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I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. Okay, mostly I’ve been dreading the upcoming election and the upcoming fall out. At times like this, I find myself turning to God. Who should I vote for?

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Imagine my surprise when a recent sermon addressed this and so much else. You know the Biblical bit (theology ala Sue) where the Pharisees and the Herodians ask Christ if people should pay taxes? You’ll find it in Matthew 22:15-22.

Christ knows that they are trying to trap him so he asks to see a coin.

“Show me the coin used for the tax.” And they brought him a denarius. 20 Then he said to them, “Whose head is this, and whose title?” 21 They answered, “The emperor’s.” Then he said to them, “Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” 22 When they heard this, they were amazed; and they left him and went away.

I was taught that this meant you should obey the government, pay your taxes and be a good citizen. Pretty handy little message for the PTB (powers that be).

But our pastor challenged us to remember just how wise Christ is. The coin was branded with the image of Caesar. Thus it was a Roman coin, part of Caesar’s empire. Christ was actually asking these people whose mark they carried – God’s or Caesar’s? Who did they serve – God or Ceasear?

When we argue politics and challenge people to vote this way or that way “as good Christians,” whose mark are we carrying? Are we carrying the mark of Christ? Or are we carrying a mark of Red or Blue?

Maybe instead of asking who someone is voting for, we should be asking other questions. Do you have the food you need? With winter coming on, are you warm enough? For those in the path of incoming storms, do you have what you need to ride it out?

If I carry the mark of Christ, it should be evident to those around me no matter which candidate they support.

–SueBE

ray of light near body of water

Imagine being an explorer from outer space, having traveled for years, and finally, you’ve landed on the third planet from the sun. Phew! That map you bought at the fueling station on Alpha Centauri was a bit outdated, but you made it eventually.

The cut-rate “Learn to speak like an Earthling in ten days!” lessons you took were supposed to enable you to converse with the natives, but you’ve encountered some snafus. 

So you say a “pantry” isn’t a place you store trousers, but food? Huh. And a roomatologist isn’t an interior designer, but some kind of doctor? Wait. It’s spelled how?!?

Also, your spaceship doesn’t fit into the drive-thru lane at the fast-food place. You put the food in front of you and it just sits there. It’s not fast at all! Should you get your money back? 

And what is the deal with money, anyway? Tiny pieces of green paper? This can’t be the most valuable thing on this planet. Back home, it’s a compound called blargen, which is a rare, strong mineral that emits a noise and spins. 

If it’s hard for an alien to understand our language and ways, it’s become equally hard to decipher what our fellow humans are communicating to us these days. 

A wedding with 10,000 guests in NYC? At the height of a pandemic? That’s a head-scratcher. People intentionally provoking fights over masks? Going on vacation and flouting rules? It just does not compute.

Others may make questionable choices, but there’s no need to lower yourself when those around you engage in pettiness and politics. Act as if God is watching (guess what?) and speak as if everything you say will be in history books. Calibrate your moral compass to the Golden Rule and always do the right thing.

I.
You are my soul’s only seeking.
Yet you remain as opaque
as the sky, as resolute
and rainy, your face like flint.

II.
I am not the first
to grab a spray of roses
and draw back bloody.
It is the way of women
to feel keenly every prickle,
every puncturing portion.
It is why we weep.

III.
I begin the day as ever,
crying I am here and I am clay.
Make something of me
.
When might I expect a reply?
My calendar glares,
an ocean of blank possibility.

IV.
Yet if you were to step in,
we would surely fold our hands,
close our fists against you.
We do not want what we say we want.
Brokenness is easier than love.
It is an ask too big for begrudging hearts.

IV.
And so I say: Let it come.
Let what will be settle on me like a cloak.
If I must live in the dark, at least I know
I will not be lonely there.

macro shot photography of white flowers
picture of white flowers with dark green stems

The topic of our low vision support group one day last year was crafts people who are blind or visually-impaired can do. I was talking about round-loom knitting and showing the group some of the hats, mini-blankets and scarves I had made. 

After the meeting, a woman named Joyce approached me and pointed at my scarf. “It’s lovely!” she said. “Did you make that?” 

“Sure did!” I said. “Do you think I could learn how to knit like that?” she asked. “You sure can!” I told her. That was the first of many times she called me “remarkable.”

