Thanksgiving Wish

DSC_1314Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace;

DSC_1330
Where there is hatred, let me sow love; 

DSC_1323Where there is injury, pardon; Where there is error, truth; 

DSC_1280Where there is doubt, faith; Where there is despair, hope; Where there is darkness, light; And where there is sadness, joy.

DSC_1320O Divine Master, Grant that I may not so much seek To be consoled as to console; To be understood as to understand; To be loved as to love.

DSC_1047-001For it is in giving that we receive; It is in pardoning that we are pardoned; And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
~ prayer attributed to St. Francis of Assissi

DSC_1352-001This is my grown-up Thanksgiving Wish. How about you?
Have a blessed Thanksgiving.

Peace, Alexandria

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2013 | Resolved to Illuminate Beyond

D

The creature transfixed me; I stood captivated, mesmerized.
It rendered me still—a rarity in my world. Its movement was beautiful to behold. Tendrils of tentacles, suspended in lovely designs, moved in tandem.

I’d always run from a creature like this. In fact, everyone I know runs. I was acutely aware of the danger it held if we’d met in other circumstances. But there was a boundary between us now, a thick glass bubble.

The boundary kept me safe, allowing me to marvel at the creature. As I tried to capture it without a blur, it proved an expedition of futility as I quickly discovered it was never still. Its movement was rhythmic yet determined, planned yet random—unhurried— taking its time.

As I watched, I wondered if it had any destination?
Where did it think it was going? Did it ever sleep? Was it ever bored by its never-ending motion? Does it have an instinctual to-do list as it gracefully moves through life? I confess a severe lack of knowledge in jellyfishdom so I truly don’t know. But it made me realize something.

DSC_3348

I don’t move like that.
And neither does anyone else I know. In my American culture the phrase I hear over and over is, “I’m just so busy. I can’t seem to get anything done. There is so much left to do. I gotta go.” That’s our mantra. That’s mine, too.

But what is all this busy? This busy seizes our most treasured possession—time. In my culture we actually prize this robber of time.

We prize busy.

D

And why? Well, we give it a proper name. We call it productivity.

For example—a place I visit on occasion is the WordPress live stats page. It’s interesting because they show live activity within WordPress. It shows new posts, comments, and likes in real time. Keep in mind WordPress is the platform for over 15% of the web; there are 60 million WordPress sites in the world.

As I look at this site I notice some things. Some parts of the world are totally silent. I find it sad these people seem to have no voice. Other parts of the world are silent at times, too. But they are getting what is necessary—sleep. You can tell this by the time zones. Asia and the South Pacific sleep. Africa and South America sleep. Europe is pretty awake but has quiet periods. But the United States?

The United States never sleeps. It blinks 24/7. http://en.wordpress.com/stats/

Productivity.

Why do we continually strive to fill our days with productivity? We’re wired here to produce, to accomplish, to strive. Make no mistake—these are good things; I am not condoning sloth.

What I’m talking about is rhythm, room to relax, room to roam.

I
Building rhythm into our days. Allow margin for that phone call to an old friend. Time for outdoors. Take the ear buds out and just sit and listen to beautiful music. Take time to close your eyes and just dream. And take time to love. To love those around us. Not just family and friends. How about looking into the eyes of a stranger or the outcast. Smile as you look. In fact, smile more. Let’s resolve to …

I

Dawn 2013 New Year’s Day

“Stop the glorification of busy.” ~ Unknown

Isn’t that what we do? We glorify this thing called busy. Our self-worth becomes entangled in busy. Deadlines and the to-do list are important. But they are never-ending. We will never get it all done. They grow like bread yeast. And if you let yeast grow unfettered it fills a loaf of bread with holes. Same thing with us.

So resolve to take time

to sleep … to dream … then wake up … savor the sunbeams shining in.

to write … a magical song note by note … and then … to sing with crescendo the song of your heart.

to listen … to every soul you meet … with your eyes and a smile.

Take time … to listen, to gaze, to thank, to inhale, to give, to receive, to learn, and …

I

January 1, 2013

To love.

I heard it said, “If you don’t schedule fun, fun won’t get done.”

D

So schedule some fun. Put one fun thing on that to-do list everyday. It’s okay to venture into the margins a bit, sometimes a lot. The margins will rejuvenate you for the times of productivity.

D

And one more thing …

DSC_3462

Get some good sleep while you’re at it. Let’s alter those stats a bit, shall we?

Joyous New Year,
Alexandria

“Consider how the lilies grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith! And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.” Luke 12:27-30

This post combines three themes: Resolved, Illumination, and Beyond. I started with Resolved and didn’t finish in time. So then I added Illumination and didn’t finish in time. Then I saw Beyond and thought the photos adapted well to that theme, too. I hope you agree and I think I’m finally finished.
Enjoy.

Here are other interpretations of the themes.

Photo Credits: Alexandria Sage and S. Michael

The Kaleidoscope Collide

I wonder if flowers could talk or had human emotion or had the ability to reason, would they dwell in prejudice against the color of another flower? Would they judge and resent, even hate one another because of the color of their petals? And not just the color that separates them, but the different varieties?

The hydrangea differs due to differing acidity. The daisies in the photo below have colors that are man-induced. These colors do not naturally occur in nature. They were “created”. Not the flowers but the colors. Why did someone do this? Doesn’t it add to their brilliance, bring a smile to our face, and increase our joy?

Aren’t we awestruck and delighted by the very nature of their differences? Their color and composition is completely at the mercy of their maker. They cannot help what color they are. But do we complain? Do we harbor resentment because of the multitude of color?

Then why do we do this with the greatest stain on humanity?
All of us know deep within our hearts that racism is wrong. Yet, we are all racist. All of us. Just admit it. It was taught and modeled before us. Children are not born racist. They are taught racism.

It’s okay to admit it but we must go further. We must fight it. We must fight it within ourselves and we must fight it outwardly. But how is this done?

Think of the recent Olympics. For a wondrous moment every nation was at peace. We watched the very best athletes parade into the stadium and what a sight it was! Did it not take your breath away to see the vast array of different cultures, different colors both in costume and skin?

Great Britain (Team GB) - Parade of Nations - ...

Did any of us have a racist or prejudiced bone in our body during those wondrous seventeen days? I theorize the Creator’s original intent may have been what we witnessed at the Olympics. Why would He be so risky as to create his image-bearers in different colors? Perhaps it was meant to bring joy, to rejoice, to bring color to the world. Just pure joy.
He created everything and said, “It was good.”

So if nature teaches us to appreciate, even delight in the of the myriad of color, can we not do more to appreciate rather than spurn the different skin colors?
After all, it’s all just a matter of a mere .012% melanin.

This is written in response to the Daily Post Weekly Writing Challenge titled “A Splash of Color”.
http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2012/10/15/weekly-writing-challenge-a-splash-of-color/

This is also a response for the Story Challenge Letter “R” posted on FlickrComments. “R” for Racism.
http://flickrcomments.wordpress.com/2012/10/30/story-challenge-letter-r/

Photo of Olympics 2012 Parade of Nations courtesy of Zemanta.

Taxes Made Simple, Part II—I’m a Little Depressive over the Regressive

photo: Alexandria Sage

The email rocked me a bit. I thought it surely embellished. Its column format drew my eyes. Oh good. A quick read. Turns out, it was a  loooong column. But the hook set and its simple title captured with clarity.

“None of the These Taxes Existed 100 Years Ago”

That was a bold statement. It can’t be true. Or could it? I’ve accepted these regressive taxes as part and parcel of life, telling myself well, there’s nothing you can do about it so just shut-up and pay up. How many times have I laughed at that quote—“Two things in life are certain—death and taxes.”?

Suddenly a new thought surfaced—This seems excessive.
But had I ever questioned before? 

To be fair the list deserved some fact checking.  I checked several sources and, with exception of an outdated few, they are all unmistakably true. I read through some comments on Snopes and couldn’t believe one person excused them away and called them “fees”. Fees, taxes, tax credits (yes, we pay for those, too)—call them what may but they are money out of my paycheck above and beyond what I already pay. The list also included the line, “I think we left British Rule to avoid so many taxes.”

Boston Tea Party.

Boston Tea Party: Wikipedia

I’m willing to pay my taxes and agree a few are necessary. But the term “fair share” is a bit out of hand when I look at this list of “regressive” taxes that all of us pay. Several caught my eye … IRS Interest Charges (tax on top of tax), IRS Penalties (tax on top of tax), Luxury Tax (what is that???).

