She was voted “Best Smile;” I was voted “Most Intelligent.” We remained close after grade school, despite going to different high schools, because she worked in a department store I frequented. Whenever we saw each other, we’d chat as if no time at all had passed since graduation.

Reconnecting on Facebook was a shock. I expected my old friend; instead I saw awful caricatures of President Obama and hateful speech. When did “Best Smile” become…this? I stayed friends but shut off her posts, checking in every once in a while to see if anything had improved. It hadn’t. Things eventually came to a head, and I had to unfriend her altogether.

This kind of division is becoming prevalent. Poetry, as always, becomes my voice.

You hear: up is down.
I hear: black is white.
Bedrock becomes liquid
and the oceans walkable.
When we cannot agree
on the color of the sky,
things have surely come apart.
We fire our pistols into the air,
heedless of the hail of bullets,
which, after all, have no
place to land but on our heads.
When the mad tea party ends,
we walking wounded
will have to speak, but how?
The alphabet is in ruins;
we are left with lines
in the dirt, crude gestures.
Only a devil could sow such discord.
Only God will loosen our lips.

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I had to agree with the woman standing next to me at the post office.  The line did seem slow.  But I handle boredom about as well as your average toddler.  Fortunately more people were coming in so I could people watch.

One woman was struggling to build a box. I don’t think she’d ever used packing tape before but a man stepped up to give her a hand.

A young man came in and walked to the front of the pick up line. He was wearing a uniform shirt. They handed him a bin of mail.  That’s kind of cool.  City employees get served first.

Before I knew it, they were calling my number.  Back in the car, I noted that 19 minutes had passed and I had been tenth in line.  It hadn’t really been all that slow.  But it could have turned into a painful experience.

This time of year can be stressful enough.  Let’s now make it worse by focusing on the shadow.  Instead, turn to face the Light.

–SueBE

I can’t say that I’m always upbeat, but I do try to be hopeful.  Not that I always pull it off.

This time of the year is tough for me.  Apparently, I need a certain amount of sunlight.  And I stress.  And I get hangry too.

So how do I pull off hope when it is dark, stressful and no one has given me a snack?  Fortunately, I genuinely like winter.  I like the cold.  I love snow.  And dark? I actually like that too.  Especially when it’s snowing.  I love the sounds and stand on the porch and listen to snow pop and creak.

Winter is a time of preparation.  One of the things that we are preparing for at my church is an update to our community garden.  We accidentally planted way too many cucumbers but the food bank came out the winner.  This year we are adding fruit trees that the local aborist tells us should be planted in spring.

That gives us two months to pick out our trees and raise the funds.  Two months to prepare for several years of growth.  Vegetables for this summer.  Fruit trees for the future.

Hope.  We plant it today and harvest it tomorrow.

–SueBE

 

“We aren’t exchanging gifts this year.  We’re playing rob your neighbor so bring a gift anyone in the family would love.”

Cricket.

Cricket.

Cricket.

A hate shopping.  Hate it.  Really.  That said I’m actually pretty good at buying gifts for other people.  Of course, this means that I’m shopping for specific people.  My father-in-law loves history and works with wood, think Foxfire.  My mother-in-law is into classical music and elegant history, much more Biltmore than Foxfire.

Now try to come up with something any one of 20 or so people would love.  Let’s just say that the only thing my mother-in-law and son have in common is that they both like cats and love to eat.  This is mission impossible!

But then my son suggested buying a can of Flex Seal.  What?  I hadn’t thought of ridiculous made for TV products.  Serious gifts that everyone would love?  Not going to happen.  But the ridiculous?  This just might work.

It is far too easy to let someone’s request dampen our holiday joy.  It is up to us to rediscover God’s presence and the spirit of his grace that not even the thought of shopping can entirely eclipse.

–SueBE

 

 

Tomorrow is another day.  Thank, God.  Literally.

I’ve been playing with a cold since Thursday night.  First was the sneezing and snot phase.  Yesterday, was coughing and a pounding headache.

Today?  Today seems much better.  Granted it’s only 10 am but my head doesn’t hurt so I’m going with it.  Today is much better.

That’s the great thing about a new day.  It is an opportunity for improvement.  A chance to get it right.

In adult Sunday school we are studying Ecclesiastes.  We are currently working our way through the first chapter and what it teaches us about prayer.  This line in the lesson brought me up short.  “Prayer seeks what God alone can do. Prayer comes from a careful consideration of what belongs to human effort and what requires God’s intervention. For example, we don’t ask God to reduce or increase or weight if that change is an expected outcome of proper diet and exercise…”

As if this wasn’t pointed enough.  One of our Bible passages in church yesterday included Luke 3:11 when people were listening to John the Baptist.  “John answered, “Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same.”

How often do we all pray for God to solve our problems and to solve community problems?  Problems that we could address ourselves.  Quite frankly, we know what to do.  We just don’t want to do it.

What an uncomfortable feeling.  But that’s okay.  Discomfort can be taken as a nudge to do something different, to do something better, to get it right.

With that knowledge we can wind the clock  Tomorrow is another day.

–SueBE

 

Every so often, someone, somewhere, will be mad at the world and will eventually say these words: I didn’t ask to be born!

Now, this is not to minimize the pain of those going through a hard time, but I wonder.

What if you actually did ask to be born. In fact, what if you even paid to come here. Better still, what if tax dollars were used? Maybe your loved ones in heaven (or wherever souls are stored) are working hard there to support you here. You’d do your best and get to work on meaningful projects then, wouldn’t you?

