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I seem to be writing about the senses a lot lately, especially sight. Maybe that’s because I’m trying to see things clearly. Or maybe it’s because so much of what I see is hurtful and in need of change. What about you? What are you seeing? Does your seeing bring you optimism? I hope so.

“Pluck it out.”
You make it sound so easy.
Yet it isn’t my eye that offends,
but what it sees:
a nonstop parade of casual cruelty,
even as the eyes of the world
look on, aghast.
We have a moment now.
The plates are shifting.
We can move mountains.
Or we can ignore the rumbling
beneath our feet and set our faces
like flint, even as we slide into the sea.
Look. See. Find the focus and fight, push.
We cannot slow down now, lest we lose
what we love, the shape of the land,
the idea of us, of all that we could be —
but only if none of us is left behind.

“How do you like them, ma’am”? the young man asked. “Do they fit okay?”

I was trying on my new glasses, and just for a moment, I didn’t know the answer to that question.

They didn’t feel like my old glasses, which were heavy, pinched my nose, and fit so tightly they etched a groove into the skin on either side of my head.

These new glasses were light, didn’t hurt my nose, and fit well without digging into my skin.

What’s more, I could see slightly better, but didn’t realize it yet, as my eyes were still adjusting to the new prescription. Huh. That’s something. I could see well enough to notice that the frames matched the blue-green color of my eyes. I still have low-vision, but this slightly-better prescription made a difference. 

“You know, I think these will do just fine,” I responded after a moment.

You can get used to things that really don’t fit or serve you well and not even realize it. It can take time to adapt to things that make your life better, like new glasses, Zoom meetings, and breathable face masks, but it’s worth the effort.

We’ve all got to change with the times, and maybe, if you’ll pardon the pun, life is all how you frame it. You can also use that fresh viewpoint to see the silver lining in a difficult situation.

When my dryer broke down, I was ready to break down myself. Not another thing that needs repair! 

Now, a month later, using a drying rack has led to a nice bonus — my electric/gas bill is lower because I’m not using the dryer. 

These days, change seems constant. But what you learn builds muscles inside you never knew you had. Keep the faith, and soon enough, we’ll all see better days.

In Franz Kafka’s Metamorphosis, Gregor Samsa wakes up and realizes he’s been turned into a horrible insect. I had a similar, though less pestiferous, experience last night. I was all cuddled up in my blankets, when I realized that my own heartbeat — in combination with the heartbeat of my cat, who sleeps so close to me I literally cannot move — was making the blankets reverberate: ka-thump, ka-thump, ka-thump. It was like being inside a cocoon. I wondered briefly, sleepily, what I would be reborn into.

Wouldn’t it be nice to end each day by completely shedding your old self, only to be born anew? Wouldn’t it be great to leave past mistakes behind — permanently? What if we treated each new day as a chance to start over?

How about today
you wake up and do not take
up your old soul (you know the one,
grubby and tattered, in need of baptism
or at least an industrial washing),
but put on instead fresh new wings?
Let them lift you above the expectations
and the petty seething of those so earthbound
they cannot fathom metamorphosis. Be today
an altogether better thing. Leave your old self
sleeping in your bed. Shed it like chrysalis, like a shell
you’ve grown too large for. And when you see someone
soaring, greet them with amnesia of what worm they were
before. Let the past go like pollen dropping from your feet.
Examine a new leaf. Let your vision go skyward.
There is nowhere you cannot go.

During last Sunday’s service, the pastor discussed Peter’s vision of a sheet descending from heaven (Acts 10: 9 – 16).

About noon the next day, as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the roof to pray.  He became hungry and wanted something to eat; and while it was being prepared, he fell into a trance.  He saw the heaven opened and something like a large sheet coming down, being lowered to the ground by its four corners.  In it were all kinds of four-footed creatures and reptiles and birds of the air.  Then he heard a voice saying, “Get up, Peter; kill and eat.”  But Peter said, “By no means, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is profane or unclean.”  The voice said to him again, a second time, “What God has made clean, you must not call profane.” This happened three times, and the thing was suddenly taken up to heaven.”

