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When I saw this quote, it reminded me of one of the Bible lessons that made up part of our service yesterday. The Rich Man and Lazarus is in the sixteenth chapter of Luke.

The Rich Man and Lazarus (NIV)

19 “There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. 20 At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores 21 and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores.

22 “The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. 23 In Hades, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. 24 So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.’

25 “But Abraham replied, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. 26 And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been set in place, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.’

27 “He answered, ‘Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my family, 28 for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’

29 “Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.’

30 “‘No, father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’

31 “He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’”

Pastor Sean explained to us that different theologians interpret this passage in different ways.  The one he prefers is that Lazarus, the only person named in a parable, is so low and miserable that even the dogs take pity and clean his wounds.  The rich?  They ignore him.

Every day, when the rich man exited through his gate, he would have seen Lazarus.  He could have gotten Lazarus a doctor.  He could have fed him. He could have reached out.

Our pastor encouraged us not to feel guilty about what we have. Why?  Because that will only drive us to also turn away.

I know that not everyone who reads this has wealth, but even if you are using a computer at your library, you can write a letter.  Encourage a policy maker to address poverty, health care issues or environmental change this is impacting the poor.  Thank someone who has inspired you.  Reach out to someone who simply needs to know they are seen.

Come on.  Don’t let the dogs be the only ones who get the message.

–SueBE

 

This thought occurred to me twice this week: I wonder if I should just throw it out and start over

The first time was when I looked at the plant the vet had sent me when my cat passed away last year. I really like the plant, but sometimes when I look at it, I remember it’s only here because my cat isn’t here anymore. 

Looking at the leaves, now brown around the edges, my brain reminds me: Don’t you have a black thumb?  I really don’t, but that’s what I used to think.

The second time I thought about throwing things away en masse was when I was looking for a notepad and couldn’t find it under all the expired coupons and old receipts in the junk drawer.

Luckily, I realized I shouldn’t toss anything until it had been sorted. Put the things I need in there and throw away or find new homes for the rest of the stuff. Keep the letter opener, tape, and pens. Discard the keys to door locks we don’t even have anymore, pile of pennies, and bent paper clips.

The truth is, the plant just needed pruning. The drawer just needed organizing. Once it was re-organized, I re-named it: the Utility Drawer. There’s not one bit of junk in there anymore. Once I re-framed the way I see that plant, it’s actually a tribute to a sweet creature we’ll always remember fondly. I re-named it: the Blessing Blossom.

Sometimes it just takes a second look to see things in a different light.

I will be the first person to admit that I have absolutely no sense of direction.  I can get right and left wrong.  Once, when I worked at the university, I had to dismiss a class when the professor couldn’t come in.  I went to the wrong building and almost dismissed the wrong class.  I’m a bit infamous.

But it can also work in my favor.  When I insist that I know which way to go, my husband and son listen.  They know that I don’t speak up unless I am certain. After all, I’m well aware of my reputation.

The good thing about my ability to get lost is that it doesn’t really faze me anymore.  I don’t know where I am?  No big deal.  I’ll figure it out eventually.

Maybe that’s part of the reason that I’m so willing to try new things.  While various of my friends are looking for a pattern to make a cute felt ornament we saw, I’ve figured out what needs to be done and a logical order for the steps.

Does my way always work?  No.  But I learn something from each failed attempt.  And eventually I’ll figure it out.

–SueBE

What if the universe — God included — is like a book: a really weighty one, like War and Peace? I’d like to think each of us is born with a scrap of this book in our soul, just a word or two, really, though the best of us (saints, for instance) probably get a whole paragraph. Our job in this lifetime, as I see it, is to seek out each other’s words and gather them together as best we can into some semblance of the Truth.

Nobody has all the answers. Not even the Bible, which is full of concepts and words that don’t translate neatly (or at all) into English. Ask two people to translate The Lord’s Prayer from its original Aramaic, and you will get two different prayers. It begins with the word “Abwoon,” which can be translated to mean “father” (though the root word is actually genderless) or “parent” or “divine breath” or “birther of all things.” Or any one of a dozen other things.

