The Coal of Liberty

Recently I read Thomas Paine’s American Crisis #1.

This line stood out to me:

Though the flame of liberty may sometimes cease to shine, the coal can never expire.

I pondered, I studied, I mused.

What is this coal? Why will it never expire?  What can we do to fan the flame of liberty?

Then I wrote this poem to remind me of the answers and the challenge:


By God our hearts were given to us

A small coal inside to care for and trust.

It warms when life is cold and dreary.

It inspires when we become weary.

The heart is the fuel of the human soul.

The center of passion, desires, and goals.

The Lord lights this coal, that can never die.

And at times the flame burns bright and high.

When it does, it rekindles coals nearby,

When it does, it inspires men to fly.

Fly to heights beyond our vision.

Soar to mountains full of wisdom.

But even when the coal is buried

By ashes of dreams and loads to carry.

It does not die, it cannot expire,

For God Himself lit that fire.

Eternal as He is the coal He placed

In the heart of each of the human race.

With the clearing of ashes,

The shouldering of the load

With the wind of stories long untold

The flame is fanned and the coal will burn bright

Giving warmth, comfort, joy and light.

We who teach must care for the coal,

By telling the stories that need to be told

The stories of heroes long unsung

Of deeds of valor, of battles won.

We will clear the ashes of dreams that died

When we ponder the deeds of those who tried.

We will inspire others to shoulder their load

As we press forward towards our goals.

Yes, the flame burns bright in the morning light

And sometimes struggles to survive the night.

But the flame in our hearts is sustained by the coal

A gift from God, a part of our soul.

It will never expire though our load be great

But we must choose to work and wait.


Santa, Percy Jackson, Harry Potter and You

To my boys,

Last night we watched the movie, “The Santa Clause 2.”  In it Santa, Tim Allen, must convince a lady to marry him within 28 days or lose forever the power to be Santa Claus.  He uses up the last of his magic trying help her believe in him and win her heart.

Of course, the tale ends happily with her decision to believe in him. She says “I Will” to his proposal to spend the rest of time with him even though they have only known each other for a few weeks.

Why did she do that? Because she believed in him and the powers GIVEN to him.

What made him worth the risk was his CHOICES to use those gifts for good.

Lately, some of you have read the Percy Jackson series. Percy was given gifts.  He hadn’t done anything to earn or deserve them.  He was born with them.  He made the choice to submit to training and develop these gifts.  Then he CHOSE to use them, not for his own good and desires,  but for others.

Same story, just a little different twist.

Guess what! This is your story as well.  You were given gifts.  You did not earn them.  You were given powers.  Your choices to develop and use them will determine whether you become a force for good, to become a true hero. 

You have been chosen, just like Harry Potter.  Chosen before you were born.  You were marked to do a certain work.  There will be people whose LIVES will depend on you choosing to stand up and use your powers to bless and help them.

You are son of God.  You have been given special gifts and powers.  In fact, you have been given EXACTLY what you need to be the hero in the lives for whom you are responsible.   

Harry, Percy & Santa have some very important things in common.

  • They listened to and followed (though grudgingly on occasion) the advice of older wiser mentors [Santa —the elves, Percy —Chiron , Harry Potter —Dumbledore]
  • They were not afraid of and REQUESTED and ACCEPTED help from others…be it total strangers or good friends [Santa —the elves, his son, Percy —fellow demigods and helpful humans, Harry Potter —Ron, Hermione, Neville, Ghosts and more]
  • They chose to help others rather than seeking their own individual interests, comfort and security, and in this they found (often to their own surprise) great happiness and fulfillment.

There will be times when you will doubt and when you will fear.

Don’t exercise doubts (thinking about them over and over in your mind). Instead exercise faith: faith in the GIVER of your gifts and His belief in you.

There will be times when you want to give up. When you think you are not worthy. When you want to just go to bed and forget your gifts and the call to be a hero.

When this happens, look into the eyes of those who believe in you and depend upon you.

Look long and hard.

This is what life is all about.

You must make the choice to believe in their belief. Make the choice to put them first.

Something amazing happens once you choose to ACT on their belief, to ACT on the counsel of mentors, to ACT and invite others to help you.  Things start falling into place.  You will know what skill you need to develop next, you will get help from unforeseen places and people. 

You have been blessed by God with what you need to succeed…because HE WANTS YOU TO SUCCEED!  He isn’t like those greek gods of legend that have only their own selfish ends in mind and who occasionally decide to be nice to the mortals.

He has chosen to put each of us and our immortality and eternal life as His supreme goal and focus.

Yes, you need to be the hero. 

You already have been given the power.

You have already been given mentors to help you. 

You have already been surrounded by friends and family to support you. 

All that is left is for you to make the choice.

The choice to develop your power.

The choice to seek out and follow mentors.

The choice to accept and ask for the help of friends, family and others.

Will you?

