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Writing time for me is only official when I listen to the songs my mother used to play on the piano. That audible cue says to my brain, it’s time to create. As I said in a previous post, she gave me an abiding love for Bach. When I was a child, I’d ask her to play what we called the “clockwork” song (BWV 847a – C Minor – Prelude at 5:19 in this YouTube video.)

She’d oblige me, sitting in front of the piano, stretching her hands and squaring her shoulders before tackling the song. It was so densely packed with notes, my eyes got tired trying to follow her fingers as she played. How did she do that? And how did Bach create all of these majestic movements? I noticed that this masterful song is called a “prelude.” Interesting. It’s not even considered a “fugue,” yet so much energy and effort has gone into it.

At the end of this prelude, there are three notes that foreshadow what the fugue that follows it will sound like. I remember her nodding as she played, saying to me, “there it is,” to remind me to listen for those notes that told you what was coming up in the fugue (BWV 847b – C Minor – Fugue at 7:05.)

Instead of trying to overhaul your life all at once, why not try a “pre-vamp” instead?

Whatever it is that you feel you don’t have and are hoping to achieve or acquire that would lead to a “re-vamp,” there are already grace notes of your future’s fugue in your present’s prelude.

So if your blessing arrived tomorrow, wouldn’t you like to be prepared to receive it? Make space in your heart for it. Listen: the music’s already playing. It’s just a matter of the whole orchestra joining in. Later, you’ll look back and realize the preludes of life are often just as lovely as the fugues.

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When I read about missionaries overseas, I’m of two minds. Appreciative of anyone lending a hand to those in need, but ambivalent about the fact that it comes with a price tag. Listen to a sermon. Follow this religion. Do things our way.

To me, the essence of the gospel is outreach that makes a positive impact for someone in a negative circumstance and expects nothing in return. This church initiative in England that asks congregants to use an app to report slavery at car washes is a good example.

The phrase, “of two minds,” came to me again as I read about the cancellation of Roseanne Barr’s sitcom re-boot in the wake of her racist tweet. Several years ago, I wrote an article about the Secret, a new-age philosophy and film. I contacted celebrities who’d commented about it, one of whom was Roseanne.

“The Secret is based on Abrahamic meditations, and should be used only to bring peace and blessings to the mind, and NOT for material gain, which will make it backfire,” she said in an email. It wasn’t her agent or assistant, but Roseanne, responding to me directly. I noticed two things: she doesn’t have a handler and she has strong opinions. She’s of two minds. Seeker of spiritual truth. Spewer of hate speech.

I’m of two minds in terms of what to do with notable figures who go off the rails in this way. On the one hand, what they’ve done is inexcusable. On the other, isolating them in perpetuity won’t rehabilitate them, or make the issues go away. I really wish there were an app for that.

Photo by Adam Cao on Unsplash

So this morning, I started to go downstairs and got as far as the first step. Forgot the laundry! Turned around, got the bag and went to the basement to get the wash started.

Have you ever started a diet, got fed up (!) with melba toast, and cheated by having some chips? At that point, you said to yourself, Well, I already cheated on my diet. Might as well go all in!, and ordered a pizza?

Mercy. I’ve been there! You figure that the day is already shot since you took that first bite of a Ruffle, so you give up on the diet.

But life isn’t all or nothing. You can turn around and get the laundry. You can stop over-doing it at any point in the day.

The same thing is true of faith. You don’t have to give up on God because religion has let you down. Or you thought it would change everything and you’d lead a charmed life once you found faith.

Deciding hope is better than fear is the first step. Believing in something rather than thinking life has no purpose is another. And the good news is that even if you don’t believe in God, he believes in you.

There’s no set of steps you need to take to make God a part of your life. Some religions require a laundry list of requirements, but I believe He meets you where you are. There are many ways that believers choose to honor their beliefs, including baptism and rituals, but those traditions are symbolic. Just another way to say to the world, I’m going to believe life is good, God is love, and this journey is worth it. All you’ve got to do to make that leap of faith is take that first step.

That’s Shakespeare, by the way, opining on the unbearable heaviness of being. As per usual, I’m with Sweet William. I always thought that if I could choose a super-power, I’d choose incorporality — the ability to lose my physical body, pass through walls, fly (or at least float) and be incapable of being touched or hurt by human hands. (My husband tells me Rogue from X-Men is like this, but my nerd credentials can neither confirm nor deny.) In other words, I want to be body-less. Why? Because I hate my body.

I was too thin growing up, and now I’m much too fat. (When was I “just right”? I don’t remember that ever happening.) I am too tall, my features are insignificant, I’m graying, and just now I have a rash on my face — stress dermatitis — which makes me want to stick my head in the ground like an ostrich.

My gorgeous redheaded sister-in-law tells me to try body positivity (or at least body neutrality). My friends tell me not to engage in negativity. They’re right. I know this. I also know that it is shallow and wrong that society puts so much emphasis on a woman’s looks; that when male professionals are described, words like “leader” and “strong” are used, but when women professionals are described, words like “hot” or “cute” prevail. It’s ugly. It’s unfair. It’s the way things are.

It is also unfair to God, who made me as I am: tall, yes, but also smart. Unremarkable, but in better health than many. Temporarily red-faced, but a good listener.

I suspect that we all struggle with ourselves to an extent. I’d hate to meet someone who was totally self-satisfied, who honestly felt there was no work to be done on their innards (or out-ards). We can all do better. But honoring God means honoring ourselves, too.

I suggest a compromise. Let’s each try to think of one thing (per day) about ourselves that we like or value. I value that I can reach the top shelf at the grocery store. I will never have to ask a man to get something for me that I can’t reach. I like that my eyes show everything I am feeling. I like that my hands look like my mom’s.

That’s three things. So, how about you? What do you struggle with? What can you celebrate? How can we move past focusing on the physical to focusing on the spiritual?

I bet our souls are absolute knockouts.

My son is eighteen-years-old, and, as you can imagine, I’m keeping him covered in prayer. At the same time, I’m trying to keep my distance.

After all, he knows how to navigate the world, and he’s got a good head on his shoulders. I have to remember that I’ve raised him to the best of my ability, and now the rest is up to him.

Still, occasionally, if my prayers were read aloud, they would sound frantic. Because sometimes, that’s just how I feel.

He’s going to college. He’s got a steady girlfriend. He’s driving on New Jersey’s busy highways.

The other day, I prayed anxiously. I’d been thinking of all the things I hoped for him in his life, and felt tight. At the end of the prayer, I spoke to myself, just as if in conversation with a friend, trying to understand why I felt so unsettled.

I hope he does well.
I trust God knows what he’s doing.
I believe it all works out in the end.

Breathing in and out a few times slowly, I went into my sunroom and sat in the spot on the couch bathed in soft light rays. Just as my cat might do, basking and being. Just being.

There was a subtle shift in my soul and I exhaled, speaking out loud the words I had just said, only this time, I changed the punctuation slightly. When I put the emphasis back on Providence instead of on the problem, a wave of of peace washed over me.

I hope. He does well.
I trust. God knows what he’s doing.
I believe. It all works out in the end.

“What if you woke up and the only things that remained were the things you gave thanks for yesterday?” This is something I read on Twitter recently, by a site called Amazing Grace.

Staying in a state of grace is putting God back in charge. You know. Where he was all along. It’s okay to let go of things you really can’t control anyway. Just a gentle reminder from someone who’s been there.

nitish-meena-37745The little boy was three-years-old, and, apparently, his job was to examine all the minutiae of life very carefully, like a pint-sized forensic scientist  – gum wrapper on floor, display of succotash by the register, even his own shoelaces. It came as no surprise that he’d meander very slowly, like a sloth on a speed bump, out the door of the grocery store.

We were stacked up behind him and his adoring mother with our carts, our own kids in tow, but we were patient. He looked around, he lingered, he investigated. All the while his mother looked at him adoringly, as if he had invented time itself. “Isn’t he something?” she asked the lady waiting behind her, who nodded graciously.

