More Snow…

Yes, I know it is February and NYC has only had one snow storm… but that one storm gave us more snow than we usually get in an entire year! So you can understand my frustration that it is snowing again today… and perhaps will continue to snow off and on for the next three or four days! While we are only expecting a few inches total, it’s a few more inches than I want. And it’s a huge reminder that we are still in the heart of winter.

 

IMG_1502But last Sunday morning, between the church and the rectory, I snapped this picture of a different type of snow… a snow-drop! And it gave me a promise that spring is not too far away no matter what today’s weather might bring.

 

Wednesday, we’ll get another hopeful sign of spring: Lent begins!

I’m leading a small group of friends that will be meeting several times in February and March. The group will focus on Psalm 51 and, particularly, the Hebrew word “hesed” or “loving kindness.”

Hesed is a quality of God – it’s God’s loving kindness that promises spring will always follow winter, that new life will alway grow after a dormant period. And, this year, I think it melds beautifully with the meaning of another, more typical, Lent word: repent. The meaning of repent is “to turn around” – when we repent we turn away from everything else so we can turn toward God.

And what we are turning toward is God’s hesed, God’s loving kindness! I invite you to join me this Lent in experiencing God’s loving kindness toward us all – and then sharing your own loving kindness with those you meet!

Blessings!

Beth

 

 

 

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I Was Right!

I was right in my last blog entry: December flew by and Christmas was here before I knew it! And gone in a blur, it seems…

To recap, briefly: my reading group agreed to disagree about reindeer flight – they may leap and soar but only a few (okay, maybe only me) remained open to the possibility of real flight!

At 11pm on Christmas Eve, I went to bed instead of to the Candlelight service I intended to visit. And the Christmas presents I decided to make all my children and grandchildren on Wednesday… well, they are still a work in progress.

My Advent Meditation workshop was a wonderful grounding throughout the season – a special thanks to the two who continued to post long after the Christmas rush usually takes over!

My family arrived and we celebrated – food and Christmas specials and presents and games – and did I mention food? I think we averaged less than 100 square feet per person for three days AND stayed friendly! (By the way, Minute to Win It Christmas games on YouTube: excellent fun!)

And the Babe was born… the angels sang… the shepherds visited… the parents pondered and protected… Soon a New Year will be born, as well. Our thoughts move so quickly from the beginning of the Christ story, to the new beginning we feel to our own stories each January.

I pray for you that your Christmas was merry, joyful, peaceful, and blessed – and that your New Year will be happy, prosperous, fulfilling, and equally blessed! And that in the space between, this week of possibility, you will find some grace in which to quietly rest.

Blessings,

Beth

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December 1st

My husband handed me a flash drive this morning… Christmas music! As you might have noticed in previous posts, I’m having a hard time letting summer go, let alone fall! But today is December 1st and I’m reconciling myself to winter on the cold, gray, wet day we’re having in the northeast today.

“It feels like Christmas…” Well, no… The tree is out of its box but the branches are all pointed in odd directions and the needles are still clumped together! It will take a lot more work before things feel like Christmas around here!

“May all your Christmases be white…” Well, not yet… It’s raining, not snowing this morning! Thank goodness, as I am really not ready for snow!

“Tidings of comfort and joy…” Well, I am ready to receive this – as I think most of us are! There’s so much sadness in the world around us. And the current horrors almost wipe out the recollection of the long-standing tragedies –  World Aids Day gets overshadowed by the latest hate crime, and all of it gets beat back by Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

“That’s what Christmas means to me…” Well, okay, I’m getting there! I’m leading an Advent meditation workshop through BeADisciple.com and it forces me to take some time every day of Advent to consider what Christmas means to me and how I live it out.

“Rudolph… had a very shiny nose…” Well, this is helping, too: I’m leading the reading group at Chelsea Community Church through the book Flight of the Reindeer by Robert Sullivan. Sullivan’s convinced that reindeer really fly and uses his expertise as a nature writer to put science to supporting fantasy in a wonderfully tongue-in-cheek book. But the deeper message for me this year is about “belief” itself. We believe some very ridiculous things without any trouble at all – like that Christmas is about shopping! – so why do we have trouble believing in flying reindeer?

“Soon it will be Christmas Day…” Well, yes, it will! December will fly by as fast as summer did! Join me in some wondering and pondering this Advent so your heart is prepared for Christmas, so that what you believe is what you live out, and so that the Child’s birth is evident in all you do!

Blessed Advent!

Beth

 

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Ironing Sheets

Yesterday, I threw away a sheet – an old, white, cotton, flat sheet.

I got the sheet from my mother, who I believe got it from my grandmother. Unlike Grandma, Mom preferred poly-blend sheets that went from dryer to bed – and certainly preferred fitted bottom sheets to my grandmother’s old-fashioned double flat sheet system!

Being the daughter and granddaughter I was raised to be, I remember the history of this sheet because it is like the history of so much that I have at one time owned: when one of us dies or moves or runs out of a use for something, it simply gets passed to the next available person. I’ve inherited cast iron frying pans, a quilt, a 5-generations old table, ladies’ handkerchiefs, crystal & dishes, a foldable drying rack, doilies, laundry baskets, jewelry… and sheets.

I’m afraid I have passed this tradition along. When Tony and I moved from a big parsonage to a small apartment, my children heard so often they probably cringed, “Could you use….” Grandma’s tiny wicker bottomed chairs went to live at my daughter’s home; her aluminum Christmas tree (shedding 1960’s foil in its wake) went to my son’s. But I’ve also thrown away my  fair share of the worn out hand-me-downs.

So yesterday, it was the sheet’s turn. I gathered it up in my arms, headed to the trash can, and suddenly got hit with a memory – sight and sound and smell all at once!

I was a very small child again, hanging around my mother in the small room off her bedroom where the mangle lived. The windows were open and sunshine poured in with the fresh air. Mom was feeding damp wrinkled white cotton sheets into one side and, with the scent of hot steam, out the other side came dry, perfectly smooth, flowing folds of hot fabric!

Magic!

I doubt I’ll forget the mangle magic without that sheet – but it’s memories we save in the odd bits of the past we hang on to. And if I “mangle” the moment a little (I’m sure for Mom it was less magic and more hard work!), that’s okay too. The problem comes in clinging too tightly to those bits – wrapping ourselves in old sheets as if they were the salvation of the next generation!

You know where I’m headed here, right? For families, for churches – it’s all the same. Enjoy the memories and inheritances, but know when you are hanging on to something that’s outlived its usefulness… know when something needs to be thrown out so something better can take it’s place!

Blessings,

Beth

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Fall Bounty

This morning I was point person for the next to the last CSA delivery of the 2015 season.

CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture. Members of a CSA pay the farmer upfront for a season’s worth of produce, giving the farmer the upfront costs for their season and giving the member a season’s worth of fresh-from-the-farm veggies. If the weather is good, the crops are plentiful; if the weather is too dry or too wet, too hot or too cold, the deliveries are smaller.

This year was a dry year and so our shares each week were much less than the past few years, when I filled an upright freezer full of vegetables for the winter! This year, the freezer remains unplugged…

But that’s the way of things, right? Sometimes you get pound after pound of eggplant every week and sometimes it’s just a half pound of kale. Sometimes there’s feast – and sometimes there’s famine!

It can be that way with our work, as well – or relationships – or even our spiritual life! And, just like the CSA, sometimes we’ve put the exact same amount into the beginning of the process! We’ve put our money, our time, our energy, our trust, our faith, our belief into projects that sometimes flourish and sometimes falter. And, on the days when things falter – those days of famine – it can be so easy to get discouraged!

This morning, getting only two beets, a half pound of onions, and a half pound of greens felt like a falter, a famine, even a fail! I didn’t see the 3 pounds of carrot or the 2.5 pounds of rutabagas or yet another head of bok choy…

And in that “famine” mindset, I almost missed a different and unexpected bounty:  the beautiful sun, the glorious 60+ degree weather, the relatively quiet street, and the companionship of those I’ve been working with all season!

Next time I look around and see famine, I hope I remember today and look a little closer to see the flourishing bounty that’s really there. And I pray that for you, as well!

Blessings,

Beth

 

 

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The Study: Spiritual Action in Daily Life

The Study ended a few weeks ago and I am now attempting to evaluate the success (or otherwise) of the first ten week. And it’s a very interesting process! It isn’t too late, however, for you to put in your thoughts and ideas! While I think most of the participants have taken the survey already, non-participatants in The Study can still do that at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/HR9BX8W.

The results from non-participants have been just as helpful as those from participants and when the next version begins there should be some good fine-tuning as a result!

I look forward to hearing your input!

Blessings,

Beth

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Finding Safe Sanctuary

I’ve been thinking a lot about Safe Sanctuary lately.  I’m not currently working with a congregation on it but the topic has been floating around the edges of my mind on several fronts.

For one thing, there was the pope’s visit and the discussions about what he would or wouldn’t say/do about sexual abuse in the church.

That followed seeing the trailer for a friend’s movie about sexual abuse. (If you are brave, you can watch the trailer here.) I’ve seen a reading of his play on which the movie is based and it is a horrific tale.

And, both before and after those events, I’ve had conversations about ministries where there should be a policy or an update to a policy but we haven’t been able to set a date for training. That always makes me uneasy – a situation that could be problematic isn’t being fixed yet…

Sometimes, Safe Sanctuary drops to the bottom of my priority list. Right now, I’m focussed on a Spiritual Gifts online workshop that starts next week, The Study which ends this Friday, writing a sermon, reading Searching for Sunday with a church group, an upcoming new college course, and editing interviews into podcasts for the Judson Study that starts later this month. It’s a full plate!

But Safe Sanctuary still seeps in between all the rest… keeping me aware and unsettled. If you are in a situation where its important to you, make sure you take action on it – with me or someone else! I’d be glad to add a workshop to November’s schedule and let my mind rest easier.

And may you find safe sanctuary wherever life takes you today!

Blessings,

Beth

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