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What if empathy was a finite resource that only existed in a fraction of the population? Imagine what would happen if the ones designated as caretakers of compassion went on strike. Or their kindness soured into cynicism. What would become of humanity then?

I’m concerned that compassion will be elbowed out eventually, especially since those in charge seem unwilling or unable to model it. The younger generation is growing up at a time in which “Instagram Influencer” is an actual job. We’ve even learned to condense our coarse critiques into 140 characters.

Now tell me, when did we decide as a society that pulling pranks was “all in good fun?”  This “heartwarming” (not to mention “housewarming,” but in a bad way)  video of a firefighter fooling his girlfriend into thinking their house was on fire so he could propose to her is (as all of our fathers used to say, say it with me now:) everything that’s wrong with the world today.

If I were that woman, not only would I refuse that marriage proposal, I’d throw my now-ex-boyfriend in jail for causing a public disturbance. Not to mention misuse of tax dollars. Of course, then social media would obliterate me for being a spoil-sport, I’m sure. I can’t even believe this needs to be said, but here goes. Terrifying someone you love is not kind.

A different video of a child in China who walked to school in weather so cold that his hair froze caused an outpouring of kindness. And this one of a stranger who drove 2300 miles to return a family dog to this sick boy shows that focusing on the positive is the antidote for negativity. Despite everything wrong with the world today, there’s still hope for humanity.

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We’ve seen protests of all kinds in the last few years: Black Lives Matter, MeToo, immigration. To be honest, I’m astounded that there aren’t daily protests in the streets over the global scandal of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church.  In truth, it’s a crime against humanity. Those responsible should be brought to the Hague before the International Court of Justice.

The MeToo movement, in particular, started a seismic shift in the world. I’d like to propose another idea: EtTu. A rallying cry for the survivors and families of these horrific acts, perpetrated by priests and buried by bishops. The cover-up is still happening, even now. Catholic bishops at a recent conference were told by the Vatican to “delay voting on measures to hold bishops accountable for failing to protect children from sexual abuse.”

Retired Catholic University Professor Stephen Schenk believes that the bishops “can’t be trusted to police themselves. I think the ultimate solution, especially here in the U.S., is going to require an active, permanent role for the laity, because of the problem of oversight.”

These issues are difficult to discuss, but when I saw this victims’ statement video, their toxic effects became clear. An 84-year-old man described his experience from 1947. If even one bishop had spoken up instead of covering it up, it could have saved all the subsequent children from becoming victims. One survivor said, “It’s very lonely. Especially when it’s your word against God’s.” But as our Lori wisely said in her post, “They are men of God. But they are not God. The Church would do well to remember the humility of its founder.”

Today is Veterans Day, a day to honor all those who have served in the military. I’ve always appreciated veterans, despite my doubts that it’s possible to bring about peace through war. It almost seems quaint to believe that noble ideals still define this nation, but one of the most important is being able to speak one’s mind freely.

When I read an article about a US navy ship being menaced by a Chinese destroyer recently, I thought, Uh-oh. They’re trying to provoke us into a war! Then I read between the lines:  “The U.S. Navy will continue patrolling the disputed South China Sea, a top Navy official said Monday, after a Chinese destroyer came dangerously close to an American Navy ship during a ‘freedom of navigation’ sail-by near a Chinese-occupied reef.”

Hmm. “Freedom-of-navigation sail-by” must be military-speak for, we’re going to buzz by your claimed territory and say You’re not the boss of me!

If the military is fighting to protect our way of life, maybe we can fight for them as well by questioning authority. They’re fighting for my right to say that I’m concerned for the safety of those soldiers and I wonder if it’s worth it.

As China continues to build its own islands to establish yet another military base, it makes me wonder. Are they doing this because we keep poking at them? Or are we poking at them because they keep adding to their arsenal?

A country, a company, a cause – all are strengthened when people have a right to speak freely. To me, that’s what this holiday signifies. We can speak up because they stood up. And for that, we owe them a debt of gratitude.

Yesterday, I watched a really interesting Ted Talk with Ozlem Cekic.  Cekic is the first Muslim woman to win a seat on the Danish Parliament. After a comment from a friend, she quit ignoring the racist e-mails she received.  She looked through them, having saved them in case something happened to her, and contacted the person who had written her the most often.  “Let’s get together for coffee.”

She intended to let him get to know her.  Her idea was that he wouldn’t hate her once he knew her.

And she was right but she received a surprise as well.  He was funny.  He was friendly.  He had a nice home.  He and his wife had the same coffee service her parents had.  She liked him.  He wasn’t anything like she expected.  In addition to broadening his limited beliefs, she got to broaden her own as well.

Today I find myself looking around and wondering.  How are my own beliefs about the people around  me limiting what I see?  How am I missing out on seeing that spark of God’s light simply because what I expect to see is something else?

–SueBE

Do you feel broken by recent events? I hear you. It’s hard to live in the here and now when here is untenable and now is rife with violence, greed and anger. Perspective helps, so let’s go back to the Sermon on the Mount. You know what Jesus said: “Blessed are the peacemakers, blessed are those who hunger and thirst for justice,” etcetera. Notice what he didn’t say? “…for they will inherit the earth — in twenty minutes!” Nope. All of those rewards Jesus talks about? Those are things that will happen in heaven, in the hereafter — “next life” stuff.

