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You know the guy (or gal). The one that takes up space in your head, whose very voice you cannot stand to hear. The one that makes you grit your teeth, scream in frustration, want to resort to acts of violence. THAT guy (or gal). Mental health workers tell us not to let someone like that take up real estate in our heads or hearts because it’s not good for us. Why empower them that way? But it’s more than that.

I believe we will all be called onto the carpet at the end of our lives here on earth, and we will have to answer for our sins, lacks and weaknesses. THAT person will have to do this, too. Let God judge him (or her). But don’t add to your own liabilities by harboring ill will toward someone. Don’t let THAT person add to your deficits.

Forgive them — even if you have to do it multiple times daily — and love them. (You don’t have to like or respect them. Those things are earned.) After all, you can only change yourself. Make yourself the best you.

Lord, you know them:
They try the patience of saints.
They take what is good and render it sullied.
They walk on hearts in their big black boots.
They laugh at those on the margins because they live smack dab
in the center of the page, where nothing can assail them.
Safe. Satisfied.

Lord, I am old enough to know
there is little justice on this earth.
Let me not become a part of the problem.
Take my soul and bleach it clean.
Take my heart and reshape it like clay.
Take my voice and redirect it from pain to prayer.
Let me love the least lovable, so as to be
the least like them that I can be.

Scrolling through news headlines this morning on my phone, I clicked on an advice column that I enjoy and was surprised by the picture I saw. Normally, you can see the columnist’s face and upper torso in the picture, but today, due to a technical glitch, all you can see is her shoulder. 

This made me laugh. Why, this could be a cottage industry for her — an advice column about burdens we all must shoulder. “Talk to the shoulder!” could become a catch phrase. Her new book could be titled: “How to Carry the Weight of the World on Your Shoulders (and Get a Great Upper Body Work-out in the Process)”!

Because we can’t always see the bigger picture in life, sometimes the things we pray for really wouldn’t be good for us. Most of us have prayed for money, sometimes even a lottery win, but being filthy rich wouldn’t make you happier; it would make life harder. More taxes to pay. More “new friends” coming around asking for a piece of the pie. 

And that relationship you prayed would be “the one,” but wasn’t? If you have to compromise, accommodate and put yourself on the back burner, that wasn’t a relationship anyway, but a prison term. Why pray for what doesn’t serve you? 

While we see only a portion of it, God sees the whole picture. If he can hold up the whole world, you can rest assured, he’s got a shoulder for you to lean on, too. In the meantime, do what you can to improve your life. Surround yourself with positive people. Do your best at the work you do. Stay healthy and active — and try a few shoulder rolls to stay limber.😊

There is so much good here,
both on and around the table.
Look. Whatever we have today
is bounty because we may not have
it tomorrow. Let us bless one another.
The number of clasped hands matters not;
it is the electricity of love they carry
each to other, love that leaps chasms,
love that lights a path to a doorway
where everyone you know is gathered
and all are glad to see you, even if
this place never appears on this earth.
A blessing on you, on all of you.
Great grows the heart that
knows gratitude for what
is seen; greater, grander
when we envision what could be.

I’ve had Les Brown’s quote (see above) on my heart all week. I’m not sure why but you know how it is.  Sometimes you read something and it sticks with you.  Then I read Lori’s post two days ago and it started to gel.

When I act, I may or may not have a plan but what I do have is a goal.  Maybe I want to clean off one corner of my desk so that the cat has a better place to nap.  Or I want to reorganize the closet in my office.  I have something I want to get done, and I start looking for ways to make it happen.  This is when I’m likely to try something new and accomplish something.

When I react, I’ve put off acting and disaster is imminent.  Something needs to be done now.  The cat has just lumbered across my desk and that pile of papers on the corner is collapsing.  I have to grab it fast or it will knock over my coffee which may well ruin my key board.  Even if I succeed in catching it all and shoving it back against the wall, this isn’t a pretty solution.  I’ve still got a not mess on my hands.

Nine times out of ten, we aren’t looking ahead.  We know the poor need help and that God wants us to focus on Him.  But we’ve got things to do, places to go, appointments to make.  We aren’t looking for the opportunities or the signs from God.  We’ve got our own agenda in mind.

When something needs to be done now, we are too panicked and frantic to listen for the still, small voice.  But like Lori said, it has been there all along.

This is where prayer and meditation come in.  Even if you only take a few minutes a day, spend them in quiet contemplation.  Light a candle.  Get out your prayer beads.  Sit.  Breath in and out.  In and out.  Listen.  Who knows what nudge you might feel or what voice you might here.

–SueBE

I worry. I worry about how close the fires in California are coming to friends and family. I worry about my friends’ illnesses. I worry about money, time, schedules. And I pray. I pray so much that I sometimes worry about burnout — not mine, but God’s. With so many intentions, so many voices crying out, how can God possibly handle it all? Luckily for all of us, God has no limits.

When prayers bubble from my lips
in inexhaustible plentitude,
and I fear I have spread God too thin,
like margarine on toast,
suddenly I hear it — child, child.
There is no distance I cannot cover.
I hold the earth in the palm of my hand,
easy as an egg, a pebble, a shell.
Turn out my pockets. Like a mischievous boy
I have filled them: with galaxies, eons, the sighs of
the wistful, the tears of mourners, the muffled heartbeats
of animals in their dens. Each is considered.
Each is held with gravity. All the prayers of all the years
cannot dilute me or hold me back.
I hold my breath a beat.
And at once I know: All is well.

The Episcopal diocese of Washington DC moved this week to refer to God using inclusive language. Good for them. Yes, I know: God is referred to as male thousands of times in the bible. But Jesus himself says God is spirit (John 4:24), and spirit has no gender. Male pronouns have been standard usage for centuries, even when referring to groups with women in them. It’s a default, not a revelation.

Other pet peeves: Why was I never taught that Mary Magdalene is a composite of three different women and was amalgamated by one man — Pope Gregory the Great? And that there’s no biblical evidence that she ever earned a living as a prostitute? Why are Catholic children taught how important — how telling — it is that Jesus picked only male apostles, but the fact that he chose to reveal the Good News —and gave official sanction to spread that news — to women first, not men, is brushed past as though it doesn’t matter?

Why are we not told that all that “he-man, woman-hater” language in Paul’s epistles was likely inserted by monks inscribing them in the Middle Ages?

Why all the lies, both active and of omission? Why has my church kept my God from me?

God is not a rope to be tugged, a prize that falls to those who pull the hardest. God pours down on those in the margins. God comes to the poor, the disenfranchised, the weak. God stands with the powerless.

If you claim to represent God, but stand where God does not stand, what are you, really?

God our mother our father our life-giving hope,
Come to us, blind us with light that does not fail
to catch the corners, the alleys, the hidden places
your most needy children dwell. Burst boundaries.
Be bigger, loom larger, than words will warrant.
As you have before us, as you will long after.

Amen

My friend Krissy over at Visionarie Kindness Chronicles posted a poem today about her discovery of poetry and how it seeped into her being, helping her make sense of her life. It’s terrific. My origin story is more predictable: My mother read me poetry from the time I was a baby. I remember her reading “The Highwayman” — “the moon was a ghostly galleon/tossed upon cloudy seas/and the highwayman came riding” — and stopping to say, “Do you hear the horse’s hoofbeats?” She tapped out the rhythm of the poem and I HEARD IT. Nothing was the same after that.

I was in bed when poetry first found me,
pierced my heart ear-first, an elf, a thief,
a waif who having found warm welcome
would never leave me. I started hearing it
everywhere, whispering words I kept
hidden in the trunk of a tree, in a shoebox
with my paper dolls, behind the geraniums,
velvet-leafed, that flanked the house I
fledged in. They grew, took root,
cross-pollinated with prayer until
there wasn’t anyone else I could ever be,
so bound was poetry with my blood.
I wept alliteration, sighed in spondees.
I was a Phantom of Delight; I was
alone and palely loitering. I was
The Lady of Shalott in “My heart
belongs to Daddy” pajamas.
Heroes get powers. I got a pen.
But I learned how to fly with it anyway.
Now only God can see me coming.

…that hasn’t been said? Mass killing after mass killing, putting towns like Dayton and El Paso on the map in ways they wish had never happened. I’ve heard a lot of analysis about America in the last week, a lot of analysis about who kills and why. I am surprised to hear, for instance, that America is the only developed country with bad parents. The only one where kids play violent video games. They only country with any mental illness. These things must be true because gun violence doesn’t happen in any other developed country — not like it does here in the US.

Look, here’s what I know is true: America is a man with a gun standing before a thousand men with a thousand guns, representing a million men with a million guns, all claiming (all at once) that violence is never the fault of a man with a gun.

Here’s what else I know: There are more of us than there are of them.

Do not forget. Do not let anyone tell you to “put it behind you.” Keep it raw. Keep it festering. Hold it in your hand, even as it scorches your skin.

And then vote. Vote like your life depends on it, because it does.

Also, pray.

What is it that God wants us to do?  The question applies equally to tricky situations and big life choices.  There are a variety of ways to determine the answer.

Pray.  That one seems kind of obvious but how often do we remember to do it?  Should I take this class or that class?  Is this promotion a good choice?  What about giving money to this man with a sign?

Discernment.  Do you belong to a prayer group?  If so, ask the group to pray for you.  Ask them to listen for guidance.  Perhaps they can hear a message you cannot.

Read Scripture.  Often the answers to the questions we ask can be found in scripture.  Listen for God.  Help your neighbor (which extends to the broken lying in the road). Encourage your fellows in Christ.

Pray Again.  Remember, there is more than one way to pray.  You can use a prayer you have memorized such as the Lord’s Prayer (Thy will be done) or the Prayer of St. Francis (Let me not be).  You can pray while you draw or even while you walk.  Trace a finger labyrinth.  Sing.

Listen.  I don’t know about you but often I get so busy telling God what I want him to do, that I forget to listen.  But prayer is a conversation and, as any good conversationalist will tell you, conversation requires not only that you speak but also that you listen.

The answer may not be immediate.  Wait is also an answer and sometimes it is the one we least want to hear.

–SueBE

One of my friends works at a company that makes customized blankets and yard banners and much, much more.  Recently she explained to me how they do it.  When they make a blanket that is printed with an image of someone’s pet, they first print that image in reverse on a blanket-sized piece of paper.  Once that has been done, the blanket must be spread out oh so carefully so that it feeds through the steam press without shifting or wrinkling.  Then, as it passes over the paper, is it blasted with super steam.  The steam transfers and sets the image.

When I learn something and don’t use it, I forget. Then I find myself having to re-learn that particular skill.

Praying for my enemies?  Oh, yeah.  That does work.  It really changes my stinking thinking around.

Using my prayer beads?  Right — it slows down my thoughts and keeps my praying for much longer than my usual short-and-sweet memos to God.

Praying while I walk a labyrinth?  That’s one of the best places for me to hear God.

Knowledge that I don’t use is quickly lost.  Sure, it is wonderful when I regain it but how much better is it when use sets it up as a reliable practice?  Set by steam, ready for daily use.

–SueBE

Have a Mary Little Christmas

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