Nothing about God is simple. I am content to remain a seeker, a wanderer, picking up words wherever I can and trying to fit them into the puzzle that is God.

Nothing about You can be known.
You slip through our hands like sand,
just when we think that we can hold you.
Even your touchable Son, fully flesh,
escapes our grasp. We humans
like our shapes defined: This, then,
is a square; this is a sphere.
But what is the shape of God?
Avian? Flame? The man on the ceiling
of the Sistine Chapel, the one we
reach for but never touch?
Perhaps we ask too much.
We worry your lock with our
senses, with our brains.
If only we approached
with our hearts wide open,
the pins would tumble,
the lock would breach.
You appear, wide open,
when we least try to touch.

This year, our women’s Bible study is on the Ten Commandments.  The focus of our first lesson was God’s promise. “I am yours.  You are Mine.”

At the end of this lesson, the author recommended two ways to explore the study throughout the year.  We could journal or we could use meditative prayer.  Our study leader pointed out that instead of keeping a formal journal we could make margin notes throughout the month.  After al, we’ve each purchased a book and the books have lovely, wide margins.  Markers, stickers, colored pens, sketches, notes, whatever.

I’ve not tried journaling yet, because journaling is a bit “in” right now. I’m not avoiding it because it is IN. I’m avoiding it because I’m already working with two other journaling projects.  Three just seems like too much.

But I’ve added the line for meditative prayer to the top page of each page in my other journal.  “I am Yours.  You are mine.”  As I open this journal each morning, I see this line of text.  I take a few minutes to meditate.  Inhale.  “I am Yours.”  Exhale. “You are mine.”  Inhale and exhale.  In and out.  It creates a quiet centering start to my day.

Has it solved all the worlds problems?  No.

But I feel calmer and better able to deal with them.  Things feel do-able and less chaotic.

I am yours.  You are mine.

Why not give it a try?

–SueBE

tilt shift lens photography of tealight candleWhen I looked online and saw how expensive candles were, I thought, Why not make some candles? How hard could it be? Plus, it might be a fun craft project. So, I looked up “Complete Candle-making Kits” and found one that sounded promising, but when it arrived, it turned out to be just a bag of wax and wicks with no instructions. Now what do I do?

Back to the online search. I found a how-to video and followed its instructions, but instead of a candle, what I ended up with was a royal mess. White wax spilled all over the white counter and hardened, and when I tried to scrape it off, it just made it look even worse. 

Back to the online search again. I found out that the heat of a blow dryer can melt wax that has set onto a surface, and then you can wipe it off with a wet paper towel. 

It was a life lesson for me. False advertising can lead to snafus, especially when you buy things online.

Isn’t it the same way with faith? Some try to sell a bill of goods, promising  that troubles will go away if you take a leap of faith, but true religion adds to your life. Lifts you up. Helps you to be a better person. It doesn’t require blind loyalty. Your whole paycheck. Mind control.

Coming to faith is like that do-it-yourself candle. It can light up your life or make a major mess. Knowing what you’re buying (or buying into) is a life skill worth having.

Way back before I was a mom, we lived in another part of town and I took the bus to work at the University.  One day I was standing at the bus stop when a group of preschoolers on a field trip joined me.  One little boy marched up to me and through his arms around me.  “I love her and I’m going to marry her.”

I chatted with one of the chaperones but now I don’t remember what we were discussing.  It was small talk but at some point I revealed that I had no idea who this kid was.  She expected me to lose my cool but really? Wouldn’t I have done it when he first attached himself to me?

In truth, it was a spectacular way to start my day.  How often are we greeted with such unconditional love?  I can’t help but think that this is why Christ told us to come as children.

Leave behind your preconceived notions, your conditions, your check lists.  Take a seat.  Open your heart and mind.

When you do, you can approach others with this level of joy.  “Hey, I know you!  You carry a spark of the Divine, just like me.”

