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I have to admit it.  I adore Christmas.  Adore it.

It is the one time of year that I get into glitter and shimmer and WOW.  Otherwise, I’m a denim, battered boot kind of girl.

But Christmas draws me in.  Tomorrow I’m heading into the basement on a quest for our advent wreath.  We’ve had this same wreath since my teen was a baby but then again it is a silver pillar plate.  On it we place votive candles.  Did you know votive candles were first made to light in prayer?  A ring of prayer candles on a plate.  It helps me remember to turn to God in prayer even when things are crazy hectic.

And I’m making a new outdoor decoration.  I love the lights.  Just love them.  But the decorations that draw me in?  Nativities and stars.  Snowflakes and light strings.  Our new piece is a pallet painted with a star and strung with solar lights.  Yep.  I’m even nerdy and green at Christmas.

But what may be the best part of Christmas?  When people remember those who have less.  Who are in need.  Our church helps fill backpacks for children taken into foster care.  We’ve already delivered the crib full of coats.  We always have a food barrel but now is when it gets a real workout.

Take the time to slow down for a moment here and there this holiday season.  Center yourself on the why of it all.   And go into the world with the peace and love that are His call to us all.  When the commercialism gets to you, return to that focus.  Make this Holy season your own.

–SueBE

I’m doing again. Trying to buy Christmas, that is. Trying to bring home God-made-manifest in a series of shopping bags. Trying to echo God’s ultimate gift of love with stuff hauled in from the local mall. It is, of course, an endeavor doomed to failure.

Even the Grinch realizes by the end of the story that Christmas doesn’t come in a gaily-wrapped package. But even knowing that at a cellular level doesn’t stop the rampant commercialism of the holidays. You feel the tug of it everywhere you go. How can I show the people I love that I love them? How about a brand new set of knives! It’s enough to put a damper on anyone’s spirits. Gift-giving becomes a burden, rather than a joy.

So where do we find Christmas if not under a tree? Inside of ourselves. And how do we kindle that spark while being simultaneously bombarded by cookie-baking, house-trimming, gift-wrapping, covert buying and endless card-addressing?

I wish I had an answer to that. Maybe it’s a little like touching a butterfly: You can chase it around, offer bait, call out to it…and nothing is likely to happen. But if you just sit still and wait, quietly and patiently, it may very well land on your outstretched hand.

As the calendar turns to December, let us not chase down Christmas with a net and a cage. Go where the season pulls you — to church, to volunteer opportunities, even to a cozy evening on the couch with Truman Capote’s A Christmas Memory. Tell your loved ones you love them. Let God find you this Christmas, waiting, ready, snug as a manger filled with fresh hay.

 

Yesterday was giving Tuesday so I spent a lot of time thinking about the impact what all have on the world around us.  Give to an organization like Heifer or Presbyterian Disaster Relief, and it has an impact.  Your money pools together with the money of others and influences the lives of people we will most likely never meet.

But what if you don’t have money to give?  That’s the reality some of us face, we have time but not money.  The good news is that we can still give to others.  And many of these gifts will be much closer to home.  We can help with our children’s sports teams, in their schools or their scout troops.  We can help a neighbor run an errand.  We can sweep someone’s porch or shovel their walk.

And we can pray.  A lot has been said on social media in the last year belittling prayer.  And I get it.  When prayers are offered in times of pain and horror but nothing is done to prevent that same pain and sorrow the prayers seem empty.

But sincere prayer?  That is something else.

A friend recently lost his step-daughter to heroine.  We prayed.

Another friend’s mother is in-and-out of the hospital.  I’m not a doctor but I can pray.

Some people think these prayers do know good but when someone believes in the power of prayer?  When someone is suffering and feels alone, letting them know we are praying can truly help.  A friend of my son suffers from chronic migraines. When I let her know I am praying for her, the tension visibly drains away.

Take a moment today and say a prayer.  You can pray for someone you don’t know.  Or pray for someone you do know.  Pray for wisdom or compassion.  Like ripples in a pond, prayer impacts lives.

–SueBE

This coming Sunday marks the beginning of Advent.  Advent, the season that prepares us for the coming of Christ.  A time of anticipation and preparation.

Last Sunday, we discussed Glory and what it means to each of us.  The author of our lesson discussed the way we use the word in our daily lives.  “Not me,” I told the group.  “I don’t tend to use it.  When I say glory, I think God.”

Across the table, one of our engineers nodded.  “Awe.  Wonder.  Splendor.  The vastness that is God. It is bigger than anything we can imagine.

And, in all honesty, I have to say that pretty much sums God up for me.  Bigger than anything I can imagine.  Relatable?  Not in the least.

Personally, I think that is why Christ came to Earth as a baby.  A baby you can cradle in your arms.  A baby you can see and love and at least begin to understand.  Vastness understandable through Love.

