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The blueberries I had with breakfast this morning were so big, they could’ve been plums-in-training! I was so amazed, I took a picture of them, putting them next to other fruit for perspective.

Now, you could look at that blueberry and say, Sure, you’re big for a blueberry, but why can’t you be as big as this Mandarin orange? Or this Pink Lady apple?

Berries can’t conform to dimensions they can’t possibly live up to. Why should they? They’re perfect for what they are.

It might seem like we’re in a big race with each other, based on the fact it’s called “the human race,” but that’s not the case. We’re all running, or walking, or meandering on our own pathway.

It’s never helpful to say, “Why can’t you be like the other…”:

  • Students
  • Siblings
  • Employees
  • Believers
  • Writers
  • Runners
  • People somewhere in the world

Those others can do this thing well. Why can’t you?

Comparing is actually a passive-aggressive way of trying to control others, as well as a quick-and-dirty way of deciding how to treat people. If you believe someone is not trying their best, you feel justified in mistreating them.

Remember: it’s how you treat those you consider “the least among us” that really shows the world who you are.

You can’t possibly know God if you don’t treat people with respect. That’s across the board. Even the people you think aren’t trying.

If you’re doing your best, why not assume others are as well? It might not be your best, but it may be the best they can do right now. And who knows? One day they might catch up and even surpass you. They’ll remember you were kind to them as you raced past. Maybe they’ll even offer you a Gatorade and some freakishly large blueberries!

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Rough chop can have various meanings, depending on who’s saying it.

A French chef saying, “You’ll just want to do a rough chop of your vegetables for this stew” is one thing. If the pilot says on the overhead speaker, “We’re in for some rough chop ahead”, that’s a whole different story.

Tension isn’t always a bad thing. It’s necessary if you’re playing a guitar. Or knitting.

And pressure isn’t always a negative thing. In the shower, with shampoo in your hair, you want strong water pressure. But when it comes to the human psyche, it’s a whole different story.

Did you ever wonder about those friends of yours that you only see once in a blue moon? Doesn’t it seem like they’ve fallen off the face of the Earth? It could be that they need to re-charge their batteries after reaching a threshold of sorts. It’s probably not you. It’s the whole human circus of sights, sounds, smells. Personalities. Interactions. Micro-aggressions. Traffic jams.

I know for a fact that I ghost people, even people I love. My psyche says it’s time to hibernate. It doesn’t mean I don’t love you. It means some sort of relief valve has tripped, and for the sanctity of my soul, for the sanity of my mind, I have to decompress. De-escalate. Disconnect. Even from dear friends. It releases the internal build-up of steam so I don’t reach the point of melt down.

You wouldn’t say to a bear, Where have you been? You’ve been a no-show all winter! That’s what she has to do to survive.

What if, just for today, we showed up for the ones who never show up? We’ve got your back till you get back. Once you know the facts behind the facade, it’s a whole different story.

This morning, a young mother posted a note of thanks on a community forum. Grocery shopping had been going awfully – something about having to have 3 under-6 girls who were tired and cranky along for the trip.  She was almost in tears when up walked another mom who loaded this lady’s groceries in the car and had her son take the cart back to the corral. This was the bit of help she needed to shift her day from dreadful to blessed.

Seeing and acting.  We need to do both.  When we do, even in a case as minor as helping a mom at the grocery store, we have a huge impact.

–SueBE

Helping people can be tricky.  We see someone with a problem.  We know, just know, how to help them.  So we do.

The problem was theirs.The solution was ours.  And there are times that all is well and good.

But what if they had another solution in mind?  A better solution?  A solution that didn’t create an us with power and a them without?

When we help someone, we need to do it with love which is what makes helping people tricky. Love listens.  Love opens up to new ways of doing things.   Love doesn’t assume that there is only one way, our way.

Love, like Christ, moves among those in need, getting to know them, seeing them, speaking to them, sitting beside them.   Only then does love act.

–SueBE

 

Sometimes I think: Wouldn’t it be nice to squirrel myself away in some comfy little hole and turn exclusively to prayer? Then I remember: As much as the hermit lifestyle appeals, it is not practical. Not only are comfy little holes hard to come by, they are seldom free of charge. And there’s the niggling problem of needing to eat. But that’s not the biggest problem.

