You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ category.

Image may contain: 1 personI should read the Bible.  I know this.  How else am I going to broaden my understanding and deepen my connection?  Every year, it is one of my resolutions, but up until February or so I didn’t do it.  I’d have good intentions and read a bit here and there for a week or two, but I never got very far.

Then in February I spotted the reading plans at Bible Gateway.  I had seen something about a chronological Bible – the text of the Bible is printed chronologically in order of the events depicted.  I was curious and Bible Gateway has an online chronological reading plan.  Each day, they send me a link to that day’s reading depending on how far you are in the plan.  Today’s reading is 1 Kings 12-14.  A couple of days ago, the reading was Ecclesiastes 7-12, and it included a verse that surprised me because it is just so . . . today.  Here is Ecclesiastes 7:10.

Do not say, “Why were the former days better than these?”
    For it is not from wisdom that you ask this.

Wow.  That hit a little too close to home.  Whether you are in the “Make America Great Again” or the “I Miss Obama” camp, so many of us spend our time looking back. We talk about when the US was crime free.  Back in the good old days.  Back when people had family values.  Back when people were good. Remember how easy things were before we had to wear masks?

The story of Lot’s wife speaks to this.  She turned into a pillar of salt when she looked back.  She stood frozen, rooted to the spot instead of moving forward.

When we are hip deep in difficulties it is easy to look back.  But don’t do it to the extent that it keeps you from moving forward.  Don’t do it to the point that it keeps you from working toward solutions for todays problems.

How then should you look back?  Do it to gather strength.  My grandmother (see her photo) and her sisters grew up during the Dust Bowl.  They lived in Amarillo, Texas.  There were polio epidemics.  They survived their father’s alcoholism and war.  Times were tough.  My grandmother made clothing out of flour sacks and explained to me how to sort the various fabrics for dresses, boy’s shirts and underwear.  Think about it.  She even made their underwear.

Times are tough today and I’ve made masks but not underwear.  Thank goodness.  Although if I made underwear no one would be able to stare at my wobbly seams.

I look back and I see the thing my family survived.  By Grandmother wasn’t alone.  She had her sisters helping her out.

I’m not alone either.  I’ve got tidbits of wisdom from the Bible.  I’ve got my sisters, Lori and Ruth, and the many other women around me today.  I live with two hard working men and we are in this together.  Grandma always said I should read the Bible and it is definitely something I will continue to do moving foward.  That said, I do wonder what the next timely verse will be.

–SueBE

 

Statue Of Liberty, Statue, New York, Independence4th of July, 2020.  Normally this is a holiday spent with extended family and at massive community gatherings.  It is a day we contemplate our history and patriotism.  Between social distancing and reexamining our history, this year I feel a little adrift.  Then I saw a piece online about the things people from other countries find praiseworthy about the US.

And that made me think.  What are the things that I thank God for about this country?

  1. Freedom of speech.  As a writer, this is a big one for me.  But really?  It is a big one.  We have the freedom to speak up and speak out.
  2. Freedom of religion.  We worship at the church where I grew up. As a kiddo, we were one of two non-Catholic families in my neighborhood.  In addition to all types of Christian churches, there are now a mosque and a wat.
  3. Diversity.   We live in the community where my husband and I grew up.  It is so much more diverse than it was when we were kids and, in reality, so much more because of it.
  4. From sea to shining sea.  I have always loved the mountains, especially desert mountains.  Vast white pine forests.  Rolling farmland.  The wide Mississippie River.  Our nation encompasses so many natural wonders, all gifts from God.
  5. My Online Community.  The internet and groups like this blog have enabled us to better weather the social isolation of 2020.  I’m not saying it has been easy but I keep thinking back to prairie homesteads and farmhouse winters.  People were so much more isolated than we are today.

This may not be the 4th of July that we are used to but God has given us many blessings to celebrate.  I’m sure you can think of two or three I haven’t listed.  Why not add them below?

–SueBE

addamsNot everyone who sees this post will have experienced racism. Not directly. But you’ve probably seen it even if you didn’t know what you were seeing.

A black customer being followed through the store.  Did she slip something into her purse?  A friend told me about a co-worker, a beautifully dressed black woman who was followed by security on countless occassions.

A black driver pulled over beside the road.  You may have assumed that the driver did something wrong, but he or she may simply have committed the crime of driving while black. This week a friend asked how to advise her adopted son.  She is white.  He is not.  Another friend, a black woman, said that when she gets pulled over, she calls her sister and leaves the line open.  Not if she gets pulled over.  When.

Last week Lori suggested that we begin by decolonizing our reading.  There are so many books out there.  Where should you start? Before Lori wrote her post, my book was recommended by a librarian on Twitter.  Here is the list of books she recommended:

  • The Hate You Give by Angie Thomas
  • All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely
  • How It Went Down by Kekla Magoon
  • Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
  • Black Lives Matter by Sue Bradford Edwards and Duchess Harris

To her list, I would add:

  • Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson
  • Stamped from the Beginning by Abram X. Kendi
  • How to Be an Antiracist by Abram X. Kendi
  • Race and Policing by Duchess Harris and Rebecca Rissman
  • Roots of Racism by Kelly Bakshi
  • Stamped by Jason Reynolds and Abram X. Kendi
  • White Privilege by M. T. Blakemore

Some of these books are for young readers, but in all seriousness I learn just as much from those as I do from the books for adults.

What does all of this have to do with prayer and faith?  Remember that Christ said that when we ignored the orphan, the widow and the imprisoned, we ignored him?  It is time we quit ignoring the problems in our midst.

–SueBE

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

Last week, my husband sent me a real estate ad.  A series of ranches are on the market in Brewster County, my dad’s home county in West Texas.  I clicked through and looked at videos and longed for the high desert.  Then a comment from my mother-in-law popped up.

“You’d need a really big mower.”

They call them cows, Judy.  That was my first cheeky response.  I told her to look at the photos. This is high desert.  No mower needed but, and this would be so cool!, I could have a mesa.  She responded.  “I think if you could afford that ranch you could afford someone else to mow.”

As my grandmother would have said, God Bless her pointy little head.  My mother-in-law grew up in Kentucky.  I don’t know that she’s ever been to God’s country, the high desert of West Texas.  So I explained again that it is a desert. No mower needed unless you make it so.

Conversations like this make me realize how miraculous it is when we manage to understand someone from a completely different culture. After all, my mother-in-law and I are both Americans.  But she doesn’t get high desert.  Either there are cows and the land is covered by lush grass or it is desert, a desolate land where nothing grows.

But then again I was just as clueless the first time I was in Kentucky, specifically in the bluegrass where thoroughbreds graze and frolic.  “That’s strange.  All of the houses look alike,” I said as we drove by yet another long one-story structure.  “Hon, that’s a stable.”  What horses in Kentucky don’t shelter in barns?  Nope.  You dry tobacco in barns.

The world is an amazingly varied place. Even when you and someone else seem to be speaking the same language, you are coming at the conversation from different experiences.  When you don’t speak the same language, the effort needed is even greater but think of all the amazing things you might learn about how other people live.

–SueBE

 

This quote caught my eye because I just read a children’s picture book with this theme.  Sky Color by Peter Reynolds is about a young artist.  When her class gets to paint a mural for the school library, they draw the picture together.  Each member of the class selects something to paint.  Marisol, our young artist, will paint the sky but there is no blue paint.  On the way home from school, she observes the sky and returns to class the next day with an out-of-the box plan.  She is going to create a sky that contains the dawn, the dusk, the rain, the night and more. It is a truly inspirational book.

And it has made me think about the limitations that I place on myself and my world.

Our living room is spacious.  Our dining room much less so.  Yet, we lived with that for 17 years only recently putting the dining room table in the living room.  It is now a favorite work place and we eat in there several times a week.  And although the sofa is more than a bit cozy in the dining room, I’ve noticed it attracting a higher number of readers as well.

How often do we do this to ourselves, overlooking possibilities because we only consider the conventional?  Christ ignored common social boundaries.  He ate with a tax collector, taught women and healed on the Sabbath.   I wonder what unconventional things he would do today?

–SueBE

I worry. I worry about how close the fires in California are coming to friends and family. I worry about my friends’ illnesses. I worry about money, time, schedules. And I pray. I pray so much that I sometimes worry about burnout — not mine, but God’s. With so many intentions, so many voices crying out, how can God possibly handle it all? Luckily for all of us, God has no limits.

When prayers bubble from my lips
in inexhaustible plentitude,
and I fear I have spread God too thin,
like margarine on toast,
suddenly I hear it — child, child.
There is no distance I cannot cover.
I hold the earth in the palm of my hand,
easy as an egg, a pebble, a shell.
Turn out my pockets. Like a mischievous boy
I have filled them: with galaxies, eons, the sighs of
the wistful, the tears of mourners, the muffled heartbeats
of animals in their dens. Each is considered.
Each is held with gravity. All the prayers of all the years
cannot dilute me or hold me back.
I hold my breath a beat.
And at once I know: All is well.

first to apologize

When I was younger, it was made very clear to me that forgiveness meant forgetting.  To forgive someone meant forgetting what they had done.

That always seemed like questionable advice to me.  Forgetting everything could be dangerous if you situation is dire.

Then one day I was walking our church labyrinth with one of our younger members.  She suffers from anxiety and tends to fixate on the things that worry her.  Really fixate.  I explained that as we walked, she could pause at each turn and breathe deeply in and out.

When we left the labyrinth, she told me how much better she felt.  “At each turn, I let go of something, like letting go of a leaf.”

Hmm.  I may not be able to forget entirely but when I realize that I’m holding that hurtful memory in  my hand, I can envision letting it go like dropping a leaf.  I don’t have to carry it with me through my day.  I don’t have to let it shade my afternoon.

I’m sure I’ll have to remind myself of this again and again. I have a tendency to mull things over.  And I’m just as likely to be tormenting myself over something I did wrong.  I just have to remember.  I may not be able to forget but that’s okay.

I can choose to let it go.

–SueBE

I just finished reading Maid by Stephanie Land.  Not interested in maids?  Neither am I but I am interested in social justice, which is really what this book is about.  Land was a single mother struggling to raise her daughter and put food on the table.  Her book describes the trap of poverty and how she simply existed, fighting her way through one emergency after another.

I knew a little bit about how various forms of assistance worked — how even a small increase in income could cost someone way more in assistance.  But what I didn’t know about were the traps.  That to get X energy grant, you have to go to a class, miss work and pay for child care.  That to prove you are poor enough to get help, you have to spend several days standing in line to turn in paperwork, missing work and having to pay for child care.

But if that’s all this book was about, I wouldn’t be recommending it.  Land also writes about how assistance is as much a trap as it is a lifeline.  And that to get out of the trap, the person has to look beyond the current crisis to see the possibilities of tomorrow.  To do this, she needed hope and to believe in herself.

That’s a big one. Hope and belief that you are worth it and that you can do it.  She talked about how encouraging it was when someone whose house she cleaned knew her name and spoke to her like a person and not just a cleaning machine.

To blossom and grow she needed hope and a belief in a better tomorrow and she needed to do more than just get by.  Teach a man to fish.  Help someone build a house.  Give them a means of feeding themselves and passing that gift on to others.  Job training.  Education.  Habitat for Humanity.  Heifer Project.  The Presbyterian Giving Catalogue.  They are all ways to spread His Light, reach out and help someone bloom.

–SueBE

 

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.

 

Have a Mary Little Christmas

%d bloggers like this: