Reversals! (from my Spring Newsletter)

spring 2015

Welcome to Spring in Queens!

Usually I choose the prettiest pictures on my cell phone for this newsletter… But not this time! It is spring in Queens – and it’s been a long hard winter!

My first run this spring took me along streets surrounded by blackened snow piles, slowly melting to reveal the debris hiding there for months! Plastic bottles, scraps of newspaper, bills and bags and cigarette butts. It was not a pretty sight!

But it is a reality of spring in an urban area! For those of you in the suburbs or rural areas, the snow probably hides rotting fall leaves, misplaced children’s toys, a soppy glove lost in the first snowball battle!

And if you don’t have snow in your part of the world… well, once again, we envy you… just a little!

A friend told me about a recent conversation where someone said “suffering is just the flip side of joy.” I’ve heard those words in my head as I’ve been running and walking this spring. I know there’s problems with the philosophy and theology (we’ll get to some of that later), but there is a truth to the coin of seasons’ passing. One side suffering/ ugliness/ disgust – and the other side….  blessing? promise? joy?

Do you see it in the top right corner of this photo? We can get so caught up in the ugliness of the rest of the scene that we miss that small glimmer… it’s a trickle of water running into the drain! The snow is melting, the dirt is uncovered, but equally uncovered is a promise of fertility and production and security.

Ask anyone in drought-filled areas of California how much joy they would find in a melting snow pack and you’ll find the reversal we all need to notice!

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Narnia, the land of never ending winter…

I was walking down the sidewalk a few snow storms ago and had this sudden vision of Aslan leaping over the mounds of soot encrusted snow, leaving a path of muddy ground and barely visible green shoots in his wake! It was a day dream, perhaps, a bit of the movie encroaching into my own seemingly never ending winter, a wish that it was as easy to get to spring as that large mangy lion made it seem!

While I was definitely hopeful as 2015 started, I am now officially OVER winter. I have eaten up all the freezer’s supply of 2014 CSA veggies (except a few bags of shredded zucchini… what was I thinking I would do with all that shredded zucchini????). I have lost every bit of color that last year’s outdoor running had given my face. I have lost all my stamina, as well… and I have gained… you guessed it… weight.

The cold has deepened my asthma and I’ve avoided all sorts of social and communal obligations and expectations just to avoid the wheezing and coughing that starts about a half block from my apartment.

What did I give up for Lent? A balanced life-style? Healthy eating and exercise? Community and relationships? Perhaps… Although I think that the more important gift of Lent’s self-relinquishing is this: I’ve given up all guilt about it!

As I wrote a note to someone this morning apologizing for my lack of visibility lately, I realized that I didn’t really feel “guilty” as if I had done something wrong (or ashamed, as if I was something wrong!). What I felt was relieved and vaguely comfortable with my cocooning through the long expanse of winter around me.

After all, it had been year after year after year (Christmas-less, every one) before Narnia got back to spring! And when Aslan did bound across the meadows and through the woods, he didn’t once stop to make someone feel guilty for having hibernated in a snow-laden tree or a iced-over burrow! Aslan’s job was not to impose hurt on top of hurt but to warm the heart, as well as the air.

I just finished reading an article about transgendered children in school and the risks and dangers they feel. Every school year could feel like a very long winter to a child stuck with teasing and harassment – sometimes with no support from their parents or church, as well! Yesterday, I read comments from a young woman on HONY’s (Humans of New York) website about the way her “Christian” parents treated her – she’s in a winterland of her own adult making now, but it’s easily traced to that cold, harsh upbringing.

And I wonder how Aslan would bring some warmth and new life to those places? How he would bound over the obstacles and bring healing and beauty and joy to those people? How he would melt the icy harshness and push up new shoots of non-guilt (non-shame!) around people with much more to get through than a little bad weather!

Next week, its going to be in the 40’s. I’m going to start back at Week 1 or 2 of Couch 2 5K and get my lungs, waistline, and social life back in shape! Spring is going to arrive for me, bounding over the calendar with a lions roar! And all I can feel is gratitude… and a wish that it was so easy for all of us.

May you have a blessed spring – and might we all bring some warmth to someone who needs it.

