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Posted Friday, May 25, 2012, at 3:21 PM

He had been on her mind. She had posted a cartoon on her Facebook page because it meant something to her. It was a cartoon--an editorial speaking to what was going on in the world around her. Yet somehow it spoke to her of the deep and abiding sadness within her. She saw truth in it and it made her think. So, she posted it. The cartoon made her stretch herself.

She had always believed that people need to stop and think--really think. She wanted to see the world through other people's eyes. She wanted to experience other cultures, thought processes, and experiences. She wanted to embrace and love other people--both those like her and those unlike.

The next day, when she checked Facebook several people had commented on her post. Some liked what it said. Others did not. Most agreed that it made them pause for thought. One post ripped her to shreds. That one broke her heart.

The person was a long-time friend. One she had walked the hard paths of life with throughout the years. They had also celebrated many milestones together. The response wasn't even really about the post. Instead it accused her of not being faithful to God because of the post. How dare her friend judge her relationship with God?

In a moment of absolute anger, hurt, and broken trust she responded. Oh yeah, she could rip with the best. "Judge not, lest ye be judged" in more modern language she said. "Your life isn't perfect. Don't speak as God to me."

All she had wanted was to get people to stop and think. The issue was complex, sad, infuriating, and had no easy answers. She really wanted to hear what others were thinking. The conversations continued, but her friend remained silent.

She decided to message her friend to ask if they couldn't talk about why the issue brought such a strong response. Look at all the sides and if they still disagreed to agree to do so in an agreeable manner. Her friend was no longer on Facebook with her. She had been unfriended.

The situation puzzled and hurt. She had choices. She decided to back off and give her friend time. Nothing could stop her love and prayers for her friend. The absence, however, was like a flea. It made her itch and she just couldn't quite catch the nuisance maker to stop the itch.

Maybe that wasn't such a horrible thing. It kept her aware of her friend so that she prayed and loved him no matter where he was or how he treated her. His absence was an itch that wouldn't go away. He was with her always--even though he chose to move away.

Perhaps that is the lesson in of itself. God challenges us to grow, to love in God's way and we are often uncomfortable with the lessons. We don't want to think that way. We don't want to love that way. We want to hang on to what is comfortable, insulate ourselves from the different, the difficult, and the unlovely.

God challenges us to learn to live with a flea or two. My daddy always said, "if you lay down with the dogs you wake up with fleas." Perhaps we are supposed to love that dog . . . give it comfort, aid, and help it rid itself of a few fleas. Maybe, just maybe that dog can teach us a new trick and we can live together in peace.

God, teach us to love others as you love us. Help us not to be afraid of other thoughts, positions, and perspectives. Help us to work through our dis-ease; to listen, learn, and love others as only you can do. So be it. Amen.

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From My Heart to Yours
Rayla Stewart Hogue
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Rayla Stewart Hogue is a native of Dexter. She is a wife, mother, and minister of the UCC (United Church of Christ). She seeks to recognize and embrace the unending hues of God's ethne and religion, and commits herself to living and expressing this inclusive diversity through Sacrament and the spoken, written, and sung Word of God.
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