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nitish-meena-37745The little boy was three-years-old, and, apparently, his job was to examine all the minutiae of life very carefully, like a pint-sized forensic scientist  – gum wrapper on floor, display of succotash by the register, even his own shoelaces. It came as no surprise that he’d meander very slowly, like a sloth on a speed bump, out the door of the grocery store.

We were stacked up behind him and his adoring mother with our carts, our own kids in tow, but we were patient. He looked around, he lingered, he investigated. All the while his mother looked at him adoringly, as if he had invented time itself. “Isn’t he something?” she asked the lady waiting behind her, who nodded graciously.

When you love someone, you find a way to overlook their faults. It never occurred to this young mother that everyone else might not find her toddler’s molasses-slow stride to be endearing. Those things didn’t even register in her mind.

There’s been a lot of discord in the world lately, with those of different viewpoints finding themselves at odds. Sometimes it seems people are acting like petulant children, not hearing anyone else’s voice at all. I’ve been deep in Scripture lately, seeking some solace.

The end of a matter is better than its beginning, and patience is better than pride. Ecclesiastes 7:8 NIV

Keeping things in perspective, thinking about compassion and mercy.

You help them stay calm when trouble comes…

Every line of this Psalm gave me peace.

The Lord will not leave his people. He will not leave them without help.

Sometimes you find comfort in passages you’ve read a thousand times. Perhaps if we all read the Good Book and pray together, wherever we are, we’ll remember we’re all family.

Justice will return and bring fairness.  And those who want to do right will be there to see it. Psalm 94:13-15 ERV

bible-998150_1920Last week, I read a blog post about selecting a Bible verse to pray throughout the year. It’s an idea that appeals to me where I am at the moment.

Where am I?  I have to admit that my prayer life has been a little lax. What does lax mean?  It means that when someone asks for prayer, I pray.  When I read about someone who is hurting, I pray.  But I haven’t been spending a lot of quiet time with God.

I’m also not feeling 100%.  I thought I was having muscle spasms in my back.  But this morning as I was getting dressed my husband spotted a palm-sized rash, pink and blistered. It is probably shingles.

I’m also between jobs – a side-effect of being a freelance writer.  I’m always restless and a bit off when I’m between jobs.  But what to pray?  God knows what I need and telling him to send it RIGHT THIS VERY MINUTE seems a little self-absorbed.

I need a focus.  I need something to help me remember to make contact with God throughout my day.  I need a verse.  I’m going to print out several copies.  Then I’ll tape one here on my monitor.  Another will go on the treadmill.  One suggestion was to tape one to the bathroom mirror.

But first I have to pick a verse.  Sometimes I will pray it “as is,” reciting as I read.  Other times, when I see this reminder to reach out to God, I will improvise.  Here are four possible verses to use, starting with one of my favorites:

“I will lift up my eyes to the hills—From whence comes my help? My help comes from the Lord, Who made heaven and earth.” (Psalm 121:1-2)

“When hard pressed, I cried to the Lord; he brought me into a spacious place. The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?” (Psalm 118:5-6)

“This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.” (John 5:14)

“Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise.” (James 5:13)

Oh, Lord.  Remind me to look to you when I am afraid, when I am sick, when I don’t know what to do. You are constant and unchanging.  You know me and my needs.  I call on you.  Amen.

–SueBE

Powerful words imageWhen Eric Clapton fell in love with Patti Boyd, it inspired him to write the classic rock song, “Layla.” This would be a romantic story, except for the fact that the love of his life was married to his friend, George Harrison, at the time.

Somehow, in the song’s lyrics, Clapton was able to spin this situation into something positive.

“Tried to give you consolation when your old man had let you down,” he wrote.

It almost seems noble, when you hear the tale told that way!

That’s the power of a euphemism.

Many years ago, I worked at a pharmaceutical company, and there was a hostile takeover. My department was eliminated, along with thousands of other employees, but oddly, the company referred to the mass lay-offs as an “optimization.”

That was exactly the opposite of what those of us who were let go experienced. It surely didn’t feel optimal to us.

Here’s one time no euphemism or hyperbole is needed: God is Love.

It’s not a cliche’ or a play on words. It doesn’t stand for something else. This phrase says exactly what it means.

People may not always live up to their hype or keep all of their promises, but love? Heck, it:

  • Never fails
  • Is patient & kind
  • Covers a multitude of sins
  • Casts out all fear

To sum it up, it makes the world go ‘round.

Powerful words, indeed.

Last night’s newscast included coverage of the political landscape. It started with Democratic nominee, Bernie Sanders’, supporters, most of whom were young and enthusiastic.

“I don’t trust Hilary Clinton – she uses a lot of diversionary tactics,” said the teen with a nose ring, a spike through her lip, and an interesting, if asymmetrical, haircut.

Next, we were treated to the gospel according to the Republican front-runner, Donald Trump.

“I’ve got all the best words,” said Trump, showing himself to be somewhat (big word alert! ) mendacious. 🙂

This political season seems to have brought out the worst in people. It’s like a polarized Polaroid – everyone takes a snapshot of life as they see it, boils it down to its simplest terms and presents it as the truth.

It would be easy to get caught up in this negativity, but we know the real story.

There’s a gospel passage that puts it all into perspective.

Lamentations is a chapter of sorrowful songs that really is the bummer of the Bible. In fact, it’s filled with depictions of doom that would do modern politicians proud!

But buried deep in these doldrums, there is a sliver of light. “It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.”

There will always be people stirring up drama, trying to gain a position of power with their own version of the truth. But we know who’s really in charge. At the end of the day, we aren’t taken in by these false prophets of doom.

There are still babies being born. Flowers still bloom. We still find kindred spirits. The sun still rises in the east. We still love our families. We still dream and sing and play.

There’s still very much in life to look forward to.

And God is as good as his word.

“This I recall to mind, and therefore, I have hope.”

Yesterday, I came across a viral video of a reality star apologizing on camera and I thought his heart wasn’t in it. To me, it seemed he was saying, “Because I got caught, I am terribly sorry.”

What if we had no choice but to tell the whole truth? I wonder if the world would stop turning. The problem is that sometimes the facts aren’t always clear.

For example, I found this lovely version of the Lord’s Prayer on the website, www.worldprayers.org:

O Breathing Life, your Name shines everywhere!
Release a space to plant your Presence here.
Envision your “I Can” now.
Embody your desire in every light and form.
Grow through us this moment’s bread and wisdom.
Untie the knots of failure binding us,
as we release the strands we hold of others’ faults.
Help us not forget our Source,
Yet free us from not being in the Present.
From you arises every Vision, Power and Song
from gathering to gathering.
Amen –
May our future actions grow from here!

The notation says it was derived from the original Aramaic, and I’m assuming that it’s an accurate translation. It’s not that I think anyone’s lying to me, but I really have no way of knowing. For something based on ancient texts, it seems to use a lot of new-agey affirmations and modern-day phrases, like “being in the Present.”

I suppose I’m not looking for people purporting to speak for God – He’s got that covered. I prefer to hear the wisdom of good people who live the creed as they understand it, like this gem from a childhood friend we could always count on.

At the center of the universe is a
loving heart that continues to beat
and that wants the best for every person.

Anything we can do to help foster
the intellect and spirit and emotional growth
of our fellow human beings, that is our job.

Those of us who have this particular vision
must continue against all odds.

Life is for service.

Fred Rogers 1928 – 2003
(Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood)

My grace is enough; it’s all you need. My strength comes into its own in your weakness.  2 Corinthians 12:9 (MSG)

Chris Christie, currently on the stump to be the Republican nominee for president, got ejected from a section on an Amtrak train designated a peaceful area.

A politician in a quiet car. Now I’ve heard everything!

Some things really don’t make sense, no matter how you slice them.

Here are some things you just can’t find, try as you might:

  • the right partner in the wrong place
  • a good job in a bad environment
  • a home in a hostile land

The other day, as I looked back over my life, I got mad at God for allowing me to make bad choices at pivotal points.  

I looked at that sentence: “…allowing me to make bad choices.”

You caught it, too, right? Choices are just that. My decisions.

We often think of circumstances as being beyond our control, but how often is that really true?

What if this is what we came here for? The experiences, all of them – the pain and the joy. The tedium and the tension. The drunk uncles and the tiny toddler toes.

What if we used to be angels on clouds, playing harps/dodging pigeons all the day long and decided we needed an adventure? 🙂  Well, I doubt that was the case, but I do know that since we’re here, we may as well jump in with both feet and live to the fullest.

There’s no need to get comfortable in the mud. If something doesn’t work for you, don’t bend into contortions trying to fit into an unfit environment.

Don’t see it as a mistake if you’ve learned from it. Remind yourself: That wasn’t right for me. Now I know what I really want. 

The thing about grace is, God shows up, on the darkest night of the longest day. And tomorrow is a chance to start again.

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.  Ephesians 2:8-9 (NIV)

An email from my son’s school last week informed me that, as required by the No Child Left Behind Act, all students’ names would be supplied to military recruiters unless we specifically requested to opt-out.

I sat with this email for a good, long time, pondering.  It just poked at the Mama Bear in me.

Please! I thought, before I cooled my jets. Please do leave my child behind, if you’re including him in being solicited to serve on a battlefield. Heck, what-say you just put us on your “do not call list.”

Instead, let me offer these options. Perhaps he could:

  • Play Twister with a rabid porcupine.
  • Hang glide off of the roof of our house into a pile of bubble wrap.
  • Show up at Donald Trump’s news conference and offer him some hair gel.

(Pausing for deep breathing exercises…)

Okay. I’m back now.

It’s amazing how the intent of an idea can translate into something completely unintended. It reminds me of the way people of faith sometimes use scripture for their own purposes.

Just because you found a passage in the Bible doesn’t mean God intended you to use his words against anybody. You don’t have the right to ostracize, exclude or judge and say you’re speaking for the Maker of All Things. That’s not faith; that’s negativity. It’s bad manners, dressed up in their Sunday best.

People can try to sell you a bill of goods, wrap it up with a bow and call it a present, but you know the truth.

There’s only one way to pray: from the heart.

And only one path to peace.

In a word: grace.

Or, to put it another way… No Child of God Left Behind.

1I will praise the Lord no matter what happens. I will constantly speak of his glories and grace. I will boast of all his kindness to me. Let all who are discouraged take heart. Let us praise the Lord together and exalt his name.

Psalm 34:1-3 (The Living Bible)

When my son was younger, I’d sit with him and his friends in our sunroom and we’d chat about whatever was on their minds. Sometimes, it seemed as if this was the only time in their lives an adult had ever asked them, “So how are you doing, son?”

Once, during “Sunroom Time,” one of my son’s friends plopped down on the couch and started flailing a long, sharp stick around. “Honey, put that down. You might hit your brother by mistake,” I said. Problem was, as someone with ADHD, he really wasn’t able to stop. His brother, sitting next to him, grabbed his hand and held it down. Even while restrained, the stick was madly moving around, making “whooshing” sounds.

“Wait, let him go,” I told his brother. “He’s not being heard. He’s speaking through the stick.” For some reason, it seemed that his body was telling him it was urgent to do this, and that he must not stop. I told him to aim it away from the others, which he did. Eventually, the flailing subsided and he was able to calm down.

Communication comes in many different forms. Earlier this year, my cat woke up one day unable to “meow.” He’d open his mouth and no sound would come out. His furry face looked so sad. After a visit to the vet, his voice was restored. That night, at 3 AM, when KitKat “meowed” to wake me up so we could play the Stealth NinjaCat Game (barrel roll into bathtub, dash down hall, slide under rocking chair and zoom up onto bed), I wondered if I’d made the right decision to give him back his voice!

