I would pull them on and then sit in my chair by our stove to read books on the dark Winter eves. Warm meals around the table seemed to hold an extra happiness in the Winter months. They made our bellies full and our hearts fuller. Watching Cardinals at the bird feeder with my Mom always made us both smile. They were a special reminder to her of Godís love during those bleak Winter months. And the sunshine after a snowfall made the whole world glow with light. It was almost like a hint of what Heaven must look like.

The seasons of our lives here all have their own unique joys. It is just up to us to find them. It is just up to us to create them. Let God keep your heart warm even on the coldest, darkest days then. Fill your life with the sunshine of kindness and joy. And let your love fly like a Cardinal ,from heart to heart, during the Winter as well as in the Springtime.---------------


When I was a young man I had a lot of ego and very little empathy. I thought I knew everything. I looked forward to fame and success. I can even remember once in college arrogantly telling one of my friends: ďIf only everyone listened to me then they would all be happy.Ē I finally left school ready to take on the world. Little did I know the world was about to take on me.

In the years following college instead of success I found struggles. I had trouble finding work. The jobs I did work at were either temporary or back-breaking and none of them paid well. When my wife and I had children we were shocked to learn that not one but both of our sons had Autism and would need to be taken care of for the rest of their lives. I had no idea why this had happened to us and I was very angry at God.

In time, however, I began to change. My formally massive ego was shrinking fast and my empathy was beginning to grow. Instead of success, I found my joy in moments of love. Playing and laughing with my sons brought me so much happiness. My boys taught me more about peace, patience, kindness, joy, and unconditional love than I could have ever learned on my own. I began to share the lessons I learned through my writings and my life. I finally realized too that my purpose in this world had nothing to do with fame or success and everything to do with allowing Godís love and light into my life and sharing it with everyone I could.

Always remember that moments of love become days of love and days of love become years of love. You may not be happy 100% of the time. No one can be in this world. Yet, in Godís love you will find a joy no earthly success could ever give. Put all of your moments, days, and years to good use then. Live them with love.---------------


It was the middle of December several years ago. I had some old Christmas records playing. A light snow was falling outside but I didnít mind. I was getting ready to head to my daughterís college to bring her home for the holidays.

The weather forecast had only called for light flurries and I was an experienced driver in snow so I wasnít worried as me and my two sons put on our coats and walked down to the car. As we got out on the road, however, I realized that the weather forecast had been wrong. The light flurries had turned into heavy snow squalls falling fast and covering the roads. The snow plows were rapidly falling behind and I knew at once that it wasnít going to be an easy drive.

It was a 3 hour round trip to my daughterís college, but I knew it was going to be a lot longer today as I slowed my car to match the slickness of the roads. The narrow mountain road I usually took as a short cut hadnít been plowed at all so I stayed on the main roadways knowing it would add another hour to my trip. Once I was on the interstate, though, conditions only worsened. I slowed down further but four wheel drive trucks sped past me throwing huge showers of slush onto my windshield. I slowed my breathing and tried not to grip the steering wheel too hard. During the last 20 miles the road switched back to two lanes and I suddenly found myself behind a very inexperienced Winter driver. Instead of driving slow and adjusting when he hit a slick spot he was braking hard and swerving all over the road. I braked hard myself to keep from hitting him and slid off the asphalt into a ditch.

I tried pulling out again and again but could only hear spinning tires. I was half-way out in the road and a truck zoomed by us missing the car by inches. I looked at my two sons with my heart pounding in my chest and prayed: ďGod, I really need your help right now!Ē I tried to pull out again and miraculously the car stared to move. It felt as if it was almost being pushed out of the ditch. I pulled back on the road and said: ďThank you God!Ē

By the time I reached the college the sun was out and the plows were beginning to get the roads clear again. I picked up my daughter and slowly headed home. When we arrived the dogs greeted us happily at the door and I could see the Christmas tree lights blinking brightly. It felt so good to be safe and home again. I could feel Godís love all around me and within me as well.

In his book, ďThe Story of the Other Wise ManĒ author Henry Van Dyke wrote: ďHe who walks in love may wander far, Yet God will bring him where the blessed are.Ē Wherever you go then and however dangerous your journeys may be always remember that you are watched over by God with a love more powerful and more beautiful than you can ever imagine. ---------------


I was looking at some photo albums today. That is where us old folks used to store our pictures before smart phones were invented. Anyway as I was going through them I found a worn and dusty one at the bottom of a pile and opened it gently. As I slowly turned the pages I suddenly saw a picture of my beautiful daughter, Beth that instantly grabbed my heart and transported me back in time.

It was 25 years ago. We were in a community center of an old coal town. The little children were all waiting for Santa to arrive. My daughter was only two and a half years old and this was her first time meeting Saint Nick. Most of the other young children seemed scared and uncertain when he first walked into the room but my daughterís eyes lit up. She clapped her hands and laughed. She jumped up and down. She sparkled with happiness. Maybe it was that she was used to beards because one of her grandpas had one. Maybe it was that it was her uncle under the red, Santa suit. Whatever the reason at just that instant we took the picture and forever captured that moment of simple joy, sweet innocence, and fearless love.

Whenever the problems and hassles of the holidays start to bother me I think back to that moment with my baby daughter and remember again the spirit of the season. It is that fearless love that another baby in a manger so long ago came here to teach us. It is that fearless love that we can carry in our hearts not only at Christmas but all the year long. It is that fearless love that can still save this world and make it into the paradise it was always meant to be.

May your heart always be free of fear and full of love. May you share the light in your soul with everyone you meet. And may you make the rest of your life here a Christmas celebration of caring, sharing, giving, and loving.--------------


It was many years ago. I was a college graduate with a degree but no job. My substitute teaching work had dried up and I was getting desperate. I had a family to feed and little money left. Fortunately, my oldest brother had been able to get me a job at the local lumber mill where he worked. While I was grateful, my first day there was quite a blow to my ego. The job paid barely above minimum wage. The work was hard and back breaking. It was full of bending, lifting, and carrying heavy wood for eight hours a day. Splinters were soon my best pals and every day I went home aching and exhausted.

When Winter arrived my gloves tore and my fingers split and bled in the cold air. I found myself using more band aids and duct tape than I ever thought I would just to keep my hands working. The turn over rate at the mill became so high that at the end of two years only four other people had worked there longer than I had. Every morning I would pull myself out of bed and go to work knowing it was going to be another difficult day. I tried my best to keep my spirits up but many times during those years I found myself saying, ďWhy me, God? Why am I having to go through this? Why has my life not turned out the way I dreamed it would?Ē I never got an answer.

It is only now many years later that I have a hint of why I had to go through those tough times. I think maybe in a way I needed them. I needed them to shrink my ego and grow my humility. I needed them to deepen my faith in God and learn to trust in His guidance. I needed them to become more caring, compassionate, and loving. I needed them to learn that every person in this world is my sister or brother and that they all deserve my help and kindness.

I think that it is the ďWhy Me?Ē times of our lives in which we grow the most. It is these times that bring us closest to God. It is these times that mature and refine our souls. If you are going through some ďWhy Me?Ē times then donít give up. Use them to become stronger. Use them to become better. Use them to become kinder and more loving. Use them to grow into the person you were meant to be in this life, so you can take that person with you into the next. ---------------


Ever since I was a boy I have loved and collected Native American stories and myths. Their wisdom and love of nature have always spoken to my soul. The one that sticks out most in my mind, though, is the story of the two wolves.

One night a wise Cherokee elder sat his grandson around a campfire and told him about the battle that goes on inside of all people. He said, ďMy child, the battle is between two Ďwolvesí that live inside us all. One is fear, anger, hatred, jealousy, self-pity, resentment, and unhappiness. The other is love, laughter, joy, hope, peace, kindness, and happiness.Ē The grandson thought on this for a long time and then asked his grandfather which wolf would win. The elder simply said, ďThe one you feed.Ē

I think that most of the problems in this world come from the fact that far too many of us, far too often, feed the wrong wolf. We let our fears lead us. We react with anger. We hate those who are different than us. We allow our jealousy, judgment, and resentment to rule our lives. We do so many things to create unhappiness in our hearts when all we really want is to be happy.

We donít have to feed the wrong wolf, however. We can choose love. We can select joy. We can laugh often and well. We can smile and sing. We can pray and have peace. We can fill our thoughts with happiness. We can fill our lives with kindness. We can welcome Godís love and light into our hearts and souls and then share it with everyone, everywhere.

Which wolf are you going to feed today? Which life are you going to live? Fear and love are the two greatest forces in this world. Yet, only one will bring you joy. Only one will bring you back to God. Only one will help bring Heaven here to Earth.---------------


I was walking my dogs on a dreary, dismal day in November. A cold, misty rain was falling. The colorful leaves of the month before were now on the ground slowly rotting away. The trees looked like brown and gray skeletons in the woods. The grass in the meadow had gone yellow and dormant as well. There wasnít a butterfly or flower to be seen. Overhead the sky was a dozen shades of gray. Being light sensitive I was finding it hard to keep my energy or spirits up as I walked along. The weather forecast had said it might be days before we would see the sun again.

As I tramped along the wet grass, however, I suddenly saw a light. A tiny break in the clouds had appeared and a sunbeam had shot through to the earth right next to me. I walked my dogs over to it and let it fall gently on my face. It was so bright and beautiful. I stood still and let it wash over me. My face felt 10 degrees warmer and I could feel the fire in my own soul being rekindled. It was a wonderful reminder that the sun was still shining bright behind the clouds. It was a wonderful reminder that Godís love is always with us even on the darkest of days. The break in the clouds lasted only a minute more but the light I took in from it stayed with me for the rest of the day.

Sometimes we all need a little light to keep us going when the world seems dark. Sometimes we all need a little reminder of Godís love for us to keep us strong and shining bright. And sometimes we need to be that light ourselves.

The next time then that this world seems dim and gray be the light that makes it bright once again. Share your love, your warmth, and your smile. Give your goodness, your kindness, and your joy. Break through the clouds and let Godís light shine through you. ---------------


It is very quiet here as I write this. That wasnít the case for most of the afternoon. My daughter had brought her four dogs over to my house. This was in addition to my two. For a few hours then the house was full of noise. There was running, barking, growling, and general furry roughhousing. Toys were chased after, laps were leaped on, and faces were licked. Doggie treats were devoured, heads were petted, and bellies were rubbed. Now that they have throughly worn themselves out, all six dogs are napping peacefully and the cat has finally come out of hiding again.

I have had dogs as my companions for almost all of my life here. They have given me a devotion, loyalty, and friendship that no amount of money could ever buy. Of course, they have had their flaws too. Their breath hasnít always been the best. Nor has their body odors. They have gone to the bathroom on my floor and thrown up on my bed. They have woken me up far too early, far too often. Their sudden barking has made my ears ring and my heart rate jump. They have stolen my covers and slept on my pillows. They have covered my clothes and carpets in fur. They have chewed up my shoes and sometimes my furniture. And I have seen them eat things that I wonít dare describe here. Still, I have loved them all unconditionally. Why? Because they have all loved me unconditionally.

In this quiet moment with them all napping around me, I canít help but reflect too on what this world would be like if we all loved each other as unconditionally as our dogs love us. Would there be an end to war, hunger, hate, and fear? Would we try only to help each other and not hurt each other? Would we at last create the world that our Heavenly Father always wanted us to? I pray that one day with our dogsí help we will finally find out.---------------


ďHands on home keys. Eyes on book. Ready. Type.Ē It was 1980. I was a 14 year old high school freshman and I was struggling to type a letter on an electric typewriter without looking at the page. Most of the other people in the class were juniors and seniors. I had decided to take the class early to get out of taking a foreign language. I had enough trouble with English and learning French or Spanish seemed a lot scarier than learning to type. I was regretting my decision, though, as I struggled to touch type without looking at the keys. I didnít really see myself ever using a typewriter again after the term was over.

Fast forward 20 years. My wife and I had bought our first computer with a word processor program. I had been writing my stories by hand for a long time but decided I would try to type one out instead. Amazingly, my hands went automatically to the home keys and I began to write. Like riding a bike my body remembered after all of these years how to type. Soon I was not only writing stories on my computer but sending them out on the internet as well. Where once I had been able to touch hundreds of readers of our local paper now I was able to touch thousands of readers all over the world. It was such a blessing and I thanked God for it.

Now here is the question. What part of me knew all of those years ago that one day I would need to know how to type? I had no desire to be a writer at that time. I had nothing to share and nothing to write. Yet, somehow a part of my soul decided that I should take that typing class and learn a skill that I would need 20 years later.

It seems that even if we donít know what we will need in this life, God does. God sees our eternal past and future. God sees the interconnectedness of us all. God loves us and guides us and helps us to use our talents and love to help each other. All we need to do is trust Him. All we need to do is listen to the deepest parts of our souls.

Life is a long journey full of loving, learning, and helping. You never know what you will need along the way either. Trust in God then. Use every talent He gives you to make this world a better and more beautiful place. Use every choice He gives you to type out a life of love here.----------------


Beep! Beep! Beep! I rolled over in the dark room and turned off the alarm clock. I started to get up but my 51 year old back ached in protest. I sat up in bed and stretched it to no avail. It still hurt a lot. I wondered if I was going to need some aspirins to make it feel better today. I slowly stumbled into the bathroom to grab a drink of water. I turned on the light and saw a hurting, haggard face staring back at me from the mirror. It wasnít a pretty sight.

I pulled on my clothes and coat and started to untangle the dog leases on the kitchen table. Suddenly, two white paws thumped on the table beside me and a huge, furry head snuggled in against my chest. I gave my dog, Fluffy a hug and smiled. Then I noticed my oldest son walking down the hall already in a happy mood about the day to come. He too joined in the hug before I took Fluffy out for his morning walk. The grass was frosty but the heavens above had just started to change. The sky was full of pink and red clouds that seemed painted with our Heavenly Fatherís love. I looked at them for a long while and then said my favorite prayer: ďThank you God!Ē I noticed something too. My back was no longer hurting. Later when I looked in the mirror again to shave all I saw was a young, loving soul staring back at me.

Jeanne Moreau wrote: ďAge doesnít protect you from love. But love, to some extent, protects you from age.Ē No matter how old, aching, stooped, gray, or wrinkled your body gets then always keep your love burning bright. Love God. Love yourself. And love everyone else. Love animals. Love music. Love this world we live in. Love life itself. If you do then no matter how old your body seems to be, you will always be young. You will be young where it counts. You will be young in your heart. You will be young in your soul. You will be young in your life. You will be the eternal Child of God you were meant to be.---------------


It is an old memory. It may even be a dream. The older I get the more the two seem to merge together at times. I was a little boy and I was falling backwards. I wasnít afraid, however. In fact, I felt thrilled and safe at the same time. It was like I knew I couldnít be hurt. Suddenly, my back made contact with something soft but crunchy as well. I was falling into a huge pile of freshly fallen leaves. They were dry and had the wonderful smell of Autumn about them. I fell further and further into the pile as the leaves flowed over my face and body. When I finally stopped all I could see was a few pinpoints of sunlight shining through my leafy covering. I smiled and started to half climb and half swim my way out of the pile. I could hear other kids around me yelling and laughing in the warm sunshine. They were dancing in the leaves, crunching them underfoot, and burying each other under them. When I finally got out of the pile I joined in. Then I looked up and saw the last butterfly of the season circling around looking for a daisy or dandelion to land on. It was a such a glorious day in Fall that I wished it would last forever.

Of course that day didnít last forever and as I grew up I became more afraid of falling and failing. I became afraid of this world with its anger, competition, and hatred. I became afraid of not having enough to care for myself and my family. I became afraid of not knowing what trouble or problem would come next. I let that fear separate me from God too. I was no longer the trusting and happy boy who had played in the leaves.

It took me many years to regain that childís trust and wisdom and still be an adult. It came from learning time and again just how much God loves us here. It came from the realization that this life is only temporary and that the love, joy, and light that awaits us are eternal. It came from learning that the only thing that really matters in this life is the love and kindness that we share with each other.

I think that this Fall I may do a little playing in the leaves once again instead of just raking them up and throwing them away. This life, after all, is best lived in laughter, learning, love, and joy. This life is best lived with the trust and wisdom of a child. We are all Godís Children. We are all on a journey to Heaven. And there is no reason why we shouldnít dance in the leaves along the way.---------------


Someone online sold my mailing address so now instead of just getting letters from the few charities I can afford to support, I am also getting letters from a dozen other charities asking for my help. One of my more cynical friends spouted the old adage, ďNo good deed ever goes unpunished.Ē I just smiled and didnít argue knowing it wouldnít change his mind. My own mind, however, was remembering another moment from many years ago.

It was a windy, snowy day in December. I was a young Dad who had saved just enough cash to buy my children a few presents for Christmas. As I walked to the store I saw the Salvation Army kettle with a man ringing a bell standing beside it. Next to him was his daughter, a little girl no more than three feet tall, bundled up against the biting cold. I took a dollar bill out of my wallet and dropped it into the kettle. As the man was thanking me, though, I felt a pressure on my legs. I looked down and saw that the little girl was giving me her own thank you hug. I smiled down at her, bent down and hugged her back. Then I went inside feeling a warmth that no winter wind could ever take away.

Thinking back on that moment in time reminded me that no good deed ever goes unrewarded. We may not always get an instantaneous, heart-felt hug but in time every act of giving, every act of goodness, and every act of love that we make flows from heart to heart and soul to soul, around the world and back to us again.

No good deed is ever wasted. Every good deed brings a little bit of Heaven here to Earth. Donít let this sometimes cynical world get you down then. Donít let the problems and pains of life pull you from your purpose. Share your love today! Give from your heart. Fill your life with acts of kindness. Let Godís light shine through everything you say and everything you do. ---------------


It was late September. I was driving through a heavy fog to a store to pick up a few things. When I got there I strolled through the store looking for what I needed. I grabbed a bag of dog food for my dogs, a pack of batteries for my son, and a bite of chocolate for myself. As I turned the corner to head for the checkout register, though, I saw something that stopped me in my tracks. A two foot tall skeleton wearing a tuxedo was staring across the room at a two foot tall stuffed Santa Claus, I slowly shook my head and walked on.

As I was driving home the fog lifted and the loveliness of the Autumn leaves started to shine in the sunlight. There were reds, yellows, oranges, burgundies, and browns. It was so beautiful. It was as if God had hand painted each one, Himself. As I watched them I realized why I had been so bothered by what I had seen in the store. It wasnít that Halloween was a month away and Christmas 3 months away. It wasnít that the stores were doing all they could to take money from our pockets and add debt to our credit cards. It wasnít that all of these former ďholy daysĒ had been turned into ďholidays.Ē I had known all of these things for quite a while. It was the simple fact that we had forgotten that every day is holy. Every day is sacred. Every day is precious. We had created a world in which we regret the past, live for the future, and spend all of our wealth trying and failing to buy a few moments of joy here and there.

God doesnít want us to live months in advance. God wants us to Love, Today! God wants us to share our smile, our kindness, our warmth and our joy with each other. God wants us to love each person we are with, each day of our life. God wants us to live as if each day is holy because every day is holy. Ignore the Santas in the stores then. Share the love in your heart instead. Make your life your gift. And give that gift joyously to God and to everyone you meet.----------------


It was a long drive to the nursing home where my Grandmother was living, but at least twice a month I got into the car with my small children to make the trip to see her. We had already lost my Mom to cancer and I wanted them to be able to remember Nana. I wanted to be able to remember her as well, especially because she was beginning to forget me.

Nana had Alzheimerís disease. It was slowly starting to eat away at her memories. Sometimes she recognized us when we visited and sometimes she didnít. Most of the time she spent her days in bed, not wanting to be put in her wheelchair anymore to visit the living room or dining room.

On one visit we did coax her out of her room and wheeled her around to visit the nurses and go out into the garden. After I put her back to bed and kissed her good-bye I started to walk my kids back to the car when suddenly a tiny hand grabbed mine. ďJames!Ē, a happy voice said. I turned and saw a smiling, wrinkled face with snow white hair. Like my Nana she had Alzheimerís disease but was still able to walk and get around well. She had mistaken me for her son before. A nurse told me that he had died years ago. I held her hands and let her joyfully go on. Even though her eyes didnít know who I was, I could see the sparkle in them when she spoke to her son through me.

On the visits that followed I always made time to visit her as well as my Nana. I always got a smile and sometimes even a hug from her. The nurses told me that she was always calmer and happier after seeing her ďSonĒ.

Then one day I noticed that she wasnít there. I spoke to the nurses and they sadly told me that she had died a few days before from a stroke. I put my head down and went quietly into my Nanaís room.

Her loss didnít really hit me until I had gotten the kids back home. When it did I decided to go for a walk in the woods. I looked at the sky, wiped my wet eyes, and asked God to wrap her in His loving arms for all eternity. Then in a moment of clarity I realized something: for a while I really had been her son. In this world we are all family. In this world we are all connected by invisible strings of love. Even now many years later I thank God for letting me be there for her in the last days of her life.

Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote: ďYou cannot do a kindness too soon, for you never know how soon it will be too late.Ē Never pass up a moment to share your kindness and joy. Never pass up a second to share your love. Take every opportunity to give your goodness to others and to God. Live as if everyone in the world is your family. Because they are!---------------


When I was a young father and Autumn would spread her colorful carpet across the hills and mountains of my home, I would often load my kids into the car and embark on a Fall foliage tour. We would take the back roads and look at the leaves shining in the sunlight. There would be glittering golds, blazing reds, and outrageous oranges, sometimes all on the same tree. We would drive and stop and look and be in awe of the beauty of this world and the glory of Godís creation.

I remember one time driving a long way down a back road I was unfamiliar with. At one point I came to a crossroads. Down one lane the road was still paved and looked in good condition. The other road, however, was gravel and didnít look quite so good. Ignoring my better instincts I decided to take a chance and go down the gravel road. It didnít take long to realize that I had made a big mistake. The road was full of pot holes and rocks that dragged under my car. I almost got stuck in the mud once and the road seemed to worsen as I went along. Finally, I stopped the car and looked around. There was no going forward and no place to turn so I decided to put the car in reverse and drive a mile and a half backwards until I reached the safety of the crossroads again.

Sadly, that wasnít the only time in my life when I reached a crossroads and took the wrong way. I have done so more times than I can count. Thankfully, each time with Godís guidance I realized my mistake and put my life in reverse until I was on the right road again.

Herbert OíDriscoll once wrote: ďCrossroads call for choice, and the choices we make will change the pattern of our lives.Ē There is no shame, though, in changing your choice if you see you are on the wrong road. There is no guilt in reversing your life to make things right. God loves us, guides us, and forgives our mistakes. Choose wisely then. Let God guide your days. Make your choices with love. And correct your mistakes when you need too. Then all of your changes will lead you to joy and the pattern of your life will become as beautiful as a forest in the Fall.---------------


The first review I ever got for my writing happened in the middle of the night. I was a young adolescent going through the pains and trails of being a teenager. I knew too I had been a pain many times to both my Mom and my Dad. One day, however, I realized just how kind, loving, and supportive my parents had been to me during this time and in fact for my whole life. I was too shy to tell them how much I loved them and appreciated them, face to face, so earlier that evening I had poured my heart into a letter and placed it where I knew they would eventually find it. Then I went to bed.

Hours later my parents burst into my room, shook me awake, and hugged me. I was in shock. I didnít know what was going on until I saw the letter in my Momís hand. It was one of the few times I could ever remember seeing tears in my Dadís eyes. I didnít know what to say as I saw the love and joy in their faces. I just hugged them back and blinked my sleepy eyes as they held me. My simple note had touched them in ways that I couldnít then understand. All I knew was that it had made them happy and that was enough.

I still carry that memory in a special place in my heart. It reminds me again and again of the power of a single act of love. It reminds me again and again of how a kind word can heal a heart and change a life. No writing review I have ever gotten has meant as much as that first one did. It put me on a path that I am still traveling today. It showed me that in this life the only thing that truly matters is love.

In our last review we will all be asked the same question: ďDid you Love?Ē Start today to make sure that your answer to it is ďYes!Ē Love God. Love yourself. Love others. Make this world a better and brighter place with the love you share and the life you live.---------------


I was a young, substitute teacher trying to make American history exciting to a class of bored sixth graders. I was going over a list of things the founding fathers had done for our country. Going off the lesson plan I mentioned that today people can still give a lot to their country, community, and people around them. ďWhat do I have to give?Ē, asked a cynical voice from the back of the class. I looked over heads to the tired, sad face of the boy who had asked the question. Thankfully, God gave me just the right thing to say. I looked the boy straight in the eye, smiled and said: ďEverything!Ē

It was true too. Everything we have and everything we do can be a gift that we give to this world. Every smile we smile is a gift. Every kind word we say is a gift. Every hug and kiss we share is a gift. Every penny we give to the poor is a gift. Every action we take to help another is a gift. Every offering we make from the heart is a priceless gift in the eyes of God. In fact, our whole lives here can be a gift that we share.

There is something, however, that is even more important than the gifts we share in this life and that is how we give them. Any gift we give expecting something in return is worthless. Any gift we give only out a sense of duty or obligation is meaningless. In order for a gift to really be of worth it must be given in love. Only the gifts we give in love have value in the eyes of Heaven. Only the gifts that come from the heart can truly make this world a better place.

What do you have to give in this life? Everything! How should you give it? With Love! Open your heart then. Let your love flow through all the gifts that you give to others. Let your days here be a joyous celebration of sharing. Make your entire life here a gift of love to God, yourself, and the world. ---------------


It has been a rough time for my family this Summer. We went through weeks of stress and strain. New problems continually popped up that drained on our patience and taxed my meager savings. I worked harder than I had in a long time and didnít keep my good cheer nearly as much as I wanted to. I found myself praying and talking to God a lot, asking for us to just make it through this rough patch and get back to our normal lives.

Now that our lives are almost back to normal I find myself being much more thankful for the things I normally took for granted. In a sense my struggles opened my eyes to my blessings. Now I thank God for electric lights and dry clothes. I thank God for hot showers and clean dishes. I thank God for air conditioning on hot afternoons and heat on cold nights.

In addition, I have gained a heightened appreciation for all the blessings our Heavenly Father has given me in this life. I thank God every day for my wonderful children, for my dogs and cat, for living in these beautiful mountains with their colorful leaves and breath taking sunsets. I thank God for my daily bread and for always having just what I need. I thank God for the ability to share His love and light in my writings and in my life.

I have also learned something very important from this difficult Summer: a grateful soul helps you to create a happy life. When you open your eyes, your mind, your heart and your soul to the billions of blessings that our Heavenly Father gives us every single day then it is easy to be happy. It is easy to share your love. It is easy to find joy in this world and to bring joy to this world. A grateful soul awakens within you the knowledge of just how much God loves you. A grateful soul reminds you that you too are a Child of God, capable of doing so much good in this life. A grateful soul helps you to become the person you were always meant to be. ---------------


I was reading a book in my chair in the living room while my son watched an old comedy show on TV. Suddenly, I heard someone yell, ďGo to your happy place! Go to your happy place!Ē I looked up to see the television characters panicking while my son laughed at the silliness of it all. Hearing those words, however, made me put my book down and think of all the happy places I have had over the years.

When I was a little boy my happy place was sitting on my Momís lap while we shared a freshly made bowl of popcorn. When I was in elementary school my happy place was a tree in the woods where I could sit and watch the leaves go golden and red in the Fall. When I was a teenager my happy place was my bedroom where I could lay on my bed and listen for hours to my favorite songs on the radio. As a young man my happy place was an old rocking chair where I could hold my newborn babies in my arms and gently rock them to sleep.

As I got older, though, I realized that the very best happy place of all was deep down within my own soul. It was there that I realized just how much God loved me. It was there that I saw that I could love too. It was there that I learned that my happiness was in my own hands and that I could create it one loving choice at a time.

When you have your own soul as your happy place then your happy place is wherever you decide to go. When your happy place lives in your heart then you get to give it to everyone you meet. When your happy place is the very life you live then you make the world around you a happier place as well. Create your own happy place then. Fill your heart with love. Fill your soul with kindness. Fill your days with joy. Take this glorious gift of life God has given you and live it, one loving choice at a time.---------------


When I was in college I had big dreams. I was going to be a psychologist, then a teacher, then a world renown speaker, and then a best selling author. I couldnít make up my mind. Each dream seemed better than the last. Amongst them all, though, was my burning desire to make things better. In my young heart and naive mind I felt like I could change the world all by myself. And I couldnít wait to get out of college and get started.

Of course, God had other plans and I still had a lot of learning and growing to do. I never became a psychologist. I was only a teacher for a short while. I never went on a speaking tour. I wrote many things that touched many people over the years, but I was never a best selling author either. Instead, God let me be the father to three wonderful children. God let me be a friend to many people. God helped me to love and care and work and share. God helped me to shine His light and to brighten my own light as well.

I learned too that I didnít need to be famous or have a certain job to make things better. I saw that while I canít change the world all by myself, I can help to change my own small part of it. Most of all I realized that I didnít have to wait to get started changing this world. I saw that every single thing I did changed this world in some small way. I learned that these lives we live are far more interconnected than we could ever know and that God is guiding us all to do what we need to do here.

Anne Frank wrote, ďHow wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.Ē Why wait then? Start improving the world around you today. Share your love, laugher, and smile. Spread your joy and kindness. Make the world a little bit brighter by shining your light in it. Let God guide you in this life and into the next.--------------------


It had been raining on and off for three days straight. I was driving home trying to see through my windshield. My old pair of wipers werenít doing a very good job of clearing the water off the glass. I noticed that my fuel was getting low too and decided to pull into the local gas station to refill my tank. I pulled in behind an old car with a young mother filling it up. Her daughter was looking out the window at the falling rain.

All at once the little girl exclaimed, ďLook at the rainbow, Mommy!Ē Both her Mother and I craned our heads to the sky but there were only gray clouds overhead. ďNot there, Mommy. Here!Ē The little girl pointed to the pavement. There in a small puddle of leaked oil was the rainbow shining up at us. I smiled at the little girlís innocence and at her wisdom as well.

There have been many times in my own life when I wished I had eyes that saw as well as that little girlís did. I wished I had eyes that saw from the heart rather than the head. I wished I had eyes that saw the thousand times something good happened rather than the one time something bad did. I wished I had eyes that saw the million miracles of life that surround us everyday. I wished I had eyes that recognized the countless signs of Godís love that are all around us. I wished I had eyes that could see a rainbow in the road as well as the sky.

I think that those clear-seeing eyes still exist deep in the souls of all of us. We have just forgotten how to use them. With a little patience and a little practice, though, I think we could all learn to use them again. Open your eyes and your heart wide then. See the beauty of this world that surrounds you. See the love of God all around you. See the goodness within yourself and others. Then go out and share your sight and your love with the world.----------------


I love the story of the starfish on the beach. I have read it many times in several different forms over the years but I am always struck by its simple truth. One form of it goes like this: A man was walking down the beach one day when he saw a young boy coming towards him. Every few feet or so the boy would stop, bend down, and pick up a starfish. Then with a huge effort he would toss it back into the ocean. The man asked the boy why he was doing this. The boy said, ďThese starfish will die soon out in the heat of the sun. I am tossing them back into the water so they can survive.Ē The man laughed and explained to the boy that there were millions of starfish stranded on beaches like this all over the world. How could he possibly hope to make any difference with his efforts? The boy just bent down, picked up another starfish, and tossed it into the sea. ďIt makes a difference to this oneĒ, he said.

The simple truth is that every single thing we do in this life makes a difference either for good or for ill. The choice is ours which one. Our actions are far more powerful than we think. Each thing we do is like a pebble tossed in a pond. Only God knows how far the ripples will travel or who they will touch.

Make a difference for good in this life then. Share your smile with a stranger. Give another a lift with your car and your kindness. Pick up a piece of trash on the side of the road. Pet a dog. Donate to a charity. Stop and have a long talk with your neighbor. Share a good laugh with a friend. Write a note of encouragement to someone who needs it. Give your children and grandchildren a big hug. Toss a starfish back into the sea. Share your love with everyone you meet. Pray and let God guide all of your days here. You will be amazed at how much good you will do. You will be amazed at the difference you will make. ---------------


ďNa-Nee!Ē The words jarred me from the book I was reading as I lay on my bed. I put the book down and looked up. My youngest son, Casey was smiling down on me. He was 24 years old but his severe Autism had left him with the mind of a very small child. His words were limited so every time he said something it was a joy to hear. He was pointing to the picture on my wall of my Italian Grandmaís 90th birthday party. We had always called her ďNannyĒ since I was a small child myself. I had taken Casey and my other children to see her as often as I could when they were young, both at her home and later at the nursing home before she passed away.

There was something more, however, than just him remembering her and pointing at her picture. There were times when I could see him staring over my shoulder and smiling. When I would turn around nothing would be there, but he would still laugh and say ďNa-Nee!Ē After a while I realized that maybe my old Italian Nana was keeping a special eye on my special son from Heaven. It was comforting to think that she and Godís other angels were watching over my two boys. I am sure they were also watching over me and my daughter as well. We just lacked the ďspecialĒ sight needed to see them.

In this world we get so wrapped up in the concrete problems, tasks, and jobs of our everyday lives that we often forget that what we see here is only a small part of what is out there. There is something more than just this life that we see with our eyes. What is unseen is far greater than what is seen.

Know then that your Heavenly Father loves you so much and that He and His angels are watching over you always. Do your best to make them smile by sharing all of your joy, your laughter, your kindness, your goodness, your light, and your love.----------------


As I write this we have been disconnected from the electric grid for 4 Ĺ weeks now. On a routine inspection, the meter boxes that ran our home and the homes of seven of our neighbors were found to be a safety hazard and had to be taken down. It has been a long wait for the replacement parts to come in so the work can be done. My daughter lived in one of the other houses and has had to move back in with me. For the first week we were fortunate to have family take us in. When it became clear, however, that we werenít getting back on the grid soon I bought a portable, gas-powered, generator so we could at least move back home.

The generator has been powering the refrigerator, fans, television, and computer but lacks the power to handle the stove, clothes dryer, AC, and hot water heater. The lights except for two lamps canít be used either. It amazes me too how much gas it uses. I am making two trips a day to the gas station just to keep it going.

Through all of this, though, I have learned a few things: I would have made a lousy pioneer. The smell of gas makes me sick to my stomach. You can meet a lot of interesting people at the laundromat. Cold showers hurt at first but after a minute you get used to them. Hot water gets dishes a lot cleaner than cold water does. It gets dark awful early in the evening when you donít have electric lights. Cooking with just a hot plate and electric frying pan takes a lot of creativity. Flash lights work far better than candles do. It is hard to change the oil on a generator without banging your knuckles loosening the bolt on the oil pan. Summer heat is no fun with just a few fans to keep you cool. Yet, people are good and kind especially when you are hurting.

More importantly I have learned that family is the most important thing in my life. The love they have blessed me with in this tough time has uplifted me and kept me going. I have learned that bad things happen to good people just as good things happen to bad people. The key is to take both the good and the bad and use it to become better, kinder, more compassionate, and more loving. I would like to say I did this all the way through the past month but the truth is I succeeded in doing so only some of the time. I am human, a work in progress, and God isnít finished with me yet. Still, I can feel Him using this time to deepen my love.

When tough times come your way then do your best to face them with a smile. Do your best to learn and grow from them. Do your best to become better because of them. And always try to live your life free from fear and full of love.----------------


It was 25 years ago. Every seat in the church was filled. But it wasnít for a happy occasion. The coffin sat in the aisle by the front pews. Inside of it was my Mother. After a heroic 4 year battle Cancer had finally taken her body but not her spirit. She had only spent 55 years on this Earth but everyday she had made it a brighter place for those of us around her. I was only 25 years old that day of the funeral and I wasnít sure how I was going to go on without her.

I canít remember any of the service. I can only remember sitting in the pew with my family while it felt like a two ton rock was crushing my heart and soul. For days afterward I walked around numb and in a daze. Finally one morning I woke up coughing and having trouble breathing. My wife rushed me to the emergency room and the doctor diagnosed me with double pneumonia. My health had broken as well as my spirit.

In the days to come my body healed much faster than my heart and soul did. In a few weeks I was physically fine, but I still had a lot of grieving to do. It was a long process and a part of it still continues today. A part of us never completely heals from losing someone we love. I did learn many lessons and gained a lot of wisdom as I grieved. Sadly, one of the most important things I learned didnít stick. I have had to relearn it time and time again in my life. I am praying that this lesson stays with me from now on and I wonít have to learn it again.

The lesson that I learned was that most of us donít fully cherish or appreciate our lives here until a vital part of them is taken from us. We take things and people for granted. We go through our days rushed and stressed without gratitude or love. We donít thank God for this glorious gift of life we have been given and for all of the loving people in it.

Donít make the same mistake that I have made. Learn this lesson now. Take it into your soul. Make a home for it in your heart. Cherish today. Cherish each moment you have been given in this life. Let the people around you know just how much you love them. Let your Father in Heaven know just how thankful you are for the life and the love He has given you. If you do this then you too will make each day better and brighter for those around you and my Mom in Heaven will be smiling down on you. ---------------


The cable went out this afternoon. I could see through my bedroom window the white trucks parked next to the pole and the cable guys working on the line. I didnít mind too much, though. With all the channels I had on my television I rarely found something I wanted to watch. I put an old DVD on for my sons, retired to my bedroom, and put on some old records for myself. I lay down on my bed while the music played softly, picked up an old book, and began to read. Before long my old, gray cat snuggled into the crook of my arm and purred quietly. I began to scratch her head with one hand while I held my book with the other.

Suddenly, I felt a pressure on my bed. I turned my head and saw the furry, smiling face of my puppy, Fluffy. We had rescued him almost a year ago and with good food and lots of love he had grown from 4 to 64 pounds. He leaned down his head and gave my chin a good licking. I laughed, put my book down and scratched his tummy. With both hands busy I couldnít read anymore but it didnít matter. It was one of those moments of pure peace that make our days here better. It was one of those moments in which life made sense.

In this modern world we all seem so rushed and busy all the time. There doesnít seem to be enough moments of peace. There doesnít seem to be enough moments of kindness. There doesnít seem to be enough moments of love. There doesnít seem to be enough moments of joy. But it is these moments that make life worth living. It is these moments that make Earth more like Heaven. It is these moments that bring us closer to God and to our true selves.

Embrace these moments every chance you can then. Make time for them. Welcome them into your heart and soul. Do all you can to create them in your life. Choose to fill your days with moments of peace, joy, kindness, and love and help others to do so as well.---------------


ďWhat is the meaning of life?Ē This is a question that we all ask ourselves at one point or another of our existence here. It is a question that I have asked myself many times over the years. The best answer that I ever came across was written by the great psychologist, Viktor Frankl who had survived the Nazi Concentration camps in World War II. Frankl wrote that ďThe meaning of life is to give life meaning.Ē

When I was a young boy I gave my life meaning by simply playing, running, jumping, swimming, laughing, and riding my bike. When I went to school I gave my life meaning by learning, studying hard, getting good grades and trying to make my Mom and Dad proud. When I was a teenage boy I found meaning in playing sports, hanging out with my friends, and trying to impress girls. In college I found my meaning by deciding what I wanted to study and what career I wanted to prepare for. When I was working as a teacher I found meaning in helping to open young minds to new ideas and old wisdom. When I married and had children I found meaning in protecting, providing for, and watching over those I loved. When I found out both of my sons were mentally handicapped I found meaning in loving them, caring for them, and learning so much from them about life, love, compassion, patience, faith, and joy.

As I got older too I began to realize that meaning isnít something that comes and goes. We can give meaning to every moment of our lives here. We can bring meaning to the thoughts we think. We can bring meaning to the things we do. We can bring meaning to the hearts we touch. All we have to do is love. It is love that gives life meaning. It is love that makes life worth living. Love is our Heavenly Fatherís gift to us. Love is our gift to each other. May all of your days be full of meaning then. May all of your days be full of love.-------------------


It was a Summer evening almost 30 years ago. I was rocking my baby boy in my arms and when he fell asleep I put him gently down into his crib for the night. My wife worn out from a long day of work was half napping and half watching TV in the living room. Not caring for the show I poured myself a glass of iced tea in the kitchen, took a lawn chair off our porch, and walked into the front yard to gaze at the stars.

As soon as I stepped onto the yard I heard the sweet sound of laughter drifting through the air. On the hill next to our house the neighborís children were chasing fireflies, hoping to catch one in a mason jar. I sat down in my chair and watched them for awhile. As fast as they ran, though, they couldnít seem to catch the slow moving lightning bugs. Finally, exhausted they both sat down in the grass and just watched the little guys flying through the air, blinking their lights on and off. I sipped my tea and joined them in their awe and appreciation. It felt so good getting to see one of Godís many miracles lighting up my front yard on a warm, Summer night. It made me feel a bit closer to the Divine and a part of something far greater than myself.

Over the years since then I have appreciated and enjoyed all of the glorious light in this world. I have taken it into my heart and welcomed it into my soul. I have found it in nature, books, music, animals, prayer, and most of all in the lives of those around me. I have never tried to catch this light, however. I have learned that true light and true love must come from within. It must flow freely between us and canít be captured in a jar.

The next time you see some fireflies then, take a seat and enjoy their light. Let them remind you to shine your own light as well. Let them remind you to fill your life with the brightness of your love. Let them remind you that you too are one of Godís miracles in this world. ----------------


I was preparing to shave my fifty year old face this morning when I noticed something: my wrinkles no longer disappear when I relax my face. They have become permanent etchings in my skin. I know too that the television and internet are full of advertisements for creams, treatments, and botox to ease and lessen these permanent wrinkles but as I looked at mine in the mirror I decided that it would be far better just to let them be. They are, after all, the evidence of the life I have lived.

When I looked at them more closely I could see the lines on the bridge of my nose and between my eyebrows that have been cut from a lifetime of dealing with back pain. There are also some pretty deep ones above my eyebrows that have come from all of the times I have been stressed, angry or frustrated. On my forehead are even deeper ones that have come from all of those moments when my eyes opened wide in astonishment, fascination, or learning. The thickest and deepest ones of all, though, seemed to be the curving lines around my eyes. They are the evidence of my every laugh and my every smile. I noticed too that the happier my smile the more their cousins in my cheeks appeared as well. All in all then I wouldnít erase the evidence of this life I have lived here. It has been a good life. It has had its pains and sorrows but also its loves and joys. It isnít over yet either. I canít wait to see just how deep my wrinkles will one day become.

The evidence of our lives doesnít just lie in our faces either. It also lives in every heart we touch, every person we help, and every life we make better. It lives in the love and joy that we bring to this world. It lives in the light that we carry around in our souls. May the evidence of your own life always bring a smile to your face and to Godís as well.----- ---------------


When I was a boy growing up in my Nanaís old house we had 4 huge gardens. Come June my Dad would be working the tiller while my Mom, brothers, and I would be planting the seeds. One garden held enough potatoes to feed us all year round. Others held corn, carrots, cabbages, onions, tomatoes, cantaloups, and watermelons. There were also so many flowers. My Nana had a special love for them and nurtured them. Flowers surrounded her old house and every year she would put down potting soil, plant new ones, and sing while she worked.

One June I can remember helping her go around the house pulling weeds and watering the freshly planted flowers. She was so gentle with them and gave them such love and care. I thought it was no wonder they grew so fast. When we where done I ran to get my bike to ride awhile. As I was getting on it, however, I noticed something. I got back off and knelt down on the concrete walkway that led to our porch. There growing out of a crack in the concrete without water, soil, or love was a single dandelion.

At times in my own life I have felt my growth nurtured, watered, and cared for like Nanaís flowers. At other times I have felt like I was that dandelion having to grow through solid concrete. Through it all, though, I never stopped growing. Through it all, I never stopped loving. I realized that it doesnít matter where you grow. It just matters that you grow.

God loves you so much and God wants you to grow in this life. Make the choice to keep growing then no matter what your circumstances. Keep growing in love. Keep growing in goodness. Keep growing in kindness. Keep growing in oneness with God. Keep helping others to grow as well. Always remember that to live is to grow whether it is through the richest soil in the world or through a crack in the concrete.-------------


I was driving to the grocery store on a warm morning in May. The trees which had looked like skeletons only two months before were covered in lush, robust, green leaves. Birds were flying to and from their nests to gather food to feed their newborn babies. Butterflies were floating along the roadsides looking for freshly blooming wild flowers. The fields were full of buttercups and dandelions. The sweet scent of clover was filling the air as well. I smiled as I watched the golden sunshine reflecting off the leaves. It was such a peaceful and heavenly time. I felt happy to be alive.

My calm was broken, though, as I rounded a curve. A huge U-Haul truck was coming my way several feet over the center line. I swerved as far onto the berm of the road as I could to miss it. It was followed by not one but two other U-Haul trucks just as large. I wondered if all the stuff inside of them belonged to the same person. I slowed down my car and waited for my heart rate to follow. It was then that I noticed a self-storage business along the side of the highway, building new units for all the people who couldnít fit their possessions into their houses. I saw a young couple carrying boxes into one of the units. It seemed strange that a couple just out of their teens could already have too much stuff.

I lost my own taste for owning stuff when a house fire in the middle of the night destroyed everything my family owned when I was only eleven years old. The only thing I had left was the underwear I was wearing. Yet, our whole family had awakened in time to escape and we thanked God for our lives. In the weeks that followed friends and family gave us a lot of stuff to get us back on our feet, but none of it seemed as important any more. What was important was seeing my Momís smile, giving my Nana a hug and a kiss, and watching my Dad snooze in his chair after a hard dayís work. What was important was the stuff of the soul, not the stuff of this world. Since then I have tried to limit the things I purchase. I didnít want too much stuff crowding up my life. I wanted to only buy what I needed and to spend my days in learning, growing, and loving others.

In this life we are given a limited amount of time. We can spend it loving each other, enjoying this beautiful world God made for us, and making it a better place or we can spend it acquiring stuff. One gives us joy. The other gives us work. One builds us treasures in Heaven. The other takes our treasures here on Earth. One fills our lives with peace, kindness, and happiness. The other fills our days with worry, fear, and regret. Make your choice wisely then. Fill your life with love not with stuff.-----------------


A friend who was down in the dumps wrote me a letter a few weeks ago. His life was full of problems. His heart was full of worries. He was low on hope. He ended his letter to me with this question: ďWe canít really change this crazy world we live in, can we?Ē I answered him immediately and started my own letter with these words: ďYes, we most certainly can!Ē

I can still remember one of the first times someone changed my world. She was the music teacher at my elementary school, the guitarist at our church, and a family friend. I had a huge crush on her too and wanted to impress her more than anything. I had no talent at any instrument, however, and my singing while enthusiastic was quite awful. One day she let me try playing her guitar. I did my best but could only stumble along. When I was done I put my head down. ďI guess I am not very good,Ē I told her. She looked at me with her kind eyes, smiled, and said: ďWe are all good at something. You just need to find out what you are good at. Then you can share it with the world.Ē

Those simple words changed me. They planted a seed in my soul that continues to grow to this day. They made me realize that I had something to give to others. I had something inside of me that was good and that could change this world for the better. I just had to find it, bring it out and share it. And that is what I have tried to do all of the years since that fateful day.

Can you change the world? Yes you can! You can change it and make it better every single day of your life. You can change it one choice, one person, and one kind act at a time. All you have to do is share your goodness. All you have to do is live your love. Mother Teresa once said: ďGod doesnít ask us to do great things, only small things with great love.Ē Make your love great then! Live well! Do good! Change the world!------------------


I can still remember the first time a girl broke up with me. I was just a teenager. I was riding that hormonal high that a young love brings. The sky seemed brighter. The clouds looked whiter. I went through my days with a silly grin on my face. I held up my Momís phone line with calls to my girlfriend that lasted for hours. Then suddenly she said that she didnít want to see me any more. I was crushed. My heart felt like it had fallen off a cliff. I was lower than low. The sunniest sky still seemed dark and gray. I went through my days sulky and sad. My Mom got her phone back because I didnít want to talk to anybody. Instead I went for long walks in the woods with only my dog for company. I wondered if I would ever feel happy again.

Of course, in time I did begin to heal and feel happy again. I learned too that young, romantic love is only a drop in the ocean of love in this universe. In the years to come I learned the love of being a son. I learned the love of marriage. I learned the love of being a father. I learned the love of caring for animals. I learned the love of friendship. I learned to love this world. I learned to love life itself. I also learned of the highest Love of all: the Love that our Heavenly Father has for all of us. It is from this Love that all the other loves flow. It is from this Love that we were created. It is to this Love that we all seek to return. It is this Love that I welcome into my heart every single day and try to share with the world.

Always know that you are Loved! You are Loved by a Higher Love than you can ever comprehend here on Earth. You are Loved by God today, tomorrow, and forever. Open your heart to this Love. Allow God to Love you. Allow God to guide you. Allow God to strengthen your own love so that you can make this world a better, more beautiful, and more loving place. If you do then happiness will be yours to enjoy and to share.---------------


For a long time I wanted to live in a world of my own making. I carried this world around in my mind like a secret treasure and did all I could to bring it into reality. In my world I was famous for the things I wrote. I was on television, gave speeches, and was respected by all the great minds of this world. In my world I was rich beyond belief. I had money, mansions, cars, and boats. I went on vacations and lived in the lap of luxury. In my world I was loved by all whether I deserved it or not. I got anything I wanted from the people around me and my days were spent in comfort and ease.

Of course, this world never came to be. It remained in my mind and after a time lost its luster. I realized that it was full of the hollow, egotistical dreams of an immature mind. It took me a while to give up this world and accept another but when I did I got more happiness than I could have ever dreamed.

The world I finally accepted was the world God had in mind for me. In Godís world I wrote without thought of reward. I wrote to share the truth and love He had placed inside of me. I was amazed too at how many people I touched by sharing it. In Godís world I wasnít rich by the standards of this world but was rich in the treasures of Heaven. I was full of kindness, compassion, and the true joy that only God can give. In Godís world I was called to love others whether they deserved it or not. I was called to give, share, and care and my days were spent in work and growth. I am still here in Godís world today. I am living in His love. I am becoming the person I was meant to be, doing what I was meant to do and my life has never been better.

May you always choose to live in Godís world. When you do you will have love. When you do you will have joy. When you do your life will be forever full of meaning and purpose.----------------


When I was a boy there were no smart phones, computers were something you saw on STAR TREK, and our television only got one channel clearly. Still, I was never bored. The fields, hills, and woodlands around my home were the perfect playground whose adventures were only limited by my imagination. I can remember once hiking to a nearby lake and slowly walking around it. At the backside of it I was amazed to find an old, one lane, dirt road that I had never seen before. I immediately set out to travel it. It was full of potholes and muddy tire tracks and deep woods bordered it on both sides, but exploring it still seemed like a fine adventure.

I walked on and on for what seemed like hours. I am sure my guardian angel was whispering in my ear to turn around and head back home but I was stubborn and even a bit stupid, so I walked on. The dirt road gave way to a gravel one and then a paved one, yet there was still neither a car nor a house in sight. My legs were getting tired. I noticed that the sun was starting to go down and I grew scared. I didnít want to end up trapped on this road in the dark of night, but I was sure it would be dark before I could make my way back to the lake again.

I continued to walk on with the fear growing inside of me. My heart was pounding and my legs were aching. I was almost in tears when I turned one last curve and saw something in the distance. It was a house that I recognized. My heart leapt up! I jumped up and down and laughed out loud. I knew the way home! It was still over a mile away but my legs felt like feathers and I hurried back to my house in no time. I walked in with a big smile on my face just in time for dinner. Then I ended my adventure with a good nightís sleep.

I remembered this recently when I saw a sign that said: ďAll roads lead Home.Ē This is true. In this life all roads no matter what their twists and turns can lead us home again. They can lead us to our homes here on Earth. They can lead us to our homes in our hearts. They can lead us to our Home in Heaven. What is important, though, is how we travel them. Are we going to go forth in fear or are we going to go forth in faith? Are we going to take each step in selfishness or are we going to take each step in love? Are we going to make this life a terrible trip or are we going to make this life a joyful journey? The choice is ours.

May you always walk your path with love. May you always go forth with a smile on your face and God in your heart. May you always help your fellow travelers along the way. And may your roads always lead you Home again.-----------------


Spring had come to the mountains of my home. Fresh green grass was coming up in my yard. Yellow dandelions and buttercups were blooming in the meadows. Tulips and purple Phlox were growing in the flower boxes. Bumblebees and butterflies were dancing among them. In the woods white, purple, and pink blossoms were rapidly turning to green leaves on the trees. It was the most alive I had seen the world in a long time.

Yet, today dark storm clouds and heavy April showers had taken the sunshine out of Spring. It was gloomy and dreary as I drove to the local store for another weekís worth of food. I walked in and wiped the wet out of my hair and off of my glasses. After filling my cart, I paid for my groceries, and headed towards the door. Nature suddenly called, however, and I found myself leaving my cart and rushing into the rest room. After answering the call I was cleaning up when I heard a loud thud. I turned and saw that an older man with a walker had slipped and fallen to the floor. I rushed over to see if he was alright and with the aid of another man helped him to his feet. He was unhurt and thanked us both several times. I headed back to my cart and pushed it to my car. The rain had stopped but the sky was still overcast. That didnít matter, though, because on the inside, I was shining.

In this life I have found time and time again that we are most alive when we stop to help another. I have found that we are most ourselves when we are sharing love, spreading joy, and doing all we can to make this world a better place. I have found that we are closest to God when we are giving our kindness and compassion to everyone.

Donít go through life just existing then. Live! Be the most alive you can be by sharing all the love, joy, and light that is within you. Let yourself shine on Earth and in Heaven.-----------------


Our old couch had seen better days. The fabric of its cushions was ripped and torn in places. I had covered the spots in duct tape but foam was still leaking out of them. The springs inside of it were broken. The sheet we covered it with was torn, sewn, and torn again. The right front leg had worked loose and fell off whenever we sat down on it. All in all our couch had become beaten, battered, and very uncomfortable.

For several months then I saved what money I could in order to buy a new one. Finally, I had enough and got a new, slightly smaller sofa that I hoped would last for years to come. We carried it up the steps and got it in place. While the delivery men hauled off the old one I looked over our new addition. It was strong and straight and soft and sturdy. With the dayís work done I looked forward to having a seat on it. I made myself a tall glass of iced tea and walked into the living room. I stopped short and stared. There on my new couch were my dogs curled up contentedly for a nap.

