Oh, my goodness….

I was once a very organized person… You might doubt that if you look back at the date of the last blog I posted here! Christmas Eve? What have I been doing since December 24th!

It seems I have 1) forgotten to put updating this website on my calendar, 2) not bothered to check back here even when I got a notice from WordPress that someone recently followed this site, and 3) haven’t had a minute to stop to think about how much I really like being connected to all of you this way!

It’s been a busy season – and promises to continue to be that. I’m preaching tomorrow on our human need for Light in the Midst of February. Then in the next few days I’ll be leading a faculty webinar on Valuing Diversity – and giving a presentation to college administration about using smart classroom technology. All three are things that I just love to do: preach, teach, and use technology!

I’ve also been participating in some webinars about online courses. One of the things that has surprised me is how many of the “experts” have been doing it for such a short amount of time. They talk about 3 years or 5 years as if that were a lifetime – when I’ve been creating and leading online workshops and courses with BeADisciple for, I think, eight years!

Which leads me back to my three favorite things: I have a session of the Spiritual Gifts course for Lay Servants and Lay Speakers opening on Monday morning. While I don’t preach to participants there, at least not very much, the teaching and technology are fully present!

What is it that you love to do? Do you get so busy doing it that you forget things like updating a website – or even the people you really love being connected with? If so, I invite you to join me in grabbing a cup of tea, taking a little break, and breathing deeply. Who knows what fun things might be waiting for all of us in the next few days!

Blessings,

Beth

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It’s Christmas Eve!

Natalie Merchant is singing “Go Where I Send Thee,” the turkey is stuffed and waiting in the fridge, one of my favorite people is holding small children on his lap for the last day this year…. It must be Christmas Eve!

There’s a handful of presents wrapped and waiting, white lights are glittering around the windows throughout my apartment, cranberries are bubbling on the stove… It must be Christmas Eve!

A quilted square with my grandchildren’s handprints from 14 years ago hangs on my office door… It must be Christmas Eve!

Weather.com promises that the rain will stop in time for me to pick up a bottle of wine, mushrooms, and grape tomatoes at Costco…. It must be Christmas Eve!

My sermon for tomorrow is written and edited! The red velvet shirt that will hold the lavalier microphone is clean! Redeemer Episcopal, two blocks away, has 7pm and 11pm services tonight – surely I’ll make it to one of them… It must be Christmas Eve!

We’ve already had such rich holiday celebrations – an Advent-long meditation workshop that has filled my heart with peace – a family celebration with food and fun and conversation – a beautiful Candlelight Choir Service last week. It almost feels like Christmas should be over, but instead there’s tonight’s celebration – just Santa and I – and tomorrow’s worship service and feast in larger community… It’s only Christmas Eve and there’s already been joy and beauty and love in abundance, with even more in the hours ahead!

Now, if I could just remember to live like this throughout the year: to remember the blessings of the past while anticipating the ones just about to come… Then it would be Christmas Eve all year long!

Merry Christmas! Happy New Year!

Blessings,

Beth

 

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Window Cleaning in November

A few days ago, on a beautiful November day – sunny and 65 degrees – I came home to find the ground floor of our building windowless. Thin plastic was flapping slightly in the breeze and two men were carrying the double-paned windows away.

I rushed upstairs and said to my husband, “They’re taking out the downstairs windows for cleaning!” His eyes lit up, “Maybe that will move upstairs?” “I hope!”

And then it did! Our landlord said that Daniel would be coming up to see which of our windows needed to be cleaned. Daniel looked around, counted, and said he’d be back. I said, “When?” He said, “The next nice day!”

Suddenly my excitement dimmed. What are the chances that after Thanksgiving (the next time he’d have an opening in his schedule) there will be sunny, 60 degree weather so we can comfortably have 3/4 of the windows in our apartment removed for a full day? I just can’t imagine working at my computer all day beside an open window with the temperature in the 40s!

I share this silly story with you because it seems to me that its a great metaphor. We’ve had cloudy glass on a lot of our windows for quite some time. But our landlord is great about keeping all the important stuff working well so we’ve never complained about this. However, lately, its been hard to see out and we’ve been talking about the need for a change.

Unfortunately, we never said anything to our landlord back when the weather was warm. So now that change is about to happen, it isn’t going to happen in a pleasant way. And that is about where our country is at right now. There have been problems no one has wanted to say much about. So, now we’re going to have change and it isn’t going to be very comfortable.

I do think there are some options for how we respond to the unpleasant change, however. Personally, I can hide myself away in the one room that won’t be affected by the window cleaning, with my space heater and my iPad to work on. Or I can take my iPad to Starbucks or the library and work in company with others.

The same is true for our country’s change. I confess I’ve metaphorically been hiding with my space heater since the election but I’ve had a few events this week where we’ve been able to talk about something other than politics and those encounters remind me of the positive work that has been, is being, and will be done to make the country a better place.

I encourage you to do the same. And, don’t forget to ask The Landlord if you’re having a little trouble seeing….

