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Going to church on Sunday is great.  No really. It is a big part of how I recharge my spiritual battery.  Sitting amid the choir, I soak in the music and gaze up at the descending dove in the window.

When I leave church, I have a tendency to get busy.  I’ve got a checklist and things to do.

Pick up something for the food pantry.

Check on so-and-so.

You see we are the hands and feet of Christ and part of that means moving and acting among the people.  I had a great reminder of that just this past week.  As you leave the Toddhall Retreat Center you see a sign.  “You are now entering the mission field.”

Go.  Walk among the people. Help them see the light of God.

–SueBE

 

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Do all things with joy.

I spent last weekend at Toddhall Retreat Center.  There were fourteen of us who went up there to write for the weekend.  At meal time, we’d head on over to the dining hall to see what they had prepared for us.  As a mom, I have to tell you that I love it when the shopping, cooking and clean up just happen.  Would it be pushing it to far if I said it was a miracle?

Take a tray. Get your utensils and then move through the line.  Come dinner, I noticed that everyone in line was seriously upbeat.  I wondered what we were having.  Then I stepped into the serving area and was greeted with an amazing smile.   As she plated your chicken and rice, she also served up a great big, sincere smile.  I found myself grinning back.

Each and everyone who made eye contact with this joy-filled woman came away with their own heaping spoonful of joy.  A single person armed with a serving spoon and a smile, she also shared a heaping spoonful of all that is good and right with people today.

Seeing eyes and a big smile.  Why not be that person for someone else today?

–SueBE

 

I grew up on stories of Sunday dinner at my grandparents’.  They had very little. Sure Grandad had a college degree.  He was a mining engineer in a time when many American mines were playing out.  He took any job he could find, working in the mines when there were open, painting cars and managing a service station when they weren’t.

My grandmother had a huge garden and chickens.  You could do that in West Texas even when you lived in town.  Back then feed sacks were made from patterned fabric.  The girls got dresses from the prettiest.  Next up were shirts for the boys.  The least attractive fabrics became underwear.

Sunday dinner was a production.  The whole family was there and often there were several friends.  Whoever needed a meal.  Anyone who craved fellowship. All were welcome.  They’d just wedge another chair in around the circular table.  Chicken, corn, potatoes, biscuits, greens from the garden, corn bread, beans.

As little as they had, my grandparents shared.  Grandad always insisted it was a Southern thing.  I don’t know about that but I did get the rest of the message loud and clear.  What the good Lord gives us, we are meant to share.

At my grandparents’ table, no one ever went away hungry.  And there was also space enough to wedge in one more chair.

–SueBE

 

A couple of weeks ago, I was short-sighted enough to disagree with a friend of my husband on Facebook.  I should have known.  Really, really should have known.  It isn’t that I dislike him but I know him.  He is pushy.  I think he’s condescending because I’m female.  My husband counters that he’s condescending because he’s breathing.  Female.  Male.  People in general.  Condescension will happen.

And when it did?  I lost all perspective.  It became the most important part of my evening.  Again and again I looked up his comment.  How dare he!?  The amount of energy that went into verifying, repeatedly, that he had been rude and he’d done it more than once was, in hindsight, embarrassing.  I should have just turned my back on the whole thing.  I should have turned to face something or Someone entirely different.

What if I’d spent that evening doing something God wants me to do?  Using the talents God gave me?  Facing into the Light?  Maybe nothing grand would have happened.  But, if nothing else, I’d have had a much better evening.

And if we did this often and consistently?  I can’t help but think that we’d get a lot more accomplished acting as His hands and feet on this earth.

–SueBE

People who are sun-shiney and optimist no matter what is going on make me suspicious.  What is it they’ve missed?

But I’m not a pessimist. I don’t think everyone is out to get me.  I don’t think everything turns out badly.   Most people don’t even know I’m here.  And the universe? Neutral.

I consider myself a realist.  But over the years I’ve come to handle stress fairly well.  As long as no one is right in my face crabbing at me, I can pretty well just roll with things.   Imagine my surprise when my yoga instructor read us an article that explained why.  Yoga requires holding poses for a period of time.  These poses require using our muscles and focusing.  It is physically stressful.  As we work on these poses, our brains are rewired.  More cells and connections develop in the areas activated to handle stress.  These cells and pathways are there when we have to deal with stress out in the larger world.

Things may not be peaceful but they are managable.  They may not be ideal but they can be endured.   And the quiet at your center? It’s a great place to pause and listen for God.

–SueBE

 

Tell me something is impossible and nine times out of ten I’m going to try to prove you wrong.  I taught myself to knit before the internet swarmed with tutorials.  I had failed to learn from my mom but when my 12 year-old niece acted like I was a simpleton because I couldn’t do it, I had to learn.  Hey, don’t judge. I wasn’t a mom yet.  I didn’t understand that 12 year-olds act like you’re a simpleton just because.

