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Last weekend, our pastor was on the road. He delivered his sermon to us in Missouri from a visitor’s center in Mississippi. Technology is an amazing thing. Still, it took a couple of tries for our two techs and the pastor to work out the feedback issue.

And yet everyone sat and waited. After all, we realize that these things don’t always come together on the first try a lot like this blog post.

What?

This isn’t actually what I was going to write about. I was going to make a connection between a parable, specifically the Shrewd Manager, and grace. But I’m just not feeling it today.

And that’s okay. Not everything comes together on the first try. Sometimes we have troubles pulling our ideas together because we simply need more time to process them. This might be the case when we have butted heads with a friend. Or before we try to talk to a family member about something they have done. Or that we failed to do. Whatever the details, we need to take the time to get into a place where we can approach things carefully.

Sometimes we need someone else to lend a helping hand to solve a problem. It took three people in three different locations to bring us that sermon on Sunday. The lesson here? Accept help when it is offered. You don’t have to do everything on your own. There’s a reason that Christ advises us to take part in a community.

But even with the help of our community, some things don’t work. And they won’t work. And what we need to do is throw up our hands in defeat and admit it to ourselves. Fighting on doesn’t do any good and just isn’t worth the effort. Note to self: The instructions say you can hard cook eggs in the air fryer but do NOT try that nastiness again. Really. No one will thank you.

Perfection belongs to God alone. We human beings are fallible and that isn’t likely to change especially when one of us is still experimenting with the air fryer. What to try today, eggplant or cauliflower?

–SueBE

Let me sum it up for you: Grace — I don’t have it. Well, at least not outwardly. Not the kind of grace that shows up in the fluid movement of a dancer or the effortless courtesy of a good hostess. Certainly not the kind of grace Jesus’ mother Mary had, which was a complete freedom from sin. The kind of grace available to me (and to all of us) is pure gift, the redemption we receive only from God.

We give grace when we forgive one another. But it’s hard to bestow that kind of grace, hard to say, “I forgive you” without adding, “even though you’re essentially a bad person/ a selfish swine/possibly a criminal/not someone who deserves my friendship.” Grace doesn’t judge. It’s rather like mercy in that way, dropping “as the gentle rain from heaven / Upon the place beneath.” Raindrops don’t choose where to fall. And if we want to be Christ-like, we can’t pick and choose where our grace falls either.

I’ll admit it’s a struggle. Lucky for me, grace is also a prayer. Maybe not this kind, but still — praying might get me there.

I was not built for grace.
It fits me ill,
a hair shirt at once too small
and dangling from my shoulders.
Still, I’ll have the mastery of it.
I will practice the fastening of buttons,
repeat the words until I mean them.
I will work at grace as at a puzzle,
trying the pieces, searching for a fit.
Perhaps the picture will never be clear,
but I will accept it as it stands, with holes
and jagged bits, unfinished but enough.
I will rain grace, fertile as a heavy cloud,
no matter how the stony ground accepts it.
But first, I must fill myself.

  1. ✅Summer Tick Check

Okay, kids. When you come back into the house after playing in the yard, shake out every piece of clothing you’re wearing to check for ticks. Turn it inside out. Hold it up to the light. Look in the mirror. Check every fold of skin. Turn around. Feel with your hands. Clear? Good. Oh, wait! Your hair! Run your fingers methodically through your hair. Cover every inch of your scalp.

Phew! That was close. Nobody wants to catch Lyme Disease!  Nobody wants something hijacking your head. Sticking its spikes into your skin. Infecting you with a dread disease that changes who you are. Sucks the life out of you. Stops you in your tracks. Puts your life on hold.

  1. ✅Summer Skincare Check

Sunscreen on or the trip is off. Down the shore, that sun can really do a number on you. Searing into your skin. Causing you pain. Creating lasting damage. Could lead to cancer, which could be fatal.