I smiled and didnít shoo them off of it. Instead I sat down in my computer chair and watched them peacefully sleep for awhile. I didnít mind sharing my comfortable new couch with them. After all, they had for years blessed me with the comfort of their love.

Love truly is the most comforting thing in this entire world. Nothing comforts us like knowing that God loves us. Nothing comforts us like knowing that we are here to love as well. Nothing comforts us like sharing our love with God, people, animals, and the world around us. Carry your love with you always then. Let it be your cozy chair and comfy couch. Let it give rest to your heart and revitalize your soul. Let it comfort you on Earth and carry you to Heaven.-----------------


I may be a bit old school but I think that people who store all of their pictures on their smart phones are missing out on something. There is nothing like seeing a loved oneís smiling face looking down on you from a picture frame on your wall. It is both comforting and reassuring, almost like they are watching over you while you work at your desk. As I work at my own desk I can see my Momís picture smiling down on me. She left us too soon. She was only 55 years old when cancer took her. If oneís years here were based on merit then she should have lived to be over 100. My Dadís kind smile is next to hers. It has only been a few years since he passed. Sometimes I still pick up the telephone wanting to call him and tell him something that has just happened to me only to remember that he is gone. My Nanaís picture is there too, holding the 90 years young sign at her birthday party 16 years ago. How I wish I could walk into her kitchen again, have a talk, and share a big slice of homemade Italian bread with her.

Sometimes looking at these pictures gives me a touch of melancholy and sadness. I still miss them all and I donít feel ready to be the oldest generation yet. Most of the time, though, I only feel the warmth and joy that comes from a million loving memories that these pictures bring back. It makes me feel blessed knowing that I had them all in my life for the years that I did. It makes me want to follow their loving example in my own life as well.

A lot of people say that you have to have a hard heart to get through life. Others say a soft heart is better. I myself think that a strong heart is best. We need a heart that loves through the pain. We need a heart that keeps loving even when we lose the people we love the most. We need a heart that knows that ďAnyone who lives in love lives in God, and God lives in him.Ē May your heart be strong then. May your love shine from your pictures and from your life.----------------


I was headed out the door the other day with my two sons. We were going to drive to the local grocery store to pick up a few odds and ends that we had run out of during the week. I shut the door quickly because my dogs were already barking at being left behind in the house. We headed down the hill to my car, climbed inside, and buckled our seat belts. Then I reached into my pocket for the car keys. They werenít there. I tried my other pockets with the same result. Shaking my head, I walked back up the hill, opened the door, and saw my keys still dangling from the hook where I always hang them.

This, of course, isnít the only time I have forgotten something recently. In fact, it seems to be happening more and more. There isnít a week that goes by that I donít forget something and then remember it later in the day or misplace something and have to go looking for it. The medical professionals all reassure me that this is a normal part of getting older. It seems that our aging minds begin to have trouble after a while remembering the million and one things that we need to remember every day to function in our modern world. They say not to worry about it and to take it with a smile. I am doing my best to do so.

I think I will be alright with my forgetful mind too as long as I can keep remembering the important things in life. I donít mind misplacing my keys as long as I can remember that God loves me. I donít mind forgetting what I came into a room for as long as I can remember what I am in this life for. I donít mind being a bit absent-minded as long as I am being loving-hearted.

May you always remember the important things in life: You were created in love. You were created to love. You are called to kindness and made for joy. You can make a difference in this world with every choice you make. You can live your life in Godís light today and forever. -----------------


I can remember my Mom telling me once that after I learned to say, ďMamaĒ and ďDadaĒ my third word was ďNo!Ē Sadly, I used that word much too often as a boy. I didnít want to eat my vegetables. I didnít want to go to bed on time. I didnít want to work in the garden. I didnít want to stay in the yard when I played. I would much rather read books than help my Mom and Nana with the household chores. In other words, I was a bit of a brat. Being the youngest of three sons and the ďbabyĒ of the family, I probably got away with saying ďNoĒ a lot more than I should have. I was slightly spoiled to say the least.

At some point in my childhood, though, I began to say ďYes!Ē a lot more and ďNo!Ē a lot less. I can remember carrying heavy pails of slop to feed the pigs we raised for meat and being proud that I was able to do so. I can remember carrying wood for our stove and fresh spring water for us to drink and being happy knowing that I was helping out my Mom and Dad. I can remember studying hard to get good grades in school and the pride in my parents eyes when I got into college. I can remember learning that saying ďYesĒ could bring more joy into my life than saying ďNoĒ ever did.

At some point in my life too, I also began to say ďYes!Ē to God. I began to ask for His guidance and accept His love. I began to try and be the person He meant for me to be and live the life that He meant for me to live. I began to love myself and others as myself.

I am still learning how to say ďYesĒ. I still selfishly say ďNoĒ far too often. But I know that God is patient with me and is not done with me yet. My only advice to you then is not to wait as long as I did. Say ďYesĒ to God. Say ďYesĒ to life. Say ďYesĒ to love. Say ďYesĒ to helping others and making this world a better place. Yes may only be a word, but it can change your life.----------------


In his many books and lectures the great educator, Leo Buscaglia showed us time and again how the love of just one person can change a life and change the world. I remember especially his story about the noted psychologist, Dr. Skeels.

In the early 20th century orphaned children were often warehoused in badly understaffed institutions where they received little if any attention or love. At one time Dr. Skeels took 12 of these orphaned children and let them be cared for, a few hours each day, by mentally retarded adolescent girls at a nearby institution. He also studied 12 other children who were left in the orphanage all day long. He followed these children until adulthood and the results he found were shocking. Of the 12 children left all day in the orphanage without love and attention all were either dead, in institutions for the mentally retarded or in institutions for the mentally ill. Of the 12 children cared for and loved by the mentally retarded teenage girls all were self-supporting, most had graduated high school, and all were happily married. The only difference in the lives of these children had been the love of one person.

God loves us all so much and His greatest wish is for us to love each other as well. Let us never forget then just how vital our love can be to another. Patrick McCauley wrote ď Some of us will reach millions, most of us will reach a few, and some will reach only one person. However, given the infinite significance of each person, there is no difference in the end.Ē

Give your love, your kindness, and your heart to others today. You never know whom you might touch, whom you might help, and whose life you may save. As Thomas Merton said: ďHow can anyone tell how much he owes to the goodness of those who love him?Ē You may be just one person and you may touch just one person but that alone can change the world.--------------


Today I made the mistake of turning the news on. I found my senses instantly assaulted with stories of fighting politicians, corrupt corporations, and countless crimes. It seemed like the only news worth showing was mankind at its very worst. It seemed like the only thing they wanted to talk about was what went wrong today.

After a few minutes I turned the television back off. I poured myself a glass of iced tea, sat down at my kitchen table, and instead thought about what went right today. Today the sun came over the horizon and bathed the world in its golden, life-giving light. Today my little house once again kept me warm, safe, and dry. Today I had 3 meals of wonderful food that kept me healthy, alive, and energized for the work of the day. Today whenever I reached my hand down I had a furry head to pet as my dogs and cat shared their unconditional love with me. Today I got to hug and encourage my handicapped sons and see the boundless joy that they share with the world. Today I talked with my daughter and was once again amazed at the incredible, young woman she has become. Today I got messages from friends and family both online and off sharing their lives and their love with me. Today I shared a few messages of love and joy myself. Today I felt Godís love for me flowing through all of His creation and encouraging me to once again spread His love, tell His truth, and shine His light.

When you are at the end of your days in this world are you going to dwell on what went wrong or rejoice in what went right? God showers this world in goodness and we need only to open our hearts to see it. Rejoice in everything that goes right in your life then. Give thanks for it. And do your best to add your own goodness, kindness, and love to it as well. By doing this you will be helping God to make this Earth a lot more like Heaven.----------------


The sun was just coming up over the mountains today as I took my dogs for their morning walk. I smiled as I watched the purple, pink and red clouds slowly turn to white and gold. The air was cool rather than cold and the sweet sunshine was warm on my face. Even though there wasnít any leaves on the trees, I could still hear the birds singing songs of Spring. I looked up and saw both a cardinal and a blue jay flying through the sky above me. Even my dogs seemed to notice the difference in the air. They were prancing and playing instead of just doing their morning business in the grass. The golden disk of the sun had just cleared the hillsides in the distance and it looked like it was going to be a beautiful day. As I headed inside, though, I realized something. The beauty of the day didnít come from the warmth of the sun. It came from the warmth within my own heart and soul.

You see, every day that we wake up alive in this world can be a beautiful day if we make it so. It doesnít matter if it is gray and rainy or cold and snowy outside. It doesnít matter if our lives are full of struggles, pains, and frustrations. Each day we are given a chance and a choice to make it a beautiful day.

Make today a beautiful day then. Give the day all the warmth within you. Share your smile with others. Give a hug or an encouraging word to a struggling soul. Be kind to those who need your kindness. Offer a helping hand to a hurting heart. Do what you can to make this world a better and more beautiful place. Share the love that our Heavenly Father gives you with everyone you meet. It is your day and it is your choice how you live it!

May all of your days be beautiful ones. May they be full of love, laughter, and light. May they help to bring you closer to God and this world closer to Heaven. ----------------


It was many years ago. I was a young father on my way home to my wife and baby boy after spending all day taking college classes. I had gone back to school to get a degree in Education. I wanted to secure a teaching job that would help me to build a better life for my growing family. It was a two hour round trip to the college, though, so everyday I would pray for my 20 year old gas guzzler to make it all the way.

As I started down a lonely stretch of highway about 12 miles from my home I noticed a car parked along the side of the road with its emergency flashers on. On the side of it a small woman was struggling to change a flat tire. This was long before the age of cell phones and I knew that any other help might not arrive for a while. I pulled up behind her car then and offered to give her a hand. Her own hands were bruised and bleeding from struggling with the lug nuts and she had tears of frustration in her eyes. The lug nuts were rusty and tight and the lug wrench a little small but after a while I got the flat off and the spare tire on. As I said goodbye the little lady hugged me with tears of relief this time. I waved and drove off a little embarrassed at her appreciation. After all, it had just been one kind act.

It took me a lot of years after that to learn the true power of one kind act. One kind act can change the world. One kind act can teach more love of God than a million words. One kind act can save a lost soul, heal a hurting heart, and mend a broken life.

Never pass up the opportunity then to do one kind act. Never pass up the chance to share your love. Never pass up the possibility that your own kindness can do Godís will and make this world a better place. Every day we are given the choice to be loving or selfish. Every day we are given the choice to be cruel or kind. Always choose to be kind.-----------------


When I was a boy we used to live across the road from a big hill with huge Oak trees growing out of it. When Winter would arrive and thick, heavy snow would fall my two brothers would grab their sleds and head over to the hill for a day of fun. I remember watching them with envy because I was still too small to go sledding. Finally, one Winter I was deemed big enough and joined my brothers as they carried their sleds up the long hill and prepared to ride down it.

The first few trips I rode with one of my brothers and had the time of my life. It was so exhilarating feeling the wind whip across my face as I flew down the hillside on the wooden sled. Near the end of the day I was overjoyed too when my oldest brother decided to let me try riding the sled all by myself. I climbed on it full of excitement and laid on my stomach. Then with one big push my brother sent me zooming down the snowy hillside. I was doing pretty well too until I hit an old stump hidden by the snow and went off course, straight towards one of those big Oak trees. My eyes bulged in my sockets, my heart pounded in my chest and I could hear myself screaming. At the last possible second I rolled off and the sled crashed into the tree. I could hear my brothers running down the hill yelling, ďYou have to steer! You have to steer!Ē

Sadly, that wasnít the last time I failed to steer when some obstacle knocked me off course in my life. Many times problems, troubles, and my own failings have sent me crashing into the trees of anger, frustration, and despair. I am still learning that life isnít always safe sledding. I am still learning that sometimes it is up to me to steer myself back to love, back to kindness, back to goodness, and back to God.

Life is a trip, but no one ever said it was a smooth ride. Steer well then. Steer straight. Steer true. Steer your soul towards the light and the love we are all meant for.---------------


I have always believed that reading books can expand the mind, touch the heart, and enrich the soul. They can also cause your imagination to do some funny things at times. I can remember several years ago reading a book where the hero went through several tragedies and at one point in the midst of his pain and torment cried out: ďWhere is Love?Ē. At that moment in my imagination I leapt into the story, grabbed him by the arm and told him: ďItís everywhere! Itís everywhere!Ē

Love is everywhere. You just have to open your heart to see it. For me it is there every time I watch the dawn break upon a new day. It is there every time a brisk winter breeze blows across my face. It is there in the first flower of Spring. It is there in the green grass of Summer. It is there in the last leaf of Fall. It is there every time my handicapped sons give me a hug. It is there every time my daughter laughs at one of my dumb jokes. It is there in the adoring eyes of my old beagle and my new puppy. It is there in the purring cat that naps on my chest. It is there in the smile of the clerk behind the counter. It is there in the old man who opens a door for me. It is there when I read a letter from a friend. It is there every time I pray. It is there in everything I write and every act of kindness I do.

The Bible tells us that ďGod is Love.Ē And since God is without beginning or end then so is love. It fills all of His creation. It fills us as well every time we open our hearts and souls to it. Donít shut out love then. Donít live your life in pain. Open your heart instead. Share your love instead. You will find that the more love you give away, the more love you will have. You will find that the more love you share, the more Godís love will surround you. You will find that when you live your life in love, you will find love everywhere.--------------


I was in a local store recently when I saw something that opened a window into my soul and let in a little more light. I had just picked up some shampoo and was headed to the pet supplies to get some more dog food for my furry friends. I decided to take a shortcut through one of the toy aisles. Blocking my way, however, was a young father and his four year old daughter. The little girl was pleading with her Dad to buy her a new doll. The Dad was being gentle but firm telling her they couldnít afford it right now. Finally, the daughter burst into tears and said angrily, ďI hate you!Ē

I thought that the father would get mad at her for this outburst. I know that I probably would have when I was his age. Instead he just smiled down at her, put his hand on her head, and said, ďThatís alright. Youíll love me laterĒ. I stood there in amazement as he took her hand and they walked off. Then it dawned on me that I had been in this situation many times myself over the years but not as the father.

Many times over the years I have cried and thrown a fit when I didnít get what I wanted. Many times I grew angry at God when I felt my prayers werenít being answered. Through them all, though, our Heavenly Father was patient, loving, and kind with me. He knew that I didnít understand why certain things had to happen the way they did. He knew that my anger was a part of my growing up spiritually in this world. He knew that I would love Him later.

God loves us all so much. We are all His Children. But we are still growing up spiritually in this world. We donít know all the answers. That is why we need to trust in our Heavenly Fatherís Love and give Him ours as well. It is never too late to love God. It is never too late to invite Him into your soul. It is never too late to let His light guide your life.-------------------


One of my earliest memories was watching my Mom talk on our old rotary dial telephone. I was fascinated that she was talking to someone who wasnít actually in the room with her. When she finally hung up and left the room I slowly walked over to the phone and stared at it for a minute. Then I gently reached down and picked up the receiver. When I put it to my ear I was shocked to hear voices still speaking on it. I quickly and quietly hung it back up not knowing what to make of it. Later my older brother explained to me that we were on a party line and couldnít make a call while someone else was using it.

That, of course, was a long time ago. We switched to a private line soon after that and then later got a push button phone. Next came mobile phones that you could carry around the house with you. After that came computers, cell phones, and smart phones. These days I can send an e-mail half way around the world in a second. My daughterís smart phone has a hundred apps and a dozen social media accounts. She stores all of her information in a mysterious place known as the cloud. We are it seems more connected in this world than ever before.

What bothers me, though, is that as much as we are connected to each other, we rarely connect with each other. Few people write letters to each other these days. Few take the time to talk face to face. Instead of talking on the phone we text. Instead of looking into our loved onesí eyes we stare down at our phones. Instead of holding hands we scroll and swipe. It seems like the most connected generation may also be the loneliest.

Donít let that happen. Donít let technology take your time and your life away from you. Make the time to talk, to live, and to love. Make the time to meet, to pray, and to touch. Take a walk on the beach with a friend. Sit on the porch and watch the sunset. Play a game of chess or checkers. Hold hands and say Grace before a meal. Have a long conversation with the phones off and the hearts on. Connect offline as well as online.

Remember that God put us here to love each other. God put us here to help each other. God put us here to make this world a better place. When your technology can help you to do these things then use it. But when it canít turn it off. ---------------


Life is full of miracles. They surround us every day. One of these miracles happened to me recently. I was filling my carís tank at a local gas station. It was only 10 A.M. but I already felt tired. It was a cloudy, gloomy and rainy day and I hadnít slept well the night before. After I paid for the gas I turned my car towards the main road. I looked right and left then my brain sent the signal for my foot to push on the gas pedal but nothing happened. Shocked, I shook my head to clear it and gazed down at my foot.

Just as I did, though, a semi-truck roared past my car doing 60 mph. My weary, bleary eyes hadnít seen it when I had looked just 2 seconds earlier. If I had been pulling out when I should have been my little green car would have been smashed and I would have most likely been killed. I sat there for a long time quietly thanking God for sparing my life before pulling out on the road and heading home. This time both my brain and foot worked perfectly.

As I looked back on that moment later I still couldnít understand it. Did God prevent my brainís signal from reaching my foot? Did an angel grab my toes to keep them from pressing on the gas? One question kept coming back into my mind as well: why? Why did I get this miracle? Why did God spare my life this day? Finally, I felt the answer forming deep within my heart and mind. I heard the words coming from my soul saying: ďYou still have more to do. Your work is not done yet!Ē

Richard Bach wrote: ďHere is the test to find if your mission on Earth is finished: if you are alive it isnít.Ē Wake up each day then knowing that your mission isnít done yet. Wake up each day knowing that you still have more to do. You have more love to share, more people to help, more kindness to give. You have one more day to be the miracle God meant for you to be.----------------


For all of my days in this world I have been struggling to understand life with very limited success. It seems that the more I learn the more I see just how much I donít know. I think that the singer Carolyn Arends said it best when she wrote: ďLife is messy. Life is mystery.Ē

In the messy mystery that has been my own life there has been so much that I donít understand and wonít understand at least while I am in this world. For example, I donít know why a house fire destroyed everything my family owned when I was just a boy. I donít know why my soul often felt lonely and isolated in high school even when surrounded by my friends. I donít know why my back was injured when I was a teenager and why it has given me daily pain since then. I donít know why I lost my beautiful, loving Mom when I was only 25 years old. I donít know why my sweet, Italian Nana had to slowly lose her memories to dementia before she too passed away. I donít know why both of my sons have had to struggle with Autism for all of their lives here. I donít know why I never became that rich and successful person my ego thought I should be. I donít know why just when my relationship with my Dad was achieving the closeness I always wished it would have that he too would be taken away by cancer.

Yet, there are other things that are also a mystery to me. I donít know why every time I see the sunrise my own heart rises with it. I donít know why whenever I pray my heart feels happier and my spirit feels closer to Heaven. I donít know why my sons, daughter, dogs, and cat love me even when I act like a jerk at times. I donít know why so many people around this world have found inspiration and joy in my simple writings. I donít know why God loves us completely and unconditionally whether we deserve it or not. I donít know why when we love too we not only change ourselves for the better but the world around us as well. I donít know why love brings us joy in the best of times and also in the worst of times. I donít know why everything in this life both ďgoodĒ and ďbadĒ can help us to learn, to love, to grow, and to become better Children of God.

I guess when it comes right down to it life is unknowable, no matter how long or hard we try to understand it. All we can do then is embrace the mystery. All we can do is embrace the mess. All we can do is Live and Love our way through the questions until one day we find the answers. ---------------


I can still remember it like it was yesterday. It was a dark, dreary day. The Christmas decorations had been taken down. The old year had given way to the new. Now it was just Winter. Outside a bitter wind was blowing. Gray clouds covered the sun. Several inches of snow lay on the grass and trees. Inside my water was dripping so my pipes wouldnít freeze and I was sipping coffee so I wouldnít freeze either. I asked my dog if he was ready to go for a walk, but he just turned around and lay down next to the heater. I shook my head, zipped up my sweater and slipped on my thick socks while I looked out my kitchen window. I wasnít looking forward to another 3 months of this. I sat wearily at the kitchen table to eat my oatmeal. Then suddenly I saw him! A beautiful, bright red cardinal had landed on a low hanging limb of the bare tree in my backyard. I looked lovingly at him while he stared back at me. He gently stretched his wings, gave me a final, knowing nod, and flew into the sky. His visit had left my spirits a little higher, my heart a little lighter, and my soul a little closer to Heaven.

Sometimes in our lives it is just winter. Sometimes the gray gloom of this world piles on the problems and troubles. Sometimes life feels both cold and bitter. Sometimes it is very hard to see the light. It is times like these when we need to call on our own inner cardinal. It is times like these that we most need to shine our own light, share our own love, and let ourselves fly. It isnít always easy and often takes effort, but with Heavenís help it can be done.

Just remember that God loves you in the Winter as well as in the Spring. Life may not always give you what you want but it does give you what you need to grow kinder, better, more loving, and closer to God. Let your inner cardinal fly then. Let Godís light shine through you. Let your love help warm this world in the Winter as well as the Spring.----- ---------------


Bend! Push! Lift! Toss! Bend! Push! Lift! Toss! I was slowly shoveling out my driveways, porches, and pathways from five inches of freshly fallen snow. My new snow shovel was working well but my body was feeling its fifty years and my bad back was feeling more like eighty. Still, I had shoveled out from deeper snows than this before, so I kept at it. I breathed in the frosty air and hummed a few songs as I worked. After about forty minutes the job was done and I stretched out my stiff and sore back. Then I did something I hadnít done in years. I fell back into the snow and made a snow angel.

Suddenly, I felt five again and I laughed as I walked back into the house. I think a part of me expected to see my five year old face staring back at me when I looked into the bathroom mirror, but it was not to be. There instead was my unshaven, fifty year old face with its salt and pepper hair and deep set wrinkles. There were lots of laugh lines but some pain lines as well. When I looked a little closer, though, I saw the five year old twinkling in my eyes. It was good to know that he was still in there and that on the inside I remained both ageless and forever young.

Elisabeth Kubler-Ross once wrote: ďShould you shield the canyons from the windstorms, you would never see the beauty of the carvings.Ē My own face has seen a lot of windstorms over the years. It has suffered a lot, learned a lot, and loved a lot. It has also grown kinder, more compassionate, and closer to God. I think I prefer it to its younger versions that I can still see in the pictures on my walls. Every time it smiles I love seeing it crinkle up and love seeing that eternal five year old still shining behind those eyes.

Our lives will always line our faces and our souls will always shine in our eyes. All we can do is fill them both with all the love, laughter, and light we can. May you do so always.-------------


I was lying in bed trying to work my way through a new book that Iíd recently bought. The wording was difficult to read. The plot was incomprehensible. The meaning was struggling to say in two hundred pages what could easily have been said it two. After yet another difficult page I shut the book and closed my eyes. Suddenly, I felt the book being gently pushed down. I opened my eyes and saw a white, furry nose on top of it. It was Fluffy, our new puppy who had grown from four to forty pounds in the last four months. ďCan I help you?Ē, I asked. My answer was a quick face licking that soaked my chin to my nose. I laughed, threw the book aside, and petted my newest, furry friend. He had reminded me again that the true wisdom of life is to be found in simple love rather than in complex words.

I have gained a lot of wisdom from my different dogs over the years. I have learned to always take pleasure in a simple snack. I have learned that a nap in the middle of the afternoon is good for the soul. I have learned that it doesnít matter if you catch the ball as long as you have fun chasing it. I have learned that a smiling face like a wagging tail is something you should always be happy to share. I have learned that couches are for cuddling. I have learned that there is always room on the lap for one more. I have learned that it is ok to growl once in a while as long as you donít bite. I have learned that running in the sunshine and fresh air is pure pleasure. I have learned as well to always shake off the rain. Most of all I have learned that every problem in this world can be solved with just a little more love.

I think God must have given us dogs to remind us of things like these. For thousands of years they have walked by our sides, napped by our fires, and blessed us with their friendship. They are and will remain one of our greatest teachers of love. May we always follow their example.---------------


A beautiful, young girl is smiling at me from a picture frame on my desk as I write this. She is my sponsor child from the Philippines and even though I have never met her in person she has found a special place in my heart. It doesnít cost me much to help her, about a dollar a day. Yet, millions of people in this world live on less. The joy that helping her gives me, however, is beyond price. It connects me to her, to life, to love, and to God.

I can still remember the first time that I decided to help a child overseas. It was many years ago. I was only a teenager myself and for the first time in my life had a little extra money each month. I didnít feel like buying anything, though. We had lost everything we had in a house fire a few years before and going through that had taught me a lot. I had learned that I didnít need a lot of ďstuffĒ to be happy. I had also read a lot about the suffering of children in poor countries around the world. It seemed like a far better thing then to give what I could to help them. With my Momís love and support I soon found a few organizations like Children International that were serving others around the world. It felt so good being able to reach out and help another in need. It felt so good being able to make even one life better. I could feel the compassion and empathy growing within me and beginning to change me.

Empathy does change us. It makes us into better people with bigger hearts and a clearer view of life. It shows us that we truly are one family on the Earth. It helps us to love, to be kind, and to make this world a better place. It connects us with God and allows the Kingdom of Heaven to live within us.

Let your empathy grow then. Let your love grow. Let your heart grow bigger and bigger every single day. Let yourself grow in Heaven while you help others here on Earth.---------------


I have always loved Christmas music and I donít just listen to it in December either. I have been known to listen to ďThe Christmas SongĒ on the first day of Spring, ďJingle BellsĒ during the worst heat of Summer, and ďLet it snowĒ while the leaves are peaking in the Fall. This year thanks to the gift of a new record player I was even able to play some of my Momís old Christmas records from my childhood. For the first time in years I was able to put a vinyl album on a turntable and listen to the sweet sounds of Christmas coming from it. As ďJoy to the worldĒ flowed from the speakers I smiled, closed my eyes, and allowed the music to awaken a thousand Christmas memories that still lived in my heart.

There was my Mom laughing when she caught me under the tree opening all of the presents before anyone else woke up. There was my Dad smiling and cutting down the worldís ugliest Christmas tree that I had picked out over my brothersí objections. There was the sparkle in my Momís eyes when she opened the gift I had saved my money for months to buy her. There were the cheers I heard as I went from room to room in my fake beard and red suit, playing Santa Claus for the elementary school I was teaching at. There was the time when I could only afford a few stuffed animals for my children on Christmas and their eyes shone with delight anyway. There was the time when my son who had struggled to speak because of his Autism spoke his first full sentence when he saw the Christmas tree all lit up at his elementary school. There was the time when I drove through a blizzard to bring my daughter home from college in time for the holidays. There was the year we decided to ditch the turkey and instead honor my Dad and Nana by making a big, Italian style Christmas dinner thus creating a whole new family tradition.

I opened my eyes as the record played on and felt so much joy. I felt too what had made all of those memories so special: LOVE. It was the Love we had for each other. It was the Love our Heavenly Father had for all of us. It was the Love that lived in that tiny baby, born in a manger who would change this world forever.

The spirit of Christmas will always be the spirit of Love. It is Love that we were meant for. It is out of Love that we were created. It is to Love that we will all return. May your heart be full of Love then at Christmastime and always.-----------------


It was a few days before Christmas many years ago and it looked like it would be a lean one for my family. The saw mill that I was working at had laid a lot of us off while machinery was being repaired so we didnít have much money. My wife and I had scrimped and saved to buy our young children some toys, but an unexpected car repair had taken most of our cash. We decided then that we could only afford to get one small gift for each of our children.

We arrived at the store and walked down the parking lot past people loading gifts into their cars. I envied them a bit, because it sure didnít feel like Christmas to me. We hurried into the store past the Salvation army bell ringer with our heads down. I had always enjoyed putting something in his kettle before but wasnít sure if I could afford to this time. We searched all through the store hoping to find one thing each of our small children would like. Thankfully, we were able to get them each someone sweet. We headed for the checkout, bought the toys, and were amazed that we even had a few dollars left over. As we walked out of the store into the brisk, Winter air I stopped and dropped those dollars into the bell ringerís kettle. I didnít have a dime left but that didnít matter. Suddenly, it felt like Christmas.

I think the wonderful actress, Dale Evans put it best when she said: ďChristmas is love in action. Every time we love, every time we give itís Christmas.Ē It doesnít have to be a gift of money either. When we give our time, itís Christmas. When we share our smile, itís Christmas. When we give others our kindness and compassion, itís Christmas. When we do anything at any time to help another, itís Christmas.

May you do all you can to make it Christmas every day of the year and every day of your life here. May you always share Godís light through the love you give and the life you live. ---------------


It was many years ago. I was a young dad sitting on the couch reading a fairy tale to my little girl. She sat next to me with her head on my arm as I told the tale. When it came to the end I finished with those famous words: ďAnd they lived happily ever after.Ē As I looked over to her with her wavy, brown hair and big, innocent eyes I could see the smile on her face and I never wanted it to end. It dawned on me then that the ending of the book was what I wanted for her. I wanted her to ďlive happily ever after.Ē

Still, deep in my heart I knew that this couldnít always be so. I knew that there would be times when her heart was broken. I knew there would be times when she cried in grief and I couldnít comfort her. I knew there would be times when all she felt was fear, sadness, sorrow, and despair. As I stroked her hair and smiled at her I hoped that those times would be brief and that she would have joy in her life more often than not. Living happily ever after, though, seemed out of the question.

It took me a lot of years to realize that it IS possible to live happily ever after. You just have to do it ďone day at a time.Ē Happiness you see isnít some reward that you get at the end of your journey. Happiness isnít something dependent on what life hands you. Happiness is something you create in your life choice by choice and day by day.

The truth is happiness comes when you love and love is not a slave to circumstances. Love is a gift from God. It is love that mends broken hearts. It is love that heals grief. It is love that defeats fear, soothes sorrow, and brings light to darkness. It is love that gives us joy. It is love that connects us to God and brings us back to Heaven. Choose to love today then! Choose to ďlive happily ever after, one day at a time.Ē-----------------


When I was younger I was entranced with stories of magic. I devoured books where wizards and warriors battled the powers of darkness in strange worlds. I rejoiced when they triumphed bringing peace and happiness to their lands. I guess like most of the readers of these stories I secretly wished for magical powers for myself. I wanted to be able to magically make my pain disappear, to make my problems go away, and to have power over this world that so often has power over us.

As I got older, however, I realized that there was no such thing as magic and the harsh reality of life set in. I struggled through a long period of poverty. I had daily pain from a back injury that never healed right. I felt sadness and sorrow when both of my sons were diagnosed with Autism. I still sometimes daydreamed of magic but in time even that faded away.

Then one day I am not sure when I began to discover a different kind of magic. This magic grew stronger in my heart, soul, and mind day by day and year by year. This magic was called LOVE. This magic connected me to God, because God is love. It also connected me to my own highest self and to all of the other souls in this world. It didnít eliminate my poverty but it made every day of my life feel richer. It didnít make my back pain go away but it helped me deal with it so much better. It didnít cure my sonsí Autism, but it helped me see them as the beautiful, loving, eternal, and joyful souls that they truly are. It didnít make me a wizard or a warrior but it helped me to dispel the darkness of this world with my own light.

There is such a thing as magic in this world. There is such a thing as magic in each one of us. This magic is called LOVE. May you choose it, share it, and live in it every single day of your life. May you use it to help others, to heal this world, and to build a bridge to Heaven. ---------------


It was a cool November afternoon and I was standing ankle deep in leaves with a rake in my hand. The trees were almost all bare and it was time to rake the leaves before the first snows started to fall. The sun was low in the sky and I knew it would be dark in just a few hours. Still, I was thankful for the smell of the dry leaves, the stark beauty of November, and the chance to get a little exercise while I cleared the yard. I wasnít always so thankful for things like these but I had grown wiser over the years. I smiled as I raked and let my thoughts wander to other things that it took me awhile to be thankful for.

There were hand me down clothes, thick socks, and our warm, wood stove in the Wintertime. There were spaghetti dinners after church on Sunday. There were Nanaís hugs and kisses. There was my Momís kind smile that reappeared in the faces of my children. There was my Dadís quiet strength that kept our family going through the toughest of times. There were my two brothers who picked on me, teased me, toughened me up, yet loved me all the same. There was every mongrel and mutt that ever licked my hand and gave me the gift of their unconditional love. There were musky old books so full of wisdom, tough teachers who made me try my hardest, and coaches who taught me to never give up. There were friends that I laughed with, played with, and grew up with who helped me to become the person I am today. There were tough times, poverty, pain, my sonís handicaps, and many other things that brought me both sorrow and joy. There were millions of moments and memories that all kept me moving up the path of love on my journey back to God. And there was life itself!

It is never too late to be thankful and there are so many things and people to be thankful for. Let gratitude fill your heart then. Let gratefulness bring you closer to God. Let love light your way. Let everyday be Thanksgiving. And always remember that the most powerful prayer in the world consists of just two words: ďThank You!Ē ----------------


At the conclusion of this last political election ending with my beloved country being more divided than ever a friend wrote me a letter sharing her fears and concerns for the future. She ended it with this sentence: ďWe live in troubling times.Ē I couldnít help but agree with her, but the more I thought about it the more I realized that these current times arenít the only troubling times that mankind has lived through.

Ancient times were troubling times when crops could fail and half of all children died before the age of five. The first Christians lived in troubling times where they were persecuted, tortured, and even killed for their beliefs. The fall of the Roman empire and the coming of the dark ages were troubling times. The Bubonic plague killed half of Europe and the rest struggled with starvation and petty wars. The hundred years war, the crusades, the American and French revolutions, the Napoleonic and American Civil wars were all troubling times where hundreds of thousands died. In World War I and World War II those thousands became millions. With the end of them the Cold war with its threat of nuclear destruction made for more troubling times. Then came the troubling times of terrorism and the fear they bring. In addition to these were the troubling times that included the struggles of slavery, segregation, prejudice, poverty, greed, the Great Depression, the Great Recession, the struggle for equal rights, the loss of jobs and security, population explosions, natural disasters, the threat of starvation, the risk of epidemics, and even the fate of our planet being at risk.

It is clear then that we do live in troubling times and that we always have lived in troubling times. The question is how are we going to LIVE in them. Are we going to feed them with our fear or lessen them with our love? Are we going to grow apart in hatred or come together in kindness? Are we going to continue to go from war to war or are we finally going to bring lasting peace to this planet? Are we going to grab for ourselves or are we going to give to others? Are we going to be selfish or are we going to save the world? The choice is ours. I think we all know, however, which choice our Heavenly Father wants us to make. May we all then make our troubling times less troubled by living our lives in love, joy, goodness, kindness, and oneness with God.------------


When I was a freshman just starting college I really wanted to be rich. I even had pictures of a big luxury car and a huge mansion that I had cut out of magazines and pasted in my notebook. I wanted to become a wealthy businessman or a best selling author. I wanted to be both famous and successful. Of course, I never did get any of those things and I thank God for that everyday.

You see, in time I realized that what I really wanted was the happiness that my swollen ego thought those things would bring me. It took me many years to realize that happiness comes from the love we give and not the things we get. It took me many years to shrink my ego, grow my humility, and accept what God wanted for me. As a result what I want now has become a lot different from what I wanted back then.

Now I want to do the things that fill my heart with love, my spirit with joy, and my soul with God. I want to start each morning with the prayer, ďI love you God and I thank you for my life!Ē I want to give my sons hugs and tell them how much I love them. I want to kiss my daughterís hair when she shares her problems with me. I want to play fetch with my puppy and laugh when he climbs on my lap and licks my face. I want to pet my old, gray cat and smile when she curls up on my chest to take a nap. I want to read and write inspiring words that help hurting hearts. I want to feel Godís love when I look at the flowers of Spring, the sunsets of Summer, the leaves of Autumn and the snows of Winter. I want to share my smile, my strength, my laughter, and my love with the world and do everything I can to make Earth more like Heaven.

What do you want out of life? What do you want to give to life? Maybe they are the same. Always remember that it is in giving that you receive. It is in loving that you are loved. It is in sharing your joy that you create happiness in the hearts of yourself, others, and God.----------------


I have always loved to read ever since I was a child so it goes to say that my house is forever full of books. I have new books, old books, hard covers, paperbacks, fiction, and nonfiction. My two tiny book shelves are full of photo albums and scrap books. I have three boxes of books in my closet, two boxes of books on the floor of my bedroom, and a box of childrenís books waiting for my future grandchildren. I have books stacked on the night stand by my bed. I have several books including my old, black Bible on top of my desk. I have even more books including the two I wrote on top of the filing cabinet beside it. I do try to keep the books from building up by donating as many as I can to the local library but as soon as I donate a few I find myself buying a few more.

Books I find keep my mind young, my heart warm, and my soul bright. They bring me learning, laughter, and joy. They connect me with the wisdom of the past and the new ideas of the present. They keep me moving on the right path as I journey through life.

I have learned that people are a lot like books as well. Some have bright and shiny covers but donít have very much to say inside of them. Others are old and musky but so full of wisdom and light that reading them can change your whole life. One difference between books and people, though, is that while a book can have an ending the writing inside of us goes on forever.

Take care when writing the book of your own life then. Fill it with Godís love for you. Fill it with your love for God. Fill it with love for yourself, others, and this world. Fill it with all the wisdom you have learned, goodness you have done, kindness you have shared, and joy you have spread. Keep writing it everyday too. Make it everything you are and everything you want to be and then open it to everyone. I know it will be a wonderful read.----------------


It was a chilly Autumn morning a few years ago. I was driving along the mountain roads slower than usual trying to take in all the Fall colors. It seemed like all of the leaves had changed overnight. It looked as if God in His good-humor and love had painted the mountains themselves while we slept. The yellow and gold leaves were sparkling in the sunshine. The red and orange ones were fluttering brilliantly in the breeze. The deep, rich burgundies and earthy browns were appearing as well. The few remaining green ones looked even better being surrounded by the others. It was so glorious. It was a day made for happiness. Yet, a part of me still felt sad, small, and insignificant in the midst of all of this heaven sent beauty.

As I rounded a curve I suddenly saw an old man hurrying along the side of the road. As soon as he saw me he raised his thumb, hoping for a ride. I braked and pulled over to the side of the road. I opened the door and the white haired man got in with a smile. He was hoping to make it to the local post office and still have time to catch a bus. As I drove along we laughed and talked about what a beautiful day it was. Then just as I pulled over to drop him off he turned to me and said: ďThanks son. You were heaven sent.Ē

I drove away with a smile on my face and a light in my heart. I wasnít sure if I had been ďheaven sentĒ for him but he certainly had been ďheaven sentĒ for me. He had reminded me that I too was an important part of Godís creation and that I should enjoy taking my place in it.

In Godís eyes none of us are small. None of us are insignificant. All of us are Heaven sent. We are here to help each other. We are here to share our love and our kindness. We are here to make this world a better and more beautiful place with our lives. May you always take your place in Godís glorious creation. May you always love well and shine bright.---------------


When I was a little boy my Mom, Dad, Nana, and brothers would often play cards at the kitchen table in the afternoons. It was a fun way to pass the time and after watching countless games of Rummy, Black Jack, Knock, and Poker I started to join in. I was only five but I learned quick and was soon winning as often as I lost. When I started school I found out something too: all of those hours playing cards had made me good with numbers. Soon I was getting 100% on my math tests and it stayed that way until high school. That was when I discovered they had a thing called Algebra. I was shocked to see letters mixed in with the numbers and I struggled to learn it. Then one day I opened a Calculus book. One look was all I needed to know that I wasnít going to be majoring in Math when I got to college.

Instead I found myself studying many things both inside the classroom and out. I studied Literature, History, Psychology, Philosophy, and Theology. I learned from them all and they all put me on a path that I am still on today: it is a journey of learning all I can about life and about love. One thing I did learn was that love has its own unique math that isnít rational yet makes perfect sense. In the Calculus of Love the more love you give away the more love you have. Sharing sorrows means subtracting them. Sharing joys means multiplying them. And when you allow Godís love to fill your heart it doesnít burst but keeps growing bigger and bigger for all eternity.

Love like life is often more than we can understand. It isnít rational, but it is beautiful. It isnít logical, but it is wonderful. The mind canít comprehend it, but the soul understands it. It doesnít always make sense to us, but it makes perfect sense to God. May you always major in love then. May you choose it, share it, and learn of it. Only then will your life add up right.---------------


When I decided to major in English in college I thought it would be fun because I loved to read so much. It turned out to be a lot more difficult, though, than I thought it would be. The differences in the language over hundreds of years made many passages hard to comprehend. Trying to understand Shakespeare gave me headaches and Chaucer was even worse. Reading Byron, Keats, Shelly, Emerson, and Thoreau was easier but still took a lot of effort. There were times, however, when I read passages that illuminated my mind, opened a door into my heart, and shared their wisdom with my soul.

One of these was by William Wordsworth. It went: ďThe best portion of a manís life, his little, nameless, unremembered acts of kindness and love.Ē The first time I read that I could feel it speaking to the deepest part of myself. I vowed then and there to build up the best portion of my own life. I vowed then and there to fill my days with acts of kindness and love. I didnít always succeed, of course. But over the years I slowly but surely began to love more and more. Over the years I did more and more to be kind, to help others, and to live the way I knew God wanted me to live.

What would happen if everyone followed Wordsworthís wisdom and lived from the best portion of themselves? What would happen if everyone of us filled our lives with acts of kindness and love? Would we cease to hate? Would we put an end to war? Would we make sure that no child on this Earth was hungry, lonely, or neglected? Would we all start to work together to make this world the beautiful, loving place that God meant for it to be?

Letís find out. Letís all fill our days with acts of kindness. Letís all fill our lives with acts of love. Letís all be our best selves for each other, for this world, and for God. --------------


My wonderful daughter made me a red velvet birthday cake this year using her own special combination of creativity and love. It was huge and I cut myself the biggest piece. With the first bite I closed my eyes and smiled. It was so moist and sweet. The butter cream icing on top was delightfully thick. It had countless calories and it was so delicious without being necessarily nutritious. I didnít mind, though. I savored every bite and added a few scoops of ice cream as well. My sons and I polished off every bit of it. When we were done our bellies were full, our souls were satisfied, and dinner was still four hours away. We had followed that wise saying of a happy existence: ďLife is short. Eat dessert first!Ē

I have spent way too many years of my life putting off the desserts I was given until everything else was done. Like far too many people in our society, I thought that work came first, duty came second, and joy was somewhere way down the list. It took me a long time to see Godís simple truth that: ďWe work to live but we live to love.Ē Without love, without laughter, without joy, without goodness, without all the simple pleasures life can bring, our existence becomes a dull and miserable journey. Thankfully, I finally realized that when you put love first in your life, everything else tastes so much sweeter.

Donít put off the simple joys that life can bring. Donít put off the beautiful love that you can give. Eat dessert first! Give your kids hugs before homework. Jump in the leaves before bagging them. Dance on the floors before sweeping them. Do random acts of kindness and goodness. Play with your dogs. Pet your cats. Watch the sunset. Give thanks to God. Shine your smile. Spread your sunshine. And share your love with everyone. You will be amazed at how wonderful life will be when you ďLive to LoveĒ while you ďWork to live.Ē ---------------


My birthday present came in the mail a little early this year and my children being the sweethearts they are let me go ahead and open it. It was a new record player to play my old records on. I set it up in my bedroom. It looked like a black briefcase but it had speakers built into the sides and when I opened it up there was a turntable ready to go. I went over to the record collection that I had kept since childhood and pulled out a 35 year old record. I took it out of its tattered jacket and placed it gently on the turntable. I pushed on the power button. Then I carefully picked up the needle and placed it on the spinning record. There was a loud hiss, pop, and crack. Then suddenly the sweet sound of music flowed from the record player into my ears and down to my soul. It was one of those moments of pure joy that makes life so wonderful. I closed my eyes and swayed to the sound. In my mind I was fourteen years old again, singing and dancing to the music in my Momís living room.

I opened my eyes again and smiled. My old beagle fearing that I might start singing soon turned and ran out the door. My young puppy, however, bounced around my feet and barked happily while I danced with delight to the sweet sounds coming from my birthday present.

I have been blessed by so many sweet sounds in this life. I have heard the first birds singing in the Spring. I have heard the wind whistling through the trees. I have heard my newborn babiesí first cries. I have heard children laughing and playing. I have heard the wonderful words, ďI love you.Ē I have heard beautiful, glorious music. And I have heard the sound of Godís love flowing through my own heartbeat and all of creation. I hope to keep adding the sounds of my own love, laughter, kindness, and joy to them too. I hope to do all I can to make this earth sound a little more like Heaven. May you do so as well.-------


I have another birthday coming up soon. With the card, cake, present and hugs will, of course, come the inevitable question, ďHow old are you?Ē I have gotten to the point now where I can honestly say, ďIím not sure.Ē This body of mine is going to be 50 years old. This vehicle that carries around my soul will have been here half a century soon. Parts of it look younger and other parts of it feel older. My energy level has certainly gone to the dogs. Some of the time I feel like my two month old puppy who is chewing on my toes right now. Some of the time I feel like my twelve year old beagle who is napping by the fan. Mentally my age varies too. In some things I feel like a wise old sage. In other areas I feel like a first grader. Emotionally there are times when I feel like a five year old playing in the sunshine. There are other times when I feel like a nineteen year old looking forward to the rest of my life. There are still other times when I feel like a ninety nine year old wondering where all the years have gone. Spiritually it is just as confusing. I feel like the eternal soul that I truly am. Yet, that eternal soul is also forever young. From now on then I am just going to live each day with all of the love, laughter, and joy that I possibly can and let the years take care of themselves.

After all, it isnít the number of years you live that matters. It is how you LIVE them. For all of us here the longest life is too brief. Why then should we waste a single moment not living our lives to the fullest? Why should we pass up a single opportunity to love, to share, to help, to care, to smile, to pray, to laugh, to sing, to dance, or to be kind?

How ďOLDĒ are you? Are you the slowly aging body you see in the mirror or are you the forever young soul within it? Are you a collection of wrinkles and gray hairs that will one day turn to dust or are you a Child of God meant for an eternity of love? ---------


There were a hundred hints of Autumn in the wind when I took my dogs outside this morning. The air was cooler and drier than it had been for months. The Queen Anneís Lace and Black Eyed Susanís seemed to be shivering in the September Sun. Our puppy, Fluffy was carrying around a freshly fallen leaf in his mouth. Overhead a flock of ducks seemed to be debating whether or not it was time to head south. I breathed in deep and smiled. This was my favorite time of the year. I closed my eyes for a moment and was amazed when a thousand Autumn memories mixed and mingled in my mind.

I was a four year old carrying an armful of colorful leaves into the house to give to my Mom. I was a young boy riding my bike down a hill with the wind whistling past my face. I was standing on the football field before practice laughing with my friends. I was riding the school bus watching the changing leaves with my lunch box on my lap. I was walking in the woods wondering why some leaves turn a rich red, while others turn a brilliant yellow and still others turn an awe inspiring orange. I was a young dad pushing my son and daughter on the swings at the school yard on a Saturday afternoon. I was raking a crunchy carpet of Maple and Oak leaves into a pile in my Dadís front yard so my niece and nephew could jump in them. I was walking around a local lake with my children taking in the Fall colors and wondering why the prettiest season seemed to be the shortest. I was sitting on my back porch drinking tea, thanking God for another glorious Autumn afternoon and wondering if in Heaven it was Autumn all of the time.

As I bathed my mind in these memories I looked forward to another wonderful Autumn here and thanked our Heavenly Father for this special season. I remembered what Ralph Waldo Emerson had once said: ďBeauty is Godís handwriting.Ē I wondered too if God had a special pen just for Autumn.

We are all traveling through time in this world. We are all strolling through sweet seasons in this life. We are all creating memories every moment of everyday. May we always take the time then to appreciate all of Godís wonders. May we always take the time to add our own love, joy, and beauty to them.-------------------


I have been trying to fix up my old house this Summer. The work I was able to hire people to help me with looks pretty good. The work I tried to do myself, not so much. The tiles arenít lined up right. The caulk is messy. The screws are crooked. The nails are bent. One of the door knobs is broken. And the dogs are sliding into the walls every time they run across the new rugs because I didnít secure them to the floor properly. I have to say that home repair is not what I am skilled at. Still, I did give it my best.

The main regrets I do have in my life are the times when I didnít give it my best. I regret the times I didnít stop to help a stranger in need. I regret the times I was angry with my kids rather than understanding and kind. I regret the times I gave in to despair rather than praying to God. I regret the times I hid behind my walls instead of sharing my love. I regret the moments when I could have made a difference in this world but didnít because I didnít feel like trying. I regret all the missed opportunities I had to scatter sunshine, to share joy, and to give my love to others.

I know that God forgives me for all of those times when I didnít do my best and I am doing my best to forgive myself as well. I know that carrying the regrets of the past will only keep me from doing my best in the future. I know that time spent in regret and sadness is time taken away from love and happiness.

When it comes to this life then always give it your best. Give it your best smile. Give it your best self. Give it your best effort. Give it your best love. Give it your best kindness. Give it your best joy. Give it your best heart and your best soul. It doesnít matter if your life isnít perfect. It doesnít matter if parts of it are bent and broken. All that matters is that you give it your best every single day. If you do, then all of Heaven will smile upon you.----------------


Recently a kind lady found a six week old puppy abandoned in her driveway. It was skin and bones, covered in fleas, and close to death. It was beyond belief how anyone could do this to a little, baby dog. This wonderful woman, though, rescued this tiny, white ball of fluff, took him in and bathed him a long time to kill the fleas. Then unable to raise him herself she put a notice on Facebook trying to find him a good home. It was there that my daughter saw it. She knew that I was hoping to get my oldest son, JJ a new puppy. It wasnít long then until we were bringing this little guy home. My son named him, ďFluffy.Ē

After another bath, a few good meals, and a trip to the vet Fluffy no longer seemed sick or sad. Instead his true personality emerged. Just this morning he chewed on my ankles, my toes, the rugs, his chew toy, and his own tail. He wiggled out of his new collar. He whined his way onto my lap while I ate breakfast. He wolfed down his puppy chow and pooped on the floor. He barked at his toy bone, chased the my old beagle all over the house, and french kissed the cat. He also melted all of our hearts with his happiness and unconditional love. It looks like he is going to be quite a handful as he grows up but we donít mind. I am sure that he was meant to come to us at this time and to bring his love into our lives.

Isnít it incredible how our Heavenly Father can use even the worst acts that some of us do to bring out the best in the rest of us? I thank that sweet lady who saved Fluffyís life and I want her to know that he will always be loved and cared for here.

We are all connected in this life. We are connected with each other. We are connected with God. We are connected with all of His creatures. We can weaken those connections with acts of evil or we can strengthen them with acts of Love. May you always choose Love.-------------


I was looking through some old photo albums the other day. I had already looked through them many times before but I felt a sudden urge to see those old pictures again. I found myself reliving so many beautiful memories from my childhood. There was my dear Nana giving me a bath when I was a baby. There was me and my brother standing in front of the worldís ugliest Christmas tree. There was my first dog: Duke snuggled up next to me on the couch. There was my beautiful Mom holding me on her lap. Then all of the sudden the pictures seemed blurry. I realized that the pictures were blurry because my eyes were moist. Tears were dripping down my cheeks. I wiped my wet eyes and wondered what was going on. I hadnít cried the last time I looked at those pictures. What was different now?

I soon saw that it was I who was different. Since I had last looked through those photos I had grown. My empathy had risen. My compassion had strengthened. My spirit had walked a little further down the path of love. I realized too that wet eyes were nothing to be ashamed of as long as they came with a warm heart. I smiled and closed the photo album up once again. I felt Mom and Nana smiling down on me from Heaven. I felt my Heavenly Fatherís love inside of me and all around me.

Leo Buscaglia once said: ďIím not afraid to cry. It cleans out my eyeballs.Ē I think it cleans out our insides as well. It helps us to wash away our pain, fear, and grief. It helps us to reconnect to our love, goodness, and oneness with God. It helps us to become who we were meant to be. The next time you feel your own tears starting then just let them flow.

Life is full of smiles. Life is full of tears. Only by allowing them both can we truly live. Only by embracing them both can we truly love.--------------


When I was eleven years old my family moved to a new home on the top of a mountain. It was a lovely, little house, but it only had well water that was heavy in iron and the only source of heat was a wood stove in the kitchen. My Dad had become disabled with a back injury so it was up to me and my brother to chop and carry in the wood for the stove and to carry home five gallon containers of drinking water from a nearby spring. I hated both chores and avoided them whenever I could. For the first few years there then my older brother did most of the work.

When my brother left home for the army, though, it was up to me to take over these chores. At first I grumbled to myself a lot but after a while I found that I didnít mind doing them at all. Maybe I was growing up or maybe I was becoming a little less spoiled. All I knew was that it felt good being able to help Mom and Dad. It felt good being able to show my love for them in this small way. It made me feel alive, happy, and closer to God even while I was straining my muscles and working up a sweat.

There is an old Zen saying that goes: ďBefore enlightenment, chopping wood, carrying water. After enlightenment, chopping wood, carrying water.Ē When I first saw it, I instantly remembered those boyhood chores and I realized at once what this saying meant. It isnít the work that matters. It is the way you feel when you do the work that matters. In this life we are all going to have hard work of one kind or another. It can be a misery to us or it can be a joy. The choice is ours. When we do our work with love, however, it ceases to be work at all. It instead becomes a gift that we give to ourselves and to others.

May all of your work be filled with love. May all of your life be filled with love. And may Godís light shine bright within you always.----------------


During the last four years of her life my Mom fought a valiant but losing battle against cancer. During that time she lost her health, her hair, and 40 pounds. She was in and out of the hospital more times than I could count. In the end as her lifeís energy ebbed away we all gathered at her bedside and said goodbye. She was only 55 years old.

For a long while after her death I was depressed and angry at God. My own health broke down and I contracted double pneumonia. In time my body healed and my heart as well. It was the love of my children that finally pulled me out of my despair and helped me to begin to live again. Still, I continued to ask God why my Mom had to die so young.

