It’s hard for me to imagine living religiously pre-Christ. It seems like every second or third thing made you unclean.  This, of course, meant that you had to pay for a sacrifice and various cleaning rituals so that you could once again enter the temple and come before the presence of God.

Until something else made you unclean.  And simply living as a female would do put you into that category.

But Christ’s sacrifice took us out of that world and into this one.  By His Grace, we are made clean.  Period.  It isn’t through our own actions but is His Gift to Us.

What a cause for celebration!  Take a minute an enjoy this festive Easter song .  This isn’t the choir at Florissant Presbyterian Church, but it is the anthem that we sang today.

Sing, rejoice and celebrate!  You have been made clean.

–SueBE

Not gonna lie; I’m kind of falling apart right now. I’m beset with a host of physical complaints — too small to dignify by naming, but taken together, quite wearying. And I’m mourning four deaths in seven months, with another looming. I’m tired and sore in spirit and flesh. The up side? I’m ripe for a resurrection, just in time for Easter.

In her book A Tree Full of Angels: Seeing the Holy in the Ordinary, Marcrina Wiederkehr writes about the voids in our beings, and how they provide God space to work within us. In other words, I may be at my shabbiest now, full of holes, but those very holes give God space to fill me, heal me, work God’s grace within me.

Sure, it would be nice to be wholly holy. But that doesn’t give God any room to maneuver, to effect change. God not only accepts us as ragged and full of holes, God loves us this way. As long as we are open to God’s presence in us, filling and patching and making us new, we have the opportunity for real greatness. And real grace.

So as holey as I feel right now, I know I’m in a good place. In fact, I couldn’t be in a better one. I’m ready for God to enter the voids and to make me whole. There couldn’t be a better time for it. Happy Easter, everyone!

Rehearsal was Thursday and I’ve had this wretched song stuck in my head ever since. No, it isn’t actually wretched. It’s Caribbean and way upbeat. Wretched doesn’t accurately describe the song, but it does describe the experience of having the chorus stuck in your head for four days.

“Halle halle halle hallelujah.
“Halle halle halle hallelujah.”

I mentioned it to a teen who sings in our choir. “It’s stuck in your head because it’s like a jingle.”

A jingle for Jesus. He’s right. Just like a jingle it’s been in my head for days and, no doubt, is going to be there for days to come. After all, we’re singing it on Easter which is funny since this is a Christmas song.

Why sing Christmas songs at Easter? Why not sing an Easter song? Easter music is grand and intense. It’s magnificent as befits something as serious as the crucifixion.

Yes, being nailed to a cross is serious business but we get hung up on it and it weighs us down. We have to be so good to be worthy of such a huge sacrifice. Are you good enough to receive his word? And that’s something we focus on way too much – Worthiness. We forget that we are saved, not by our worthiness, but by His Grace. Isn’t that amazing news?

And that’s where Halle Halle Halle comes in and makes sense. I can see it carrying His people down the aisles and into the world to spread the News to all. Imagine the spring in our step as we carry out his work with a chorus of Halle Halle Halle in our heads and in our hearts.

–SueBE

 

Why not throw a kindness boomerang today?

A kindness is never wasted.  It seems like such an old-fashioned sentiment that when I created the graphic for today, nothing looked right until I used my grandmother’s china as a backdrop.

kindness

Kindness is something that I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this week, perhaps because I was so recently the recipient.  We’re all busy people.  When I asked my friends for prayers, everyone could have said yes and hurried on their way.  But they took a few minutes for a chat and hug and even to send a few funnies via Facebook.  I’ve been receiving these kindnesses all week.

As I receive them, I feel inspired to send them out to others both through Facebook and Pinterest.  Then a funny thing happened.  I got a message from one of the recipients telling me how much she appreciated that I would even take the time to talk to her because so many others won’t.

Kindness is never wasted and you never know when your small act will mean a great deal to someone with a hurting heart.  It is one of the most Christlike things that we can do.

It may sound old fashioned, it may even be old fashioned, but it is a truly amazing thing, because kindness begets kindness.  Why not find a way to drop a small ray of kindness into someone’s life today?