  1. Summer Psyche Check

Crickets…

Meantime, that cruel comment from your father bored into your brain and still comes up when the sad sets in. Meanwhile, that thing that happened when you were a child that they said don’t speak of to anyone reverberates in your life decades later. Changes you at the cellular level. But there’s no think-tank studying how to stop it from metastasizing. Only platitudes and placebos: stiff upper lip. Soldier on. 

Worse yet, there are the naysayers. Are you sure that happened? I don’t want to be skeptical but, you were so young. Maybe you were mistaken? 

No. It happened. And the pain you feel is real, but it’s a relic that has calcified into a stumbling block you still trip over.

You can release it. You don’t have to make your mind a mausoleum of dark days.  

You free yourself by excavating and examining said past pain this way:

Did I deserve this? Did I cause this?

No.

Why did no one stop it? Why did no one help me?

I don’t know.

Am I worthy of the good life has to offer? Is my life important?

Yes.

Shake off the debris of memory and walk your mind into the sacred space at the center of your soul.

Check yesterday off your list. Say yes to today.

Let the wounds heal into scars. Let the scars lead you to tend to other people in pain, healing both of you in the process. Don’t resurrect the past now that it’s laid to rest. Don’t give it power over how you feel by poking it and picking at it, revisiting and reviving it in perpetuity. Don’t give old pain new life. Address it fully and release it to make way for new Grace Gifts: joy, peace, love.

Be in this moment. Let tomorrow form into what it will. 

Life is good.

God is good.

All is well.

✅Check.

Seek balance.

Last Sunday, our pastor preached on Mary and Martha. When I saw the scripture in the bulletin, I heaved a great sigh. I get so sick of people praising Mary and putting Martha down. In part, this is because I identify with Martha. I’m a do-er. But it is also because I suspect that most of the people condemning Martha benefit from someone like Martha.

And our minister acknowledged this. In his mind, every successful church exists because of the women who serve meals, clean the building, help with mailings, or whatever.

That said, I had never considered the full implications of Mary listening at Christ’s feet. I had forgotten that women were not allowed to study the Torah. In fact, one rabbi who lived shortly after Christ stated that rather than let women study the Torah, it should be burned.

Now, think about that for a moment.

Female labor is good. Female knowledge is not. This is an idea that many of us are familiar with but we tend to forget that we’ve heard it all before when we listen to this passage. I only realized as I was writing this that although I identify with Martha, I am a lot like Mary. My curiosity knows no bounds. How strange that it was only today that I realized how like Mary I am.

Whether you naturally identify more with Mary or with Martha, what we all really need is to strive for balance. We need the Martha. There’s no doubt about that because it is Martha who gets things done, but we also need Mary to listen for the voice of Christ.

Without Mary, we have no discernment. Without Martha, we will be limited in what we accomplish. To be effective, we need to find within ourselves a bit of both.

–SueBE

I once heard a doctor describe illness as an external trauma that the body has absorbed. Literally, our bodies take in the bad things that happen to us and convert them into sickness. “What kind of New Age nonsense is this?” I wondered.

But he was right.

The trauma I experienced in the first three months of this year came home to roost in the second three. Cellulitis, respiratory infections, back problems, pneumonia — you name it, I had it. I was a fixture at my doctor’s office. I visited the ER. I underwent two ultrasounds and a CT scan. I took four courses of antibiotics, all different. I slept sitting up for two months.

I’m much better now. Really. But I’ve become a believer in the body-mind connection. If you don’t take care of the things that hurt you emotionally, your body will be forced to contend with them in various, very physical disguises. What hurts your soul can also hurt your body. My advice? Pour out your pain to any listening ear you can find. Ideally, you should find a professional, but barring that, talk to someone: a friend, a relative, a spiritual advisor, your spouse. And, of course, you can always pray it out.

I am the worse for wear.
So are we all, trapped as we are
in fragile flesh, prone to pelting
by the nettles of nature, the stings
of our very need for each other.
Bad love hurts to the bone.
Grace still heals, miraculous as mud
daubed on a blind eye, sudden as touching
the hem of a cloak. You will hurt,
but you will change, cell by cell,
into something stronger.
You may not see it now. But believe.
Bones ache as they grow;
so do souls.

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Last Sunday, one of our scriptures was from 1 Kings, the story of Elijah. For those of you who don’t remember the specifics about Elijah, he was a prophet of the Lord. He fled into the wilderness where, twice, angels brought him food and water. As a child, I always thought of how much Elijah must mean to God who sent heavenly messengers to care for his servant.

Sunday our pastor challenged us to think a little bit differently about the nature of those angels. Why? Because there is more than one definition for the word angel. The way the word is most often used, angels are winged messengers from God.

But there is another definition and that is a person of virtue and good conduct. What if the angels who found Elijah and gave him food and water weren’t winged messengers but ordinary human beings?

So often the problems that we see around us seem insurmountable – poverty, climate change, the health care crisis, the need for affordable housing. It is tempting to look at these massive problems and wait for equally massive solutions. But what if we were to think of Elijah and the possibility of human angels?

I can’t solve global hunger but I can distribute sack suppers twice a month at my church. These aren’t huge meals – just a grilled hot dog, fruit, chips, and a bottle of water. And we give out from 80 to 100 on a really good night. But that’s 80 to 100 people who have a bit of warm food and a friendly word.

It may not seem significant to those of us who have so much. But to those who have food insecurity or perhaps just need to be seen and blessed, it can make an impact.

What problems exist in your community? Where might you go with angels wings.

–SueBE

My family and I spent a week in West Texas. We were there to bury my father in his hometown. I wasn’t sure what to expect since we no longer have family there. My sister and I hadn’t been back for decades.

In so many ways, this was not the town that I remembered. I grew up visiting a ranch town of adobe and brick buildings. When we ate out, it was Dairy Queen. Local attractions included the college museum and the municipal pool.

Now? Now it is something else entirely. The town has remade itself as an arts community. There is an amazing bookstore, coffee shops, galleries, and restaurants large and small. Reacquainting myself with the town was an amazing adventure. We visited the Museum of the Big Bend which is still at Sul Ross University but in a newer building. Dad would love the new location. We drove half an hour to Ft. Davis to visit the original fort. Dad loved history.

The house as I knew it.

But we also visited my grandparents’ home. It is no longer in the family and feelings about it were mixed. I loved the way the knew owners had reworked the adobe, smoothing hard lines and adding an arch. Yes, I missed the lawn and the massive trees but this is the desert. Zero-scaping makes sense.

The house now.

Not everyone loved the new look. One family member, with gritted teeth, went on about how they had destroyed our grandparents’ home. It was just gone.

To an extent this was a matter of opinion and whether someone preferred one look over another. But it was also a case of acknowledging that none of us own this house. It belongs to someone else. So really it isn’t our business how it looks. It isn’t our circus. These are not our monkeys.

The whole situation left me wondering how often we get worked up when something is really none of our business. Don’t like the dress a female news anchor is wearing? Some people feel the need to share their opinion. Others focus on the weather report. Don’t want your child reading a book? You can find them another book or you can kick up a fuss. Banning is one extreme possibility.

How people worship. What their children learn in school. The pronoun that someone uses.

Whether or not I like the decisions someone else has made, they are all children of God. We share a common kinship, and I have been charged by Christ to lend them a helping hand when they need it. That doesn’t mean they need to do things my way. Fortunately my own concerns involve a very small number of monkeys in an absolutely tiny circus.

–SueBE

Dainty, white tea cup on a white table. Pink flowers in a glass vase are blurred in the background.

As I was meditating this morning, the soothing voice of Yoga instructor, Selena Lael, made it seem as if all was right with the world. 

“Exhaling fully,” she said, “and emitting a humming sound will activate the Vagas nerve.”

Well, I don’t know if I inadvertently activated the “Vegas” — as in Las Vegas — nerve instead somehow, but suddenly I was amped up and anxious. Alarms were blaring in my head. Oh no! I forgot there’s a bill on auto-pay! Is there enough money in my account to cover it?

Also, I’ve got a stack of emails to reply to. Plus, I just dangled my preposition at the end of that last sentence. Aaaah!

So many things just seem so…unfinished. You tackle one situation and another one seems to spring up in its place. All these things are really just tasks on a to-do list, and we’ve all had moments where things have slipped through the cracks, haven’t we? But, looking back on the ledger of your life, you’ve handled such things before. You know how to plow through this pile of problems.

Eyes up. Gaze forward. Hands together in prayer. Shoulders square. One foot in front of the other.

There’s no need to gear up for a fight and “take on the day.” Put down your arms and take IN the day. The battle’s already been won. Do what you can to address what needs attention, and then, stop running in place. Be still, and breathe.

Settle into your comfy armchair with a fresh cup of coffee. Cover your lap with a soft throw blanket. Sit by the sunny window in the living room and pet the cat. Drink in the day that is right now, not the chaotic mess-fest you fear it may become.

It’s okay to stay in today and let tomorrow germinate in God’s garden. Who knows? Maybe the muck and mulch of fear and uncertainty will magically morph it into a beautiful, burgeoning blossom. But for now? Just be here.

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Whether you are dealing with recent loss as Lori is or you are simply so tired that you poured the half-and-half in the sugar bowl instead of your coffee cup . . . sometimes adulting is a bit much. We need to remember to give ourselves a break.

Monday I woke up way early. Way, way early. I am not a morning person. Temperatures had dropped and we had the windows open. This should have been perfect sleeping weather. But once I woke up, I had to get up. Once I got up the cat knew I was up. There was no getting back to sleep.

But instead of getting to work, I grabbed a stack of library books. Since I write for young readers, I always have graphic novels and picture books on hand. I settled in the living room to read and listen to the birds.

This led me to three things we all need to remember when adulting.

Kid Stuff

First things first, remember the things that you loved to do when you were a kid or things that you loved to do with your own kids. For me, choice number 1 has always been reading. Always. Even before I could read text, I would read pictures. My father knew he had to beat me to the new National Geographic.

Maybe your recollection of choice is water fights or blowing bubbles, playdough or baking cookies, coloring or paper airplanes. These things are all still fun! And fun is a must when you are hip deep in adulting.

Laughter

Adulting is serious stuff and so it isn’t surprising that we tend to get . . . well, serious. We’re doing important things that keep the electricity on and our families healthy. But this seriousness is also why we need to remember to laugh and smile.

Fortunately, I’ve got a great set of online friends and cousins. They send me jokes and funny pictures. And I also like to read books for young readers. Kids love to laugh so there’s frequently a lot of humor in their books. Speaking of my friends and my cousins, that leads me to #3.

Sharing

Whether it is something funny or something sweet, take the time to share the joy you’ve found with someone else. It can be as simple as sharing a comic on Facebook or sending a friend a card. Think of it as sharing God’s light. You share the light with two people, they share the light with two people and so on.

It isn’t hard to imagine the result of sharing God’s love and God’s light. Adulting may be tough, but it doesn’t have to be dark. The last two years have been isolating and frustrating. Share a little light with someone today.

–SueBE

I have been submerged in grief for four long months. It’s kept me away from this blog, mostly because I could not fathom how to write my way out of my despair. If I had to tell you what I’ve learned, it is only this: Who will buoy you up when you are in the depths. I have been blessed with support from friends like Ruth and Sue, who have blessedly kept the home fires burning, and from my husband’s lovely family. And while I am nowhere near healed, I am ready, perhaps, to stick my head above water and see what’s going on.

Ship to shore: Hello, hello?
Alas, I’m still at sea.
I’ve been down, trench-deep,
where fish fluoresce and nothing grows.
The need for air recedes
the longer you dive deep;
the silence shrieks with sound.
I went without gear,
not knowing I would live here,
making a home, rattling my teacups
for visitors who seldom come.
The pressure is tremendous of course,
but no less than on land,
and no one complains
that my tears make them wet.
Will I abide, letting my hair grow wild
with kelp, squeezing grief into pearls?
Or will I breathe out bubbles and
follow till my feet find land at last?
I am not so deep that I don’t know light.
We will find each other someday.

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