A peaceful waterfall with crystal blue water and white foam cascading over jagged brown cliffs. Foliage on trees are of varying autumn shades of orange, green and yellow. White, cottony clouds hover overhead.

“The privilege of a lifetime is to become who you really are.” Carl Jung

My New Year’s resolution may sound trite, but it’s been revolutionary in my own life: 

Do more of the things I love to do, with people I like to be with.

I love my sisters-of-the soul, Lori and SueBE, with all my heart, and enjoy writing posts for our blog, but I had to take some time away. Gratefully, they’ve loved me and prayed for me from afar, even when I’ve fallen off the radar.

My projects include advocating for others in the vision loss community, and I tend to go all in. But it led to a point where my own reserves of resources were low. 

I had to get back to center and sit in stillness. Doing just what I’m doing right now: Breathing. Being. Decompressing. 

In those moments, I’m able to get in touch with what’s on my heart. Issues that are complex and deeply rooted came to the fore, and, in this clear, calm state, healing started to happen. 

I found it was possible to deconstruct pain from the past and release it, with the help of an online therapist and a technique called EMDR, or Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. Rebuild from the inside out, so my foundation is strong going forward. 

So, I’ve been doing small things I love to do, and, at the same time, fixing big problems. 

The truth is, I’m fine as I am. You’re fine, just as you are. It doesn’t mean you don’t want to improve yourself; it means you finally love yourself as God loves you. That’s a habit that’s hard to learn. 

The first step is to unlearn what you were taught by your parents, peers, and people in the world. All of them want you to conform to a metric of comparison to others. But there’s no one else in the world like you.  

The second step is to put yourself first as you help others. That might sound contradictory, but, as flight attendants always say, you have to put on your own oxygen mask first.  

Just what you’re doing right now. That’s what you should be doing now. You’ve taken the time to read this post, so that means you have a free moment. 

You’ve chosen to read a blog about prayer and positivity, so it means you’re receptive to God’s nudges. 

You’re letting this sink in, so that means you’re ready to hear your own soul telling you it needs rest. There’s no need to strive or prove yourself. If you’re here, you need to hear this: all is well. You are worthy. Just be where you are right now. It’s just where you’re meant to be.

Walking Prayer

Wow. I can’t believe that it has been ten years since I first blogged about walking prayer. For a lot of us, walking prayer seems like a good idea.

Maybe, like me, you have troubles sitting and focusing. When you try to do that, you end up battling your monkey mind. Get back here and concentrate! And really, that’s okay if that’s what you want to do. Don’t chastise yourself when your mind wanders, Just gently direct your attention back to . . . your breathing. The prayer you are reciting.

But I do much better when I can move and pray simultaneously. As bad as I am at sitting still, you might think I am athletic. You’d be wrong. I’m just not good at being idle. Movement helps me focus.

If you Google walking prayer, you are going to find information on walking a set path. Some people walk the Stations of the Cross. Others walk a labyrinth. I prefer to walk my neighborhood although I will sometimes drive to a local labyrinth.

When I start my walk, I focus on my breathing.  I try to breathe in for a count of 5 and out for a count of 5. This focus on something as simple as breathing, when paired with walking, slows my mind and stills those monkey thoughts.

Sometimes I have a prayer concern, When this is the case, I gently consider the situation. This isn’t tight focus. I’m leaving myself open to hear God. If I don’t have a prayer concern, I pray about whatever crosses my mind. When I pass a school, I pray for students and staff. I pray for a neighbor whose son I haven’t seen in a while. I pray for that nice couple whose car had to be towed when it wouldn’t start.

It has been cold and icy here lately. That means that walking prayer is a hazardous undertaking. Yes, I can walk on my treadmill but it is not quiet and thus is not conducive to prayer. But I can use my phone to listen to meditative music on Youtube. Or I can choose nature sounds. With these in the background I can sometimes focus.

Other times I light a candle and watch the flame. Admittedly, I take my glasses off to soften the focus.

I get out my prayer beads. As each bead passes through my fingers, I say a prayer for someone.

What do you do when you have troubles focusing? Maybe what works for you will help someone else as well.

–SueBE

Am I the only one? It seems like lately I just don’t know what to pray. You see I’m working through some minor health problems. It’s nothing huge but it means appointments, tests, no that isn’t it, and more tests.

There are also changes on the horizon for my community. As I’ve admitted in the past, I’m not a big one for change especially when I’m not in charge. Whether things work out pretty well or really bad, change is coming. And it will likely be months and months or even a year before everything is settled.

What do you pray when you are feeling unsettled and uncertain? My first choice comes from Julian of Norwich.

