You are currently browsing the monthly archive for December 2016.

2016 — the year that was. It’s practically played out, virtually put to bed. Maybe it was a great year for you (Cubs fans), but for me it was largely a crapfest. We lost some good people, and I don’t mean just the famous ones. I lost three of my beloved cats. I lost my friend Mary. I am worried about the future when I look upon the wreckage of the past.

But enough about what is practically last year. We’ve got a whole new one stretching in front of us, and lots of people are doing lots of thinking about what might happen in it…or what they hope might happen.

Think about 2016 as a suitcase. You’ve arrived home. What do you want to take out of your suitcase and discard, and what would you like to carry on into 2017? Sure, most of us would like to stuff our suitcases with money, but realistically, unless we all hit the lottery simultaneously, that’s probably not going to happen. So deal with what you’ve already got packed: your job, your relationships, and — most importantly — your spirituality.

I would like to unpack lingering bitterness toward others. It’s heavy, and it’s weighing me down. I would also like to unpack the past…not forget about it, but stop feeling the sting of regret. I would like to add to my suitcase hope, focus and direction, especially vis-à-vis my relationship with God. I’d like to know that I’m on the right path, that I’m heading toward God in the most direct way possible. Inasmuch as a person can know her intended purpose on earth, I’d like to know that I’m at least hovering nearby it.

I’ve got a few things for your suitcases, too. I wish you peace of mind and heart. I wish you honest conversations and open hearts. I wish you closer family ties and better days ahead.

And you? What will you pack in your suitcase? What are you willing to leave behind? Are you certain you need everything you’ve packed? Or are you willing to walk into the new year with an empty bag, and wait for God to fill it? Whatever you decide, I wish you the very best in 2017.

 

 

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elie-wieselI don’t know about you but I’ve had about enough of 2016. The negativity. The harsh judgements.  The whining and griping.

And I’m not just talking between people at opposite ends of the political spectrum. A close friend brought up politics at Christmas dinner. Because she’s a friend I thought I could speak my mind. “I think the biggest problem is that we don’t listen to each other.”

Honestly, I’m 98% certain that her head spun around in a complete circle. But do you know the really crazy part?  We are both political liberals.  If two people who are on the same end of the spectrum can’t hold a discussion and listen to each other, doesn’t this kind of prove my point?

The negativity needs to end. We need to spend some time spreading light.

And with that in mind, a friend started the Facebook page Inaugurate Light.  As it says in the description:

“Launch is a synonym of inaugurate, and Inaugurate Light is a group of Facebook friends who banded together to launch messages of light and love, comfort and compassion, freedom and equality across social media during the month of January. Regardless of your political opinions or affiliations, it is our hope that at least some of these messages will touch your hearts and open your minds, and that you will also share the message to continue to spread light in these divided, uncertain times.”

Visit there throughout the month of January for positive quotes and memes.  If you feel moved, help us spread the light by sharing posts wherever you are active on social media. I will be sharing things on my Facebook wall  and on Twitter (@SueBEdwards).  If you would like, I can also share things here.

Help us shine a light on all that is good and right in the world. Working together, we can push the darkness back.

–SueBE

ef1h5yttmz8-annie-sprattAs they say in Vegas, “Whatever happened in 2016, stays in 2016.” We’re just days away from a brand new year. It’s your chance to decide which way to set your compass. Whatever mistakes you made during the year are in the past.

Most of our worries fall into the category of “anticipation anxiety.” I just made up that term, so if you use it, kindly send me a dollar as a royalty. 🙂 Focusing on the worst case scenario can send anyone into a panic.

So here’s what I’d like to propose for 2017. Make a vow to yourself to live in the present tense.

Think of negative emotions as volatile compounds that can burn and scar.

Guilt is like gangrene.

Regret is like rust.

So in the new year, if when you make a mistake, don’t feel bad about feeling bad. That was something you wouldn’t do if you had it to do again – even if it just happened yesterday. Give yourself a break.

Feel what you feel, but give yourself a timeframe. Say, I’ll wallow for the duration of this sad movie, then I’m getting out of the swamp. There’s a meadow over there I can meander through instead.

Don’t look back on times you weren’t yourself and say, that wasn’t me! Of course not. You’re you now. That’s good enough.

