You are currently browsing the monthly archive for July 2020.

If you’ve ever heard those words (you know, the ones in the title), you probably heard them from an older sibling, possibly a brother. Or from a schoolyard bully, possibly Bubba Rangel, but probably not. In the “stop hitting yourself” maneuver, someone bigger and stronger causes you to slap yourself in the face with your own hands while repeatedly taunting, “Why are you hitting yourself? Stop hitting yourself!” As if you could.

Now that we’re grown up, we have a choice. But some of us keep doing it anyway. Have you felt inadequate during this pandemic — that you should have accomplished more, done something better? Stop hitting yourself. Have you beaten yourself up for being scatterbrained, even though there’s more on your plate than you ever dreamed possible? Stop hitting yourself. Have you nagged yourself over weight you’ve gained, arguments you should have made but didn’t, ways you’ve been insufficient or overwrought? You get the drift.

Let’s all be like SueBE’s good Samaritan and give ourselves some grace.

You have it in your hands
to shape what you feel
soul-deep, to scold or soothe,
calm or caution — claim it.
What grace you dispense to yourself
will fill the font from which you draw
sustenance for others. You cannot pour
from an empty cup, and God knows,
so much needs watering. Hands at rest
can do more than you know. Hearts, too.

Image may contain: 1 person, text that says '"Every tomorrow has two handles; we can take hold by the handle of anxiety or by the handle of faith." ~Henry Ward Beecher Inaugurate Light'In “The Last Straw,”  Lori encouraged us all to look for small blessings.   Ruth added her plea that “In These Times” we can avoid taking our anxieties out on each other.  I don’t know if the woman I encountered this week had read their posts, but she was definitely an angel in my troubled week.

In addition to the onslaught that is 2020, the day I went to the library was just a comedy of errors.  If there was something hard, I banged my elbow on it.  Getting my books off the hold shelf, I knocked a sign to the floor.  Picking it up meant putting down a stack of 15 picture books, graphic novels, novels and a movie.  Everything I had requested for three weeks showed up at one time.

Scanning all of this out through the single self-check out station was not a rapid process.  Then I realized there was someone behind me in line.  Normally there are 5 places to check out but not right now, and she only had only one thing in her hand.

I apologized and she graciously told me it was no problem.  “I’m not in a hurry.  Don’t worry about me.”

Still I felt guilty as I juggled to get it all in the car without dropping anything.  Then I realized the same woman was parked next to me. She stood patiently in her mask, social distancing.

“I am so sorry.  You’re stuck waiting for me again!”

“It isn’t a problem.  We are all in this together.”  I met her eyes and she held my gaze.  “Really.  It is okay.”

I got in the car and sat there a moment replaying her words.  It is okay.  We are all in this together.  After this encounter, my day improved considerably.

At this point, I go almost nowhere, but I am looking for my opportunity.  Someone out there needs to hear a kind word.  They could use a glimmer of His light and love.

–SueBE

Squeaky and the Squirrel

Twice today, I turned on the microwave to heat up my coffee, only to realize my mug was sitting on the counter. 

Twice today, a squirrel slammed into the window, full-force, and rappelled his way into the bird feeder. This is the self-same bird feeder advertised on Amazon as “squirrel-proof.” Oh har! 

Is this a strange day? Heck, it’s a strange week. Month. Time in history. It’s hard not to feel discombobulated.

In this surreal era, people are on edge. It doesn’t seem to take much to set them off.

In these times, maybe the best we can do is not make things worse. That may sound like a low bar, but if these fraught days have made reasonable people become unreasonable, it won’t help to lecture them.

It surely won’t help to ram your grocery cart into them, as one mask-clad woman did when she crossed paths with another woman who refused to wear a mask. 

Some people are using the mask issue as an excuse to act inappropriately, and viral videos have taken on a whole new meaning.

It’s hard to believe that these words need to be said, but here goes: Don’t get into someone’s face because they’re putting your health at risk by not wearing a mask.

Did you read that line? Read it again. 

Have we all taken leave of our senses? 

The virus isn’t to blame for virulent ideologies and vile behavior. 

You can’t be the boss of everyone, but you can be responsible yourself. Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and unto God what is God’s. Do what you have to do as a citizen — Pay your taxes. Don’t jaywalk. Post no bills.

And when you’ve done all you can, keep calm and leave the rest in God’s hands.

You know the one: That insignificant bit of nothing that landed on your back and BROKE EVERYTHING — every last metaphoric vertebrae. That one last thing you just couldn’t stand up to, not on top of a pandemic and civil unrest and a government sliding daily into fascism. Maybe it was a sick kitty (like SueBE’s Cindy) or a co-worker who simply refuses to “get it” (as Ruth has been dealing with). Maybe whatever broke you wasn’t little at all, but the sheer cumulative weight of a year that keeps getting weirder and more apocalyptic by day. (Coin shortage, anyone?)

The only way out is to keep moving, even when it feels performative. In the end, all we’ve got to live on is the promise of God’s grace, washing over us, making us whole again. And that’s not something you can summon at will. But it will come.

