The Study: Spiritual Action in Daily Life

The Indiegogo Campaign for my new project (The Study: Spiritual Action in Daily Life) is off to a great start! There’s been so many visits to the campaign that we are trending first in Religion! If you haven’t visited the site yet, here’s the link: http://igg.me/at/TheStudy/x/5160123

 

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Obsession…..

Unlike the Calvin Klein perfume by the same name, obsessions are not very sweet. And, much like the 1976 Hitchcock movie with that same name, filmed here in NYC at Collegiate Church (among other places), obsessions can have severely unpleasant consequences.

But these days, I’m obsessed with a mid-way-between-those-two-extremes obsession. It’s not particularly sweet, nor do I expect it will result in any dire consequences. You see, these days, I’m obsessed with work.

Now, I can hear you say, “But, Beth, that’s nothing new! Reread your own posts-half of them are about work!” And you’re right! But the last few days have been over the top about work – I’ve been either working, obtaining new work, talking about work, planning/investigating/applying for future work, or just thinking about the meaning of work!

I just finished leading another Spiritual Gifts workshop, with its focus on working out of our spiritual gifts. It’s deeply satisfying work for me where I get to watch folks explore their vocations in what is for some new ways and hear their excitement about divesting themselves of church work that doesn’t energize them so that they can take on the work they are gifted to do!

I also just had an interview for a church position – a part time bit of work that could be a meaningful and productive addition to my life. But it would require me to take something off an already full plate to make room for it! Like my workshop participants, I have to think through what doesn’t use my gifts, fill me with joy, or energize me – what I can eliminate – in order to use my gifts in this new way. (I’m thinking along the lines of cleaning and laundry, by the way….)

And then I have this Indiegogo campaign for a new Study – and a conversation yesterday with my son about his new job – and another with someone else about ways to put the 30+ years of spiritual gift study to work in new ways – and my head is just full! As I started out this post saying: obsession!

I wonder where you are on this topic right now? Are you obsessed with your work? Finding work? Completing work? Surviving until 5:00 when you can escape work? Adding, subtracting, multiplying, dividing work?

When we start life, play is our work. As we approach the end of life, our work is about transitioning. Throughout the middle of life, work can become an obsession. If we don’t love what we do, if we don’t find joy in it – find the sweetness of it! – then there are probably dire consequences to that.

I pray for you (and for me!) that our obsession is well-centered in joy and our work uses our gifts for the good of ourselves, our families, our communities, and our world. Amen!

Blessings,

Beth

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Happy Easter!

Yes, I know I’m a week late… But today’s lectionary scripture makes a bridge between the two weeks quite easily! John’s gospel tells what happens when the disciples gather on Easter evening and then moves directly to what happens when they gather again a week later.

I imagine that the week between those events seemed very long to them while they were actually living it out. They were hiding behind locked doors, their plans were dashed, Jesus dead and alive again in some not yet understood way, and they were under threat of discovery and death by Roman hands. It might have seemed like life was standing still, frozen between one breath and another, between joy and fear, for that whole week…

For me, this past week, between Easter and today, flew! Last Sunday, I was an usher at worship – this Sunday the almost-last-minute preacher at another church. In between was all the usual weekly stuff of life and work, PLUS the sermon writing!

And I guess, if there’s a point here, its that life is a lot like that – occasionally, it slows down like that scene in the Star Trek movie where the woman slows time and we can see the dust in the air suspended around her! Where every second is so precious and so fear-, or joy-, filled that it seems we will be held there for all eternity!

But most of the time, in ordinary life, we move so quickly from one thing to another that we barely notice the passage of our lives as we flit from work, to school, to home, to playground, to doctor’s office, to stores, to wherever else we spend our time and energy.

I think I would prefer living in that suspended delay that stretches Easter out for a full week, just as it did Holy Week. I’d prefer that anguished joy and fear to having life fly by so fast that I may not even register the full-filled experience of either joy or fear. And I wish for you this week that you too can fully experience your life!

Blessings,

Beth

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Rediscovering Your Spiritual Gifts

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I’ll be leading another of those popular Spiritual Gifts workshops in a few weeks. There’s still time to register if you haven’t already participated. Or feel free to share this information with others that you think might need the CEU’s or Lay Servant credits. It’s a great way to connect with people from outside your usual community and find the similarities and differences between your ministries and theirs.

In fact, I find that the supportive community in online workshops far outweighs the connections in the usual face to face workshops! I remember teaching Lay Speaking courses on a series of Saturday mornings for several hours each week. Participants were so anxious for each session to end – they couldn’t wait to get back to their Saturday routine! Maybe they’d speak to a few friends on the way out the door, if they had a minute to spare, but not much more.

In online workshops, however, people make time every day to talk to me – and to each other. They drop in, sometimes several times a day, just to read what others have posted and to add their thoughts to each other’s ideas. With all that input, those ideas can develop and adjust so that when participants go back to their congregations, they can take some ideas that are truly valuable and well-planned!

And the amount of support participants give is just amazing – to me and to each other – and it has happened in every workshop over the past several years! So when I say I’m looking forward to this next workshop, I really mean it!

I’d love to meet you there – but if it’s not right for you, at least give us a good thought between the 13th and 26th. It is a lot of work and we could all use the support!

Blessings,

Beth

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Reversals! (from my Spring Newsletter)

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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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