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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!

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At 3 AM, I woke up suddenly, and these words popped into my head:

Major drama in one minute.

Within a minute, a massive clap of thunder shook the house. Lightning flashed and crackled. Torrential rain flowed like a river from the sky. It was as if a switch was flipped. Peaceful. Click. Tumultuous. It turns out to have been a micro-burst, a powerful storm that knocked down trees.

It was the kind of sudden loud surprise that makes you curse, even if you really don’t curse. What the -! Holy -!

And in that surprised, scared, angry space, I actually had this thought: Well, if you can warn me it’s coming, Lord, why can’t you just make it not happen in the first place?

Bad things happen to people. It could be the loss of a loved one. A betrayal by a spouse. I’m not sure what the net benefit will be as you go through it, but going forward, it builds your resilience muscles. It gives you experience to make informed choices in the future. It will almost certainly deepen your reserves of compassion, now that you know from the inside of the tunnel how scarce light can be till you pass through it.

It’s not that unexpected, unwelcome things aren’t going to pop up like a sudden storm. They are. Who knows why. All I can assume is that God’s got his reasons. But you are going to get through them. Sometimes you’ve just got to hold on until morning.

Coaster, sans arachnid

Once, as I was watching TV, I reached for my hazelnut coffee. It was placed on a coaster that resembles a throw rug with tiny strings on it. As I drink my coffee, I have to make sure it’s centered so it doesn’t spill. Usually I just grab those little strings to adjust it. This time, I wasn’t paying attention. I grabbed the strings and tugged, only to look down and realize that it wasn’t the strings of the coaster I was pulling on. It was the legs of a spider!

Mildly freaked out, I said “Aaah!” He said the spider version of “Aaah!,” making a jerking motion with his legs. All those crazy legs. Mercy. He ran off and I started to go after him to squish him (there wasn’t time to capture him with my trusty Bugzooka and take him outside).

I realized that he’d gotten my message without my even trying.

He wasn’t coming around me again, not after that tiny torture session. Tickling my toes? What manner of fresh heck is this? What are you, giant creature with flame-orange hair?

As a general rule, impinging on my space will never get you a warm welcome.

This goes for spiders on my coffee coaster, of course, but also for:

  • People who decide to park their car in front of my driveway.
  • Salespeople peddling stuff I don’t need that I’ll end up putting directly into the attic.
  • Zombies sent to my house inadvertently by a faulty GPS (Gory People Search.)

The best way to make a point, no matter how important you feel it may be, is to give people their space. So if you’ve found faith and want to share it, be sure to ask permission. Respecting others’ decisions speaks well of your religion.

You have to have faith.  Faith that what you are doing matters.  Faith that you will find what you need.  Faith that God will provide.

Otherwise?  Why even try?

I always think of this when I hear the story of the Good Samaritan.

Before the Samaritan came along, a priest and a Levite walked by the beaten man.  They walked on by because if he died, they would be unclean.  They would have to pay fees and make sacrifices to once again become clean.  Sure, he might be okay but they didn’t have the Faith needed to take the chance.

The Samaritan? He wasn’t the same culture as the victim.  If the Samaritan tried to help and the man died, his family would probably take revenge on the Samaritan.  After all, wasn’t he the last person seen with the victim?  The Samaritan could take shelter in a city of refuge, but his family would still be at risk, because the victim’s family could seek revenge against a son, brother or nephew. This was much bigger than a simple risk of his ability to perform temple rituals. This could be a matter of life and death.

But it was the right thing to do and the Samaritan helped.  He got involved.  He had faith that it would turn out okay and he did something big.

With faith, we can all do great things.

–SueBE

The crocus are up and blooming.  Winter is heading out the door.

And, in all truth, it is about time.  Don’t get me wrong.  I love winter.  Snow and cold?  Love them.  I think I like snow days more than the kids do.

But I also have seasonal depression.  By the time spring rolls around, I need a bit of sunlight to lift me up.

Today, I’ll head to the arbor and see if the new rose-bush we put in survived.  If not, I’ll have to replace it.  And my husband went to the nursery to see about the apple trees for the community garden.

The thing about fruit trees?  You aren’t going to benefit from them today.  They are an investment in tomorrow.  To me, they are a symbol of faith.  We will plant this and it will grow.  And tomorrow?  Tomorrow we will benefit.  Spring will come again and again.

–SueBE

Back when I was little, I thought my mom was nuts.  She’d sigh as we children shoveled in boxed mac-n-cheese and declared that it was “way better than the oven kind.”  And that wasn’t the only space we polluted with culinary blasphemy.  We also preferred canned soup to homemade.

Slowly, we matured.  Our tastes changed.  The local bakers went on strike.  Mom baked bread several times a week.  Yay!  Homemade bread!  I remember crying when the bakers went back to work and sliced bread in a plastic bag was once again on the store shelves.

