Friday, December 31, 2010

What Wondrous Love Is This

The little baby in the manger whose birth we recently celebrated became a Man. He changed lives. He expected difficult things of His followers.

He asked His disciples to forsake all and serve beside Him. He asked people to turn away from their sins and become whole. He asked for total devotion, saying, "If ye love me, keep my commandments." And, He offered them everything in return: healing, resurrection, and eternal life.

When the Savior approached the Samaritan woman at the well, He knew she was living in sin, but He also knew she had great faith. Although Samaritans, sinners. and women were not valued in the Jewish culture, Jesus reached out to a simple, and yet wonderful woman, with kindness, respect, and love. After the woman discovered who the Savior was, she ran to tell others about Him. She was transformed by the Savior's love.

As we begin a new year, perhaps the best gift we can give ourselves and others is loving, following, and honoring God. When we do this, we are happy and content. Although a consecrated life may appear difficult, in reality, it is an easier life, for it frees us from the despair of guilt, sin, and addiction. Accepting Christ is the path to perfect peace.

Accepting Christ begins with trusting Him and believing that He knows us and loves us infinitely. As we accept Christ, we pray constantly, we serve unselfishly, and we forgive others as He has forgiven us. When we accept Christ, we allow Him to mold us into His image. We forsake the world and follow Him. We give Him our hearts, and He creates in us a new heart and a new spirit. What wondrous love is this!





© Carol Brown

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

How to Create a Peace-filled New Year

Typically, at this time of year we make a list of things we hope to accomplish during the coming year and eventually discover that we have not succeeded in accomplishing our goals. Although this works for some, there is an easier way to achieve our dreams. This begins with changing our thinking.

Since our subconscious believes everything we tell it, we can make a list of our aspirations and then write down a statement that shows we already have completed our goal. For example, instead of saying, “I will lose 5/10/15 pounds this year,” say, “ I eat nutritious foods in moderate portions, and I feel healthy and fit.”

Here are some other examples of positive affirmations that can make your aspirations become a reality:

• I spend quality time with my family and friends.

• I enjoy every moment and live mindfully.

• I celebrate life and appreciate the beauties around me.

• I am a positive person and speak encouraging words to others.

• I live simply and joyfully.

• I draw into my life people who are positive and loving.

• I replace negative thoughts with positive ones.

• I love myself just as I am.

Write down the affirmations that you choose and put them where you see them daily. You may also decide to include a copy in your journal, purse, wallet, or planner. Then, as you read them, ask God to help you accomplish them. He is the true Peace-giver, and He will help you become everything that He wants you to be.

May this year be filled with peace as you reflect only on positive affirmations that increase your personal serenity. And, as we fill our own hearts with peace, that peace radiates to others.

Happy, peace-filled New Year!


© Carol Brown

Monday, December 20, 2010

Finding Peace during the Few Days before Christmas

During the few days before Christmas, it’s easy to get caught up in the craziness of the holidays. When we set unrealistic expectations for ourselves, we become anxious and frustrated. Here are a few ideas that I’m
trying to implement to make these precious days before Christmas more peaceful:

Delegate. If you are having others over for dinner or a party, perhaps you can ask for their help with food or activities in advance.

Simplify. Can you make a phone call instead of mailing a card, donate to a charity instead of buying unneeded gifts, or skip an invitation or two when you are already exhausted? Can you buy less for yourself and others and find other ways of showing love? Can you share your excess material possessions with those in need?

• Accept imperfection in yourself and others. Your house does not have to be decorated to HGTV perfection, nor do you have to look like you just stepped out of the pages of a fashion magazine for the holidays to be wonderful. Celebrate your own humanity, remembering that the One whose birthday we honor is the only perfect being who has ever lived.

Focus on the Savior’s life. He lived simply. He loved purely. His gifts to us are priceless.

Merry Christmas to you and to those you love. May you find peace and joy during this blessed time of year.


© Carol Brown

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Breathe of Heaven

"Breathe of Heaven" is a beautiful Christmas tune performed so reverently by Amy Grant. Her words about our Savior touch my heart and help me feel the Savior's love for each one of His children during this Christmas season. May this video bring you comfort and peace, and may you feel the Father's infinite love for you.




© Carol Brown

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

"I Will Honor Christmas in My Heart and Try to Keep It All the Year"

Perhaps Charles Dickens understood the spirit of Christmas best. He realized that it is in giving, not getting, that we discover the true joy of the season. Consider some of his words in his classic story, A Christmas Carol and from his other writings.

•A repentant Scrooge says, "I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach."

"A loving heart is the truest wisdom."

"Charity begins at home, and justice begins next door."

"No one is useless in this world who lightens the burden of it to anyone else."

"Reflect upon your present blessings of which every man has many - not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some."

"Subdue your appetites, my dears, and you've conquered human nature."

"We forge the chains we wear in life."

"No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another."

"We need never be ashamed of our tears."

"There is nothing in the world so irresistibly contagious as laughter and good humor."

"Suffering has been stronger than all other teaching, and has taught me to understand what your heart used to be. I have been bent and broken, but - I hope - into a better shape."

"Remember!--It is Christianity to do good always--even to those who do evil to us. It is Christianity to love our neighbours as ourself, and to do to all men as we would have them do to us. It is Christianity to be gentle, merciful and forgiving, and to keep those qualities quiet in our own hearts... If we do this, and remember the life and lessons of Our Lord Jesus Christ, and try to act up to them, we may confidently hope that God will forgive us our sins and mistakes, and enable us to live and die in peace."


© Carol Brown

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Creating Peace during the Twelve Days of Christmas

I love finding ways to make the twelve days of Christmas meaningful and peace-filled. Here are a few suggestions that can be adapted to your circumstances and completed in any way that feels comfortable to you. This year I can already completed most of these suggestions, and it has truly been a peace-filled season. As we focus of giving love instead of getting stuff, Christmas becomes a matter of the heart, an attitude that can permeate our lives each day of the year.

First day: Send an anonymous thank you note to someone in your family, at work, or in your neighborhood.

Second day: Leave a treat on the door on a widow or widower in your neighborhood.

Third day: Donate a toy to a needy child.

Fourth day: Donate some food to a Food Bank.

Fifth day: Share some gently used clothing with the homeless, the poor, or those who are abused.

Sixth day: Write a list of reasons you appreciate your spouse, brother, sister, mother, or father. Include the list in a Christmas card and send or give it to the person.

Seventh day: Reflect on the gifts and blessings that God has given you this year. Thank Him for each one of them.

Eighth day: Invite someone who is lonely to dinner, lunch, hot chocolate, for dessert, or to a free Christmas concert.

Ninth day: Read Luke 2 and reflect on God’s infinite love for you and for all of His children. Think of one way you can share His love with others and then do it.

Tenth day: Take a healthy treat to an elderly or shut-in person. Spend some time visiting with him or her.

Eleventh day: Do something kind for yourself. Take a warm bath or read something inspiration. Reflect upon the unique talents and gifts that God has given you.

Twelfth day: Today give yourself and others a priceless gift that bestows happiness, joy, and serenity to the giver: forgiveness. If you find it too difficult to forgive someone who has offended you, ask God to help you. He will. If you need time to forgive, allow yourself to process your emotions, but after you have done so, choose forgiveness, which frees you from the burden of bitterness.

May you discover that as we radiate Christlike love to ourselves and others during the holiday season, we experience the true spirit of Christmas, which is pure love.

© Carol Brown

Monday, December 6, 2010

Finding Peace during the Holidays...and throughout the Year

For many, this time of year can be very hectic. We may feel overwhelmed by company and family parties to host or attend, gifts to buy and wrap, and the endless varities of traditions that accompany the holiday season. If you're feeling stressed, consider these four tips that will help you experience peace and happiness.

Remember the reason for the season.

Find ways to turn your hearts to God and away from the materialism that bombards us. Spend time daily in prayer and meditation. Thank God for the countless blessings that you enjoy. Reflect upon the tender mercies that you experience on a daily basis. Notice that every breath you take, every bite of food that you eat, and every good thing you enjoy is a gift from Him. Thank Him for the gift of His Son, which is a gift too magnificent to comprehend and fully appreciate.

