Rise and Shine

Rise and Shine

Photo by Norma Thatcher

Non-English speakers learning our language face a common hurdle: idioms.

A strange word in and of itself, an idiom is defined as “a group of words established by usage as having a meaning not deducible from those of the individual words.”

So cats and dogs are not literally falling from the sky with the raindrops, when I want you to wait you don’t actually have to hold the reins of horses, and great-aunt Matilda didn’t physically kick any bucket as she took her last breath.

Growing up hearing these phrases, we understand what they mean, but we don’t usually stop to think about how these odd phrasings came to be an accepted part of our language.

One of my personal favorites is rise and shine. In researching its origin, I discovered several theories. One source says it originated as a military order in the late 1800s and was considered an order to soldiers to get out of bed quickly and shine their boots; in order words, get up and get ready! Or as Dictionary.com says, shine here means “act lively, do well.”

Bloomsbury International figures the origin is from “18th-century sailor speak.” Back then, the life of a sailor could be harrowing. Besides dealing with hard-to-maneuver equipment, they often faced life-threatening weather, a lack of food supplies, and unsanitary living conditions. The sailors no sooner got to bed than it was time to get up. So the captain coined the phrase rise and shine to “inject positivity and cheer” upon waking.

I wonder how well that worked.

On The Phrase Finder, the experts believe that the phrase alludes to the Biblical reference in the 60th chapter of Isaiah, verse 1. We often hear this verse used at Christmas: Arise, shine, for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee.

Since that verse from Isaiah has always been one of my favorites, I’m voting for this version of the origin.

And as recommended on KingsEnglish.Info:  So in the morning, just as you let the sun rise and shine upon you to brighten your face and give you warmth, so let Christ rise and shine upon you to give you hope and peace.

Stay tuned for Saturday’s post which is a follow-up to this one.


It turns out other languages use idioms as well. Check it out here.


Transformation Gameplan


Photo by Foundry on Pixabay.com

Someone had posted this quotation without attribution on Facebook last week.

Inspiration and information without personal application will never amount to transformation.

The quotation resonated with me in a powerful way so I researched it.

Embarrassingly enough, it was from a book I had already read. I say embarrassingly because not only had I read the book within the past two years but also I had written about it in this post from June 24, 2017.

Uninvited: Living Loved When You Feel Less Than, Left Out, and Lonely by Lysa TerKeurst contains many gems of wisdom. In my mind, the Inspiration / Information / Application / Transformation quote has to be one of the most universally applicable pieces of advice ever.

Consider these three scenarios:

You’ve been stuck in a horrible work environment for several years. A friend gives you some great advice about a new job-hunting website. He also gives you a pep talk about your many outstanding characteristics. So you have the information and you’ve been inspired. BUT unless you apply yourself and actually go to the site and do the work of finding new employment, you’ll still be in that life-sucking job this time next year.

You read an article about getting back into shape after the age of ___ (fill in the blank). The article is saturated with easy-to-understand information about the many benefits of exercise at any age. Not only that, but there are links to free online videos to help you perform the movements correctly. “I can do this!” you shout. But neither your body nor your health will be transformed unless you do the work.

You’re interested in deepening your faith and/or spirituality so you sign up for a study group at church. The group is amazingly supportive and the book being used is rich in fascinating information. But life happens. You skip a homework assignment, then you don’t find the time to read the next chapter, and decide to drop out. No application = no transformation.

We watch TED talks, read books, research online, and attend classes and seminars that inspire us and provide the information needed to take whatever step we’re considering taking. But when we just let that information seep out of our brains and allow the inspiration to languish, it’s as if it never even happened.

Lest you think I’m pointing fingers and holding up myself as a sterling example of accomplishment, uh, no. Sorry to disappoint you.

In the past, I’ve stayed too long in a joyless job. I’ve worked my way into shape and lazily watched it slip away several times. I purchased the book Crafting a Rule of Life two years ago and haven’t gotten farther than Chapter 3.

