Yesterday, Pastor Sean preached on the mustard seed in Matthew chapter 13.  “He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches.”

Pastor explained that when we think “yum mustard,” we aren’t think like Christ’s audience.  For us, mustard is a wonderful spice.  In Biblical gardens it was a weed but it wasn’t just any weed.  It was a weed that could grow into something as large as a bush or a tree.

So why was Christ telling his followers that faith is like a mustard seed?  Because faith, even a small amount, can have a huge impact.

We are heading into a time of year during which we emphasize Faith.  I’d like to encourage all of our readers to give that Faith the freedom to change lives one small deed at a time.  If you can, you might pay for someone else’s breakfast.  Or you could thank someone for a post that moved you.  Or greet your checker at the grocery store by name.

Small acts are like seeds.  Its up to each of us to decide what we sew.

–SueBE

On my local newscast last night, the anchor seemed to be delivering the news in a way designed to stress out the audience. It was one awful story after another, with no break in the tension.

Even the weatherman was all hyped up, warning us about the impending cold front. Not blizzard, mind you. Cold front. Sheesh. All I really needed to know was: sweater or coat? 

Does everything have to be turned into a crisis? “Far from being better informed, heavy newswatchers can become miscalibrated,” according to cognitive psychologist Steven Pinker. “They worry more about crime, even when rates are falling.”

Just once, I’d like to hear, “This just in: there are good things going on in the world and we’d like to focus on them.”

I’d love to see a news show about people extending compassion, like Karla Denny, who took over an animal shelter in Taft, Texas, with a nearly 100% kill rate and brought it down to zero percent, finding homes for 565 dogs and cats. 

Or the customers at an Alabama Waffle House who pitched in to help an employee who was working the overnight shift alone.

Then there’s the 14-year-old girl who noticed her mother struggling with blind spots while driving, so she invented a way to virtually eliminate them. 

There are always good things happening in the world, but you might not know it from what you see on the news. Give yourself a break from negativity, and focus on the good today. 

I’ve had Les Brown’s quote (see above) on my heart all week. I’m not sure why but you know how it is.  Sometimes you read something and it sticks with you.  Then I read Lori’s post two days ago and it started to gel.

When I act, I may or may not have a plan but what I do have is a goal.  Maybe I want to clean off one corner of my desk so that the cat has a better place to nap.  Or I want to reorganize the closet in my office.  I have something I want to get done, and I start looking for ways to make it happen.  This is when I’m likely to try something new and accomplish something.

When I react, I’ve put off acting and disaster is imminent.  Something needs to be done now.  The cat has just lumbered across my desk and that pile of papers on the corner is collapsing.  I have to grab it fast or it will knock over my coffee which may well ruin my key board.  Even if I succeed in catching it all and shoving it back against the wall, this isn’t a pretty solution.  I’ve still got a not mess on my hands.

Nine times out of ten, we aren’t looking ahead.  We know the poor need help and that God wants us to focus on Him.  But we’ve got things to do, places to go, appointments to make.  We aren’t looking for the opportunities or the signs from God.  We’ve got our own agenda in mind.

When something needs to be done now, we are too panicked and frantic to listen for the still, small voice.  But like Lori said, it has been there all along.

This is where prayer and meditation come in.  Even if you only take a few minutes a day, spend them in quiet contemplation.  Light a candle.  Get out your prayer beads.  Sit.  Breath in and out.  In and out.  Listen.  Who knows what nudge you might feel or what voice you might here.

–SueBE

It seems as if we’re always waiting for God — to answer our prayers, to point us in a new direction, to give us a sign. But why would God lag behind us? It is ludicrous to contemplate. God, if anything, is way ahead of us. What if the truth is this: God is actually waiting for us — to do something, to hear something, to be something. How would we respond? More importantly, how will we respond when we realize it’s happening right this very minute?

You’d tap your watch if you wore one
to indicate my tardiness, and still
I cannot plumb your intentions.
Whatever sign you sent, I missed:
the alarm too silent for my aging ears,
the town crier lost on the wrong street.
I am left imagining your expression —
mildly amused? Vaguely disgruntled?
Or endlessly patient — that would wound
most, I think, the inference of my neglect.
You’ve given me boards, washers, screws,
but the instructions, I believe, are in Swedish.
Are we building a table? Or a catapult?
Should I pack a suitcase or board up the door?
I know the answer of course, it is there,
hiding behind the author of Hedda Gabler
and the words to every Beatles song.
Just out of reach. Fuzzy, near forgotten.
Only fear keeps me from finding it.
So I will pray for courage.
The courage to be on time.

Maybe I paired this quote with a photo of someone in a canoe because it reminds me of my father’s favorite joke.

One day, the area where a man lived started to flood.  It rained and rained and evacuation orders came out. 

Instead of leaving, he prayed for God to save him.  As the waters rose, he ended up on top of his house, still praying. 

Along came the National Guard in boats.  “No thank you!  I have faith in God.” 

The waters rose and rose.  As the water reached his neck, the Guard again came by in a helicopter.  The man sent them away.  But as the water covered his head, the man complained in prayer that God had not saved him.

God responded.  “I sent you a perfectly good boat and a helicopter.  What more did you want?” 

I wonder how often I pray for help and then ignore it when it arrives.  Perhaps I’m praying for a new job and God presents me with something that will reduce my expenses.  Or I want to lose weight and God moves someone to teach a new exercise class.  Zumba? Can any sane person see me doing zumba?

Because of this, when I pray for help, I also pray for the clear vision to recognize aid when it comes my way.  After all, I’d hate to still be sitting on the roof as the water rises.