When you first meet someone, you may ask, “What job do you do?” But more telling is this one: “What job do you do on others?”

Joyce passed away recently and, boy, she did a job on me, okay. Made me feel like a genius. As if I’d invented knitting on a round-loom.

She made me feel like an angel. As if telling her she could still be crafty and creative, even with her visual impairment, was like manna from heaven.

More important than the question of, “What did you do for a living” is this one: “How did you make a life?”

Did you soldier on despite setbacks and health issues? Huzzah, indeed. Did you keep a positive attitude, even though you were facing some serious problems? Bully for you! 

These are the minute miracles that people accomplish and never give themselves credit for. Being a “yes” in a world filled with “no” is a feather in your cap.

No one knows what another human being is going through on any given day. The most we can hope for is that we show up for each other when our paths cross, and that we lighten the load for a fellow traveler when we can.

At the end of her life, Joyce was still encouraging everyone around her. We only saw each other at low vision support group meetings, and kept in touch by email and on the phone only occasionally. Still, she made an impact on my life. She was a lesson in fortitude. In graciousness. In loving-kindness.

Dear friend, you will not be forgotten.

Choosing a path.

Listening for that still small voice.

Waiting for that nudge.

Knowing which way is THE way can be tough even when we are practicing discernment. And Sunday school last week brought that front and center for all of us.

Class was canceled because our pastor’s daughter tested positive for COVID. We wear masks and we social distance but with a diagnosis in the house he is self-quarantining. He phoned in his sermon. We showed it on Facebook and broadcast it to our outside drive-in service.

We are having to wait to finish our class. And that made me realize that there are two answers to prayer that we don’t always discern.

Wait.

That’s a tough one for us to hear because so often we pray when we have a need right this very moment. And we want the answer right this very moment too.

But sometimes the answer that we receive is wait. Wait until the time is right. Wait until we are ready. Wait until we have quieted our hearts and our minds.

Wait.

It isn’t what but how.

Sometimes the problem is that we want a clear path – this choice or that choice. But the answer isn’t so much which path to walk but how we should walk it.

Walk in peace. Walk in his light. Sharing his love. Seeing those in need. Recognizing your fellows as children of God.

These are all possibilities for the “how” of life and they can apply equally to an engineer’s life as they can to the life of an electrician or a teacher. My grandmother may not have been a missionary or an evangelist, but I don’t doubt for a minute that everyone who dealt with this Avon lady knew who she followed.

The answer that we want may not come right this moment. It may not even be the kind of answer that we expect. But an answer will come.

–SueBE

There’s been a lot of talk around here lately (and by “around here,” I mean this blog. Which is its own universe. At least, it is to me!) about discernment, about hearing God’s nudges and praying the way forward. As happens so often, the three of us are in a similar place, feeling a call to the road ahead yet not really knowing what it entails. A book? Videos? Something else?

At the same time, I am being tugged at by other forces. It seems I am a good person to have aboard a project, although none of the proposed projects are paying projects, alas. (Go ahead and red flag me, Ruthie. “Aloteration” is both gift and curse.)

Which way to go? How much energy do I have to devote to each path? And which way feels most right and true to me? Listening for and to God is very hard work indeed.

The road forks precipitously,
twining like tentacles away into a future
I am too near-sighted to see.
God, I lay these routes at your feet.
Where you step, I too will step.
The map is in your hands
but I cannot read it, being somewhat lost
and, at any rate, confused about directions.
You, however, know them.
You know the path most tender on my feet,
and which is worth the stones and thistles.
Your eyes see in the dark,
and dark is where I live these days.
You will need to speak up.
You will need to post an obvious marker.
You will need to explain to me,
as if to a child, how to get there.
You, who, meet me where I am,
lead, Love, the way.

heart shape book page close-up photography

“…as an answer to prayer, ‘do what you’ve done’ seemed too easy. I guess I was expecting something trickier. Have you needed a friend’s help to hear God’s voice clearly?”

Maybe having a soulmate isn’t the fairy tale of finding a romantic partner who fulfills your every need and with whom you “click” instantly. It seems to me that you find that connection with friends over the years. Could it be that “belongingness” (as author Brene Brown termed it) consists of components of a whole constellation of characters in your life?

