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She was voted “Best Smile;” I was voted “Most Intelligent.” We remained close after grade school, despite going to different high schools, because she worked in a department store I frequented. Whenever we saw each other, we’d chat as if no time at all had passed since graduation.

Reconnecting on Facebook was a shock. I expected my old friend; instead I saw awful caricatures of President Obama and hateful speech. When did “Best Smile” become…this? I stayed friends but shut off her posts, checking in every once in a while to see if anything had improved. It hadn’t. Things eventually came to a head, and I had to unfriend her altogether.

This kind of division is becoming prevalent. Poetry, as always, becomes my voice.

You hear: up is down.
I hear: black is white.
Bedrock becomes liquid
and the oceans walkable.
When we cannot agree
on the color of the sky,
things have surely come apart.
We fire our pistols into the air,
heedless of the hail of bullets,
which, after all, have no
place to land but on our heads.
When the mad tea party ends,
we walking wounded
will have to speak, but how?
The alphabet is in ruins;
we are left with lines
in the dirt, crude gestures.
Only a devil could sow such discord.
Only God will loosen our lips.

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It’s a new year! Well, sort of. Advent marks the start of a new liturgical year in the Catholic Church. I suppose it is apropos that the new year begins with waiting. We spend such a vast amount of time doing it, after all: waiting in line (or “on line” if you’re from the Midwest), waiting for doctors and plumbers and cable repair persons, waiting for mail to arrive and children to get dressed and pets to do their business. Waiting to eat, to sleep, to give birth, to die.

All of life is waiting, in a way. Advent merely provides additional practice. But what are we waiting for? For a child to be born into a manger? That already happened. For that child to come again? Yes, but that’s constant, not necessarily Advent-specific. I think we’re really waiting for a change of heart.

Remember how you felt at Christmastime when you were a child? Remember when just seeing lights strung on houses and carols being sung could lift your heart right up to your throat? Somewhere along the line, we lose that sense of wonder. How can we get it back? Maybe that’s the challenge of Advent.

My father-in-law was manning the bell and kettle for the Salvation Army one Christmas, outside of a store, when a little boy — obviously disabled — came struggling up to him. In his mittened hand, he held a clutch of crumpled dollar bills. His mother explained that it was his Christmas money; he wanted to donate it to people who really needed it. My father-in-law still tells this tale with tears in his eyes.

This advent, I am waiting for that little boy — his spirit, anyway — to rise up in me like a tide and wash away my grown-up skepticism and wariness. I want to receive Christmas as purely and joyfully as a child. And I want to give away that pure joy as rapidly as it spools into my heart. I think that’s a worthy thing to wait for. Don’t you?

Yesterday was giving Tuesday so I spent a lot of time thinking about the impact what all have on the world around us.  Give to an organization like Heifer or Presbyterian Disaster Relief, and it has an impact.  Your money pools together with the money of others and influences the lives of people we will most likely never meet.

But what if you don’t have money to give?  That’s the reality some of us face, we have time but not money.  The good news is that we can still give to others.  And many of these gifts will be much closer to home.  We can help with our children’s sports teams, in their schools or their scout troops.  We can help a neighbor run an errand.  We can sweep someone’s porch or shovel their walk.

And we can pray.  A lot has been said on social media in the last year belittling prayer.  And I get it.  When prayers are offered in times of pain and horror but nothing is done to prevent that same pain and sorrow the prayers seem empty.

But sincere prayer?  That is something else.

A friend recently lost his step-daughter to heroine.  We prayed.

Another friend’s mother is in-and-out of the hospital.  I’m not a doctor but I can pray.

Some people think these prayers do know good but when someone believes in the power of prayer?  When someone is suffering and feels alone, letting them know we are praying can truly help.  A friend of my son suffers from chronic migraines. When I let her know I am praying for her, the tension visibly drains away.

Take a moment today and say a prayer.  You can pray for someone you don’t know.  Or pray for someone you do know.  Pray for wisdom or compassion.  Like ripples in a pond, prayer impacts lives.

–SueBE

Note: I know there are many people out there truly suffering this Thanksgiving — this post is not for you. A change of perspective won’t mitigate your very real grief. Please know that the prayers and empathy of many, many people are with you this holiday season. Take care of yourselves!

Blessing myopia: The inability to see all the marvelous gifts in our lives because we are too focused on negative things that occlude our vision. I’ve certainly been guilty of this lack of awareness. Maybe you have, too? This Thanksgiving, let’s shift our focus a bit.

There’s lint in my pockets
but no holes, and my boots
(battered, worn) will last
another season. If I cut the frayed bits
off my jacket, no one will be the wiser.
I am fed, filled. I sink into bed
(the mattress little more than
dust mites tightly holding tentacles)
and sleep warm and well.
When I am cold, the cat comes
to sit; no blanket could be better.
There is sun somewhere,
even if I can’t see it.
It will rise and set predictably.
The clock of my life will tick.
The sound will fill the hollow places,
joy will change the plain days
into something rather lovely.
Ordinary life will stop my breath
with surprise, and daily my heart
will croon.

Thank you, Lord…

Thank you for the clothes on my back and the ones in the laundry room as well.

Thank you for the food on my plate and in my refrigerator.

Thank you for the roof over my head and the floor beneath my feet.

Thank you for those who make my life richer, friends and family scattered across the globe.

Thank you for second chances, do overs and one more opportunity to do your work.

Thank you for the blessings which are too many to count.

Thank you, Lord.

 

 

 

We’ve been told and told — and still somehow don’t believe — that the only way to counter hate is love. Sure, it’s hard to hold love foremost in the face of evil. It’s hard to respond to the terrible atrocities of the last week or so with a loving heart and joyous words. And it is most difficult to love when all you want to do is shake people until their teeth rattle. But, Lord, I’m going to try.

Make of me, my God,
a new recipe: something sweet
and light, a flutter on the tongue,
butter-bright, subtly spiced.
When the bitter mouths bark, let me
flow in like honey, thick enough to
coat tongues and soothe aching throats.
May I be like bread baking,
like thick soup simmering on the stove,
a promise of warm contentment.
When you are done, may I spring up
in the pan, golden and fragrant,
impervious to anything
that is not an open hand reaching,
reaching to be filled.

SueBE has done it again. She got me thinking about peace and why it’s so hard to find. It seems like all I do lately is complain (inwardly) that I sorely lack peace in my life. Why, for instance, won’t robo-callers leave me alone? Why can’t I accept myself? WHY WON’T THE CAT STOP HOWLING FOR FIVE MINUTES???? (Answer: Because he’s ancient and unhappy 99% of the time. Why? Because the food — of which there is plenty — is somehow not right; the water — which I just freshened — could be fresher; there is another cat in the house somewhere and he does not like her; I am petting him, but it’s not enough….)

And then it comes to me: like my grumpy old kitty, I’m never going to find peace outside of myself if I can’t find it inside myself. But where to start?

Lord, let me be the silent eye of the storm:
the inward facing mirror
the still leaf on the grass
the clasped hand
the itched spot
the blank page.

Take away the inward twitches:
the needling of impossibilities
the rattling of nerves
the empty pinging of ambition
the revisioning of history
the cacophony of injustice

I cannot solve it or salve it.
Lord, let me live in it,
not indifferent but aware
that the end of the story
has not yet been written
and when I read it I will know
that all of the noise was for nothing.

Most of us figure you’ve got to be loud to make yourself heard. And who doesn’t want to be heard? I certainly do. It took a revisiting of 1 Kings 19: 9-13 to remind me that God chooses all sorts of ways to communicate. In Elijah’s case, it wasn’t a roaring wind, an earthquake or a fire that revealed God; it was a whisper: a small, still voice.

Lord, I said, I’d like to be a burning bush,
all rush and heat, threat and beacon,
righteous flame dancing from my fingertips
as words singe the page. But no, child,
God replied.

I give you stillness. Silence to sit in,
to dwell in like a stone in clear water.
Open your lips to speak: I will come from you
like a whisper, a breeze, a suggestion. You will have
to train your ears to hear me.

So I listen. I mouth words onto paper;
perhaps they are read. But I know them
to be living, airborne, ready
to join a chorus of whispers
singing one true thing.

I can make myself believe
that voting still matters
that good will win out
that women will be heard
and people of color respected

I can make myself believe
that redemption is possible
that no one (even me) is useless
that justice is a-comin’
and blue waves can save

I can make myself believe
all manner of fairy tales:
Father knows best
blind obedience is my duty
and we can pray away the pedophiles

But I cannot believe in America
(not really)
or in my Church
(not absolutely)
until men believe in change.

Have a Mary Little Christmas

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