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Him: What’s bothering you?

Me: Nothing.

Him:  Why do you keep sighing?

Me:  I’m not.

Him:  You are.

After both my husband and son had conversations very like the one above with me, I realized something.  I sigh when my asthma is bothering me.  Long before the coughing kicks in, I sigh as I try to breathe deeply.  Now I know to look out for it as an early warning sign.

It doesn’t matter if the problem you need to address has to do with yourself or with society, step one is listening.  Only then will we learn that a problem exists.

Complaints about an election can indicate that people feel disenfranchised.

Concerns about hunger often point toward a lack of social justice.

Worries about the legal system might mean that we need to check to see that Justice’s blindfold hasn’t slipped allowing her to judge more harshly against one population that another.

Listen.  Listen deeply.  Even if you first reaction is to deny that a problem exists.

–SueBE

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Last week when we had our first choir rehearsal of the season, as usual I sat in the back of the room.  No, the back row isn’t trouble makers. That’s the Soprano section.  Yes, I’m in that too.  I’m in the back row with the tall people.

But in the back, I can see everyone react when we open with our prayer requests.  The energy level in the room was high and then one person after another made their request.  Prayers for the family of a college friend who had died.  Prayers for a mother-in-law who lost her sister.  Cancer. Surgery.  Injuries.

With each request, the energy in the room dropped.  Shoulders sagged.

My hand shot up.  “I’ve got a  prayer of thanksgiving.”  I went on to thank everyone for my many prayer requests over the summer.  Yes, my friend still faces a masectomy BUT they have now found chemo she isn’t allergic to.  My niece hasn’t had another blood clot.  And my brother-in-law is not only walking, he is back at work with the city parks department in a very physical job.

The hard things in life need our attention in prayer but it will also weigh you down.  Be sure to offer up gratitude for the good.  You may have to look for it but it will raise your energy level and your spirit.

Me?  I thank God for helping me find this community, for the women writers at WOW, for my son and husband and the opportunities I have to work from home.  What are you thankful for?

–SueBE

Long, long ago there lived a young mother who was just learning to knit.  She could purl and knit and she was trying her hand at her first fitted garment – a pair of gloves.

Suffice it to say, that young mother way me.  But the story doesn’t have a fairy tale ending.  I had just finished the second glove.  It was time to cut the yarn and weave in the end  But I couldn’t bring myself to make that cut.  Something just wasn’t right.

I laid both gloves out on the table.  Something was wrong but I couldn’t see it.  They looked just alike.

What?  Just alike?

Not mirror images?!

Oh, no.

I hadn’t knitted a left glove and a right glove but two right gloves.  Since I didn’t want to pairs of identical gloves, and wasn’t sure I had enough yarn anyway, that left only one solution.  Ribbet.

Ha.  That’s a sad little knitting joke.  When you have to rip about your knitting, or unravel it, you call it frogging.  So I got myself a cup of coffee and started tugging on that yarn.  Row after row of stitches unraveled.

My husband and several friends confessed that they couldn’t have made themselves do this.  “All that time.”

Pfft.  If you knit, you frog.  It doesn’t matter how complicated the pattern or how much time it took.  Small mistakes can often be corrected without frogging but the big ones?  Let her rip!

I’ve love to say that this was the last mistake I ever made but it wouldn’t be true.  All I can do is pray that I’ll have the grace to let each one go as I discover it, even if it was hours and hours in the making.

–SueBE

Each summer our church choir takes about two months off.  Last night was our first rehearsal of the new season.

Our choir director likes to stack the deck, as she puts it.  We are starting the year with three pieces we have sung in the past and something new.  The new one is a fast moving challenge with the feel of a call and response.  Whether it is sung by 12 or 50, it has a big feel.  But have I already pointed out that it is FAST?

Just trying to get the words out that fast is a challenge.  Never mind trying to read them and the notes at the same time.

Fortunately our choir director knows what she’s doing.  We will work on one section at a time, working out mistakes and polishing it until it shines.

Note by note, drip by drip we will move toward an anthem that while complicated is do-able.  All it takes is a good leader and the ability to follow direction much as we follow the directions of Christ.

