January 2007 Newsletter

Dear Friends,

Welcome to the beginning of a new year!  2007 is off an running, and I'm playing catch up, as usual.  Nevertheless, this month's article is appropriately linked to possibilities, which have been on my mind quite a bit lately.

Recently, while discussing with a friend the possibilities I believe exist in each of us, I found myself making this declaration:

                                    "If only you could see yourself as I see you!"

That realization came to me as we were agreeing on our fundamental difference when it comes to our perception of others.  "You look at someone you've just met and assume there's nothing special about them, until they somehow prove it;" I explained, "but I look at them, and I know there's something special inside that even they don't know about yet!" he agreed.

If only you could see yourselves the way I see you, your possibilities would know no bounds.  That's what this month's article is all about.  I hope it blesses you and sets you firmly on the path to a happy and fulfilling new year!


 by: Rhonda Jones

Whenever a calendar event is approaching, I’m always fascinated by the history surrounding the creation of the auspicious date and the evolving manner in which it’s been observed down through the years.  During the month of January, of course, we observe the celebration of New Year’s Day.  The celebration of the New Year is the oldest of all holidays.  It was first observed in ancient Babylon about 4000 years ago.  The Babylonian New Year celebration lasted for eleven days.  Each day had its own particular mode of celebration, but it’s probably safe to say that modern New Year's Eve festivities pale in comparison.

This particular holiday, maybe more than any other calendar event, actually makes the calendar, itself, a point of interest.  In the years around 2000 BC, Babylonians celebrated the beginning of a new year on what is now March 23, although they themselves had no written calendar.  Late March actually is a logical choice for the beginning of a new year.  It is the time when Spring begins and new crops are planted.  The purely arbitrary date of January 1, on the other hand, has no astronomical or agricultural significance.

Most of you are probably familiar with the beginning of the Chinese New Year, a 15-day Spring Festival period beginning in mid-January on the first day of the first lunar month of the Chinese calendar.  Akin to the Chinese calendar, the modern Hebrew or Jewish calendar is a rule-based lunisolar calendar, meaning it measures months defined in lunar cycles as well as years measured in solar cycles.  This form of calendar is distinct from the purely lunar Islamic calendar and the almost entirely solar Gregorian calendar.

Are you thoroughly confused yet?  The difference stems from whether the passage of time is measured based upon the journey of the moon or the sun or some combination of the two.  It does get a little confusing for me, I admit.  And since it isn’t a topic of general conversation, we sort of take it for granted.  But the point is this: diverse perspectives exist regarding when a new year begins.

The New Year begins on January 1 only for cultures that use a 365-day solar calendar. January 1 became the beginning of the New Year in 46 BC, when Julius Caesar developed a calendar—the Julian calendar, of course—which would more accurately reflect the seasons than previous calendars had.  However, in the Middle Ages, Christians changed New Year's Day to December 25 to coincide with the birth of Jesus.  Then they changed it again to March 25, a holiday called the Annunciation.  In the sixteenth century, Pope Gregory XIII revised the Julian calendar—creating the Gregorian calendar, which is now the most widely used in the world—and the celebration of the New Year was returned to January 1.

Whew!  It’s no wonder we can’t keep our New Year’s Resolutions; we don’t even know for sure when to begin! 

Ah yes, the dreaded New Year’s Resolutions.  Oh, and don’t think for a minute that you can use all this calendar confusion as your excuse for breaking yours.  You’re on your own there, my friend.  And it’s probably time to be taking stock of your current situation, because we’re fast approaching the dreaded date of January 24th.

Now there’s another calendar date you need to be aware of, because it’s purported to be the most depressing day of the year.  According to a British psychologist, Dr. Cliff Arnall, as reported by Jennifer Carlile of MSNBC, our collective misery annually peaks on January 24.

Arnall, who specializes in seasonal disorders at the University of Cardiff, Wales, created a formula that takes into account numerous feelings to devise peoples' lowest point.