So how do you make it through this life when real justice will only occur in the next? Think long-term. Even the king of the fruit flies only lives 24 hours. Sure, he can buzz as loud as he likes, even assemble a fruit fly army…in the end, he is a nothing in a sea of nothingness. He is a grain of sand. He is a mote, a distraction, a flicker, an afterthought. This life is brief. The next life is eternal. Why waste time on negativity, selfishness or anger when there is so much joy to look forward to?

I’m not asking you to ignore life or to ignore the inequalities and injustice that surround us. Just the opposite. Keep working on it. Don’t give up because of “this world” distractions. Those are just fruit flies. Swat them away. Keep plugging away at justice, mercy, love and hope. Because that’s what will matter in the next life. And next life stuff is awesome. I want to be there for it. Don’t you?

Cultivate an attitude of gratitude.  We’ve heard the advice but how many of us have actually taken it to heart?

This morning I met me friend at yoga.  It’s the last time we’ll be together for almost a month because she’s traveling overseas to see her granddaughter for the first time.

Sure, we mentioned the elections.  Our area lost a long-standing female senator and her supporter, for the most part, are not taking it well.  Several announced social media sabbatical.  There were just too upset to face the world.

Neither my friend or I are happy about who won.  But today is a gorgeous day.  Yes, it is chilly but the sun is shining after two days of rain.  The fall colors are gorgeous and while we chatted we got to watch a hawk soar overhead.

She showed me pictures of baking pies with her four-year-old grandson.  It was too cute.  He was totally involved which is a riot of you know what a bruiser this kid is.  We discussed her upcoming trip.  What excitement to meet a grandchild who lives overseas!  We talked about plans for when she gets back.  How blessed we are to have friends who live nearby.

We are truly blessed in so many ways.  Spend some time contemplating the blessings in your life.  And then tell other people about them. Focus on the Light.

–SueBE

 

I’m late getting to this today because I voted.  It is lunch time here and, dare I say, I’m already really tired of hearing about the elections.  Really tired.  I’m also fed up with politics and people trying to skew facts to suit their politics.

Today a friend posted an article about many Mexicans not having to come to America.  “Maybe because Mexicans are Americans?” That’s something we tend to forget.  While we in the United States are American, so are Mexicans.  And Canadians.  And Guatemalans.  And a whole lot of other people.

But when we get caught up in rhetoric, we forget that.  We forget that our country is not a continent no matter how hard we try to forget that.

Christ was pretty clear on it all.  He ate with tax collectors.  He healed the unclean.  He turned over tables and stepped beyond boundaries.  I’m guessing he might have even talked to both blue and red.

–SueBE

How often do we blow a problem out of all proportion?  A jammed garbage disposal is a huge inconvenience. Having to take a car into the shop for inspection. Taking the time to wash our clothes or clean our homes.  It is all too much.

We get caught up in these things and make them seem much bigger than they really are.  We convince ourselves that no one understands.

Yesterday the Sunday school devotion really got my attention.  It was written as a letter from God to his people.  “Notice that I’m not solving your problems for you.  I’m telling you how to be holy.”

Catch a glimpse of the divine.  Look to Him.  Focus on the Light and some of what you are dealing with may be put in perspective.

Maybe.

Why not give it a try?

–SueBE

We’ve been told and told — and still somehow don’t believe — that the only way to counter hate is love. Sure, it’s hard to hold love foremost in the face of evil. It’s hard to respond to the terrible atrocities of the last week or so with a loving heart and joyous words. And it is most difficult to love when all you want to do is shake people until their teeth rattle. But, Lord, I’m going to try.

Make of me, my God,
a new recipe: something sweet
and light, a flutter on the tongue,
butter-bright, subtly spiced.
When the bitter mouths bark, let me
flow in like honey, thick enough to
coat tongues and soothe aching throats.
May I be like bread baking,
like thick soup simmering on the stove,
a promise of warm contentment.
When you are done, may I spring up
in the pan, golden and fragrant,
impervious to anything
that is not an open hand reaching,
reaching to be filled.

Instead of focusing on the president’s tone-deaf reaction to the horrific act of terror at a synagogue in Pittsburgh, let’s turn back the clock for a moment. During the Iraq War, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld famously said, to a gathering of soldiers: “You go to war with the army you have, not the army you want.” This ranks as a shining example of a Tone-Deaf Moment in History.

A reporter named Edward Lee Pitts had been embedded during the war, and realized he’d been assigned to a company that had an unarmored truck. Since there wasn’t enough armor to cover all of the soldiers’ vehicles, they’d been forced to rummage through scrap piles in the region to salvage metal so they could “up-armor” the truck.

The reporter wanted to ask Rumsfeld why the troops weren’t being given enough supplies or protection, but was told that press wouldn’t be allowed to ask questions. Pitts approached a soldier to see if he would ask Rumsfeld the question and persuaded the A-V technician to give that soldier the microphone.

This is a case of one reporter asking why his own life was in danger, and by extension, all of the troops that were sent to fight and die. If something is important enough, you find a way to stand up for what’s right. You may even have to go around “proper channels.” Lately, it seems propriety is a thing of the past.

Since the message hasn’t been conveyed officially, we’d like to extend heartfelt condolences to the congregants and families of the Tree of Life Synagogue and the Jewish community around the world. Let’s conspire together to ensure this moment isn’t remembered for the tone-deaf non-response of the government. Good people around the world hold you up in prayer. You are not alone.

Have a Mary Little Christmas

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