And it isn’t like this trait has diminished with age.  One of my girlfriends calls it my “hold my beer” response.  Half of the joke is that I don’t drink beer, I don’t like beer and I will never need someone to hold my beer.  But if you tell me something is impossible you better step back because I am hardwired to try to prove you wrong.

Some people would call this a weakness and it could be.  But I’m a writer.  Writing is hard and so is getting published.  If I gave up every time someone pointed out how impossible this job is, I’d still have a desk job.

I like to think my innate stubbornness is a gift from God.  Whether or not you agree, it is definitely something I’ve used to my advantage.

-SueBE

 

If, like me, you live in an urban area, going into the countryside can be a shock when it comes to the night sky.  The name “Milky Way” suddenly makes sense to someone who is used to seeing only the very brightest stars.

During the day, we see one star, our own sun.  During a truly dark night, we see many.  It is amazing.

The other thing I love about being in this part of the state?  We have no cell service.  I can disconnect.   I wander down country roads, stopping to check rocks and moss and whatever else catches my fancy.  I can listen and breathe and simply be.  It’s in those times that I’m mostly likely to hear what it is God is trying to tell me.

Darkness and disconnect.  Both allow you to take in the Light.

–SueBE

 

 

As our congregation, we are looking at some big expenses.  The biggest?  A new roof.

I’m not even sure how many thousands of dollars that is going to be but it won’t come cheap.  And the problem really isn’t the total. It’s the fact that so many people have been hooked by that number.  Have a fund-raising suggestion that is less than the total?  Sad, sad shakes of the head.  It just won’t be enough.

Well, duh.

Okay, it’s not the most polite response ever but if you want to get a ruling elder’s attention well duh is the way to go.

Obviously $500 or even $2000 is less than tens of thousands.  I may not be a math major but I get it.  They are less.  It is more.

But Christ has a habit of working with the very least.  A mustard seed.  A few loaves.  A handful of fishes.  Christ can make it work.

And when we are working for him, in his name, we can do it too.  If I do a small part and you do a small part and someone over there also does a small part, we’ve accomplished something.

I’m not saying that a new roof is a matter of faith and faith alone.  It will also take a group of us each doing our one small part.  Together we’ll pay for a roof, fill the food pantry and gather supplies for local children who don’t have even a quarter for a cheap folder.  Because there is something each of us can do.

–SueBE

When my son was tiny, as in about four, he managed to get out of my reach and go wading into a river.  We almost lost him when the current grabbed him but another parent reached out and snagged him.

I was afraid of water before that happened.  Then my father-in-law moved to a lake.  The boy had to learn to swim.  He also played soccer and rode horses but I’m not afraid of horses or soccer balls.  Naturally he gravitated to water.

He and his friends raft.  They swim.  They canoe.

Then one of his friend’s tried to push me in.  Poor, misguided boy.  He might be a state heavy weight wrestler but things did not go as planned.  And that’s when everyone found out that I’m like trying to throw a cat in a lake.

What does this have to do with courage?  On my part, not much.  But I wanted me son to live a life with broader horizons.  I was sure he’d have issues but I thought I’d let him develop them on his own.

I’d say that God and I talked a lot when my son was in the lowest levels of swimming lessons but in all truth I didn’t do much listening.  I fussed.  I complained.  And I leaned.

The courage wasn’t mine but that’s okay.  I knew where to find what I needed.

–SueBE

 

Since I’m writing a week of New Year reflections, I feel like I should make a confession.  I’m not big on resolutions. They just seem trendy and too easy to let slide.

My birthday is toward the end of the month.  By the time it comes around, I tend to have a better idea what I want to address.  I’m ready to decide what to leave behind as my annual gift to me. Not that these annual gifts are always super popular.

One year, I quit agreeing to do things I didn’t want to do.  Not everything but the things that someone else could do but “you just do it so much better.” Um, no.  I don’t actually accept that as an explanation anymore.

The next, I quit apologizing for not doing things I didn’t want to do. “I can’t make it” became a perfectly acceptable, to me, answer.  It might mean I was busy.  It might also mean I just don’t want to put on shoes and leave the house.  But it also meant that I have to accept the same responses from my introvert friends.

What are you bringing into the New Year that you might put aside?  Perhaps you need to shrug off the childhood admonition that you have no artistic talent and take that painting class you’ve been wanting to try.  Or you could pick up a set of calligraphy pens and go through some online tutorials.

God gives us opportunities.  To take them up, we may need to put something else down.

–SueBE

Have a Mary Little Christmas

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