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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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Politics

Well, I guess I can’t ignore it forever… politics. Not that I’ve ever been ignoring it! But I’ve been keeping a check on my tongue for the past few months. Not because I don’t care about all that has been happening but because I care so much that I’m a little afraid of what might come out if I let the tongue (or fingers!) loose.

You know what I mean…. that mean-spirited aunt that makes your teeth grind every time she comes to visit? If you ever once start to tell her what you think of her… well, family holidays will never be the same again! Or the arrogant boss who, honestly, is rarely right? If you ever once start to say what you think of him… unemployment line, here you come!

It’s like that in the political arena, too! No one can just say, “You know, I don’t like what you are (saying/doing/believing/supporting/etc.)!” Instead we roll out the vindictive, miserable stuff we’ve been bottling up for years. Like Jean Luc Picard’s quote from Moby Dick: And he piled upon the whale’s white hump, the sum of all the rage and hate felt by his whole race. If his chest had been a cannon, he would have shot his heart upon it.  (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0117731/quotes)

That’s what we are doing politically and socially, isn’t it? Hurling the rage and hate of our human race on each other. And I’m not a bit different so I’m keeping my rage and hate clamped down to keep my hurling at a minimum. My close family and friends hear a bit of it – and my list of Facebook friends is getting smaller and smaller.

But, mostly, it is what is driving my thinking these days. I know what I don’t want to say or do or be: I don’t want to be hateful and shallow – or indifferent and blind – or ignorant and unthinking! So how do I respond to the wrongs of the world in a way that isn’t just shooting a cannon at some hapless whale? How do I adjust my life so that I’m part of a solution instead of part of the problem? How do I reexamine the basic beliefs of my life in ways that will make them more effective? more honorable? more caring and empowering?

They are good questions to be asking and I believe it will be rewarding thinking, at some point in time, so I recommend them for your pondering, as well. Preferably before November.

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Risky Business

Quite a few years ago, Tony and I decided to try a CSA – Community Supported Agriculture. We ordered two shares of vegetables – yes, double the usual amount for a family! And then he went out of town to work all summer!

That CSA had Sunday morning pickup at Judson Memorial Church and I remember dragging all those late summer vegetables from the West Village to Queens, thinking I would never make it the last few blocks home!

The following year, we ordered a single share – and a fruit share. The fruit had looked so good the previous year – surely it would be just as good now, right?

And then the risk of the CSA came home to roost. Pay up front and hope for the best – that’s the business model. The farmer has his/her upfront money for seeds and workers, and we, the investors, reap the bounty as time goes by. But if it doesn’t rain, if the sun doesn’t shine, if there’s a weather disaster of some sort…. well, let’s just say, our fruit share was pitiful!

It took me many years to get over that bad year. We hadn’t bought a fruit share again, until this year. And it was an even bigger risk than ever: last year’s lack of rain brought in a small return on the veggie share and there was no guarantee that this year would be any better!

But we took a step out in faith and bought both veggies and fruit… It’s a picture of the first week’s fruit share that you’re seeing at the top of this page: 2 quarts of very ripe strawberries (and almost a pound of rhubarb)! It’s much too early for that to be any indication of whether it will be a good or bad year for the farmer – or for us! But I do think it is good to take a risk now and again….

Think about the risks God takes with us: just look around, there’s no evidence that God is ever going to get a good return on investment! We have the seeds, we have the energy, we have the sun and rain and earth – we could be producing so much that God could barely lug it home! Instead we hoard our resources, waste the investment, and God goes wishing for some good fruit.

There’s a lot of mixed metaphors in this post! It’s not my literary best! But you know what I’m talking about. Where’s the great big fat shiny strawberry that the farm of your life should be producing? And how are you going to cultivate it, strengthen it, harvest it, and deliver it to the One who risks giving your life its start-up capital over and over and over again?

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Summer Newsletter

My seasonal newsletter goes out this week – Monday, June 27th, to be exact. If you don’t receive it, please email me at RevBethPerry@gmail.com to make sure you are on the list!

Blessings,

Beth

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Spring has Sprung

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What a long winter it was and what an odd spring we’re having in NYC! First, it got hot quickly, then cold again… then warm, then hot, then cool… and did I mention wet?

But it does appear like spring is fully here and all the signs of summer are settling in. This was the view shortly before Yoga in Socrates Park last weekend! Tony and I have been devouring our first watermelon of the season! He’s getting ready for a summer theater production! I’ve got dozens of free events on my calendar already – like Musical Chairs in Bryant Park!

Every spring, I start planning all the fun things I’m going to do to celebrate summer.  Somehow those long summers as a child have left a lasting imprint on me and I just want to relax and enjoy myself! But as the season wears on, my enthusiasm for crowds and transportation, my too-heavy work schedule, and my no-longer-boundless energy will win out and the deleted calendar events will begin to pile up.

But for today there’s still plenty of enthusiasm and energy for summer enjoyment – I hope to see you out there enjoying yourself, as well!

Blessings,

Beth

PS: There’s a new BeADisicple.com workshop starting Monday, June 13th called Teach Adults. If you want a little taste of what we’ll be talking about, check out this Mini Video!

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Teach Adults update

Just a quick update to say that this new workshop is now open for registration! Click here to learn more and register!

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