“Handbasket”

Last week, in my current critical thinking course, a student brought up a recent series of shootings in a local city. It  led to more than an hour of discussion about how we think about these kinds of crises. Do we just rant and rave about them? Do we blame someone? Do we sigh with disgust? Or do we critically – and as objectively as possible – run down enough information to have some idea of the scope of the problem (or in this situation, multiple problems), and begin to find some threads we could pull to make the situation better?

Later that evening, another faculty asked me how I deal with this kind of class, being a religious person, for whom life is about faith and not critical thinking. I replied that I don’t think the two are separate, which was met with disbelief.  If faith is “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things unseen,” how can you even begin to claim the ability to think critically?

It’s the assumption that all people of faith are stupid – and I have to say that I really resent it. There’s no charity in my reaction when people assume that I’m dumb, gullible, unreasonable, etc. And yet, we do know why those outside of faith think that, don’t we? They watch the news and see religious people of all faiths taking stupid uncritical actions in the name of their faith.

In preparing for this week’s critical thinking class, I worked through hours worth of news reporting – and the term “hell in a hand basket” kept coming to mind… My parents used it from the time I was a child to refer to situations rapidly descending into chaos – and this last week has been that in many ways, locally and internationally.

Another phrase kept coming to mind as well: “Faith seeking understanding.” It is a quote from Anselm and referred to his desire that his faith should support his understanding, not replace or diminish it. I don’t know how we got into this current hand basket but I do know that if people of all faiths don’t begin to think critically, to use their faith to understand the world instead of using it as a shield against critical thinking, we are not going to like the end of our journey.

With prayers for peace,

Beth

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Summer Solstice

BeADisciple.com picked up a blog from my summer newsletter! You can read it – and link to their other instructor’s blogs from here: http://fromthebranches.com/2014/06/23/imprecision-or-what-we-can-learn-from-the-solstice/

Enjoy your summer!

Blessings,

Beth

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June’s reality

I had to laugh as I re-read my post from last month…. 3 weeks have gone by and already I’m tossing things off my calendar! There’s a weekend art installation that I love each year – I volunteered to help this year but missed the “meet and greet” that probably gave all the instructions for doing so. Here we are a few days away and no response to my emails to the guy in charge. And I’ll admit it: I’m hoping he doesn’t reply. I need those two days back.

The CSA starts in a few weeks. Every summer my husband and I negotiate who is picking up the veggies – all based on who is working those days. Don’t you know, I’ve got work on almost every Wednesday through the summer AND Tony is going out of town for August and September! I almost wish we could eliminate the CSA!

And then there’s the grandkids… My daughter and I tried to figure out when they are coming to visit this summer – if they want to! (As teens, spending time with the old folks is less and less appealing, isn’t it?) And it was really difficult to find two weeks when their schedule and our schedule fit together! What will we need to reject in order to make it all work?

But I’m reminded as another Spiritual Gifts workshop begins: elimination and rejection is not a bad thing! We have some gifts – not all of them – and couldn’t handle them all if we had them! We can do some tasks well with our gifts – not all of them – and would be so overwhelmed if we had to be good at it all! Eliminating what doesn’t work (for us, for God, for the church), well that in itself is grace abundant!

So, too, for my calendar: it has too many things on it, some need to be weeded out, but doing that only lets me be more focussed on the joys hidden among the weeds. And maybe this weekend, I’ll just visit that art installation instead of volunteering, wander among the beauty as I usually do, and just enjoy myself!

God is good! All the time! :)

Blessings,

Beth

 

 

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Spring!

The end of my last Spiritual Gifts Workshop and the beginning of really warm weather have coincided today! Add to that yoga in the park on Saturday, Mother’s day on Sunday, and spring cleaning scheduled for later in the week – I’m really feeling like its spring! Or at least that we’ve made the transition from the “It might be winter forever” portion of spring into the “Summer’s on its way” portion!

I love this time of year. I love the warmth and beauty and hope of spring! And every year I love the potential summer that will follow. It’s the summer of my childhood, restful and relaxing while at the same time busy and fun. It’s the summer filled with hammocks and porch swings  on one hand, and carnivals and amusement parks, on the other! It’s the “summer of no responsibility” that I know I can never duplicate!

But I try! I fill my calendar with all manner of fun events that I think will make it seem like its really summer… pool and park, concert and street fair, exhibit and play… And, this early in the spring, it all seems possible! This is the time when all potentials still exist!

This is the time I see in my memory, when mom and dad packed the station wagon full of the weekend’s paraphernalia, we all climbed inside, and started out the driveway. And then Dad stopped at the end of the road and said to me, “Which direction? Right or left?” And this time in spring allows me to hope that this year I’ll choose wisely!

I hope you pick a direction for your summer that gives you all the fun you can handle – and a good measure of rest as well!

Blessings,

Beth

 

 

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Do-It Days!

I’m having a Do-It Day today!

Do-It Days are high-productivity days. They are marked by a conference call (led by Get-It-Done Guy, Stever Robbins) at the top of the hour, 9am to 5pm. Each call consists of participants simply stating what they did in the last hour and will do during the next hour. And it is amazing how much I get done because of those mega-brief phone calls!