And have you heard the latest? The United Nations wants to impose global taxes on citizens of developed countries to give to Third World countries to “end poverty.”
Yes, do an internet search. Somehow this one’s not getting the attention it deserves. {See related articles} We Americans know how our own “War on Poverty” worked. And now we might be liable to pay leaders of Third World nations who’ve demonstrated their own deficient use of their own resources? As Thomas Jefferson said, “Commerce with all nations, alliance with none, should be our motto.”

English: A Portrait of Thomas Jefferson as Sec...

Thomas Jefferson

How did this happen? I think another Jefferson quote says it well. If once the people become inattentive to the public affairs, you and I, and Congress and Assemblies, Judges and Governors, shall all become wolves. It seems to be the law of our general nature, in spite of individual exceptions.”

Are we still inattentive?

I believe these regressive taxes are nothing more than Jefferson’s wolves’ in sheep’s clothing. In fact, I think the regressive tax needs a new name.
How about the “repressive” tax?

coins

Here’s the list. Try not to get too depressive.
{Yes, I know that’s not a real word. Too much Dr. Seuss!}

Peace,
Alexandria

The List:
Not one of these taxes existed 100 years ago…
And our nation was the most prosperous in the world.
We had absolutely no national debt.
We had the largest middle class in the world.

What happened?

Building Permit Tax
CDL License Tax
Cigarette Tax
Corporate Income Tax
Dog License Tax
Federal Income Tax (Fed)
Federal Unemployment Tax (FU TA)
Fishing License Tax
Food License Tax
Fuel Permit Tax
Gasoline Tax
Hunting License Tax
Inheritance Tax
Inventory Tax
IRS Interest Charges (tax on top of tax)
IRS Penalties (tax on top of tax)
Liquor Tax
Luxury Tax
Marriage License Tax
Medicare Tax
Property Tax
Real Estate Tax
Service charge Taxes
Social Security Tax
Road Usage Tax (Truckers)
Sales Taxes
Recreational Vehicle Tax
School Tax
State Income Tax
State Unemployment Tax (SUTA)
Telephone Federal Excise Tax
Telephone Federal Universal Service Fee Tax
Telephone Federal, State and Local Surcharge Tax
Telephone Minimum Usage Surcharge Tax
Telephone Recurring and Non-recurring Charges Tax
Telephone State and Local Tax
Telephone Usage Charge Tax
Utility Tax
Vehicle License Registration Tax
Vehicle Sales Tax
Watercraft Registration Tax
Well Permit Tax
Workers Compensation Tax

Related articles:

Continuing along the same thread of Something New and Different by the Daily Post, the Tax articles a bit different than my usual inspirational fare:
http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2012/10/08/weekly-writing-challenge-and-now-for-something-completely-different/

Photos courtesy of Zemanta and Alexandria Sage

Weekly Photo Challenge | Big

There it stands. There it has stood. Stood through rain, storm, tornado, ice. You name it. It has withstood. And it remains. It’s right down the road from me—a real eye-catcher. You can’t miss it. It gets your attention. And gets you to thinking.

Sometimes I wish it could talk, just like the Ents in the Lord of the Rings. What stories would it tell? I ho-hum drive by it all the time, and wonder.

It’s sheer mass may have withstood two wars—the one my country fought to gain its independence from tyranny and tax. But I know it must have been there for the other—the one where my country was so split it set us brother against brother, neighbor against neighbor.

Yes, we came together and united again. But at a very high price. I pray that never happens again but I fear it might. And it breaks my heart. But I must be strong, for the tree bids me be. It sets the bar.

Yes, this tree has stood through history. I’ve driven right by it in the midst of terrible storms and winds I thought would lift me away. Storm after storm I wondered if upon my arrival the tree would be split. Would it still be there? Would its strength withstand ripping winds and ice-laden boughs. Yes, every time it has.
To another part of me it’s become a faithful friend—a wave in the road, a nod of tipped branch, signaling my way home. Sometimes I just have to stop and spend a little time, looking closer.

I remember our first acquaintance of such.
And to my surprise I discovered the secret of its strength. It was not just one trunk bearing all the weight. Upon closer gaze I noted what sprung from its base. It was not just one tree. It branched out to three. For though the tree looked solitary, nothing could be further from the truth. The three massive trees wove into one.

Three huge, strong-beyond-strong, massive trees, intertwined from one expansive foundation.

One large, massive tower of strength. Strength that withstood storm and gale, war and peace, generation to generation. And the tree is one. The three unite, forming a stature rising to the sky, towering above the countryside, providing shade from heat, tenacity through storms, even a home for birds nests. A homethe tree is a home.

I hope my country—my fellow Americans, my neighbors, my family—can take a lesson from the tree.
Because I’m staking something big on it.

For you see, there’s someone else riding below its branches.

Our future.

Peace,
Alexandria

Solitary trees, if they grow at all, grow strong.
~ Winston Churchill

“The whole course of human history may depend on a change of heart in one solitary and even humble individual – for it is in the solitary mind and soul of the individual that the battle between good and evil is waged and ultimately won or lost.”
~ M. Scott Peck

“A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.” ~ Ecclesiastes 4:12

Referring article:
http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2012/10/12/weekly-photo-challenge-big/

Other entries for the Weekly Photo Challenge: Big
http://francineinretirement.wordpress.com/
http://esengasvoice.wordpress.com/2012/10/12/weekly-photo-challenge-big/
http://aysabaw.wordpress.com/2012/10/12/big-and-twisted/
http://joyandwoe.wordpress.com/2012/10/12/weekly-photo-challenge-big/
http://imexcited.wordpress.com/2012/10/13/weekly-photo-challenge-big/
http://eof737.wordpress.com/2012/10/12/weekly-photo-challenge-big/
http://chrisbreebaart.wordpress.com/2012/10/12/weekly-photo-challenge-big-1/
http://theretiringsort.com/2012/10/13/so-big/

My Thoughts on Aging, from the Guest Author

The other day I was talking with a 75-year-old woman about the frustrations of aging. The aches and pains, the limited mobility, the failing memory, the sagging skin—how it all created significant frustration.

We joked about the 98-year-old woman who told me the best thing about wrinkles is that they don’t hurt. Then, in a tone more serious, she admitted she just didn’t understand the value of all this “getting old” business. She posed a valid question. The question prompted some thinking,
Might there be a valid reason?

My Dad always told me he wanted as many birthdays as he could have as long as he knew he was having them.
Over the years, he collected more than his share of serious ailments. No one loves his family or wants to be with them more than Dad. So far, he is still hanging in there. But I wonder if he is beginning to question that statement.

Like me, my Dad is a Christian. We believe in the place the Bible calls Heaven, and life will be better there than here. It is a beautiful place filled with reunion, the pain and suffering will go away, and the tears will be wiped away from our eyes. Life will be better!

So there, in the midst of that conversation, it struck me. Maybe this horrific thing called aging has a purpose.
By allowing us to change our sights from the here and now to the eternal, it reminds us that we are visitors here, waiting for our trip home.

And most of all, it reassures us that the best is yet to come.
The few glimpses of Heaven in the Bible show it to be an extraordinary place, a place so wondrous the Apostle Paul could find no earthly words to describe it. For our families it takes away a bit of the sting of death. When they compare their loss to the gain of the loved one passing, only the selfish can wish for the situation to be different.

So what should we do in the meantime?
Remember the answer to the riddle attributed to King Solomon? The riddle inquires—What four words will make a happy man sad and a sad man happy? The answer was inscribed on the inside of a ring—“This too shall pass.” And in either case, isn’t this the truth? Life is indeed fragile and every moment is a gift from God. Because of Heaven, we can have peace in the midst of all circumstances and hope in a future that bears no suffering.

This life does not end here. It is just the beginning.
So for now, love the life you are given, accept the ailments as a badge of honor, and remember—your Heavenly Father has a better life ahead.

Thoughtfully,
Steve

 

Daily Prompt: Young at Heart

How Does Your Garden Grow? | Weekly Photo Challenge: Growth

“Liberty, when it begins to take root, is a plant of rapid growth.”
~ George Washington

The strongest principle of growth lies in the human choice.
~ George Eliot

“We become taller when we bow. We become lowlier when we instruct.”
~ G.K. Chesterton

“Intellectual growth should commence at birth and cease only at death.”
~ Albert Einstein
 
Photos by Katarzyna.

Fashionable Fallacies

“Fallacies do not cease to be fallacies because they become fashions.”

~ G. K. Chesterton

 

Shift, Subtract, See. Simple Math | Weekly Photo Challenge: Friendship

“The art of subtraction can frame life into a masterpiece.
Shift to really see.
I shift. Subtract. See.
“Whatever things are lovely… think on these things.”
I shift and subtract, see the things that are good and pure.
Step over wire fences.
The art of subtraction is the art of loving well.”

