Live Gratefully and Generously in 21 Careers that Please God

The Saturday before Thanksgiving, the supermarket parking lot was jammed. Some friends and I had parked ourselves by every entrance, hawking “shopping lists” of the items most needed in our local food pantry. Our hope was that in six hours we’d fill an entire van with items purchased by generous shoppers, allowing the pantry to meet needs that extend long past the ceremonial distribution of holiday baskets.

In a situation like this, you can look at some people and just know they will give. So I wasn’t surprised when a deeply tanned and sun-crinkled retiree wearing an American Legion ball cap asked what we were up to. He thought for all of a second, said, “I think I can help with that,” and a bit later emerged from the supermarket with a big bag of food for us. His own errand for the day? Just a pint of local cider and two lemons.

You can’t always predict who will be generous … Image by Victoria Borodinova on

Other folks aren’t so easy to predict. That tall young guy with the grey skull t-shirt, for example. He’s without a jacket … way under dressed for the brisk weather … clean shaven and neat, but not quite the usual contributor. He looks me in the eye, so I hand him a list anyway.

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Understated, Essential Spring Blooms

Every spring we wait impatiently for our crocus and daffodils to burst from the earth, then from their buds. We breathe deeply to receive the scent of hyacinths and star magnolias.

Other valuable spring blooms are all but invisible.

Have you noticed the birch trees in bloom? Don’t you love seeing a froth of red blossoms on the maples?

Even up close, birch and maple flowers are pretty understated.

But as understated as they may appear, important timber harvests depend on these blossoms and their trees.

Of course, as useful as maple and birch lumber may be, they’re pretty understated themselves. They’re essential, functional lumber. We use them for kitchen cabinets, bedroom furniture we plan to paint …. Not so much for showing off.

When I feel invisible, I think about birch and maple blossoms. If I can see and value those tiny blooms, I feel sure Someone sees and values me.

Posted in Carlene Byron

I was attacked. He was convicted of drunk driving. Why women don’t report.

When I was assaulted by a stranger nearly 40 years ago, I was a professional with a lawyer for a boyfriend. Still, the court only convicted my assailant of driving while intoxicated. If a professional with private counsel couldn’t make an assault charge stick, why would a teenager like Christine Blasey ever have tried?

When I was assaulted by a stranger nearly 40 years ago, I had two advantages over the typical victim: I wrote for a daily newspaper, and I was dating a lawyer. No one questioned my ability to accurately observe and report what happened. And someone was standing beside me in the courthouse who cared about me, knew the law and knew what it could do.

Still, the court found my assailant guilty only of driving while intoxicated. Instead of a life-shattering prison term, he suffered the inconvenience of living a few months without a driver’s license.

If a professional with private counsel couldn’t make an assault charge stick, who could? Why would anyone try?

I ask these questions because my Facebook feed is full of people suggesting that if there really had been an assault, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford would have reported it at the time. And it’s also full of people who seem to think that drinking to excess is not such a big deal, even when it’s done by illegally by a minor, as Judge Brett Kavanaugh was back then.

My attacker was a grown man driving (as it turned out) an appropriately named Dodge Ram. My best guess, almost four decades later, is that he’d been drinking at a bar just two parking lots away from the newspaper in Lowell, Massachusetts where I worked. The bar’s parking lot had a clear view of the lot where The Sun’s employees parked our cars. Perhaps he saw me climb into my Volkswagen Beetle at the end of my long night, after I had turned in my account of some government meeting or another.

I didn’t realize I was being followed until I was a long way out of the city, driving the freeways back to my apartment some 26 miles away. I could see headlights, way too close, glaring through my rear window. I tried speeding up. The headlights stayed with me. I slowed down, trying to force the headlights to pass. They slowed down and stayed with me, still glaring in my rearview mirror. When I exited the beltline to get on the highway that would take me home, the headlights followed. Continue reading

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Unrushed … not by choice!

It seems extraordinarily ironic to see the prompt “rush” on a day when I’m sitting on my back patio, waiting for my brother to help break into my house because I locked my keys inside and can’t leave for work.

This is the first time I’ve ever locked myself out of my house. And I can’t think of anything unusually rushed or distracted about this morning. I ate breakfast, talked w God, dressed, packed my lunch, and gathered up the bag I packed last night. I took my phone from the counter. And for some reason, I didn’t take my keys from the dish where they sit.

The only difference I can see between this morning and every other morning is that today I put my cellphone in the pocket where I usually put my keys. (Usually the cell phone is in my bag when I wear pants without back pockets.)

But it meant that the cue of “weight in pocket” was satisfied, even though the need of “keys with me” was not. And it wasn’t until I closed my locked door that I realized my keys were on the other side.

So now I can’t rush. Even though I wasn’t rushing! I listen to the wind while I wait, grateful to have a nearby brother who’s handy.

Social scientists describe more than one kind of time. There’s our Western, post-industrial “clock” time, where seconds are counted against the demands of efficiency. And there’s the earlier “relational” time, where what matters is whether the needs of the ongoing encounter are

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Am I a Bird or a Car?

I’m listening to birdsong and highway roar from my patio, and I wonder why I can even hear the birds. Are the birds louder? Or are they just different? What if birds imitated highway sound because that’s what most people spend most time hearing and creating? Could I hear them then? Would I recognize them? And are Christians more like birds or cars?

I’m feeling some nudges toward a more “set apart” way of life. Which still might happen within earshot of a roaring highway. Your thoughts?

Posted in Carlene Byron