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Social media is a funny thing.  It gives us the illusion that we have the right to weigh-in on other people’s lives which might be okay if we limited ourselves to the action they wrote up in a post.

My friend Anne was pregnant with her second child when she lost her first to cancer.  Their family has a sweet little ritual they do whenever they visit someplace new.  It is their way of still including their lost child in their lives.  Note, he’s been gone less than 18 months.

She tweeted about this and got a scathing comment about what an awful parent she is because she never posts about her living child. Clearly he gets none of her attention.

Really?  Is it clear?  So far today, I have posted about the class I am teaching, a photo of a baby rhino and the above quote.  I have also eaten breakfast, gotten dressed, made my bed, taken the boy to school, gone to get the boy, and picked up in the kitchen. If someone was to post that my family is suffering because I focus on baby animals?  They would be wrong.

Why is it when we see something we don’t like, we think whatever has offended us is all there is to this person?  I’m not innocent here.  People post things that annoy me, but I don’t comment.  I try not to judge and even when I fail and do it, I do not let myself post.

Sure, God knows I had the uncharitable thought but I don’t have to toss it out there for all of the rest of you to see.

–SueBE

spring

The weather was beautiful today here in New Jersey, and everyone on the block was outside, trying to make the most of it.

One neighbor had his convertible top down and rolled into his driveway, music blaring. The volume was so loud that I could hear the drum beat and bass line thumping in my house. The Judge Judy in my head nudged me: Kids today! How rude!

But in truth, the thing is, he’s trying to be heard, albeit in a way that may not be well-received by those around him. He likes that song. He can afford that nice car. He thinks he has good taste in general, and he wants to be known for that.

Another neighbor was outside, blow-drying her lawn. Now, I know the term should be “leaf-blowing,” but the thing is, there’s not a leaf in sight. She primped her yard all day long and that constant, high-pitched whir really got under my skin. The Judge Judy in me barked: You’ve proved your point! You’ve got a lot of time and money on your hands, so you spend it all on your fabulous yard. Congrats! But the thing is, it’s her money. It’s her yard. Her landscaping isn’t directed toward me as a slap in the face, even if I might choose to receive it that way.

On the block behind mine, kids were playing tag in the street, screaming at the top of their lungs. Normal, you say? Well, the thing is, even though they were playing, the screams were blood-curdling, as if someone was in danger. They “play-screamed” things such as, “No! Stop! Help! Get off me! You’re killing me!!!”

Once I saw their father coming outside, I thought he’d put an end to these heart-wrenching screams. Instead, he just joined in! Now he was “play-screaming,” too! The Judge Judy in me shook her head: A mother would never do that! But perhaps she would. And maybe this is just how they express themselves. The thing is, I could spin it in my mind to say, At least the kids are outside on a beautiful day, and their father is spending time with them.

The thing is, it’s a big world, and there is a wonderful way for me to share it with all my neighbors: knock off the stone-throwing and the nit-picking and focus on the bountiful blessings in my own life. And, while I’m at it, I’d better put the Judge Judy in my head on mute.

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.  Ephesians 2:8-9 (NIV)

An email from my son’s school last week informed me that, as required by the No Child Left Behind Act, all students’ names would be supplied to military recruiters unless we specifically requested to opt-out.

I sat with this email for a good, long time, pondering.  It just poked at the Mama Bear in me.

Please! I thought, before I cooled my jets. Please do leave my child behind, if you’re including him in being solicited to serve on a battlefield. Heck, what-say you just put us on your “do not call list.”

Instead, let me offer these options. Perhaps he could:

  • Play Twister with a rabid porcupine.
  • Hang glide off of the roof of our house into a pile of bubble wrap.
  • Show up at Donald Trump’s news conference and offer him some hair gel.

(Pausing for deep breathing exercises…)

Okay. I’m back now.

It’s amazing how the intent of an idea can translate into something completely unintended. It reminds me of the way people of faith sometimes use scripture for their own purposes.

Just because you found a passage in the Bible doesn’t mean God intended you to use his words against anybody. You don’t have the right to ostracize, exclude or judge and say you’re speaking for the Maker of All Things. That’s not faith; that’s negativity. It’s bad manners, dressed up in their Sunday best.

People can try to sell you a bill of goods, wrap it up with a bow and call it a present, but you know the truth.

There’s only one way to pray: from the heart.

And only one path to peace.

In a word: grace.

Or, to put it another way… No Child of God Left Behind.

When Caitlyn Jenner revealed herself as a transgender woman, I was as surprised as everyone else. But one thought really nagged at me: Why would anyone willingly subject themselves to high heels, eyelash curlers, and leg waxing? Bandage dresses, girlfriend? C’mon now. Are you revealing yourself as a woman or as a masochist?

Of course, I jest, but this is a serious subject for people that believe they were assigned the wrong gender at birth.

For years, I have to admit, I couldn’t get my head around someone deciding to change genders. I subscribed to the notion that God doesn’t make mistakes, and thought it was too extreme an act. But over time, I’ve come to realize that there are many things I don’t understand in life, but it’s never given me license to judge or vilify.

For someone to live as another gender and endure ostracism and injustice, I have to believe this must be deeply felt. This must have been there all along. I can’t grasp it all, as I’m from a small town in my own head most of the time (population: me), but I know this must always have existed in them.

I went to high school with a girl who began dressing as a boy from an early age. The only time you knew she was a girl was when you saw her sitting next to her identical twin sister, who had long hair and wore dresses. If she was willing to put herself through the gauntlet of high school in New Jersey, this must have been deeply felt for her. (Let me re-phrase that, please.) If he was willing to put himself through the gauntlet of high school in New Jersey, this must have been deeply felt for him.

And even though I’m saying these nice, progressive words, I still don’t truly get it. I’m not sure why God would create anyone with another gender embedded inside them. It seems like a lot to put a person through in a lifetime. But maybe I don’t need to get it. Maybe I just need to walk the talk and treat everybody with respect. Maybe then they’ll be free to fully be themselves. Maybe those of us who believe can agree to soften our hearts, open our minds and let God take care of the rest.

Compassion isn’t a passing fad. Like so many things, it must be deeply felt.

The other night in a dream, someone told me, “You can either have a project …or be the project.”

In other words, always be doing something constructive with your life or somebody will come along, make you their project and try to “fix” you.

In the news today, a New Jersey public school principal was transferred after a misspelled sign in front of the school went viral. A custodian had changed the sign at an entrance not used by staff, so no one noticed it for a week.

It was startling to see such a sign in front of a school, but the venomous reaction to it really surprised me. Ironically, people making comments on the article seemed unaware of their own spelling errors. One man wrote that he was “dumfounded” by the mistake.

Another pointed out that she had seen such errors as well on the “bulleting board” at her son’s school. She said this was “indicitive” of the crisis in the educational system in general. More than one commenter said it really wasn’t the “principle’s” fault, but the “parens.”

Seems like we always want to make the other person our project.

Instead of throwing stones, maybe someone could offer to help the custodian with reading comprehension. Everyone wants to assign blame but nobody has anything helpful to say. Isn’t it possible to reach out with compassion instead? That would be a great project for the commenters to take on.

My goal for the new year is to always have a productive, constructive project. That way, nobody will take it upon themselves to make me their project. Here’s wishing you all a happy, healthy, joyful new year with positive projects and prayers aplenty!

One of my favorite preachers is Joyce Meyer.  I was watching her program, “Enjoying Everyday Life,” the other day, and she said, “When you say an unkind word to anyone you’re judging them.  As if you think you’re better than them.”

Amen!  I said to the screen.

She said, “Oh, you’re not gonna like to hear this, you people.  So I’ll say it again.”

Preach, girl!  I said.

“When you say anything unkind about anyone.  Anywhere.  It’s from your ego.”

Should she be wearing that big, bunchy necklace with such a busy print shirt?  I said to myself.

“Because when you do that, you’re saying you’re better…”

Whoa!  Caught myself there.  I was just sitting here agreeing with what Joyce Meyer was saying.  Then I turned around and judged her!

Well.  I won’t make that mistake twice.

“See, it says here in the Bible that when you say an unkind word…”

She really is so grumpy compared to Joel Osteen.  And hits us over the head all the time with the Scriptures that make us squirm.  Why is her lipstick that color?

Whoosh!  A waterfall of judgment.  All over the place, I’m thinking judgmental thoughts.  And all the while, claiming to be edified by this preaching.

I was really not getting the message.  For the entire half hour, I found myself going back to things that were petty and pointless.  How cold the sanctuary seemed.  Not temperature-wise; it just wasn’t warm and welcoming, as I thought a church should be.  How the people in the congregation were dressed like they were going to work on casual Friday.

There was no stopping the stream of missing-the-point non sequiturs until I realized:

  • Some scriptures are supposed to make us squirm,  and
  • Some sermons are surgical scalpels.

They cut right to the heart of what’s holding you back.

I did finally get the message, but it might just be for today.  Maybe I’ll get some credits in faith college and eventually matriculate into maturity. I know it’s time to get on the right track and pay attention to the core of my being:  my soul. This is where the learning curve begins. If I’m judging others, I’m not right with God.  I won’t even ask what my GPA (God Point Average) is yet; I’m just glad He even allowed me to enroll.

Judge not. It’s a pretty basic rule but its one we violate all the time, especially when we have too much time on our hands.

For the past two summers, my son has been on the city swim team. Every morning as he does lap after lap of freestyle, backstroke, breast stroke and butterfly, I chat with the other moms. We discuss home improvements and we watch each other’s kids swim, run and play soccer.

You know how it is – when you have 100+ kids together you are going to see a full range of behaviors from the kids and hear a full range of comments from the moms.  “They just aren’t like we were.”

Maybe not, but sometimes they are a whole lot better than anyone I knew as a teen.  At our first regular swim meet, a swimmer I’ll call Alex drove this point home.

Working as a scribe, I was at the edge of the pool all night. Up close to the action – both the good and the bad. I hate watching a young swimmer struggle and that night I had to fight not to go in the water. One of the little bitties (some as young as 4 years) panicked as he dove in. Instead of swimming down the lane, he clung to the rope in hysterics. The coaches could not get him to move.

The next thing I knew, Alex was in the water heading straight for the little guy.* First, he repositioned the boy’s goggles. Then he started talking. “Come on. Just a few strokes. You can do it. I know you can.” He never did get the boy to swim but Alex tried and he was in the water right along side him. Later he stopped one of the moms and told her how badly it hurt him to see the younger swimmer so scared.

Wow.

Sure, there are teens out there who are serious players – into and out of all kinds of trouble. But there are also great kids like Alex, kids that other kids are drawn to, not for all of the wrong reasons, but because they reflect His light into the world.

If only we will let ourselves see it.

–SueBE

*No, you can’t do this without the other swimmer being disqualified, but because he was hanging on the rope, he was already DQ’ed.

Along with my morning perk, I tend to have a “morning irk.” A headline inevitably riles me up. That’s how you know you’re getting old and cranky; your bad moods are like regularly scheduled programming.

Anderson Cooper Struggling to Survive in Daytime, was the headline.

Okay. Gloria Vanderbilt’s son, a fairly established sort-of-celebrity himself, wants us to believe he is struggling in some way.

Pardon me while I let my Jersey out. Struggling? You don’t know from struggling, Anderson. Not for nuttin, but there are people who think they have problems and there are people with real stuff to deal with.

Paper or plastic. Pepperoni or plain. These are not problems.

Lunch or dinner. Medicine or meals. These are problems.

I mean, really Coop. (May I call you Coop?) If ratings are your biggest concern in life, you’ve got it easy!

As I sat there, steaming like a latté, I realized I was indulging in what Lori would call a First World problem. Getting all high and mighty about what someone else should be thankful for.

I had to wake up and smell the coffee. Thinking that someone else is being ungrateful actually means I’m the one being ungrateful for God’s grace. My morning irk became a learning experience. Be grateful for your blessings, and graceful to your fellow travelers. Judge not, ya big jamoch (my words, not God’s!) Two lumps of sugar. One lump on the head. I get it – for now, anyway.

SueBE wrote an insightful blog post entitled Rules and Hair Splitting and posed some questions about who our neighbors are.

“Do unto others . . . which others?  In every situation?  Be kind to our neighbors . . . The ones with the yapping dog?”

As SueBE might say, Ahem.  There is a neighbor with a yapping dog across the way.  I know that what I’m thinking when I hear it barking at 1 AM is not very godly.

Then there’s the flip side of that coin.  While I’m passing judgment on them, they’re tossing it back in my direction.

My dear friend and neighbor called today to give me her two cents about how to raise my son.  I know she means well.

But today, she caught me when I didn’t have my filter on.

“You know, I gotta tell ya,” I said, “I’ve heard from a lot of bystanders as I raise my son. Anybody that wants to pay my bills and my mortgage gets to offer input, but everybody else can keep their opinions to themselves.”

Let’s not even bother to sugar-coat it:  we all judge each other.  The tricky part is knowing when to say what’s on your mind and when to use discretion.

After all, I didn’t tell her what I thought the day I was chatting with her and she suddenly started screaming at her husband in anger.

What I’ve learned is that sometimes you give the ball to someone else, and sometimes you receive it.  Just make sure that when you pass judgment, you’re ready for what might fly back in your direction.

 

Over the next couple of weeks, I’ll be posting some things that I learned while teaching an adult Bible study on parables.  But today I wanted to share a poem that one of the men shared.  Definitely some food for thought.

Judge Not
by Jo Emefo

I dreamed death came the other night.
And Heaven’s gate swung wide;
With kindly grace, an angel ushered me inside.
And there to my astonishment
Stood folks I’d known on earth.
Some I’d judged and labeled,
As unfit, or of little worth —
Indignant words rose to my lips,
But never were set free;
For on every face showed stunned surprise–
No one expected ME!

 This one really makes you think, doesn't it?
--SueBE

Have a Mary Little Christmas

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