Find joy in the simple things.

We had the pleasure of hosting my husband’s widowed brother for the weekend. Terry has buried two dear wives and two sons. He could be bitter, angry, and self-pitying, yet he spent hours talking about the blessings he enjoys.

Was he angry when his wives and sons died? Absolutely. For some time Terry was angry at God, and he still wonders why He lost those who are so dear to him. But now Terry focuses on what he can do for others. He writes a positive thought each day and texts it to many friends and family members. He serves his grandchildren and children. He savors the beauties of nature. He visits the lonely and those who are grieving and offers them comfort, and he is peaceful.

Although he has few material possessions, Terry lives a rich life because he has discovered the secret to happiness: that a generous, kind spirit coupled with a grateful heart creates peace. There are so many who are forgotten at Christmastime and throughout the year who need your kind words, your listening ears, and your loving deeds. Ask God to direct you to someone who needs you and discover the true meaning of Christmas.

Focus on giving not getting.

Although my husband and I are not wealthy, we have a comfortable life. Consequently, we ask our loved ones to give to a charity of their choice at Christmas time instead of giving us a gift. Our immediate family members pool their resources and find a destitute family that we can help. We, along with our sons, sons-in-law, daughters and daughters-in-laws, have the joy of giving food, clothing, and gifts to a family who would otherwise have nothing at Christmas. There is no sweeter gift that we can give ourselves at Christmas than sharing with someone in need.

Remember that it not about the presents but about His presence.

The Spirit of God is a comforter and peace-giver. As we invite the Spirit into our hearts and homes by the peaceful thoughts we think, the uplifting music we select, and the loving words and deeds that we choose, we experience the true spirit of Christmas. A loving God hears and answers our prayers. He wants us to feel His love and experience the peace of His spirit. As we seek to live worthily to feel His Spirit, He will direct us to ways that we can find peace...even when we are experiencing sorrow.



© Carol Brown

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Priceless Gifts that Cost Nothing

During the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, we can reflect on precious gifts that we can give ourselves and others are cost nothing but are priceless. Often, the best things in life are free. Although these presents aren't tied with ribbons or bows, they are more valuable that silver or gold.

• Spending quality time with a child

• Listening to an elderly person

• Visiting a lonely neighbor or someone you know who is ill or sad

• Forgiving an enemy

• Serving your spouse, roommate, or family member

• Sharing a talent

• Showing gratitude to others

• Demonstrating kindness to a stranger

• Offering encouragement to another

• Writing a cheerful note to someone you know

• Making a call to friends or relatives to see how they are doing

• Smiling to those you meet

• Turning away from sin and turning toward God’s perfect love

• Reflecting on God’s infinite love for each of his children, including yourself


As we celebrate Christmas this year, we may also consider what gifts we can give to the Savior, who gave us the greatest gift of all--His life. I love the words of Christina Rossetti:

What can I give Him,
Poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd
I would bring a lamb,
If I were a wise man
I would do my part,
Yet what I can I give Him,
Give my heart.

May your heart be filled with peace, gratitude and love during this season in which we remember the One who gives us everything that is good.

© Carol Brown

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Simple Ways to Find Peace

This week I'm teaching a class on finding peace during the holidays. This quote describes how we can keep peace in our hearts not only during the Christmas season but throughout each day of the year:

"THIS CHRISTMAS, mend a quarrel. Seek out a forgotten friend. Dismiss suspicion, and replace it with trust. Write a love letter. Share some treasure. Give a soft answer. Encourage youth. Manifest your loyalty in word and deed. Keep a promise. Find the time. Forgo a grudge. Forgive an enemy. Listen. Apologize if you were wrong. Try to understand. Flout envy. Examine your demands on others. Think first of someone else. Appreciate. Be kind; be gentle. Laugh a little. Laugh a little more. Deserve confidence. Take up arms against malice. Decry complacency. Express your gratitude. Go to church. Welcome a stranger. Gladden the heart of a child. Take pleasure in the beauty and wonder of the earth. Speak your love. Speak it again. Speak it still once again."


The Editors of McCall's, December, 1959

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Simplify, simplify

Imagine how much more peaceful our lives would be if we lived more simply. “Most of what we say and do is not essential. If you can eliminate it, you'll have more time, and more tranquillity. Ask yourself at every moment, 'Is this necessary?'”said Marcus Aurelius. “Our life is frittered away by detail…simplify, simplify," wrote Henry David Thoreau.

So how do we simplify our lives so experience greater peace? Here are a few ideas:

Enjoy the moment. Notice the beauty around you: a flower, a butterfly, a smiling child, a cloud floating across the sky. Experience bliss as you focus on the simple beauties of living. Notice the sweetness of breathing in and breathing out. Savor the gifts of sight, hearing, touch, taste, and smell.

Listen to something beautiful. Enjoy the song of a bird, the kind voice of a friend, the hum of the dishwasher. Choose to listen to music that soothes your spirit and nurtures your soul. Avoid music that encourages violence, immorality, or unkindness, for that creates disharmony in our spirits.

Eliminate distractions. Turn off your cell phone, computer, or television set whenever possible and do something creative. Write in your journal. Paint. Sing a song. Learn a new skill. Consider the endless possibilities of living more simply and fully.

Find ways to live on less. Make a simple meal for dinner. Donate unused clothes to charity. Choose something fun to do that is free: go for a walk, play a board game, visit with friends. A simpler life is a richer life, for it frees us from the burdens of debt, anxiety, and greed. Leonardo da Vinci aptly said, "Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication."

Read something that inspires you.
We can change our lives by reading a great book, and they are free for the reading at any public library. Find some authors can inspire you to live your best life. I have been inspired by Wayne Dyer, Henry David Thoreau, Marianne Williamson, Mother Teresa, Thich Nhat Hanh, Catherine Marshall, and countless other writers. The Psalms are masterpieces of peace. A Chinese proverbs states, " A book is like a garden carried in the pocket."

Choose peace. We either choose peace or something else. Our every thought, word, and deed either brings us closer to peace or to turmoil. Decide that you will be content with your life just as it is. As you live in a spirit of gratitude, you attract greater abundance and peace into your life. I have discovered I can be happy in both meager and magnificent circumstances as I choose peace.




© Carol Brown

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Standing Strong in Difficult Times

Recently, my husband and I traveled to Carmel, California, and hiked out to a ledge where a lone cypress tree clung to a barren bluff by the ocean. As I enjoyed the magnificent beauty of the setting, I thought about how sometimes life is like that tree. As we hang onto faith, courage, and peace when the winds and trials of life buffet us, we become like this little tree, standing strong in difficult times.

My friend, Dianne, has discovered how to face great trials with faith and courage. Her recently published book, Our Journey of Hope, inspires me to hang onto hope when life seems bleak and hopeless. This is Dianne's description of their journey, "What would you do if doctors declared you only had twelve months to live? What is the measure of a man who defies that disheartening declaration for over ten years without remission? In "Our Journey of Hope" I share our story of how my husband kept fighting cancer and living life. He dealt with many surgeries and setbacks but continued to move forward with courage, optimism, and faith. The epilogue shares personal lessons learned from our immediate family, including Ford, myself, our children, their spouses, and our older grandchildren. Twenty people personally connected to Ford's battle with cancer express their feelings and faith about Ford, family, and God's plan for us all."

Dianne's husband, Ford, has a few days left in this life. I visited with Dianne a few days ago before my husband and I left on a business trip and was again amazed by her strength and serenity. Amid the sorrow of caring for her husband during his final days on this earth, she exudes peace and hope: hope for a better world where Ford will no longer suffer, hope that the Lord will sustain her as a widow, and hope that God will continue to carry them both in their new journeys. If you know anyone who is dealing with cancer, this book may provide them comfort and courage.

Les Brown said, "Just because fate doesn't deal you the right cards, it doesn't mean you should give up. It just means you have to play the cards you get to their maximum potential." Ford and Dianne have done just that. I love this quote by Maya Angelou, "One isn't necessarily born with courage, but one is born with potential. Without courage, we cannot practice any other virtue with consistency. We can't be kind, true, merciful, generous, or honest."

May you find peace amid the struggles you face. May you find inside yourself the courage to endure trials and disappointments, and may you stand strong as you place your trust in a Higher Power.


© Carol Brown

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Finding Peace through Gratitude

Nothing brings us peace faster than showing gratitude to others and to God and showing compassion to yourself and others through forgiveness. Today, thank someone. Forgive someone. Notice the peace that gratitude and mercy bring.

Consider who you can thank:

• Your parents for giving you life

• Your children for allowing you to be a parent

• Your friends for standing beside you when times are difficult

• Your enemies for teaching you how to love

• Your neighbors for allowing you to be charitable

• Strangers who allow you to serve even the “least of these” among us and who teach us that everyone is truly a child of God

• Teachers who care

• Cashiers, babysitters, maids, waiters and waitresses who work so tirelessly and make such a difference in the world

• Leaders who serve with love and integrity

• Everyone who has blessed or does bless your life in small and great ways

Now, think of someone who can forgive:

• A parent who was less than perfect

• Yourself for being less than perfect

• Your friends who aren’t always there when you need them

• Your enemies who often know not what they do

• Your neighbors who are not always charitable

• Strangers who are not always kind

• Teachers who do not care

• Others who have harmed us in small and great ways

Showing gratitude. Forgiving someone. Such small acts make such a big difference in our lives. Such small acts that create a heaven on earth. Such small acts that can heal broken hearts and bring us peace.

© Carol Brown

Monday, October 4, 2010

Choose Peace

Our thoughts either steal our peace or give us peace. Recent brain research have proved that our brains can be retrained and that we can change from stressful to serene thinking. Consider how the following types of thoughts can destroy one's peace:

• Holding onto grudges and grievances

• Refusing to forgive yourself

• Self-pity

• Believing no one loves you or cares about you

• Feeling unappreciated

• Remembering negative thoughts or experiencing

• Focusing on the things you don’t have

• Noticing the faults in yourself and others

By studying peace and living in harmony with thoughts and actions that foster peace, we can move from a life filled with stress and misery to one filled with happiness and joy. Consider how the following thoughts and attitudes can create peace:

• Letting go of grudges and grievances

• Forgiving yourself

• Celebrating your life

• Experiencing God’s infinite love for you personally and for all of His children

• Appreciating others

• Remembering positives thoughts and experiences

• Focusing on the things you do have

• Noticing the things that you and others do well

• Letting go of grudges and grievances

• Forgiving yourself

• Celebrating your life

• Experiencing God’s infinite love for you personally and for all of His children

• Appreciating others

• Remembering positives thoughts and experiences

• Focusing on things you do have

• Noticing the things that you and others do well

• Expressing gratitude

Today, choose peace.

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others."--Marianne Williamson



© Carol Brown

Friday, October 1, 2010

Happy for No Reason

Marci Shimoff in her book Happy for No Reason, writes:

"One evening a Cherokee elder told his grandson about the battle that goes on inside of people. He said, 'My son, the battle is between the two 'wolves' that live inside us all. One is Unhappiness. It is fear, worry, anger, jealousy, sorrow, self-pity, resentment, and inferiority. The other is Happiness. It is joy, love, hope, serenity, kindness, generosity, truth, and compassion.'

"The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, 'Which wolf wins?'

"The old Cherokee simply replied, 'The one you feed.'"

According to scientists we have about 60,000 thoughts a day, 95 percent of which are the same thought you had yesterday. For the average person, 80 percent of those habitual thoughts are negative. That means that every day we think 45,000 negative thoughts!

The good news is, we can retrain our brains! Here are a few ways we do this:

• We can focus on positive images, thoughts, and sounds instead of negative ones.

• We can condition our minds to celebrate the beauty around us.

• We can journal about the good things in our lives.

[Ms. Shimoff says that Dr. Robert Emmons at the University of Southern California found that those who wrote about things they were grateful for on a weekly basis enjoyed better health and were happier than a control group who did not keep journals.]

• We can remember positive statements. Here are a few of my favorites:

This, too, will pass.

With God all things are possible.

I am a beloved child of God who loves me infinitely.



I can do all things through Christ Jesus who strengthens me
.

We can rewire our brains by consciously changing our thinking patterns. Our brains our very plastic, and we can train them to think thoughts that bring us happiness. Ms Shimoff says, "When you're happy for no reason, you bring happiness to your outer experiences rather than trying to extract happiness from them. You don't need to manipulate the world around you to try to make yourself happy. You live from happiness, rather than for happiness."


© Carol Brown

Monday, September 27, 2010

Speaking Up for Children

Peace comes into our hearts when we reach out to bless the children around us. Children have a trusting, sincere quality that invokes the best in us, that inspires us to love ourselves and others better. As we seek to serve the children in our communities, we will discover that they give us more than we ever give them. There is nothing more priceless than the love of a child.

The first African American woman admitted to the Mississippi state bar, Marian Wright Edelman cares so deeply about children that she founded the Children's Defense Fund. She has published her ideas in several books, including The Measure of Our Success: A Letter to My Children and Yours. She is a pioneer is speaking up for the rights of children that are often neglected in our cultures.

Consider some of her thoughts as they relate to enhancing your inner peace and joy:

• Service is the rent we pay to be living. It is the very purpose of life and not something you do in your spare time.

• If you don't like the way the world is, you change it. You have an obligation to change it. You just do it one step at a time.

• If we don't stand up for children, then we don't stand for much.

• I'm doing what I think I was put on this earth to do. And I'm really grateful to have something that I'm passionate about and that I think is profoundly important.

• You really can change the world if you care enough.

• Service is what life is all about.

• When I fight about what is going on in the neighborhood, or when I fight about what is happening to other people's children, I'm doing that because I want to leave a community and a world that is better than the one I found.

• Never work just for money or for power. They won't save your soul or help you sleep at night.

• I don't care what my children choose to do professionally, just as long as within their choices they understand they've got to give something back.

• If you as parents cut corners, your children will too. If you lie, they will too. If you spend all your money on yourselves and tithe no portion of it for charities, colleges, churches, synagogues, and civic causes, your children won't either. And if parents snicker at racial and gender jokes, another generation will pass on the poison adults still have not had the courage to snuff out.

• Being considerate of others will take you and your children further in life than any college or professional degree.

• You're not obligated to win. You're obligated to keep trying to do the best you can every day.

• We must not, in trying to think about how we can make a big difference, ignore the small daily differences we can make which, over time, add up to big differences that we often cannot foresee.

• When Jesus Christ asked little children to come to him, he didn't say only rich children, or White children, or children with two-parent families, or children who didn't have a mental or physical handicap. He said, "Let all children come unto me."


© Carol Brown

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

12-Step Programs and Peace

The twelve-step basics can help anyone—whether or not they are an addict—find peace. And aren’t many of us addicted to something--whether its worry, work, anger, computer games, television, Internet, gossip--if we are really honest with ourselves? If we’re not an addict, isn’t there some issue or problem with which we need the help of a Higher Power?

We know that twelve-step programs are invaluable for anyone struggling with an alcohol addiction, and others have been created for those dealing with drug, sex, pornography, shopping, gambling, and food addictions and that classes are available to help those whose spouses or loved ones are addicts. Please consider how the steps of the twelve step program can enhance anyone's peace of mind.

• Step 1 - We admitted we were powerless over our addiction - that our lives had become unmanageable.

• Step 2 - Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity

• Step 3 - Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Godand

• Step 4 - Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves

• Step 5 - Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs

• Step 6 - Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character

• Step 7 - Humbly asked God to remove our shortcomings

• Step 8 - Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all

• Step 9 - Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others

• Step 10 - Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it

• Step 11 - Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood God, praying only for knowledge of God's will for us and the power to carry that out

• Step 12 - Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to other addicts, and to practice these principles in all our affairs

Notice how the Lord proclaims His mission in Isaiah:

The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me,
because the LORD has anointed me
to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,

to proclaim the year of the LORD's favor
and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.

They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the LORD
for the display of his splendor
.

I have discovered that turning my life, my marriage, and my weaknesses over to a Higher Power brings me peace. God can heal our broken hearts, lives, and relationships as we trust in Him and submit to His will. He is the supreme Healer, Peacemaker, and Source of light and truth. Allow Him to enfold you in the arms of His love today.


© Carol Brown

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

When Life Is not Fair

What a month! I was called to serve on a federal jury that proved to me it is better to be judged of God than of man. Although I breathed deeply and used every stress management technique I could muster, I returned home with a heavy heart when a majority of the jurors voted for a verdict that I felt was wrong. A young women’s vehicle was hit by a driver who ran a red light, and the woman’s artificial knee joint was ruined by the impact. However, the jurors refused to compensate this woman, so she is left to purchase a $16,000 prosthetic knee on her salary as a day care worker. Truly, life is not fair.

My son, who suffers with a chronic health condition, left for basic training last month. Every time I think of him or begin to worry, I pray instead for him. That gives me peace, although I know he faces nine difficult weeks with less than optimal health.

My friend, Diane Haines, passed away last month. To say that Diane is a saint is not an exaggeration. She is one of the dearest women I know—kind, patient, full of faith, loving, compassionate—and she will be deeply missed by her husband, her ten children, her brothers and sisters, and all of us who know and love her. Amid the grief I feel at her passing, how grateful I am to know she is in a place of peace and happiness, where there is no more sorrow or suffering.

Life is not fair. People we love die. Our children suffer. Bad things happen to good people. Although we feel sorrow when we mourn with those who mourn and seek to comfort those who need comfort, yet, amid the sorrow we can find peace. We can remember that God is always just even when man is not. We can replace sorrow with serenity when we pray for those in need, including ourselves, and we can trust that a loving Father waits with open arms to welcome His children home.

So how do we deal with stress that seems unrelenting? Pray. Trust in God. Don’t try to change things that you cannot change. Surrender you worries and concerns to a Higher Power. Take time to grieve, and honor your emotions.


© Carol Brown

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Teachers of Peace

The following is the text from a little booklet called "Steps Toward Inner Peace" by Peace Pilgrim. These inspiring thoughts are not copywrighted, so you are free to use them as you wish. Enjoy!

FOUR PREPARATIONS

1. Assume right attitude toward life

Face life squarely and get down below the froth on its surface to discover its verities and realities. Solve the problems that life sets before you, and you will find that solving them contributes to your inner growth. Helping to solve collective problems contributes also to your growth, and these problems should never be avoided.

2. Live good beliefs.

The laws governing human conduct apply as rigidly as the law of gravity. Obedience to these laws pushes us toward harmony; disobedience pushes us toward inharmony. Since many of these laws are already common belief, you can begin by putting into practice all the good things you believe. No life can be in harmony unless belief and practice are in harmony.

3. Find your place in the Life Pattern.

You have a part in the scheme of things. What that part is you can know only from within yourself. You can seek it in receptive silence. You can begin to live in accordance with it by doing all the good things you are motivated toward and giving these things priority in your life over all the superficial things that customarily occupy human lives.

4. Simplify life to bring inner and outer well-being into harmony.

Unnecessary possessions are unnecessary burdens. Many lives are cluttered not only with unnecessary possessions but also with meaningless activities. Cluttered lives are out-of-harmony lives and require simplification. Wants and needs can become the same in a human life and, when this is accomplished, there will be a sense of harmony between inner and outer well-being. Such harmony is needful not only in the individual life but in the collective life too.

FOUR PURIFICATIONS


1. Purification of the bodily temple.

Are you free from all bad habits? In your diet do you stress the vital foods - the fruits, whole grains, vegetables and nuts? Do you get to bed early and get enough sleep? Do you get plenty of fresh air, sunshine, exercise, and contact with nature? If you can answer "Yes" to all of these questions, you have gone a long way toward purification of the bodily temple.

2. Purification of the thoughts.
It is not enough to do right things and say right things. You must also think right things. Positive thoughts can be powerful influences for good. Negative thoughts can make you physically ill. Be sure there is no unpeaceful situation between yourself and any other human being, for only when you have ceased to harbor unkind thoughts can you attain inner harmony.

3. Purification of the desires.

Since you are here to get yourself into harmony with the laws that govern human conduct and with your part in the scheme of things, your desires should be focused in this direction.

4. Purification of motives.
Obviously your motive should never be greed or self-seeking, or the wish for self-glorification, you shouldn't even have the selfish motive of attaining inner peace for yourself. To be of service to your fellow humans must be your motive before your life can come into harmony.

FOUR RELINQUISHMENTS

1. Relinquishment of self-will.

You have, or it's as though you have, two selves: the lower self that usually governs you selfishly, and the higher self which stands ready to use you gloriously. You must subordinate the lower self by refraining from doing the not-good things you are motivated toward, not suppressing them but transforming them so that the higher self can take over your life.

2. Relinquishment of the feeling of separateness.All of us, all over the world, are cells in the body of humanity. You are not separate from your fellow humans, and you cannot find harmony for yourself alone. You can only find harmony when you realize the oneness of all and work for the good of all.

3. Relinquishment of attachments.

Only when you have relinquished all attachments can you be really free. Material things are here for use, and anything you cannot relinquish when it has outlived its usefulness possesses you. You can only live in harmony with your fellow humans if you have no feeling that you possess them, and therefore do not try to run their lives.

4. Relinquishment of all negative feelings.

Work on relinquishing negative feelings. If you live in the present moment, which is really the only moment you have to live, you will be less apt to worry. If you realize that those who do mean things are psychologically ill, your feelings of anger will turn to feelings of pity. If you recognize that all of your inner hurts are caused by your own wrong actions or your own wrong reactions or your own wrong inaction, then you will stop hurting yourself.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Peace Pilgrim

Mildred Norman felt called to promote peace when she was 44 years old. She left her home and for thirty years, walked tens of thousands of miles throughout America teaching about peace. Depending on the kindness of strangers, she wore only the clothes on her back and carried a few possessions in her tunic which read, “Peace Pilgrim.

She said, “ I belong to no organization. I have said that I will walk until given shelter and fast until given food, remaining a wanderer until mankind has learned the way of peace. And I can truthfully tell you that without ever asking for anything, I have been supplied with everything needed for my journey, which shows you how good people really are

“With me I carry always my peace message: This is the way of peace: Overcome evil with good, falsehood with truth, and hatred with love. There is nothing new about this message, except the practice of it. And the practice of it is required not only in the international situation but also in the personal situation. I believe that the situation in the world is a reflection of our own immaturity. If we were mature, harmonious people, war would be no problem whatever - it would be impossible.”

Her thoughts are worth considering as we journey to peace.

• Anything you cannot relinquish when it has outlived its usefulness possesses you, and in this materialistic age a great many of us are possessed by our possessions.

• As I lived up to the highest light I had, higher and higher light came to me.

• For light I go directly to the Source of light, not to any of the reflections.

• Humanity has only scratched the surface of its real potential.

• If you realized how powerful your thoughts are, you would never think a negative thought.

• My appointed work is to awaken the divine nature that is within.

• No one can find inner peace except by working, not in a self- centered way, but for the whole human family.

• One little person, giving all of her time to peace, makes news. Many people, giving some of their time, can make history.

• Praying without ceasing is not ritualized, nor are there even words. It is a constant state of awareness of oneness with God.

• Pure love is a willingness to give without a thought of receiving anything in return.

• The simplification of life is one of the steps to inner peace. A persistent simplification will create an inner and outer well-being that places harmony in one's life.

• The way of peace is the way of love. Love is the greatest power on earth. It conquers all things.

• There is a criterion by which you can judge whether the thoughts you are thinking and the things you are doing are right for you. The criterion is: Have they brought you inner peace? • There is something to that old saying that hate injures the hater, not the hated.

• To attain inner peace you must actually give your life, not just your possessions. When you at last give your life - bringing into alignment your beliefs and the way you live then, and only then, can you begin to find inner peace.

