short, sweet, and to-the-point — by Keith Elder

Archive for the tag “happiness”

“Being Human Better”


It’s not a scientific study or Barna research, it’s just my take…my personal observation over time. The little chart above is not about race, or religion, or creed. It’s not about who we cheer for on Saturday afternoons or vote for in November. It’s about how we see people and treat people and live in God’s world.  They are four basic world views, and they inform every thing we do:

#1 “My Life Matters”
It’s safe to say that I came out of the womb thinking about my own personal comfort. Instinctively, I will do or say anything to have my wants and needs met, even if it means someone else will not have theirs met.  Nothing personal, I just have to take care of old #1. MY LIFE MATTERS.

#2 “OUR Life Matters”
At some point, as we become aware of people around us, we naturally gravitate toward those who look like us—or think or talk or believe like us. We find security and acceptance in families and teams, office pools and peer groups and political parties. At this stage we do anything, say anything, in the name of taking care of our own. Why? Because OUR LIFE MATTERS!

#3 “ALL LIVES Matter”
Hopefully, one day, we venture outside of the family/friend compound. At this stage, we recognize the humanity in all of humanity. Why, that man in the supermarket has feelings too!…and the lady behind the checkout counter has a story,…and the Syrian refugees on the evening news—they must be terrified!  Newfound compassion and mercy compel us to stand up for the little guy. Maybe it’s a random act of kindness; maybe it’s a career in social work; but we do it because ALL LIVES MATTER.

#4 “ALL LIFE Matters”
The final perspective—and I would say, the highest—moves beyond mere human concerns. “All Lives Matter” is noble, but there is a greater good: “ALL LIFE MATTERS.”  Not just homo sapians, but every living thing. The coral reef, the polar ice caps, the itsie-bitsy spider, the earth and moon and stars. God made it all and called it “good.  No doubt, ALL LIFE MATTERS!

So, which is your life line?…your soul mantra?  Not sure?  Just ask anyone who has known you for a week or more. But be prepared—sometimes the truth hurts.



“Ms. Satterfield…Valentine’s…and 52 Names for Love”

Besides being an English teacher and life-friend, Gail Satterfield was and is a dream caster and seed planter. Of course, she had to teach us the what’s and why’s and how’s of words, but she took teaching to the next level.

For one, she always had a thoughtful quote waiting for us when we came in the room. The quotes were power points long before Powerpoint–written in perfect cursive on the big green chalkboard behind her desk. The quotes were John Donne or Robert Frost or Eleanor Roosevelt or Mark Twain. They were carpe diem! before “The Dead Poets Society” and they changed the way we saw the world.

For the record, Ms. Satterfield is still at it—still planting seed and casting dreams after all these years, only now her chalkboard is Facebook.  Two to three times a week she will post some plutonium-level, keeper of a saying, and knowing long before Twitter that 140 characters is ‘a plenty, her borrowed wisdom is always short, sweet, and to-the-point.

Today’s quote?…

“The Eskimos had fifty-two names for snow because it was so important to them; there ought to be as many for love.” (Margaret Atwood)

Forget Fifty Shades of Grey—let’s go with “Fifty-Two Names for Love!” I can do that!

  1. Jean… 2. Carey Beth… 3. Mom… 4. Dad… 5. Darryl… 6. Dwayne… 7. Celeste… 8. Grandmother… 9. Grandaddy… 10. Nanny… 11. Papa… 12. Roxy (the Maltese—you’ve got to love your dog).

I’m already at #12, and I haven’t even gotten out of the house.

“Fifty-two names for love”—I could get that many without going beyond our extended families. Some quiet. Some hilarious. Some wise. Some handshakers, some huggers and cheek-kissers, some note-writers.  Some, a little goofy—but all, “names for love,” due to things said or done, and the manner in which they were said or done.

Add schoolteachers and coaches and band directors who invested their lives into mine. They taught me to conjugate a sentence, to use a sliderule, to block and tackle, to swim and dive, to shoot a lay-up, to tie a square knot, to paint with oils, and to think for myself.

