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“Coincidence” –
otherwise known as
Colliding with Providence
happens to us all.

You’ll come upon a path now and again
and learn from the brambles and mud
things you couldn’t learn, serene in the meadow.

Hope is where you store your valuables
(your soul, the people you love, dreams of a better life)
until you make it safely through the storm
and wend your way to the clearing.

Walking through the mall, I saw a woman in the juniors’ department dressed to be noticed – stylish belt slung low on the hip.  Cleavage busting out all over.  Hair teased beyond the point of no return.  Bright blue eye shadow.  Spidery black eyelashes.  Stiletto boots with pointy toes.

Normally I wouldn’t even notice this type of thing, but in this case, I did a double take.  You see, the woman was probably about 70 years old.

At first I thought I was exempted from “judgeyness” because I was just worried that some gaggle of teenagers might make fun of her.

But what if they did?  First off, I judged the teenagers.  As if judgment was only the domain of teenagers.  But I just judged them.

”Help her be true to herself,” I prayed, thinking I was expressing some kind of Christian concern.

But what if she was being true to herself?

Here I was worried that she’d be mocked and it would hurt her, yet my pity was more corrosive.  At least if someone has an opinion of her, she’s not invisible, as I expected her to be at 70.  I passed by dozens of other older people in the mall.  And I do not remember a one of them.  But I remember her.

What did I expect of her at 70?  That she dress “age-appropriately?”

Orthopedic  shoes, support hose and a shawl?  How about a walker too for full effect?

All that said, I went to the mall in sweats and sneakers, my hair stuffed hastily into a pony tail:  in a word, grungy.  Only God knows how many people passed me in the mall and prayed the same prayer for me!

At the end of the day, there’s no dress code for kindness.  Everybody’s doing what they think is best, so live and let live.  Lori’s beautiful post this week is about holiness, and it made me realize how easy it is to lapse into “holier-than-thou-ness.”  God doesn’t give you the up-down before He blesses your life.  He looks at the heart and character.  Not the haute couture.

Her name is Trudy, and she has a smile that could light up a room. She is sitting next to me at the teppanyaki table, and we exchange a glance when the waiter gets her drink order wrong. Soon, we are chatting. Turns out, her family lost their home in the April storms. Gone…just like that. They couldn’t stand being cooped up — all five of them — in the tiny trailer the government provided for them, so Trudy and her husband are taking a well-deserved night off, away from their kids, the youngest of whom is just six. They still have nightmares about the tornado.

It has occurred to me lately that holiness is not something that can be achieved in stasis; it must be worked on daily, and with great concentration. It is an action verb. Although it is all well and good to care about others, unless that care is backed up with concrete action, the work of holiness will not be done.

This prospect scares me. I honestly can’t see myself out on the streets, ministering to the homeless or in a hospital, holding the hands of the dying. As much as I feel I ought to be doing these things, I’m held back by my own inadequacies. I’m not much of a nurturer. I’m more of a contemplative, a scholar, a thinker. And it occurs to me that this stands as something of a barrier to holiness.

And then it struck me. “Pray” may not sound like an action verb, but it is. As are “listen,” “empathize,” “smile” and — dare I say it? — “write.” I may not be cut out for the same kinds of holiness as someone else is, but perhaps God made me just right after all…with my own avenues to holiness.

Back to Trudy: She thanks me for listening and calls me a “good person.” I feel blessed to have met her and tell her I will keep her in my prayers. And I have. Because holiness is job #1, and like all jobs, it requires my most tenacious and heartfelt labor. Funny thing though…it doesn’t feel like labor. In fact, it feels a whole lot like joy.

Today is World Wide Communion.

As a Presbyterian, I happen to think that the way we celebrate communion is pretty awesome. We have what is called open communion. That means that as long as you accept Christ, you may take communion.

Not a member of our particular church? That’s okay.

Don’t go to a church in our presbytery? That doesn’t matter.

Not even a Presbyterian? That’s okay, too.

All you have to be is a follower of Christ.

