Are You Fully Alive

“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” ~ Howard Thurman

Are you fully alive? I often think of artists as being more fully alive than most. I guess because they are usually in touch with their feelings. I find it almost impossible to create if I can't feel.

I remember a time when I felt so fully alive. We had just moved to Europe. Germany, to be exact. I was walking through a lovely street market in the center of a quaint little village. The cobblestone streets were lined with fresh flower stalls. Village regulars were buying their groceries from local farmers, as the aroma of "chestnuts roasting on an open fire" filled the air.  The Konditorei (German for bakery) windows,  filled with delicate beautiful pastries, looked like something from a magazine. Just the the church bells began to ring and their echos danced down village streets. It was all too much! I remember taking a deep breath in and thinking, "This is what it feels like to be fully alive!"

Every sensory part of me was awakened, as if from a long slumber.

What is it about America, the land I love, that has silenced our senses? Quaint little villages with cobblestone streets, lined with ancient stone walls, have long since been replaced by strip malls, florescent lights and concrete.

The aroma of "chestnuts roasting on an open fire" have been replaced by McDonald's.

Fresh flower vendors no longer occupy village streets, but greet us by the glaring, light of florescent bulbs,  as we enter enormous supermarkets.

I often think what we call "progress" has taken a toll unnoticed by most. . . except for the artists.

What makes you feel fully alive? Can you relate to my observation?  Would you share an experience or time that you were fully alive? I'd love to hear about it.


A Divine Moment This Thanksgiving

I love celebration!
It requires a lot of work and preparation, but to me it's more than worth it.

I've often marveled at the mystery of being at table with family. It can run the gamut from the divine to the disastrous and, believe me, we've had our share of both!

How can we have teenagers, little ones, and imperfect adults, and not have a few catastrophes to deal with? But the catastrophes don't keep me from trying, year after year, to create yet another timeless memory.

The Symbol of Being at Table

The symbol of being together at table is powerful. Many of our favorite moments, breakthroughs and fun filled evenings have come while discussing deep issues around a table.

When we lived in Europe, we learned the art of lingering at table. A European meal was not complete without candles, your best dishes, fresh flowers, and good wine. It all combined to create an occasion for all to relax and share heart to heart and many such evenings produced a 'divine moment.'

On trips back to the States, we were often surprised and disappointed when friends invited us for dinner. Most often we would just stand in someone's kitchen, with paper plates and styrofoam cups in hand, or we'd simply meet at a restaurant. While we enjoy eating out, that 'divine moment' is often missed in a crowded, noisy eatery.

A Divine Moment
I hope that you don't miss your 'divine moment' this Thanksgiving. Research shows that the single most important influence in developing the character of a child is the conversation around the table. Also, that children who know about their parents histories become more resilient and bounce back from disappointment more quickly.

So think of sharing some of your stories around the table this year. How did you decide what you wanted to be in life? Where did you meet your spouse? What was your most embarrassing moment? Hopefully everyone will join in and share a favorite story. Who knows . . . you might just start a new tradition!


Unleash Your Superhero!

Moving was a big part of my growing up. I spent my early years in Japan and Italy, so I missed out on much of the typical American "kid stuff," and especially the TV scene. However, I did have an older brother who somehow managed to find "Mighty Mouse" cartoons. And I have to say, Mighty Mouse made a mighty big impression on me! Maybe it was the fact that he was a singing mouse who belted out in his huge, operatic voice: "Here I come to save the day!" Or that he was lavished with hugs and kisses from the grateful population of Mouseville, when they were rescued from yet another disaster. I was a huge fan.

Each cartoon consisted of a crisis, which needed extraordinary, 'super power' help to resolve. Then, just in the nick of  time,  Mighty Mouse would appear and "save the day." He seemed to always find those who needed help.

I want to speak to the superhero in you! You may not possess 'super powers,' but you do possess the power to bring extraordinary help to someone in need.

The second line to the "Mighty Mouse" theme song is: "When there's a wrong to right, Mighty Mouse will join the fight!" I believe that when you 'join the fight,' you actually find new strength. 

Earlier this year, my hubby and I jumped in to help our friends, Bob and Jayne Farrell. When Nashville flooded, they lost their home and everything in it. We were compelled to help. The fascinating thing is that we did what we normally could not do, or would not do, for ourselves. We felt empowered to 'fight' on behalf of the Farrells. We made phone calls, wrote letters to ask for help, created a video, sang in a benefit concert with some artist 'heavyweights.' Normally, I would shrink back and think, "I can't do that!" But because it was for someone else - someone who needed my help - I found the strength or 'power' to do what I normally cannot do.

Lately, I've been contemplating how artists who find a 'cause' to represent seem to move mountains, reach higher, have more energy and inadvertently draw more attention to their art.

So, I'm "Calling All Supehero Candidates!"  It's a call to artists everywhere: Find a cause that you can get passionate about, then use your art to promote it, raise funds and give to it.

Some of you may be thinking, "Well, I'd love to do that, but I'm a 'starving' artist and I can barely feed my own family." You are the ones I'm especially talking to. When you are in a bind, the most productive thing you can do is to find someone who's needs are greater and give to them.