As explained by Pastor Sean, this passage is so much more than permission to lift Jewish dietary restrictions.  It is a call to change. Not only did Peter change what he ate, he took the Word to the Gentiles, a people previously unreached by God.

This vision was an instruction to take the church and make it something new.

For Peter, that meant moving among the Gentiles.  Since most of us are Gentiles, it has to mean something different today. Personally, I think it is a call to change how we move throughout the world.  Previously, Christianity was a tool of conquest.  Come, believe, and we will shape you after our image.

Instead, we need to get to know people.  See them.  Listen to them.  Ask questions.  It isn’t like I’m inventing this.  It is taken from Christ’s own experience.

As he walked the roads.

As he sat in the gardens.

As he ate among the people.

He saw them, heard them, and healed them.

–SueBE

 

The Friday before our local election day, one of the candidates showed up at my door with the “insider information” that I’m a mail-in voter and my ballot hadn’t yet been received.

“How do you guys know this, anyway?” I asked him. He said, “I don’t know, they just tell me, and I try not to get involved in the particulars.” I had put my ballot in the mail the day before.

So the powers-that-be know when my vote has been cast.

If they can know this about me, why don’t they know that I’ve contacted public officials to no avail for years about safety issues on my block, such as the lack of water run-off drainage? In the summer, this leads to the formation of a tiny river on the street in front of my house, causing cars to hydroplane. In the winter, it becomes a frozen lake so treacherous, I’ve seen cars spin out and nearly crash.

And why don’t they know that school kids have to walk to the bus stop in the street with cars whizzing by because only half of our block has sidewalks? 

As it turns out, we only had a 23% voter turn-out. If your representatives aren’t representing you, it’s time to turn them out. When it’s time for change, vote.

An old Yiddish proverb crossed my mind as I read the headlines this morning: “We plan, God laughs.” Every article seemed to be about unexpected events that forced a change of plans.

One was about the fact that coal mines are shutting down across West Virginia, forcing many to find another way to earn a living. A non-profit came up with a novel idea: training former coal miners to become beekeepers. They’ll be provided with equipment, advice, and bees for free or at a low cost. 

Then I read about Ricky Kidd, a man who’d been wrongfully convicted and had spent twenty years in prison. When he was released over the summer, he was reunited with the shelter dog he’d trained while incarcerated. “I felt like that kept the human part of me alive,” he said. “Seven years later I get to catch up with Howie…We have a happy ending.” Kidd is now sharing his story and advocating for others who have been wrongfully convicted.

Change is an inevitable part of life, and it might even end up being a good thing. 

I had to find a way to start over with knitting when I realized I could no longer use needles due to my visual impairment. When I realized I could work on the round-loom instead, it was a chance to “re-loop.” 🧶 Now I can relax while creating comfy scarves for the winter.

So, when a situation changes, re-group.

Re-purpose the challenge into a project.

Re-invent yourself by setting a new goal.

Don’t look back at what you’ve lost; look ahead and ask, “What’s next?”

This summer, Florissant Presbyterian Church is expanding our garden.  Everything we grow goes to the local food pantry.  Last year, our bumper crop was cucumbers as in 200 lbs.  We also had carrots, onions and lettuce but by far our biggest crop was cucumbers.  We’re going to have a lot of cucumbers again this year but we are trying to balance things out a bit.  We’ve added tomato and pepper plants as well as seeding lettuce, radishes, kale, corn and more.

As the kids are calling it, a baby apple tree.

It is easy to see the change for the better without considering the stresses and strains that come with it.  After six hours in the garden on Saturday my hands still hurt today.  No, I don’t have arthritis but apparently pulling up that much sod is not without consequence.  Would I do it again?  Yes, I would.  I’m sore and my hands are cramping but it is nothing to the cramping bellies from the school children who don’t get their meals at school over the summer.  The thought of feeding those kids keeps me motivated.

It took a bit more than that when my husband unpacked the shipment of bare root apple trees.  Never seen a bare root apple tree?  Imagine a stick with a few scraggly roots.  They looked like Harry Potter wands trying to take root.

