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I thought of Miss Ruth’s post from yesterday when I saw this quote.  We all have two choices in life.

  1.  Be a mediocre copy of someone else. This doesn’t mean you have to copy someone else but if you are constantly contemplating what they will think when you X, Y or Z?  You are more their person than you are yourself.
  2.  Be ourselves.

I was raised to be #1.  The most commonly heard chorus at home was “What will the neighbors think?”  As an adult, I realize that if the neighbors are spending that must time thinking about me, their lives are sorry indeed.  But I spent a lot of time as a teen considering every single action.  Occassionally I would break free and do my own thing, but not often enough.

Then came college.  At that point in my life there were too many neighbors to keep everyone happy.  I had to find my calling.

Whether your calling is to be a teacher, a doctor or a parent, there are others doing the same thing.  Your job?  Bring your own special way of doing things to this path that God has put you on.

Sometimes I worry that I’m a bit too myself.  Maybe just maybe I should tone it down.

Then I run into a friend I haven’t seen in years.  Before taking her Mom to chemo, she goes on Facebook to check out what the rest of us are up to.  “Keep posting, please!  You always crack me up and I need that.”

3 parts sarcasm.  2 parts irreverant lip.  What do the neighbors think?  At least some of them get it and that’s good.  Because this is the me that God made.

Find your calling.  Find your light.  God made you to be you.  Not to be me or Ruth or even Lori.

–SueBE

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My birthday is coming up next month, so I’m hoping to encounter some German Chocolate Cake and a new pair of sneakers (if my son is reading, hint-hint!) While I’m all for presents and cake, I don’t like surprises. I agree with Angie Dickinson, who told friends she’d never appear on the show, “This is Your Life,” and when they conspired to surprise her anyway and got her to the set, she walked out!

Now, I do love a surprise ending in a movie. A good play on words. A clever juxtaposition. I was tickled by this observation in an article about hidden writing that was recently found in ancient manuscripts in a desert monastery: “For a monk who lives in the Sinai desert in Egypt, in the world’s oldest working monastery, Father Justin replies to emails very speedily.” Researchers who visited had to “follow the monastic spirit of the place and Father Justin’s schedule, breaking for lunch and Vespers.” He didn’t put his faith on hold, despite the fact that this was an important scientific find.

I also like this unexpected revelation about Lauren Ridloff, a deaf actress who stars in the Broadway play, Children of a Lesser God. When she went to a deaf camp as a teen, the kids spoke exclusively in sign language. Not having to focus on what her words sounded like to others meant she could put all of her energy into signing to express herself. She never spoke again, changing her life for the better as a result.  

All of this to say, it’s okay to show up in life as yourself. Some may drift away if you do, but the ones who just “get you” will stick around. After all, this is your life. You might as well live it your way.

It’s all over the news. Social media, too. People screaming at one another, slapping, beating, threatening, harassing…and for what? For wearing the “wrong” T-shirt. For trying to go swimming at the local pool. For wearing a hijab. For being brown-skinned.

When all we can do is lash out at one another for being “different,” we are in the deepest of deep trouble. If interculturalism teaches us anything, it’s that no two of us are exactly the same. Unless we can deal with that, we are in for one heck of a free-for-all. And nobody is safe.

Forget about beating
swords into ploughshares;
let’s focus on the lightest
of legerdemain, on simple
manipulation of the bones.
Let us turn fists into flattened hands.
Let us bring to each other our brokenness,
our humility. Let us be weak. Mild. Silent.
Let us bow to the God in one another.
And if we cannot, we must lie down at once:
We are already dead.

The last month has been super stressful.  We finally finished cleaning out Dad’s house.  It was brutal.  Because he’d had a stroke before he moved out, we couldn’t just look at a box and say “junk.”  The top item might be a mailer.  Next is an old Christmas card, a screwdriver, a table knife and, at the bottom, an antique cook book.  That box of envelopes?  We opened them all and found $425.00.

In addition to working at Dad’s, I’ve been working.  So far this year I’ve written and rewritten 4 books under contract and I’m working on 4 more of my own.  And because everyone needs more stress, I just contracted for 2 more.  What can I say?  I like electricity and food.

Choices like these shape us all.  I’ve brought way too much from Dad’s into the house.   When I’m working a lot of hours, I’m not always good about picking up as I go let alone as I bring things into the house.   To say it is now cluttered is an understatement.

Since we got home from the Smoky Mntns, I’ve made a point of picking up a little each day.  In two days, I’ve emptied a box, found four empty boxes and taken all of those plus packing material to a friend who is moving.  Every time I walk past this space at the bottom of the basement stairs, I smile.  Space, apparently, makes me happy.  I think that’s part of why vacations are so relaxing.  We are in open uncluttered spaces.

I’m also crocheting like mad.  I need to figure out an instruction on the llama pattern but I’m also finishing up a black bear.  Making something with my hands nourishes and calms me.

Feeling stressed?  Unable to hear God’s voice as you go through your day? Take a look at what you are doing.  Then look for a simple change you can make that will open up space where you need it.  It might be physical space.  It might be space in your heart or mind. Let what you do shape you in a positive way.

–SueBE

 

Each and every day opportunities come our way.  We can’t take advantage of all of them.  I think that’s one of the toughest lessons I had to learn as an adult.  Our time and energy are finite.  We can only do so much.  Fortunately, some things can be slipped into even an activity filled day.

What?  I was just talking about not taking on too much.  Now I’m encouraging you to do more?  Calm down.  Encouraging others only takes seconds.  Of course, so does shooting them down and it seems to be the way we most often relate to each other any more.

Yesterday, one of the women in adult Sunday School suggested that a group of the older women gather at church during the week to walk in the fellowship hall.  It is cool in the summer, warm and not icy in the winter.  It is someplace they can feel safe.  In short, it is a great idea.

But no.  One of the men had to shoot her down.  “Walk the mall.”  The mall in question is in a horrible location.  Due to road closures it is difficult to reach and because of this most of the stores have closed.  Sure, it is huge but it is also a ghost town. These women just don’t feel safe there.

“Then they should go to Menards.”  Sigh.  The church is five minutes away on side streets.  Menards is 15 to 20 minutes of highway driving.

As an idea person, I get it.  When one person suggests something, it is easy to start tossing out ideas of your own.  Or we could do this or this or this.

What is more difficult is to encourage someone, especially someone who doesn’t often speak up.  Take just a few seconds today and encourage someone.  Maybe it is the girl who swipes your membership card at the fitness center or the kid picking up kickboards after the swim lesson.  Acknowledge them and watch it make their day.  It is a great way to share God’s light and love with another.

–SueBE

Scrolling through one of my favorite sites, Katzenworld, I found an interesting article about feeding cats raw food. There was a picture of the recommended brand, along with the words, “Made with Human Meat.”

What the heck?

Nearly fell off the chair. Had to scroll back up quickly.

“Made with Human Grade Meat.”

Oh. That’s a relief!

For a minute I thought I’d taken a turn into the Twilight Zone, and stumbled into the Little Shop of Horrors!

One word can make all the difference sometimes.

In today’s political climate, you don’t have to agree with everybody you meet. Online, you don’t have to dignify mean-spirited comments about what you believe, or where you come from, or how you live. But sometimes, one word of kindness can change the conversation.

And if it doesn’t, you may come to the conclusion that this isn’t a conversation anyway, but a monologue. You can always – respectfully – unfollow people who bring drama into your feed. This is true in real life as well. There comes a time when you realize that people who were once your friends bring nothing but negatives into your world. It’s okay to let them go.

In many cases, this will happen by attrition as you refuse to get sucked into the vortex of either/or online. You’re one of us, or you’re one of them. Someday, the zeitgeist will change, and we’ll see each other as people again. Until that time, unplugging from the constant barrage of angst and anger will do your soul good. Here’s one word that will hold your heart together: peace.

Freedom and love.  Just think about what we can accomplish when the two go hand-in-hand!

–SueBE

 

 

 

 

Consider the following: A woman decided that whenever she saw a man walking towards her, she would not deliberately get out of his way. She ran into 28 men in short order.

Consider also: During a prayer ceremony, a box full of beautiful, hand-forged glass beads was passed from person to person. Each bead was unique and connected to a prayer; the bead you chose indicated which prayer you would read aloud. Out of dozens of beads, I chose the bead for “silence.” Oh, the irony! I have always been a quiet person — a good baby, an obedient child, never prone to expressions of emotion or even strong opinion (except in my writing). Loquacious friends know they can call me, and I’ll listen for hours. So what was my reaction to choosing that particular bead? “Fifty-three years of being quiet, Lord. When do I get to speak?”

Clearly, the questions need to be asked: Who always gets out of the way? Who gets to speak and who remains silent? And why do we simply accept these answers?

When it comes to politics, the loudest voice wins. The voice doesn’t necessarily represent the majority; it doesn’t have to. If it makes its point loudly enough and with enough aggression, the others will back down. We are seeing this on a daily basis with our current government. Who is allowed to speak when it comes to immigrants and immigration? Not the immigrants themselves. Why? The story is about them. So why are their voices largely unheard?

Who drives policy and who is expected to step aside, even when the policy has nothing to do with the drivers and everything to do with the conceders? Why? Because the drivers have the power. Is that fair? Is that even logical? And if it isn’t, what will it take for the conceders to stand their ground?

I want you to think about this. Are you the person who steps aside or the one who expects others to get out of the way? Are you a loud voice or a silent one? And most importantly, how does God expect us to treat the other? Is God a walk all over people God or a considerate God? Whom did Jesus side with — the powerful people or the silent people (women, the downtrodden, the poor)? And when the silent are enjoined to be “civil,” to not make a fuss, is that what Jesus would do?

What we do with the answers to these questions will say a lot about who we are. It may even determine what happens to us in the next life. I have a feeling that Heaven is where the silent finally speak.

The magnetic poles have disappeared. Compasses are spinning wildly, madly. There is no true north. Or at least there isn’t in America.

We are losing our grasp on the difference between right and wrong. Worse yet, we can’t even agree on what is right or wrong. For instance: It is either always wrong to deny service to someone in a public place or it is not. Case in point (and without naming names), a Virginia restaurant that recently turned away a public official. Some people are fine with this decision. Others are irate to the point of flinging human waste. Several years ago, a bakery refused service to a former Democratic Vice President. Its owner was lauded as a hero and champion of first amendment rights and invited to speak at a rally for the current Speaker of the House. So which is it? Is it right (in which case apologies are due to the Virginia restaurant) or not (in which case apologies are due to the offended patrons)?

Because here’s the thing: It can’t be both. So often I read (usually in the comments section of a news article, which I should never, ever read) “well, it was okay when so-and-so did it.” Or “you didn’t get mad when [your guy] did it.” Morality is not built on “buts” and “yets.” Either a thing is wrong, and we all treat it that way, or it is right — and we accept it.

The problem is, we’ve lost all ability to suss out what we collectively believe to be right or wrong. Is it wrong to take children from their parents if they commit a misdemeanor (like shoplifting or illegally crossing the border) or no crime at all (seeking asylum, just walking down the street)? If so, it is always wrong, no matter what the skin tone of the child or parent. If it is always right, God help us.

I strongly believe in the separation of church and state. However, I think a country should have a moral backbone; we should stand for something. So what does America stand for? If it is civility and decency, those things must come from the top down. If it is making money and closing our ears to the plights of the less fortunate, it is time to own that position. Because if we don’t — if we don’t come together to decide what is acceptable moral behavior and what is not — not only do we become the biggest hypocrites on earth, we fail one another. We also fail God.

Being trolled by a fan seems an oxymoron, but reading SueBE’s post about opposite day, I was reminded of author George RR Martin. Game of Thrones fans have been trolling him to stop living the high life and finish the last book already.

My theory is that Martin has no intention of finishing the series, because once he does, fans may forget about him. Even if they seem to be holding him in contempt, they’re still holding onto him. I guess it’s better to hear invective than to be invisible. Also, there’s the very real possibility that he’s got “you’re-not-the-boss-of-me” syndrome. Fans yell at him to finish the book? He’ll show them. Not gonna do it.

There are sycophants, and then there are psycho-phants. Star Wars fans? Trolling actors to the point that they leave social media? What is wrong with this picture?

In the same way, when you bully someone for being a bully, you’re now part of the problem. We’ve got deep divisions in this country right now, extending all the way to the dining table. There are Washington DC restaurants in the news for refusing to serve political operatives with whom they disagree. I suppose they have the right not to serve any patron. And anyway, wouldn’t you rather know someone hates your guts before they’re alone in a back room with your food?

Still, there must be a better way to make a point that to heckle each other in this way. Fighting fire with fire just leads to a big conflagration. Sooner or later, someone’s going to get burned.

Have a Mary Little Christmas

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