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In a conversation recently, I had a disagreement with an acquaintance around my age (53), and I was struck by how civil we both were. “If I may,” he interjected, as I made my point, “That’s not the case.” He continued for a moment, and then I interrupted politely, saying, “I’d like to point out…” and I made my argument. At the end of the conversation, we were still cordial.

It made me wonder if civility is actually an extinct language. It may have gone the way of Latin. It still exists, but very few people are fluent.

It can be difficult to remain calm when you’re talking to someone who’s being decidedly uncivil. Being civil doesn’t mean you’re not allowed to say what’s on your mind. Bluntness may even be required, but never belittling, or using pejorative or profane terms.

When I feel angry, hurt or offended in some way, I try to put it into words immediately. My son knows that when I come to him and say, “You know my policy; I have to tell you how I feel about what you just said”,  that’s the time for him to speak plainly as well.

Recalibrating my communication settings to say what I mean freed my soul from the clutches of grudges. That toxic energy only takes up space that’s meant for grace. Once you clear that parking spot, you’ll find you’ve made room for incoming blessings. Who knows? They might be circling overhead right now, waiting for you to wave them into your life.

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A young man knocked on my door today and said he was in the neighborhood “helping out” my neighbors. He mentioned specific names of neighbors whom he said had already signed up for his services.

I said I wasn’t interested. Closed the screen door, closed the inside door, locked the deadbolt, walked down the hall and realized he was still pitching his wares! I heard him talking to the closed door for a moment there.

Finally, he packed up his digital clipboard, got onto his segway and rolled to the next house. That’s a high-tech way to pester people, I must say.

I’m sure that none of my neighbors had signed up because we don’t want to encourage solicitation. I wish I’d had the presence of mind to say, “Oh, Rene signed up? Let me call her to confirm what you’re telling me,” but I didn’t think of it until later.

What was he selling? Pest control, of course! Oh, the irony. Is there some kind of repellent for pest control salespeople?

Hmm. This has given me an idea for a new type of insurance: anti-solicitation coverage. If anyone shows up at your door to sell you something, the insurance company will give you money. Of course, you couldn’t sell this type of thing door-to-door!

People deserve better than to be sold a bill of goods, especially when you talk to them about what you believe. Helping a neighbor, holding a door for a stranger, offering a kind word — being neighborly is more effective than being a noodge. In faith and in fumigation, it’s better to be blessed than to be a pest.

For a previous blog post, I used the voice-to-text function on my phone to write down an idea, and this is what it wrote when I said SueBE’s name: “Ksubi”

That word sounds like an ancient dynastic title of some kind, which is fitting for our anthropology expert. Interestingly, it spelled Lori’s name correctly. It didn’t type Lorie or Laurie.

Sometimes you get your point across, even to a machine. At other times, you can’t even get through to other human beings. I’m constantly amazed at how in sync the three of us on this humble blog are, even though we’ve never met in person.

When I come into my fortune, I’ll fix things in need of repair in my house, get a new fence, re-finish the floors. Of course, I’ll pay off the house and bills. I wouldn’t want a new house or anything fancy.

If a genie told me, Do all those practical things, but you’ve also got to choose two things that aren’t practical, but would light you up from the inside. Well then!

Okay. I’d start a publishing house called “Yes Press” and ask Lori to be the editor. I’d ask her to curate uplifting wonderfulnesses (to coin a phrase) from around the blogosphere so we could have all the warmth in one place.

I’d start another publishing house called “HiStories” to tell history-stories that touch on how God has a hand in the life stories we co-create. SueBE could write about fascinating facets of nature that are hard to explain but interesting to ponder, like the Coelacanth, a living fossil that seems to have bypassed evolution. I believe God likes a good mystery and created this fish to give us something to talk about. So, if there are any traveling genies out there, come on over!

There are some left-overs I really look forward to; others, not so much. I’ve started to realize that I know very quickly what should really go right into the trash. We may think we’re going to eat it tomorrow, but we didn’t like it the first time. Why re-hash it? Especially if it’s actual scorched-earth-style corned beef hash?👎

Today is the day to go all Marie Kondo and really sort through the things that take up space in your psyche.