“When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.” (Attributed to various people including Buddha.)

And Richard Bach said, “We teach best what we most need to learn.”

In my case, often I WRITE best what I most need to learn.

So thanks, Lysa TerKeurst, for the words of wisdom. I promise this time I’ll remember them.


About the book Uninvited

Who’s Afraid of the Dark?

Afraid of the dark

Photo by DhivakaranS on Pexels.com

Fictional character Jack Reacher said something like this when looking out into the dark: It’s what everyone fears, whether they realize it or not…that thought that just maybe there’s something out there that’s going to get them.

Being afraid of the dark is usually a childhood manifestation that appears around the age of two and usually departs by the age of ten.

But sometimes it never goes away.

A 2016 British study showed that 64% of the country’s adults admitted to being afraid of the dark. 36% of the participants said they sense someone or something in the room with them. Many cited fearing something was hiding under their beds. Others said they never left their feet uncovered for fear that something would grab them.

It appears Brits are more afraid of the dark than are Americans; a study noted by Dr. John Mayer indicated around 11% of American adults admit to being afraid of the dark.

Still, that’s a lot of grown-ups sleeping with the lights on and their toes covered.

Although some people use the terms interchangeably, Nyctophobia is the psychological term for having an extreme fear of the night, and Achluophobia is the term for fearing darkness. The differentiation in my brain is that there can be darkness without night. Think of a trunk, a closet, or a basement without windows. Scared yet?

Why ARE we afraid of the dark? It goes back to our earliest beginnings. When the caveman poked out his head by dawn’s early light, he could see if any danger was lurking. During the day he could answer the Big Question: “Is that something I can eat or is it something that can eat me?”

So evolutionarily-wise, fear of the dark was an advantage in that it helped us stay alive for another day.

Even today the oldest part of our brain (referred to as the lizard brain or reptilian brain) assigns a negative connotation to something new or unfamiliar. THAT is why so many of us are uncomfortable with trying something new, whether it’s tasting something we’ve not had before, or taking a class where we don’t know anyone, or interviewing for a different job.

So darkness represents a terrifying unknown because, well, who knows what’s out there? There is very likely nothing, but we may imagine unlimited frightening possibilities.

Sometimes the darkness is in our heads and our hearts. We may have suffered the tragic loss of a loved one or a terrible blow to our self-esteem by a cheating spouse or from losing a job. A debilitating illness of our own or a family member may send us into a downward spiral. We’re frightened of this dark, terrifying unknown and we are fearful of what may be coming after us next.

Just as in actual darkness, we need a spark of light to help us see. The spark may be small, even perhaps short-lived, lasting long enough for us to venture one first step.

That spark is named hope.

Heart-and-head darkness is a prime breeding ground for despair and powerlessness. We simply can’t see any way for our situation to improve. We’re afraid to move for fear of making things worse. We don’t even try to feel our way to safer ground.

But someone sharing a spark of hope can be a lifeline in the darkness.


A former post of mine on the Lizard Brain

Article on childhood fears sticking with us

CNN Health article on hope


Contemplative Thinking About Your Hands


Photo by Gaelle Marcel on Unsplash.com

My last post about our hands got me thinking deeper on the subject of hands. I made the point that often we forget about taking care of our hands, and really, do we think much about them at all? Likely no, unless they’re not working as they should whether from an injury or illness.

One definition of contemplative practice is that it’s a reminder to connect to what we find most meaningful. Certainly our hands are meaningful to us and here are just some of the positive ways they make a tremendous impact in our lives.

We wave hello and perhaps shake hands or bump fists. We use the same gesture to wave goodbye and maybe kiss our fingers as the start of blowing a farewell kiss.

Our hands make it possible to create art. There are many forms such as drawing, throwing pottery, watercolor painting, photographing, creating sculpture, and finger-painting.