It was only years later that I began to see clearly what my Mom had done in those last four years of her life. While cancer was beating her body, it certainly wasnít beating her soul. In her last four years here my Mom lived as she had never lived before. Even with cancer she worked outside of our home and touched the lives of her co-workers with her gentle humor and kind spirit. She reconnected with old friends that she hadnít seen in years and made special memories with each one of them. She and my Dad grew closer in those last four years than I had ever seen them before. There was a love and a tenderness between them that touched us all. Mom was there for me and my two brothers as well. During her time with us she brightened our souls with her love and she helped us to grow strong enough to go on without her.

In her last four years my Mom completed her mission here. She showed us how to love God. She showed us how to meet death. She showed us that fear always flees in the face of joy. She showed us that to live life is to love life, no matter how much pain you have and no matter how much time you have left. Thanks Mom! I will always love you. ----------------


It was a hot and humid day in July. I was driving to the local grocery store because the heat had made my bananas go from yellow to brown overnight. My air conditioner in my car was on high, but it still wasnít cooling me down. Suddenly, the car in front of me signaled that it was pulling off. I pressed on the brakes and slowed down. Out of the corner of my eye I saw several teenagers standing in the sweltering, Summer sun. They werenít playing, goofing off, or hanging around though. They werenít drinking, smoking, gossiping, or looking at their cell phones. They were working on a porch.

I recognized them immediately as one of the church work camps. For more years than I can remember these young men and women have volunteered their Spring and Summer vacations to come here and help repair the homes of poor people. I smiled when I saw them there sweating, straining, and working hard to do some good in this world. While the news headlines were so full of murder, hate, and violence, these young people were doing their best to share some love and light with others. In my heart and mind I heard the words once again: ďI was hungry and you gave me food...I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me.Ē

There is so much good we can do in this life. There are so many people we can help. There is so much love we can share. And as long as there is life, there is more to do. Whether it is repairing a house, sharing a smile, offering a hug, adopting a dog, visiting the sick, giving to charity, praying for others, sharing a kind word, or doing any act of goodness, every single thing we do is precious in the eyes of Heaven.

God loves us all so much and His greatest wish is for us to love each other as well. Choose to love then. Chose to love and you will have joy. Choose to love and you will share joy. Choose to love and you will help others and make this world a better place. There is no greater way to live and there is always more to do. May God bless and guide you always.---------------


There was a long line at the local convenience store the other day. Apparently the multi-state lottery prize had grown into the hundreds of millions again and people where lining up to buy tickets. As I waited to pay for my gas I wondered if I should fish the two extra dollars out of my wallet to buy a ticket myself. I thought for a second about all the things I could buy with that much money. Then I stopped and thought about the true treasures in my life, the treasures that brought me happiness, the treasures that warmed my heart, the treasures that uplifted my soul.

There was the time I spent with my two handicapped sons, caring for them, hugging them, laughing with them, and loving them. There was the long talks with my daughter and gentle kisses on her head I gave her before she headed home in the evenings. There was the unconditional love I saw in my dogís eyes every time she looked at me. There was watching the sun come up in the morning and the stars sparkle at night. There was standing on my back porch sipping an iced tea while watching the fireflies on a Summer evening. There was listening to my old, vinyl records on my ancient record player and singing along with them. There was sitting by my reading lamp on a dark, Winterís night reading a musty, old, paperback book. There was helping a friend, a neighbor, or a stranger in need. There was smelling flowers, walking in the woods, and taking deep breaths of the crisp, morning air in the mountains. There was eating a home cooked meal with my family using the old, Italian recipes passed down from my Dad and Nana. There was talking to God and feeling the joy in my heart and the smile on my face when I remembered just how much He loved me. There was sharing smiles, writing stories, and doing random acts of kindness. There was hundreds of other things as well, far too many to ever write down here.

There was one thing about all of these treasures too. They cost me little if any money. Most of them, in fact, were free gifts from Heaven. Still, each and every one of them was priceless. I kept the extra two dollars in my wallet then. I didnít need the false hope a lottery ticket would temporarily bring. I didnít need the things its money would buy if I won. I was already rich in the eyes of Heaven. My days were full of the true treasures of this world. Love was mine to choose. Joy was mine to share. Life was mine to live.

May all of your days be full of the true treasures of this world. May you enjoy them all and use them all to walk with God through this life and into the next.---------------


I was walking my beagle, Snoopy the other evening while the last light of the setting sun colored the clouds purple and pink. I looked up to the sky and smiled. After a minute Snoopy started pulling at her leash. She was more than ready to head inside for a bowl of dog food and a bacon treat. I wasnít quite ready to go in yet, however, so I knelt down and patted her head. I was waiting for my friends the Little Blinkers to appear.

It wasnít long either before I saw them switching their lights on and off. They were fireflies, of course, also known as lightening bugs. Over all the years that I have lived here they have never failed to appear at this time during the Summer to do their mating dance of light and love. They have never failed to delight me. They have never failed to amaze me. They have never failed to make the world a little brighter. It has always been such a joy too knowing that God created such wonderful creatures that can shine their own light and make the dark meadows look like the starry skies above. They make me want to share my own light as well, even if it isnít that bright and even if it does tend to blink now and then.

Robert Fulghum wrote, ďI know some people who give off a lot of light. Because they have absorbed a lot of light themselves. They Shine.Ē I donít know how much light I have absorbed over the years, but I do know that I wonít keep it hidden under a basket. I will shine it. I will share it. I will use it to bring as much goodness, love, joy, and wisdom into this world as I possibly can.

May you always shine your light as brightly as you can. May you always share it with others as well. Remember too that God doesnít ask you to illuminate the whole world. He just wants you to make your little corner of it a bit brighter.---------------


My daughter has been having some unique house guests at her place this Summer. For the second time now a family of robins have built a nest on the crossbeams of her porch just underneath the roof. It is incredible watching how they weave grass, twigs, and mud into a sturdy home to hatch their eggs and raise their babies. It is amazing to observe the dedication with which they continuously hunt for food to feed their brood. It is funny too seeing how the Momma robin will fly to the nearby tree when I approach the porch and chirp some not so kind things at me until I leave again.

It is seeing the baby birds grow, however, that is the best thing of all. In less than two months they go from growing in little blue eggs, to napping in a bundle together, to looking like ugly, little vultures with their mouths open, to flying out of their nest to soar in the skies along with their parents. It is wondrous to watch. Anyone who sees this up close can only be filled with awe for the miracle that is life.

My daughterís house guests have taught me a few things too. They have taught me about hard work and craftsmanship. They have taught me about dedication and sacrifice. They have taught me about growth and life. Most of all, though, they have taught me that while it is safe and warm in the nest, it is better to fly.

The poet Rumi once wrote: ďYou were born with wings, why prefer to crawl through life?Ē I for one donít want to crawl. I want to fly! I want to leave the nest, spread my wings of love and let my soul soar. I want to live the way God intended for us to live with our hearts in Heaven even while our feet are here on Earth. May your heart always fly high then. May your wings of love carry you to Heaven and help you to lift others there as well.----------------


On a day in late June it started to rain here and didnít stop for 14 hours. When it was over flash floods had roared through our state destroying homes, businesses, roads, bridges, and towns. Many lives were lost. After it was over people walked through the mud left behind to find what few things they could. Some wept in sorrow at what they had lost. Others wept in joy when they found their loved ones alive. Some bent their heads in despair and asked ďWhy me?Ē Others lifted their heads to Heaven and said, ďFather, please help us through this!Ē

When the waters had receded, though, an amazing thing happened. People immediately started to help each other. Some donated food, water, clothing, and cash to help those who had lost everything. Others went looking for missing people and lost pets. Still others went out in the deep mud and began to help clean up the damage. Men, women, and even children started coming together to do all they could to help. Churches were soon filled with supplies to help the flood victims and volunteers spent their days carrying those supplies to the people who needed them. Government help arrived too but before it even got here a higher help was already at work: the help of loving souls caring for their neighbors. I am sure God must have smiled down on us when He saw all of this LOVE in action.

It is incredible how often the worst things in life bring out the best things in us. The love, caring, and compassion that I have seen in these last few days has touched my soul. It has reminded me how good people really are. It has shown me once again that we are all Children of God and that we are all one family in this world. May we always come together in both good times and bad. May we always care for each other, help each other and work together to make this world a better place. May we always do all we can to fill this life with love.-----


I can still remember the first moment I saw my first born son. He looked so perfect even with his red face and wrinkled skin. All I could do was sigh with delight. We named him Joseph John or JJ after me. JJ had a very normal infancy but when he hadnít started talking by the age of two my wife and I grew worried about what might be wrong with him. It took a long time and trips to several doctors before he was diagnosed with Autism, a spectrum disorder that affects oneís speech, behavior, emotions, and even thinking. It was a terrifying thing realizing that my son wasnít normal. I remember praying to God over and over again to heal him, to make him normal, and to make his Autism disappear.

Those prayers were never answered. Five years later after the birth of our daughter we found out that my wife was pregnant with a second son. I remember praying to God again that this boy would be normal. Those prayers werenít answered either. My second son, Casey had an even more extreme form of Autism. His language would never develop beyond some simple words and his behaviors and mood swings were much more severe than his brotherís. He would cry often, destroy things, and hit himself. I can remember being angry at God at times, not understanding why He had given me two handicapped sons and why He had answered ďNoĒ when I prayed again and again for Him to heal them.

After a long while, though, I began to realize that God hadnít answered ďNoĒ to my prayers. Instead, He had said, ďI am giving you something better!Ē You see, over the years my sons have taught me more about love, caring, and compassion than I could have ever learned on my own. Watching JJ give his friendliness and kindness to everyone he meets every single day makes my heart open with joy. He truly is an earth angel and a friend to the world. He knows more people by name than I do and he greets everyone with a smile straight from Heaven. Hearing Caseyís laugh is like hearing the angels sing. Over the years and with medication his mood swings and destructive behaviors have grown less severe while the love and joy inside of him have grown only stronger. He makes me laugh and smile every single day. He has never been able to say more than a few words at a time to me but his soul has spoken volumes.

Now I thank God everyday for giving me my sons. Caring for them is neither a duty, nor a burden, it is a joy. Without them in my life I wouldnít have become the person I am. Without them in this world, it would be a darker place. God truly did answer my prayers then. He didnít give me what I wanted. He gave me and this world something better.

The three most beautiful words in the Bible are ďGod is Love.Ē I know too that both of my boys were made in His image as are all the handicapped people in this world. They like us are Godís Children. They like us are created in LOVE. They may not be normal by the worldís standards but they are forever special in Heavenís eyes. May we always help them to share their love and light.---------------


The other day my two sons and I got into my old car to drive to the local post office. I backed out of my drive slowly like I normally do and then pulled to a stop at the side road that leads to the main highway. When it was clear I pulled out and stepped on the gas. As I stepped on the clutch and tried to shift into second, though, I immediately knew that something was wrong. The normally solid gear shift now felt like a spoon in a bowl of soup. I tried quickly to get it to lock into any of the gears but to no avail. Thankfully, the steering wheel was still working fine and I allowed the car to coast to the end of the side road where I was able to pull safely into a wide spot and turn the engine off.

My sons and I walked back to my house, borrowed my daughterís car, and drove to a local garage to arrange to have my car towed in for repairs. It was only later in the day that I finally realized how blessed and watched over I had been. I could have been on the main road when that stick shift failed. I could have been doing 55 miles per hour instead of 15. I could have been in the middle of a curve with no place to turn off the road. I could have had a car too close behind me that wouldnít have been able to stop in time. A hundred things could have made this incident dangerous or deadly. Yet, the gear shift broke at just the right moment to keep me and my boys safe.

Far too often we only see the bad things in life. We get angry with God when things donít go our way, and we fail to see the thousands of times that they do. We are loved and watched over in this life more than we can ever know. God loves us and His angels protect us every single day. Yes, my car broke down. Still, my sons and I are safe. We are loved. And we have been given more time here in this world to share our own love and light. Thank you God!----------------


Life is full to overflowing with miracles if you only open your heart to see them. I saw another one just the other day. I had been running errands all morning and was about to head home. The morning heat, though, felt more like a Summer afternoon than a Spring morning and my mouth was parched. I decided then to stop by a local convenience store to get something to drink first.

As I walked in I heard a mother talking to her son. ďAre you sure you want to spend your birthday money on ice cream?Ē The little boy who couldnít have been more than five years old nodded, yes. I stood behind him as the cashier filled a small cone with vanilla ice cream. The lady handed him the cone and he handed her his money. He was about to turn around when the cashier told him to wait and dropped a few small coins into his hand. The little guy looked at his change for a moment and then lifted his hand up to a charity box on the counter and dropped them in it. He turned around and our eyes met. He smiled at me and I winked and smiled back. Then he walked out of the store with his Mom, happily eating his ice cream.

After watching that little miracle of love my heart felt lighter and the world seemed brighter. Life made sense once again. It felt so good to be a part of Godís creation. It felt so wonderful to be on a world that had such kindness in it. I knew too that all of the angels in heaven must have been cheering when they saw that little act of love.

In the eyes of God no gift is too small. In the eyes of God every act of love is priceless. By simply sharing a few coins that little boy had made this world a better place and me a better person. By simply being kind that little boy had given life another miracle and made Earth a little more like Heaven. May we all do the same.-----------------


After all of these years I can still remember the first time I placed my newborn baby son into my Grandmotherís arms. Nana by that time was 77 years old and needed a walker to get around her tiny home. Yet, the second I came in the door she stretched her arms out to me for a hug and kissed me. When she had settled into her favorite chair I placed my son into her arms and watched her rock him gently while her eyes sparkled with joy and her face filled with smiles.

By that time Nana had already been through so much in her life. As a little girl she had survived a German U-boat attack on the transport ship taking her to America from Italy during World War I. Sheíd learned English as a second language and worked hard even as a child to help her poor family survive in their new home. Sheíd married and raised 4 sons, growing 4 huge vegetable gardens to help feed them. Then sheíd helped to raise me and my two brothers when my Dad and Mom moved back into her home after Grandpa died. When I was 11 years old sheíd watched in tears as a fire destroyed that home in the middle of the night. Sheíd also survived brain surgery to remove a cancerous tumor from her head.

As I watched her hold my baby son in her arms I wondered how much longer she would be with us and hoped it would be for a long time. Thankfully, Nana lived to be 92. I guess God knew she still had more babies to hold, more kisses and hugs to give, and more love to share.

Now my newborn baby is 28 years old and I have gray hair and wrinkles. Still, I donít feel old. Like Nana I know that I have more kisses, hugs, and love inside of me to share. Life may have pain, struggles, and sorrows, but God loves us and helps us through them all. Life here may be brief, but there is always time for love. There is always time for learning. There is always time for joy. And there is always time for hugs.---------------


It was a morning in late May. The clouds had cleared from the rain of the night before. The sky was blue and the sun was smiling its golden grin upon the earth. The trees in the woods were now covered in light green leaves. Some of the birds were still singing their morning songs but many were too busy searching for food for their newly hatched chicks. There was a hint of the warmth the afternoon would bring but the air was still cool, fresh and clean. Even my aging beagle seemed delighted by it all and bounced around like a puppy taking in the thousand scents of Spring. As I walked him I felt a joyfulness in my own heart. It felt like Mother Nature herself was giving me a hug. I could feel the love of God all around me and within me as well. I breathed in deep and smiled at the morning before heading back inside.

That smile was still on my face when I walked into my bathroom and looked in the mirror but I noticed something else was there too. I had a white spot on the very tip of my nose. It was of all things a pimple. The very sight of it on my 49 year old face made me laugh out loud. Then when I popped it the white spot was replaced with a red one. This made me laugh even harder. It was so silly and I looked ridiculous. Still, it didnít subtract one bit from my joy on that wondrous May morning. It added to it instead.

It is joy that holds this universe together. It is joy that we all want out of life. Joy comes to us when welcome Godís love into our hearts, souls, and lives. Joy grows when we share our own love with others as well. Joy appears whenever we cease to fear, to hate, to judge, or to complain. And joy travels the fastest when carried on the wings of laughter. May you fill all of your days with joy then. May you find joy and bring joy wherever you go. May you make your entire life here as bright and as beautiful as a morning in May. ----------------


With the ever increasing speed of change in todayís world I have to admit that for the first time I am beginning to feel my age. When I was a boy being online meant helping my Mom hang up my jeans on the clothesline behind our house. Twitter was what you heard from the birds in the trees. There was no Facebook although I often had my face in a book. A smart phone was one with a long cord so you could walk around while you talked to someone. A mouse was something our cat chased. And a computer was that strange thing with the blinking lights I saw on the science fiction television shows.

These days I have learned how to work a desktop computer and I am grateful everyday that I took a typing class in high school. Yet, it seems like there is always a message on my screen asking me to update my software and I am concerned that as soon as I learn the new system it will already be out of date. My daughter can work her smart phone with the skill of a concert violinist. Whenever I need the answer to something fast I ask her, she asks her phone, and we have the answer. Still, I am thankful that she turns it off from time to time. Everyday I see teenagers with their heads permanently bent to their phones while life passes them by.

I am not worried about where this technological trip is taking us, though. I know that all roads lead to the same place. We are children of eternity and eventually we all must return to God and His Love. Our smart phones and social media wonít be making the trip with us, either. The only things we can take with us are what we have learned and the love we have shared. The only computer we will be carrying into the next life is the software of our souls.

Donít give your life over to technology then. Instead use technology to help you share your love, shine your light, and spread your joy. Use it to help others and make this world a better place. Use it in a way that makes God smile and the angels sing. And then after you are done turn it off. Remember, what is essential is inside of you. You may be a child of technology, today but you are child of eternity, forever!---------------


I was six years old walking along the railroad tracks that ran next to my Nanaís house where my family lived. I could see the old, green house about 300 yards away through the tears in my eyes. My hand was hurting and my feet were stumbling, but I kept crying and walking towards my home. On one of my walks through the woods I had come upon something metal sitting in the grass and leaves. I had reached down to grab it and sprung a leg trap meant to catch foxes and raccoons. I tried to pull it apart but couldnít. I did manage to loosen the chain, however, and then headed home with the trap on my fingers and tears running down my face.

As I approached the house I saw my Dad hoeing the weeds in our garden. I started crying even harder and ran up to him holding out my hand. My Dad sprang into action and had the trap off in a second. Then he knelt down and checked my fingers for a long time to make sure I didnít have any serious damage. Finally satisfied that I would be alright he smiled at me and patted me on my shoulder. He took my hand and had me walk him back to where the trap was originally. Then he dropped it without resetting it.

On the way back home I wondered if he was going to punish me or even scold me for being so foolish, but he never said a word. I guess he felt I had learned my lesson and would never dare touch one of those traps again. Remembering that day my only regret is that I donít remember ever having said, ďThanks Dad!Ē for what he had done.

Still, looking back made me realize that it is never too late to say what needs said. Even though Dad is now in Heaven with Mom and Nana, I know he can still hear me say, ďThanks Dad for being so strong, wise, and kind that day. Thanks for letting me screw up, make mistakes, and find my own way in this world. Thanks Dad for the things you taught me and the love you gave me. Thanks for watching over me while you where here on Earth and for watching over me now that you are in Heaven.Ē

Over the years too I have done a lot of things far more foolish than I did that day. Through them all, though, my Heavenly Father never punished me. He let me learn my lessons and offered me only love and forgiveness when I ran crying into His arms. Like my earthly father He watched over me with unconditional love and let me find my own way back to Him. That is why I am who I am today. That is why I now say, ďThank you GodĒ every chance I get. May you do the same. May you fill all of your days with love, learning, thankfulness, and joy.--------------


I was looking through some of the shoe boxes of my mind today. Those are the places where I store all of the wonderful moments of learning and loving that I have had in this life. One such memory is of a simple picture drawn for me by a 5th grade student when I was a very young substitute teacher. I lost the real picture in one of the several moves I have made over the years, but the picture is still there in one of the shoe boxes of my cluttered, middle-aged mind.

It was drawn in crayons and colored pencils. There were lovely, red, Fall trees, green grass, and flowers under a golden sun. Under it were written the words: ďYou are the best teacher Iíve ever had.Ē Now the strange thing was that I had only been her teacher for one day and I would never teach in her classroom again. That was the life of a substitute teacher. You hardly ever got the same class twice. Still, I was young and idealistic. I believed in what the great educator Leo Buscaglia had said about using positive, caring, and encouraging words with your students. That day I had taken the opportunity to tell that young artist how great her English paper had been and that she should ďKeep up the wonderful work!Ē As school ended that day she handed me the picture, smiled, and ran out to her bus. I kept that picture in a special folder on my dresser and in a special shoe box in my mind. I was amazed at how my one kind comment had meant so much to her, and I thanked God for giving me the wisdom to say it.

Now that I am old and idealistic I see that every caring word we say, every act of kindness we do, and every bit of love we share makes a difference in this world. God loves us all and God created us all for a purpose. We are to love each other and make this world a better place in our own special way. May you do so today. May you fill all of your days with love and kindness. May you fill all the shoe boxes of your mind with memories of joy.------------------


When I was a teenager I used to take long walks in the woods behind our home. I found it a great way to clear my head, a good way to calm my spirit, and a wonderful way to connect to something greater than myself. I cherished the peace that it gave me.

As I was walking back to our house one day, I heard something that gave me even more peace than my stroll through the forest had. A window of our home was open and I could hear music playing from our old record player. Carried along on that stream of music was something I hardly ever heard too: the lovely sound of my Mother singing.

Now my Mom rarely sang unless she was alone. I guess she was shy about having others hear her. She would quietly join in on the hymns at church but I could never make out her voice among all the others. This time, though, I heard her singing sweetly and softly. I didnít want her to stop so I snuck softy up to the side of the house and sat under the open window. It was so beautiful. Her loving spirit seemed to flow through every word. I felt like I was a baby boy again listening to her lullabies and feeling safe, warm, and loved. I sat there for a long while with a smiling face and a happy heart.

As I think back on that day I am reminded of the story of a boy who was weeping inconsolably because his pet canary who had sang so beautifully and brought joy to the entire family had died. His tears only stopped when a wise lady reminded him that ďThere are other worlds to sing in.Ē I know that one day in the world to come I will see Mom again and hear her sweet voice sing once more. Until then I will do my best to sing my own song here in this world. Until then I will do my best to share the love and music God gave me. May you do the same. May you make your entire life a song of love, sweet to hear and joyful to sing.---------------


I was walking into the store today to buy a bar of soap. I had no idea why I had forgotten it on my regular shopping trip but my soap bar was now down to the size of a quarter so I had to get one. I wasnít in a hurry so instead of heading right to it, I found myself walking among the aisles amazed at all the products. There were several brands of soap and bottles of liquid soap too. There were shampoos for oily, dry, and babyís hair. There were so many types of toothpaste and mouthwash. There were shaving creams, shaving lotions, and aftershaves. There were acne pads, deodorants, and body sprays. There were hand lotions, face lotions, and body lotions. There were hair dyes, lip sticks, eyeliners, foundations, and blush. There were dozens upon dozens of items all designed to keep us looking young and beautiful.

As I walked among them, though, I kept remembering a picture I had seen the other day. It was of an old woman. She was so ancient that it was impossible to guess what her age might be. Her thin gray hair was pulled back on her head. Her skin had grown coarse and leathery. Her forehead, eyes, nose and cheeks had the deepest of wrinkles. All of her teeth were gone except for one small one in her lower jaw. By all of our modern day beauty standards she would have been called ugly. Yet, when I saw the sparkle in her eyes and the happiness in her smile I could tell how beautiful she was. She had lived. She had loved. And her face was a testament to that.

Saint Augustine wrote that ďLove is the beauty of the soul.Ē That beauty doesnít just stay in the soul, however. It shines forth in our faces and in our lives. It radiates out in everything we say, everything we do, and every smile we share. It is seen by God and everyone else in this world. Fill your soul with love then. Fill your life with living. Fill your days with joy. Make yourself beautiful from the inside out, today, tomorrow, and forever. ---------------


After battling health problems for over two years my sonís beloved cat, Dusty passed away. I held her in my arms as she breathed her last breath and with a heavy heart carried her gently up to the woods behind our home to bury her.

As the days passed it seemed strange not hearing my son, JJ talking to Dusty in his room. He handled her loss better than me, though. His beautiful, simple, childlike faith accepted that she was in Heaven and that he would see her again one day. Still, he longed to have another cat of his own again. I decided to rescue one then from a local animal shelter as soon as I could. God, however, had other plans, because the very next day I got a message from a friend looking for a home for a six month old female cat named Sassy.

I agreed to take her in and my friend and I met up on a sunny afternoon. Sassy was a long haired grey and white cat with a personality that didnít match her name. She was shy, sweet, lovable, and extremely laid back. She took to JJ right away and spends all of her time in his room napping in the sunlight through the window, and soaking up the love and attention my son showers on her. She has happily accepted her new role in life of sharing purrs, meows, and caring cuddles with my son. I think that Our Heavenly Father was waiting for just the right moment to bring her into our family and I thanked Him for doing so.

We are all connected in this life. We are all one family. We are all one world. Strands of our love go out from heart to heart and soul to soul. God sees them all, guides them all, and weaves them all into a glorious tapestry of light beyond our ability to fully see. Take your part in the tapestry then. Share your love. Share your joy. Share your light. Help God to make this world a brighter place for cats, dogs, and people everywhere. -----------------


After a long, cold Winter the wonderful signs of Spring are finally appearing here in the mountains of my home. Golden daffodils and dandelions are growing in the meadows and along the sides of the roads. In peopleís yards red and yellow tulips, purple phlox and hyacinths are pushing their heads through the soil. The forests are turning a thousand shades of green. The dogwood, apple, and cherry trees are all in bloom, filling their branches with beautiful flowers and the air with their sweet smell. The green grass is growing again and rabbits and deer are sneaking into my backyard at dusk for an evening snack. Jacket mornings are giving way to short sleeve afternoons as the strengthening sun slowly warms the Earth. Bluejays and red cardinals are flying overhead. Robins are gathering twigs for their nests. In the trees a hundred birds are singing their love songs while a woodpecker drums along.

As I walked out of my house this morning too I saw another sign of Spring that brightened my soul and filled my heart with joy. A single, white butterfly floated by my face, circled my head, and flew off again. It reminded me again of my Mom watching over me from Heaven and my eyes moistened while warm sunshine kissed my cheek. I knew then that Spring was here to stay and I thanked God for a beautiful beginning to another day.

We all go through Winter times in our lives. We go through times of cold loneliness, bitter disappointment, and frigid despair. We go through times when we feel frozen to our very core. Godís love, however, is always there for us. Like the strengthening sun, Godís love is there to warm our hearts, thaw our spirits, and bring life back to our souls. Allow God to fill you with His love then. Allow Him to awaken the love within yourself so you can share it with the world. Then all of your days will be filled with light, laughter, joy, and Springtime. ---------------


After all of these years I still find myself picking up pennies I find on the ground. When I was a child I always delighted in seeing those little, brown circles on the sidewalk. I would save them up and when I had enough buy a pack of gum or even a bag of chips. Of course, that was when things cost a lot less than they do today. Iíd also heard several times growing up that God, His angels, and even our departed loved ones sometimes would leave pennies on the ground in front of us as a sign that we were loved and watched over from above. I never doubted that story even as an adult. After all, it is rare that you find a nickel, dime, or quarter on the ground but pennies are there all the time. Maybe that is why I still enjoy seeing them and picking them up no matter how dirty or grimy they are.

A few months ago I was walking to the local post office to mail a letter to a friend of mine. As I started down the sidewalk to the door I saw not one, not two, but four separate pennies shining in the sunlight. I smiled, bent down, and picked them up. I kept them in my hand as I walked in the door. Inside a lady was digging through her purse at the counter desperately looking for change to mail a package to her daughter. She was exactly four cents short. I laughed to myself at this minor miracle and placed my pennies from Heaven on the counter. The smile I got in return was worth a thousand dollars.

Every small act of kindness, every little, loving gesture, every moment of compassion and sharing is a treasure in the eyes of God and blesses the world around us. Always pass on your pennies from Heaven then. Always share the love in your heart and the love you get from others. Always make your life here a gift. It is a joyous way to live. It is a Heavenly way to live. It is the best way to live.--------------


God has worked with and on me for all my days here. He has helped me in so many ways to become the person I was meant to be and the Child of God I was called to be. He has touched me through experiences, memories, books, stories, animals, angels, and most of all other people. He has moved me and molded me with moments of love and examples of kindness. He has guided me through times of joy and times of sorrow. He has walked with me every step on my journey through life.

One time on the day before Christmas many years ago when I was a minimum wage mill worker, I found myself with very little money and very little time to buy my small children a few simple toys. I knew that they would have to be cheap ones and I hoped my children would like them. I hated not having enough to give them more. I hated being poor. And I hated feeling bad at Christmas rather than happy.

I pulled into a store parking lot and counted my money again. It wasnít much but maybe I could get something small with it. As I was getting out of the car I noticed the Salvation Army bell ringer at the entrance. I felt bad again because I didnít feel I could spare anything to give him. I started walking towards the entrance when two cars pulled into empty parking spots in front of me. The first was a shiny, new Cadillac and I felt a twinge of jealousy when I saw it. ďHow niceĒ, I thought, ďwould it be to have enough money to buy a car like that.Ē The second car, though, was an ancient sedan more beat up and rusty than the one I was driving.

A man hopped out of the Cadillac and hurried into the store right past the bell ringer without a second glance. Out of the old sedan came a young mother with three small children in tow. Her clothes looked as worn out as her car, yet she stopped in front of the bell ringer, smiled, opened her purse, and dropped a bill in his red kettle. I stood there for a minute in astonishment while God spent another moment working on my heart, soul, and mind. ďMaybeĒ, I thought to myself, ďItís better to be rich on the inside instead of the outside.Ē In that second a warmth touched me, my jealousy and hatred left me, and all the love and joy that is Christmas filled me. I fished a bill out of my own wallet, dropped it in the Salvation Army kettle, and wished the bell ringer a ďMerry Christmas!Ē I found a few fun things to give my kids and drove home with my heart singing. I knew it was going to be a wonderful Christmas and I felt like I had traveled another step closer to Heaven, God, and the person I was meant to be.---------------


It was a glorious, sunny day. The purple clouds of the morning had given way to golden sunshine that kissed the world with its warmth. Birds were singing in the trees even though Spring was still a few weeks away. The breeze was fresh and clean and just being outside filled me with joy. It was one of those special reward days we get from time to time when both the weather and the world seemed right. I took some extra time walking my dog and talking to God. I thanked Him for the day. I thanked Him for my life. I offered Him the rest of my time here to share His love, shine His light, and spread His truth.

As I walked along too I kept my eyes open for the first Daffodil, Tulip, or Dandelion to pop its head through the soil. I knew it was only a matter of time before the lengthening days and warming sunshine awakened them all. It would be such a delight seeing them stretch toward the sun and share their beauty with the world once again.

After a while I kicked off my shoes and walked barefoot on the cool grass. I looked once again at the sun shining down on us all. At that moment, however, I realized something. While I have always been the happiest when the sunny days of life blessed me with their goodness, I have grown the most when itís cloudy. Maybe that is why God gives us clouds and rain as well as sunshine in this world. Our joy may be easier when the sunlight of blessings fills our days, but our love grows the most when the clouds block the light.

The next time the clouds of life cover the sunshine above donít despair. Turn to the light that always shines: the light of Godís love within us. Let your own love and faith grow stronger. Use what you learn to be better and to help others as well. Life is full of both sunshine and clouds but the light within us can never be covered unless we let it.----------------


For the last few months I had noticed the brakes on my car getting weaker and weaker. They still worked but it took longer for my car to stop and I had to push the brake pedal further to the floor. I knew that I needed a new set of brake pads put on, but it was the middle of a rough Winter and I had so many other things to do. I kept putting it off then and babied my brakes as much as I could. The other night, though, I had a dream. I was driving my car on a bright, sunny day when suddenly a stalled car appeared in the road in front of me. I stomped on my brakes but they didnít work and I smashed into the back of the other car. The dream wreck awoke me with a start and I decided to get my brake pads changed the next day. When the mechanic took off the old ones I noticed that the pads were worn paper thin.

The day after that I was driving home from the grocery store with my daughter beside me and my two sons in the back seat. As I neared a tight, mountain curve I saw a Semi-truck coming from the other direction. It took the curve too fast and slid two feet over the center line. I hit my brakes and simultaneously steered my car towards the side of the road. We gasped as the huge truck missed us by only a foot. It was only later when I was home safe in my bed that I realized that if I had still had my old, worn-out brake pads on I wouldnít have been able to slow down fast enough to have missed that truck. My children and I would have either been injured or killed. I closed my eyes and gave thanks for that dream. I guess God still had some more for us to do in this world.

Now many would say that it was just a dream and it was all only a coincidence. I, however, stopped believing in coincidences a long time ago. I know how much God loves us and I know that He interacts in our lives here more than we can even imagine. The threads of our lives weave in and out with the lives of everyone else in this world, but only God sees the full tapestry. He knows that every moment we live and every choice we make are important. He sends us messages, dreams, thoughts, angels, and countless coincidences then to keep us on the right path, the path of love, the path of kindness, the path of goodness, the path that leads us back Home again.

Donít ignore those messages from above. Listen to your better angels. Pay attention to your dreams. Follow those urges to do good, give kindness, share love, and spread joy. Notice those countless ďcoincidencesĒ that fill your days. They can lead you. They can guide you. They can even save your life. ----------------


It was over twenty years ago. My young family and I had just moved into the house I live in now. I could hear my children playing in my sonís bedroom while I washed the breakfast dishes in the kitchen sink. Our television was on the country music video channel and I was humming along to the tunes while I scrubbed the frying pan. Suddenly, I felt a gentle tug on the leg of my blue jeans. I looked down and saw my little daughter looking up at me with her sparkling blue- grey eyes. She had snuck back into the kitchen unheard. I smiled down at her, dried my hands, reached down and picked her up. I held her in my arms and we swayed back and forth for a few minutes to the music coming from the TV. Then she giggled, gave my neck a big squeeze, and motioned that she wanted down again. I gave her a final spin around, set her down, and watched as she laughed and ran down the hallway to play again.

I knew that she probably wouldnít remember this moment, but I made sure to place it carefully in the treasure chest of my soul. Even then I was aware of how fast she was growing up and knew that if I blinked I would miss it. I was right too. The days flew by far too fast. Soon she was too ďbigĒ to dance with Dad anymore and hugs and kisses had to be done in private so I wouldnít embarrass her in front of her friends. Before I knew it she was in high school, then college, and then living on her own. Yet, when I look at my adult daughter these days part of me still sees that bright eyed little girl so full of laughter and love.

Time in this life is brief. Always remember then to take the time to dance. Take the time to love. Take the time to pray. Take the time to laugh and to sing. Take the time to give hugs and kisses. Take the time to watch the sunset. Take the time to thank God for every day you have. Take the time to cherish each moment you are given. Life is too short not to be lived in joy.---------------


Our white cat, Dusty is my son, JJís favorite pet. They have a special connection that is a delight to see. After she finishes her dinner at night Dusty will run into JJís room to sleep on the pillow beside him. During the day she will follow him around, nap peacefully in his arms, and even answer with a ďmeowĒ every time he calls her name.

A few months ago, however, Dusty began to lose weight. She ate less and less and lost some of her fur. She stopped following JJ around and found a hiding space in my daughterís old closet. She came out only to drink water and then quickly retreated to her hiding spot each day. I was sure for a time that we were going to lose her and prayed to God that she would return to health. I didnít want my son to lose his furry friend. Thankfully, after a few weeks she started to spend time outside the closet again. She began to drink some milk and even started eating her cat food once more. Soon her fur grew back and she gained weight. Once again she became my sonís constant companion and I thanked God for bringing her back to him.

I can understand too why she had gone off by herself to take the time to heal from her illness. There have been many times in my own life when I have been beaten and battered by the troubles and pains of this world. There have been times when fear, sickness and sadness have overwhelmed me. There have been times when I have just needed to find a quiet place in my own soul to heal, to think, and to talk to God.

Joyfully, every time I have done so God has been there to fill me with His love and to heal my heart. Each time God has brought me back to the world better and stronger than I was before. When life beats you down then donít give up. Go within. Go to God. Allow His love to fill you and to heal you. And then go out and share that love with the world.-----------------


The first time I saw Kai, she was sitting in my front yard hugging my dog. I had just pulled into my driveway and there she was. She stood up, smiled, and waved. She introduced herself as my new neighbor while she continued to pet my black Lab, Harley. I liked her immediately but didnít know then what an impact she would have on my life.

Soon we were not only neighbors but good friends as well. When Kai greeted you with her high pitched voice you always felt like the most special person in the world. The deliveryman, the repairman, the other neighbors, and anyone who came to her door was treated like family. Kai had four cats but when a stray beagle was injured by a bear, she adopted the dog and nursed her back to health. Whenever my sons, daughter, and I visited her she would welcome us in with a smile, sit us down, and cut us a piece of cake. When she found out I loved Hawaiin shirts she gave me a beautiful one that still hangs in my closet today. She was always helping others, giving to others, and encouraging others. She always had a wise bit of advice, a kind word, and a gentle hug for everyone. No matter who you were you always left her house feeling a little better and a little happier.

All of the time I was getting to know Kai, though, she was dying. She had told me that first day I met her that she was ďterminalĒ. She was battling several health problems at once and was slowly losing the fight. Her husband Sean and her owned their own cleaning business, but after a while Kai was too weak to work there anymore. During the last months of her life she grew weaker and had to spend most of her time in bed. Finally, on a cold, dark, Winterís day her body gave out and she died in her home. She was only in her fifties and had left us far too soon. The day she passed I walked back to my house, closed the door to my bedroom, and cried. She had touched my life so much in the brief time I knew her. I had become a better person because of her and I knew others had as well. I still miss her today.

Desiderus Erasmus once wrote: ďGive light, and the darkness will disappear of itself.Ē That is what Kai did. She gave her light. She shared her love. And this world was so much brighter because she was in it.

Kai taught me something too: We are all ďterminal.Ē But it is never too late to give your light. It is never too late to love without fear and touch others with your kindness. This short life here is Godís gift to you. Make how you live it your gift to God.---------------


I have had a lot of jobs over the last 30 years. I have bussed tables and washed dishes. I have mopped floors and carried out garbage. I have chopped wood and stacked lumber. I have shoveled sawdust and pushed a broom. I have substitute taught every grade from seniors to kindergarteners and every subject from English literature to Algebra. I have cared for the handicapped in first a group home and then in my own home. I have worked with my brain. I have worked with my back. I have worked with my hands. I have worked with my heart. I have done everything I could to make a living so I could take care of those I love.

During those years of making a living, however, I realized something. I wasnít making a life. I was earning money to feed my family, but I wasnít feeding my own soul. I was doing enough to keep a roof over our heads, but I wasnít doing enough to keep love in our lives. I was working hard to keep clothes on our backs, but I wasnít working hard to keep God in our hearts.

When I realized this I slowly began to not only make a living but also to make a life worth living. I began to pray more. I thanked God for my life and welcomed Him into my heart. I took more than just a second to glance at a rainbow in the sky or to watch the sun rise in the morning. I hugged my children more. I laughed with them more. I told them I loved them more. I spent more time playing with my dogs and petting my cats. I began to read more and watch television less. I allowed inspiration from above to take my own writing in a new direction and I delighted in writing about how much God loves us. I loved more from the depths of my heart and saw how the more love we share, the more joy we have. I took the time to help others in every way I could and to contribute to my community. I did everything I could to become a better person and along the way I realized that I was helping to build a better world. In making my life here I saw too that I was also making my life for the hereafter.

Donít be so busy making a living then that you forget to make a life. Bring your love to your days and your joy to your work. Be the Child of God you were meant to be and delight in this life you were given. Give the glorious gift of YOU to this world! If you do then you will have a life worth living. If you do you will have a love worth sharing. If you do you will have a Heavenly happiness in your soul, today, tomorrow, and forever.---------------


I have always loved to sing. When I was a boy I sang in church, in my room, and even in my backyard. Growing up I always sang along with the songs on the radio. These days I sing in the shower. I sing when I walk my dogs. I sing when I do the dishes. My wonderful, loving, tech-savvy daughter has even downloaded music from the internet and made her old school Dad CDís so I can sing along with all of my favorite songs.

There is one problem, though. While I love to sing, the sound coming from my voice never seems to match the sound I hear in my soul. It always comes out too high, too scratchy, and way too off-key. I have seen people wince when I sang near them. I have had my dogs join in when I sang too loudly. I once heard myself sing on tape and wondered how that voice could have possibly come out of my mouth. I am sure that even my guardian angels have had to stick their fingers in their ears many times over the years. I have learned to sing quietly then unless I am alone. Then I belt out my songs so all of Heaven can hear. I am sure God doesnít mind my off- key voice as long as I am ďMaking a joyful noise.Ē

Thankfully, there is more than one way to sing in this life. We all can sing out our love and joy by what we do. We all can share the music within us with the lives we lead. We can shine our smiles. We can share our laughter. We can open our arms for a hug. We can pass on a kiss or a kind word. We can rescue a stray dog or cat. We can help the poor and visit the lonely. We nurse the sick and uplift the fallen We can encourage everyone around us. We can spread our joy. We can make our lives a living testament of goodness. We can love others the way God loves us: unconditionally! Make your life sing then. Sing well. Sing long. Sing with all the light and love in your soul! ----------------


YEEEE! The sound jarred me out of my dreams on a cold, Winterís night. I sat up, threw aside my blankets, and fumbled for my glasses in the dark. I opened my bedroom door and saw a light coming from the bathroom. I knew then that it was my youngest son, Casey.

Casey has had a severe form of Autism all of his life. He speaks only a few words and is bound by his daily routines. Small changes that we handle easily feel like the end of the world to him. Sometimes when heís upset he will cry uncontrollably, scratch his face, or hit himself.

This time, however, I knew from the noise he was making that he was happy. He was engaging in his favorite Winter pastime, sitting on the closed toilet seat while warming his feet on the heating vent next to it. I walked into the bathroom and said, ďItís late son. Time to go back to bed.Ē Then I leaned over, kissed his forehead, and looked into his eyes.

At that moment something happened that touched me to my soul. Suddenly, there was no Casey and no me. There was only light. I felt like I was floating on a lake of love and joy surrounded completely by a Divine presence. It was a moment of perfect peace. Then I blinked and when I opened my eyes again there was only my son smiling up at me. I think that for a moment God had allowed me to see a glimpse of my sonís true soul, unlimited by his handicapped mind. I knew that it was one far brighter, stronger, and more loving than my own. I felt so blessed being able to see it. I thanked God again for my son while I watched him walk back to his bedroom.

For all of human history the mentally handicapped have been looked down upon in our societies. They have been ostracized, tormented, neglected and ignored. Yet the truth is they are the best souls among us. They are here on a special mission from Heaven to teach us about love, patience, compassion, and selflessness. They are here to help our own souls to grow in beauty and light. They are a blessed gift from God and we should accept them all, welcome them into our hearts, and embrace the lessons they teach. May we always do so.-------------


In the middle of Winter when a thick layer of snow covers the ground and the bitter, North wind is banging against my frosted windows I sometimes close my eyes and daydream of Spring. I imagine that snow melting into the ground and nourishing the tiny seeds beneath the soil. I think of those seeds springing to life and turning into thousands of red, yellow, pink, and purple flowers. I imagine the dry, brown grass turning green and growing lush and thick. I think of the bare trees budding with flowers and new leaves. I see the birds building nests and the robins singing in their branches. I imagine the air turning warm once again and the sun nourishing the world with its golden light.

Then I allow my mind to take me even further in time to balmy Summer nights. I hear the crickets making their music by the local lake. I see the fireflies flashing their love lights on and off. I see myself looking up at the thousands of stars in the night sky and wondering if around some of them turn planets like ours so full of life. I imagine all the countless galaxies in this universe with their own stars and planets and wonder if on some of them there are people like me. I see all of this glorious complexity of creation and know it couldnít have just happened. It had to be created by a Divine Mind and a Loving Hand.

It is that same Loving Hand that made each of us. It is that same Loving Hand that lives in our hearts, strengthens our souls, and guides our lives. It is that same Loving Hand that connects us all. Our Heavenly Father loves us all so much and His hand is always open for us.

Place your hand in His then. Allow His love into your soul. Let Him guide you through the Winter days of this life and into the eternal Spring of the next. Take your place in His Glorious Creation and spend the rest of your life adding your own love to it.-----------------


It was a cold, January morning. Frost covered the grass and a bitter wind was blowing. I was standing out in my yard watching the stars slowly fade from the sky while I waited for the return of the dawn. It felt good knowing that the solstice had passed and now we were finally getting a few more minutes of light each day. As the sky started to turn blue my beagle started to tug at her lease to go in for her breakfast. I let her lead me back inside, fed her, and poured myself a cup of coffee. Then I walked to my window and resumed my sky watch.

The clouds had turned purple and were beginning to get more and more yellow. The north star was gone and only the moon remained visible in the morning sky. I sipped my coffee and waited with the delight of a child. Soon I noticed old Sol slowly rising over the hills. His golden sunbeams kissed my spirit good morning and I smiled. It felt so wonderful seeing the light awaken the world. I knew that it was going to be another glorious day to live and to love. I gave the sun a gentle salute, closed the curtain, and thanked God for the light.

Why do we humans so love the light? Maybe it is because we all came from the light. Maybe it is because we all long to return to the light once more. All I know is that the light warms my heart and uplifts my soul. It can be the rising sun on a cold, Winterís day or the light of a loved oneís smile. It can be the flames from a crackling fire or a bright hug that comes straight from the heart. It can be the light of my reading lamp or the light that shines from the love I share.

I pray that all of you do your best to share your own light in this world. Your light is your love. Your light is your joy. Your light is the kindness, gentleness, and goodness within you. Share it often. Shine it bright. Always remember too that God loves you. God is love and God is light. And when you shine your light you grow closer to the Light that never ends. --------------


When I was in school I could always tell when my class was about to take a test. You could feel the fear, anxiety, and worry in the air. Peopleís muscles were tense. Their foreheads were creased. Their smiles were tight. Eyes were blinking more often. Feet were fidgety. Pencils were tapping on desks. A few students were trying to crack jokes to ease their nerves. Others were trying unsuccessfully to act like they didnít care. Most of us were just wanting it to start so we could get it over with.

Every once in a while, however, a teacher would give us a break and announce as the test papers were being handed out that this test was going to be an open book one. As soon as they said that you could feel the collective sigh of relief from the class. Smiles returned. A few students would laugh and you even heard a cheer or two. The pressure of knowing everything was gone. As we took out our textbooks all of us knew that the answers would be right in front of us. All we had to do was find them.

A lot of people say that life is one long series of tests that we have to face. This is true. What most people donít realize, though, is that they are all open book ones. The answers are always right there in front of you and they are so simple. You just have to open the book of your soul to any page and you will see the words: ďJUST LOVEĒ. Just love God. Just love yourself. Just love everyone as yourself. When you do this you will pass every test that life throws at you. When you do this you will make the world a brighter, better, and happier place.

Now a lot of people would also say that knowing the answers is not the same as living them. This too is true. Loving God, yourself, and others takes work everyday. Still, God loves you and God is always ready to help you to love. God is ready to fill you with His love so you can share it with the world. God is ready to help you love yourself and become the Child of God you were meant to be. God is ready to give you the strength to love the unlovable and to forgive those who have hurt you. God is ready to help you through all the tests that this life gives you and to walk with you into the greater love and life that awaits you.

Face all of lifeís tests without fear then. Face them all with a smile on your face and a song in your heart. Use the lessons they teach to learn and to grow. Keep the book of your soul open and just love.---------------


I was 22 years old, sitting on my Momís couch, waiting for the kinks in my back to ease up. A lack of work and money had forced me, my wife, and our baby boy to move back in with my parents. We were all cramped together in my old bedroom and I was feeling down. Thankfully, I had found one new job: helping my son learn how to walk. He had already gone from creeping to crawling, and had started to pull himself up too. Anytime he took a few steps, however, he would stumble, fall on his tush, and cry. I had taken then to bending over and holding his hand while he walked along and my back wasnít handling it too well.

As I sat there with my eyes closed rubbing my sore muscles I suddenly heard my Mom whisper: ďJoe look!Ē I opened my eyes and watched my son grab the edge of the coffee table, pull himself up, and smile. Next with a giggle he started walking around it, keeping his hands on it for balance. Finally, when he reached the end of it he took two big steps and made it to the wall. He smiled at us again and then started walking down the hall with his hands balancing on the wall the whole way. I laughed, clapped, and cheered. Suddenly, being unemployed wasnít so bad, because my boy had learned to walk. It wasnít long either before I was losing weight chasing after him in the front yard while his little legs ran as fast as they could.

Learning to love in this world is a lot like first learning to walk. We far too often fall on our butts and cry. Yet, our Heavenly Father is always ready to take our hand and walk with us while we try again. His love, guidance, and protection are always with us too even after we find our own feet, even when we start to walk on our own, and even if we run away from Him. Donít be afraid to step out boldly and love then. Donít be afraid to fall. God loves you and will always be there to help you to love and to walk with you into eternity. ---------------


When I was a boy growing up I made my guardian angel work overtime. It still amazes me that I survived it all. I climbed trees and jumped off rocks. I took long walks in the woods and nearly got lost more than once. I sledded down hills in Winter narrowly missing trees. I fell off our familyís wooden swinging bridge and ruptured myself. I rode my bike down hills at break neck speeds with no helmet and wrecked once, splitting my head open. I swam all day long and often was so tired I barely made it out of the water. I lost a few fist fights, was in a motorcycle crash, and fell off a ladder once. I was scrawny and undersized but played football anyway and got pummeled daily. I tried to muscle up in the off season by lifting weights unsupervised and ended up damaging my body instead of building it. I narrowly avoided accidents several times as an inexperienced teen driver. When I finally reached adulthood I had several scars and a bad back but thankfully was still alive. I am sure, though, that by that time my guardian angel had gray hair, a nervous twitch, and some serious stress lines because of me.

When I grew up and saw the real meaning of life I decided that it would be best to get to Heaven the long way around and it would be far more fun to give my guardian angel laugh lines rather than worry wrinkles. I started to do my best then to make my angel smile. I gave my own smile to everyone who needed it. I spoke positively and encouraged others. I did random acts of kindness. I helped others and donated what I could to charity. I loved and raised my children. I hugged more, cared more, and shared more. I rescued dogs and cats. I wrote about how much God loves us, how we can love too, and how when we love we create joy.

Do your best to make your own angels smile. Love God. Love yourself. Love others. Create joy. Make your way to Heaven while bringing a little more Heaven here to Earth.---------------


Right after Thanksgiving this year, my son who has more Christmas spirit than anyone I know wanted to decorate our house for Christmas. We put on some Christmas carols then, went into the closet holding the decorations, and dug them out. The artificial tree took a while to set up. I had misplaced one of the bottom support legs. Thankfully, my son soon found it. After that things went smoothly. The tree was wrapped in lights and tinsel. Ornaments were hung. Tiny statues of Santa and Dickenís era Christmas carolers were set out. Stockings and old Christmas cards were tacked to the walls.

Finally, with great care I took out the last of our decorations: my Nanaís old, battered Nativity scene. The section with the wise men had broken off and been lost years ago. The wire to the lightbulb signifying the star of Bethlehem was also gone. Still, in the manger lay the sweet, baby Jesus with Joseph and Mary beside him. And behind them were the peacefully kneeling cow and donkey.

I looked at the Nativity for a long time. I remembered how my Nana used to bend down and lovingly kiss the baby Jesus when she would set it down. I remembered how when I was a child the Christmas story had seemed so strange and left me with so many questions. Why hadnít they let them in the Inn? What were frankincense and myrrh? Was the baby Jesus cold being born in a barn with only a straw filled manger to keep him warm?

I know now, though, that this baby will never be cold again. He lives in the warm hearts of everyone who open themselves to Him. He lives in the light of Heaven and in the love we all share with each other. He walks with us in our lives and can help us to make every day Christmas. May you always welcome Him into your home, your life, and your soul. ---------------


The best Christmas gift I ever got was both early and late. My first born child came into this world on December 16th, nine days before Christmas. He was supposed to be a Thanksgiving baby, however, so when my wife went into labor 3 weeks late he had to be delivered by an emergency Caesarean section. My first word when I saw him wasnít even a word but a sigh of relief, love, and joy. My early Christmas present had a red, splotchy face from being overdue but it was washed several times over the next few days with happy tears from me, my wife, and several grandparents.

My son was named Joseph John after me and ďJ.J.Ē as he was called soon became the most cuddled and photographed child around. He was the first grandchild on both sides of the family and spent his first Christmas going from arms to loving arms as everyone wanted a chance to hold him. I looked forward to a blessed life watching my first born grow up to be a strong and smart man.

That dream, though, wasnít to turn out the way I thought it would. As my son entered his second year we realized that his language wasnít developing as it should. He only seemed interested in a few things and would jump up and down over and over to amuse himself. We finally got him tested but were given no answers. We were only told that he wasnít normal. It was raining that day as my wife and I drove home and finally we pulled the car over, held each other, and added our own tears to the storm.

With the end of that dream came the birth of another. We decided to find out exactly what was ďdifferentĒ about our son do all we could to help him become all he could be. Soon a local Doctor saw what the specialists hadnít. Our son had Autism. In that day very little was known about Autism or what could be done to treat it. My wife and I read every article and researched every treatment there was to help our son. We put our anger at God aside and asked instead for His love and guidance to help us with our boy. We enrolled J.J. in Special Education at school and worked with him everyday at home. We were blessed to get a loving, kind-hearted, and patient personal-aide for him at school and she became like a second mother to him. It was by her side during another Christmas season that my boy spoke his first sentence about the beautiful Christmas tree at the school.

As we continued to work with my son I noticed something else too; his loving spirit was also working on us. His smile was contagious, his cheer was infectious, and his innocent love was purifying. Over the years I became a better, kinder, more loving, and more spiritual person just by being around him. He taught me so much about love, so much about joy, and so much about embracing life. His language continued to improve and he became beloved by his teachers, fellow students, and especially by the school football and basketball teams where he worked as the equipment manager. His loving presence became a comfort to my days. His gentleness helped me to deal with money struggles and career problems. His sweetness helped me when his younger brother was born with an even more severe form of Autism and I gave up teaching to care for them both.