I don’t know why I find this comforting, but I do. I guess it is simply the idea that things will settle.

My second choice for unsettled prayer is longer and more formal and I’m sure most of you are familiar with it.

This is the Presbyterian version with debtors instead of trespasses. You can read about the why and wherefore of the two here. But I really like the idea of turning things over to God. Admittedly, I’m not extremely good at it but it is a comforting thought.

What about you? Do you have a favorite prayer for times like this?

–SueBE

Photo by Brett Sayles on Pexels.com

When you volunteer to teach a Bible study lesson without looking at the book first, you never know exactly what you are going to end up teaching. When I saw my topic, I smiled. God’s gift of manna. The author of the study even discussed that most people fixate on what manna might be vs what is truly important. God provided exactly what the people needed.

Before I finished reading the lesson, I read the Bible passage. For those of you who don’t recall the details of Exodus 16, the people are bemoaning their situation. God has brought them out of Egypt where they had food aplenty. God sends quail and manna with very specific instructions on how much to gather and NO HOARDING. Anyone who tried to save extra would find it rotten and full of maggots before morning. Which, can I just say, ewww?

But the idea that God will provide? Without going into detail, both myself and my community could use a little heavenly help. This lesson? This is what I needed to hear. Deserving or not, grumbling at God or not, what we need will be provided.

When the Bible study group started the lesson, we all had a good laugh at God’s comment to Moses. “In that way I will test them, whether they will follow my instruction or not.” If you’ve read portions of the Old Testament, you know that they failed. Thus the rotten manna and the maggots.

But they weren’t the only ones that failed. Try as I might, I could not turn the discussion to how God provides. I could not get the group to contemplate for even a moment that we all hang on to more than we need. I’m not saying that everyone on Earth hangs on to more than they need, but we are all solidly middle class Americans with full basements.

Instead of discussing the lesson, we discussed our things – casserole dishes, blue jeans, dress slacks, high heels and more. Honestly, I suspect this was what it sounded like when God was issuing his instructions.

Maybe he’ll repeat himself one more time. This time I’m sure we’ll listen.

–SueBE

I’m going to make a confession here. I just wasn’t feeling it before New Years Eve. The thought of making resolutions . . . blah. Whatever. Why? If I’m lucky, I do really well with them for a few weeks. But before too long they’ve gone by the wayside.

Then on January 2, I read a post by one of my writing buddies, Nicole Pyles. In her post, Nicole wrote that she just wasn’t going to make resolutions yet. Why? Because making resolutions when she is off work and has all kinds of free time encourages her to set unrealistic goals. Instead, she would contemplate what she wanted to accomplish in 2023 when she got back to work.

How smart is that?!

So with Nicole’s permission, I didn’t make any huge overarching resolutions for the year. I’m not reading the Bible in one year. I’m not meditating for an hour every single day. Or praying every morning and evening.

Instead, I’m paying attention to right now. When an anthem at church sends a chill up my spine, I thank God for the composer and the singers.

The bird feeders need filling? Instead of rushing outside and doing it so that I can rush back in and do something off a massive to-do list, I spend a few minutes outdoors. I listen to the birds. I watch the dog that lives behind us running about an enjoying the sunshine. And I take a few minutes to enjoy the sunshine as well.

When I throw some craisins on top of the yogurt in my bowl, I say of prayer of thanks for cranberries which I do adore but also my husband who does the shopping.

What do I hope to accomplish with this mindset? Initially, I wasn’t sure. But then I realized. I’d love to work up what I think of as an Irish blessing mentality. It was probably over ten years ago when I helped teach a class on prayer.  One of the types of prayer that we learned about was the Irish blessing.  These simple prayers call down God’s blessing on the everyday. These blessings encourage us to thank God for the little things. Bless this task, bless this house, and bless those who reside within.  

And really, that’s not a bad way to live. So that’s what I’m attempting to do in 2023. To live mindfully, to thank God for what is before me, and to pause a moment in the sunshine.

–SueBE

Tomorrow is Epiphany. Growing up, we never discussed epiphany which celebrates when Christ appeared the Magi. But now we mark it annually and sing Christmas hymns right up until the Wise Men arrived.

Last Sunday, I shook my head as I saw a hymn listed in the weekly bulletin. The First Nowell.

Sigh. I miss Noel. Why mess around with this lovely French carol? But then I squinted at the bottom of the page in our hymnal. From Cornwall.

Cornwall?

I’m not sure I can name 2 regions in France but I do know that Cornwall is part of Great Britain. So when I got home I did a Google search. “Nowell vs Noel.”

