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A Wonderful Life 

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George: "That's a lie! Harry Bailey went to war! He got the Congressional Medal of Honor! He saved the lives of every man on that transport!
Clarence: Every man on that transport died. Harry wasn't there to save them because you weren't there to save Harry. You see, George, you really had a wonderful life. Don't you see what a mistake it would be for you to throw it away?
Call nothing thy own except thy soul.
Love not what thou art, but only what thou may become.
Do not pursue pleasure, for thou may have the misfortune to overtake it.
Look always forward; in last year's nest there are no birds this year.
Life's difficulties make it hard to appreciate the abundance that life can offer. What will help me to see how wonderful life is?

Entrée: The Belief That Saves by James Allen
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It has been said that a man's whole life and character is the outcome of his belief, and also that his belief has nothing whatever to do with his life. Both statements are true. The confusion and contradiction of these two statements are only apparent, and are quickly dispelled when it is remembered that there are two entirely distinct kinds of beliefs, namely, Head-belief and Heart-belief.

Head, or intellectual belief, is not fundamental and causative, but it is superficial and consequent, and that it has no power in the molding of a man's character, the most superficial observer may easily see. Take, for instance, half a dozen men from any creed. They not only hold the same theological belief, but confess the same articles of faith in every particular, and yet their characters are vastly different. One will be just as noble as another is ignoble; one will be mild and gentle, another coarse and irascible; one will be honest, another dishonest; one will indulge certain habits which another will rigidly abjure, and so on, plainly indicating that theological belief is not an influential factor in a man's life.

A man's theological belief is merely his intellectual opinion or view of the universe. God, The Bible, etc., and behind and underneath this head-belief there lies, deeply rooted in his innermost being, the hidden, silent, secret belief of his heart, and it is this belief which moulds and makes his whole life. It is this which makes those six men who, whilst holding the same theology, are yet so vastly at variance in their deeds - they differ in the vital belief of the heart.

What, then, is this heart-belief?

It is that which a man loves and clings to and fosters in his soul; for he thus loves and clings to and fosters in his heart, because he believes in them, and believing in them and loving them, he practices them; thus is his life the effect of his belief, but it has no relation to the particular creed which comprises his intellectual belief. One man clings to impure and immoral things because he believes in them; another does not cling to them because he has ceased to believe in them. A man cannot cling to anything unless he believes in it; belief always precedes action, therefore a man's deeds and life are the fruits of his belief.

The Priest and the Levite who passed by the injured and helpless man, held, no doubt, very strongly to the theological doctrines of their fathers - that was their intellectual belief - but in their hearts they did not believe in mercy, and so lived and acted accordingly. The good Samaritan may or may not have had any theological beliefs nor was it necessary that he should have; but in his heart he believed in mercy, and acted accordingly.

Strictly speaking, there are only two beliefs which vitally affect the life, and they are, belief in good and belief in evil.

He who believes in all those things that are good, will love them, and live in them; he who believes in those things that are impure and selfish, will love them, and cling to them. The tree is known by its fruits.

A man's beliefs about God, Jesus, and the Bible are one thing; his life, as bound up in his actions, is another; therefore a man's theological belief is of no consequence; but the thoughts which he harbors, his attitude of mind towards others, and his actions, these, and these only, determine and demonstrate whether the belief of a man's heart is fixed in the false or true.

About the author:

James Allen was born in Leicester, England on November 28, 1864. When he was fifteen, the family business failed and his father left for America to find work. His father was murdered before he could send for the family and subsequently, James left school and worked for several British manufacturers until 1902. His literary career lasted only nine years until his death in 1912. "As A Man Thinketh" was his second book. In fact, it was only upon his wife's insistence that he published the book.

Main Course: Escapism or Example?
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The movie It's A Wonderful Life is not just holiday escapism, but like many movies of the war era, it conveys a moral lesson, by teaching us that everyone can make a difference by living a responsible, caring life. In addition, it presents a counterargument to the concept that young people should follow their own star, develop their talents to the fullest, leave the community in which they grew up, and go out into the world. One can become successful right where one stands.

While much of this all-time holiday favorite movie from 1946 dwells upon a world that is dark and harsh in its realities, it delivers a message of hope, too. It’s so straightforward in its intentional message, hence the title. In the view of this film, a wonderful life depends upon family, friends and having an honest job that contributes to the community. Finding the right balance between self-fulfillment and dedication to others is a major task and a continuing challenge for all.

Everything I learned about George Bailey is revealed in the context of his relationships with others. Much of the movie consists of scenes of his life in which he deals with family, friends and customers. Through these images I learned who George is, and what qualities of character he possesses. I learned that he’s honest, conscientious and caring. I learned that he is not afraid to speak his mind when confronted with injustice. And I see that he puts the highest value on his relationships with those around him, even those he finds a bit obnoxious (hee haw!).

But relationships do not work in only one direction, and It’s A Wonderful Life is not just about George’s relationships with others. It’s also about their relationships with him. While he may have helped others in very many ways, they helped George as well. On George and Mary’s wedding night, his friends Bert and Ernie help turn their leaky and run-down house into a honeymoon suite. And when George’s uncle loses the bank’s deposits and it looks like the world is crashing around him, his friends and relatives come together to save him and the "good ol' Bailey Building and Loan."

Contrast that to the solitary and amoral Mr. Potter, who seems to be an incarnation of the objectivist world view. Eternally detached from the world around him, Potter measures everyone and everything he encounters solely on the basis of what they can do for him. There is no feeling in his world; everything is viewed through the cold lenses of objectivity and materialism.

Clearly, relationships were the wellspring that nourished George Bailey’s life. But by themselves, relationships would not seem to explain the dramatic changes that take place when his life is as if he were never born. There was much more at work in George and in his life in Bedford Falls. It came from deep within him, and it made a world of difference in every life he touched. He believed, with his heart.

Life is a mystery when I insist on complicating it, but it's actually very simple. I can waste too many of its precious moments complaining about traffic, the weather, other people, or whatever. Meanwhile, right next to me may be someone who has achieved quiet greatness by serving others each day, by believing the best is in others and expecting the best of themselves.

Is it possible that any one individual could have such a profound effect on the world around them? I believe it is possible! It all starts with a belief in the general goodness and decency of people, and being a living example of it.

And the ripples go on and on. I don't need a major crisis to point out the abundance of this wonderful life.

Michael Rawls, Friday's Inspiration © 2003

Second Helping: Gratitude is a Symptom and a Healer by Gay Hendricks
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People feel more gratitude as they heal the wounds and disappointments of the past. I have noticed, both in my own life and in the lives of my students, that gratitude spontaneously happens the more I move through the shadows of the past out into the light of the present. So gratitude is a symptom of successful living, a sign that you are completing the unfinished business of past hurts.

Gratitude is not only a positive symptom; it's also a powerful medicine. Many times I've sat across from a person in the depths of a troubling issue, only to marvel as the person made the courageous step of expressing gratitude for the very thing that caused the wound. Rapid healing takes place when you express gratitude for something that has in the past been a source of anger or hurt for you. It takes raw courage to look your sadness, your trouble, in the eye and give it thanks for the lessons you have learned in its midst.

A Conscious Living Practice for Today
Take a few minutes to look around at your life. What and who are you grateful for? Say so. Write a note, stop of with a small, inexpensive gift for the object of your appreciation, or pick up the phone to share how you feel . . . and then be conscious of how it feels to be appreciating.

About the author:

Gay Hendricks received his Ph.D. in psychology from Stanford in 1974, and taught in the School of Education at the University of Colorado, retiring after 20 years of service. He is the founder of two organizations, The Hendricks Institute and the Foundation for 21st-Century Leadership. Dr. Hendricks is the author of more than 20 books, including the national bestsellers Conscious Loving and The Corporate Mystic.

Soup to Nuts: From the feedback button
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"This is wonderful, a letter to ourself is a great idea. Much gratitude, and happy holidays to all. Blessings, Maralyn."

Thanks, M. Have a look at a list of New Years resolutions I wrote in Two Lives.  P.S., I got a new car, just like the old one. No XM Radio, though... maybe next Christmas???

Click to send your FEEDBACK to me right now!

Just Desserts: Also Highly Recommended
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There have been more than 400 NEW AND UNIQUE visitors to the website during the last month - Thank you for your continued support! Over 400 of our partners on the Internet graciously recommend visitors to Friday's Inspiration. Please take time to visit the "Highly Recommended" links below. Where Kids go to express their feelings! ZParadise is an online place where kids from 6 to 106 can play, learn, and feel loved. It is 100% safe, free and fun! Presenting positive images with an awakening message of values for children and families. You are gonna love this one! Absolute excellence in visual presentation and content. Gather yourself or the family at the computer, give it a go, and let me know what you think. Kindness has been Shmuel Greenbaum's personal response to terrorism. His wife, Shoshana, was murdered by a suicide bomber, one of over 100 victims that were killed or injured at 2:00 P.M. on August 9, 2001 at the Sbarro restaurant in Jerusalem. The result of his response touches many lives through Kind Words, a free weekly email that contains inspiring stories along with successful techniques and exercises to improve your own ability to perform random acts of kindness.

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