But my husband assured me that this was how they were supposed to look.  And, yes, he was sure.  It wasn’t easy to find the motivation to help with those bedding boxes.  But I believed my husband and had faith.  This is a tree?  Then by the grace of God it will grow.

And they have.  All three of them are leafing out.  This makes it a lot easier to focus on the positive changes beginning to take place on our grounds.  The horse shoe pits?  No one has played in years but that’s where we planted the blackberries so no one would accidentally mow them down.

We may not be using the land the way we did 60 years ago when people played soft ball and horse shoes.  But being able to feed our hungry neighbors?  That’s a change worth making.

–SueBE

 

Don’t you find that there are days when all you can get done is the bare minimum? When you feel like you’ve reached your Max Cap (Maximum Capacity — don’t mind me, I just like abbreviating everything, AKA “Abv-Ev”), Least/Most is the rule of thumb.

When you can’t do all of the things you’d hoped to get done in a day, you do the least you need to do to survive: make sure food is on the table, pay the bills, feed the cat. The least is the most you can do that day. It might be due to illness or other obligations. Or something in you that holds you back. New research shows that procrastination isn’t about being lazy. Researchers are calling it “self-harm.”

“Procrastination is an emotion regulation problem, not a time management problem,” said Dr. Tim Pychyl, professor of psychology and member of the Procrastination Research Group at Carleton University in Ottawa.

There’s a Procrastination Research Group. Huh. You’d better not show up late to that meeting! Think I’m just going to abbreviate their name for them: ProResGro. You’re welcome (YW).

“Put simply, procrastination is about being more focused on ‘the immediate urgency of managing negative moods’ than getting on with the task”, Dr. Fuschia Sirois said. Fuschia! I really hope she wears a snazzy purple lab coat while doing research.

It’s time to make changes and really mull over the reasons you haven’t tackled a challenge you’d very much like to accomplish. Unpack it so you don’t have to carry it in the Suitcase of your Psyche anymore. That really should be the title of a bad suspense-thriller set in an airport by the luggage carousel. Sponsored by Samsonite. Will let you know what mysteries are revealed as I unpack my own bag. (Alert: Pun ahead) Carry-on!

Respect your body. That’s one of the basic tenets of yoga.  What you could do yesterday is irrelevant.  You are dealing with your body today.  You may be able to stretch further and hold the pose longer today.  Or not.  Your body changes from day-to-day based on sleep, food, movement, health, age and weather.  The one constant is change.

Change really is a constant.  The seasons change.  If you live in Missouri like I do, the seasons can change two or three times a week.  Weather changes.  Attitudes change, what we accept as truth changes, and so much more.

So why do we fight change?  It would make a lot more sense to accept it as a part of life.

That doesn’t mean that we should work for a better tomorrow.  But it does mean that we need to open our eyes and look at today.  Yesterday?  Nope.  It is, as they say, done and gone. Tomorrow will be different but with a little effort it may turn out even better than we anticipated.

Change will happen.

–SueBE

 

 

When I read Lori’s absolutely spot-on post, I was right there with her, saying “Amen!” out loud. It seemed promising to hold a summit in the Vatican to address sexual abuse in the church. What was accomplished? Nothing in particular. The Pope is still noncommittal about making substantive changes and no action plan was made. In a way, he’s become a trope. A symbol of The Oblivious Guy in Charge. Of the One Percent, living opulently as others struggle. Of the patriarchy.

Every so often, I feel I’m slightly psychic. My late mother did, as well. When I’d visit her, she’d talk at length about Nostradamus’ and Edgar Cayce’s predictions. Recently, I found something interesting from twenty years ago in a folder of her effects. It’s a list she wrote, describing the specific sequence of events that portend the end times!

One of the things she wrote was this: “The news media declares The Pope dead.”

Notice it doesn’t say that he died, but was declared dead by the media. So many people are so fed up with his lack of leadership during this crisis, it’s as if he doesn’t even exist for us anymore.

In normal times (remember those?) I would never throw a stone at a respected religious leader. But these times are decidedly abnormal. And respect has to be earned. I pray for the Pope’s safety and would never wish ill to befall him.  Now if only he’d make safety in the sanctuary his highest priority as well.

Have a Mary Little Christmas

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