So much for my assumptions. First of all, the hymn is not French which is what I had believed because of the spelling Noel. It is . . . drum roll . . . Cornish.

Nowell is a celebratory shout associated with Christmas. And the spelling, nowell, can be traced right back to the time of Chaucer. In the mid-20th century, typographers decided that nowell looked to old-timey. It was archaic. It did not belong in the modern age. So they substituted Noel.

It wasn’t about theology. It wasn’t about belief. It was about appearances. But it made me sad. What about poor Noel? So I did a bit more research. Like Chaucer, Noel is from the 15th century. It is French for Christmas or carol.

So which do you use? Noel or Nowell? In the carol, the correct word is Nowell. Christmas cards can sport either. As a name? Noel is the way to go.

But I also know that I’ll have a whole list of questions for my minister. Don’t worry. He’s used to it and he’ll be sure to give me a list of things to read.

–SueBE

Photo by Jeswin Thomas on Pexels.com

Recently a new member stood and spoke about a new initiative. Light for the Darkness acknowledges that not everyone comes into the holiday season with bells on. Some of us are struggling with depression. Some are coping with stress. Still others have PTSD. This group meets people where they are and helps them see that they are not alone in how they are feeling.

For those of you who live in the St. Louis area.

This was a good reminder for me. I adore Christmas. A-DORE. The trees. The lights. Sacred music. Nativities.

But I also have a friend with clinical depression. She finds Christmas difficult, as if she’s being told she has to be joyous.

I have a cousin who is a recovering addict. Family time can be a trigger for many people.

Yesterday as Pastor Sean preached about John the Baptist it struck me that the Christmas story was the ultimate call to come as you are. Why did this come to me during a sermon on John the Baptist? I have no idea. These are what Pastor Sean calls God moments. It is what I needed to hear and when I needed to hear it.

Perhaps it is also what one of you needs to hear. In the Christmas story, we have:

Shepherds

These men worked outside. They were the low. They were working when Christ made his appearance. They were the first on the scene. Some might say they were early.

Angels

What divas! Here we have a group of guys going about their work, a small family trying to get the baby to sleep, and WHOA. What’s all that singing? But they were there to make a joyful noise unto the Lord. And nothing was getting in the way.

The Wise Men

The last two arrive on the scene, the wise men are posh and wealthy. They bring great gifts. But strife also follows them around.

I don’t know about you, but this sounds like a family get together. A little bit of everyone is there.

Advent is a time of preparation for the coming of Christ. As we prepare, as we celebrate, there is room for us all. Come as you are. You are welcome as part of Christ’s family.

–SueBE

My journal with a gingko leaf stem peaking out.

Every school year, the Presbyterian Church USA women’s organization publishes a Bible study. This year we are focusing on the Sabbath.

In short, the Sabbath is a time to connect with God. Traditionally we think of it as Sunday.

But I have to admit, Sabbath and Sunday do not go hand in hand for me. Yes, I go to church most Sundays. I stand up front with the choir. I sing. But do I feel that connection with God that makes the Sabbath special? Generally, no.

This shocked certain members of my study group. “But you’re at church!”

I do recognize the big room with the stained glass. Really. I know I’m in church.

But I have to be really relaxed to make that connection to God. I’m a hard-core introvert. Sometimes I can make that connection in church, but not always. Instead I’m often focused on the finding next piece of music. And what’s that clicking noise behind me? Is that hum from the sound system new?

I stand a much better chance of finding God when I’m out walking. I hear Him in the breeze. I see him in the leaves and snow. But does that count as Sabbath if I didn’t set out specifically to find God? What if I walk almost every day? Do I have to do something different for it to count as Sabbath?

I asked my minister’s opinion. Does he consider Sunday his Sabbath? If you pray every day, does that count or do you have to do something different on Sunday?

His response was simple. Don’t make it complicated. Find God where and when you find God. If you find him every day when you read scripture, good for you. If you make a connection on some days when you pray, excellent. Meditation? That’s good too. Music. Food ministry. Whatever works. It can be something you do every day. It can be something you do once a week.

Our study recommends that we keep a Sabbath Journal. We are supposed to record what we do each Sabbath. I’ve got the journal but I’m doing what my minister recommended. Don’t make it complicated. Whenever, wherever I feel a connection to God, I make a note. And when a leaf grabs my attention, I bring it home and add it to the pages.

Sabbath may be one day a week. It may be in quiet moments. Or it could be in the chaos of a busy kitchen. It is as unique as we are. Don’t make it complicated. Find it when and how you find it.

–SueBE

Photo by Mikhail Nilov on Pexels.com

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.

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