The model is: (W + (D-d)) x TQ
                          M x NA

The equation is broken down into seven variables: (W) weather, (D) debt, (d) monthly salary, (T) time since Christmas, (Q) time since failed quit attempt, (M) low motivational levels and (NA) the need to take action.

Think about it.  The midwinter weather is wearing you down.  You’re sinking in debt after the holidays.  You’re angry with yourself for already breaking your New Year's resolutions.  And let’s don’t even talk about the added factor of chemical imbalances in the brain, as is the case for sufferers of Seasonal Affective Disorder…aptly abbreviated SAD.

As Carlile reported, Arnall found, while days technically get longer after December 21, cyclonic weather systems take hold in January, bringing low, dark clouds.  Meanwhile, the majority of people break their healthy resolutions six to seven days into the new year, and even the hangers-on have fallen off the wagon, torn off the nicotine patches and eaten the fridge empty by the third week.  Any residual dregs of holiday cheer and family fun have kicked the bucket by January 24.

“Following the initial thrill of New Year's celebrations and changing over a new leaf, reality starts to sink in,” Arnall said. “The realization coincides with the dark clouds rolling in and the obligation to pay off Christmas credit card bills.”  Back to reality.

Remembering this prompted me to begin to wonder about the practice of creating New Year’s Resolutions.  Why do we do it?  If Arnall is correct…if most of us have already broken our commitments to ourselves in 24 short days…why do we bother?  What’s the point of New Year’s resolutions, anyway?

The tradition of New Year's Resolutions goes all the way back to 153 B.C., when Janus, a mythical king of early Rome, was placed at the head of the calendar.  The Romans named the first month of the year after Janus, the god of beginnings and the guardian of doors and entrances.  Janus was always depicted with two faces, one on the front of his head and one on the back.  Thus he could look backward and forward at the same time.  At midnight on December 31, the Romans imagined Janus looking back at the old year and forward to the new.  Many Romans looked for forgiveness from their enemies (i.e., the past) and also exchanged gifts before the beginning of each year (i.e., the future).  They began a tradition on New Year's Eve by giving one another branches from sacred trees for good fortune and, later, nuts or coins imprinted with the god Janus became more common.  Janus became the ancient symbol for resolutions.

I've always thought of New Year’s Resolutions as a "do-over."  Remember that phrase from our youth?  If you screw up, you just call for a "do-over!"  That's what New Year's Resolutions seem to be.  They are commitments we make to a project or habit or lifestyle change that is generally interpreted as advantageous to us.  Theoretically, these commitments go into effect on New Year’s Day and remain until the set goal has been achieved. 

Thinking about how this project planning and implementation process is intended to work makes me cringe just a bit, because it’s all too close to the corporate life I lived for over two decades.  In some ways it seems unnatural to apply this business-like planning approach to our personal lives, but in essence we’re doing just that when we establish new goals for the new year.  Just as in the business environment, our New Year’s Resolutions are an attempt to look out over a long-term window of time, forecast what challenges and opportunities will be encountered, and, based upon that forecast, establish short, medium, and long-term goals.  The trick to accomplishing those goals in the business world is to underpin them with sound plans and resources.  After all, identifying a destination isn’t of much value if you don’t plan the route and prepare for the journey you’ll take to get there.  Perhaps it’s failure to do this necessary underpinning that brings about the downfall of not only our business plans but also our personal resolutions as well.

Personal Coaches at www.proactivecoach.com claim that it’s a matter of being more specific with your resolutions.  Citing research showing that the percentage of people who maintain new year’s resolutions falls sharply as the weeks go by—past the first week: 75%, past 2 weeks: 71%, after one month: 64%, after 6 months: 46%—they say, don’t give up; but revisit your resolution to make it more specific, so that it’s easier to follow.  “I will go to the gym 3 times a week” is much more specific than “I will get into shape.”  Even more specific would be: “I am registering for a class” or “I am hiring a personal trainer.”