Blessings,

Beth

 

 

 

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2015!

It usually takes me a while to get used to a new year’s number… 2014 gives way slowly to 2015, for example. But this year, I am having no trouble leaving 2014 behind!

Maybe it’s that 2014 end with some difficulty – ill relatives, holiday plans disrupted, too much work and too little time… Maybe it’s that 2015 began with some signs of hope – a much-needed vacation, more work, but also a little down time…

Whatever the reason, I’m firmly fixed in 2015 already and I have great hopes for what this year will hold! Here’s just a taste of what is in store for us…

Did I mention that vacation? It was our first real vacation in more than ten years – and of all the places in the world that I would have never thought I’d want to visit, well, we went to Las Vegas! And I had much more fun than I expected to have! Everything is very shiny and loud and over the top – a perfect counterpoint to my usual sit-in-my-tiny-office-and-work life!

The first afternoon was also warm enough to sit outside in a hot tub – which was not the case in New York City when we left that morning! There was a nice gym in the hotel, lots of places to walk to and sights to see that didn’t cost a thing, and gluten free food almost everywhere we went! And I’m already thinking ahead to the possibilities of another vacation next summer!

Now, we did come home from this vacation a day early so my husband could go to a callback audition which led to another… who knows where that will lead? Right now we both have so much potential work on our plates that we almost hope it doesn’t all come through! But if it does, we have choices! What could be more exciting for contract workers like us – actor/singer/teacher/preacher – than to have choices in what work we might do?

And then there’s Indiegogo… I don’t know if you’re familiar with crowdfunding but I’m considering a campaign for spring. It’s a monumental task to do it right and I don’t want to do it wrong! I’ve got a good idea, and after two years of experimentation, it has proven results so I’m excited (and overwhelmed) by the possibilities!

Of course, there are some inevitable problems facing us, too. Separations, griefs, anxieties, and struggles are a part of all our lives, aren’t they? But add to that all the usual connections of family and friends, all the typical opportunities to work and volunteer in our communities, all the common time to spend together… and the good can easily outweigh the difficult!

I pray for you that you have a great 2015 but even more I pray that you have a strong sense of hope in this first month of the year, a recognition of the many blessings we all have every single day, and a joy within you and yours that overcomes every difficulty.

Blessings for 2015!
Beth

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From my Winter Newsletter…

Success!

In this edition of the newsletter, I want to do something that I’m not very comfortable doing: I want to brag!

You see, I’ve been doing a project for the past two years that I am so excited about. I’ve mentioned it briefly in other newsletters and in my blog (www.bethperry.net). But I really want to tell you more about it and, since I just did some evaluation, this seemed like a good time!

The project is the Judson Study. It’s a Bible Study with a twist! The starting place is the church, congregation, and their ministries. Then there’s the scripture connection. And finally there’s an application to daily living! Ministry + Faith => Life!

And all of that is packaged in podcasts and text messages – and a website for those who don’t use a smart phone! I get the fun of interviewing folks doing ministry at the church, recording our conversation, editing together a ten-minute podcast with the scripture connection, and writing daily text messages encouraging people to live out what they’ve heard and learned!

So far, I’ve done a 3-week trial version and then 2 full versions (one offered twice, the other once so far), with a total of 12 podcasts. And 15% of the congregation has participated! I can’t remember the last time I had 15% of a congregation participate in a Bible Study!

And look at these stats: 443 views of the website; 220 views of the podcasts; responses of one sort or another from more than half of the participants! And the kind of responses… Some deep text message conversations almost daily, other brief conversations in passing in real time, lots of words of appreciation (particularly for the text messages)…

And then there are the other – to me, incredible – sorts of responses. Like the woman who responded to a text about feeding the people around her by bringing a pot of soup to a meeting! Or the man who wrote an essay based on the experience! Or the woman who put together a cookie baking day in the church parsonage! (The picture above is just a sample of what we baked together!)

Can you see why I want to talk about this project? I am so moved by these people who have participated – and by the leadership of the congregation who trusted me to put this together! And when you think that it has been more fun than work…. well, its almost too much to hold inside!

And I guess the truth is that I do feel comfortable bragging just a little here. It’s not like I’m the reason this has worked so well…. There’s all those others who have helped me and participated with me… and humored me when they really didn’t think it would be very good… And then there’s God…

As scripture says over and over, boasting or bragging about our accomplishments as if we somehow did them on our own: well, that’s definitely not good! But boasting in what God is doing in and with us? Well, that’s really praise. (Psalm 44:8) And I’m happy to do that here!

Now, my question for your daily living, if it came in one of my texted messages, would be this: What is God doing in your life today that you can share with others, that you can have fun with, that you can gladly boast and brag about?

And feel free to text me a response! I really enjoy that!

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Seasonal Newsletter Mailing List

I’m getting ready to send out my Winter newsletter next week and it’s going to include an exciting report on the Judson Study! I’d love to share that with everyone so, if you aren’t on my newsletter mailing list, please send your email address to RevBethPerry@gmail.com. Thank you!

Blessings,

Beth

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Failure to Run?

Yesterday, my husband said to me, “That was a great idea!” or something to that effect… I replied that I often have great ideas, I’m just not so good on the follow up. In fact, I don’t even remember what that particular good idea might have been…

Of course, not every good idea deserves to be carried out but some of them surely should be. A year and a half ago, my daughter challenged me to start running and I decided to do the C25K (Couch to 5K) program. My “good idea” was that I would run week 1 and week 2 all summer – only 60 seconds and 90 seconds of running at a time! Well, I did move on to week 3 and eventually week 4 and then a little bit of week 5 that first summer. And this summer my “good idea” was to finish the program, running 3 straight miles!

And I did it – on my birthday! Then my doctor had a “good idea”: that I should run 1 mile every day instead of 3 miles 3 times a week. But 1 mile is hard… it’s the second mile that starts to feel good! And some days it rains or I’m too busy. So I ended up losing some of my ability and it was October until I was back up to the 2 miles that I really enjoy.

But then came November and the polar vortex – and then rain – and my “good idea” changed to: slack off till next spring. Yesterday I could have run: it was warm enough and I could have had time. Today I could run: it will be warm enough and I have an unexpected break in my schedule. I wonder if I’ll follow through?

This is such a minor example. There are the books unpublished in a box in my closet – or worse yet, in my head! There are the programs started, the plans half-formed… A colleague said to me last evening, “I really want to hear from you about that project.” And I know what he meant: don’t let a “good idea” slip by and turn into nothing. Don’t let a failure to run stop what might be very valuable.

And, as I think about it, I’m following through right now! Committing myself on paper to a wider audience to follow through on this “good idea” and make something happen! Stick around; I’m sure you’ll be hearing more later!

Blessings,
Beth

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A Red-tulle Christmas Wreath

If my grown-up children happened to read this post, they probably groaned when they saw the title!

You see, one of my favorite Advent creations was a wreath we made when they were adolescents. We didn’t have much money so it wasn’t a very artistic creation: just a bit of red tulle gathered onto a wreath-shaped piece of wire.

I hung it on the wall in the dining room so they couldn’t go into the kitchen without seeing it!  I laid a little stack of white papers and a pile of pins nearby and every day we all took a slip of paper, wrote a prayer on it, and stuck it onto the wreath with a pin. I think I counted them every day to make sure none of us skipped the ritual…

I also think my children were thoroughly disgusted by the idea, the wreath itself, and the need for daily prayer! But the prayers they wrote were so poignant… thanksgiving, petition, adoration and confession! For themselves and family and friends and the world!

I reread those slips of paper many times over the years after the wreath came down – and I still have them, decades later, packed away in  box somewhere. (That will probably annoy my children, too!) Maybe I’ll find the prayers before Christmas arrives this year and see if we can remember who we were praying for so long ago – and how many of our prayers for the world back then could be, sadly, repeated this year.

What were you praying for a month ago, a year ago, a decade ago… longer? Would you still pray the same things? Would you want the same answers? And, really, would you want anyone to pull those prayers out of a box to look at again?

Perhaps they are better left where they are…. and perhaps we are better off praying new prayers for new people in new situations, as well as for those long-term ailments in our world. New prayers for the old needs of justice and wholeness and life abundant… Maranatha… Come, Lord Jesus!

Blessings,

Beth

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