© Carol Brown

Friday, August 6, 2010

Finding Peace in Stressful Times

Although healthy stress motivates us to accomplish our goals, care for our families, and become all that we can be, too much of it can be deadly. Unless we learn how to effectively deal with challenging, nerve-racking situations, they can shorten our lives or even end them. So here are a few more tips that can turn a tense time into a peaceful one.

Create a positive affirmation or statement for your life and think about it during trying times. Here are a few sentences that could be included in an affirmation: “I am loveable and am loved.” “I am a beloved child of God who loves me just as I am.” “My life is peaceful and happy.” “I have all the time that I need to fulfill my destiny.”

Tense then relax. If you are feeling stressed, tense a muscle group, such as your shoulder, arm or leg for a few seconds while breathing deeply and then relax those muscles. You can do this while waiting at a red light, while sitting in a business meeting, or whenever you find yourself in a stressful situation. This process has been proven to decrease stress and increase your peace of mind.

Visualize peace. Imagine how you can react peacefully to a difficult situation. Picture how you can successfully navigate a difficult conversation, circumstance, or crisis. Think of ways you can inject love and understanding into your relationships and life experience. Envision yourself speaking words of kindness, wisdom, and insight. We can transform our lives as we see ourselves becoming a peaceful, happy person.

Elminiate self-defeating thoughts and behaviors. Let go of self-critical thinking patterns by replacing them with thoughts of gratitude and compassion. If you find you are frustrated with things that you can’t do, focus on the think you can do. If you are upset because you are weak in some areas, focus on the ways in which you are strong and ask God to help you may your weak things strong. He will as you trust in Him.

Create a peaceful environment. Listen to music that enhances peace, and turn off music or television programs that do not. Place a beautiful flower in a vase and focus on it during the day. Eliminate clutter and create a home that fosters harmony and peace.

Choose friends that find happiness amid the challenges of life. Friends who love life will boost your sense of serenity and joy. Seek out friendships with people who love and respect you.

Find ways to increase your peace of mind, such as reading inspirational and sacred literature, praying, or focusing on the beauties of nature. Massage, acupuncture, acupressure, tai chi, and aromatherapy can be helpful in reducing stress. Sprinkling a few drops of essential lavender oil on your pillow before you go to bed or rubbing a few drops on your temples before you go to work can be helpful. Finding an expert massage therapist who specializes in stress reduction can be invaluable. Sometimes we pay more attention to caring for our homes or cars than we do in caring for ourselves. Although stress reduction doesn’t have to cost a lot of money, a few dollars invested in taking a tai chi class or getting a massage can provide priceless results.


© Carol Brown

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Finding Peace in Stressful Times

We live in stress-filled times. Stress is making some people sick. It can damage the circulation, the heart, the glands, and the whole nervous system. It is making many miserable and unhappy. Here are a few simple techniques that can help us find peace amid the frustrations and challenges of life.

Replace thoughts of worry with thoughts of gratitude. Whether our concerns involve relationships, finances, health, or something else, we can choose to remember our blessings. When my husband lost his job, I was grateful he still had his health. My friend Beth, paralyzed from the chest down for 30 years, told me she noticed many people who suffered more than she did and was grateful for that (and, trust me, she suffered a lot.)

Breathe deeply whenever possible. Breathing from our belly helps the parasympathetic nervous system relax us. Breathe deeply if you feel tired, upset, or bored. This is a terrific way to release tension and reduce and is so easy to do.

Slow down. This can be hard to do in a fast-paced world, but consider driving slower, eating more deliberately, and talking at a calmer pace. Listen attentively when someone is talking and enjoy the moment.

Celebrate yourself. Many create their own stress by comparing themselves to others, berating themselves for innocent mistakes, or focusing on their weaknesses rather than their strengths. Although we won’t find peace if we are egomaniacal, we will find peace if we love and cherish ourselves just the way we are.

Smile often. Researchers have found that smiling produces endorphins in our brain, those feel-good chemicals that reduce pain and increase feelings of peace, pleasure, and well-being. Smiling sincerely when you see loved ones, friends, or even strangers makes us happier and reduces our stress. I try to smile at cashiers, baggers, and clerk when I am shopping, and it makes routine errands a lot more fun. Even genuinely smiling when no one is around is helpful.

Set healthy boundaries. If you tend to be a people-pleaser, this is sometimes hard to do. Before someone asks you to do something that you know will create unhealthy stress in your life, breathe deeply, say, “I would love to do this but won’t be able to this time,” or tell them you’ll get back to them after you consider their request. Show yourself the kindness and consideration that you try to show others.

Try these techniques and notice the difference their make in your life. Victor Frankl said, “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” As we consciously choose to find peace in stressful times, we feel happier and life is sweeter. Today, choose peace.


© Carol Brown

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Blessings of Adversity

It’s easy to celebrate the blessings of health, friendship, family, and nature. Focusing on these gifts makes us happier and more peaceful. Because sometimes life presents us with surprising challenges, we can learn to be grateful for difficult times as we discover that these times can bless us with wisdom, patience, and understanding.

Some of our greatest strengths are refined in the fiery furnace of adversity. Think about the times when you’ve overcome some serious difficulties. Notice the qualities you developed from enduring well. Contemplate the strengths you gained. Trials can transform our lives for good when we allow the Lord to refine and mold us by the things we suffer.

Here are a few examples of things I’ve learned from adversity:

I grew up desperately poor. After my dad survived a horrific car accident, he was left disabled and lost his business, his livelihood, and his savings. He struggled to support our family on a meager part-time income. I had two outfits a year, sewn by my mother with a dollar’s worth of fabric, and a pair of school and Sunday shoes. There was no money for vacations, Christmas presents, birthday parties, or outings. Eating out, go to movies, even buying a television set was not possible.

From that experience, I learned to appreciate the simple things. Time with friends and family. Spending time in nature. Reading library books. Writing. Using my imagination in creative play. Enjoying the privilege of a free public education. Loving the opportunity of learning new things. I discovered that the best things in life are free. That adversity has blessed my life in countless ways. I am more grateful for simple blessings. I celebrate life more fully. I am content with what I have. I have compassion and empathy for the poor.

My father became very ill with leukemia when I was in high school and died when I was a teen-ager. Because we had a close, loving relationship, the loss was hard to bear. I grieved his loss and still miss him very much. My mother struggled with health problems, and since I was an only child, I was left to face the world alone, or so I thought. During that difficult time, I discovered how much God really loves me. I realized He understood my pain and was willing to help and succor me. My greatest adversity became my greatest blessing.

Caring for my son, who has some serious health challenges for eight years, gave me the gift of patience. Caring for my dying mother, who became blind and unable to walk, gave me the gift of courage and fortitude. Caring for my neighbor, Beth, who was paralyzed after cancer severed her spinal cord, allowed me to reach inside myself and unlock my inner gifts of compassion. Those experiences, although very difficult, blessed my life in beautiful ways. I would not be the person I am today if life has been easier.

When I developed back and knee problems recently, I have learned to value the peace of meditation and solitude. I celebrate the songs of birds and the beauty of clouds in ways I never have before. I have discovered that life is more that being constantly busy. I have learned that peace can be found found in silence, in gentle thoughts, and in loving attitudes, and that peace is not a result of doing but of being. Jesus taught us this when He is the great I AM. He is our peace. He offers us a peace that surpasses anything the world offers.

As we trust in Him, worship Him, and follow Him, He gives us a peace that is perfect and pure. Jesus told Gideon that His name was Jehovah-Shalom or the Lord is our peace. May you find peace—even during your adversities—as you give your heart to God, who is peace.


© Carol Brown

Friday, July 16, 2010

The Peace of Simplicity

When we discover the secret to happiness, we realize that happiness cannot be bought. It is a state of mind, a way of thinking that allows us to enjoy the moment, to celebrate life, and to live authentically. Living a peaceful life is not a complicated matter.