For example, every Monday, I check some resources: LinkedIn, Idealist, Lulu, and a number of websites that post faculty job listings, church job listings, etc. Sometimes that simple sounding process takes me hours – usually because when I get to LinkedIn or Facebook or a number of other places, I wander around, chat with folks, etc. Today, I made my way through all the sites in less than 20 minutes, INCLUDING the time it took to enroll both my professional email addresses in unroll.me!

And since I had budgeted an hour for that task, here I am, updating this website in my “found” 40 minutes!

I’ve tried to have Do-It Days on my own – holding myself accountable to the one hour blocks of time – but they never work. Yet some group of strangers on the phone can keep me focussed. Without ever yelling at  me if I don’t stay focussed or thinking less of me if I underestimate the work or even applauding me if I do get it all done. It’s an interesting process!

And I wonder if it isn’t what church at its best should do: give us a regular opportunity to check in with each other and be sure we are doing what we said we’d do. What would church look like if, each Sunday morning, we went around the room and said what we’d accomplished (from a spiritual perspective) in the past week and intended to do in the next week? And then came back the next week and did it again?

What if I said out loud on Sunday that I was going to be less judgmental and more kind to strangers… would I remember that more clearly on Thursday when the kid on the bus won’t move or the woman in the 10 or less check-out line has eleven items or the guys across the street are too noisy? And if I came back to church the next week and said, “Well, I managed to be kind for half the week…” would I come away more determined that the following week I would be better?

What is there that holds you to your word? Who is it that keeps you accountable for doing what you say you intend to do? Would you take that responsibility in front of your congregation if it were offered to you? And would you hold each other’s accountability as gently as my Do-It Day conference call strangers hold mine?

Blessings,

Beth

 

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Snowstorm Avoidance

We missed the last snowstorm! It could have been 8-10″ but in reality there was maybe a half-inch of snow dusting the car-tops and sidewalks this morning! What a relief! And such a gift: I didn’t have to do a thing to bring it about! I just walked over to the window and looked out at the beauty of snow not there!

Now, if only the rest of the complications of life could be avoided so easily… and there were a slew of them lately.

I preached at a nursing home a few Sundays ago. A bus and a train to another train… And then the second train wasn’t running! I always plan to get where I’m going ahead of time – but the walking and transfers necessary to make that commute sucked up so much time that I ran into the building only a few minutes (and several frantic phone calls) before the service was supposed to start!

Then I needed to be part of a conference call – and the only time the rest of the group was all available was the morning before I had a afternoon meeting at church and an evening college class to teach. So I said, “Yes, I can make that time…” As one of my students pointed out that night, that’s about a half day of work in any other part of the country – but here in NYC, add in four hours of transportation (and 2 hours of work at the computer before the conference call) and my half-day workday was now something like 12 hours long!

Then I learned today about all the other complications I didn’t avoid in the past week or so…  An announcement I didn’t make AND a request I didn’t send AND a registration I didn’t confirm because all three of those dates got past me! A mistake I made in a video that I will now need to re-record! A delay in a program… a budget imbalance that I should have seen a few days ago… oh, you get the point…

If only they were as easy to avoid as walking to the window and looking out… But then again, in some ways they are. I have known this about myself for a long time: I get too busy for my own good. And when I do, it is the details that suffer. The big plans, the larger ideas, the creative work – that never suffers because it is what I like to do. But the details that I am not that fond of anyway, well, they really suffer when my attention is spread too thin. If I would just look out the window once in awhile, I might be more focussed when I sit back down!

It all makes me wonder the old spiritual direction question: Where is God in all of this? Because if God is in the details, I am in big trouble!

But, seriously, it occurs to me as I ask the question, that I think God is out the window, playing in the snow that has or hasn’t fallen, taking a quick walk in the cold, stretching the muscles of body and brain, clearing lungs and making space for a few deep breaths to enter… Loving the big ideas AND the details – the snowstorms and the snowflakes…

And asking me to do the same.

Blessings,

Beth

 

 

 

 

 

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Women’s Spirituality, Digital Ministry, and other new ventures

I’m working on several new projects right now.

One is an online workshop through www.BeADisciple.com on digital ministry. It’s coming out of my work last year with Video Lectures, podcasts, and the Judson Study – as well as many comments from participants in other workshops about their desire to use technology combined with their discomfort about using technology.

If any one has any questions you’d like to see me address in that workshop, please email them to me. I’ll be building a page in this website that will display some of those and give us all a chance to weigh in on them – a little crowd-sourcing for the workshop!

Another project I’m just venturing into focuses on connecting women’s spiritual life with their occupational life. How does what we are gifted to do connect with the work we do? (My thesis: if we work in areas that we are gifted for, we experience much more joy and are much more successful!)

For that project, I’m looking for some volunteers to take a new version of a Spiritual Gift Inventory and give feedback on both the process and the results. Again, if you’re willing to help out, send me an email.

And then there’s a Christian Meditation Practices for Lent workshop, also on www.BeADisciple.com. It’s the next step of the CMP workshops I’ve been leading for the last few years and is similar to the CMP for Advent workshops, with no assignments, requirements, etc. Just a low-keyed approach to staying focused in Lent!

Times like this always remind me of how exciting it is to be involved in new ventures, new projects, new ministries, new programs. Life is always full of the potential for new adventures and I encourage you to try out a few this winter!

Blessings,

Beth

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