Shirin McArthur

prayerful pondering



I had a dream this week that seems to speak to perseverance in the face of threat. In the dream, explosives were being prepared in one area of a building, while a young ceramic artist had been invited to show and sell her wares in another part of the building. Naturally, that juxtaposition caught my attention. As I’m preparing to put myself further “out there” with this website, I wonder if this pre-teen child is some part of myself, preparing to display my fragile spiritual wares, putting them out into the world in new ways, even in the midst of a time when society seems focused on self-destruction.

I wonder if Jesus’ disciples felt that way. He taught and healed openly, even when the religious leaders challenged his authority and conspired with political leaders to destroy him. Did they feel the situation was untenable—that it might explode at any time?

DSC_0544 ecropI sometimes wonder if what I have to offer is relevant in such troubled times, both in the US and around the world. Yet, in prayer, I come to realize, over and over, that we must return to our roots. We must be grounded in our faith, in our hope in the God of Love, both so that we are not swept up into self-destruction and so that we might, perhaps, help a few others to find a hopeful, nonviolent path.

This is not, by definition, a safe or easy path. Shrapnel has no respect for conscience, nor political perspectives. Yet the child in my dream persevered, and found joy in the sales she made, celebrating with her parents and focusing on that joy. As Jesus taught, she focused on today, and let tomorrow take care of itself.

I pray that my offerings may bring joy and light in challenging times. Even if my ministry may not seem to directly impact an explosive social and political situation, I am trusting that my calling will bring hope in the darkness, one loving offering at a time.

How are you called to offer love and light in these challenging times?


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Catching Fire

Today is Pentecost. As a child, I was taught that this was the Birthday of the Church, and I remember birthday cake at coffee hour and red streamers hanging from the tall Ponderosa pine trees at the front of the church building.

Like many of our religious festivals, Pentecost has multiple layers to it. Acts 2 begins by saying, “When the day of Pentecost had come,” which means that it already existed as a festival on that day. Pentecost was originally an Israelite spring harvest festival; the word Pentecost is the Greek term for the Jewish word Shavuot. The Christian church co-opted the name, applying it to remember the day when tongues of fire “rested on” Jesus’ disciples and they began to speak in different languages.DSC_0486e

Remember that these disciples were from the Galilean countryside. The idea that such provincial, uneducated people could suddenly speak multiple languages is part of what made this day stand out for the first generations of Christians. Jesus had promised that the Holy Spirit would come upon them: “You will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” I can well imagine that they had no clue what this would mean and how the Holy Spirit would manifest to them. Jesus had always been full of surprise and mystery; would the Holy Spirit be any different?

I found myself thinking that, in a sense, this spring harvest festival, this Pentecost, is celebrating the harvest of Jesus’ work with his disciples. His years of teaching, in Galilee and in Jerusalem, bore fruit in the form of tongues of flame that did not burn. (I do wonder if the disciples’ first thoughts were of Moses and the burning bush!) Interestingly, the disciples’ responses were not filled with confusion and questions, as had been the case with so many conversations recorded in the Gospels. Instead, Peter speaks out boldly, proclaiming the message of Jesus’ resurrection and connecting this event with sacred scripture, exactly as Jesus had done, time and time again in his ministry.

“You heard it was said…now I say to you” was a hallmark of Jesus’ teaching. Peter and the other disciples now take on that mantle, spontaneously speaking in the languages of those who need to hear the Good News and seamlessly connecting their message with Hebrew scripture.

The disciples are the fruit of Jesus’ ministry. They are now catching fire—the kind of fire that lights up souls rather than burning bodies. That fiery fruit generates its own harvest on Pentecost: Luke tells us that over 3,000 people were baptized that day, joining the disciples in following Christ.

When in your life have you caught fire? In what ways has the Holy Spirit transformed your life, burned away the confusion, and emboldened you to preach the Good News? How are you the harvest fruit of Jesus’ ministry?


P.S. My proposal was not accepted into the next round of InnovateHER, but I will move forward with hope nonetheless. The Holy Spirit lit a fire in me, and I will do my best to help hope catch fire in our troubled world.