R-20101022-0040.jpgWe live in a culture where seeing is believing.  Need proof?  Pinterest, with all its glorious images, is the most powerful social platform. Nothing packs the punch of a single image.  Like Thomas, people need to see to believe.

I have to admit, I’ve always had a great deal of sympathy for Thomas. He had to see and touch to believe, and I get that.  I think this need to see and touch is why some people have a hard time developing faith.  God feels so out there, so far removed.  He doesn’t feel tangible or real.

But, you see, that’s where we come in.  We are the body of Christ.

Whether your talent is healing or music, as you walk through the world, you give people the opportunity to see Christ’s light and Christ’s love in action.  As you pull someone up or serve them a hot meal, you touch them as Christ would touch them.  Through you, they see him.  Through you, they can come to know him.

The truth is that we are Christ’s hand and Christ’s feet.  Where we go, he goes.  As we give where others would take, we enable people to see the wound in Christ’s side and the holes in his hands. He sacrificed so we sacrifice.  He gives so that we live.

I know, it’s hard to believe that something so simple could help people see Christ. Like Thomas, you need to see the proof.

To see it, be his hands. Be his feet. It may not be Pinterest pretty but you will see His Love reflected back at you as you carry it into the world.

–SueBE

cardigan of comfort picture

So, I just read an article that tells me, “It’s Official: Women Are Invisible After 49!” I think the author must have gotten some blowback, because later, the title was softened to, “It’s Official: Many Women Become Invisible After 49.” Gasp! I’ll be 50 (God willing!) in August.

But I had to really mull that over. That’s okay; God’s invisible too. Miraculously, He still gets the job done!  And in a way, I feel that I’m on God’s payroll. The salary is negligible, the job requirements vary, but the retirement benefits are out of this world!

Some of my best work really is invisible to the human eye. Praying. Encouraging. Offering a kind word to a stranger. Writing for this blog. I’ve realized that what I really write about is “the good life.” Well, not in the way the world might think of it. It’s not partying till dawn and getting into a limo to go to the secret rave.

When I was up and at ‘em, hale and hearty, ready to party… well, that wasn’t me anyway. I believe I squandered the gift of good health in my younger years, and didn’t realize that stress leads to illness. Even the stress of, where’s the party? What is everybody doing tonight? Having to be in the group, keeping up with the gang, it really never led me to peace. Nor even a sense of belonging. It seemed to be someone else’s idea of what “the good life” was.

It was the stress of a terrible job that led me to believe that going out with friends all the time after work was a relief valve, and that it was actually good for me.

Like so many people, I was looking for the right thing in the wrong direction.

It wasn’t until I left that life and became a Freelance Writer – and, more importantly, found faith again – that I realized we are all trying to fill a void, feel a sense of peace, of purpose, of community. Find those who share interests that are meaningful to us. Connect with the divine.

So I worked to create a home in which all those who enter (save burglars, tax collectors and sundry miscreants) feel welcomed, appreciated, even loved.  Remembered the joy of reading a poem that stopped me in my tracks (like, well, Marge Piercy’s “Tracks”) as I marveled at the power of words. Sat in the sunroom with a good book and a steaming cup of coffee and basked in the stillness, grateful to my bones for God’s grace.

So you say, cloak of invisibility. I say, cardigan of comfort. Tomato, tomah-to. It doesn’t make a difference if the world doesn’t recognize me. I know who I am. I know whose I am. Believe me. This is the good life. And I’m still here.

My favorite cross - a symbol of hope.

My favorite cross – a symbol of hope.

To me, the cross is a symbol of grace and comfort.  It stands for strength and hope and belonging.

When I was a child, my grandmother would take me back to Jefferson City, Mo. for her Sunday school reunions.  I’d carry a tray of iced tea into a room full of women who all wore small gold crosses.  This symbol of their faith told me that this was a place of safety and belonging, not to mention tea and short bread.

Until recently, I never thought about what the cross used to mean.

In Christ’s time, the cross was an object of torture.  It was a means of execution.  It was terrifying and dark and dreadful.  It meant pain and sorrow.

That’s what the cross meant before Christ.  It was the hangman’s noose.  The executioner’s axe.

But Christ changed that.  Through Him, fear became hope.  Pain yielded before grace.  Instead of a symbol of torment and shame, the cross came to represent hope and peace.

This week I’ve found myself wondering how sad it is that so many people, through their actions and their words, are turning the cross from a symbol of hope into a symbol of dread.  They do this when they say, “Your kind is not welcome here.  I can discriminate against you and call it religion.”

Discrimination. Inequality. Despair. That was the cross of Rome.

It’s up to me to let people know that I wear the cross of Christ.