It will take some time to consider the options and catch a vision.  But if you ask God to put a specific people group, a segment of society, a school, an orphanage, or someone who is less fortunate, on your heart, He will lead you to them. You can then write a song, take photos, or create a painting.  Whatever your art form is, use it to serve - and to raise funds for - your cause. Believe for enough to provide for your needs, then to overflow to give to your cause.

I recently met Zig Ziglar and his famous quote comes to mind: "You will get all you want in life, if you help enough other people get what they want."  I believe this is true. It's not that we should give in order to get, but in giving, we can't help but receive!

So, what do all you 'superheroes-in-training' think? Tell me . . .  Are you ready to "save the day" for someone who needs your help?


What Is Holding You Back?

I decided a long time ago that I would NOT let fear rob me of life, that if something challenged me . . . I'd find a way to overcome the challenge and do it. It's been a motto that I've tried to pass on to my kids.

When I look back, the major joys in my life were experienced after I overcame an enormous fear. In other words, if I had not overcome my fears, I would have never done the things that have brought me so much joy.

We are all tempted to stop short, to never do the thing that would bring the breakthrough.

I'm talking about fear of speaking, singing, flying, putting yourself out there in life and experiencing the thrill and the possible rejection. This could be taking on a job that you're not sure you can pull off, because every new job and every new opportunity has risks. We are either paralyzed by those risks or we are motivated by them.

There are great rewards for those who allow themselves to function beyond their zone of comfort.

And now that I'm older, I don't fear people, or the word 'no' as much. Reminded of the scripture '"You have not because you ask not,"  I figure that it never hurts to ask, as long as you're prepared to hear a 'no.' But often,  I'm surprised by a 'yes!'

Do you push yourself out of your comfort zone in order to grow? Do you ever allow yourself to get out on the edge - knowing you must produce or sink? Honestly this is a very good way to live.

Much of our struggle is mental. We are capable of so much more than we imagine. Sadly, few of us ever reach the limits of our capabilities. What if you went out on that limb and actually succeeded? How would your life change for the better?

Now think - what if you don't? What if nothing changes?
Movement in one direction or the other is better than stagnation. So make up you mind to move in the direction of your dreams - take some risks - just don't stand still.

We're afraid of failure. We must realize that failure is a necessary part of becoming. Use those failures as opportunities for growth. Learn from you mistakes and move on.

If this concept is difficult for you, start with small steps outside of your comfort zone. You don't have to do it all at once. Try to do one thing each week that challenges you.

Successful people seem to walk that fine line between safe and reckless. Pushing their limits causes extreme growth. If you want to make a mark in this world - allow yourself to be pressed beyond your zone of comfort and then move into the land of the living, where life itself becomes an adventure!

Permission to Dream

When I was a kid my dad would call family meetings. It was just me, my brother, and my mom and dad, but these little meetings linger huge in my memory as an adult.

These were actually 'dream' sessions. My dad would give us permission to dream, to let our minds go and imagine what we wanted in life. He would give us magazines and instruct us to look for pictures that inspired us; pictures of houses that we might want to live in or countries we might want to visit. As each session of dreaming and sharing our dreams came to a close, he would say. "With God, anything is possible!"

My daddy passed away last year. He fell and was admitted to the hospital for treatment, I had no idea that our first visit to the hospital would be our last visit with my dad. I was telling him about some project I was involved in and he said, "Honey, all I know is that, if you're involved in it, it will be great!" Where did all of his positive affirmation come from?

My dad was a war hero, who survived the Bataan Death March and being held as a prisoner of war in Korea. Even when I was in high school he was off fighting the war in Viet Nam.

He returned home with severe depression and wounds from having been tortured and deprived of basic needs. I remember the evening he went into a rage, because my mother had served rice for dinner - all stemming from years of being near starvation and only having rice to eat.

But he had a heart to protect his country, his family, and me - his daughter - from evil. Evil that he had encountered face to face. Often he reminded my brother and I that there is evil in this world and that was the reason he was a soldier; he fought to protect us from that evil.

Under his bed he kept his medals: a purple heart, bronze star, and numerous other awards for courage, bravery and leadership.

He was and still is my hero. He survived three wars and the resulting years of brutal memories by filling his mind and his spirit with positive material: his bible, good books, and cassette tapes of motivational speakers.

After his death we went to his room to go though his things. There were stacks of tapes, casstte tapes by the giants of positive thinking such as Zig Ziglar. We listened to those tapes all the way home from his memorial service, a 12 hour drive.

Now I understand my dad better. He never stopped fighting, even though the war was over. He survived the Korean war, WWII and Viet Nam, but his fight continued. It was a fight for his mind, his soul, and for his family.

He wanted us to grasp how blessed we were, how fortunate we were that we did not have to face 'evil' in our own country. He wanted us to have a better life. He wanted us to dream - because he knew that dreaming was still possible, even after coming face to face with the atrocities of war.

That is why I'm compelled to encourage you. I just can't help it. It's in my bones, in my DNA. It's why I'm a fighter and I never give up. My daddy's voice still rings in my ear.

It's why I want to say to you today, with your dreams, your art, your projects: "All I know is that, if you're involved in it, it will be great!"