Will you make the choice to serve,

               the choice to give,

                        the choice to be?

You DON’T reap what you sow!

You DON’T reap what you sow!


Take a moment and think.  Let the words sink into your brain.

You DO NOT reap what you sow!

PLANT an apple seed…with TIME and CARE, you get an APPLE TREE full of apples….year after year after year!

Think of the fruit you will reap…

Think of the seeds that fruit will produce….

What are you going to plant?

What will you reap?


Thank you, Jim Rohn, for planting this seed of an idea, which is already bearing fruit in my mind!

“In fact, you always reap more than you sow–you plant a seed and reap a bushel.” Jim Rohn

The Canyon

“There is no way Mom! Mowing lawns is the only way I can earn money. It will be next spring before I can earn enough money!”

 He wailed. He moaned. He cried. He was nine.

What could I say? I could see so many options. He needed to think bigger, longer term. He was so much closer than he realized. Mowing lawns is not the only way to earn money.

I swallowed the perfect lecture bubbling up in my throat.

“I am sorry bud,” I said with a hug. “Can I tell you a story?”

He nodded.

From a hilltop, a man looked out across the valley. Panting, his heart rejoiced. In the distance he could see his goal. At last!  It was in reach.

 He gazed at the path. He gasped.

 No! A canyon.

 So close and now, failure. For a while, he thought, he planned, he wondered, he despaired. There was no way to cross, no bridge in sight.

 He cried. He stormed. He raged. He blamed. He looked longingly at his goal and angrily at the canyon barring his path. A seesaw of emotions tormented him, rocking between anger and depression with nauseating speed.

 This is how it always is for me. Things never work out. What was I thinking going on this journey in the first place? Who do I think I am? Why should I try? I knew I’d never make it.

 He slumped into the shade of a nearby tree.

 I’ll go somewhere else tomorrow. There must be a better place to go anyway.

 He drifted off into a restless sleep.

 Sweating and exhausted another man came up the hillside. He caught site of the goal. He rejoiced. Momentarily, concern washed over him when he saw the canyon.

 Well, it’s like granddad always said, “We’ll cross that bridge when we get there.”

 He laughed, knowing there was no bridge to cross. But he journeyed on.

 Down he marched into the valley. Onward through marsh and mud.  Snakes hissed, scorpions scuttled across his path. He reached the cliff’s edge weary from the day’s labors.

 He looked across the terrible gap. Then he looked down.

 What was this?

 Unseen from the hilltop, or even a few feet from the cliff’s edge was a narrow path. And just above the roaring river, deep in the canyon, a bridge!

 Who would have guessed there would be a bridge down there? I’m sure glad I kept walking.

 With a spring in his step, down the path he went, across the bridge, up the other side.

 The sun was setting when the first man woke. He stretched and took one last look at the goal he was giving up. Shocked he saw a man on the other side of the canyon, walking resolutely up to the city gates.

 How? How did he get there?

 He must have come from another direction. There is no earthly way to cross that canyon. Ah, some people have all the luck[1]. They just start from the right places. They know the tricks. 

 Someday. Someday, I’ll get a lucky break too. 

 I stopped my story. Looking into the eyes of my boy I asked. “What did the first man miss?”

“Mom, it wasn’t it luck! That other guy worked hard! And the other just slept! And….”

I let him talk and talk. As I listened, he discovered most of the truths that I had hoped to teach him.  And those truths will be his, forever.

Smiling, he ran out to mow the lawn.

[1] “The thoughtless, the ignorant, and the indolent, seeing only the apparent effects of things and not the things themselves, talk of luck, of fortune, and chance.  Seeing a man grow rich, they say, ‘How lucky he is!’  Observing another become intellectual, they exclaim, ‘How highly favored he is!’ And noting the saintly character and wide influence of another they remark, ‘How chance aids him at every turn!’  They do not see the trials and failures and struggles which these men have voluntarily encountered in order to gain their experience; have no knowledge of the sacrifices they have made, of the undaunted efforts they have put forth, of the faith they have exercised, that they might overcome the apparently insurmountable, and realize the Vision of their heart.  They do not know the darkness and the heartaches; they only see the light and joy, and call it ‘luck’; do not see the long and arduous journey, but only behold the pleasant goal, and call it ‘good fortune’; do not understand the process, but only perceive the result, and call it ‘chance.’”(James Allen, As a Man Thinketh, Visions and Ideals)

Look for the Helpers–My Poem

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” To this day, especially in times of “disaster,” I remember my mother’s words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world.” –Mr. Rogers–

To deal with the chaos of emotions I have felt, I wrote this poem based on Mr. Roger’s words:

Look for the Helpers

“Look for the helpers,” my mommy said
As she cradled me gently upon my bed.
“Look for the good amidst the strife.
Look my dear, and you’ll find life.

Look for the helpers,
They’re everywhere.
They love, they serve,
Oh, how they care!