Now as the best Christmas gift I ever got approaches his 28th Christmas with me I have realized that he is the gift that keeps on giving. Like a ray of sunshine he brightens the day of everyone he meets. Like an earth angel he touches the souls of others with his gentle love. He shares his smile with everyone and calls everyone by name. He goes through his life making this Earth a little more like Heaven. He lives out Godís dream for him which is a far better dream than mine ever was.

I wish all of you a Merry Christmas. May your Christmas and all of your days be full of the best gift there is, the gift my two special sons give me everyday-the gift of LOVE. God bless you always. ---------------


With Winter coming on I finally decided to replace the worn and torn blanket and quilt on my bed. Years of washing and dogs and cats jumping on them had left them threadbare and full of holes. I found a nice blanket cheap at a local store and dug an old quilt out of an older dresser in my room. When I looked at the quilt, though, I noticed that underneath the corner was a piece of tape with my Dadís name written on it. Then I remembered that this was the same quilt he use at the nursing home during the last months of his life. I pealed the tape and held it in my hand. I looked up to Heaven and smiled. I didnít think Dad would mind me using his old quilt now. I knew that he was in a place of never ending warmth, love, and light.

Spreading out my Dadís quilt on my bed I remembered the greatest paradox of life: the end is really the beginning. Everything we go through in this life is a preparation for the greater life to come. Everything we face in this world can help us to become better, stronger, kinder, and closer to God. The love we choose in this life is the love we carry with us into the next. Knowing all this doesnít diminish your love for life here on Earth either. It intensifies it instead. Life here may be momentary, temporary, fleeting and fragile, but it is a gift from our Heavenly Father. And how we live it is our gift to Him.

My advice then is to live like today is your last day. Wake up in the morning with your voice and soul saying: ďGood morning God. I love You too and I thank You for my life.Ē Go through the day with an open heart that gives your love away freely. Embrace all the joy that the day gives you and share all of that joy with others. Help all the people you can. Learn all you can. Cherish every second you are given. Make your day a quilt of love that warms everyone you meet. Then your last day will be your best day and your end a new beginning. ----------------


When I was a boy every summer I would spend a wonderful week at 4-H camp. It was always so much fun. Delicious meals were served in the dining hall three times a day. There were fun classes to go to in the morning and sports and swimming in the afternoon. There was a friendly competition between the four tribes for the spirit stick all through the week. And there were long nights spent lying awake, laughing, and talking with our friends. We seemed to sleep only a few hours a night but we were enjoying ourselves too much to be tired.

At the end of the week we all gathered together at the final council circle. The campfire in the center was carefully tended until it blazed brightly, lit up the circle and flickered off our happy faces. Songs, cheers, skits, challenges, and laughter would fill the air as the night went on. Later the awards for the week were given out. Everyone got something to take home and cherish as well as a tiny candle to hold. At the very end of the night the person who was awarded the spirit of the camp would take his candle and light it by the last embers of the dying fire. Then he would light the candles held by the people around him who would in turn light candles held by others until everyone of us held a little light in our hands. As the camp ended we all walked out into the night with our own little fires beating back the darkness.

Remembering those nights makes me wonder what this world would be like if each of us tended our own fire. How great would it be if we all fed the fire of goodness within us? How beautiful would it be if we all let our love burn bright? How wonderful would it be if we all shared our light to help others beat back the darkness?

God gave each of us a fire of love in our souls. It is up to us to tend it, though. It is up to us to turn it into a brilliant blaze for all to see. It is up to us to share its light with the world. ---------------


As the year rushes towards its end here in the mountains of my home, changes are everywhere. The sunlight suddenly seems scarce. The blue skies are more gray. The leaves have fallen and the trees are bare. The grass has gone yellow and snow will be coming soon. The winds have turned bitter making my coat a necessity. Inside my home it is time for thick socks and warm sweaters. Hot soups have replaced sandwiches for lunch and oven roasts heat the whole house as they cook for dinner. I look forward to reading my books with the warmth and comfort of my furry dog napping on my feet and my purring cat sitting on my lap. Christmas carols are playing on the radio and I find myself softly singing along. As I gaze out my kitchen window, though, I know that a long Winter still lies ahead of me and that it will be months before the world warms again and I see the first flowers of Spring.

Yet, amidst all of these bittersweet changes I am not sad. I know that all the seasons of life have changes that we must go through. Some of them are pleasant and some of them are tough. Some of them bring us instant joy and others force our souls to grow. All of them call on us to love. It is only when we love that we can fully enjoy the green grass and new flowers of Spring. It is only when we love that we can overcome the darkness and cold of Winter.

Throughout your life here you will be faced with countless changes. Know in your heart that God is with you through them all. God loves you through them all. God is helping you to use every single one of them to travel closer to Heaven. Meet each new change that comes your way with a loving heart then. Meet each new change with a soul full of compassion. Meet each new change by loving more, learning more, caring more, giving more, and helping others more. Life is full of changes, but you can make them changes for the better. ------------------


God loves us all so much and He speaks to us in more ways than we can imagine. Just the other day I was driving my son to the part-time job he has at a sheltered workshop for the disabled. The sky was a dark grey. A cold rain was pouring down. The world seemed silent and sad with both people and animals taking shelter from the storm. I turned on the car radio for a little music to lift my spirits. When I did, however, Karen Carpenterís sweet, haunting voice came out singing ďRainy days and Mondays always get me down.Ē I turned the radio back off. That was not the song I wanted to hear on such a gloomy day. Still, the song kept playing in my head as the showers continued throughout the day.

Later that afternoon I was walking out of the bathroom when I saw my son turn the television on. A classic movie was playing and suddenly I heard these musical tones coming from Gene Kellyís voice: ďIím singing in the rain, just singing in the rain. What a glorious feeling. Iím happy again. Iím laughing at the clouds so dark up above. The sunís in my heart and Iím ready for love.Ē

In that moment I saw that God in His loving-kindness had reminded me once again that all of life is a choice, a choice to love. Rains and problems will always come. We can let them get us down or we can choose to sing. We can let the showers soak our souls or we can use them to help our souls to grow. We can allow the darkness to depress us or we can use it to awaken the sunshine and love in our hearts.

What are you going to do when the rains of life fall down upon you? I for one choose to sing. I choose to sing with all the love God has put in my heart. I choose to share my sunshine even on the darkest days and never let my music die within me. May you do the same.---------------


I can still remember the first time I truly felt my heart break. I was 25 years old, sitting in a hospital room with the rest of my family. My beautiful Mom was in the last day of her courageous 4 year fight with Cancer. I looked down on her withered body lying on the bed and saw the sadness in her eyes. She could no longer speak but we all still felt her love for us. Together we waited while her breathing grew more and more shallow. When at last the machine signaled her heart had stopped I heard an anguished cry escape my lips while I felt my heart break. On the drive home tears overwhelmed me again and I had to pull off the side of the road. I didnít know how I was going to go on without her.

Later after her funeral my own health broke and the doctor diagnosed me with double pneumonia. It took me a long time to heal physically and spiritually I still felt dead inside. For many months afterwards I just went through the motions of living. I did everything I was supposed to do but could not put my shattered heart into any of it.

Finally, one day I was sitting in my chair with my two small children on my lap. I could see too where my third child was rapidly growing inside my pregnant wife. As my arms held my giggling babies I realized that I had to make a decision. I had to decide to live again. I had to decide to love again. I knew it was the only way to heal my broken heart and give my children the Dad they deserved. Day by day after that I made the choice to love and each day I felt a little stronger and a little better. Also for the first time I began to feel my Momís spirit around me, watching over me, and loving me. I knew too that she had always been there. I had just been too depressed and hurt to feel her presence. By choosing to love again, I had slowly lifted my soul and mended my heart until I could feel her healing love inside me.

The decision to love is one that we are all called to make everyday of our lives. We are called to love in joy and in heartbreak. We are called to love on our best days and on our worst days as well. Victor Frankl who suffered through the Nazi concentration camps and survived wrote that ďLove is the ultimate and highest goal to which man can aspire. The salvation of man is through love and in love.Ē

Make the decision to love today. Make the decision to love God. Make the decision to love yourself. Make the decision to love everyone as yourself. ďGod is LoveĒ and God made us from love. Embrace your true self then and just love, today, tomorrow, and for all eternity.----------------


When I was a boy I didnít have a smart phone, home computers were unheard off, and our 13" television could only get one channel in clearly. Yet, I was never bored. When Spring arrived I would pull out my trusty bike and ride. I would pedal for hours, feel the wind on my face and laugh with joy as I rode down the hills. When Summer came I would find myself swimming every day at the local pool or the river down the hill from my home. I never got sunburned either because I was never out of the water long enough. When it was Fall my friends and I would play football for hours and when the leaves fell would rake them into huge golden and red piles to jump in. The first snows of Winter didnít stop the fun either. My brothers and I would have snowball fights and hike into the woods to cut down our Christmas tree. Later I would sit in my favorite chair by the warm, wood stove and read books that carried my imagination away to different lands and endless adventures.

Those simple pleasures always brought me so much fun, so much laughter, and so much happiness. There was nothing to be bored about because there was always something to do, something to enjoy, and something to love. I feel a bit sorry for the children of today because they are spending so much time watching and so little time living.

One thing I am sure of, though, is that even in this technological world the simple pleasures of life can still soothe your soul. A hug still warms your heart. A walk in the woods still calms your spirit. Petting a dog, playing a game, holding a hand, and saying ďI love youĒ still makes you feel JOY. God loves us so much and God gives us the simple pleasures of life to enjoy and to share. Embrace them all. Welcome them into your day, take them into your heart, and share them with everyone. Live and love as a joyous Child of God today and always.-----------------


I was sitting at the kitchen table finishing my morning oatmeal. A little taste of Autumn sadness had crept into my soul. The lessening sunlight, cooling air, gray skies, and falling leaves all hinted of the Winter to come. I took my last drink of coffee and carried my empty oatmeal bowl over to the sink to rinse it out. Sitting on top of the kitchen counter my two cats sat transfixed, staring above them. I focused in and saw that they were both eyeing a tiny spider propelling down on a single web strain from the lightbulb above. Just as the spider came within reach both cats started to bat at him. I quickly took a paper towel and snatched up the little guy before he became a kitty treat. I walked out the back door to let him go. As soon as I set him down he quickly crawled to safety under my porch. As I shut the door I noticed something too. I was smiling and my sadness was gone.

Now I know a lot of people would be confused about how saving the eight-legged acrobat could have lifted my spirits so quickly. After all, it was just a spider. As I thought about it, though, I remembered two quotes I had recently read that spoke to my heart. The first was: ďThe only true thing is love.Ē The second was: ďDo everything out of love.Ē I realized then that no act of love no matter how tiny is insignificant in the eyes of God. I had only spared a spider to live another day, but it had touched my heart, uplifted my spirit, and reconnected my soul with Heaven.

When it comes to life always live from love. Always do everything out of love. When you do you will feel truly alive. When you do you will help not only yourself, but others and this world. When you do your soul will hear all of Heaven cheer. In Godís eyes every smile you share is a treasure, every kind act you do is a triumph, and everything you do in love is Divine. --------------------


The college I attended as a young man was a collection of beautiful, red brick buildings built along the side of a hill. At the bottom of the hill was the closest town. Getting back to the dorms from town during the cold, Winter months was a treacherous trip even for the sober students. For those who had been drinking at the town bars it often led to many slips and falls as they stumbled up the slick sidewalks

On one December day a friend and I were debating going into town to grab a bite to eat at the local convenience store. We didnít like the idea of walking downhill on a sheet of ice, but the dinner at the cafeteria that day had left a lot to be desired. Finally, we decided to head down and grab some sandwiches and sodas. We gingerly made our way and after about ten minutes got to the bottom of the hill. As we walked towards the store a shivering man approached us. His clothes were worn and dirty. His gray hair was wild and unruly. His face was unshaven. He didnít have a lot of teeth left either. He smelt strongly of sour liquor. When he got close he stopped and seemed a bit ashamed of what he was about to say but finally he asked for a few dollars to get something to eat. I stepped back at first and all of the warnings that I had heard others say against people like him played in my mind. Yet, when I looked into his sad eyes I felt a warmth in my heart. I pulled out my wallet and gave him the money. As we walked on my friend said that the man was probably going to spend that money on alcohol. I thought about it then said, ďWhat he does with the money is his choice. Sharing it was mine.Ē

I have looked back on that memory so many times over the years. If I had it to do all over again I think that I would have talked to the man longer, gave him more money, and maybe shared a hug with him as well. Even to this day some 30 years later I keep that man in my prayers. I pray that he found his way back to health, back to a home, and back to God.

We all come into this world from LOVE and when we leave it we will return to LOVE. Whether we love while we are here, however, is up to us. What is your choice going to be? Are you going to live by the rules of the world or the rules of Heaven? Are you going to help just yourself or are you going to help others as well? Are you going to let fear rule you or are you going to love others as God loves you? It is up to you!-----------------


You can learn so much in this life. This entire world is a spectacular school full of friends, experiences, books, animals, nature and so many other things to learn from. My own learning has come in a million different moments and in thousands of different ways. Here are only a few of the many things I have learned in this life.

Forgiveness is the best revenge. Petting a dog will lower your blood pressure and lift your smile. No television screen can ever match watching a sunset. Petting a purring cat is a peaceful way to pass the time. Smiles are like boomerangs. Whenever you throw one of them out there it comes right back to you. No handshake can ever take the place of a hug. Wisdom comes in all shapes, all sizes, and all ages. A disabled mind doesnít mean a disabled spirit. No matter what the question, Love is the answer. A good book should uplift your soul not kill your time. The best music brings the best joy. Christmas isnít about presents. It is about loving each other as Christ loved us. Prayer should be less about asking of God and more about thanking God and connecting to God. The handicapped can teach us more about unconditional love than any book, any lesson, or any lecture.

I have also learned that all we ever really want is to be happy. The rest is just a means to that end. I have learned that God loves us whether we deserve it or not. I have learned that we can love too. We can love God with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength. We can love ourselves. And we can love everyone as ourselves. I have learned that when we do love we will have JOY. All of that happiness we seek in other ways can be ours if we just choose to love. I have learned too that no matter what life throws at us we can keep growing, keep loving, and keep learning. God wants us to learn and God wants us to love on Earth and later in Heaven.-----------------


When my kids were young we bought them two pet cockatiels. These beautiful, white birds would whistle and chirp all through the day. We had a big cage for them with perches, toys, and a mirror, plus food and water dishes. We couldnít let them loose in the house because of our dogs and cats, but they seemed content in their cage or so I thought.

One day in the Springtime when the sun was awakening the earth and the air had turned warm, I cracked the window to let in the breeze. The songs of dozens of different birds filled the air and our two cockatiels whistled with excitement. I went over to their cage to replace their water, but as soon as I opened the door one of them flew out and headed for the window. He banged into the glass, fell over onto the couch, staggered back up and then started to fly around the living room. The cats chased after him, hoping for a quick meal. The kids screamed and I rushed to save him. It took several minutes to corral the cats, catch the bird, and get him safely back in his cage. After that day, however, I always felt a bit sorry for my cockatiels. I knew that no matter how comfortable their cage was they still wanted to fly.

Many of us in this life live in cages of our own making. We close our minds, lock away our hearts, and limit our lives. We refuse to see the love that God has for us and the greatness that lies within us. We sit in our cells day after day and never dare to once open the door.

I for one donít want to waste my days sitting bored in a cage. I want to fly! I want to fly to new heights of love every single day. I want to zoom through the sky on wings of kindness and joy. I want ride on the winds of Godís love and help everyone I can to do the same. Heaven may seem high above us, but Heaven is within us as well. Donít stay stuck in your own cage then. Let yourself fly! ---------------


To me Fall will always be the most spectacular of the seasons. By the end of Summer the bright, green buds that gave the promise of new life in the early Spring have turned into dark green leaves. Having grown all they can they are content to just exist, sleepy and satisfied. Then one day a single leaf begins to change and release its true colors hidden within. As the cool night gives way to a warm morning this single leaf turns a brilliant red that stands out beautifully in the sea of green.

Soon other leaves join it lighting up the Maple trees with their red radiance. Golds begin to appear too in all their glory. Other leaves decide to become yellow and shine like little suns in the daylight. Still others glow orange and flutter in the Autumn breezes. Some leaves even decide to become unique combinations of all of these colors. As the weeks pass deep, rich burgundies and earthy browns appear on the Oaks as well until the mountains of my home are a cascade of colors that delight the heart and uplift the soul. Even after they fall to the ground the season is still not over because now there is a colorful, crunchy carpet for the children to run and play on. And when the cold days of Winter finally cover these leaves in snow they still continue on, nourishing the soil to provide new life to the next generation of leaves and thus completing their part in Godís glorious creation.

We all should follow these leavesí example and allow our own true colors to shine through. We all have a unique brightness within. We all have a love and light that we are supposed to share. We all are meant to take our place in Godís loving plan.

Share your true colors then. Let your love, laughter, kindness, and joy brighten the souls of everyone around you. Make your life both a brilliant Autumn and an eternal Spring. ---------------


I was 8 years old, squirming on a hard wooden pew in our church. I tried to follow the sermon but it was a bit over my head at that age. Finally, it was time to sing the closing hymn. I stood up with a smile. Our church guitarist and hymn leader was my music teacher at school and a family friend. I always loved hearing her sing and I also loved joining in. She started to play and everyone in the church began to sing. When we reached the chorus, though, I felt a sharp elbow hit my shoulder. It was my brother letting me know that I was doing it again. You see, even though I always sang from my soul by the time it reached my lips it was more often than not, much too loud and far too off-key.

As I got older I learned how to sing much more quietly to blend in with the music and not damage the ears of the people around me. Occasionally, when I am alone I still burst forth in full voice and even get my dogs to join in. Sometimes when I am driving my car down the country roads of my home I will even sing from my soul at the top of my lungs. I am sure my guardian angels donít mind. After all, God only asked us to make a ďJoyful NoiseĒ unto Him, not one with perfect pitch.

There is more than one way to let your soul sing, however. We can sing from the soul when we do an act of kindness. We can sing when we give a hug, a pat on the back, and a word of encouragement. We can sing every time we share a smile and cause those around us to smile as well. We can sing when we offer a caring heart and a helping hand to another. We can sing every time we shine our light and share our love.

Let your soul sing then. Make your life a ďJoyful NoiseĒ that all of Heaven can hear. Sing with all the love inside of you even if it is sometimes loud and off-key. ---------------


I dreamed I was in paradise the other day. It was so beautiful. Golden-white light bathed everything. Rainbows filled the sky without a drop of rain. The trees stood tall and strong. Some of their leaves were green, others were red, and still others were yellow. Birds flew from tree to tree and their sweet songs filled the air. There was a peaceful music coming from everything and the birdsongs blended into it perfectly. In the meadows the grass seemed to dance in the wind. Thousands of flowers were blooming. They were every color imaginable and they radiated joy. As I walked along every dog and cat I had ever had ran up to me to be petted. All of them were young and healthy once again.

My Dad, Mom, and Nana were there too along with my neighbor Kai. They were so vital and full of life. I could feel the happiness flowing from their hearts. Their spirits were shining with wisdom and light. Their light reached out to me and I was instantly filled full to overflowing with a love beyond comprehension. I was finally HOME and I was full of JOY.

I awoke with a start but when I opened my eyes the memories of that dream didnít fade. I sat there for a long time with a smile on my face. I knew, however, that no matter how glorious and beautiful that dream was the real paradise would be a million times better and far beyond my feeble powers to describe.

I knew something else too, something that gave me so much hope. I knew that each of us carries our own paradise within. God lives in each of us. Each of us has love and light in our souls that we can nurture and share. We can do more than just dream of paradise. We can use our prayers, love, and light to help God build a bit of paradise right here today! Be a paradise builder then. Use all that you have to make Earth more like Heaven. ----------------


When I was a boy we lived 4 miles from town and most of my friends. As a result I ended up playing by myself a lot. I didnít mind the solitude, however. I enjoyed riding my bike for hours, swimming in the river, and taking long walks in the woods. It felt good being alone with my own thoughts and my own imagination. Sometimes I even pondered a few of the big questions we all have. I would think, ďWhat is this world all about?Ē, ďWhat is the meaning of life?Ē, and ďWhy are we here?Ē. I never could think of a good answer, though, and soon went back to playing again. It took me many years and a lot of searching to find the answer I was seeking and when I did it was so simple that I almost didnít believe it.

The answer is LOVE. It always has been and it always will be. The rest is just details. God loves us all so much and He put us here to love as well. We are here to choose love. We are here to share love. We are here to learn of love. We are here to grow in love. We are here to pray for love. We are here to delight in love. We are here to become one with Our Heavenly Fatherís Love. We are here to complete our missions in love and to help others to complete theirs. We are here to fill ourselves full to overflowing with the Love that created and maintains the universe. We are here to love God. We are here to love ourselves. We are here to love everyone as ourselves. We are here to find our own special ways of sharing all the love that is within us. It is our gift to God and our answer to life. And even if we havenít done the best job of it up until now, each new day gives us another chance.

When the big questions of life leave you lost then, donít give up. Just love. The answers will come to you, if not in this life then in the next. Always remember that ďGod is LoveĒ and that when you love you will grow closer to God, Heaven, and your true self.---------------


Several years ago I was driving to my daughterís college to bring her home for the Summer break. It was a long trip so I stopped at a little gas station halfway there to refuel. I pulled up to the pumps behind a beat up old car. It was at least 20 years old. The metal was rusting, the tires were balding, and the muffler was held up by a coat hanger. A young teenage girl sat in the front passenger seat and two much younger girls were in the back.

After filling my gas tank I walked in to pay. The mother of the girls was at the counter desperately digging through her purse. She had bought some small snacks for her children but still needed five more dollars to pay for them. She sighed and started to pick up the snacks to put them back. ďI got it,Ē I said and tossed the money on the counter.

The Mom turned and looked at me with moist eyes. Then suddenly she stepped forward and hugged me. I felt a burst of warmth in my heart that I am sure traveled to my cheeks as well. The Mom let me go and said, ďThank you.Ē She smiled, grabbed the snacks and hurried out to her children. I stood there watching them leave and said a prayer for them. Then I walked out into the sunshine feeling lighter than the air around me.

Looking back on that memory reminded me too of the passage in the Bible where Jesus asks the reluctant, rich man to give his wealth to the poor so that he would have ďTreasure in HeavenĒ. I felt so sad for that rich man. He had given up so much in order to keep so little. The treasures of Heaven are beyond anything this world can give us. I know this because we carry some of these treasures within us. The love we share, the good we do, and the kindness we give to others are all treasures of Heaven. They bring us so much joy. They give us so much peace. They light our paths here on Earth and lead us back to Our Father in Heaven.---------------


When I was a boy I enjoyed getting gifts. I remember the night before my birthday I would lie awake all night wondering what I would get. In the morning I would be running all over the house almost bursting with anticipation. When the time finally came to open the presents I would tear into the wrapping paper like a wild tiger until I reached the treasure underneath. I always loved what I got too. It didnít matter if it was a book, ball, or bike. I cherished it with the pure joy of a child.

When I got older and had my own kids, however, I discovered something far more enjoyable than receiving gifts. I discovered the delight of giving them. I would watch with a smile while my children opened the gifts I bought them. The sparkle in their eyes was priceless. The smiles on their faces were invaluable. The laughter on their lips and the happy hugs they gave me were treasures beyond compare. Nothing brought me as much joy as giving them happiness with the gifts of my heart.

Our Heavenly Father has given us so many gifts in this world. He has given us the gifts of love, kindness, and compassion. He has given us the gifts of goodness, laughter, and joy. He has given us the gifts of our minds, talents, and skills. Most of all He has given us the gift of sharing our gifts with others.

Donít waste the gifts of Heaven then. Use them. Share them. Give them to others. You were given a heart to love. You were given hands to help. You were given a mind to think. You were given a soul to shine. You were given gifts within to share with all. You were given your time here to make a difference in this world. Do so today! Nothing will bring you more love. Nothing will bring you greater happiness. Nothing will leave you feeling closer to God.----------------


I was driving to town on a beautiful summer day. The sky was full of fat, fluffy clouds. Queen Anneís Lace, Daisies, and Black Eyed Susans were growing on the hillsides. The sun was dancing through the green trees with its golden light and I was smiling at the wonder of it all. Suddenly, a truck rounded the curve in front of me, two feet over the center line. I jerked my wheel to the right and my tires spit up gravel along the side of the road as I just missed the truck on one side and the ditch on the other. As I glanced up I noticed the other driver gazing at his cell phone totally unaware of the near miss. I clenched my teeth in order to keep from saying the words I promised myself I would no longer use.

Later in town I was coming out of the store when a yellow butterfly whom I am sure was sent by my Mom in Heaven started to circle around my head. I smiled peacefully and held out my open palm. To my joy the butterfly landed on it briefly and fluttered its wings before flying away. I looked around to see if anyone else had noticed this minor miracle but the only two people near me had their heads bent down looking at their cell phone screens.

I am beginning to think that life is what happens while people are busy staring at their smart phones. Now I know that social media, computers, and smart phones are here to stay but that doesnít mean that they have to dominate our days or take over our lives. Amazingly, they all come with a power button. We can turn them off any time we wish.

Donít let your smart phone take away your smart mind. Donít let technology take over your soul. Use it when you need it but turn it off when you donít. God loves us and He gave us this life to love each other. Love well then. Turn your heart on more and your phone on less. Share your kindness, your joy, your hugs, your laughter, and your life and make God smile. ---------------


When I was in college one year I signed up for some Summer classes. The college was quiet and mostly empty during the Summer months and I spent most of my time in the huge library with its air conditioning to beat the July heat. It felt like every book in the whole world was there and I took my time going through the shelves looking at as many as I could.

One day in particular I found two very different books there. One was ďMein KampfĒ by Adolf Hitler and the other was ďThe diary of a young girlĒ by Anne Frank. Being curious I decided to look through them both in my usual fashion, skipping through the pages and looking for passages and paragraphs that would speak to me. I soon found that Hitlerís manifesto was not only muddled and confusing but also full of ideas that chilled my soul and felt like poison in my veins. After a short while I tossed it aside and started to read Anne Frankís diary. In page after page I felt her wit, wisdom, spirit, love, and joy. She filled me with hope for humanity, for myself, and for this world. I grieved that she had been taken from us so soon by Hitlerís Holocaust, but I thanked God that her writings had survived.

Anne Frank wrote that ďNobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.Ē When I started to write myself then I knew whose bookís example I wanted to follow. I wanted to share ideas that uplifted the hearts and souls of others. I wanted to write of Godís love for us and our love for each other. I wanted to write words that brought more love, more joy, and more light into this world.

Each of you is writing a book too. This book is called ďYour LifeĒ and you write it with every thing you do and every choice you make. Make it a great story, one that uplifts, inspires, and makes this world a better place. Make it a love story so beautiful that even Heaven smiles. ---------------


I was a young boy sitting on a big rock by a river with a pole in my hands. My Dad was next to me trying to show me the fine art of fishing. Being an impatient boy I wasnít a very good student. I hated just sitting there and longed to be playing ball or riding my bike. After a few more attempts my Dad finally gave up and let me go play so he could fish in peace.

It wasnít until I was older that I finally began to appreciate fishing. It was a way to escape the stress and strain of daily life. It was a way to be quite and peaceful. It was a way to sit in solitude and enjoy the beauty of nature and the love of God that was all around us. When I had my own children I took them fishing a few times, but my sonsí Autism made it too hard for them to be quiet and sit still. We soon gave up fishing and instead found our peace walking around the local lake while others fished it

As a boy I was often puzzled by the part of the Bible where Jesus told his disciples that he would make them ďfishers of men.Ē I thought, ďHow can anyone fish men?Ē As I got older, however, I began to understand. You canít catch fish or men by screaming and shouting. That only scares the fish and men away. Instead you have to ready your nets and cast off your boat quietly. You have to set your line peacefully and patiently. You have to dangle the bait of Godís unconditional love to all the hungry souls out there. You have to joyfully cast your net of love and truth and let them come to it.

Perhaps it is best if all of us fishermen follow the advice of Mark Twain and ďso live that when we come to die even the undertaker will be sorry.Ē For it is by living a life of love that we catch the hearts of others. And it is by sharing our peace, joy, and kindness that we become the ďfishers of menĒ that Jesus called us to be. ---------------


Our neighbors had to move away recently. An older couple they were headed North to help take care of her sisters who were in ill health. I am going to miss them. They were both so good and kind-hearted. He was a Rembrandt when it came to home repairs and helped both me and my Dad fix up our homes. She was always ready to share a sweet smile, an encouraging word, and a delicious dessert.

The day of the move two friends and I helped him to load their belongings into the moving van. As we squeezed out every spare inch of space we could in it, I thought of what I would have to carry and load if I ever had to move again. Even with my tiny home there would be couches, tables, chairs, beds, blankets, and box springs. There would be televisions, stereos, computers, desks, dressers, and drawers. There would be a washer, dryer, stove, microwave, refrigerator, and freezer. There would be boxes of books, plates, dishes, cups, silver ware, pots, pans, a coffee maker, and a popcorn popper. There would be closets of clothes, suitcases, old writings in shoe boxes, and even more boxes full of food, pictures, mementoes, and other miscellaneous items. My back started hurting just thinking about it.

Thankfully, the last trip that I take I will be packing light. There will be no u-hauls on my hearse. The only things we can take with us into the next life are the wisdom we have gained and the love we have shared. True wisdom never weighs you down and sharing love only leaves you feeling lighter.

Keep filling those empty boxes in your mind with wisdom. Keep sharing love from the suitcase of your soul. Pack your life full of faith, goodness, kindness, and helping others. Then you will be ready when Godís moving company finally brings you home.---------------


I was in the bakery section of a local supermarket the other day when I spotted a huge, delicious-looking, chocolate cake on sale. I was tempted to put it in my shopping cart but lately I have been trying to keep my middle-age spread from spreading, so I walked on. Just as I was passing it by, however, a little boy no more than four or five years old ran up to it and yelled, ďMommy, Mommy, Letís get the chocolate cake!Ē His Mom walked up and patiently explained that they couldnít afford that cake even on sale, but maybe they could get a couple of chocolate chip cookies instead. I expected the little boy to be upset, but instead his smile grew even wider as he said, ďYes, Yes, I love cookies!Ē

How I wish I had the wisdom of that little boy. As I have gone down lifeís path over the years I have far too often rejected the delightful bites of cookie that God has offered me because my eyes were fixed on the giant chocolate cake at the end of the road. All the little joys that I could have cherished were ignored because I couldnít take my eyes off the prize. It took me so many years to see that that chocolate cake was only an illusion of my own making.

That chocolate cake was the desire of what I wanted my life to be, but all of those bites of cookie was the life that God gave me to live. These days I delight in every one of them. I embrace every chance to do good, to share love, to help others, to create joy, and to grow into the person God meant for me to be. I know too that at the end of my days here God will allow me to see the whole cookie that was my life and I pray that it will be a delicious sight to see.

Donít pass up your cookies for some imaginary cake. Enjoy every bite of this life that God has given you. Rejoice in His glorious love for you and share your own love as well. Make your life a sweet treat for your soul and the souls of everyone you meet.----------------


In this hectic, crazy, mixed-up world that we live in there is an old saying that reminds us to ďTake the time to stop and smell the flowers.Ē I think that we should also take the time to plant a few as well.

My old, Italian Grandmother knew just how to do that. Nana always filled her porches with hanging, potted plants overflowing with flowers. She nurtured them with soil, love, and water and would smile when the sun shined down on them. Around her home she planted flowers as well. Red, purple, violet, orange, white, and yellow blossoms surrounded it. My Mom and I used to walk around it happily taking in the sweet smells and watching the beautiful butterflies fly down to feast upon them. Nana didnít ignore the wild flowers either. She would send me and my brothers out to pick hundreds upon hundreds of dandelion blossoms and would then turn them into a delightful, golden wine.

Nana didnít just plant flowers around the house, though. She also planted them in our souls. Her delicious dinners made with love not only filled our bellies but filled our hearts as well. Her sweet smile when we came into her house always made our spirits feel lighter. The hugs and kisses she shared so freely was the sunshine that kept our own love growing everyday. I am sure that she is still planting flowers somewhere in Heaven right now.

Take the time to plant a few flowers yourself today. Be Godís gardener in your life and in the lives of those around you. Sow your smiles, your kindness, your laughter, and your love. Plant your prayers, your goodness, your talents, and your joy. Brighten this world with your sunshine. Give all you can to help keep Godís garden growing here on Earth as well as in Heaven. ----------------


Over the years I have said many prayers to God, and I havenít always gotten the answers I wanted. When I was a little boy I prayed for my lost dog, Duke to come back home but he never did. When I was in high school I prayed that I would become a big football star, but God had other plans. In college I prayed to become a huge success and be both rich and famous. Thirty years later I am still waiting on that one. When I married I prayed that my children would be healthy, happy, and smart. Yet, my two sons were both born with Autism and mental retardation. While they are often happy everyday is still a struggle for them. As my sons were growing up I prayed time and time again for God to heal them and make them normal. Instead, He used them to heal my own soul and teach me patience, acceptance, and love.

What I have learned from all of these unanswered prayers is that what we most want isnít always what we most need. We muddle through this world trying to find purpose and love. God, however, sees the vast tapestry of our lives and how they connect with the lives of countless others. God also sees clearly where we have been and where we are going. He lovingly guides us on our eternal path of growth and answers the prayers that most strengthen our souls and help us to love.

Losing Duke helped me to open my heart to the love of many other dogs and people. It also helped me to deal better with the later deaths of my Mom, Nana, and Dad. Being a football star in high school would have been horrible for me. My ego needed shrinking and my kindness needed growing. Being a bench warmer did both. As for being a big success in the eyes of the world, I think God thought it more important that I become a success in the eyes of Heaven first. While my two sons were never healed of their Autism, they have become a light in my life that brings love to my heart and joy to my days. They continue to teach me and all those they meet lessons on living and loving that are priceless.

I have found too that my prayers have changed a lot over the years. Now instead of asking for things I want I ask God to help me to do His will and to be the person He meant for me to be. My main two prayers are ďThank you God for my lifeĒ and ďPlease help all of us to Love.Ē

May all of your prayers lead you to greater faith, greater joy, and greater oneness with God. May all of your prayers strengthen you on your journey through this life and into the next. May all of your prayers connect you forever with Love.---------------


When I was a boy we had a small 13 inch color television set in our living room. It had a knob to change the channels on it. We rarely turned that knob, however. We lived in the country and our rusty, old antenna could only pick up one channel clearly. If it was cloudy outside, I could go out and hand-turn the antenna half way around to try and pick up a second network, but usually it was only static. When I would go to school my friend who lived in town would describe all of the shows he watched on the channels we couldnít get and I would share the shows I watched that he didnít get to see. It was a fun way to pass an afternoon especially if it was raining at recess.

These days I have cable with over one hundred channels. I can click my remote through them at lightening speed. More often than not, however, I find myself watching some rerun from my childhood on an oldies station. On my computer there are shows, videos, and stories from all over the world. Yet, time and time again I find myself getting bored, turning it off, and picking up an old book to read instead. My daughter has a smart phone that she can work with a skill that makes my head spin. She can get any information she needs from the internet in mere seconds. Still, it seems a bit too fast for me at times. I donít mind slowly browsing through the dictionary or an encyclopedia instead.

Sometimes I think I was born a little too early for this world. Yet, one thing that I do know is that in this crazy, mixed-up, super-information society you still need to find the right wavelength. You still need to tune into God. You still need to turn your antenna to love. You still need to connect daily with kindness. Without these things life has no meaning. Without these things you gain no wisdom and have no joy. Without these things your soul is just static.----------------


As a writer I am always looking for inspiration. I can always tell that God has a sense of humor too, because my best inspirations often come at the most inconvenient times when I have nothing to write them down on. I can remember once years ago when I was walking with my children around a local lake in the Summertime. The sun was sparkling off the crystal clear waters. Butterflies were dancing above the wild flowers. The shady trees were full of chirping birds. It felt so peaceful there. I smiled and relaxed. Of course, that is when the idea for a new story suddenly appeared, fully formed, in my mind. We were still a half-mile away from our car and I was afraid my aging brain would forget part of the story before I got there. I took my pen out of my pocket then and started writing it down on the palm of my hand.

Later after I had transferred the inspiration to paper and was washing the ink off my hand I laughed and asked God why He always seemed to speak to my heart at the strangest times. As soon as I said it, I heard in my mind: "Because that is the only time you are listening!"

Maybe if we all want to hear from God more often we should just shut up and listen. God speaks to us in the silence of our souls. God whispers to us in the quiet of the storm. God talks to us but never talks over us. If you want to hear Godís inspiration and guidance in your heart and mind, you have to shut off your own noise. If you want to feel Godís love inside you, you have to silence the chattering monkey within.

We are all Children of God and He is forever ready to love us, inspire us, guide us, improve us, and help us to grow into the people we were meant to be. His inspiration comes to us through our thoughts, our intuition, our experiences, and our lives. All we have to do is let Him in. All we have to do is open our hearts and close our mouths. All we have to do is listen. ---------------


It was a warm evening in June. I was a young dad, sitting in a lawn chair, holding my baby boy on my lap. My wife and I had just rented an old house with a big yard. Her uncle along with his wife and two, young daughters had dropped by to pay us a visit. As we adults sat outside, sipping iced tea, and watching the sun go down, the two girls raced around the yard, laughing, yelling, and trying their best to catch lightening in a jar.

The lightening was lightening bugs, of course. Dozens of fireflies were floating freely around the yard, moving slowly, but always just evading their pursuers. Soon my young cousins got me to join in the hunt and we safely captured two of the little shiners and put them in a mason jar with a lid on it. We sat and watched them blink on and off for a long time. Finally, one of the girls looked at me and said, "They look sad. We should let them go." I slowly opened the lid and we watched as they flew away to freedom. Then we laughed and sang several verses of the song: "This little light of mine. Iím going to let it shine."

As I think back on that night so many years ago it makes me remember all the times I have kept my own light sealed in the mason jar of my soul instead of sharing it with the world. Fear, anger, jealousy, and doubt have made me hide my light so many times over the years. It has taken me a long time to see that like those lightening bugs God wants all of us to shine our light as bright as we can, as long as we can, and every single chance that we can.

Donít let fear keep you from shining your light. Donít let this world keep you from living your love. God loves you so much. God meant for you to shine. Share your love then. Be kind. Help others. Do good. Bring joy. Make your life a beacon for all the world to see. Take all that lovely light within you and "let it shine, let it shine, let it shine." ---------------


I was in fifth grade and about to take a science test. Since first grade I had always been good at school. I loved to read and remembered things easily. Simple math was a breeze for me and I always did well on tests. When it came to fifth grade science, however, I was struggling. I couldnít seem to understand it no matter how hard I tried. I was scared. Mom and Dad had always been so proud of my good grades and I didnít want to let them down. Just before the test then I had written several of the answers on my desk top in barely legible pencil. I sat nervously as the teacher started to hand out the tests. I didnít want to get caught, but I didnít want to fail either.

As the teacher was starting down my row suddenly the fire alarm went off. It was an unscheduled fire drill. We all headed out the door and stood together waiting for the all clear signal. As I stood outside in the warm sunshine I realized what a fool I had been. I knew my Mom and Dad would be proud of me and love me no matter what my grades were. As soon as we were allowed back in I spit on my hand, walked to my desk, and wiped the answers away. I had been given a second chance and I wasnít going to waste it. I took the test, did my best, and felt at peace. I donít remember what my grade was but what happened that day has stayed in my heart and mind ever since.

I am not sure why God gave me a second chance that day. It wouldnít be the last time, though. God has given me more second, third, and fourth chances than any man deserves. His patience and love have been with me through all the mistakes, stumbles, and falls I have made. His second chances have allowed me to grow into the person I am today.

Life is full of second chances but you have to be willing to take them. You have to be willing to ask Godís forgiveness and begin again. You have to be willing to release your mistakes and grasp your inner goodness. You have to be willing to give up your fear and just love. Every day when you wake up you are given a second chance at life. Embrace it! Cherish it! And use it wisely! --------------


I was sitting in my car with the windows rolled down. My daughter had a meeting in the building in front of me and I was waiting to give her a ride home. The eighty degree day was wrapping the world in its warmth. A gentle breeze was blowing. Fat, fluffy clouds coasted lazily across the sky. The sun was washing the world with its golden light, making everything more beautiful. It sparkled off the green leaves filling every tree and made them glow. On the ground a bumble bee buzzed around a patch of yellow dandelions while a patient butterfly fluttered above him. Dozens of different birds were singing. Each of their songs was unique but they curiously combined into a symphony of delight. Even a squirrel seemed to stop and listen to them for a moment before zipping away across the pavement and up an old Oak tree.

As I sat there I noticed that I was smiling peacefully and that my heart felt full of contentment. It was like I could feel the Love of God all around me and within me too. It made wonder why more people didnít make the time each day to take in all the beauty, peace, and love that surrounds us.

Archibald Rutledge wrote: "God ministers to our spirits by the beauty that adorns creation." Perhaps the best thing each of us can do then is to care for Godís creation, to add our own beauty to it and to do our best to share it with others.

Do your best then to add your loving soul, sweet smile, and kind heart to Godís creation. Add your goodwill and helping hands to it as well. Add your optimism and enthusiasm. Add your wisdom, skills, and talents. Add all that you are to make this world a better place. We are all a part of Godís glorious tapestry of creation! How big or small a part of it is up to us, however. Donít let yours be as small as a grain of sand when it can be as huge as Heaven. ---------------


I was blowing the dust off of some of my Grandmaís old photo albums the other day and looking at pictures of that little boy I used to be. One in particular caught my eye. I was smiling, sitting in a corner chair by an old bookcase, hugging my best friend in the whole world. That friend was my dog, Duke.

Duke was a strange name for such a little dog. He couldnít have weighed more than 20 lbs. He was a mixed breed with a light brown coat. He had long legs with white paws and a white stripe that ran up his nose and head. He was my constant companion from the moment I could walk until I was ten years old. He curled up with me in that chair when I read books. When I went outside to play cowboy he would herd our cats up the trees and then walk off looking proud of himself. When He was hungry he would carry his food dish in his mouth and drop it at my Momís feet. He would sleep on top of my bed covers at night and when I had the mumps he refused to leave my bed until I got better.

I learned a lot from Duke over the years too. I learned a nap in the middle of the afternoon could be good for you. I learned that sometimes you need to growl a little to get your point across. I learned that you can never give or get too many hugs and kisses. I learned that the simplest dinner can be delicious when you eat it with gusto. I learned that life can be good when lived with love and joy. Sadly, I also learned that life in this world is short especially if you are a dog. I lost Duke way too soon in my young life. Being an adventurous soul, Duke would often let his nose lead him away from home. Usually he would return days later hungry and exhausted. When I was ten, however, he went off one day and never returned. I cried and my Dad and I went on long walks searching for him but to no avail.

Since I lost Duke I have had many dogs in my life. All of them have been special. All of them have been unique. All of them have taught me to open my heart and love more. I hope to see them all again one day in Heaven. I would like to ask God too why our dogsí lives here are so short and ours so long. I think maybe that I do know at least part of the answer. If one of the reasons we are here is to learn how to love then our best teachers certainly wouldnít need to be here as long as we would. May you learn much, love well, and live your live with the heart of a dog. ---------------


Over the years I have gotten so many letters and e-mails of appreciation for these simple stories I write. These letters always warm my heart. Once in a while, however, I get a letter from hurting soul who is angry with both God and life. I got one of these the other day. The man wrote: "If God truly does love us then how can He allow the poor to suffer, children to starve, and the homeless to die in the street? How can He allow so much war, cruelty, and violence in this world?" I looked at the letter for a long time and then wrote this back to him: "God doesnít allow this. We do."

There is more than enough food in this world to fill every childís stomach. There is more than enough wealth in this world to give everyone a home where they can feel safe. There is more than enough love in this world to overcome cruelty, violence, and war. Yet, we hoard, fear, and steal. We seek power instead of love. We close our homes, our hands, and our hearts. We shut ourselves off and refuse to see that everyone is our brother and sister.

Perhaps our problem is that we donít look at this world through the eyes of eternity. We donít see that a better home and happier life awaits us after this one. We donít see the love of God within us. Instead we chase after the things of this world. We donít see that in eternityís eyes all the wealth and power in the universe isnít worth a bucket of spit. We donít see that in the next life we wonít be judged by our fame and accomplishments. We will be judged by the good we did, the people we helped, and the love we shared.

I pray that all of those hurting souls out there will find their way back to faith, love, and life. I pray that every one of us will feel just how much God loves us and realize just how much we can love as well. I pray that all of us will one day see this life through eternityís eyes --------------


My daughter and I finally got around to converting all of the electronic pictures stored on our computers and cell phones into printed ones that we could actually hold in our hands and put into photo albums. It was amazing looking through decades of our lives. There were proms and graduations, birthdays and Christmas, playful pups and napping cats. I looked at myself and saw my wrinkles disappear, my hair darken and regrow, and my waistline shrink. I looked at my children and watched them grow younger and younger. I looked at my dogs who had passed and wiped away a tear or two. I even looked at some pictures from 40 years ago that my relatives had e-mailed me.

There I was not even 5 years old with chubby cheeks and innocent eyes. I looked at that boy and all those younger versions of myself for a long time. I wondered too what I would say to all of those Joes if I had a chance. I knew that I would tell them to relax and not worry about lifeís troubles so much. I would tell them that they would solve all the problems they could and get through the ones they couldnít. I would tell them to enjoy and cherish each day as it comes. I would tell them that everyday has its own delights and simple pleasures and they should appreciate them all. I would tell them to hug more, laugh more, and say "I love you" more. I would advise them to take in more sunsets and to turn off the television every so often and go watch the stars. I would tell them to sing along with the radio and read a good book every chance they get. I would tell them to never pass up the opportunity to pet a dog or help another human being. Most of all, though, I would tell them to just love, because that is what God put us here to do.

Of course I know that none of us can go backward in this life. Life can only go forward. After I put the photo albums down then I went into the bathroom and gave all of that advice to the man in the mirror. I think that he appreciated it too. He may have been 48 years old, with graying, balding hair and a face full of wrinkles, but when he smiled his young soul shined through and I could see the loving light of God in his eyes.

As you go forward in your own life then always take with you the wisdom you have gained, the kindness you have shared, and the love God has given you. As you go forward always strive to be the best Child of God you can be. As you go forward always remember to just love and have joy in that love. ----------------


I was 12 years old and had talked my older brother into taking me with him to a drive-in movie. I felt so grown up hanging out with him and his friends. When I found out that one of them had smuggled a bottle of cheap wine into the drive-in, I even talked my way into getting a few drinks from it myself. It was a big mistake. The wine hit me like a grape sledgehammer. Within minutes my brain was buzzing and my body felt numb. When my brother and I arrived home I did my best to walk straight and appear normal. It didnít work. Dad knew the second I walked in the door that I was drunk. I can remember him yelling at us for quite a while and I woke up the next day both hung-over and grounded.

That experience did serve to teach me one thing, however. It taught me that I definitely prefer a natural high over an artificial one. You can get a natural high from so many things too. I get a natural high when I talk to God and feel His love inside of me. I get a natural high when I walk in the sunshine and watch the birds flying across the sky. I get a natural high when I exercise my body, mind, and soul. I get a natural high when I pet my dogs, hug my children, and share my smile. I get a natural high when I read a letter from a friend and write one back. I get a natural high from reading a good book, singing a joyful song, and sipping a glass of iced tea. I get a natural high from feeling the morning breeze on my face and smelling the first flowers of Spring. I get a natural high from every good thing I do and every act of kindness I share. I get a natural high every time I choose to laugh and choose to love.

You too can fill your life with natural highs that lighten your heart, uplift your spirit, and calm your mind. All you have to do is choose them. May all of your days be full of natural highs then. And may all of your natural highs bring you nearer to Heaven and closer to God. ---------------


It was the first day of 4-H camp. I was 10 years old and in the middle of a fist fight with another boy my age. I can no longer remember what the fight was even about, but I do remember that it wasnít going very well for me. I was fortunate then when the camp counselor suddenly showed up and stopped the fight. He made us apologize and shake hands to make up. You could tell by our eyes, however, that our hearts werenít in it.

It was the last day of 4-H camp. My Mom had arrived with a surprise for me and my brother. She had baked several homemade pizzas for us to share with our friends. As I was finishing up my last two slices I saw my opponent from day one sitting alone, outside, at the bottom of the stairs to our cabin. I donít know why but at that moment my heart opened. I walked down the steps and shared one of the pieces of pizza with him. It was just a little act of kindness, but it made the day brighter and healed any hurt feelings we still had between us.

It took me many years to realize just how important and vital those little acts of love and kindness are in this life. They matter more than our wealth and accomplishments. They matter more than any fame or popularity. They matter more than all the things this world holds so dear. In the eyes of Heaven they are priceless. In fact, they are the only things we get to take with us when we leave this world for the next.

When we get to meet God face to face and look back on our lives here, it will be these little acts of love that we will be looking at. Donít miss a single opportunity then to share your love and kindness with another. Donít miss a single chance to brighten this world with your inner light. Fill your life here with a million little acts of love and kindness and watch yourself grow closer to God and Heaven with each one. ----------------


There was something in the air this morning. I paused as I walked outside, raised my head, and breathed it in. It was Spring! I looked down at my lawn and saw wild onions and fresh green grass growing. My flower box had new purple Phlox stretching towards the sunshine. Tulips and Daffodils were in bloom too. Their reds and yellows were brightening up countless yards. In the meadow dozens upon dozens of dandelions were also soaking up the sun. The formerly barren trees were budding away too. When I walked under one of them I could hear a protective Mother Robin scolding me from her nest.

I smiled at all of this and took a long walk in the warming sunshine. The air was cool and fresh without being cold and I could smell a thousand different scents dancing upon it. My coat was sitting unused in my house and I hoped that it would rest there for many months to come. I felt as young and alive as a child. When a hornet buzzed by me I danced away without a hint of ill will. I knew that it was time as well to the one thing I had wanted to do all Winter long. With a laugh I kicked off my shoes and walked barefoot in the grass. I listened to the dozens of birds singing their songs. They all blended together in a chorus of joy. Finally, I stopped walking and watched the morning sun rising in the sky. Then I said a prayer of thanks to God. I thanked Him for the warmth and golden sunlight. I thanked Him for the flowers and the trees. I thanked Him for the green grass and the insects. I thanked him for the birds and their music. I thanked Him most of all for my life and for making a season as glorious and special as Spring.

A friend of mine asked me last Winter why I had never moved south to escape the cold here in the mountains of my home. I think that the answer is that these mountains ARE my home. They are where I feel the happiest. They are where God meant for me to be. I also think that I wouldnít appreciate the Spring so much if there were no Winter.

When we go through the seasons of our lives we should always do our best to appreciate them all. We should cherish every moment of our Spring and enjoy every second of our Summer. Yet, we should also delight in the special beauty of our Autumn and share our warmth and light when the cold days of Winter arrive. We should embrace every season and every day with thankfulness and love. Because that is how God meant for us to live! May you always have love in your heart and Springtime in your soul. ---------------


I was the third car back in a long line. We were stuck in the middle of town while the water company dug through the pavement to reach a leaking water line. I looked around the street while I waited not knowing that I was about to witness a minor miracle.

As I looked at one old house I saw a young mother walking quickly into it. Her face held a curious combination of stress, worry, and silent desperation. Her eyes looked like they had been crying for a long time. In her arms her 3 year old girl seemed to have absorbed her fear and was clutching tightly around her Momís neck. Ten minutes later I watched as the mother and child came back out. Their faces had been transformed. The motherís smile was big and her eyes were bright. The little girl was laughing and skipping around her Mom. The one other difference was the big bag of food the Mom now held. The old house I later learned was the home of a local food pantry.

Since that day I have twice used what little I had to help that food pantry to restock their shelves. It felt so good to be able to help them help others. It felt so wonderful knowing that I was working with God to keep the miracles going. It felt so right sharing my love to make this world a better place.

What can you do today to make this world a better place? Today you can help fill a hungry childís belly. Today you can give a struggling family hope. Today you can ease anotherís sadness with your smile and kindness. Today you can uplift another with your joy. Today you can make a minor miracle with your caring heart. Today you can send out ripples of love that have no end. Today you can use what you have to make Earth a little more like Heaven. Today you can make God smile and the angels sing. Do what you can today! ----------------


I was giving myself a bad time of it the other day. It was one of those moments when you question your life. I kept wondering if I had done enough to learn, to grow, to help others, and to make this world a better place. I was being a tough judge on myself too. It was then, however, that God in His infinite wisdom gave me peace by awakening in my mind an old story that I had read many years before.

The story begins when a young man taking a lone hiking trip loses his way and finds himself stranded without water in a desolate treeless valley. He is saved, though, when a widowed shepherd finds him and leads him to a spring. The man learns that the shepherd after losing his wife had decided to restore the ruined landscape by single-handedly planting a forest, tree by tree, with only a curling pole and acorns that he had collected from many miles away.

Many years later the man returns and finds a growing forest in the valley and the shepherd, now a bee keeper still at work cultivating and nurturing the woodland. The man continues to visit the valley each year and watches as over four decades the tree planter turns the valley into a Garden of Eden. In the end the man helps his friend to get the government to protect the forest and many people move there. He also visits him one last time as the now very old tree planter peacefully passes away.

Thinking of that story made me realize that each of us is a tree planter too. We plant trees of goodness with every loving thought we think, every kind word we share, and every caring act we do. We plant these trees each and everyday of our lives. We should waste no time judging ourselves then while there are more trees to plant. And at the end of our lives when we face our Heavenly Father, we can smile and see where a forest has grown. ----------------


There is an old joke that I hear every Spring here in the mountains of my home. A police officer sees a car swerving erratically on the road ahead. After pulling the car over he walks up to question the driver. The man looks out his car window and says: "I know what you are thinking officer, but I am not drunk. I was just trying to miss all of those potholes."

That joke rang true to me today as I found myself swerving my own car whenever I could to miss the huge holes in the pavement caused by another rough Winter here. Sometimes, though, I couldnít swerve because of the traffic. When that happened I would hit the brakes but still ended up with a bone jarring thud every time my car hit the pothole.

