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God was still right where I left him.

You’re home, he said.

Nice to have you back.

Was it all you thought it would be?

And less! I said.

You were right.

He nodded.

Aren’t you going to say, “I told you so?”

He shook his head.

You had to find out for yourself
So you could find yourself.
That’s how you found your way back to me.

Welcome home.

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Photo by Karl Fredrickson on Unsplash

The other day, I watched a church service live-stream on Facebook. It occurred to me that I was seeing the exact moment of the lie taking place – yet no one was lying on purpose. The pastor asked if anyone wanted to accept Christ, and many came forward to pray. At the end, he said, “Congratulations! Now you’re born again! All things are made new!”

The lie is in the mood music they’re playing. The warm, welcoming church workers guiding people into their religion. The parishioners nodding as if you’re doing a great thing, this is a big step, your life is about to completely transform!

But that’s the lie of it. That’s the production. The musical number of it.

We expect all vestiges of our former life to just fall away. For all of our insecurities and problems to disappear. Poof! For this encouraging crowd of fellow believers to be there for us always, patting us on the back and giving us a high-five.

Not that anybody’s lying about what faith can do for you. It truly can change your life completely. But that’s the heart-work. That’s work you and God do together, and it happens over time, like a scroll unfurling. No one else can do it for you, and there is no magic prayer to make it happen instantly.

When I took the altar call years ago, in my mind it was more like the “alter call,” as if it would completely change my life instantly. What I came to conclude is that you walk the path with God and maybe alchemizes into of course. Is that you, God? solidifies into a firm foundation of faith.

It’s like that “Just Say No to Drugs” commercial from years ago, that showed an egg frying in a pan, with the voiceover, “this is your brain on drugs.”

In our version, we’ll show the sun rising, flowers blooming, and the earth turning. Massive, mystical, magical happenings – the only common denominator is the One holding it all together.

Good people, This is your soul on God.

Everybody’s trying to be heard. They’re making a point, even if nothing’s being said.

Like the way my cat stalks elegantly into the kitchen, gliding over to his bowl and waiting, back foot out, tail up, as if he’s still in motion. He’s conveying, I’m moving toward this bowl, and as you can see, for some inexplicable reason, it’s not filled to overflowing. It’s only half full. Is there… some…reason for this, hooman?

When I fold laundry, I have to remember that in KitKat’s language, a folded towel reminds him of his early days when he was still getting used to being in a house for the first time. I’d fold an old towel, put it onto the floor, then the couch, then the bed, so he’d realize he could sit anywhere he liked. He was welcome here.

So one time I was folding towels near where KitKat was resting on the bed. I put one down, ready to fold the next one. He immediately got up and came over to the towel, carefully putting one foot on it, looking at me as if to say, Is this okay? Cuz I’m going to sit on this towel you put here for me. Gingerly, the next foot went on, and he looked at me, then the next, until he was sitting in a circle, purring. So nice of you to fold this fresh, clean towel for me! It’s soft and comfy. Even warm! Guess I’ll take an eighteen-hour nap now!

He looked so comfortable there that I just patted his head and went on with the laundry. In his language, he’d heard me say, Sit here, beloved feline friend. It really was a nice gesture. I wish I’d thought of it!

Sometimes I find myself getting frustrated when I pray and it seems no answer is forthcoming. But I look around and realize we’ve got a roof over our heads, food on the table, and a peaceful place to call home.

Just like a slow-blink from my KitKat. Seems to me that God sends his love without even saying a word.

Photo by Nick Scheerbart on Unsplash

I’m ready, God, so ready, ready from head to toe! Ready to sing; ready to raise a tune: “Wake up, soul! Wake up, harp! Wake up, lute! Wake up, you sleepyhead sun!”

From Psalm 57:8, (The Message)

A few years ago, I was one of the administrators of the Facebook page for a prayer site SueBE, Lori and I wrote for at the time called Prayables. It was nice to connect with readers who enjoyed our prayers, and for a time, I found it a positive experience. But one day, some of our followers made awful comments about immigrants. One man thought it was terrible that “these types” were sneaking into “his country.” Where did such hatred come from? Is it so hard to get along with people just trying to make a better life for themselves?

I decided I didn’t need that negativity, so I left Facebook. But recently, I realized that some of my town’s important information is only disseminated on Facebook, so I got back on reluctantly, keeping all my settings on private.

Right away, I searched for prayers and was surprised to find my own prayers posted by a wonderful organization in Oklahoma that helps families in need called Skyline Urban Ministry. Oh! And there’s a prayer from Lori. And one from SueBE. Wow. It was nice to see this blast from the past.

The Bible passage above was posted by Skyline a couple of days ago. It was my birthday, and I needed that specific word from God on that particular day. My teen-age son has been battling extreme fatigue from a medical condition, so every morning, I struggle to wake up my “sleepyhead son.”

Ready to raise a tune? That’s right on target. Cole has a set-up in his room with a mixing board and headset, as well as a guitar and keyboard. He writes and records songs, and plans to have a career in music production.

It was as if a hand extended from Oklahoma to New Jersey, from kind people I’ve never met, but who somehow had a word of healing just for me. God always shows up right on time, but sometimes? He takes the scenic route.

What does your life say about your beliefs?  

Pastor Sean is one of the kindest people that I know.  He’s patient with the children.  He’s a listening ear for the aged.  He visits the sick.  He reaches out in our community.  He is also one of the first people to remind you to filter what you are experiencing or worrying about through God’s love.  It is God’s love he is sharing far and wide and it is easy to see this in his action.

One of my new friends, Ellie, brings our attention to mentions of the Earth in prayer, song, and scripture.  Banners, bulletin boards and more catch her attention.  She is a tireless advocate for the charge God gave us to care for His Creation.  No one can know Ellie for 10 minutes without knowing this.

Social justice, education, relief from needless stress.  Health, trying new things, quiet help.  All of these things and more are where various friends place their passion and their faith.  And each is obvious from how they live.

Just something to consider as we go about our days.

–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.

I’d love to say that I embrace change.  In truth, sometimes I do okay with it.  Other times, it overwhelms me.  

Part of dealing with it is recognizing that reality.

How to avoid being overwhelmed?  I have to be a part of it.  I have to step up and make it mine.  

But I also have to realize that the past was not perfect or sacred.  It is just the way it was.

Fortunately, I have faith that God loves me.  Change happens but it is part of His plan.  I just have to find my place in it.

–SueBE

Roxane Gay recently released her memoir, “Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body” and it’s interesting to see how such an accomplished author can be defined – by some – solely by the number on the scale. I came across a quote of hers once that stayed with me: “When feminism falls short of our expectations, we decide the problem is with feminism rather than with the flawed people who act in the name of the movement.” The same can be said of politics and religion.

As the world seems to be more and more a constant headline of Us vs. Them, I found the author’s insights to be timely and true. There’s always a story, isn’t there? Something led a person to this place. Sometimes that place is one of accolades and applause. Sometimes it’s to impulsive actions based on flawed perceptions.

After the Manchester attacks, mosques in my home state of New Jersey opened their doors to the public. “We want to tell them we are against extremism, we are against terrorism, we are against violence, and we are against discrimination of any type against anyone,” said Imam Mohammad Moutaz Charaf, spiritual leader of the El-Zahra Islamic Center in Midland Park.

The fact that the we need reminders that not every Muslim is a terrorist is astounding. It always amazes me that people online feel they have some kind of birthright to make evil comments about people they don’t even know. Sometimes whole groups. You may not agree with a person’s ideology, or faith, or even their hairstyle, but how does it really affect your life, anyway?

Someday your story will be told. It can be a tale of compassion and courage, or of blame and bigotry. How that story unfolds is really up to you.

In the documentary, “Pidgin: The Voice of Hawaii”,  two pastors sat down to pray before translating the Bible into Hawaiian Pidgin.

Much mahalo for puttin your word to da people.” And they ended the prayer in this way: “Cuz we yo guys. Das it.”

They began to translate a passage from the Old Testament into Pidgin: “Yahweh stay huhu as why all kinds stuff happen inside Judea and Jerusalem.” In this text, “huhu” means angry.

Hearing the Bible translated into an idiom that sounds so casual, it took me a moment to digest it all. Then again, when the New International Version of the Bible came out, some people were appalled by its more modern language. Maybe we’re all just naturally resistant to change. A Catholic acquaintance once told me that she missed the days when mass was spoken in Latin.

There’s a version of the Bible in Hawaiian Pidgin on Bible Gateway, so I looked up John 3:16. The King James version reads: For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have everlasting life.

The Hawaiian Pidgin version reads: God wen get so plenny love an aloha fo da peopo inside da world, dat he wen send me, his one an ony Boy, so dat everybody dat trus me no get cut off from God, but get da real kine life dat stay to da max foeva.

No matter how you say it, prayer always gets through.

Sometimes I don’t even know what to ask for when I pray. I just know I need help, right now.

That’s when I whip out my secret weapon. My one-word, all-encompassing prayer that says it all when I really don’t know what to say.

Grace.

It covers everything, it’s free to one and all, and it meets you right where you are.

By the way, the Hawaiian word “aloha” has many meanings: hello, good-bye, alas, farewell, compassion, mercy, charity and also… grace.

A bit of colorful inspiration for the day. How are you going to live your faith?

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