–SueBE

 

I grew up three doors down from a girl named Geeter (a play on her given name, Brigitta). I didn’t know her well — she was a public school girl, and I went to Catholic school — but I certainly knew of her. In some circles, Geeter was famous.

Sometimes my sister and I would walk over to the local public school to avail ourselves of their playground (not during school hours, of course). One day, as we were monkeying around on the monkey bars, a solemn-faced girl with thick glasses interrupted our play. Geeter, she explained, could do any of the tricks we were attempting. In fact, she said, “Geeter can do anything.”

I can’t vouch for the veracity of that statement; the only thing I knew for sure that Geeter could do was make fun of me and throw rocks at my head. Still, that anonymous little girl’s faith in her idol has stuck with me all these years. She really believed that Geeter could do anything.

I’ll be the first to admit my inadequacies. There are plenty of times when I look at a situation and think, “I can’t do that.” But it behooves me to remember one thing: God can. God really can do anything. And that’s not just childish idol worship; it’s the bona fide truth. I’ve seen it time and again. I run up against what I think is an insurmountable challenge, and somehow, God walks me through it. It is nothing short of miraculous.

Yes, miracles happen daily, and often at our lowest moments. That’s how they work. So the next time you’re staring up at the metaphoric mountain in your path, just remember: Even if you can’t, God can. And does. So breathe, relax and let God take over. It really is that easy.

If that little girl could believe it of a kid named Geeter, how can we not believe it of God?

 

 

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things . and the God of peace will be with you.

 

On NPR, the news report said that there had been a suicide bomber in Afghanistan. I realized I was already in a cranky mood this morning and wisely changed the channel.

But later, I looked up the story on the internet, almost as if I wanted to add to my own irritation.

Right on cue, I was agitated after skimming the article.  A guy in a uniform worked his way into a heavily fortified compound in Kabul and killed several police officers.  That angered me. The Taliban claimed responsibility, saying they wanted to disrupt an upcoming election. That really ticked me off.  The government spokesman, Sediq Sediqqi, said the death toll stood at six and an investigation was underway. That irked me too.  Who would name a person Sediq when the family’s last name is Seddiqi?!?  Criminy.

Soon I was hip to my own jive.  I realized I was now just looking for things to confirm my sense that there was always a reason to be in a bad mood!

The thing is, there’s always a way to change the channel in your mind, and put yourself into a good mood.

Listen to your soul’s early warning system.  You’ll get clear signals, such as feeling tight or tense for apparently no reason; being snappish with those around you; a feeling of being out of control or disconnected.

If you find yourself feeling this way, stop focusing on the thing that’s riling you up and leave the room.  Clear your head.  Take deep breaths. Life is never all or nothing, although it may seem like it when you’re really worked up. You always do this!  Or, Life never works out for me!

But you know that’s just pessimistic propaganda.

You can change how you feel by remembering that you are blessed.  God knows you by name.  In fact, he knows everything about you and still loves you.  That alone is an awesome game-changer.

Reel in your thoughts like you would a fishing line.  Don’t let your mind get too far off course, and don’t pull in what you don’t want.  So you hooked an old shoe or a tin can?  Throw it back into the lake.  Don’t get hung up on the stuff you should just let float by.

Get into the habit of seeing the good in people, no matter what attitude they bring into the room with them.

Remember that a good mood is as contagious as a bad one, and you control what you put out into the world. Be a light spirit, even when the world around you seems heavy. It makes life so much better when you look for the good in people – or, should I say:  when you look for the God in people.

spiritI’d never claim to be a Bible scholar, but I read about the Bible, and I read my Bible.  Sometimes, without my understanding why, something I read sticks in my head.  Last week, I read a Guidepost article by Debbie Macomber in which she discussed the role that 2 Timothy 1:7 plays in her life.

For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.”  2 Timothy 1:7

Then a few days later, I found out that I’m losing a job.  As a freelance writer, this happens every now and again.  A magazine folds, a company closes, or a new editor comes in and wants to build her own stable of writers.

It happens, but it’s never a good feeling.

The next night, I had a women’s meeting at church.  Normally, I ask for prayers for other people, but tonight, the verse from 2 Timothy popped into my head.  Now was the time to be bold and put myself out there.  I asked for prayers.  The next night, I asked for prayers from a few of my friends in choir.