When you love someone, you find a way to overlook their faults. It never occurred to this young mother that everyone else might not find her toddler’s molasses-slow stride to be endearing. Those things didn’t even register in her mind.

There’s been a lot of discord in the world lately, with those of different viewpoints finding themselves at odds. Sometimes it seems people are acting like petulant children, not hearing anyone else’s voice at all. I’ve been deep in Scripture lately, seeking some solace.

The end of a matter is better than its beginning, and patience is better than pride. Ecclesiastes 7:8 NIV

Keeping things in perspective, thinking about compassion and mercy.

You help them stay calm when trouble comes…

Every line of this Psalm gave me peace.

The Lord will not leave his people. He will not leave them without help.

Sometimes you find comfort in passages you’ve read a thousand times. Perhaps if we all read the Good Book and pray together, wherever we are, we’ll remember we’re all family.

Justice will return and bring fairness.  And those who want to do right will be there to see it. Psalm 94:13-15 ERV

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Just wondering. Ladies, why did we decide painting our fingernails would be a thing? Why not our kneecaps? And why do we pluck our eyebrows, yet embellish our eyelashes with mascara? Why the eyelash favoritism? What, do eyelashes have a louder lobbying group? Payola going on in some back room? Hmmm?

We spend most of our youth wanting to be older. Boys can’t wait to shave. Girls can’t wait to put on make-up. Once we’re adults, we’re perpetually trying to look younger. What’s wrong with this picture?

When did we un-learn wonder? That feeling we had as children, looking with awe and astonishment at each petal on every flower.

One day my ex-husband’s daughter came to visit and saw a sponge on the counter. Just a toddler, she found this sponge to be the most amazing thing to behold. “This!” she exclaimed, surrounding it with her hands, leaning in to examine it. Eyes huge, she looked at me as if to say, are you seeing this too?!?

The adult in me was thinking, of all the mundane things to be amazed by, but the child in me understood. It’s an interesting texture, this sponge. It’s wet, but not really. It’s bouncy but it isn’t a ball. It holds water, until you press it, and then it spurts liquid into the sink. Really kind of a marvel, if you think about it.

Tapping into the wonder of childhood is something of a virtual fountain of youth.

I still feel wonder when I read a great line from a poem, like this one by Rudyard Kipling: “If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you…”

Also, when I hear beautiful harmonies in this song from Alison Krauss and Union Station.

But I think it’s just as important to indulge in goofy fun to add quality of life to the day, like this video of NFL Bad Lip Reading on YouTube.

Maybe Your Second Childhood will become a thing, too. Who knows? Maybe you’ll be the next internet sensation. It’s a Wonder-ful Life!

Justice is not “just us.”
It’s everyone.
It’s every one
doing what that one can
and eventually, it is all of us, together.

So it really is just us. There is no “them.”
You and me again become we.

Step one: take one step.

Well, if you read the news these days, it’s discouraging, but there are still good people in the world doing positive things.

Like this flight attendant who saved one young girl from a sex trafficker and this tightrope walker who saved one man stuck in a ski lift.

These individuals didn’t save the whole world, they saved one person. Just one. But that one person really matters. To their friends, to their families. To God.

Both of these things happened in mid-air, so there was no other way to get help. Sometimes God puts a person uniquely equipped to save the day in exactly the right place.

We’ve all seen the protests, picket signs and caustic comments online. There are small pockets of positive resistance forming out there, waiting to connect with each other and spread peace instead of discord.

With all of the drama going on, that may be where the next groundswell sets in. Singular acts. Small gestures. Just you. Just me. Just us. Being neighborly. Keeping our words civil. Treating each other like extended family.

Hopefully, the next hashtag that catches on will be #JustUs. We’re all in this together, and there really is no Us Versus Them. We’re all “Us.” U.S. We all live here. We all belong here. We don’t all have to agree, but we can get along if we all agree to try.

Even aliens – and by that I mean, from outer space – should be treated humanely. The other type of “alien” doesn’t really exist. We all came from somewhere else. Now we’re here.

Post-election, my vote is to get past this ugly chapter and get on with the “one nation under God” thing. It’s time to put aside those weaponized words and meet each other as human beings with healing hearts. Somebody’s got to take the first step.

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Every year around this time, Google reports a surge in this search term: “Superb Owl Day.” No, it’s not a gathering of bird-watchers in the foliage. It happens around the weekend of that big ole football championship game. You know. The Super Bowl.

It’s just a misplaced space (now there’s a tongue-twister) that yields a result that’s way off-base (oh, that’s a tiny poem), but it’s something of a metaphor. Sometimes in life we know what we’re looking for, and even have all the ingredients, but we’re just not sure how to put it all together.

Like something’s missing. That space can feel like a void. If you think of all the things we yearn for, they’re big ticket items. True love. Mega-million jackpot. Job with an expense account. Maybe it isn’t the thing we’re looking for, but what we think it will bring to us.

Just as there are many different versions of the Bible, I like to look at life through my own personal filter of faith. I’ll give it a name too, to make it official. How about this: Light-hearted Upward Version, or “LUV.”

Maybe if we strike it rich, we won’t have to worry about how to make it through each month. We’re really looking for sustenance and certainty. Verily, I say unto you, this is another way of saying “Faith.” Book of Ruth (No Relation) 2:6a LUV By the way, 2:6 is just today’s date. Nothing deep. 🙂

Maybe if we find true love, we won’t have to eat alone at the diner counter anymore. We’re really looking for a sense of belonging and a support network. Brethren and Sistern (Cistern?) I say unto you, this can be found in “Fellowship.” BoR(NR) 2:6b LUV

Maybe if we get the perfect job, we won’t have to spend the whole day at the copier again. We’re really looking for a sense of purpose and personal satisfaction. Yea, though I travel through challenging times, I can accomplish this through “Outreach.” BoR(NR) 2:6c LUV

There are many ways to find the missing pieces in life, and often, they’re already around us. It might be just a matter of stretching out, and reaching up.

hzg0vjhfyg0-gary-rockettTell me this. When, exactly, do the cows come home? They must be the Ultimate Party Animals. People always say, “We’ll stay out until the cows come home!” as if it’s a measure of the amount of fun they’re having. Now, I’ll get along with anybody, but if Elsie Moos and Mambos at five AM outside my window, I’m going to be pretty darn lactose intolerant!

I wonder why we phrase it this way: “Nightfall” and “Daybreak.” To me, they should be reversed. Night actually breaks, if you think about it. The sudden presence of pitch-blackness disrupts us as we’re going about our daily lives. Oh! Not even 5 o’clock. Night-time already! Well, better get the knitting. Warm up the cocoa. We’re in for the night!

But if you’re an early bird and have ever (voluntarily) seen the sunrise, you know it comes gently, gradually. Often beautifully. It doesn’t “break” upon the scene, no, it rolls in. Perhaps even strolls in.

It isn’t always clear why “things have always been done this way.” Sometimes it’s out of habit, or tradition, or maybe it was whoever won “Rock, Paper, Scissors.”

It may take a few years, but eventually, you’ll realize that it’s okay to be yourself. There was a time when I’d check in with friends to see what they’d be wearing to the party, or to make sure I knew where the action was later on that night.

Nowadays, I don’t get out as much as I’d like due to health issues, but as I sat in my sunroom and watched my cat watching squirrels, I realized something startling.

This is the peaceful life I always wanted. These are my druthers. Sure, there are things I’d like to do: it would be good to get out and explore the world more. See my friends in person. It would be nice to be able to “impulse-shop” once in awhile.

But I don’t miss the hustle and bustle, or the “schlepping” to get where you wanted to go – the place where you thought the action was.

Just as the church isn’t a building, but the people, the party isn’t the location, but the company you keep. Sometimes it’s the whole family, or just you and your cat. It’s all good.

My definition of blessings? A home that’s peaceful, prayerful and positive. Just like this blog.

Here’s to the good life!

Have a Mary Little Christmas

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