Don’t look back and say here’s another reason why that wrong ___________ was wrong for me:
□ Man
□ Job
□ Hairdo
□ Clique
□ Church

Two wrongs sometimes do make a right. That noun that left your life did you a favor. It wasn’t right for you.

Re-hashing is a drag counter-productive, because, in the first place hash is kind of gross aesthetically unpleasant, so having it again is yucky not optimal two times over.

Here’s to a new year and a new you. You’re a blessed, beloved being in all your glory. Whoever you were last year is in the past. Whoever you were a minute ago is, too. Why not take advantage of this unlimited time offer and be yourself in this moment, right where you are?  

Peace & Blessings to you and yours!

Often, when I go for my hour of Perpetual Adoration on Friday, there’s already someone there — a little Vietnamese gal who spends so much time in the chapel, I’ve dubbed her “the lady who lives there.” She is a devout soul, spending hours on her knees. But the other week, she actually sat down and nodded off. I have no doubt that she woke full of self-recriminations, but I wanted to tell her not to. It struck me that there might not be a better place to rest than in God’s own presence.

“Stay awake,” said Christ
but surely he knew
how bodies give out, go limp,
sag as if in a warm bath
feeling secure, safe,
safer here than anywhere, ever,
before his presence in monstrance
and wafer.
To sleep before the Lord
is the sweetest of sleep.

The sleep of angels.
The sleep of saints.

Under God’s watchful eye
the soul and body rest,
ready to rise — like bread,
like spirit, like new day breaking.

 

Have a peaceful Christmas everyone!

fpc-front-window“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” John 1:1

In the original, the Word was the Greek logos. Logos in the Greek mind meant much more than “word.” It included the idea of understanding which makes sense. Logos makes up part of many of the words we use to describe how we look at and understand the world including theology and biology.  Faith and science.

Logos. Understanding. In the beginning there was understanding. The understanding was with God and the understanding was God.

On the night that I’m writing this, Pastor Sean preached a funeral sermon on logos.  He explained that for David, the man who recently died, engineering was his logos. Or at least one of his logos. His faith was another logos. When the children did their nativity play and David was a young father, he would stand outside and shine a spot light on the star in our stained glass window so that the star shone for all inside to see.

What is your logos? Your way of understanding the world?

Like David, I have several logos. I trained first in archaeology, a social science that incorporates biology and chemistry.  I’m a writer.  I’m a crafter.  I sing.  I’m a Christian. All of these things fold into my understanding of the universe and my place in it.

What does all of this have to do with Christmas?  Jesus is the Word made flesh.  Jesus is logos made flesh.  Not just adult Jesus.  Not just Jesus on the cross.  Not just Jesus resurrected. Jesus as a whole. Logos became flesh with the birth of a tiny baby.

When God sent us His Son, he sent us logos.  He sent us understanding. He gave us what we needed to remake the world. Lately it sure has felt like logos is in short but logos is in God.  Logos is God. And God is eternal. We have access to the understanding that we need to remake the world. It came as a baby.

All we have to do is look for the Star.

–SueBE

Image result for half mast flag soldier

Your battles inspired me – not the obvious material battles but those that were fought and won behind your forehead.  
James Joyce

This is to the soldier on the last battle field.

In my mind, it’s like the scene from “Gladiator” with our fallen hero in the Coliseum. The lady he’d loved and lost stood in front of his body and said to the crowd: “He was a soldier of Rome. Honor him!”

My father-in-law passed away last week, and I’ve been wondering what his journey to the next world might be like.

Admittedly, I’ve got no idea what happens after we leave this earth. I’d like to think it will be more of a “Homegoing” than a time for sackcloth and ashes.

A friend once told me she believes that we go to the place we’ve always regarded as home, even if we’ve never been there.

For my mother, it would have been a log cabin. She always spoke of her dream of owning a little cabin in the woods with a fireplace and wood-burning stove.

For my father, it might have been the bar from “Cheers.” He just loved that show, and his favorite joke became a call-and-response tradition for us every time I came for a visit. Dad: “If anyone calls for me, Coach, I don’t want to be bothered.” Me: “Who does?”

