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Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. (Ephesians 6:10-17)

This has always been one of my favorite passages because it is so subjective. Approach it in one mood, and you note the breastplate, shield, helmet and sword.

Approach it in another mood and you note the gifts of God. Truth and righteousness. Peace and faith. Salvation and the Spirit of God.

The sermon that accompanied this scripture passage was titled “Put on the Amor of God.” It was supposed to read “Put on the Armor of God,” but spellcheck slipped up and gave us love instead of armor. How perfect for this reading!

Armor or amor, which is the most effective? Last week, Lori wrote about not being able to control how people react when we offer help. Sometimes they welcome our efforts. Other times they bite.

The way that people react to us often has little to do with us and much to do with them. Perhaps they’ve been criticized by a supervisor or crabbed at by a customer. They might have loved ones in the path of a hurricane or have lost comrades in Afghanistan. Their child’s school may not have a mask mandate or perhaps it does.

It is hard not to make assumptions. When we do, we may assume that someone is ungrateful. They are mean. They need an attitude adjustment.

But if you armor yourself with amor, God’s love, it is easier to see a fellow child of God. They aren’t ungrateful but tired or worried. They aren’t mean. They feel unappreciated or forgotten. Maybe they do need an attitude adjustment.

Maybe.

That adjustment is more likely to come from love and light and a place of grace. Take a deep breath and look to God. He’s right there with you and with them.

–SueBE

This past week, I took two webinars from Hollaback! That exclamation point isn’t just me being excited. It is part of their name. For those of you who aren’t familiar with this organization, their goal is to help end harrassment in all its many forms.

A friend of mine mentioned the organization to me. She’s Korean and has had to put up with a bucket load of nonsense lately. A lot of people are stressed and strained because of the pandemic and sometimes this stress and strain comes out in the form of racist harrassment.

One class was on bystander intervention. The other was on de-escalation. And, yes, this does have something to do with prayer and religion. Hang in there.

The class on bystander intervention focused on helping the person who is being harrassed. You can do this by distracting everyone which helps break the tension, by speaking to the person who was being harrassed, or by speaking directly to the situation. One of the things that the presenters asked us all to do was to evaluate the situation and your reaction to it. Not everyone can step in because, having experienced harrassment, they spiral to a negative place.

I have to admit, I was looking sideways at this. Why? Because intervention and speaking to the situation fall right into my skill set. I am almost always willing to step in and help someone who is being picked on. Because of that, I was a tad bit impressed with myself.

Then the next day, I had a class on deescalation. In this class, we learned how to speak directly to the harrasser, how to empathize without agreeing, how to redirect. Again, they asked us to evaluate our own reaction to what was going on in various video clips.

It was humbling. Why? Because I learned that I cannot deal with the harrasser. Because of my own experience being harrassed, I’m not going to de-escalate. I’ll do just the opposite because at best I’ll be defensive. At worst, I’ll be aggressive. It was humbling but with Hollaback! I’ve learned that this is just the way I am because of my own experiences. I need to recognize that and focus on what I can do.

Last week, Ruth, Lori and I were discussing Ruth’s last post. We talked about how the pandemic and all it entails is a lot like alcohol. The stress and strain intensify our personalities. Thus the increased harrassment.

But before you step in to help, take a look at yourself and your gifts. God has given us each a variety of talents. The harrasser isn’t the only person dealing with the stress and strain of a pandemic. Know what your gifts are (and what they aren’t) and you are more likely to be able to help.

If you are interested in learning how your gifts can help, check out the training Hollaback! offers. If nothing else, you may learn why you react the way you do to stressful situations.

–SueBE

Statue Of Liberty, Statue, New York, Independence4th of July, 2020.  Normally this is a holiday spent with extended family and at massive community gatherings.  It is a day we contemplate our history and patriotism.  Between social distancing and reexamining our history, this year I feel a little adrift.  Then I saw a piece online about the things people from other countries find praiseworthy about the US.

And that made me think.  What are the things that I thank God for about this country?

  1. Freedom of speech.  As a writer, this is a big one for me.  But really?  It is a big one.  We have the freedom to speak up and speak out.
  2. Freedom of religion.  We worship at the church where I grew up. As a kiddo, we were one of two non-Catholic families in my neighborhood.  In addition to all types of Christian churches, there are now a mosque and a wat.
  3. Diversity.   We live in the community where my husband and I grew up.  It is so much more diverse than it was when we were kids and, in reality, so much more because of it.
  4. From sea to shining sea.  I have always loved the mountains, especially desert mountains.  Vast white pine forests.  Rolling farmland.  The wide Mississippie River.  Our nation encompasses so many natural wonders, all gifts from God.
  5. My Online Community.  The internet and groups like this blog have enabled us to better weather the social isolation of 2020.  I’m not saying it has been easy but I keep thinking back to prairie homesteads and farmhouse winters.  People were so much more isolated than we are today.

This may not be the 4th of July that we are used to but God has given us many blessings to celebrate.  I’m sure you can think of two or three I haven’t listed.  Why not add them below?