–SueBE

 

This morning, I reached for some clothes to put on and must’ve inadvertently grabbed my cranky pants. Before I knew it, I was grumbling about things that aren’t really problems at all. 

As I started to make breakfast, I thought, Oh great, I’ll make breakfast and then I’ll have to wash the dishes right away so they don’t pile up. It was a problem with a built-in solution. Don’t let them pile up! Wash as you go. It might take longer to make breakfast this way, but I’ll end up in a better frame of mind.

Then I thought, It takes forever for the water to warm up in the morning so I can wash the dishes! But actually, it gave me a moment to adjust the thermostat. It’s chilly today, and I thought, It takes so long for the house to heat up in the morning! But actually, it gave me an excuse to stealthily sneak into my son’s room and abscond with the warm, cozy scarf I knitted “for his birthday,” fully intending to use it for most of the day when he’s at work or school! Please don’t tell.😇

These small annoyances are blessings in disguise. They give us moments to reflect on the things we take for granted. Being able to count on food on the table. Heat in the winter. Hot and cold running water. They’re tiny reminders to reflect on the sustenance and providence we’re blessed to receive every day.

I worry. I worry about how close the fires in California are coming to friends and family. I worry about my friends’ illnesses. I worry about money, time, schedules. And I pray. I pray so much that I sometimes worry about burnout — not mine, but God’s. With so many intentions, so many voices crying out, how can God possibly handle it all? Luckily for all of us, God has no limits.

When prayers bubble from my lips
in inexhaustible plentitude,
and I fear I have spread God too thin,
like margarine on toast,
suddenly I hear it — child, child.
There is no distance I cannot cover.
I hold the earth in the palm of my hand,
easy as an egg, a pebble, a shell.
Turn out my pockets. Like a mischievous boy
I have filled them: with galaxies, eons, the sighs of
the wistful, the tears of mourners, the muffled heartbeats
of animals in their dens. Each is considered.
Each is held with gravity. All the prayers of all the years
cannot dilute me or hold me back.
I hold my breath a beat.
And at once I know: All is well.

white and black ceramic cup filled with brown liquid on brown wooden suffaceHas this ever happened to you? I woke up this morning thinking about how to unpack issues that have affected my family for years and started mentally running in place:

  • I’ve got to figure this out!
  • C’mon, you must try harder!
  • Maybe I need to get more expert advice?
  • Perhaps I should spend more money on things that might help?

Luckily, I realized I’m not God, and can’t get my arms around the whole world. I can only work on the part of the problem that’s within my control. One part is, don’t get so worked up that you end up standing still.

Relieve yourself of the guilt of not having a magic wand that solves all of life’s problems instantly. Take one thing at a time. Pause. Breathe. Start where you are.

I’ve also found that, if each of us has a piece of a larger puzzle, sharing what we’ve learned can help. Being preachy or judgy doesn’t. Commiserating doesn’t help either, as we seem to only end up “sharing the misery.” Collaborating helps. Saying, “I’ve been in a similar situation, here’s what’s helped for me.” Encouraging helps. Asking, “What can I do to relieve some part of your burden? If you never get a night to yourself and feel stressed, can I watch the kids for you?”

Take care of the people you love by showing up for yourself today. Help yourself the way you’d help that friend who needs a night out. Be good to yourself, and, in that centered place, answers often arrive like manna from Heaven.

first to apologize

When I was younger, it was made very clear to me that forgiveness meant forgetting.  To forgive someone meant forgetting what they had done.

That always seemed like questionable advice to me.  Forgetting everything could be dangerous if you situation is dire.

Then one day I was walking our church labyrinth with one of our younger members.  She suffers from anxiety and tends to fixate on the things that worry her.  Really fixate.  I explained that as we walked, she could pause at each turn and breathe deeply in and out.

When we left the labyrinth, she told me how much better she felt.  “At each turn, I let go of something, like letting go of a leaf.”

Hmm.  I may not be able to forget entirely but when I realize that I’m holding that hurtful memory in  my hand, I can envision letting it go like dropping a leaf.  I don’t have to carry it with me through my day.  I don’t have to let it shade my afternoon.

I’m sure I’ll have to remind myself of this again and again. I have a tendency to mull things over.  And I’m just as likely to be tormenting myself over something I did wrong.  I just have to remember.  I may not be able to forget but that’s okay.

I can choose to let it go.

–SueBE

Empire model mission.  I had never seen that term before today but I immediately understood what it meant.  Mission from above. Mission from without. Mission where someone comes in and fixes you.

It’s easy to think that we know what someone else needs.  Face it – her life is a mess.  He clearly can’t feed his family.  Look at them!

But I also try to remember those times that someone was totally wrong about me.  I don’t fully understand it, but I seem to invite people to come up to me and give me unsolicited advice.  One Saturday a woman walked up to me in the art museum.  “I watched you walk in and those shoes are bad for you.  You need to get something new so you walk right.”

What I really needed was not to step into a hole the moment I got out of the car.  That would really have helped!

I’ve had women walk up to me in the grocery store, look at the contents of my cart and ask me why I’m poisoning my family with dairy.  Why do I have so much rabbit food and no meat?  And the list goes on.

I’m not sure what it is that makes people think I welcome this advice.  Because really I don’t and I immediately tense up when I see someone coming towards me with that look in her eye.

But I also imagine that this is how a mother struggling to feed her family feels when we tell her what she is doing wrong.  Maybe instead of telling, we need to listen.  Instead of making assumptions, we might learn what mistep led her to this place.  We might learn what our community needs to truly be whole.

–SueBE

 

Have a Mary Little Christmas

%d bloggers like this: