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…that’s what my college roommate used to tell me every time I spoke without thinking — which was often. As SueBE discussed in her most recent post, oftentimes — especially when it comes to the newfangled media we use daily — we speak or write without fully thinking through the ramifications. I know I do. Mea culpa. Guilty as charged. My brain is only tenuously connected to my mouth in the best of circumstances. So what do I end up doing? Opening my mouth and inserting my foot, over and over again. I can issue all the blanket apologies in the world, but that won’t cut it; not when people are hurt. So, what to do? Short of a mystery illness robbing me of my ability to speak for all of time to come (something I’ve actually wished for), I can pray for change.

Struck dumb — I mean stupid,
startlingly so — and yet the words flow,
a curious experiment gone wrong,
incongruous fluids knocked from vials,
pooling into something strange:
Will I turn into a giant? Or a fly?
Will caustic chemicals rip through
flesh or will they coalesce, landing
with a thud — a rotten egg, an elephant
in the room, all heavy feet and gray
implacability? God, lift my tongue
or snip it. The wiring is bad or else
I’ve lost the remote control. Either way,
words are imperfect. Unfixable.
Sharp and irrevocable. I need a new
language, a learned vernacular:
with as many words for love
as the Sami have for “snow.”
White. Blanketing. Hushed.
Words that rise like prayers,
like steam from a hot bath,
like the susurrous sound
of a sigh. Or silence.
Silence will do.

We’ve all heard the advice, think before you speak.  Of course, it also extends to thinking before you tweet, post or comment.  Too bad I don’t always remember that!

This morning an acquaintance posted two photos of her old house.  One was the two-story Victorian as she and her husband had restored it. She made sure we were clear on that – they had restored it to how it should have been when they bought it.  Then she shared a photo of how the most recent owner, now selling the house, had repainted the exterior.

Restored featured shell pink with white trim.

The new paint job is purple with gold, not metallic, trim.

My first thought was that in the west Texas sun, the pink looked faded and tired.  Not to mention I hate pink.  Really.  Unless its raspberry which is so sassy I have to love it.  But anyway, I digress.  I knew better than to say the house looked faded.

My second thought was to be honest and tell her that I like the purple better, because it is a strong color and I like strong colors.  And it doesn’t look faded and tired.  Fortunately, my filter once again engaged.

Then I realized that the pink was better.  Think how much easier that color would be to paint over!

Wait, no.  Strike that comment.

In the end, I kept my big mouth shut, an all too rare occurrence.

Often God works slowly, or at least that’s how it seems to we mortals as we rush around and demand heavenly solutions now, Now, NOW!   But slow is often what we need. It gives us time to situate ourselves, casting aside what will get in the way, developing more positive habits.

It is hard to trust and feel hear during these great expanses of time.  This seems to be especially true today as we Tweet and post and get feedback almost instantaneously.  We equate these rapid responses with deep approval.

God works slower than that and that’s okay.  Because what God builds we can rely on.  Social media?  Not so much.

–SueBE

My town has a community forum on Facebook.  It is a great place to find out about free concerts and other community events.  Unfortunately, it is also where people go to complain, fuss and fume.

On Monday, one of the members put up a joking post.  “So what are you all mad about today?”  Unfortunately, a lot of people didn’t get that he was joking and started responding with all of the little things that had already annoyed them yesterday morning. Soon it had gone from a joke to a community gripe session.

Me?  I try to limit my complaints online.  I post positive, inspirational quotes like the one above.  I post baby animals.  You can see both on my Facebook page. I share news about my friend’s books.  I post about the awesome things my local library does.

I’m not saying that nothing ever annoys me.  Lots of things do, but I don’t want to be that person.  So instead of complaining online, I get up.  I walk.  I weave.  I work on a puzzle.  I play a game with the boy.  And let me tell you, that boy is good at making me laugh. Comedy is definitely one of his gifts.  And last of all, I sleep on it.

If I still feel the need to post, I post.  That’s why most of my unhappy posts tend to be “big ticket items.” Social justice.  Conservation. The environment.  I don’t only see the positive but one of the gifts that God gave me is the ability to let things slide.  Sure, I saw what so-and-so was wearing.  And I too think the school superintendent’s message could have been better worded.

But once I sleep on issues like these and share a good laugh with the boy?  It just isn’t worth commenting on.

–SueBE

 

 

A couple of weeks ago, I was short-sighted enough to disagree with a friend of my husband on Facebook.  I should have known.  Really, really should have known.  It isn’t that I dislike him but I know him.  He is pushy.  I think he’s condescending because I’m female.  My husband counters that he’s condescending because he’s breathing.  Female.  Male.  People in general.  Condescension will happen.

And when it did?  I lost all perspective.  It became the most important part of my evening.  Again and again I looked up his comment.  How dare he!?  The amount of energy that went into verifying, repeatedly, that he had been rude and he’d done it more than once was, in hindsight, embarrassing.  I should have just turned my back on the whole thing.  I should have turned to face something or Someone entirely different.

What if I’d spent that evening doing something God wants me to do?  Using the talents God gave me?  Facing into the Light?  Maybe nothing grand would have happened.  But, if nothing else, I’d have had a much better evening.

And if we did this often and consistently?  I can’t help but think that we’d get a lot more accomplished acting as His hands and feet on this earth.

–SueBE

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

Scrolling through one of my favorite sites, Katzenworld, I found an interesting article about feeding cats raw food. There was a picture of the recommended brand, along with the words, “Made with Human Meat.”

What the heck?

Nearly fell off the chair. Had to scroll back up quickly.

“Made with Human Grade Meat.”

Oh. That’s a relief!

For a minute I thought I’d taken a turn into the Twilight Zone, and stumbled into the Little Shop of Horrors!

One word can make all the difference sometimes.

In today’s political climate, you don’t have to agree with everybody you meet. Online, you don’t have to dignify mean-spirited comments about what you believe, or where you come from, or how you live. But sometimes, one word of kindness can change the conversation.

And if it doesn’t, you may come to the conclusion that this isn’t a conversation anyway, but a monologue. You can always – respectfully – unfollow people who bring drama into your feed. This is true in real life as well. There comes a time when you realize that people who were once your friends bring nothing but negatives into your world. It’s okay to let them go.

In many cases, this will happen by attrition as you refuse to get sucked into the vortex of either/or online. You’re one of us, or you’re one of them. Someday, the zeitgeist will change, and we’ll see each other as people again. Until that time, unplugging from the constant barrage of angst and anger will do your soul good. Here’s one word that will hold your heart together: peace.

“Happy birthday!” I said to my teen-age son, and walked over to give him a hug. Huh. How about that. My son was so much taller than me that his shoulder was over my head. I had to turn to the side to breathe. Wouldn’t it be ironic if I suffocated in the armpit of the son I gave life to? 🙂

On an awards show, the singer, Pink, wearing a sparkly leotard, spinning on a trapeze high above the audience, was singing, “I’m not here for your entertainment!” I scratched my head. Surely this isn’t educational?

Flipping to another channel, there was a half-hour infomercial called “Identity Theft News” posing as a live news broadcast.

As we all tend to do, I surfed the web while watching t.v., and found some other puzzling things. Like the use of trendy, made-up phrases in news articles, i.e., Obama White House Photographer Throws Shade at Trump, Rep. Maxine Waters Claps Back at Bill O’Reilly After Hair Insult.

Even more confusing, sometimes a word can be used in opposite directions: Almost 75 Years After Death Beatrix Potter Drops New Book, and Simon & Schuster Drops Milo Yiannopoulous Book Following Release of Controversial Video.

Over the years, I’ve learned:

  • Things aren’t always what they appear to be.
  • Social media is here to stay, along with selfies and skinny jeans.
  • Times change.
  • We’ll be okay.

I don’t have to always “get it” as I look around at the world today, because I know some of the most important things never change. Faith, family, friends, and the perpetual power of prayer.

As the Yiddish proverb says, “Prayers go up, and blessings come down.” Let’s let Anne Lamott have the last word today: “Anything you say from your heart to God is a prayer.”

Golden rule, schmolden rule. It comes down to this: In absolutely every situation, love ought to rule. If you have a decision to make, choose the more loving path. If you have something to say, let it be said lovingly and with love as its sole content. If you have the chance to intersect your life with the life of another, whether person or animal, let that intersection be of, with and about love.

I didn’t say it would be easy.

Unless you live under a rock, you know about Cecil the lion, who was lured out of his protected territory and shot by an American dentist (whose name I will withhold, though it’s all over the news), so the magnificent beast’s skin and head could adorn the surfaces of said dentist’s Minnesota home. This wasn’t a case of hunting for necessity, for food. It was acquisition at the cost of a life. It was a bad, bad thing.

The man who committed this act is certainly feeling its effects. Social media will do that. He has shut down his practice, issued an apology, and is generally lying low. He has received both death threats and vituperative scrutiny of his manhood. I understand these reactions; I felt them, too. Social media provides an outlet for rock-throwing unheard of since Biblical times. I admit it; I tossed my pebble with everybody else.

I am glad that I grew up before social media became a thing. Nowadays, any foolish thing anybody does is promptly recorded and preserved for all time. It never goes away. I would not want to be judged on the single, stupidest thing I ever did. No one would. But people are, every single day, on Facebook, Twitter and elsewhere.

I am not excusing the gentleman in question. What he did was reprehensible. But who am I to throw stones? If love is really the law, why are people’s lives devastated because the public decides to play vigilante? The woman taken in adultery was owed her stoning, by ancient Hebrew law. But Jesus said no. Jesus made it clear that, whether the mob in question is on line or in the angry, vengeful flesh, only God can be the final arbiter of guilt or innocence. Only s/he who is without sin may cast the first stone.

I believe in karma, and to some extent, the justice system. But I believe most fervently in God. In the end, it is up to God to judge us, whether our crime is catfishing or lion-killing. Online or off, God sees us, sees our deeds, knows our hearts. What this hunter did will catch up to him. In the meantime, we should follow the rule of love and put our stones back into our pockets. We may certainly condemn his actions. But we must not condemn his person. Not if love is the law.

 * With apologies and deep gratitude to The Suburbs, whose song by the same title has been a fave of mine for more than 30 years.

Have a Mary Little Christmas

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