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Some prayers are easy. And some…not so much. It is easy to pray for the unborn — little tabulae rasae of infinite potential — but not so easy to pray for those on death row, for folks on the fringes, for those who might not even want our prayers.

I cannot judge your heart.
You would not permit me,
even if I could. I am, as always,
at arm’s length, the rain beating
its wet fists on the window. It will not
be let in. Even so, I know fear,
and fear is often where you live.
Let us meet then on common ground:
I wish you safe passage.
I wish you better than common sense
would grant you. I wish you endless
horizons, walkable on feet that do not tire.
I wish for you the thing you will never give to me,
and that is peace. It hurts to hold you.
It hurts to let you go. God speed.

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Had you told me, back when I was a kid, that someday I’d be doing all my writing on a laptop computer, I never would have believed you. (Also, I would have asked, “What’s a laptop computer?” Those were simpler times, folks.) Even during college, I wrote out all of my papers — no matter how lengthy — in longhand before typing them up. My brain-to-pen connection was strong. Nowadays, everything flows through my keyboard. Even prayers.

What is it
that emanates from you:
enters, moves and exits,
dances my digits
across lonely letters,
forming whole words,
little acts of creation —
a platypus, perhaps,
beaked but mammalian,
spare bits that somehow swim —
or a perfect petit four, iced
elegance, consumed in a gulp?
Is it the stuff of charlatans,
tapped alphabets, levitating tables?
Or is it you, yourself,
hunting and pecking,
posing a sort of code,
and do I even interpret one word in three?
Whatever this holy magic is,
please may it always be.

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

I’m convinced that the totality of woes in this world are utterly determined, enacted and exacerbated by human selfishness — the almighty “I.” You know: I am the center of the universe; my needs are most important; everyone who isn’t me is other, and they are the problem. What we entirely forget is that we completely dependent upon one another, not just for day-to-day life, but for the overall progress of humankind. When it comes to saving the planet, saving the future or saving our souls, I is not going to cut it.

We must change our capital “I’s” into lowercase ones. For instance: I explain, sermonize, pontificate, demand; i listen. I order the world for my own benefit; i put the good of others first. I build walls; i build bridges. (You get it.) If we fail, humanity fails. No less than that hangs in the balance.

Let us whittle our serifs into tittles. (No, I’m not being obscene; “tittle” is the name of the dot on the lowercase I; serifs are the decorative little lines on a capital I.) It is the only way to become like Jesus. Yes, I know the consensus is to capitalize all things God-related out of respect, but Jesus was the littlest “i” person in all of history. Everything he did was for us — not just the “us” who lived in Middle East during his time, but all of us, for all generations, including those yet unborn. Jesus saved all of us from eternal death. Let me put it this way: Think of how many people Jesus actually knew. Now think of how many people Jesus has saved. It takes great heart and complete abandonment of ego to give one’s life not just for your friends, but for people on the other side of the planet, centuries apart from your own existence. None of us can even imagine doing that, much less do it.

The world has nearly come to ruin numerous times because of big I’s. It has always been saved by small ones. So, which do you choose? As for me, I’ll just be over here whittling down my serifs.

This phrase in the Bible shows up more than once: “And it came to pass.”

I’ve always taken that tiny snippet of Scripture as inspiration.

Here’s why: it didn’t come to stay. It came to pass!

Whatever it is in your life that’s holding you back, getting you down, tearing you up. It came here for a reason. And it’s just for a season.   

Even though I reside on the sunny side of the street, we’ve all been down that dark alley. I’ve learned some things that have helped me stay in a positive frame of mind.

Tell but don’t dwell. Tell your story but don’t dwell on the pain of the past.

Follow but don’t wallow. Follow your heart and share what you’ve been through so others know they’re not alone, but don’t wallow in the negative emotions of it.

Make sure it’s useful and truthful. It’s not helpful – to you or those around you – to talk trash about your ex or go into gory detail about the ways life hasn’t been fair to you. It is helpful to be human about it. Here’s something I’ve been through. Maybe it’s happened to you, too. Let’s share what we’ve learned from it, and if it’s still in our life, how to deal with it.

Bask in the positive. You learned from it, lived through it, found a way to rise above.

Be in the present. The past is a springboard. It may have refined you, but it doesn’t define you.

Moving forward with optimism is the antidote to a painful past. No matter what your life may have been like before, every new day is a chance to start again.

I think 2019 is in cahoots with 2018. Dare I use the word “collusion”? It’s largely my fault, I guess. Every year, I give my life over to God, and every year I end up trying to run things myself. It is an easy trap to fall into, especially since sitting around like a lump waiting for God to pick me up and move me remains a nonstarter. What does allowing God to direct one’s life look like? And what is a soul to do when she cannot see the signs pointing the way? Write poetry, I guess.