Maybe they’re spending their afterlife populating your dreams with what seem to be mundane activities (Oh look! There’s my mother, folding towels. What does that mean?) Maybe those are really metaphors and bread crumbs, guiding you as much as they’re allowed by universal decree (maybe the dream’s meaning was: Take care of work first, play later.)  Like the Prime directive from Star Trek. They’re only allowed to gently encourage without revealing too much, allowing for your free will.

But then you’d have to figure out what those meaningful projects are. No pressure! It’s only the peace of mind of your late loved ones, giving it their all so you can have the gift of life!!

Okay. That’s probably not the case. But “projects” is another word for “purpose.”

This fanciful tale was brought to you by all those you’ve loved and lost. I’m no medium (I’d honestly have to admit that I’m more of a “large”), but I don’t think they’d want you to fret as much as you do. They’d only want you to do your best with the days in front of you. And when you look back? To do so with a smile and keep moving.

Practicing what you preach is tough.  But living a life that isn’t aligned with my values?  That’s even harder.

Even when we’re on the road, we don’t eat at Chick-fil-a.  I know, I know.  They donated bottled water and food after the Orlando shootings.  But they also still donate heavily to at least one group that “deprograms” gay teens.  Um.  No.  Not with my money you’re not.  Of course, we eat out so seldom that I don’t think anyone at Chick-fil-a is worried about my stance.  Whatever.  I know.

But it has to be more than what we don’t do.  It has to be reflected in what we do.

My son is all about local restaurants.  His favorite is owned by a Palestinian family.  And clearly they believe in putting their money and efforts behind causes they believe in.  The owner and chef is teaching a cooking class called Tastes of Bethlehem.  It is offered through “The St. Louis Friends of Bethlehem.” This non-profit promotes arts, science and cultural exchanges between St. Louis and Bethlehem to increase understanding and promote peace and harmony.

Practice what you preach.  Do it right and in it looks a lot like living mindfully.

–SueBE

 

If two people are discussing education in America today, chances are that they are discussing the education crisis.  Me?  I’d like us to focus instead on the many teachers who inspire.  Why am I thinking of this right now?  I saw this post today:  “Thinking about changing my major to education! I like the idea of structuring your own class and being open to helping students!”

You know that a young man has had influential teachers when he is considering changing his major to education.  Good teachers not only help their students learn, they inspire them.  They are people who use their God-given talents for the good of all.

Not that we can all be teachers.  I helped in the classroom for about 20 minutes every morning when my son was in first grade.  By minute 18, I was glancing at the clock.  “Come on. . . come on. . .”  The kids were great but it wasn’t the place I was meant to be.

As the year draws to a close, I may be thinking about changing this up next year but I’ll still be writing. Writing is definitely my niche.

What about you? Have you found the place where you can use the talents God gave you?  Have you found a way to reach back and help another?

–SueBE

 

It’s a new year! Well, sort of. Advent marks the start of a new liturgical year in the Catholic Church. I suppose it is apropos that the new year begins with waiting. We spend such a vast amount of time doing it, after all: waiting in line (or “on line” if you’re from the Midwest), waiting for doctors and plumbers and cable repair persons, waiting for mail to arrive and children to get dressed and pets to do their business. Waiting to eat, to sleep, to give birth, to die.

All of life is waiting, in a way. Advent merely provides additional practice. But what are we waiting for? For a child to be born into a manger? That already happened. For that child to come again? Yes, but that’s constant, not necessarily Advent-specific. I think we’re really waiting for a change of heart.

Remember how you felt at Christmastime when you were a child? Remember when just seeing lights strung on houses and carols being sung could lift your heart right up to your throat? Somewhere along the line, we lose that sense of wonder. How can we get it back? Maybe that’s the challenge of Advent.

My father-in-law was manning the bell and kettle for the Salvation Army one Christmas, outside of a store, when a little boy — obviously disabled — came struggling up to him. In his mittened hand, he held a clutch of crumpled dollar bills. His mother explained that it was his Christmas money; he wanted to donate it to people who really needed it. My father-in-law still tells this tale with tears in his eyes.

This advent, I am waiting for that little boy — his spirit, anyway — to rise up in me like a tide and wash away my grown-up skepticism and wariness. I want to receive Christmas as purely and joyfully as a child. And I want to give away that pure joy as rapidly as it spools into my heart. I think that’s a worthy thing to wait for. Don’t you?

I’m not sure why, but when I saw it this quote reminded me of Lori’s “Inviting Christmas In.”  In her post, Lori wrote about how gift buying and gift wrapping can overpower our Christmas.

Is it just me or does the commercial onslaught seem to strike earlier and earlier every year?  Catalogues and Black Friday sales and Pre-Black Friday sales.  And all of the causes that want you to give – Nissan will give matching funds if you donate a small gift, only $300, right now.  And shouldn’t you add a security system to keep your family safe?  Don’t you care?

Okay, I’m going to admit it.  This time of year?  I don’t answer the door without looking first.  And I don’t bother with the peep-hole.  I look out my bedroom window.  Text me before you come over.  I find all the hard sells wearing so I just don’t engage.

Christ?  You saw the quote.  He comes uninvited too but he doesn’t ring the bell.  He comes when I sit quietly and sip my coffee next to the fireplace.  He joins me as I mix up a batch of candy for our cantata reception.  He’s beside me in the choir and as we hang our worries on the tree during out first Advent service.

Christ finds his way in.

–SueBE

Have a Mary Little Christmas

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