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Who knew Hawthorne was Zen?  But he and the Buddhists do have a point.  Want is a serious problem in our lives.  For some of us, it is a desire for more stuff.  For others, it is a desire to get things done and check things off our lists.

If I made just a little more money . . . if I had accomplished just a little more today . . . The reality is that we need to learn to be happy in our own skins, where we are, when we are, with what we have.

Does this mean that we shouldn’t try to right wrongs?  Work towards harmony?  Improve God’s world?  Of course not.

But this isn’t where happiness lies.  It isn’t how we will become content.  That comes in being with Him in the moment.

–SueBE

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I’ve seen this most recent quote at work over the past year.  One of our most enthusiastic church members has been suffering with cancer.  And in this case I choose the word suffering in a somewhat ironic sense.  Because he went from a robust vibrant baseball coach to a retired less-robust but still upbeat personality.

It has been seriously eye-opening.

No “woe is me.”  No “I’ve lost X amount of weight.”

Terry is an upbeat reminder of God’s goodness and glory.  In spite of chemo brain, what Terry calls his most recent absent-mindedness brought on by chemo, he can still quote more Bible verses than I can when I have a print Bible in hand.   And as he cheerfully points out, “everyday on this side of the turf is a good one.”

He is also a strong proponent of doing what you can.  Thus while he cannot go on a mission trip or build a new home, he can study scripture, he can pray, he can turn to God.  Although he never lists these things, he can also smile and cheer the rest of us through our eyes with his upbeat attitude.

Small pleasures.  Basking in the glory of God.  Sharing a smile.  All are accessible to the vast majority.  Thank God.

–SueBE

I admit it.  I’m a list maker.  It is how I keep track of things.  Do you have this?  Have you done this?  Don’t forget that thing there.

I’m not as bad when it comes to other people.  I tend not to confuse what they have with who they are.

When it comes to me, I often put action above being.  Take some time today to simply be.  I’m not saying you have to just sit. Do something quiet that you enjoy.  Color.  Do a puzzle.  Read a book.  Work with clay.

As I type this list, it strikes me how many of these things are equated with childhood.  The time when we are allowed, oh so briefly, to play, to laugh, to count happiness as an accomplishment.

It give new meaning to Matthew 19:14. “Let the little children come to Me, and do not hinder them! For the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”

I’ve only checked two things off todays list but if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go sit on the sofa and read a book.

–SueBE

 

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5lrxnlhfzoy-paul-greenIt’s been said that public speaking is easier if you picture your audience naked. (Oh my! How did Hugh Jackman get into the audience? Crikey! 🙂 Or for the younger crowd, perhaps Ryan Gosling. Hey Girl.)

Writing a story recently, I wasn’t sure if it was a drama with comedic notes or a comedy with dramatic underpinnings. I couldn’t quite place my audience.

I decided it was a lot like life: a comedy with dramatic under…pants. The key is keeping it light and not airing the dirty laundry.

Everybody’s dealing with something just under the surface.

In times like these, it’s more important than ever to focus on the good things in life. I like to picture my audience smiling. That’s why most of my posts are about accentuating the positive.

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I like to grab that hook of hope and hang my hat on it. For me, it’s laughter. Finding the funny in everyday things.

That maniacal look in my KitKat’s eyes as he rolls on the rug as if he finally tracked down his mortal enemy. “Bathroom rug… at last we meet. In a dark corner at the crack of dawn. Prepare to meet thy doom!”

 

20170102_203052The Lyft driver who thought he was going to make my day when he gave me a free sample of…. wrinkle cream! Derived from snails, yet. Some in my sensible shoes might have been offended when given an old lady lotion, but I laughed out loud. “Snails? My word. Well, they’re not at all wrinkly, that’s true. More slimy.”

And for those around you who only seem to complain and kvetch? 

A friend of mine in HR once told me her policy: “If you’re coming to see me just to vent, I’ll give you five minutes. If you want to solve the problem, I’ve got all day.”

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“Commiserate” is a word that tells its own story: let’s come together to share our misery.

What’s the opposite of “commiserate”?

Prayer.

People of faith coming together to request that others be blessed.

It’s like a spiritual standing ovation. Now that’s a story with a happy ending!

20160206_142034-1It’s a lazy Sunday, and I didn’t go anywhere at all today. Kept my pajamas on. Kept my hair in its Bedhead-Blowout configuration. Even kept my “sleep socks” on – the ones so soft and plush that they don’t even fit into shoes. I can only wear them when “lounging.”

