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Tree frog behind my ficus.

With the weather warming up slightly, my son and I love to have the windows open in the evening. Nights still get chilly but I love the cool air. And I had to laugh. I could already hear the cree cree cree of tree frogs.

I always laugh when I hear the frogs. I grew up maybe two miles from here. We never heard the frogs. It wasn’t until my husband and I bought this house that I heard their nightly calls. Cree cree cree.

The funny part? I thought they were some sort of bug, maybe a cicada. When I’m clueless, I don’t fool around. I don’t know how long we lived here before I mentioned it to my husband. “Bug? What bug? I can’t hear it over the frogs.”

Since then I’ve spotted them in my neighbors grapevine that grows on our fence. We’ve even found them in the house a time or two and often in plants on the porch and patio. Cree cree cree. I love my tree frog neighbors even if at first I was absolutely clueless.

I was reminded of this when a friend posted about the vaccination clinic she periodically works. The numbers of people coming in have seriously dropped. “I guess the rest of you just don’t care.”

Or it could be that the National Guard has been holding mass vaccination clinics that serve 100s of people at each event. And FEMA is using a sports facility where they have vaccinated almost 9000 people. I went to a local pharmacy because it is closer and more convenient.

It seems like so often we assume we know things. My experience must be your experience. Isn’t that true?

But really, only God is all knowing. I don’t know about you, but I’m not sure of much except the call I hear each evening, cree cree cree, isn’t a bug. It’s a frog.

–SueBE

This past week, I took two webinars from Hollaback! That exclamation point isn’t just me being excited. It is part of their name. For those of you who aren’t familiar with this organization, their goal is to help end harrassment in all its many forms.

A friend of mine mentioned the organization to me. She’s Korean and has had to put up with a bucket load of nonsense lately. A lot of people are stressed and strained because of the pandemic and sometimes this stress and strain comes out in the form of racist harrassment.

One class was on bystander intervention. The other was on de-escalation. And, yes, this does have something to do with prayer and religion. Hang in there.

The class on bystander intervention focused on helping the person who is being harrassed. You can do this by distracting everyone which helps break the tension, by speaking to the person who was being harrassed, or by speaking directly to the situation. One of the things that the presenters asked us all to do was to evaluate the situation and your reaction to it. Not everyone can step in because, having experienced harrassment, they spiral to a negative place.

I have to admit, I was looking sideways at this. Why? Because intervention and speaking to the situation fall right into my skill set. I am almost always willing to step in and help someone who is being picked on. Because of that, I was a tad bit impressed with myself.

Then the next day, I had a class on deescalation. In this class, we learned how to speak directly to the harrasser, how to empathize without agreeing, how to redirect. Again, they asked us to evaluate our own reaction to what was going on in various video clips.

It was humbling. Why? Because I learned that I cannot deal with the harrasser. Because of my own experience being harrassed, I’m not going to de-escalate. I’ll do just the opposite because at best I’ll be defensive. At worst, I’ll be aggressive. It was humbling but with Hollaback! I’ve learned that this is just the way I am because of my own experiences. I need to recognize that and focus on what I can do.

Last week, Ruth, Lori and I were discussing Ruth’s last post. We talked about how the pandemic and all it entails is a lot like alcohol. The stress and strain intensify our personalities. Thus the increased harrassment.

But before you step in to help, take a look at yourself and your gifts. God has given us each a variety of talents. The harrasser isn’t the only person dealing with the stress and strain of a pandemic. Know what your gifts are (and what they aren’t) and you are more likely to be able to help.

If you are interested in learning how your gifts can help, check out the training Hollaback! offers. If nothing else, you may learn why you react the way you do to stressful situations.

–SueBE

Last week, the light my son had ordered arrived. With it came the right batteries, a size not commonly found in stores. And just to make sure he got the point, there was a note in the battery compartment. The slip of paper is the size of a fortune cookie fortune but bright orange. “Final warning! Don’t mess this up!”

I laughed when I saw it because I remembered reading the Bible with J when he was younger.

Me: And the Israelites did what was evil in the eyes of the Lord.

J: Don’t do it! Haven’t you people learned! Mom, they know what they are supposed to do and they keep messing it up.

We’re a lot like the Israelites. We just don’t learn. If we did antacids wouldn’t come in jumbo bottles. Flexseal would come in little jars instead of big cans. And aloe would be all we needed for the occasional burn.

Earlier in the week, Lori wrote about the many things that she hasn’t missed. She mentioned the same thing I’ve seen written up in magazines. Cooking together and dining in has replaced the big restaurant bill. People are reading more. Families have discovered that the dining room table is a place for meals, games and puzzles.

My hope is that we remember some of these lessons going forward. We may not have had a bright orange warning sign, but really? God’s told us what to value if only we hear him.

–SueBE

I don’t normally sit in the balcony at church. But my husband and son are streaming services for our pastor. He, the organist, and an enormous screen are at the front of the sanctuary. A scattering of people distance while wearing masks. It isn’t normal. Some weeks I wonder if it is worth the effort.

Then my son nudged me and nodded at the lights hanging from the ceiling. The one closest to us was swaying. When I asked why, he looked surprised that I didn’t know. “It’s the air from the vent.” Every time the furnace kicked on, it would blow the light and the light would swing gently forward and back.

I have to admit that I was surprised that something like the air from a vent had a visible impact on the light fixture. The one seems so solid and substantial, the other so insubstantial. And yet, the light sways.

It has made me reconsider about what is worth the effort and what is not. Even a small breath of air can cause a light to sway. What does and does not make a difference in this troubled world?

I suspect that small efforts have greater impact than we often know. Whether it is a phone call to a fellow church member or a can of food in a donation barrel, even a very smell effort causes motion in the world. That motion may have the power to sway an opinion or light up a dark day.

Whether or not we will ever know.

–SueBE

How does your filter impact what you see?

Friday, I attended a Zoom lecture sponsored by the Contemporary Art Museum of St. Louis. My friend’s son loves this museum and I was curious. The artist and presenter was Tim Portlock, a local artist and professor.

Out of respect for Portlock’s ownership of his own art, I’m not posting any of his work. Take a moment to visit his site. Portlock is a digital artist. He flies a drone around the building he wants to image. Once he has a variety of structures, he digitally compiles them into a single landscape.

When he started doing this, his landscapes contained only abandoned buildings with vast spaces in between. Sometimes he included appropriate animal life such as feral dogs. His cityscapes were bleak. They reflected the attitudes of Americans at the time who only saw the abandoned portions of our inner cities.

Today’s landscapes are different. Instead of focusing on one city, he compiles buildings from many cities. He also includes new construction. He explained that he does this because people worldwide now see these spaces as opportunities.

I’ve been thinking about his work all day. The images are detailed and striking.

But the most amazing things is that they are not real. No matter how genuine they look, they are fabrications.

God has granted us with so many ways of taking in the world. But the world we see is drawn through our own filters. Perhaps your filter might intensify the light, casting a harsh glare on the world around you. I have to admit that I have a tendency to judge harshly. There are people whose filter applies a rosy light to the landscape.

How does your own filter impact how you see the world?

–SueBE

When Ruth, Lori and I write about similar topics, it is funny how consistently we each fall into a role. Aunt Ruth has a folksy no-nonsense approach. She pulls in things she’s read and seen online. Lori waxes poetic, spinning lines that inspire. Me? I come in with the facts and a how-to spin every single time and this time is no different.

Earlier in the week, Lori wrote about reconciliation in her post Reconciliation Requirements. It took me some time to order my thoughts but I found myself contemplating a National Park Service program my son got to participate in. Called Pen or Pencil (POP) the program is all about breaking the school to prison pipeline. Because a part of this is racial tension, a big part of the program is reconciliation.

It is one thing to say that we want reconciliation to occur. It is another to do our part. As taught by the POP sessions my son attended, these three things need to take place for reconiciliation to take place.

Recognize Bias

Like I teach my writing students, we all have to learn to recognize our biases. Bias is the slanted way you and I see the world. It is shaped by our beliefs and our attitudes. It is especially important that we recognize how our biases shape our behaviors.

The most difficult part of this is realizing how bias shapes unintentional behaviors. Me? I’m the Queen of the Eyebrow Raise. My oldest niece has mastered the eye roll. Medals are also given out for the head shake and the martyred sigh.

For reconcilliation to take place, we need to own these things and be willing to do something about them. Sigh.

Truth Telling

Another vital part of reconcilliation is truth telling. This doesn’t just mean telling everyone what you think. In reconcilliation, truth telling is a process of airing grievances and misundertandings.

Wait? Didn’t I just say it isn’t all about telling everyone what we think? That’s because of the final, and perhaps hardest step.

All Voices Heard

Everyone has a voice at this table. When my son attended this program, he was the only young white man. It would have been really easy for them to shut him down. But each of his classmates had a chance to speak up and so did he.

That was because everyone has a voice. And everyone should feel heard. Not just the people who agree with us.

It isn’t an easy process. If it was we would have been there long ago. But that’s the wonder of carrying God’s light into the world. We are lighting the way not to a world lived our way but his way where there is a space for each of God’s children at the table.

–SueBE

Instead of speaking my mind, I need to spend some time with God.
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I have to admit, I’ve tried again and again to write a meaningful post about what is happening in the US this week. What is there to say other than the obvious?

We fear change.

People are flawed.

We can be counted on to make bad decisions. Not hourly, God willing, but every now and again we do something astonishingly clueless. This week we’ve seen it all and so many people have commented. Some of the comments have been half-baked. Some have been racist. Others have been just plain . . . what?

And it is oh so tempting to step into it all on social media. I am, after all, a nonfiction writer. I so badly wanted to correct facts. There is a reason one of my friends calls me the Credible Hulk. I always come in with the data, but I’m also sharp-tongued.

Sometimes it is best if I just don’t act. It is better to simply be.

Maybe that’s why we are called human BE-ings. We really do best when we spend a certain amount of time with God in prayerful contemplation. Even if we don’t know what to say, we can spend time simply BE-ing in God’s presence. Basking. Breathing deep.

Eventually, when we are calmer and recharged, we can step back out into the world. And even then? Sometimes it is best to simply BE or, instead of arguing, to go out into the world, carrying His Light, His Love, and His Spirit of Change.

–SueBE

My resolution for 2021.

I am not seriously into making resolutions. I know what I need to do. You know what you need to do. If we were inclined to do it . . . well, we would. Right?

But sometimes we need a reminder. The week before Christmas I wrote this note to myself and left it on my desk.

I had taken a job that sounded like a great opportunity. But every contact I had from them meant more work or less income. And if I had to approach them with a question? Forget it. I never got a response.

It got to the point that I had a tiny tantrum every time they e-mailed me. It was clear that I needed to back out but I kept putting it off.

“Just do it first thing tomorrow morning,” my husband said.

So I wrote myself a reminder note. First thing the next morning I quit. And the last week before Christmas was probably the best week of the year. I felt lighter than air!

There are always going to be tasks we don’t want to undertake that we still need to do. Scooping the litter box. Cleaning behind the refrigerator. Writing ‘thank you’ notes.

But other times we weigh ourselves down. Sometimes it is a job we used to love but now dread. A change in management can turn a great job into an ordeal. Other times it is a volunteer opportunity that used to recharge you but now you dread. Whatever.

When I was waffling about what to do, I read Ruth’s post about calling something a project vs calling it a problem. Take action to change your attitude and your situation. Check! Her post was the encouragement I needed to write myself that note and quit.

Time and time again in the Bible we are told to avoid carrying a grudge, to avoid dragging negatives around with us in our daily life. Sometimes it is a matter of changing our attitude. Sometimes it is time to cut something loose.

Take a look at what you are carrying into 2021. Is there something you need to let go so that you have the space and energy to carry God’s light and love into the New Year?

–SueBE

This past week I’ve been watching a lot of documentaries. One on the Cuban Missile Crisis really drove home the importance of communication.

Photo by Miguel u00c1. Padriu00f1u00e1n on Pexels.com

For those of you who don’t remember the historic specifics, Russia put missiles in Cuba. These missiles made the US a viable target. Kennedy announced that any Russian ship trying to approach Cuba with military weapons would be considered hostile.

A Russian sub was detected by the Americans. The agreed upon method to tell an enemy sub to surface and surrender was to drop charges. What the two sides hadn’t agreed on was how many charges should be dropped to send that particular message. The Russians expected a three charge memo. The Americans thought it took five charges to send the message, so that’s how many they dropped. Oddly enough, the Russians were hesitant to surface.

World War III nearly started because no one had thought to discuss how many charges should be dropped to signal a request to surrender. Never mind that it might be smart to find a better way to communicate.

This really spoke to me. How often do we assume that everyone sees things our way? After all, our way is logical. It is rational. It is natural and right. And if everyone we talk to agrees with us, that only reinforces our delusions. Then when someone doesn’t do what we think they should – BOOM.

The next time someone seems to be ignoring you or doesn’t give the answer you want, take a deep breath. Ask God to open your ears and heart. Maybe just maybe, you are talking past each other and none of us meer mortals has the complete picture.

As if we were submerged in a big, old can.

–SueBE

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. Okay, mostly I’ve been dreading the upcoming election and the upcoming fall out. At times like this, I find myself turning to God. Who should I vote for?

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Imagine my surprise when a recent sermon addressed this and so much else. You know the Biblical bit (theology ala Sue) where the Pharisees and the Herodians ask Christ if people should pay taxes? You’ll find it in Matthew 22:15-22.

Christ knows that they are trying to trap him so he asks to see a coin.

“Show me the coin used for the tax.” And they brought him a denarius. 20 Then he said to them, “Whose head is this, and whose title?” 21 They answered, “The emperor’s.” Then he said to them, “Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” 22 When they heard this, they were amazed; and they left him and went away.

I was taught that this meant you should obey the government, pay your taxes and be a good citizen. Pretty handy little message for the PTB (powers that be).

But our pastor challenged us to remember just how wise Christ is. The coin was branded with the image of Caesar. Thus it was a Roman coin, part of Caesar’s empire. Christ was actually asking these people whose mark they carried – God’s or Caesar’s? Who did they serve – God or Ceasear?

When we argue politics and challenge people to vote this way or that way “as good Christians,” whose mark are we carrying? Are we carrying the mark of Christ? Or are we carrying a mark of Red or Blue?

Maybe instead of asking who someone is voting for, we should be asking other questions. Do you have the food you need? With winter coming on, are you warm enough? For those in the path of incoming storms, do you have what you need to ride it out?

If I carry the mark of Christ, it should be evident to those around me no matter which candidate they support.

–SueBE

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