Shirin McArthur

prayerful pondering

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Who are Your Peers?

This week I reported for jury duty…for the third time in half a dozen years, in my third different location as well. As I waited—and prospective jurors do spend a lot of time waiting—I found myself pondering the radical differences between my different jury pool experiences.

DSC_1371 extra wingsMy first experience occurred when I lived in Massachusetts, which has a “one day or one jury” program. You show up for one day, and if you don’t get picked for a jury, your duty is done for 3 years. My second experience was a couple of years ago in Albuquerque, where I had to show up every day for a week and wait to see if I would be “empaneled” on a jury. Once the week was over, my duty was done for 3 years. With this third experience, perhaps because of the relatively small number of people available in this rural county, I am on call for 6 months. In my first month, I’ve been notified of 3 dates, but 2 trials were cancelled or postponed, so this was the first time I had to show up.

The one day in Massachusetts was held in a secure high rise building in downtown Boston. The pool of jurors was given basic instructions, then let loose to wait in a large room with a red carpet and lots of different types of chairs, tables, etc. There were lots of people dressed in professional clothing working on laptop computers and, as I recall, very little talking. The week in Albuquerque was also held in a stately, secure building, though with our jury passes we were able to cut to the front of the line for the metal detectors. Again, after initial instructions, we were told to wait in a pair of large rooms, one of which was designated as the silence room. This made sense to me because, with a week of hanging out together, the extroverts made a lot of friends and swapped a lot of stories.DSC_9181 crows

This week I showed up at a small, nondescript building in a small town adjacent to my own. There was no security system and no jury pool room, just a double-handful of chairs in the lobby of the building, which also serves the business office for the court. Since there weren’t enough chairs for everyone, I chose to spend much of my waiting time outdoors, enjoying the bright autumn sunshine, and was grateful for the freedom to do so. I waited alongside folks in cowboy boots and plaid shirts, and most of us were wearing jeans. I didn’t see a single laptop, and mine was probably the only electronic reader present.

A “jury of my peers” has changed a lot in the past half a dozen years. I’ve moved from one of the largest metropolitan areas of the country to a small rural community, and my peers have changed in the process. I find myself wondering if those changes would or will mean anything if I am picked for a jury now.

When is the last time that you took a good look at your peers? Have you ever thought about who you might find next to you on a jury if you were empaneled?

Has it ever crossed your mind to pray for your peers, and for the jury process?


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Growing our Roots

DSC_0872 eA few days ago we spent a couple of hours learning about local perennials at Lone Mountain Natives. We’re working on transforming what once was a patch of grass in our front yard into a native wildflower bed. In addition to requiring much less water once they are established, native wildflowers will add a changing array of color to our little landscape during the course of each spring, summer and fall.

We are planting these wildflower perennials now because, unlike annual plants that are typically grown in a vegetable garden, these plants will survive through the winter and actually grow better next spring if they are planted now. Evidently, fall planting gives them a chance to focus on root development over the winter, which will make them stronger when they are ready to focus on growth above ground, come spring.

This has got me thinking about winter, and how we tend to think of it as a time when plants go dormant—because we cannot see where the growth is actually occurring. It turns out that, for many plants, growth takes place year-round, as it does with us. Plants focus their attention downward when the weather is cold, and upward when it is warm. There’s a seasonal rhythm to their growth cycle.

Last week I talked about the need for a weekly rhythm of rest and activity in our lives. Now I am thinking more broadly, of the need for seasonal rhythms in our human lives as well. As a culture, we are entering a time of focusing on family and bounty, celebrated through Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year. After that, winter then takes hold, and we tend to spend more time indoors. Our ancestors spent winter evenings naturally focused more on caring for the unseen—reading for the soul, mending socks that hid away in shoes, repairing things around the house.DSC_1873 roots

When is the last time that you actually took a look at the seasonal rhythms of your life? What does winter mean to you, in that regard?

What might it look like for you to focus on growing your roots in the coming months?

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A few days ago I returned to my winter prayer spot. When the weather gets colder, many birds migrate south; I migrate to tDSC_1054 chairhe guest room. The sun streams into our guest room in the mornings, and in the summer we keep the shades closed all day long. As the weather cools in the fall, however, we open the east facing shades, and I love to sit in the sun for my prayer time. Sometimes the warmth lulls me to sleep, but most of the time it’s a soothing heat that reminds me of the warmth of love that constantly bathes me in its light—if I will only be open to it!

Sometimes the sun entices me to stay in that chair, even after my prayer time is technically over. Resting in that chair, in the sun, can be rejuvenating for me, but also calming. There is something about opening ourselves to God’s light that stills the frantic pace of our thoughts, our worries, our agendas and our distractions.

Resting is something that our culture does not appreciate. Children these days are seldom taught the value of stillness and silence—and yet, when given the opportunity, they quickly come to appreciate it. Before long, they even crave those moments of stillness and silence. Within each of us is a craving for rest, and we need to pay attention to that desire. Without it, we become a human doing and lose touch with our human being.

This week I invite you to intentionally seek a rhythm of doing and being, of activity and rest. Do you take a day of rest during the week? That concept of rest, of Sabbath, is one of the earliest practices modeled in the bible—and modeled by God, no less! We are invited to “go and do [and be!] likewise.”


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Going to Seed

grasses by nightI was driving home after dark the other night and found myself mesmerized by the grasses waving in the lights from the car as I drove up our driveway. I stopped and took a few phone photos to remind me of the moment…and seeds have been on my mind since that day.

The inevitable result of enough rain in the desert is the rush by annual plants like these grasses to develop and set seeds so that, by the time the rains have stopped, the plant can die off knowing that its future as a species has been assured—at least for one more generation.

This is one of the oldest and deepest drives, and it exists in the biology of all living things on planet earth. Our goal is to reproduce ourselves—to live on through our offspring—be they seeds or sons, dynasties or daughters. Many humans also seek to live on in other ways as well, through published books that are passed down from one generation to another, or companies which ensure that names like Ford and Sears remain familiar long after these founding figures have passed from the scene.

Sometimes we help each other along without knowing it. We have a great number of sunflower plants in our yard this year because birds buried seeds from our feeders, presumably storing them against future scarcity, and the summer rains caused those sunflower seeds to sprout. Now, instead of providing food for one bird—who might or might not remember where those seeds were buried—the sunflowers are providing food for multiple birds.

What have you done lately to help others along their journey toward growth, maturation and/or setting seed?

What legacy—biological or otherwise—are you preparing to leave for future generations?