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What if you had an outfit that brought you good luck every time you wore it? You’d put it on and, instantly, everything in your life would go well. I bet you’d wear it every single day! But here’s the catch: It came to you from Icarus, the farthest star known to man, and it’s got alchemical properties. 

While you get the hang of wearing it, you may randomly:

  • Become invisible
  • Be able to read minds at will
  • Hit all the winning lottery numbers in every state at the same time

On the other hand, you may also:

Would you take the risk?

If only it were as simple as putting on a scarf or tucking in a pocket square!

Well, you can actually create your own personal pocket of grace. Here’s how:

  • Focus on the positive
  • Surround yourself with people who lift you up
  • Stay on the path to the “yes” life

And before you know it, you’ve created your own good vibes. Oh, and it helps to give thanks to the one who made it all possible. No, not some corporate sponsor or mystery philanthropist! The one who made it all: you, me, the sky, earth and sea. Here’s another word for that pocket of grace: Faith.

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What is it that God wants us to do?  The question applies equally to tricky situations and big life choices.  There are a variety of ways to determine the answer.

Pray.  That one seems kind of obvious but how often do we remember to do it?  Should I take this class or that class?  Is this promotion a good choice?  What about giving money to this man with a sign?

Discernment.  Do you belong to a prayer group?  If so, ask the group to pray for you.  Ask them to listen for guidance.  Perhaps they can hear a message you cannot.

Read Scripture.  Often the answers to the questions we ask can be found in scripture.  Listen for God.  Help your neighbor (which extends to the broken lying in the road). Encourage your fellows in Christ.

Pray Again.  Remember, there is more than one way to pray.  You can use a prayer you have memorized such as the Lord’s Prayer (Thy will be done) or the Prayer of St. Francis (Let me not be).  You can pray while you draw or even while you walk.  Trace a finger labyrinth.  Sing.

Listen.  I don’t know about you but often I get so busy telling God what I want him to do, that I forget to listen.  But prayer is a conversation and, as any good conversationalist will tell you, conversation requires not only that you speak but also that you listen.

The answer may not be immediate.  Wait is also an answer and sometimes it is the one we least want to hear.

–SueBE

What do you do when you feel overwhelmed? It’s not just all in your head. Your experience is valid. Even if no one else shows up to support you, remember to show up for yourself.

Walk out of the room where negative notions gripped you. Keep walking until you find the room you’ve designated as Home Base. A grace-place where all is well, no matter what else is going on in the world. 

Search online for deep breathing techniques and calming music videos.

Watch a live stream from a cat cafe.

Breathe in through the nose. Out through the mouth. 

Remind yourself: You’re here, not there.

Be here, where that virtual cliff’s edge isn’t. Be where the worst that could happen, hasn’t.

Be in this breath. This breath is blessed.

Do something symbolic, like stretching toward the sky, reaching for the clouds. Light a candle. Watch old sitcoms. Go to Mayberry, or even Petticoat Junction. Everything’s okay there.

Talk to your own mind. Stay here. Don’t go down that dark alley that doesn’t really exist yet. In the peaceful place of yes, you may find the antidote to that no. Shelter in place until the looming doom passes. Keep the faith: The sun will rise again.

My Dad taught electrical lab at a two year college.  He was infamous for asking his students to explain themselves.  “Why?”  One year, a student came in dressed for Halloween.  Strictly speaking, this was not allowed because they had to wear uniforms.  But he wore one of Dad’s lab coats and stalked through the room chanting why why why.  Everyone got a kick out of it, including my dad.

To say that I was a kid who asked a lot of questions is an understatement.  Dad answered what he could and did what was needed to find answers for the rest.

Imagine my horror, and no I’m not exagerating, when I heard from some of my son’s frriends about being asked to leave church and never come back.  Why?  Because they asked questions in Sunday school.

