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A good friend revealed to me that she no longer believes. “In what?” a mutual friend asked. “Any of it,” our friend replied. “Prayer. The Holy Spirit. The afterlife.” I hope we were supportive of her; what she is going through is hard. But the road she’s on is one that even saints have trod. Why believe? I can only say that I believe because I need to, because I want to, and because I can. How? It is, as Aziraphale of “Good Omens” would say, “ineffable.”

Faith is fragile.
Prone to breakage,
chimeric and illusory.
Yet just when I think
I can turn my back,
There it is:
A breath on my shoulder,
an arrow, indicating,
a suggestion, a whisper,
a hint of something coming
swiftly. Surely.
I cannot name it,
identify the make and model,
even as it runs me down.
To name it is to contain it,
and that I cannot do.
It springs back, cautious, and
my doubter’s mouth is stopped
by something.
Something?
Something.

 

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Him: What’s bothering you?

Me: Nothing.

Him:  Why do you keep sighing?

Me:  I’m not.

Him:  You are.

After both my husband and son had conversations very like the one above with me, I realized something.  I sigh when my asthma is bothering me.  Long before the coughing kicks in, I sigh as I try to breathe deeply.  Now I know to look out for it as an early warning sign.

It doesn’t matter if the problem you need to address has to do with yourself or with society, step one is listening.  Only then will we learn that a problem exists.

Complaints about an election can indicate that people feel disenfranchised.

Concerns about hunger often point toward a lack of social justice.

Worries about the legal system might mean that we need to check to see that Justice’s blindfold hasn’t slipped allowing her to judge more harshly against one population that another.

Listen.  Listen deeply.  Even if you first reaction is to deny that a problem exists.

–SueBE

This past week!  Holy bananas.

I can’t say that it was a bad week, but not one single day went as planned.  Plans added or deleted or simply shifted around day after day.  I’m not sure how or why but it made the whole week feel rushed.

So yesterday when I made it to church just a bit early, instead of stopping in the parlor where everyone gathers to chat, I entered through the fellowship hall.  In front of me stretched the labyrinth.  Step by step, I paced around the first circuit, pausing to breathe and reach outward at the turn.  Back and forth I paced, the whole time mentally calling out to God.

“How can I reduce the stressors in my week?”

“How can I reduce the clamor?”

“What can I do to feel more centered?”

And with each pause, each turn, the same answer came.  Turn to Me.

In the center, I paused while people entered the building around me.  Then I made my way back out, stopping, reaching out, step by measured step.

When we hurry through our days, rushing from task to task, we forget to listen.  We accomplish what we accomplish, checking it off our list and then rush to the next item.  Look at me!   I’m getting things done!

In our hurry, we forget whose path we follow.  We forget who lights the way.

Step slowly.  Pause.  Breathe.  And look to him.

–SueBE

It was a week
to shake the faith
right out of our bones.

But faith cannot fall
to such a small god:
a god of bombs, bullets, ripped limbs.

Seek God elsewhere.
He is there in the helpers.
In solace, yes, and mourning, too.
In healing hands, in hope.

Look to those who know the truth:
What is not love
cannot be God.

Hate destroys.
Love restores.
There is your answer.

I have to admit that lately I’ve been emotionally exhausted. Lately it seems like 90% of every social interaction involves pit falls and traps.  There’s enough infighting and back room negotiating to make me feel like I’m in politics.  One person sets other people up and then checks back with me.  “Has anyone complained?”  Another maneuvers in the background and then comes scuttling up to me to inform me that no one agrees with me and they’ve all decided to do it her way.

Talk about an energy drain!

Friday I made an absolutely liberating decision.

I have quit engaging.  You want to do it that way?  Go ahead.  No, really.  I’m good.

You want to pick a fight?  Personally, I don’t see the draw.

Either way, as the old saying goes, not my circus, not my monkeys.  For those of you who aren’t familiar with that one, the basic meaning is not my responsibility.  It may seem like an odd attitude for a social justice warrior, but whether you are dealing with a toddler or a boomer, you have to pick your battles.

Me?  God put me on this earth to work for “the least of these.”  Social squabbling?  Thanks but no.  Not my circus, not my monkeys.  I’m not sulking.  I’m actually really happy with this decision.  Soon, I’ll once again be an introvert with energy to spare.

–SueBE

Moisturizer. Sun block. Hair spray. Toothpaste. Insect repellent. I am making a list of things I will need when I go to Mexico next month for a brief vacation. It’s what we do. We make lists — from groceries to chores, business to long-term goals. What we have, what we need. Call it taking stock, prioritizing or simply Type-A fussiness…lists keep us organized and moving in the right direction. But when’s the last time you made a list of the things your soul needs? After all, isn’t life a journey, too?

