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1. Never sneeze with half-chewed nuts in your mouth. I’m still picking bits out of my hair.

2. If your wife makes something for the potluck, remember to actually bring it. (Owen, that’s you I’m talking to.)

3. Folks can say in one breath that they voted for Trump because he is pro-life, yet in the next breath fully countenance the forcible removal of immigrants, the yanking of health care to thousands — making pregnancy a “pre-existing condition,” while simultaneously denying prenatal care, and failing to understand why Black Lives Matter.

4. When one only has herself to cook for, one tends to eat sporadically and strangely. Creamed kale for supper, anyone?

5. God makes God’s-self known in loud trumpeting…and barely perceivable whispers. Both. I am much better at hearing the trumpeting. Although it is jolting.

6. As a brilliant artist friend reminded me with his painting of Jeremiah being lifted from the cistern (the biblical prophet’s enemies throw him into a dry cistern; a court official rescues him, not just with rope, but — thoughtfully — with pieces of cloth to place under his arms while he is being lifted, so the ropes don’t chafe him), you can lift a person up by throwing them a line and expecting them to be grateful for it, OR you can lift someone up with special attention to their individual needs — i.e., gently. How do you lift people up?

7. There is always a third option: To not lift people up at all. This is becoming less and less acceptable to me, yet more and more common in the world.

8. I need to speak less and listen more. This will render me pretty much selectively mute. That’s okay; the world has enough noise in it. It will, however, make phone calls awkward.

9. I need a nap. A year or two ought to do it. Now, if you’ll excuse me….

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How often do you have a great idea that you chose not to pursue because you don’t know how to make it happen?  It all starts with education.

Way back when, that meant finding a class.  It might be continuing education at the local community college.  Or a state extension program.  Now you can Google it or search on Youtube.   You can also find a wealth of online classes or you can go the old school route.  Take a class.

A friend and I are preparing to teach a Sunday school class on Judges.  Yeah, Judges.  We didn’t pick the topic but I’m glad I said yes.  I’ve learned a lot including the fact that if something is God’s calling, it is going to require change.  You are going to have to figure out how to make it happen.  Your comfort zone may be comfortable but what needs to happen probably won’t happen there.

Let God by your guide.  Learn what you need to know.  Lean on Him for the drive you need.  Because in him, all things are possible.

–SueBE

 

Surely, I’m going to write about Charlottesville. How could I not write about Charlottesville? How could anyone remain silent as evil surges through the streets; as so-called “Christians” claim not to hate anyone, while in the next breath asserting that they would never break bread with a person of color; as a woman is killed by Nazis on American soil?

I need to take a breath. I feel sick.

I feel sick when I reckon that 34% of this country stands with a guy who sees no difference between White Supremacists and those brave enough to stand up to them. I feel sick when I think of the lie of history behind those “beautiful statues” (mostly dedicated in the early 1900s, when Jim Crow laws started being enacted, and the rest in the 1960s when the Civil Rights movement was burgeoning). I feel sick when I think of the hate burning in the hearts of all of those polo-shirted white guys marching with their tiki torches, as if they were waylaid en route to a suburban barbecue.

I am heart-sore. Weary. Nauseated. And yet, I know how privileged I am — what must our black friends, our Jewish friends, be thinking and feeling? It makes me want to swoon into despair.

SueBe and Ruth, my co-bloggers, have been my lights this week, reminding me not to give into the darkness. To keep my candle lit so that others can add their own little lights to it, so maybe we can make a path through the darkness and into a better place. What would I do — what would any of us do — without the support of those who “get it,” who feel as we feel and recognize that what’s on the line isn’t about politics; it’s about good versus evil?

So, for everyone out there too sick and sad and sore to grab onto the life preserver of hope, let me be an outstretched hand. Good people still exist. They’re out there. Maybe they need to make a little more noise, but they’re out there.

And I love you, and I stand with you, and I will hold out my candle defiantly, no matter what occurs. We will not let hatred win. Because no matter which biblical excerpts some people mutilate in order to justify their racism, there is one that trumps (ha!) them all: “7 My dear friends, let us love one another, since love is from God and everyone who loves is a child of God and knows God.8 Whoever fails to love does not know God, because God is love.” (1 John 4: 7-8)

Let love mend us. Amen!

This quote by Arthur Ashe is one of my favorites.  Probably because I had a DIY mentality before DIY was a thing.  My mom always told me that even when I was little, she would tell me that something wouldn’t work X way and she’d look over to see me staring.  And staring. And staring.  She knew I was trying to work out a solution.

Not that I always had what I needed to solve the problem.  Sometimes I had to go my grandad.  Or my mom.  Or my dad.  Working together we had a whole different set of skills than I had working alone.

