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How is it that so often we don’t see what is right in front of us?  And I don’t just mean big things.  I’m a champion at bouncing off of door ways or tripping over the edge of a carpet.  You’d think I was a human pin ball.

But there are also all of the things I misinterpret or fail to think about.  I remember roaring through the prayer to get to dinner.  We kids could say it so fast that it didn’t even sound like English.  Then my grandmother asked us to teach it to someone else, probably a cousin.

Wham.  We sped through it and got nothing but a blank stare in return.

Again and again.  Finally, we managed to slow down enough to actually hear our own words.  The familiar became known.

Are you charging through your daily prayers?  Why not take a deep breath and slow down.  Here and feel what you are saying.  See it for what it is.  Time spent with God.

–SueBE

 

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Much has been written about the Catholic Church’s most recent scandal — the report out of Pennsylvania outlining years of sexual abuse by the clergy and the effort that was made to cover it up. Does more need to be said? Maybe not, but as a Catholic, I AM the church, and so I will endeavor to navigate these tricky waters as best I can.

The problem is not Catholicism. It is not a matter of faith. It is also not merely a problem of sinful men doing sinful things. The problem lies in the structure and hierarchy of the Church — the men who perpetuated the abuse by actively striving to protect the perpetrators. They didn’t just do nothing. They worked tirelessly against the abused and for the abusers.

This problem is so endemic, so deeply rooted in the Church, as to extend to every level of it. It manifests in the local priest who becomes the new pastor of a parish and unilaterally changes everything about parish life to suit his own likes and needs. The people are the Church. A pastor should serve his flock, not the other way around.

I’ve struggled since youth against a culture that declares, “priests are better than you. They know more. You must do what they say.” And that’s at the most basic level. The adulation given to bishops and cardinals increases exponentially. I’m not saying these men don’t deserve respect. Most are hardworking shepherds who genuinely wish to tirelessly serve the people. They are men of God. But they are not God. The Church would do well to remember the humility of its founder.

Any institution that protects its own against its own deserves scrutiny. The Catholic Church deserves every bit of the anger and inquiry being directed at it in the press and around the world. As my husband (a new-ish Catholic) remarked: “People sin and people can be forgiven. Institutions cannot.” It is true. Institutions can only be torn down and rebuilt. It has happened to the Church before, and the Church survived. I believe they can do it again.

On the other hand, this: Men have proven they can screw up every major institution on this planet — from churches to governments. Isn’t it time they move aside and let women give things a try? Just sayin’.

Yesterday I wrote about my tendency to figure things out.  I’m a problem solver.  I look for patterns and how things fit together. When Plan A doesn’t work, I backtrack.

But not everyone works this way as I discovered while cleaning out Dad’s house.  There was our old high chair, mostly stripped of paint with a broken footrest.  I scooped it up and put it in the back of my car.  “Why?  It’s broken and the finish wouldn’t come off.”  “Wood glue, sand, then paint.”

A mirror with a gorgeous plaster frame that someone cracked.  A keyhole table with half the paint removed. A clock case and face with no works.  They’re all in my basement as I work through the assortment one at a time.  First up is the high chair because plants will be coming inside in a month and that’s going to make a dandy plant stand.

Things don’t always turn out the way we had planned.  My son just started his second year at the community college while friends went to their four-year university of choice.  But he’s got a plan for his masters and he’ll come out owing about what they owe.  Maybe.  He’s turning into quite the problem solver.

God may not give us what we want.  But He is often holding out an alternative.  We just need to remember to look around and see what is available.

–SueBE

 

 

I know Ruth and Lori are well aware of this particular aspect of my personality.  Tell me something is impossible and watch me try to find a way to make it happen.  Back door, loop-hole, overlooked clause or inventiveness, I am going to work to find a way especially if it means helping someone. It’s how I’m wired.

Personally, I consider it a God-given talent although I’m sure there are at least a dozen people who would disagree.  But really?  It is something I see in Christ’s ministry as well.

Eat with the outcast?  Lord, you can’t do that!

Pass me the olives.

Heal the unclean.  Jesus, what are you thinking?

You believed and you are healed.

Non-Jews.  Those who collaborated with the Romans (ie tax collectors). Even women (gasp!).  Christ brought them all forward into this ministry.  He even found ways to use Roman tradition against the Romans.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying I’m Christ-like.  I’m far too hot-tempered to believe that.  But in God’s image?  I’m not a particularly crisp or clear copy, but I try and I try to see it in others even when it seems all but impossible.

–SueBE

Often we here on PrayPower encourage you to make change.  Make change in your lives, your communities and the world.

