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I can’t say that I’m always upbeat, but I do try to be hopeful.  Not that I always pull it off.

This time of the year is tough for me.  Apparently, I need a certain amount of sunlight.  And I stress.  And I get hangry too.

So how do I pull off hope when it is dark, stressful and no one has given me a snack?  Fortunately, I genuinely like winter.  I like the cold.  I love snow.  And dark? I actually like that too.  Especially when it’s snowing.  I love the sounds and stand on the porch and listen to snow pop and creak.

Winter is a time of preparation.  One of the things that we are preparing for at my church is an update to our community garden.  We accidentally planted way too many cucumbers but the food bank came out the winner.  This year we are adding fruit trees that the local aborist tells us should be planted in spring.

That gives us two months to pick out our trees and raise the funds.  Two months to prepare for several years of growth.  Vegetables for this summer.  Fruit trees for the future.

Hope.  We plant it today and harvest it tomorrow.

–SueBE

 

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“We aren’t exchanging gifts this year.  We’re playing rob your neighbor so bring a gift anyone in the family would love.”

Cricket.

Cricket.

Cricket.

A hate shopping.  Hate it.  Really.  That said I’m actually pretty good at buying gifts for other people.  Of course, this means that I’m shopping for specific people.  My father-in-law loves history and works with wood, think Foxfire.  My mother-in-law is into classical music and elegant history, much more Biltmore than Foxfire.

Now try to come up with something any one of 20 or so people would love.  Let’s just say that the only thing my mother-in-law and son have in common is that they both like cats and love to eat.  This is mission impossible!

But then my son suggested buying a can of Flex Seal.  What?  I hadn’t thought of ridiculous made for TV products.  Serious gifts that everyone would love?  Not going to happen.  But the ridiculous?  This just might work.

It is far too easy to let someone’s request dampen our holiday joy.  It is up to us to rediscover God’s presence and the spirit of his grace that not even the thought of shopping can entirely eclipse.

–SueBE

 

 

Tomorrow is another day.  Thank, God.  Literally.

I’ve been playing with a cold since Thursday night.  First was the sneezing and snot phase.  Yesterday, was coughing and a pounding headache.

Today?  Today seems much better.  Granted it’s only 10 am but my head doesn’t hurt so I’m going with it.  Today is much better.

That’s the great thing about a new day.  It is an opportunity for improvement.  A chance to get it right.

In adult Sunday school we are studying Ecclesiastes.  We are currently working our way through the first chapter and what it teaches us about prayer.  This line in the lesson brought me up short.  “Prayer seeks what God alone can do. Prayer comes from a careful consideration of what belongs to human effort and what requires God’s intervention. For example, we don’t ask God to reduce or increase or weight if that change is an expected outcome of proper diet and exercise…”

As if this wasn’t pointed enough.  One of our Bible passages in church yesterday included Luke 3:11 when people were listening to John the Baptist.  “John answered, “Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same.”

How often do we all pray for God to solve our problems and to solve community problems?  Problems that we could address ourselves.  Quite frankly, we know what to do.  We just don’t want to do it.

What an uncomfortable feeling.  But that’s okay.  Discomfort can be taken as a nudge to do something different, to do something better, to get it right.

With that knowledge we can wind the clock  Tomorrow is another day.

–SueBE

 

Practicing what you preach is tough.  But living a life that isn’t aligned with my values?  That’s even harder.

Even when we’re on the road, we don’t eat at Chick-fil-a.  I know, I know.  They donated bottled water and food after the Orlando shootings.  But they also still donate heavily to at least one group that “deprograms” gay teens.  Um.  No.  Not with my money you’re not.  Of course, we eat out so seldom that I don’t think anyone at Chick-fil-a is worried about my stance.  Whatever.  I know.

But it has to be more than what we don’t do.  It has to be reflected in what we do.

My son is all about local restaurants.  His favorite is owned by a Palestinian family.  And clearly they believe in putting their money and efforts behind causes they believe in.  The owner and chef is teaching a cooking class called Tastes of Bethlehem.  It is offered through “The St. Louis Friends of Bethlehem.” This non-profit promotes arts, science and cultural exchanges between St. Louis and Bethlehem to increase understanding and promote peace and harmony.

Practice what you preach.  Do it right and in it looks a lot like living mindfully.

–SueBE

 

If two people are discussing education in America today, chances are that they are discussing the education crisis.  Me?  I’d like us to focus instead on the many teachers who inspire.  Why am I thinking of this right now?  I saw this post today:  “Thinking about changing my major to education! I like the idea of structuring your own class and being open to helping students!”

You know that a young man has had influential teachers when he is considering changing his major to education.  Good teachers not only help their students learn, they inspire them.  They are people who use their God-given talents for the good of all.

Not that we can all be teachers.  I helped in the classroom for about 20 minutes every morning when my son was in first grade.  By minute 18, I was glancing at the clock.  “Come on. . . come on. . .”  The kids were great but it wasn’t the place I was meant to be.

As the year draws to a close, I may be thinking about changing this up next year but I’ll still be writing. Writing is definitely my niche.

What about you? Have you found the place where you can use the talents God gave you?  Have you found a way to reach back and help another?

