Have you ever noticed how different you are? When one person responds a certain way, do you find yourself thinking “I wouldn’t have said that! I’d have said….” We all have different skills, or ways of doing things that we are just better at (or worse at) than others. Just as this world abounds with diverse plant life, animal life, and marine life…just as certain species thrive in one location better than another, and don’t even exist in others, we are all unique.

I find it so difficult to conceive how some people claim they don’t believe in God. How can they NOT believe? When there is wonder all about us, and when I observe and talk with other human beings, I can only marvel at the variety in this world, and at what An Amazing Maker we have! Each of us has the power to think our own unique thoughts, to form our own conclusions, to think circumstances through and to be influenced by different things. There is not a single person who perceives the world in exactly the same way.

Every one of us can decide who we are going to be…to develop that person…and to be that person to the very best of our ability. No matter our level of ability, we can still choose to be our very best. Have you made that choice…and if not, why not? What is of great importance to you? What can you do to impart greater knowledge about a subject… or to influence others to your way of thinking and thus move others to act…or to provide pleasure for someone…or to simply let a person know how much you value him or her? We have such power to make such a huge difference in this world and we hardly realize it!

Today, my readers, I challenge you to become all that you can be. Today I challenge you to live, to love, and to be the very best YOU. Today is all that we can be certain of in this world. Don’t waste the day. Make it count! You are unique, and it is high time you showed the world God’s wonderful creation that is YOU! You have the power to change yourself and to change others. I challenge you to use it TODAY.

What Would Be on Your Staff?

I heard recently that people in biblical times recorded notable events on their staffs. I had never heard that before! I couldn’t find information to support it, but it got me thinking. If I had only a staff on which to record significant parts of my life, what would be on it?

My parents, of course, left their mark on me, having established in me a sense of right and wrong, justice and respect, duty and creativity. Several teachers also made significant impressions – some whose passion for what they did truly impacted their teaching. My father’s sudden death caused me to feel abandoned for years. I graduated from high school!

My college experience was more than academic learning. I think it was there I learned about boundaries and trust, freedom and self-knowledge. I explored many jobs over the years, and that taught me that I could learn to do different things, some of them better than others. I learned to admire a certain few who became role models for me. Certain books became my favorites for different reasons – some were inspirational, some whimsical, and some allowed me to simply lose myself for awhile, totally reveling in each of the characters and all of their struggles – but each left lasting impressions.

As I look back on my life, the fears, or inadequacies that I conquered, and the abilities I achieved are what stand out the most. If I carried a staff I would have quite a few notches – but they would represent less tangible things – finally mastering the ability to speak to a group, spending time with a person who was dying and not being afraid, providing physical comfort to someone who was cold and alone.

My staff supports me. It causes me to stand up straight. It reminds me of those things of which I am most proud. If you carried a staff, what would yours say about you?

Stand Up and Stand Out

Who are the favorite people in your life…and why are they your favorites?

I have been reflecting on why some folks simply stand out over others. It doesn’t seem to have anything to do with age, and I have both males and females on my list. Their career paths are all different, and their religious preferences are just as diverse. So, why is it that certain people make more of an impression? Are they highly intellectual? Are they wealthy and do they buy you things? Do they compliment you a lot? Are they active in their community?

While these may or may not describe certain individuals, none are reasons, to me, to look up to anyone in particular. I think, instead, it has to do with going the extra mile.

I had an aunt who would frequently have a houseful of guests and she always made each one of them comfortable. She always asked me about things that mattered to me. Another aunt was a guidance counselor. When I was in high school, not knowing a direction for my life, she provided me with one of her testing tools to help me learn more about myself.  I have known several priests and pastors who impressed me because they were able to relate to their congregations on all levels, providing direction for all. They asked penetrating questions and cared about the answers. Moreover, they remembered people and things about them.

My friends care enough to know the things I like and don’t like. One friend gave me milk chocolate for Christmas – because she remembered I prefer it over dark chocolate! Another friend notices the little things, too, and chooses her gifts accordingly. She knows that I like to write…so she gave me a journal with a challenge to make an entry every day about the good things that happen. She  thoughtfully chooses what she does for someone based upon their likes, as well as their needs.

Some people are very proactive for certain causes and are great mentors – they are the ones I long to emulate. They provide inspiration.

Stand-out people care enough to make a difference.

Do you think that you stand out in somebody’s life? Would you like to be that kind of person? Start by paying attention to the little things. Recognize those you care about. Remember. You – and they – will be glad you did!

What is Your Wealth?

Recently Public Radio asked the question “What is wealth?” As I thought about my answer, I decided that I am quite rich. I live in a safe place. It is warm. I have reasonably good health, delightful relatives, and wonderfully good friends. I have enough money to pay my bills and to treat myself occasionally. I have been blessed to meet, know, and work with many great people throughout the years. I feel that at least some of my actions have been helpful to others. Yes, I am rich.

Then, last night, shortly before I went to bed, the phone rang. The caller ID was a number I didn’t recognize, but I answered anyway. It was a young man who had been released from prison several months ago. Years ago he had asked me to write to him, and we had kept up a correspondence, albeit irregular. I knew he had been released, but had had no way to contact him, so I was pleased when he identified himself. He hasn’t found a job yet, but he is trying. Do you know what he said? “Thanks for all you did for me while I was in prison.” My reply was that I had only written to him. His reply to that was that that had been enough.

Yes, something tells me my life is full of wealth. Proof is not always in fancy packaging or on a grand scale, but it shows up when I least expect it…and it is I who am grateful. I have been blessed.

Be Extraordinary!

For most working people yesterday was a holiday. I was a part of the minority who had to work. This may have been the first year –ever – that I did not have extra time off over the holidays. Granted, it was quiet and I was able to get a lot done, but it felt strange. It made me feel kind of alone… different… and out-of-step with the rest of the world.

Overall, the experience caused me to think about the benefits of being… different. Who comes to mind in your life when you think of someone who is “different?” What is it about that person that impresses you?

For me, a person who takes a stand is one who makes an impact. Among qualities I admire are tenacity, perseverance, loyalty, and commitment. When a person behaves as he believes, I take notice. I admire the person whose life adds value to the lives of others. He or she may not be a leader in a bold or pronounced manner, but what that person does – and doesn’t do – commands respect.

Well, then… in this new year I encourage you to stand out. In fact, I challenge you to become extraordinary.

Keep in mind that “extraordinary” comes in different packaging…the person who believes in something or someone… the person who isn’t afraid to show his feelings…the person who goes the extra mile because it’s the “right” thing to do….

By standing out, I don’t think you are really out-of-step with the world. I think it can actually be kind of cool.

Do you want to be different? Do you want to change? Maybe you would even like to become extraordinary? You have only to begin. In fact, I challenge you to become extraordinary! Today begins a new year. Today you can stand alone, be strong, and make your life count. Go ahead…become extraordinary! The world is waiting for you!