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Paleo or pescetarianism? Lacto-ovo free or gluten-free? Special diets abound these days, and it can give a spiritual person quite a bit of food for thought. On the one hand, vegan living is lighter on the land — animal flesh being a resource-draining food product as well as a moral conundrum for many. On the other hand, I can’t imagine God making human beings omnivores as some kind of cruel joke: Cats are obligate carnivores; they die without meat. I don’t judge my cats for eating meat. They are as God made them. And so am I. On the third hand….

With so many options out there, it’s easy to lose one’s bearings. What to do? Here are some ideas to chew on:

  •  If you choose to eat meat, own your choice. I know people who have no problem chowing down on a nice, juicy steak, but cannot bear to touch raw meat with their own hands. That’s a problem. I personally think that every meat-eater should be required to watch a video showing how hotdogs are made (I have!), just so they understand what they are committing to. Don’t get me wrong — I’m a carnivore. But I accept what that means, ethically and physically speaking. Which leads me to my next point…
  • Buy local foods. It’s lovely to open a carton of eggs and know exactly where the hens that laid them reside, to look at their varying colors and catch a glimpse of the many-hued feathers of their originators. Local food tastes better and is good for the community. You exercise more control in buying locally because you know where your food is coming from, how it is raised (without pesticides, for instance, or free-range), and whom it supports.
  • Buy ethically. If you can’t buy locally, take care to favor providers who do act in an ethical manner. Know whether your milk is hormone-free, if that matters to you. Don’t buy from corporations who treat their workers poorly, who pollute, or who engage in other dubious practices. One way to know: Look for Ellis Jones’ Better World Shopping Guide.
  • Remember that food is for nourishment. It is not the enemy. It is not your friend. It is morally neutral. How you use it, however, is another thing altogether. If you obsess over every mouthful or restrict your diet needlessly, you may have a problem. If you rely on food for comfort (as I sometimes do), you are looking for love in all the wrong places. Food shouldn’t hurt your body.
  • Remember, too, that most of the world isn’t having this conversation. Food is so scarce in most of the world, the scrutiny we affix to it would be laughable if starving people could, in fact, laugh. Don’t take food for granted. Don’t waste it. Do what you can so that others less fortunate might eat, too.

Need an example to follow? Who better than Jesus? While the Bible notes a few examples of meals he consumed, we also hear about him fasting. It does not appear that our Lord placed a whole lot of emphasis on food: He provided it to others when needed, understood that the hungry should be fed, but did not spend his energy thinking about it. He ate as his mother ate, as his people ate. He ate the foods of his locale. He ate to live, not vice-versa.

Your own moral compass must inform your food decisions, whether you choose vegetarianism or raw foods or a steady diet of cheeseburgers. A chef I know once said (and I paraphrase) that when he ate a carrot, he thanked God and thanked the carrot, and when he ate duck, he thanked God and thanked the duck. That seems to me a viable happy medium. Bon apétit!

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pick the fruit

Death and life are in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof.  Proverbs 18:21 KJV

You’ve probably heard this passage from Proverbs, but the translation from the Bible version called “the Message” really stopped me in my tracks.

Words kill, words give life; they’re either poison or fruit—you choose.

Wow! This one really brings it home in a jarring way. And I remembered many times when this was the gospel truth in my life.

Like that time in the ER last month, when the nurse was about to draw blood. I was comforted by the fact that she was about my age. She must have loads of experience, I thought. Just as she was about to poke me with the needle, I glanced at her name tag. “Nurse Intern,” it said. Uh-oh, said my mind. “Big stick,” she said as she inserted the needle. And sure enough, it felt like she was stabbing me with a big stick. Oh, joy!

Other nurses have used different words. The best one said, “Little pinch,” as she inserted the needle, and, true to her word, it did just feel like a little pinch.

A friend of my son’s mentioned that a teacher told him that he has ADHD. I said, “Well, I think all Americans have it to some degree since we’re constantly multi-tasking and can’t focus fully on anything.”

While he may have ADHD, I didn’t want to put poison into his psyche. Labels are limiting. They say, This is all you can accomplish in life, as if you’re not “up-to-par.”

God created you; that’s all I need to know. If he gave you a condition, you will learn to work around it. You can do anything you set your mind to. Resources will come. Doors will open. Your life will be magnificent.

Aren’t those words of encouragement better for your soul than ones that wound, or make you feel like you can’t make it in life? If you liked hearing them, pass them on. Whenever you’re faced with the choice of words that hurt or words that heal, my advice to you is simple: pick the fruit; control the poison.

In her most recent post, She’s Not There, Lori wrote about the tendency that women have to compare themselves to each other and just how catty we can get about it.

It reminded me of one of the scout mom’s I used to work with.  She spent a great deal of time comparing other children to her son.  Needless to say the other child always came out on the short end and she’d point it out. One day she drove the another scout mom to distraction

“Can you believe what she just said?” Um, no. I hadn’t been listening.

“Was she talking about you?”

“No!  But it was just rude.”

“Did she say God Bless him at the end?”

“Yes!”