We create with our hands, whether that means sketching an architectural plan, writing a love letter or a novel, or typing a blog post.

Our world is filled with music with the help of our hands from the shaking of a tambourine or cowbell (that’s for any readers who might have once been hippies), to fingers racing across piano keys or hands holding a cello’s bow. When a musical performance ends, we clap our hands to show appreciation.

Our hands help us stay in shape by holding weights or supporting our own body weight in a Yoga position. We throw darts and footballs and dribble basketballs.

We plant spring bulbs, pull summer weeds, rake autumn leaves and shovel winter snow.

We talk with our hands; our gestures help convey our verbal message. Without saying a word, our hands can convey the message of stop, wait a second, or come on.

With our children we play peek-a-boo, move board game pieces, hold a “hand” of cards, and put together puzzles. We spoon out cough medicine when the kids are sick and we use our fingers to check for a feverish forehead. Our hands help us braid hair, tie shoes, and apply Big Bird Band-Aids to boo-boos.

Our hands help us in the process of creating meals from jotting that grocery list, putting items into our carts, paying at checkout, and everything else that goes into our being able to call out, “Dinner’s ready.” Kneading bread dough, filling a muffin cup with 2/3 of a cup of batter, or pouring chocolate chips into cookie dough isn’t possible without our hands. We wrap presents, tie bows, and decorate Christmas trees and Easter eggs with our hands’ assistance.

I’m just barely touching the seemingly endless list of the many ways our hands play a vital role in our lives.  Contemplate your own hands as you use them throughout the day tomorrow.


We’ll Be Coming ‘Round The Mountain


The Blue Ridge Mountains and Shenandoah Valley courtesy of Pixabay.com

Heading to a concert in southwest Virginia, we took the scenic route of 211 West. And it is just that: scenic. The winding road with horseshoe-shaped curves crisscrosses its way up one side of a mountain and then down again.

Signage courtesy of the National Park Service tells us that the road passes through Shenandoah National Park.

At the higher altitudes, the temperatures have not yet been conducive for the budding of the trees. That enabled me to glance through the leafless boughs to an adjacent mountain.

I noticed a strip of bareness on the other mountain and was attempting to figure out what it was. Some type of logging going on, perhaps?

Later I realized it was a road, and in fact, was a famous road called Skyline Drive. According to www.Virginia.org, “Skyline Drive is a National Scenic Byway in Virginia that runs 105 miles along the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains.” The starting point is in Front Royal and the endpoint is at Waynesboro. Skyline Drive serves as the only public road through Shenandoah National Park, and there are just four access points to the road.

So if you’re not at one of the access points, you literally can’t get there from there.

Since the speed limit is 35 mph through the park, it takes at least three hours to drive from start to finish. I say “at least” because there are 75 overlooks that provide magnificent views of the Shenandoah Valley and the Blue Ridge Mountains (such as the photo at the top of this post).

Skyline Drive is a huge people-draw in the fall when nature paints a stunning array of reds, yellows, oranges, and browns in seemingly endless hues. The “leafers” come out to take in the spectacular sights.

As my husband and I headed southwest on 211, our path and Skyline Drive eventually intersected. The tiny strip of bareness I had seen transformed into an overpass above my head. The directions to our destination called for us to stay straight, but there was a moment of hesitation in my mind where I nearly called out, “Let’s turn right!”

As we drove on straight, it occurred to me that had the trees’ spring foliage begun, I could not have seen that speck of bareness that eventually made me aware of the intersection ahead. So even though our trip over the mountain in mid-March provided a stark landscape, I was happy for that moment of insight.

Just as on the conceptual road of life in the bleakest of our seasons, we may experience times of absolute clarity that we would have otherwise missed if the view had been spectacular.


Information from Skyline Drive’s site

A Book By Any Name


Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

My little town has been blessed with an independent book store on Main Street. The Old Town Open Book had a soft opening last Friday.

They sold 1700 volumes in six hours! The store was so busy it couldn’t even close on time; the local online paper reported the store stayed open an additional 90 minutes to finish ringing up customers.

What a wonderful problem!

The actual grand opening occurs this Friday evening and over 1000 people on Facebook have indicated they’re going.

I love my Virginia town of Warrenton and its people. Frankly, I’m not in the least surprised by the outpouring of support for our new bookstore.

On the site SeriousReading.com, there is a post called 30 Reasons to Read Books. Check out their post (link below) to read the other 27 benefits of reading a book besides figuring out a new skill, reducing stress, improving vocabulary.

When I used to interview job applicants, I consistently slipped in the question, “What was the last book you read?” Typically, I’d get the deer in headlight stare as a response. Occasionally, someone would answer “Uh, the Bible?” But they would phrase it in such a way to indicate they weren’t quite sure, and perhaps I knew the correct answer.

My public speaking students receive instruction from me on where and how to research a presentation topic. When I reach the point where I include a public library, I’ve actually had people laugh. Recently someone blurted out, “Do they still have those around?” That is just sad.

I encourage students to check out their local library because not only are there books, magazines, and DVDs to help with their research, but also modern libraries have an amazing array of electronic resources to help the public.

Many people, it seems, believe the only way to research a topic is by typing G-O-O-G-L-E.

Having just finished a recently published book titled I’d Rather Be Reading: The Delights and Dilemmas of the Reading Life by Anne Bogel, I was reminded how vital books are to the human race. Maybe the lack of reading is one of the issues causing so many problems in our world. I wonder how many members of Congress read as a pastime? Mr. President?

Please…get a copy of this book and read it. But no—put down that phone or computer mouse. I don’t want you to order a copy online. I want you to find a bookstore, the smaller the better. If they don’t have it in stock, very likely they’ll be happy to order it for you. And yes, you can tell them Norma sent you.


SeriousReading.com link

The I’d Rather Be Reading book site


Giving Up or Taking On…or Both?

Lent giving up taking on

Image courtesy of ulleo on Pixabay.com

The beginning of Lent marks the season of getting ourselves ready for Easter. Many Christians view it as a time of increased or contemplative prayer. Others consider it a space to pare down the busyness of our lives and minds to focus on our faith.

According to LifeWayResearch.com, most Americans who observe Lent do so as follows:

Give up favorite food or beverage

Attend church services

Pray more

Give to others

Fast from a bad habit

Fast from a favorite activity

It seems the more “popular” topic of Lent is a time of fasting from (giving up) something we enjoy OR taking on something to enrich our closeness to our faith.

In the giving-up category of food and drink items, alcohol and chocolate usually head the top five list. Other items include meat, soda, sweets in general, coffee, fast food, and chips. (There are some people that I pray do NOT give up coffee. You know who you are.)

I have a friend who posted on Facebook that she’s giving up dropping the F-bomb for Lent. Just like last year. Since this friend is one of my nicest followers, let me say this: Give it up for good! You’re smart so you know it takes just 21 days to break a bad habit. The church is giving you 40 days. Use that time to your advantage. Imagine that one of your girls is always within earshot. OK, I’m done with the nagging. At least I know you won’t be cussing at me for a while.

Another friend told me that last year she gave up looking at her cellphone at every red light. (Funny how those habits can sneak up on us, isn’t it?)

Making rounds on Facebook right now is the 40 days = 40 items Lenten challenge. You’re to get out an industrial-size trash bag and each day place an item of clothing or a household item that you no longer wear/use. After Easter, donate the bag to a charity such as the Salvation Army.

I’ve decided to give up and take on several things.

I’m giving up three “sticky page” photo albums created in the 80s before we knew that wasn’t the best way to care for our precious photographs. In the same category, I’m giving up two large boxes of loose accumulated unmarked photos situated in an upstairs closet.

No, I’m not disposing of these photos. I’m taking on a labor of love by creating a number of scrapbooks with the various photos that make the cut to tell our family stories so that they’ll never be forgotten.

I’m giving up the need to hold on to every single photo just because it’s there. The blurry, unfocused, too dark, too light, who-or-what-in-the-heck-is-that photos will be culled.

I’m taking on reading a chapter a day of Rick Warren’s The Purpose Driven Life. Conveniently enough, there are forty chapters.

I would love to hear what my Christian readers are giving up or taking on for Lent. I’m hoping that there is just that one F-bomb entry.


Article on ChristianityToday.com


Rock, Scissors, Paper

Paper matters

Photo courtesy of Freestocks.org on Unsplash.com

The television show featured a young woman having an argument with her dad. The father was urging her to write down some important information. Her reply was something like this, “My generation doesn’t write stuff down. By posting photos and videos, we SHOW what we’re doing, where we’re going, what we like.”

Okay, I get it, but only in a small way. They’re young, have active and busy lives, so if they can make a statement by snapping a picture and posting it, then they’re done, ready to move on to something else.

But it just feels so fleeting. Some postings, such as Facebook’s My Story, disappear into the ether after 24 hours. Gone, baby, gone.

This is so different than the advice from Joan Didion, journalist and screenplay writer. She advised aspiring writers to carry around notebooks to record moments of inspiration.

Marina Keegan, a young journalist who at 22 died in a car accident just days after college graduation, kept notebooks of what she termed “interesting stuff.” These were things she noticed that would likely have found their way into a story had she lived.

Thoughts and ideas are so fleeting. And there’s a permanence to paper that gives me comfort.

This point was driven home in the last few weeks when I finished a scrapbook of the life story of my son Tim who died ten years ago, also at the age of 22.

From paper calendars, I’ve been able to chronicle the everydayness of his life from birth up through middle school. How could I have ever simply recalled so many details?

By reading his elementary school writing assignments, I can tell you that his typical pattern was to write about four aspects:

a) what he was wearing (“Today I have on a camoflog shirt. It’s cool.”)

b) what he was doing (“My frend Daniel is coming to my house to play games.”)

c) something relating to super heroes or action figures or comic books

d) a snippet of what was happening at home (“My mom is away on a bizniss trip.”)

Because they were captured on paper, I’m reminded of words and phrases he mispronounced. For years he referred to last night as “yesterdaynight.”

And yes, the album contains many printed photos too, because pictures DO tell a story. But scrolling through photos on a phone’s small screen shot by shot is NOT the same as really looking at a spread of photographs on a page that you can hold as you read the notations I’ve added.

And in case you think I’m contradicting the recent advice I gave on clearing out stuff, I’m not and here’s why: The album contains a half dozen of the school writing assignments—just enough to paint a picture of the moment. And the rest I respectfully parted with. That’s how I worked my way through three boxes of papers, pictures, cards, and mementos: evaluating and choosing just enough to include and then parting with the rest.

It was not easy. And I’ll admit to retrieving two pieces from the floral trash can at my feet and finding a place for them in the book.

I have a meaningful end product that fulfills the mom-mission I set out to accomplish: joyously documenting the story of my son’s life.

Had I NOT kept paper records, would I have remembered that at age 3, Tim called bubblegum buddlebum? Or that at four he told an uncle, “Unk Bill, you have a ball head.”

Those are memories too sweet not to remember. We need to take action to preserve our memories because it’s human nature to forget stuff.

Write that down.

An Abstract Kaleidoscope of Goodness

An Abstract Kaleidoscope of Goodness

Photo courtesy of Geralt on Pixabay.com

The public speaking homework I had assigned my leadership students ended up being more difficult than it sounded.

From a list of sixty characteristics of an effective leader, each student was to choose just three and in a class presentation, convince the rest of us why their three chosen attributes were the most vital ones. They could also add their own choices to the list.

