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Tonight I’ll be at the front door giving out candy.  I love seeing all the kids in their costumes.  My favorites are the kids who are wildly out of step with the current trend.  Don’t get me wrong, I’ll ooh and aah over every Black Panther but my favorites are the kids who do their own thing.

Admittedly, I appreciate that a lot more now that I’m not the mom who has to figure out how to make the requested “fire ghost” costume.  The year he was “nightmare homework” was a lot easier.

I understand, some kids love being their favorite character.  I get it.  I was Indiana Jones.  My son did Harry Potter complete with the scar on his forehead – the scar and glasses were genuine, the rest was costume.

But all too often we discourage people from being themselves.  We hand the toddler girl the baby doll without noticing she was reaching for the truck. The little boy is discouraged from wearing the glittery shirt.  The girl can’t find a calavera t-shirt that doesn’t include this same glitter or rhinestones.

God created each of us.  To some he gave one gift.  To others another.  To discover just what these gifts are may require us to step away from the crowd and to make a choice that is uniquely our own.  That said, someone who loves us may find themselves trying to figure out what a fire ghost would look like.

–SueBE

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Who knew Hawthorne was Zen?  But he and the Buddhists do have a point.  Want is a serious problem in our lives.  For some of us, it is a desire for more stuff.  For others, it is a desire to get things done and check things off our lists.

If I made just a little more money . . . if I had accomplished just a little more today . . . The reality is that we need to learn to be happy in our own skins, where we are, when we are, with what we have.

Does this mean that we shouldn’t try to right wrongs?  Work towards harmony?  Improve God’s world?  Of course not.

But this isn’t where happiness lies.  It isn’t how we will become content.  That comes in being with Him in the moment.

–SueBE

Instead of focusing on the president’s tone-deaf reaction to the horrific act of terror at a synagogue in Pittsburgh, let’s turn back the clock for a moment. During the Iraq War, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld famously said, to a gathering of soldiers: “You go to war with the army you have, not the army you want.” This ranks as a shining example of a Tone-Deaf Moment in History.

A reporter named Edward Lee Pitts had been embedded during the war, and realized he’d been assigned to a company that had an unarmored truck. Since there wasn’t enough armor to cover all of the soldiers’ vehicles, they’d been forced to rummage through scrap piles in the region to salvage metal so they could “up-armor” the truck.

The reporter wanted to ask Rumsfeld why the troops weren’t being given enough supplies or protection, but was told that press wouldn’t be allowed to ask questions. Pitts approached a soldier to see if he would ask Rumsfeld the question and persuaded the A-V technician to give that soldier the microphone.

This is a case of one reporter asking why his own life was in danger, and by extension, all of the troops that were sent to fight and die. If something is important enough, you find a way to stand up for what’s right. You may even have to go around “proper channels.” Lately, it seems propriety is a thing of the past.

Since the message hasn’t been conveyed officially, we’d like to extend heartfelt condolences to the congregants and families of the Tree of Life Synagogue and the Jewish community around the world. Let’s conspire together to ensure this moment isn’t remembered for the tone-deaf non-response of the government. Good people around the world hold you up in prayer. You are not alone.

Sorry – just the image today.  Am taking the day off to paint part of my work space.

SueBE has done it again. She got me thinking about peace and why it’s so hard to find. It seems like all I do lately is complain (inwardly) that I sorely lack peace in my life. Why, for instance, won’t robo-callers leave me alone? Why can’t I accept myself? WHY WON’T THE CAT STOP HOWLING FOR FIVE MINUTES???? (Answer: Because he’s ancient and unhappy 99% of the time. Why? Because the food — of which there is plenty — is somehow not right; the water — which I just freshened — could be fresher; there is another cat in the house somewhere and he does not like her; I am petting him, but it’s not enough….)

And then it comes to me: like my grumpy old kitty, I’m never going to find peace outside of myself if I can’t find it inside myself. But where to start?

Lord, let me be the silent eye of the storm:
the inward facing mirror
the still leaf on the grass
the clasped hand
the itched spot
the blank page.

Take away the inward twitches:
the needling of impossibilities
the rattling of nerves
the empty pinging of ambition
the revisioning of history
the cacophony of injustice

I cannot solve it or salve it.
Lord, let me live in it,
not indifferent but aware
that the end of the story
has not yet been written
and when I read it I will know
that all of the noise was for nothing.

In yoga, we practice mindfulness.  It might be harder to learn what this means in a peaceful yoga studio.  But in a community center it quickly becomes obvious.

Mindfulness doesn’t mean closing out all distractions.  It doesn’t mean never losing focus.  What it does mean is that when you do, you pull yourself back.

This is something we get to practice all the time at the community center.  There were the weeks on end where they were working on the roof and replacing various elements of the heating and cooling systems. There are those moments when busloads of grade school students arrive to use the pool.  Indoor voices?  Pfft!

You can’t control everything in your environment.  But you can learn not to focus on what you can’t control.  Let it go.  Exhale.  And return your focus to your breath, your pose, your inner quiet.

At the end of worship, we are encouraged to take Christ’s love into the world.  Mindfulness makes this so much easier starting in worship.

Kids to pews back making noise?  Inhale.  Exhale.  Return your focus to God.

The customer in line ahead of you can’t get her pin right?   Inhale.  Exhale.  Share a smile.  Who hasn’t forgotten a pin?

Peace, mindfulness and Christ’s love.  Seems like a combination that just might change the world.

–SueBE

 

 

If you’ve been reading our posts for very long, you know that Ruth, Lori and I firmly believe that our faith and social justice ministry go together like cookies and cream.  But there are so many things that we can do to care for the world God has created.

More toward clean energy. Yesterday, Krissy who blogs as Vissionary Kindness commented on one of my posts.  Her community has an initiative focused on moving beyond coal to clean energy such as solar.  Not that I knew that when I chose this photo.  This is what my pastor calls a God Moment.

Promote Literacy.  Tutoring or building a Little Free Library are great ways to do this.

Get Out and Vote. One of the best ways to bring about change is to vote in candidates that also see the  need and have plans to make change happen.

Food Ministries.  This past summer, our church converted a community garden where people had their own plots to a community garden growing food for the local food pantry.  I don’t remember how much lettuce or how many tomatoes we took to the pantry, but we provided over 200 lbs of cucumbers. That was an accident because someone over-planted but what an amazing accident for those who got fresh produce.  Now we are considering planting an orchard.

There are so many things that we can do to Bless God’s Creation – the earth and the people.  Consider the things that you are passionate about.  What are they?  Remember that even small changes add up to something big.

–SueBE

Last night, I listened to an interview with Todd Bol, the founder of Little Free Libraries.  For those of you who may not know what these are, they are the tiny libraries that look like elaborate mail boxes.  Set on posts in yards and parks throughout the country, those who put them up stock them with books for their communities.

Why?  As Bol explained in the interview, those who are illiterate are more likely to be incarcerated, to be hungry and to be homeless.  Not that others don’t suffer as well, but literacy is an amazing safety net.  And putting out these libraries shows the community that reading matters and that they, the people in this community, matter.

For me, the best part of the interview was when Bol mentioned all the griping and snarking being committed in the name of politics.  “That’s not who we are,” said Bol.  He emphasized that the American people are people who work together to solve problems.  That we are people who work together to build community.

Amen!

What is your favorite community building activity?  I’ve taken part in river clean ups, worked at the food pantry, and gone on hunger walks. In a community garden this summer, I learned how prickly “wild” cucumbers are and just how many 14 plants produce.

Community builders.  Provisioners. His hands and his feet in the world.  This is who we are.

–SueBE

 

Seriously, there are times you would think that Lori, Ruth and I coordinate topics.  We’ve tried that.  What we write is so based on inspiration that scheduling something ahead of time can be tough.  But we do have these God moments – those times when God puts something into our hearts.

Think about all the people who could have, and probably did judge Ruth, because of her forgetfulness. If you haven’t read her post yet, click-through here.  It would have been easy to decide that she just didn’t take things as seriously as they did.  But if you know Ruth, you know that just isn’t the case.  I’m just happy that Ruth found so many people who were willing to join in her in a laugh and an understanding smile.  That’s something Ruth is amazingly good at creating – laughter and understanding.

And really we need more of that right now.  As election time nears again — yes, I mentioned it.  The stupid elections.

I’m already sick of it mainly because I’m sick of the way that people are talking to each other.  One of my friends has taken to posting pieces about Republican politicians.  She finds the haters.  Then she posts a news story about something they’ve said or done and she tags these stories.  “If you vote for this person, you are the problem.”

On the one hand, I understand her frustration.  Believe me.  I’m a liberal who was born in Texas and lives in Missouri.  I get the frustration.

But you aren’t engaging these people.  You aren’t asking them, why they voted for someone or what about the policies attracted them.

This isn’t doing good.  This is building a wall along political boundaries.

The saddest part is that Christ crossed boundaries.  He ate with tax collectors.  He came into contact with lepers.  He looked past problems and infirmities.  He looked into people’s eyes and saw the child of God within.

Be His hands.  Be His feet.  Go into the world and take down the walls.

–SueBE

Photo by Matt Collamer on UnsplashShowing up as someone other than your true self can be wearing.

As long as I can remember (!) I’ve had trouble remembering things I’ve done, people I’ve met, conversations we’d had. So I learned to make up for it with humor and this unrelenting cheerfulness that has become a lifelong habit. In my 20s, I’d use the phrase, I had a senior moment there! when I’d forget basic things. Co-workers would laugh and say, You’re too young to have those! and the infraction would be forgiven.

If I’d said, I don’t know why I can’t remember anything, and to be honest, it’s kind of upsetting, it would’ve gotten a moment of discussion or a shoulder shrug, but you could only do that so often. People would assume you weren’t applying yourself, or were just not that bright.

So most of the time I would flip a switch and turn into this upbeat version of myself, which meant I was always presenting a persona instead of being who I am. I needed to write lists of every task. Not a general to-do list, but pages of what I needed to do, checked off as I went. If it wasn’t documented there, I honestly couldn’t remember if I’d done it.

It was only after I was diagnosed with MS that I realized there was a reason for my forgetfulness.

It made me wonder: What is it we don’t know about the people with whom we interact? Is everybody grappling with something? It’s possible that someone in your life right now is feeling this way, but doesn’t know how to express it, or where to turn to make it better.

Maybe we’ll never know what others are going through. Assuming there’s a story might be enough for our collective compassion to kick in.

Have a Mary Little Christmas

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