You are currently browsing suebe’s articles.

When Ruth, Lori and I write about similar topics, it is funny how consistently we each fall into a role. Aunt Ruth has a folksy no-nonsense approach. She pulls in things she’s read and seen online. Lori waxes poetic, spinning lines that inspire. Me? I come in with the facts and a how-to spin every single time and this time is no different.

Earlier in the week, Lori wrote about reconciliation in her post Reconciliation Requirements. It took me some time to order my thoughts but I found myself contemplating a National Park Service program my son got to participate in. Called Pen or Pencil (POP) the program is all about breaking the school to prison pipeline. Because a part of this is racial tension, a big part of the program is reconciliation.

It is one thing to say that we want reconciliation to occur. It is another to do our part. As taught by the POP sessions my son attended, these three things need to take place for reconiciliation to take place.

Recognize Bias

Like I teach my writing students, we all have to learn to recognize our biases. Bias is the slanted way you and I see the world. It is shaped by our beliefs and our attitudes. It is especially important that we recognize how our biases shape our behaviors.

The most difficult part of this is realizing how bias shapes unintentional behaviors. Me? I’m the Queen of the Eyebrow Raise. My oldest niece has mastered the eye roll. Medals are also given out for the head shake and the martyred sigh.

For reconcilliation to take place, we need to own these things and be willing to do something about them. Sigh.

Truth Telling

Another vital part of reconcilliation is truth telling. This doesn’t just mean telling everyone what you think. In reconcilliation, truth telling is a process of airing grievances and misundertandings.

Wait? Didn’t I just say it isn’t all about telling everyone what we think? That’s because of the final, and perhaps hardest step.

All Voices Heard

Everyone has a voice at this table. When my son attended this program, he was the only young white man. It would have been really easy for them to shut him down. But each of his classmates had a chance to speak up and so did he.

That was because everyone has a voice. And everyone should feel heard. Not just the people who agree with us.

It isn’t an easy process. If it was we would have been there long ago. But that’s the wonder of carrying God’s light into the world. We are lighting the way not to a world lived our way but his way where there is a space for each of God’s children at the table.

–SueBE

Instead of speaking my mind, I need to spend some time with God.
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I have to admit, I’ve tried again and again to write a meaningful post about what is happening in the US this week. What is there to say other than the obvious?

We fear change.

People are flawed.

We can be counted on to make bad decisions. Not hourly, God willing, but every now and again we do something astonishingly clueless. This week we’ve seen it all and so many people have commented. Some of the comments have been half-baked. Some have been racist. Others have been just plain . . . what?

And it is oh so tempting to step into it all on social media. I am, after all, a nonfiction writer. I so badly wanted to correct facts. There is a reason one of my friends calls me the Credible Hulk. I always come in with the data, but I’m also sharp-tongued.

Sometimes it is best if I just don’t act. It is better to simply be.

Maybe that’s why we are called human BE-ings. We really do best when we spend a certain amount of time with God in prayerful contemplation. Even if we don’t know what to say, we can spend time simply BE-ing in God’s presence. Basking. Breathing deep.

Eventually, when we are calmer and recharged, we can step back out into the world. And even then? Sometimes it is best to simply BE or, instead of arguing, to go out into the world, carrying His Light, His Love, and His Spirit of Change.

–SueBE

My resolution for 2021.

I am not seriously into making resolutions. I know what I need to do. You know what you need to do. If we were inclined to do it . . . well, we would. Right?

But sometimes we need a reminder. The week before Christmas I wrote this note to myself and left it on my desk.

I had taken a job that sounded like a great opportunity. But every contact I had from them meant more work or less income. And if I had to approach them with a question? Forget it. I never got a response.

It got to the point that I had a tiny tantrum every time they e-mailed me. It was clear that I needed to back out but I kept putting it off.

“Just do it first thing tomorrow morning,” my husband said.

So I wrote myself a reminder note. First thing the next morning I quit. And the last week before Christmas was probably the best week of the year. I felt lighter than air!