That reminds me of a newsmagazine article I recently read by comic and talk-show host, Ellen DeGeneres.  In the witty way few can, she delivers her advice for keeping New Year’s Resolutions, which she refers to as “a long, nasty list of present faults and future failures.”  Ellen says to keep your list short and don’t always focus on what’s wrong with you.  Her list, while humorous, quickly becomes a series of steps to continue doing what she’s already doing, such as, never go to beauty school, keep on not smoking, and hold off on exercise.  Sounds like a set of resolutions with which most of us could be successful, but I can’t exactly say they live up to the spirit of the age-old tradition.

I think there’s more to our failure to achieve New Year’s Resolutions than unrealistic goals, a superficial lack of specific objectives or the absence of a plan.  Assuming any of us possesses the wherewithal to write realistic and specific resolutions and sketch out a plan, despite how rudimentary our skills may be, there must be some deeper issue behind our failure to achieve our New Year’s Resolutions…a reason that stops us from planning…one that may even stop us from ever making New Year’s Resolutions at all.  I think what we lack…that which is critical to our successful achievement of our commitments or anything else in life…is hope.

Personal Coaches say even if you do try and fail, there’s something to be learned from your failure to keep up your resolutions.  It challenges you to learn to deal with all of yourself: the part of you that wants to do better, as well as the part that is resisting.  They claim that once you get more curious about this process, you’ll find it has the potential for liberating tremendous energy toward reaching your goals.  This reminded me of something I heard Oprah Winfrey say recently.

The January 5 episode of Oprah contained never-before seen outtakes from her daily talk show, part of which were scenes of Oprah fielding questions from audience members after the broadcast signed off.  If you have an automobile as old as mine, you might be able to tune your radio to 87.7 FM where a broadcast of the local ABC TV affiliate can be found, and that’s where I heard part of the show.  A young woman asked Oprah what had been the best advice she ever received from her good friend and internationally honored writer, poet, and speaker, Maya Angelou.  If you don’t know Maya Angelou’s story, you need to hear it before you hear Oprah’s answer to that question.

April 4, 1928, Maya Angelou was born as a black female into the poverty of the pre-war south.  She was molested at age seven by her mother’s boyfriend and did not speak again for five years. Shuffled between her grandmother in Arkansas and her mother in St. Louis, she experienced the overwhelming deprivation that was to be the hallmark of her growth and later life’s work.  At the age of sixteen, young Maya conceived a child.  Through the ensuing years she managed to find her way as a single child-parent to support and raise her son in a segregated, poverty-stricken environment.  Maintaining her dignity in the face of prejudice, harassment, and violence, she did not give in to the despair of those surrounding her.  Maya Angelou did more than survive.  She expressed her spirit in poetry.  She sang.  She danced.  She wrote autobiographies of her journey, essays on living, and poems to inspire both individuals and nations, and she has been honored by universities, presidents, and world leaders.

Maya Angelou gives thanks for the hardships of life, which shaped her character, taught her mettle and challenged her to give her all to everything she attempted.  "We all enter this world as lumps of coal," she said.  "It is the heat and pressure of our lives that enable us to become diamonds.  The first gift has already been given.  You are here, alive on this earth on this precious day.  Take all it has to offer you and give back everything you’ve got.  When you feel the heat, honey, look inside and see the shining."

Based upon that advice, Oprah’s answer to her audience member shouldn’t surprise you.  She said Maya Angelou’s best advice to her had been to always give thanks for the challenges in your life.  Even in the middle of a crisis, she explained, you need to be thankful for the problems you face, because it is those challenges that allow you to learn and grow into the person you were born to be…in Angelou’s words, to become diamonds.

What is it that makes it possible for us to survive the heat and pressure to become diamonds?  What was it that made it possible for Angelou to overcome the challenges of her life?  And, for heaven sake, if she can overcome that, what is it that allows us to keep our measly little New Year’s Resolutions?  The answer is hope!