One kid asked if Jesus died and then came back, how come he wasn’t a zombie.  He was promptly disinvited from church.  Me?  I thought it was a question that made a lot of sense.  Zombies die and come back.  Christ died and came back.  What’s the difference?

Granted, I’m a boy mom.  And, yes, he was most likely trying for a laugh, but tossing a kid out of Sunday school?

You don’t have to have all of the answers at your finger tips.  After all, you most likely aren’t a computer.  It would be totally okay to say that you know they are different but you need someone with more knowledge to help answer the question.  This is, after all, the type of question our minister could go on and on about.  He, after all, works with Scouts.

“Why?  That’s an excellent question.  Let me find the answer and I’ll get back to you.”  That’s a perfectly legitimate answer.

–SueBE

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.

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

 

I’m not sure why it is there but whoever designed the addition to our original church building decided to include a courtyard.  it is about 20 feet squared with an open top.  In the summer it is a bit of a hot box.  For years we had one member who took care of it as a tribute to his late wife, but when Kinny died nobody immediately took up the mantle, or in this case the trowel.

The chairs aged and were unsafe to sit on.  Weeds took over the beds crowding the roses and the dogwood.  The pergola stood tall not because of upkeep but because it is PVC.  It will be there for decades.

People talked about fixing it up.  But no one got around to it in part because it is kept locked and few people have access to the area.

But one person wouldn’t give up on the idea that it mattered.  She had faith and a niggling idea that good things would happen if she just tried.

So she came in and got the key in the front office.  She weeded and clipped.  She hauled and she watered.  And she waited to see what would happen come spring.  Faith often involves a lot of waiting.

Only a handful of hyacinth came up.  And none of the tulips had survived.  But last week she opened the blinds for the entire choir to see.

Roses and primroses galore.  All because one person had faith that she could make a difference.

Listen carefully and you will likely hear a still small voice nudging you to take a stance, take action, and make a difference.  Whether or not you step forward is often a matter of faith.  The best thing about faith is that even a little can enable you to do something striking if only you will try.

–SueBE

 

 

Let me just affirm what you already know: Things are lousy right now. There is no equality, no justice. No hope? Sometimes it feels like it. Then I hear a little voice (it sounds suspiciously like Auntie Ruth) saying, “Focus on the bright side; focus on hope.” Sometimes, it feels foolish to hope. But hope, like faith, never claimed to be rational. It just is.

Advice for those who are sinking: First
find a reed, however slender, to grasp.
If muck sucks you downward, lie on your back,
float: improbably, hope will buoy you.

I read the handbook, yet trust forsakes me.
I hover, the slough still plucks and pulls.
Hope, foolish and fleeting, throws me a rope —
faith fills my chest; my heart is a red balloon.

Is it possible to speak about heavy subjects and still keep a light spirit? I think so.

Due to my obvious adeptliness at the Inglish langwich, I give all of the household items around me pet names. My car is named Carrie (pronounced Kahr-ee), my plant is named Plantie, and my phone, for reasons I know savvy readers will understand, is named Really. (Get it? I knew you would!) Words. Yes. Words are my strong soot.

But I think we ought to do a deep dive into the words that people of faith use to describe themselves.

“Christian” really doesn’t apply when you weaponize your faith as a way of targeting people with other beliefs.

“Because it’s a part of history” isn’t reason enough to display symbols of bigotry like the confederate flag. History should be stored in a museum, properly placed into context and used to educate, not perpetuate hate.

“That’s how it’s always been done” isn’t justification for doing the wrong thing, this far into our civilization’s development. The point of evolution is to continue to improve, and not to stay stuck in an antiquated era, like it’s set in stone and society cannot move forward.

The fact that we get to hit the re-set button isn’t just a random occurrence. Every new day is a clean slate. We can learn from yesterday or live the same day, the same way.

PS All of the creative misspellifications in this post are intentional. Have a gud dae!

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!

Have a Mary Little Christmas

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