“Love” is a troublesome word, as our pastor pointed out at Mass last Saturday. “I say I love God,” he said, “but I also say I love hotdogs.” It’s a problem that many have tried to remedy. In the movie Annie Hall, Alvy struggles to explain his feelings — he doesn’t just love Annie, he “luffs her with two f’s.” In our own circle, SueBE, Ruth and I have turned to the word “loave.” Sue started it; in an exhausted stupor after working on her latest book, she nearly typed the word “loave” rather than “love” in an e-mail to the other two of us. Ruth, of course (with her love of wordplay), seized on it immediately. It now liberally dots our e-mails to each other. I like it, the way it summons up yeasty, warm rounds of bread, fresh from the oven. To bake bread for another: That’s love. Is there a bigger word than “love”? No, but we’re working on it.

How wide a word can contain
the heights of hope and the terror of loss?
How can a mouth move sufficiently to utter
what is utter — the strange shift in my chest
when I attempt to grasp the totality of You?
It is light. Heat. Pressure. Pain. Loosed bounds.
Open air. Joy. It is a rising, quick and breathless.
It is grounded to the earth. Perhaps it is a word
we cannot say. Our lungs ought to be trumpets.
Instead we cram its meaning into too small a box.
It lacks capacity, much like our hearts.
And so, “love” suffices. (Can you hear the
wordless word, thrumming in my veins,
bounding, banging, bursting, breaking?
It will deafen me yet, I fear.)

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An Attitude of Gratitude.  That’s one of those phrases you see around.  Remember to keep your chin up.  See the positive.

I’m not going to lie.  It isn’t always easy to do.  I remember standing at the end of a storm ravaged dining fly on a troop campout.  One end had been literally flattened.  We lost a tent so I slept in the car.

But come morning the sun was shining.  The stove had not been damaged so there was coffee.  And the chuck boxes held a supply of doughnuts. I didn’t realize I was humming until one of the leaders commented on it.

Yeah, we had a wicked clean up ahead of us but no one had been hurt. Not to mention there was coffee, doughnuts, and sunshine.

I’m between jobs at the moment.  Not to worry.  That’s one of those things that happens when you freelance.  And God always provides a new opportunity.  Until that happens, I’m working on my graphic novel and researching agents.  I’m going to yoga, meeting friends to walk and learning to use my loom.

Life isn’t perfect.  We aren’t perfect.  But that’s okay.  There’s still plenty to be grateful for.

–SueBE

Today I watched a TED video on adaptability.  The speaker discussed a meeting between John Antioco, the CEO of Blockbuster, and Reed Hastings, the CEO of Netflix.  Hastings wanted to create a partnership to manage Antioco’s online business.  Antioco wasn’t interested because Blockbuster was making millions through their stores.  Now that Blockbuster is bankrupt and gone, I wonder if Antioco even remembers that meeting?

What does this have to do with prayer or faith?  How many of our faith communities are stuck with a mindset similar to Antioco’s?  We are so focused on managing our current membership that we can’t even contemplate the possibilities of meeting our new neighbors, neighbors who may not look like us or worship like us.  Their needs might be fairly different too as their kids struggle in school because they lack language or other foundation skills.

This doesn’t even touch on the fact that many churches and faith communities also completely ignore our online neighbors.  When I talk to people at church about PrayPower, many of them trout. That’s my son’s cheeky term for staring glassy-eyed and mouth agape.  An online community?  How can that be?

Christ was a rebel.  He ate with tax collectors.  Women were leaders.  And he took the word of God beyond the traditional community.

Thank you for being part of the PrayPower online Faith community!

–SueBE

What is it that God wants us to do?  The question applies equally to tricky situations and big life choices.  There are a variety of ways to determine the answer.

Pray.  That one seems kind of obvious but how often do we remember to do it?  Should I take this class or that class?  Is this promotion a good choice?  What about giving money to this man with a sign?

Discernment.  Do you belong to a prayer group?  If so, ask the group to pray for you.  Ask them to listen for guidance.  Perhaps they can hear a message you cannot.

Read Scripture.  Often the answers to the questions we ask can be found in scripture.  Listen for God.  Help your neighbor (which extends to the broken lying in the road). Encourage your fellows in Christ.

Pray Again.  Remember, there is more than one way to pray.  You can use a prayer you have memorized such as the Lord’s Prayer (Thy will be done) or the Prayer of St. Francis (Let me not be).  You can pray while you draw or even while you walk.  Trace a finger labyrinth.  Sing.

Listen.  I don’t know about you but often I get so busy telling God what I want him to do, that I forget to listen.  But prayer is a conversation and, as any good conversationalist will tell you, conversation requires not only that you speak but also that you listen.

The answer may not be immediate.  Wait is also an answer and sometimes it is the one we least want to hear.

–SueBE

What do you do when you feel overwhelmed? It’s not just all in your head. Your experience is valid. Even if no one else shows up to support you, remember to show up for yourself.

Walk out of the room where negative notions gripped you. Keep walking until you find the room you’ve designated as Home Base. A grace-place where all is well, no matter what else is going on in the world. 

Search online for deep breathing techniques and calming music videos.

Watch a live stream from a cat cafe.

Breathe in through the nose. Out through the mouth. 

Remind yourself: You’re here, not there.

Be here, where that virtual cliff’s edge isn’t. Be where the worst that could happen, hasn’t.

Be in this breath. This breath is blessed.

Do something symbolic, like stretching toward the sky, reaching for the clouds. Light a candle. Watch old sitcoms. Go to Mayberry, or even Petticoat Junction. Everything’s okay there.

Talk to your own mind. Stay here. Don’t go down that dark alley that doesn’t really exist yet. In the peaceful place of yes, you may find the antidote to that no. Shelter in place until the looming doom passes. Keep the faith: The sun will rise again.

In my small city, like many small cities, retail is ebbing.  Not many stores can compete with Amazon and other online venues.  But just this week, three fliers have been dropped off for new business.  Two were for at home parties, like Tupperware.  The other was for a new auto shop.  I’m not into at home parties of any kind, but new businesses?  Yes!

So I was more than a little surprised when I popped by our community page and saw all the negative comments.  “How dare he put this flier on my car!”  “Don’t you have to have a license to distribute material?  Call the police.”  On and on and on it went.  People ended up looking petty and hateful.

Times like this, I miss my grandad.  His advice to these people would have been simple.  “You have too much time on your hands.  Isn’t there something better you could be doing?”

But then again, my grandparents were always busy.  I don’t remember ever seeing any convenience foods in the house.  And grandad tended a double lot without a riding mower.  I suspect my grandmother had a drier but I also remember hanging clothes.  Pegging jeans to the line meant keeping the legs off the ground. By the time you reached the end of the line, literally, the jeans on the other end would be almost dry.  The wonder of high desert air.

Put your device down.  Get busy doing something with your hands.  If you don’t have a meal to prepare or clothes to wash, folding them in prayer would be another option.  And, honestly, isn’t it a better way to spend your time?

–SueBE

 

 

Sometimes I look in the mirror and wonder just whom I’m looking at. The face, the body…none of it seems familiar to me. I don’t just mean the wrinkles that cross the bridge of my nose or drag down the corners of my mouth. It’s more than that. I find myself looking for recognizable signposts: the purple mark above my right knee, the scars from a childhood double-whammy of chicken pox and rubella. Getting older is scary. Good thing we don’t have to do it alone.

The hands I know, but they are my mother’s;
the square face an artifact from Germany, I think.
My hair — impossible curls after a lifetime
of lying listlessly but reliably straight.
I cannot find myself in my own face,
though I search for traces like a dog
sniffing clues. Who is this strange woman
haunting my mirror like a cautionary tale?
I have not chanted “Bloody Mary,” yet here
she is, her visage a map of days, of years.
Where was I during this time? Asleep?
But Sleeping Beauty never aged like this.
Or perhaps I was inside, cleaning house.
I hope I was. One day, my soul will rise
to meet me, as familiar as the ache
in my ankle when weather turns cold.
She will lead the stranger home.
And I will know myself at last.

