In my heart and mind, I know Langston Hughes said it right.  I just wish that I had memorized his words.  Not long ago, a friend asked us why our church has a green committee.  What on earth does environmentalism have to do with

Heart beat.

Cricket.

Mute confusion.

Finally after far too long I pulled together a coherent answer.  Caring for the environment is part of God’s call to mankind to be stewards of the earth.  Not exploiters.  Stewards.  That involves care and awareness.

But environmentalism also has to do with social justice.  The poor and exploited are the ones at risk of not having clean water, healthy food and an environment that isn’t actively killing them.  Do unto others.  Love your brother.  Take care of the earth.

For me, they are all strands of faith.  But, like I said, too bad I didn’t have this poem memorized.

–SueBE

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Consider the following: A woman decided that whenever she saw a man walking towards her, she would not deliberately get out of his way. She ran into 28 men in short order.

Consider also: During a prayer ceremony, a box full of beautiful, hand-forged glass beads was passed from person to person. Each bead was unique and connected to a prayer; the bead you chose indicated which prayer you would read aloud. Out of dozens of beads, I chose the bead for “silence.” Oh, the irony! I have always been a quiet person — a good baby, an obedient child, never prone to expressions of emotion or even strong opinion (except in my writing). Loquacious friends know they can call me, and I’ll listen for hours. So what was my reaction to choosing that particular bead? “Fifty-three years of being quiet, Lord. When do I get to speak?”

Clearly, the questions need to be asked: Who always gets out of the way? Who gets to speak and who remains silent? And why do we simply accept these answers?

When it comes to politics, the loudest voice wins. The voice doesn’t necessarily represent the majority; it doesn’t have to. If it makes its point loudly enough and with enough aggression, the others will back down. We are seeing this on a daily basis with our current government. Who is allowed to speak when it comes to immigrants and immigration? Not the immigrants themselves. Why? The story is about them. So why are their voices largely unheard?

Who drives policy and who is expected to step aside, even when the policy has nothing to do with the drivers and everything to do with the conceders? Why? Because the drivers have the power. Is that fair? Is that even logical? And if it isn’t, what will it take for the conceders to stand their ground?

I want you to think about this. Are you the person who steps aside or the one who expects others to get out of the way? Are you a loud voice or a silent one? And most importantly, how does God expect us to treat the other? Is God a walk all over people God or a considerate God? Whom did Jesus side with — the powerful people or the silent people (women, the downtrodden, the poor)? And when the silent are enjoined to be “civil,” to not make a fuss, is that what Jesus would do?

What we do with the answers to these questions will say a lot about who we are. It may even determine what happens to us in the next life. I have a feeling that Heaven is where the silent finally speak.

When you decide to help someone or not, do you examine their situation with love?

Now I’m not talking tough love.  You know the kind I mean – you made your mess, now go deal with it yourself.

What I mean is the love that you would show your grandmother.  Or your best friend.  Or your dog.  Yeah, that’s quite a variety and I’m being a bit cheeky but pick whichever being you love the most.

The love we show each other should resemble the grace God has given us.  I always imagine that God is a lot like my Dad.  When we went into the city after he told us not to, he didn’t make us tough it out when we locked our keys in the car.  When I leaned all crazy in one of mom’s good chairs and got my elbow stuck through the slats . . . well, I did get a comment after that one.

But he always approached the situation with grace.  That’s the love we  need to have in our hearts for each other.

Now I think I should go make something special for Dad.  I may have been the easiest kid but that’s probably because I didn’t argue before I did something ridiculous.  I just did it.

Thank God for grace.

–SueBE

 

Helping others.  I’m all for it.

But I have to admit that I prefer social justice to charity.  What’s the difference?  I can feed someone today or they can feed themselves for a lifetime.

That said, it can still be tricky because the solution has to work for them, not for me.  Telling them to do things my way may not work.  That means that I have to trust them to know what they need.

We live in a land settled by a variety of people.  They weren’t all farmers or fisherman.  Life has never been one-size-fits-all.  God created us in spectacular diversity.