–SueBE

They say the road ahead is perilous.
The way uncertain, unforged,
beset by trials, jagged cliffs, yawning chasms.
We must feel our way forward,
with more mind than sight.

Without God’s provided light,
we are blind; with it,
like those who have lived in the dark,
squinting and blinking at the contours
of unimagined vistas.

The failure is not with the light
but with our eyes.
Thumb open our lids, O Lord,
that we might see,
advance without stumbling.

Follow the trail you’ve marked
with banners and neon,
all but inscrutable to our weak sight.
Grant us spanking new lenses
for our souls.

dream doula

Most of the people in my life have no idea that I’m secretly a Dream-Doula. For whatever reason, it seems that almost everyone I encounter will – eventually – share their most cherished dream with me. In some ways, it’s as if they’re telling me about the One That Got Away. Like there’s only one shot in life, and if you miss your chance at the brass ring, you’re out of luck.

But when I tell them it’s never too late, their eyes widen. If God put it on your heart, I say, doors will start to open. Of course, it’s up to you to walk through.

A new writer posted her work and I commented that it was lovely. I told her, “You’re a bona-fide, honest-to-goodness, heck of a writer!” She told me that she had been doubting her skills and had considered quitting. Later, I got a thank-you card from her. Writing gigs were coming fast and furious.

A computer repairman told me about the office politics at his company, and wished there was a way to get away from the toxic environment. “Why don’t you start your own company?” I asked him. He looked at me blankly. “Well, how would I do that?” I told him that before I actually had any gigs as a Freelance Writer, I’d had business cards made. I looked at them every day and reminded myself that this is more than what I do. It’s who I am. He took my advice and started his own company.

A plumber told me his true dream was to work at the happiest place on earth, DisneyLand…. as a plumber! He loved his job; he just also loved the whole feeling at the amusement park. Last I heard, he had filled out an application.

Of course, there’s no way I can take credit for the accomplishments of these people who just happened to cross my path. They put in all the effort, and God put the dream in their heart. Perhaps I’m a Forte-Finder. A Go-For-Broke Broker. If all I can do is offer a kind word and a nudge toward a niche, I’ll do it. Could it be that we all have this ability, and if given the opportunity, can be a Dream-Doula for others as well?

Take your gaze higher and get your head in the clouds, where it belongs. There’s no such thing as a pipe dream. Just a mission plan for your pet project, AKA your Soul Goal. So what’s the dream of your heart? It’s not too late to open that door. Maybe you happened upon this blog post for a reason…

Hosanna“What does hosanna mean?” This was the question that Pastor Sean asked during the children’s message.  My friend and I in our choir pew were certain we knew.  “Wow. Adoration. Praise.”

Fortunately, Pastor wasn’t asking us, because we were in for a surprise.  It actually means save us.

Wow.

It took some time for that to sink in.  The delay wasn’t because we were wrong.  We’re used to being wrong.  We’re the mothers of teen boys.  It comes with the territory.

It was the perfection of it.

Save us.

What a perfect way to greet the Savior whose grace opens the way and creates a path for all who would follow him. It’s perfection, because we can’t do it on our own.

Left to us, Easter focuses on candy and new clothes, Easter egg hunts and Pinterest worthy brunches.

Left to us, salvation becomes something we have to earn. Left to our own devices, we try to buy salvation with good works and to assure ourselves that we are more worthy than that guy over there.

Hosanna.

Save us.

Save us with your mercy.

Save us with your grace.

Save us from the foolishness

of thinking we can do it ourselves.

–SueBE

There’s something in the air. Easter is almost upon us. But before we get there, let’s take a moment. Let’s remember Christ crucified, Christ beaten and belittled and spat upon. Christ bleeding and gouged and broken. Let’s spend a moment with the deep terribleness of Good Friday.

Why? Because we can’t fully appreciate the joy of Easter without acknowledging the horror of what came before. And because it is a timely reminder of Jesus’ love and understanding for us. We all suffer. We all feel broken and forsaken. It is good to remember that Jesus felt this way too, and that he continues to feel for us in our most hurting moments. Jesus understands pain. He feels it with us, even though we are the ones who caused his pain to begin with. That’s a huge revelation. It is a portrait of forgiveness and love that points the way for our own lives.

I recently watched a video wherein homeless people read mean tweets written about homelessness and homeless people. I watched them sob as they read the cruel, dismissive observations of those more fortunate. This is why we must remember the crucifixion: Because the moment we lose our connection with our fellow human beings, and with their suffering, we become less than human. Jesus sides, and will always side, with those on the fringes, those who have less, those who are ridiculed and dismissed. Before we judge another human being, it would do us well to remember that.