The biggest problem is this: You can’t pray for the world if you’re hiding from it. You have to know what’s going on. You have to be a part of things. Otherwise, you’re just praying for yourself, and doesn’t that defeat the purpose?

It can be very painful to make yourself aware of the world’s troubles. There will always be too many of them to tackle, too many tragedies pulling at your limited heartstrings. You have to choose, but in choosing, you have to deal with the repercussion of guilt. It is a difficult place to live. A comfy hole is so much more congenial, don’t you agree? But it’s no place to linger, not if you have a heart.

Nowadays it’s an insult to be considered sensitive. It connotes a certain weakness, a lack of backbone, a pitiful inability to cope in today’s eat-or-be-eaten world. I don’t much care about that. If it takes not caring to get by in life, then I guess I won’t get by. Wherever that destination is, it doesn’t feel like a place worth going to. If feeling keenly about people and things makes me a snowflake, then — fine. I’m still here. And as long as the world stays cold with injustice and hatred and inequality, I will persist.

And if the milk of human kindness ever warms us all adequately, I will happily melt.

Things have gotten awfully heavy of late. It feels like we’re all just trying to carry the weight of our crosses; sweating, straining, staring at our own two feet. Meanwhile, people are buckling all around us. They are dropping to their knees. They are feeling alone. It cannot end well, for we all need to be loved. And so, I am urging you: Take up an end. If you’ve got your cross balanced and you’re making your way, slowly but surely, help someone else out. Or to drop the metaphor for a moment, tell someone today that you love them. Tell them you forgive them. Tell them you hear them. Because you might be the next to stagger. It can, after all, happen in an instant. Or to take a more nautical theme:

A warning to mariners:
storms crop up quick.
Squalls in the harbor,
thunder out to sea,
fog like a shroud.

If your skiff’s at risk,
signal. Do not attempt
to rescue yourself.
The water is cold.
Depth cannot be calculated
by any standard measure.

If your skiff’s afloat,
please save the sinking.
Bail with a bucket,
or even a thimble.
Make a life jacket
from your own heart.

Continue until all’s clear,
which may be never.
That is all.

“You cannot live for yourselves alone. You depend on the rest of the world and the rest of the world depends on you.”  That’s how Eleanor Roosevelt expressed it.  To me it seems like her take on “no man is an island.”

But I think this is something we tend to forget.  Some of us forget about those around us because we are focused on our health issues, earning enough to feed our children, or keep a roof over our heads.

Others forget because we are working toward a degree, a promotion or a bigger house.

Then there’s that time you lose yourself in social media.

Every now and again, stop what you’re doing and look around.  Check on those around you.  Look.  Listen.  Ask questions.

Recently, a friend of my niece contacted me to ask about getting a story published.  We messaged back and forth for several weeks.  She’s probably still processing all of the information I gave her.

Then she sent me a school fund-raiser.  I know the district is struggling for money but really?  I have my own kid, my own concerns.  And I really wasn’t certain my niece wasn’t also taking part in the fundraiser.  So I asked her.  She’s not but we got to talking about her friend.  Her friend who lives with an older sister because her mother just died.

It is so easy to cut ourselves off from others.  We can always come up with reasons not to help.  But sometimes, we need to do as Christ did, and look for a reason to help the Centurion who was bold enough to ask, the woman who pursued him through the crowd.

Every now and again, alter your focus.  See what you can see.

–SueBE

I had to really think about this one.  We all face challenges – slick spots on the road.  There are curves. There are uphill climbs.  And there are, fingers crossed, some smooth, easy driving parts.  The temptation is to think that the difference is the driver.

I’ve made a success of my life because I’ve paid attention to the road.  My success is all about me.

But the reality is something slightly different.  The road is a metaphor for life.  Some roads are truly worse than others.  There are more hardships, more potholes, more obstacles.  The question is whether or not the person has the tools to navigate them.