–SueBE

My town has a community forum on Facebook.  It is a great place to find out about free concerts and other community events.  Unfortunately, it is also where people go to complain, fuss and fume.

On Monday, one of the members put up a joking post.  “So what are you all mad about today?”  Unfortunately, a lot of people didn’t get that he was joking and started responding with all of the little things that had already annoyed them yesterday morning. Soon it had gone from a joke to a community gripe session.

Me?  I try to limit my complaints online.  I post positive, inspirational quotes like the one above.  I post baby animals.  You can see both on my Facebook page. I share news about my friend’s books.  I post about the awesome things my local library does.

I’m not saying that nothing ever annoys me.  Lots of things do, but I don’t want to be that person.  So instead of complaining online, I get up.  I walk.  I weave.  I work on a puzzle.  I play a game with the boy.  And let me tell you, that boy is good at making me laugh. Comedy is definitely one of his gifts.  And last of all, I sleep on it.

If I still feel the need to post, I post.  That’s why most of my unhappy posts tend to be “big ticket items.” Social justice.  Conservation. The environment.  I don’t only see the positive but one of the gifts that God gave me is the ability to let things slide.  Sure, I saw what so-and-so was wearing.  And I too think the school superintendent’s message could have been better worded.

But once I sleep on issues like these and share a good laugh with the boy?  It just isn’t worth commenting on.

–SueBE

 

 

This past week!  Holy bananas.

I can’t say that it was a bad week, but not one single day went as planned.  Plans added or deleted or simply shifted around day after day.  I’m not sure how or why but it made the whole week feel rushed.

So yesterday when I made it to church just a bit early, instead of stopping in the parlor where everyone gathers to chat, I entered through the fellowship hall.  In front of me stretched the labyrinth.  Step by step, I paced around the first circuit, pausing to breathe and reach outward at the turn.  Back and forth I paced, the whole time mentally calling out to God.

“How can I reduce the stressors in my week?”

“How can I reduce the clamor?”

“What can I do to feel more centered?”

And with each pause, each turn, the same answer came.  Turn to Me.

In the center, I paused while people entered the building around me.  Then I made my way back out, stopping, reaching out, step by measured step.

When we hurry through our days, rushing from task to task, we forget to listen.  We accomplish what we accomplish, checking it off our list and then rush to the next item.  Look at me!   I’m getting things done!

In our hurry, we forget whose path we follow.  We forget who lights the way.

Step slowly.  Pause.  Breathe.  And look to him.

–SueBE

My apologies for not being around our corner of the blog-osphere very much this week.  As the three of us have discussed privately, we are all more than a little distressed by the state of the world and our country.  Every time we turn around, there’s another story of hate, violence and death.

It is so hard not to be discouraged.  I was shuffling through images when I came across this quote on the best way not to feel hopeless by Barrack Obama.  At first glance, I thought it was a little pie-in-the-sky naïve.

Go out and do something good.  You’ll feel better.

But then I realized that it was the same advice my mother and my grandmother would have given me.  Get up off your rear.  Get going. And do something good.

And it really is good advice.  I would only adapt it slightly.

Remember that we live in a broken world.  We, you and I, are broken and far from perfect just like everyone else.

When we pick up our phones and tablets, we have a tendency to link into news.  Even if you try to play a game, you may well be plagued with pop-ups.  Just today I’ve had one about a knifing in Southern California and another about decades-long abuse in the USA Gymnastics club.

When you read a newspaper, even if you read it every page, there is an end.  When you go into the web, there is no end.  Negative story after negative story washes over you.

So put down your phone.  Turn off your tablet.

Do something that doesn’t involve a screen.  Me? I’ve warped my loom and am making a scarf for a friend.  It isn’t anything huge, but it will make her smile.

School is about to start again.  My son and I made plans this morning to get his friends over here on a regular basis.  Screen-free time around our dining room table. This, of course, means that my loom needs to go downstairs.

But that’s okay. I can get offline right now and go clean off a spot on the old kitchen table I keep in the basement.  Putting aside things go sell or otherwise get rid of is also positive in that it declutters my home and the money can go into the church’s community garden.

Small steps.  Moments spent away from your screen.  I’m not saying that the bad things don’t matter.  But I am recommending that we not let them roll over us endlessly.  That level of exposure doesn’t benefit anyone in any way.

