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Yesterday, pastor included a children’s message as part of the service.  During this time, he sits on the stairs leading to the alter and the children gather there as well.  Yesterday they all talked about what they are thankful for – one little girl loved her nail polish.  One little boy?  Your guess is as good as mine. He’s a two-year-old mystery even when he very sincerely tries to describe something to me.

The problem is that I have to avoid trying to fill in what I think he has said.  I honestly don’t remember what I thought he had said the day he handed me a slightly mushed, dead cricket.

This is the world we live in.  My Christmas reality involves a tree and lots of lights.  So many lights!

Does that make it the only Christmas reality?  No.

Christmas isn’t a happy time for everyone.   Some are dealing with the loss of a loved one.  Others simply don’t have the finances to celebrate Christmas the way we are told it should be celebrated – gifts, fancy foods, and so many lights.  Others avoid the lights because they long for a simpler experience.

How do you know which it is?  You have to ask.  Then you need to listen.  Listen with your ears.  Listen with your heart.  Listen to what they tell you and for the still small voice of God.  After all, we live in a world of many realities.  Some people will need and want your help.  Others will long for your understanding.  After all, we live in a world of many realities.

–SueBE

 

“It is criminal that children are being kept in cages.”  Pop.

“No one should go hungry in such a wealthy country.”  Pop.  Pop.

“Young people need more opportunities.”  Pop. Pop. Pop.

Words are mere bubbles.  What an image!  So often we post about things that are wrong – injustice, hunger, impatience.  But posts and comments are nothing more than words.

Only deeds can make a difference.

That can be intimidating.  How can I solve these big problems.  But I had a little reminder yesterday that people working together can make a huge difference.

We attended a Christmas concert Sunday at a local shrine.  Paint swatches on one wall made it clear.  Upkeep in a 200 year old church is a constant concern.  And it takes money.

If the caretaker had asked any one person to pay for the paint required for yards and yards of fencing, that person surely would have taken a step back.  Who knows how much all of that paint would cost?  I certainly don’t.  But she simply asked for anyone who was able to put a few dollars in the collection basket.

I don’t know how many of us there were but the pews were close to full.  The basket that came down our pew was full and I’m sure the other two were equally well fed.

When a group of concerned and caring Christians work together we can accomplish worthy things.  Our deeds are like drops of gold.

–SueBE

I smiled when I read Lori’s beautiful poem.  “Hyacinth of the soul.”  What a powerful phrase!

Whether it is because you are mourning someone or simply because the gray skies weigh you down, this is a tough time of year for so many of us.  With so little daylight and cold winds keeping us inside, it can be easy for depression to take hold. What is fine one year may simply be too much another.

And it certainly doesn’t help that there are so many expectations on us.  Saturday, I am working the preschool breakfast with Santa at our church.  I will be painting faces.  I always laugh that we call if face painting.  Sure, ninety percent of the time, I am painting a snowflake on someone’s cheek.  Or their entire face to look like a reindeer.

But every now and again Mom drags up a wiggly four-year-old who looks me in the eye.  “Don’t touch my face.”

Me: Okay, do you want a snowman on your hand?

Little Wiggles:  I like snowmen.

Me:  Do you want one on your hand?

Little Wiggles gives me an elaborate shrug.

Me:  If you don’t like it, we’ll wipe it right off.

That is generally when I make my sale.  Kid, you have the power here.  Give it a shot and if you don’t like it, you give the word and off it comes.

These are always my favorite kids.  The ones who know that they are not face paint kind of people.  Hand paint?  Maybe.  But face paint?  Nope.

Christmas is about so much more than trees and lights and cards.  It is about the Light.  It is about Grace.  It is about the ultimate Gift from God. You don’t have to buy into all the rest if it doesn’t feel right in your soul.

–SueBE

There is so much good here,
both on and around the table.
Look. Whatever we have today
is bounty because we may not have
it tomorrow. Let us bless one another.
The number of clasped hands matters not;
it is the electricity of love they carry
each to other, love that leaps chasms,
love that lights a path to a doorway
where everyone you know is gathered
and all are glad to see you, even if
this place never appears on this earth.
A blessing on you, on all of you.
Great grows the heart that
knows gratitude for what
is seen; greater, grander
when we envision what could be.

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.

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!

Have a Mary Little Christmas

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