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presenceWhat is that?  That would be my yoga mat.  When it isn’t at yoga with me, it is in the umbrella stand.  Yes, the umbrella stand is actually a pickle crock, and, yes, that is a hazard tape hung on a piece of bamboo.  I’m not sure why, but the boy put it there.  But you’re supposed to be focusing on the yoga mat.

Finding time to spend in the presence of God is tricky.  Since I work at home, there is always something that I could do be doing job wise.  And house work wise.  And family wise.  I may have the best of intentions but if anyone can find me — forget it.

This is one of the reasons that I love yoga.  Monday and Wednesday from 9 am to 10 am, I am in our city’s gym with 39 other yoga students and their yoga mats.  Yes, we stretch and push ourselves.  Yes, we focus on our breath.  But for 10 minutes at the end of each session, we simply are.

Each of us on our own yoga mat.  I know I’m not the only one who uses this time to seek His presence.  The lady next to me sometimes prays audibly.  There are people who cross themselves at the end of relaxation.  And I’m sure that I’m not the only one who uses this time to simply be and listen.

Presence.  It isn’t what I was expecting to get out of yoga but it has been one of the biggest blessings.

–SueBE

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forgivenessThe word for today is Forgiveness.  Admittedly, forgiveness is something that I need to work on.  While I am confident that God will forgive me, because he’s just awesome like that, I’m not always fantastic about forgiving other people.  Don’t worry, I see the problem with this but that doesn’t make actually forgiving any easier especially when some of the the people I need to forgive are impossible to avoid.  AND the things for which I need to forgive them are ongoing.

I know that I’m not the only person with this kind of a problem.  I’m certain of it because our Sunday school class is studying . . . forgiveness (see the study material to the right).  As we read the Bible and discuss forgiveness and faith, we also tell stories.  I’m amazed how similiar some of them are to my own situation — yet many of these people suceeded in forgiving day after day after day.

Clearly, I have something to take to God in prayer. I can’t do this on my own.

–SueBE

 

mercyI’m not sure why it is but I also feel God’s mercy as I see the earliest of the spring flowers.  These are crocus and they will bloom right through the snow.  They are almost done blooming but then we’ll have the daffodils and forsythia.

What is it about the bright yellow, the violet and the white that makes me realize that in spite of the bleakness of my soul, I am truly and deeply loved?

–SueBE

confessionThis probably wasn’t what the editor’s of Alive Now had in mind when they chose “confession” as a prompt.

But I have to confess — if this is how you approach me, you probably aren’t going to get what you want.  I don’t respond well to hysteria, in part, because for generations this is how the women in my family got their way.  They could, as a group, go from calm to complete hysteria in moments.

Because of this, when someone tries to rant me into helping them out with something, they very seldom get the help they need.  It may very well be a legitimate request but as soon as I hear hyperbole and the emotional black mail begins . . . I’m sorry.  Are you still talking to me?  I quit listening.

Is it something I need to change about myself?  I’m not sure.  I’ll be taking it to God in prayer.

Calmly.

No rants involved.

–SueBE

heart and hands

At eight years old, my son taught me an important lesson in body language and soul-speak.

After walking home from the bus stop, he came through the door, smiling.

In quick succession, I issued a list of his moving violations.

  • You wore that shirt?
  • Don’t slouch! 
  • You forgot your homework again.

Posture adjustment.

From “Glad to be home from school – oh look, there’s my Mom!”

to “Guess I did something wrong and didn’t even know it.”

Looked like a tiny candle’s flame, fading. Flickering out. Poof!

That very day, I learned something. I felt terrible that I had made my own child feel so terrible.

Next afternoon, I started a new tradition.

Since that time and to this day, when he comes home from school, I don’t harp or hassle or harangue. I don’t carp or criticize or cauterize with my words.

Front door opens. I dance.

Flail around like a dadblamed fool.

Like a cheerleader hailing a champion.

I clap my hands and sing. “My son is home! My sooooon is hooooome. Yay! Tell me all about your day, son,” as if talking to Magellan, returning from high seas with tall tales.

Sure, he may roll his eyes at such a dramatic display of MotherLove; still, he walks slowly down the hall to his room, as if secretly appreciating being appreciated.

Teaching is a part of life for all of us, but I’ve never learned anything from being yelled at, picked on or beaten down.

My son may have been the one coming home from school, but I’m the one who learned a lesson.

Note to self: When people you love come home, make them feel at home.

Love your loved ones.

Sounds obvious, but this basic truth can get lost in translation. I’m so glad I finally listened.