There I go with the alliteration again! Lori and SueBE know I love to use it in posts, so much so that we’ve termed it “alloteration.” Think I’ll flag it 🚩for your safety as you proceed.

SueBE’s post, “How Do You Pray?” resonated with me, and I realized we’d both gotten the same sense of God’s nudging again, even though we live so far away from each other.

Lori, SueBE and I have been discussing a project we can do together, and it seemed natural to believe it was something different than what we are already doing — writing this blog together.

But as I prayed about it, the “words on my heart” were so clear: Just what we’re doing now. Like SueBE, I thought, that can’t be right, can it? Doesn’t it have to be more complicated than that?

Just what we’re doing now. 

So what are we doing now?

  • Writing posts and prayers
  • Bouncing ideas off each other
  • Exchanging emails to catch up on our lives and discuss current events
  • Encouraging each other during hard times
  • Learning from moments of conflict (after ten years of friendship, we’ve only had one, initiated, regrettably, by me)

These things may seem inconsequential, but they form the foundation of our friendship. 🚩

Paradoxically, that moment where I left my common sense in my other purse and said hurtful things to SueBE has deepened the soul-sister relationship for all three of us.

It was me at my worst when SueBE was at her lowest. It was Lori at her best, standing by and offering care to us both, knowing it would eventually be resolved in the spirit of grace. It was how people who care about each other seek redemption, forgive, make amends, and heal together.

But as for the project we set out to do together, we decided to write “laments”, a type of sorrowful prayer, so I’ve been writing, discarding, starting over, stomping away from the desk. I just haven’t found a way to express what I’m trying to say. It could be because I’m trying to write from a perspective of hard things are happening, but in the end, we have hope. 🚩 I always have hope, but trying to make it universal with how I feel about everything going on in the world has been…? Fraught? Feels false somehow.

So maybe the three of us are supposed to do something similar to what John Green and his brother Hank do under their moniker, The Vlog Brothers. They record videos addressed to each other about all kinds of topics.

Of course, selfies are not my comfort zone, so I doubt I’ll be climbing on board the video wagon. Lori and I aren’t used to presenting our personas as a package for perusal (🚩). SueBE is more comfortable with public speaking, as she has done it often, and does it well.  She offers classes on the art of writing. She’s our professor, and it’s her purview (½ 🚩)

I’m not sure how this new project of just what we’ve been doing will manifest, but I know that we’ll figure it out from afar, together, with prayer, patience, and the persistent push of providence. 🚩

Do you have to be there in person to understand what someone else is going through? No, of course not. If you care, you can be there by phone, email, or video. If that person is part of the swath of soulmates in your life, you can be there with your heart.

Several weeks ago, I wrote about attending a class on discernment. We are now three weeks in. What have I learned so far?

We all have different prayer postures.

The pastor asked us to consider how we pray. A fellow theologian pointed out to him that Catholics pray with their eyes open. Presbyterians bow their heads and close their eyes.

Me? I look off into the middle distance, eyes unfocused. If I close my eyes, I am struggling to focus.

What is your prayer posture?

It is okay to pray for small things.

“It is okay to pray for a McMuffin.”

That is a phrase I never thought I would hear a pastor utter. But his point was that it is okay to pray for small things. Maybe you need a full belly to focus in prayer or worship. Maybe this is a bit of comfort food and you are feeling lonely or alone. We don’t have to wait to approach God until we have something BIG.

I admit, I tend to pray for big things. Not that I’m always asking for something huge, but small things? Most of those I can deal with myself so it doesn’t cross my mind to approach God with something small.

Do you pray for small things or large things?

Sometimes it takes counsel to know I am hearing God.

So far our focus in class has been on praying for our heart’s desire. What is it that we deeply want? What lies behind that? When I came up with ‘work in social justice,’ I doubted this message. That’s what I’ve been doing. These jobs had all dried up. What should I be doing now?

I mentioned this to someone who is in the class with me. “But you’re good at that. Maybe you need to wait for a new opportunity.” This person was right but as an answer to prayer, “do what you’ve done” seemed too easy. I guess I was expecting something trickier.

Have you needed a friend’s help to hear God’s voice clearly?

We have four more weeks of class. I’m looking forward to learning more in the weeks ahead.

–SueBE

Have a Mary Little Christmas

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