World Wide Communion emphasizes that even more. No matter where you live, how your church worships and how you take communion, we are all joined together in an outward act that celebrates something that happens inside each and every one of us as we accept Christ into our heart.

Our politics may differ. We may not agree on pivot issues like abortion, gay rights, the death penalty, and environmental protection. But in this act, we celebrate Christ and his sacrifice for us. This unites us all within our communities, across our nations and even world wide.

How mind bogglingly awesome is that?

–SueBE

The Blues Brothers weren’t the only ones on a mission from God — we all are. The difficulty lies in finding your mission. No one is going to hand it to you in an envelope marked “Top Secret.” The tape will not self-destruct in three, two, one…. You must discover your mission on your own. Well, not exactly alone. But we’ll get to that in a bit.

Your job is unlikely to be your mission, though it can be, especially if you are a teacher or doctor or nurse or police officer or firefighter — any profession that serves, often with personal sacrifice as a built-in job requirement. For all the rest of us, our mission is separate from our occupation. So how do we find it? And, perhaps more importantly, why should we care?

Ever feel like there’s more to life than what you’re living? Ever wonder what you were put on Earth to accomplish? That’s where “mission” comes in. Call it a calling. Call it a quest. It gives life meaning, purpose. It gives us a reason to live.

Think of the things that matter most to you. Perhaps your mission is to be a parent. Maybe you’re meant to advance humankind in some way. When it comes to mission, size doesn’t matter. All missions are sacred. And that’s why you’re not alone — God is in it with you. Grace, freely given gift, will guide you to your mission. Only don’t expect a knock on the head. “Mission” demands to be deeply felt. To see what the exterior of your life should look like, you must go interior. Pray, meditate. Feel your way forward.

And don’t expect to see things mapped out for you. Missions must sometimes be taken in baby steps, groping forward bit by bit. As long as we continue to push ourselves forward, we are on the right path. My mission, as I see it, is to move closer to God, to walk with Him through the written word. Gift plus intention equals mission.

So…what is your mission?

I don’t remember who recommended the book to me, but I think it was someone from church. As much as I love to read, John Danforth’s Faith and Politics didn’t initially tempt me. A lot of that had to do with the subtitle, How the “Moral Values” Debate Divides America and How to Move Forward Together. Forward? Together? Is it even possible?

You could easily ask yourself that question if you’ve spent any time on Facebook. Hate filled posts claim to support the Republican Party but actually bash Obama and Democratic supporters. Sanctimonious rants seem to shore up Obama but generally just flip the bird at Romney and the Republican right.

Me? I’d like to issue a challenge to Christian voters.

Stop.

(Step 1) Stop forwarding inflammatory e-mails. Can’t tell if it’s inflammatory? If it challenges the intelligence or morals of the party or candidate you don’t normally vote for, then it is probably inflammatory.

(Step 2) Stop reposting hysterical memes and wall photos on Facebook. Can’t tell if its hysterical? Does it claim things are worse now then ever before? We will never survive X, Y or Z? That’s hysterics, folks.

(Step 3) Stop commenting when someone posts something inflammatory or hysterical. This means don’t support them or pan them. Simply go on about your day.

Now, here are two things to do, because there’s so much more to being a Christian Voter than simply not being a hysterical flame thrower.

(Step 4) Pray for the person in office. No, I don’t mean pray for them to lose the reelection. Pray that they have wisdom. Pray that they get the support that they need to do good in this world. Why should you do this if your party isn’t in office? Because Christians are called on to respect those in authority (Romans 13: 1-7) and to pray for those who govern (2 Timothy 2: 1-4).

(Step 5) Turn off the TV. Quit listening to politics on the radio. Both are driven by ratings and revenue – money, money, money. Spreading facts and truth is much less important than winding people up and getting them to wind other people up.

It may not sound like much, but if Christian voters from both parties would take these steps, we could once again see each other as both committed Christians and Americans working towards a common goal.

–SueBE

Have a Mary Little Christmas

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