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A Texas Walmart banned a woman who ate half of a cake as she shopped, then demanded half off the price of the cake. Stories like this one make me think that the moral compass of the nation is out of whack, but is it really?

Maybe it’s just a matter of shifting your gaze to find positive things going on in the world.

DIGITAL FIRST MEDIA/ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER VIA GETTY IMAGES

Like the community that rallied behind California bakery owner, John Chhan, buying out all of his baked goods quickly every single day. Customers lined up as early as 4:30 AM, buying donuts in bulk to clear out the inventory. Why? Once all the donuts were sold out, he could close the shop and be with his wife, who was recovering from a brain aneurysm.“We are so thankful,” Chhan said.

Image via MCACC and Callie Mac/Facebook

Or the volunteers coming together to comfort shelter dogs during Fourth of July fireworks. Operation “Calm the Canines” is underway, and every dog in the shelter will have his or her own personal paw-holder when the noisy celebrations begin. It’s a twist on the therapy dog idea: a therapy person. A thera-person, if you will!

Callie Mac of the Maricopa County Animal Care & Control (MCACC), the organizer of this event said, “Huge thank you to everyone who showed up to help our shelter dogs! It takes a village! ❤”

There’s plenty of positive energy still left in the world. It just takes a shift in focus and a little bit of hope.

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As we celebrate our country tomorrow, let us not forget our commitment to justice. If, indeed, we are a Christian country, where is God in the hierarchy of what we do, how we treat others, how we present ourselves to the world? I suspect that in our eagerness for self-importance, we have put God at the “less than” side of things.

Stuck at the mean, sharp point of the equation,
God is not diminished. We seek skyrockets; God
makes stars. We long for parades, boots on the ground,
a tank or two to feel less tiny. Meanwhile, time marches on,
grander than all the spectacles we muster. And at the far shore,
God watches, waits. Freedom is a thought too big, it must be
reduced, like loyalty, like love. God sits in the open bracket,
alone. We are held in her hand, blessed by bounty, blinking,
blinded by what we think we’ve made. One nation under God:
below, beneath. Not above. Until we know this, we do not figure,
despite our calculations.

Pentecost is nearly upon us; what better time to talk about the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit? For those unfamiliar with these, they are: wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord. Most of these are easy to grasp. But fear of the Lord? That one was a mystery to me until it was explained that the word “fear” relates to loss of God’s love and mercy — fear of being without God, of being alone. That I can understand at a cellular level. It’s a bit like the feeling you get on a roller coaster, just as you begin to plummet down that first big drop.

To leave one’s stomach — and heart —
on some bucolic grassy berm
and fall further, surely, than Alice ever fell,
into void and absence, of light, of sound,
to spin loose like a kite: hand, neck, knee,
head; bones loosed, body unbolted…
To live here always is to live without You,
a land as foreign as the face of the sun,
but cold, dead, devoid of compass points,
street signs, bent twigs or bread crumbs.
Blinder than a worm. No. I will not go.
Take me in your arms and promise me:
though I kick the air, you will not let me fall.

As SueBE said in her post this morning, today is Memorial Day in the United States, a day of remembrance for everyone who has died while serving in the armed forces.

In 1868, future president, James Garfield, spoke eloquently about the importance of the holiday at Arlington National Cemetery.

“I am oppressed with a sense of the impropriety of uttering words on this occasion,” he said. “If silence is ever golden, it must be beside the graves of fifteen-thousand men, whose lives were more significant than speech, and whose death was a poem, the music of which can never be sung.”

Today I learned that Arlington is on the grounds of Confederate General, Robert E. Lee’s, former home. When I read that, it gave me hope that negative situations can be re-purposed into something deeply meaningful. Maybe someday, this contentious time in our history will be transformed into a learning experience and we can find our way back to civility again.

“When I’m out here in the country, I tend to be among people who think differently than I do,” SueBE said in her post. Even though they might be on different ends of the political spectrum, everyone walking through the woods is a human being. What values are worth fighting and dying for? The freedom to express yourself, even if not everyone agrees with you.

Let’s take a moment to honor the memory of those who made the ultimate sacrifice for us all.