Look for it in all the small places,
in flourishes and gestures:
the holding open of a door,
the way someone says, “I’m sorry.”
See the clean white of it shining like
a shaft of sunlight, hitting you with
miracle molecules, hiking your heart
so high, you can only bat at it, a balloon
tugged by wind. All that pulls you down
is illusory. The one real thing is waiting
to spin you out of your shoes and into
a stratosphere bright with possibilities.
Let go. Let God. Your soul knows the way.

Common Prayer Pocket Edition: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals  -     By: Shane Claiborne, Jonathan Wilson Hartgrove
Everyone I talk to lately is dealing with a lot.  First, there are the things we are all dealing with – pandemic, economic woes, education, etc.  Then there are our personal concerns.  Me?  I’ve got a sick cat, an elderly father, and replacing the toilet seal has turned into tearing up the floor, plumbing work on the sink drain, and more.

But really, I’m sick of thinking about this rot all the time.  I wake up worried about the cat.  I try to work worried about getting paid.  As I wait to use our only functioning bathroom, I wonder what repair bill is going to crop up next.  Every time my allergy ridden child or I cough, I worry about the virus. And I’m tired of it.  I’m tired of the issues themselves but I’m also tired of them being my focus.

Daily Bible reading has helped.  But I also want to bolster my prayer life.  You’d think that during a pandemic prayer would be a focus.

Yet when I try to pray, I’m lost.  I’m so overwhelmed that I just don’t know what to say.

What can I say that God hasn’t already heard?  What can I say that is truly meaningful?  I have questions but no answers, no words.

The good news is that there are words ready to be delivered to my phone.  Earlier this week, I found a prayer app, Common Prayer: A Liturgey for Ordinary Radicals.  I have to admit that I was jazzed to find this app because this is my single favorite book on prayer.  The idea of the book is to help the diverse church pray together across denominations.

Download the app and you can have a reminder deliverd for morning, midday and evening prayer.  They have set times when these reminders are delivered but you can also customize the times.  There are prayers.  You can click through to music.  They discuss prayers and workship traditions.  Today they delivered the prayer of St. Francis which really made my day.

It is so hard today not to focus on all that is negative.  After all, our phones connect us to a constant stream of messages and warnings.  Why not use your phone to connect to God?

I can’t say that it is solving all my problems.  The drain pipe is still crumbling away.  But my attitude about that pipe and everything else is a whole lot better.  Won’t you join me in prayer?

–SueBE

gray rock formation near body of water during sunsetOhhhh, dear. Let me rephrase that. Choose your “Yes’s” in life so you don’t end up with things you don’t want. If you don’t aim for a positive, “yes” goal, you can end up picking a negative, “no” goal by default. There. That’s better!

Aeons ago, when I was in school (in ye olden days, when we spelled “eons” with an extraneous “A”), my philosophy teacher was the first adult who actually listened to my opinions. 

He also gave sage advice. If we said, “I don’t think so,” he would correct us. “Don’t tell me what you don’t think. Say, ‘I think not.’”

The same thing is true in life. Say “no” to what you don’t want. By doing so, you say “yes” to what you do want. This might seem obvious, but is it?

How much of your life is frittered away by doing things you said “yes” to reluctantly, or to please someone else? 

Be clear about what you want. The map to your yes life is littered with wrong turns and detours. Those were defining moments. Now you know where your yes life isn’t. You can use that information to keep driving.

Don’t be equivocal about what you don’t want, or, as Mr. Kielblock would say, be unequivocal about what you want. 

So be sure to pick your no’s today — er uh, to choose your yes’s. You’ll save yourself from obligations you gain nothing from. Decide what matters most to you, and set your sights on that “yes” goal. 

And never forget to check in with your co-pilot, Providence, along the way. I mean, always remember to check in with your co-pilot, Providence, along the way. That’s what a prayerful, purposeful, positive life is all about.

Deny, deny, deny. You name it, and someone is out there disbelieving in it, whether it’s systemic racism or a killer virus. It’s rather like a Laurel and Hardy sketch in which a truculent moving man actively does not believe in the grand piano dangling above him perilously by a fraying rope. He will still be smashed flat when it falls on his head. Only it won’t be funny when it does.

The only remedy for these maddening times is to surround yourself with people who support you, who understand and nurture you, yet challenge you to keep your eyes open to hanging pianos and societal ills. Folks who help you work to make things better.

I am lucky to have a blessed few of these friends in my life, including (and especially) my co-bloggers, Ruth and Sue. There are times I think I’d go quite mad without them. Who keeps you sane? Why not give them a proper blessing today?

You may have to sort through galaxies
to find them, sift stars through your fingers
like glitter to hold and heft those
with the proper weight and gravity,
the right amount of sparkle,
the habit of making you glow,
illumined from within,
suddenly a sun.
You will know
you have found them
by the way your soul grows
to match and meet them, the way
you exceed yourself incrementally
under their care. Hold them close.
Though black holes loom, your constellation
will hold, delighting the heavens and luring wayward
planets into more stable orbits.