“Oh, then it doesn’t count.  It’s a southern get-out-of-jail free card. You can say something like ‘that boy’s dumb as a box of rocks, God Bless him.’ And it’s totally okay, as long as you say God Bless Him. But it only applies to rudeness. You still can’t wear white dress shoes before Memorial Day or back over the neighbor’s mailbox.”

I’m not sure the Midwestern mom ever believed me, but I’d grown up hearing my grandmother and her sister’s use this particular phrase. No, it didn’t really excuse the rude things that were being said, but somehow everyone acted like it did.

How much better to bless those around us and truly mean it?

I conducted a little experiment during Lent. Instead of giving something up, I prayed for my enemies. Admittedly, I don’t have real enemies but you know what I mean.  I prayed for the people who annoy me.

Guess what?  As the weeks wore on, my attitude towards these people changed.  I no longer had that tense feeling when I saw one of them.  In fact, I wasn’t 100% certain why some of them had ever annoyed me.

It seems that asking God to Bless them had unexpected consequences.  The next time I’m tempted to say something cutting about someone, God Bless ‘em, I hope that I remember to really and truly bless them instead.

–SueBE

Last week, Ruth wrote about a phenomenon that spoke to me: Women, after age 49, become invisible. (Coda: Not to each other. There is still awkward judgment involved in our interpersonal interactions, uncomfortable sizing up — “Is she as far gone as I am?” — that seems to continue until about age 65, when all but the most vain of us finally settle down into the reality of our looks. I wish it weren’t so, but it is.) I’ve got no problem with that. In fact, as I wrote in the comments section, it is oddly freeing.

Women spend most of their lifetime being judged on their looks. Fact. When, suddenly, the world seems not to care anymore, it can be something of a relief. Will anyone notice if I don’t put on makeup to go to the store? Probably not. Cool; that slices three minutes off my (obviously not terribly arduous) “getting ready” schedule.

At six feet tall, I’m used to being gawked at. Used, even, to being called “sir,” “dude,” even “big guy,” from a distance or to my face. But while I don’t mind disappearing as a woman, I’ve never had any interest in “showing up” as a man. It is hurtful to be desexed in public. Invisibility is infinitely preferable.

Invisibility has other plusses, too. It allows long, intimate stretches of “alone time.” What better way to get to know one’s self — deeply, truly — than enforced solitariness? And at 50, it is high time to find one’s self, if one hasn’t already done so. Also, as Ruth so ably pointed out in the comment section, it’s rather nice to disappear from the radar of advertisers and the media. They never authentically cared about me, anyway.

But you know who does care about me — about all of us? God. Becoming invisible deliciously accentuates this. The world may not see me, but God does. Without the distraction of the world’s eyes on me, I can focus more readily on my Creator. I can begin a renewed relationship with God, something richer and deeper than anything I’ve experienced before. God loves me post-50. God loves that I know myself better, that I’m starting to really think about the essentials of life — and less about my career, my status, my appearance. God is here for me in my journey. And I don’t miss being seen by anyone else. The most important eyes in the universe are on me. I am basking.

The last dance, the final shedding of our lives on earth, is still to come. That’s a dance we must all each undertake alone. I thank our youth-obsessed culture for withdrawing from me; I embrace invisibility, because it gives me needed practice for that final dance. Just me and my God. And that (to reference another song) really is the way I always heard it should be.

Most days, my morning starts with CBS This Morning. Last week, newscaster Gayle King interviewed actor Matthew Perry and put his whole life into a neat, yet negative, nutshell:

  • You had been on a hit show, Friends.
  • You’ve done other shows since and they have not been successful.
  • You had a serious drug addiction and struggled with fame.
  • You’re starring in a remake of the Odd Couple, which will be tough to make a hit, since the original show was iconic.
  • You’ve dated famous women through the years; those relationships didn’t work out. Who are you dating currently?

So she “bullet-pointed” his life, as if this is the sum total of who he is.

For a moment, his face registered real emotion – it seemed to be a combination of surprise, since his show will be on this same network, and hurt, since, like, he’s a human being. Recovering quickly, he went back into his regular actor-guy persona and dutifully recited talking points about his new show.

So often, we “bullet-point” our own lives, thinking the boxes containing our troubles really have anything to do with who we actually are.

Do we think of ourselves in this way:

  • Sick
  • Sad
  • Strapped
  • Struggling

Or in this way, which is the truth:

  • Cherished
  • Chosen
  • Child of God
  • Champion

God didn’t go through all this trouble – knitting you together in your mother’s womb, making you this quirky bundle of wonderful – so you could drag yourself through the day, barely holding on in life. Don’t think of your short-comings. Think of your long-goings, to coin a term. Think of the long game. Focus on what you want out of your life instead the pile of things distracting you.

So, next time somebody aims that bullet-point in your direction, set them straight. You can’t be put into a box or pegged by parentheses. You’re not an afterthought or an addendum. You’re an original, one-of-a-kind with fingerprints and forensics tracing your lineage to a Higher Authority.

Bullet-point that, world!

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…

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