Polar Vortex!

When I looked at my phone’s weather app this morning, it felt like 18…. I’m sure that some of you reading this are unimpressed by that number! But here in NYC, in only mid-November, that is bone-chilling cold! Even in January and February, those are days I’m not happy about…

On the other hand, there’s much to consider a blessing there. No snow came with that cold so far… I’ve got a warm apartment to huddle in… And I have no where to go until tomorrow, when its expected to warm up to a balmy 40!

There may be another benefit to the Polar Vortex: I am getting ready for Christmas! Usually at this time of year, I’m barely aware of Thanksgiving on my radar and I don’t allow any thoughts about Christmas to enter in until after that! But I’m so cold now, that its easy to imagine Christmas Eve is right around the corner!

So I’m making some great Advent and Christmas plans!

With another member at church, we’re going to host a Cookie Baking Day at the parsonage! We’re going to bring cookie dough – purchased and made, regular and gluten-free – and paraphernalia (cookie sheets, etc.). Guest will bring anything special they need and a lot of Christmas cheer! Then we’re all going to drop/roll/cut/decorate – and eat – some great cookies in great company with great conversation!

A friend from seminary and I are going to have lunch and catch up sometime in Advent!

I’m leading the Christmas Eve Family Service at Judson! It’s late afternoon and a very casual fun service for children and families – and all who love them! I can’t wait to be surrounded by all those children as we seek the newborn baby!

Then my family is coming for Christmas – and maybe somewhere in there I’ll have a chance to visit my favorite and very “special” Santa at a store in Herald Square – and, finally, I’m preaching on both of the Sunday’s after Christmas!

Well, with all those plans, here’s my hope for the season: That the Polar Vortex goes back home to the North Pole and leaves the weather warm up just a little so I can leave my office to have some of this fun! For you, I hope all the warmth, joy, fun, and blessing that the season can offer – with or without the old P.V.!

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Gratitude Posting

There’s been several gratitude challenges going around lately. Most challenge you to post several items a day for which you are grateful.

One clergy friend of mine has been doing it every day for the last year or two! Occasionally, I think she’s struggling: sometimes she’s thankful for things like limes… But then, aren’t we all? Grateful for limes, of course! But also struggling: aren’t we all struggling to be thankful?

My husband has been out of town for awhile and I have been so busy I can hardly breathe! It was a struggle not to have every word I said be a complaint! I finally gave myself the gratitude challenge and it did help to relieve some of my general grumpiness so I want to continue listing my gratitude here and challenge you to do the same in your life!

1. I’m grateful for the internet and all its connections with the world outside my apartment walls. I’m never truly alone when there’s a friend out there somewhere to connect with!

2. I’m even more grateful for the real-life human friends and colleagues who have listened to me complain without recrimination! And met me for lunch or dinner, commiserated, called, etc.

4. I’m also grateful for all that kept me so painfully busy. I’m grateful for preaching opportunities and for my college students and the classes I’ve been teaching: A general education class for beginning students that was phenomenal and a course on Eastern Religions that has improved each week and looks like it will end on a high note next Tuesday!

5. I’m grateful for the work that’s coming up: for the Judson Study that will start again next month, for a Spiritual Gifts workshop starting next week, for preaching in Brooklyn and perhaps in the Bronx later next month, and for another religion course beginning in November….

6. I’m grateful for the CSA that also stretched me to my limits, toting hundreds of pounds of vegetables around each Wednesday morning for six weeks… (Although I have to say that today’s refrigerator full of eggplant, spaghetti squash, peppers, celery, tomatoes, cabbage, lettuce, zucchini, tomatillos… etc…. is truly daunting….)

7. And I’m ever so grateful for my missing husband… that talented man who so enjoys his work and whose enthusiasm for reaching ever higher challenges me to do the same! And most of all: I’m grateful he’ll be home soon!

I’m sure there is something to complain about in your life – and that it can be a struggle for you to stay grateful, too! But I pray you can find even more to be thankful for and plenty of opportunities to share the gratitude!

Blessings!

Beth

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“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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