There were caring friends and neighbors who kept me on the straight and narrow (such as it was). They were pastors and Sunday School teachers and devoted youth leaders who taught me about God and prayer, and where to find Habakkuk in the Old Testament.

I could get into “names for love” like, guitar, pizza, camp, songwriting, speaking, travel, fishing, golf, sports, movies, ice cream, standing on the beach or at the top of a mountain, watching the game with friends, or just having a great conversation.

I could talk about God. God is love, you know.

You get the idea–fifty-two names for love.

Now, it’s your turn.  Piece of cake.

On you mark…get set…

Hey, wait a second—add “cake” to my list.

Keith Elder



“Smokey the Bear and Catherine of Sienna?”


Besides being bears, what do Smokey the Bear and Winnie the Pooh have in common?

Wait for it…  Hold that thought…  I’ll tell you in a sec….

It was just another facebook poster:

“Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.” – Saint Catherine of Sienna  (shared on

The irony—and I didn’t know this till I did a little research—Saint Catherine was/is the Catholic Church’s Patron Saint of Fire Prevention.

I’ve known a few “saints of fire-prevention” along the way.  Self-designated dowsers throwing water on anything vaguely resembling innovation. If it was not in the rule book…if it meant going off the beaten path or over the beaten budget…if it threatened to crack the glass ceiling of “the way we’ve always done it”—the saints of fire prevention just said, “No.”  In church. In business. In society.

Unfortunately, the only way we find the new-and-wonderful is to let go of at least some of the old-and-not-as-wonderful-as-it-once-was.  Nicodemus did it in John 3.  It’s the story where Jesus said, “you must be born again.” It’s a new wineskins for new wine thing.


Though Catherine received no formal education, and though she only lived to the age of 33, she was recognized as one of the most intelligent theological and philosophical minds in the Catholic world.  Don’t you know the old cardinals loved having this young, female voice swaying the Pope’s decisions?  But she didn’t care. True truth-tellers aren’t bent by winds of popular opinion. She was a mover and a shaker. And despite her later designation as Patron Saint of Fire Prevention, she was anything but in her life on earth.  She was a fire starter, bringing light and hope and joy and new life to a struggling Church.

Her secret?…

“Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.”  She was, and she did.

Oh… I almost forgot….

Besides being bears, what do Smokey the Bear and Winnie the Pooh have in common?

…………..same middle name.

It’s a dumb joke, I know.  But becoming who God meant you to be and, setting the world on fire is not.



“The Ultimate Occupational Therapy”

“Love one another.”

It was a commandment (the greatest according to Jesus), but it was also a sort of primal occupational therapy.  When a person is hurt or has a surgery that incapacitates them, occupational therapy gradually prepares then to resume their normal activities.  Love does that.

Example: You are depressed.  Then, love one another. Go out there and help alleviate the suffering of someone else.  Volunteer at the homeless shelter once a month.  Talk to the people.  Listen to their stories.  Go around to the tables refilling water or tea glasses.  You will feel better.

You are grief stricken.  Then love one another.  Reach out to family and friends who are hurting as well.  Call them. Drop by to see them. Share your stories.  Laugh with them, cry with them.  Grieving takes time—but love leads to a speedier recovery.

You are lonely. Then go to where people are—but go to places that will make you feel better and not worse.  It’s a club centered around one of your interests. It’s an art class or a book club or a church small group.  Once you get there, love one another.  Make it more about them and less about you.

You are angry.  After you have had a little time to cool down, get over it and love one another. Say a prayer for the person you are so frustrated with.  You may recall, Jesus said, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”  Maybe you write a note to them saying, “Let’s get together and talk—life’s too short to spend it mad.”  Nothing sucks the heart out of a good day like unresolved anger.

Maybe you have shame or regrets.  Maybe you have let yourself or others down.  Then, love one another.  Baby step your way out of those dark places by very concrete acts of care and kindness.  Altruistic acts have been documented to give people an endorphin kick, not to mention the fact that it reminds us we may not be so bad after all.