For my father-in-law, it could, paradoxically, be on the field of war. While he hated the fighting, he felt most like himself there. As a veteran of the Korean and Vietnam Wars, he was respected by his peers. He knew how to be a soldier. Get the job done. It made sense to him.

Life was clearer as a soldier. Here is the objective. Over there, the enemy. We’re doing this for those we left back home.

When he came home, he had to re-learn how not to be at war, and it wasn’t easy.

For our soldier who took the journey home, we honor you. May the angels stand at attention when you arrive. You fought the good fight, and now, rest. At ease.

nativityI just had someone at my front door wanting to explain to me why Christ died for us and why we have Christmas. They even had a video. It was a little surreal.

Apparently, Adam is a businessman who steals from his company leading workers to lose their jobs and electricity.  Jesus is the good businessman who pays the bills and gets the lights turned back on — that’s why he died.  That’s why we have Christmas.

Of course, she looked at me and said, “What do you think of that?”

One day I will learn to smile and nod but that day is not today. But I did filter.  It was oh so obvious that this was a message meant to play on people’s fears of the economy and not being able to pay their bills. In my opinion, it rather missed the point but a lot of work had gone into it so I didn’t want to criticize the video itself. “It seems overly simplistic.”

“Then why do you think Christ died?”

After the businessman analogy, I knew I couldn’t give her the entire answer.  Christ died to bring an end to the cycle of sin followed by the sacrifices needed to get back in God’s good graces.  Christ died to bring us grace.  Christ is the ultimate sacrifice.

I decided instead to focus on Christmas.  It’s a prettier story.  “The Christmas season is a time of waiting, of contemplation, of preparing yourself for the coming of Christ.”

“By reading scripture?”

“And prayer and worship and whatever it takes to get you as an individual ready.  I need solitude and music.”

“That’s too confusing. What did you mean by the coming of Christ?  The end times?”

“Eventually, but also the coming of the Christ child.  You have to prepare yourself to accept him and his message and the acceptance and love he brought mankind.”

Prepare the way.  That’s the whole message of the Advent season.  Prepare your heart to accept his message of love and acceptance and mercy for all.  His sacrifice washed away our sins and the condemnation that required blood sacrifice to cleanse our souls.  Prepare yourself for Christ.

He has come not to condemn the world but so that the world through him might be saved.

–SueBE

I don’t go around thinking about Original Sin all that much. Who does? It’s like an old stain on a favorite shirt. Who remembers how it got there? But something our friend Lady Calen wrote recently caused me to have what can only be deemed a revelation: What if Original Sin isn’t what we think it is? What if it isn’t disobedience — which, let’s face it, never made much sense (“You can eat from any of the trees in the garden except that one. It’s the best one, by the way.”). What if it’s a little more personal?

Just after the fracas with the apple, God asks Adam and Eve why they’ve donned snappy little outfits made of leaves. Adam says, essentially, “We were naked, so we covered ourselves up.” But who told them that being naked was a bad thing? Who got into their heads with comments like, “Seriously, Eve, those thunder thighs. Put on a skirt”? Not the snake. They did it themselves.

What if Original Sin is a failure to love ourselves properly?

Take a minute to think it through. What if our inability to love ourselves is at the root of sin and hatred toward others? What would happen if we stopped running ourselves down and fully participated in the gifts we were bestowed? Maybe something miraculous.

But Lori, you might say (if you knew me well enough to know my name), plenty of people love themselves. In fact, they love themselves a little too much. Maybe that’s just the other side of the sinful coin. Narcissism is like looking at oneself the wrong way through a telescope. It has no more to do with reality than undermining ourselves constantly. And it can lead to the same failure to love others properly. Only after we are at home in ourselves — neither grossly overvaluing nor undervaluing our beings — can we properly live among others.

Does that sound too easy? Well, contemplate this: How many of us have managed to love ourselves properly, historically speaking? How many of us have got it right? Someone who loves herself does not start a war. He or she does not commit violence. He or she does not hate others, because he/she is secure in him/herself. So the answer to the aforementioned questions is this — practically nobody.

It is our lives’ work to know and love ourselves, to find our place in the world at large. That’s it. And yet we fail at it, over and over again. I’m not excluding myself. Just this morning I wondered why on earth I should love a short-tempered old cow like myself. I haven’t got the answers. I can only pose the questions.