Walked into the kitchen because I felt like a sweet snack + a warm cuppa, and – for no reason at all – said to myself, “I am so blessed.” Opened the refrigerator and had to look past all the food to find the specific treat I wanted, and – for no reason at all – said to myself, “I am so blessed.”

Walked into the sunroom, saw the light streaming through the bamboo blinds onto the comfy couch, gazed upon the upside-down, snoozing cat, and – for no reason at all – said to myself, “I am so blessed.”

Walked into the living room, felt the cool air coming from the ducts, looked out at the sweltering summer day, and – for no reason at all – said to myself, “I am so blessed.”

Maybe I did go somewhere, after all – to the place where my heart resides. Luckily, the commute is only a stone’s throw. I just puttered around, watching old movies, knitting, noshing, and feeling blessed.

Had time to gaze at my navel, and didn’t even give myself a hard time about my muffin top!

Had time to wax philosophical, and didn’t even chide myself that the floor needs waxing!

I thought about nothing and everything, like the idea of kin. The people who just get you in life. For me, it’s writing people. Praying people. Knitting people. Kitten people. Kind-hearted folks with a sense of humor and a sense of purpose.

There was nothing happening at all at my house today, but – for some reason – there was nowhere on Earth I would rather have been. I accomplished nothing at all, except a trail of snack wrappers on the counter, a low-level of energy and a high level of contentment.

No, I didn’t go out at all today, and I didn’t miss a thing. Yep, I stayed in today.

Stayed in grace today.

Stayed in faith today.

Stayed in a positive place today.

It’s true what they say, don’t you think? There really is no place like home.

The quintessential prayer called “the Hail Mary” goes like this: “Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou amongst women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death, amen.” But you probably already knew that. What you maybe didn’t know — what I didn’t know until recently, even though I’ve prayed that prayer about a million times in my life (lots of rosaries…lots and lots of rosaries) — is that it doesn’t really start out the way you think it does.

The words in the first half of the prayer come directly from the New Testament, from Mary’s cousin, Elizabeth, who greets Mary when Mary comes to visit her. Both are pregnant. In fact, Elizabeth’s baby (known in future as John the Baptist) “leaps in her womb” when Elizabeth catches sight of Mary. It’s all very sweet. As it’s a greeting, it’s natural to assume that by “hail,” Elizabeth means, “hello” — a sort of “hey there, girl! You are marvelous!” But guess what? “Hail” doesn’t mean that.

In this sense, “hail” means “rejoice”: As in, “You are marvelous! Smile! Be glad!” Certainly, Mary had much to rejoice about: She was carrying the savior of the world in her womb. On the other hand…she was an unmarried teenager who was widely thought to have cheated on her fiancée and gotten knocked up. So…not so much. What did it mean to her to have her cousin greet her this way?

And what would it mean if we greeted each other that way? “Rejoice, co-worker!” “Rejoice, postal carrier!” Such a greeting would garner some odd looks, to be sure. But wouldn’t it also serve as a nice reminder that, despite our burdens, we all have something to rejoice about?

Maybe that something is just the fact that we have a new day in front of us, ripe with possibilities. Or maybe we should rejoice because, well, here we are, in a great country, with a job, with a family, with whatever it is we have. And we all have something. Even when the world feels as if it’s turned against us, even when we are at our most bereft, we have the love of God. A God that does not, by the way, have to love us, but does so anyway. Hailing each other in this way would serve as a nice knock in the teeth to remember our blessings…things we so often classify as simply what is due us, and not so very special after all.

So my word of wisdom to you today is “hail.” Hail, dear readers. Rejoice in whatever it is that makes you you. Because you are marvelous, to God and to me.

 

 

Be glad and rejoice — it’s Lent!

I know that’s a tough sell. Lent has always been perceived as a trying time, a time for sacrifice and teeth gritting, fasting and selflessness. Not exactly joyous concepts. But my pastor has convinced me differently. He says that Lent is the most joyous season in the Church calendar, a time for transformation and salvation. And what could be happier than that?

We all start off the year with resolutions; few of us stick by them. One of the problems is time: A year is an awfully long time to commit to anything on a daily basis. Life gets in the way. But forty days? That’s hardly more than a month. If you use Lent as a time to change/better/renew your self and your soul, you have a real chance of succeeding. And that’s exactly what these forty days are for!

There’s long been a perception that Lent, in the Catholic Church, is about “giving up” something. That’s only partly true. If (as my pastor also explained), you give up chocolate for Lent, only to rip open a three-pound bag of M&Ms on Easter Sunday and gorge yourself, you’ve missed the point entirely. The idea is to improve yourself and your soul. Giving up cigarettes for forty days, if you can convert this trial into a long-term plan to salvage your health and live longer for those who love you — now there’s a proper challenge. Or if you can give up using plastic water bottles for Lent, then continue this small kindness to the planet in the days that follow Easter — that is what Lent is about.