For too long I’ve been onstage
listening for whispered cues —
“Never?” “Whether?” “Wetter?”
Can’t the prompter’s voice better carry,
especially as I’ve had no script to study?
Oh, my improv’s improved over the years;
I’ve studied every school from Method to
Methodist. Faith informs my performance
but gives no stage directions. The audience is restive.
I see them thumbing rotten fruit. I don’t want my end
to be ignominious hook, though I’ll not ask for ovation.
Might the director step in? His lack of notes befuddles.
What I have is old, a blurred third-hand translation
of transcendent art, the only visible word, love.
This will not get the audience seated, let alone
feed the cast. Yet the play goes ever onward.
Scenes change, scenery shifts, the crowd holds its breath.
Line, please.

We’re keeping things easy this time around, my husband and I. No New Year’s resolutions, just a loose plan to eat at one new restaurant every month. It’s simple, enjoyable and doable — we’re destined for success. And yes, we do need to lose weight, fix up the house, get organized…all of the typical fronts tackled by most folks’ resolutions. We’ve failed at those enough times to know that it’s not worth making a commitment you can’t keep, one that’s sure to end in unhappiness when you just can’t live up to it.

Resolutions are funny things. They are based entirely on what we want for ourselves. Certainly God isn’t asking us to run a mile a day or clean out our closets, except in the most general and generous of ways: God wants what is best for us. God wants us to be healthy and happy. Everything else we resolve to do is simply to satisfy our own image of what our lives should look like. Our lives should be more, better. Or so we think.

Instead, I urge you in the year ahead to do less. Take one thing off your list; excise one of the rules you live your life by. Not something central, but a tangential and self-imposed thing — the lawn must be lush and green year-round; the dishes cannot sit in the sink overnight; you must never eat a carbohydrate. Get rid of the script in your head that tells you “I’m too fat to shop for clothes” or “whenever someone perceives me to be a bad mother, I must feel guilty.” You don’t have to do or feel or think or be anything, no matter what anyone else expects, feels, thinks or chooses for you.

This year (2018) I did something difficult — I stopped dyeing my hair. And it was hard and it is hard; every time I look in the mirror, I have the knee-jerk reaction that I’ve let myself go. But…go where? What is it that I think I owe to other people when they look at me? In something as silly as embracing my natural hair, I’ve found more opportunities for self-examination than I ever guessed I might.

Take it easy on yourself in 2019. Resolve to just be happy. Because if you can’t be happy with yourself as you are, no resolution will ever make you so.

We live not far from a park with the perfect sledding hill.  Not the one in front.  Everyone learns the hard way that that particular hill empties into a narrow shallow creek.  It is a long walk home with wet snow pants.

But the hills in back?  Long and varied.  There are shallow slopes for the unsure, steep slopes for the brave, and everything in between.

Every time he had a snow day, my son begged to sled.  Often I ended up there with one other mom and a herd of kids.  Some snows were excellent for sledding and others just bogged the sled down.  But every time in snowed, even when it was below zero, we had to try.

That’s why I paired this photo with this quote.  Sledding didn’t work out every time, but every time it snowed, we had to try.  Hope shaped our plans to a much greater extent than failure.

May God help us to find this faith as we head into Christmas, close out the year, and turn the page of a new calendar!

–SueBE

I understand that I’m not on your list, or anyone’s.
Take me anyway.
I realize I don’t fit right, run both too large and too small,
break easily and bolt through batteries like heartbeats.
Make me yours, despite it all.
Take me without bright paper or bows,
without tinsel or tags to distract from what is surely
not as dear as myrrh and nowhere near gold.
I’ve soiled the cloth you wove me of, that infantile innocence
that shone from my newly opened eyes.
Spin me anew.
May this white Christmas describe the state of my soul.
May I be the present under the tree.
May I be what is wanted:
fresh hay, animal heat, the company of shepherds,
pure and clean as a newborn star
nodding “yes” above a manger.

Faithful readers of our humble bloggie know that I lost my pet partner, KitKat, recently, so forgive me as I ramble on with stories about him for the next few posts. He meant so much to me and my son, and I realized today he was not just a cat. He was a counselor.

My son has dealt with exhaustion due to a medical condition his whole life. It’s affected his quality of life immensely, and, as a mother, it’s pained me that I can’t fix it for him.

One morning, I couldn’t wake up Cole, so I cried for a moment in the kitchen. My cat came into the room. “I don’t know how to help him. He’s not sleeping well or feeling good. I don’t know how to help him live well,” I said to my cat as if he understood.

KitKat came over to me, bumped against my leg and stayed there, waiting.

Pet me, he was saying. You feel good when you pet me. So if you feel good, you’ll be in a better mood. Let go of what you can’t solve now.

Still tightly clenched, I went over to the couch in the living room and he came to sit near me. As I patted his furry head, he purred. The tension was dissipating, and even though I still didn’t have a solution to this fatigue that never went away, I felt my shoulders start to relax.

You can’t reach out and grab hold of life with your hands clenched. Even if you’ve been running in circles for the whole week, find a way to have a day of rest. Lay your burden down and be at peace. If you can’t solve the problem, resolve the energy. You’ll find that things will look brighter tomorrow.

Have a Mary Little Christmas

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