There are always going to be tasks we don’t want to undertake that we still need to do. Scooping the litter box. Cleaning behind the refrigerator. Writing ‘thank you’ notes.

But other times we weigh ourselves down. Sometimes it is a job we used to love but now dread. A change in management can turn a great job into an ordeal. Other times it is a volunteer opportunity that used to recharge you but now you dread. Whatever.

When I was waffling about what to do, I read Ruth’s post about calling something a project vs calling it a problem. Take action to change your attitude and your situation. Check! Her post was the encouragement I needed to write myself that note and quit.

Time and time again in the Bible we are told to avoid carrying a grudge, to avoid dragging negatives around with us in our daily life. Sometimes it is a matter of changing our attitude. Sometimes it is time to cut something loose.

Take a look at what you are carrying into 2021. Is there something you need to let go so that you have the space and energy to carry God’s light and love into the New Year?

–SueBE

This past week I’ve been watching a lot of documentaries. One on the Cuban Missile Crisis really drove home the importance of communication.

Photo by Miguel u00c1. Padriu00f1u00e1n on Pexels.com

For those of you who don’t remember the historic specifics, Russia put missiles in Cuba. These missiles made the US a viable target. Kennedy announced that any Russian ship trying to approach Cuba with military weapons would be considered hostile.

A Russian sub was detected by the Americans. The agreed upon method to tell an enemy sub to surface and surrender was to drop charges. What the two sides hadn’t agreed on was how many charges should be dropped to send that particular message. The Russians expected a three charge memo. The Americans thought it took five charges to send the message, so that’s how many they dropped. Oddly enough, the Russians were hesitant to surface.

World War III nearly started because no one had thought to discuss how many charges should be dropped to signal a request to surrender. Never mind that it might be smart to find a better way to communicate.

This really spoke to me. How often do we assume that everyone sees things our way? After all, our way is logical. It is rational. It is natural and right. And if everyone we talk to agrees with us, that only reinforces our delusions. Then when someone doesn’t do what we think they should – BOOM.

The next time someone seems to be ignoring you or doesn’t give the answer you want, take a deep breath. Ask God to open your ears and heart. Maybe just maybe, you are talking past each other and none of us meer mortals has the complete picture.

As if we were submerged in a big, old can.

–SueBE

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

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

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

What should I do next?  Where would God have me go?  What job does he have for me?

Not surprisingly, Lori, Ruth and I have been suffering from the lack of direction many people are feeling right now.  We have felt for some that we should be doing something new, but what? We’ve all been looking for new jobs, passing tips on to each other.  I was either knitting or not-sleeping when I had a thought.  We should work on something new together.  

I didn’t share this with any one, waiting for more direction.  Then Ruth e-mailed Lori and I and said she felt like we should start a new project together.  That’s how discernment works.

Don’t know that term?  I didn’t either until I taught a class on prayer.  Discernment is a way to obtain God’s guidance and understanding.  It is one way that we can use to prayerful discover and recognize that we should be doing.  There are four elements to discernment.

Prayer and meditation

The first step is to ask God.  “What should I be doing?”  “How should I solve this problem?”  “What do you want me to to do?”  I don’t know about you but I may wonder what I should do but I don’t always remember to ask God.  So that’s step #1.  Face God and ask the question.

Listening for an answer

Once you’ve asked the question, you need to discern the answer which can come in many ways.  There’s the still, small voice we hear in our hearts.  We may find it in scripture in our dailing reading.  Or the sermon may touch on the subject we are contemplating.  My pastor calls moments like this God moments because God uses the various ways to communicate with us.  But these aren’t the only ways.

Community

Our faith communities also play a part in discernment.  If I’m not ready to hear something, it can be communicated to Ruth and Lori.  Not buying what I’m selling?  Think about those truths your friends bring to you.  After our Zoom call, Lori started calling me Professor.  That was my nickname when I was 13 and it has returned to me periodically my whole live.  I wouldn’t have given it to myself but there is truth there.

