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Today, Holy Thursday, begins the Triduum, the three days that recollect and celebrate the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus. Most of us know this story well. We’ve pondered that journey. But how often do we think about the people who walked the path with Jesus?

Simon of Cyrene was picked out of the crowd to help Jesus carry the cross. How and why was he chosen? Well, we know he was from Africa. He might have been a person of color. Or the Roman guards simply noticed he wasn’t Jewish — he was “other.” Or he might have expressed sympathy for Christ. Whatever the reason, he is an outsider, someone from the fringes — the type of person Jesus favored in life.

The women of Jerusalem wept for Jesus and were comforted by him. Women weren’t exactly valued commodities in Jesus’ day. They were mostly seen as possessions, with no voice or agency of their own. Yet Jesus turns to women again and again in his life and along the road to his death — he listens to them. He values them. He speaks to them. Again, Jesus chooses the outsider.

Veronica wipes Jesus’ face. Again, a woman does the unthinkable, and Jesus rewards her with kindness.

The penitent thief (sometimes called Dismas) is crucified next to Jesus. What do we know about him? People were crucified for all sorts of crimes in Jesus’ day, but to be crucified for mere petty theft would have been a long shot, unless the thief was from the lower classes, or worse, a slave. Or the theft was far from petty — it was violent and extreme. There is some conjecture that the “thieves” were more like terrorists. Once again, it someone from the fringes, someone most unlikely, who responds to Christ’s call. In radically changing his heart, Dismas is promised paradise.

Women. Foreigners. Criminals. These are the people who walked the way of the cross with Jesus. Not his apostles. Not religious leaders. It was the most unlikely of people who shared the journey.

People are always amazed when I tell them that SueBE, Ruth and I have never met in person. Yet in my dark nights of the soul, they consistently walk with me. This Easter, take some time to ponder who walks with you. You just might be surprised.

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I’ve been taking Miss Ruth’s lessons to heart so when I saw one of the young staffers at the city gym, I thanked him for doing such a good job.  This will make his day.

Sure enough. He smiled broadly.  But did he thank me for noticing?  No!   Did he say, “You’re welcome!”  He did not.

“It’s my job. I’m good at it.”

I laughed as my girl friend and I walked to our cars.  So much for my assumption that he needed my kind words to make his day.   Thanks but no, he’s got it under control.

Not that I’m going to let that stop me from thanking someone for a good job the next time I feel so moved.  After all, that person may need the kind word and may need to be seen at that point and time.

And isn’t that why I try to spread a bit of God’s love and joy every day?

–SueBE

 

I need to organize, like Norma Rae. That’s just a saying I made up, and I say it to myself as I attempt to sort through closets and drawers, vainly looking for:

  • The spatula with the melted handle that got too close to the flame on the stove
  • The meat tenderizer/hammer-looking-thingie I’m going to repurpose into an ice cracker
  • A copy of that screenplay I wrote about Amazon warrior women in space, submitted cheekily to Amazon via their Storywriter submission tool two years ago that they rejected instantly (uploaded – 11 AM, “declined” – 12 PM)
  • An energy booster like you see in video games to beat the late afternoon drowsies
  • Another hour of daylight
  • That other sock

Yep, I really need to organize. Heck, I need a union! A union of one. A one-ion, if you will. I really need to talk to whoever’s in charge of getting these closets in order, because they’ve got some explaining to do! Who’s in charge here? Bring ‘em out. Huh? Oh. That would be me.

Like so many people, I’m fascinated by the existence of someone such as Marie Kondo, the Japanese organizing guru who suggests discarding all items in your home that don’t “spark joy.” I do think she’s on to something, but then how do you flip a pancake? My spatula (referenced above, semi-melted) doesn’t spark joy. It’s merely functional.

Now, when it comes to clearing out a memory of past pain from our soul’s storage, the only way to eliminate it is to remind yourself you did the best you could at the time. Remember all you’ve got to be thankful for nowadays. This might be the key to optimal mental health. De-clutter the space in your soul and make room for the better things coming your way.

Funny that this should pop up as we head into Easter.  This year, women throughout the Presbyterian Church, USA are studying God’s promise to us all.  I am with you.  Again and again throughout the Old Testament, that is what he tells his followers.  When Haggai, the prophet, comes to God’s people, he comes with a message.  “I am with you.”  When King Ahaz asks for help, Isaiah brings the message, “I am with You.”

Christ is that promise in the flesh.  I am with you here and now.  You can hear me if you will listen.  You can see me if you will look.

Imagine how hopeless all must have seemed on Good Friday for Christ’s followers.  He was crucified, dead and buried.  He had been among them. He has spoken to them, broken bread with them, and walked beside them on the road.  What now?

I know that I often feel like that.  What now?

As Christians, we celebrate the risen Christ.  I am with you here and now.  You can hear me if you will listen.  You can see me if you will look.

–SueBE

 

At 3 AM, I woke up suddenly, and these words popped into my head:

Major drama in one minute.

Within a minute, a massive clap of thunder shook the house. Lightning flashed and crackled. Torrential rain flowed like a river from the sky. It was as if a switch was flipped. Peaceful. Click. Tumultuous. It turns out to have been a micro-burst, a powerful storm that knocked down trees.

It was the kind of sudden loud surprise that makes you curse, even if you really don’t curse. What the -! Holy -!

And in that surprised, scared, angry space, I actually had this thought: Well, if you can warn me it’s coming, Lord, why can’t you just make it not happen in the first place?

Bad things happen to people. It could be the loss of a loved one. A betrayal by a spouse. I’m not sure what the net benefit will be as you go through it, but going forward, it builds your resilience muscles. It gives you experience to make informed choices in the future. It will almost certainly deepen your reserves of compassion, now that you know from the inside of the tunnel how scarce light can be till you pass through it.

It’s not that unexpected, unwelcome things aren’t going to pop up like a sudden storm. They are. Who knows why. All I can assume is that God’s got his reasons. But you are going to get through them. Sometimes you’ve just got to hold on until morning.

Last week was just brutal.  I don’t know why.  I mean have a few ideas . . . I had a book due.  But I’ve done that before.  Why did I feel so overwhelmed.  Then came the annual nasty gram.  Yep, we have a nickname for it.  A long, ranting e-mail for the purpose of making someone feel like poo.

But this time things really seemed to be getting to me.  It seemed like I was hit on all sides with texts, e-mails, and messages.  I want . . . I need . . . do this . . . why doesn’t anyone ever contact me just to say hi?  I’m sick of being valued only for what I can do for other people.  I’ve had it.

Then I saw it.  Miss Ruth had e-mailed Lori and I.  She just wanted to check in and see how I was doing.  Did I need to talk?

That’s all it took.  Someone was out there.  And I might not have been the one that really needed to hear from Ruth but that simple e-mail? It helped a lot.

Someone was listening.  Contact was made.

God has given us each other for a reason. Yes,  He is always there.  We are never alone.  Yes, He always hears.  We just have to call out. But sometimes, a little human touch it the help we need to lift up our chins and know that we aren’t alone.

Reach out to someone today.  Let them know that you are there and that you see them.  Take a chance and you just might turn someone’s week around.  Miss Ruth did with one short e-mail.

–SueBE

 

Rough chop can have various meanings, depending on who’s saying it.

A French chef saying, “You’ll just want to do a rough chop of your vegetables for this stew” is one thing. If the pilot says on the overhead speaker, “We’re in for some rough chop ahead”, that’s a whole different story.

Tension isn’t always a bad thing. It’s necessary if you’re playing a guitar. Or knitting.

And pressure isn’t always a negative thing. In the shower, with shampoo in your hair, you want strong water pressure. But when it comes to the human psyche, it’s a whole different story.

Did you ever wonder about those friends of yours that you only see once in a blue moon? Doesn’t it seem like they’ve fallen off the face of the Earth? It could be that they need to re-charge their batteries after reaching a threshold of sorts. It’s probably not you. It’s the whole human circus of sights, sounds, smells. Personalities. Interactions. Micro-aggressions. Traffic jams.

I know for a fact that I ghost people, even people I love. My psyche says it’s time to hibernate. It doesn’t mean I don’t love you. It means some sort of relief valve has tripped, and for the sanctity of my soul, for the sanity of my mind, I have to decompress. De-escalate. Disconnect. Even from dear friends. It releases the internal build-up of steam so I don’t reach the point of melt down.

You wouldn’t say to a bear, Where have you been? You’ve been a no-show all winter! That’s what she has to do to survive.

