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selective focus photography of green succulent plantMindfulness is knowing where you are, literally, figuratively, physically and emotionally. If your body is sitting in a chair in the kitchen, but you’re agonizing about an unpaid bill or the broken fence, you’re not fully present. You’re neither here nor there.

Could it be that, when you woke up today, you didn’t realize that this is Everything-Goes-Your-Way Day?

The thing is, if you’re focusing on yesterday’s problems or tomorrow’s uncertainty, you might miss it.

Your mission today, should you choose to accept it, is this: get up, get dressed, and be blessed. As long as you don’t start to think, Okay, what’s the catch? you’ll be the recipient of grace today.

One might think: This is impossible in the time of COVID-19. There are protests going on about police brutality towards people of color. Nothing is normal at all! 

But this is a war on many fronts, and you’ve been through battles before. What did you do when things went haywire? When you lost a loved one or a job? When your child ran away or got hurt? Life doesn’t stop at the catastrophe. It’s where a new path creates itself.

If you’re at home right now and you’ve just had dinner, bask in the blessings. Experience the present. If the neighbor’s kid isn’t practicing the drums tonight? That’s a blessing. If the mail didn’t contain any bills today, bask and breathe. Bad news and big disruptions get enough press. Let’s give our blessings some attention.

Or as Someone said a long time ago: “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”

Tomorrow will be here soon enough, with whatever the day brings. Just for today, be here, now.

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.

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.

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.

red and white UNKs restaurantAs a lifelong homebody, the lockdown due to COVID-19 hasn’t changed my lifestyle much; I’m always home. As an introvert, I’ve been practicing social-distancing as a matter of course. As a person with very specific OCD habits, such as constant hand-washing, I seem to have been uniquely positioned when the pandemic hit. Have I actually been preparing for this period in our history my whole life?

I’ve watched as others go stir-crazy, saying they were “stuck in the house” and had nothing to do. I’ve seen tempers flare as people inexplicably fight over toilet paper, as if it’s the holy grail that will somehow get them through this wretched time.

Looking back on life pre-Coronavirus, there are concepts that didn’t make much sense anyway. 

Using paper currency as our method of payment? Why not just call it a “virus delivery device”?

Eating at a buffet in a restaurant? Anything requiring a “sneeze-guard” is sketchy in the best of times.

People want things to go “back to normal” and certainly, if that “normal” means that no one else gets sick or, God forbid, dies from COVID-19, then I agree. But there are so many things that really shouldn’t revert back to the status quo.

For example, if it’s possible for a job to be done remotely, that should be considered as an option for our new normal. Quality of life is just as important as a paycheck. Let’s cut the commute from a road full of tolls, potholes and trolls in other cars to a walk from your bed to the computer chair. 

Also, people have been spending time at home with their families. Eating dinner at the table together. Cooking and baking again. Finding crafts and hobbies that they enjoy. Staying connected with houses of worship virtually. Hopefully, when the country “opens up” again, these positive, personal experiences won’t fall by the wayside.

When your computer is acting hinky, restarting it can work wonders. Maybe restarting the world with a few lessons learned will do us all some good, too.

“How do you like them, ma’am”? the young man asked. “Do they fit okay?”

I was trying on my new glasses, and just for a moment, I didn’t know the answer to that question.

They didn’t feel like my old glasses, which were heavy, pinched my nose, and fit so tightly they etched a groove into the skin on either side of my head.

These new glasses were light, didn’t hurt my nose, and fit well without digging into my skin.

What’s more, I could see slightly better, but didn’t realize it yet, as my eyes were still adjusting to the new prescription. Huh. That’s something. I could see well enough to notice that the frames matched the blue-green color of my eyes. I still have low-vision, but this slightly-better prescription made a difference. 

“You know, I think these will do just fine,” I responded after a moment.

You can get used to things that really don’t fit or serve you well and not even realize it. It can take time to adapt to things that make your life better, like new glasses, Zoom meetings, and breathable face masks, but it’s worth the effort.

We’ve all got to change with the times, and maybe, if you’ll pardon the pun, life is all how you frame it. You can also use that fresh viewpoint to see the silver lining in a difficult situation.

When my dryer broke down, I was ready to break down myself. Not another thing that needs repair! 

Now, a month later, using a drying rack has led to a nice bonus — my electric/gas bill is lower because I’m not using the dryer. 

These days, change seems constant. But what you learn builds muscles inside you never knew you had. Keep the faith, and soon enough, we’ll all see better days.

Mother Teresa once said, “We cannot all do great things. But we can do small things with great love.” This quote finds its echo in Emily Dickinson’s poem “Not in Vain” (one of my favorites): “If I can stop one heart from breaking,/ I shall not live in vain:/ If I can ease one life the aching,/ or cool one pain,/ or help one fainting robin/ unto his next again,/ I shall not live in vain.”

We may not be able to do great things now. But we can do small things that require great love: wearing a facemask, not for ourselves, but for others. Giving up small pleasures like drinking in bars or going to concerts, not because we are afraid, but because we are concerned about those who are vulnerable. Small things. Big results.

Let us take a turn at small things:
the flat of a hand signing acceptance;
the sigh of small voices that soften,
somehow, a bellow; the breath
that says, simply, “yes.”
To return a robin to the nest
is greater than, and will go further,
than any act of anger. Our times require
saints, not soldiers, and sainthood is accrued
one small gesture at a time.

Yesterday, my yoga instructor posted a new video for the class.  With no idea when we will again be able to meet, her husband records while she talks us through a session.  It isn’t the same as an in-person class but that isn’t really the point.

It is so easy for us to focus on what we’ve lost — freedom of movement, the ability to gather with friends and family, and even emotional security.  We just don’t feel as safe as we did three months ago, and that’s tough if you’ve always taken a certain level of comfort and safety for granted.

This isn’t something we can fix with a breathing exercise, a meditation, or a series of stretches although all of these things can help.  So can taking the time to create.

Creation is both powerful and empowering.  Maybe that’s why I’ve been cooking up a storm.  In the last month, I’ve made an apple pie, two cakes, lasagna twice, and herbed Italian bread.  Right now I’m trying to decide what will be next – a pumpkin pie or cinnamon bun bread. I’m also knitting and crocheting and gardening.  My husband and son have joined me outside, putting in garden beds and building a tiered gutter garden to grow greens.

None of this is going to solve everything but I can share what I bake with friends – dropping packages at their cars after drive in church.  My mother-in-law has already asked for tomatoes although all we have right now are blooms.  And the knitting and crochet will both be shared.

And then there’s the fact that I’m a whole lot happier when I’m working with my hands.

What can you create?  Our Lori is a poet, spinning words into powerful observations.  Miss Ruth creates connections, looking for the positive stories that lift people up.  We are in and of the Creator.

So create.

–SueBE

Have a Mary Little Christmas

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