That’s something I have to remember as an adult.  God gave me talents and I need to use them.  When I do, I can accomplish quite a bit.  But God gave other people talents as well and they very often complement my own.  Working together?  We can do even more.

When I am faced with a task that is to great for me alone, I have to remember that one of the talents God gave me is the ability to ask for help.  What one cannot do alone, two or three or four may be needed to accomplish.

–SueBE

Yesterday we had a guest preacher who discussed the feeding of the 5000.  The interesting thing was that he discussed it without ever discussing the actual meal.  Instead he talked about what was going on in Christ’s life at the time.

John the Baptist had just been beheaded.  John was Christ’s cousin and fellow minister.  He was a friend and someone who truly understood who Christ was.  His death had to be the kind of blow that Jesus felt in his chest.  Christ tried to take off and regroup.  He needed some time to get his head back together.

But the people needed him just as badly.  Everywhere he went, there they were.  Asking for help.  Calling for his blessing.  Reaching, demanding, draining.

It would have been so easy for Christ to turn his back.  It would have been so simple to refuse to see what he could do.  Instead, he saw them.  He reacted to them.  He interacted with them and he cared.

Seeing people and caring.  Are these not the greatest acts of kindness?

The next time you check out at a store, look the clerk in the eye.  Speak to her.  Listen to her response.  You’ll still have plenty of time to go about your day.

We encounter so many people everyday who just need a little kindness.  Sure there will still be things that require a lot of hard work.  But pair this with kindness and see what happens.

I dare you.

–SueBE

Photo by Nick Scheerbart on Unsplash

I’m ready, God, so ready, ready from head to toe! Ready to sing; ready to raise a tune: “Wake up, soul! Wake up, harp! Wake up, lute! Wake up, you sleepyhead sun!”

From Psalm 57:8, (The Message)

A few years ago, I was one of the administrators of the Facebook page for a prayer site SueBE, Lori and I wrote for at the time called Prayables. It was nice to connect with readers who enjoyed our prayers, and for a time, I found it a positive experience. But one day, some of our followers made awful comments about immigrants. One man thought it was terrible that “these types” were sneaking into “his country.” Where did such hatred come from? Is it so hard to get along with people just trying to make a better life for themselves?

I decided I didn’t need that negativity, so I left Facebook. But recently, I realized that some of my town’s important information is only disseminated on Facebook, so I got back on reluctantly, keeping all my settings on private.

Right away, I searched for prayers and was surprised to find my own prayers posted by a wonderful organization in Oklahoma that helps families in need called Skyline Urban Ministry. Oh! And there’s a prayer from Lori. And one from SueBE. Wow. It was nice to see this blast from the past.

The Bible passage above was posted by Skyline a couple of days ago. It was my birthday, and I needed that specific word from God on that particular day. My teen-age son has been battling extreme fatigue from a medical condition, so every morning, I struggle to wake up my “sleepyhead son.”

Ready to raise a tune? That’s right on target. Cole has a set-up in his room with a mixing board and headset, as well as a guitar and keyboard. He writes and records songs, and plans to have a career in music production.

It was as if a hand extended from Oklahoma to New Jersey, from kind people I’ve never met, but who somehow had a word of healing just for me. God always shows up right on time, but sometimes? He takes the scenic route.

This reminded me of the parable of the sower.  Christ told this parable to a crowd in Matthew 13.

A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. Whoever has ears, let them hear.”

Only the seeds that managed to lay in roots flourished.  People need roots too.

We grow roots when we reach out to God, within our churches, within our communities.  Some of us are rooted in the environmental movement.  Others reach out to those involved in education, social justice, or the humane treatment of animals.  We root ourselves in our hobbies and passions whether they are musical loves, fiber arts, or exercise.  Our roots link us to our communities.

It is these communities that keep us going when times are tough.   Not that we’d wish tough times on anyone, but, sadly, they do happen.

Until then, reach out and reach up to God. Lay in those roots.

–SueBE

My, my, my. The Church Lady must be having a field day. I refer of course to the old Saturday Night Live sketches featuring Dana Carvey’s judgmental and oh-so pious authority on all that is good and evil. She was always quick to call out hypocrisy in the “whited sepulchers” who frequented her show. Such insight has never been as necessary as it is now.

America likes to think of itself as a Christian country, though religiously speaking, we’re actually mutts — a mix of everything, from Mormons to Sikhs. Yet those who project — and protect — this “Christian America” image most fiercely seem most in need of a reminder of what Christianity actually is.

