Shirin McArthur

prayerful pondering


Taste and See that God is Good

The next few days will be focused on food for those of us living in the US, as we celebrate Thanksgiving this coming Thursday. While an increasing number of retail stores are trying to capture some of the Thanksgiving attention (and dollars), for most Americans Thanksgiving remains a chance to gather with family, eat more food than is good for us, and enjoy some football, either on the television or the backyard lawn.

DSC_8989The first American Thanksgiving was literally what it sounds like: giving thanks. In their case, it was giving thanks that they had survived their first year in the new world (only half of them did), and that their first corn harvest was successful. With this in mind, I pose the question: when was the last time that you gave thanks as you consumed a meal?

As you purchase, prepare and consume your Thanksgiving feast, or any meal in this week, I invite you to approach it with thanksgiving. Take time to relish the aromas, savor the flavors, feel the textures on your tongue, sense the food as it slides down your throat, and notice when your body says that you have had enough to eat. If you have young children at the table, make a bit of a game out of it, expressing what you’re sensing and voicing your thanks out loud.

DSC_8966 cropAfter all, this entire abundant creation would not be possible without an abundant Creator who asks simply for our thankfulness and love in return.

How else might you taste and see the goodness of God this week?


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Listening for God

I recently overheard someone reading a joke from Argus Hamilton about how the vast majority of Congress members tweet, and that this was the reason nothing was getting done in Washington. I laughed—and then my mind began expanding on that idea….

You see, we are bombarded with words in our world today. It seems that everyone has something to say, whether via Twitter, Facebook, blogs, books, magazines, articles online…the list truly is endless. There are so many bloggers out there that I sometimes wonder how any of us find time to read, to listen, when we’re so busy writing.

And that’s the problem. It sometimes feels like we’ve lost the ability to truly listen. Yes, Congress members are using Twitter to “connect with constituents, provide updates on legislation, comment on big news stories and even share photos of their daily goings-on.” But that method of using Twitter is a one-way street; there’s no real conversation. And perhaps there’s a connection between that emphasis on “getting the word out” and the fact that it appears there’s very little real, substantive dialogue happening in Washington right now.

At least with a blog there’s an opportunity for readers to leave a comment, to start a conversation.DSC_1156

When’s the last time that you really listened for God? Do your prayers have pauses for silence, or do you fill up all the time with your own words?

How have you heard God in your life? Through the voices of others, or the sound of the surf at the seashore?

How does God get through to you? Has it been a while? What might you do to open yourself up to listening for the voice of God?


Seeing God

…in my flesh I will see God;
I myself will see him
with my own eyes—I, and not another.

Job 19:26-27

This week I participated in a Bible Writing Hour. A group of us gathered together, were given a portion of scripture (from Job 19, this Sunday’s lectionary), and invited to write whatever came to mind, stream-of-consciousness style, for 20 minutes. It’s pretty amazing what the mind can come up with in 20 minutes—where it can go, what it can explore. It’s also pretty neat what the heart brings out from the soul. In my case it was a lot of questions—which didn’t surprise me, since asking questions is the role of the spiritual director.

The question that caught my attention afterwards, as we read to each other what we had written (as offerings; the only suitable response was “thank you”), was “Can God photograph?” What I meant was “Can God be photographed?” Here is a portion of the stream of consciousness that led to that question:

“In my flesh I shall see God.” What would it be like to see God, given that scripture has always been so afraid of anyone seeing God face to face? Is God really that horrific? Is God really that amazing? Is God even comprehensible for my human brain, or is it that we will be transformed? … “With my own eyes.” In this “democratic” age beholding a leader isn’t such a big deal as it would have been back then. If I remember correctly the Pharaohs were not to be looked at because they were gods. But now it’s different; there are pictures of everyone. Would God photograph? Would God look “normal” or is there something that is beyond the range of film or human eye to capture? What would a photograph of God look like? Would it be something that could be transmitted, or is God more something to be felt or experienced? Job hopes that God will be somehow discernible by human standards…do I want God to be that way? Do I want God to be comprehensible? Or would I prefer something ineffable, immense…as if I have a choice! But that raises the question of what God really means to me, in my life. Do I want a comprehensible God, as Job did? Or do I want a God that is beyond my comprehension, because then it would make sense that I did not comprehend God in life. … I wonder which is better for the human psyche, the human soul. The human spirit.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI’ve taken a number of photographs over the years that I dare to believe hint at God. This one, which I call “burning cholla,” was taken at a retreat center outside Tucson, Arizona, and is my version of the burning bush. I offer it as just that: a hint, a glimpse. A photograph….

Which question in my stream-of-consciousness writing captured your attention? Is there a hint of God in there somewhere for you?


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I spent a couple of days this past week helping a church prepare for its annual Bazaar this weekend. The quantity of donated items, everything from clothing and jewelry to cookware, baskets and Christmas decorations, really had me thinking about the abundance of most Americans’ material possessions. The good news is that so many of these items are being re-used through the recycling of church bazaars. I’m less certain, however, of whether this is the best way for our churches to be illustrating God’s abundance in this season.IMG_0435 bazaar

As we enter November, many of us are planning Thanksgiving get-togethers, deciding who is going “over the river and through the woods,” and what each person can bring to help fill the holiday table. Thanksgiving began as a celebration of an abundant harvest, but most of us have become disconnected from that harvest process. Our local grocery stores carry plenty of food, regardless of the season.

Where do you see abundance in your life right now?

How might you witness to that God-given abundance in your life?