Just a little food for thought as you wave the Red, White and Blue.

–SueBE

One day last month, a man and a woman showed up at my door trying to get past my defenses. Later that same day, two older women showed up at my door trying to get past my defenses.

Even though they were selling vastly different products, each team tried to gain my trust. The first team talked about how important it is to save a dollar when you can, the value of promises being kept, and that a product should do what it says it will do.

The second team spoke of how everyone has been on edge lately, what with all the negative things in the news and that, in times like these, it’s great to know there is always something in the world you can count on.

The first team was selling FIOS. The second were Jehovah’s Witnesses.

In both cases, the one who stood by and did no talking was unwittingly speaking volumes. Each of them looked me right in the eye, almost glowering. I thought, what an odd sales tactic. It may just be that they’ve had a door or two slammed on them as they’ve peddled their wares.

As I closed the door after declining their “offers,”  it occurred to me that they could actually have been reflecting what they saw on my face. I have yet to find a balance between my belief that everyone should be treated respectfully and the annoyance I feel when solicitors come to my door.

People are doing more than ringing doorbells lately. Just look at the news and you’ll see: we’re getting under each other’s skin. If the best we can do is answer the door, decline with a bit of a scowl and go back to cooking dinner, maybe that will just have to do for now.

This past week, my family and I took a trip to Gatlinburg, TN.  I jokingly referred to the trip as the Edwards Extravaganza because all four siblings ,their kids and the grandparents were along.  Needless to say, we didn’t do everything together.  Something about trying to coordinate sixteen people.  We met up for dinner and games each evening but spent the days out and about.

My husband, son and I trekked over the mountain to Cherokee, NC.  As treks go, it was tame since we were in our Jeep as we drove through the pass and onto the reservation.  It was more than a touch surreal.  Shop signs were in English but street signs?  Cherokee first, English second.

Near the TN/NC border.

Our destination was the Museum of the Cherokee Indian.  Before I made my way through the exhibits, I thought I knew something about Cherokee history.  The truth of the matter was that I knew the history we learn in Missouri – the Oklahoma history.  In this museum, I learned about the prehistory, the move to live more like whites, the debate about moving to Oklahoma, Andrew Jackson, the Trail of Tears, and the Eastern Band of the Cherokee.

The removal of the Cherokee on the Trail of Tears split a people in half.  In spite of this, the museum was marvelously even-handed.  Facts about the Cherokee and the other Civilized Tribes were simply presented.  No one was vilified – not Jackson, not the Cherokee who favored the move. The story of the Cherokee people was told in all it’s complexity.

Yet when I tell people here in Missouri where I went and all I learned, people are more than willing to assign blame. I have to understand why Jackson did what he did; he was from North Carolina.  That one really confuses me since the Cherokee were also from North Carolina. Those Cherokee need to get off the reservation so their children can have a good life. If the Cherokee would work to be more like the mainstream culture, things would be better for them. The Cherokee and other civilized tribes farmed and lived like the dominant culture but were still forced onto the Trail of Tears.  A veneer of white-ness didn’t save them or their homes.

What does it mean to be an American?  It is to be part of a society with a complex history. Do you walk among others as a brother or sister? Or do you expect the fish to fly and the birds to swim?  This museum was definitely something I needed to see and I thank God for putting me on this path.

–SueBE

 

The magnetic poles have disappeared. Compasses are spinning wildly, madly. There is no true north. Or at least there isn’t in America.

We are losing our grasp on the difference between right and wrong. Worse yet, we can’t even agree on what is right or wrong. For instance: It is either always wrong to deny service to someone in a public place or it is not. Case in point (and without naming names), a Virginia restaurant that recently turned away a public official. Some people are fine with this decision. Others are irate to the point of flinging human waste. Several years ago, a bakery refused service to a former Democratic Vice President. Its owner was lauded as a hero and champion of first amendment rights and invited to speak at a rally for the current Speaker of the House. So which is it? Is it right (in which case apologies are due to the Virginia restaurant) or not (in which case apologies are due to the offended patrons)?

Because here’s the thing: It can’t be both. So often I read (usually in the comments section of a news article, which I should never, ever read) “well, it was okay when so-and-so did it.” Or “you didn’t get mad when [your guy] did it.” Morality is not built on “buts” and “yets.” Either a thing is wrong, and we all treat it that way, or it is right — and we accept it.

The problem is, we’ve lost all ability to suss out what we collectively believe to be right or wrong. Is it wrong to take children from their parents if they commit a misdemeanor (like shoplifting or illegally crossing the border) or no crime at all (seeking asylum, just walking down the street)? If so, it is always wrong, no matter what the skin tone of the child or parent. If it is always right, God help us.

I strongly believe in the separation of church and state. However, I think a country should have a moral backbone; we should stand for something. So what does America stand for? If it is civility and decency, those things must come from the top down. If it is making money and closing our ears to the plights of the less fortunate, it is time to own that position. Because if we don’t — if we don’t come together to decide what is acceptable moral behavior and what is not — not only do we become the biggest hypocrites on earth, we fail one another. We also fail God.

Being trolled by a fan seems an oxymoron, but reading SueBE’s post about opposite day, I was reminded of author George RR Martin. Game of Thrones fans have been trolling him to stop living the high life and finish the last book already.

My theory is that Martin has no intention of finishing the series, because once he does, fans may forget about him. Even if they seem to be holding him in contempt, they’re still holding onto him. I guess it’s better to hear invective than to be invisible. Also, there’s the very real possibility that he’s got “you’re-not-the-boss-of-me” syndrome. Fans yell at him to finish the book? He’ll show them. Not gonna do it.

There are sycophants, and then there are psycho-phants. Star Wars fans? Trolling actors to the point that they leave social media? What is wrong with this picture?

In the same way, when you bully someone for being a bully, you’re now part of the problem. We’ve got deep divisions in this country right now, extending all the way to the dining table. There are Washington DC restaurants in the news for refusing to serve political operatives with whom they disagree. I suppose they have the right not to serve any patron. And anyway, wouldn’t you rather know someone hates your guts before they’re alone in a back room with your food?

Still, there must be a better way to make a point that to heckle each other in this way. Fighting fire with fire just leads to a big conflagration. Sooner or later, someone’s going to get burned.

It would be so easy to read this quote and think, “Aha.  She’s a Dem and she’s commenting on the whole situation at the border.”  And the funny thing is that you wouldn’t be entirely wrong.

I am a Dem.  I have incredibly strong opinions about what is going on at our Southern border.  I’ve shared those opinions with our state Senator – the one that is running for reelection.  He’s a Republican and we disagree about 97% of the time so I could have let him have it.

Instead I started out my letter by wishing him a happy Father’s Day and thanking him for all the time and energy who puts into his job.  Like my grandmother always said, you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.  If I didn’t back down, next would be ‘keep a civil tongue in your head.’

G-ma would definitely have agreed with Lori.  We are so caught up in making sure that people know, in minute detail, what we think, that we are leaving Christ and his love behind.  We go on and on about the fact that there are no compromises anymore, people stick with their party.

But we also forget that we are just as guilty when it comes to the name calling.  Conservative.  Republican.  Liberal.  Fool.  Whatever term we use, the contempt comes through loud and clear.

Why not try something new?  Don’t just have compassion for whoever you think is being ignored – immigrants, the American worker, or whoever.  Try to see into the heart of the person you are disagreeing with.  We are all God’s children and he probably wouldn’t mind if we all tried to remember that.

Compassion and kindness.  Honey and civility.

–SueBE

We are picking our teams
(red team, blue team)
with alacrity (rushing to
curry favor with the captain
of choice) in louder and louder
voices (playground voices;
no one listens to inside voices anymore)
touting superiority of size, of mind, of soul,
of strength and riches and greed and hatred.
We are choosing sides for a most important game.

The only trouble is
Jesus keeps getting picked last.

Have a Mary Little Christmas

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