People also speak without words. Waking my son in the morning, I am greeted with a fair dose of “side-eye,” as if his body is communicating: This is madness! You’re trying to wake me up?!? It’s summer, for Pete’s sake! Have you lost your mind, woman?

This picture of Warren Harding’s mistress and their “love child” says more than the entire article. I can only imagine she had a hard life and never really felt the “love” as a child.

Sometimes words can say too much. This neighbors’ dispute over barking dogs lead to an obnoxious sign. I was amazed to read that the couple hoped that writing disparaging remarks on a posted sign would make their neighbor apologize – even though he appears to have done nothing wrong. That sign doesn’t communicate, it exacerbates.

Often, words are merely ill-chosen. When I read this headline on Yahoo News, I was certain that an announcer had been shot during a football game, but it was just a very poor choice of words.

It seems like the Tower of Babel in the world today, with everyone talking a different language, and many with forked tongue. Not everyone has the best intentions when they speak, but here are some words you can count on: God said it. We believe it. That settles it!

 

This scripture was posted on an inspirational blog that I follow, B is for Blessed, and it really took hold in my soul.

I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 3:14 (NKJV)

Today is my 50th birthday, and this phrase resonated with me, since some say that our best years are behind us. You might think, it’s all downhill from here! As it happens, that’s not actually the case.

Turning fifty is supposed to be a milestone, but as it turns out, it’s just another day on the calendar. As I look back on my life, some of the true milestones flew under the radar, such as that moment a few years ago when I realized how important it is to figure out what you don’t want in life – that’s how you draft the map in your mind to your soul’s sacred space.

Milestones are stepping stones, like bricks on the path toward the life you want to create.

The upward call says it all. Keep pushing toward a goal. Have a sense of purpose. Indulge your passion. Even if you’ve got health issues. Keep going. Even if you don’t know how to get what you want out of life. Start stepping.

Moving in any direction is better than standing still. Get up. Get dressed. Get to work. If you stay rooted to the spot you’re sitting in, you’ll have no incentive to expand your world. If there’s a mountain in your way, get your hard hat on. It’s time to dig out of the trenches.

One of the keys to making progress is not looking back. Re-playing bad scenes from the past is like paying admission to see an awful movie you hated the first time.

Never forget as you navigate this world that you’ve got a silent partner and a hotline to heaven called “prayer.”

I say, onward and upward. It’s not about the calendar, it’s about the calling. It’s not about the “days of yore,” it’s about what’s in store.  No matter your age, keep the faith: the best is yet to come.

In 1990, there was no such thing as accessibility for people in wheelchairs. The Americans with Disabilities Act was still an idea, and jarring action was needed. Word spread, and soon, disability rights activists made a shocking visual statement: they crawled up the steps of the capitol building, demanding that this law be passed. They stood up while on their knees.

In the 1950s, African-Americans were treated as second-class citizens. At the end of a long day on the job, Rosa Parks couldn’t take it anymore and refused to go to the back of the bus. She stood up while sitting down.

Memory Banda knew the path her family chose for her included marriage as a child bride in Malawi. Preparation for the wedding included an unthinkable ritual in which an older man deflowered her. When her own people encouraged this atrocity, she stood up and wouldn’t lie down.

Sometimes the right thing to do when you’re being held down is to stand up. Change doesn’t always come through “proper channels.”

It’s been said that for every problem, there’s a solution, but for those living without basic needs or those not being treated properly, the in-between time can be a living hell. It can also be a time of growth; a period in which change is gestating.

As people of faith, we bring our troubles to God. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. (Philippians 4:6 NIV) This is the time of abiding.

But there comes a time when we are expected to act. Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong. Do everything in love. (1 Corinthians 16:13-14 NIV) This is the time of deciding.

It takes a decision to do what’s right. Small things, like checking on an elderly neighbor in a heatwave. Larger things, like what the Miami Coalition for the Homeless is doing: helping homeless people right on the streets with food and medication assistance.

There’s a time for abiding and a time for deciding. The time in between? That’s life.

Have a Mary Little Christmas

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