If you want to learn about yourself—both the part of you that wants to do better and the part of you that resists—check the fuel level in your hope tank.  Hope is the only fuel on which your engine can run!

I always try to write these monthly articles to coincide with an appropriate theme for each month.  Last month’s Christmas article was focused on peace, and I already knew the February article would naturally be about love.  What I never imagined, until it was revealed to me during a walk on the same day I heard Oprah’s comment, was that those two articles would bookend this one about hope.  And now that these puzzle pieces have fallen into place, it makes perfect sense.  Peace.  Hope.  Love.  Listen for those messages in the remainder of this article.

I’ve just returned from a week-long Stephen Series Leader’s Training Conference in Orlando, hosted by St. Louis-based Stephen Ministries.  There I joined 457 other men and women from across the U.S. and Canada to learn how to implement and manage a system for providing one-to-one Christian care to individuals struggling with crisis.  The thought of writing a January article about hope had only occurred to me mere days before the trip, so I’d had no time to think about it or research it.  And the days and nights were so full at the conference; I had no time whatsoever to spend on it.  Little did I know I didn’t need to.  The story I needed to reinforce my lesson of hope was unexpectedly handed to me on a silver platter on the second-to-last day of the conference.  Somehow, I have a sneaking suspicion that’s exactly how it was supposed to happen...

A few days into the conference, I found myself growing weary of all the interaction.  It was a surprising development for someone like me who craves such a thing, but on the first 30-minute break following lunch, I simply didn’t want to talk to anyone.  The warm breeze and bright Florida sun felt good on my face, so for a few minutes I moved about outside, weaving in and out of this little group of three and that little group of four, purposely not making eye-contact with anyone to avoid being drawn into a conversation.  For a while, all the talk around me was like white noise.  None of it actually registered in my consciousness, and gradually I realized my thoughts were turning to the topic of my upcoming newsletter…hope.  Maya Angelou’s simple advice worked its way to the forefront of my thinking.  Then, as if on queue, I became intensely aware of a conversation underway next to me. 

“When I found out how much they spent on that new building at church, I was furious!”  The man grumbled, as he continued to describe in detail how many dollars had been raised and how many dollars had been spent…on an albeit amazing and much-needed facility, he reluctantly admitted.  Yet still he found something about which to complain.  I’m from a small start-up church.  We just hope for enough donations each Sunday to pay the rent again for next Sunday!  I couldn’t help wondering how he would feel if they weren’t so prosperous…if they were unable to raise the funds for that much-needed building.

I turned to walk away and turned right into another conversation between three men.  “There wasn’t a thing wrong with our old carpet; but, oh no, according to my wife it had to be replaced!” He continued, “And of course, once we had new carpet, we had to have new drapes!”  He griped on about his wife’s efforts to keep his home looking fresh and inviting, and I couldn’t help wondering, how would he feel if he went home from this conference at the end of the week and his wife simply wasn’t there anymore?  What if by some tragedy he didn’t have her around to worry about making his house a home?  I wonder how he would feel then.

I kept moving and soon, as if someone other than me was operating the radio dial, another conversation between three ladies tuned in.  They were complaining about the conference.  Specifically, I remember one lady saying that she felt she should complain to someone about the video support.  (Sounded to me like she was already complaining to someone.)  Now, keep in mind, I’m a professional trainer with a considerable amount of program planning and event coordination experience.  So I know what I’m talking about when I say this conference was the closest to perfection in its planning, organization, support, and execution as you will ever find anywhere.  Each day I’d been awed by their accomplishment, knowing how much advance and behind-the-scenes work was necessary to make it look so easy and flawless.  As I paused briefly to listen to this woman’s complaints, I couldn’t help wondering, if this woman can complain about this, how in the world would she feel if she attended a truly poor conference?