–SueBE

Once again, I find myself teaching adult Sunday school.  I desperately want to succeed as a teacher and to me that means one thing.  I want to stir up a discussion.

Before class, I read the chapter we are covering. I read the lesson.  Then I read about how to teach it.  Sometimes I just don’t feel like I’ve gotten enough from these sources so I go online and look for other studies and discussions.  I’m not looking for answers as much as I’m looking for things that surprised me or contrasting perspectives.

Our study this time is on the book of Ephesians.  We’ve discussed predestination, glory and what it means to be Blessed through Christ.

The group ranges in age from 35 to 85.  We are accountants, engineers, gardeners, librarians and a writer.  It really surprises me when we all see something the same way but I like it best when we don’t because that is when I learn to look at something from another perspective.

–SueBE

 

We’ve seen protests of all kinds in the last few years: Black Lives Matter, MeToo, immigration. To be honest, I’m astounded that there aren’t daily protests in the streets over the global scandal of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church.  In truth, it’s a crime against humanity. Those responsible should be brought to the Hague before the International Court of Justice.

The MeToo movement, in particular, started a seismic shift in the world. I’d like to propose another idea: EtTu. A rallying cry for the survivors and families of these horrific acts, perpetrated by priests and buried by bishops. The cover-up is still happening, even now. Catholic bishops at a recent conference were told by the Vatican to “delay voting on measures to hold bishops accountable for failing to protect children from sexual abuse.”

Retired Catholic University Professor Stephen Schenk believes that the bishops “can’t be trusted to police themselves. I think the ultimate solution, especially here in the U.S., is going to require an active, permanent role for the laity, because of the problem of oversight.”

These issues are difficult to discuss, but when I saw this victims’ statement video, their toxic effects became clear. An 84-year-old man described his experience from 1947. If even one bishop had spoken up instead of covering it up, it could have saved all the subsequent children from becoming victims. One survivor said, “It’s very lonely. Especially when it’s your word against God’s.” But as our Lori wisely said in her post, “They are men of God. But they are not God. The Church would do well to remember the humility of its founder.”

Note: I know there are many people out there truly suffering this Thanksgiving — this post is not for you. A change of perspective won’t mitigate your very real grief. Please know that the prayers and empathy of many, many people are with you this holiday season. Take care of yourselves!

Blessing myopia: The inability to see all the marvelous gifts in our lives because we are too focused on negative things that occlude our vision. I’ve certainly been guilty of this lack of awareness. Maybe you have, too? This Thanksgiving, let’s shift our focus a bit.

There’s lint in my pockets
but no holes, and my boots
(battered, worn) will last
another season. If I cut the frayed bits
off my jacket, no one will be the wiser.
I am fed, filled. I sink into bed
(the mattress little more than
dust mites tightly holding tentacles)
and sleep warm and well.
When I am cold, the cat comes
to sit; no blanket could be better.
There is sun somewhere,
even if I can’t see it.
It will rise and set predictably.
The clock of my life will tick.
The sound will fill the hollow places,
joy will change the plain days
into something rather lovely.
Ordinary life will stop my breath
with surprise, and daily my heart
will croon.

Thank you, Lord…

Thank you for the clothes on my back and the ones in the laundry room as well.

Thank you for the food on my plate and in my refrigerator.

Thank you for the roof over my head and the floor beneath my feet.

Thank you for those who make my life richer, friends and family scattered across the globe.

Thank you for second chances, do overs and one more opportunity to do your work.

Thank you for the blessings which are too many to count.

Thank you, Lord.

 

 

“Have a lovely Thanksgiving.”

I laughed out loud when I read that note from my editor.  We are not lovely Thanksgiving people.  We are more like the Griswold Family and I do mean both sides of the family.

My sister has to do everything with perfection.  No seriously.  She makes Martha Stewart look slapdash.  She is also a vegetarian as is my niece.  Dad, who has dementia, will insist on telling her all about my son’s foray into the woods deer hunting.  The teen knows better but my Dad?  Try to stop him.  And he won’t try to talk to anyone else about it so I know it isn’t entirely accidental. Dad thinks he’s funny.

My sister-in-law?  Also heavily into perfection but there are so many people on that side of the family.  We have engineers, IT people, hipsters, and young professionals.  Then there’s my kid – red neck libertarian?  Yeah, that’s a description he’s appreciate.  It will be loud, it will be rambunctious and something will go slightly askew.

Lovely?  No.  Fun, humorous and full of loud love.  Anyone who goes looking for lovely will be frustrated beyond belief.  But those of us who jump into it will come out the other side grate-filled for the family with which God blessed us.

–SueBE

 

 

Have a Mary Little Christmas

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