Here are a few suggestions you might consider to experience greater peace:

• Breathe deeply whenever possible. Focus on your breathing when waiting for a red light, an appointment, or while in a check-out line at a store

• Eliminate clutter. Spend a few minutes during the day picking up, sorting, throwing away stuff or putting it in a goodwill sack.

• Spend less. Pack a sack lunch. Enjoy all the free activities in your community: libraries, parks, concerts and programs. Join blogs that post great deals on food and entertainment in your area.

• Discover the magic of thrift stores, where great books, clothes, and household stuff can be purchased for very little. My teenage granddaughters have discovered Plato’s Closet, a second-hand store that has an assortment of wonderful clothes. They earn their clothing money and buy many of their clothing there. (Their wise parents, a doctor and a nurse, have been teaching them the joy of simplicity since they were little.)

• Enjoy the beauties of nature. Train yourself to listen to birds singing, to see the varied shapes of clouds and the sun, stars, and moonlight. Smell the fragrant roses and pine trees after a rain storm. Feel the breeze as it rustles the leaves on aspens and maple trees.

You can’t buy happiness. It results from peaceful thinking and gentle living. Jesus took time to retreat into nature, meditate, enjoy children, and relax during boat rides (even when storms were raging). His simple life of service and devotion to His Father teaches us that life can be beautiful when we love God with all of our hearts and when we love others as we love ourselves.


© Carol Brown

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Be Kind to Yourself

Research shows that being kind to ourselves reduces stress, improves our immune system, and increases our sense of well-being and happiness. Sometimes it is easier to show kindness to others than to ourselves, yet we need to nurture ourselves so that we can nurture others. Jesus asked us to love others as we love ourselves, not before we love ourselves or instead of loving ourselves.

So how do we should kindness to ourselves?

We begin by speaking words of love to and about ourselves, not in a prideful way but in a gentle, compassionate way. We think lovingly about ourselves. We forgive ourselves. We celebrate our victories and learn from our mistakes. We are patient with ourselves, remembering that we’re a work in progress.

Yesterday I attended a funeral for a relative. In the past, because some members of that particular family have been rude and unkind to me, I made a plan. I decided to stay as long as the family was respectful to me and others and to leave when and if they were not. I mentally set a boundary on those things I would and would not tolerate from family members.

I entered the gathering with a kind and loving attitude towards myself and others. I spoke compassionately to the family members who had lost their loved one. I honored and respected older family members, even those who can be unkind. As the day progressed, I was delighted to discover that kindness prevailed.

For years I allowed that family to belittle me and my parents. Now, I have set healthy boundaries. I love them when they allow me to do so and leave when they do not. For years I attempted to win their love by tolerating their inappropriate behavior, but no matter how hard I tried, I could not win their approval. I have learned that by showing kindness to myself, I am better able to love them and can recognize how to handle difficult situations—even if I need to leave to find peace. I have discovered that they respect me more when I respect myself more.

In addition to setting healthy boundaries, we need to treat our bodies with kindness. Eating nutritious foods and getting needed sleep are ways that we show our love for our precious bodies. You show kindness to yourself every time you breathe deeply, go on a walk, enjoy nature, and think loving thoughts about yourself and others.

Kindness is contagious. The more kindness you show yourself, the more kindness you will radiate to others. As you show kindness to others, often that kindness will return to you—multiplied.

As we show kindness to ourselves, we become empowered to live life fully and joyfully. We no longer think of ourselves as victims but as victors. We not are vain or arrogant, but instead we treat ourselves with respect and gentleness, and by so doing, can share that love with others.

Today, be kind to yourself. Think or say “I love you” when you look in the mirror. Celebrate your body exactly as it is. Give yourself permission to make mistakes and to learn from them. One of my favorite authors, Leo Buscalia said, “Love yourself—accept yourself—forgive yourself—and be good to yourself, because without you the rest of us are without a source of many wonderful things.”


© Carol Brown

Thursday, July 8, 2010

The Peace of Contentment

We experience peace when we are content with our lives, our looks, and our possessions. When we feel true gratitude for the blessings we enjoy instead of focusing on the things we don’t have, we feel happy and joyful. Epicurus, a Greek philosopher who was born 341 B.C., wisely said, “Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you do not have.”

Most cultures do not foster contentment. Instead, they insist we need more money, bigger homes, newer clothes, or thinner bodies before we can be happy. They say that we must update our wardrobes, home furnishings, or appearance if we want to be fulfilled. However, we can’t buy happiness for true contentment if found in the heart. It is found in the attitudes we foster and the thoughts we nourish.

Despite what the media says, we can be content in any circumstance if we choose three attitudes.

1. Be content with who you are. Don’t compare yourself to others.


When we decide to love ourselves unconditionally, we discover one of the great secrets to contentment. This doesn’t mean that we strive to better ourselves, but it means that we accept ourselves just as we are and then gently allow God to mold us into all that we can become. If we are constantly berating and criticizing ourselves, we will not enjoy everyday living. We will also discover that we are more critical of others and find it harder to forgive.
When we truly celebrate our own talents, gifts, and abilities, we can also celebrate those of others. Then we feel happy to become our own best self and to allow others to enjoy the same journey. We are not threatened if others have different abilities or talents than we have but rejoice in the diverse gifts that we—and others--enjoy.

2. Be content with what you have. Celebrate the blessings that God has given you.

We can be poor, rich or in between and have been blessed to find contentment in any circumstance. I have poor friends who are very happy and rich friends who are not. Henry David Thoreau said, “The man is richest whose pleasures are the cheapest.” When we find happiness in the simple beauties of nature and in spending time with friends and family, worldly interests become less appealing.

The amount of money a person earns does not determine whether or not they will be happy but how they manage our money does. Wise stewardship of our finances creates harmony in the home and enhances our inner peace. As we show gratitude for those things we have, spend less than we earn, save for a rainy day, tithe, and give generously to others in need, we discover the windows of heaven truly open in our behalf and we can live happily on very little. I know. I’ve spent my life doing this, and many times my ability to provide for my family and help others and far exceeded my income. God blesses those who give to Him and to others with peace, joy, and contentment.

3. Be content with your life. Celebrate the joys of everyday living.

Richard Carlson, Ph.D. has written extensively about finding peace and joy. His classic book, Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff, contains one hundred ways to live more happily and peacefully. He writes, “Often we allow ourselves to get worked up about things that, upon closer examination, aren’t really that big a deal….Whether we had to wait in line, listen to unfair criticism, or do the lion’s share the work, it pays enormous dividends in we learn not to worry about little things. So many people spend so much of their life energy “sweating the small stuff” that they completely lose touch with the magic and beauty of life. When you commit to working toward this goal, you will find that you will have far more energy to be kinder and gentler.”

Dr. Carlson titled he last chapter of his book, “Live This Life as If It Were Your Last. It Might Be!” Ironically, he died suddenly of a pulmonary embolism while on a flight to promote one of his books when he was 45 years old. I have read many of Dr. Carlson’s books and find new ways to live more authentically and happily with each book.

The apostle Paul, who suffered physical torture, imprisonment, and chronic health challenges, wrote that he had learned to be content in any circumstance. I know people who are content amid financial, health, or family adversities. That doesn’t mean their lives are perfect or that they don’t ever feel sad or discouraged. However, they have discovered that life is beautiful and that peace is possible, even during the hard times.

Sarah Ban Breathnach, author of the book, Simple Abundance, said, “Whatever we are waiting for--peace of mind, contentment, grace, the inner awareness of simple abundance--it will surely come to us, but only when we are ready to receive it with an open and grateful heart.”

May we open our hearts to the blessings of peace and contentment that lie without our hearts, waiting to be discovered.


© Carol Brown

Friday, July 2, 2010

The Power of Thoughts

Picture yourself as the director of your life. Imagine that the thoughts you think are the script of your life. You choose which thoughts to include in the script and which ones to edit out. You decide which scenes you will replay and which ones you will cut. You alone determine the words and actions of your life by the thoughts you select.

We cannot control the actions of others, but we can decide how we will react to the things others say and do. We can ruminate about past hurts or remember past blessings. We can focus on present happiness or misery. We can look forward to future peace or despair. The choice is ours alone.

