Shirin McArthur

prayerful pondering


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Lighting Candles


Anyone can light a candle,
But not the way that you do.

Jon Anderson & Vangelis

Columbus 1

For the past couple of weeks, my husband Henry has put in a lot of time networking, in connection with a coalition of other churches and denominations, to raise funds, supplies and “boots on the ground” to help the people of Columbus, New Mexico recover from a microburst (a small tornado) which caused significant damage to 71 homes in this tiny border town. His work is helping to light a candle or two in the darkness of despair that many people in this town are feeling. With an unemployment rate of 53% and many of the residents undocumented, standard types of assistance, such as loans (which cannot be repaid if one is unemployed) and offers that come with paperwork-strings attached (which no undocumented person would dare to fill out), are of no value for these people.

Before embarking upon his ordained ministry, Henry spent many years working for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, where he learned how to work within complex, bureaucratic systems and be persistent until he was able to find creative, and often innovative, solutions. This makes him uniquely qualified to help out in this endeavor, wearing both his clergy shirt and his bureaucratic hat.

I could light this candle, but it would not have the same effect. I do not have these skills, this experience, or this vast reservoir of patience and perseverance. My talents lie more in supporting Henry, and others like him who are doing this work, with my spiritual guidance, prayers, encouragement and support. I can articulate what is going on in places like this blog, and edit Henry’s letters to help him get his message out more clearly.

Every one of us has a unique blend of learned skills, innate talents and practical experience. Every one of us knows how to light a candle—but there are millions of candles that need to be lit, and there are candles that each of us are uniquely qualified to light.

What are your candles?

Click here to learn more about Columbus and the needs there.

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Showing Up for What is Unfolding


I have been blogging for a while now—but not here. I’ve been getting paid to write blogs for small businesses through a company called BlogMutt. Great company, and it’s given me tons of practice—but that’s not the point of this blog.

Now is time to start—or restart—blogging here.

Why? I believe I am finally ready and able to articulate, at least somewhat, my role in this always-unfolding journey that is “living faithfully, from a Christian perspective.”

Yesterday I attended a workshop led by a Lutheran pastor named Nadia Boltz-Weber. She has started a rather unusual congregation in Denver called House for All Sinners and Saints (HFASS). She and her congregation have created a community with roots deep in the Christian tradition and manifestations that would not be familiar to most church goers. But it is meeting the needs of some, or it would not be going strong, five years in, and she would not be a featured writer, preacher and teacher across the country.

It is not my work to attempt to replicate what she’s doing. I believe, however, that it is my work to ask questions (which is the role of an effective spiritual director, after all), and perhaps to offer some partial answers to those questions. I invite you to join me on this journey.

Today’s question is “what in your church, or in your life, needs to die?”

DSC_2696 daffodils

I mean that in a fairly literal sense. One of the innovative ways that HFASS approaches its church programs is that if a program loses energy after a while, they stop it. Just let it go. No need to keep the program on life support by pressuring resentful people to keep showing up, even when it isn’t meaningful for them. No need to try to resuscitate a program that “should” be part of a community’s life. Instead, trust that the program has lived its usefulness, and that the Spirit will bring about something new in due time.

On a personal level, the question is aimed at those things that we think we “should” do but find ourselves resenting. Some of them, frankly, are necessary, like working for an income or making sure the house gets cleaned. But if we are resenting what we do in our lives, perhaps the question needs to be “what new thing might the Spirit be trying to bring about in my life? Where am I getting in the way of that change, or that transformation?” I know that I stood in the way of transformation for a long time by working at jobs that no longer fed my soul, and my attitude toward those jobs—and probably the work that I did—suffered as a result. I am still learning that lesson, as I recognize how long I have spent running away from blogging.

So here I am, because my fear needs to die today.

What in your life needs to die?