The potholes we get on the road of life are often much worse than the potholes we find on the roads we drive. A pothole on the highway may cost you a flat tire or a piece of your carís tailpipe. A pothole in your life might jar you to the very center of your soul. I have hit more than my share of these over the years too. Poverty, pain, unemployment, sickness, my sonsí Autism, and the deaths of my Mom, Nana, and Dad are just a few of the potholes I have hit hard in my journey through life. Yet, as much as it hurt going through them I somehow found myself growing stronger, kinder, more loving, and closer to God after each one.

None of us can completely avoid the potholes in this life. But with the help of God and each other we can all patch them as we go and make the way smoother for those who follow. Donít let the potholes wreck your life then. Become a pothole patcher instead. Fill the holes in your life with the love in your heart. Patch each one with prayer, faith, goodness, and God. Help others to fill theirs as well. And always remember that God didnít promise any of us an easy road through this life, but He did promise that one day He would lead us Home! --------------


I was driving home in a gloomy rainstorm on a cold, March morning in the mountains of my home. Part of me was enjoying the rain thinking that it would clean the slush, salt, and grime that covered my car from weeks of Winter driving and save me a trip to the car wash. Another part of me was keeping a watchful eye on the creeks and rivers hoping that the melting snow and freshly falling rain wouldnít lead to any flooding.

A deeper part of me, however, was quietly dreaming of the warmer weather and strengthening sunshine to come in the weeks ahead. I knew that they would join with this nourishing rain to turn the yellow grass green, to bring new buds and leaves to the trees, and to cause the million flowers sleeping underground to push their heads through the soil and start the Spring. It would be that glorious time when the whole world comes back to life again and it was all starting with this steady, March shower.

The rains in our own lives can bring mixed blessings as well. Storms of problems and troubles can flood us with stress, strain, and pain. They can make our days seem dark and dreary. They can make our hearts feel heavy and sad. Yet, these same storms can also strengthen our spirits. They can help our souls to grow. They can lead us to learning and wisdom. They can cause our hearts to reach out to God and to each other.

There is a reason why a world with only sunshine and no rain becomes a desert. There is a reason why a life with no problems becomes boring and barren, devoid of both learning and growth. God wants us to grow. God wants us to learn. God wants us to love each other as He loves us. God wants us to embrace His light in both the sunshine and the rain. And God wants us to shine and share our own light as well even on the darkest of days. ---------------


As I have gotten older one thing I have realized is that I really want more out of life. Now I am not talking about bigger bank accounts, more money, a huger house, or a fancier car. What I really want more of are the things that money just canít buy. I want more of the things that strengthen the spirit and nurture the soul. I want more of the things that bring us closer to love, closer to others, closer to Heaven, and closer to God.

I want to watch more sunrises and more sunsets. I want to spend more time smelling the flowers in the Spring and looking at the leaves in the Fall. I want to listen to more music and sing more songs. I want to read more books and gain more wisdom. I want to give more hugs and kisses to my children and hopefully one day to my grandchildren. I want to spend more time watching my dogs play and listening to my cats purr. I want to pray more to God and listen to His voice in the silence of my heart, mind, and soul. I want to think more inspiring thoughts and share them with others. I want to speak more words of encouragement. I want to do more acts of kindness. I want to help others more. I want to lift more people up and let more people lift me up as well. I want to share more smiles. I want to enjoy more laughter. I want to select more joy, create more happiness, choose more peace, and then give it to others. I want to spread more sunshine, eliminate more darkness, and make Earth more like Heaven. I want to write more truth, let more people know that God loves them, and show them that they can love too. I want to do more and more to make this world a better place for everyone.

I pray too that all of you spend your days getting and giving more of what is essential in this life. May you have more love. May you share more joy. May you get more wisdom. May you give more goodness. And may you forever grow more in oneness with God. ----------------


I saw an interesting news story the other day. It seems that ultra-rich billionaires are now spending millions to buy up huge mega-mansions just to tear them down. And then they are spending many millions more to build even larger giga-mansions in their place. I shook my head sadly when I watched this and thought of how crazy this world has become.

I also thought back to the very first place I had as an adult. I was newly married and still in college. The only place I could afford was a tiny two room apartment built above a laundromat. The kitchen and living room combination could be crossed in a few quick steps. Two burners on the kitchen stove didnít work. Springs stuck out of a couch that was older than I was. The mattress in the bedroom was full of divots. The water pressure was a sprinkle and the rattle and hum of the washers and dryers below us was constant. Yet, I can remember being very happy there. We needed little. We wanted little. Each day brought its own joys. And that rundown, little place was home.

When it comes right down to it homes arenít made by the things you own. Homes arenít made by the square footage you live in. Homes are made by the love you share. Every place that I have ever lived in has been modest at best. Every place has been small, crowded, and cluttered. Yet, they have all been home. They have all been full of love and laughter. They have all been full of hugs and happiness. They have all been full of goodness and God.

There is an old saying that goes, "Home is where the heart is." Where are you going to put your heart then? Are you going to put it in things or are you going to put it in people? Are you going to put it in money or are you going to put it in God? Are you going to give it over to this crazy world or are you going to use it to make this world a more loving home for everyone. ----------------


I had just finished shoveling out my driveway, my porches, and a walk path over to my daughterís house after yet another heavy snow. It was the fourth time I had shoveled out in a week and I was wondering if my sore back was going to make it through the Winter. During two of the times the wind chill had been so cold that my breath had frozen into ice on my glasses and moustache. As I leaned my aching arms on my snow shovel, however, I heard something that brought a burst of hope to my heart.

It was the birds singing. Their song spoke of Spring to my Winter weary heart. Even though the start of Spring was still a month away and two feet of snow covered the ground the birds were taking the long view. I closed my eyes and listened to their sweet music. In my heart I could feel the green grass beneath my bare feet, I could see thousands of dandelions blooming in the meadow, and I could warm myself in the Spring sunshine. It was a thought of pure joy that lifted my spirits while I walked back home with a smile on my face.

I have always delighted in embracing the present moment, but sometimes when life is cold and dark you need to take the long view. Sometimes you need to wrap your arms around hope when joy seems too far away. Sometimes you need to look forward to Spring when your days are too full of Winter. Sometimes you need to reach out for Godís hand even when you canít see it.

As you travel through life donít be afraid to take the long view then. Embrace your present moments and fill them with all the love and joy you can, but look forward to the future as well. Know too that the love you share and good you do today builds the better life you will have tomorrow. And always remember that at the end of your journey is a place where there is no hatred, fear, cold, or darkness only peace, love, warmth, and light. -----------------


I was watching some reunion videos the other day. Those are the ones where the serviceman or servicewoman returns home after many months to surprise their families. One in particular widened my smile and moistened my eyes at the same time.

In it a five year old little girl was celebrating her birthday party. After blowing out the candles on her birthday cake it was time to open her presents. She seemed especially delighted when she opened up a box holding a new doll. Just then, however, her Dad walked out from behind a wall and tapped her on her shoulder. She looked up at him, screamed, dropped her doll, and jumped into his arms. Then she began to cry tears of pure joy while telling her Daddy how she loved him and how she had missed him. During all of this the doll lay forgotten on the floor. That wise little girl knew what her real gift was.

In this life we all need to realize that the real gift we give isnít just reserved for birthdays. The real gift we give every single day. The real gift we give is ourselves. The money we spend and the things we buy mean little in comparison. The real gift is in the love we share. The real gift is in the hugs we share. The real gift is in the smiles we spread. The real gift is in the time we spend. The real gift is in the very life we live.

Leo Buscaglia once said: "This life is Godís gift to you. How you live it is your gift to God." May you make your real gift the best gift imaginable then. May you increase your wisdom, nurture your love, build up your kindness, and grow your joy. May you make yourself the best person you can possibly be. And may you give that glorious gift of yourself to others, and to God. If you do so you will have happiness. If you do so you will spread goodness. If you do so you will bring a whole lot of Heaven down here to Earth. -----------------


It was a sweltering hot, Summerís day and I was longing to go swimming at the local pool. Instead, I was riding in the back seat of the car as my parents drove to a friendís house. They were going to lend a hand to a church work camp repairing her roof and porch. As an eight year old boy I knew that there wouldnít be much for me to do and I was right. In the end I fetched a few hammers, threw away some scrap pieces of wood, and spent the rest of the time sitting in the yard watching.

The work camp was mostly made up of teenagers who had given up part of their Summer vacation to help others. They were supervised by the pastor and a few skilled carpenters who were also working free of charge. I spent most of that afternoon sitting in the shade while they sweated in the sunshine. They were cutting boards and hammering them in place. They were pulling out rotted tiles and nailing in new ones. They were scraping off the old paint and brushing on the new. They were doing it all too with an energy of joy. They shared stories and smiles. They shared jokes and laughter. They shared a Heavenly spirit of caring that was beautiful to behold.

Finally our friend called me into the house to help her pay them with the two things she could afford: sweet tea and smiles. I gingerly carried out the glasses to the workers who downed them with gusto. By the end of the day the three gallons of tea were gone. The workers were out of nails, paint, and lumber but the job was done. There was one thing left, however. It was the one thing that you never run out of. It was the one thing that you canít give away without having even more of it. It was Love. It lightened our spirits. It lifted our smiles. It made us feel at one with both Heaven and God. I went home with a heart full of it and was happier than any day at the pool could have made me.

Donít be afraid to share your love every chance you can then. Share it with your work. Share it with your smile. Share it with your life. You will never run out. You will always have more. And you will forever feel our Heavenly Father smiling upon you. ---------------


I was laying on my bed relaxing after a long day. Music was playing in the background and I was taking the time to read a good book. Just as I turned the page an old song started playing that always reminded me of my Mom. I put the book down and listened. Even though it had been 23 years since cancer had taken her from us, sometimes it still felt like it was only yesterday. I closed my eyes and allowed the flood of memories to wash over me. I thought of Momís sparkling eyes and shining smile which lived on in the faces of my own children. I thought of her sweet voice and gentle laugh that never failed to lift my spirits. I thought of how she brightened up every room she walked into. I thought of how she was a friend to everyone she met and how her kindness touched the hearts of so many. I thought of how she made this world a better place just by being in it. And my heart ached as I thought of how I still missed her so much. I wiped the tears from my cheeks as the song finished, looked out my window at the night sky, and sent an "I love you, Mom" from my lips to Heavenís ear.

Now some people would ask why I didnít shut the music off the second that song came on. Why did I subject myself to the pain it brought? I think the answer is that sometimes you have to let in a little hurt in order to let in a lot of love. Sometimes you have to open your heart in order to truly live. Life here will always be a mix of the bitter and the sweet, but you canít shut down your soul. At times you have to embrace the pain and then let it go. When you do you will find that what is left is love.

May you always keep your heart open to love. May you always keep your heart open to God. May you always keep your heart open to messages from Heaven. They can come at the strangest times on the winds of a memory or the wings of a song. --------------


I was driving home the other day after taking my son to the sheltered workshop where he works part time. The clouds had parted and the newly freed sun was slowly warming the Earth. The radio was playing and Louis Armstrong was singing, "What a Wonderful World." I was joining in with my scratchy voice. I rounded a curve and saw the distant mountains alight with golden sunshine. It was so beautiful. In that second the music, the light, and the view came together and filled my heart with peace. I felt like I was where I was meant to be. I felt like I was who I wanted to be. I felt like I was the person God called me to be. I drove on letting that moment of pure peace uplift my spirit and thanked God again for my life here.

I have noticed over the years that as I have gotten older and thankfully wiser those moments of pure peace have become more and more frequent. In my quest for peace I used to feel like I was searching for a treasure. In my soul I was scaling mountains, crossing rivers, and traveling long and far to find that elusive peace. What I finally found when I stopped my searching and striving, though, was that I was carrying that peace inside of me all along.

How do you find peace? The answer I feel is to just love. Love God. Love yourself. Love everyone else. Love nature. Love music. Love animals. Love books. Love learning. Love this world all around you. Love life itself. When you love you find that the storms of life can never break you. When you love you find yourself connected to the very energy that created the universe. When you love you find yourself growing ever closer to God today, tomorrow, and forever. Love is what leads you to your true self. Love is what makes peace your permanent companion. May all of your days here be full of love. May all of your days here be full of peace. May all of your days here carry you one step closer to Heaven. ---------------


Beep! Beep! Beep! Beep! I sat up groggily as my alarm went off. The bedroom was still dark and I fumbled for the alarm clock and switched it off. My body and mind just werenít ready to get up yet. I groaned, laid back down, put my head on my pillow, and closed my eyes. It was then, however, that my backup alarm went off. It jumped up on my bed, put its paws on my chest, and started to rapidly lick my face. It was my beagle dog, Snoopy Girl. She was ready and raring to get the day going and wasnít about to take no for an answer. I sat up with a smile and pulled her off of me. I turned on the light, rubbed her belly with one hand and wiped off my wet moustache with the other.

I have often wished that I could wake up with the same love, joy, energy, and enthusiasm my dogs have. It would be a great way to start the day with a wagging tail and a happy pant. But I am just an aging human being and it takes me a while to stretch out the knots in my back, wipe off the crust in my eyes, awaken the love in my heart, and thank God for another day. One thing I have found, though, is that when I do finally get the day going right my face smiles, my soul sings, and everything in my life goes better.

I am grateful then to my backup alarm for being such a wonderful teacher in how to live and in how to love. I am grateful to all the dogs who have blessed my life with their joy, their energy, their antics, and their zest for life. I have given them food and shelter and in return they have given me the priceless treasure of their unconditional love.

God gave us the best friends to walk through life with. They may be furry and have four legs, but they will always be by our sides. Take a lesson from them then. Live simply. Love deeply. Greet each day with zest and happiness. And always share your joy with the world. ----------------


If you have never taken the time to watch the sun come up in the morning then you really should do so. It is so good for the soul. You need to go out early when the night sky is still dark and full of stars. Then find yourself a comfortable place to stand or sit and take it all in.

The black sky will slowly begin to transform into a dark blue while the dimmer stars and then the brighter ones fade from view. Then as the air warms the blue will begin to lighten and red, pink, and purple clouds will magically appear. It will look like God is finger painting them Himself as they float across the sky. And just as you finish welcoming this beauty into your heart the sky will change again. The blue will turn to orange and then yellow and you will find yourself transfixed as the sun slowly climbs over the horizon and showers the world with its light. Next the birds will begin to awaken in their nests. Some will sing with joy and others will take to the sky, flying through the heavens and taking your spirit along for the ride. And as you watch them the morning breeze will kiss your face while it makes the leaves dance and the trees wave. Few people can watch something this miraculous without feeling blessed with peace and without feeling loved by our Heavenly Father.

Take the time to watch the sun come up every chance you can then. Keep it shining in your soul too all the day through. Be a sunrise unto yourself as well. Send your light when you pray, laugh, and sing. Spread your light when you stretch out your fingers to offer a helping hand to another. Scatter your light when you offer your smile, your kindness, and your compassion to others. Shine your light when you connect to the glorious energy of love and share it with the world. Do the good you were meant to do. Be the person God meant for you to be. Live the life you were meant to live. Be a giver of Godís light in this world and in the next. ---------------


It was a bitterly cold, Winterís morning. The snow that had started to melt the day before had frozen again. I was walking my dogs, wishing that I could teach them to use the bathroom indoors. Every breath in hurt a bit and every breath out was a cloud of frozen mist. I looked up and noticed the morning sunrise. Thin pink and purple clouds drifted across the sky. Even with the cold it looked like Heaven was smiling down on me.

I thanked God for this beautiful gift as I took another step in the snow. Only it wasnít snow that I stepped on. It was ice. My feet flung into the air. My body crashed to the ground. My shoe slipped off my foot and I found myself still staring at that sunrise but with an aching butt, my back on the ground, and two worried dogs licking my face. A strange sound was coming out of my mouth as well. It wasnít a moan or a curse. It was a laugh. I lay there for another minute laughing and enjoying the absurdity of it all, before getting up and heading inside.

That wasnít the first time a good laugh had saved me from anger and pain and I am sure it wonít be the last. Laughter is one of our greatest gifts from God. It exercises the body. It clears the mind. It lightens the heart. It comforts the soul. It takes the fear out of life and replaces it with joy. It reminds us that no matter what this world throws at us we can overcome it. It reminds us that we can choose happiness over despair. It reminds us that we can live in love today, tomorrow, and forever.

The next time you feel like laughing then donít hold it back. Let it out. Laugh long, laugh hard, and laugh well. See this crazy, confused world for what it is and laugh at it anyway. God made us to love and God made us to laugh. To do both is to truly embrace life. May all of your days be full of giggles and grins. May your soul always sing with the song of sweet laughter. ---------------


One year when I was in college my friend and I decided to skip the crowds going to the beaches for Spring break and instead go skiing at a local resort. It sounded like an exciting adventure to both of us. There was only one flaw in our plan, however. Neither one of us knew how to ski. We spent the first day there then falling over and over, trying to gain our balance and learn how to ski on the childrenís slopes. Finally, by the end of the day we started to get the hang of it and began to head down the snow covered hills a little better.

Just as I was beginning to enjoy the feeling of zooming down the icy hillsides another skier accidently cut in front of me. Instinctively, I turned to the left and found myself headed straight for a tree. They say your life flashes before your eyes in times like these and mine certainly did. One thing I realized too was that I didnít want it to end so soon. With no other choice I fell hard and rolled in the snow with my skis in the air.

Laying there bruised and covered in snow I realized that skiing down mountains, sky diving, base jumping, and driving race cars werenít my type of adventures. I preferred sipping hot chocolate by a fireplace, walking in the woods, reading a good book, and talking with a friend. It was good thing to know and I was happy I didnít have to break a leg to learn it.

Over the years too I found that the most exciting adventure of all in this life is simply loving each other. No other adventure brings you as much joy. No other adventure brings you as much peace. No other adventure brings you closer to God. Donít be afraid then to participate in this exciting adventure of love. Ski the course. Throw open your heart. Share your smiles, your talents, and your kindness. Build others up instead of bringing them down. Live your life with so much love and light that God smiles and the angels sing. ---------------


When I was a boy growing up we lived across a river from the main road next to a set of rail road tracks. The only way to our house was across an old, wooden swinging bridge. We only had two neighbors as well. Both lived in houses on the hillside behind our home and both were named Frank. Big Frank was a large, heavy set man who lived with his wife in a small, white house and grew plants that they would sell to home gardeners. Little Frankie lived across from him in a much bigger but much older house. His house, in fact, was a crumbling wreck that was over a hundred years old. Only three small rooms on the far left side of it were still usable and it was in these rooms that Little Frankie lived.

Little Frankie was already nearly 80 years old when I was born. He was a first generation, Italian immigrant who had never married. He had worked on the railroad for over 40 years before retiring but still worked hard every day. Only five feet tall, with gnarled hands and a bent back he could still outwork a twenty year old. I would watch him with amazement slicing down hillsides full of weeds with his large, hand-held scythe. Little Frankie was smelly by todayís standards. He had no electricity or running water and would bath once a week with water he boiled on his cast iron stove. I never seemed to mind the smell when I visited him, though. He would fry me eggs and potatoes and we would talk. His English remained broken even after all his years in America but somehow I never had any trouble understanding him.

Little Frankie was also my Godfather. He was at my baptism and pledged to guide me in my spiritual growth. He did this mainly by example. He never lectured or taught. He just showed me how to live with honesty, kindness, and goodness. He showed me the joy of nature. He showed me the peace that can come from just sitting outside on a sunny day. He showed me the oneness with God that can come from a loving life. Little Frankie always had a light in his eyes. It shined deep, right from his soul and you could see it sparkle when he smiled.

When Little Frankie died my Mother was the executor of his will. We found that he had over 40, 000 dollars in the bank, a fortune at the time, from a lifetime of saving. It was sent to his brothers and sisters still living in Italy. We often wondered why he hadnít used it to buy a better home and live more comfortably. Looking back now, however, I think I know the answer. He had all he needed and all he wanted. He had food, shelter, clothes, and warmth both in his house and in his spirit. He needed nothing more to be happy in his life. Like thousands of generations before him, he lived simply and in closeness with his Heavenly Father.

When I look at how much I have now I sometimes think of how much of it is really necessary. In the last 100 years we have gained more wealth and technology than in the entire history of mankind. Yet, in truth, we need very little. A little food, a little shelter, some clothes, people to love, work to do, things to learn, quiet time to think, pray, and connect with God are all we need to live in joy.

The next time you feel weighed down by too much to do or overwhelmed by what you have ask yourself this question. "Is this helping me to love?" If the answer is no then cancel it, turn it off, or toss it in the trash. Learn to live simply. Learn to live lovingly. Learn to live like Little Frankie. ---------------


When I was a boy the one Christmas present me and my brothers never wanted but always got was socks. Every year under the tree there would be a package of thick, white tube socks for each of us. They were always quickly stuffed in a drawer and forgotten about while we played with our real presents and enjoyed Christmas day.

In time, however, the lights were taken down, the Christmas tree was thrown out, and only Winter was left. It was during the cold, dark, long, snowy Winter months that those socks began to take on a new importance. On those bitter, windy mornings in January me and my brothers would be huddled by the stove in my Nanaís drafty old house hopping around while we pulled on those thick socks to warm our icy toes. Nothing felt better than feeling them thaw our frozen feet. It was then that I was thankful to Mom and Dad for spending what little money they had on not just what we wanted but also on what we needed.

As I sit here 40 years in the future on a cold, Winterís day with warm socks on my feet I can still smile back on those childhood days so full of simple joys. I realize too that my Mom and Dad provided not just warm socks for my feet but warm socks for my soul as well. In this often cold world they showed me the warmth of love. They showed me that giving is better than getting. They showed me that hard work can fill the heart as well as the wallet. They showed me that laughter and smiles are more valuable than stocks and bonds. They showed me that what is important isnít what you accumulate in this world but what you take with you into the next.

May all of your days be full of warm socks and warm hearts. May they be full of smiles, laughter, kindness, goodness, peace and joy. May they be full of Godís love for you and your love for others. May they feel like Summer even in the midst of Winter. ---------------


When I was a boy I used to look forward to Christmas morning with all the eager anticipation of a child. I couldnít wait to crawl under the tree, pull out my presents, and rip off the paper. Yet, the best part of the day came after the presents. Once those presents were opened I would spend hours reading the books I got with pure pleasure and playing with the toys I got with joyful abandon. Yet, the best part of the day came after playtime. Christmas dinner at our house was more often than not an Italian style feast fit for a king with spaghetti in slow cooked tomato sauce full of meatballs, steak, potatoes, and chicken all topped off with freshly baked loaves of bread. Yet, the best part of the day came after dinner.

The best part of the day was in the evening when the whole family sat down together in the living room. My brothers and I would be crowded together with my Mom on the couch. My Dad and Nana would be relaxing in their chairs with warm smiles on their faces. Our little dog, Duke would be curled up at my feet napping. Freshly popped popcorn would be passed around while we watched some old Christmas movie on the television. More often than not, though, I would be watching everyone else instead. I could feel the peace, the love, and the happiness that connected us all. In my childís heart too I knew that God was present with us. It was the best part of the day of the best day of the year. It was Christmas!

As I grew older and had children of my own I did my best to create special days like this with them not just at Christmas but all through the year. I realized something special too. I realized that each day here was a present from God. I realized that each day we lived in love was our present to God. I realized that each day can be Christmas if we choose. May all of your days feel like Christmas. May every day feel like the best day of the year. --------------


I woke up in the middle of the night with a start. My aging and aching back had jolted me awake with a sharp pain. I got up and stretched in the dark until it eased, laid back down again, and shut my eyes. I couldnít go back to sleep, though. Finally, I gave up and switched on the television. One of those early morning infomercials was on. Two women were going on and on about a new product that hid the wrinkles around their eyes and mouths. I watched for a minute then switched it back off. One thought came to my mind: "Why are they erasing the evidence of so much laughter and so many smiles?"

I walked into my bathroom, turned on the light, and looked into the mirror. My own laugh lines were deeper and more numerous than ever. They rippled out from my smile and my eyes like waves of joy and I loved the way they looked. There was nothing ugly about them at all. They spoke of countless thousands of smiles, wonderful moments of laughter, and a life lived in happiness as much as possible. I certainly didnít look as young as I once did, but I still wouldnít trade my wrinkles for the world.

There are many parts of aging that I could do without. I would love to have the energy, eyesight, and muscle mass I had at eighteen. My aching back I would give up without a second thought. But I want to keep my laugh lines right where they are. They are the roadmap of my life. They are a painting of my choices. They are the evidence of a life well-lived and a life well-loved. I think that the Hand of God helps to draw those lines around our eyes and mouth so that we can recognize the kindness and goodness in ourselves and in others. Donít cover yours up then. Show them off. Give them a workout. Make them deeper with every smile you share. Let them shine in your laughter and in your love for all your life here. ---------------


I switched off the morning news today while I sipped my morning coffee. The constant chatter about sports stars, celebrities, billionaires, and politicians had numbed my ears and left a bad taste in my mouth. I didnít really care to hear anymore about what this world considers winners. Instead, I gazed out my kitchen window and thought about the true winners in this life. I was sure too that Heaven was smiling down on them all whether they realized it or not.

Who are these real winners? They are all around us but we so often fail to see them. The single Mom who works all day to support her child is a winner. The person who gives up their one day off from work to volunteer at a food pantry or homeless shelter is a winner. The grandma who both bakes cookies and relearns algebra to help her grandson with his homework is a winner. The hospice aide who holds the hand of a dying person in their last hours here is a winner. The volunteer firefighters who risk their lives for no pay are all winners. The health care aide who dedicates her life to help the elderly and disabled is a winner. The adoptive parents who give a forever home to orphaned children are winners. The person who gives a Christmas present to a poor child he will never meet is a winner. The family who lovingly open their hearts and homes to furry, four-legged friends are winners. The young men and women who spend their Spring and Summer vacations repairing the homes of the poor are winners. The person who puts love ahead of money, kindness ahead of fame, and people ahead of power is the real winner in this life and in the next.

Everyone who loves others completely and unconditionally is a winner in the eyes of Heaven. Every person who spends their lives helping others is a winner in the eyes of God. May you be a true winner then, today, tomorrow, and always. ---------------


I am finding that my eyes are a little more moist these days. I seem to be tearing up from time to time. Now it isnít because I am sad. I am neither depressed nor stressed. Nothing bad has happened to me either. In fact, I find myself smiling and laughing more often too. The simple truth is that while my love and joy have grown over the years, my empathy has grown along with them. When I see an act of love, kindness, and goodness towards another then, my eyes moisten. When I see another soul hurting they grow damp as well. I donít mind the tears, though. They mean that my heart is open and loving as it was meant to be.

It took me many years to tear down the walls around my heart and I am still not done yet. With Godís love and support, however, I am taking them down one brick at a time. Yes, this leaves me more open to pain, but it leaves me more open to love as well. And love always heals pain. I find that God is not only helping me to remove the walls around my heart but is also putting that heart to work. I find that heart moved to give, to help others, to share love, to spread joy, to uplift and encourage everyone I can. I find it full of empathy, kindness, caring, compassion, and ever increasing love. If a few more tears come along with it as too then that is a price I am happy to pay.

Donít feel afraid then if you feel your own tears increasing along with your love. God is just bringing you closer to others and to Himself. The author Leo Buscaglia said "Tears are good for you. They clean out your eyeballs." They also strengthen your soul and heal your heart. Embrace your tears along with your laughter then. Embrace your empathy along with your love. Embrace your compassion along with your joy. God loves us all and God wants us to love each other as well. May you always do so with both laughter and tears. ---------------


As a boy I learned so much growing up the way I did. We didnít have very much, yet we were rich in all that mattered. My Mom, Dad, brothers, and I all lived with my Grandma in her ramshackle house built from old shanty cars. It was cold and drafty at times but we could always count on a hot meal made with love to warm our bellies and our hearts. "Nana" had an old root cellar, four different vegetable gardens and a green thumb when it came to growing things. We could always count then on a delicious dinner every day.

Nana wasnít content with just growing food, though. She wanted something beautiful for the soul as well. She had flowers growing all around the house and potted pants hanging on the back porch. She always knew how to nurture each plant too. She would give each one the perfect amount of water and turn it regularly so it wouldnít grow crooked as it stretched toward the sunshine. I can even remember her once chasing a stray cat away with some harsh Italian words for daring to use one of her precious plants as a litter box.

Sadly, I didnít inherit Nanaís green thumb for growing things. I have grown vegetables even rabbits wouldnít steal and I have found that my flowers do far better when I just leave them alone. I did, however, learn one thing from Nana: how to nurture the soul.

I do so each day helping it to grow. I give thanks to God for the food in my stomach and the flowers in the field. I spend time in prayer. I cherish the beauty of this glorious world. I read works that uplift and inspire. I pet my dogs. I laugh often. I hug my sons and daughter. I share smiles with strangers and my stories with everyone I can. I help others. And I plant seeds of love, joy, kindness, and encouragement everywhere I go. May you do the same. May your green thumb nurture your soul and this world with love always. -----------------


I was walking out of a local library recently when I heard the most wonderful sound in the world. It was children laughing. The Kindergarten class had just gone out for recess on a warm, Autumn afternoon. They were running, shouting, and playing with all the joy inside of them. It was music sweeter than any concert. I stopped to watch and listen to them for awhile. I could feel my smiling lifting, my eyes sparkling, my heart warming and my soul brightening. It felt so good to see and hear such innocent happiness.

For a moment it made me wish for my own childhood innocence again. It had left me so many years ago. I knew that it was gone for good too. I had seen too much pain, too much suffering, and too much heartache. I had witnessed too much injustice, too much hatred, and too much bigotry. I had looked upon inequality, misery, hunger, and war. I had felt the sting of loss and death. I had known fear, confusion and doubt. I had seen all the ugliness and darkness of life. I knew I would never be innocent again.

Yet, in place of that innocence I knew that God had given me something better: wisdom. In the midst of lifeís darkness I had found light. In the middle of lifeís ugliness I had found beauty. In a world full of fear I had found love. In all of my confusion and doubt I had found God. On my long journey through life I had learned that God loves us. I had learned that we can love too. I had learned that when we love we will have joy.

We may never have the innocence of our youth again, but with age comes wisdom and with wisdom comes choice. Choose to sing, smile and dance then. Choose to pray and to play. Choose to love, laugh, and have joy. Choose to grow daily in oneness with God. Choose to share your happiness and wisdom with everyone you know every second of your life. --------------


In the days following the first anniversary of my Dadís death, I couldnít help but feel sad. I still missed him so much. I would pass a beat up blue pick-up on the road and think it was him. I would walk over to his old house where my daughter now lived and still expect to see him sitting out on his front porch. I would see him in my dreams, looking young and strong again.

I felt bad too because I regretted not spending more time with him while he was here. I wished I had visited him more, talked with him more, and listened to him more. I wished I had asked the questions that I never did. I wished I had given him more hugs and told him I loved him more often. I wished I had cherished the time I had with him here instead of taking it for granted. I was mad at God because Dad, Mom, and Nana had all passed away before I was 50 and I was mad at myself because I hadnít made the most of the time I had with them.

Today, I found myself walking under an overcast sky, staring at the leafless trees and wishing that I had that time back again. As I prodded along, though, God in His infinite love and understanding had another of His moments with me. The breeze picked up and one of the last golden Maple leaves let go of its tree and sailed on the wind until it landed in front of me. I picked it up and smiled. At the moment of peace I felt Godís sweet voice whispering in my heart and mind. "Death is momentary," He said. "But Love is eternal."

I knew at that moment then that my relationships with Mom, Nana, and Dad were not over. We would see each other again in a place of love, joy, and light. We would make up for the time I wasted. We would spend our days in learning, laughter, and love. We would be a family again bathed in the love of our Heavenly Father. We would embrace that final adventure together and walk hand in hand into eternity. ---------------


When I was in college I didnít attend many football games. I didnít go to many functions. I wasnít to be found at the bars or parties either. When I wasnít in class, my dorm room, or spending time with my friends there was usually only one place to find me: the library.

I would spend hours there after class and on the weekends surrounded by books. I was fascinated by the amount of knowledge that was stored between their covers. I devoured volume after volume. I read books on psychology, sociology, history, and philosophy. I read books on theology, faith, and self-help. I explored every area I could in an obsessive quest to find out one thing: "What is the meaning of life?" I was driven to discover why we are here. I had to know what itís all about. Sadly, four years and a thousand books later I graduated with a degree but no real answer to my question.

I didnít give up after college, though. I kept looking in books, in nature, in prayer, and in my own heart and soul to find the answer. I never gave up through all the work, struggles, pains, and losses that I went through. After many years too I think that I finally learned the answer to that question and it was so simple. The answer was Love!

Love is what itís all about. Love is what we are all about. From our first cry as a newborn baby to our last breath before death, love is our purpose. Every hug, every smile, every laugh, every tear, every word of encouragement, every kind act, every helping hand, every moment of compassion, and every thought we think can lead us to greater love as well. Three of the most important words in the Bible are: "God is Love." And when we become one with love we become one with God. Donít spend your life on anything less. Choose love. Share love. Grow in love. Walk the path of love through all of this life and into the next. ------------------


When I was a boy I used to love walking in the woods around my home. My Mom warned me several times never to travel so far that I would lose sight of the house. Being a typical boy, however, I soon found myself hiking further and further away, testing just how far I could go into the woods without getting lost. After losing my way once for two hours, though, I decided that I had better leave a trail the next time I went for a walk.

The very next day I decided to try it. I walked into the woods until the house was out of sight. Then I broke a small branch on a young tree to mark my place. I wandered further in and broke another limb and then another. In a few spots where there was no limbs small enough I snapped the heads off Daises and Queen Anneís Lace that were growing where the sunlight broke through the trees. After a while I finally got tired and decided to head back. Turning around I easily found my tracks, but instead of being proud I felt sad. I could see the trail of destruction I had left in the woods going on and on. Looking at the broken limbs and dead flowers I wandered if God was disappointed in me and I vowed never to do that again. Instead, I started to cherish my times alone in the woods with God. Iíd sit by the streams and listen to them sing. Iíd watch the birds and squirrels. Iíd bend down to smell the flowers. And I even buried an acorn or two hoping that one day an Oak might grow.

There is an old Native American Saying that goes "We will be known forever by the tracks we leave." As I have grown older and wiser I have done my best to never leave a trail of destruction in my life as I did in the woods that day. I have instead strived to leave tracks of love, kindness, goodness, and compassion and I have strived to show others that they can do the same. May you always leave tracks of joy as you follow your own trail of love to God. ---------------


I was in my backyard the other night. The evening, Autumn air was blowing. It was fresh, clean and cool without being cold. My dogs were sitting on the freshly fallen leaves and looking up at me, wondering why we hadnít gone back inside yet. The reason was that I was taking some time to gaze at the stars. The sky was almost completely clear of clouds and the heavens were twinkling.

It had been too long since I last looked at the billion stars in the night sky. Those little dots of light felt so warm to my heart and inviting to my soul. They seemed to radiate peace, joy, and Heavenly love to all who watched them. Suddenly, one of the few clouds left in the night sky drifted over the large patch of stars I was pondering upon and they disappeared. I frowned as the sky grew a little darker and finally decided to go inside.

As I opened my backdoor I thought of how each one of those little dots of light was special. Each one of them made the night sky a little brighter. Each one of them made the heavens a little more beautiful. I thought too of each of our lives here and how much our light was needed as well.

Donít let the clouds of this world block out your light. Let it shine everyday for God and for yourself. Your light comes from love and love is brighter than a billion galaxies. Let your own love glow from your smile, your laugh, and your life. Let it blaze in your acts of goodness and kindness. Let it be a beacon to help others to share their light as well. Let it be so luminous that the angels sing and God smiles. You may think that you are just a little dot of light in this universe. But without you everything is darker. Share your light always then and bring brightness with you wherever you go. ------------------


Driving in the mountains of my home can be very interesting at times. Today I was driving home and taking in the Fall scenery. I smiled as I glanced at the changing leaves on the trees. They had become as bright and beautiful as the flowers in Spring. Just as I drove past a wonderful, red Maple tree I saw a large doe deer bounding across the road ahead of me. Knowing what might be coming next I stomped on the brakes and screeched to a halt just as a fawn jumped out of the woods and followed its mom onto the road.

I stared at the frightened, frozen fawn and waited while its mom came back to get it. I smiled as I watched them both run down the hill and disappear back into the woods. Then I laughed and thanked God for keeping me and "Bambi" safe. As I drove on I realized something too. Through the whole near miss I hadnít been afraid at all. My heart rate had stayed calm and breathing normal. It seems that as my love and trust in God have grown more and more over the years that worry and fear have largely left me.

Years ago I lived in fear of tomorrow. I worried about money. I worried about work. I worried about my children. I worried about my health. I worried about my future. I worried about death. I wasted far too many days on fear and worry. One day, however, I finally realized that God isnít afraid of tomorrow, so why should I be?

God loves us so much. He watches over the flowers. He watches over the trees. He watches over the deer. And He watches over us. He guides us, protects us, and helps us whether we realize it or not. Do your best then to live a life full of love and free of free. Do your best to trust in God. Do your best to give up worry and embrace joy. Do your best to help our Heavenly Father build a better, safer, and happier world for us all. -----------------


As I get closer to my 48th birthday I have decided on the one present I want the most: a new body. The one I have now seems to be aging way too fast. I do try to take care of it. Yet, my back still aches no matter how much I stretch it, exercise it, or rest it. The enamel on my teeth has worn down and become sensitive. My glasses have turned into bifocals. I am not eating more but have still gained weight. My skin has more wrinkles and age spots than ever before. My thick brown hair has turned into thin silver hair. And when my aging body walks into a room my mind sometimes forgets what for.

I guess the reason I feel so disappointed in my aging body is because at heart I still feel 18 not 48. On the inside I still feel a zest for life and a delight in living. On the inside my optimism and enthusiasm remain strong. On the inside I still have so much hope, faith, and love. On the inside I know that I am an eternal soul and not an aging body. On the inside I still long to make myself and this world better. On the inside I still want to share kindness, spread joy, and do the will of God. I just wonder sometimes if my body is going to be able to keep up.

I know too that I am not the only one out there who is old in body but young at heart. I think that there are far more of us than we know. The truth is in spirit all of us are ageless and eternal. All of us are vital and forever young. These bodies are just the cars that we drive around for awhile, and we canít let the wear and tear on our vehicles hold us back. We have to do what we can with what we have to make this world a better place. We have to use our gifts and talents to bring a little Heaven down here to Earth. We have to do our best and let God take care of the rest. Live from your heart then. Stay young. Love always. Bring joy and scatter sunshine wherever you go. You body will one day grow old and die but your spirit never will. ---------------


It was over 20 years ago. I was holding my baby son in my arms while my two other children played under a big tree in the front yard of an old house. The house was also a local food bank and I was watching my children while my wife went in. I had been laid off work for a long time and we were out of food. I tried to laugh as my children chased each other around the tree but my heart was too heavy. Despair hung around me like a cloud. All I could feel was fear. Finally my wife came out holding a large bag of food and we smiled at each other. Thanks to the kindness of others our children would not go hungry that night.

It was yesterday. I found myself outside the doors of another food bank. Thanks to the kindness of a kindred spirit I had some extra money in my wallet and a longing to share this gift with others. I went to the local grocery store and bought what I could with what I had. Then I carried in the bags of food to help restock the food bankís sparse shelves. The people there thanked me several times, but I felt a little embarrassed as I accepted their gratitude. I was, after all, only completing a circle of kindness that began over twenty years ago.

This world is full of circles of love. Every smile we share, thing we give, and act of kindness we do flows out from us to touch others. Then it continues on going from heart to heart and soul to soul until it circles the world and returns to us again. I was just happy to take my place in one of those circles yesterday and to pass on the loving-kindness that had been shared with me.

Donít be afraid to take your own place in these circles of love. A kind word, a caring smile, a gentle touch, a helping hand, or a simple act of charity can change anotherís life and this world as well. Circle all of your days with love then. Love will warm your heart. Love will bring you joy. Love will spiral you to Heaven and always lead you back to God. ---------------


If there is one thing I have learned over the years it is that life in this world is bittersweet. It always has been and it always will be. I realized this early on and everyday I see further evidence of it. It is something that we all just have to accept.

When I was a boy I cherished my books and toys, but then I lost them all when our house burned down in the middle of the night. Growing up I loved the isolated woodlands and meadows that were my playground, yet more often than not I found myself playing alone. In school I found learning fun and easy, but I never was as popular as I wanted to be. When I played on the sports teams I loved the fun and friendship we had, but I spent most of my time sitting on the bench. In college I enjoyed the excitement of being out on my own, yet my heart still ached for the love and comforts of home.

As I grew into adulthood I fell in love and had my heart broken. I graduated college, but I never gained the success I thought I would get. I had three beautiful children that taught me so much about love, yet I watched my two sons struggle daily with Autism. I cherished the love that my Mom, Nana, and Dad gave me then I watched them all die before I was 50.

Yes, life is bittersweet. It is full of ups and downs, twists and turns, triumphs and tragedies. Whether life makes us bitter or sweet, however, is up to us. God loves us and He put us here to love each other. This is easy when life is sweet, but it can be a struggle when life is bitter. Still, it is during the tough times that we grow the strongest. It is during the bitter times when our sweetness and love are most needed. It is during the dark days that we learn the most about our own goodness and light. Donít let life make you bitter then. Stay strong. Love much. Live well. Share your goodness and light everyday and make this world a sweeter place for us all. ---------------


What do we all want in this life? The answer is simple. We want happiness. We may take many different paths to reach it, but happiness is the final destination we all are trying to reach. Many of us pursue it in things, work, and people. Others try to create it in what they think and do. Yet, happiness remains elusive. Like a butterfly it flies away each time you try to catch it, but can come and land on your shoulder when you least expect it.

The times that I have found to be the happiest in my own life have been the times when I knew I was loved. I can remember as a boy sitting in a chair with my Mom by the warm stove while she read books to me. I can remember coming in the door after playing outside to a warm hug from my Nana and a piece of freshly baked Italian bread. I can remember squeezing into a recliner with my Dad when he got home from work so we could watch my favorite TV show. I can remember playing touch football with my brothers. I can remember the first kiss I ever got from a girl. I can remember holding each of my newborn children in my arms for the first time. I can remember seeing them get off the school bus and running into my arms. I can remember all the hugs, laughs, smiles, and "I Love Youís" that they filled my life with.

I can also remember the countless times that God showed me how much He loved me. These miracle moments came in glorious sunrises and beautiful sunsets. They came in cool morning breezes full of birdsong. They came in the changing leaves, the first snow of Winter, and the hot Summer afternoons. They came in flowers, fireflies, and butterflies. They came in words I read and songs I heard. They came in quiet moments of silence, peace, and prayer. They came every day whether I noticed them or not. I just hope to spend the rest of my life taking them in, passing them on, and thanking God for them with all my heart.

Know that you are loved then. Know that you are loved eternally and unconditionally. Know that God loves you with a power beyond understanding. And know that you can love as well. If there is one thing greater than the joy of being loved, it is the joy of loving. Share your own love today. Love God. Love yourself. Love everyone else. Love life, this world, and all of your days in it. Love and be happy today, tomorrow, and always. ---------------


It was the middle of August and I was looking out on the first red leaves as Summer gave way to Fall here in the mountains of my home. I knew that soon the forests would be awash in glorious colors painted by Godís own hand. The yellow leaves would be shining like the sun above them. The golds would be gleaming like priceless jewels. The reds would be radiating joy to everyone who gazed upon them. The oranges would be blessing us with their beauty. The browns would be bringing us their earthy peace and wonderful smell. The burgundies would be hinting at the happiness all around us. And the wonderful combination leaves would be reminding us again of just how spectacular life can be.

As I gazed at my own reflection in the window I only wished that people could grow more colorful and beautiful as we aged too. At first my thinning, silver hair, sagging skin, and wrinkles all seemed to say no to this, but as I looked longer I began to think that maybe we could. As I saw the sparkle in my own eyes and light in my own smile I realized that perhaps God was just asking us all to look a little deeper beyond the surface and into our souls.

As I remembered all the people I knew in the last years of their lives almost all of them had a beautiful Autumn spirit about them. My Momís loving, joyous nature shone brighter than a forest of red and yellow Maples. My neighbor Kai had a golden goodness in her heart that touched the lives of everyone she met. My Nana and Dad were both as sturdy and earthy as Oak trees and they freely shared their peace and happiness with the world.

The next time that you look at your own self then, look a little deeper. Look beyond your face, clothes and body. Look into your heart and soul. See the love that is there, thank God for it, and share it with the world. Make your life here as bright and beautiful as an Autumn day. ---------------


Being an inspirational writer I get a lot of letters from readers asking a lot of questions that I canít answer. I have learned a lot of things in this life, but there are many things I donít know and may never know.

I donít know why people have to die. I donít know why a disease will take one personís life and spare anotherís. I donít know how some people can rationalize hurting and humiliating others. I donít know why some people start wars, crave power, and live in selfishness. I donít know why children are starving when there is enough in this world for everyone. I donít know why some people go through so much suffering in this life. I donít know why we hate. I donít know why we fear. I donít know why we kill. I donít know why we create so much pain, problems, and misery. I donít know why we divide this wonderful world up into us and them. I donít know why we choose to live in conflict instead of cooperation. I donít know why we blind ourselves to the fact that we are all brothers and sisters.

There are, however, a few things that I do know. I know that God loves us. I know that our Heavenly Father wants us all to live as one family in this world. I know that love is stronger than hate. I know that faith drives out fear. I know that death is only a doorway. I know that pain can bring growth. I know that hardship can make wisdom. I know that while this life can be a struggle it is worth it. I know that a far greater life awaits us too; a life full of love, joy, and light. I know that Heaven isnít just above us but also within us. I know that we can share our Heaven with every choice we make and everything we do. I know that when we LOVE we will have JOY. I may not know everything, but what I do know gives me hope for the future, for our world, and for us all. ---------------


Compassion is such a wonderful thing. It is full of sympathy, empathy, love, goodness, kindness, and caring for others. We are all made by God to be people of compassion. Far too often, though, we fail the test. I myself have failed the compassion test more times than I care to remember. Yet, as I grow older and wiser I still strive daily to fill my soul with compassion and to share my compassion with everyone I can every chance I get.

I live in a poor area. Jobs are scarce and good paying jobs are even more scarce. Many people have to travel a long way to work but canít even afford an old, used car. I saw one of these people yesterday. I was driving home when I spotted a man walking wearily down the road and trying to hitchhike a ride from the passing cars. The two cars in front of me passed him by and I almost did the same but God stirred the compassion in my soul and I pulled over to give him a ride.

We struck up a conversation as I drove along and I learned that the man was struggling to support his family while working a temporary job. Every penny he had was going to rent and food and I could see the strain on his face. But as I pulled up to the broken down rental house he was living in I saw his tired eyes grow brighter. His little girl was playing in the front yard and ran into her Daddyís arms the second he was out of the car. I smiled, waved goodbye to them and said a prayer for their future happiness. Then I drove off thanking God for compassion, love, and the chance to do good in this world.

Compassion is one of the greatest gifts that God gives us. If we donít use it, however, we lose it. Share your compassion often then. Make it grow. Let it shine. And always remember that compassion is contagious and you can be a carrier. ---------------


I have developed a love of thunder lately. Now, I am not talking about the kind that rumbles across the sky. I still prefer my rains to be gentle without noise, lightening, or high winds. The Thunder I am taking about isnít a storm but rather a bundle of puppy energy.

Let me explain. A few weeks ago my daughter was looking through a local newspaper and saw pictures of dogs and cats up for adoption at an animal shelter. One dog in particular looked up from the paper and right into her heart. We soon found ourselves then at the shelter signing the papers to bring a new furry friend into our lives. My daughter named him, "Thunder" and he immediately brought "FUN" into our lives. He was a mixed breed and looked like an Australian Shepherd shrunk into a fifteen pound body. He also possessed the energy of a dozen Chihuahuas. We smiled every time we watched him zoom through the house chasing a tennis ball. We laughed as he wrestled and tried to herd our two beagles. And we melted into his love every time he leapt into our arms to be cuddled. Our little "Fun Fun" makes our home a happier one with his boundless zest, doggy smile, and frequent puppy kisses. Our newest kibble cruncher gives us his love freely and makes our hearts lighter with his presence. As fearless as he is in sharing his affection, though, "Thunder" is scared of one thing: thunder. The last lightening storm here sent him scurrying and trembling into my daughterís arms.

I have often wondered why I have opened my heart to so many different dogs over the years. Iíve found that the answer is love. Our furry friends love us. They love us unconditionally. They give us a love that is pure and free. They show us how we all should love each other. They are one of Godís greatest gifts to us and we should cherish them always. That is why I thank God for giving us "Thunder" and will happily comfort him whatever storms may come. ---------------


I turned on the television as I made my breakfast this morning. The commentator was going on and on about a familyís bitter fight over a dead celebrityís estate. I shook my head and turned off the TV. I went back to my breakfast and ate in silence. I thought of my own inheritance. Mom, Dad, and Nana are all in Heaven now. They didnít leave me any mansions, millions, stock, bonds, planes, or yachts. What they left me was far more valuable.

My Nana left me a recipe for homemade spaghetti sauce that fills the stomach and comforts the soul. My Dad left me his short stature and thinning hair so I wouldnít take my appearance too seriously. My Mom left me her slightly crooked chin, unique smile, and love of laughter. My Nana left me her hugs and kisses and the desire to share them often. My Dad left me his silent strength in the face of trouble so I could grow better during the hard times of life. My Mom left me her love of reading and the encouragement to write as well. All three of them gave me the gift of forgiveness when I messed up. They gave me their love and support to become who I wanted to be. They gave me a love of animals, an awe of nature, a reverence for life, and an appreciation of family. They all showed me too a courage and faith when facing death. They left me all this and so much more. A thousand books couldnít contain it all. That is my inheritance and I wouldnít trade it for a hundred billion dollars.

My Mom, Dad, and Nana also helped me to open my heart to an even greater inheritance, the inheritance that our Heavenly Father gives us all. We are all born with a heart made for loving, a soul built for kindness, and a mind designed for goodness. We are all called to share this inheritance too with everyone everywhere. God loves us all. We are all His Children. We are heirs to Heaven and we are here to bring Heaven to Earth. May we all do so. ---------------


The heat of the July afternoon had finally passed as I took my dogs out for their last walk of the day. The cooler air of the Summer evening felt so refreshing on my face. I breathed it in deep and gazed up at the magnificent full moon sitting alone, smiling down on me from the still blue sky. It was a moment of pure peace that was only made more perfect when I saw my old friends the fireflies in my backyard, doing their dance of love and light. There were hundreds of them. As one flew near, my beagle thought it would be a good snack and snapped at it. I quickly pulled back on her lease and the firefly escaped. The missed meal then flew up to my face, blinked a "thank you" and glided off. I watched it rejoin its friends with a smile and as they lit up the evening I pledged once again to do my best to share my own light in this world.

It hasnít always been easy living up to that pledge. On many days I have felt like the "Splendid Torch" that George Bernard Shaw spoke of, burning bright with the light of love. Yet, at other times I have felt more like a little candle struggling to give out any light at all. After many years, though, I finally realized that even the smallest candle can make a sunny day brighter and even the tiniest firefly can light up the night.

As I bid my lightening bug buddies goodnight and went back into my house I remembered that God doesnít ask any of us to light up the whole world. He just asks us to light up our own little corner of it. We all can spread joy and share love here. We all can give the light within us to the world around us. We all can add our little glow to the radiance of Heaven.

Take good care of your light then. Nurture it. Grow it. Fan its flames. Share it with others. Join it with the light of Heaven and the love of God. Use it to brighten the sunny days and illuminate the darkest nights. And always remember that your loving light is who you really are. ---------------


can see a lot of life in a small town grocery store. All you have to do is stand back, open your eyes, and watch it go by in all of its wonderful diversity. Just the other day I saw a young couple holding hands while they walked down the aisles. I saw two little girls begging their Mom for the more sugary cereal instead of the plain one to no avail. And I saw a serene, smiling, old man with more cans of dog food than people food in his shopping cart.

most delightful thing I saw, however, was when I got to the checkout line. I found myself behind a young mother with a cranky, two month old infant in her arms. As the baby fussed and the mother patiently patted a burp out of him a sweet old lady nearly ninety walked up to her and told her how beautiful her baby boy was. Then she said something that still makes me smile. "Take good care of him. He is just starting out on his Grand Adventure here!" Now I could tell by her stooped body and deeply lined face that this little old ladyís own adventure here had been full of not only love, laughter, and joy but also pain, loss, and heartache. Yet, she still saw it as a grand one.

I watched her slowly exit the store I saw in her a lesson for us all. All of our lives are full of peaks and valleys, ups and downs, twists and turns, triumphs and tragedies. All of our days are full of things both good and bad. Yet, we can have them all bring us closer to God. We can use them all to make us better and wiser Children of our Heavenly Father. We can embrace them all and make each day here an adventure if we choose.

e is full of wonderful diversity. It is full of pleasure, pain, learning, growth, happiness, heartache, love and loss. If we embrace it with all our hearts, though, it can be a Grand Adventure, and it can lead us to an even Greater Adventure in the life to come. ---------------


I have been driving for over 30 years now but I can still remember my first time behind the wheel like it was yesterday. My Mom had driven our big, blue Plymouth to a narrow, deserted back road and parked it. The road was only one lane and had a wall built with old, river rocks along the side of it, but Mom knew there was little chance of meeting any traffic on it that day. With a smile she gave me the keys and switched seats with me. Then she told me to start the car, put it into drive, and gently push on the gas pedal. In my excitement, though, I miscalculated what gently meant. I pushed on the gas hard, the car sped forward, and before I could turn the wheel I heard the scraping of metal against the stone wall. I stopped the car and looked over at my Mom. Her face was pale and her hands were trembling. Slowly she opened her door and looked at the scratched paint along the side of the car. Then she walked quietly around the car to the driverís side door. I kept waiting for her to yell at me but she just sighed and said, "Well, thatís enough for today. Weíll try again tomorrow."