Think of the amount of attention to detail, planning, and hard work that directors put into making a movie. Every word is weighed, every gesture and facial expression is analyzed, and every action is scrutinized. Great movies require dedication by the director, carefully who prepares and executes every second of the production.

Imagine working that hard to create a magnificent life. Think of yourself as the hero or heroine of your production who develops his or her talents, promotes peaceful thoughts and inspires peaceful living, and who lives and loves with integrity and enthusiasm. You will become the person you create through your thoughts. The thoughts you choose to rehearse in your mind either empower or weaken you, bless or harm you.

Our subconscious minds believe everything we tell it so we need to choose our thoughts carefully. Consider this teaching of Buddha: "What we are today comes from our thoughts of yesterday, and our present thoughts build our life of tomorrow: Our life is the creation of our mind. Your worst enemy cannot harm you as much as your own unguarded thoughts. But once mastered, no one can help you as much."

The book, As a Man Thinketh, by James Allen can help us master our thoughts. You can read it here. Another amazing book is Drummand's The Greatest Thing in the World, which is available free online here. Reading great books, including the Bible, can help us discover our infinite worth and can give us a powerful supply of healing thoughts. Committing beautiful verses or thoughts to memory can help us confront and replace negative thoughts. I love the words, “I can do all things through Christ Jesus who strengthens me.”

Here’s an inspiring poem by an unknown author that is worth considering:

I asked God to give me happiness.
God said, "No. I give you blessings. Happiness is up to you."

I asked God to spare me pain.
God said, "No. Suffering draws you apart from worldly cares and brings you closer to me."

I asked God to make my spirit grow.
God said, "No. You must grow on your own, but I will prune you to make you fruitful."

I asked for all things that I might enjoy life.
God said, "No. I will give you life so that you may enjoy all things."

I asked God to help me help those weaker than myself.
God said... "Ahhhh, finally you got the idea."

May you have a peaceful day and week as you direct the thoughts and actions of your life.


© Carol Brown

Monday, June 28, 2010

The Peace of Nature

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Hooray for summer! As we enjoy the trees, flowers, birds, rivers and streams, the beauties of nature offer us peace and joy in rich abundance. Whether we go for a walk in a park, stroll along a stream or a wildlife refuge, we experience greater serenity. This month my husband and I enjoyed nature in its glory and majesty. We visited the Grand Canyon and stared in awe at God's marvelous sculpture. As I soaked in the beauty, I remembered that masterpieces are not created overnight. God wants to mold our lives into something wonderful, but the process takes time, faith, and trust.





While we walked along a path by the canyon, we saw a flower clinging to the rocks. It reminded me that peace can be found amid challenging circumstances. As I observed that floral masterpiece, I celebrated the indominable spirit of those who choose joy and peace when bitterness and despair would be so easy.















We saw the spectacular scenery at Capitol Reef National Monument. Each of God's creations are breathtaking and magnificent. They enhance our reverence and awe for our Creator's power and artistry. As we reflect upon the beauties of the world, we can remember that we are His most precious masterpieces.















© Carol Brown

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Changing the Script

Each day about 60,000 thoughts pass through our minds. Some enhance our peace of mind and some do not. If we can view our thoughts as we would a movie or a television show, we can discover which thoughts are promoting serenity and wholeness and which ones can be reframed.

Here are some powerful tools that help to retrain our minds when we discover our thoughts are not promoting peace:

• If you discover your thoughts are negative, move into a spirit of gratitude. Focus on five or six blessings that you truly appreciate and notice the change in your mood.

• If you are ruminating about a challenging or frustrating experience, instead ask yourself, “Why can I learn from this?”

• If you find yourselves thinking negatively about yourself or others, ask yourself, “Is this really true?” At the core, we are children of God. If we find ourselves condemning or belittling ourselves or others, we can remember that each of us are divine, magnificent creations.

• When we or others make a mistake, we can remind ourselves that no one is perfect, that we can learn from our mistakes and move forward. Focusing on our own or others’ faults keeps us from manifesting our strengths.

• If we feel overcome with a weakness, we can ask God to turn that shortcoming into a strength. Then, trust that He will help us do just that. Some of our greatest strengths can arise from the vulnerable, fragile parts of ourselves.

• If we view our thoughts like a movie, we become the director of our own minds. We can change the scene, move the characters, and rewrite the dialogue. We discover that we have the power to rewrite our script of thoughts in a positive, healing way.

Some thought patterns take time to change. Sometimes the more we resist negative thoughts, the more that stay. Instead of battling with our destructive thoughts, we can gently feel them, accept them, and then calmly release them, using the techniques I’ve described. Harmful thoughts are not true. Honest thoughts are peaceful, loving, and healing. They are the essence of who we truly are.

Learning to meditate and to channel our thoughts into a healing place is also very helpful. Our subconscious believes anything you tell it. Today, remind yourself that you a child of the divine, beautifully and wonderfully made. God loves you with an incomprehensible love. Allow Him to fill your heart and mind today with His unfathomable, all-powerful mercy, joy, and peace.


© Carol Brown

Monday, June 21, 2010

Focusing on the Positive

Brain research indicate that we remember negative experiences more vividly than positive ones and that we notice negative interactions more intensely that positive ones. For example, if you have a good day at work and your manager praises your work but your co-worker criticizes, what will you think about when you return home? If you’ve invited family members over for a special party, will you remember the 14 you came or the 2 who didn’t show up or call?

Because it’s easy to think about and remember the bad stuff that happens it our lives, we can retrain our brains so that we can experience greater peace of mind. We do this by allowing ourselves to feel negative emotions and then releasing these feelings. As we focus on the things that are going right in our lives, we can more easily ignore the things that are going wrong.

The great news is that the brain is constantly rebuilding itself. "The brain is not like a computer that has fixed wiring and connections," says neuroscientist Michael M. Merzenich, "Every aspect of you is created by the brain revising itself in response to your interactions in the world—and I mean everything. How you define yourself—the person you are—is a product of plastic changes in your brain. That includes things that relate to your attitude and your emotional construct. What you are is a result of how your brain has tried to create a model of the world, and the brain is plastic until you die."

Since our brains are constantly rebuilding themselves, we can retrain our minds to remember the good stuff. As we notice the negative things we are telling ourselves, we can reframe our thinking and remind ourselves that life isn’t as bad as we’re pretending it is. Sure, a couple of family members may have disappointed you, but 14 showed up with a lot of love and compassion. Perhaps a co-worker was surly, but your other co-workers and your boss respect your work and treat you well. As we focus on all the positive experiences in our lives, we can put the negative ones into better perspective.

Someone once said, “Blessed are the flexible, for they will never be bent out of shape.” We become more optimistic, forgiving, and peaceful when we choose thoughts that are accepting, patient, and merciful. We can’t change other people’s behavior, but we can change the way we react to it—and it all begins with our thoughts.


© Carol Brown

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Be Kind, for Everyone You Meet Is Fighting a Hard Battle

Each one of us yearns to be treated kindly. We long to be validated, respected, and cherished. It is an innate human need to feel loved, yet it is also a natural human tendency to be unkind, selfish, and rude, especially when we feel threatened, tired, or frustrated.

In 2007, Rev. Will Bowen of Christ’ Church in Missouri challenged his congregation to go 21 days without complaining. He passed out purple wristbands and urged his followers to wear them. If they griped, gossiped, or criticized someone, they were asked to move the wristband to the other arm. Rev. Bowen confessed that it took him almost four months before the wristband remained on his right arm every single day. The movement has caught hold, and Rev. Bowen has received requests for over 6,200,000 wristbands, which have been processed on his Web site, www.acomplaintfreeworld.org.

Imagine living in a world in which people spoke with kindness and love to everyone. Imagine homes, businesses, institutions, communities, and countries where people speak with courtesy and respect to everyone—even those who are difficult to love. Experts say that one person who is kind influences the lives of hundreds of others for good. Imagine the rippling effect of one percent of the world’s population practicing radical kindness.

Everyone you meet carries a heavy burden—or will someday. People struggle with health challenges, financial pressures, insecurity, loss, and thousands of other challenges. Everyone deserves kindness—including ourselves.

