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As any horror aficionado knows, those title words signal the apex of panic for our poor heroine: The maniacal “crank” caller that has haunted her all night has been revealed to be in the very same house as our terrified victim! (Aside: I never understood this trope. This was used back in the olden days of landlines, so it’s not as if the killer could be calling on his cell phone. Is he using a second landline in the same house? Most houses only had one. And how does he know what number to call? Is he close friends with the owners of the house? This is never explained to my satisfaction.) Recently, these words caused something of a spiritual panic for me.

Last Saturday night, we went back to church. I was hesitant, but I knew the bishop was about to lift the dispensation for missing mass, and since both my hubby and I are vaccinated, I figured…what the hey. Our parish is not new; it was built in the 50s. The ventilation is poor on a good day. And lo and behold — at least a third of the folks in the church were eschewing masks. And singing. Let me tell you, I was scared.

And judgmental. Even with my vaccination, I know infection is still possible. How could anyone be in an enclosed area with a large group of people and not wear a mask? How could our pastor allow singing? All of these thoughts so overwhelmed me, I did not feel the emotion I ought to have felt at receiving Eucharist after more than a year. I should have been buoyant. I wasn’t.

And then I realized: The call was coming from inside the house. In other words, it was me. I was preventing my own enjoyment of the celebration of the Eucharist. I was the problem. I was the deranged killer.

There is a time to hang up the phone. A time to realize that you’ve done your best to keep yourself safe and that you can’t carry the weight of the world on your shoulders. So enjoy what you can. Move into the world and try to experience it without terror, especially where your spirituality is concerned. We need the normality of that connection in our lives. We need the strength of that bond to lift us up and out.

We can’t hold ourselves captive. God wants us healthy, but God wants us happy, too.

I received my first vaccine last week, and vaccine #2 is on the books. What will that mean for my life? I’m not sure yet. There are plenty of things I’ve missed during this pandemic: receiving the Eucharist, seeing people in person, hugging, eating in a nice restaurant. But there are also plenty of things I have not missed…things I’m not looking forward to incorporating into my life again. I don’t miss crowded theaters. I don’t miss noise. I don’t miss socializing on a regular basis. I liked the quiet of the past year. It gave me something I can’t get enough of: solitude. Peace. Time to do — or not do — as I please. I had an excuse (and a good one at that) to withdraw. How will we choose to face life, should the pandemic become past-tense? I’m still pondering.

If I should opt out
what would be missed?
Can silence fill the spaces
where words have been?
Yes, and well enough.
And yet, I miss the muck.
Might I rush in like a fool
or tread, cautious as an angel,
into whatever haze lies ahead?
I think I will know. The time will come,
bubbling with possibility,
a soup that demands to be shared,
or, alternately, ice over, a caution
to step as lightly as a snowflake falls.
God must be our eyes and ears,
the cane that taps the ground,
the hand that reaches into the dark.
The way ahead is only as safe as our faith.

As our government transitions from one president to the next, most of us are praying for peace. I include myself in their number. What I cannot stand behind, however, is the call to “forgive and move on.” To explain, I must bring in my Catholic upbringing. In the sacrament of Reconciliation, two things are required. One: the sinner must recognize that she has sinned and admit her responsibility for wrongdoing. Two: the sinner must resolve not to sin again. Of course, we — sinners all — fail at this repeatedly, but we should at least show a determination to try not to repeat our sins.

I have seen no recognition of sin or resolve not to repeat it from those who dared to rock our democracy to its core. Without these things, there can be no reconciliation. But without reconciliation, how does our country move forward? As Shakespeare might say, “Aye, there’s the rub.”

Take up needles
and begin the slow work
of knitting a country together.
The constituents are disparate,
some soft, new-spun, some
rope that once bound hands,
some silk, some knotted string.
Some of it will bloody our bodies
with barbs. No matter. We will
not still our hands. Each stitch
will be a prayer, each row an invitation
to join the circle. No person is exempt.
Perhaps at first, we will produce a sock,
a scarf, a mitten. Let us aim to weave
a blanket big enough to cover us all.
Begin.

person looking at the milkyway
Picture of a man facing away from the camera, seen in silhouette, looking at the star-speckled night-time sky

Not to make light of the violence that occurred last week in the US capital, but I’d rather ponder esoteric ideas like life in outer space right now. Quite frankly, proving there’s intelligent life here on Earth at the moment might be a challenge. 

Science fiction books and movies always portray aliens as monsters, but what if they’re watching us right now, not with nefarious intentions, but kind-hearted curiosity?

A study claims there may be many civilizations in the universe, and I find this fascinating. 

What if extraterrestrials are watching you the way you watch those two bluebirds as they flutter around the cherry blossoms in your front yard every morning? Aren’t they magnificent! What will they do next? Pick up a tiny branch? Must be making a nest! Wow! Ain’t nature grand?

What if they’re checking in on you the way you keep an eye on that stray cat who visits your backyard. Does he need food? Where does he sleep? Is he okay? What color is that kitty really — black or brown? He almost seems to have subtle stripes. Look, honey, he might have stripes! Isn’t he a marvel?

Every day, as I look at the headlines, I ponder how strange our new normal has become. At this point, if we had an alien invasion, I might not bat an eyelash. “Aiiight,” I’d say, “just stay in your lane, supply me with coffee and chocolate, and we’ll get along fine.”

Mankind has become desensitized to disaster and demonstrates an utter lack of decorum — even humanity — but one day, civility will return. Empathy will emerge. Compassion will make a comeback. 

Until then, hunker down as best you can, and hold on till morning comes. Or at least till the Mother Ship comes to take us away from all this!

The general consensus seems to be that we’ve kicked 2020 to the curb. Our long, international nightmare is over! But is it? The funny thing about time is that one year tends to spill over into the next year. We still have challenges to face. Old ones. New ones we can’t even foresee. Do we have the stuff to face it? Maybe with a little faith, a little hope and a little grace, we really can begin all over again.

We have swept the mess to the sill.
Still, it sits, casting an accusing eye:
What will you do with me?
It will not be as easy
as clearing the threshold
and shutting the door.
The scent of it lingers,
its obdurate conundrums
persist, twisted as steel
by the side of the road.
Fresh eyes, fresh hearts
are required, new courage
flowing from hope
we didn’t know we had.
Listen to the urgings of your heart.
It is time for a new song,
sung louder, though throats are sore.
Bear up. Lean in.
Call for change
and change will come.

books on ground

I just read that there’s a mystery phisher out there who is scamming authors out of their manuscripts, but has in no way shared or monetized them. 

Why do this? It’s making my brain hurt. 

It’s causing a fissure in my understanding of evildoers in the world, to wit: 

a. They do bad things. 

b. They profit from said bad things.

Maybe miscreants don’t even know why they do the wrong thing themselves. It could be they don’t set out to cause harm. And you never know; good people might have a whole other side we know nothing about.

Maybe it’s our own writing professor, SueBE, who just happens to be working on a cozy mystery and needs an unexpected plot twist. She and the Mystery Phisher both like books. Coincidence? Hmm?

Or our poet-in-residence, Lori, looking for new sources of inspiration for her work. Like the mystery phisher, she, too, uses email. Coincidence? Hmmmm?

Best bet would have to be, well, me! The Kindly Auntie who spins humorous little yarns, knits on a round loom, and has a cat named Squeaky. Who would ever suspect such a sweet soul? And admittedly, I, too, have used the internet. Coincidence? Hmmmmmmm?

This may be the year when we all finally, collectively, decide it may not be possible to understand all the Whys in the World — chief among them, why did we have to suffer through a pandemic? — but we can help each other with the How.

Fissures are divisions, and we’ve had our share of those this year. Politics. To wear a mask or not. To gather socially or not. To shut down towns or not. It’s a mystery why we’ve decided to stop getting along. 

If 2020 was a wounding time, let’s make a resolution for the coming year: to resurrect compassion. To allow the tincture of time and the poultice of prayer to heal all these fissures. It’s no mystery Who to call on to help us write this story of hope.

A star atop a tree
can only be
a drowsy placebo
for something missing.
A sky-held star
is an echo, light hitting
earth like a memory.
Fix your ambition instead
on finding the true star.
You will know it by the way
it surges, hot stone,
crying for the love of something
it cannot name.
Follow the star
to the heart of you,
blind and ragged.
Find,
pure and bright,
a child
that is you.
That is He.
Know, at last,
Christmas,
breaking you,
laying you in straw,
lulling you to sleep with
the breath of sheep.

blue and white signage on green grass field
Blue picture of placard with white lettering saying: “I’m so gonna vote” on a green lawn

Today is election day in America, and the world is abuzz. SueBE covered everything that matters in terms of what this election means in her eloquent post. Let’s talk about what happens after the votes are counted.

Your candidate may win.

Do you:

  1. Strut like a peacock and crow like a rooster?
  2. Put your hands together and pray that our leaders take care of the people.

As the captain of your own ship, the CEO of your own family, what do you stand for? Don’t wait for politicians to decide which way the wind blows. Continue to do the right thing even during this strange time in history. 

Your candidate may not win. 

Do you: 

  1. Dig in your heels and get riled up?
  2. Roll up your sleeves and get to work.

The causes that are important to you still matter. The need is still there. Stick to your own platform. Your beliefs aren’t part of a stump speech. It’s who you are. If the powers-that-be don’t step up, that’s when someone else needs to show up and speak up. It’s always the right time to do the right thing. Do what you can to make a difference.

So you say you’re a Texas billionaire and you want to donate funds for college scholarships? Great! Uh-oh. But you laundered that money and now you’ve been indicted for the largest tax fraud scheme in US history.

You’re committed to helping victims of domestic abuse? Terrific! Uh-oh. But you took a massive salary, while the center you opened wasn’t even safe for the women and children who depended on you.

It goes without saying that you shouldn’t do the wrong thing, as these people did. But what is the right thing? 

Do small things with great care. The little that you can do will add up over time. Others will show up, too. Before you know it, we’ve got a groundswell of goodwill. A windfall of warmth.

Once the election is over, my vote is that we get back to who we really are. We’re better than this. It isn’t us vs. them. It’s the US. There’s no them. Let’s come back to our senses and be who we are again: one nation under God.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. Okay, mostly I’ve been dreading the upcoming election and the upcoming fall out. At times like this, I find myself turning to God. Who should I vote for?

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Imagine my surprise when a recent sermon addressed this and so much else. You know the Biblical bit (theology ala Sue) where the Pharisees and the Herodians ask Christ if people should pay taxes? You’ll find it in Matthew 22:15-22.

Christ knows that they are trying to trap him so he asks to see a coin.

“Show me the coin used for the tax.” And they brought him a denarius. 20 Then he said to them, “Whose head is this, and whose title?” 21 They answered, “The emperor’s.” Then he said to them, “Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” 22 When they heard this, they were amazed; and they left him and went away.

I was taught that this meant you should obey the government, pay your taxes and be a good citizen. Pretty handy little message for the PTB (powers that be).

But our pastor challenged us to remember just how wise Christ is. The coin was branded with the image of Caesar. Thus it was a Roman coin, part of Caesar’s empire. Christ was actually asking these people whose mark they carried – God’s or Caesar’s? Who did they serve – God or Ceasear?

When we argue politics and challenge people to vote this way or that way “as good Christians,” whose mark are we carrying? Are we carrying the mark of Christ? Or are we carrying a mark of Red or Blue?

Maybe instead of asking who someone is voting for, we should be asking other questions. Do you have the food you need? With winter coming on, are you warm enough? For those in the path of incoming storms, do you have what you need to ride it out?

If I carry the mark of Christ, it should be evident to those around me no matter which candidate they support.

–SueBE

ray of light near body of water

Imagine being an explorer from outer space, having traveled for years, and finally, you’ve landed on the third planet from the sun. Phew! That map you bought at the fueling station on Alpha Centauri was a bit outdated, but you made it eventually.

The cut-rate “Learn to speak like an Earthling in ten days!” lessons you took were supposed to enable you to converse with the natives, but you’ve encountered some snafus. 

So you say a “pantry” isn’t a place you store trousers, but food? Huh. And a roomatologist isn’t an interior designer, but some kind of doctor? Wait. It’s spelled how?!?

Also, your spaceship doesn’t fit into the drive-thru lane at the fast-food place. You put the food in front of you and it just sits there. It’s not fast at all! Should you get your money back? 

And what is the deal with money, anyway? Tiny pieces of green paper? This can’t be the most valuable thing on this planet. Back home, it’s a compound called blargen, which is a rare, strong mineral that emits a noise and spins. 

If it’s hard for an alien to understand our language and ways, it’s become equally hard to decipher what our fellow humans are communicating to us these days. 

A wedding with 10,000 guests in NYC? At the height of a pandemic? That’s a head-scratcher. People intentionally provoking fights over masks? Going on vacation and flouting rules? It just does not compute.

Others may make questionable choices, but there’s no need to lower yourself when those around you engage in pettiness and politics. Act as if God is watching (guess what?) and speak as if everything you say will be in history books. Calibrate your moral compass to the Golden Rule and always do the right thing.

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