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Some time ago, I decided to conduct a prayer experiment.  Yeah, I’m that kind of person.  Faith and science.  Prayer and experiment.

I had been having problems with someone to the point that every time he walked into the room, my shoulders tensed.  I ducked my head and held my breath. I was ready for a fight.

That isn’t exactly how I want to greet people, even annoying people, so I decided to pray for him every day.  I knew this would be tough because my tendency would be to pray that he would be “fixed.”  Oh, Lord, please let this goof see things my way and quit being so abrasive.

But on my better days, I know that that is not how prayer works.  Instead I prayed that whatever was bothering him might east.  I prayed that in stressful moments I could remember his sense of humor and his questioning mind, so like my own.  I asked God to help me see this person as a child of God.

What I discovered was that even though his attitude didn’t seem to improve, mine sure did.  Instead of snapping back at him, I could sincerely tell him that I was sorry he felt that way.  I could see his frustration and his own annoyance at how things were.  I had a lot more sympathy.  And I was no longer prepped for a fight.

He hadn’t changed but I sure was seeing him differently.  So why not join me in a little experiment.  What is stressing you out?  Maybe it is your job or your spouse or the state of our country.  For a week, at least once a day, offer up a sincere prayer.  Don’t pray that someone else undergo a miraculous attitude adjustment.  Pray for their emotional and mental health.  Pray that they feel safe and secure and within the sheltering arms of God.  Pray that the scales should fall from your own eyes.

It isn’t easy but if you do it for at least a week, my theory is that you will see a change.

–SueBE

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Last Sunday we were asked to come up with a scripture to share as a Lenten devotional.  One of the suggestions was Abraham and Sarah which is the one I chose although, I must admit, I probably won’t be coming at it from the expected direction.  My verses are Genesis 18: 9-13.  Three angels have come to Abraham and Sarah to tell them that, even in their old age, they will have a child.

They said to him, “Where is your wife Sarah?” And he said, “There, in the tent.” 10 Then one said, “I will surely return to you in due season, and your wife Sarah shall have a son.” And Sarah was listening at the tent entrance behind him. 11 Now Abraham and Sarah were old, advanced in age; it had ceased to be with Sarah after the manner of women. 12 So Sarah laughed to herself, saying, “After I have grown old, and my husband is old, shall I have pleasure?” 13 The Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh, and say, ‘Shall I indeed bear a child, now that I am old?’ 14 Is anything too wonderful for the Lord? At the set time I will return to you, in due season, and Sarah shall have a son.” 15 But Sarah denied, saying, “I did not laugh”; for she was afraid. He said, “Oh yes, you did laugh.”

Why this passage?  Maybe you didn’t outright laugh, but we’ve all been there.  “Thanks, God, but you’ve got to be joking. That isn’t even possible.”

Whatever the task God has put before you, the reality is that it will probably take more than one attempt.  But that’s okay.  Ours is a patient God even if we aren’t an especially patient people.

–SueBE

 

I’ve seen this most recent quote at work over the past year.  One of our most enthusiastic church members has been suffering with cancer.  And in this case I choose the word suffering in a somewhat ironic sense.  Because he went from a robust vibrant baseball coach to a retired less-robust but still upbeat personality.

It has been seriously eye-opening.

No “woe is me.”  No “I’ve lost X amount of weight.”

Terry is an upbeat reminder of God’s goodness and glory.  In spite of chemo brain, what Terry calls his most recent absent-mindedness brought on by chemo, he can still quote more Bible verses than I can when I have a print Bible in hand.   And as he cheerfully points out, “everyday on this side of the turf is a good one.”

He is also a strong proponent of doing what you can.  Thus while he cannot go on a mission trip or build a new home, he can study scripture, he can pray, he can turn to God.  Although he never lists these things, he can also smile and cheer the rest of us through our eyes with his upbeat attitude.

Small pleasures.  Basking in the glory of God.  Sharing a smile.  All are accessible to the vast majority.  Thank God.

–SueBE

I’ve wondered on occasion if I’m really just a cat in God’s garden. I mean it. I’m not a go-getter like SueBE, or a sacred poet like Lori, but I feel I contribute in my small way to our little eco-system. If I can add a light note of levity or spin a yarn about my KitKat, I feel that I’m adding leavening to the loaf of bread that we bake together.

When I noticed that I’d started to give myself a hard time one day as I looked at SueBE’s goals for her writing day (her to-do list is chock full of action items) and mine (find the right word for that one poem I might submit to some unspecified market at a distant time in the nebulous future) I had to pause. Hold on. Her point is to share her process, and the goal is to help other writers as they find their own way. Not to say, I can do it all! Why can’t you?!?

Still, I thought it would be nice to have a little of the zhoosh she has to get it all done. I wondered how to go about this, and sure enough, she answered my question without realizing when she started posting her “5 minutes a day” series. That’s how you do it. A piece at a time.

Then I wondered why I stopped writing prayer-poems for our blog, and I realized it was partially due to the fact that it seems to come so easily for our Lori and she does it so well. For me, it takes a whole week of revisions, total re-writes and second-guessing before posting.

Neither one of them had judged me and said, why can’t you be like me? It was my own Negative Naysayer steering me away from what my friends do so well.

So I called in my Yes-you-can Yaysayer (opposite of Naysayer) and she said: We’re not supposed to all be the same. Do what you can, with what you have, right where you are.

As for me, it’s time to stretch, yawn and take a catnap. Later, I’ll find the right word for my poem. It’s a small goal, mind you, but it’s a start!

As is the case with many denominations, the PC USA is facing drops in membership, older facilities and new kids (churches) on the block.  But there are also exciting new events.  Saturday my husband and I were at the Presbytery meeting and a new church of Kenyan immigrants was chartered.

In the 1960s when many of the churches in our area grew and flourished, there was no question about chartering a church of African immigrants. But today?  Today they are a vital addition to our church.  Yes, our area is changing but change isn’t always bad especially when it means new brothers and sisters in Christ joining the family.

–SueBE

 

Love is a powerful force.  But for it to work fully we need to look beyond ourselves and see.  We have to stop announcing what we think and listen. When need to put aside our offense and feel.

And then?

Most important of all, we need to do.

–SueBE

A couple of weeks ago was my birthday.  It was so much fun to get together with family and friends.  It was especially fun because my sister-in-law had my age wrong and had gotten me a bit elaborate HAPPY 50TH BIRTHDAY CARD.  I hope she wasn’t embarrassed because I’m actually older than 50 so I took it as a compliment.

But the highlight was a friend who popped in only for 30 minutes.  We hadn’t seen each other in years but she made a point of coming by since I had invited her.  As I introduced her around, I’d explain who everyone was.  “She knits. So does she.”  Soon people were introducing themselves.  “I don’t knit. I make jewelry.”

Then my friend had a great idea.  “We need to see each other more.  We should get together and knit or whatever.”

So guess what we’re doing tonight?  In spite of work deadlines, home improvement projects gone awry and recent illness, six of us are getting together tonight to craft and eat and visit and laugh.  We all have tons of things that we could be doing but really?  Who doesn’t need the love and support of friends?

As a card-carrying introvert, it is easy for me to pull into my shell when I’m stressed and tired.  Thank God for sending me an extroverted friend to make a suggestion I just couldn’t resist.

Reach out and show someone a spark of God’s Love today.

–SueBE

 

Things have gotten awfully heavy of late. It feels like we’re all just trying to carry the weight of our crosses; sweating, straining, staring at our own two feet. Meanwhile, people are buckling all around us. They are dropping to their knees. They are feeling alone. It cannot end well, for we all need to be loved. And so, I am urging you: Take up an end. If you’ve got your cross balanced and you’re making your way, slowly but surely, help someone else out. Or to drop the metaphor for a moment, tell someone today that you love them. Tell them you forgive them. Tell them you hear them. Because you might be the next to stagger. It can, after all, happen in an instant. Or to take a more nautical theme:

A warning to mariners:
storms crop up quick.
Squalls in the harbor,
thunder out to sea,
fog like a shroud.

If your skiff’s at risk,
signal. Do not attempt
to rescue yourself.
The water is cold.
Depth cannot be calculated
by any standard measure.

If your skiff’s afloat,
please save the sinking.
Bail with a bucket,
or even a thimble.
Make a life jacket
from your own heart.

Continue until all’s clear,
which may be never.
That is all.

If you are spending any time on social media lately, you have a pretty good idea what people think about each other.  Fool.  Idiot.  Moron.  The litany of names is endless.  Is it really any surprise that people cannot come together to find a solution while the hate-filled names are flying?  Who wants to work with someone who just called them an ass?  Instead of cooperating it makes you want to pick their argument apart.

Before you let your fingers fly, take a moment.  Take ten.  Moments are, after all, small things.

Look outward.  Look inward.  Look wherever it is that you regularly sight all that is Holy.  Draw his love into your heart.  That means drawing in his love not only for you but for all of his flawed, squabbling children.  And maybe, just maybe, when you look back at the rest of us you will see things a little differently.

–SueBE

 

 

Last night at women’s Bible study we read one of my favorite Bible verses.  “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.”  Hebrews 13:2.

Of course, the study felt the need to explain to us at great length that it wasn’t the angels that were unaware.  It was the people.  Before last night it never even crossed my mind that that might confuse someone.  We were often a King James household growing up but I don’t recall any confusion as to what this meant. Aid and help those who need it because you never know who it really is.

What does this have to do with shaping our world?  For me anyway, a big part of this is environmental justice.  You don’t dump either your garbage or your tailings in someone else’s yard. You make sure everyone has clean water and access to arable land or the food produced on that land.

This pretty well sums up how I vote.  Are you the candidate who cares for ALL of the people?  Then step aside because I’m voting for the other guy.

I know, I know.  We aren’t supposed to mix religion and politics.  They are both taboo topics.

Then again, that attitude doesn’t seem to have served us very well.  We need to talk and we need to go beyond talk.  We need to step up and shape the world we want to live in and we need to do it now.

–SueBE

Have a Mary Little Christmas

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