And, do you know what happened?  I didn’t feel exposed.  I immediately felt surrounded by God’s love.  One friend recalled another time I had been through this. “It’s never easy but you’ll find something.”  Another friend had a humorous cat post on my Facebook wall before I even got home. I suspect she did it before she even pulled out of the church parking lot.  Hugs and prayers and a good laugh go a long way toward holding you up.

There is power in prayer and I immediately felt that warmth of God’s love through my fellows.

What about the self-discipline mentioned in the verse?  This week I’m going to be sending out even more of my work and making contact with more editors.  Something good will come of it. How do I know?  Because I’ve already had an e-mail from an editor.  I don’t know the details yet but something good is coming and it only happened because, in the past, I’ve had the self-discipline to get my work done and out.

You may not immediately understand why a verse speaks to you, but pay attention and don’t be afraid to ask for prayer.  It is one of the most powerful tools that we have.

–SueBE

“Ms. Williams, I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but…With this test result, we think the most humane option would be to put him down,” the vet said to me over the phone last week.

I suppose I didn’t even realize that this really was my cat until I heard these words.  After all, I’d scarcely succeeded in getting this stray cat to trust me enough to come near.

Reluctantly, after a long conversation and phone calls to family members, I agreed that they should euthanize my cat. I sat alone for an hour, beside myself and in tears.  Then the phone rang again.

Apparently, the senior veterinarian had disagreed with the prognosis. He said he wouldn’t euthanize this cat. It wasn’t necessary, he said, and it wasn’t right. This isn’t the sort of condition that requires such an extreme measure.

I was so relieved!  So glad I’d get to bring my semi-cat home.  He was still semi-stray, since he insisted on going out every night. It worried me, because sometimes he’d come back with scratches on his face. Once, he came back to my door in the morning with gasoline on his back, as if he had slept next to a car or a lawn mower.

Even with this good news, I was still consumed with guilt.  Just the day before, I was thinking of asking the vet if they knew of an organization that could help me find Kitkat a “forever-home.”

You see, I’d been trying for months to get the cat to stay inside with us, learn to use the litter box, and just be part of the family.  But night after night, Kitkat would wake me with loud meows from the sunroom – sometimes at 2 or 3 in the morning – and demand to be let out. He did spend the whole day snoozing on a comfy armchair, but at night, he was outta there.

To be honest, it was really exhausting trying to take care of this cat, my house, my son and myself, since I was diagnosed with progressive MS. Chronic pain is my constant companion, along with neuropathy, spasticity, balance and gait issues. Add to it all a sweet but skittish kitty, and I sometimes felt it was more than I could handle.  He had to have things done in a certain way, and any minor change would send him running to the door.  If there was a noise he didn’t recognize, he’d hide behind the couch.

This cat is kind of a hard case, I said to myself.

But if I really think about it… couldn’t God say the same thing about me?  After all, I don’t trust people easily – if at all (I mean, I am from Jersey!)  I’m kind of a loner and not open to new situations.  I have my own way of doing things, and I’m not about to change my ways at this stage of the game.  I have quirks aplenty, such as an aversion to crumbs on the kitchen table.  I cannot, will not eat until I clear those crumbs! And I need to have my chapstick and box of tissues near me at all times.

Does that sound a bit persnickety?

Just like my cat.

I had to remind myself that this cat had really come a long way from the days when he skulked around the perimeter of my yard, scrounging for food.  It took the better part of a year before he came close enough for me to pat him.  And when he finally did come near, he purred like a motorboat’s engine.  It was loud and clear.  He was making the effort as best he could.

And I’d come a long way too.  This time last year, I was in the hospital, recovering from an MS exacerbation.  When I came home, I couldn’t feel my feet, as I wrote about in an earlier post.  I didn’t bounce right back immediately; no, it took patience, time and a veritable village of health care professionals to help me literally get back on my feet.

If God had thrown up his hands and thought, that woman is such a hard case! …where in the world would I be? No, He didn’t give up on me. He was there all along.

So I’ll keep trying to make this persnickety semi-cat feel at home here, and I’ll keep in mind that even hard cases (like me and Kitkat) deserve a loving family and a good life. I’m grateful that God gave us both a second chance. Pardon me now, while I go let the cat out.

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