Moreover, Lent is about addition, rather than subtraction. It is about adding forgiveness to your daily schedule. Or being kinder to others, more charitable, more positive in our interactions. It is about taking on new behaviors that will improve the state of your soul on a permanent basis. Lent is a step forward in a year — in a lifetime — that we seem to spend going in circles. It is spit-polish for the soul.

And we want to get our souls shined up. Because the other element of Lent is salvation, specifically the salvific act of Jesus, who died to save our souls. The promise of Heaven has been given; it is up to us to hold onto it. How are we doing that, if indeed we are doing it at all? Lent is a time for self-examination, a yearly check-up of sorts.

Most of all, Lent is about love, God’s love for us and our love for each other. Let us be loving this Lenten season. And rejoice! A “new you” has just begun.

Someone, somewhere in California, has won the Powerball lottery, with its attendant riches. Good for them. Maybe the money will afford them a better lifestyle, dig them and their extended family out of an economic hole and onto an affluent mountaintop. Money may not buy love, but it sure buys a lot of other things that can be easily substituted for love. I wish the winners the best. But I wonder: Will the money make them happy? Or will it cause unforeseen problems, a line of begging strangers at the door, unwise spending that leaves them feeling empty? It’s hard to know.

I see Oprah on TV, shilling for Weight Watchers. Apparently she’s still not happy, either. Not after her monumental successes, her philanthropy, her power and her wealth. She still wants to be thin. Or, as she puts it, to “have her best body.” Oprah makes me feel tired. She’s 61. When do I get to stop caring what my body looks like? Never? If all that she has hasn’t made her happy, will a “best body” really do the trick?

We all look outward for our happiness, at other people, at things, at conditions. “If I just had this or that, then I would be happy,” we tell ourselves. And we believe it. Maybe it’s even true. But over and over, I see cases where it is not. Cases of people who become addicted to plastic surgery, each time thinking, “This time, I will end up looking the way I want.” People who are never content with what they’ve accomplished, but keep seeking the next big thing. Are we genetically programmed to eschew contentment?

On the one hand, our itch for “more” keeps the human race creative. It keeps us seeking new ideas and new technology. On the other hand, it keeps us miserable.

Maybe we need to stop looking outward for happiness and turn our view inward: into our very souls. Imagine looking inside yourself and liking what you see. How would that change your worldview? How would it alter the way you approach other people?

I can’t say I love my own inner beauty just yet. But I know God dwells there, and that God is ultimate beauty, power and love. If I can just find God in myself, maybe I can know true contentment. Maybe we all can.

That sure would be good for us. Bad for the people who run the Powerball lottery, but certainly good for us.

 

Some people are naturally happy. They bound out of bed, a tune on their lips, ready to embrace the day. And then there’s me. I pry myself out of bed with the greatest reluctance, as sleeping is perhaps the one thing I do exceedingly well. (And if the cats didn’t need feeding and tending to, I’d probably skip this step altogether some days.) The truth is, happiness doesn’t come easily to everybody. And that’s okay.

See, I’ve learned that happiness is like a garden (or a marriage, or any number of other metaphors). Even if you have great soil, the best seeds and plenty of sun, you still have to tend to it. Happiness requires work. Like all things worth having, it ought to.

I’ve started a new practice. Last week, during my hour of Perpetual Adoration (which, simply put, consists of sitting with God in silence for an hour), I picked up a book, the biography of some saint or other. (I wish I could remember her name, but I can’t.) Anyway, the back of the book stated something that blew my mind. This saint realized that there was only thing that she needed to do in her life, and that was to love God. Just that. It sounded so simple to me that the logical, Spock-like section of my brain immediately questioned it: But what about actions? Don’t I also need to praise God and thank God and, and, and?

Finally, it sunk in. If I do love God, primarily and consciously, the rest will follow…whatever it is. So to still my anxious mind (SueBe calls it “monkeybrain”), I have taken to the following: whenever I start worrying or becoming discouraged or digging in my heels, I stop and say (silently; I don’t need the authorities carting me away just yet), “I love you, God.”

It’s funny what happens when you say, “I love you.” Your heart slows down. You smile. There’s no way to be grumpy when love is on your mind. It’s a lovely reminder of all that is good.

Sure, it’s not much of a practice yet. I know I can do so much more. But it starts with this, just saying, “I love you.” Everything that ought to flow from that will come. I’ve got good reason to believe it will.

Have a Mary Little Christmas

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