Blessings,

Beth

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A thought for Tuesday…

Sunday morning, I preached on Ephesians and on a theory that it was written as an antidote to the division between Jew and Gentile that was threatening early Christianity. Ephesians insistence that both groups were brought together through the grace of God in Christ held out the hope and promise of unity that could represent God in the world!

Sunday afternoon, I saw a play that showed three generations of kings in England: one who united all the small factions, another who divided the realm, and a third who bore responsibility for regathering the nation. The one who united died a hero.

Sunday evening, on the way home in the subway, I overheard the end of a conversation. An adult son say to his mother, “I don’t know why you’re asking me!” And then went on to explain someone else’s actions in a way that made it clear why she was asking him: he stated what had happened simply and clearly, with empathy for both sides of the situation.

These days, you and I could use a little more of all of the above! A little empathy for each other, a little unity over division, a little grace and love and hope instead of anger and fear and argument. And we could particularly use it on Tuesday….

Blessings,

Beth

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Lessons from a food expo

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The day before yesterday, I worked a booth at a food expo! (Not this booth – but it’s the only picture I have!)

I had a great time and learned a few lessons I thought I’d share…

  • The first year I went to this expo, I came home with so many samples, I didn’t need to buy those products for weeks. The next few years, the expo grew in the number of vendors but the amount each vendor gave away shrunk although the coupons were still terrific. This year there weren’t as many vendors AND the number of samples shrunk AND there weren’t as many coupons. Yet I know I will attend next year because I enjoy seeing and tasting all the new products! Lesson: find out what is really drawing someone and you’ll keep their participation, even if a lot of the “extras” change.
  • I noticed that the booths that didn’t have any samples or activities, didn’t attract me more than once. After I’d looked at several jars of any product there was no reason to go back. Lesson: you can have a great product but, if there isn’t any depth to what you’re offering, people won’t keep coming back.
  • One booth was sampling a drink but they ran out of cups long before they ran out of product. Most people walked away and never come back; a few people (myself included) brought back their cups from other booths! Lesson: determined people won’t let a small glitch deter them, but most people will never return.

I could go on and on with other lessons I learned, but these three seem to me to be applicable to our congregations. Changing the superficial things – worship styles, programs, etc. – won’t matter if we keep the heart of our message on target! Offering a single message that doesn’t have depth or diversity will matter – take it deep to help people engage! Recognizing that most people can easily be derailed also will matter – make it easy for them to learn to love you!

Blessings,

Beth

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Lulu.com Discount Offer!

There’s just a few more days to use this great discount offer on any print books – including my two! – on Lulu.com!

Storytelling: Beyond the Sermon

The Study: Spiritual Action in Daily Life

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Dog Days

I was born a rural girl… I grew up on an island in between two small Pennsylvania rivers, surrounded by houses that my grandmother’s uncles built to house their families while they ran coal barges up and down the waterways. It had changed quite a bit by the time I was a child and teen but there was some of that same tenor to the days as my great-uncles probably enjoyed.

When it got light, one woke up; when it got dark, one went to bed. In the winter, one wore heavy clothes and played in the snow; when it was August, one laid around in whatever shade one could find. The Dog Days of Summer.

I must say that I didn’t know exactly what that meant – but it had something to do with the 3 H’s: hot, humid, hazy! And exhausted laziness! I remember trying to find some breeze coming in the windows at night and being unable to sleep because of the heat, making the daytime heat even harder to bear.

What I don’t remember is my mother ever being as downright irritable as I must say I am this August! How did she, with no air conditioning and no help with housework, keep from barking at everyone around her? (I know… bad pun!)

Well, it may be any of the 3 H’s – it was 107F with the heat index a few hours ago – but today I finally had to know what “Dog Days” means. Is it about dogs lying in the shade or barking angrily? No. It’s about a star – Sirius – the Dog Star that, in the Mediterranean, appears on the horizon just before the sun rises.

Or should I say, “appeared” – it isn’t in the same position today that it was when Egyptians, Greeks and Romans used the phrase. In fact, what we consider to be the Dog Days (late July through early August) haven’t been and won’t always be in the same season! 13,000 years from now, according to National Geographic, people will be saying the Dog Days of Winter!

So where does all this take me? Well, as I continue to ponder all the mess we’re in politically and culturally, I’ve determined that the first thing I have to admit is that I don’t know much! I don’t have a chance of making any kind of difference until I step back from that confident assurance that Dog Days are and always will be hot!  There is some truth that they are hot today and will probably always be hot in my lifetime – but for someone else, my “knowledge” will seem very flawed.

There’s three other steps I know I have to take – I’m laying them out in a sermon on August 28th at Judson Memorial Church. Drop by if you’re in the neighborhood! Or check this site again; I’m sure they’ll find their way here, sooner or later!

Meanwhile, blessings from hot, humid, and hazy NYC! (I’ve changed my picture to one of NYC on a beautiful clear day just to remind me!)

Beth

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