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Often we here on PrayPower encourage you to make change.  Make change in your lives, your communities and the world.

Making change takes creativity.  You have to see things in a new way.  You have to envision possibilities.

And to do this requires courage.  Fortunately, we have each other.  And I don’t just mean Ruth, Lori and I.  There are you, our readers.  There are also the other change makers throughout the world – people who see what could be and have the courage to move forward.

But we also have God who loves us and holds us near and dear.  Draw on him, my friends.  Have courage.

–SueBE

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I watched last night (by way of television) an Ethiopian couple scale a sheer cliff side in order to reach an ancient church hewn into the mountain. There they would baptize their son. The churches in the village were not good enough. In order for God to really bless their child, they had to seek tiny handholds in the worn rock, teeter across the thinnest of ridges — without the aid of ropes or harnesses. With a tiny baby strapped to their backs.

Then I watched an indigenous rain forest people dance for eight hours straight in order to appease one of their many gods. The vigor of their dance would determine how blessed they would be in the upcoming year. The dancers included small children. Imagine: Eight long hours, no rest.

My God does not require much of me — certainly no long, prolonged dance sessions or life-endangering climbs. But what if s/he did? I fear I would fail. Even life as a Puritan, as one of the settlers of this country in its first 100 years, would have been beyond me. Imagine sitting in church for hours on end, being shrieked at (mostly) for being a sinning worm of a human being, breaking for lunch, then going right back for more. Every Sabbath. Puritan life was joyless and gray, and that’s the way they liked it.

Where along the line did we humans lose the simple thread of God’s love and concern for us? At what point did we take the good news of the New Testament and turn it into an episode of “Survivor”? When did we turn God into one of us — demanding, hard-hearted, aloof? Maybe from the very start.

I like to think that God is easier than that. God simply wants us to love — to love God and to love each other. The rest of it is window dressing.

Or maybe not. What if God calls on me to do something terribly risky — what would my answer be? That Ethiopian couple and those jungle warriors must have faith the size of a whale to do what they do for God. My faith seems like a shrunken, withered bean in comparison.

Do we climb the mountain? Or do we convince ourselves that God wouldn’t ask us to and proceed to huddle under the nearest bed? When faith and fear collide, who wins?

I pray I never have to answer that question.

Last night, my husband and I went to the hockey game.  In general, I am not a sports nut.  I couldn’t care less.  Unless you put me in front of a hockey game.  I also spend a great deal of time watching the crowd.

Weeknight games are often themed.  Last night was Pride Night.  Throughout the night, video of various players would flash up on the big screen.  “If you can play, you can play.”  Think about it a second.  If you are a hockey player, they don’t care if you fly the rainbow flag.  You are welcome to play the game.

What does this have to do with beauty?  Another set of images also flashed up on the big screen.  Throughout the night, the camera would focus on various people in the audience dancing to the music or cheering on the team.  One of their favorites was a person dressed in drag.  It was clear, this was a look meant to turn heads and it was a look that took hours to pull off from silvered dark hair to stage worthy makeup and a rainbow tea length dress.  The Queen Mother carries herself with less dignity.

Beauty isn’t a matter of makeup, hair color or just the right nail polish.  It also isn’t choosing a more natural look.  It is the inner strength, courage and dignity needed to be yourself.

–SueBE

 

Taking that first step can seem awfully scary.  Sometimes it means going against a long-held belief.  Praying in public freaks me out.  Truly panics me.  In part, I had a minister tell by how very bad I am at it.  She’s right but that sure didn’t help.  In fact, I panic so badly that I can’t even get the Lord’s Prayer right.  Did you know that was once considered a sign of witch craft?  I’d be in big trouble.

I’m teaching a section of Adult Sunday School again.  I’ve resigned myself to reading a prayer at the end of each lesson.  Now I need to convince my co-teacher to let me do it.

Take the first step can be even worse if you are making a change in a long-term situation such as leaving a job or a marriage.  Leaving after five/ten/fifteen years feels like failure.  Does it mean all those years were wasted?  A friend has moved out.  Recently she asked me why I’m not praising her for dumping the goon or warning her about ruining her marriage.  It seems that most everyone else has taken sides.

“Would it help?”

“I’m really scared and it just makes me mad.  This is a forty-year marriage I might have just totalled.  It isn’t a good thing!”

We discussed how the change was needed for her mental health and his.  We talked about how if the marriage ends, it is sad because they’ve been together for a long time.  But it could also be good if it shakes them out of patterns that no longer worked for either one of them.

And we prayed. Yeah, she’s the one who led it but that’s okay.  She’s got a plan for me.  I’m more than a little scared to find out what it is.

–SueBE

 

I thought of my cousin when I first saw this quote.  For well over a year now, she’s been fighting mysterious health problems.  She has good days, but many days are like today.  More bad than good.  Discouraging and worrisome.  

Some days courage isn’t loud.  It isn’t bold.  It isn’t in your face.

Some days courage sits in a corner of the sofa.  It curls up under a favorite blanket with a cup of tea.  It regroups.

Keep an eye out for the people who have this type of courage.  Let them know that you see God’s light in them.  Your kind words and God’s love can make a big difference.

–SueBE

Are you an optimist or a pessimist? The difference between the two is often defined by the old “is the glass half full or half empty?” conundrum. Guess what? Turns out it doesn’t matter what you think about the glass. We are all, deep down, optimists, or we wouldn’t be here.

Reading the news can get you down. It does me, anyway. Just scanning the headlines convinces me that the world is a dark, ugly, little place full of small-minded, uneducated people who just want to watch the world burn and toast marshmallows on the flames. But the news doesn’t tell the whole truth. Not that the news is in any way “fake” — a phrase I detest — but simply that it cannot cover the complex entirety of the modern human condition. Even I can spot the better headline: “Man Kills Dozens” will always triumph over “Man Happily Distributes Free Lemonade and Hugs.”

But you turned up this morning for all of this news — bad and good (mostly bad) — didn’t you? You got out of bed. You put on your socks (or omitted them; it’s kind of too hot for socks). You gave your body fuel and opened your front door. Congratulations! You are officially an optimist. And pretty darned brave, to boot.

Do you think it takes more than just showing up to show courage? Maybe. But for any thinking person it’s more than enough. To watch bad things happen and still say, “You know what? I’m going out there anyway” is a testament to human resilience. After being ejected from the Garden of Eden, did Adam and Eve just pack it in and give up? Nope. Even though they’d lost access to unbridled happiness, they went on anyway. This kind of steel is precisely what God knew we would need to function in the world.

So if you’re here today, reading this, and just trying to bumble through life, I salute you. Thank you for continuing to take a chance on the world. Thank you for not giving up or giving in. The world needs you. I need you. Don’t give up. Despite what it says in the news or anywhere else, most of us are just like you. We’re trying. It is the stuff of superheroes, of saints. It is brave.

Faith isn’t easy but what worth having or doing is? merton

“What the caterpillar calls the end of the world, God calls a butterfly.” I’ll confess; I never much liked that quotation. It’s a little too neat, too pat. Tornado wrecks your house? Think of it as an opportunity to start over, to pare down your life. Fired? Consider it a chance to do something new and exciting. Yeah, right.

I have a tendency to sink into melancholy, Poe-like, after something distressing occurs. I’m not proud of it. But what lifts me up again is not so much opportunity or “looking on the bright side” so much as allowing time to bring something else, something new, into my life. It can be as small as a letter from a friend. Whatever it is, it breaks the surface tension on my melancholy and allows me to come up for air. I can’t force it. I can only wait for it. Yes, waiting is hard. But it goes by slightly easier knowing you’re not alone in doing it. So, at the risk of being as trite as whoever it was who penned the quotation at the beginning of this post, I offer the following:

I saw a blue heron, midstream standing
stick-legged, watched it dip, beak wetted,
wrangle a fish, throw back its head.
The fish wriggled down its gullet.
This was not the plan of the fish.
But if it ever looked at the sky,
thought even once what if,
it may be surprised — buoyant even —
at its newfound ability to fly.

Have a Mary Little Christmas

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