Patience

The last part of discernment is patience.  When we ask God a question we want the answer and we want it N-O-W.  But God doesn’t work that way.  Because of this, we have to be careful to hear God instead of opposing our will on the situation.

Ask, Listen and Commune in Patience until you perceive the will of God.  My pastor is teaching a course on discernment starting tomorrow.  I am truly looking forward to honing my skills.

–SueBE

True confession time.  Yesterday when Ruth wrote about the friend with the ruffled feathers, that was me.

I still feel bad that Ruth worried so much about upsetting me.  And really it wasn’t so much what she said.  It was the fact that when she said it, I was one great big raw nerve.

You may not have noticed, but 2020 has been a bit much.  No, really!  It has.  And this past week has been nightmarish.  Due to events in my family, I managed to attract the attention of a troll.  Oh, you’ve never had to deal with one?  Imagine something loud and hate-filled that comes boiling out from under a bridge looking for someone to bash.

Fortunately, I’ve got loved ones who are willing to support me when a troll does its worst.  Yes, Miss Ruth took a wrong step but I knew all along that she loves me, as does Lori.  We may not be blood kin but we are sisters of the soul with laugh lines and prayer calluses from our time together.

And I knew that.  That’s why when she said sorry I knew she meant it.  She was sorry.

She didn’t say that she was sorry I had misunderstood her obvious intent.  Or that she was sorry I was thin-skinned.  She wasn’t sorry that I was irrational or too sensitive.  She was sorry.

See I’m lucky.  I’ve got these two ladies in my life.  And I have another friend who is a life coach and one of the things that she helped me understand is that when I have that “Hey now” reaction, I need to think about who I’m reacting to.  Is this someone who loves me and wants what is best for me?

If I can say, yes, then I shouldn’t, as Miss Ruth says, make a problem my personal piñata.  It is time to talk things out, even if all I can say is “I get it but I’m raw right now and need to step back.”  My girls will have my back and they will bit by bit pull me back into God’s loving presence.

If, on the other hand, this person is a troll?  Then it is okay to say “Hey, now.  I’m not wallowing around in the muck.  Me? I’m heading back into the light with my sisters.”

And I’ll be thanking God yet again that they are part of my life.

–SueBE

I’m sure I don’t need to point out to you just how different 2020 has been.  There is little left untouched from schools to jobs to celebrations and how we worship.

One of the things that my church has done is a system of three-fold worship.  The sanctuary is again open.  Admittedly, it looks a little odd with numerous pews “unavailable” and people sitting far from each other.  But not everyone feels safe venturing out for worship.  Our congregation includes several chronically ill seniors.  One wants to be present but can’t risk going inside.  But he can attend our “drive-in” service with worshippers in the parking lot, spaced apart, listening on their car radios.

Why do this when you can just watch it on Facebook live?

My husband and I usher for drive in service.  We volunteered to do this so that these people would feel seen and valued as part of the congregation.  I have to admit that I’m dreading going back into the sanctuary.

When I’m outside as we worship, my focus shifts.  I’m not seeing our beautiful sanctuary.  I’m seeing the natural world God created.  Some weeks I get to watch hummingbirds flitting around.  At first, I wasn’t sure what this was all about but after service I looked it up.  Like Lori said in her post, I’m into science and numbers and facts.  Hummingbirds eat mosquitoes!  Who knew?  Last week, our resident hawk perched one parking spot over, up in the crown of a tree.  It isn’t often you get to sit that close to a raptor.  It was amazing.

When the pastor reads Bible verses about sparrows and mustard seeds, I’m not looking across a limited space within brick walls.  I’m looking up at the clouds.  I’m looking across the garden, hoping to spot the hawk.  I’m seeing an aspect of the world that God made that I wouldn’t be engaging with if I was inside.

2020 has been something all right.  But if you widen your gaze, you just might catch a glimpse of something amazing.

–SueBE

Have a Mary Little Christmas

%d bloggers like this: