Shirin McArthur

prayerful pondering


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Don’t Go It Alone


My recent experiences of surveying my constituents and applying for a grant to podcast about hope have brought one thing clearly to mind: I do not work alone. I may sometimes feel that I do, typing away at my desk, day after day. I may not have anyone else in the room with me, but I work within a very real and essential community. I have clients, collaborators, mentors, supporters…and a God that I lean on through it all.

DSC_8124e trinity of archesEven God does not go it alone. Today is Trinity Sunday, which celebrates the relationship between our Creator, the risen Christ, and the Holy Spirit. I attended a conference on the Trinity in April (another way that I do not work alone; we all need new input and inspiration on a regular basis) and came away with a number of images and ideas about the collaborative and interconnected work of God.

One idea that I’d like to share with you today was taught at the conference by Wm Paul Young, author of The Shack. He pointed out that Jesus trusted the Holy Spirit to follow along after him, rather than thinking he had to do the work of the Spirit himself. For example, he’d perform a miracle in a town, then move on, trusting the Spirit to take it from there.

You see, someone’s story doesn’t end with Jesus’ transforming miracle. Each person whose life is changed by Jesus then needs to learn how to live into that new way of life. Otherwise the transformation won’t take root and grow—similar to the seed that falls on the path or rocky ground and withers away under duress.

Jesus knows that the Holy Spirit is the best companion for that “following through” stage in the life of faith. The Spirit is called “advocate” and “comforter” because those roles support the day-to-day life of a maturing Christian. As much as we might like Jesus to always be with us in person, he’s part of a team. At some point, he is going to hand us off into the care of the Spirit.

When I first meet with people to explain my ministry of spiritual direction, I talk about the fact that God is the actual director. I’m listening to God on their behalf when I meet with them for spiritual guidance. I also believe that God is the director on a much broader, deeper scale, guiding the work of Jesus and the Spirit in a dance that spans the globe, the cosmos, and all of creation: more than our finite human minds can possibly imagine.

The Trinity is a trio of persons with a variety of roles. They don’t go it alone, and neither should we.

Do you tend to go it alone? Are there areas of your life that could benefit from embracing a supportive Trinity model of collaborative life and work?


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Hurry Up and Wait


Coordinating a move is full of juxtapositions. It’s taking a couple of months to occur, but folks in the real estate business says this entire process is happening pretty fast and things are going smoothly. We need to be packing boxes, but there are things that we still need to use before the move so there are many things that we should wait to pack. I called the insurance company and set up insurance on the new house for the move-in date, but they won’t let me schedule stopping insurance on the old house until seven days or less before the changeover—and actually suggest that I contact them up to seven days after the move, in case something goes awry.

And that’s the kicker—we’re not inspecting the repairs on the new house until three days before closing. That doesn’t give us a lot of time if there are any things that aren’t fixed to our satisfaction. On the other hand, we want to give them time to do it right, and Thanksgiving occurred smack in the middle of it all.

So it’s “hurry up and wait.” We think we have plenty of boxes, but we won’t really know until we’re packing up the kitchen and bathroom the day before the movers come. I can pack some portions of my office, but others need to remain available to me until I’m finished working in this location. IMG_2066I can dig up the dead tomato plants in the garden, but won’t harvest any iris until the last minute because I want them to remain as fresh as possible before planting them in their new home. Today I can pack up the art in our meeting room, the books I kept out for reference during the prayer class I hosted, and most of the gardening tools. But other things must wait.

Advent is also about “hurry up and wait.” All around us, advertisers admonish us to hurry up and purchase Christmas gifts while they’re on sale, while in church we are admonished to slow down and wait, keeping watch for the coming of Christ. The juxtaposition can cause us spiritual whiplash if we’re not centered and grounded in God’s ever-present love. Jesus may be coming, but Christ is already with us, each and every day. So take some time to wait, but be aware—at the same time—that the present moment is a gift that’s already given.

What can you do today? What needs to wait?


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Taking the Baby into 2015


Happy New Year! This week we finally got a taste of winter snow—which left Henry grumbling about “this is why we left New England!” as he cleaned off the car to go to work.

I, on the other hand, found myself mesmerized by the snow. My friend and I had canceled our weekly hike, leaving me with the gift of being able to stay home, warm and dry, and work all day. Like a young child, I found myself drawn to the windows to watch the flakes fall, hour after hour. The silent beauty captivated me. The layers of landscape, increasingly obscured by the accumulation of tiny bits of white, drew me in like a magnet. I was perfectly content to just sit and watch it through the windows—which was a great spiritual exercise in slowing down and living in the moment, even as it put my day’s work in jeopardy.

When did you last truly take time to pay attention to the first snowfall of the season? When did you last let the wonder of a child guide your actions, or slow you down to truly experience something precious, and as fleeting as snow in the desert?

IMG_0778This is still the Christmas season, even though our culture is barreling on into 2015. I invite you to take the Christ child with you into the new year. Let him remind you to take time to wonder, to savor, to live in the moment. While you do this, remember also to give thanks for the gift of this new year, and all the blessed moments that will come with it.