–SueBE

Pluto in True Color - High-Res.jpg

Is it possible that everything we’ve been taught is just somebody’s best guess? Even facts can change, like the fact that Pluto is no longer called a planet. In 2006, the International Astronomical Union (IAU) determined that there are three criteria that define a planet, and Pluto failed one of them: keeping his block tidy. 

“In the end it was decided that to qualify as a planet in orbit around our Sun, a chunk of rock must have been made round by its own gravity; have cleared its neighbourhood of other debris; and not be a satellite of another planetary body,” wrote Jenny Hogan in the Journal Nature.

This change has been controversial, with NASA’s Administrator, Jim Bridenstine, stepping into the fray: “Just so you know, in my view, Pluto is a planet,” he said. “You can write that the NASA Administrator declared Pluto a planet once again. I’m sticking by that, it’s the way I learnt it, and I’m committed to it.”

If experts can’t agree on the truth, what can we ever really know? Even when it comes to eternal truths, religions disagree.

We do know that it’s possible to belong to a religion and still voice questions about its practices, as Lori did recently. 

We also know that it’s possible to value the opinions of your church group but not be swayed by peer pressure, as SueBE wrote about in her last post.

Speaking up when things don’t seem right isn’t just a way to express yourself; it’s another way of honoring the One who created you, the world, and all the stars in the sky.

heart shaped flower arrangementFor some reason, a small, sweet moment crossed my mind this morning. When my son was younger, he had friends over to play video games, and, as I put away the laundry, I realized they were talking about me.

You wouldn’t believe what those kids said about me! Never in my life! Well, it’s not what you think. As it turns out, they weren’t kvetching at all.

One of his friends had asked Cole, “Why is your mom always so nice to us?”

My son called me into his room, amused. “Why ARE you so nice to my friends, Mom?”

The other boy said, “Yeah. Moms aren’t usually like that. What’s up with that?”

“Well, I love my son, and I want him to be happy,” I said. “When he has his friends over, he’s happy. I think it’s good to extend hospitality so you guys feel at home too. It’s nice to show people you care.”

There really is a secret to being in a positive frame of mind all the time, and it’s saying what I actually mean. It keeps me emotionally in balance. 

My motto is: Be truthful but tactful. If it’s not important enough to mention, it’s surely not worth holding a grudge over. Say it, so it doesn’t go on lay-away. Don’t put it into storage so that you can make an appointment in your mind to be mad at someone again later. Speak at the moment an infraction occurs. 

You did this thing. It was inappropriate. Or, You said something that hurt my feelings. Get it off your chest so you don’t harbor it in your heart.

Love your loved ones, starting with yourself. Don’t hurt your heart with hate. Speak your mind. Clear the air. Get past the past and let new blessings in.

The Episcopal diocese of Washington DC moved this week to refer to God using inclusive language. Good for them. Yes, I know: God is referred to as male thousands of times in the bible. But Jesus himself says God is spirit (John 4:24), and spirit has no gender. Male pronouns have been standard usage for centuries, even when referring to groups with women in them. It’s a default, not a revelation.

Other pet peeves: Why was I never taught that Mary Magdalene is a composite of three different women and was amalgamated by one man — Pope Gregory the Great? And that there’s no biblical evidence that she ever earned a living as a prostitute? Why are Catholic children taught how important — how telling — it is that Jesus picked only male apostles, but the fact that he chose to reveal the Good News —and gave official sanction to spread that news — to women first, not men, is brushed past as though it doesn’t matter?

Why are we not told that all that “he-man, woman-hater” language in Paul’s epistles was likely inserted by monks inscribing them in the Middle Ages?

Why all the lies, both active and of omission? Why has my church kept my God from me?

God is not a rope to be tugged, a prize that falls to those who pull the hardest. God pours down on those in the margins. God comes to the poor, the disenfranchised, the weak. God stands with the powerless.

If you claim to represent God, but stand where God does not stand, what are you, really?

God our mother our father our life-giving hope,
Come to us, blind us with light that does not fail
to catch the corners, the alleys, the hidden places
your most needy children dwell. Burst boundaries.
Be bigger, loom larger, than words will warrant.
As you have before us, as you will long after.

Amen

Have a Mary Little Christmas

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