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When I was a kid, I lived in a colorful neighborhood. Take, for instance, our down-the-street neighbors. While not exactly bona fide hippies, they certainly bordered on “crunchy.” They refused to cut their lawn, to the eternal perturbation of the rest of the street, and to call their house an eyesore would be a denigration to ocular wounds.

Still, their daughter was in my class at school, so on one memorable occasion, I was forced to enter their domicile. It was then I learned that they kept spiders as pets. Not tarantulas, mind you, just ordinary, run-of-the-mill house spiders. In fact, they would not kill any creature that entered their home, and I suspect there were more than a few present.

Which brings me to my present quandary. There are two spiders living on my bathroom windowsill. Now, I’m not one of those people who falls to pieces at the sight of an arachnid. But I wouldn’t say I endorse their presence wholeheartedly, either. Yet I let these spiders live, partly because I don’t know what else to do.

The drought hereabouts has somehow caused a rampant uptick in the number of mosquitoes. I know, it sounds like backwards thinking, but when your rivers have turned to stagnant pools, mosquitoes come and mosquitoes stay. And I’m allergic to the little buggers. So the spiders on the windowsill and I have forged an uneasy truce: They can stay as long as they catch the even less-desirable trespassers, particularly mosquitoes. We forged a partnership — okay girls, all ten arms in…and break!

The whole situation’s got me thinking. Who am I to decide what lives and what dies — and yet I do it every day. Even as I live in uneasy alliance with the spiders, I have no trouble at all crushing other errant invaders, including other spiders. Two on the windowsill, fine. But one next to my hairspray? It’s squishing time!

I am aware that this may not be what is considered living in right relationship with all other living beings. God gave humans mastery over all creatures great and small, but in doing so, He expects us to follow His lead — to be protectors, to be caretakers…to serve, not command. But where does one draw the line? Must we live in buggy squalor, like my former neighbors, or do we have the right to say, “No. This is my home”? And how far does that sense of home extend — to our property line, our country, our universe? Is it okay to eradicate cockroaches but not okay to eradicate Indian rhinos? Who decides?

And so the cohabitation continues. One of these days, I will terminate the spiders’ tenancy. But I will feel bad about it. After all, what have I contributed to the world? At least the spiders kept their corner of the world in balance. Perhaps I should focus on doing the same.

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At my church, we say the Lord’s Prayer together as a congregation every week. This means that it is printed in our Bulletins and I have time to consider it line by line throughout the service.

Our Father
This is a big one for me. We don’t say My Father. We say Our Father. That means all of us. Not just the people who think like me and you. I need to try keeping this in mind as we work our way toward Election Day, especially when there are so many other people already questioning the religious devotion of someone who doesn’t see things their way. God doesn’t ask us to vote for one party or another. He asks us to Believe.

Thy will be done
On earth,
As it is in heaven.
Before I can do God’s will here on Earth, I need to learn what it is for any given situation. I’d like to say that I always remember to check in with Him before I do something major, but I don’t. This is especially true when I’m in the midst of something upsetting. Unfortunately, those are the times that I most need to discern what God’s will is.

Give us this day our daily bread.
The things that I need – such as food – come from God. In the Lord’s Prayer, Christ praised God for meeting the need for food before he mentioned sin (debt or trespasses). Praise God first. Truly thank Him.

And forgive us our debts,
As we forgive our debtors.
This one sometimes sends a chill down my spine. I am asking God to forgive me in the same way that I forgive others. This seems like a really good time to let go of grudges. None of us is perfect and we all fall far short of God even those of us who fill the pews on Sunday mornings.

Why not spend some time with The Lord’s Prayer this week and meditate on the parts that have special meaning for you?

–SueBE

Our Father,
Who art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy Name.
Thy Kingdom come.
Thy will be done
On earth,
As it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
As we forgive our debtors.
Lead us not into temptation,
But deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
and the power, and the glory forever.
Amen.

Ruth recently posted this, but I couldn’t find anything that matched so well.  I hope you’ll tolerate the reposting.

–SueBE

My son has a few friends he considers “brothers from another mother” and two of them are staying over at our house tonight.  I sent up a prayer of gratitude as they hung out, relaxed, as if they felt right at home.  I opened up an umbrella prayer and asked God to cover them all with it, now and as they grew into adulthood.

“Dear Lord, let them be happy.”

The house was filled with a warm/fuzzy feeling all day as I sat down to work on my computer.  I typed my simple prayer on the page and looked at it.

“Let them be happy.”

Huh.  How ‘bout that.  Is that God talking to me?

I looked at the page.

The first part of “Let them be happy” is this:

“Let them be.”

Now, honestly, there’s never been a more hovery helicopter mom than me, but I’m realizing there has to be a time when your kids are allowed to make some of their own choices.

I know it’s supposed to be my job to teach him, but as I look back, I’ve learned so many things from my son.

In the old days, when he’d come through the door, I’d say things like “Stand up straight!” or “You wore that shirt?”  His face went from a smile of “Glad to see my mom” to a frown of “I did something wrong and didn’t even realize it.”

Luckily for him – heck, luckily for me – I learned from this.

Now when he comes home, I literally clap my hands and dance around.  Sometimes I sing.  “My boy is home!  My boyyyy, is hoooome,” he acts as if he’s embarrassed by this display of affection (even if it’s just us at home), but he takes his sweet time walking in and down the hall.  He appreciates being appreciated.

I’ve also learned that there are many surefire ways to NOT get cooperation from a kid, in particular, a teen-ager.  Some masterfully ineffective methods include:

  • Criticizing him in front of his friends.
  • Standing over him, arms folded, frown fulminating.
  • Repeating a command before he’s had a chance to comply.
  • Cutting him off as he’s trying to respond.
  • Beginning a sentence, “You have no right to feel…”  Of course, I’ve got a story about this as well.

When my son was younger, I was on a rant about something he hadn’t done.  Cleaned his room, done his homework.  Doesn’t matter now.  But for some reason, I believed I had to be firm, which somehow translated to be a jerk and in my effort to discipline him, I showed him that sometimes parents don’t know any better than kids do how to behave.

He was upset with the way I was speaking to him and he said so.  Hands on hips, I said, “You have no right to feel that way,” and my son, all of seven years old, looked me in the eye and said, “Yes I do, Ma.  I have every right to feel this way. I can feel any way I want to.”

And he was right.  You feel how you feel.  My job isn’t to tell my son or anybody else how he to feel.  My job is to create an environment of lovingkindness and hopefully, he’ll feel free to be himself.

So the point I started to make – at the beginning of this post, some two miles back – is that when my son has friends over, I generally pop in to make sure everybody’s getting along and everybody gets a turn on the computer.  But if I keep stepping in and taking over, I’m stepping on toes and taking control from them.  As hard as it’s been, I’m learning to let them be.  It’s the only way I know to let the power of prayer settle in and the only way my son and his friends will learn how to be happy on their own terms.

It’s been a lot to learn, Lord.  But I’m listening.

This was one of my mother’s favorite contemporary songs.  How will they know we are Christians?  My our love.

–SueBE

A Circle that Is Wide and Unbroken.

This phrase has stuck with me since I read it early this morning. It made me think about how we go about doing God’s work each and every day.

Unless you’ve been in a black out of some kind, or glued to the Olympics, you probably heard about the Chick-fil-a hoo-ha. Both sides have been sniping at each other on-and-on. It sounds like a chicken coop. Dan Cathy’s detractors call for like-minded liberals to boycott the chain. Supporters decry liberals for trying to take away Cathy’s freedom of speech.

That always makes me smile. Did you notice that Christ never once talked about freedom of speech. Not one stinking time.

“Blessed are those who support freedom of speech for they shall ensure the rights of the tedious.”

Okay, that probably isn’t how he would have put it, but he didn’t say anything on the topic. Why? Because our big mouths have a tendency to get us into trouble no matter where we stand on an issue. So often, we would do better to just be quiet.

What could we do while we’re busy being quiet? Some things He actually told us to do:
Accept Him into our hearts,
Understand that we are Blessed through grace, not our own actions
Show His love to others.

In my heart I truly believe that we show His love when we create a circle that is wide and unbroken even in the face of hate. We don’t have to shout back. We don’t need to behave badly.

The students of Texas A&M showed the world just how this could work on July 5th when they surrounded Central Baptist Church in Bryan, Texas. They did this in a show of support for a fallen soldier, a soldier whose funeral was going to be protested by Westboro Baptist church. Watch the video. The A&M supporters shouted no slogans. They carried no signs. They simply stood together, surrounding the church and showing the family their support.

A circle that is wide and unbroken sends a very clear message. We are standing together, showing God’s love to someone who needs it.

–SueBE

Case study #1: I knew a friend was feeling, as she would say, “hinky.” She was quiet, and that’s unlike her. She seemed subdued, when her usual self is effervescent, like the bubbles in soda pop that tickle your nose and make you giggle. I knew this, and I did nothing. What if I’m wrong? I asked myself. What if there’s nothing wrong, and I just told her I think she’s depressed. Won’t she be miffed?

Of course not. There would have been no harm in asking. I was just so stuck in my own problems that I failed to respond to her. When I could have been Providence to her, consoling, loving, helping, I didn’t. What do I know about what she should do, I told myself. I can’t help.

No, but I could pray. I could offer support. Being providential doesn’t mean you have all the answers. You just do what you can to help someone see her way out of the dark. And while I can reassure myself that my friend doesn’t need me, that she can get there on her own, it still rings hollow. Being Providence means being present, and I wasn’t.

Case study #2: My friend was conflicted, in crisis. I gave him safe haven, a place to relax and think. I gave him good food, a listening ear, advice. I provided “attaboys” for his insights, offers to help with his plans for the future. Then, he turned around and did the opposite. He put himself right back into the chaos he claimed he was seeking escape from. Again, I failed in being Providence.

Or maybe not. Maybe my plan and God’s plan are entirely different. Or maybe my friend did right. It is his life, after all. Maybe I failed to hear what he was saying underneath his words. Or maybe sometimes people ask for help when they’ve already made up their minds. I don’t know.

All I know is that I failed when I didn’t reach out, and failed when I did. This being providential in the life of others is a tricky business. It requires vision that I don’t have. Or maybe my vision is the problem, because it’s right for me, but maybe not right for someone else. The trick is knowing what God would want for others.

I know He wants them to be happy. But how do I foster that? I know He wants them to be healthy. But what are my boundaries? How far can I intrude into someone else’s life?

Maybe all I can do in the end is say, “I love you. Wherever you go, whatever happens, I will love you and pray for the best for you.”

I only wish it felt like more.

Job 6:2-3 (NIV)

“If only my anguish could be weighed
and all my misery be placed on the scales!
It would surely outweigh the sand of the seas…”

1 Peter 5:6-7 (NIV)

Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand,
that he may lift you up in due time.
Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

Have a Mary Little Christmas

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