Keep the cross in mind. Watch for the invisible crosses that those around you carry. Allow yourself to feel empathy for them. Help them if you can.

There is no resurrection without the crucifixion. If you can’t embrace the beaten Christ — and the beaten Christ in other people — you cannot, and will not, embrace resurrection. Amid the good tidings of Easter, let’s keep this in mind.

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Recent studies have shown that, from here on out, each individual person of faith must now earn God’s favor.

According to specious research, new data has determined that previous intel on faith has been disproved. So here’s the new way of doing things.

If you don’t belong to the right:

□Denomination

□Political Party

□Bible Study Group

□Clique

□Country Club

□Gym

God will no longer shine his face upon you and give you peace!

From now on, all believers must be in the world AND of it. They have been informed to keep their minds only on lowly matters, tests and trials, and all manner of minutiae, such as gossip, backbiting, and throwing stones.

Aw, heck. I can’t keep this up.

April fool!

You saw that coming, didn’t you? The facts of faith will never change.

Grace is a gift.

God is love.

You are never alone.

Keeping our minds on things that slow us down, jam us up… they’re only speed bumps on a winding road. No need to set down roots in the potholes. Or build a condo on that dead end street. The path to peace has already been paved. All we need to do is drive on home.

But hey, you’re reading this blog; you must be one of the faithful already. So I’m just telling you what you already know. In other news, night follows day. Film at eleven.

Easter Blessings to All!

The Lord's PrayerI find myself yet again asking for a prayer.  A dear friend is facing her third battle with cancer.  When we were in our twenties, she was diagnosed with Stage 4 breast cancer of a very rare, aggressive kind. She came through treatment wonderfully.  Then 5 years ago, she was diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer. Again, we prayed and yet again she came through the treatments better than we had dared hope. Recently, her energies ebbed. She was often short of breath. Again, she went to the doctor.  This time around it is a rare blood disorder that invariably leads to leukemia.

For those who love her, this is an especially difficult time and I don’t just mean her illness.

For the most part, we are a prayerful group but facing this battle yet again many of us are at a bit of a loss. What do we say?  How do we pray? “Hey, God. It’s me. Again. Look, I’m getting a little sick of this.”

Okay, that’s not it. But how do you pray when the words don’t come? When you’d rather just flop down on your face in the middle of the bed?

Here are three things that have worked for me in the past week.

  1. Ask for prayer. I know it sounds like a cop out, but ask friends for prayer.  Admit that you don’t know how to pray about this yourself because it is just too much.  Your friends will get it. They’ve been there themselves. They’ll hold up everyone involved.
  2. Resort to a time honored prayer. We all have prayer that we’ve memorized.  I love the Prayer of St. Francis. Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love . . .  Another favorite is the Jesus Prayer. Jesus, have mercy on me, the sinner.  At times like this, when someone is desperately ill, I turn to the Lord’s Prayer. May thy will be done.
  3. Pray through song. I know you expected this one from me and here it is. When I’m at a loss, I turn to music. So many of our hymns are also prayers.  In fact, my choir has sung several arrangements of the Prayer of St. Francis. Sing through some of your favorites. They speak to you for a reason.

There are times when it is all but impossible to pray.  Ironically, these are also the times in which prayer is vital. Maybe one of these ways will work for you.

–SueBE

Lent is nearly over. Holy Week is finally coming into view over the crest of the hill. Our slogging days are almost done.

Most of us think of Lent as a trying time. By the time you get to the end of it, you ought to feel pretty beat up — rent in two by anguish for your sinfulness; exhausted — spent — by self-denial. Not me. I’m flying high these days.

The watchwords of Lent (notably, wait and watch) can place us in a state of cautious anxiety. But let’s look at them another way. Wait and watch! A miracle is about to happen! Jesus is about to defeat death with a spectacular roundhouse punch. And then, guess what? We all win. (Say it like Oprah:) You get a resurrection! And you get a resurrection!

It’s as if a complete stranger won the lottery, then offered you a huge cut for no particular reason. We don’t deserve life after death. Nothing we can do in life can make up for our sinfulness. And yet, in the end, we don’t have to do anything. Life eternal is handed to us. All we need do is follow Christ. He is the ultimate generous lottery winner, only he didn’t do it through luck — he did it through humiliation, suffering, blood and death. He did it so we don’t have to.

Let us spend the last remaining days of Lent basking in a love so big, death could not contain it. As the line goes in one of my favorite movies, “I’ve got wings and I’m going to heaven…baby!” Won’t you join me in celebrating?

The winter of Ash Wednesday
becomes the spring of Easter.
And we like, like lilies,
turn our heads
Godward
inexplicably saved
from our greatest foe.
We shall not be cut down,
but grow ceaselessly
in heaven’s green forever.

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