Patience, I will pack it,
and courage, enough to bolster
what is not native to my being.
Empathy I own in large amounts;
it will not cost me to lavish it liberally.
Silence is a skill, it will fit neatly in
my toolkit. Tolerance I will plant
between hope and faith, perhaps
they will cause it to grow, like
garlic rooted next to roses.
Love, justice and mercy will be
my water, my matches, my tent.
Where I hope to go,
I must be well supplied.
Humility I will keep
close to me: When all else
fails, it will sustain me.
Forgiveness I will scatter freely,
a trail of crumbs to show
where I have traveled.
Come after me.
When we tire,
like worn stones,
we will lean,
on one other.
The road will
rise before us.

Yesterday, this image popped up in my feed.  Something beautiful coming out of darkness?  I just wasn’t feeling it.  Then I read Lori’s “Don’t Look Away.”

From the late 19th to the mid-20th century, Native American children were removed from their families.  They were put into boarding schools where they were punished for speaking their languages.  The purpose was the exterminate entire groups of people.

During World War II, Japanese American were herded into internment camps.  They were forced to live in dirty, substandard conditions.  Many lost the farms they had built on the West Coast.

Now we have children huddled in kennels.  If dogs were found in conditions like this, the Humane Society would come and get them.

Again, we are in darkness.  How can something beautiful come of it?

That’s up to me and to you.  We can decide that never again will the color of a person’s skin dictate their humanity.  We will look for that spark of Christ’s light in every person we see whether their eyes are blue, green or brown.  Like the Samaritan, we will decide that there are risks but the need to do right is so much greater.

The choice is ours, yours and mine.

–SueBE

Earhart kind action

Acts of kindness.  Recently I took an online class through Yale. The focus was on rewiring your behavior to elevate your mood.  Basically what habits can we each build that rewire us, replacing anxious feelings with happiness.

Each week, we were given a challenge, a behavior to engage in throughout the week.  One week was random acts of kindness.  It could be as simple as thanking a clerk by name or paying for someone else’s coffee.

I thought it was simply that my father was in one hospital that week and my brother-in-law in another.  I was ragged and worried and this was just too much.  Too much!

But as we finished up the class earlier this week, I read other peoples comments.  This seemed to be one of the hardest habits to build.  “When I stalked through my day thinking ‘I have to find one person to be nice to,’ it really stressed me out. When I loosened up and noted whenever I was nice, it was much easier and I actually did it.”

Observe and engage in kind acts vs treating them like a duty.  One way worked.  The other didn’t.

Maybe this is just another facet of actually seeing those around us and following the Golden Rule?

–SueBE

This past weekend I had my 35th high school reunion.

I had completely forgotten how many people called me Beth.  How do you get Beth from Sue?  You don’t.  Beth, Marini and I ran around together.  We had gone to gradeschool together.   Beth and I were both quiet strawberry-blondes with fair skin.

I quickly learned that the sun is not your friend.  My husband jokingly calls my sunscreen SPF 2000.

But I was standing talking to two women and one of them patted my arm.  “Your skin is so nice.  Isn’t her skin nice?”

Um, thank you?

Taking a compliment has never been my strength.  Instead of just accepting it, I want to downplay it.  Freckles, ugh!

But these women were being genuinely sweet.  They wanted to say something nice and all I had to do to make them feel appreciated was say thank you.  Sure it had taken them a moment to realize that I’m still not Beth . . . oh, we should have switched name tags!  That would have been so funny . . .

–SueBE

 

People used to ask me why I did’t camp with the Scouts.  Because when I did one of two things would happen.  It would rain.

As a Cub Scout mom I reconnected with another mom.  We had been Girl Scouts together.  We shared a tent on a Cub Scout trip and at one point she looked at me.  “Oh, right.  It did always rain when you were at camp.”  Some of us are just talented in unexpected ways.  What can I say?

Sometimes it would storm.  On my only camping trip with the Boy Scouts, we had three tents collapse.  Lightning was slicing through the sky as we put two new tents up.  Me?  I elected to sleep in the car.  My husband and I were the first two up come morning.  The sun was out and birds were chirping.  Then we discovered that one end of the dining fly had been smashed.  We managed to reach the camp stoves, the coffee pots and the doughnuts.  When everyone else got up we had the brew perking away.  “Why are you in such a good mood?” snarled one sleepy dad.  Yes, I laughed out loud but I also handed him a cup of coffee.

God made us so that we can laugh.  He also gave us the ability to cry.

When faced with a crisis, you can select which way to go. I tend to opt for laughter.  Sure, it annoys some people. But if you cry, you won’t be able to smell the coffee.  Me?  I’m opting to laugh with my fellows over a cup of coffee.

–SueBE

 

 

Have a Mary Little Christmas

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