As I look back on that day I am amazed at the amount of kindness and patience my Mom showed me then. I had terrified her, damaged her car, and probably added a thousand gray hairs to her head, yet she forgave me and continued to teach me how to drive. She gave me a wonderful example that day of the love and forgiveness that God has for us all.

In the years that followed I messed up many times in many ways. Often I didnít feel worthy to be forgiven, but each time I could feel our Heavenly Fatherís love around me and could hear my Momís gentle voice from Heaven saying, "Weíll try again tomorrow."

When you stumble and fall today then donít stay down. Rise up and remember that God loves you. Rise up and share your own love once more. Rise up ready to try again tomorrow. ---------------


I havenít worn a watch for a few years now and I must say I donít miss it. I donít miss the band rubbing the hair off my wrist. I donít miss the heat rash it always gave me during the Summer. Most of all I donít miss constantly checking it to see if I am late. Still, when a little girl walked up behind me in the store the other day and asked me what time it was I found my arm going up to my face and my eyes glancing down to my bare wrist. When I caught myself I just smiled, showed my empty wrist to the girl, and said, "Now!"

For a long time I missed out on the magical moment of NOW. Instead of enjoying it, I wasted my time playing two very destructive games. The first was called, "Iíll be happy when." In it I would make a list of things I had to have or accomplish in order to be happy. No matter how many of them I achieved, though, happiness never came. And for everyone I crossed off the list I added two more. The second game was called, "If I knew then what I know now." In it I would look back at the years I had already lived and regret the mistakes I had made in the past. I would also dream of living them over with my current wisdom, but since I knew I couldnít go back in time I guess I wasnít being very wise.

Finally, after God had given me more than a few taps on the shoulder and kicks in the butt I realized that I was wasting my precious NOW mourning the past and pining for the future. I saw too that if I wanted a great life and true joy I had to live and love today and let yesterday and tomorrow take care of themselves. They were, after all, just former and future nows.

When is the time to live? Now! When is the time to laugh? Now! When is the time to love? Now! When is the time to do good, help others, share joy, and serve God? Now! Now! Now! Donít miss out on life then. Live each moment in the eternal, glorious NOW. ----------------


I donít believe in coincidence. I havenít for a long time now. As I look back at all the trials, changes, and moments that have steered my life I canít believe that they were all just coincidence. Too many times something has put me on a different path. Too many times a triumph or tragedy has helped to shape my soul. Too many times an unexpected event has moved me to grow into who I was meant to be. Far too much has happened for me to believe that anything other than the Loving Hand of God was responsible.

I got a letter in the mail today. It was from someone I didnít know who had recently been sent a story that I wrote over ten years ago. That story had floated around the internet landing on different sites and being read on different computers. Finally, one person who saw it thought that it might appeal to a friend of his. His friend had no computer so he copied it out on his printer and mailed it to him. At that moment his friend was in a crisis that no one else knew about. He was questioning himself, God, and even if life was worth living.

Just at the right moment the letter arrived in his mailbox. He opened it up and saw the copy of my story. He read it and it spoke to his soul. He realized again that God loved him and that life was worth living. Then he sat down and wrote to his friend and to me. As I was reading his letter I could take no credit for helping him. God had given me those ideas and the words to share them over a decade ago. God had kept those words alive online. God had moved someone to share them at just the right time to change his friendís life..

Now some people may say that this was all coincidence, but I know better. This and things like it happen every day to all of us. We are all connected. We are all part of a Divine, Loving Tapestry. Coincidence? There is no such thing. ---------------


After all of these years I can still remember my first moment of kindness. It was the first day of Kindergarten. I walked in with my mom and was amazed at all the toys against the walls. It was like having my own tiny, toy store. I smiled and immediately ran over to them and started to play. Most of the other kids were doing the same while the parents talked to the teacher before the start of class. In the corner, though, I saw one girl sitting by herself. She was small and frail looking. She was the only one in the class shorter than me. Her red eyes looked like she had been crying. None of the other boys and girls seemed to notice her there.

I went back to playing with the toy cars but after a minute looked up at her again. She seemed so sad and alone. Something inside of my chest started to stir. I wasnít sure what it was. Being the youngest in my family I had become a bit spoiled. My older brothers had always taken care of all the chores while I was free to play. It felt strange then to be thinking of someone other than myself, yet I couldnít stop looking at that lonely, little girl. After a moment that stirring in my heart moved up to my mind and down to my feet. I picked up two of the toy cars and went over to her. "Do you want to play?", I asked. She smiled at me and shook her head yes.

What made me remember that first unselfish act was a letter that little girl wrote me after we were both grown. She told me how she had been sick all of her life and how her illness made the other kids avoid her. Then she told me how that moment of kindness had changed her life. She had cherished the friendship I had offered her and carried it in her heart even after she moved away. I wrote her back that very day and we continued our friendship through the mail for several years before the bad health that she had always fought finally took her life.

I was thinking of her again today and thanked God for stirring my selfish little heart that day and moving me to be kind to a little girl who needed a friend. I thought too of how a moment of kindness can mean so much to another. I thought of how a simple, selfless act can make the world so much better. I thought of how a little bit of love can move a heart, touch a soul, and change a life.

May all of your days be full of acts of kindness. May they be full of love, laughter, and smiles. May they be full of giving, caring, and helping. May they bring joy to you while you bring joy to others. And may you always move your feet when God stirs your soul. ---------------


I was sitting in my car in a convenience store parking lot nibbling on a biscuit that I had bought for lunch. The morning had been busy and full of errands and the afternoon looked like it would be even busier still. It was one of those days that we often get in modern life with too much to do and too little time to do it.

I had decided to take a five minute break then and eat my biscuit slowly instead of wolfing it down while I was driving. I had found that little breaks like that were essential to keeping my heart happy, my mind clear, and my soul at peace. I said a little prayer of thanksgiving to God for the food and beautiful day and watched the green leaves of the nearby trees dancing in the breeze. As I was taking another bite of biscuit I noticed a little bird flying from the trees to the parking lot looking for any crumbs it could find. It was so small and yet so beautiful. I watched it for a minute searching for food and then heard the gentle voice of my Heavenly Father in my heart and mind, "No act of sharing is ever insignificant in my sight," it said. I smiled when I heard this. Then I tore off a piece of my daily bread and tossed it to the bird. It hopped over, grabbed it with its beak and flew away.

I drove away laughing and spent the rest of the day with a little more joy in my heart. My sharing had done even more for me than it had for the bird. It had reunited me with myself. It had brought me closer to God. It had reminded me that in the busyness of our days here, it is our little acts of kindness and our little moments of love that are the most important things of all.

We are all put here to love. We are to love God. We are to love ourselves. We are to love everyone as ourselves. We are to love life. We are to love this world and all its creatures. No act of love is ever too small either. Even a piece of bread is priceless in the eyes of Heaven. ---------------


The day we brought Julie home I knew that we were in for quite a ride. She was more than just a dog. She was a Pekinese-Poodle with personality to spare. Always the smallest dog in the house, she didnít let that stop her from trying to run the show. She made me laugh the way she would stroll up to the dog food bowl and bark away a dog ten times her size. She never once begged, but she wasnít afraid to ask for attention either. Too many times I would find my toes being tickled by her tongue until I finally moved her up to my lap or on to my desk.

Julie didnít mind being petted but wouldnít abide being carried around like a doll. The kids soon learned just how to treat her: with both love and respect. Julie loved a good dog treat and an enjoyable belly rub. When it came to haircuts and bathes, however, she wasnít afraid to show her displeasure about them with a gentle growl or nip to your hand.

Julie had her bad habits too. She thought the kitty litter box was gourmet dining and in her later years tended to use the bathroom on my floor just as I was getting her leased to go outside. Despite her faults, though, she still loved everyone who came her way and delighted in each new day God gave her here.

Julie lived on and on while some of my younger dogs passed away over the years, but her health slowly got worse and worse. She lost weight and had trouble walking. She became both blind and deaf and we had to look for her favorite napping places when it was time to walk her. Sometimes she would sleep so deeply that I would be afraid that she had finally passed away. Yet, she always lifted her head when I gently touched her old, frail body. That is until last night.

Julie died in her sleep after living well over 100 in dog years. She had brought us so much laughter and given us so much love. She had shown us how to handle a bodyís gradual decline with dignity and grace. She had reminded us how to cherish every moment that life gives us in this world. She had made a home in our hearts that will last forever.

I buried Julie in the woods behind my home with wet eyes and a hurting heart. I asked myself too why I have taken so many dogs into my life over the years when the pain of losing them is so great. As I was walking home remembering Julie, God gave me the answer: "The love is always greater than the pain."

Thank you dear God for giving me Julie. I will miss the old girl. I will try my best to honor her memory too by cherishing every moment, delighting in each day, and loving everyone who comes my way. ---------------


The curvy, rugged roads here in the mountains of my home can make for some very interesting travels at times. In the last few weeks I have had my nostrils stung when the smell of a squashed skunk got sucked through the open windows of my car. I have screeched to a stop to let a group of whitetail deer cross the road. I have swerved to miss a wandering dog who was paying more attention to his nose than his eyes. I have run over an already dead opossum who didnít quite make it across the road during a midnight stroll. I have played more than a few games of miss the tire punching potholes that seem to be everywhere. And I have spent way too many minutes inhaling exhaust fumes, waiting in line while repair crews replaced those potholes with little patches of pavement.

I have also, however, happily watched the bare trees fill up with light green leaves as Spring arrived. I have observed the gravely roadsides grow golden with a million blooming dandelions as the Earth itself seemed to come back to life again. I have seen the schoolyard playgrounds fill with children and heard their joyous laughter as the warm, May sunshine arrived. I have seen people having yard sales, taking walks, and sharing smiles with their neighbors after a long Winter shut up in their homes.

Life too is full of interesting travels that can be both difficult and joyous. Life is certainly full of potholes, pains, troubles, and strife. Yet, it is also full of giving, growth, learning, and love. Perhaps the secret is to enjoy the ride, to thank God for it, and to use it all to become better, stronger, and happier. Perhaps the secret is to give a loving lift to others along the way. Perhaps the secret is to know that our interesting travels will one day lead us home again to a place where the light is always on and loving arms await us. ---------------


One of my favorite stories comes from the life of teacher and author, Leo Buscaglia. When Leo was a college professor he used to require that every student come and visit him in his office so he could get to know them on a more personal level. When they arrived he would ask them about their hopes, dreams, plans, and life. More often than not, however, the students would have nothing but complaints about college, relationships, and their lives in general. One day a particularly negative, female student whined and complained to Leo for what seemed like hours. Finally, she said, "I am just not sure what I want out of life."

At this point the usually calm and happy Leo could take no more. He lost his temper and yelled, "What do you want out of life? What the hell are you giving to life?" This led to a long discussion that helped the girl to finally see past her selfishness and misery and to realize what life is really all about.

When I first read that story I saw myself in it and not in a good way. Like that girl I was always complaining about what life had given me and was always demanding that life give me something better. Like a selfish toddler I was throwing a tantrum at God because I hadnít gotten what I believed I needed and deserved.

It took me a long time to realize that the true joy in life comes not from what you get but from what you give. When you give to life you receive back so much in return. Every bit of love you give to others brings even more love into your heart. Every smile you share makes your soul smile as well. Every tiny act of kindness you do makes the Earth feel more like Heaven. Life, after all, isnít here to give you what you want. You are here to give life what it needs. Like Leo, himself once said, "Life is Godís gift to you. What you do with it is your gift to God." ----------------


I was in the middle of a delightful dream last night when suddenly a loud CRASH startled me awake. The dogs in my bedroom all started to bark loudly. With my heart pounding I stumbled out of my bed and stubbed my toe on the dresser. I yelped and hopped on one foot as I fearfully opened my bedroom door. A dark form flashed by me and banged into the bedroom door. I jumped back, tripped over my smallest dog, and fell back onto my bed. Then I finally woke up enough to realize that I needed my glasses. I put them on, turned on the light, and walked into the hall again. The dark form turned out to be my grey cat. She had gotten into another midnight wrestling match with her sister and had knocked over a dining room chair. I shook my head and then hopped back to the bed. I sat down, smiled, and thanked God for keeping me safe from things that go bump in the night. Then I took off my glasses and went back to sleep.

Some people have said that I go through life wearing rose colored glasses, but in truth the lenses I wear in my soul help me to see everything clearly. I see all the problems, pains, tragedies, and troubles in this life, but I see them without the blurriness of fear. I can see that this is Godís world, that His love is all around us, and that in the end all things will work out for our good if we only trust Him. This helps me go forth everyday to do my part, to share my love, to give my gifts, and to make this world better with my life.

Living your life in fear is like going through life half blind. Everything seems blurrier, scarier and more ominous than it really is. When you realize that God loves you and that you can love as well, however, it is like putting on a new pair of badly needed glasses. Everything becomes clear and you get 20/20 vision for your soul. Donít stumble through your life in fear then. Put on your glasses and enjoy this wonderful life that God has given you. ---------------


There comes a day in the mountains of my home when I can finally say that Spring is here to stay. That day was today. April was getting ready to give way to May. A rain the day before had made the air so fresh that I could feel my lungs expand joyfully with each new breath. The sunshine had chased the clouds away and seemingly over night a million little dandelions had appeared to reflect its yellow light. Butterflies and bumblebees were bouncing from flower to flower collecting food and giving back beauty and delight. Woodpeckers were knocking out their own drumbeat in the woods beyond the meadow behind my house. A Mother Robin had returned to rebuild her nest in a nearby Maple. Dozens of different birdsongs were filling the air and when I looked skyward I could see a Hawk gliding gracefully on the wind high above my head. In the distance I could see a little girl running and laughing while a playful puppy chased behind her.

I stayed outside walking my dogs for a long time, rejoicing in the day and laughing as my dogs barked and barked at two rabbits before the bunnies finally bounced away. I thought about the wonders of this world, its endless beauty, and the intricate complexity of it all. Then I said to myself, "If God could work such wonders in His glorious creation then what wonders could He work in our hearts if we only let Him?" Perhaps we could finally love freely, openly, and fearlessly. Perhaps we could finally create a world where no child ever went hungry, where war was a distant memory, and where each generation felt more loved than the last. Perhaps we could finally succeed in bringing a whole lot of Heaven down here to Earth.

Keep your hearts open to God then. Be as willing as a Spring day to accept His love, joy, and light. Let God work wonders in you and through you today, tomorrow, and forever. ---------------


I love the sound of ringing bells. The sweet music of church bells always brings a sense of peace to my soul. One of my favorite Christmas carols too is the Carol of the Bells. Even when I was a boy in 4-H camp I loved listening to the wonderful ringing of an old bell on a pole that would call us all to breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

I had a dream recently. I was walking alone in a beautiful meadow full of green trees and colorful flowers. The sun was shining bright in the sky and everything around me seemed to glow with light. As I reached the middle of the meadow I saw that old bell pole from 4-H camp. I laughed with delight, grabbed its rope and gave it a pull. The ringing was the most beautiful sound I had ever heard. Then as I let go of the rope I saw my Mom, Dad, Nana, and all of my friends and family who had passed from this world walking towards me. Their smiles were contagious. Their joy was infectious. Their love was unconditional. I could feel it all vibrating in my spirit. I knew that I was home. I reached out my arms to hug them all. Then just as I was about to speak to them I felt my dogís wet nose on my hand, opened my eyes, and found myself back in this world again.

I couldnít be mad at my dog. I knew that I wouldnít be able to stay there much longer anyway. I still had more to do here. I was grateful, though, for the little glimpse of Heaven I got that day. I knew too that the sound of ringing bells would always be even richer from now on.

I think that perhaps we are all bell ringers in this world. Every kind thing we do, every helping hand we offer, every bit of love we share rings a bell that God and all of Heaven can hear. Ring your bell well then. Ring it loudly. Ring it often. Ring it with all the strength of your soul and love of your heart. ---------------


It had been a long, hour and a half drive to the Veteranís hospital. My brother and I had gone to visit my Dad who had been admitted days earlier, weak, sick, and confused. The doctor had diagnosed pneumonia and found cancer cells on his brain. My Dad looked so sad lying there in bed. It wasnít just the illness that was getting to him. It was also being so far away from his family and friends.

As I sat by his bed a little woman with a big smile walked into his room. She was eighty years old if she was a day but seemed to have the vitality of someone sixty years younger. She was a volunteer delivering handmade get well cards from the local elementary school. Gently, she took my Dadís hand and thanked him for his service to our country. It was the first time since he got sick that I saw my Dad smile. I followed her into the hallway as she left and thanked her for lifting my Dadís spirits. "I am just sharing a little love, sweetie", she said with a smile as she walked into the next patientís room to share a little more.

That eighty year old angel reminded me again of what is essential in this life: sharing our love. When we share our love we create joy not only in the hearts of those around us, but in our own hearts as well. When we share our love we find ourselves doing what we were always meant to do. When we share our love we make our souls lighter, our lives brighter, and the world better.

Sharing love is scared, precious, and holy. Sharing love does the work of God. Sharing love makes the Earth feel more like Heaven. May you share a little love every single day of your life. May you share it with a smile on your face and a smile in your heart. May you make that love your gift to God, your gift to others, and your gift to yourself. ---------------


There is a wonderful, old story about the great Leonardo Da Vinci that I love. When Leonardo was painting the Last Supper it took him several years to complete it. He had decided to use live models for Christ and each of the twelve Apostles. He chose the model for Jesus first when he found a man whose face radiated both beauty and unconditional love. As the years went on Leonardo completed each of the Apostles except for Judas Iscariot. Finally, he found a man whose face seemed full of avarice, viciousness, deceit, and hypocrisy. After he finished painting the man as Judas, the man asked if Leonardo knew who he was. When Leonardo said no, the man replied, "I am the same man you painted years ago as the figure of Christ."

Now while this story is almost certainly fiction it does reveal a spiritual truth. No matter how old or young we are, the appearance of our faces can often show the condition of our souls. I have seen rugged, scarred, weather-beaten faces that when they smiled still shown with the beauty of angels. I have also seen young, wrinkle free faces with eyes as cold as ice and bitter smiles full of both fear and hate.

The good news, however, is that it is never too late to change your face, your heart, and your life. It is never too late to fill your soul with love and let it shine through your eyes and actions. It is never too late to turn your anger creases into laugh lines.

I only hope that my own face no matter how old or wrinkled it gets is always the face of love. I hope it is a face of kindness, goodness, gentleness, helpfulness, hopefulness, and joyfulness. I hope it is a reflection of Godís love for us all. May your own life always sparkle with goodness and God. May your eyes always shine with the light of joy. And may everyone who looks at you always see a face full of love. ---------------


God definitely has a sense of humor. As a writer I know this because He always gives me the deepest, most profound, and touching insights when I am far away from anything that I can write them down on. I think He must smile while I strive to keep them straight in my aging brain until I can put them on paper. Perhaps this is the way He makes sure that they settle into my soul as well.

This happened to me again today. I was driving my car miles from home. The sky was clear and the shining sun bathed the hillsides in light. It was so beautiful that I started to think of this wonderful world we all live in. What kind of place would this world be if there was no fear? What kind of place would this world be if there was no selfishness? What kind of place would this world be if we all could just love each other unconditionally? There would be no war. There would be no hunger. There would be no hatred. We would all care for each other. We would all help each other. We would all work together. The world would be alive with the sound of children playing, friends laughing, and people singing. What a glorious place this world would be then.

Suddenly, I heard the laughing voice of God in my heart and mind. It said, "such a place does exist my child. It is called Heaven. It is your job, though, to help bring Heaven down here to Earth."

I drove home keeping those words alive in my soul where they will stay forever. As soon as I could I sat down to share them with you as well. May you always live fearlessly. May you always live selflessly. May you always live lovingly. May you always strive to do your job well and bring a little more Heaven down here to Earth every single day. ---------------


I walked into the living room and turned on the radio early this morning. The old rock song, "Life in the Fast Lane" blared loudly out of the speakers because my son had left the volume turned up too high again. Startled, I jumped back then reached over and turned the radio back off again. "I think I prefer life in the slow lane," I said to myself.

I really do prefer life in the slow lane. I decided long ago to let the Jones keep up with themselves. Instead, I prefer taking the time to enjoy the simple pleasures in life. I enjoy taking the time to watch the sun climb over the mountains in the morning and I am never in too much of a rush to say "Thank You" to God for it either. I enjoy taking the time to sip my coffee and savor every bite of my breakfast. I enjoy taking the time to pray in the morning and all through the day. Iíve found that life goes best when you fill both your stomach and your soul. I enjoy taking the time to hug my children, talk to my friends, write letters to my family, and share smiles with strangers. I enjoy taking the time to say a kind word, do a good deed, and offer a helping hand. Iíve found that these investments in love make our hearts grow rich and our souls grow strong. I enjoy taking the time to read a good book to nourish my mind, cook a fine meal to nourish my body, and pet a happy dog to nourish my spirit. I enjoy taking the time to count my blessings and to make new ones as well.

Why do so many of us live our lives in the fast lane on a road to nowhere? It is the slow lane that leads us to love, to joy, and to God. Slow down and enjoy your life then. Slow down and smile. Slow down and live, laugh, and love. You canít hurry your way to Heaven. You have to let God lead you there one slow and steady step at a time. ---------------


When Springtime finally comes to the mountains of my home the days feel like a preview of paradise. Spectacular sunshine arrives to bath the woodlands in its golden glow, and there is hour after hour of lovely light. The temperatures rise and wrap everything in their wonderful warmth. Winter coats are tossed aside for t-shirts, and children laugh and play outside. Red, pink, and purple tulips start to appear in peopleís yards while yellow dandelions and buttercups pop their heads up in the meadows. Apple, Cherry, and Dogwood trees start to blossom and fill the air with their delightful fragrance. I can hear the Woodpeckers pounding out a beat on an old Oak and see a Robin building her nest with the skill of an engineer. The sounds of singing birds are everywhere and there are more love songs coming from the trees than from the radio. The dormant grass suddenly starts to turn green again, and my Beagle strains at her lease whenever she spots an Easter bunny munching on it.

When I walk outside on days like these my heart feels light, my soul shines bright, and life seems to hold the hope and promise of endless growth and unlimited love. Often I think to myself on my Springtime strolls that, "It is a shame that Spring only comes once a year."

The good news, however, is that Spring can come every single day in our souls. It can come on the coldest Winterís night and the hottest Summerís day. Everyday we can decide to love God, life, ourselves, and everyone else. Everyday we can strive to live in the light. Everyday we can do our best to grow in goodness and oneness with God.

There is an old saying that goes, "In Heaven it is always Springtime." The same can be true for our hearts and souls as well. God loves us and want us to forever live in the Springtime of our souls. May we always choose to do so. ---------------


I found myself driving the curvy road near my home slower than usual this morning. My eyes were open as wide as I could get them and I was scanning the road as intently as I could. I was swerving my car to the left and to the right. No, I wasnít drunk, sick, or sleepy. I was just trying to miss all of the potholes. An especially brutal Winter had produced a bumper crop of them this year.

As I rounded a curve I saw one that I couldnít miss. I hit it with a jarring thud and in a moment of anger one of those words I try never to use anymore slipped out of my mouth. I shook my head and slowed down even more. As I rounded another curve I saw a man in the road and slowed to a stop. He was directing traffic while his work crew was throwing shovels of asphalt into the worst of the potholes. I smiled at them all and gave them a little wave as I drove on. I knew that their patch job wouldnít last for long but was grateful that it was at least making the road a bit smoother for now.

As we all travel down the road of life we canít help but see that in places it is full of potholes. Pains and problems, difficulties and troubles, challenges and obstacles, sickness and death all lie along that rough road. There is no way to ignore them. There is no way to avoid them. There is no way to travel around them. What we are left with then is a choice. We can curse their existence and rail at God and life or we can take a shovel full of kindness, a shovel full of joy, and a shovel full of love and do our best to fill them in. We can work and pray and have faith that we are making the road a little less rough for those who follow us. And we can remember that while God didnít promise us a smooth road in this life He did promise to help us to smooth the road ourselves, one pothole at a time. ---------------


My dad left me a treasure when he died. It wasnít a mansion or a car. It wasnít cash or gold. It wasnít bonds or bank accounts. In the eyes of the world my Dad died a poor man. He was a simple mechanic who worked hard to support his family. My Dadís treasure rather was in a thousand wonderful memories that he gave me over the course of his life.

One particular one stands out in my mind today. I was just a boy playing in the backyard of a friendís house while my Dad spent the afternoon under the hood of her beat up old car trying to get it running again. It seemed to take hours and I wasnít sure he could bring the ancient auto back to life again this time. At long last, though, he closed the hood and turned the key in the ignition. There was a sweet smile of satisfaction on his face as the engine purred. There was a twinkle of joy in his eye when he shook his head and refused to accept anything for his work. And there was a quiet hum of happiness in his voice as we drove back home that day. This memory made a home in my heart and became a priceless pearl for my soul to cherish.

Time and time again my Dad showed me that a good life, a kind life, a giving life, and a Heavenly life was created one choice at a time. Not all of his choices were the right ones, but most of them were. He did the best he could. He lived the best he could. And he helped to bring out the best in me too. As I look back into that treasure trove of memories my Dad left me, I realize that each one of them inspired me to live and to love: one choice at a time.

How do you build a better world: one choice at a time. How do you live a loving life: one choice at a time. How do you make Earth more like Heaven: one choice at a time. May all of your choices be driven by love, inspired by joy, and guided by God. And may all of your choices bring memories of happiness to those around you. ---------------


"What was the most delicious meal you ever had?" That was the question in an online survey that popped up on my screen the other day. I moved my mouse over and clicked out of the survey, but the question stayed with me. As I thought about it only one answer came to my mind: Ramen noodles.

It happened years ago during Hurricane Sandy when 3 feet of wet, heavy snow hit the mountains of my home. Trees were snapped, power lines were down, and my children and I were stuck in the house bundled up in coats and shivering in the cold. We had no heat, no lights, no television, no telephone, and no internet. The meat in the freezer had already gone bad and any food that wasnít spoiled had already been eaten. All the stores were closed due to the storm too. I felt shaky from not eating and when I looked in my youngest sonís eyes I could see how hungry he was as well.

Thankfully, though, I still had several bags of Ramen noodles. Taking them and an old pot I walked over to my Dadís house. He had lost power too but still had his propane grill to cook with. I set the noodles simmering on the eye of it and watched them slowly boil. Trudging back through the snow I held the pot gingerly. Then I poured myself, daughter and sons each a big bowl of them. They were so delicious. We ate and ate until our hunger faded and then sat around the table and smiled at each other. It was the best meal I ever had. We all felt so happy at that moment and our joy only grew greater when the power came back on later that night.

I learned something special too from that meal. I learned that the greatest happiness comes from a grateful heart. Since then I have been more and more thankful to God for every blessing in my life. I thank Him for every sunny day, every meal, every smile, and every bird singing in the trees. I thank Him for my heat, lights, and all the modern conveniences we too often take for granted. I thank Him for each new day he gives me here to live, to learn, and to love. I thank Him for His love. And I thank Him too for every adversity and challenge that comes my way, because I have learned to use them as well to grow stronger, better, and kinder.

May your best meal always be the one you are eating right now. May the best you always be the person you are right now. And may you always live with a grateful heart full of love, joy, and God. ---------------


It was my freshman year of college and I was sleeping in my bed after a long day full of taking tests. Suddenly, a loud knock woke me from my dreams. Wondering who could be knocking so late at night, I stumbled out of bed, turned on the light, and opened the door. It was my best friend and roommate. The girl he was dating had just broken his heart and he had attempted to drown his sorrows with 13 Whiskey Sours. While his sorrows were still swimming along fine his mind and body werenít doing so well. He hadnít even been able to get his key into our door lock. I took him in my arms and walked him over to the bunk beds. His was the top bunk so it took a lot of pushing on my part to help him get in it. After about ten minutes, though, I was helping him off of it again and walking him to the bathroom because he felt like he was going to be sick. He didnít throw up in the toilet, however. Instead he threw up on his bed as soon as I had helped him back into it. I shook my head, stripped his sheets, and helped him back into bed for a third time. Then I laughed quietly while he groaned himself to sleep.

My best friend recovered from that night. He went on to a fine career in the army, married, and raised two children. He is a grandfather now. Yet, I will never forget the lesson that he taught me then. He showed me that the poisons we put in ourselves will always come back out in the worst ways imaginable.

Since then I have tried my best to avoid taking in the poisons of this world. I have stayed clear not only of drugs and alcohol but also hate and fear. I have instead tried to keep my heart full of love, full of laughter, full of joy, and full of God. I have done so because these are the things I want to share. These are the things I want to flow from my soul. These are the things I want to bless others with as well. May you always take in only the best and give out only your best. ---------------


My two sons have Autism. It makes life difficult for them on even the best days. The condition is insidious. It hurts them and chains them in so many ways. Even though they are both full grown neither of them will ever be able to live on their own. Autism hampers their learning. It strangles their communication. It limits their interests. It traps them in their own minds. Autism makes them overly sensitive to touch and sounds. It binds them to their routines. It makes any change feel like the end of the world. Autism causes them obsessions and compulsions. It makes their moods rise and fall like a roller coaster. It causes them stress and makes it so hard for them to find peace. Autism fills them with fear and frustration. What I take for granted they never can. Life for them is one endless mountain to climb. Often daily living feels so painful and out of control for them that they even hurt themselves. Autism forces them to go through their days wearing a heavy veil that obscures their minds and limits their lives. My heart aches too, knowing that I cannot take this burden from them.

There are times everyday, however, times that touch my heart, times that bring me such joy when my boysí spirits push through the veil and I see their love and light shining bright. One of these times happened today after a morning full of difficulties. I was just starting dinner when I heard, "Daddy!" behind me and turned from the stove to see my youngest son smiling at me with his sparkling eyes. I stepped forward and gave him a hug. He laughed and rested his chin on my shoulder just as he had when he was a baby. Then I saw my oldest son walk into the room. He smiled too and said, "I love you, Dad." He leaned his head forward and I kissed the top of it. I smiled back at him and said, "I love you too, son." Then I held them both in my arms and thanked God again for giving them to me.

Seeing my two sons shine through the veil of Autism reminds me everyday to do my best to shine as well. Everyday I strive to follow my boysí example. Everyday I try to love more, to live better, and to bring some light into this often dark world. Everyday I seek to help others to do the same.

My prayer for all of you is that you shine as well, that you love as well, and that you live a life that makes God and the angels smile. Let no challenge chain you then. Let no obstacle stop you. Let no veil obscure your light. Let nothing keep you from being the Child of God that you are called to be. ---------------


It has been the longest Winter this year. First came the weeks of the polar vortex accompanied by record breaking, below zero temperatures, frozen water pipes, and wind chills that cut into your bones like an icy knife. Next came the snowstorms one after another burying our cars, driveways, and homes under several feet of wet, heavy, snow. Day after day I spent my time shivering and shoveling with an aching back and frozen feet. Even those "Winter break" days of forty degree temperatures and sunshine were few and far between. Instead it was week after week of clouds, cold, gray, and gloom.

It wasnít any of these things, however, that made it such a long Winter for me. It was something else entirely. This was the first Winter I had ever spent without my Dad. My Dad had always been a rock of support for me in this life. It was his amazing resilience that kept the family together when my Mom died during another cold, dark Winter 22 years ago. It was his kindness, and gentle, good-humor that lifted my spirits when his own Mom, my Nana passed away years later. My short, stocky Dad was always a tower of strength that handled everything that life threw at him. When cancer finally took him from us last fall, I couldnít believe it. I didnít feel ready to face this world without him.

In this longest of Winters, though, I found myself depending more than ever on another Father, a Heavenly one. It was Godís love that saw me through. It was Godís love that helped me to grow, to learn, and to discover the strength that I never knew I had. It was Godís love that healed my heart, touched my soul, and made me determined to make this world a better place before I leave it. I know too that when I do depart I will see Dad, Mom, and Nana again in a place where it is always warm and forever Springtime. ---------------


"How can you be happy in this life?" That was the question at the end of the letter. It was sent by a troubled, young woman who had read another of my stories on the internet. She had written about how she had tried all the ways popular in this world to find happiness. She had spent money, gambled, had casual sex, and tried both drugs and alcohol. All of it had only left her with pain in her heart and longing in her soul.

I answered her simply and honestly with these words. I am happy when I watch the birds flying towards the setting sun and thank God for the day. I am happy when I pet a purring cat or a devoted dog. I am happy when I eat a simple, healthy, home cooked meal. I am happy when I hear an uplifting song and sing along. I am happy when I read a story that touches my heart. I am happy when I share a smile and find it returned. I am happy when I walk my dogs on a starry night and find the man in the moon smiling down on me. I am happy when I hear the birds singing in the trees on the first day of Spring. I am happy when I see a butterfly floating by my head or feasting on a dandelion. I am happy when I sip a glass of iced tea on a hot Summerís day. I am happy when I breath in the fresh, clean air after a soaking rainfall. I am happy when I smell the Cherry blossoms on the trees in the Spring and the freshly fallen leaves in the Fall. I am happy when I hug my daughter and hear my sonsí laughter. I am happy when I do a simple act of kindness that helps another. I am happy when I share a kind word and I am happy when I receive one. I am happy when I see the goodness in other people, when I see their happiness shining in their faces, and when I help to bring that goodness and happiness out of them.

Most of all I am happy when I love. I am happy when I welcome Godís love into my heart and share my love with Him in return. I am happy when I love myself and when I love everyone as myself. You see, when you love you will truly be happy in this life, and when you love you will build an eternal happiness in the next. Then I wished her happiness just as I am wishing you now. May all of your days be full of love and full of joy. ---------------


It was the latest of a series of arctic blasts that had made for a brutal Winter here in the mountains of my home. I woke up shivering and shook my head as I saw the frozen ice patterns on the inside of my windows. After a hot breakfast I bundled up to go down and warm up my car before driving out. The house door opened with a loud crack as the ice broke on the door knob. I stepped out into the deathly quiet of the bitter, morning air. Almost instantly I could feel the hairs in my nose freeze. As I walked down to my car the wind started to blow and I braced myself against it. It felt like being hit. The pain from the wind chill was incredible. My bones ached from it. I wiggled my toes to keep the feeling in them. Even breathing in the crushingly cold air made my lungs hurt. I turned on my car and the thermostat inside it read eleven degrees below zero. I started scraping the ice and snow off the car windows and wondered again how long it would be until Spring arrived. Finally, I climbed into the car and looked at my frosty mustache in the mirror. It looked so ridiculous that I laughed out loud. "Well, at least I am not cold on the inside," I said to myself.

You see, over the years I had learned that there are a lot worse things than being cold on the outside. Being cold in your heart, frozen in your soul, and isolated from God and love were far worse than having chattering teeth on a January morning. I thanked Heaven again that I had finally learned to invite Godís love into my heart. I knew that no matter how cold this world could be at times that I could always count on that love to keep me warm.

May your own heart always burn bright with the fire of Godís love. May your spirit shine with its light. May you share your love too with everyone around you. And may you always make this world a warmer place just by being in it. ---------------


There was a new commercial on television the other day doing its best to sell the newest smart phone on the market. It made it sound like you could solve all of your problems if you just bought this device with its countless functions and applications. After it was over I looked down at my simple flip phone that I used mainly as a pocket watch and sometimes to call my daughter. Then I smiled and slipped it back in my pocket. I didnít want that fancy new phone. I knew there were no apps for the things that were truly important in my life.

Apps canít give you a childís love. They canít give you a dogís loyalty. They canít give you Godís grace. Apps canít give you a hug. They canít share a smile. They canít kiss your cheek. Apps canít hold your hand. They canít share your troubles. They canít touch your heart. Appsí eyes donít twinkle when they tell a story. They donít laugh at a good joke. They canít sing when the spirit moves them. Apps canít breath in the cold, fresh air on a Winterís morning. They canít watch the sunset over the mountains. They canít count the stars at night. Apps canít make you a home cooked meal. They canít smell a Spring flower. They canít hear birdsong in the trees. Apps donít do acts of kindness. They canít share moments of joy. They canít spread love to anotherís heart. Apps canít thank Heaven for a new day. They canít pray. They canít connect you to God, His love, and His light.

A new study, in fact, says that cell phones can actually drain our daily happiness from us. Perhaps it is because they distract us from what truly makes us happy. Donít be afraid then to turn them off once in a while. Take the time to watch a sunset, pet a dog, and pray. God didnít put us here to stare at a screen all day long. God put us here to live, to laugh, and to love. God put us here to help each other, to be happy together, and to make Earth more like Heaven. ---------------


My daughter was leafing through some old photo albums the other day when she laughed and pulled out an old picture to show me. There I was a skinny 12 year old with thick, bushy, brown hair. I looked down at the picture and smiled. Only one thought was on my mind: "If only I knew then what I know now."

If I knew then what I know now: I would have slept in less and watched the sunrise more. I would have went barefoot in the grass earlier in the Spring and later in the Fall. I would have ate Nanaís Sunday dinners more slowly, savoring every bite. I would have read more books and watched less TV. I would have played fetch with my dog every time he wanted to. I would have paid less attention to how I looked and more attention to how I treated those around me.

If I knew then what I know now: I would have hugged my Mom and Nana everyday and told them how much I loved them. I would have listened better when my Dad told me stories of his youth. I would have argued less with my brothers. I would have been kinder to that little girl in school who liked me so much. I would have rejoiced in the joys of each new day and not worried about the problems of tomorrow.

If I knew then what I know now: I would have danced more, laughed more, and sang more no matter who was watching. I would have not cared a bit what other people thought of me. I would have cared a whole lot more, however, about what God thought of me. I would have been fearless in showing my love, sharing my joy, and living my life.

Sadly, I didnít know then what I know now. None of us do. All we can do is continue to learn, to grow, and to love. All we can do is make our future better than our past. All we can do is our best and hope it makes God and the angels smile. ---------------


It happened to me again the other day. I was shopping for groceries in a local store getting stocked up for the next Winter storm that was coming. Apparently everyone else had that idea as well, because the store was far more crowded than usual. Every aisle I pushed my shopping cart down was an obstacle course full of carts and people. I said, "excuse me" over and over as I zig zagged through them throwing oatmeal, cereal, rice, milk, and dozens of other things in my cart. Each time I passed another person, though, instead of a stressful or annoyed look I was blessed with the warmest of smiles. I couldnít figure out why this was happening until I pushed my cart by a woman with mirrored sunglasses and saw my own smile reflecting in them. I had been sharing smiles again without even knowing it.

In all the years of my life here in this world I have never seen an ugly smile. Every genuine smile seems to throw open the windows of our souls and allow our light and love to shine through. A good smile isnít just showing the teeth either. It travels up the face like a wave of joy, lifting our cheeks, raising our eyebrows, softening our expression, and making our eyes sparkle. It is priceless and yet doesnít cost us anything to share. It warms our hearts, lightens our loads, and strengthens our souls. A good smile is contagious too. The more you pass it on, the more you get it back whether you are aware of it or not. A good smile is eternal as well. Every single smile you share here on Earth will follow you to Heaven.

May all of your days be full of smiles. May you give them freely, openly, and happily expecting nothing in return. May you use them to brighten anotherís day and find your own brightened as well. May your smiles share your love, your light, and your soul with everyone you meet and allow Godís love and light to live through you always. ---------------


As a boy I was always small for my age. I was also five years younger than one of my brothers and seven years younger than the other. As a result I often felt left out when their friends came over to play. I was either too small or too young for whatever they were doing and they didnít want their younger brother listening in on their conversations either. More often than not I found myself outside playing alone and feeling forgotten.

I remember one Spring afternoon feeling especially lonely as I sat in the yard behind our house. We lived miles from town and I rarely saw my own friends outside of school. I heard my brothers laughing from inside the house and felt a single tear coming down my cheek. At that moment I saw a large, shaggy, brown dog walking over to me. His face was panting happily and his tail was wagging as well. Even though he didnít know me he greeted me like a long lost friend, licking my chin and sitting beside me on the Spring grass. It must have been at least an hour that I petted and talked to this four-legged angel. He let me pour out all my troubles and share my deepest thoughts before he kissed my cheek goodbye and ambled off either to Heaven or his home. I went back inside feeling happy, knowing that no matter what life may hold I was loved. Now over 40 years later I still remember that furry angel with a smile. I believe that God sent him in that moment of sadness to remind me just how much He loved me.

In truth, nothing brings us greater joy than knowing we are loved. Knowing we are loved gives us the strength to love others as well. Knowing we are loved helps us to be the people God meant for us to be. Knowing we are loved aids us in making Earth more like Heaven. Remember then just how much God loves you. Embrace that love. Take joy in it. Welcome it into your heart. And then go out and share your own love with the world. ---------------


An early morning winter storm had dumped several inches of snow here in the mountains of my home. Schools were cancelled, roads were treacherous, and all I wanted to do was stay in bed. Still, I knew I had to get the day started so I bundled up and walked outside. The snow was over my shoes. The cold wind was chapping my lips. My 47 year old back ached in anticipation of the shoveling I would have to do if the snow didnít stop soon.

Yet, when I looked out on the crystal blanket that covered the ground I couldnít help but smile a bit. It was so beautiful. It softened the bare trees and hid the dead grass. In the distance I could hear the sound of the snow plow on the road, the barking of a happy dog, and the laughter of children playing outside, enjoying their day off from school.

The sweet music of that laughter brought back a hundred memories of Winters past. I remembered catching snowflakes on my tongue, building snowmen, making snow angels, sledding down hills, and always losing the snowball fights with first my brothers and then my own children. Standing there in that warm coat of remembering made the wind a little less cold and my back a little less sore. I turned up my head, stuck out my tongue, and for the first time in years caught a snowflake on it. It tasted so fresh and clean. It tasted like youth, like joy, and like love. I looked up to the Heavens and Thanked God for all of my memories and for the simple truth that you are never too old to be young again.

May you always feel young in spirit no matter how old or achy your body may be. May you always delight in the simple joys of life. May you always share your happiness with the heart of a child. And may you always give your love, your light, your laughter, and your warmth to others even on the coldest of days. ---------------


I just finished watching my copy of the movie "Itís a Wonderful Life" for what seems like the six thousandth time now. It is one of those movies that never gets old. I donít just watch it at Christmastime either. I have been known to pull it out and watch it in the middle of January, on the first day of Spring, and in the midst of a Summer heat wave. Anytime my spirits and self- worth feel down all I have to do is watch this movie to set them soaring again.

It is the story of a good man named George Bailey driven to the edge of despair and thinking of ending his own life on Christmas when an angel appears to show him just how many lives he had touched and people he had helped here. The angel shows George what life would have been like if he had never been born and George sees that it is a bleaker, nastier, and sadder world without him. In the end you want to stand up and cheer along as an uplifted George runs through his hometown wishing everyone a merry Christmas and rejoicing in his second chance at life.

Every time I watch this film I never fail to see just how important each life is here in this world. We all may be only a single thread in a tapestry wove by Godís master hand, but if we were to pull that thread out what a gapping hole it would leave.

As you go through your life today remember just how important you are. Every kind act you do is precious. Every bit of love you share is priceless. Everyday you touch others in countless ways that you cannot even begin to understand. We are all Children of God given a special purpose and mission in this life. We are all loved by our Heavenly Father. We are all called to love each other as well. Embrace your wonderful life then. Share your wonderful love. And make this world more wonderful each and every day you are in it. ---------------


"Christmas is no fun when youíre poor", I thought to myself as I slowly climbed the steps to my cold, damp apartment. I was a young, struggling, substitute teacher whose calls into work had been few and far between. Money was tight, bills were due, and it was Christmastime. My wife and I couldnít even afford to get gifts for each other and the only gifts we could get for our young daughter and son were a few stuffed animals that I had found on sale.

I opened the door to the apartment and brought in the gifts I had hidden in our old carís trunk until Christmas. Then I handed them to my 4 year old son and 18 month old daughter. I watched with a sad smile while they did their best to tear off the wrapping paper. As they pulled out their toys, though, I noticed their own smiles grow wide. Their eyes lit up and they jumped up and down with glee. My daughter happily hugged her stuffed animal and then hugged her Mom and me as well. I laughed as I watched my children play with their stuffed animals for hours that day, and I thanked God for the greater gift they had given me.

It has been over twenty years now but I still remember that Christmas like it was yesterday. It was one of those special days that stays in your heart and soul forever. It was one of those special moments that helps to shape the rest of your life. I still cherish the gift of pure love that my son and daughter gave me that day. I still strive to share it in my own life as well.

The great inspirational author Leo Buscaglia once wrote that: "There is no lesser or greater gift if the gift is love." In truth, the most priceless gift of all time was a gift of love from God given to us as a poor baby warmed in the hay of a manger. It was a gift that changed the world forever. It was a gift that showed us all how to live and how to love. May your every Christmas be rich in love and may all your days be full of goodness and joy. ---------------


It was early December and I was driving my children over an hour to a distant mall to do some Christmas shopping. We were finally nearing the exit that would take us there. I smiled and sang quietly along to the song playing on the radio. Then just as we pulled off I noticed a figure holding a sign at the end of the highway exit. "It is probably someone trying to catch a ride south," I thought to myself.

When I got close enough to read it, however, I saw that it said, "Homeless. Please help. Willing to work for food." I drove past unable to stop because of the flow of traffic to the mall. As I went past the person I saw that it was an older woman in worn, dirty clothes with an incredible sadness in her eyes.

I took my children into the mall, but all the Christmas spirit had left my heart. I couldnít stop thinking about the woman by the exit. I couldnít stop thinking about her standing outside in the cold, without a home, while the cars drove by her. I couldnít stop thinking about how we as human beings could allow anyone to be homeless and hungry in this plentiful world that our Heavenly Father had created for us.

Later after we left the mall my children and I stopped at a local convenience store to buy some snacks for the long drive back home. We got in the car and I pulled out. When I got to the exit that would get us back on the highway, though, I found myself driving past it and back to the exit we had driven in on. She was still there holding her sign in the December air. I pulled off the side of the road, pulled out the money I had left in my wallet and gave it to my daughter in the seat beside me. She then rolled down her window and gave it to the sad eyed lady. The woman stood there with the money in her hand and thanked us, half not believing that someone had given her so much. Before she could finish her sentence my daughter reached out, took her hand, and gave her the food she had bought for the trip home.

We pulled back out on the highway and made small talk for the rest of the way home. None of us felt proud or even happy with what we had done. We only wished we could have done more.

I found myself praying to God for the sad eyed lady without a home. I asked Him to wrap His loving arms around her, to send her the help she needed, and to be with her always. In the end, I trusted that He would in His infinite love see her home again.

I remembered too that Jesus was born in a manger not a mansion, that He often had no place to lay His head, and that He asked us all to find him in the poor, the hungry, the homeless, and the destitute. I also remembered that He asked us to love each other as He loved us. And that is what I will continue to strive to do at Christmastime and always. ---------------


It was a white Thanksgiving. I looked out my window at the 4 inches of snow that had fallen the day before and smiled. It made the meadow and woodlands look so beautiful. It felt like it was Christmas already. I poured myself a glass of eggnog and walked quietly into my bedroom. My daughter was cooking most of our Thanksgiving dinner this year so I had some time to relax and thank God for all of the blessings in my life.

I sat down on my bed and glanced down at the photo albums in the bookcase by the wall. I reached over, pulled one out and opened it. There I was as a baby sneaking under the Christmas tree and ripping open the presents under it. I didnít understand Christmas yet, but I knew something good must be inside that wrapping paper. There I was a few years later standing by the worldís ugliest Christmas tree that I had talked my Dad into chopping down over my brothersí objections. It was so scraggly it could barely hold up the decorations. There I was as a full grown, young man standing with my brothers, Mom and Dad on Christmas Day. It still amazed me that we had grown taller than them.

I took a sip of eggnog and picked up another photo album. I opened it and saw my daughterís delight the first time she saw Santa Claus. I turned the page and there were my daughter and oldest son playing in the cardboard toy box instead of with the toys we had bought them. I flipped to another page and watched my kids grow older, celebrating their first Christmas in our new home. It was shocking to realize how quickly the years had flown by. Another turn of the page and there I was holding my brotherís grandson in my arms at my Dadís house. My hair had grown sparse and gray and my face had gained some well earned wrinkles, but the joy in my eyes when I held my Great Nephew on Christmas sparkled with a youth that would never fade.

I slowly closed the photo albums and took another sip of eggnog. My heart was full of beautiful memories. I closed my eyes and let all the Christmasí past, all the Thanksgiving feasts, all the memories of a lifetime flow through my heart, soul, and mind. There I was picking flowers for my Mom on the first day of Spring. There I was swimming in the pool as a boy on a hot Summerís day. There I was playing with my kids in the Fall leaves. There I was losing another snowball fight to them in the Winter snow. There I was doing my best to share my life with smiles, laughter, love, and joy. There I was delighting in all the love, kindness, and happiness that was shared with me.

I finished my eggnog while the smell of turkey and mashed potatoes floated into my bedroom. I watched the sun shining off the white snow outside my window. I thanked God again for all the loving memories He had blessed my life with. And then I went into the living room to create some new ones.

May all of your days be full of loving memories. May you make new ones every chance you get. And may you always remember just how much God loves you. ---------------


I had one good day today. It started out with a morning walk with my dogs under the starlight before dawn. It was so beautiful. Looking up I thanked God for the stars, the Earth, and my life. After the walk it was time for a warm breakfast followed by some exercises and prayer. Then I headed out to the office. The sun was out and glistened off the melting snow. The sight made me smile and since I was alone with nobody elseís ears to offend I sang along with the CD playing in my car with a loud voice and a happy heart.

My good day was just beginning, however. I helped it along by giving a cheerful greeting to everyone I met. I shared smiles and was happy to have them returned. I offered a helping hand to one friend and a pat on the back to another. Later at the store I opened the door for a lady with her arms full of packages. I bought a few boxes of pancake mix to put in the food drive collection bin. I told a tired cashier what a good job she was doing and watched her whole face light up.

When I got home I gave my daughter a hug, kissed my oldest son on the head, and laughed and played with my youngest son before doing some work on the computer. Then I answered letters trying to share a little good humor, a kind word, a bit of inspiration, and a loving thought or two with my friends around the world. Later in the evening I spent some quiet time reading a good book, petting my dogs on the head, and scratching my old grey cat under her chin. Finally I ended the day the way I started it: walking my dogs under the starlight, and thanking God for this world, my life, and the chance to live for one more good day.

Perhaps the key to having a great life is to live it one good day at a time. Perhaps the key to being happy in this world is to love all we today and let God take care of our tomorrow. May all of your todayís be good ones. ---------------


I have always loved watching the sunset. I do so every chance I can. There is something about it that stirs my soul. I sit on my back porch and watch as the sky becomes a tapestry of ever changing colors. Blue, white, yellow, gold, red, orange, pink, and purple all weave together to create something so beautiful and so glorious that it is transcendent. When you look at it for a brief instant it is like you are getting a glimpse of Heaven.

It isnít just sunsets, though, that can give you a glimpse of Heaven. With a loving heart and a grateful spirit you can see that they are everywhere. They are in a babyís laugh, a little girlís smile, the wag of a dogís tail, and the loud purr of a contented cat. They are in an uplifting song, and a beautiful painting. They are in the first flower of Spring, cool breezes on a Summer day, the colors of the Fall leaves, and the first snow of Winter. They are in a heartfelt hug, a gentle touch, a caring kiss, and an encouraging word. They are in every loving thought, every prayer from the soul, every simple act of kindness, every single act of charity, and every joyful "Thank You" you give to God.

Anything that brings us closer to love gives us a glimpse of Heaven. Any act that helps another soul gives us a glimpse of Heaven. Any thought that makes us more one with God gives us a glimpse of Heaven. In fact, our highest calling in this life is to bring as much Heaven as we can down here to Earth. When our hearts are full of Heaven, then Heaven will be our home in this life and in the next.

May you fill all of your days here with love and joy. May your heart always be full of thanksgiving. May you find Heaven everywhere you look and bring Heaven everywhere --------------


Growing up in my Grandmaís house as a boy was an experience that would shape me for the rest of my life. We were poor in everything but spirit, yet I learned so much about life there. My Mom, Dad, Nana, two brothers, and I were crowded into a home made from two old shanty cars and several built on rooms. I always knew what my next set of clothes would look like because I had seen my older brother wearing them the year before. I always knew what we were going to be eating in the Winter, because I had weeded it in the garden during the Summer. Still, I never felt poor. No king ever ate as good as we did on Sundays after church when Nana cooked her homemade meatballs, spaghetti, and freshly baked bread.

Even though we had so little I can still remember Dad, Mom, and Nana giving so much. We were always sharing with others. Everyone who visited us could expect a plate of spaghetti, or a mason jar of canned vegetables, or a flower pot full of fresh blossoms to be given to them. I can still remember the sparkle in Mom and Nanaís eyes whenever they passed something on to others. We never felt richer or more blessed than when we shared what God had given us. I learned early on that the greatest joy comes from giving rather than getting. Giving fills your heart with love. Giving fills your soul with God. Giving brings your spirit closer to Heaven.

Donít be afraid to pass on your blessings, riches, gifts, and talents to others. That is why God gave them to you in the first place. Share everything you have. If you have a beautiful smile then pass it on. If you have a lovely laugh then pass it on. If you have a few extra dollars then pass them on. If you give great hugs then pass them on. If you have a special talent then share it with others. If you have a heart full of love then give it to the everyone. No life is ever truly lived until it becomes a gift in itself, so make your whole life a gift to the world. ---------------


I woke up a little chilly this morning. I could feel the cold air seeping through the windows and under my front door. The bitter, North wind had brought me an early taste of the Winter to come. The weather forecast called for cold, rainy days for the rest of the week too. "It is time to break out the sweaters, thick socks, and hot chocolate", I thought to myself.

Later in the day I headed to the grocery store to pick up a loaf of bread. As I walked in I noticed the cans of soup stacked high along the wall. They were all on sale and I decided to stock up for the rest of the week. I had always loved a can of hot soup on a cold day since I was a child. I could remember shivering after bringing in firewood to our house during the Winter and having my Mom smiling in front of a bowl of steaming soup, freshly made for my lunch. The warmest part of it all, though, was the gentle touch she would give the back of my head when I would sit down to take that first sip.

