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Image may contain: 1 personI should read the Bible.  I know this.  How else am I going to broaden my understanding and deepen my connection?  Every year, it is one of my resolutions, but up until February or so I didn’t do it.  I’d have good intentions and read a bit here and there for a week or two, but I never got very far.

Then in February I spotted the reading plans at Bible Gateway.  I had seen something about a chronological Bible – the text of the Bible is printed chronologically in order of the events depicted.  I was curious and Bible Gateway has an online chronological reading plan.  Each day, they send me a link to that day’s reading depending on how far you are in the plan.  Today’s reading is 1 Kings 12-14.  A couple of days ago, the reading was Ecclesiastes 7-12, and it included a verse that surprised me because it is just so . . . today.  Here is Ecclesiastes 7:10.

Do not say, “Why were the former days better than these?”
    For it is not from wisdom that you ask this.

Wow.  That hit a little too close to home.  Whether you are in the “Make America Great Again” or the “I Miss Obama” camp, so many of us spend our time looking back. We talk about when the US was crime free.  Back in the good old days.  Back when people had family values.  Back when people were good. Remember how easy things were before we had to wear masks?

The story of Lot’s wife speaks to this.  She turned into a pillar of salt when she looked back.  She stood frozen, rooted to the spot instead of moving forward.

When we are hip deep in difficulties it is easy to look back.  But don’t do it to the extent that it keeps you from moving forward.  Don’t do it to the point that it keeps you from working toward solutions for todays problems.

How then should you look back?  Do it to gather strength.  My grandmother (see her photo) and her sisters grew up during the Dust Bowl.  They lived in Amarillo, Texas.  There were polio epidemics.  They survived their father’s alcoholism and war.  Times were tough.  My grandmother made clothing out of flour sacks and explained to me how to sort the various fabrics for dresses, boy’s shirts and underwear.  Think about it.  She even made their underwear.

Times are tough today and I’ve made masks but not underwear.  Thank goodness.  Although if I made underwear no one would be able to stare at my wobbly seams.

I look back and I see the thing my family survived.  By Grandmother wasn’t alone.  She had her sisters helping her out.

I’m not alone either.  I’ve got tidbits of wisdom from the Bible.  I’ve got my sisters, Lori and Ruth, and the many other women around me today.  I live with two hard working men and we are in this together.  Grandma always said I should read the Bible and it is definitely something I will continue to do moving foward.  That said, I do wonder what the next timely verse will be.

–SueBE

 

It happened in a neighborhood much like yours. My friends — two of the kindest, most compassionate people I’ve ever known — had their home attacked by hatred. Let me set the scene: On their lawn, these friends have placed two signs. One says “No matter where you are from, we’re glad you’re our neighbor” in three languages. The other simply states, “Black Lives Matter.” Lately, a cowardly Someone planted a third sign in their yard. This one was different. Scrawled on poster board were ugly, racist things. My friends were called “America haters” and instructed to “get a job.” (May I also mention that my friends are two of the hardest working folks you might ever meet?)

I spent a long time feeling sad, knowing how I might react to such a thing — with despair, anger and fear. But then I knew just how my friends were going to react to it — with compassion and resilient grace. And I realized: Hate has no chance. None at all.

Hate has no home here.
It scrabbles in crannies,
finding footholds in fearful dark places.
It squints in ignorance, afraid of light
that will certainly kill it, sure as any germ.
Though we long to burn it, let us refrain.
Instead, stand in loving audacity,
face forward into the abyss
that is, after all, only smoke:
quickly dispelled by the ongoing breath
of all who know our God.

Let me tell you, I really do love a good zombie movie. I know this is a strange topic for a post on a prayer blog, but with everything in the news lately, dialing into the dystopian dimension has been rather comforting to me!

The way I see it, zombies need better PR people. Also, a good law firm. They could probably win in a class-action lawsuit against scientists with clumsy hands in labs. As the old saying goes, Don’t drop the beaker filled with experimental toxins if you don’t want to spark a zombie boom! Could be I just made up that saying, but c’mon, it’s really just common sense.

Zombies may have a bad rep, but they’re really just misunderstood. Don’t you think? They never asked to be undead. It’s just one of those things.

In some ways, people in America have become less humane than zombies. We can’t even get along at the grocery store. Some people refuse to wear masks, saying it’s an infringement of their personal rights, even in the middle of a pandemic. Is this some form of brainwashing that’s turning people less than human? Even zombies don’t attack each other.

It’s not too much to ask that we look out for each other, doing simple things like wearing a mask. Keeping social distance. Washing your hands. It’s not a political statement. It’s a sign of one of the few attributes that separates humans from zombies: compassion.

Don’t be an unthinking zombie. Be a person. Take care of yourself and your neighbors. Do the right thing. No matter what you hear from authorities who say otherwise, the golden rule trumps (pardon the term) zombie drool.

A friend and mentor began a recent meeting by noting that we are experiencing “a letting go that sometimes feels excruciating.” It is a teaching time, but also a time of division and tumult. How we continue to respond to the challenges in our world will be the mark of us. Are we the America who went without rubber, without shoes and chocolate and nylon, so as to stamp out fascism in World War II? Or are we an America who equates freedom with the basest selfishness, a tyrannical toddler who refuses inconvenience even as the body count rises?

Who we are at heart will out itself
in small graces, in occasions not taken,
in the less and more of
what we will not do for ourselves,
but what we will do for others.
Change is demanded: for our earth,
for her creatures. Will we rise,
shine silver, mean what we said
when we said who we were?
The promise of America
lies within grasp: It will
bloody our fingers to grab it,
but it will also save our soul.

I seem to be writing about the senses a lot lately, especially sight. Maybe that’s because I’m trying to see things clearly. Or maybe it’s because so much of what I see is hurtful and in need of change. What about you? What are you seeing? Does your seeing bring you optimism? I hope so.

“Pluck it out.”
You make it sound so easy.
Yet it isn’t my eye that offends,
but what it sees:
a nonstop parade of casual cruelty,
even as the eyes of the world
look on, aghast.
We have a moment now.
The plates are shifting.
We can move mountains.
Or we can ignore the rumbling
beneath our feet and set our faces
like flint, even as we slide into the sea.
Look. See. Find the focus and fight, push.
We cannot slow down now, lest we lose
what we love, the shape of the land,
the idea of us, of all that we could be —
but only if none of us is left behind.

Anyone who says that they love change, in my not-so-humble opinion, is speaking from a position of power.  This is someone who is generally the engine of change. This is not the person who suddenly finds themselves looking for a new doctor since their old one is no longer or their insurance plan.  This is not the woman who learns that she is no longer on Medicaid.

Even positive change is hard if for no other reason than the fact that we need to learn change is needed.

This morning I listened to episode three of “Uncomforable Conversations with a Black Man,” a Youtube show with retired NFL player Emmanuel Acho.  Chip and Joanna Gaines of Fixer Upper talked about discussing race with their kids.  “We want them to be color blind.”

This is something that you hear white people say.  But Acho explained why that is not what black people want.  It is not what they need.  Instead we need to see people and their cultures and respect them.

I don’t know if Acho and his guests “pre-discuss” the various topics they plan to cover or if it is truly candid, but neither Chip or Joanna batted an eye.  They listened, they heard, and they put in the effort to understand.

We aren’t at the Tower of Babel but sometimes it feels like we may as well be.  For years, the dominant society has been told that things are not fair.  Given how well it was heard, you’d think it was said in a different language.

It is time to listen.  It is time to do.  It isn’t going to be comfortable but God is with us every step of the way.

–SueBE

 

Have a problem? Ignore it! It is, after all, the American way. If we didn’t do so much testing, we wouldn’t have so many COVID-19 cases — this, according to our own government. True. We’d just have masses of people dying of…something. By that logic, no one ever need have cancer again. Just don’t get screened for it!

Racism, too, is a subject Americans have often ignored, hoping the pain and agony of over 300 years will simply “go away.” Guess what? It won’t.

We have a choice to make. Remain ignorant or confront the painful truth. Which will it be?