BelovedLittle did I know that Pastor Sean’s sermon would play into the Lent Photo Challenge.  The word today?  Beloved.  The sermon topic?  The Prodigal Son.  At right is a detail from a painting, The Prodigal Son Returns, by Soichi Watanabe.

About once a month, Pastor Sean delivers a sermon accompanied by a slide show.  He used this image as one of the slides.

The good news for all of us is that God loves us in the same way that the Father loved the Prodigal Son.

The son asked his father for his inheritance.  He wanted to have access to it even before his father died and it wasn’t because he had a business opportunity.  He squandered it on wine and women.  When his money was gone, a famine struck the land and he had to take a job feeding another man’s pigs.  When he realized that he envied the pigs their supper, he decided to return home.

Before he could even ask to be taken in, the Father ran out to greet him.

That is how God loves us.  We cannot earn this love.  We often squander his gifts to us.  Yet, he rejoices when we draw near. We are truly beloved.

–SueBE

FocusFor those of you who have never used one of these before, it is a loupe or jeweler’s glass.  It magnifies small objects, such as gemstones. This particular one comes complete with a light.  It is my son’s and I’ll probably wonder off with it if he doesn’t put it up.

When I was a kid, the closest thing that I had access to was my grandfather’s magnifying glass. I used it to look at text and rocks and flower petals.  I examined fabric and coins and the mortar holding the bricks in the fireplace.  I loved getting to see the details in all of these things and how they often managed to look familiar yet also mysterious from this up-close perspective.

Something else that has the same effect if the love of God.

When I’m dealing with my fellow human beings sometimes I only see their flaws and their short comings.  I think that I know them. When I hold them up in prayer and look at them again through the lens of God’s love, they look very different.  They are more nuanced and complicated but also amazing.  God’s love helps me to Focus on the things that God would have me see so that I see that spark of Himself in the people around me.

–SueBE

 

restoredI love taking something old and a bit awful and making it new.  That’s what we did with this cabinet.  When we got it you couldn’t even tell what the wood was because coloring pages were taped and glued all over it.  Our plan was to sand it and stain it but after we got the pages off we discovered it was plywood.  No worries.  We simply spray painted it with the air compressor and added new hard ware.  It still isn’t perfect but that’s okay, neither are we.

And that’s the beauty of belonging to God.  We don’t have ot be perfect because He is.  We just have to be His.

–SueBE

seedsYes, we are fallible.  Yes, we get things wrong.  But with God’s grace all things are made new.  We have a new beginning.

Do you suffer from lightheadedness? Ringing in the ears? Do you sweat excessively? Do you have unexplained pain in your feet? How about difficulty concentrating? It’s enough to turn anyone into a hypochondriac.

I’m talking about a form I have to complete every time I see my doctor — that is, every six months. On it is an extensive list of symptoms; I circle the ones that seem to apply to me. As always, I struggle with honesty. Well, yes, my back does hurt. But does it hurt hurt? Do I want to open that can of worms, or should I just try not to sleep on my back so much?

It’s rather like examining the current state of one’s soul — as a person is wont to do during Lent. (Am I following through with my Lenten promises? How can I improve?) It also reminds me of the sacrament of Reconciliation. Before I can confess my sins, I have to make a list of them. And it seems like the same old sins keep appearing on this list, just as I continue to report the same health symptoms to my doctor. “Being short-tempered” is my “continuing asthma.” “Selfishness” is right up there with “osteoporosis.” I might as well bring a form into the confessional with me.

What happens when a symptom becomes a chronic health problem? Well, you fight it, of course, with a program of prescriptions and wellness techniques: exercise, healthy eating, etc. But what should you do when the chronic problem is a sin — the same one, time and again?

It is all very well and good to promise you won’t do it again — something I do, and have done for years. And every time I really mean it. And then, halfway home from church, some small annoyance starts my skin tingling, like a form of eczema, and I snap. Or judge someone’s appearance or actions. Or fall prey to depression. And suddenly, it’s déjà vu all over.

Maybe it’s time to look at underlying causes. Is that cough a cold or tuberculosis? Am I being selfish because I don’t feel loved enough or because I am greedy and childish? Do I lose my temper because others don’t live up to my expectations (and why should they?) or because there is something about my life that needs radical change? These are the questions I should be asking, investigating, and diagnosing.

What’s on your list? What symptoms keep popping up to plague your spiritual life? And what can you do about them to effect systemic change? Consider Lent your yearly check-up. And then get to work.

Have a Mary Little Christmas

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