I walked to the checkout line with my bread and cans of soup. I was looking forward to a warm lunch when I noticed the food pantry bin near the wall. It wasnít empty, but it wasnít full either. I thought for a second of all the loving Moms in the area with no cans of soup to give their own children. I glanced upward and thought of my own Mom smiling down on me. Then I paid for my food, grabbed my bag full of soup cans, and placed it in the collection bin.

As I walked outside the cold air did its best to bite into me, but it couldnít chill the God-given warmth I felt inside. I drove home with a heart full of love happily remembering the words: "I was hungry and you gave me food; I was thirsty and you gave me drink; I was a stranger and you welcomed me; I was naked and you gave me clothing; I was sick and you took care of me." May all of your days here be warm ones full of love, giving, and God. ---------------


A strange but miraculous thing happened the other day. I was washing the dinner dishes in our kitchen while my youngest son was watching television in the living room. Suddenly, I heard an old song from my childhood playing in a commercial. As the sweet music drifted into the kitchen. I found myself humming along, singing a few words, and even doing a little dance step or two while I placed the plates in the dishrack. Then it occurred to me that this was the first time I had danced in a very long while.

In the days following my Dadís death I had done my best to live again. I had hugged my children and told them I loved them. I had petted and played with my dogs. I had watched the Autumn leaves with their beautiful colors and taken in a few sunsets as well. Yet, through it all I had felt like I was just muddling along. My heart was still hurting and my moments of joy were few and far between. More than once I would be on the road, pass an old, beat-up, blue pickup truck like my Dad used to drive, and tear up. I missed him so much. It was so hard not having him here in my life anymore.

When I found myself dancing again even for a second, however, I realized that I was doing just what my Dad would have wanted me to do. He would have been mad at me for wallowing in my sorrow. He would have wanted me to dance again, to sing again, to smile again, and to laugh again. He would have wanted me to choose joy again and share it with others. He would have wanted me to LIVE and to LOVE here on Earth while he and God looked down on me from Heaven. And in that miraculous moment of wisdom my heart began to heal.

I promise you Dad that I will continue to heal. I will continue to sing. I will continue to dance. I will continue to say "yes" to life and to live in Godís love all the days I have left here. ---------------


After enjoying a glorious day of Autumn sunshine here in the hills and forests surrounding my home I decided to take a seat on my back porch and watch its final act. Sunsets here in the mountains are a beauty to behold. They are not as sudden as the ocean or desert sunsets where nightfall follows so quickly after Sol drops over the horizon.

Here it is much more gradual. This evening it started when the sun dropped low enough in the sky to be partially blocked by the towering oaks a hundred yards behind my house. The ground below them grew shaded and the shadows slowly started to creep down the wood line surrounding the meadow and old graveyard behind my porch. Yet, while all this was happening beams of sunlight were still peeking through the branches and lighting up parts of the forest on the other side of my home. The red and golden maple leaves seemed to delight in this last kiss of sunshine and glowed even brighter than usual. I watched peacefully while this dance of light and dark, sunbeams and shadows continued on while the evening air cooled in the growing twilight. Last of all the sky itself began to change slowly going from blue and yellow to red, pink, and purple and finally to black.

As this Heavenly show ended the night settled in and the stars began to appear in the sky. I pulled my coat closer around me for warmth and smiled. I was sorry that it was over, but I knew that tomorrow the sun would rise again to warm and brighten the Earth once more.

Each morning we too are given the chance to let the sun rise in our souls. We are given the choice to live in Godís love and light. We are given the opportunity to share our love and make this world a warmer, brighter, and better place. And when the sun finally sets on our lives here we are also given a home to go to where the light is eternal and the love never ends. ---------------


It is hard to write when your heart is breaking, but something deep inside me needs to say this right now. At this moment I am sitting in a chair by my Dadís bedside in the nursing home where he has lived for the past few months. His breathing is slowly getting more labored as he sleeps. Fortunately new medications have eased the pain and seizures he was having, but it is only a matter of time until he leaves this world now.

It has been a long struggle for him the last few years. C.O.P.D, repeated bouts of pneumonia, lung cancer, prostrate cancer, brain cancer, radiation, and chemotherapy have slowly battered both his body and his mind. In the end it was the brain cancer than did the most damage leaving him confused, paralyzed on his left side, and having horrible seizures. In the end it will take everything but his spirit. Thankfully, that will rest in Godís loving hands.

The last few days my brothers and I have been spending most of our time by his bed. Sometimes it has been all three of us, sometimes two, and sometimes just one. Most of the time we have just held his hand and talked to his spirit still trapped in his body. And we have all prayed to God to let Dadís suffering end soon so he can join my Mom, Nana, and the rest of his family who have passed on into the love and the light.

A few minutes ago the nurses and aides came in to check on him. Even though they too know his time is near they still treated him with the same love and tenderness they have since he arrived here from the Veteransí Hospital. Their kind words and soothing touches always calmed his spirit even as his body and mind continued to weaken. They were not afraid to see death even in its most horrible form. I am so thankful that he had them here as well.

It has been hard on me and my brothers seeing my Dadís body and mind grow so weak. He was always such a tough and rugged man. He was only five foot four but was as stout as a tree stump. He taught me so much growing up too. He taught me hard work. For most of his days he worked all day as a mechanic only to come home and work in our gardens in the evening. Every Spring too my brothers and I would help him chop and stack five cords of wood to heat our house in the Winter. After he was hurt and became disabled he taught me patience by letting me help him haul wood, carry fresh water from our spring, and change the tires on his truck. He taught me faith and strength as well. He could have given up on life when his beloved wife lost her own battle with cancer over twenty years ago, but he didnít. Instead he took care of her in her final years and later took care of his aging Mom in her final years too. He never complained either. He just gave and loved unconditionally. In the end my Dad even taught me about growth and love. He had been raised in a different time when Men were supposed to be strong and not show their emotions. In his last months, though, my Dad outgrew that upbringing. He told me and my brothers again and again what we already knew in our hearts, that he loved us.

Now as I sit here by his bed I can only think of what a good life he has lived and what a good man he has been. I know that God at the end of our days here looks deep in our souls to see the love we have shared, spread, and given to others. I can only pray that one day I may have loved as deeply and as well as my Dad has.

I donít know how much longer my Dad has now as I write this. It is like his spirit is ready to move on but his body hasnít gotten the message. I take comfort in knowing, however, that the long and often difficult life he had here was only a day in the eternity of love, joy, peace, happiness, and light that he will be going to.

I love you Dad. I have loved you since the second I was born into this world. I will love you for all the seconds I have left here as well. And in the end we will share our love in Heaven forever. __________________

My Dad died several hours after I finished writing this just after receiving Last Rites. He will be missed and he will be remembered. ---------------


As the days ticked down to my 47th birthday this year, I had to admit that I was a little melancholy. I was looking back over the years of my life and remembering every mistake that I had made, every wrong path that I had taken, and every chance for growth that I had turned my back on. It wasnít a pretty sight.

When the day finally arrived, though, I was overwhelmed with the love I received from so many. Gifts, cards, and birthday greetings from friends filled both my mailbox and my computer. My wonderful children took me out for dinner and then surprised me with a homemade cake, a homemade card, and a homemade gift all wrapped with their love. By the end of the day my melancholy had fled and my happiness had returned. I felt truly blessed and I remembered that life is about the love you share not the mistakes you make.

I realized too that I wanted to spend the rest of my days here becoming the person that God meant for me to be. I wanted to watch more sunrises, share more smiles, and spread more love. I wanted to fill my life with acts of kindness and moments of joy. I wanted to give my children wise words, kind thoughts, huge hugs, gentle kisses, loving laughter, and endless happiness. I wanted to help others every chance I could and in every way I could. I wanted to know that when I finally step out of this body and cross the threshold to Heaven that I would be taking a lifetime of love with me.

You too can become a better person each and everyday of your life. There is no greater adventure than to become the person God meant for you to be. There is nothing better than being a blessing to everyone around you. There is nothing more wonderful than to live all your days here in love, growing younger on the inside even as you grow older on the outside. ---------------


My daughter made her first attempt at cooking her great-grandmotherís spaghetti sauce the other day and unlike her father she got it perfect the very first time. Using my Nanaís family recipe she carefully mixed just the right amount of tomato juice, olive oil, garlic, parsley, bay leaves, salt, pepper, and sugar together and set it to slowly simmer for hours and hours while the sweet Italian sausage cooked in it as well.

When it was done she opened the pot and my Italian nose inhaled with joy. The smell was heavenly. I slowly took a wooden spoon, dipped it in the sauce, lifted it to my lips, closed my eyes, and tasted her creation. It was delicious, delightful, and a feast for my soul. With that first taste I was immediately transported back to my childhood on memories of love. I remembered Nanaís food, felt her hugs, saw her smile, heard her voice, and basked in her joy once again. For that one moment time stood still, love was eternal, and Heaven and Earth were one.

I am happy too that my daughter will be passing on the family sauce recipe to her own children some day. I know that she will add her love to every pot and season their lives with her love as well. She knows that love is the secret ingredient to every good meal, every good life, every happy heart, and every healthy soul.

God loves us so much. God is love. And God wants us to pass on our love to everybody we can and in every way we can. Letís have the time of our lives doing so then. Letís share our sauce, our stories and our smiles. Letís spend afternoons in the park. Letís give hugs from the heart. Letís pass on family heirlooms, precious memories, and letters written with love. Letís season our days with caring, compliments, and acts of kindness. Letís say "I love you" with our lives. Letís make each day a feast of love and invite everyone we can to the table. ----------------


If you have ever driven in the mountains on a cool, Autumn morning then you know what FOG is. I was rounding a curve today and drove right into a sea of this fog. I quickly slowed down and turned on my low beam headlights. Seeing the road ahead was now a struggle. The heavens above were gone and I felt like I had been transported into a shadow world. Everywhere I looked there was only a dismal grayness. Even the trees lining the side of the road had become frightening, ominous shapes out of some childhood ghost story. I drove on and on through the waves of murk and wondered if it would ever end.

After a while, though, the sun broke through the fog again and the world was transformed. Heavenly beams of gold now bathed the landscape. The red and yellow leaves glistened on the trees. The river alone side the road sparkled in the sunshine. Everything seemed full of light and joy once again. I smiled and drove on with a song in my heart. I thanked God too for both the sunshine and the fog, because it had taken them both to remind me again of just how beautiful this world can be.

In our lives the fog can roll in sometimes too. Things can go wrong. Problems can appear. Difficulties can continue. Pains, troubles, and trials can seem to surround us and block out all the light in this life. When this happens and the world seems covered in gray we need to remember that we too can break through the fog. We too can drive the shadows away with our love. We too can transform the world with our joy. We too can light a way through the murkiness for others to follow. God is ready and willing to fill our souls with His love and light. All He asks is that we share their shine. May all of your foggy days be brief then. May your soul shine bright. And may you forever strive to live in Godís light. ---------------


I find that the older I get the pickier I get about what I read. I just donít want to waste hours and hours of my life reading something that isnít going to enlighten, inspire, or entertain me. I can still remember the last time I walked into a book store at a mall. I glanced down the self-help section and was amazed at the number of books there. There were books to help you lose weight. There were books to help you find a mate. There were books on exercising your body. There were books on exercising your mind. There were books about improving your work life. There were books about improving your sex life. There were books about making friends. There were books about making money. There were countless books taking you down countless roads all claiming to lead you to happiness.

I have found, though, that the most direct path to happiness is to just say "yes" every morning to one simple question: "Are you going to love, today?" Are you going to love God today? Yes! Are you going to love yourself today? Yes! Are you going to love everyone else today? Yes! Once you can say yes to love then you can say yes to all the other important questions in this life. Are you going to be kind? Yes! Are you going to help others? Yes! Are you going to face lifeís difficulties with a smile? Yes! Are you going to take care of your heart, soul, body, and mind? Yes! Are you going to make this world a better place? Yes! Are you going to share laughter and spread joy? Yes! Are you going to do your best to live your life so that Heaven sings and God smiles? Yes! Yes! Yes!

Every morning you are given a fresh start, a new beginning, and one more chance to say "Yes!" to love. Every morning you are giving another opportunity to start writing a new chapter in your own book of life. Live well then. Write well. And love well today and always. ---------------


This life is so full of beautiful moments. All you have to do is open your eyes and your heart to see them. I saw one just the other day. The local elementary school had just let out and I found myself behind a school bus as I was driving home. The bus stopped by a house sitting on top of a hill. A little girl no more than 7 years old hopped down the bus steps and started running up the driveway toward the house. The smile on her face was contagious. Her long hair was bouncing off her shoulders and her pink backpack was trailing behind her as she ran. I looked up the hill to see where she was going and saw her Dad waiting on her. As she got closer and closer her Dad smiled and knelt down to greet her. The second she got to him he wrapped his powerful arms around her and gave her a huge hug.

My eyes watered a bit as I watched this scene and remembered all the times my own children had ran into my arms with smiling faces and loving hearts. Every single hug from them was a fountain of youth and a treasure of joy.

My lovely trip down memory lane was interrupted when I heard the car behind me honk its horn. I saw the school bus quickly pulling away and started to follow it again. I did so, however, with a fuller heart and lighter spirit than I had before. I took that beautiful moment and stored it safely in my soul where I knew it would remain forever.

One day we all will leave this school of learning and love and finally get to go home again. I know that when it is my time that I will sprint from that bus and right into my Heavenly Fatherís arms. I know that my smile will be bright and my heart will be light. Enjoy your day here at school then. Teach, love, and learn. But know that one day you will be going home to where the hugs are eternal and the love never ends. ---------------


I was taking a walk in the woods on a late August evening. Suddenly, a cool breeze started to blow and a single red maple leaf broke off of its tree and circled down and around until it landed peacefully upon the top of my head. I took the leaf in my hand, looked at it with a smile, and dropped it gently to the ground. "It has started already," I thought to myself. "How early in the year it begins to be late."

I knew that soon the green mountains of my home would be painted by Godís own hand. Soon every leaf on every tree would become a masterpiece. Bright, beautiful reds would come first, followed by sunny yellows and glorious golds. Brilliant burgundies, outrageous oranges, and earthy browns would finally complete this colorful canvas.

As I walked on my mind was filled with memories of Autumns past. I remembered the crisp crunch as I walked on the freshly fallen leaves. I remembered the delightful dry leaf smell that filled the air. I remembered raking huge piles of leaves in the park for my children to hide in, jump on, and run through. I even remembered dancing on that colorful carpet while it crackled underneath my feet.

I also thought of how Autumn is the most bittersweet of seasons. It is so beautiful and yet so brief. It is so joyous and yet also a sign of the Winter to come. It is the ultimate reminder that our time on Earth is short and that we need to live now before it is gone. That is why I plan to thank God for everyday of this beautiful season. That is why I plan to take more walks in the woods while the colors last. That is why I plan to love more, laugh more, give more, share more, and smile more in the days I have left here. That is why I plan to dance in the leaves again this Fall and in Heaven when the time comes. May you do the same. ---------------


The first hint of what would become my lifeís avocation and gift to this world came the night I wrote a note to my Mom and Dad. I was a young teenager and it was the first time I had ever written something that wasnít a school assignment. That night I just felt a stirring in my heart to let Mom and Dad know how much I loved them, how much they meant to me, and how grateful I was to them for all they had given me. Being too shy to say these things face to face, though, I wrote them down in a note for my parents to find after I went to bed.

Later that night I heard a gentle knocking at my door. Sleepily, I walked over to it and opened it up. There were Mom and Dad with a look of such love on their faces. With trembling arms they hugged me awake and thanked me for my note. Seeing the happiness I had given them made my own heart jump for joy. I was amazed that my simple words could have touched them so. It was the first time I could ever remember seeing my Dad cry.

That beautiful memory has stayed alive in my soul ever since. It was with me when I wrote my first story and sent it to the local county paper. It was with me when I began to share my stories online with thousands of people all over this world. It was with me when I published my first book. It is with me now as I write these worlds. It reminds me that my writing is a gift from God and sharing it with others is my gift to God.

Donít be shy about sharing your many gifts from God with this world. It doesnít matter what they are. They can be talents, skills, brains, or brawn. They can be smiles, hugs, laughter and joy. They can be acts of kindness and a spirit of compassion. They can be your work or your avocation. They can even be a simple note written with love. All that matters is that you share them. All that matters is that you use them to make this world a little more like Heaven. ---------------


I was both excited and a little scared my first day of Kindergarten. The large classroom was full of books and toys, two things that I loved. But it was also full of kids all larger than me. Because my birthday was in late September I was allowed in at only 4 years old, and this meant that I was destined to be the smallest kid in my class until 7th grade.

I think that my Mom sensed I was a little afraid. That was why she was always there to pick me up right after school when I could have easily rode the bus. I would hop in the front seat next to her and tell her all about my day. Sometimes we would even read a book and wait until all the cars and buses had left before we drove home. I cherished those special times when I had my Mom all to myself. I felt so safe and peaceful when we sat in the car together. Beginning the new challenge of school didnít seem so difficult when I knew that I could talk about it with her. Being a tiny, little kid in a big scary world wasnít so bad either. I knew that my Mom loved me and that was all I needed to be loving, joyful, and strong.

As I look back on those happy times I can see now that they also prepared me for another special relationship that I would find later in life. All those times I spent talking to and being with my Earthly Mother helped me to later open my heart to my Heavenly Father. Her beautiful love led me to His. Her comforting arms guided me to His. Her gentle spirit took me to His. Even after she left this world far too soon, I could still feel her love flowing down from Heaven along with His.

The next time that this world seems too scary or hard then donít run away. Instead invite God into the car of your soul, close the doors, and spend some time alone together. If you do you will know that you are loved. If you do you too will become loving, joyful, and strong. ----------------


I woke up with a stiff and sore back this morning. This was not unusual since my back has given me problems for years now, but today no amount of stretching or moving would loosen it up. Still, I had 5 dogs waiting patiently by the door to go out for their morning walk, so I slowly bent down, put on their leases, and started to pull my shoes on. When I did, though, I saw that my shoes like my body were showing signs of wear. A split along the seam of a sole let me know that it wouldnít be too long before I would have to replace this pair. I only wished I could replace my back along with them.

Later after walking the dogs, watching the sunrise, eating breakfast, and talking with God I was feeling a lot better on the inside. My back pain had faded too and my smile had returned. It was then that I remembered a letter a friend had sent me recently. Inside of it she had pasted a delightful picture of an old, worn-out pair of work boots sitting on the ground by a porch. Their leather was cracked, their soles were spilt, and their laces were worn, but they still looked great because inside of them someone had planted a beautiful bunch of Impatiens. The flowers had grown tall and strong in spite of their curious container. This picture reminded me again that while my body may feel like a worn out pair of shoes at times, inside of it was a soul that continued to grow everyday in love, joy, peace, happiness, goodness, and oneness with God.

At some point in your life you need to decide who you really are. Are you the body that grows older everyday or are you the soul within it that remains forever young? One day the loving spirit within you will have to step out of its worn out pair of shoes and walk on without them. May it walk lightly along the path of love until it reaches its Heavenly Home. And may it bless everyone it meets along the way. ---------------


My daughter saw a colorful rainbow the other day after a thunderstorm. She called to me to look out the window and see it as well. Looking at it I was amazed at how its beauty could still uplift my middle-aged heart. As I gazed upon it, I also remembered one of the very first times I ever saw a rainbow as a boy.

I had been sitting in the house for an hour waiting impatiently for the rain to stop so I could go out and play. It had been pounding on the roof incessantly and I thought it would never end. When it finally did stop I raced outside and was greeted with the glorious sight of a rainbow curving across the sky. I had just recently heard the old legend of leprechauns hiding a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. Excited, I looked to where the rainbow seemed to be touching the ground in the far distance. I started to quickly run down the railroad tracks near our house in search of that elusive treasure. The quicker I ran, though, the more the rainbow began to fade. Finally, I found myself running as fast as I possibly could, but it was too late. By the time I got there the rainbow and its pot of gold were gone.

Sadly that wasnít the last time I found myself chasing after false treasure. Over the years I ran after fame, success, money, and even relationships that I thought would bring me the happiness I always wanted. None of them did, however. It took me a long time to find the true treasure that doesnít rust, break, fade, or flee. That treasure is the love of God and it is free to all. I welcomed this treasure into my heart, soul, and life and shared it with others as well. The funny thing too was that the more love I gave away, the more love I had within me.

God loves you so much. He is forever ready to light up your life with the rainbow of His love. Accept His treasure with joy, share it with everyone, and grow richer everyday. ---------------


It is Summer here in the mountains of my home. A season also known by another name: road construction time. There is paving, ditching, and tree trimming going on everywhere. This year there are also new water lines being installed in a nearby town so I find myself leaving home a half hour early because of all the delays. Today as I was stopped at one of the construction sites I took my eyes off the long line of cars in front of me and glanced to the side of the road. There I saw something that brought a smile to my heart and a "Wow!" to my lips. Stretched along the side of the road as far as the eye could see were wonderful wild flowers.

It was such a beautiful sight. I saw Queen Anneís Lace growing regally by the road. Along with her were yellow Dandelions and Buttercups glowing bright in the sunlight. Sweet Clover and white Daisies were blooming as well. In spite of having to grow in gravel and dine daily on exhaust fumes all of these flowers were flourishing. With just a few drops of water and a daily dose of Godís sunshine they all were growing tall, healthy, and strong. Watching them nurtured my spirit and made the time spent stopped there a joy.

As I was driving home I realized something too. Each of us is a wild flower in a way. Life gives none of us perfect soil. Instead we find ourselves struggling to grow in the gravels of problems and pains. In addition we often feel choked in the smoking exhaust of this worldís selfishness. With these challenges each of us could easily feel like wilting into the dust. Yet, everyday God blesses us with the water of His Love and the sunlight of His Grace. Everyday we are given a fresh chance to bloom where we are planted and to share our beauty with others. Everyday we are given a choice to "Wow" the world with our wonder rather than wilting. Grow strong in the smoke then. Flourish in the gravel. Give your love to everyone along lifeís road. ----------------


I was in a local Goodwill store today looking for a shirt for my son. As I was glancing at the clothing racks I noticed a young mother with her two daughters. The youngest was barely a year old and sat patiently in the shopping cart while her mother browsed through the racks. Her oldest was about 3 years old and had curly, brown hair. When I looked down at her she slipped behind the low hanging shirts, popped back out at me, and laughed. It had been a lot of years since I played peek a boo with my own daughter, but I joined in, hiding behind the shirts when she did and popping back out with her. With each time her laughter grew louder and happier while her baby sister watched us and smiled. After the game I thanked the Mother for letting me play with her beautiful daughters, waved goodbye to the little girls, and headed out the door with my smile wider and my heart lighter.

Isnít it amazing how the littlest things can bring us the greatest joy? Isnít it incredible how the tiniest acts of kindness can make God smile? Isnít it wonderful how the smallest sharing of love can make all of Heaven sing? The truth is it is these small things that make life worth living. It is these tiny acts that make the world a better place. It is this love we share that brings us closer to each other, to Heaven, and to God.

There are so many little things we can do everyday to share our love, to create joy, and to make God smile. A pat on the back can set a spirit soaring. A shared smile can bring another Child of God closer to Heaven. Even a game of peek a boo can help to build a better world. It certainly built one in my heart today. The joy I got from it was passed on to everyone I met. It rippled out in a wave of happiness that will go on forever. May you fill all your days with kind little things then. May you live well, laugh much, and love always. ---------------


I walked outside just as the sun was coming up over the mountains this morning. It was such a glorious sight. The whole world seemed to awaken with it. The golden light made the green grass glow. The birds stirred in their nests and began to sing. A lone Monarch butterfly fluttered by my face. I could feel the love of God filling His creation and my soul as well. As I stood there taking in the beauty of the sunrise I found the corners of my mouth rising too. I smiled with joy and thanked God for another wonderful day here on Earth.

I decided to not let that smile fade as the day went on either. Instead I tried to pass it on to everyone I could. I found it very hard to give away, though, because I almost always got it returned. My sonsí smiles shined brighter than the morning sun had. My daughterís smile made my heart feel lighter and my soul feel stronger. The smiles of all the people I met during the day left me feeling more connected to them, more connected to life, and more connected to God. Even my dogs had smiles and "happy pants" waiting for me when I petted them after returning home.

A smile is so much more than just a show of teeth. A smile is a prelude to laughter. A smile is a spreader of joy. A smile is a messenger of peace. A smile is a sharer of happiness. A smile is a giver of love. Smiles help to heal the heart. Smiles help to nourish the soul. Smiles help to build a better world one grin at a time.

The truth is you donít smile because you feel good; you feel good because you smile. Donít be stingy with your smiles then. Share them with joy. Let everyone see your smiling face. Let Heaven see your smiling soul. Let Godís love flow through your smile until like the morning sun you light up the world. ---------------


My old college dorm room was very Spartan by todayís standards. It had no computer, no cell phone, and no television. The furniture was two plain desks, two hard desk chairs, and two lumpy bunk beds. The heater never kept the room warm enough in the Winter either. I can still remember sitting and shivering in one of those hard chairs, struggling to read and understand Shakespeare with my half frozen feet buried under my bed blankets.

Still, that tiny room was my home for several years. It was the place where my roommate, friends, and I would gather to talk about the professors we liked, the classes we hated, and what we hoped to do with our lives. It was there we discussed the difficulties in understanding women. Even Shakespeare seemed easier. It was there that we listened to music, missed our families, and helped each other laugh the loneliness away.

Living in that little room for all those years taught me a few things too. It showed me that no matter where you are you can still carry your home in your heart. Even during the hardest times there, the love of God and my family lived within me. That love helped me to do my best in school, to help my friends, and to find joy in each day. I also learned that a big heart beats a big room any day of the week. I found that with love the smallest shack and the humblest hut becomes a home full of happiness, and without love the most magnificent mansion and the costliest castle can feel cold, empty, and alone.

May you always carry your home safely in your heart then. May you always fill each place you live with God-given love, laughter and joy. The price of your place doesnít matter, but the love you share in it is priceless. That love will go on with you from room to room and house to house until you carry it to your eternal home in Heaven. ---------------


It was the so called "Super Moon" evening the other night. That is when the moon is at its closest and brightest point. I decided to take a break from the book I was reading and go out to gaze upon it for awhile. A gentle rain was falling as I stepped out into my yard and looked up at the sky. At first I thought the rain clouds would ruin my view, but it wasnít long before they parted right where the giant moon was resting in the sky. It was so beautiful to see. The bright, shining face of the man in the moon smiled down on me while the golden light from it lit up the sky. I stood there for a long time soaking up the sight and barely noticed the cold raindrops bouncing off my balding head.

When I finally took my eyes off the sky, though, I saw something else shining in the night. Dozens of little fireflies were blinking their own lights on and off. It was so wonderful seeing my lightening bug buddies again. They had always made my Summer nights more lovely with their lights. Their little blinks were so tiny compared to the giant, glowing moon, yet they too made the dark, rainy night look a little brighter.

You know, sometimes I feel like one of those tiny fireflies trying to shine my light in this world. Godís love and light are so powerful and complete that my own sharing seems unbelievably small in comparison. Yet, I know that if I donít shine my light and share my love that this world becomes a darker place. I know too that the brighter I blink and the more I love the more others will share their own loving light as well.

Donít let this sometimes dark world discourage you then. Shine your own light as brightly as you can. Invite others to shine theirs as well. Share your love with laughter and joy. Grow in oneness with God. And your soul will always dance like fireflies in the moonlight. ---------------


My first born son is mentally handicapped, yet in so many ways he is far wiser than I am. He has an intuitive knowledge of what is important in life. When we go out he looks people in the eye, calls them by name, and shares his smile far more easily than I do. He goes through life with a soul full of love, joy, and kindness that he gives to everyone he meets. He makes others feel better. He makes each day shine brighter. He makes this world more beautiful just by being in it. He may not understand everything in life, but he knows how to live happily and lovingly. He shows me everyday that life is simple. It is we who make it complicated.

You see, life is just the choices we make each day. We can choose to love or we can choose to be afraid. We can choose to help or we can choose to turn away. We can choose to forgive or we can choose to hate. We can choose to be kind or we can choose to be cruel. We can choose to trust or we can choose to be suspicious. We can choose to give or we can choose to take. We can choose to serve or we can choose to be selfish. We can choose to laugh or we can choose to sulk. We can choose to cry or we can choose to hide our hearts. We can choose to smile or we can choose to stress. We can choose to be at peace or we can choose to be at war within ourselves. We can choose to live or we can choose to just exist. We can choose to believe God loves us or we can choose to live in doubt. We can choose to shine our souls or we can choose to dwell in darkness. We can choose to make this world more like Heaven or we can choose to make this world more like Hell.

My son knows these choices by heart and always makes the right ones. I hope to one day get there as well. Until then I will do my best to live simply, to be wise, and to choose well. Until then I will do my best to love God, myself, and others. May you do the same. ---------------


The Summer of my eleventh year was a wonderful time of joy and innocence. My days were spent riding my bike, walking in the bright green woods around my home, swimming in the crystal clear river that ran by my house, playing in fields full of wild flowers, and looking up at the clouds. I wished those lazy, peaceful days would last forever. But then it all changed.

It happened in the middle of the night when I heard my grandmother scream. A fire had started in her room and was rapidly spreading through our house. We all ran outside with only the clothes on our backs. I watched in shock as fire devoured our home. There was nothing left. That night I went from a happy and carefree child to a homeless and scared one. The following days were a blur. I didnít know what the future would hold. All I could feel was fear. Thankfully, good friends took us into their home, fed, and clothed us. One night around their dinner table my Mom thanked them for all they were doing for us. Smiling, her friend said, "Honey, it was the least we could do." Later they began to share old stories and laugh. It was then that I smiled for the first time in days and felt the fear finally fading from my heart.

Looking back on that time thirty five years ago, I now see that it wasnít the least they could do. The least would have been nothing at all. Instead they opened their home and their hearts to us. They shared their food and their kindness. They helped us to start over when we had lost everything. They helped a scared boy to feel safe, loved, and happy again.

The next time you are given an opportunity to help another then donít just do the least you can do. Do the most you can do instead. Give from your heart. Share from your soul. Live a life that makes Heaven smile. God put us here to love each other, to feed each other, to help each other, and to make this world a better place for everyone. That is the most we can do. ---------------


I was in a local grocery store the other day sorting through some bananas, when suddenly I heard, "Daddy!" and simultaneously felt two tiny arms wrap around my right leg. I looked down to see a lovely little girl no more than three years old looking up at me. She wore a flowered dress and had shoulder length black hair. Her smile gleamed with newly grown teeth. The most beautiful thing about her, however, were her brown eyes. They sparkled with the brightness of her soul. I felt my heart warm when I looked into them. It was like the light of God had traveled down from Heaven to shine through this child.

She quickly saw that I wasnít her Daddy, laughed, and said, "Oops sorry". Then she spotted her real Dad picking out a gallon of milk and skipped down the aisle to be with him. I smiled and stood there for a long time lingering in that moment of joy. It was one of those moments that you wish could have lasted forever. It was one of those memories that does.

Even now as I write this I can still see those eyes. They had that special sparkle that only happens when you give your love freely and unconditionally. I have seen that sparkle in the eyes of 9 month olds, 90 year olds, and every age in between. I have seen it in my Momís eyes, in my Nanaís eyes, and in the eyes of my children. I have seen it in the eyes of friends and the eyes of strangers. I have seen it shine through in pictures taken 70 years ago. I have even been blessed to see it in my own eyes from time to time.

May your own eyes always sparkle. May they sparkle from the love in your heart. May they sparkle from the kindness of your soul. May they sparkle from the goodness of your life. May they sparkle with the light of Heaven. God loves you and He wants you to shine bright, to love deep, and to make this world sparkle with joy. Start today then and live forever in light. ----------------


I got my second picture of the little girl that I sponsor overseas the other day. It made me smile from ear to ear when I saw it. Over the years I have sponsored several children through the organization, Children International and I have always been amazed at the difference between the first picture I get and the second.

In the first picture I am always shocked by what I see. There is a gauntness in their cheeks that speaks of too many nights going to bed with not enough to eat. There is a hollowness in their eyes that reflects days spent in sickness and misery. There is no smile on their lips because there is no smile in their hearts. Instead their faces are full of fear and hopelessness. It is like their lives are over before they have even begun. When I get the second picture, though, my heart always leaps for joy in my chest when I see how they have changed. Their cheeks are full and well fed. Their eyes sparkle with joy and laughter. Their smiles are huge because their hearts are full of happiness and love. Their faces look so beautiful because the fear has fled and been replaced by hope. It like their lives have begun anew.

I remember once after I gave a few dollars to a homeless person, a skeptical friend asking me if it was really worth the effort. "Yes it is!," I said. "It is always worth it!" Now as I look down on those two faces of my little sponsor child my answer is the same. It is always worth it to give. It is always worth it to love. It is always worth it to help another person. The smallest smile, the tiniest gift, the littlest act of kindness can change anotherís life forever.

Donít pass up an opportunity to change a life. Donít pass up a chance to make this world a better place. Give your time. Give your talents. Give your love. Give of yourself and make another smile. Give from your heart and let God smile through you. ---------------


I love sunrises. I always have ever since I was a little boy. There is something so wonderful about walking outside at the break of dawn and seeing that glorious light drive out the darkness. That is why last Winter during the darkest part of the year, I bought a calendar full of sunrise pictures. I wanted to be able to wake up in the morning and gaze at that lovely light, even if it was still dark outside.

When I turned to this monthís picture the other day, I was amazed. It was even more beautiful than the others and it spoke to my soul. In it there was a stone paved pathway with a little wooden fence on one side of it. This pathway was built along the top of a ridge line of rolling hills covered in green grass. You could see it continuing on as the sun rose in the distance. The entire sky too was full of wondrous, white clouds and streams of glorious, golden light. This peaceful pathway was so full of blessed beauty and divine delight that I wanted to step right into it. I felt like if I could just be on that path that I could walk right into Heaven.

Lifeís path, of course, is a lot tougher than the one in that calendar picture. It is rocky, rough, and winding. It is full of problems and pains, trials and tragedies, falling down and getting back up again. Yet, you still can walk it into Heaven if you choose. You just need to walk it with a loving heart and a faith filled soul. You just need to reach out, take Godís hand and allow Him to guide you step by step. You just need to stop along the way, bend down, and help up any others who may have fallen as well.

God loves us and wants us all to travel home to Heaven. He wants us to walk the path with love. He wants us to make the journey in joy. He wants us to help people whose steps have stumbled. He wants us to leave a lifetime of Heavenly footprints for others to follow. ---------------


I was in a rush to get my power bill payment in the mail today. I pulled my car into the post office parking lot, hopped out, and started quickly walking towards the entrance. Then I saw something green on the sidewalk. I looked down and saw a hummingbird laying on the concrete with her wings spread out. She was breathing slowly in and out but not moving otherwise. I squatted down to take a closer look. She appeared more stunned than injured and I wondered if she had accidently flown into the clear glass window on the side of the building. I was sure of one thing, though. If she stayed where she was for much longer she was either going to be accidently stepped on or end up as dinner for a stray cat. Taking the tiny bird gently in my hand I lifted her up, carried her over to the green grass, and with a few kind words lay her down.

I hoped that the camouflage of the grass would give her time to recover and said a prayer to God for her safety. Then I left her and went into the post office. The next day I returned and checked the area around where I had left her. She was gone. I smiled and imagined her flying happily around and feasting at someoneís bird feeder. It felt good knowing that even if I hadnít done much, I had done what I could.

So often the things we do seem so small. What we donít realize, however, is that every single one of them is important in the eyes of God. Do what you can then to make this world a better place. Do what you can to share the love within you. It can be as simple as a prayer. It can be as little as a hug. It can be as tiny as a few coins offered to help another. It can be as small as a kind word, a smile, or a wave. It can be as itty bitty as helping a hummingbird off the sidewalk. In the eyes of Heaven they are all priceless, they are all powerful, and they are all eternal. In the eyes of God they are all beacons of the light in our souls and the love in our hearts. ---------------


It had been a rough week. A steady stream of bad news had battered my spirits and stressed my soul. Everything seemed to be going wrong at once. My fearful, worried mind wouldnít rest and my tired feet kept pacing through my house carrying my body along with them. "If only I could clear my head", I thought to myself. "If only I could calm my heart"

I had turned the radio on earlier but its music had failed to relax me. I continued to ignore it until my ears heard a bittersweet melody that always reminded me of my late Mother. As the song slowly penetrated the wall of worry I had put up, I remembered my Momís love, her smile, her sparkling eyes, and the way she lit up every room she walked into. Then I felt something wet on my cheeks. Tears were flowing down them. When I was younger I would have blinked them back or tried to hide them but not this time. This time I just let them fall. After a few moments a peace descended on me. I felt loved. I felt loved by my Mom. I felt loved by God. All my worries seemed unimportant in the face of that love. I saw once again that I had been looking at life with cloudy eyes and had been missing what was essential. I thanked God and my Mom for that reminder, for that song, and for the gift of tears.

The inspirational author and speaker Leo Buscaglia said: "Tears are good for you. They clean out your eyeballs." They also clean out your soul. They wash away worry, fear, and stress and allow peace, love, and joy to take their place. They help remind you of what is important in life. They take away your pain and lead you gently back to God.

The next time that you feel tears forming in your eyes donít blink them away. Donít hold them back. Let them fall. Let them help clear your eyes, heart, mind, and soul. Let them wash away your pain. Let them carry you back again to your Heavenly Fatherís loving arms. -----------------


I saw my first butterfly of the Spring today. I was carrying some groceries into my house when suddenly the little lady flew right down in front of my face. She stayed there for a long time gently floating on the invisible breeze. She was so beautiful that my eyes filled with tears and my heart beat with love. Then she departed to dine on some delicious dandelions growing in the meadow behind my house. After she left I smiled, wiped my eyes, and thanked God for the miracle of life, the miracle of love, and the miracle of butterflies.

Butterflies have held a special place in my heart ever since I lost my Mom to cancer when she was only 55 years old. She used to love it when the butterflies would land near her while she tended her flower boxes. She would even speak to them gently in her musical voice. After she died I would think of her whenever I saw one of the delicate angels flying by. I even told my young children that every time they saw a butterfly floating on a breeze, it was their Grandma saying "Hello" from Heaven.

When todayís butterfly dropped in to say "Hi", I once again felt a joy beyond words. I felt like I was in Heaven hugging my Mom and basking in her love. I felt like I was dancing on the clouds with her while a thousand angels sang. I felt at one with life, with love, with God, and with everyone in the universe.

Now some skeptics may say that I am just a foolish man who is deluding himself, but I know this isnít so. Delusions donít fill your life with love. Delusions donít fill your heart with happiness. Delusions donít make Earth feel more like Heaven. The next time that you get your own "Hello from Heaven" then donít doubt it. Welcome it into your soul instead. Let its love uplift you and inspire you. Let it help you to be the loving person God wants you to be. ---------------


I woke up with a wet face again this morning. Five minutes before my alarm clock was set to go off my little dog, Snoopy jumped on my bed and licked my face until my eyes popped open. I was startled by the slurpy wake up call but didnít have the heart to scold her. Even though my face was wet, my heart was warm with the knowledge that I was loved.

There is no better feeling than being loved. Snoopyís morning kisses let me know how much she loved me. When I looked into the adoring eyes of my other dogs before I walked them, I knew that they loved me too. The happy smiles and morning hugs of my sons and daughter let me know that I was loved by them as well. And when I went outside to pick up my morning newspaper, the spectacular sunrise in the sky reminded me that I was loved by God with the same glorious, powerful, and unconditional love that created the entire universe.

The greatest thing about being loved, though, is the realization that you can love too. You can love God. You can love yourself. You can love others. You can love your pets. You can love the world. You can love life. You can fill yourself so full of love that you have no choice but to share it with everyone. And when you love, you will have all the joy, peace, and happiness that you have always wanted in your life. It doesnít matter what ups or downs life may throw at you either. When you know that God loves you and that you can love as well, every single circumstance will be used to make you stronger, better, and more loving.

Just as no therapy is as good as a puppy licking your face, no knowledge warms your heart as much as knowing that you are loved. Remember then just how much God loves you. Allow His love to fill your heart and your life. And then like a happy puppy wake up each day ready to share your love and joy with the world. ---------------


I think that most of us go through our days here with our eyes half-closed because we so seldom see the Hand of God working in our lives. It happens in countless ways every single day. Let me give you an example. Two years ago several of the Hawaiian shirts that I love to wear had become worn and threadbare. I really wanted some new ones so I saved any extra money I had for several weeks to pay for them. Finally, I headed to my favorite clothing store with a large denomination bill in my wallet to buy them.

When I got to the store I saw a local charity collecting money for the poor. I reached in my wallet for a five dollar bill to help them out. I grabbed it and dropped it in the bucket. As I let go of it, however, I noticed that it wasnít the five dollar bill but rather the large denomination one that I had saved to pay for my new shirts. I went back home disappointed at my mistake, but I quickly made peace with it. I knew I could wear my old shirts for a while longer and it felt good knowing I was helping to buy food and clothes for people in desperate need.

The next week I stopped by the local Goodwill store to make a donation when I noticed several Hawaiian shirts brightening up the clothing racks. I went through them and picked out enough to last me a long while for a fraction of the price I would have paid for new ones. It made me laugh and smile when I realized that God had given me all I needed and also helped me to help others as well. I thanked Him for guiding my hand and for guiding my heart that day.

Saint Francis of Assisi said: "While we have time, let us do good!" Do all the good you can then in the days you are given here. Give all the help you can. Share all the love you can. Spread all the joy you can. Scatter all the sunshine you can. Utter all the truth you can. And donít be surprised if the unseen Hand of God sometimes helps you out along the way. ---------------


I smiled when I saw the first flower of Spring the other day. A lone Blue Bonnet had popped its head through the ground and was looking around on a cool, April morning. I wasnít sure what had made it finally decide to end its long, Winterís sleep. Perhaps it had noticed that the ground around it was no longer frozen. Perhaps it had felt the warmth of the sunshine finally pushing the temperatures into the seventies. Perhaps it had heard the songs of the birds singing that Spring had arrived and it was time for the world to awaken again. Perhaps the roots of the trees had whispered to it that it was now safe to come out and that their own limbs were already budding.

Whatever the reason it was a joy to see the little guy soaking up the light and calling out to its fellow flowers to join in the celebration of life once again. I know that soon it will be joined by other Blue Bonnets, Buttercups, Tulips, Daffodils, and Dandelions. I know that soon the air will be full of Butterflies dancing above them all. I know that soon the meadows will be full of growing grass and the forested hills will be awash in bright, green leaves. I know that soon the mountains of my home will once again be alive with the glory of Godís creation.

We too are a part of that creation, but unlike the flowers in the field we have the ability to bloom even when the world around us is cold, dark, and harsh. We have the ability to share our beauty in the face of ugliness, our joy in the face of fear, and our love in the face of hate. We have the ability to make every day feel like the first day of Spring.

May you bloom well then today and always. May you shine your light. May you share your love. May you be truly alive in the glory of Godís creation. And may you forever make your Heavenly Father smile. ----------------


When I was a boy my family used to raise hogs during the Summer to keep us fed through the Winter. As I got older it became my job to feed them everyday. My Grandma worked in the kitchen of a Summer camp across the road from us and the director let us have the leftover food scraps for the hogs. I remember lugging the huge pails of slop from the campís kitchen, down the hill and across the wooden swinging bridge that spanned the river by our house. Then it was another 50 yards up the railroad tracks that ran along the other side our home until I finally reached the pig pen. It always stunk mightily of mud and as much as my arms ached I still tried to fill the trough as fast as possible before my stomach soured.

One year we had a particularly big, brutish, and nasty hog that would bully the other pigs in the pen. Before I would even fill the trough he would climb inside it and stand guard. He would then eat until his stomach was about to burst before he would allow the other two pigs to eat as well. It was so disgusting to watch. Once or twice I even pushed him with a stick to try to get him out of the trough but it was to no avail. Even though there was always enough food for all three pigs. He was determined never to share even if he had to shower in slop.

I did learn one thing from that petulant pig, though, and that was the stupidity of selfishness. His selfishness didnít add a single day to his life. Nor did it give him one moment of joy. I would shake my head when he groaned in pain from eating too much every day, but he never did learn his lesson.

As I grew up and the years passed I noticed a lot of other hogs in troughs as well. They may not have had four legs and a snout, but they were just as selfish and just as miserable. They would gorge themselves with money, sex, drugs, and alcohol day after day giving no thought to others, yet their smiles never widened and their hearts never opened. They never saw that they were stupidly spending their days chasing after sad substitutes of what really was important. They never experienced the joy of love and sharing that makes Earth feel like Heaven. They never allowed God to fill the emptiness they felt within. They never realized that it is in giving that you receive the most.

God loves us and always is ready to give us all we need. We can accept His love and abundance with joy and share it with everyone, or we can be a hog in trough filling ourselves with slop, selfishness, and misery. The choice is ours. Choose well. ---------------


I had to get a new pair of eyeglasses recently. Stigmatism had started to mix with my nearsightedness making things a little bit blurry with my old prescription. Also I had to finally give in to another sign of my aging body and get my first pair of bifocals.

It has taken me several days to get used to the new pair. While it was great seeing clearly at a distance again and wonderful being able to read a book without it being an inch from my face, the combination lenses were a challenge for me. The problem was that whenever I was looking at something far away I had to keep my eyes up or else I got a wave of blurriness when I accidentally looked through the reading part of the lenses. I am glad that my eyes are now getting the hang of it. It is no fun living in a blurry world.

I am grateful for this new pair of glasses for another reason too. They have taught me a truth that I will hold close to my heart forever: whenever you need to see the road ahead clearly, Look Up! Too often in my life I have kept the eyes of my soul looking down to the ground. When I did the world seemed like a scary, blurry, and depressing place. When I raised those eyes up to Heaven, though, my vision always became breathtakingly clear. I saw that God loves me. I saw that this is Godís world. I saw that life is good and when I help others I make it even better. I saw that no matter what each day may throw at me, I can face it with a loving heart and a joyful spirit.

Whenever your life seems blurry then, look up! Whenever your life seems frightening or overwhelming, look up! Whenever you arenít sure what you should do, look up! God is in His Heaven and He is in your heart as well. Open the eyes of your soul and see clearly just how much God loves you and just how much you can love as well. ---------------


My Dad gave me a few of my Grandmaís old photo albums the other day. When I looked through them it was like taking a step back in time. It was so incredible to see my brothers, my Mom, my Dad, and my Grandma all looking so young. And on some pages I even saw a smiling six year old boy with my face staring up at me in sweet innocence.

I wondered what that boy would think if he could see what would happen to him during the next 40 years. He would have his home burn down in the middle of the night and lose everything he owned before he was 12. As a young man he would watch his Mom fight a losing battle with cancer and die far before her time. He would see his Grandma slowly lose her health and her memories to dementia before passing away as well. He would graduate college but still struggle financially for many years because he refused to move away from the family and community he loved. He would have two sons who everyday must live with the challenges of Autism. He would deal daily physical pain from an injured back. And he would suffer emotional pain too from all he had lost and all he had gone through. Yet, in spite of it all he would look back on the life he had lived so far and thank God for it, because it had helped him become who he needed to be.

Just as God writes straight with crooked lines, He also takes the many twists and turns in our lives and uses them to help us to become the people we were meant to be. Without all of that pain, struggle, and loss I would never have become who I am now. I would never have been able to love as deeply, to help others as much, or to appreciate life as fully as I do today.

When I look at that boy in the pictures I wouldnít trade a second of his life. Even when his heart was broken again and again he never walled it up from the world. Instead he allowed his love to flow freely through the cracks. Every time he stumbled and fell along the way he took Godís hand, rose up, and tried again. And no matter how difficult the path he traveled got, he still walked it with a loving heart and a joyous spirit.

No matter what you have gone through in this life, no matter how many troubles you have faced and agonies you have suffered know that God can use them all for good. God can ease your heartaches with wisdom. God can heal your pain with love. God can temper your trials with joy. God can help you to help others as well. God can guide you to become the person you needed to be in this life and in the life to come. -----------------


When I was 16 years old I had thick, wavy, brown hair that covered my head including my ears. I used to part it in the middle and comb it back. It was so heavy, though, that the bangs often slipped back down under my glasses when I lowered my head to read. Sometimes when I was doing my schoolwork at the kitchen table I could feel the hair starting to slide down into my eyes again. Usually Iíd just let it hang there, but every now and then I would feel a gentle touch on my forehead moving the hair back into place. It was my Mom smiling down at me. She would then wash the dishes behind me while I finished my homework. I think that she enjoyed those little moments as much as I did. I was too old and too big to sit in her lap or be carried in her arms anymore, but she could still show me how much she loved me with a touch.

Now I am 46 years old. My hair is thin and light with more gray than brown. The wavy bangs have retreated all the way up my forehead with only a few strands resting on the very top. I no longer have to worry about it falling into my eyes. It is too busy falling out of my head. My Mom too has been in Heaven now for 21 years. Yet, there are times when I close my eyes and bow my head in peaceful, prayer that I can still feel the slightest touch on my forehead. When it happens I have such love surging through my heart. I know at that moment that my Mom loves me and is watching over me even now.

A touch can do so much to help others in this life. The touch of a hand can share love, ease pain, and bring joy. The touch of a kind word can catch a sinking spirit and give it wings. The touch of Godís love can change your heart, heal your soul, and make you a mighty force for good in this world. May you spend the rest of your days here then touching hands, touching hearts, and touching Heaven with your love. ---------------


Growing up as a boy I was very fortunate to live in a house where a dinner of leftovers tasted even better than the original meal. A good example of this was when my Mom and Nana would make a huge pot of brown beans with cornbread. It would taste so great but we knew that the best was yet to come. The next day Nana would take the left over beans, throw in some pasta and Italian seasonings and create a delicious "Pasta Fasul" with a loaf of freshly baked Italian bread on the side. After we all sat happily at the table she would say, "Mangia, Mangia" which means "Eat, Eat", and she would follow this up with: "Itís good for you!"

It was good for me too. It was good for my body. It was good for my taste buds. And it was good for my soul. It wasnít just the food that was good for me either but also the love that it was made with. Our family was far from perfect. We had more than our share of tensions, arguments, struggles, trials, and tragedies. We dealt with losses, hardships, poverty, disease, and even death. But through it all love was there. It was there to strengthen us, to carry us through, to make us better, and to bring us joy. It was there in the meals we ate, the troubles we shared, and the times we spent together.

It is this love that I have carried with me all of my life. It is this love that I have tried to share with others as well. If there is anything I have learned in this life it is that love is good for you. Love makes you feel good. Love makes you do good. Love makes you, good. And love brings you ever closer to the ultimate goodness of God.

May you always remember what is good for you then. May you go through all your days here with a full belly and a full heart. And may you share so much love that when you finally come to die even the undertaker is crying. ---------------


It was the Summer of my freshman year of college. Instead of heading home for a nice, long break three of my friends and I had decided to stay and take some extra courses. The four of us had rented the top floor of an old house to live in. My own bed was jammed into a stuffy former laundry room and each night was a new adventure in humidity. Still, it felt exciting to be out of the dorms and in my own place for the first time. After the first few weeks, though, the thrill faded and homesickness set in. I found myself sitting alone in my sweaty bedroom each night thinking of my home, my Mom, and my Dad.

My Summers growing up had always been a special time. I spent hours riding my bike, playing basketball and swimming. I sat on the porch and talked to my Mom while she tended her flowers. I took pride in helping my Dad haul firewood for the Winter. And every night I sat at a dinner table full of delicious food prepared with love while my family filled the room with the sound of sweet laughter. Now I found myself missing them more than ever.

Finally when my spirits were at their lowest I heard a knock at the door. I opened it and was delighted and surprised to see Mom and Dad standing there with big smiles to fill my hungry heart and a box full of food to feed my hungry friends. We spent the afternoon eating, catching up, and just being together. It felt so good, and I felt so loved.

Victor Hugo wrote that, "The supreme happiness of life is the conviction that one is loved; loved for oneself, or better yet, loved despite oneself." It was that gift of happiness that my Mom and Dad gave me that afternoon and everyday of my life. It was their love that gave me a taste of the even greater love that God has for us all. May you always know that you are loved. May you always feel Godís love within you. And may you always share your happiness with the world. ---------------


I was visiting a friend recently when I got to see something special. Now, my friend lives on a small farm several miles down an old country lane. It is far from the street lights and business lights of the cities, towns, and suburbs. When darkness fell then he led me out to his back porch where we sat and gazed up at the stars. Where I live the street lamps block out all but a few of the brightest ones, but here it was like the whole sky was alive with light.

It was so wonderful to see. I had forgotten how breathtakingly beautiful the night sky can be. Instead of black it was a blissful blue and the millions of stars seemed to twinkle with happiness. I could see why our ancient ancestors spent lifetimes watching them, charting them, and cherishing them. Even though it was still the middle of Winter, I felt a warmth around me. Seeing this magnificent creation of our Heavenly Father was like being wrapped in a blanket of love. It was so perfectly peaceful. Having all the lights of the night sky shining above me I could see my own inner light shining brighter as well. I wanted to live long, love well, and shine bright. I wanted to fill my life with Godís light and then share it with the world. I wanted to spend all of my days and nights brightening the hearts and souls of others.

I wish that everyone could live off the beaten path so that each night they could go out and joyfully watch the stars. I wish that everyone could see the gloriousness of Heaven above them and feel the love of God within them. Too often we let the artificial lights of this world distract us from the light of the stars, the light of our souls, and the love in our hearts. Too often we allow the creations of man to overshadow the creations of God.

May you always keep your eyes towards Heaven then. May you always keep your heart filled with love. And may you always let your spirit shine as bright as the stars. ---------------


It had been a long, hard day at work. At the time I was in my early twenties but by the end of the day I felt like I was ninety. Times were tough financially and the only job I could find was in a local lumber mill. That meant long hours for low pay. My days were spent cutting, carrying, and stacking boards with an injured back that never stopped hurting. My fingers were covered in band aids but still split and bled through my torn work gloves. When each day finally ended it was all I could do to trudge tiredly out to my car.

The drive home was short but felt long. I was so worn out. Each day seemed to take more out of me and the money I earned was barely enough to feed my family. When I got to my front door I did my best to wipe the sawdust off my clothes before going in. Then I wearily hung up my hard hat, took off my cracked, worn, work boots, and collapsed on the couch. I sat there for a while with my eyes closed, trying to rest my aching back. Suddenly, I felt our little dog curling up in a ball next to me. I smiled and petted him for a bit before opening my eyes again.

When I did my smile widened because my young daughter was standing in front of me holding her favorite childrenís book. She looked at me innocently with her beautiful blue eyes and asked if I could read her a story. I bent over, helped her to climb up on my lap, and said, "Sure Sweetie." I felt a warmth and peace around me as I started to read and fresh energy soon began to fill my body and spirit. I knew then that everything was going to be alright and I silently thanked God for His love, for my family, and for my life.

So many of us spend our lives in the pursuit of happiness. Yet, often all you need to do is take a seat on the couch and watch as love climbs on your lap, peace curls up by your side, and happiness fills your heart. May you always love freely and live joyfully as God intended. --------------


I got up early this morning, hopped in my car, and headed to the local post office. I drove along with eager anticipation that something I had been waiting for would be there. It had been ten days since I sent for it and I was sure that it would finally be waiting in my mailbox today. When I got there I slid my key into the box and opened the door. My face fell, however, when I saw it was empty. I sighed and shut the door. "Maybe tomorrow", I said to myself as I got in my car and headed home.

I didnít blame the post office for my disappointment. It is amazing how many millions of letters and packages they deliver on time every single day. I didnít blame the place I ordered it from either. They had said it could be up to two weeks before I got it. I only blamed my own impatience. I had never been one for waiting. I had always wanted everything in my life right away, and it had taken God many years to teach me to take the long view of eternity. Still, I was grateful to Him because there was one package I always got guaranteed delivery.

You see, everyday I open the door of my soul and find the shining package of Godís love waiting on the doorstep. Everyday I open it and find my spirit filled with joy. It is so wonderful knowing that God loves us all completely and unconditionally. It is so glorious knowing that His love is forever waiting to fill our hearts full to overflowing. It saddens me, though, to know that so many people out there refuse delivery.

When you open the door of your soul today donít refuse delivery. When you see that shining gift of Godís love take it into your arms and welcome it into your heart. Then go out and share it with everyone you meet. And always remember that Godís love is not only guaranteed delivery but also guaranteed to grow in every heart that freely gives it to others. ---------------


It is almost Groundhog day as I write this. That is the day when all of America watches as two men in top hats and suits from Victorian England reach into the ground and pull out a giant rodent to find out if it will see its shadow. If Mr. Groundhog does see it then we are supposed to have six more weeks of Winter, but if he doesnít we are supposed to have an early Spring. Of course, everyone knows that we will have six more weeks of Winter either way. We all know that a cubby groundhog has no power to bring about an early Spring. Still, every year we watch to see what the furry weather forecaster will do.

Why do we do this? I think that the main reason is that at heart we human beings are creatures of hope. We hope for an early Spring. We hope for a better life. We hope for a better future for our children. We hope for a better world. We even hope that we can grow into better people ourselves. And it is this hope that makes all the others possible.

You see, we can grow into better people. We can do so with each choice we make. We can do so with each act of kindness we do and each gesture of goodness we give. All our other hopes rest on it too. Only by being better people can we create a better future for our children. Only by being better people can we make a better life for ourselves. Only by being better people can we build a better world. Only by being better people and sharing our love and light with everyone can me make it feel like Spring even in the middle of Winter.

Yes, we human beings are creatures of hope, but we are also creatures of action. Let us all keep our hopes high then and our spirits strong. Let us all keep our hearts loving and our actions kind. Let us all build a better world, a better future, a better life, and a better soul within us. God is smiling down on us and ready to help us every step of the way. All we need do is begin. ---------------


It was the start of a typical Winterís day here in the mountains of my home. Outside the grass was frosted and the ground crunched under my feet. The sun was rising but it did nothing to ease the cold. I could feel the bitter air seeping into my bones. My own breath froze in my nose while I walked my dogs. Still, I stopped to look at the magnificent pinks and purples in the heavens. It was so glorious. I gave thanks to God for another beautiful if freezing day. After a while even my dogs seemed to feel the chill. They quickly pulled me back towards the house and once inside wolfed down their breakfast and curled up in the sunbeams coming through the windows for their morning nap. I smiled as I watched them and then made a hearty bowl of oatmeal for myself.

After breakfast I pulled on my favorite sweater and slowly sipped a cup of coffee. I heard the gentle thumping noise as the heater kicked on again and warm air started to flow from the floor vents. I laughed too as I saw my youngest son hurry over to stand on one of the vents and warm his feet. In spite of the biting cold on this frozen Winterís day, I felt a warmth in my soul.

I looked out my window and once more gave thanks to God for the day. I was grateful that while it was Winter outside my window, it was no longer Winter inside my heart. For too many long years it had felt like Winter there. For too many years the world had seemed cold and harsh. For too many years I had foolishly stayed away from the warmth of Godís love.

On this day, however, I felt the fire of His love heating my heart and lighting my soul. On this day I felt a Springtime of joy growing inside of me. I knew that God was with me and within me and that my own love would only grow warmer as well. Donít let your own heart stay in Winter. Welcome Godís love and light into it today. Then go out and share your Spring with the world. ---------------


Have you ever had unwanted house guests? I am talking about the ones who wear out their welcome in the first two minutes yet plan to stay forever. I am talking about the ones who trash the place, eat all the food, sit in your favorite chair, and take over your bed. I am talking about the ones that even your dogs avoid. I am talking about the ones that take everything and give back nothing. I am talking about the ones that only brighten up a room when they leave it.

I had two guests like this for years. Their names were Fear and Hate and they seemed like permanent squatters in my soul. Every time I would try and toss them out, I would look around a few days later and find that they had snuck back in. They also invited their friends Worry, Doubt, Jealousy, Envy, Frustration, Depression, and Despair to stay as well. It made for a miserable home and a miserable life.

Finally one day I could take it no longer. I cried out to God to help me get rid of these unwanted guests once and for all. It was then that I heard a gentle knock on the door of my soul. When I opened it I found Love there smiling at me. I invited Love in and watched as my unwanted house guests fled out the door and through the windows. They couldnít leave quick enough. Then Love asked his friends Peace and Joy over to help straighten up the place. I soon realized too that Love was a guest I never wanted to leave. Every now and then Fear and Hate will try to sneak back in, but when they see Love sitting on the couch they run.

God loves us so much and He wants us to love as well. He wants us to choose love, share love, and fill our lives with love. He wants us to love each other as He loves us. He wants us to make Love our permanent house guest and best friend. Open your door then. Invite Love in. Let Fear and Hate hit the highway. Make your home a happy one now and forever. ---------------


In the eyes of the world I am not seen as much of a success. I have a tiny house not a mansion. I donít wear fancy clothes. I donít own an expensive car, or a plane, or a yacht. My bank account is always empty at the end of the month. I am not a CEO of a corporation. I havenít made a movie, won a Grammy, or sold a million books. I am not famous. My picture has never been on a magazine cover. I have never had my own reality television show. Yet, in spite of all of this there are many times when I do feel like a success.

When my grown up son gives me a hug and says: "I love you Dad", I feel like a success. When my big dog walks over to me, puts his head on my lap, and looks up at me with his adoring brown eyes, I feel like a success. When I share a laugh with the cashier in the grocery store, I feel like a success. When I give my smile to a stranger I am walking by and find my gift returned, I feel like a success. When I send what few dollars I can to a charity and know that I am helping someone in need, I feel like a success. When I get a letter from someone who has been touched by the simple stories I write, I feel like a success. When I remember that God loves me in spite of all my faults and failings, I feel like a success.

Perhaps what this world needs is a redefining of what success really is. Perhaps this world needs to recognize that fame fades, money is soon spent, power never lasts, and material things always turn to dust. Perhaps this world needs to see that the most successful life of all is one where you love God, yourself, and others. Perhaps we all need to realize that a successful life in the eyes of the world isnít always a successful life in the eyes of Heaven.

May you always see the success in your own life. May you always be a success in loving, giving, caring, and sharing. And may you always succeed in making God smile. ---------------


I was walking towards the store when I first saw her. She was between eighty and ninety years old. Her hair was thin, sparse, and as white as the snow on the sidewalk outside. Her face was red, chapped, and wrinkled from a lifetime of use. Her mouth was missing most of its teeth. Her gnarled hands each carried a bag full of groceries. She wore work boots that had clearly seen better days. As she shuffled slowly towards the door she stopped only once to put down her bags and button her thin, wool jacket.

I hurried my pace and opened the door for her. She smiled at me with her few remaining teeth and said, "Thank you young man." I touched my gray hair and smiled at being thought of as a young man again. Then I watched as this ancient angel slowly walked to the food drive collection bin and lifted the heavier of her two bags up to put into it. She made one last stop on her way out to say "hi" to a young mother she knew. The mother had her baby girl in her arms and the elderly woman gently reached down and tickled the child under her chin. The little girl laughed with joy and kicked her feet. The old lady laughed as well in her cracked voice and then continued happily on her way. I stood there watching her and thought to myself: "That was the most beautiful woman I have ever seen."

I am so thankful to God for teaching me over the years how to see clearly. I no longer look at the world through the eyes of society with its plastic surgery view of what is beautiful and what is not. God has showed me through His love, His grace, and His guidance to see with the eyes of my soul and to recognize the beauty of the spirit in each of us.

I hope that lovely old woman continues to touch others with her gentleness, kindness, and joy for years to come. May her beauty, love, and light shine bright on Earth and in Heaven. ---------------


When I was a little boy I used to love those nights when my Mom would read me a story before bed. I would be warm under my blankets while my Momís soothing voice would take me on an adventure to another world. As I got older I soon started taking those magical adventures myself. There seemed to be so many books and so little time to read them all. I journeyed along with Bilbo and Frodo in "The Hobbit" and "The Lord of the Rings." I walked excitedly into the closet with the kids in "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe." I traveled into outer space and went on quests with the Knights of the round table. I journeyed to the center of the Earth and swung through the trees with Tarzan. I fought in the battle of Troy and the traveled on the voyages of Ulysses. I went on thousands of great adventures all from the safety of my chair and comfort of my bed.

As I grew into adulthood, however, I came to realize something very important: the greatest adventure of all is the life you live here. Living your life with compassion, kindness, laughter and joy day by day and moment by moment is more exciting than the best book. Putting your heart on the line in the real world takes far more courage than putting your life on the line in some make believe fantasy. Offering hugs, sharing smiles, giving your love and help to others may seem like little things in a bookís plot line, but in life they are the things that help to make the world a better, more Heavenly place.

I will always love books and the adventures they bring to the heart and mind, but I will also forever embrace the greatest adventure of all. God put us here in this world to live, to learn, and to love. What greater quest than to do so every single day of our lives? What greater adventure than to become the people God meant for us to be? -----------------


The rain poured down on the car stopped by the side of the road. I had made my wife pull over a few minutes earlier when her tears had made it impossible for her to drive. My own heart ached with pain and my eyes were wet with tears too. It was the worst moment of our lives. I held her in my arms for a long time while the Heavens seemed to cry with us.

We had just come from a specialist office in a big hospital. We had taken our firstborn son there to be tested. He was nearing 3 years old and hadnít started to talk yet. He also had displayed behaviors that werenít normal. After a long wait and longer tests the Doctor told us that there was definitely something wrong although he couldnít say what it was. He recommended more tests. We drove away in silence. I could see the hurt in my wifeís eyes as she tried to hold back the coming tears. All she had wanted was a "normal" little boy. Finally as the rain began to fall outside the car our tears began to fall inside it.

We sat there for the longest time crying and feeling powerless and unsure of what to do next. After a while the clouds parted and the sun began to shine again. We looked back at our son in his car seat and he smiled happily at us. We knew then that we had to go on no matter what the road ahead of us may hold.

Our boy was later diagnosed with Autism and mental retardation. He was five years old before he finally began to speak in sentences. Although he learned to talk and read we still knew that he would have to be looked after for the rest of his life. As the years went on, though, I realized that my boy was not only "special" mentally, but also "special" spiritually. Even with all the limitations and frustrations his handicap gave him, he still managed to give his kindness, love, and enthusiasm to everyone around him. He remembered people he met and called them by name. He gave out hugs as easily as the rest of us gave out "hiís". He went through his days with a ready smile and a simple joy that were contagious. He gave up the role of "eldest child" to his younger "normal" sister, but still helped to look after his younger brother who had been born with an even more severe form of Autism. He became more than just my son. He became my friend. He became my helper. He became my teacher in how to live and in how to give. He became my inspiration on how to love and be happy in that love. He and his brother both became beautiful blessings in disguise.

As I look back on the years my boys and I have spent together and look forward to the times that lie ahead of us, I once again thank God for giving them to me. My first born son and his younger brother have both done what everyone of us longs to do: they have made this world a better and more beautiful place just by being in it. They have touched countless hearts with their love, laughter, and joy and they will undoubtedly touch countless more.

Many people look upon the mentally handicapped as something less than human. I now see them as something more. They have inside of them a deeper love, joy, and connection to God than the rest of us. And while we take care of them we should also take the time to learn from them as well. They truly are all blessings in disguise and while they sometimes bring us tears of sadness, they more often bring us tears of joy. ---------------


When I was growing up my Dad would often give me chores to do to help out around the house. Some were easy but the three I remember the most were the three toughest of all. The first was helping to weed the four gardens we had. It was tedious work. I would much rather have been riding my bike than crawling in the dirt on my hands and knees pulling the thousands of weeds that choked our gardens. The second was stacking firewood for Winter. It was tough work and I got more than my share of splinters. I would much rather have been walking in the woods than stacking it in rows. The third was hauling water from a mountain spring to our house, because our well water had too much iron in it to drink. It was a long trip carrying five gallon jugs. I would much rather have been playing basketball than carrying them.

Over the years, though, I learned to see the rewards in all the things Dad made me do. Having fresh vegetables for dinner was a delicious delight. Enjoying a cold glass of iced tea made from the mountain spring water was a pure pleasure. Standing by the wood stove on a snowy December day was a wonderful way to warm up. I saw as well that all this work Dad had given me had gradually made me a better, stronger, and more caring man. Most of all, I realized that when I did my work with a happy heart it didnít feel like work at all.

Over the years I have learned something else too. When we do the work of our Heavenly Father with a loving spirit it doesnít feel like work either. It feels like joy. Every act of kindness, word of encouragement, and gift of love we share will only make our lives better, make our hearts happier, and bring our souls closer to Heaven.

I am so grateful then to both my Dad and my Father in Heaven. They showed me the value of work and more importantly they showed me the pricelessness of love. ---------------


Christmas is a time of great faith, hope, and love. As you get older it is also a time of cherishing wonderful memories. This happened to me as I was sitting quietly listening to Christmas carols today. I relaxed, closed my eyelids and felt my eyes tear up under them as I allowed the flood of childhood, Christmas memories to wash over me once again.

I remembered how we were a poor family by todayís standards. We lived in my Grandmaís old house that was a combination of two shanty cars and several other rooms that my Dad later built on. Yet, we were so rich in all the important things in life.

I remembered getting up on a bitingly cold, December morning and watching my Dad build a fire in the stove. I remembered pulling on my oversized winter coat that had been my older brotherís and warming myself by the fire before heading outside with my Dad and brothers to chop down a Christmas tree. I remembered Dad letting me pick the scraggliest, ugliest looking tree over my brothersí objections and how the limbs could barely support the ornaments and lights when we decorated it. I remembered watching my grandmother, "Nanny," slowly pulling her ancient Nativity scene out of a box and putting it under the tree with such reverence, gentleness, and tenderness. I remembered too the kiss she gave the baby Jesus before placing him in the manger.

I remembered listening to my Mom sing along with the Christmas carols on the radio while she cleaned the house. I also remembered the beautiful look of pure peace and happiness she would get on her face whenever she sang, "Silent Night."

I remembered the note my Mom and Dad wrote for Santa and put on our front door, because I was worried that he would skip our empty house while we were at midnight Mass. I remembered as well trying to stay awake for the whole midnight service at our Church, but falling asleep on my Momís lap instead.

I remembered the Italian-American Christmas dinner where freshly baked bread was served along with the turkey, Pasta Fasul was served along with the mashed potatoes, and you could get Provolone cheese as well as pumpkin pie.

I remembered the eager anticipation of waiting to open my presents on Christmas morning. They were few in number and never very expensive, but they always brought joy to my young boyís heart. I remembered playing with them too for months and sometimes years to come.

Most of all, though, I remembered the unwavering love in that house. It made everyday feel like Christmas. It was there in our hugs and smiles, laugher and tears, arguments and agreements, triumphs and tragedies. Even when that house burned down, the love remained. It gave me a hint of the Love that God has for us all. With it we felt like the wealthiest family in the whole world.

Mom and Nanny have passed on to Heaven now, but the memories of their love at Christmastime and all through the year live on in my heart and mind. It is like what the great author Leo Buscaglia once wrote: "Love never dies as long as there is someone who remembers."

May your life be full of loving memories at Christmastime and always. And may you create new ones every single day. Have a Merry Christmas. ---------------


It was the first semester of my Freshman year in college. I was sitting in a bar drinking beer, smoking a cigarette, and trying to look cool. I had just gotten my first set of grades and they were a lot worse than I thought they would be. Too many beer nights had seen to that. I felt lonely, sad, and empty inside. I wondered where my life was going. I thought a few more beers would make me feel better, but all they did was make my head spin and my hands feel numb.

The rock music blared from the jukebox. I shook my head and reached down to take another drink from my draft. My numb fingers, however, were no longer working well. The glass slipped from them and beer spilled on the table and my pants. Red-faced, I got up and quickly walked out of the bar followed by the noise of drunken laughter. On my way back to my dorm room I could only think of how stupid I felt. I began to realize too that even a billion beers wouldnít fill the hole I felt inside my heart. I knew I had to take another path.

I stopped drinking and smoking soon after that night, improved my grades, and graduated college. I started looking too for the path that might lead me to true happiness. It took me years but I finally did find the Love, Grace, and Oneness with God that sent the loneliness, emptiness, and sadness away for good. It had been patiently waiting for me all along. All I had to do was invite it into my heart, soul, and life.

No amount of alcohol can ever drown your pain, loneliness, and despair. They all know how to swim. The only way to get rid of them is to daily replace them with something stronger: Godís love for you and the love that burns within your own soul. Do so and make your heart beat with happiness. Do so and make your life a gift of joy to the world. ---------------


One of my neighbors used to have a beautiful tree in her front yard. Her Dad had planted it for her when it was nothing more than a twig and for years it seemed to barely grow at all. Yet, after a time it started to shoot towards the sky with amazing speed. Soon it towered above her home and blessed her with cooling shade in the Summer and glorious, golden leaves in the Fall.

When the two day blizzard from Hurricane Sandy struck our town almost 4 feet of wet, heavy snow fell on the treeís limbs that were still full of leaves. The weight was overwhelming and split that lovely tree down the middle. It was so sad seeing half of it laying on the ground after the storm. When I talked to my neighbor later she said that the damage had been too much and that the entire tree would have to be cut down. Thankfully, she had saved a few saplings from it that she hoped to replant in the future.

Still, it was a shock to drive by her house the other day and see nothing but a stump in her front yard. I missed that tree. I missed its beauty. I missed its leaves shining in the afternoon sun. I missed seeing its limbs reach towards the heavens. I thought that the stump would be a sad reminder of itís loss for a long time to come. My wonderful neighbor, though, had another plan. When I drove by her home today I saw a tiny bird feeder sitting on that stump and a colorful songbird having its dinner. It was such an affirmation of life. It was such a joy to see. I could feel my heart smile.

Life by its very nature is a mixed bag. It hands us both beauty and tragedy, love and loss, pleasure and pain. What we do with it, however, is up to us. We can let is split us in two, or we can use even its hardest times to make our souls stronger and our hearts more loving. We can spend it complaining or we can use it to help others, share Godís love, and make Heaven smile. ---------------


It was the Christmas break from school almost 40 years ago. I had spent most of the morning like any young boy would, playing outside in the snow and soaking up the few hours of sunlight on the shortest day of the year. I had delighted in stomping through the freshly frozen flakes, making snowballs to throw at the trees, and watching the smoky breath float out of my mouth. After a while, though, the cold got to be too much and I went back inside my house.

I took off my wet coat and put on my favorite blue sweater. Then I walked into the kitchen. My Mom and Grandma had just finished baking two loaves of Italian bread. The smell was heavenly. Mom looked up, smiled at me and asked me what I wanted for lunch. I smiled back and pointed to the delicious looking loaves. Mom laughed, cut a slice off the end, and buttered it for me. Then she told me to go sit by the stove in the living room and get warm. Taking my slice with me I snuggled into my favorite chair, ate my bread, and felt the gentle heat from the stove warm my little body. It was a moment of pure peace and heartfelt happiness. I felt so good, so loved, and so content that I remember it to this day.

There is a good reason why when Jesus taught us the Lordís Prayer He had us ask our Heavenly Father only for our daily bread. It is because nothing else is necessary. Our daily bread and Godís love are all we need in this life. They are all we need to live. They are all we need to love. They are all we need to have the joy we all so desire. Anything else is just an extra blessing to be used to make this world a better place for us all.

The next time you pray then thank God for the daily bread that fills your stomach. Thank God for His daily love that fills your soul. Thank God for the loving heart that beats in your chest. Then go out and with great joy share your bread, your blessings, and your love with the world. ---------------


Over the last few months I have once again been reminded of two things: God has a sense of humor and God knows how to heal a hurting heart. It all started a few weeks after the death of our beloved dog, Harley. At the time I was in mourning and had no intention of adding yet another pet to a house still crowded with 4 dogs, 3 cats, and a turtle with a bad attitude. Little was I to know, however, that God had other plans. That very day my daughter came home from her walk carrying a small, sad-eyed bag of bones in her arms. She had rescued the poor, limping puppy after it had almost gotten hit by a car.

I knew that I would have to take this little dog into my home at least while we looked for her owners. I was worried too that she might not be easily accepted by our other dogs. Instead she quickly and happily took over the entire house. With a curious combination of cuteness and rambunctiousness she made us all laugh and love her at the same time. Her leg quickly healed. She put on weight and soaked up the love and attention we gave her like a sponge. Soon she was sharing my daughterís bed, bringing out the playful puppy in our older dogs, chewing on my shoes, and touching my soul as well. She showed me something we all should know: the best way to heal is to open your heart and love again.

No one ever claimed this 4 legged angel so she joyfully made her home in our house and in our hearts. My daughter named her "Moonpie" because she was as sweet as the dessert. She was also ornery, full of energy, and more than a handful at times. Still, I thank God for bringing her into our lives. He knew just what we needed and just when we needed it. Thanks to little "Moony" our hearts have been healed and our days are even more full of love. And I am sure too that when we laugh at her antics, God and the angels are laughing with us. ---------------


While the mountains of my home escaped the greatest destruction from Hurricane Sandy they still received a devastating two day blizzard brought on by the storm. Over three feet of wet, heavy snow crushed our communities. The roofs of businesses collapsed. Thousands of trees lay split and broken on the ground. Roads were blocked. Power lines were down and countless homes were without phones, electric, and heat. We were trapped in the cold and the dark. All I could do was wrap my children in their warmest clothes, huddle under blankets, and smile when our newest puppy dog curled in a ball for warmth and fell asleep on my daughterís lap.

When the storm stopped, however, people went outside and met this disaster with an amazing combination of rugged resilience and kind-hearted compassion. People pulled out their snow shovels and began to dig out their cars, homes, and driveways. Pick up trucks and tractors with snow plows lent a hand to the highway workers clearing the roads. The National Guard arrived to help cut up the fallen trees and free the tangled power lines. The linemen from the power companies worked 16 hours a day. People with generators offered their electricity and people with gas heat opened their homes to their neighbors. Food was shared. Work was shared. Smiles were shared. It was so wonderful to see. Watching it all I was in awe once again at the strength of the human spirit and the love of the human heart.

The author C.S. Lewis used the phrase, "Surprised by joy" to describe what he felt when he realized the immensity of Godís love for him and everyone else. I too was "Surprised by joy" when I saw how a horrible hurricane brought out such an immensity of love in Godís Children.

The human spirit is an amazing thing. Sometimes it shines brightest when the times are darkest. Sometimes its love warms our hearts even in the bitter cold of a blizzard. ---------------


My kitchen table was covered with papers. It was the end of the month and I was trying to get all of my paperwork done and taken to the office on time. I sat down in a chair, picked up my pen, and started writing on the first page. Just then a flash of motion caught my eye. I looked out my window and saw my neighborsí white beagle standing on my back porch. She had gotten free from her yard and was having fun running loose.

Knowing my neighbors were at work I looked at my paperwork, sighed, and put down the pen. I headed out the backdoor and whistled for the dog to come. She looked like she might come to me for a second, but then she caught a scent in the air and headed for the woods. I ran after her calling and whistling the whole time. As I followed her further and further into the woods, I grew frustrated. "Come on!", I said to no one in particular. "I have work to do!"

Suddenly, I heard a soft, gentle voice that was not my own whisper in my mind. "Your job is to love," it said. At that moment my heart was filled with a warmth and love that are beyond my words to describe. My eyes moistened and I smiled at the same time. I squatted down and called my neighborsí dog again. This time the beagle turned and ran happily into my arms. She licked my face over and over as I carried her the quarter mile back to her yard. Even though my arms were tired my heart was light. I was at peace doing my real job. The paperwork could wait.

God loves us all and His greatest joy is in seeing us love each other as well. To love is our job, our mission, and our purpose in this life. Do your job well then and have the time of your life while you do it. Love God. Love yourself. Love others. Love animals. Love this world. Love your life. Share your love in everything you think, feel, say and do. And rejoice in the peace and happiness it brings to you always. ---------------


I saw something wonderful the other day. I was on my way to pick up some groceries with my grown children in the car. It was a brisk, sunny day with peak Fall colors blessing the trees and my heart with their beauty. As a car in front of us came to a stop in order to turn off the highway, however, I saw something even more beautiful. A young mother was walking along holding the hand of her toddler. When they reached the safety of an empty church parking lot the mother suddenly let go of her childís hand and watched as the 2 year old joyfully ran ahead as fast as his little feet could carry him.

I smiled when I saw the little guy toddling along with his mom walking behind him. It took me back so many years to the first time I let go of each of my own childrenís hands. It was scary watching them run ahead when they were barely able to walk, but I knew it was time. I had to let them go so they could grow. I had to let them walk, trip, and even hit the dirt knowing that they would get back up, dust themselves off, and try again. I had to let them run ahead trusting that at some point they would turn around and run back into my arms.

In a lot of ways we are like those little toddlers. We are Children of God just beginning to walk on our own in this world. While God lovingly watches over us we run ahead, stumble and fall, get back up and try again. We learn how to walk, we learn how to think, we learn how to live, and we learn how to love. And as we journey through this life hopefully we all one day grow wise enough to turn around and run back into our Heavenly Fatherís loving arms.

On your own travels through this world remember that you never walk alone. God loves you and is walking with you every step of the way. May your every step lead you to greater growth, learning, and love. May your every stride bring you a little closer to Heaven. ---------------


When I was a young boy Autumn always seemed to be filled with mystery and magic. I would go to sleep on a warm Summerís night with the mountains full of green leaves and awake on a cool Fall morning with the hills full of reds and yellows. I would be amazed at how one treeís leaves would be one color and a different treeís leaves another. I would pick up the freshly fallen leaves, take them inside and give them to my Mom like they were a bouquet of flowers. Later when the ground was covered with them I would dance along their crunchy, colorful carpet. I would lie down on them, inhale and delight in their wonderful smell. I would rake them into piles and jump in them again and again. And as Fall neared its end I would stare at the bare trees and mourn their loss. Still, I knew that the Winterís snows would soon make the trees beautiful again in a different way. I also knew that in the Spring the leaves would return to the mountains of my home reborn in the warmth and the light.

As I got older my science classes solved the mystery of how the leaves changed in my mind. Yet, knowing why they changed didnít take away from the magic of it. It was still a joy to wake up one day and see a different world outside my window. It was still a pure pleasure to walk in this new world and delight in its beauty. It still made me feel like a happy child again thanking God for giving us such a wonderful world to live in.

Life is full of mystery and magic. We can deny it with a frown or we can embrace it with a smile. I hope you always see the world around you for the miraculous creation it is. I hope you realize that it is a gift from God to be enjoyed, cherished, and cared for as well. I pray you see the magical power of love within yourself too. And I hope you use it well to create compassion, beauty, kindness, laughter, and joy everyday of your life. ---------------


I drove to a local supermarket the other day. My shopping list was long and my wallet was light. Still, I needed to get a weekís worth of groceries for my family. I parked my car, looked down at my list, and hoped I could afford it all.

As I approached the door I saw a man with kind eyes and a gentle smile. He said he was collecting for a local food bank that helped to feed the hungry in my area. He handed me a second shopping list of things they could use and asked me to help if I could. I smiled back, took the list and walked into the store. I really wanted to help but wasnít sure if I could this time.

I walked through the store getting vegetables, soup, spaghetti, bread, milk, cereal, macaroni, bananas, and a dozen other things. I slowly marked each item off my list until I was done. When I looked down at my full cart I wondered again if I even had enough to pay for it all. Then as I put my own list back into my pocket I saw the food bank list under it. I smiled and decided to trust in the Heavenly Father who loves us all. I went over and picked up two of the biggest boxes of rice the store had for the food bank and put them in my cart. It took another six dollars out of my wallet to pay for them, but my heart felt six times larger when I did. And when everything was totaled, I had just enough to pay for it all.

It takes so little to make our world a better place. It takes so little to do Godís work here. A few dollars can help to fill a childís hungry belly. A smile and hug can help to heal a hurting heart. An encouraging word can inspire someone else to live and to love. A random act of kindness can change anotherís day and life. It is up to you, though. You can think only of yourself and those close to you or you can see that we are all Children of the same God. You can save a few bucks on rice or you can share a love that will last for all eternity. ---------------


It is a lovely Autumn day as I write this. An evening rain has led to a brisk morning. There is a freshness in the air too that makes my lungs expand with joy. The sun is up, slowly warming the world with its heat and light. On the trees the green leaves are rapidly changing to wondrous colors created by Godís own hand. The yellows and golds are shining in the sunlight. The brilliant oranges are putting the pumpkins to shame. The bright reds are making the mountains ablaze with their beauty. The darker reds, burgundies and even browns are starting to appear as well. Just looking at them fills my heart with happiness. On glorious days like these it is easy to feel a little closer to Heaven.

It isnít just in the midst of Autumnís wonder that I feel closer to Heaven, though. I have felt closer to Heaven in the sweat of Summerís hottest days. I have felt closer to Heaven walking home during the heavy showers of Spring. I have even felt closer to Heaven during the shortest, coldest, and darkest days of Winter. No matter what the season or the weather, I have felt closer to Heaven every time I have chosen to love.

You see, it is love that is the color of our souls. It is love that is the warmth of our hearts. It is love that brings the light of God into us and shines the light of God out of us. It is love that we all are called to give to the world. When we choose to love everyday is a glorious day. When we share love everyday feels a little closer to Heaven.

As you journey through the seasons of your own life here I hope that you always make love your traveling companion. I hope that each step you take together brings you closer to Heaven. I hope that you inspire other souls to join you as well until the day your travels bring you home again into your Heavenly Fatherís loving arms. ---------------


I have a birthday coming up soon, but I decided not to put any candles on my cake this year. I thought that 46 of them might ruin the icing or set off the smoke alarm. The funny thing, though, is that when I looked in the mirror this morning I didnít see a middle-aged man looking back at me. Sure there was gray in the hair and wrinkles around the mouth and eyes. The skin wasnít as smooth and the hair wasnít as thick either, except in the ears. Yet, when I saw his smile and the twinkle in his eyes I felt as vital and alive as I ever had. I saw the young, loving spirit living inside this aging body and knew that is who I really am.

I remembered too one of the quotes on a beautiful plaque that my daughter gave me as an early birthday present. It was by Edward Bulwer Lytton and it said: "It is not by the gray of the hair that one knows the age of the heart.

It is such an amazing thing that we can grow younger on the inside while we grow older on the outside. Some of the most loving, joyous, and vital people I know live inside ancient bodies that have seen far better days. These people live from the soul. They love from the heart. They have an enthusiasm for life that is contagious. They smile often, laugh a lot, and take life one day at a time. On the inside they are far younger than I could ever hope to be. They remind me that old bodies donít always make for old hearts.

I hope then that when your own birthday comes around that your heart will feel as young as ever. I hope that you will remember that you are not numbers on a calendar or candles on a cake. You are instead a being of light and a Child of God. You are an eternal, loving soul. You are a forever young spirit. Your body may age, weaken, and eventually die, but you never will. May you live all of your days with love, laughter, light, and joy. ---------------


Over the years I have learned that the best lives are built one choice and one change at a time. They are not built on some big triumph or accomplishment but rather on all the little things we choose to do every single day. What are some of these little things that you can do to change your own life? Here are just a few of them.

Say "Good Morning God!" when you wake up everyday. Watch the sunrise. Watch the sunset. Watch the birds flying across the sky. Smell the flowers. Play in the leaves. Make snow angels. Pet your pets. Play with your kids. Pray. Smile at that person in the mirror. Smile at that stranger on the street. Wave. Hug your children. Hug your friends. Hug yourself. Care and sometimes cry. Sing and sometimes dance. Read an uplifting book. Write an uplifting letter. Laugh often. Encourage those around you. Offer to help another. Give a compliment. Pat a back. Shake a hand. Share a kiss. Say "Please." Say "Thank You." Say "Your Welcome." Take a walk. Take a nap. Take a moment to thank God for today. Enjoy a meal. Hum a tune. Whistle while you work. Listen to music. Listen to the birds singing. Listen to people. Be kind. Be compassionate. Do good. Live simply. Give much. Expect nothing in return.

Most of all, though, just love. Choose love. Share love. Learn of love. Grow in love. Pray for love. Delight in love. Become one with Godís love. Love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. Love yourself. Love everyone else in this world as you love yourself. Love and have joy in that love.

All of these little things build the best life. All of these little choices create a life of love and light. All of these little changes fill you with Heaven and happiness. Try them all. Build a better life, a better you, and a better world. ---------------


When you go through this life with your eyes open, you soon see that everything in it is a miracle. You realize that you are a part of this miracle too from your first breath until your last sigh. You start to notice that you are connected not only with every person on this planet but also with every part of creation as well from the stones under your feet to the sun in the sky.

I got a beautiful reminder of this recently. I was taking a morning walk near the woods by my home. A cool, September rain had left everything smelling, fresh and new. I was enjoying the double delight of seeing the first leaves on the trees turning to bright reds and brilliant yellows while under them the wild flowers of Summer were still blooming away.

Suddenly, I felt the warmth of a sunbeam kiss my face. The gray, heavy clouds from the earlier rain were beginning to drift apart and shafts of sunshine were breaking through to light up parts of the woods. It was so beautiful seeing this glorious dance of light and shadow. As I was taking it all in I saw a tiny tortoise slowly crawling his way from the dark to the light. When he finally reached a spot where the sun was shining down on a rock, he stopped and started to soak up Heavenís gift. I stood there and watched my shell-backed friend for a long time. And when I turned to head back to my home my heart felt warmer as well.

It is so great to be a part of Godís creation. It is so wonderful to be able to feel His love and His light. Thankfully, Godís light isnít limited to just sunny days. It always shines. Even on the darkest and coldest nights it is there. All we need to do is to step into it and let it fill us with joy. All we need to do is soak up its warmth and love and share it with the world. All we need to do is to happily take our place in this miracle that is life. ---------------


Memory is often the source of our greatest joys as well as our deepest regrets. I cherish every memory I have of my Mom, but at the same time I regret no longer being able to create new ones with her. My Mom left this world when I was only 25 years old. I was far too young and foolish then to realize what a blessing every moment with her was. I never got a chance to say, "Thank You" to her for all of them. All I can do now then is to share these memories with you and pray that Mom will be reading this as well by Godís side in Heaven. I also pray that you too will take today to thank all those who bless your life with their love.

Mom, I remember all of those little bowls of cereal you would bring me as a bedtime snack when I was a boy. I remember all of those stories you would read to me before bed and how safe and loved I felt when you tucked me in at night.

Mom, I remember you showing me how to pop popcorn in our old cast iron skillet, how you smiled when I sometimes burned it, and how we would share it out of a big bowl when we watched TV together.

Mom, I remember how scared you were when I wrecked my bicycle and split my head open. I remember you rushing me to the hospital for stitches and calming me even though you were more frightened than I was. I remember too another time in the hospital when I woke up alone and terrified after having my tonsils taken out only to see you sitting by my side with a bowl of ice cream.

Mom, I remember the time you spanked my butt when I took something that didnít belong to me and I remember looking into your eyes after it was done and seeing that it hurt you more than it hurt me.

Mom, I remember when you spent hours walking with me searching for my dog, Duke when he ran away. You never let me lose hope. I remember too you putting him in my bed after he finally found his own way home.

Mom, I remember every time you inspired me to work hard, do good in school, and go on to college. I also remember all those boxes of food you and Dad would bring to me when I was in college. You always kept my stomach full and my mind hungry.

Mom, I remember you teaching me to drive even though I nearly scared you to death when I got behind the wheel. You taught me well and never gave up, even when it cost you a scratched bumper and a few more gray hairs.

Mom, I remember you crying with joy the first time I ever wrote something about how much you meant to me. It was the best encouragement this writer ever got.

Mom, I remember how you never complained when you took me, my wife, and newborn baby son into your home when I was struggling financially the first years of my marriage. You showed me what it takes to love and raise a child.

Mom, I remember all the lessons you taught me about patience, humor, and courage when you faced your long battle with cancer. It may have finally taken your body, but it never got your spirit. I also remember how you always ended our phone calls those last years of your life with those three words that live on inside of me today: "I Love You!"

Mom, I would give everything I have for just one more hug from you. You gave me so much love. You helped make my heart and soul what they are today. I love you and will continue to love you more every single day of my life. ---------------


My Italian Grandmotherís spaghetti sauce was a wonder to behold. After church on Sundays our family would always gather around for a huge dinner that was more a feast than a meal. For hours before the smell of the simmering sauce would fill the house and I would breathe in deep with delight. My Nana would slowly cook Italian sausages, meatballs, potatoes, and pieces of chicken in it too. Then she would boil enough spaghetti to feed a small army and slice the loaves of Italian bread she had baked earlier. When I finally sat down at the table I could feel my tastebuds jumping for joy in my mouth. By the time dinner was done both my stomach and my heart would be full of happiness.

For years I tried to duplicate my Nanaís recipe but was never able to get it exactly right. I would always measure out just the right amounts of garlic, parsley, bay leaves, salt, sugar, pepper, and olive oil to add to the tomato sauce. I would simmer it slowly and stir it with care, but it never came out as good as hers. Finally one day it dawned on me that I was missing the secret ingredient that made hers so special: LOVE. You see, Nana always served her spaghetti with a big smile, a gentle hug, and the loving words: "Mangia! Mangia!" Which means "Eat! Eat!" I could always taste her love for us in every bite.

Love is the secret ingredient in life too. The more you love the more your life will taste like joy. The more love you give to others the more your days will become a feast of happiness that never ends. The more love you share the more you become like the greatest chef of all: God.

I think that I will try my hand at making Nanaís sauce again this week. It may never taste as good as hers, but cooking it will bring back the memories of her love and laughter. And while I am slowly stirring it I may even feel her and God smiling down on me from Heaven. --------------


Life is full of miracles. They come in all sizes too. Most people only notice the big miracles, but the tiny miracles surround us everyday. They are gentle reminders of how much God loves us and how much we can love too.

I got one of these miracle reminders just the other day as I was driving my handicapped son to the sheltered workshop where he works part-time. The sky was full of gloomy, gray clouds, but they had not dampened my mood. I was singing along with the radio and indulging in a favorite past-time of mine: joy watching. I was keeping my eyes open for little things that would uplift my heart and nourish my soul. So far that day I had noticed patches of white Daises and Queen Anneís Lace blooming along the side of the road, the first red Maple leaves of the year, and a smiling dog sitting on its front porch.

The best sight of all, though, happened just as I rounded a curve. A young mother was waiting to cross the road. Her five year old daughter was by her side. In the motherís arms was another daughter about two. As I got closer to the family the little toddler in her Motherís arms saw us, smiled, lifted her tiny arm, and began to wave at us. My son and I both smiled and waved back at this little angel. Just then the gray clouds parted for the briefest instant and a beam of sunshine broke through to kiss that little girl with its light.

That miracle moment stayed in my heart the rest of the morning. I felt Godís love flowing down from Heaven on that beam of sunlight. I saw His lesson for us all too in that girlís tiny wave. May we all live as she does: joyously, lovingly, and enthusiastically. May we all share our own smiles, waves, and light with everyone we meet in this world. May we all be the miracle and help to bring a little more Heaven to Earth everyday. --------------


I was sitting in a chair, sipping iced tea out of a thermos, and trying to stay awake. The group of adults around me were trying to do the same. We were all there to renew our first aid cards for our jobs working with the handicapped. The room was an old converted day treatment area and wasnít meant for so many people. Even with the air conditioning it felt hot and stuffy. All of us there had taken the class many times before and knew the material by heart. Despite the instructorís best efforts then, it remained a struggle to stay focused.

Suddenly, several screams from the women in the classroom jarred me wide awake. A small field mouse had somehow gotten into the building and was scurrying by their feet. After a few more startled screams the mouse ran behind a bookcase on the far side of the room. Not wanting the little guy to be hurt, I found a clear plastic container on one of the bookshelves. After moving the bookcase aside I dropped the bottom of the container on top of the mouse. Then I slowly slid the lid under it until he couldnít get loose.

Picking up the container I headed outside and walked over to a patch of woods near the building. I sat the container down and opened it. The mouse looked up at me for a brief second and then made a break for freedom. I smiled as I watched the little guy go. As I headed back to the classroom I looked up to the Heavens and felt my spirit soaring as high as the clouds above.

How many kind acts does it take to uplift your soul: one. How many gentle hugs does it take to help heal someoneís hurting heart: one. How many smiles does it take to brighten anotherís day: one. How many gifts of love does it take to make this world a better place: one. How many prayers does it take to get Heavenís help: one. How many good things do you have to do to make God smile: just one. Begin today then. One kind act starts a lifetime of love. ----------------


The mattock cut into the ground again and again. Every time I raised it I slammed it down even harder. It felt as heavy in my arms as my broken heart did in my chest. Still, I powered through the pain and finished loosening up the dirt. I tossed the mattock aside, picked up a shovel and began to dig. Sweat and tears burned my eyes but I didnít stop. I kept going until the aching in my arms and back matched the aching of my soul. Only when I was too exhausted to go on did I finally drop the shovel and look down at the body of my friend. My old pal of thirteen years lay stiff upon the ground. My beloved dog was gone.

Harley was a black Lab and Husky mix that we had rescued from a shelter. Over the years he had made friends with every neighbor I had. His gentle manner and wagging tail won over every heart. His big, furry body attracted hugs like a magnet. His fun-loving nature made everyone smile. He was as sweet, loyal, and loving a friend as any man could ever want. I was a better person because he was in my life, but now his time with me had passed.

I gently lifted his body into the grave I had dug and thanked God again for giving him to me for so long. As I covered the grave with dirt and heavy rocks I thought about what someone had asked me the last time a dog of mine had died. "Why do you have dogs when you are only going to go through such pain?" As I finished my work and wiped the dirt, sweat and tears from my face I knew the answer.

Because it is worth it. The Love is worth the pain! The Love is ALWAYS worth the pain! We are meant for love. God put us here to love. If death and pain are part of the price we must pay for that love, then I will pay it. Love is what makes life worth living. And love transcends even death.

As I walked out of the woods I pictured Harley young and healthy again. I smiled at him as he wagged his tail and told my old friend to return to the love that made him, just as we all will one day do.

I love you Harley. I miss you. You were my dog and my friend and you blessed my life more than I can say. Thank you for the love you shared and the joy you gave. ---------------


I changed the world today. It happened while I was driving home after going to the store with my son. I was just about to pull onto the side road that leads to my house when my handicapped son laughed in the back seat. I glanced in the rearview mirror to see his smiling face and then made the turn a little bit faster than normal. As soon as I did I saw a big dog walking down the road in my lane. Not having time to down shift I slammed on the brakes, screeched to a halt, and killed the engine in my car in the process.

As I sat there waiting for my heart rate to return to normal, the yellow dog stared at me calmly. I recognized it immediately as a neighborís pet. I had often seen their little boy hugging and playing with the dog in their front yard. I rolled down my window and sternly told the pooch to go home. The huge dog looked at me for a second more then trotted away happily to its front porch while I restarted my car and thanked God for giving me a fast foot when I needed it.

Now you may ask how stomping on my brakes changed the world. My answer is that one little boy will be hugging his dog instead of crying into his pillow tonight. You see, most of us look for some big thing we can do to change the world or our lives, but I think Heaven keeps track of all the little things we do in our lives. And it is those little things that do change this world day by day and moment by moment.

You can change the world too. You can fill your life with acts of kindness and Godís love everyday. You may not be able to end world hunger, but you can donate 50 pounds of food and keep a family from starving this month. You may not be able to bring peace to the world, but you can bring your peaceful spirit to the world around you. You may not be able to drive the hate and darkness from every human heart, but you can forever share the love and light in yours. ---------------


There are stories that find their way into your heart and stay there forever. This is one that found its way into mine. There was once an elderly woman who lived in a violent, drug-ravaged, crumbling neighborhood in an old city. Her children had died before her. Time had left its mark on her too. She was no longer pretty in the eyes of the world. She had become wrinkled, stooped, thin and hollow-eyed. Her body was now half crippled with arthritis.

Still, this little old lady continually brought joy to the community around her. Everyone called her "Granny" and she was a loving Grandmother to all. As she moved slowly down the street she would sing hymns and share smiles. She had a kind word for everyone. She gave her gentle laughter as a free gift to all. She offered encouragement, said prayers for, and brought hope to the disheartened. She went about doing good every chance she could. No one who met her left without their heart feeling lighter and their smile shining brighter. Her serenity and tranquility remained a mystery to the neighborhood, though. No one could figure out how someone who had lost and suffered so much could live so beautifully.

One day a curious little girl ran up to the tiny old woman shuffling along with her walker and called out to her. "How do you do it Granny?", she asked. "How do you love so freely? How do you live so happily? How do you give so much to all of us everyday?" Granny just smiled at her and said, "Because God loves me child! Because He loves me, I love Him and you and everybody else!"

What a glorious truth she shared. There is no better reason to live and love than that. That is why this story will forever have a home in my heart. May you too make your life a beautiful gift of love, just because "God Loves You!" ---------------


My children gave me a new wallet as a Fatherís Day present this year. It was the perfect gift choice considering the moldy, worn, lump of leather I had been using was well past its prime. I took the opportunity as well to toss out any cards, notes, or scraps of paper in it that were no longer needed. As I emptied out the old wallet I was amazed at how much it held. Gingerly I went through its contents piece by piece and moved them to their new home. As I was looking at them I came across the organ donor card that I had signed nine years ago. Thankfully, it hadnít yet been called into use. Still, it felt good knowing that if something should ever happen to me I would be giving another person here a second chance at life.

As I placed the card into my new wallet I started thinking about all the other things we can donate to help others today. We can donate our time. We can donate our talents. We can share our wisdom. We can give our kindness. We can bless others with our laughter. We can shine our light into the darkness. We can donate every bit of love and joy inside of us. And the greatest thing of all is that when we do, we find that we have even more to share than when we started. That is one of our Heavenly Fatherís greatest miracles: the more you give to others the more God gives to you. The more you shower others with your love, the more God showers your soul with His.

If you wish then by all means sign an organ donor card so you can give something back after you die, but donít be afraid to also give something now while you are still alive. Be a donor. Make your entire life here a gift to others. Donate all those wonderful things inside of you to make this world a better and brighter place. Give with a cheerful heart and a loving spirit. Give from the fullness of your soul and then watch as God fills it even fuller. ---------------


I have the bad habit of skipping to the last pages of a book to see how it ends while I am still in the middle of it. This habit annoyed first my Mom, then my friends, and finally even my own daughter. Often my impatience wouldnít be confined just to the books I read but also to what they were reading as well. Finally one day my daughter told me in exasperation, "Dad please just read a book one page at a time like everyone else!"

At times I havenít limited this bad habit to just books either. I have also tried to skip ahead in my own life and figure out what to do months and even years from now instead of embracing each day as God intended. I knew that the book of my life wasnít done yet and that I had many pages left to go. Still, that didnít stop me from trying to write the ending half-way through. Time and again, I would foolishly jump ahead and try to solve every conceivable problem before it happened so I could reach that storybook happily ever after ending. Life, however, doesnít work like that. God loves to surprise us, and you never know what new problem, change, or opportunity each new day will bring.

God in His loving wisdom has often had to remind me to relax, slow down and find His love and joy in each day. Recently when I found myself returning to that bad habit of rushing ahead and living in the future again, I found His truth coming from the lips of a special soul who gently told me I needed to "live one day at a time." When I heard those words I smiled, turned the book of my life back to the right page, and thanked God for today.

There is no skipping ahead in the book of life. Each of us has to live it one page and one day at a time. Each of us has to have faith in God to help us to write it line by line and moment by moment. Each of us has to trust that our Heavenly Father will bring our story to its perfect end. ---------------


My community and state are still recovering from the catastrophe that struck recently. A wall of storms with hurricane force winds struck late on a Friday evening knocking down trees, blocking roads, damaging homes, and destroying power lines. Hundreds of thousands of people suddenly found themselves in the dark without water, electricity, air conditioning, telephones, internet, and television. They found themselves cut off from the modern world enduring sweltering 90 degree plus heat with no help and no idea when it would be over.

The most amazing thing happened, however, as the reality of the crisis sank in: it brought out the best in us. While there were a few acts of selfishness and stealing they were overwhelmed by the wave of love and compassion that came from the hearts of so many. People shared their food, ice, and gasoline. People who still had power opened their homes to those who had none. People rushed out to clear roads and homes of fallen trees. Selfless power crews worked around the clock to repair the damage and restore electricity. People gathered on front porches to talk, share hugs and offer words of hope and faith that God would see them through it all. Strangers came together as one family to help each other in this time of great need. It was such a joy seeing all these people acting like true Children of God under the most trying of circumstances.

Lifeís disasters strike all of us from time to time. No one is spared. We all get hurt. We all get challenged. We all get squeezed by difficulties during our days here. How we respond to them, though, is up to us. We can let them bring out the worst is us or we can let them bring out the best in us. We can react to them like demons of selfishness or like angels of love. May you always bring the best from your heart and soul to whatever life may throw at you then. May you live all of your days here with so much love that Heaven sings and God smiles. ---------------


Mother Teresa of Calcutta was often quoted as saying: "I know God will not give me anything I canít handle. I just wish He didnít trust me so much." Over the years I have found myself often feeling the same way. I have had a blessed life, but it has never been an easy one. In my 45 years I have had to deal with sickness, injuries, accidents, and pain. I have had to deal with years of poverty and financial struggles. I have had to deal with my sonsí mental handicaps, the death of loved ones, and being separated from those I love. I have had to deal with anger, betrayal, confusion, depression and at times even despair.

Like so many before me I have asked the question: Why do bad things happen to good people? It is a question that has been asked throughout the ages. Books have even been written about it. It is a question that will never be answered completely this side of Heaven. Yet, looking back on my own life now I have to believe that at least part of the reason bad things happen to good people is to make them better people.

When I remember all that I have faced and gone through in this life, I realize that God has used all of it to eventually make me better. With pain came empathy. With grief came healing. With frustration came patience. With struggles came strength. With sorrow came joy. With depression came compassion. With anger came love. And with despair came trust in God. Every test, challenge, and tragedy eventually led me to greater goodness, greater love, and greater Oneness with our Heavenly Father.

None of us likes the negative experiences in life. None of us enjoys pain. None of us wants to go through sorrow. Still, the truth is that "God causes all things to work together for good for those who love Him." May each day here then help you to grow better and more loving. ---------------


When I was a boy I never liked going to church that much. I enjoyed the Sunday potluck dinners we sometimes had after it. They were a feast of country cooking. I enjoyed the Sunday school classes too. I got to see my friends there. It was the church services themselves that I couldnít relate too. They were full of symbolism and rituals that my young mind couldnít yet understand. The sermons and Bible readings were largely tuned out by me too. It was struggle enough just keeping my little body still in the hard, wooden pews. I longed to be outside playing in the sunshine. I would look around at the people dressed in their Sunday best while I tugged at my own tie. Then Iíd glance at my watch and wonder when it would end.

It was during one of those sermons, however, that I did hear something that would stick in my heart, soul, and mind from that day forward. It was the middle of Summer and the heat made me feel even more restless than usual. I was looking down at my dress shoes and dangling my feet from the pew while the sermon went on and on. Suddenly, the Priestís voice rose and got very loud as he finished. "Remember this!," he said as I raised my head. "If you donít remember anything else I have said. Remember this. You are loved! You are loved unconditionally by a greater love than you can ever imagine! God loves you, now and forever!"

Those words of wisdom found a place deep inside of me. I did find myself remembering them over and over again in my life. As I learned, grew, struggled, and stumbled those words stayed in my heart. They helped me to rise up and try again every time I fell. They helped me to find my own love for God, for myself, and for others. They became a central part of who I am and what I write. The one gift I hope to give all of you is this truth. May you always remember then that "You are loved!" May you always know that "God loves you, now and forever!" ---------------


Fifteen years ago I found myself working in a local lumber mill. The hours were long. The work was dangerous. And the pay was low. Everyday was a struggle physically. The heat was oppressive in the Summer and the cold was constant in the Winter. My back would burn with pain from the constant bending, lifting, and carrying. My feet would ache from standing the entire day. The skin around my fingernails would split and bleed from the continuous work my hands were doing. I tried to keep my spirits up while I worked there, but day by day I felt myself wearing down. Every morning I would place Band-Aides around my fingers and pull on my worn out work boots. And every night I would drag myself home smelling of sweat and sawdust and collapse on the couch.

One evening I felt like I could take it no more. I cried out to God as I drove home alone. "Why God?", I said. "Why am I working myself to death here just to survive? Why couldnít I find a better job than this? Why am I h