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Every now and again I manage to delude myself into thinking that I’m in control of my own life, and I’m doing a pretty fine job. Sometimes this feeling lasts for days. Sometimes it lasts for months. Eventually something happens that makes me see just how delusional that line of thinking really is.

I entered summer on a high. I’d written five books in 15 months. The first was already out, the fourth already getting good reviews based on the galleys, and I had the summer ahead of me to take some time off.

It was still June when I started having troubles walking and sitting. Then in hurt when I stood and when I spent time in bed.

Fortunately, it was a pretty easy diagnosis. I have sciatica and, as sciatica goes, I had a pretty mild case. But the funny thing about a mild illness is that, even if it is only mildly painful but keeps you from sleeping or being active, it isn’t long before you’re in the dumps.

It is amazing how willing I am at times like that to declare that I am not self-made. Yeah, I see the irony. Sitting at a desk, bad posture and not paying attention to the ergonomics of my work space. There was a lot I could have done to reduce even this mild sciatica, yet now I was willing to acknowledge God as my creator.

But God wasn’t done with me yet. What can I say? I can be a little slow to catch on.

Even as I got better, the depression got worse. But that’s when another irony hit me. I was now willing to admit that I’m not self-made and I am part of His creation. That means that I am part of the family of believers. I didn’t have to go through this alone, but that’s what I’d been doing. I hadn’t asked even my closest friends for prayer. In fact, I’d mentioned it to almost no one but that needed to change. A few people here and a few people there, I let my sisters and brothers in Christ know what was going on.

Honestly, for an introvert like me, the response was a tad overwhelming. Lori and Ruth have, not surprisingly, numbered among my prayer champions. Their encouraging e-mails have lifted me up.

Then there are the people from my church. One woman broke her hip this spring. She’s still using a cane but she managed to catch me in the hall. How am I doing and do I need the name of a good doctor? Then there’s the friend whose father-in-law just died. I almost ended up in tears when he stopped me at the wake to ask how I was doing.

Prayer after prayer, things are looking up. I wouldn’t say that I’m at 100% and ready to go it alone, but isn’t that the point? Going it alone isn’t something I need to do because I am His and we are many.

–SueBE

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For every cause, there is a backlash. Express dismay at the killing of African lions, and you will inevitably hear, “Who cares about lions? What about the poor?” Express compassion for immigrants, and someone in the crowd will doubtless pipe up, “Forget about immigrants! What about our veterans?” Whatever cause one takes up, whichever banner one chooses to fly, someone out there is ready to criticize.

As if there isn’t enough love and concern for everyone. As if human caring had limitations, a “use-by” date, or came in tiny bottles that could never be refilled. The truth is that God is love, unlimited love, and God courses this love through us and to us, to be sent out of ourselves and into the world in great gushing floods. There is no using up love.

There is also no limit on suffering. People suffer — children, the elderly, all races, all creeds. Animals suffer. The environment suffers. At times, it can seem overwhelming. That is where God comes in.

God has given each one of us finely tuned sensitivities toward certain sufferings. Some of us feel keenly for animals. Others feel a bond with those suffering from a particular disability, physical or mental. The point is, there are no wrong answers. Just because your neighbor chooses an interest in politics as a means of social change while you would rather help out at the soup kitchen doesn’t make either of you less than. All caring is important. And all means of caring — whether it’s hands-on or in the silence of prayer — matters.

Instead of chiding one another, why not celebrate the diversity of caring, the multiplicity of channels for the outpouring of love? In the end, we all have the same goal in mind: the betterment of the world. That’s good. That’s what our mission on earth is, as human beings. We are meant to love, built to love. And no two persons are going to do it in quite the same way.

And that’s okay.

This scripture was posted on an inspirational blog that I follow, B is for Blessed, and it really took hold in my soul.

I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 3:14 (NKJV)

Today is my 50th birthday, and this phrase resonated with me, since some say that our best years are behind us. You might think, it’s all downhill from here! As it happens, that’s not actually the case.

Turning fifty is supposed to be a milestone, but as it turns out, it’s just another day on the calendar. As I look back on my life, some of the true milestones flew under the radar, such as that moment a few years ago when I realized how important it is to figure out what you don’t want in life – that’s how you draft the map in your mind to your soul’s sacred space.

Milestones are stepping stones, like bricks on the path toward the life you want to create.

The upward call says it all. Keep pushing toward a goal. Have a sense of purpose. Indulge your passion. Even if you’ve got health issues. Keep going. Even if you don’t know how to get what you want out of life. Start stepping.

Moving in any direction is better than standing still. Get up. Get dressed. Get to work. If you stay rooted to the spot you’re sitting in, you’ll have no incentive to expand your world. If there’s a mountain in your way, get your hard hat on. It’s time to dig out of the trenches.

One of the keys to making progress is not looking back. Re-playing bad scenes from the past is like paying admission to see an awful movie you hated the first time.

Never forget as you navigate this world that you’ve got a silent partner and a hotline to heaven called “prayer.”

I say, onward and upward. It’s not about the calendar, it’s about the calling. It’s not about the “days of yore,” it’s about what’s in store.  No matter your age, keep the faith: the best is yet to come.

Last week, Lori wrote about Cecil, the famous Zimbabwean lion killed by an American dentist/big game hunter. I have to admit, when I saw the first post, I thought it was a hoax. I just couldn’t wrap my mind around the fact that this man would do this and photograph it.  I still don’t get it, but I sure didn’t predict all of the repercussions.

When a friend posted about Cecil, someone commented on her post. How could she possibly care about this lion and not about all the poor aborted babies?  What kind of a monster is she?

Still trying to sort things out, she posted about how strange it was that people thought you could care about only one issue at a time. Why couldn’t she care about trophy hunting and something else?  Someone commented on that post, slamming her for comparing trophy hunting to the PTSD suffered by Black Americans who live as a hated minority. Round and round it went.

What do you say when emotions run so high?

As an introvert, I know that coming up with the words myself is out of the question. Put me on the spot, make me feel like a target and, at best, I’m going to freeze. At worst, I’m going to say something snippy or mean just to get whoever it is to back away and leave me be.

The best that I can at times like this is take a deep breath and let God speak.  Often it takes more than a deep breath to find that Christ-filled center. I know people who seem to find it at a moment’s notice but I am not one of those people.  For me, it takes time.  It often takes a bit of quiet and perhaps a bit of music like this anthem.  Because truly, it is the best that I can hope for when feelings run high or at any other time.  God Be In My Head.

–SueBE

Have a Mary Little Christmas

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