I know.  I know.  One Memorial Day we should be thinking about the sacrifices of our military.  Me?  I tend to think about what they made those sacrifices for.  First and foremost – freedom.

My family celebrates Memorial Day by making a three hour trek into southern Missouri.  We walk gravel roads beneath towering trees.  This weekend I even got to see a bald eagle in flight along the edge of a lake.

When I’m out here in the country, I tend to be among people who think differently than I do.  This is a very conservative area.  You see a lot of Confederate flags but you also see Bible verses on yard signs.  When he was small, my son was pulled from the river by a man whose name we never learned.

The men in this part of the state are tanned but it isn’t a swimming pool tan. It is a farmer’s tan.  They work the land.  They work on vehicles.  And some of them drive hours every day to reach the only jobs they can find.

It is also an area with spotty cell service so when you are out an about and among people, you interact.  People aren’t looking at their phones.  They are snapping selfies or checking Snapchat.

There’s a freedom down here that I don’t experience in many other places.  A freedom from being constantly on top of my electronic task masters.  A freedom to experience sun and sky, trees and fields, and red gravel roads.

–SueBE

 

Mother’s Day is this weekend, so I thought I’d perform a public service and offer this sage advice: Ask your mother what she wants for a gift. You might think she’d love a box of chocolates, but she may be watching her weight. She might actually get mad at you, thinking you’re trying to sabotage her diet!

To me, the best gift is cash or a gift card. Some may find that impersonal, but I don’t. Here’s why: You’ll never be able to get me exactly what I want as a gift. Let me explain.

I want a nice cardigan sweater. Sounds simple, right? Anybody can find a sweater at the mall. Think again!

My ideal cardigan sweater is one that’s light enough to wear in warmer weather but, paradoxically, heavy enough to keep me toasty in winter.

No zippers, buttons or snaps. No belt or ties of any kind. No itchy tag on the back of the neck. In fact, I’d prefer tagless. Machine washable and dryable. Is dryable a word? If not, I just invented it. If you plan to use it in a conversation, please send a dollar. 💰 It’ll go toward my next seriously-specific sweater.

It should be made of luxe, soft material, but not so soft that you become a lightning rod for static cling in the winter.

The most important feature would be that it have pockets deep and strong enough to hold a cell phone. I need my phone next to me at all times, but often put it down and can’t remember where I left it.

All told, I’m not sure such a magical sweater even exists! In lieu of this perfect, if imaginary cardigan, I’ll accept — you guessed it — cash or a gift card. Remember this: If mama’s not happy, nobody’s happy!

I’m in an abusive relationship…with a church. I was reminded of this during Holy Week, when our pastor made a point of choosing twelve men for the ritual of the washing of feet, because only men can represent the apostles. Except that’s not true. Women have their feet washed by the clergy all the time — the Pope himself does it.

Then, on Good Friday, I went to another parish (ours didn’t have a Mass scheduled at a time my husband could fit into his schedule) only to find an even more antiquated service. There were seven people around the altar. All were male.

Growing up, I was always top of my class. So when someone said something silly like, “Only boys are good at math,” I could laugh it off. I was proof that they were wrong. I was fortunate to receive sixteen years of Catholic education, being taught by great thinkers and being told that I, too, was capable of great thought. I planned my first mass at nine. I narrated The Passion Play at 13. I’ve spent a lifetime as a faithful Catholic. And somehow, I’m still not good enough. I can’t be good enough. I haven’t got a Y chromosome.

“How many times,” I asked my husband after Friday’s ordeal, “do I have to be slapped in the face by my own church?” “All of them,” he replied sadly.

I know, I know. I really ought to leave. Except that I have nowhere else to go. The church that honed my soul and sharpened my thinking is still my home — my bigoted, outdated home. Why should I have to leave?

On the other hand, why bother baptizing girls if we can never, ever have full participation in the church? Why bother with Confirmation, unless to make sure we understand that we’ll never be fully wanted? Why let us in the door if we can’t be trusted to make policy or even determine what happens to our own bodies? Why not just be honest and come right out and say it: “The Catholic Church: We’re not big on chicks”? At least we’d know what we were getting into.

