Thanks for Giving

picasso quotes

According to artist Pablo Picasso, “The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.”

I believe writers, musicians, and other artists have been purposely blessed with creative talents so that they may bless others.

I have been blessed beyond measure to meet many artists whose works have made the world a better place. Some of these artists probably don’t remember me, while others have become valued friends. Either way, they have influenced my life with their spiritual gifts.

I would like to express my gratitude to a few of them.

Thanks, Ann Patchett, for giving me an opportunity years ago to witness first-hand the generosity of talented people. When I attended an NCTE conference at the Opryland Hotel in Nashville, you “gifted” each of us secondary teacher attendees with a free stack of your books. I felt like a kid in a candy store; and to this day, I continue to appreciate your works, your Parnassus store, and your support of the creative world.

Thanks, Ron Block of Alison Krauss & Union Station, for giving me inspiration. You sat beside me at a writers’ conference luncheon. We shared our stories. You listened. You recommended the book The War of Art by Steven Pressfield. I was blessed by your poetry, your empathy, and your kindness.

Thanks, Tom Brantley and Becky Buller Haley, for giving me music, for sharing the songs of your souls with me. You’ve taught me to play the violin, and you’ve generously shown your gift of patience.

Thanks, Lisa Patton, for giving me acknowledgement. I had the chutzpah to introduce myself to you at the Southern Festival of Books in Nashville. I invited you to make a guest appearance at my school, and you befriended me, a nobody. On page 294 of your book Yankee Doodle Dixie, you ACKNOWLEDGED me! You acknowledged ME as an important person! You are a treasure!

acknowledgements

Thanks, Amy Parker, for giving me encouragement. By chance, or maybe not, I walked into the Murfreesboro Barnes & Noble bookstore and saw you signing your books. We talked, and we became friends. My youngest niece learned to say, “Night-night” because of you, Amy Parker. You asked me to become a part of your “street team,” and you have since become a major influence in my writing journey. You have generously endorsed my own book. What a gift!

Amy, you also introduced me to your friend Laura L. Smith. Laura, you gifted me with your book Skinny, and it became the basis for a Bible study with my church youth group. My high school students were eager to return to class each week because your book spoke to them! Thanks, Laura, for giving us good role models.

Bob Hostetler, I have been honored to hear you speak at writers’ conferences. Your book The Bard and the Bible inspired me to start a Sunday school class that has grown into a huge blessing for me and our class and our church. Thanks, Bob, for giving us your powerful insights.

I could mention many, many other writers and artists whose one good turn has led to another in my life. Like a pebble in a pond, I have been blessed repeatedly by those who have generously shared their gifts. In turn, I have tried to bless others.

In his book The Butterfly Effect: How Your Life Matters, Andy Andrews encourages us to use our spiritual gifts to bless others. He says, “You have been created in order that you might make a difference. You have within you the power to change the world.”

The apostle Paul also promotes the importance of recognizing our spiritual gifts and generously using them to make the world a better place.

“We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.”—Romans 12:6-8

Like Mr. Beaver in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis, we should all be willing to share our gifts, whatever they may be, with humility and grace. When Mr. Beaver leads the children across the bridge he has built, “he had a sort of modest expression on his face—the sort of look people have when you are visiting a garden they’ve made or reading a story they’ve written.”

Mr. Beaver must have heard Paul’s advice to be devoted to one another in love and to honor others above ourselves.

In Jean Petersen’s new picture book Kind Soup, a young girl and her mommy make a delicious soup filled with the fruits of the spirit. This book teaches an important lesson:  “The best part of making [the soup] is the feeling you get when you share it.”

kind soup

How have you shared your spiritual gifts today?

Have you written some profound prose or kissed a cut knee or held open a car door for someone?

Whether you are a NYT bestselling author or a parent or an Uber driver, you have the opportunity to show love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. You have an opportunity to give to others.

If you will harvest the fruits of the spirit in your own life and then share your bounty with others, you will be a blessing, and you will be blessed.

If you think you have nothing to give, remember the words of the song “In the Bleak Midwinter” by Gustav Holst:

What can I give Him?
Poor as I am.
If I were a shepherd,
I would give a lamb.

If I were a wise man,
I would do my part,
But what can I give Him?
Give him my heart.

What you give to Him, you give to others.

Thanks for giving.

Proverbs 11:25; 2 Corinthians 9:11

“The object of art is to give life a shape.” –William Shakespeare

“I Think I Can!”

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Life isn’t always easy.

When life gives you lemons, I hear you’re supposed to make lemonade. When life throws you a curveball, you’re supposed to let the good ones go and swing at the bad ones, right?

Okay, I’m not crazy about lemonade, and I’m not much of a baseball fan, but I’ll try.

I have recently been dealing with an unnatural disaster situation in my house, and I’ve been forced to make adjustments to the usual comforts of home.

I’ve been reminded to let go and let God.