But if loving ourselves is the point — if failure to love is our Original Sin — hadn’t we better get a jump on fixing it? Let’s start now, during this blessed season, by doing one thing for ourselves. Take a nap. Be content with the presents you’ve bought. Stop stressing. And just open your heart up, to yourself and to the world. You know, sometimes I put two and two together and make a pretty good-sounding “four.” I’m gonna rest in that knowledge today.

Reading SueBE’s and Lori’s posts this week gave me a lot to think about.

If SueBE is in for a world of hurt, having only been to mass twice in her life, I’m really SOL (this being a prayer blog, that stands for “Shucks! Out of Luck”) as I can’t recall ever having gone to mass. Perhaps as a child, since I’m told I was baptized Catholic.

But I’ve always chafed against the idea of rules that don’t make sense to me. This makes me an iffy candidate for any religion, not to mention line-dancing and speed-dating. Come on. You want me to sit down, stand up, and hold hands with a stranger? Heck. Now I’m just dizzy!

The other day I watched a “fire-and-brimstone” preacher on t.v. and it reminded me why so many Americans skirt the periphery as I do, calling ourselves “spiritual but not religious.”

He spoke of the doomed Titanic voyage, saying there were two passenger categories: “Upper Class and Steerage.” But when the sugar hit the fan (as it were – still a prayer blog, mind) names were listed under two different categories: “Saved and Lost.” He nodded his head, pleased at the metaphor, pointed at the congregation and bellowed, “Some of you are going to Hell first class!”

And, smooches unto you, too, Reverend Cuddlebear!

My word. If that’s the gospel according to that church, well then, sniff, sniff, I think I’ve got a cold too. I’ll have to miss that service this week. And forever!

For Lori, SueBe and me, this blog is a sacred space. We’re spread across the map geographically and spiritually, yet somehow we end up in the same place.

I say, it’s all right to miss church once in awhile (or in my case, altogether!) because the altar is already set up in your heart. The pew is the armchair you’re sitting in. The church is wherever you are, and wherever you are, that’s where God is, too. See there, you’re all set for the evening worship service. Sit with me, have a warm cuppa, and let us pray.

Christmas Angels

My Grandmother’s Christmas angels.

As we approach the 3rd Sunday in Advent, I’ve been noodling over Lori’s last post. I’m really having a problem with the idea that it’s a mortal sin to miss mass. I think I’ve been to two masses in my entire life so if that’s a hard fast rule I’m in a world of hurt.

Don’t worry. Lori’s used to me questioning things like this.  I think Ruth has grown accustomed to it too. It’s just the way I’m wired. Toss something down in front of me and tell me that it’s a FACT and I’m going to look at it from every direction. I do the same thing with Christmas.  For me, some things make sense and others just don’t.

Do you have to go to Midnight Mass?  I don’t.  Do you?  I actually like going to the midnight service but I’m a night owl. My husband is essentially useless past about 11:00. That said, he pops up out of bed in the morning and tries to talk to me.  He’s more of a sunrise service kind of guy.  When it comes to Christmas Eve, we go to the 7 pm service.

Do you have to put up a Christmas tree? A friend of mine hates Christmas trees.  “It’s a pagan custom. We shouldn’t do it.” Look – I like the lights. A lot. They make me happy. And lights on a tree with shiny ornaments are just extra sparkly and thus awesome.

Another friend challenges the validity of Christmas as a whole.  As Christians, in her opinion, we should focus on Easter.  Christmas just needs to be downplayed as much as possible. But I think it’s a big deal that Jesus came as a little baby, born to a poor mother and father in a stable. In my mind, Jesus’ birth took religion out of the temple and the control of the Priests and the Pharisees. It took it out into the world.  I see her point, Easter is a big deal, but I’m still pulling out my nativity and my grandmother’s angels. I’m putting up my tree and my lights. I’m putting on my Christmas-y music.

I’m not saying you have to celebrate Christmas, but I’m going to do it. Don’t look for rules. Don’t look for regulations. Don’t stress yourself out over it.  Come up with a celebration that is meaningful to you and reflects your relationship to God and Christ.

–SueBE

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