Moles are content, I wager,
blind and underground.
It is no place for people.
Open your eyes
and the light will blind you,
true. It will also heal you.
As scales fall from your lids,
you will quake, your inner Saul
excised like cataracts under a laser.
Being Paul will feel as uncomfortable
as an icy plunge, but you will ease into it,
the temperature of the water slowly
warming to buoy your body.
You will see underwater,
without distortion.
It will come as a shock.
True wisdom always does.
There is nothing to do
but bow to the pain of it.
The price is too high
to stumble on, unconverted.

Beata Zawrzel—NurPhoto/Getty Images

Drop me off in a snowstorm, and you might lose me. I’m not just Caucasian, I’m lily white. Polar bear pale. But I can tell you one thing: Black Lives Matter.

I thought it went without saying that to say, “Black Lives Matter” is not to say that no one else’s life matters.

The other day, I had to “unfriend” someone on Facebook because she posted these hashtags: “AllLivesMatter” and “CopsLivesMatter.”

This means that, despite seeing the video of George Floyd being choked to death by an officer who had his knee on Floyd’s neck, she believes that the police are always in the right.

It’s shocking to see something so graphic and realize that someone else doesn’t appreciate the gravity and brutality of the incident.

In this unprecedented time, the country is contending with two virulent contagions: COVID-19 and systemic racism.

If only there were a way to implant a moral compass into everyone’s heart, the way a surgeon does a pacemaker. Or give the whole world an empathy-injection, along with our B-12 shots. 

There’s no vaccine for COVID-19 yet, and certainly no vaccine for racism.

You can’t regulate or legislate hate out of a heart, but short of that, there are a few concrete steps to be taken:

  1. Remove the issue of police discipline from union labor negotiations. Many police union rules protect officers who act violently. 
  2. Enforce the use of body cameras so that officers aren’t allowed to turn them off to commit acts of violence.
  3. Fire any officer using choke-holds or excessive force on a citizen.

We’ve got some deep rifts in this country now, and many wounds in need of healing. As for those who deny there are systemic problems in law enforcement and implicit bias toward people of color? Sadly, there’s no vaccine for that.

Whole oceans of grief
threaten to consume us.
Pass sadness into every hand;
let us drink it and know
why it cannot still be served.
Waves lash relentlessly:
names pile painfully
on the sand. Say them.
Words repeated will
beat the drum for justice.
Sure, the tide will roar,
as it does, afraid of change
when surely it knows
all things must change.
Open your eyes to color,
its beauty and importance.
The shore will not erode —
not if we hold hands.

addamsNot everyone who sees this post will have experienced racism. Not directly. But you’ve probably seen it even if you didn’t know what you were seeing.

A black customer being followed through the store.  Did she slip something into her purse?  A friend told me about a co-worker, a beautifully dressed black woman who was followed by security on countless occassions.

A black driver pulled over beside the road.  You may have assumed that the driver did something wrong, but he or she may simply have committed the crime of driving while black. This week a friend asked how to advise her adopted son.  She is white.  He is not.  Another friend, a black woman, said that when she gets pulled over, she calls her sister and leaves the line open.  Not if she gets pulled over.  When.

Last week Lori suggested that we begin by decolonizing our reading.  There are so many books out there.  Where should you start? Before Lori wrote her post, my book was recommended by a librarian on Twitter.  Here is the list of books she recommended:

  • The Hate You Give by Angie Thomas
  • All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely
  • How It Went Down by Kekla Magoon
  • Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
  • Black Lives Matter by Sue Bradford Edwards and Duchess Harris

To her list, I would add:

  • Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson
  • Stamped from the Beginning by Abram X. Kendi
  • How to Be an Antiracist by Abram X. Kendi
  • Race and Policing by Duchess Harris and Rebecca Rissman
  • Roots of Racism by Kelly Bakshi
  • Stamped by Jason Reynolds and Abram X. Kendi
  • White Privilege by M. T. Blakemore

Some of these books are for young readers, but in all seriousness I learn just as much from those as I do from the books for adults.

What does all of this have to do with prayer and faith?  Remember that Christ said that when we ignored the orphan, the widow and the imprisoned, we ignored him?  It is time we quit ignoring the problems in our midst.

–SueBE

Have a Mary Little Christmas

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