I brought my husband into this church. At some level, I must think it capable of change (just like every other woman in an abusive relationship am I right?). But what I won’t let it do is hold me back.

Today is Easter Sunday, a day on which Christians around the world celebrate the resurrection of Jesus from the tomb on the third day after his crucifixion.

The Cross is the universal emblem of the Christian faith, and its poignant significance resonates around the world. But another symbol I hold dear is the rock. The stone that was rolled away after the resurrection always reminds me: you don’t have to stay in bondage. If you think you can’t get out of an abusive or untenable situation, remember the stone that was rolled away. You can and you will. Pray about it, then get up and go.

There’s also something solid and unchanging about the symbol of a rock in a changing and challenging world.

When I think of Psalms, this is the one I always return to:

The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer;
my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge,
my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
Psalm 18:2 NIV

In that passage, there’s so much “strength” mentioned that I feel encouraged every time I read it. Like I’m getting stronger just sitting here. Now that would be an exercise plan I’d sign onto: sit and strengthen. That could be a thing!

The core principles we learned as children are like bedrock. Treat people well. Take care of your body like a temple. Do the work in front of you with all your heart. Be forgiving of yourself and of others.

I may not belong to a particular denomination, and my pew may be this chair I’m sitting in right now, but between the rock and the cross, my faith has a firm foundation. Easter blessings to you and yours!

Today, Holy Thursday, begins the Triduum, the three days that recollect and celebrate the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus. Most of us know this story well. We’ve pondered that journey. But how often do we think about the people who walked the path with Jesus?

Simon of Cyrene was picked out of the crowd to help Jesus carry the cross. How and why was he chosen? Well, we know he was from Africa. He might have been a person of color. Or the Roman guards simply noticed he wasn’t Jewish — he was “other.” Or he might have expressed sympathy for Christ. Whatever the reason, he is an outsider, someone from the fringes — the type of person Jesus favored in life.

The women of Jerusalem wept for Jesus and were comforted by him. Women weren’t exactly valued commodities in Jesus’ day. They were mostly seen as possessions, with no voice or agency of their own. Yet Jesus turns to women again and again in his life and along the road to his death — he listens to them. He values them. He speaks to them. Again, Jesus chooses the outsider.

Veronica wipes Jesus’ face. Again, a woman does the unthinkable, and Jesus rewards her with kindness.

The penitent thief (sometimes called Dismas) is crucified next to Jesus. What do we know about him? People were crucified for all sorts of crimes in Jesus’ day, but to be crucified for mere petty theft would have been a long shot, unless the thief was from the lower classes, or worse, a slave. Or the theft was far from petty — it was violent and extreme. There is some conjecture that the “thieves” were more like terrorists. Once again, it someone from the fringes, someone most unlikely, who responds to Christ’s call. In radically changing his heart, Dismas is promised paradise.

Women. Foreigners. Criminals. These are the people who walked the way of the cross with Jesus. Not his apostles. Not religious leaders. It was the most unlikely of people who shared the journey.

People are always amazed when I tell them that SueBE, Ruth and I have never met in person. Yet in my dark nights of the soul, they consistently walk with me. This Easter, take some time to ponder who walks with you. You just might be surprised.

Funny that this should pop up as we head into Easter.  This year, women throughout the Presbyterian Church, USA are studying God’s promise to us all.  I am with you.  Again and again throughout the Old Testament, that is what he tells his followers.  When Haggai, the prophet, comes to God’s people, he comes with a message.  “I am with you.”  When King Ahaz asks for help, Isaiah brings the message, “I am with You.”

Christ is that promise in the flesh.  I am with you here and now.  You can hear me if you will listen.  You can see me if you will look.

Imagine how hopeless all must have seemed on Good Friday for Christ’s followers.  He was crucified, dead and buried.  He had been among them. He has spoken to them, broken bread with them, and walked beside them on the road.  What now?

I know that I often feel like that.  What now?

As Christians, we celebrate the risen Christ.  I am with you here and now.  You can hear me if you will listen.  You can see me if you will look.

–SueBE

 

Have a Mary Little Christmas

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