I couldn’t take much of that conversation, so I inched forward to find a quiet place.  I hadn’t wanted or intended to eavesdrop, but it had seemed to have been out of my control.  Then, finally, in that quiet place, I simply found myself convicted.  For in that moment, all the gripes and complaints and negative comments I’d heard, even within my own team, and regrettably, even from my own lips, came flooding back to me.  “Why is he or she behaving that way?  There’s too much sodium in the food.  Why are they feeding us so much?  It’s the pastor’s fault our Stephen Ministry program isn’t working.  Why do we have to implement the program in the manner they are teaching us?” (Never mind they have 31 years experience!)  It had been one negative perspective heaped upon another and now, with powerful force, it had all slapped me in the face.

How could we possibly follow Maya Angelou’s advice to give thanks for our problems…to be grateful especially in the midst of bad times…when we humans can’t even be grateful when we’re enjoying overwhelming prosperity?!  Is it so unnatural for us to be grateful?  Is it so much easier to complain than to give thanks?  Is it even possible anymore, after what we’ve become in our Western society, for us to follow Angelou’s advice?  These were the nagging questions I carried back into the next session of the conference following the break.  The session, ironically, was about listening.

Throughout the training, experiential activities were designed to facilitate the trainees to meet new people, step outside their comfort zone, and try new skills, in order to more fully grasp the concepts.  On one occasion, when they’d absolutely insisted we pair with a stranger, I’d sought out and met a woman named Jeanne.  Every other time, however, I’d taken the easy way out and stuck with my four teammates from Knox Area Rescue Ministries.  But, for some reason, when we were once again instructed to find someone we didn’t already know with whom we could engage in a listening skill practice, my teammate, Kathy, and I hesitated. 

Finally I asked her, “Do you want to just do this with me, or would you like to take this opportunity to meet someone else?”

Kathy also hesitated. 

I made one scan around the room to see 456 people quickly pairing up—men with men, women with women—before asking Kathy again.  Once more, she hesitated, and when she turned away this time a woman from the front of the room was making a beeline for her.  Their eyes met, and they immediately began looking for a place to sit. 

I’d really been ready to do the exercise with Kathy, but now my decision was made for me.  This time when I looked around, I initially saw no one left standing.  I literally thought that somehow I was the only person in the room without a partner for the exercise. 

“Do you need a partner?” I heard one of the conference facilitators ask from behind my left shoulder and, when I turned, he was pointing left.  I looked, and all the way at the very end of the expansive conference room, a good thirty or more feet away, stood one woman.

How the two of us could be seated so far apart and yet end up without a nearby partner for the exercise was mind-boggling.  But we smiled across the room to one another, and she began walking in my direction. 

I was noticing how impressive she was, as she made the long walk across the room to where I was waiting.  Her orange jacket complimented her glowing complexion, and her fitted slacks highlighted her slender, toned figure.  She moved gracefully around and through the many conference tables and chairs.  No way would I have guessed this youthful, vibrant woman to be 64-years-old.  And I can tell you this, beyond a shadow of a doubt, never ever would I have guessed her to be a cancer survivor.

When the exercise called for us to share with one another a loss we’d experienced, this lovely woman from Omaha, Nebraska quickly smiled and said, “Oh, this is an easy one for me.  I know exactly what I’m going to talk about.  I’m a 12-year breast cancer survivor.”  That stunned me… but only half as much as the rest of her story.

Her mother died from breast cancer at the same age she is now.  All three of her female cousins have had breast cancer.  Her brother died with stomach cancer.  Her sister had breast cancer at 30 years of age, and has since had cancer 14 times, miraculously enduring as many surgeries and rounds of chemotherapy.  Her family has lived with this dark cloud over their heads for the majority of their lives.

“I knew, with our family history, that I couldn’t take any chances.  I had to have a complete mastectomy.” She said.  But she’d seen the effects of the radical surgery on her mother years earlier and was terrified at the prospect for herself. 

“At first I didn’t know if the cancer was localized, or if I had a chance to survive.  Then when I learned I could survive, I didn’t know what I was going to look like.  Think about what that kind of surgery does to a woman!” she exclaimed.  “Our femininity is tied so tightly to how our bodies look,” she explained, and in that moment, although I’d never really seriously considered it before, looking at this striking woman, I knew exactly what she meant.

“That’s why I got involved in Stephen Ministry,” she said, “so I could help other women with breast cancer!” 

She began helping her surgeon prepare newly diagnosed women immediately after completing her reconstruction.  “I told him I wanted to do it,” she smiled.  “I show them what they will look like after reconstruction, answer the difficult questions they have, and just spend time with them helping them through it.  I never hesitated.  I knew this was what I was supposed to do.”

This amazing, yet normal woman just like you and me, turned her most terrifying life experience into a life-changing message of hope for so many more women.

Oh, and that’s actually not the entire story.

Six weeks after her mastectomy, her husband and brother-in-law were in a plane crash, along with her brother who was suffering through the final stages of stomach cancer with the help of a full-time morphine pump.  In his last days, he’d wanted to visit old friends, and he loved to fly.  So her husband, a licensed pilot, had flown him and his brother-in-law in a small four-seat aircraft to visit a friend in Texas.  He was holding up well, and the trip was going beautifully.  There was no reason to expect that trouble loomed on the horizon.

When they took off for the trip home, a small door on the bottom of the plane, which had not latched tightly, popped open.  The plane will fly with the door open, she explained, so there was no major cause for concern.  Her husband simply decided to make a short loop back around to land the plane.  But the severely hot, humid conditions that day made it impossible for the craft to achieve adequate lift to clear the nearby power lines.  One of the wings clipped a power pole, sending it crashing to the ground on its top short of the runway.

Believe it or not, all three men survived.

Shortly after the impact, her brother-in-law crawled out a back door.  But with the front of the plane engulfed in flames, her husband and brother hung upside down still strapped in their seatbelts.  Her husband struggled to free himself and then her brother, only to discover he couldn’t find an exit.  He unsuccessfully tried to kick out the windshield until his shoes melted to the glass and his feet and legs were severely burned.  Determined not to die in that fire, she said, through all the raging flames and black smoke, he miraculously noticed the open door in the back of the plane.  Both of his legs were broken in multiple locations, but the adrenaline surging through his body and his determination to live enabled him to drag her brother out the door before collapsing on the ground.  They were met there by a brave photographer, who’d been capturing shots of a nearby bicycle race.  He ran over and dragged the two of them to safety seconds before the plane exploded.

Her brother and brother-in-law walked away with only minor cuts and burns.  Her husband, on the other hand, suffered several broken bones and other injuries and spent months in the hospital recovering.  She—with drainage tubes still inserted and over two months prior to her reconstruction surgery—raced to be with him and never left his side.

“It was a blessing!” she exclaimed wide-eyed, and I stared back equally wide-eyed. “I’d been estranged from my brother for many years," she explained, "and we had all this resulting strife in our family.  But that experience brought us all back together.  Everyone came to the hospital, and we sat there together and cried together and laughed together and reminisced…and we healed.  The following Spring my brother was able to die in peace, and we were all able to let him go peacefully, because we’d had that precious time together to heal.”

In my October newsletter, I wrote about choosing to open your gifts, mainly by looking for the silver lining in bad situations…especially in the seemingly tragic days of our lives.  But I have to admit I wasn’t prepared to look face-to-face into the eyes of someone who’d accomplished it so dramatically.  My new friend ran with me across the crowded room to introduce me to her husband, who’d also made the choice, after his recovery from the injuries sustained in the plane crash, to become a Stephen Minister and Leader in order to care for others struggling with a life crisis.  Peace, hope and love emanated from the two of them, leaving me overcome with emotion…tears streaming down my face.  In that moment, I knew, if these two can do it, it isn’t beyond the reach of any of us.  And I also knew with equal certainty I was supposed to meet her and hear her story in this conference.

Joyce Meyer, well-known author, speaker, teacher, and radio and television personality says, “Happiness and joy do not come from the outside.  They come from within.  They are a conscious decision, a deliberate choice, one that we make ourselves each day we live.”