I have discovered that when I am critical and condemning of myself, I tend to be more critical of others. As we show kindness to ourselves, we experience greater peace of mind and can then radiate that peace to others. Peace, the highest form of joy, is contagious.

We cannot change other people, but through loving kindness, we can inspire others to be a little kinder, to do a little better. I love this statement by Stephan Grellet, “I expect to pass through this world but once; any good thing, therefore, that I can do, or any kindness that I can show to any fellow creature, let me do it now; let me not defer or neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again.”


© Carol Brown

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

God's Infinite Love for Us

I visited my parents’ graves yesterday. As I thought about their many acts of service, their love for God, and their love for others, I praised God for these wonderful parents. My dad’s been gone for 42 years, my mom for 11. How I miss them!

I’ve sat with a number of dying friends and family members. When they reached the end of their journeys, they didn’t care about how much stuff they’d accumulated or how much they’d accomplished. Instead, they cared deeply about their relationship with God and with their family and friends. After all, that’s all we can take with us when we leave this world and enter the next.

God is preparing a mansion for those who love and honor Him. All He asks is that we follow Him, and if we chose to do so, He will give us everything He has. He asks for so little from us and offers unimaginable blessings in return.

John saw that after Christ returns to the earth, a great multitude was praising God and worshiping Him. One of the elders asked him, “These in white robes—who are they, and where did they come from?”

He answered, “Sir, you know.”

And the elder said, “These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore, they are before the throne of God and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will spread his tent over them.

“Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat upon them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; he will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”

When our days are difficult, we can remember that someday God will wipe away all our tears. He waits to comfort us now, to give us peace even when life is hard. May you feel His infinite love today.

Reflect on the love letter he wrote to us years ago:

Shout for joy, O heavens;
rejoice, O earth;
burst into song, O mountains!

For the LORD comforts his people
and will have compassion on his afflicted ones.

But Zion said, ‘The LORD has forsaken me,
the Lord has forgotten me.’

Can a mother forget the baby at her breast
and have no compassion on the child she has borne?

Though she may forget,
I will not forget you!

See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands;
your walls are ever before me.”


© Carol Brown

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Ten Rules for Happier Living

Ten Rules for Happier Living


1. Give something away (no strings attached).

2. Do a kindness (and forget it).

3. Spend a few minutes with the aged (their experience is a priceless guidance).

4. Look intently into the face of a baby (and marvel).

5. Laugh often (it is life's lubricant).

6. Give thanks (a thousand times a day is not enough).

7. Pray (or you will lose the way).

8. Work (with vim and vigor).

9. Plan as though you will live forever (because you will).

10. Live as though you will die tomorrow (because you will die on some tomorrow).

(author unknown)

© Carol Brown

Thursday, May 27, 2010

The Peace of Loving Ourselves

For every person who is vain, arrogant, and proud, there are many who do not truly love themselves. (And, many proud folks aren't doing a terrific job of loving themselves as well.)

How often do you say to yourself: "If only I were...smarter, thinner, more successful, more clever, wiser, kinder, etc."? We usually compare ourselves to someone who is at his or her best or do a fictitious ideal, someone who does not even exist, and then we wonder why we don't measure up. When we compare ourselves with others, we will not experience true peace.

You may feel that the thought of truly loving yourself is impossible. But if you know how to love others, you have the capacity to love yourself. The secret is to love ourselves with the same love that we willingly share with our dearest friends and family members.

Jack Kornfield writes that the Babemba tribe in Africa gather together in a special meeting if someone in their tribe has done something reckless. In his book The Art of Forgiveness , Kornfield writes:

"Then each person in the tribe speaks to the accused, one at a time, each recalling the good things the person in the center of the circle has done is his lifetime. Every incident, every experience that can be recalled with any detail and accuracy, is recounted. All his positive attributes, good deeds, strengths, and kindnesses are recited carefully and at length."

Sometimes the meeting can go on for days. When the ceremony is finished, everyone celebrates and embraces the person as he returns to full membership in the tribe. Imagine the healing that occurs when one who has hurt others is healed by the loving words of his friends and family.

Imagine how we would feel if we repeated that ceremony on our own lives. When we mess up, instead of berating ourselves, imagine how we would feel if we remembered the good things we have done. Eventually, we can learn to replace critical voices in our minds with kind voices. This may take time and effort, but we will experience greater peace as we treat ourselves more gently.

Of course, this kind of mercy does not mean that we should go out and be our worst self and then instantly forgive ourselves. Instead, loving ourselves means that after we do our best, we turn away from our mistakes, asking for forgiveness when appropriate, and turn towards loving ourselves.

Each of us is a unique, one-of-a-kind, miraculous creation. We are created in God’s image. We are His children. Loving ourselves means not only remember who we are but what we can become. It means exchanging pain for peace, self-loathing for self-loving, criticism for kindness. As we begin to truly love ourselves, we open our hearts to receive the joy, happiness, and peace that God waits to give us.

For a few moments, reflect on the love that a caring parent feels for his or her child. Then try to multiply that love a million, billion, trillion times over. That is an infinitesimal amount of the love that God feels for you. Father John O”Donohue said, “May you learn to see yourself with the same delight, pride, and expectation with which God sees you in every moment.”


© Carol Brown

Friday, May 21, 2010

Be Kind to Yourself

Thomas Kempis said, “First keep peace with yourself, then you can also bring peace to others.” We experience inner peace when we show kindness and compassion to ourselves, yet sometimes we are kinder to others than we are to ourselves. As we treat ourselves with mercy and gentleness, it becomes easier to treat others that way.

Notice the things you say to yourself throughout the day. How often do you criticize yourself? How quick are you to blame yourself for innocent mistakes?

This morning I scolded myself for driving through mud after getting my car washed yesterday. I stopped the negative self-talk when I remembered that because of road construction near our home, I had no other choice than to drive along a dirty road to get to the grocery store. Even if there was no road construction near our home, when I chose to blame myself for being human I moved from a place of love into a place of fear.

During the past week I’ve heard many of my friends and family members blame themselves for mistakes they did not make. My daughter, Melanie, a nurse, told me how frustrated she was when she was caring for a sick neighbor and did not take her to the hospital as quickly as the neighbor needed to go. The part of the story she needed to remember was they her neighbor, also a nurse, refused to go to the hospital. I reminded her that she had done the very best she could do under the circumstances. In fact, when Melanie and her doctor-husband, Chris, took their neighbor to the emergency room that night, they saved the woman’s life.

Whenever we find ourselves saying “I should have…..(taken my neighbor to the doctor sooner) or” I would have…..(prevented suffering and medical complications if I had taken my neighbor to the doctor sooner), we are not being kind to ourselves. Most of us do this far too often, but as we learn to monitor our thinking patterns, we can replace critical thoughts with compassionate ones.

Sometimes we need a loving friend to remind us to do this. However, we can also become a loving friend to ourselves and remind ourselves that we are doing the best we can with the knowledge and experience that we have. If you are tempted to berate yourself, replace that thought with something positive. Remind yourself that you are a incredible human being who is created in the image of God. Express love to yourself for the good things you are doing. Be bold. Tell yourself, “I love you. I love you unconditionally. I am perfectly and wonderfully made."

If you make a serious mistake, make amends, ask for God’s forgiveness, and then forgive yourself. Show yourself the same mercy that God shows you. Don’t dwell on your past mistakes. Instead, give yourself the same compassion that you would give your dearest friend.

Think of the many ways you can show kindness to yourself. Develop a talent. Take good care of your body. Learn something new. Do something you enjoy, whether it’s taking a nature walk, soaking in a hot tub, or reading a good book. Spend a few moments each day loving God and feeling His love for you. Write down a list of the good things you have done in your life and refer to that list if you are feeling sad.

As we fill up our own reservoirs of love and kindness, we can then radiate that love to others. "How far you go in life depends on your being tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving, and tolerant of the weak and strong. Because someday in your life you will have been all of these." (George Washington Carver)


© Carol Brown