Here are just a few of the attributes from the list in alphabetical order:

Approachable / Effective communicator / Empowering / Exceptional decision maker / Forward thinker / Good listener / High integrity / Honest / Open to new ideas / Positive attitude / Resourceful / Sees problems and takes action / Sound character / Visionary

From this small sample, you can understand why it might be hard to choose just three from the full list of sixty.

The best presentations were from the students who considered a REAL past or present boss who was an amazing leader instead of just choosing from the list of words.  In an interesting twist, one student used a bad boss as his example and demonstrated how a good boss would have done things differently. You see, that particular bad boss hogged the credit when a group effort went well and blamed the team when the boss’s own idea produced a massive failure.

Anyhow, that homework assignment prodded my brain to consider my last post about wanting to be someone else when I was twelve. I came up with the question, “What attributes do I see today in other people that I’d like to incorporate into my own being to make me the best person I can be?”

I started by jotting down the names of people I admire and an attribute for each one. But because many of the people have multiple graces, I ended up with a jumbled page that resembled a Sheldon Cooper mathematical model and abstraction. I felt overwhelmed with how to parcel out the credit.

But then I figured, “Why identify the people by name?” Part of what makes good folks admirable is that they’re not looking for recognition or a pat on the back. And because a blogger tends to attract a certain readership base, my guess is that EVERYONE reading this post (and the friends to whom you forward it) are yourselves good people with the same high qualities.

So here is my baker’s dozen list of admirable attributes that YOU collectively possess that I strive to emulate:

Out-of-this-world kindness / Extreme generosity / Unending patience / Forgiveness in full, no strings attached / Everyday thoughtfulness / Willingness to make time for someone who needs you / Laughs easily and often but never at another’s expense / Remembers what is important to others / Quietly respectful / Works tirelessly for something you believe in / Encourages others in big issues and small ones / Influences others to be the best they can be / loves all of God’s creatures, regardless of how different or seemingly unlovable they may appear

I believe that others DO rub off on us and that, in addition to our own natures, we end up an abstract kaleidoscope of their goodness.

God Works In Mysterious Ways


God works in mysterious ways

God does work in mysterious ways, and many people believe that the phrase is from the Bible. But it is not. Rather, it’s a paraphrase from the poem Light Shining Out of Darkness by William Cowper. In 1773 he wrote, “God moves in a mysterious way, His wonders to perform; He plants his footsteps in the sea, and rides upon the storm.”

I recently watched a nine-minute clip of former NFL quarterback Tim Tebow telling an intriguing “God works in mysterious ways” true story. I’ll paraphrase it here and include the link below.

While playing college football for the University of Florida, Tebow noticed that other players were wearing personal messages on their eye blacks. Those are the black grease or strip that players wear under their eyes to reduce glare from sunlight; also, it makes them look like fierce warriors. Deciding he wanted to play along, he grabbed a silver Sharpie and wrote Phil. on one and 4:13 on the other to reflect the Bible verse from Philippians 4:13: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

They won that game.

Moving on to the championship game, Tebow says he felt called by God to change the eye black message. He ended up with John on one eye black and 3:16 on the other, referencing what is likely the most well-known Bible verse. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (NIV)

His team won that national championship on January 8, 2009.

And 94 million people Googled “John 3:16.”

Yes, 94 million.

And now pay attention to these numbers:

Exactly 3 years later to the day, January 8, 2012, Tebow was quarterback of the Denver Broncos when they beat the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Tebow passed for 316 yards.

The yards per rush stat was 3.16.

The yards per completion were 31.6.

Time of possession* was 31.06.

And at the moment Tebow threw the game-winning touchdown pass to the receiver Demaryius Thomas, CBS, who carried the game, showed their final quarter-hour overnight ratings to be (wait for it) 31.6.

So yes, I do believe that God works in mysterious ways.

And I also believe God has a sense of humor. Because that *time of possession was how long Pittsburgh, not Denver, maintained control of the ball.

I’m just saying.


Tim Tebow nine-minute clip

Original eye black