There is no Christianity without Christ. And to know what Christianity is about, one only has to access the words and deeds of Christ. This is not a case of “what would Jesus do?” but “what did Jesus do?” He embraced the outcasts and told us to feed the hungry and welcome the stranger, a radical reversal of the current state of immigration. Jesus, tellingly, put no codas, no provisos, on his commands — no clauses like “only if they speak English” or “only if they have a good job.” Indeed, he seemed most concerned about those most on the outside, most in need of lifting up.

Emma Lazarus’ poem on the Statue of Liberty (written, I hate to tell you, Mr. Miller, expressly for the Statue of Liberty) comes down hard on the side of the outsiders — and, consequently, the side of Christ. To stand in defiance of the huddled masses longing to breathe free is to stand in defiance of God.

Oh, I know. It’s hard to welcome the stranger. Strangers are scary precisely because they are strange to us. Is every immigrant a good person? No, but neither is every homegrown American. It is simpler to draw ourselves inward, to turn our backs on the “other” and “take care of our own.” Except who decides who is “our own” and who is not? Who was the “neighbor” in the parable of the Good Samaritan?

I am not saying that everyone opposed to the welcoming of immigrants is a bad person. But neither is he or she following the precepts of Christ.

What I’m asking for is very simple: a little truth-telling. It’s time for a good scrub, America. Let’s wash out our mouths with soap and water and get down to brass tacks. Either we welcome strangers or we do not. Either we are Christian or we are not.

But we don’t get to have it both ways.

Are you an optimist or a pessimist? The difference between the two is often defined by the old “is the glass half full or half empty?” conundrum. Guess what? Turns out it doesn’t matter what you think about the glass. We are all, deep down, optimists, or we wouldn’t be here.

Reading the news can get you down. It does me, anyway. Just scanning the headlines convinces me that the world is a dark, ugly, little place full of small-minded, uneducated people who just want to watch the world burn and toast marshmallows on the flames. But the news doesn’t tell the whole truth. Not that the news is in any way “fake” — a phrase I detest — but simply that it cannot cover the complex entirety of the modern human condition. Even I can spot the better headline: “Man Kills Dozens” will always triumph over “Man Happily Distributes Free Lemonade and Hugs.”

But you turned up this morning for all of this news — bad and good (mostly bad) — didn’t you? You got out of bed. You put on your socks (or omitted them; it’s kind of too hot for socks). You gave your body fuel and opened your front door. Congratulations! You are officially an optimist. And pretty darned brave, to boot.

Do you think it takes more than just showing up to show courage? Maybe. But for any thinking person it’s more than enough. To watch bad things happen and still say, “You know what? I’m going out there anyway” is a testament to human resilience. After being ejected from the Garden of Eden, did Adam and Eve just pack it in and give up? Nope. Even though they’d lost access to unbridled happiness, they went on anyway. This kind of steel is precisely what God knew we would need to function in the world.

So if you’re here today, reading this, and just trying to bumble through life, I salute you. Thank you for continuing to take a chance on the world. Thank you for not giving up or giving in. The world needs you. I need you. Don’t give up. Despite what it says in the news or anywhere else, most of us are just like you. We’re trying. It is the stuff of superheroes, of saints. It is brave.

There used to be men (and women, I assume) called holy fools, perfectly ordinary (and often brilliant) people who faked idiocy so as to be daily humbled by the world. It was good for their spiritual lives, they felt. I am coming to grips with the place of foolishness in my own life — it’s not something I’ve chosen, but rather a facet of my being: I am a social idiot.

I was forced to confront this aspect of myself last weekend at a party. Surrounded by outgoing, extroverted folks, I grappled with a tongue roughly the size, shape and weight of a cast iron skillet. “Amazing!” I heard myself saying. “Wonderful!” I’m a writer. I ought to have facility with words. And I do, to some extent. That extent lying within the power of my mind and my fingers…not in the vast rolling pastures of speech. Add in a dash of shyness, and you’ve got a wallflower extraordinaire. Move over, Emily Dickinson. There’s a new weird, silent poetess in town.

All of this — coupled with a fascination for the sound and substance of words, which once caused me to mispronounce the word “full” in prayer — brings us to this: a sort of love poem, penned by a fool who may or may not be holy, but who certainly hopes for its salvific grace.

Pixilated,
besotted with love,
love coursing through blind alleys,
traffic circles, cul-de-sacs,
languishing in corners, deaf to
directionality, wholly lost in translation. I fish,
pull up old shoes, tin cans, frank inadequacies.
Brooks babble better.
Helpless, hopeless heart!
Could I crack you open and let
the depth of you spill! And yet.
There is a solace in silence, dim wisdom
in the fractured code, the blank flags,
the broken nibs and worn erasers.
I send up smoke signals,
too random to be cumulus,
received by God like an armful of roses.
Wordless. But heard.
I am a fool of grace
and God is with me.

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