As an adult, I now consider canned soup “sick food.”  Boxed mac-n-cheese?  Ick.  Homemade bread?  Food for the soul.

I’m in Mom’s camp now.  Food worth eating takes time.  You have to create it step by step.

And the same thing applies to a lot of things in life including our relationship with God.  Scripture.  Prayer.  Study.  Worship.  Music.  Service. Testimony.  The possibilities are vast.  It’s going to take some time and some effort to create that relationship but it is well worth the effort.  Just like a steaming bowl of soup and a slice of warm bread.  The result is definitely worth the journey the long way around.

–SueBE

What is written on your heart?  Is it a tale about faith in God or a tale of worry?

My community has a Facebook group.  When I joined, I read every single post.  People post questions when they are looking for a plumber or when a neighbor needs a wheelchair ramp.  “Can we get together as a community and do this for them?  Provide the supplies.”  I love those kinds of posts.

But ultimately the group is exhausting.  There are thousands of members and everyone wants a say.  This week the new prosecuting attorney let some staff go.  He also announced that they will no longer prosecute deadbeat dads.  Apparently, this charge is often used to revoke men’s parole.  He is also limiting prosecution on dealing pot.  No longer will it be an automatic charge based on amount.  There must be — get this — evidence.

To say that many people are unhappy with him is an understatement.  The funny thing?  None of them read the interview.

Day by day, we get to decide.  What story is written on our hearts?  Me?  I’m chosing faith in God and a quest for social justice.  And I’ll admit, step 1 is not reading much on Facebook.

–SueBE

Some times ago, our church put on a play for Easter.  The choir provided the actors.  I got to be Mary M. and my friend Rich was Thomas.  Traditionally we are presented with Thomas as someone who doubts.  He has, according to tradition, very little faith.

Me? I’m not so sure.  Thomas asked questions.  As Rich read the part, it was easy to see Rich as Thomas. He’s a man of great faith and an engineer.  He’s a problem solver.  He works with fact and gathers information.

Once I heard Rich read the part, I can’t help but think of Thomas in the same way.  Here was someone presented with improbably things.

This is Jesus back from the dead.  No worries, said the others.

Prove it.  That was Thomas.  And I have to admit that I’m okay with that.  He was gathering information.

Asking questions and playing with ideas doesn’t mean that we don’t have faith.  As humans, we have limited understanding.  Faith enables us to grasp the things that are beyond us, things we cannot comprehend even when we have the facts.

Gathering data.  Asking questions.  It’s how some of our minds work.  But there reaches a point where even we have to make that final leap.

–SueBE

The weather is mocking me: After three days of rain, only the most tentative flicker of sunshine. It’s enough to make a person lose hope. And I have lost it, especially of late. I’ve lost hope in the Sisterhood (you know, that wild idea that women might work together for our own good), in men, in the Church, and in the bright, shiny promise of Democracy. I’ve lost hope that somehow we’re going to pull it together before the effects of global warming smack us in the face with a cataclysmic shout of “too late!”

But it’s okay. Because at the bottom of my Pandora’s box remains one thing — faith in God. And because of this, I can’t lose hope entirely. I have to still believe in the Sisterhood, in men, in the Church, in the bright, shiny promise of Democracy. I even have to believe that maybe we’ll save the planet before it’s too late. But only because I believe in God.

I don’t have to believe that human beings are capable of being fair or loving or vigilant, because God demonstrates over and over that God can work a miracle through the unlikeliest of people. Most saints are saints despite themselves. They are saints because God worked through them. And God can work through any of us.

So while I might be experiencing a dark night of the soul, there’s still some sunlight left in my inventory. And that is the idea of God’s infinite possibility. If you can believe in that, you can never lose hope. Good thing, too, because a life without hope is no life at all.

This weekend, we got to meet a new group of our son’s friends. Two we had met and two were entirely new to us. We hadn’t planned to feed everyone dinner but I’m glad we did. Five college students descended on the house Saturday evening with food to grill.  My husband got the grill started while I worked the kitchen with one of the “newbies.”

I immediately saw why my son thought I would like him as he cracked jokes and made pop culture references.  “That’s from Big Bang Theory.”  “I didn’t think you’d get that one.  My dad won’t watch it because he’s Christian.”

I surprised him when I told him about two of my latest project.  My publisher is doing a series on evolution and asked for the books on reptiles and mammals.

Then we talked about the fact that the Bible isn’t really a how-to on world building.  It leaves quite a bit of wiggle room.

That’s the great thing about being Presbyterian.  You can have religion and science.  And that’s one of the things that I hope to show other people by the books I choose to write.  You don’t have to discard faith if you opt for science or vice versa.  At one point science and religion co-existed nicely.  My goal?  To change the world by taking it back.

–SueBE

 

 

 

Have a Mary Little Christmas

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