In the big scheme of things, my inconveniences are hardly worth noting. I’m not homeless. I haven’t been diagnosed with a catastrophic illness. I haven’t lost a loved one. I have income. I have a roof over my head, food in my refrigerator, and clothes in my closet. The sun is shining, and it’s a beautiful day!

Even though life is a little off-kilter for me right now, I can manage. Like The Little Engine That Could, I have been repeating her mantra, “I think I can. I think I can. I think I can.” Watty Piper’s tale of optimism reminds me to have faith.

little engine image

Yes, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”! —Philippians 4:13

In Romans 12:12 Paul encourages me to “be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.”

Faith is the direct result of a prayer and a possibility!

Because life does happen and because life isn’t always easy, we should be mindful that we are not alone in any situation.

When my own engine runs out of coal, I know I can rely on God to help me over the mountain. He also provides me with family and friends and fellow believers who offer me encouragement to “think I can” do whatever I am called to do.

When the unexpected detours in life cause you to feel frustrated or try your patience or doubt your ability to cope, remember that “suffering produces endurance, endurance produces character, and character produces hope.”—Romans 5:3-4

In the foreword to Madeleine L’Engle’s book Walking on Water, Christian artist Nichole Nordeman offers some great advice on faith:  “Be encouraged. Close your eyes and let go. Remember, as Peter did, what it felt like when nothing was sustaining you in the small space between your feet and those daunting waves but the power of an unrelenting Love. And walk on.”

So, the next time you find yourself overwhelmed by life, have faith. Enjoy a little lemonade, or throw some baseballs with your nephew. God’s got this!

 “Go back?” he thought. “No good at all! Go sideways? Impossible! Go forward? Only thing to do! On we go!” So up he got, and trotted along with his little sword held in front of him and one hand feeling the wall, and his heart all of a patter and a pitter.” ― J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit

Isaiah 40:31; James 1:12; Proverbs 3:5-6

#gratefulitwasntafire #justbreathe

 

It’s May!

 

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“It’s May, it’s May,” sang Guinevere in Camelot, my all-time favorite movie.

The earth’s alive, and everything’s abloom. If you’re an allergy sufferer, then bless you. I hope you can still savor the season.

Springtime, this season of rebirth, represents a season of hope. It’s what the world needs now. Yes, it needs love, sweet love; but it also needs hope.

According to naturalist Edwin Way Teale, “All things seem possible in May.”

Henry David Thoreau labeled this month “an experience in immortality.”

When I walk around my subdivision or work in my yard during this season, I sense the glory of God. The sights, sounds, and scents coming from my limited world of flora and fauna inspire me.

I cherish the lily of the valley, azaleas, rhododendron, and knockout roses currently in bloom around me. Every year around Mother’s Day, my peony bush bursts open and reminds me of my paternal grandmother’s colorful spring yard.

lily of the valley in yard

As a child, my sister and I watched our mother lovingly care for a garden of gladioli, and we often played in the shade of our maternal grandmother’s Rose of Sharon bush. Now my sister’s own green thumb produces beautiful roses and hydrangeas every spring.

RoseofSharon

From the squirrels that scamper through my towering oak trees to the tiny acorns that fall, I revel in the majesty of the One who made them all.

treesquirrel

Yes, Shakespeare, “I know a bank where the wild thyme blows, where oxlips and the nodding violet grows.”

The month of May gives me hope. I agree with Robert Browning: “God IS in His heaven, and all’s right with the world.”

In today’s world it’s easy to get caught up in the negativity and deceit and sinfulness surrounding us all. However, those things have always been a part of us.

I am often overwhelmed by the leaves blanketing my yard during fall and winter. I imagine life would be much simpler without all my trees. Then suddenly my trees are filled with song. The season of spring reminds me to change my perspective, to look for inspiration, to believe in newness.

birdintree

The apostle Paul urges his friend Timothy to flee from evil and fight the good fight of faith. (See 1 Timothy, Chapter 6.)

Philippians 4:8 tells us to focus on “whatever is true, whatever is honest, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good report.”

Springtime can be a mood booster. Allow yourself to bask in its beauty.

If you can, take a walk around your home, your street, your local park. Soak up the sounds and scents and scenery. Breathe in the new. Let go of the old. Find the hope.

The movie Camelot revolves around the theme of good versus evil, the same good and evil present in our world today. There is betrayal, but there is also forgiveness. Lancelot and Guinevere take the tonsure and the veil for their sins; but, most importantly, Arthur forgives them.

Arthur believes in the power of forgiveness. He sees hope in a young boy, a boy who has a vision for the future.

We may have been through a rough winter, but spring is upon us. It gives us hope. Let’s hold on to it!

If April showers bring May flowers, what do May flowers bring? Pilgrims!!

By the way, the Pilgrim’s ship was called the Mayflower because it was scheduled to set sail in May, and the word flower was added to symbolize the hope of finding a new opportunity in a new world.

Romans 12:12; Song of Songs 2:1; Matthew 6:25-27; Psalm 104:12