It’s pretty amazing how we can love our way out of most holes.  And as for the one’s we can’t?…well, God loves us out of those.

–Keith   10-6-13

Something to Celebrate

So, the Baltimore Ravens won the Super Bowl last night.  Must have been destiny because they already had purple and gold loaded into the confetti cannons.  Fans were dancing in their seats.  Team owners and coaches and enormous, tatooed football players were hugging and crying and planning trips to Disney World. Electricians were just glad the lights didn’t go out…again.  Definitely something to celebrate.

I saw a facebook post amid the flurry of Super Bowl posts.  “The tumor was benign—Praise the Lord!”   Sort of put things into perspective.

“Juxtaposition” (one of my few two-dollar words), means to place two things side by side—usually, two very different things.  It makes both stand out   “Super Bowl victory” vs. “benign tumor.” Hmmm.

(My other two-dollar word would be “disingenuous”—but I could never use it without being disingenuous.)

Joe got home from Afghanistan. The new medication really helps with Dad’s arthritis.  It’s a girl after three boys!  It’s a boy after three girls!  The house was destroyed by the storm, but no one was hurt.  After two years without work, he finally got a great new job with benefits.

Something to celebrate.

“I finally got a cut with a major artist,” the new songwriter said proud-humbly.  I heard one established writer deadpan, “I’ve had several cuts—and a few nasty gashes.”  (Songwriters will particularly get this—when someone records your song…badly. Arghh!)

“’What day is it?’ asked Pooh.

‘It’s today,’ squeaked Piglet.

‘My favorite day,’ said Pooh.”

Dr. Robert Schuller used to open his Crystal Cathedral telecasts exuberantly with Psalm 118:24: “This is the day the Lord has made!  Let us rejoice and be glad in it!” 

Something to celebrate–this day.  Another day to kiss your spouse and hug your kids!  Another day to walk or read or create something with your own two hands! Another day to call your Mom or Dad…or enjoy a cup of your favorite coffee…or sit on the deck and feel the ocean breeze.   Been struggling?  For you (pardon the cliche, but it’s true), this is the first day of the rest of your life.

Something to celebrate!

So, what’s yours?

Keith   2/04/2012

“Life’s too short to spend it ________.”

“City slicker”/mid-life crisis guy, Mitch (Billy Crystal) had to figure out his “one thing”.  (Remember leathery, real cowboy, Curly, giving Mets-cap-Mitchie life advice?…holding up that one index finger?)  Mitch was unhappy.  Unhappy at work, at home, at his kid’s school career day, wherever. The whole cattle drive adventure with his buddies was just one more attempt to jumpstart his heart.  But riding and roping weren’t going to do it.  Before Mitch would find his happy face again, he would have to figure out his one thing—that is, what was most important to him.

There are various ways to approach eating this elephant—some positive (What do you want to be when you grow up?) and some negative (What are you NOT good at?).

The go-to scripture reading at many weddings is First Corinthians 13—a.k.a., the love chapter (Imagine Barry White saying, in his deep mellow tones, “the Luv Chapter”—very cool.)  The Apostle Paul, was back-and-forth with the negative-positive approaches, as he tried to help people grasp the concept. After a couple of positives, “Love is patient and kind,” he launches into the negatives, “…love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude…” etc.  Of course, he gets back to the positives, but knowing what love is not is helpful.

This little blurb is one of those negative-on-the-way-to-positive exercises.  Of course, it’s shared in the name of helping you find–or, perhaps, just helping you fine-tune your happy face.  It’s fill-in-the-blank.

Life’s too short to spend it ______________.

Of course, I have a few thoughts.  Life’s too short to spend it mad  (I know, “Dogs are mad; people are angry.”)  Life’s too short to spend it pretending.  Life’s too short to spend it with a pain that can be repaired (not talking about spouses, here—just the bum knee, the lack of education, etc.). Life’s too short to spend it watching TV.  Life’s too short to spend it trying to eat, drink, or entertain your way to happiness.

Your turn now—and you may have several as well.

Life’s too short to spend it ______________.

So, why do we? 

Keith Elder  1/30/12

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