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My friend Alice is collecting answers to the above question. Feel free to chime in. As for me, I always speak most clearly in poetry.

Providence is the hand of God in the world.
It is like the wind: You cannot see it,
you can only see what it does
(stir a sailboat, rustle a leaf
loosed from a tree),
and even this is best glimpsed
in your memory’s rear view mirror.
It is a confetti storm of pieces of paper,
a single word printed on each,
that somehow settles into a book.
You could have read it weeks ago,
but your eyes were not ready.
It is the tiniest movement of a fly
on a leaf that sends a drop of water
skittering to the ground below where
a seed has been mislaid, unlikely to ever
make anything of itself. Instead it flowers.
Perhaps it will be a rose, perhaps a cactus.
But even that will make sense when you are
lost in the desert, and in falling over, parched,
you break open the limb of a saguaro and there is water
cool and reviving, inside.*

 

 

* Just a metaphor. Do not do this in real life.

 

 

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This may be one of my all time favorite Bible verses and it has only become more so after a God moment I experienced this week.

My friend and I are once again preparing to teach adult Sunday school.  Our class uses two sets of material.  One consists of pamphlets put out by a religious press.  They cover a wide range of topics from the Lord’s Prayer to the Kings.  While I try to tell myself that I’m okay with them, 90% of the time they feel like an educational snack.  There’s just enough there to make me want more.

The other set of books are the ones produced by the Presbyterian Church USA for women’s Bible study. My friend and I chose the 2007/2008 study that taught Jonah and Ruth.  We tend to like these books so we didn’t really look at it.  We already knew there would be almost more information than we could use.

Thursday I flipped it open and read lesson 1.  Some scholars believe that both Ruth and Jonah were written after the Babylonian captivity.  That is why both books are strongly anti-foreign, an issue that God addresses with Ruth and Jonah and the author addresses in the study.

This study may be 10 years old but it is still needed today.  Thank you, Lord, for leading us to it.

–SueBE

When Jeannie says it, she means saints, a concept new to her; in her Protestant experience, prayer is “you and Jesus, no one else.” But a brush with Catholicism brought with it the idea of saints as intercessors, friends who sit on your shoulder and pray alongside you. Now Jeannie asks for a few good words every now and again from her new friend, St. Mother Theodore Guerin. But the way she expressed her good fortune (see title above) provoked, yes, a poem.

How do you acquire them
and where do they perch?
Do you feel them as a brush of wings
against your shoulder, or as a rush of wind,
hot, like breath, and intimate? Have they
set up shop (prayers, five cents each, like
a comic strip psychiatry stand) or —
are your insistent wishes just a blip in their routine,
something to do on the way to the fishing hole,
the café, the clean white shops of heaven?
Whatever. The machinery of it is unimportant.
What counts is the concern, unfathomable,
laughable, even, of a child, a nun, a martyr,
of those who burned or hung, lay with lepers
or led armies into battle, who died in perfect faith,
reaching across immeasurable time, to chime in
a single good word: Amen. I thank them for their
affirmation; I hope to join the chorus one day.

As  much as I love this quote, I realize it can make you look like a push over.  I think we simply have to acknowledge that there are things you pardon and things you do not.

This weekend I was at a writer’s retreat and the editor told a story about someone including her in an e-mailing they sent their agent.  Ooops!   The editor then went on to make it clear that people make mistakes.  That just isn’t the sort of thing that phases her.

Not a bad lesson.  Save the condemnation for the big stuff.  But those little slips we are all commit?  You may as well forgive it because the next person to commit one might be you.

–SueBE

Done in by the heat of setting up for the parish’s Cinqo de Mayo dinner, we sank gratefully into folding chairs. We talked about work — at 64, she figured she’d work “three more years. No, maybe five.” Then she laughed. “I like my job.” On the following Thursday, she showed up for the year-end banquet of the altar society (the same altar society she’d confessed to me she’d avoided joining for years because she felt she “wasn’t old enough!”), posing in a photo with all the other ladies. On Sunday, Mother’s Day, she was dead.

I tell this story not to cause panic, but to induce thought. None of us knows the day or hour of our death. So live big. Love hard. Don’t let things ride. Deal with your inner demons. Choose joy. Phone a friend.

We haven’t got time to dilly-dally, so let’s concentrate on loving one another. Okay?

I don’t really understand why my husband and son can’t remember which herb in the garden is which. Chives do not resemble sage.  Oregano and peppermint may look similar but the smell of each is revealing. But I have learned that I better check which one they’ve handed me.  Of course, I didn’t remember that until after the tarragon went into the fritata.  Fortunately, it was a really good mistake.