~ Ann Voskamp
~ Paul, the Apostle

Friendship.
What does this photo have to do with friendship? Please bear with me a bit as nature teaches a perfect lesson.

One of the mystery’s of photography is knowing when less is more. Sometimes you try your best to capture a shot when you realize if you shift, subtract a bit, you have a fresh perspective on the whole.

Isn’t that how friendship is? The give and take, ebb and flow—the forgiveness. Followed by fresh perspective.

The subtraction of the faults lend growth to the whole. This photo in no way captures the whole of the tree nor the sky that day. But shifting to capture less provided a rich perspective on the whole. And it’s kind of funny the way the eye still sees the whole. You see the rest of the tree. And you see the whole of the sky.

And that’s when subtraction becomes more than simple math. It becomes an art—the art of loving well.

“Unless you bear with the faults of a friend, you betray your own.”
~ Publilius Syrus

Another thing—the colors here are blue and orange—complimentary colors on the color wheel. And isn’t that how friendship is? The balance of strength and weakness. The result? The perfect blend of mutual love, laughter, and life—rich enduring friendship.

Peace,
Alexandria

Story Challenge: Letter “M” | A Beautiful Mind

“Education is an ornament in prosperity and a refuge in adversity.” ~ Aristotle

Education is the key to unlock the golden door of freedom.” ~ George Washington Carver

As one who always encourages further education I would have to say my “M” Word Challenge is to emphasize the “mind”.

I know there are a lot of ways to be educated. Some require attendance to a school of learning, some require online learning, and some require “hands-on” to possibly learn a new skill. Abraham Lincoln was completely self-educated before he attended college.

“He who opens a school door, closes a prison.” ~ Victor Hugo

Education to work with your hands or your mind is honorable. And striving to always learn and develop your mind should be a goal of
every human being. If the mind becomes dull and stagnant it is because a person has ceased to learn. And if a person ceases to learn, they cease to grow. And if there is no personal growth, there is no joy in living.

Along that thread I thought I’d share some of the quotes I ran across with this theme. There are many more but I hope you gain something from the few I’ve shared.

“In the face of any disaster you will need three things: a faith life to support you in the midst of the storm, money in the bank (hay in your barn) to keep your family alive in the immediate aftermath, and an education to help you rebuild.” ~ Stephen Deal

“Education is a better safeguard of liberty than a standing army.”~ Edward Everett

Ultimately, I hope you never cease to educate yourself, whether through formal education, hands-on learning of a new skill, or self-education through reading. In doing so you will never cease to grow, as the last quote says. And there is the joy of learning something
new. You will have pride in your accomplishment.

“Intellectual growth should commence at birth and cease only at death.” ~ Albert Einstein

“Develop a passion for learning. If you do, you will never cease to grow. ” ~ Anthony J. D’Angelo

Never cease to develop who you are. Always strive to learn, to stretch, to grow.

Peace, Alexandria

You might enjoy:
https://simplysage.org/2012/08/04/my-thoughts-remember-make-hay-when-the-sun-shines/
https://simplysage.org/2012/08/15/weekly-photo-challenge-growth/

Love Without Borders

I have been unfaithful
I have been unworthy
I have been unrighteous
And I have been unmerciful

I have been unreachable
I have been unteachable
I have been unwilling
And I have been undesirable

And sometimes
I have unwise
I’ve been undone by what I’m unsure of
But because of You
And all that You went through
I know that I have
…never been unloved

I have been unbroken
I have been unmended
I have been uneasy
And I’ve been unapproachable

I’ve been unemotional
I’ve been unexceptional
I’ve been undecided
And I have been unqualified

Unaware
I have been unfair
I’ve been unfit for blessings from above
But even I can see
The sacrifice You made for me
To show that I have
…never been unloved

It’s because of You
And all that You went through
I know that I have
…never been unloved

Lyrics to “Never Been Unloved” by Michael W. Smith

The Thief You Let In

“Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow; it empties today of its strength.”

~ Corrie Ten Boom

Protected: A Measure of Lie + a Pinch of Truth = A Recipe for Disaster

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The Power of Choice

“Choices will continually be necessary and — let us not forget — possible. It is a deadly error to fall into the notion that when feelings are extremely strong we can do nothing but act on them.”  –Elisabeth Elliot

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