Making change takes creativity.  You have to see things in a new way.  You have to envision possibilities.

And to do this requires courage.  Fortunately, we have each other.  And I don’t just mean Ruth, Lori and I.  There are you, our readers.  There are also the other change makers throughout the world – people who see what could be and have the courage to move forward.

But we also have God who loves us and holds us near and dear.  Draw on him, my friends.  Have courage.

–SueBE

Irony oh irony.  Miss Ruth’s post on prison and second chances had me shaking my head when I saw it this morning.

Yesterday, we had another meeting at church to discuss Waking Up White.  The book discusses one upper middle class white woman’s awakening to the racial issues and social injustice in the US.  One of the many things we discussed was the prison system.  The topic that led into this was whether or not the police deal with African-American youth fairly.

One of the women told us about her daughter and a group of friends being stopped by the police as they walked home. Yes, there had been a series of break-ins in the area so talking to the teens was in order.  But the police were noticeably aggressive with the one young many who also happens to be African-American.  Coincidence?  Hardly.  Add to this the fact that the suspects in the break-ins were white and . . . yes, they were white.  So treating that one teen differently than the rest makes even less sense.

It isn’t enough to notice when you are treated unfairly.  We need to wake up.  We need to see how those around us are treated.  And while we are at it we should share some second chances.  There’s no reason that those of us slowly awaking should get them all.

–SueBE

Photo Credit: Jack Gruber, USA Today

When you hear the phrase “free time,” you might think of reading, going to the park, socializing with friends. But reading this article about a wrongfully convicted man who was recently released after being in jail for fifteen years, I wondered if it’s possible to put a price tag on time. 

“Under a 2016 law, Michiganians who were wrongly convicted can qualify for $50,000 for every year spent in prison, making Salter’s imprisonment worth roughly $700,000.”

Even with this settlement, how will he ever get his life back? And isn’t false imprisonment a crime? Isn’t somebody going to jail for that offense?

On the other side of the justice system, there are those who have been jailed for crimes they did commit, some of whom have been rehabilitated. How will they ever make up for lost time? And is it really possible to leave a life of crime behind and become a contributing member of society? This novel program in Baltimore hires ex-offenders to remove reclaimed wood from abandoned buildings. It keeps wood out of landfills, which improves air and land quality. It reduces crime by eliminating abandoned buildings, which often serve as drug dens. It allows participants to learn a skill and earn a decent day’s wage. It’s a metaphor: from unclaimed to reclaimed. They get to re-build their own lives by tearing down remnants of the past.

As the first story shows, some prisoners turn out to be innocent. Of those who aren’t, all of them turn out to be human. Granted, there are some in jail who need to stay in jail. Forever. But if lumber from an abandoned building can get a new lease on life, surely a person who has served time and changed their ways can be given a second chance.

Then Jesus said to His disciples, “Assuredly, I say to you that it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. And again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”  (Matthew 19:23-24)

Why is it that we tend to hoard what we are given?  No, get back!  God gave it to me.

And yet our homes overflow.  We buy organizing supplies.  We pay people to show us how to declutter.  We rent storage space.

But share?  Suggest it and watch people’s hackles rise.  We worry about scammer and people who want to beg instead of earning a living.

Did we truly earn what we have?  Either our riches or God’s grace?  Both are gifts meant to be shared.

–SueBE

 

 

The other day, a friend asked me a question, which I answered using the phrase “our neck of the woods.” But I didn’t mean Kansas. I was referring to my childhood home in California. I’d reverted from Midwesterner to a more primitive self — the self who still thinks of herself as a So Cal girl.

And yet Southern California is no more my true home than Kansas. The Orange County I remember is long gone. The orange groves became high schools and office buildings. The ranchos were leveled for homes. Even the Disneyland of my youth bears little resemblance to its current incarnation. (Does anyone else remember when the parking lot was lettered by Disney character? “Hey Dad! We’re parked in Thumper!”)

Maybe our longing for home is really a longing for something else — a sense of belonging, of being understood. We can try to recreate it, but we’ll never really find it here.

I like to think that we’re born with a dim memory of heaven, and we spend our lives trying to get back there, to that place we really knew as home. It would make death a sweet return…assuming, of course, that we have lived a life that grants us passage to heaven.

All our reminiscing, all our auld lang syne, is nothing more than a deeper craving for our true home with God. In which case Thomas Wolfe is completely wrong: You can go home again.

It just won’t be Kansas. Or California. Or anywhere, really, you can find on a map.

Where does change need to come?  When we see injustice, the answer feels so easy – we need to change the world.  Watch this amazing video about how two people recognized that they had to change themselves to change the world.

Have a Mary Little Christmas

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