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As our congregation, we are looking at some big expenses.  The biggest?  A new roof.

I’m not even sure how many thousands of dollars that is going to be but it won’t come cheap.  And the problem really isn’t the total. It’s the fact that so many people have been hooked by that number.  Have a fund-raising suggestion that is less than the total?  Sad, sad shakes of the head.  It just won’t be enough.

Well, duh.

Okay, it’s not the most polite response ever but if you want to get a ruling elder’s attention well duh is the way to go.

Obviously $500 or even $2000 is less than tens of thousands.  I may not be a math major but I get it.  They are less.  It is more.

But Christ has a habit of working with the very least.  A mustard seed.  A few loaves.  A handful of fishes.  Christ can make it work.

And when we are working for him, in his name, we can do it too.  If I do a small part and you do a small part and someone over there also does a small part, we’ve accomplished something.

I’m not saying that a new roof is a matter of faith and faith alone.  It will also take a group of us each doing our one small part.  Together we’ll pay for a roof, fill the food pantry and gather supplies for local children who don’t have even a quarter for a cheap folder.  Because there is something each of us can do.

–SueBE

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Listen.

What do you hear?

The thermostat outside my office just came on.  Seconds later, the heating element in the furnace power up.  The blower just powered up.

I’m a big fan of quiet. The cat and I do quiet time on the sofa.  I generally have a book.

Yesterday my sister found my standing in her kitchen at the far corner, out of sight of the dining room.  She didn’t ask.  She was coming up from the basement where she was changing out the laundry.  My brother-in-law’s family sat around the dining room table shouting at each other about conservatives, progressivism, and a cow with gigantism.

One of the teens sat at the table on her tablet, playing a game.  The other two both had their phones out.  Soon the shouting conversation progressed to millennials.  Granted, only one of them is a millennial but the obnoxious part was that the two older kids, the ones with phones, had tried to participate.  Now they were texting friends, developing their own social networks and going where they could be heard.

Silence.  It can be a powerful thing.

–SueBE

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.

We are all complex combinations of dark and light.  Not that I’m bragging about my darkness but I do believe I need to own it.

I am short tempered.  Judgemental.  And precise.  How is that last one a bad thing?  Tick me off and then bug me to tell you why.  You’ll get it in great and painful detail.  Seriously.

There are also the traits that can go either way. I have a very strong sense of justice.  My friend’s autistic son loves that about me because it makes us just alike.  What can I say?  We understand each other.

I own these facts about myself but I try not to let them control me.  When something starts to get on my last nerve, I look for a way to remove myself from the situation.  Does that make me a saint?  Nope.  I’m just a sinner who knows when and where to beware.

Humans are flawed but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try.

–SueBE

When my son was tiny, as in about four, he managed to get out of my reach and go wading into a river.  We almost lost him when the current grabbed him but another parent reached out and snagged him.

I was afraid of water before that happened.  Then my father-in-law moved to a lake.  The boy had to learn to swim.  He also played soccer and rode horses but I’m not afraid of horses or soccer balls.  Naturally he gravitated to water.

He and his friends raft.  They swim.  They canoe.

Then one of his friend’s tried to push me in.  Poor, misguided boy.  He might be a state heavy weight wrestler but things did not go as planned.  And that’s when everyone found out that I’m like trying to throw a cat in a lake.

What does this have to do with courage?  On my part, not much.  But I wanted me son to live a life with broader horizons.  I was sure he’d have issues but I thought I’d let him develop them on his own.

I’d say that God and I talked a lot when my son was in the lowest levels of swimming lessons but in all truth I didn’t do much listening.  I fussed.  I complained.  And I leaned.

The courage wasn’t mine but that’s okay.  I knew where to find what I needed.

–SueBE

 

Follow your talent to the dark places where it leads.  Does this mean that using your talent will always be grim and scarey?  No.

But developing your talent can be tough.  Dancers face hours, days and years of practice to hone their skill.  All of this can be brought to a halt by a serious injury.  Pretty scary stuff.

Any college degree that is science based is hard to earn.  I’m saying that after listening to three teens discuss calculus over Christmas break.  How many of them passed?  None.  And these three are all honors students.  Heading back into their respective classrooms after Christmas, they each attend a different school, is going to be tough.  It is going to take guts.

Learning to use our talents effectively is often a long, difficult process.  This doesn’t mean that God wants us to take an easier path.  But it may mean a series of hurdles and dark passages before we can undertake the tasks that he will ultimately place before us.

Have courage!  After all, he is with you.

–SueBE

 

Some kids need to be encouraged to think for themselves.  My mom said that was never my problem.

When I was little, as in a preschooler, my grand-dad would take me walking with him.  He was a mining engineer and he constantly checked out rocks.  He’d roll them with his boot and maybe crack one with a hammer.  Choice bits would go in his pocket.

I had pockets too.  Mom didn’t appreciate either the number of rocks or the dirt in my pockets.  So grand-dad gave me a geologist’s bag.

Problem solved.  I filled that up and then dropped the extras down my bib overalls.  What can I say?  Some of those rocks were too good to pass up. I had learned not to put dirty things in my pockets but I was still thinking for myself.  Now I get to use that love of science in the writing I do for kids.

God created each of us with a purpose and a mission.  To find that mission, you will have to be yourself – the unique person that God created.

–SueBE

 

 

 

Today the choir director at Florissant Presbyterian Church, where I go, tried to recruit me for a drumming class.  She signed up for Japanese drumming classes.

The truth:  I LOVE Japanese drumming.  Love.  It.  Seriously.

Her:  It will be so fun.  We can go together. It’s eight weeks.

Me:  Do you have to do that thing where you do one rhythm with one hand and another with the other hand?

Her:  Probably not for a couple of weeks.

Me:  Have you noticed how excited I get when I keep track of one rhythm for an entire song?

My husband:  It’s easy.  When you do three with one hand and four with the other than (some bunch of something I can’t even begin to repeat).

Soon she and my darling husband where going on and on and the pastor and I looked confused.  Really confused.

For those of you who don’t know, my husband drums.  He can do two different rhythms with his left hand, a third with his right, and two different baselines with his feet.

On a good day, I don’t spill my drink on myself or drop food.  On a really good day, I don’t bounce off a wall or careen off a piece of furniture.  I can, maybe, keep track of one rhythm at a time.  Apparently, I am not a savant.

The beauty of it is, we each have our own gifts.  Our pastor’s is ministry. He’s also highly intellectual.  Me?  I’ve got a thing for visual pattern and nonfiction story telling.  Other cultures and history and paleontology are like candy to me.

But I’m lucky.  My parents always encouraged me to study and learn about what fascinated me.  Other people?  Not so lucky.  Our choir director got a business degree although she had been offered a full music scholarship.  She was told she had to be practical.  She had to make her way back to music as a profession.

In 2019, celebrate the unique gifts God gave you.  How?  Be the best you that you can be.

–SueBE

 

This phrase in the Bible shows up more than once: “And it came to pass.”

I’ve always taken that tiny snippet of Scripture as inspiration.

Here’s why: it didn’t come to stay. It came to pass!

Whatever it is in your life that’s holding you back, getting you down, tearing you up. It came here for a reason. And it’s just for a season.   

Even though I reside on the sunny side of the street, we’ve all been down that dark alley. I’ve learned some things that have helped me stay in a positive frame of mind.

Tell but don’t dwell. Tell your story but don’t dwell on the pain of the past.

Follow but don’t wallow. Follow your heart and share what you’ve been through so others know they’re not alone, but don’t wallow in the negative emotions of it.

Make sure it’s useful and truthful. It’s not helpful – to you or those around you – to talk trash about your ex or go into gory detail about the ways life hasn’t been fair to you. It is helpful to be human about it. Here’s something I’ve been through. Maybe it’s happened to you, too. Let’s share what we’ve learned from it, and if it’s still in our life, how to deal with it.

Bask in the positive. You learned from it, lived through it, found a way to rise above.

Be in the present. The past is a springboard. It may have refined you, but it doesn’t define you.

Moving forward with optimism is the antidote to a painful past. No matter what your life may have been like before, every new day is a chance to start again.

Since I’m writing a week of New Year reflections, I feel like I should make a confession.  I’m not big on resolutions. They just seem trendy and too easy to let slide.

My birthday is toward the end of the month.  By the time it comes around, I tend to have a better idea what I want to address.  I’m ready to decide what to leave behind as my annual gift to me. Not that these annual gifts are always super popular.

One year, I quit agreeing to do things I didn’t want to do.  Not everything but the things that someone else could do but “you just do it so much better.” Um, no.  I don’t actually accept that as an explanation anymore.

The next, I quit apologizing for not doing things I didn’t want to do. “I can’t make it” became a perfectly acceptable, to me, answer.  It might mean I was busy.  It might also mean I just don’t want to put on shoes and leave the house.  But it also meant that I have to accept the same responses from my introvert friends.

What are you bringing into the New Year that you might put aside?  Perhaps you need to shrug off the childhood admonition that you have no artistic talent and take that painting class you’ve been wanting to try.  Or you could pick up a set of calligraphy pens and go through some online tutorials.

God gives us opportunities.  To take them up, we may need to put something else down.

–SueBE

Have a Mary Little Christmas

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