Hope is a conscious choice. 

Reflect upon Maya Angelou’s life story and, if you’ve ever heard her speak or read any of her works, there can be no question that this woman is peace-filled, hope-full, and love-inspired!  Maintaining our commitments to ourselves to live the life we desire, despite our current circumstances, is clearly made possible by refusing to lose hope.  And it’s that hope that gives us peace and frees us to love!  If I didn’t already know that, it was proven to me this week.

If life were easy, there would be no need for hope.  It would have no purpose.  We know what hope is, because we already have it.  We’re born with it.

Hope isn’t something we find in our environment.  Our environment may be completely hopeless, but that doesn’t mean we ourselves are. 

Hope isn’t something we catch from someone else.  Others may inspire us, but hope isn’t something anyone else can give us. 

We have to find hope within us.  As was the case with Angelou and the husband and wife I had the privilege of meeting at the conference, we simply must persevere to have hope.  We must choose to be full of hope.  We must allow the inspiring stories of others to stir the hope within us.

Meyer also wrote, “Our thoughts are silent words that only we and the Lord hear, but those words affect our inner man, our health, our joy, and our attitude.”

That is the secret…attitude…an attitude of gratitude. 

Please pay attention to this, because this is what the past week’s experiences have taught me.  Hope exists in all of us.  But it has been kicked and stomped down deep inside to the point that we’ve lost sight of it.  All we can see anymore are the negative perspectives holding it down.  In that state, if we allow ourselves to stay there, it is easier to just focus on what we don’t like and look for the faults in others and negatives in everything.  Either consciously or subconsciously, we think it’s those low expectations that prevent us from getting our hopes dashed again, don’t we?  But we must recognize this learned behavior for the self-sabotage that it is!  Angelou’s advice is correct.  Gratitude is the key that opens the door and releases all that downtrodden, pent-up hope squashed deep down inside each of us.

That’s what I hear when I listen to Angelou, and the breast cancer survivor, and the plane crash survivor.  I hear gratitude for the painful and challenging days of their lives, for it is in those days they truly discover who they are. 

It is in the midst of seemingly overwhelming problems we find hope inside ourselves…just waiting patiently to be discovered.  An attitude of gratitude releases our hope, and on those wings of hope we can soar to previously unimaginable heights!

Honestly, now, don’t those simple New Year’s Resolutions, like eat less and exercise more, seem awfully easy to achieve in contrast to the stories I just shared? 

My hope for you is that in this new year, more than ever before, you will draw inspiration from the amazing true stories all around you, and realize how much hope is in your tank waiting to be used.

At the dawn of each new year, I usually just revisit my perennial resolutions to prioritize, economize, and exercise, about which I’ve written in a previous January newsletter.  But I now think perhaps the most important resolution we can make is to resolve to be grateful for our issues, challenges and problems, so that we might release the powerful hope within us

Keep that resolution, and everything else we hope for will become possible in this new year!

Be The Light!


You'll never be the sun

turning in the sky.

And you won't be the moon above us

on a moonlit night.

And you won't be the stars in heaven

although they burn so bright.

But even on the deepest ocean

you will be the light.


You may not always shine

as you go barefoot over stone.

You might be so long together

or you might walk alone.

And you won't find that love comes easy

but that love is always right.

So even when the dark clouds gather

you will be the light.


And if you lose the part inside,

when love turns round on you,

leaving the past behind

is knowing you'll do like you always do.

Holding you blind.

Keeping you true.


You'll never be the sun

turning in the sky.

And you won't be the moon above us

on a moonlit night.

And you won't be the stars in heaven

although they burn so bright.

But even on the deepest ocean

you will be the light.


"You'll Never Be The Sun" recorded by Emmylou Harris, Linda Ronstadt, & Dolly Parton

CD: Trio II

Written by: Donagh Long 1994 Little Rox Music (ASCAP)