Keep  

  • The attention you give to your core responsibilities (take care of family, pay the bills, feed the cat.)
  • The things you are already doing efficiently (keeping track of appointments on your phone’s calendar, washing towels right after a shower so you have towels next time you need them.)
  • The comforts and keepsakes that light you up from the inside (the coffee mug with a lid that looks like a jaunty beret, that tiny candle that looks like a lighthouse, the faith that sustains you like a wood-burning stove of the soul even on the darkest winter night.)

Discard

  • The memories that pop up when you experience the slightest hint of happiness (Remember that thing you did that time? You should’ve done it differently.)
  • Self-defeating habits (Since I gained five pounds, I might as well go all in and demolish the snacks in the house with the word “sugar” or “chip” in their name.)

Once you’ve got your cognitive closets cleared, take a moment to breathe. Congratulate yourself on taking small steps to improve your life. That first step is always the hardest one.  The past is a left-over. You don’t need a make-over. A good habit that you carry over to the next day? We’ll call it a blessed-over.

Started out the day with cereal, a cup of coffee and a knot in my stomach.

My feet hurt. The fence needs fixing. How will I….? What do I do if….?

Paused.

Had to take a moment just to be in the blessings I already have.

You can’t come at troubles with a troubled mind and make them better.

Not to be redundant, or repetitive, or say the same thing in different ways, 🙂 but, looking at a problem through a problematic mindset won’t solve the problem.

If your mind is churning, unsettled, anxious, that’s problem number one to address. Calm your mind. Leave the room where you sat, wringing your hands. Go into a room you designate as your peace room. For me it’s my sunroom, but it can be any room you choose. Breathe deeply. In through the nose, out through the mouth.

Be where you are right now. Not in the fearful future yet to happen. Get to the place inside where you know all is well. That’s not to minimize the issues you need to address. But you can only do that when you’re in the state of knowing the world hasn’t ended. Gravity still works. So does grace. Your feet are still on the ground. The sun is still shining.

In that peaceful place, an idea may come to you. If not a solution, a stopgap measure. Be still in your blessings and listen for an answer. Some way will find its way to you.

Question: How are you?

If can’t complain, press 1

If fair to middling, press 2

If please don’t ask, press 3

You know me, dear readers. I’m always joshing. But I:

⬜ Usually

✅ Sometimes

⬜ On occasion

⬜ Once in a blue moon in a leap year 

…have a point hidden somewhere in that humor.

If you look at the headlines, all you’ll see is bad news.

Maybe we’ve gotten used to seeing that in our lives, too.

When someone asks “how are you?” we immediately run down the list of milestones in our mind to come up with a punchy headline.

  • Wife left me last month and took up with the mailman.
  • I almost hit the lottery but was off by one number. That’s what I get for using my wedding date!
  • Kid hit a baseball through my window yesterday.
  • Plus I had a wicked hangnail.

Somewhere lost in the sauce there: The couple had been estranged for years, and they were better off apart. Hardly anyone ever wins the lottery. The kid broke the window but apologized immediately and got a job after school to pay for it. The hangnail, the man deserved. Just kidding! He just needed a good nail clipper.

Check in with your blessings today. Even if you can’t say everything is all wine and roses right now, you can find one half-way decent thing to be grateful for. Maybe just a good parking spot or a semi-amusing blog post from your Kindly-Auntie.😊 Look around you today. Silver linings are everywhere.

Who do our congregations want as new members?  That is the question many established churches are asking as rosters, and bank accounts, dwindle.  As we work to attract new members, who should be our focus?

I suspect that the answer depends somewhat on your congregation, specifically where you are located.   A church located in southern Missouri is going to serve a different population than a church in downtown St. Louis or out in the county.  Even county churches will differe depending on whether they are located in the inner suburbs, closest to the big city, or affluent West county.

But in the broader sense, the answer is one and the same.  We should reach out to those God sends our way whether these people are the working poor, opioid addicts, wounded warriors or multi-degreed medical professionals.

Because no matter who it is that God sends through our doors, they will come bearing burdens.  That’s the funny thing about being human.  We are all, rich or poor, educated and uneducated, imperfect and burdened.  We all have problems that can be helped by gathering together with our fellows, flawed though we all may be.

And while the person who just walked through the door may not have the gift that a congregation thinks will solve all their problems, without a doubt this person carries with them God’s blessing.

Though we may have to open our eyes a bit wider and seek God’s guidance to see it.

–SueBE

My house needs a lot of renovation, but until my shipload of money comes in (scheduled to arrive, let me check my watch: any minute now), I’ve decided to focus on flourishes. Tiny touches, like a throw rug here and there, or curtains on a kitchen window.

I’d hoped to hire a professional to install a curtain rod, but decided to MacGyver it. With a couple of self-adhesive towel hooks and some twelve dollar curtains I ordered online, I was on my way. The only thing I needed now was some kind of rod to hold up the curtains. Then one day while doing laundry, I came across a wooden stick. Where did this come from? There was a very faded price tag on it. Wow. This was another artifact from the previous owners of my house. It’s from twenty-five years ago.

I brought it upstairs, fingers crossed, and held it across the towel hooks. It fit perfectly! The true test: Would these curtains fit on the chunky wood? It took some skooching, but eventually, those curtains were on just fine.

Next, I thought of buying some self-adhesive towel hooks to hold back the curtains during the day to let some light in. I found some adhesive circles in the utility drawer and looked around. Why not put some tea candles on the circles to hold the curtains back? It’s a quirky touch and makes the kitchen even more like home.

When my ship does come in, I’m going to park it in my driveway, ask the captain to leave the keys, and stay in my humble home. I’ll do some home improvements, take care of my family and friends, and give back to the community. But once you’ve MacGyvered your kitchen curtains, there’s really no place like home.

Today is Easter Sunday, a day on which Christians around the world celebrate the resurrection of Jesus from the tomb on the third day after his crucifixion.

The Cross is the universal emblem of the Christian faith, and its poignant significance resonates around the world. But another symbol I hold dear is the rock. The stone that was rolled away after the resurrection always reminds me: you don’t have to stay in bondage. If you think you can’t get out of an abusive or untenable situation, remember the stone that was rolled away. You can and you will. Pray about it, then get up and go.

There’s also something solid and unchanging about the symbol of a rock in a changing and challenging world.

When I think of Psalms, this is the one I always return to:

The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer;
my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge,
my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
Psalm 18:2 NIV

In that passage, there’s so much “strength” mentioned that I feel encouraged every time I read it. Like I’m getting stronger just sitting here. Now that would be an exercise plan I’d sign onto: sit and strengthen. That could be a thing!

The core principles we learned as children are like bedrock. Treat people well. Take care of your body like a temple. Do the work in front of you with all your heart. Be forgiving of yourself and of others.

I may not belong to a particular denomination, and my pew may be this chair I’m sitting in right now, but between the rock and the cross, my faith has a firm foundation. Easter blessings to you and yours!

It’s easy to be grateful for the good things in life.

Today I wondered: Should we also thank God for the bad things?

So you’ve got bills. That means you’ve got services. PS Like a computer or phone to read this post.

So you’ve got a spare tire around the middle. That means you’ve eaten a nice meal in your time. PS If you’re eating right now, please clear the crumbs. I’ve got a thing. Ta.

So you’ve got worries about the future. That means for today at least, you’ve got what you need. PS Or else you’d be worrying in the present tense.

So you’ve got pain from the past. That means you’ve got things to blog about, or make a song about, or sketch about. PS And you’ve learned a few things going forward.

So you’ve got nobody to count on. That means you’ll look back on this time and realize how much it meant, since you made it there on your own. PS Time to put the effort into knowing where “there” is.

So you’ve got aching feet. That means you’ll finally realize that high heels are actually high hells (excusez mon français), and ditch them once and for all! 🙂 PS Never wear shoes that slow you down in the event of a zombie apocalypse.

That last one is just a pet peeve. I always think back to the years that I staggered about in heels, thinking it made me look nicer to others. I’m convinced it’s a conspiracy to distract women from what they’re really capable of. PS I’ve also long believed zombies are just misunderstood.

Which brings me to…

So you’ve got pet peeves. That must mean your basic needs are being met. You’ve got free time to chat about life lessons, zombies, and conspiracies. That’s a lot to be thankful for!

Have a Mary Little Christmas

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