Some of these tools come with the individual.  Let’s face it – some people are more resilient than others.  I have a friend who is the mother of three.  Within something like 6 weeks, one daughter had to have emergency surgery and her son’s pancreas quit working completely.  But she’s one of the world’s resilient people.  Ask her how she was and things were “good, getting better and better every day.”

But some of us also have more opportunities than others.  Maybe we are born into money.  Or a super helpful extended family.  Or we have the priviledge of race.  Whatever the reason, we have more support and more opportunity to make it past the obstacles life places in the way.

Fortunately those of us who have opportunity can offer a hand to someone who does not.  In doing so, we can provide the roadside assistance that makes the difference between the road to success and the road to failure.  The help you provide may be monetary, it may be societal as you work to change an unfair policy, or it may be personal as you encourage someone along the way.

Success or failure.  Sometimes it all depends on the assistance we receive.

–SueBE

 

A thought for today. Use your talents to make a new trail. 

Yesterday in his sermon Pastor Sean discussed opening our eyes and ears to those around us.  Specifically, pay attention and listen to those we are determined to help. Why?  Because God may be trying to teach us something.  Even the “less fortunate” have things to teach.

The example he used was the Canaanite woman who came to Christ for help for her daughter.  Christ told her that he was there to help the children of Israel, and that it was wrong to take food from his children to feed the dogs.  She responded that even dogs are allowed to have crumbs.  Christ listened and relented.  He healed her daughter.

As Christians, we have set ways and rule for helping others.  Don’t do this.  Do this instead.  How would this change if we treated them not as dogs put as people, is we listened instead of talking, if we interacted instead of just brushing the crumbs off our tables.

Something to consider as we face the same old ways to help.  Maybe it is time to break new trails?

–SueBE

He was sitting on the curb in front of the barbecue restaurant. White haired, simply dressed but clean. Alone. Was he trying to catch my eye? It was hard to tell. His glance was quick, pleading, afraid. “Do you need some help?” I asked him, seeing that he was shivering. (It was cool, but not cold — was it Parkinson’s? Delirium tremens?)

“I have nowhere to go,” he said. “I’ve been living under that bridge [gesturing]. I don’t have any money. I can’t even catch a bus.”

As my husband trotted off to the car to get one of the bags we carry with us to give to those less fortunate than ourselves (we haven’t got the right ingredients down just yet; the ones we’re carrying now hold money, a first aid kit, a hands-free flashlight, wet wipes, breath mints, a meal replacement bar and an emergency camping blanket), I listened.

“I’m scared,” he said. “I don’t know what to do.”

“We’re going to give you some things you might need.”

“I’ve been trying to get someone to buy me something to eat.”

“Oh! What would you like?”

“Anything! A sandwich. Anything.”

I gave him a “blessing bag” and went inside, where we ordered him a large sandwich with slaw and a bottle of water. When I went out to give it to him, he seemed startled. He kept saying, “Thank you.” I kept saying, “I’ll pray for you.” By the time we finished eating, he was gone.

This is not about doing a good deed for someone. In fact, it’s rather the opposite. In this man, I saw the face of God. What would you do for God? What wouldn’t you do? And yet I know what I did was not enough. Could I have taken him to a shelter? Where is our local shelter? Would they have had a bed for him? How would that have helped him tomorrow or the next day or the next?

I realize, of course, that most of the people we’ve given bags to are panhandlers rather than actual homeless people. They probably throw away everything but the money. But I have a feeling the man we met last night was the real McCoy. And I failed him.

Yes, I believe prayer is powerful. And I am keeping my promise to him by praying for him. But I could see in his eyes, even as I said the words, “How is that going to help me right now?”

I saw the face of God and was unprepared. But isn’t that the way of things? Won’t we always be surprised by where and how we see God? Won’t we always be unready?

As we drove home, I noticed a garbage bag tucked into the corner of the underpass he’d earlier indicated. Were those his belongings? Maybe. If I go back there, will I find him? What do I have to offer him? Am I willing to open my home to him? (And if I’m not, aren’t I saying, “You are the face of God except maybe not”?)

I wish I had answers. Instead I can only tell you: Look for him — not the man I described, but for God. And try to do what you can. May you fare better than I.

Have a Mary Little Christmas

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