–SueBE

This past weekend, I was the lead speaker at a writer’s workshop.  I had forgotten just how badly this freaks me out until I spent two days absolutely certain I had a virus.  Stomach problems, head aches, hot and then cold.  “I can’t get sick now!”  If I remember correctly, my twenty year-old actually called the truffle he gave me placebo-chocolate.

In small groups, people don’t bother me.  But put me in front of a lecture hall and . . . am I running a fever?  That said, I always say YES and have a great time once things are underway.

I didn’t realize until recently just how gutsy it is to follow our talents where they take us.  My son is a mechanical engineering student.  It is an understatement of epic proportions to say this course of study is tough.  Every now and again he’ll leave a page or calculus or physics on the table and it always looks like something Sheldon would have written on his dry erase board in Big Bang. 

Listening to him and his fellow students discuss who has flunked what and who has miraculously made it through on one try astonished me.  Seriously?  I never flunked a class.

Of course, I never took calculus let alone Calc III.  But last week I saw a Tweet that brought it home for me.  I can’t find it to quote it but it went something like this, “I got a 2.4 my first semester as an engineering student but now I’ve landed craft on Mars twice.  STEM is hard for everyone.  Stick with it.”

So often we think that if we are gifted in an area, if God has given us a talent, it will be easy.  But is that really true?  My most well-received books have all been brutal to write but well worth the effort.  My God-given talent doesn’t make the job easy but it does make it possible.

Speaking of which . . . back to work!

–SueBE

Tell me something is impossible and nine times out of ten I’m going to try to prove you wrong.  I taught myself to knit before the internet swarmed with tutorials.  I had failed to learn from my mom but when my 12 year-old niece acted like I was a simpleton because I couldn’t do it, I had to learn.  Hey, don’t judge. I wasn’t a mom yet.  I didn’t understand that 12 year-olds act like you’re a simpleton just because.

And it isn’t like this trait has diminished with age.  One of my girlfriends calls it my “hold my beer” response.  Half of the joke is that I don’t drink beer, I don’t like beer and I will never need someone to hold my beer.  But if you tell me something is impossible you better step back because I am hardwired to try to prove you wrong.

Some people would call this a weakness and it could be.  But I’m a writer.  Writing is hard and so is getting published.  If I gave up every time someone pointed out how impossible this job is, I’d still have a desk job.

I like to think my innate stubbornness is a gift from God.  Whether or not you agree, it is definitely something I’ve used to my advantage.

-SueBE

 

Tonight I’ll be at the front door giving out candy.  I love seeing all the kids in their costumes.  My favorites are the kids who are wildly out of step with the current trend.  Don’t get me wrong, I’ll ooh and aah over every Black Panther but my favorites are the kids who do their own thing.

Admittedly, I appreciate that a lot more now that I’m not the mom who has to figure out how to make the requested “fire ghost” costume.  The year he was “nightmare homework” was a lot easier.

I understand, some kids love being their favorite character.  I get it.  I was Indiana Jones.  My son did Harry Potter complete with the scar on his forehead – the scar and glasses were genuine, the rest was costume.

But all too often we discourage people from being themselves.  We hand the toddler girl the baby doll without noticing she was reaching for the truck. The little boy is discouraged from wearing the glittery shirt.  The girl can’t find a calavera t-shirt that doesn’t include this same glitter or rhinestones.

God created each of us.  To some he gave one gift.  To others another.  To discover just what these gifts are may require us to step away from the crowd and to make a choice that is uniquely our own.  That said, someone who loves us may find themselves trying to figure out what a fire ghost would look like.

–SueBE

We all have gifts from God.  Why not aim high and really test them out?

–SueBE

You.  Just use the gifts God gave you.

mead

If you’ve read this blog for any time, you know that I love music and singing is a huge part of my individual worship. Like anyone who finds joy in something, I want to share it with others.

Recently, I invited someone new to join the choir.  “Oh, no.” She shook her head.  “I can’t read music.”

Why do we so often avoid using an imperfect talent?  I’ve seen parents pull their children out of sports because they didn’t win enough ribbons or trophies or zoom from one level to the next.  I actually had one friend tell me that if God wanted her child to play this sport, she would be better.

The funny thing? Like the person I invited to choir, I don’t read music. I know treble clef vs base clef, EGBDF and FACE and middle C. I can tell the difference between a whole note, a half note and a quarter note.  On a great day, I can tell you how many beats each note has. But hand me a piece of music I’ve never seen before and I have no clue how it should sound. It might as well be Sanskrit.

Hand this same piece of music to one particular choir friend and she can sing it. Yes, she has to look at it for a minute but then she’s ready to sing.  That said, if we have an accompanist who doesn’t keep a steady tempo, it drives my friend crazy. Heaven forbid we have someone who improvises.

Me?  I just close my eyes and listen. I have a good ear so I can follow along.

Neither of us is perfect, but God has put song in both our hearts. What slightly imperfect gift has He put in yours?

–SueBE

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