Not all mistakes have such delicious results but that’s okay.  I’m a firm believer that without mistakes and accidental discoveries, we stagnate.  Me?  I’m not in much danger of stagnating because each and every day is a series of oops, rats, not what I meant to happen.

Frankly, it isn’t hard to imagine myself bumbling my way across the wilderness although I would like to think that it wouldn’t take me quite 40 years.  But who knows?  It could take longer.

–SueBE

Are Saints saved because they are saints?  Do sinners come to God despite their flaws?  Or is this story for all of us fragile, fallible human beings?

When we fuss and go on about how hard it is to draw people into our churches, I struggle to keep my mouth shut.  Truthfully, that’s an ongoing day-to-day struggle.  I was born opinionated.

But it is easy for me to see why people don’t feel welcome inside.  Too often, the Christians they knowingly encounter are wearing t-shirt, driving bumper stickers, and carrying signs that condemn.  For whatever reason, many of us feel we are God’s mouth piece and, as such, we need to be telling people that they are bad, Bad, BAD.

Sugar, I’ve got some news for you.  People sin.  People outside churches sin.  People inside churches sin.  People are clueless.  It’s amazing that we manage as well as we do.

And, on our good days, we Christians get this.  We see God’s child in those around us.  We hold out a hand in help or in greeting.  We smile.  We encourage and love.  Because we are all sinner and Grace?  That’s for everyone.

–SueBE

For me, yesterday was Mother’s Day.  As we’ve done the last several years, our family has gone to the latest Marvel Avengers movie.  It’s a Mother’s Day/husband’s birthday tradition.

The funny thing is that I have friends who are “insulted for me.”  Apparently, I’m supposed to get brunch (too early) and flowers.  Do none of these people have cats?  In a cat household flowers are an attractive nuisance to be barfed up on the rug.

But they can have flowers.  And brunch.  And pedicures if that’s their thing.

Still other mom’s I know prefer to ignore Mother’s Day.  Some have lost their own Mother’s or a child.  Others have never had children.

It all makes the truth of Mother’s Day tricky.  It’s hard to give everyone what they need/want/crave.

In light of that, let’s try to be aware of each other today.  If someone is bubbling over with giddy happiness, you can probably safely wish her Happy Mother’s Day.  If someone looks like she’d rather you kept it to yourself, keep it.  Not sure?  My favorite fall back is to wish someone a truly blessed day.  It works for men and women and people of all faiths.

So, in parting, may each and every one of your feel blessed today and every day.

–SueBE

 

As much as I love music, I just backed out of a choir performance.  The governing body of the Presbyterian Church is meeting in St. Louis in 5 weeks.  They asked for volunteers for a big choir.  We had to promise to learn all the music and make a regional and a dress rehearsal. Oh, and we aren’t going to tell you how much music or when these rehearsals are.

The last of the music arrived yesterday. Ten pieces.  Ten.  There is no way we can learn it without sacrificing the music for our own services unless we schedule another rehearsal every week.  The regional rehearsal is the same day as our family reunion.  If I go to the rehearsal, I’ll miss a day of family time with my father-in-law and the cousins and all their stories.

This choir gig was looking like something else altogether.  But I had said I was going to do it.

Fortunately, I sit next to the men.  Specifically, I sit next to my son.  Yesterday, his engineering class had to present their hovercrafts before the class. It had been a crazy amount of work but the four students who gathered on my back patio had a blast, building, waiting for glue to dry and presenting the hover craft. My son was the pilot and he stepped out in front of the group wearing a pirate hat.  His motto has always been have fun or why bother.

When the choir director held out this second packet of music I made eye contact with my son.  One arched eyebrow was all the question I needed.  Does this still sound like fun?

The crazy part is I almost didn’t let myself back out.  I had made a commitment.  But so had more people than they need.

So given the fact that I have way too much on my plate, I turned my music.  Honestly?  I felt a weight lift.

Purpose and joy.  I need to remember that.  Maybe I need to go find that pirate hat?

–SueBE

 

 

There are so many things to love about this quote.  It isn’t about making things better, although that too is amazing.  It is about making things less difficult. And I think I love it because so many people want to make things more difficult.

That is so not what the world needs.  There are already enough lines, enough forms, enough signatures required.  Enough people who will only help if their agenda is served, their demands met.

The  next time that you are tempted to tell someone that you need X before Y can happen, take a deep breath.  Then take another.  Do you really need X?  Do you really?

Every now and again, I find myself making something so complicated that it would take the entire book of Leviticus to explain.  Fortunately, my husband is an excellent touch stone.  “I think this is a little more difficult than it needs to be.”

Sit back.  Take a breath.  And try to see through all the coulds and shoulds to the needs.

–SueBE

 

Have a Mary Little Christmas

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