May 25, 2012

Saying "Thank You"

A man in his forties was thinking about the people who made a difference in his life, and he remembered a teacher whose knowledge and experience prepared him so well for his career and his life as well.

He called the school and learned the teacher retired many years earlier in the same town where she taught. After writing a letter expressing his gratitude for the teacher’s devotion to her students, he received this response:
Dear Bill,
I can’t tell you how much your note meant to me. I am in my eighties, living alone in a small room, cooking my own meals and like the last leaf of fall, lingering behind. 
You may be interested to know I was a teacher for fifty years, and yours is the first note of appreciation I ever received. It came on a blue cloud morning, and it cheered me as nothing has in years.
How little it takes to cheer someone. But not everyone is capable of saying, “thank you.” For some people it’s an admission of vulnerability, or it suggests they don’t want to feel indebted. They don’t want to owe anybody anything.
In an article in Psychology Today, Dr. Rich Hanson writes,
“ . . . when you say “thank you” to someone, it’s a small moment with big ripples: a confirmation of a deep and wonderful truth, that we all depend on each other, that we are all joined - across the dinner tables and across the world - in a web whose threads are innumerable acts of giving.”
St. Paul wrote that we should “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus."

Is there someone to whom you owe a debt of thanks? If so, find a way to express your gratitude. In that simple act, you have the power to cheer others and contribute grace to life.

May 18, 2012


Long ago, I read about a study group where students were asked to list their worries on a form which was folded and placed in a box. The papers were shuffled, and everyone selected a new list of worries. When they read what others were worried about, most agreed they preferred to have their own worries back. The lesson: We may not want the worries we have, but if we are going to worry, we prefer to have our own.

Worry, also known as angst or anxiety, is a sad state of feeling which can cause ulcers, high blood pressure, strokes, angina, migraine headaches, indigestion, tremors, fatigue, insomnia, depression, diarrhea and a host of other symptoms. It can also lead to alcoholism or drug addiction.

Some of the most often mentioned reasons people worry are appearance, finances, relationships, health and the future. Other reasons noted are the economy, employment, death and responsibilities.

We often turn to God and ask for support and strength when we are worried. The Psalmist, David, sought God’s presence every day, and when trouble came his way, he was ready to meet them. That strength is revealed in one of the earliest solos I sang in church over sixty years ago. Here are just a few words from that song based on David’s Psalm 27: 
“The Lord is my helper, and therefore shall I never fear. The Lord is my high tower. In Him will I be confident. The Lord is the strength of my life. Of whom shall I be afraid?”  
In those few simple yet powerful lines, David revealed how he was able to confront worry. Like David, may we all face our problems with courage and strength because we have faith and trust in God.   

May 10, 2012

Six Simple Rules for a Happy Relationship

David Isay, recipient of numerous broadcasting honors and author/editor of numerous books, is also the founder of a remarkable oral history project called StoryCorps. It’s a very simple idea. With help from a facilitator, a couple in a relationship or any two family members face one another and for forty minutes one asks questions then listens.

When the interview ends, the participants walk away with a CD of the conversation, and a second copy is sent to the Library of Congress so that someday descendants will hear their voices and their stories.

Isay’s newest book, All There Is, is a collection of stories about relationships gathered from those sessions. He calls it a “a testament to the heart’s remarkable endurance."

Eighty-five year old Leroy Morgan’s story is about his long and happy marriage which he attributes to the following six statements he and his wife, Vivian, use with each other: (1)You look great; (2) Can I help; (3) Let’s eat out; (4) I was wrong; (5) I am sorry; and, most important, (6) I love you.

Those six simple statements summarize in less than twenty words the key to any satisfying and happy relationship.

Leroy’s statements can also be paraphrased and applied to our relationship with God:

(1) Appreciate the beauty of God’s natural world; (2) Help those who are not as rich in blessings as you are; (3) Give thanks for your daily bread; (4) Confess your sins; (5) Ask forgiveness for your sins; and most important, the first and greatest commandment: (6) Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. (Matthew 22:37)

Link to StoryCorps

May 5, 2012

Who Was Fanny Crosby

Fanny Crosby is probably the most prolific writer of hymns of all time. She wrote the lyrics to over 8000 hymns, and according to her biographers, she didn’t even begin composing religious music until she was forty-five.

One day, Crosby was visited by William Doane, a composer with whom Fanny had collaborated on hymns in the past. Doane was on his way to a Sunday School convention, and he had only forty minutes before he had to catch a train. He hoped Crosby could write the lyrics to a new song which he played for her.

Fanny turned to her desk, and shortly, she handed Doane the words to Safe in the Arms of Jesus, a hymn which has brought peace to countless family members who have lost loved ones.

When Fanny Crosby was just eight years old, she wrote these lines,
“How many blessings I enjoy, that other people don’t.To weep and sigh because I am blind, I cannot and I won’t”
It’s a fact. Fanny Crosby, one of our most beloved and appreciated hymnodists, was blinded when she was just an infant, yet her music reveals that her faith and trust in God never wavered.

Fannie Crosby’s favorite hymn was not one that she wrote. The lyrics reminded Crosby, as they remind us, to maintain our faith in God regardless of our circumstances. Here is the first verse of Fanny Crosby’s favorite hymn Faith of Our Fathers: 
"Faith of our Fathers, living still, in spite of dungeon, fire, and sword; 
O how our hearts beat high with joy when-e’re we hear that glorious word.  
Faith of our fathers, holy faith! We will be true to thee til death."