–SueBE

 

Kids can be really, really good at this.  This past weekend, our church hosted a breakfast with Santa for our preschool crew.  One hundred and seventy-five people attended.  It was a little nuts, but in a good way.

As always, I sat in one corner with our pastor and painted faces.  I painted snowflakes.  I painted gingerbread men.  I painted one star and one package.  And I painted at least a dozen reindeer.

I had to smile at two little girls who came up to me wanting reindeer.  They both had on the same dress, red and velvety with white trim.  Super cute!  According to one girls older brother (or maybe cousin, I don’t ask), they dress alike so that everyone can tell they are together.  “Twins,” whispered one little voice.  Big brother didn’t say fiddle but he was waiting for me to object.

One little girl was blonde and curly with big blue eyes.  The other girl, his sister, had straight black hair and big brown eyes.  Superficially, they couldn’t have been more different.  But that’s not what they were looking at.  In their hearts, where it truly mattered, these little girls were clearly twins with one big brother to keep an eye on them.

Kids have a lot to teach us if we will listen.  I’m glad God set this reminder on my path.

–SueBE

I have to admit it.  I adore Christmas.  Adore it.

It is the one time of year that I get into glitter and shimmer and WOW.  Otherwise, I’m a denim, battered boot kind of girl.

But Christmas draws me in.  Tomorrow I’m heading into the basement on a quest for our advent wreath.  We’ve had this same wreath since my teen was a baby but then again it is a silver pillar plate.  On it we place votive candles.  Did you know votive candles were first made to light in prayer?  A ring of prayer candles on a plate.  It helps me remember to turn to God in prayer even when things are crazy hectic.

And I’m making a new outdoor decoration.  I love the lights.  Just love them.  But the decorations that draw me in?  Nativities and stars.  Snowflakes and light strings.  Our new piece is a pallet painted with a star and strung with solar lights.  Yep.  I’m even nerdy and green at Christmas.

But what may be the best part of Christmas?  When people remember those who have less.  Who are in need.  Our church helps fill backpacks for children taken into foster care.  We’ve already delivered the crib full of coats.  We always have a food barrel but now is when it gets a real workout.

Take the time to slow down for a moment here and there this holiday season.  Center yourself on the why of it all.   And go into the world with the peace and love that are His call to us all.  When the commercialism gets to you, return to that focus.  Make this Holy season your own.

–SueBE

Yesterday was giving Tuesday so I spent a lot of time thinking about the impact what all have on the world around us.  Give to an organization like Heifer or Presbyterian Disaster Relief, and it has an impact.  Your money pools together with the money of others and influences the lives of people we will most likely never meet.

But what if you don’t have money to give?  That’s the reality some of us face, we have time but not money.  The good news is that we can still give to others.  And many of these gifts will be much closer to home.  We can help with our children’s sports teams, in their schools or their scout troops.  We can help a neighbor run an errand.  We can sweep someone’s porch or shovel their walk.

And we can pray.  A lot has been said on social media in the last year belittling prayer.  And I get it.  When prayers are offered in times of pain and horror but nothing is done to prevent that same pain and sorrow the prayers seem empty.

But sincere prayer?  That is something else.

A friend recently lost his step-daughter to heroine.  We prayed.

Another friend’s mother is in-and-out of the hospital.  I’m not a doctor but I can pray.

Some people think these prayers do know good but when someone believes in the power of prayer?  When someone is suffering and feels alone, letting them know we are praying can truly help.  A friend of my son suffers from chronic migraines. When I let her know I am praying for her, the tension visibly drains away.

Take a moment today and say a prayer.  You can pray for someone you don’t know.  Or pray for someone you do know.  Pray for wisdom or compassion.  Like ripples in a pond, prayer impacts lives.

–SueBE

This coming Sunday marks the beginning of Advent.  Advent, the season that prepares us for the coming of Christ.  A time of anticipation and preparation.

Last Sunday, we discussed Glory and what it means to each of us.  The author of our lesson discussed the way we use the word in our daily lives.  “Not me,” I told the group.  “I don’t tend to use it.  When I say glory, I think God.”

Across the table, one of our engineers nodded.  “Awe.  Wonder.  Splendor.  The vastness that is God. It is bigger than anything we can imagine.

And, in all honesty, I have to say that pretty much sums God up for me.  Bigger than anything I can imagine.  Relatable?  Not in the least.

Personally, I think that is why Christ came to Earth as a baby.  A baby you can cradle in your arms.  A baby you can see and love and at least begin to understand.  Vastness understandable through Love.

–SueBE

Once again, I find myself teaching adult Sunday school.  I desperately want to succeed as a teacher and to me that means one thing.  I want to stir up a discussion.

Before class, I read the chapter we are covering. I read the lesson.  Then I read about how to teach it.  Sometimes I just don’t feel like I’ve gotten enough from these sources so I go online and look for other studies and discussions.  I’m not looking for answers as much as I’m looking for things that surprised me or contrasting perspectives.

Our study this time is on the book of Ephesians.  We’ve discussed predestination, glory and what it means to be Blessed through Christ.

The group ranges in age from 35 to 85.  We are accountants, engineers, gardeners, librarians and a writer.  It really surprises me when we all see something the same way but I like it best when we don’t because that is when I learn to look at something from another perspective.

–SueBE

 

Have a Mary Little Christmas

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