Look for the helpers
Who shine in the dark.
Look for them dear
With all your heart.

Look for the helpers
and it will be clear
Those who love outnumber
those who cause fear.”

So many helpers all around.
Mother was right; they were easily found.
Years have gone by since that tearful night.
I’ve seen many helpers serve with their might.

They’re teachers and preachers,
Policeman and friends,
Neighbors and strangers,
Women and men.

Doctors and nurses,
Swat teams and dogs,
Crossing guards, fireman,
That lady who blogs.

Grandmas and Grandpas and
Of course moms and dads,
Brothers and sisters,
Uncles and Aunts.

That night I saw helpers, they weren’t hard to find
Yet questions still burned in my little mind:
“Why mommy, why? Those were good kids.
Will someone hurt me? Can I stay in my bed?”

She bowed her head, and I am sure she prayed
To know what to say to my heart that day.
She held me real close and her words were clear.
She taught me truth about living without fear.

“This life will have pain and trials it’s true.
Days unforgettable, miserable too.

Floods and tornados,
War and despair,
Accidents happen,
And tragedies unfair.

Some unavoidable,
Some of them planned,
Some carried out
by insane hands.

But we mustn’t live wondering
if we will be next,
Worrying our life through
and shaking our heads.

Let me tell you a secret I learned in my life.
How to deal with the heartbreak, the loss and the strife.
How to let go of worry and doubt and fear,
No matter what happens and despite our tears”

Then quietly, reverently, softly she spoke
“Be the helper.”

“Don’t just look for the helpers everywhere.
Be sure to care!

Be the helper
Who shines in the dark
Be one dear
With all your heart.”

Marie Arnold December 16, 2012

The Most Precious Gift

I just finished reading Outliers by Malcom Gladwell.

Tucked away on the last pages was a truth that jumped out at me:

“I learned that work can be meaningful from my father.  Everything he does–from his most complex academic mathematics to digging in the garden–he tackles with joy and resolve and enthusiasm.  My earliest memories of my father are of seeing him work at his desk and realizing that he was happy.  I did not know it then, but that was one of the most precious gifts a father can give his child. “

I am lucky, my dad also gave me this gift.

Am I giving that gift to my children?

My Family Tribe

Here are a few things that Seth Godin unintentionally taught me about parenting in his book Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us

◆Don’t be boring

◆Find a family quest

◆Exceed expectations

◆Surprise and delight

◆Spotlight awesome work

◆Create a culture

I took my children to a magic show last year.  They were absolutely captivated, amazed and astounded.

 Seth Godin says that the key to being a magician has “nothing to do with knowing how the trick is done, and everything to do with the art of doing it…Magic only happens in a spectator’s mind…focus on bringing an experience to the audience.  This is magic.”

I found myself asking, “What kind of experiences am I bringing to my audience, my family?

And I ask myself the question he asks again and again, “Why not be remarkable?”

Getting out of the walker

 Have you seen a baby in a walker before?  I have memories of all five of my children in the walker.  The excitement!  The look of pleasure and pride on their faces as they zoomed around the kitchen floor was memorable.  They were doing what they had seen us do; they were walking!  (At least in their mind.) Look at them go!!!

What was the day like when they realized they still needed to learn to walk?  That the walker couldn’t get them everywhere they wanted to go…that though it had taught them the excitement and feeling of walking…they were not yet walking.  I do not remember any of them sitting depressed in the walker. Nor did any of them hit the walker, blaming it for giving them false hopes, promises and dreams.   They just started to try to walk on their own, and eventually did.

The other day, I realized that I had been in a “walker” for a while.  I had been having fun, it was exciting, I had leanred to do things I thought were impossible.  But on that day I realized that there were places I wasn’t yet able to reach and stairs that I could not climb.  I had learned much about the feelingof “walking”; I had loved every minute of my zooming to and fro.  However there was more, and I needed to move on.  I was growing and the time for the walker had past.  It was time to work harder, longer, better.  I knew the security of the walker was not worth the adventure of learning to walk that lay ahead of me.

There are many phases in life that are like being in a walker.  They are times to enjoy and learn and love the feeling but the time will come when WE know we are ready to move on, in fact, READY OR NOT, we must move on and DO the thing all on our own.

The key is to have a child’s faith.  They don’t sit down depressed and say, “This will never work. I can never do this on my own.  I can’t possible do more.”  They just try until they suceed.  We adults fear the long fall, the bruises and bumps, and embarassement.  But why should we be embarassed?  When a baby falls, we don’t say to his mother, “How embarassing!  Why didn’t you stop him? Why did you let him try that?”  Yet we say that to ourselves and with our looks and sometimes words we say it to others as well.  This we must stop!

When the time comes to get out the walker…it’s just time.  Remember the feeling and fun and try, try, try and before you know it you’ll be zooming again…until it’s time to move on to the next level.   And I firmly believe, before you know it…you’ll leave the ground behind and fly.