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Today, I’d like to challenge each and every one of you.  Call out the beauty that you see.  

Yes, we need to see what is wrong in this world before we can change it.  But if we dwell on the negative?  If we focus on the hate?  We lose hope.

And we lose more than hope.  We lose Light.  Not that Christ turns from us, and maybe this isn’t even true for everyone, but me?  I lose sight of the Light. I lose that feeling of warmth and His Love.

As with so many things, you need to maintain a balance.  Yes, you need to be aware of what is imperfect and flawed and needs to change.  But you also need to hold onto what is right and good.

With that in mind?  These two ladies I work with here?  Lori and Ruth, thank you for holding up the Light for all of us to see.

–SueBE

 

Choose what? Choose joy! 

As often happens, Lori’s post spoke to me.  Our family has known a great deal of stress lately with my MIL’s hospitalization, emptying her house and moving her to St. Louis (in one week), cleaning out my father’s house another week, and my son not getting to go to the college of his choice.

In the midst of all this, I got one of those calls.  Alex needed a ride.  Oddly enough, my son’s name isn’t Alex, but Alex and his older brother are friends of my son. Their mom died this winter and dad got divorced this spring.  Good bye, Mom.  Good bye, Stepmom.  Dad found a new job but he’s working retail hours with retail pay. I found out what this means when I fed the boys mac-n-cheese.  It’s good but it isn’t pick-me-up-off-the-floor good.  Apparently they’ve been living on pizza rolls.

As my grandmother would say, that got my German up.  I’ve fed them three times in the past week and they’re on a weekend trip now with my husband and son. Alex is comfortable enough now to ask me for things himself, instead of going through my son, and even teases me about being short.

Amidst all of this, I made it to choir practice on Thursday.  It is our last practice for the summer because our director may be facing hand surgery.  She’s scared and stressed and it showed.  When she asked several of us to sing solos this summer, I knew how to make her smile.  I suggested songs from the Veggie Tales.

Our choir director had never heard the Vegie Tales so we sang various songs for her.  We learned that one soprano does a spot on Larry Boy imitation. She sang Oh Santa.  Another soprano sang The Hairbrush Song.  I launched into Terrors of the Sea (We’re Vikings). By the time we were done, everyone was in stitches.  Seriously, you’d have thought we’d been drinking if you didn’t know how silly we can be.  Even when feeding extra boys and facing surgery.

God gives us laughter and we’re silly not to use it.  Laugh and feel closer to the God who made me, at 5’8”, the short one in the house.  God really does have a sense of humor.

–SueBE

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.

 

 

The other day, I baby-sat my ex-husband’s five-year-old daughter as she waited for the school bus. She’s one of my favorite people in the world, and it’s always a joy to spend time with My Princess.

So at 8:25, it was almost time for the bus to come. I asked her to put on her coat, but she was engrossed in a t.v. show.

Next, I asked her to get her backpack, but she wanted to find the right shade of blue for the picture she was coloring – of a princess, of course.

We went outside, heading for the driveway to wait for the bus, but she was concerned that a pile of branches was on top of some flowers growing by the front walk. “They don’t like to be covered,” she told me, and set about to move the branches, but I told her there wasn’t time. Bus was coming.

We got to the middle of the driveway and I realized she’d brought out the paper kite she’d made in school and she started to run in a circle, making it fly. Making her laugh. Making me laugh, too, in spite of myself. Every instinct said, No time to play. Bus is coming. Can’t miss the bus.

Finally, the bus arrived and she ran to me for a hug. “I love you so much, honey,” I said. She gave me another hug. But of course, you know the drill. Bus is waiting. She got on the bus and we waved good-bye.

It seemed as I watched the bus drive away that there were more than just decades that separated us. There was a great divide. The one between making sure you meet your obligations and really being in the moment and savoring life as it happens.

We go to great pains to make sure that the bus doesn’t wait; meantime, we make our souls wait.

You can play later, we tell ourselves. Be an adult. Playing isn’t what we do. What we do is meet deadlines. Put bills on auto-pay. Put ourselves on auto-pilot. Get on the bus. Get it done.

Maybe we spend our lives looking for the secret sauce that adds verve and vitality to our everyday existence, and it’s the one thing we un-learned on our way to adulthood.

Playtime isn’t frivolous. It’s a crucial nutrient that nurtures and nourishes the soul. Being a grown-up doesn’t have to be a chronic condition. So I say, any time you can tap into your inner child, kick off your shoes and play on!

three little cover

Opinions are like elbows – everybody’s got one, and sometimes they’re out of joint.

With so many troubling things going on in the world today, everybody has a theory about why these things happen, and what to do about them.

I think that there are some good, solid values that endure, despite the fact that times are constantly changing.

If positive attributes had Christian names, we might be more inclined to take them to heart.

Grace: your friend who calls before you even know you’re down in the dumps. She shows up at the door with fresh-baked muffins while you’re still on the phone and takes your mind off of your troubles.

Moxie: a sweet little girl in pig-tails who never gives up. You see her at the end of the block, playing hopscotch like an Olympian, even when it starts to rain. Winning the game is her goal and she will not be deterred!

Joy: that shelter dog you’ve seen on the internet who has worked her way into your heart. A two-minute video of that pup wagging her tail and tilting her head tells you she’s already chosen you. It’s just a matter of time before you come around and head to the shelter to pick her up.

We’ve all got troubles to deal with, but there’s a way to meet them head on.

Being gracious in a hectic world, being tenacious when trials come your way, and being vivacious when your heart’s almost bursting from blessings.

Oh, and lest we forget: there’s your cousin. The one who keeps sending you encouraging emails and checks on you when you’re sick. Her name? Faith, of course.

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.

joyful noiseIf you’ve been reading our little blog for any length of time, you probably already know that whether I’m praying or worshipping, I adore music. So it really isn’t surprising that part of the season that gives me the most joy is the music.

Until Thursday night.  That’s when our choir director introduced us to Sunday’s anthem – From Heaven above to Earth I Come.  The text is an oldie but a goodie from Martin Luther.  The music is Bach.

Ugh. Bach.

As much as I love listening to Bach, we’d tried singing Bach once before.  I don’t remember how many times we ran through it that long ago night, but it was such a train wreck that we never even performed it. It wasn’t the same song, but it was Bach.  Translation: Complexity here I come!

We ran through page 1.  Oh heaven help us.  That was bad.  Then we did it again, and again, and yet again.  By about the fourth time through, we were somewhat amazing.  That said, everyone sings the melody on page 1.

From there we broke into parts.  It was slow going as each section learned one line at a time and then we’d sing that single line together.  Line by line.

When we started to flag, Abe explained to us why he had chosen such a hum dinger. Simple music is fun to sing, but something that is this complicated gives us the opportunity to offer something up to God that requires focus and effort. It is an offering worthy of the God who gave us His All . . .  His Son . . . His Grace.

As I drove home with Bach bouncing around in my head, I thought back on the Christmas music my mother and I had most enjoyed together – Handel’s Messiah. If you’ve ever had to sing the Hallelujah Chorus you know it is anything but simple, but it is such an amazing piece that it brought a King to his feet.

Sure, I love Bing Crosby and Nat King Cole, two more Mom introduced to me, but I can truly sink my teeth into Handel.  Joy can be simple but it can also be marvelously complex.

–SueBE

“Joy is what happens to us when we allow ourselves to recognize how good things really are.”
–Marianne Williamson

When was the last time that you felt joy? That you laughed out loud?  Hummed a happy song?

Even if you are generally happy person, there are times that you don’t feel joyful.  Maybe you are in pain from a chronic illness or you’ve lost a loved one.  Perhaps your job is in jeopardy or you are waiting to hear back from the bank.

These are all stressful times when it is hard to feel anything but sorrow and worry.

That’s why I was so surprised to read about a woman named Aloise.  A polio victim, Aloise was trapped in a wheel-chair when the holocaust swept through Rwanda in 1994 and so many Tutsis were killed.  Yet she made it to a refugee camp with her two sons.

When author Immaculée Ilibagiza met Aloise, the woman’s laughter could be heard ringing across the camp.  Of course, she had her sons so she had reasons to be joyful.

But she also had reasons for sorrow.  She had no idea if her husband was still alive and in hiding.  Furthermore, on her own journey, her infant daughter had died.

Yet, she chose joy.  Even in the midst of a holocaust, she laughed.  She celebrated, and in doing this she lifted up those around her.

If you haven’t read Ilibagiza’s Left to Tell, pick it up today.  I wasn’t sure I’d enjoy the book, such sorrow!, but it is more than sorrow.  It is the story of how one woman found God while hiding from her would-be killers.  If is about how she found courage and wonder even in the midst of so much killing.

And, truly, if the Tutsi women of Rwanda could find reasons to be joyful in 1994, so can we.

–SueBE

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