What if, just for today, we showed up for the ones who never show up? We’ve got your back till you get back. Once you know the facts behind the facade, it’s a whole different story.

Have you ever had a dream so vivid that you felt as if it was a message from the universe? It happened to me yesterday at 5 AM, so I bolted out of bed to write it down.

A lovely voice was singing to the tune of Al Green’s “So Tired of Being Alone” with different lyrics.

She sang:

When you’re out of here

When you can’t go on

When you feel like giving up wherever you go

And it bothered me. My first thought was to worry that my son might be feeling this way, so before he left for work yesterday, I told him about the dream and asked him if he was feeling like that. He said he wasn’t. I said, “I’m aware that I don’t always leave open avenues for our actually communicating. Often, I come at you with tasks or concerns instead of listening.” I asked the second question. “Do you want to talk about anything going on in your life right now?” He really listened to what I said. He told me he knew he could talk to me, and that he was okay.

Who was this message for?

In that patented Nicely-Noodgy way I have, I’m now in the process of cycling through my list of loved ones and contacting them. You okay? Had this dream. Want to make sure you’re feeling copasetic.

So when you ask the people in your life, “Are you okay?” and they say, “I’m fine,” ask the second question. “How are doing, really?”

Check on your loved ones.

Don’t tune out.

Check in with your soul.

Don’t check out.

We’d love it if you stuck around. We’ll stick by you. Let’s make it better, together.

P.S. If you need to talk, the National Suicide Prevention Hotline number is 800-273-TALK (8255).

We lost our boy. Jaspurr was nineteen — that’s a long time to know a person, much less a cat (which is what Jassy was). His name (pronounced Jasper) stemmed from his loud and enthusiastic motor. He was a lover, a cuddler, a lap kitty. He was, as our dear pet sitter described him (and like Frankie whom I wrote about last week), the matriarch of the family: It was because of Jaspurr’s loving instincts that we were able to have eleven cats in our home at one time. He took care of everybody. Now he is gone, along with the rest of his adopted kin. He was, as my mother would say, the last of the Mohicans.

Sometimes terrible doubts grasp me: What if there is no heaven? It’s not fear for myself that motivates me — the idea of oblivion is terrifying, of course, but I don’t mind so much for myself as for Jaspurr and our other lost pets. Surely there must be a forever place for him? He did nothing but love with his whole heart every day of his life.

I find myself arguing transitive qualities, like a proof in geometry: If I love Jaspurr and God loves me, then…. But it’s useless trying to wrap my brain around it. Jaspurr was good, and if good survives beyond this life, then surely he does, too.

There is only one way to deal with this grief and it is to walk through it. I have to imagine Jaspurr in paradise, a paradise he understands, filled with dishes of cereal milk and all his friends. Here’s a haiku to celebrate:

A pause in heaven —
gentle tiger-striped rumblings —
a cat has come home.

Plantie wearing her Crop Circle.

When I couldn’t knit using needles anymore due to visual issues, I decided to give the round loom a shot. That’s basically a plastic circle with pegs on it. You wrap the yarn around the pegs to knit, and there’s a tiny slot on each peg so that if you can’t see it that well, at least you can feel it with your knitting tool.

So I was knitting what I thought was a headband, but when I put it on my head, it flopped right off. Oh. I guess I was supposed to incorporate some kind of elastic element to keep it in place. I tossed it onto the table next to my plant. Her name is Plantie. Yes. See, I’m a writer. Good wit woids, as we say in Jersey. I wanted to name her Petunia, but that’s an actual name of a flower already, and she’s… I don’t know. Some other kind of green grow-y thing.

The vet’s office had sent Plantie to me when my KitKat passed away. I thought it was a very kind gesture, but I never could keep a plant alive. Still, I welcomed her, watered her, and tell Plantie every day she looks lovely and healthy. Give her a shpritz with the mister. (This may be risque for a prayer blog, but…why does that phrase sound obscene to me?😏)

One day I put Plantie in the center of the Unrealized Headband I’d knitted. Huh. That looks pretty decent, actually. Why, my word! That’s not a headband after all. It’s a tiny round knit thingie to adorn my plant’s basket. Let’s call it a Crop Circle! This could be a thing!

Every bit of your creativity has a purpose. Let it speak to you and find its own rightful place in the world.

Have a Mary Little Christmas

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