Each time I ride the train it happens that the person seated beside me is someone battling illness. They end up encouraging me, I end up encouraging them, or we end up encouraging each other. It's been happening for the last five years. The first time I had the experience, I didn't really think about it. The second time, I thought it was interesting. The third time, I found it uncanny. Now, it's happened so often that I expect it.

My most recent trip was a little different in that I encountered Michael and his wife while we waited on the train. Michael shared that he had just completed a chemotherapy treatment, and they were going home until the next treatment in three weeks. A colon cancer survivor, Michael shared that he's now battling liver cancer that has metastasized to his lungs. Initially, I was blown away by both the gravity of the information and the fact that
what he told me wasn't reflected in his gait, countenance, demeanor, or attitude. And then my joy radar went off. It hit me that Michael was living his joy. And that's exactly what he told me. He had faced death, and might be facing it again, but he was living the joy he felt in his soul. And as Michael shared his testimony with me, he became more and more animated. His joy was running over--he couldn't keep it to himself. He felt blessed to have lived through his first bout of cancer after having to be revived twice. According to Michael, he was healed once, and had faith he would be healed again. But even if he wasn't healed, he was going to spread joy every opportunity he could because he's still here, still standing. What an inspiration!

Michael and I sat on that train sharing all our business that is rarely shared with others. I've found this to be fairly common among folks battling illness. I'm sure those around us could not believe we were total strangers as we discussed things most people--including myself--usually consider private. But in my experience, once you've walked a certain path, there are few things you hold private when trying to encourage someone on the journey. My journey is significantly different from Michael's, but there was comfort and understanding once we made a connection. As a result, there was no shame in discussing things that have the potential to strip one of their composure and/or dignity--for example, the residual effects of surgery, frequency of bowel movements, what it's like to wear a bag to collect your bodily fluids, the experience of wearing adult diapers, etc. TMI (too much information) for most, but for us, just par for the course on our journeys. There is no doubt in my mind that God allowed Michael to cross my path at just the right time. I don't know what it is about the train, but it happened again.

This song is a wonderful reminder of the hope and joy Christians associate with the birth of Christ. Buon Natale, Joyeux Noël, Merry Christmas!

Living My Joy
Many of us spend significant time and effort trying to manage, enhance or maintain our outer beauty--for example, our hair, face, clothes, image. Do we spend as much time and effort on our inner beauty--our souls, who we really are? Because at some point, there will be cracks in our exteriors. In those instances, will the light of our souls that shines through be bright or dim?

As human beings, our lives have many layers. If the layers of our lives were peeled back, could we honestly say our inner selves are as beautiful as--or more beautiful than--our outer selves? If there were such a thing as a "SHA" (Soul Housing Authority), upon examination would our inner selves be written up with numerous concerns? Do we do enough self-examination to be able to assess honestly the state of our inner lives? How about to assess whether the things others say to and about us are true? We tend to agree with the positive things others say to and about us, but dismiss the negative things out of hand. But we know the truth (about the positive and the negative)--that is, if we're being honest with ourselves. Sometimes, we can dismiss things legitimately because we know the person doesn't know us or have sufficient information. And, sometimes, if/when we know someone has an agenda behind what they say to us, it's "convenient" to ignore them. But there may be value in what they say. We shouldn't miss a message just because we have an issue with the messenger. At a minimum, we should be open to examining whether there are issues that need to be addressed.

I believe that without adequate attention, time, and effort to pursue inner beauty, it's difficult to live and sustain a joyful life. Without internal work, our external beauty becomes our priority. But external beauty will not sustain us. Life's dark moments will come. There will be cracks in the exterior. It's what's on the inside that will strengthen us and provide light on our paths. It's the inside job that will help to keep that light bright.

Living My Joy
I want to believe everyone has a light. Some shine brighter than others. Sometimes, it depends on the person and/or the circumstances. For example, one's light might shine like a searchlight (looking for opportunities to help others) in the morning, and a nightlight (just illuminating a path for someone) by the end of the day. I know some wonder if they have a light at all because darkness seems to permeate their lives. They've been so beaten down by life circumstances, the daily grind, other folks' negative opinions and perceptions, or their own negative perceptions and/or attitudes, that they don't recognize there's a light inside trying to shine.

I believe most of us have a light that shines brighter than we know. We may not be able to see it in ourselves, but others see it. Has anyone ever told you they see something positive in you that you didn't recognize in yourself? Or that they admire you and you don't know why? I believe that's your light shining. Then there are others who recognize the brilliance of their light but try to hide it to make others feel comfortable. They worry that others cannot handle it, will resent it, etc.

It's so important that we let our light shine. We live in a world full of darkness. I believe we were put on this earth to help each other. If we're hiding our light, we're doing ourselves and others a disservice. Our light might be what sparks a light in someone else; it may propel someone into action. It could be the very thing that gives someone hope. Maybe it's by offering a helping hand, a smile, a hug, donation, encouragement, sacrificing time, etc. A small flicker of light from us may cause a fire to grow in the belly of someone else. What may seem insignificant to us may mean the world to someone else.

I don't believe we should hide our light to please others. Some just may not be ready for what we have to offer. This is not about arrogance. It's not about shining our light in others' faces like a spotlight. I believe the light of arrogance is dim. Instead, it's about living our lives in a way that people are helped, inspired and/or encouraged. Not everyone will be appreciative, but we can't control that.

What about the light we shine at home? Are those closest to us beneficiaries of our light, or do we save it for others? If so, perhaps that's a light with a little too much shade.

What do you think?

I'm alive . . . I'm grateful. I'm in my right mind . . . I'm grateful. I have a bed . . . I'm grateful. A roof over my head . . . I'm grateful. There is clean water running from my faucets . . . I'm grateful. I have food in my cupboards, refrigerator, and freezer . . . I'm grateful. I have electricity . . . I'm grateful. There are clothes in my closet . . . I'm grateful. I have furniture on which to sit and eat . . . I'm grateful. I have health care benefits . . . I'm grateful. Excellent doctors . . . I'm grateful. I live in a country where I am free to come and go as I please . . . I'm grateful. I can freely and openly praise God
. . . I'm grateful. I have love in my life and plenty of love to give . . . I'm grateful. I have everything I need and most of what I want . . . I'm grateful. I have peace in my heart . . . I'm grateful. Joy in my soul . . . I'm grateful. I'm looking forward to the day and all of its possibilities . . . because I'm grateful. If the day brings victories and happy moments, I'll be grateful. If the day brings challenges, I'll be grateful . . . because all storms end. If the day brings sadness and pain, I'll still be able to find something for which I am grateful. If tomorrow never comes, my today is filled with gratitude.

I just set the atmosphere for my day.

How did you start your day?