As I headed to the community center to drop my son off at work, I spotted a group of kids with a lemonade stand.  How cool is that?  I would definitely stop on the way home – unless it was the pit bull house.  Several neighbors had spoken to me about this woman – her vicious dog, her bad attitude and her trashy kids.

Really, you had to call the kids names?  Pick on kids or an animal and you’ve lost me.  That’s just the way it is.  Still, this woman has never been anything but cold to me.

But the kids were so enthusiastic when I drove by on the way home, waving their sign and trying to flag me down.  I pulled into my drive and got several dollars out of my purse.  Then I hiked back up the street, hoping for the best.

As I got crossed to their side, the little boy started cheering.  “Here comes a lady.  Here she comes.”  Seriously, we should all get such an enthusiastic greeting.

His sister, about ten, was much less enthused but she was polite.  She and her mother told me they were raising money for school supplies.  They had hand squeezed lemonade, kool ade, pop corn, pickels and chips.  I was impressed that the kids both had on food service gloves as they filled my cup with ice and pushed the button on the lemonade dispenser.

Mom and I discussed the new school arrangement – our district has rezoned all schools.  Our local grade school is no longer K through 6 but is now pre-K through 2.  The school about 2 miles away is 3 through 5 which is where the daughter will be going.  She’s nervous about being bussed so I told her a bit about my own experience being bussed.  “You are so much closer than I was.  Your mom will be super handy if there’s a problem.”  “Really?”  “Oh, yeah.  She’s not going to let you be too far away.”

Mom and I had a really nice chat.  We talked about the history of the district.  We talked about other districts that have made similar changes.  And then I wished the kids good luck as they moved on to wait on their next customer.

I walked home with a cold glass of lemonade in my hand, glad I listened to that small voice that told me to stop.

–SueBE

It isn’t like I’m a narcissist.  I don’t think I’m universally beloved, but I do manage to get on okay with most people. That said, I know I rub some people the wrong way.  One woman in my yoga class makes a point of inserting herself into whatever group I’m in that particular day.  And then, when I annoy her, which I invariably do, she visibly clenches her hands into fists.  Sometimes she even makes a face.

I have to admit that I have no clue how to deal with this woman.  On a good day, I just take a deep breath and let it slide.  On a less good day, I’m tempted to ask her if she’s having a seizure.  Do we need to call an ambulance?  But that’s also poking fun at her which I know is wrong.

I know it, but I sure do have a hard time remembering it.  Today I simply turned and walked to the other side of the room, taking my place and doing some deep breathing exercises.  Pause, inhale. Pause, exhale.  Pause, inhale.  Pause exhale.

This is definitely better than asking about seizures but better still would be to pray.

I know, I know, I could ask her what is wrong.  But I’m seriously still really tempted to be a smarty pants and I’m pretty certain that actually trying to discuss it would be more than my weak will could withstand.  Pause inhale.  Pause exhale.

I know I’m not universally loved.  But I also know that I have extreme smarty pants tendencies.

Pause inhale.

Pause exhale.

And pray.

–SueBE

Psychiatrist: Let me teach you how to be yourself.

Oprah: Live your best life! Be your authentic self.

Peers: Whatever you do, don’t be yourself. 

The US RDA (Recommended Daily Amount) of “Being Yourself-ness” has been determined to be: 10%. So, feel free to be yourself for just ten (10) percent of the day.

For the rest of the day, it is suggested that you conform to societal expectations. That way, you’ll be in the habit of conforming when we offer you these BS (Uhhh…“Being Scientific.” Prayer blog, mind you) studies that tell you how to live.

We’re a government agency and always have your best interests at (automated, robot-like) heart. You can trust us! Check in daily with our conformity mechanisms (social media) to make sure you’re in line with everyone else. 

Okay. Let’s just press the “Eject” button on all of this bunk.

As your Virtual Kindly-Auntie (patent pending), dear readers, I’d like to remind you that you’re okay just as you are. Sure, there are things you’d like to improve about yourself and your situation, but start here: you’re okay. There are those who will try to make you feel like you’re not okay. Shut out all that noise as best you can. Later on, when you look back on your life, at least you’ll know you showed up as yourself. Godspeed, dear hearts!

Have a Mary Little Christmas

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