Image may contain: 1 personI should read the Bible.  I know this.  How else am I going to broaden my understanding and deepen my connection?  Every year, it is one of my resolutions, but up until February or so I didn’t do it.  I’d have good intentions and read a bit here and there for a week or two, but I never got very far.

Then in February I spotted the reading plans at Bible Gateway.  I had seen something about a chronological Bible – the text of the Bible is printed chronologically in order of the events depicted.  I was curious and Bible Gateway has an online chronological reading plan.  Each day, they send me a link to that day’s reading depending on how far you are in the plan.  Today’s reading is 1 Kings 12-14.  A couple of days ago, the reading was Ecclesiastes 7-12, and it included a verse that surprised me because it is just so . . . today.  Here is Ecclesiastes 7:10.

Do not say, “Why were the former days better than these?”
    For it is not from wisdom that you ask this.

Wow.  That hit a little too close to home.  Whether you are in the “Make America Great Again” or the “I Miss Obama” camp, so many of us spend our time looking back. We talk about when the US was crime free.  Back in the good old days.  Back when people had family values.  Back when people were good. Remember how easy things were before we had to wear masks?

The story of Lot’s wife speaks to this.  She turned into a pillar of salt when she looked back.  She stood frozen, rooted to the spot instead of moving forward.

When we are hip deep in difficulties it is easy to look back.  But don’t do it to the extent that it keeps you from moving forward.  Don’t do it to the point that it keeps you from working toward solutions for todays problems.

How then should you look back?  Do it to gather strength.  My grandmother (see her photo) and her sisters grew up during the Dust Bowl.  They lived in Amarillo, Texas.  There were polio epidemics.  They survived their father’s alcoholism and war.  Times were tough.  My grandmother made clothing out of flour sacks and explained to me how to sort the various fabrics for dresses, boy’s shirts and underwear.  Think about it.  She even made their underwear.

Times are tough today and I’ve made masks but not underwear.  Thank goodness.  Although if I made underwear no one would be able to stare at my wobbly seams.

I look back and I see the thing my family survived.  My Grandmother wasn’t alone.  She had her sisters helping her out.

I’m not alone either.  I’ve got tidbits of wisdom from the Bible.  I’ve got my sisters, Lori and Ruth, and the many other women around me today.  I live with two hard working men and we are in this together.  Grandma always said I should read the Bible and it is definitely something I will continue to do moving foward.  That said, I do wonder what the next timely verse will be.

–SueBE

 

selective focus photography of green succulent plantMindfulness is knowing where you are, literally, figuratively, physically and emotionally. If your body is sitting in a chair in the kitchen, but you’re agonizing about an unpaid bill or the broken fence, you’re not fully present. You’re neither here nor there.

Could it be that, when you woke up today, you didn’t realize that this is Everything-Goes-Your-Way Day?

The thing is, if you’re focusing on yesterday’s problems or tomorrow’s uncertainty, you might miss it.

Your mission today, should you choose to accept it, is this: get up, get dressed, and be blessed. As long as you don’t start to think, Okay, what’s the catch? you’ll be the recipient of grace today.

One might think: This is impossible in the time of COVID-19. There are protests going on about police brutality towards people of color. Nothing is normal at all! 

But this is a war on many fronts, and you’ve been through battles before. What did you do when things went haywire? When you lost a loved one or a job? When your child ran away or got hurt? Life doesn’t stop at the catastrophe. It’s where a new path creates itself.

If you’re at home right now and you’ve just had dinner, bask in the blessings. Experience the present. If the neighbor’s kid isn’t practicing the drums tonight? That’s a blessing. If the mail didn’t contain any bills today, bask and breathe. Bad news and big disruptions get enough press. Let’s give our blessings some attention.

Or as Someone said a long time ago: “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”

Tomorrow will be here soon enough, with whatever the day brings. Just for today, be here, now.

It happened in a neighborhood much like yours. My friends — two of the kindest, most compassionate people I’ve ever known — had their home attacked by hatred. Let me set the scene: On their lawn, these friends have placed two signs. One says “No matter where you are from, we’re glad you’re our neighbor” in three languages. The other simply states, “Black Lives Matter.” Lately, a cowardly Someone planted a third sign in their yard. This one was different. Scrawled on poster board were ugly, racist things. My friends were called “America haters” and instructed to “get a job.” (May I also mention that my friends are two of the hardest working folks you might ever meet?)

I spent a long time feeling sad, knowing how I might react to such a thing — with despair, anger and fear. But then I knew just how my friends were going to react to it — with compassion and resilient grace. And I realized: Hate has no chance. None at all.

Hate has no home here.
It scrabbles in crannies,
finding footholds in fearful dark places.
It squints in ignorance, afraid of light
that will certainly kill it, sure as any germ.
Though we long to burn it, let us refrain.
Instead, stand in loving audacity,
face forward into the abyss
that is, after all, only smoke:
quickly dispelled by the ongoing breath
of all who know our God.

Have a Mary Little Christmas

%d bloggers like this: