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The world is spiraling out of control. We are not evolving, but de-evolving. Every day things become more vicious, more divisive, more hopeless.

Here’s where you’re expecting me to say, “Have hope! God is with us!” I am not going to say that.

I’m growing increasingly tired of hearing, “hope and pray that things will improve.” I’m not sure that’s enough. It feels to me as if God is pushing our buttons lately, with a very intentional agenda in mind: What will it take?

What will it take for you to call your senator? What will it take for us to understand that we are all human beings and need to take care of one another? What will it take to stop blaming and start working on solutions? What will it take for us to wake up?

It is all very well and good to hope and pray. In fact, prayer can be powerful action. But there is more to be done, and it starts with making our actions congruent with our beliefs. Do you claim to be a Christian yet don’t care about (or actively work against) the welfare of the poor, the immigrant, those standing on the margins (like the LGBTQ community)? You might want to re-evaluate. Do you hate liberals? Conservatives? Hating is not a Christian value. Spewing that hatred, whether online or at a “rally” is not a Christian activity.

Which is not to say that Christians have a corner on morality; we don’t. And part of God’s wake-up call to us is recognizing that we, in our diversity of faith traditions, are more alike than different, that Sharia law doesn’t hurt me any more than someone keeping kosher does — just follow your own beliefs and be considerate of others’ beliefs. Religion isn’t the enemy; it’s people who misconstrue and misinterpret religion, who forget that God is love — above all else.

I firmly believe that Jesus was a radical. He didn’t come to soothe anybody’s spirits; he came to shake things up. And that’s what God is doing now. God is shaking and shaking us, trying to make us declare exactly who and what we are and what we believe is right and just.

So…are you ready to stand up? If not, what will it take?

Another Reason to follow the Golden Rule.

Yesterday was a crummy day. Fortunately, Tuesday was wonderful — chock-full of blessings and outright miracles. That’s the way life is sometimes. Pondering Tuesday’s beneficence, I keep thinking, “I didn’t deserve all that.” But isn’t that the point? Grace is unearned. God bestows it freely, even lavishly. All this generosity got me thinking about God’s love for each of us. It’s a little overwhelming. And there is no “why” or “because” about it. It just is. Here are some loose, unrefined thoughts on the matter:

Someone has a crush on you and it’s God.
Someone gave you a candy heart that said
LOVE YOU and meant it and it was God.
Someone sends ridiculous declarations,
love songs on the radio,
twenty dozen long-stemmed roses,
chocolates hand-dipped by blind monks,
a stuffed plush bear the size of a Volkswagen.
And it’s God.
God says you get a car and you and you and you
and they’re all dream cars even if yours is a Mercedes
and mine is a Porsche.
Someone swoons over you, knees knocking, heart
ticking quick as a metronome at full speed,
chest so tight breath barely breaks,
and it’s God.
To God, you are marvelous. Amazing. A wonder.
A sonnet with legs and arms and a face.
God will never get over you.
You might as well sign for the package;
take it in your hands. Guess its worth.
You will always come up short.

For the book lovers among us…Always makes me think of Mother Teresa and Gandhi.

Since we lost our cat Bella two weeks ago, the house seems empty. The irony is, we still have three cats. They are elderly, quiet, less active than they used to be. They are also the last three of a “pride” that once numbered eleven. Going from 11 to three is a dramatic decline. We feel like empty nesters.

Two feelings have arisen in me simultaneously: A desire to adopt more cats plus an equal desire to never adopt again. It is difficult for me to not want to help every stray and needy animal that’s out there. On the other hand, every time we lose one, it hurts dreadfully. I don’t want to hurt again, even though I know I will as three becomes two becomes one becomes zero. Each of our adoptees filled a special space in my heart. They taught me about patience, nurturing, joy and love. As they leave the earth, they take that piece of me with them.

I’ve had to analyze why it is I want to reopen what’s left of my heart to another animal. I think it’s because it’s easier to love animals than to love people. Cats appreciate the smallest luxuries, especially after a life on the streets: a warm bed, plentiful food, a clean box. But people? They’re complicated. Jealous. They come with baggage. It’s harder to please them. It’s harder to show them love. There’s no guarantee that they’ll purr in response to your efforts.

I clearly have a lot of love to give or I wouldn’t have adopted so many animals in my lifetime. What makes it so difficult to transfer that loving from animals to people? Maybe it’s because I understand cats. I can communicate with them. People, not so much, even though we do share a species, language and culture. You’d think it would be the other way round.

And it brings up the following question: Why can’t we accept the simplest acts of love from one another? Why do we look into every gesture, every word, for subtext, motive, hidden agendas? Probably because we’ve been hurt by those things before. If we could give and receive love as easily and freely as animals do, we’d probably be a lot better off. If all it took to restore someone’s good mood was a scratch behind the ears, I’d be doing a lot more scratching. And those good moods would be creating a mountain of good will.

So don’t be put off if some lonely looking woman comes up to you and offers you a sardine or rub under the chin. It’s just me, looking for connections in a simpler, stranger language. Take it as a compliment. Or hand me a kitten. Either way, I’m good.

Carry God’s love into the day and you will be carrying fire!chardin

madonaIf I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. 1 Corinthians 13:1-3.

That was the Bible verse of the day for Friday and I have to admit that I laughed out loud. No, it isn’t funny but it is astonishingly appropriate.

How many would-be discussions lately degenerate into name calling? If you didn’t join the Women’s March, you’re a conservative misogynist.  If you aren’t a female veteran, then you really haven’t fought for anyone’s rights you tantrum throwing liberal.

Obviously, these are not people who knew my grandmother who would remind them that honey is sweeter than vinegar and everyone can be caught with a little honey.  Yeah, G-ma had an amazing sweet tooth but she also had a point.

Sweetness and love win people over a whole lot faster than name calling and hate. Speak without love and you’re liable to sound harsh and possibly even hateful. That’s what happens when you call names and belittle others.  You look small minded and . . . small.

honeyIt doesn’t matter what realities and truths you know, if you don’t have love you won’t connect with people and your message will go out to no one. Love brings with it compassion and empathy.  It carries grace and generosity.  It opens your ears so you can hear and your heart so you can feel.  Do this and you will be able to share the realities that you see.

It doesn’t matter how much you give and how much effort you put out, when you do it without love . . . pointless. Why? Because it will look like you are doing it all for your own glory. If, on the other hand, you openly and honestly care for other people, that will show and your actions will be seen as generosity.

Love begets caring.  Love begets understanding.  Love begets empathy.  Without it? Vinegar, harsh and stinging.

It’s your choice – honey or vinegar?

–SueBE

angelou

I don’t go around thinking about Original Sin all that much. Who does? It’s like an old stain on a favorite shirt. Who remembers how it got there? But something our friend Lady Calen wrote recently caused me to have what can only be deemed a revelation: What if Original Sin isn’t what we think it is? What if it isn’t disobedience — which, let’s face it, never made much sense (“You can eat from any of the trees in the garden except that one. It’s the best one, by the way.”). What if it’s a little more personal?

Just after the fracas with the apple, God asks Adam and Eve why they’ve donned snappy little outfits made of leaves. Adam says, essentially, “We were naked, so we covered ourselves up.” But who told them that being naked was a bad thing? Who got into their heads with comments like, “Seriously, Eve, those thunder thighs. Put on a skirt”? Not the snake. They did it themselves.

What if Original Sin is a failure to love ourselves properly?

Take a minute to think it through. What if our inability to love ourselves is at the root of sin and hatred toward others? What would happen if we stopped running ourselves down and fully participated in the gifts we were bestowed? Maybe something miraculous.

But Lori, you might say (if you knew me well enough to know my name), plenty of people love themselves. In fact, they love themselves a little too much. Maybe that’s just the other side of the sinful coin. Narcissism is like looking at oneself the wrong way through a telescope. It has no more to do with reality than undermining ourselves constantly. And it can lead to the same failure to love others properly. Only after we are at home in ourselves — neither grossly overvaluing nor undervaluing our beings — can we properly live among others.

Does that sound too easy? Well, contemplate this: How many of us have managed to love ourselves properly, historically speaking? How many of us have got it right? Someone who loves herself does not start a war. He or she does not commit violence. He or she does not hate others, because he/she is secure in him/herself. So the answer to the aforementioned questions is this — practically nobody.

It is our lives’ work to know and love ourselves, to find our place in the world at large. That’s it. And yet we fail at it, over and over again. I’m not excluding myself. Just this morning I wondered why on earth I should love a short-tempered old cow like myself. I haven’t got the answers. I can only pose the questions.

But if loving ourselves is the point — if failure to love is our Original Sin — hadn’t we better get a jump on fixing it? Let’s start now, during this blessed season, by doing one thing for ourselves. Take a nap. Be content with the presents you’ve bought. Stop stressing. And just open your heart up, to yourself and to the world. You know, sometimes I put two and two together and make a pretty good-sounding “four.” I’m gonna rest in that knowledge today.

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My son, Cole, graduated from high school this past June, and he received many lovely gifts, but the one that warmed my heart was a simple card that he received from his sister, Isabel.

At first blush, one might see a re-purposed holiday card, but look closely: it’s actually a benediction. It’s a five-year-old girl’s way of bestowing a blessing on one of her favorite people in the world.

Isabel really loves some Cole. And I can honestly say, the feeling is mutual.

Once, while she was visiting, I asked my son to put out the garbage and recycle bins, and he headed for the door. “I want to help!” Isabel said. “No, honey, it’s garbage. Dirty.” “But I can help Cole!” she insisted. “Well, okay. You can be his helper,” I said. “You walk with him as he carries out the cans.”

And she did. Silently, scrupulously, she walked side-by-side with her brother as he carried one, two, three cans of garbage. It was impressive that she could match his loping teen-age stride, as he’s 6”3, and, at five-years-old, she’s considerably shorter. She walked exactly in his footsteps. If he stopped short, so did she. If he scratched his cheek, she did, too. My son noticed her doing this and I saw that he smiled ever so slightly. I was amazed that the kids putting out the garbage could almost move me to tears!

The nice thing is, as Isabel said so eloquently in the graduation card she wrote to Cole, they love each other, but they also like each other. That’s a big deal. You can’t force kids to enjoy each other’s company, even if they live in the same household, and these two live in different homes.

The graduation card may look like a Christmas card to most, but to me, it’s actually a gift card. What a gift to have kids in our lives! What a gift to have family that gets along so well! What a gift to see the ones you love making their own way in the world. Well, come to think of it… with all these gifts, maybe it is Christmas after all.

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