Do something small and positive. Small steps can carry you in a more positive direction.

–SueBE

I worried a bit yesterday that the silence on our blog would be interpreted as indifference.  Indifference to gun violence.  Indifference to the killings.  Indifference to the mounting death toll.  I worried, but I couldn’t bring myself to craft a post.  After all, what could we say that hasn’t already been said?

Besides, so many people had so much to say.  Fewer guns!   2nd Amendment!  Limit guns! Protect yourselves!  Pass the background check bill!

My soul was simply too weary to wade into the blog-o-sphere and attempt to contribute.  I just didn’t have it in me.

Today, in spite of a watch that wasn’t working right and thus saw me running ten minutes late, I made it to yoga.  I rolled out my mat and breathed deeply.  Downward dog.  Child’s pose. Warrior 1.  Triangle.  Shavasana.

At the end of each class, our instructor reads a quote of some kind.  Some are meant to sooth.  Others to challenge.  Still others, simply give us something to ponder.  Today’s quote was this – we should not have to agree on anything at all to treat each other well.

As you stroll these electronic pathways, that’s what I would ask you to remember.  Agree or disagree, but please carry the light of God’s love into the world and treat each other well.

–SueBE

Recently, our minister discussed the Lord’s Prayer during our service.  He specifically discussed the passage that I’ve highlighted below.

Our Father,
Who art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy Name.
Thy Kingdom come.
Thy will be done
On earth,
As it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
As we forgive our debtors.
Lead us not into temptation,
But deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
and the power, and the glory forever.
Amen.

He explained that when Presbyterians say the prayer, we say debts because it is the closest translation of the Greek word.  You’ll have to forgive me for not going into the Greek because although he reads Greek, I do not.  The word sinners doesn’t appear until several verses after Christ gives the disciples this prayer.

Yet many Christians use the words tresspasses or sinners for two reasons.  It is used later in the passage.  It does not have that feel of dirty money.

Me?  I really have no trouble with debts because we don’t alway use it to mean money.  When a friend does you a favor, you might say, “I owe you one.”  You don’t mean one dollar.  You mean one favor.

And, let’s face reality, we end up owing each other quite often.  When I’m attempting to get the wet coffee grounds to the trash can and dribble all over my husband’s freshly mopped floor?  I clean it up and I apologize.  I hate mopping the floor!

When I was working a swim meet and a swimmer on deck smacked me in the face, he owed me one.  Boy, howdy.  I saw stars and dropped my clip board.  He’d only been stretching but when he threw his arms back he caught me looking down.  I can’t tell you how often he said that he was sorry.  His debt was well paid!

If you spend any time online, you’ve seen the posts.  People gripe about the smallest things.  Instead of forgiving the debts of others, they tally them up.  The problem is that collecting debts like this can weigh you down.  That is why, in my not-so-humble opinion, these people seem angry and unhappy.

Forgive the debts of others.  Don’t just do it because you want God to forgive you.  Do it to lighten your load.

–SueBE

 

What will you be known for?  Last night, a friend and I were talking as we attempted a new craft.  While we worked we chatted about family and how we remember various people.  She mentioned that in all of the photos, her great-grandmother looked incredibly stern and that’s actually how almost everyone thought of her.  My grandmother was all over smiles with a great sense of humor.

Just then, my friend dropped a bead which she managed to trap against the table.  Proud of her accomplishment, she showed me the bead with a flourish which was when she smacked the open tube of beads across the kitchen table.  The patter of tiny beads raining down is a very distinct noise.  We laughed until our sides hurt.

I’m fairly certain this is how we will be known?  Laughter.  In fact, I’m sure of it.

On Sunday, we met our choir director’s husband.  “She’s told me about everyone but which one are you?” he asked me.  “Soprano.  And I laugh at everything.”  He looked confused because truly that describes both my friend and I.  I pointed at myself.  “I’m inappropriate laughter.”  “Oh, I know who you are.”

Yep.  That’s me.  My friend?  Over the top laughter.

Even when tiny green seed beads are raining down in my kitchen.  The sugar bowl.  I forgot to check the sugar bowl.

–SueBE

Have a Mary Little Christmas

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